blog hop · grooming

Blog Hop: What’s in your grooming kit?

I am super horribly way behind the ball with this blog hop, but damn it, I’m doing it anyway.

(I’m so far behind I don’t remember who started it – sorry? If it was you let me know so I can credit!)


Once upon a time, I boarded at a barn where the only thing you were allowed to have outside of your tack trunk was one pair of tall boots. That’s it. My tack trunk is an old wooden chest that served as my great-great-uncle’s tool chest, and as such it does not have modern conveniences like space for full grooming kits.

So my grooming kit was this small bucket that, if I tipped it sideways, would slide into the tack trunk. The problem with that was that you had to tip it just right, and even if you had the knack of it, half the time everything in it would fall out. I put up with it for years, because lo, I am lazy as shit.

Then, a friend who was riding Tristan on and off for me bought me a proper grooming kit, because by that time I was boarding at a different barn that did not care if my grooming kit was outside my tack trunk, and she took pity on me, and I think she hated the part where all the grooming tools fell out half the time. The story of my riding life is basically set to “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends,” like the time Hannah cut Tristan’s boot velcro straps that had been too long for like 5 years.


For a few years now I have had a proper grooming tote, and what do you know? Having organizational cubbies actually means I keep this thing pretty darn organized.

Left to right: hoof pick, curry comb (pro tip: buy a child’s size if you have tiny hands like me, it’s much easier to manage), shedding blade (this lives in year round; when he’s not shedding, he’s muddy, and fuck if I can remember to cycle it in and out), stiff brush, soft brush, mane & tail brush, soft face brush.

These are the standards; right now, I’m stuck with the shitty Vetrolin liniment because I could not find Sore No More for a while. I got the EquiFuse in my Blogger Gift Exchange package last year and when I remember to use it I love it. The detangler lives in the grooming box because I will frequently spray it on his tail even when I have no intention of combing it out; it helps keep things from getting too bad.
This time of year, I also do a quick spray of detangler on his shoulders every few days to help keep his blanket from rubbing.

I always keep some array of meds and/or treatment things in the grooming kit. Right now, it’s this fabulous Vitamin E ointment because I was treating Tristan’s fly sheet rub with it, and No Thrush, which is this nifty powdery thrush stuff I’m trying out and like quite a bit.
Not pictured: a small towel that I usually keep there just in case, and generic Tums. I’d run out last week. I use the Tums, I’ll be honest, mostly as a placebo for myself. I will sometimes feed them to him before the ride if he hasn’t had his grain, or if he’s looking a little iffy I’ll feed them after the ride. In theory, they form a buffer and help prevent ulcers, which totally works in some horses. In practice, when he’s 100% fine but I can’t make my anxious brain shut up, I feed them to him and it helps. He eats them like treats, and they have zero negative effect and some small positive, so.
blog hop

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Jumping on the bandwagon so late there might not even still be a bandwagon. That’s just how I roll lately.

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?

Geldings. Mares and I do not work. I’ve only ever enjoyed one.

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?

Aspiration: fully broke.

Reality: green broke.
Tris was basically still wild when I started working with them – he did not know how to be groomed or pick up his feet. I helped put him in a squeeze chute at the rescue to get his shots.
Training him has been a remarkable experience but every time I sit on a trained horse, I feel so much better about myself. I feel like I do actually know how to ride.

3. Would you own a “hotter” breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).

Nope. Not my style. I prefer a kick ride to a pull ride.

I mean, I would like to do a little less kicking, TRISTAN, but I am not mentally built to enjoy a horse with a bit of an edge.

4. What was your “dream horse” growing up?

Black mustang stallion. I had it all planned out, you guys. He was going to be untamable by anyone but me and we would go on moonlit adventures and I would spend hours crying into his silky mane.

I got the mustang and the crying part right, I guess?

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?

I’ve gone over the bits of my past before.

Tris currently goes in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle for dressage and trail riding, and a full cheek double-jointed snaffle for jumping. He hasn’t needed anything more in a long time.

