30 Day Challenge – Day 4

Your first fall

I’m just going to say that I have fallen a lot.  Like, if there were a prize to be awarded for perfecting the art of falling off, it would be retired with me because I would have won it so much.  For the record, my falling habit is not restricted to horse activities – I fall regularly on my inline skates, down stairs, in the woods with my dogs.  I’m a professional clutz. 

Since I have been falling off of horses for as long as I’ve been riding them, I’ve got quite a selection of wipeouts to choose from.  I can’t say I remember my actual first fall, but the first one I remember was a good one.  I had probably been riding for a few years at this point, and a few of us kids were riding around in the indoor arena at our barn.  I was on Star bareback and I don’t remember what happened, but I do recall flying off backwards and sideways and crashing into the support piller on the side of the arena wall.  You know those ones that are about a foot thick?  Well, they make quite an impression when you land in one like you were ejected from a cannon!

I fell off of Floyd more times than all of my other horses put together!

The one that was probably my worst fall ever, I remember clearly.  We were at a show in Harlansburg, Pennsylvania and I was riding Floyd in one of the game classes.  I fell off of Floyd a lot.  So much so that people started to watch me ride to see, Would she hang on this time around?  He was very difficult to ride and had a lot of gas.  I definitely learned what a good seat meant when I got this horse – although it took me several years and a lot of wipeouts to figure it out!    Anyway, this particular fall happened in one of the game classes.  I remember it because we just had a really great run and I was feeling brave enough to let him have his head and run out a bit.  In the Appaloosa game classes, we run horse against horse.  We never run in or out of the gate, we come in to the arena and wait for a timer.  So needless to say, there is a STOP at the end of the run.  Floyd didn’t really like to stop.  On this particular day, we did not agree on Whoa and we had a parting of ways.  As in, we barreled toward the fence at Mach 90, my eyes bugging out of my head and people diving out of our way as we approached.  Floyd ducked right at the last moment and I sailed gracefully over his head and flew into the fence post, hitting it hard with my shoulder and sliding to the ground.  I casually got up, led my horse out of the ring and completed the rest of my runs.  I don’t think anyone knows to this day that my shoulder still gives me grief and pops in and out all the time!

My most embarrassing fall was also with Floyd and happened at the National Show one year.  I can’t even blame Floyd for this one, as it was totally my fault.  I wasn’t feeling very well on this day and was a bit dehydrated.  We were entered into the Camas Prairie Stump Race (barrel race) and we had to run our elimination race for time.  They take the top 16 times back to run horse against horse in the finals.  We started our run and had a great first barrel.  As I approached the second barrel, where the photographer was seated, I blacked out and fell off.  It was just a momentary thing, but it was enough that I landed on my face in the Coliseum with more than a hundred people wondering how I managed to fall of while I was running in a straight line.  My last image as I went down was the photographer diving for cover as my riderless horse approached at the speed of light.  As if that humiliation wasn’t enough fun, I then had to watch all the ring stewards attempt to catch my naughty spotted boy as he lapped the Coliseum for ten minutes at a dead run.  As you can see, this fall was one for the books.

30 Day Challenge – Day 3

When and why I started riding…

I remember a few of us bloggers debating the existance of a “horse gene” a few years ago.   My very scientifically educated self argues that Yes!  There is absolutely a horse gene and I am a prime example of its expression!  I grew up obsessed with horses.  From the time I could talk, that was what I wanted more than anything.  Now keep in mind, I grew up in a typical suburban lifestyle.  There were no horses in my family; my mom’s family lived just outside of Pittsburgh and my dad’s family lived in a small town.  The closest any of them came to a horse gene was my grandfather, whose family had some draft horses working on their farm back in Sicily.  They left for the US when he was 2, so I’m not sure that counts.  I grew up in an unstructured housing development, rode the bus to school, and so on.  Sure, there were farms nearby – not so many horses, mainly working milk farms.  For a time, someone was renting a small piece of land at the bottom of the hill near our house and stuck a horse on it.  Summertimes consisted of me frequently begging my mom to walk us down the hill to see the horse and feed it treats.   The working farm nearby, Round Hill Park, offered a chance to see horses up close!  That was always my favorite thing to do. 

