Monday, December 19, 2016

Just Passing Through

I'm sure the lengthy silence is not unexpected to those of you following me on social media -- I'm currently midway through a week in Puerto Rico with DH, my best friend, and her boyfriend. We escaped Missouri in the nick of time, as a major ice storm and then subzero temps descended within hours of our our flight out. 
Although I'm having a spectacular (and warm!) time, yesterday I received some news that cast some gloom over our time here. My grandmother, who had been suffering from increasingly poor health over the last few weeks, passed away surrounded by my family on Sunday. I'm trying to enjoy the remainder of my trip, letting it fortify me for what will surely be a difficult Christmas season and following week as we deal with services and burial. Death is never easy, even when it's not unexpected, but I am glad she is no longer in pain, and know she was ready to be reunited with my grandfather. I will miss her quirky sense of humor, and her insistence on referring to my dachshunds as those "ugly little dogs". She was one of a kind. 
Although I haven't been commenting, I am still following along and keeping current on everyone's blogs, and enjoying reading about everything from small victories at schooling shows to entertaining Christmas lists. I expect content here will be somewhat sparse through the end of the year, but hopefully 2017 will bring a fresh start. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blog Hop: December 10 Questions

As always, when I'm lacking content (between both the cold weather and the plague I'm suffering from, absolutely NO barn time is going on), L. Williams saves the day with her 10 questions!

Does your horse need shoes? 
At the current moment with their levels of work, none of my horses need shoes. That might change in the future, I don’t know. 

What do you think of the barefoot vs shoes debate? 
I think it’s dumb. Some horses do fine barefoot. Some don’t. That doesn’t make anybody right or wrong, it just makes each horse individual. If your horse need shoes, use them. If your horse doesn’t, don’t. It’s not rocket science. There are so many variables (genetics, environment, level of work, etc) that one blanket method isn't going to work for everyone.
I cleared all the photos off my phone to make space for vacation photos, so all I have so goofy selfies of me snuggling Cici.

Favorite season for riding? 
I really love spring! Winter makes me miserable, so as soon as it starts warming up I get so energized to ride! I don’t necessarily like the mud that frequently accompanies it, but still. 

How many shows do you think you’ve gone to? 
I really have no idea. I could probably work out how many dressage shows I’ve competed in if I counted backwards using all my ribbons, but then before that there was a hunter show, and tons of fun shows. And that’s just ones I’ve competed in, I’ve attended WAY more as a spectator. The mind boggles…. 
I don't have my childhood ribbons anymore, but anything I've won in the last 10 years is hanging in my office at work.

Do you consider yourself a good rider? 
Not particularly. In terms of equitation, absolutely not. In terms of being able to stick with a horse while they’re doing something stupid, then yes, on a good day I’m okay-ish. But I’m not certainly not going to be short listed for the Olympics… ever… haha. 

How experienced do you think someone needs to be to own a horse? 
I’m so torn on questions like this… because I’m a big believer in personal freedom, but I’ve also had to watch horses suffer first hand because they’re owned by idiots. I guess in the grand scheme of things, my opinion on this really doesn’t matter because I don’t actually have the power to change things… but in a utopian paradise, I’d love to see people have to be licensed (like a driver’s license) to own animals, or even friggin’ reproduce. Do you know how many idiots out there spawn?? 
Don't have animals if you aren't going to take care of them. Or kids. Don't do that either.

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer? 
Since I’ve never really had a long term trainer, no. The longest span of time I took lessons from a single person was around a year, and I can’t recall ever fighting with her.

Describe your dream horse. 
Cinna with Topaz’s brain only black, not grey… haha. In all honesty, all of my Andalusians have been dream horses in their own way. 
She's a sassy little shit but I still love her.

Does anyone in your family ride? 
My mom is where I inherited my love for horses. She doesn’t really ride competitively any more, just trails and the occasional fun show. My husband likes to trail ride with me, and has competed at the local level in some fun shows in western pleasure. 