6. Helmets or no helmets?


Jesus Christ, people, it’s 2015, buy a goddamn fucking clue already and wear your helmet.

7. Favorite horse color?

Hm. I am honestly not sure I have a favorite. Maybe a nice bright blood bay with a blaze.

Or, really, secretly I think we would all answer this question as that lovely dappled iron-grey look but as we all know grey horses are all about getting your hopes up and then getting gradually disappointed.

8. Least favorite horse color?

Paint. Any variation. Meh.

9. Dressage or Jumping?

Dressage, no question. It has the kind of problems that my brain likes to solve.

10. How many years have you been riding?

Ummmmmm. 20+, I think, on and off.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?

Both. Every time I go without, I regret it. See also #3 above.

12. Your first fall?

Big rawboned QH lesson horse; I was in a semi-private lesson with another girl, her horse took a nutty and my horse did a patented little hop and twist. I landed on my feet, directly next to his head, facing backwards, still holding the reins. Still not sure how. I ruined the effect when my knees buckled and I then sat down on my ass almost immediately.

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?

Last Friday night (goddamn it); worked on loosening Tristan up and then on his canter, particularly getting better quality up transitions.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?

My dressage saddle, for sure. But even then it is way less than what most people consider expensive for a saddle. I paid $1,200 for it. It’s a used Albion.

15. How old were you when you started riding?

I’m honestly not entirely sure. 10, maybe? Middle school.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?

Personally, I prefer leather for their oh-shit-breakability, but I have nothing personal against nylon.

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?

Leather. Again, nothing personal against synthetic. I owned a Wintec saddle for a while that I still wish had worked out. It didn’t fit Tristan, but it was great to bomb around in and not worry about.

18. What “grip” of reins do you like?

Hm. I have yet to see a webbed dressage rein with stops that didn’t get all crappy after a while. I love my rubber reins on my jumping bridle, but not for every day use. I really kind of hate laced reins. I like the idea of plain leather reins but not the actuality of them.
I wish you could still find plaited reins. Actually braided, not laced. I loved those.

19. English or Western?

English. Western saddles make me feel like I am trapped and give me panic attacks.

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?

Just the one, thank God.

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?

Boarded at a barn I love.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?

Not personally, but I was a strong advocate for the first horse I ever truly loved to be put down. He was in terrible pain and no longer comfortable even in a field, and he stayed too long before his owner was able to make the call. Someday, I’ll decide for Tristan.

23. How many saddlepads do you have?

Ummmmm…three? Four? Three in regular rotation.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?

Straight. I buy the argument that slant loads are uncomfortable for most horses.
(Really my ideal is open & loose in a stock trailer, but that is a semi-rare thing in the northeast.)

25. Why do you ride?

It keeps my brain on an even keel, and when I ride, I can’t think or worry or stress about anything. I just ride. It’s like when I sit on a horse there’s a minute adjustment and all of a sudden all the tiny watch gears inside my body are well-oiled and run smoothly again.
blog hop · product review · shopping

Favorite Products Blog Hop

Jumping on the bandwagon for this fun blog hop from Breeches & Boat Shoes.

What is your favorite equestrian-specific product that you use when you’re at the barn?

I think it might have to be my Oster Mane & Tail brush. I confess, I don’t clean out Tristan’s mane and tail as often as I should, but every time I do I LOVE using this brush. It’s just one of the best-designed tools I’ve ever used around horses.

I actually own a full set of the Oster brushes – they lived in my trailer as my second, traveling kit – but I find the brushes so-so. The mane & tail brush is a thing of glory and a joy forever.

What is your favorite non equestrian-specific product to use when you’re at the barn?

Probably something medical. I’d say a toss-up between vinegar (for White Lightning & other hoof soaks), saline (for some idiot pony’s eyes), and molasses, though the smell makes me gag.

In actual happy things to use – I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m in a good mood when I have to use any of those things – I’d have to go with my iPhone + headphones. I’ve only recently come around to listening to podcasts while riding and it’s such a great way to kill all that walking warmup time that Tristan needs.