This was Hank, my favorite mount to ride through the Arizona desert.

When I was growing up, my dad traveled often on business.  In 1985, he took us all with him when he went to Arizona and we made a family vacation out of it.  That trip was all it took for my sister and I to fall hook, line, and sinker.  We spent the majority of that trip riding through the Arizona desert, forgoing as much as we could of the “tourist” destinations, like the Grand Canyon.  (Horseback riding or a hike into the Canyon?  Duh…..Why even ask?!)  When we came home from that trip, my parents had no chance.  They now had TWO horse obsessed kids, one of whom was highly peeved that she was unable to ride unassisted at our only local trail riding facility.  Mel was only about 7 or 8 at the time, but she felt that weeks of riding through the desert without a leadline attached qualified her to ride the pitiful trails around South Park, PA.  I agreed, of course, because that meant we’d all be taking riding lessons at a nearby stable!  So Mel and my mom and I suited up and began our western lessons at the old RippleRidge farm in Scottdale PA.  My dad and Kimmy went along to watch and support and we would frequently end our Friday night lessons dirty and dusty and eating at the truck stop diner on the way home.  Instead of our obsession abating, it only intensified after our lesson program was underway.  Mel wanted to compete, and so we got her a horse.  Then we found a mount for my mom and she was in foal.  Then Strawmaid arrived, and it went on from there.  In a few short years we were bona fide horse owners and we have never looked back.

30 Day Challenge – Day 2

Photo of your first horse

 

I guess I fall in love easily and for all the wrong reasons…the first horse I ever loved was Eagle, the twenty-something leopard gelding that was so different looking; then came Dusty, the troubled Quarter Horse that had a permanent chip on his shoulder; and finally, there was Starfinder.  After unsuccessfully attempting to convince my parents that either of my first two loves would be suitable first horse purchases for me, I saw Star.  When I look back on it now, it was one of those twists of fate that can never be repeated – so many things fell into place for that horse to come into my life.  I still don’t know what the heck the reason was, as it wasn’t a particularly successful pairing, but it was most definitely meant to be. 

I saw Star in a class at the 1989 Illini Railsplitter show.  We were all complete novices to the show world and had no idea how things worked.  I just happened to spot this horse and I fell in love instantly.  She was a cute mover and absolutely beautiful, but like a ghost she disappeared from the ring before I ever got her name.  My mom and I spent days wandering the barns looking for this mysterious horse.  Somehow we found her; I don’t remember how.  The memories come to me in flashes:  the moment we found out she was for sale, the nervous excitement as we watched her trainer ride her for us, the devastation of a failed vet exam.  The subsequent elation after x-rays were repeated and the troubling images were no longer seen.  I don’t even recall whether I got on her back before we bought her, all I knew is that horse was mine.  Had to be.  End of story.

We got her home and it wasn’t quite the fairy tale it seemed like it should have been.  All those obvious reasons not to buy a green 3 year old for a green kid that barely knew how to ride?  Yeah… I’m sure it was a combination of my lack of knowledge, her personality, and the previous training she’d had but this horse was a challenge from day one.  She’d been treated very harshly and was sensitive to begin with, her nervousness compounded with mine until we were a snowball of disaster.  But I also remember the good times – her  love of Pepsi and how she’d grab a can of it anytime she could.  Her tolerance of my childish antics and ways of loving a horse (dress up in tinsel comes to mind!)  The way she’d swallow her anxiety and pack me around at a show with my friends.  She never once freaked out and dumped me off – although after having ridden so many horses, I know she was the personality that SHOULD have done it over and over again. 

To this day, I believe that I was meant to be hers.  I was meant to show that horse what love looked like and give her a life filled with acceptance of who she was.  We never overcame our anxieties together, but she gave me some great memories nonetheless.

Star's first foal, Junior. He was the spitting image of her and I loved him so much. Unfortunately, he died before his first birthday.

