Monday, August 28, 2017

Wet Saddle Blankets

At some point I really am going to try to write about the trails at VHR, but at this point its been 2 weeks so I should probably try to keep up with that's going on currently, and come back when I have more free time. I mean, historically free time is nonexistent, but whatever, lol. So after the eclipse last week, things continued to be manic at DH's job, which always spills over into my life, so horse time was limited. Over the weekend, we had a lot of things on the to do list -- move some hay for my mom, fix some water lines at both her house and our house (WHY IS THIS THE YEAR OF DIGGING UP WATER LINES). Unfortunately hers proved to be a lot trickier than anticipated, so we didn't get to ours (so guess what I'll be doing tonight? Blech).
Cinna visited the new ACS facility for a farrier appointment and was marginally well behaved.
Ruby tested out a new fly mask for trail riding (since she is VIOLENTLY offended by spider webs haha).
She also tested out a new Spanish bridle! (ignore the fly masks hanging off her sheet, she lost them in the pasture so I was riding around bareback retrieving them lol).
She also got a fancy new stall sign! Isn't the barn owner so crafty? I love it.

Sunday I put my foot down that we weren't doing chores all day -- I wanted to ride! So my mom headed over and we loaded up the trailer. Initially I kind of wanted to check out a new (to us) trail called Cuivre River, but we got a bit of a later start than I wanted (because DH did insist on trying to start digging up the water line and had to be forcibly dragged away), so we decided to stick with our standby of Indian Camp Creek. The horses loaded like champs and we hit the road -- it was muggy and marginally hot when we got on the road, but I was super impressed that 2/3 of the horses unloaded without a drop of sweat on them -- the Kensington screens we installed really help with the airflow! Shockingly, there was only one other trailer in the parking lot, so plenty of space to park and get tacked up.
Ready to ride!
We headed out and decided to do our normal loop backwards -- normally all the fun creek access and sandy trails are at the beginning, and then it gets sort of rocky towards the end. Doing the loop "backwards" meant we got all the rocky bits out of the way at the beginning and then had plenty of time to play in the creek once the horses were hot and sweaty. Everyone handled the rocks well, and since it's been fairly dry lately most of the low crossings didn't have water in them. The one that did turned into a bit of a shit show -- Cinna really wanted to leap over it, and I am not about horses that fling themselves over creeks, so I wouldn't let her. She got herself fairly worked up, so DH came back over to give us a lead/buffer (assuming she couldn't rush it if Trigger was moseying across). And that might have worked, except the terrain was not terribly conducive to making that easy, and after Cinna got across, she got kind of panicked and rushy. She tried to pass Trigger in a very narrow space, wedging all four of us between two trees. DH was on the side with a small sapling, that bent out of the way, so he and Trigger escaped unscathed (although I think it really offended poor Trigger, haha). Of course on my side, there was a HUGE tree, and Cinna wedged my foot into it, then bent it around basically backwards when she panicked and bolted through. Thanks mare. I could still feel all my toes and move things around (gingerly), so I kicked that foot out of my stirrup and we kept going.
We also ran into quite a few pedestrians yesterday (more than usual!). We passed 4 groups of bikers, and thankfully all were polite. We met most of them in areas where it was easy to move off the trail and pass safely, and they were all very considerate about moving slowly. Hooray for people who understand trail rules! We stopped for "lunch" about halfway (DH and my mom had a sandwich, I had some cold pizza, lol). There was a convenient hitching post next to the table, and since I make it a point to leave a halter with lead on Cinna during most trail rides, I tied her up -- yay for life experience ;) she was super good (minus the 5 seconds she spent trying to rub her bridle off). While we were eating, a group of people parked nearby and asked if they could come see the horses. I was a little leery, but agreed (I figured they could pet Trigger, he's very solid). They ended up spending the most time with Cinna, and she ate the attention up. She had them braiding her forelock and hugging her face. They just could not get enough of her, it was adorable.