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? Why? 
Not that I’m in any way skilled enough for this, but wouldn’t it be fun to breeze a racehorse like Rachel Alexandra, or ride a dressage test on Valegro?? Realistically though, at this point I’d love to sit on a patient schoolmaster who would give me the chance to work on just ME for a change, not perpetually me and the horse at the same time. 
Also, although I'm typing this up on the weekend, it will be posting on Monday, so happy 7th wedding anniversary DH!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

Quite a few of the blogs I follow have been doing A Soft Spot for Star's blog hop about location, which not only gives me something fun to write about, but a new blog to follow!
I reside in central Missouri. I am in a unique position of both owning a small farm, and also boarding one of my riding horses out. I'm in a pretty rural area, and my horse-owning friends seem to be pretty evenly split between boarding out and keeping horses on their own property.
Aerial shot of our property before we bought it.
Horse keeping costs in this area are fairly reasonable, but of course there are trade-offs. All answers are just going to reflect my personal experience! For anyone else reading this in my area, YMMV.
  • Trims - $25-40
  • Shoes- although everybody is barefoot right now, I've had horses shod in the front, and I typically paid about $90 for a trim and front shoes. I've never had a horse shod all the way around, so no idea!
  • Average cost of a month of full time training- I honestly don't know for around here, but the one time I paid someone else to train a horse for me, I paid $650 a month with board included (this was on the western side of the state, not in central MO)
  • Average monthly pasture board- $150-200
  • Average monthly stall board- $300-400 depending on the amenities. You can find it cheaper or more expensive depending on the options you want.
  • Hay:
    • Round bale, mixed grass- $25-$40 (depending on if you need it delivered/dropped or if you can pick it up and move it yourself)
    • Square bales, mixed grass- $2/bale picked up out of the field (avg. 50 lb bale). We work for a farmer, so we also get really nice brome and lespedeza for around the same price. I know other people pay more, especially if they want it delivered and stacked, but we are willing to do most of the work so we can get a price break. You can get other options (alfalfa, orchard grass, etc) if you're willing to pay more, but my guys do just fine on grass hay.
It's not Kentucky bluegrass, but we still do grow some nice hay.
Weather? Personally the thing I dislike most about this area is the weather. We have hot and humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Some years are better than others -- last year we had a pretty mild winter, which was nice, because the winter before last we got stuck in the "polar vortex" bullshit where the "feels like" frequently hovered well into the negatives for days or weeks. Our summers have lots of 90+ degree days, and when you add in the super gross humidity, there are days where it feels like you're trying to breathe through wet cotton. *other people might not find the weather so awful, I just seem to be really negatively affected by extremes in temperature, both hot and cold* Our spring and fall are typically pretty nice, although we've had a couple years in a row with a TON of rainfall, which means outdoor shows were being canceled left and right.
Like this. Two feet of snow is fucking dumb. Ughhhhhhhh.
Riding demographic for the area? We have a little bit of everything. There are several local show circuits that cater to stock horses (although I like to mix things up and take my Andalusians haha). There is a small, but fun dressage and CT community, as well as some eventers (although they have to leave the county for true eventing competitions, I don't think there are any full cross country courses for shows unless you drive at least 2 hours away). We have tons of western people and trail riders. Callaway County is also home to one of the most famous Saddlebred farms in the country, so lots of saddle type riders as well. There is also a thriving hunter/jumper community with some great local show series. While I know there are people around here who drive or do endurance, I don't actually know of any competitions for those things (although since I don't do them, could be that I am just out of the loop!).
Plenty of little fun shows you can dink around at and win little ribbon strips.
Nice things about my area:
  • Low cost of living (our mortgage on 17 acres is lower than a lot of the board costs I've seen in this blog hop -- however, obviously it will increase when we build a house!)
  • Less than an hour to a major university vet hospital and one of the top repro clinics in the country
  • Awesome local tack store
  • Two universities with equestrian programs (leading to lots more equine events/boarding options than your typical Missouri county)
  • Tons of low-key schooling shows to get your horse mileage without spending $$$$$
  • Two hours from both STL and KC, with much bigger shows scenes
  • Plenty of big show venues within a day's drive (Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, etc)
  • Very lax (aka nonexistent) zoning laws or regulations -- we can literally build whatever we want without permits... haha. Of course, this goes both ways! Some of our neighbors have some sketchy as shit buildings....
I mean, who doesn't want to dress up their horse as as unicorn for a costume class? haha