Thankful Thursday – The Past Comes Back

Once again, it’s time for Thankful Thursday! I hope this post inspires you to consider the things in your life that you are grateful for. If you have a blog, consider posting about it there and link back here. If you don’t have a blog, please feel welcome to comment here on what you are grateful for in your own life. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, then just take a few moments to reflect on all that you have. If you’d like to tag other bloggers that participate, feel free to do that.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Thankful Thursday, but my family had an experience last week that definitely warrants a post for this week’s edition.  Sometimes we lose track of our purpose or meaning and then things fall into your lap that remind you to wake up and get back on track.  You all know about my recent struggles with the direction that my life has been heading in.  What you don’t know is how I’ve been brainstorming about ways to bring the passion back into my life and give me the joy I’ve been missing for so long now.  Obviously the horse world is a big part of that.  So imagine my surprise when my mom got a call last week from a voice in our family’s vault of memories. 

“J” was instrumental in starting this journey not only for me but for my entire family.  He was the first person to ever give any of us a riding lesson.  He helped us find our first 5 or 6 horses.  He was there for the birth of our first foal.  He took us to our first horse show.  In short, our experiences with J put us on the path that took us around the country and back and made two little girls’ lives so much brighter.  (And two parents’ lives so much poorer – but it’s worth it, right Mom and Dad?!)

Our visit to this gorgeous Alabama farm led to the purchase of two National and World Champion horses

We rode with J for about 5 years in total and gained a solid foundation in riding.  I still remember that his friend, “J-Girl,” would give us lessons on horse care in the parking lot of our stable, teaching us the parts of the horse and how to properly care for them.  We made a lot of friends and fell in love with the horse business, in no small part because of our experiences with J.  One of my favorite memories was a wintertime road trip from Pennsylvania to Alabama to look at some horses.   This was my first visit to a top rated farm and my initial exposure to very high quality horses.  I’m embarrassed to say that I can no longer remember the name of the farm, but the stallion that resided there was Zippos Countryboy and his babies dotted the landscape.  Everywhere we turned there were foals with their mothers, show horses, broodmares.  I very clearly remember falling even more in love with horses while we were there.  Our motorhome pulled out of their driveway after that visit in 1989 carrying a huge and beautiful yearling filly named Zippos Strawmaid.  This filly would go on to become a National Champion in the 3 year old Hunter under Saddle and my sister’s mount for years in the flat and over fences classes.  After her show career ended, she went on to produce Custom Maid Zippo, who was the Champion Western Horse at the 2004 Appaloosa World Show.  Strawmaid has been sold a couple of times and she keeps coming back to us.  This time she’ll live out her remaining days on my sister’s farm, alongside her last gorgeous foal.

Strawmaid as a yearling, just two months after we brought her to Pennsylvania.

Another life changing moment that came out of our trip to that Alabama farm was my parent’s introduction to a beautiful and talented yearling colt named Zippo Par Three.  Although we weren’t ready for a stallion then, that meeting paved the way to our first National and World championships (in western pleasure) and our future breeding program.  Just a little more than a year later, we had several broodmares and Easy Acres Appaloosas was created.  Without J, Tiny would have never been born.

It’s hard for me to remember how things ended with J, but I know it was sudden and final.  I believe he was at a crossroads in his life and wanted to get out of the horse business.  We lost touch and have had no contact for the past 21 years.  My mom relayed his shock at hearing about our successes in the show arena and in life.  He had no idea how powerfully he impacted our family back then.  Oddly, it was a missed transfer of ownership from a horse (Tammy) he got for us back in 1988 that brought J back into our lives now – he wants to register one of her babies that he purchased recently and apparently she was never transferred out of our name when we sold her years ago.  Talk about full circle…

Tammy's (and our) first baby, QT, shown in 1989 shortly after his Valentine's Day birth

I haven’t spoken to J yet, but I will.  I want to thank him with an adult’s wisdom for all the things he has done for my family and for me.  He brought a little girl’s dream to life back in 1985 and I can never thank him enough for that.