After our break, we hopped backed on for the remainder of our ride, including the best part -- the creek! Before the creek, we rode through some open fields, and I let Cinna trot (and it actually took some work to kick her up into the canter!). I was super proud at how well she listened -- IDK about any of you, but I always find it a little intimidating the first time I let a green horse "go fast" out in an open area, but she was foot perfect. I also had her lead most of the second half of the ride -- she'd been doing okay in the middle, but she walks WAY faster than either of the QHs on the ride, so it was a constantly give-and-take of not letting her jam her nose up anybody's butt without aggravating her by constantly "checking" her. We finally ended up down in the creek, and all the horses had fun splashing around. Trigger actually basically dragged DH off the trail down to the water, which was hysterical, because he's the most chill ploddy horse ever -- but apparently he really wanted to cool down his legs! Cinna wanted to splash and paw in the water, and kept thinking about rolling, so I kept her walking constantly. That didn't end up doing me any good, as she figured out that if she dropped mid-stride, I couldn't do much besides yell at her, haha. Thankfully I was wearing my waterproof(ish) fauxbarrys, and I don't care if she gets my western saddle wet. I really wish I could find somewhere local to take her and ride her in bareback and let her swim! Although with summer winding down, that might need to be a future project for next summer.
By the time we made it back to the trailer, everyone was pooped. We stripped tack, and headed home! Unfortunately we couldn't hose them when we got back (water line problems, ugh), but it did drizzle on them when we were turning out, and they did plenty of rolling in the grass. We rode over 7.5 miles in about 2.5 hours (I "paused" the app during our lunch break, so that time didn't count).

Definitely a much needed break in what has been a rather hectic month! Unfortunately I don't see things getting much better any time soon :-/ but I'll keep plugging along. All of the horses are happy and healthy (if under-ridden), so I'll try to focus on that and stop beating myself up about my lack of time to ride. And at least we'll have little goat babies to look forward to in the near future -- I need to post pictures of my very pregnant goats!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Path of Totality

I had good intentions (don't I always?) of finishing up my second post about the trails at Von Holten Ranch over the weekend to run yesterday. Obviously that didn't happen, haha. Hopefully later this week! My weekend was a bit off kilter because DH had to put in unexpectedly long hours at work because our local sheriff's department let an inmate escape -- super fun. But I digress. At any rate, my day yesterday was spent in a much more fun manner -- watching the solar eclipse!
Literally all of my shitty cell phone photos turned out like this, so I promise this it the only one I'll torture you with. If you live in a cave and were unaware of the eclipse, go find a much better professional photo.... haha.
My little corner of the boondocks just so happened to be in the path of totality. Because Missouri was expecting more than a million out of town visitors, both DH and I ended up with the day off (well, Mondays is normally his day off, but recently he's been working them, so it was nice for him to get time off). My mom is also off on Mondays, so we decided to watch the eclipse from the sandbar. My mom's friend drove out from St. Louis with a jet ski (our boat isn't really designed for more than 3 people), we loaded up multiple coolers, and took off!
More coolers than people in the boat? Check.
I was a little worried about traffic (because that's all the news had been talking about for DAYS), but luckily where we were heading was out of the way. The boat ramp parking lot was full of eclipse watchers, which was actually a bit annoying, because it was kind of complicated to put the boat in the water with that many people milling around with their cars parked in the way, but we managed, and then we set off! DH was also worried that the sandbar might be crowded, but thankfully, it wasn't too bad. We set up a canopy and a grill, and just vegged out in the sun.
Everyone else had the same idea (although no one else had a canopy, haha), and so we hung out and chatted with people and petted lots of super cute dogs. One of these days we'll manage to bring a teeny dog to the river -- gotta test out that cute lil' life jacket I got! The eclipse started around 11:40 or so and and the totality was at like 1:20 (and then obviously it kept going until like close to 3 but nobody cared about that portion, haha). We all had eclipse glasses, and it was super cool to check the progress every 10 minutes or so. We all tried with varying degrees of success to get photos, but obviously as seen above, mine sucked.
I did finally figure out how to take panoramas on my phone #fiveyearslate
These were taken about 10 minutes apart
The actual moment of totality was so insane -- it got dark enough to see stars, the temperature dropped, and it was eerily quiet. I really am disappointed none of my pics turned out, because it was such an experience to see the sun blotted out by the moon, with just edges of light trying to peek around. But alas, it was over too soon, and the world came back to life.
We tossed our food on the BBQ, and finished up a relaxing afternoon. DH and I got to take some turns on the jet ski (which of course led to him frantically shopping on Craiglist last night, so we'll see how that goes). Despite regular application of sunscreen we all got a little bit of color. Finally it was time to pack it up and head in for the evening.