What is your horse’s favorite equestrian-specific product to wear or use?

Cripes. None of them? No, wait, never mind.

I have this tiny little face brush. It’s maybe 4″ long, and it has the most flexible, softest bristles you can imagine. Tristan loves his face brushed, and I bought this for him almost eight years ago now. It was during his first, awful colic – which maybe I should blog about someday, but it was as bad as it gets – and I was on a rare break from the barn, at the tack store, buying extra medical supplies mostly. And there was this brush at the register in a box with others of its kind, and I was so strung out and tired and worried and sad and all I could think was how much he loves having his face brushed and how soft it would be.
So while I often brush his face with my regular body brush, on special occasions I take out this small wonderful brush and spend a long time just brushing his face. He leans into it and tips his head for me  and sighs happily.

What was the best equestrian-related gift you were ever given, and why does it mean so much to you?

It’s not a great picture, but can you see the small horse statue in the photo? It’s a raku horse made by Lindsey Epstein, who is an incredibly talented artist and was the barn manager for a previous barn Tris and I were at. (She appears on this blog incognito as both a teacher and occasional rider of Tristan a few years back.) Lindsey makes these gorgeous horses, and due to the quirks of the glaze they often come out in all sorts of different and unexpected patterns. This one came out looking like Tristan: all roany. It was a Christmas gift several years ago from a very dear friend, and it has occupied this spot on my desk in three different offices now. It’s the combination of unique, thoughtful gift and the much-beloved people involved that makes this so special.

If you had the ability to create any product or anything to make your time at the barn better, what would that be?

Try as I might to devise a winter riding apparel plan every year, there is literally nothing on earth that makes going to the barn in 12 degree weather better. Nothing. So, if I could wave a magic wand and make that happen, that would be nice.
blog hop

VCBH: My Cubicle

Most of us work for a living (wishing I didn’t have to), some of us in way swankier places than others (right now thinking of all my friends who work at places like Google and Salesforce.. le jealous! all dem snacks!) Anyways I am curious for a pictorial tour of your office or cubicle.

I work in a museum, doing a wide variety of education/programming/community relations type of things. I am not in a job where I spend all day, every day at my desk. I do a fair amount of travelling around the state, and even just moving between different facilities and different spaces in the facility depending on the needs and events of the day. I actually have two offices, but am much more settled into one than the other, since I typically spend only 1-2 days a week there. (Trying not to give too many details to preserve some semblance of anonymity on the internet, though if you tried you could easily find out!)

Anyway: here’s my office, which is actually its own proper room. While I don’t have a window, my chair sits where I can see out my door and through a window onto a very pretty grassy area.

I am one of those people who really has to settle in to a place to decide how and when to decorate, so the stuff on the walls has grown up over a period of months to years. I add to it every so often.
I work from a laptop, because I am so constantly on the move. It’s not the best, ergonomically speaking. I’m thinking half-seriously about buying myself some monitors and a keyboard and setting up more of a docking station. I tend to keep papers I’m working on immediately to my right, as well as my to-do list for the day. I have a few horsey things scattered about – my mousepad is Tristan’s face – but not too many. I live out of that file cabinet to my left and usually have my feet propped up on a handle at any given time.
The bookshelves to the left have a bunch of different things: binders for larger projects, extras of any of the forms/sheets/postcards/envelopes that I might use, reference books, an emergency kit for collections, spare banners/posters for various annual events, and usually extras of whatever exhibit peripherals we need at the moment
It’s kind of a mess, but yeah. Map of Vermont, that I refer to quite a lot actually since we’re always trying to plan trips or events so they make sense as we move around the state. Dinosaur of a printer that just will not die. (You know you work in nonprofits when…) If you turned left again you’d see the white board that I use to keep track of longer-range projects, as well as a complete run of our museum’s scholarly journal back into the 19th century. Partially there’s nowhere else to keep them and partially they’re a good reference. When I have an intern (maybe about 1/3 of the time) he or she sits at that table, which makes us quite cozy.
The setup was done for me when I moved into the office and I’m still trying to figure out how best to use the space. It’s a slightly awkward size, and my furniture is limited in quantity and variety. I’m always trying to find new ideas but rarely have time to execute them.
I also tend to work at the front desk of the museum on a regular basis, and in the spaces just outside my office – there’s a big calendar I have to update regularly, and I work out of the kitchen for our events, and then of course the main exhibit itself, as well as the research spaces and so on and so forth.
That’s my main event room, where I do most of my programming. In the midst of our busy season a coworker and I will set this up and break it down (we have tables & chairs in storage that you can’t see) multiple times a week.