Frustrating things about our area?
  • Lack of good instructors and clinicians (or when available, they're cost prohibitive). There are a handful, but not a ton. I'm also a little picky on who I'll spend my money with, so this might be more of a "me" problem than a "local" problem... lol.
  • Lack of large indoor arenas (the local university has 2, which is great if you're a student there, but less great for everyone else -- except when they hold shows!). Probably 75%+ of the local show venues are outside, because very few people have an indoor large enough for a dressage court (even a small one). That's wonderful when the weather is nice, but since it's the Midwest, the weather is frequently NOT nice. If you can trailer, there are definitely more indoor venues in the KC/STL area.
  • Lack of variety in available feeds (you can get the big brands like Purina and Nutrena, and a few others, but it's pretty basic)
  • Limited equine trails (We have a super trail system in Missouri called the Katy Trail, but horses are only allowed on two small sections. There are a handful of state parks that allow trail riding, but a lot of them have pretty rough terrain.)
Where else could I have something like this in my backyard? haha
All in all, this part of the Midwest is pretty decent to live in for horseowners, unless you have really high aspirations for showing/training. If I were diehard about dressage and really wanting to advance, I would definitely need to move somewhere else... lol. But lucky for me, I'm perfectly content being a lower-level AA, and right now I'm more focused on having fun with my horses than anything else.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I've Got Nothing

Sorry it's been quiet here this week. We ended up with a second dachshund on cage rest so it feels like my entire life revolves around trying to keep them both comfortable and quiet -- anyone who has dachshunds probably knows that's an uphill battle.
We also spent Sunday visiting my grandma. Without going into a ton of detail (because this blog is mostly supposed to be about the horses), she isn't doing well. She only intermittently recognized me. I'm grateful that most of our family still lives near her, and that she has basically daily visits, but I still wish I were closer. We're planning on visiting again for Christmas, so hopefully things turn around by then.
We did have fun at the ACS Christmas party last weekend!
DH and I are hosting the Christmas party for my GMO this weekend, which is great, except I seem to have come down with the plague (I'm writing this from my couch, where I plan to spend my entire day).
Probably giggling at this goober with his new 'baby'.
Aside from that, we're mostly trying to get the house and property ready for our trip next week -- stocking up on all the feed for the various animals, writing up feeding instructions and emergency contacts, cleaning the spare room so the housesitter has somewhere to sleep, making a medication chart for the dachshunds (since they'll be transitioning off steroids the week we're gone), and so many other fun things. I'm starting to remember why we never go on vacation.....
All the badger dogs got new beds! (Which they delight in pissing on, because, dachshunds....)

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Goals Review/December Goals

November Goals 
- (Cinna) Attend first horse show, complete one dressage test without leaving the arena or dumping rider 
Success! And the icing on that cake was her nonchalant attitude, superb score, and actually bringing home satin!
- (Cinna) Continue to work as often as weather allows 
Mixed bag on this. After the show I trail rode her once, and have lunged her a few times.
 - (Ruby) Attend fall schooling show, attain scores necessary to be eligible for CDCTA year-end awards 
Success! And I found out earlier this week we were reserve champion at Training Level this year! Not bad considering I only showed enough to get like the minimum scores to be eligible… haha. I had no plans to try for year-end awards this year, so this was a nice bonus! 
- (Ruby) Go on another ride at Indian Camp Creek, or a new trail 
Well..... I did go on another ride at ICC, but I took Trigger, because Ruby was healing from a small shoulder gash. Soooo, I guess that was a fail too... haha. 
- (Myself) Continue working out regularly, either at the gym or using DVDs at home 
Uhhhhhh didn’t really happen…. At all. I could make a million excuses, but I just didn't.
- (Myself) Seriously STAHP spending money and repay savings account for impulse hot tub purchase and save for PR 
All aboard the failboat…. Haha. Placed a stress order with Riding Warehouse (no regrets) and succumbed to a 12 days of Christmas deal for a much needed blanket for Ruby.

December Goals
I waffled back and forth for a while trying to write some reasonable, attainable goals for this month, but I honestly just can’t think of any. My work – life – barn/riding balance is in complete and utter disarray, the weather has officially moved into sucky winter territory (I don’t do well below 40 degrees), I’m starting to get panicked about how much I have to get done before our vacation and no time to do it in, and I’m deep into the December financial doldrums of “why are tax bills and all of my truck licensings due the same month that I have to buy Christmas presents for everyone and WHY DID I THINK IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO GO ON VACATION AT THE SAME TIME?!?!” 
Dachshunds are great. Until they have back problems.
Mmmmm yes, cue full on melt down earlier this week. Adding to that slightly stressful mix is the fact that we have one dachshund on cage rest, one possibly heading that way, my grandma's health is failing, my boss is leaving the organization I work for (and the last time that happened it took 6+ months to fill the position), and several other things going on I don’t even have the energy to detail. Sooooo my stress level is currently hovering around DEFCON 2 and making goals for the month seems a little too daunting. 