DH made this grill out of parts he had at the house, after deciding $25 was too much to pay for one at Walmart... haha. But bonus, now we have a "sandbar grill" for future outings!
When we got home, all the animals seemed fine -- no one went blind from staring at the eclipse ;) hahaha. So enjoy this recounting of my non-horsey day on my horsey blog. Sorry not sorry!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Freak Out Friday!

Kick off your Friday with some entertainment! (well, it might only be funny to me, but since it's my blog, I don't really care haha).
Ruby's first time on the teeter totter (she did go across it the next time)
Terrifying machinery! Oh wait. There's grass.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tack Review: Hidez Compression Suit

Well to be honest, obviously I didn't buy one of these bad boys. Despite how tempting it was. So this isn't an actual tack review of the item over a period of use. But I know you guys are all anxious to read about these after seeing my sneaks, and since I'm scheduling this for Thursday, which is my normal tack review post day (when I muster up the energy to do them), it just seemed to fit. So here ya go -- an informal tack review of a product I don't actually own ;) but I totally would buy one if I had discretionary income to blow. Or ya know, if they want to send me one as a reward for all the business I sent them when people started blowing up my Messenger when I posted the photo.... hahaha.
New favorite photo of Ruby. *insert heart eyes emoji haha*
On Saturday morning as I was wandering around Von Holten Ranch, I noticed a new booth -- Hidez. I had heard of their products, but mostly from friends who are barrel racers. Oddly enough, a few days before my trip, I bookmarked this review and eagerly read it when I had some free time. So when I saw the booth, I immediately went over to chat with them. I told them my main discipline was dressage (well ya know, it is when I actually ride with any sort of regularity, haha), and that I'd seen the review on HorseNation. I got a chance to handle the products, and we talked about the kind of problems the Hidez products can help with. It was at this point that one of the reps mentioned demo-ing the suit, so I jumped all over that. I offered Ruby as a model, and headed off to grab her (and my friend, to help me document the experience).
Do it for the 'gram guys! Or ya know... the blog?
So what do Hidez suits do? As per one of their websites I perused, Hidez Compression Gear increases blood flow, delivering oxygen and fuel the muscles need for explosive performance. Compression promotes a calming effect, excellent for horses with performance anxiety issues. Serious athletes need serious gear. Hidez helps fuel top equine athletes all over the world through competition, travel, and recovery. Therapeutic Socks promote healing of stressed or injured structures within the leg. Hidez Ice/Compression Socks are the easiest way to ice legs without exception. No cords, no hoses, no batteries, no babysitting. (Ruby demo'ed their Travel/Recovery Suit.) Hidez Travel and Recovery Suit drives toxins such as lactic acid out of the muscle, decreasing soreness and improving muscle feel. This is especially important in horses that "tie up" as this detox tends to significantly decrease the frequency of these episodes.
Ruby and the "official" Hidez model! haha
After some discussion about sizing Ruby, we started with the 16.2-17 hand size and tossed it on her. The suit has 6 zippers (one on each leg, one on the belly, and one on the chest. We started with the front, and got her all zipped in. Then they asked how she was about having her back legs handled -- I said fine, so total strangers crawled underneath her and started zipping her in. I'm really glad I got to watch experts do it the first time, because there was a bit of a learning curve with getting it on and situated the first time. As one of the reps told me, there's a "wrist twist" that's vital in getting those hind legs in! I can see where it would be a 2 person job the first few times if you were ordering offline without having a chance to try it in person first.
But overall, my impressions were that the suit was very well made. The zippers were solid, and the suits had a fabric flap behind each zipper to prevent any kind of rubs. There was a handy slot to pull the tail through, so at the end, Ruby looked like she was wearing a giant pair of pajamas. The reps both became reps after being customers first, and one said she had a suit going on 2.5 years old -- so while I didn't personally get to test them, sounds like they stand up to some regular use (although if you had horses who are rough on "clothes" I'd be hesitant to try these!). The fabric was great -- although we enjoyed good weather last weekend, it was a bit warm when we were trying on the suit. Ruby wore it for quite a while without any obvious increase in her body temp. I would have no qualms about leaving it on a horse in warm weather as long as there was airflow (fan in a stall, or window open in a trailer).
