2019 goals · Uncategorized

2019 Goals: January Recap

Original Goals Post

So, how did January go?


  • Get to First Level – we’ve had some truly superb rides in January, despite them being few and far between, and he’s had moments of a gorgeous balance that’s not quite First Level, but it’s definitely beyond Training.
  • Set up & run tack swap/sale – I have called a potential venue, conversed with the barn, and on Sunday I laid out some plans to distract myself from the Superbowl
  • Take 12 lessons – 1/12, check!
  • Volunteer at 6 events – hahahaha, what events, there’s 2′ of snow outside.
  • Get & share 1 video per month of rides – sadly January was a bust on this


  • Finish house interior work – living room is primed and we’ve chosen a color! now to finish painting
  • Finish funding emergency fund – 67% of the way there
  • Pay off vision correction surgery – 47% of the way there
  • Try 24 new recipes – 5/24, all excellent
  • Write 20k on Morgan book – no writing, but some research progress; follow the Morgan Mondays tag for more


  • Get to 500 sales on Etsy – 208/500
  • Separate website and social media for business – social media check, website not yet
  • Take accounting class – check! I did a webinar through the Small Business Administration; I need to do some more, but I was happy with it.
  • Develop 3 new patterns – I have two in the works but man this is slow going. It’s hard to balance the actual business production with doing new things.
  • Have a total of 7-10 items for sale – Nothing new yet.
equestrian history · Uncategorized

What is a butteris?

So, I work in a museum. Every week, we do a “what is it?” object focus on something random from our collection.

Here’s this week’s object.


Do you know what it is?

Well, the social media person came to me and said “The collections record says this is a hoof parer. Can you tell me more about that to share?” To which I said, “Wait, a WHAT?!”

Yeah. It’s apparently a very old style of hoof knife. The proper technical term for it is “butteris,” sometimes spelled buttris, buttrice, butterys, and a bunch of other variations.

By “very old,” I mean that according to The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment by John Clark,

The word is recorded quite early in English – as in 1366, when John Wyot was accused of having maliciously wounded a horse at the smithy of John Mareschal in Wood Street[in London] with an instrument called a ’boutour.’

Clark also finds illustrations of the tool dating to the 15th and 16th centuries, but states that “by the early 19th century, the use of the butteris was being actively discouraged.” He cites an 1831 veterinary manual that calls the butteris “that most destructive of all instruments.”

But how would you use it, you ask? Well.


An article from The Carriage Journal describes the process.

With the horse’s hoof held with his knees, the farrier held the butteris at the grip with his right hand and the rest in his right shoulder. Short thrusts forward from the shoulder were used to trim the hoof.

True story, we were looking at the above photo in awe when a volunteer who is also a horse person came up behind us, saw the photo, and yelled. Blunt force trauma trimming, anyone?

By the early 19th century, the hoof knives we know and love today had started to supplant the butteris for obvious reasons, and by the mid 19th century there are patents for hoof nippers that are basically the same as today’s designs. I can only imagine that both worked better than a wholesale shearing off of the bottom of a horse’s foot.

You can still buy them, though. For a cool $119.

stupid human tricks · Uncategorized

On Release

I could have written this blog post a dozen times over the last twenty or so years of my riding life.

I am bad at letting go. It can be a great quality – it makes me a good historian – but it can also be a bad quality.

I’m sure you can guess the horse-related circumstances in which it’s a very bad quality.

In my lessons lately, I’ve been working very hard on releasing.


See, Tris is just as stubborn as I am. Maybe even more so. He wants what he wants. He meets resistance and doubles down.

Previous trainers had me bending or flexing him all the time. Every second. The whole ride. He was not to be ridden straight; that would exacerbate his already stuck tendencies.

Like many before me and many after me, I developed the bad habit of hanging on the inside rein. Especially the left. I could get some softness right, but never left.

A lot of people talk about horses as a partnership. A true sense of that has always evaded me with Tristan. I adore him, and I have no doubt that he trusts and relies on me, but more often our rides are an uneasy conversation. It’s not easy – emotionally or physically.


I need to let go. I need to offer him up things – the inside rein, a chance to carry the rhythm, my pursuit of the perfect trot at the end of a lesson. I need to trust him to take it from me and hold up his half of the bargain.

He hasn’t always. I know we are never supposed to blame horses for anything, but I don’t think I can overstate how strong Tristan’s personality is. I have only just now been his human for as long as he has lived unable to trust humans. He didn’t see any need to take his half.

But he’s getting there. I’m getting there. I’ve been giving away the inside rein in big, exaggerated loops. I’ve been physically lifting my legs off his sides entirely after asking for more. I’ve been choosing to end on that last good transition.

It’s hard. It does not come naturally. I still suck at it, and am still exponentially worse in every area of my life.

But this is why we keep coming back to horses, isn’t it? All the answers are in there, somewhere. It’s an exhausting, painful, financially ruinous, heartbreaking way to find the answers, but they are there.