So here are my not-goal goals for December… 
- (Myself) Destress, decompress, and drink lots of rum on the beach in Puerto Rico. Also, try to go horseback riding. 

That’s it. That’s my only goal for December. And hopefully I will have a renewed stock of ambition and energy for January!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Writing an Effective Sales Ad

I wrote this article for my GMO last fall, and since the USDF Convention is this weekend, I thought it would be fun to resurrect it! This article won me my first USDF award for a GMO newsletter article :)

At some point or another, most of us have probably purchased a horse. Many of us have also sold horses. Few would describe either process as enjoyable. Buyers complain there is not enough information in an ad, while sellers find that even if they include information, they’re still stuck answering the same questions over and over.

As a buyer, I’ve had the fun experience of wading through ads that are missing basic information, or have so much information that they’re overwhelming. As a professional writer/editor, I’ve also helped out many friends by “polishing” sale ads to help convey information in the most succinct way possible.
The best rule of thumb for sale ads is to keep it simple! There will be plenty of opportunities to share further details with potential buyers once they’ve initiated contact, so you don’t need to write a novel for a sale ad. But take care that you don’t simplify too much; you need to ensure that your ad includes certain necessary information.

Start with the basics – breed, registry, age, sex, color, and height. If the horse is registered with a breed that requires genetic testing (for example, HYPP in Quarter Horses or SCID in Arabians), include the results. If the horse is an unusual color, listing the official results of color testing may also be appropriate.

Training – be honest about the level of training (and showing, if applicable). If the horse has a show record, include some results. For example, “consistently scores in the mid-60s at First Level”, or “point and shoot jumper competing through 1.3M at rated shows.”

Around the barn – include basic information about how the horse is to handle for bathing, clipping, farrier, vet, etc.

Temperament – is the horse quirky? Is it “husband-safe?” Accurately assessing the horse’s temperament can be useful in weeding out potentially unsuitable matches.

Price – in about a quarter of the sale ads I see, there is no price. Even if you don’t want to list a dollar amount, it can be helpful to include something like “priced in the low 5 figures.”

If you’re advertising a horse as breeding stock (stallion or mare), include any relevant reproductive information.

And last but not least, my favorite part – sales photos! A good photo can make a $1,000 horse look like a $10,000 horse, and vice versa. Include at least one good conformation photo, and several “action” shots of the horse performing in the discipline you are marketing them for.

For conformation photos, make sure the horse is neat and tidy (clean at an absolute minimum, bathed and clipped if at all possible!) and wearing a nice halter or bridle. Pick a pleasant background with no distracting clutter. Conformation shots are a two-person job at minimum, sometimes three! Besides the photographer, you need to have someone holding the horse and keeping their attention – a bored, disinterested horse doesn’t photograph well.

The most appropriate type of “action” shot will vary from discipline to discipline. Marketing a horse as a dressage horse, jumper, eventer, etc., will require some knowledge of the kind of shots that show the horse to its’ best advantage for each particular discipline, and then the ability to duplicate the shot. As with conformation photos, a neat and tidy horse (and rider!) and uncluttered background are vital.

If the horse has a show record, include show photos – however, do not use show proofs. Advertising with proofs that you haven’t purchased is illegal and considered theft.

While it can be tempting to include fun candid shots of horses from their daily routine, these often detract from a sale ad. Some examples of photos that shouldn’t be used include photos of a horse out grazing in a field, shots with cluttered backgrounds, photos of people in unsafe situations (standing on a horse’s back), partial body shots, etc.

Using digital cameras over film has many perks – one being that you can take plenty of photos to get that perfect shot! When choosing photos for your sale ad, three or four stellar shots is infinitely preferable to 10 mediocre shots.

Consider a sales ad like an elevator pitch – in this digital age, people have short attention spans. A brief ad covering the most basic questions will get you more targeted interest than an ad lacking pertinent details, or an ad that includes so much information that it overwhelms the buyer. The right sales ad can significantly decrease the amount of time you spend answering questions (as a seller) or asking questions (as a buyer), and the less time you spend on that, the more time you can spend in the barn!