Discussing with me the easiest way to get it on.
Ruby totally fine with 2 strangers crawling around under her back legs.
It was interesting to watch Ruby as the suit went on -- she started softening her mouth and wiggling it around, which is something I've observed from her during her massage sessions, so I think she really enjoyed the feeling of the suit. She was relaxed throughout the whole process (she's naturally a fairly chill horse), but she did get even more relaxed after she wore it for a bit. The first time we asked her to walk off, she did the hind leg weirdness that some horses do when they wear boots, which made all the bystanders giggle a little.
The sound is a little wonky, sorry!
After watching her walk around for a minute, the reps observed that the initial size was a little too big, so we pulled it off and replaced it with a size fitting 16-16.2 hands (which, you know, was TEAL -- I'm sure the fact that I was dressed head to toe in teal didn't tip them off to my color preference, hahaha). Ruby seemed to enjoy that one even more. She cocked a leg and hung out with droopy eyes and just chilled. Eventually she started acting like she might be relaxed enough to lay down, so I quickly had them pull it off her (lest she get their nice demo suit dirty!).
Overall, I was super intrigued by the concept. I think if I had a horse who was in heavy work, or traveling a lot, I would absolutely be willing to invest in one of these suits. Currently my horses are essentially glorified trail horses, so I couldn't justify the $550 price tag for this particular suit. But they also offer masks, leg wraps, and a variety of other products! One of the suits is designed to actual be used during workouts! They also offer ice/compression boots, for those of you with horses who require frequent leg icing. Compression therapy is not unusual for humans, so it's super interesting to see it make the leap into the equine world. While we didn't try one out last weekend, apparently the Hidez masks are supposed to help horses with performance anxiety? If anyone has tried one of those, weigh in in the comments!
If I were doing my normal "tack review", I would grade them on cost, durability, available colors, etc., but since I didn't purchase one, I don't really feel right doing that. But if you get a chance to try one of these, and they're in your budget -- I'd say go for it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Von Holten Ranch

I have so much to write about I’m not even sure where to start! I suppose the logical place to start would be at the beginning – a few weeks ago, a friend sent me a message asking if I’d be interested in visiting Von Holten Ranch (VHR) with her during their event the Festival of the Horse. She had rented a cabin, and her boyfriend couldn’t attend, so she had a place for me to crash. All I would have to do would be pay to stall Ruby. VHR has been on my list of places to check out for a while now, so I jumped at the chance.
Our cabin!
The Festival of the Horse was going on most of the week, but due to hoarding my vacation time for some upcoming trips, I could only come out for the weekend. My initial plan was to work a half day Friday, run home, grab Ruby, and then double back (plus another hour+) to the ranch. It wasn’t ideal, but I had some work deadlines I didn’t think I could get out of. Luckily, some awesome coworkers produced their portions ahead of schedule, allowing me to work like a maniac on Thursday to get everything done, freeing up my Friday for a leisurely trip down to VHR. 
Mostly packed, the night before.
Friday morning I woke up with only a few goals in mind – finishing packing last minute odds and ends, do chores at my house, wash Ruby, and then hit the road. Of course when I woke up, it was raining…. womp womp. I hustled through chores at the house, tossed everything in the truck and trailer, and mercifully by that point, it had stopped raining. I popped down the road to wash Ruby, and she acted like she’d never been on the washrack or been bathed before. Super fun experience. I was hoping that wasn’t an indicator of how the weekend would go…..
Kind of in love with my rig, not gonna lie. New clutch and all.
She loaded up like a champ, and we hit the road! The drive down was more or less uneventful – my GPS took me a way that involved a lot of hilly, windy back roads, which was less than appreciated (if someone could make a GPS app for equestrians pulling horse trailers, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY), but by noon I was finally was pulling through the gates of VHR!
Ruby settling in to her 10x10 stall.
Due to the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF STUFF I need to write about last weekend, I decided to break it up into (hopefully) manageable chunks. First I want to talk about the facility and the folks -- I have so much to say about my Hidez experience (I know ya'll are waiting for it lol), and all the wicked fun TRAIL RIDING we did. But I think the facility and the people earned their own special shout out before I even think about writing about anything else. VHR is a Century Farm, meaning it's been in the Von Holten family for more than 100 years (in this case, since 1906). Brandy and David are the 4th generation to operate it, and they're the geniuses behind the creation and maintenance of this little slice of horse heaven.