blog hop · stupid human tricks

ZBH Blog Hop: Everyday Fail

Oh hell yes I have had this draft saved for 2.5 weeks. I just needed power back in my home office so I could turn on my computer, because I am one of those losers who still uses a desktop at home.

Anyway! Weeks and possibly years or even decades ago (time moves fast in the blogosphere), Zen & the Art of Baby Horse Management posted this blog hop.

Brace yourselves.
Matching derpface.
Honestly not sure which of us is failing harder here. At least you can’t see my face.

The tried and true dribble method. Look it up. George Morris says it’s the best.


We are not only not on the same page we are in different fucking libraries.

Didn’t you know that jumping FOR your horse helps him?
Also, I have been staring at Tristan’s back legs for a while and can only conclude that he is morphing into a dinosaur in this picture. Go ahead, look closely, you’ll see it.


no, really, wtf.

Well, that was cathartic.

blog hop · tack

Hand Gallop Blog Hop: Every Day Tack Setup

I am a creature of habit, and prefer to have minimal changes to my routine. It’s a big deal when I even swap bits. I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a new saddle pad – 3 years? 4?
Nor do I really know/remember what type of bridle and saddle I ride in? I know the brand, but not the exact model. #sorrynotsorry.
Everyday dressage outfit.
Albion dressage saddle. I don’t know which one. I bought it used at Pelham Saddlery about 5 years ago. I adore it. It fits me, it fits him, it is comfy and puts me in the right place. It has a small tear on the seat that was well-repaired. I paid $1,200 for it. Bargain. On the saddle itself: basic leathers, basic fillis irons.
Roma fleece half-pad. My most recent purchase, actually, to help cushion his ever-changing back.
Basic dressage saddle pad. I own 3; the one on him in this photo is the only one I bought new. The other was a $5 used tack store find, the other was a hand-me-down that I got the same year I got Tristan. Go ahead, cringe away.

Smartpak dressage girth. This one, the basic one. It’s been a workhorse for as long as I’ve owned the saddle.

Stubben dressage bridle; padded, straightforward noseband. It has a flash attachment, but I don’t really use the flash. (I have in the past, but not right now.) I like it. I bought it on sale at Equine Affaire years ago, for around $150, which was something like 75% off. It is not buttery soft but it is solid and quality. It has tooth marks on the noseband from an asshole barn dog four barns ago. Sigh. In the bit: loose ring French link with lozenge.

Not a great picture, sorry, but jumping attire.
Things that are the same: saddle pads, leathers, irons.
Passier PS Baum all purpose saddle. My baby. My first and only saddle for years. Bought for $300 from a barnmate, 30 years old when I bought it. Total workhorse. Hard as a rock. No knee or thigh roll to speak off. Slippery. Totally out of style. I adore it.
Basic girth. Dunno what type, but it’s nylon-y and elastic on one side. Basic fleece girth cover, because I am picky about fleece on girths and it classes up the cheapo girth a little.

Dover Circuit Figure 8 Bridle. On clearance, $60. Yep. I really like it, actually, except it’s a little small for Tristan’s face so the figure 8 straps are always on their top holes.

Dover galloping boots. He only wears these for XC, because if he rubs a rail I want it to sting. I am a bad mom.