I hope you all have a happy Thursday and please visit these other sites that frequently participate in Thankful Thursday:

Akal Ranch, Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch, The Pony Expression, and Tired Dog Ranch.


Product Review – Kritter Kondo Deluxe

This review is cross-posted from The SlobberDog.  Apologies if you have already seen it, but I felt this product was too good not to share with my horsey friends too!  It would be perfect for a horse show weekend with the kitties included!

As you already know (if you don’t, you can read about it here and here), the whole crew went camping not too long ago.  And by the whole crew, I mean THE WHOLE CREW!  I have to be honest, I had never considered taking the kitties camping with us, but then we got the Kritter Kondo and everything changed.  

Clockwise from top: The Kondo comes in a convenient carrying case; Included pins are the only item required for setup; Set up in progress

I received the Kondo a couple of weeks ago and set it up in my sitting room to see how everything worked.  Milo and Bella were instantly intrigued.  I left it up so they could get used to it but they didn’t hesitate to hop in and relax.  I found that Bella (my independent girl) suddenly began hanging out in there a lot, foregoing her usual post on her throne by the kitchen window.  Milo (my snuggle buddy at night) even abandoned me to sleep with Bella in the Kondo!  Even Hazel had a sniff around and it was plenty big enough for her 45 lb body. 

Once I knew all was well with our new toy, we packed up and headed off to Manatee Springs for our weekend camping trip.  It was very easy to transport and carry the Kondo, as it folds flat and comes in this nice carrying case with handles.  It fit very well (along with the rest of our gear) in the trunk of my little Honda.  The Kondo is super easy to set up and took only minutes to do so.  The instructions provided were adequate, although it is pretty self-explanatory.  The size was great for my two cats to spend the weekend in – they had a nice shady place for a bed under the canopy, while their litter box was located at the other end of the unit. 

This outdoor cat enclosure is perfect for a weekend getaway like ours.  Some of my favorite features are:

  • Extremely easy to assemble.  The unit transports in one flat piece and only requires a few pins to lock the frame into position
  • Shade canopy is a nice touch, allowing part of the cat run to be shaded for most (if not all) of the day
  • A door on each end allows you to reach your kitty regardless of where he might be chilling out in his Kondo.  It also allows you to put water or food in or change litter easily.
  • The Kondo is extremely lightweight, yet very stable and sturdy. 
  • The high quality carrying case is included and has handles and a shoulder strap for easy transport, plus there are several nice pockets inside for food, treats, etc. 

There weren’t many negatives in my opinion, but I want to mention the following:

  • There is a bit of sag in the netting and sometimes the net gets caught in the joints when the Kondo is folded/unfolded.  I did have to use a screwdriver to spread the joint a bit to get the netting out during my initial setup.  I definitely recommend setting this up at home before you travel with it, just to make sure you have everything you need for setup. 
  • Along the same vein, I had some minor problems with fit during my setup.  The canopy frame fits very tightly and the posts were very difficult to line up just so.  There is no room for play – which is good for stability, but can be tricky for setup.  I think the painted coating added just enough thickness to the posts to make it pretty snug.   
  • The netting used is a fairly open weave that doesn’t have much structure.  There is a bit of sagging along the top of the cat run and it’s a relatively loose draping of net that offers a bit of movement as I mentioned above.  The product instruction sheet clearly states that this material is not recommended for unsupervised use in an animal that chews.  I have to agree with this – although I will admit that I did leave my cats for brief periods unattended after I saw their reaction to the Kondo.  They were having so much fun watching everything that they had no desire to break out!  Having said this, I would have preferred a tighter, stronger weave that might be a bit more resistant to teeth and claws.

Overall, I have to say that this is an excellent product!  While there are a few minor, nitpicky things I might change about the design, the Kritter Kondo performs as expected and is a great product for the price.  I did a quick search for similar products and found that most outdoor cat enclosures were much more expensive than this one.  More importantly, I didn’t find any that were this mobile. 