F(l)ail Friday

I’ve been busy and hermit-ing the last few weeks; I was away for a week on vacation in Maine, and since I’ve gotten back it’s either been cold, stormy, or I’ve been working. So Tris has had some time off, and, well.

He’s been a bit punky.

He would like you to know that even though he turns 24 this year, age is just a number.

morgan history · Uncategorized

Morgan Monday: More Stallion Advertisements

Previously, I explored the stallion advertisements that Justin Morgan placed for his stallion Figure.

Today, I’ll talk a little bit more about some other stallion advertisements that may or may not be connected to Figure.

I’ll start by going back in time from the last post a bit. In one of his advertisements, Morgan claimed that Figure was famously at stud in Harford. (“Famous” being I think a bit of marketing.)

Generally, people agree that a series of stallion advertisements placed in May 1792 by a Samuel Whitman are for the same stallion Figure.

hartford courant, 5-5-1792, samuel whitman

Why do we think this stallion is “our” figure?

It’s not entirely clear, honestly. Here’s how the evidence lines up.

In 1788, Justin Morgan moved from Springfield, MA to Randolph, VT. He sold his farm in Springfield in March 1788 and brought his young family up to Vermont with him, but we know that he traveled back and forth to Springfield from time to time.

We also know that he had business dealings with Hartford and with people in Hartford, and that some of them were related to horses – the stallion most commonly named to be Figure’s sire, True Briton/Britain (about whom much, much more later) came from Hartford. Morgan leased him for a few seasons of stallioneering from a man named Selah Norton.

We also know that Figure was roughly 15 hands and bay, but that doesn’t tell us much. Loads of the stallions in advertisements at the time were 15hh bays. There were also plenty named Figure, a name which is supposed to evoke the good looks of the horse. (Like saying “a fine figure of a horse.”)

There is one piece of compelling coincidental evidence: Whitman’s stallion ad ran for just two issues of the Courant, terminated on May 21. On June 20, Justin Morgan’s Grand List valuation (basically a list saying how much property he had) jumped to 23 pounds from his 1791 listing of 10 pounds. He added 10 pounds to his net worth in a year. In 1791, the Vermont legislature passed a law saying that any stallion of two years or older was valued at twenty pounds. The argument there is that Morgan’s valuation jumps because he adds Figure to his property.

So, if we follow that through-line, Figure either outright belonged to or was leased to Samuel Whitman of Hartford sometime in the spring of 1792 (or earlier). It’s commonly accepted that Morgan himself bred Figure; let’s say he was bred in that last month before the family left for Vermont, March 1788, and foaled in February or March of 1789. That puts him at just barely three years old when Whitman was using him at stud in Hartford.

Was he started under saddle? If so, who trained him? Why did he then move from Whitman to Morgan – was it, as many stories have it, that he was payment for a debt? Had Morgan simply leased the stallion out and now that he was settled in Vermont, he was returning for him? Had Morgan himself made the arrangements with Whitman or had his brother John? (The two frequently worked together in the horse breeding business.) Why return then?

One of the focuses of my research is to try and untangle those questions if they can be, starting with trying to establish a clear link between Justin Morgan and Samuel Whitman.

gear · Uncategorized · winter

New Barn Winter Coat

Some time ago, I asked for advice on purchasing a new barn winter coat. Thank you to everyone who responded! I had a lot to think about, did a ton of research, and purchased a coat.

I went with L.L. Bean’s Winter Warmer Jacket.

Winter Warmer Jacket

It had a lot of the things I wanted, but was missing some others. The only thing I really wish it had was a two-way zipper. I often zip up the bottom a bit when I’m in the saddle so it doesn’t bump the pommel. Not possible with this jacket. The zipper is well-protected, though, so it’s not scraping.

Ultimately, I’m really happy with it. I paid $74.99 on a 25% off sale around Black Friday. I’ve ridden in it maybe two dozen times since then, and worn it out and about to other places as well.

It’s a terrific winter exercise jacket: by which I mean once I get moving a little bit, it’s perfectly warm down to single digits. It breathes pretty darn well, so even when I’m sweating a bit it doesn’t feel gross, especially if I’ve layered appropriately underneath. It’s roomy enough that I can comfortably wear a base layer and a vest underneath and not feel too snug – but also just wear the jacket and not feel too floppy.

It’s not a good hanging around in winter jacket. It’s only good down to mid-20s for that. It would not be a good ski jacket, which is a lot of waiting punctuated by short exercise. It’s not a good jacket to wear when you’re just hanging out outside. It just doesn’t have any insulation for that, and once you get cold from standing around, you’re going to stay cold.

It’s nicely waterproof and looks sharp. It’s also quite windproof, which was a good benefit.

Here’s a blurry picture of me wearing it on New Year’s Day, which was a VERY cold and windy day. I was comfortable under the coat, it was just my face and hands that were not.