Dover bell boots. Ditto the above.

blog hop · showing

FCE Blog Hop: Favorite Prizes

Really nice blog hop from Fraidy Cat Eventing.

What is your favorite ribbon / prize / award that you’ve won in relation to horses? Is there a story behind it? Or was it a bucket list prize you’d been chasing for ages? It doesn’t have to be from a traditional horse show, and ribbons that are the favorite bc they are the prettiest are just as awesome as awards with a great story.

Here’s my favorite prize in a purely materialistic sense. At my old barn, the barn manager was a wonderful potter, and she would gift these amazing mugs as prizes in the schooling shows. I won this one for a combined test on Tristan. Not our most spectacular day ever, but I remember it as fairly workmanlike, which is basically our wheelhouse.
The mug in question, last winter.
I may have to think a bit more on this question, though, because I have a longer story about another ribbon. I need to get a picture of it and pull some photos together to tell that story, though.
blog hop · chores

SFTS Blog Hop: Happy Place

What barn and/or horse chores put you in your happy place?

For some of us, it’s the feeling of methodically and meticulously cleaning tack. For others, it’s the repetition of braiding a mane. For others, it’s the quiet moments of filling the water buckets or sweeping the barn aisle after everyone has left for the night.
I love this particular topic, and actually I was thinking about posting about it this week anyway!

For me, it has to be sweeping the barn aisle. The first barn I ever worked at was ob.sess.ive. in its attention to detail in that way, and I would sweep 3-4 times while doing chores to make sure I cleaned as I went. I found a rhythm and a happiness in the way I worked. There was a particularly awesome Lab mix dog at that barn, too, who would chase the little bits of hay if I swept particularly vigorously. We made it our little game.

Even now, there is something absolutely hypnotic about a good broom and a long barn aisle. Getting the turn just right, getting the finish flick just right, overlapping your strokes in just the right way. I love it.

blog hop

TOABH: Ermahgerd!

What is your pony’s absolute favorite riding activity? What makes those little ears perk and causes the knees to lift?

First things first, please raise your hand if you said “ermahgerd!” out loud in various funny voices and at different volume levels while pondering the answer to this question.
…just me then? well, okay, fine.
I think we’ve already established that Tristan’s absolute favorite activity is eating, preferably by himself, preferably in a large field outside.
If I had to pick something he loves under saddle, though? Cross country.
He takes a while to warm up but when the lights come on upstairs and he realizes he can go FAST and JUMP and then the adrenaline rush hits and it is the BEST DAY EVER.

abscess · blog hop · surgery

TOABH: Costly

What has been your horse’s most expensive injury to date? Let’s exclude maintenance things, like hock injections and the magical monthly package of MSM. What single episode blew your savings or left you boiling ramen? If you want to get technical about it, time is money, too.

I’ve covered this at length in the blog, but for newcomers, here’s the short version. In August 2012, Tristan blew his first ever abscess. It was really bad. He blew at the coronet band, and then at the toe, and then a few weeks later midway down the hoof. Cue 6 months of NQR; he would almost come sound, and then he wouldn’t. On and on. In March, he had surgery to remove the cause of the abscess: a bone chip from his coffin bone that had become badly infected, as well as portions of his coffin bone that had died from infection. Upon recovery from that surgery, which took months (if we’re counting the time back to normal hoof status), he came sound and has been ever since, though I would not call him 100% recovered – he still has to wear front shoes to keep that foot stabilized, because it is still not growing evenly enough to stay balanced barefoot, 2.5 years later.
Here’s what I call the foot progression collage: photos taken at monthly intervals from initial abscess to final recovery.
And here’s the post where I broke down and tallied up every penny I spent on that injury and what it went towards (three sets of x-rays, supplies, surgery, umpteen vet visits, specialty shoeing, the whole nine yards). So, to answer the original question: $6,100.08, which does not include lost opportunity costs or even begin to approximate time.
If you’re really feeling in a reading mood, check out the abscess and surgery tags. Dozens and dozens of update posts there.