If you’re like me, and had never even considered taking your cats on a trip before, another point to mention is this:  I have two pretty cool cats, but they are by no means “freak proof.”  Bella is the consummate hunter and takes every opportunity to run out the door and go on a walkabout.  Milo is a huge chicken and is afraid of everything unknown to him.  Point is, either of these guys could have made a case for escape and I wouldn’t have been surprised.  What did surprise me is that they were completely relaxed and comfortable in their Kondo the entire weekend.  There was no howling, scratching, or attempts to escape.  I believe that the design of this Kondo allowed Bella to experience her environment as much as she wanted, while offering Milo a feeling of more security with the shade canopy over him. 

I will definitely take Milo, Bella, and our Kritter Kondo road tripping again once it cools off down here!  In the meantime, it’s going into the backyard so they can enjoy their outdoor time here at home.   If you would like to win one of these Kondos, visit Lisa’s blog Kritters That Twitter and click on the Google Friends tab to follow her.  Even if you don’t camp or travel with your cats, I can think of a ton of reasons why you would still like this product.  And Bella and Milo agree.

Kitty tested; SlobberDog approved!

30 Day Challenge – Day 1

In my efforts to catch up on all the blogs I’ve been behind on for so long, I just recently stopped by A Good Horse, a blog I’m ashamed to say I haven’t caught up on in awhile.  I noticed a few blog posts referencing a “30 Day Horse Challenge” which seems to have been started over at A Horse and a Half.  Well you know me and how I love a challenge, so I’m going to give this a go!  I can’t promise that I’ll actually complete this in 30 consecutive days, and you might be seeing a lot more posts from me if I can actually manage to keep up with it all!  So here goes…and if you want to follow along, comment here and we can link up together. 

Day 1:  Photo of you and your current horse

This is easy – I have a ton of photos of Tiny and I together. 

This photo was taken at one of our last shows to date.  I believe it was taken by Steve Thibodeaux, although I didn’t see a clear attribution to the photographer on the website I found this on.  (If you know who took this photo, please let me know.  I would love to purchase it!).  This image clearly articulates why I love this horse so very much.  We have competed erratically since 2005, and this show was one of only 4 that we have shown at since then.  Tiny is a warrior – it doesn’t matter if it’s been five minutes or five years since she’s seen her last barrel, she’ll turn it just the same each and every time.  If her fitness isn’t quite up to par, no matter.  Her ears still stay perked; she still loves her job.  She just might run out of gas a little quicker.  I’m hoping and praying that this summer I can catch a couple of horse shows and get back in the game.

This photo was taken when Tiny was living just down the street from me.  We had been out on a long trail ride and we stopped by the house for a drink and a bathroom break.  The photo was taken just before we came inside to cool off (yes, Tiny too – no idea why we didn’t take the photo INSIDE the house!!)

 Finally, here are a couple of video links from our last shows, click here and here to watch.

Pets Blogroll Giveaways for June!

We have some really great giveaways that are already underway for June at Pets Blogroll.  You won’t want to miss these ones!  Read on…

First Giveaway:  Lucky Me, a book by Christi Drue Dunlap

About the book:

Lucky Me”, narrated by a rescued dog named Rocky, provides a guide to children and parents looking to add an animal companion to their family. Illustrated with full color photographs by the author, Rocky and his friends walk us through what a humane society can offer to animals, and what every animal guardian should know about caring for and keeping their new family member safe.  This is a really cute book  that my little nephew just adored!  A really great thing is that a portion of the net proceeds from this book will be donated to two of Christi’s favorite pet rescue organizations.  We are giving away 4 of these great books, one each week, so make sure you visit the contest page for details on how to enter!  First drawing is this Friday!

Second Giveaway:  $50 Voucher from PetSimply.com

About PetSimply.com:

PetSimply.com offers deals dogs will dig. Similar to the daily-deal model popularized by Groupon, PetSimply.com is a collective buying website for savvy pet owners.  Save 50 to 90 percent on must-haves for dogs, cats, fish and more.  PetSimply.com finds the best, sometimes hidden, deals on food, meds, supplies, gourmet treats, toys, fashions, boutiques, and more.  We are only giving away 2 of these great vouchers, the first of which will be selected this Friday!  If you haven’t checked out this site, you have to do it now.  It’s a great place to find awesome deals on all sorts of pet products.  Hurry and enter now!