The covered arena.
View from the covered down towards some of the stalls.
Another shot of one of the barns looking down towards the cabins.
This 300 acre facility boasts miles of well marked and maintained trails of varying difficulty, a large (200x125) covered arena with excellent footing, a wedding/event barn (someone actually got married while we were there this weekend!), 40 electric sites for camping, 4 cabins, close to 100 covered stalls, a heated/air conditioned shower house, and a plethora of obstacles and desensitization tools. The ranch house also has a small selection of horse products and VHR merchandise (yes of course I bought things) and also features DELICIOUS honey ice cream for sale.
More pics of the barns (right and center -- covered arena far left) Sunday after things had cleared out a little so you could see better :)
As a horse person, I appreciated all the care and thought that went in to planning these facilities. When I pulled in, there was a sign requesting I check in at the office, where they not only looked at my Coggins, but checked it against the horse in my trailer (in 10 years of traveling to shows and venues I don't think this has EVER happened to me before). The barns had water hydrants, hoses and spray nozzles on each end, along with wheelbarrows and pitchforks for mucking (and a manure pile nearby). The stalls were breezy and easy for me to hang my buckets and hay net. Although I brought my own shavings, VHR offers both shavings and hay for sale (or buckets and bucket straps, if you came super unprepared, lol). At the end of the trip, your stall needs to be stripped, or you can leave a tip in the office and they'll handle it for you. Many of the electric sites are pull through, which made navigating them in a horse trailer an absolute breeze (especially if you're rusty at backing a gooseneck horse trailer *cough cough*). Each site has a gravel pad for trailer parking (we had beautiful weather but I imagine that's SO helpful when it's raining or muddy!), a fire pit, a trash can, and obviously an electric hookup. They were all well marked and laid out in a logical order.
The trash cans were attached to the posts by horseshoes -- fun touch!
Ranch house in the far back, shower house in the middle, and stalls in the foreground.
Our cabin was small but tidy, and offered two twin beds, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The little porch had a table and two chairs. I brought sandwich stuff, chips, and hot dogs, and combined with the ice cream, did just fine on the food front. Depending on the events each weekend, sometimes VHR offers food for purchase -- Saturday we had tacos! They also have complimentary coffee in the ranch house in the mornings, so you can bet where I was every morning, lol. 
Mmmmm caffeine.
Although the main draw for me was the trails, I also had a chance to utilize some of their very cool trail obstacles. Some of the bigger ones are set up outside the arena, and one whole corner of the arena holds an eclectic mix of objects you can set up and practice with to your hearts content -- I think the most hysterical one for me was the taxidermied racoon. The double take Ruby did when she figured out what it was had me laughing so hard I almost fell off. I didn't spend much time in the arena, but we did enjoy the pedestal and teeter totter to my heart's content. I was curious how Ruby would react to them, but after some initial side-eye, she climbed on everything like she'd been doing it her entire life (although her comical scramble off the teeter totter the first time it moved was almost as hysterical as the racoon thing).
Standing on the pedestal less than 3 minutes after sniffing it for the first time.
Bored with the teeter totter (until it moved, lol).
Although the trails merit their own separate post, the last thing I need to praise about VHR has to be the people. Brandy and David are some of the nicest, hardest-working, innovative people you will ever meet. I don't think I ever went more than 2 hours without seeing one of them zipping around on a mule (the motorized kind, although Brandy does also have an ADORABLE mule named JoJo that she competed last weekend) helping someone out, delivering shavings or firewood, problem solving, and generally just making sure everyone had a great experience. They were the first people up in the morning and the last ones to crash at night (I have no idea how they can function on that little sleep, because I sure couldn't!). Any hint of a problem, and they were there to help you try and solve it. They were never too busy to stop and answer questions, and always gave you their full attention when you needed it. Customer service can make or break an experience for me -- and in this case, 15/10 would absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend VHR and Brandy and David. I wanted to scope out the ranch as a possible weekend trail ride getaway for me and DH, and I cannot WAIT to go back. If you haven't visited yet, you're missing out! Check out their calendar of upcoming events, and get down there!