If you’re not a member of Pets Blogroll yet, what are you waiting for?!  Things are heating up over there with our brand new Member Spotlight feature, where your blog is featured on our homepage for an entire month!  We are attracting upwards of 20,000 hits per day which equals a ton of  exposure for your blog.  It’s a great place to find new blogs and keep track of the blogs you love. 

We’re also looking for more contest and giveaway sponsors, so if you have a product you’d like to promote send me an email.

Sunday Stills – Weeds and Grasses

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge was to photograph a variety of weeds and grasses and I had some fun with this one.  I think my new BO thought I was a little nutty when she walked out of the barn and saw me crawling around taking photos of what she (very scientifically) described as “poopweed.”  Ah well…she’ll find out soon enough how nutty I am!  Without further ado….

That’s it for this week’s edition!  I hope you enjoyed it.  Please visit Sunday Stills to check out all the great entries!

You Might Be a Cowgirl…

The other day I was at the grocery and I realized people were looking at me oddly.  I started thinking about it and I realized this wasn’t the first time I’d noticed that recently… Why on earth were people giving me strange looks?  It wasn’t until I got home and kicked off my boots that the pieces started to click together.  Dirt and hair mixed with a bit of M-T-G and smeared on my jeans?  Check.  Giant nuzzle/dirt mark on the front of my shirt?  Check.  Unusual horse-shaped sweat print on my butt?  Check.  Hair standing on end with a few shavings sprinkled in for good measure?  Check. 

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Tyler Conklin

At that moment, it struck me.  I am a Cowgirl.  I’ve always been a cowgirl, sure, but it used to be different.  I lived on the farm and so my barn attire and eau de horse were usually restricted to the home front as I had no need to go out and about dressed that way.  Now I live in the City and, practical girl that I am, I like to multi task.  Therefore you might find me in, say, the grocery dressed in filthy riding jeans with a 15 year old shirt on and spurs jingling as I walk down the aisle.  Needless to say, I stick out like a sore (and stinky) thumb.  As I continued pondering this topic, I began to realize all the ways in which I truly am a cowgirl… 

*I think nothing of shopping around after a long day at the barn, trudging around in my dirty boots with jeans that always seem to drop shavings out of the creases at the worst time.

*My favorite stores are Home Depot and the nearest tack shop. 

*For my birthday one year, my favorite gift was a one year wormer pack.

*Wish lists don’t come from Amazon or Macy’s – more like Schneiders or Horse.com

*I shop for “street clothes” at Tractor Supply Co and covet the new Wrangler flip flops

*I couldn’t change a baby diaper without gagging, but I regularly pick crap out of my horse’s feet and it doesn’t bother me (although I am going to make a case that horse poo is so much less nasty than baby poo)

*My car might be a depository for any of the following at any given time:  saddles, bales of hay, bagged shavings, feed, brushes, or buckets.  And it WILL be a depository at ALL times for dirt, shavings, and horse hair.  I recently got a few odd looks regarding the tail extension hanging from my rearview mirror.  Hey, it beats fuzzy dice, right?

I used to tell my friend, who teasingly called me Cowgirl for months, that I am actually a “horsewoman.”  But you know what?  I AM a Cowgirl.  And proud of it! 

Photo courtesy of Moosealope

Sunday Stills – Looking High, Looking Low

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge was to shoot up or down the subject.  I had some really great ideas for this one, but due to a crazy work schedule and horrific weather, the shoot never materialized.  I still came up with a few that I liked as I was hanging around the barn waiting for the storm to pass.  What do you think?

The roof of the barn

Tiny's friend Raquel

Grady's profile

 

Be sure to stop by Sunday Stills and check out all the great photos submitted this week.

 
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