bathing · spring · trailering

In Vermont, May is still practically winter…

Sunday: gorgeous sunny day, blue sky, light breeze. We went for a 2 mile hack up and down the road with a friend who’s conditioning her new horse. I thought about going up and down the hayfield hill for some additional work, but the trainer was showing a sales horse in the outdoor arena and a galloping mustang probably would’ve been more excitement than they really needed.

So I untacked and decided to do a bath. I rinsed, and I shampooed, and I rinsed, and I did conditioner, and I rinsed…and then realized I had been scrubbing and bathing for a solid hour and poor Tristan was shivering a little bit.

I promptly felt like the world’s worst mom: cold well water, a wash stall in the shade outside, a light breeze, and his flanks were quivering on and off. I scraped off all the excess water and brought him out into the sunshine. He stopped shivering and was perfectly happy to handgraze.

I spent the next two hours worrying about my stupid decision, because that’s what I do. When he wasn’t drying off as fast as I wanted in the sunshine – which kept going and coming as clouds passed over – I started layering coolers: irish knit on the bottom with a wool dress sheet/cooler on the top. Then I pulled the irish knit and we went back out into the sun for a while. Then I swapped the wool cooler for his rattier fleece cooler, cinched it around his stomach, threw him all the hay he could eat, and checked in with the trainer’s barn manager.

“Yeah, I thought you were being really brave!” she said. “It’s still pretty cool!”

Sigh. When I finally left, he had a strip down his belly that was still damp, and his legs were still slightly damp. His core had warmed up considerably, chest and sides were once again warm to the touch, and he was happily eating, drinking, and pooping. He’s fine today.  HORSES.

In the in-between of everything, I hauled all the various storage things back up the hill to my trailer from where they’d been stored in my truck, in our apartment, in my other car…really a bit of everywhere. It was nice to get the trailer really swept out after the winter, go through all the bins and pull things that needed to be cleaned, discarded, or gone through. It looks great in there – and if I ever have time off and energy, we’re ready to go somewhere exciting!

puppy · spring · trailering

To Do List

This is by way of being a to-do list. I have been so overwhelmed these last two weeks – zero down time, zero reflection, and not nearly enough pony time.

I did have a lovely ride on Tuesday night, in which I confirmed again that the Pentosan = fantastic. He’s now finished his loading dose and is on to monthly, which means it’s time for me to turn the screws and see how long & deep the effects really go.

So, to do:

– check on trailer; is it done? will it cost me a mint? good thing I’ve been distracted, otherwise I would worry that the mechanic hasn’t called me in 2 weeks
– clean out truck, ffs
– organize trailer tack boxes
– organize tack room space, ugh
– deep-clean all purpose saddle, in order to use new conditioning lotion the saddle-fitter found for me
– write ALL the blog posts, including my shopping at Everything Equine & the awesome extreme trail class & some blog hop catch up
– look at schedule & see if it matches up with newly-discovered local horse club’s group trail rides
– call farrier; Tristan was re-shod in the front which was NOT the plan and now I am confused and a bit frustrated; poor communication + lack of follow up on my part, or an actual need?

Also, ride the pony more.

This does not include the other things I have to do, like work on my conference proposal and get a dog license and clean out the fridge and and and.



Trailer Inspection & Saddle Fitting

Spring cleaning all around!

First, Sunday, the trailer went in to get inspected. It was an hour of highs and lows.

High: Hitched that sucker up on the second try. BOOM. I take a great deal of pride in my ability to handle my rig.

Low: The electrical socket on my hitch on the truck has rusted such that the plug for the trailer did not go in all the way. So the trailer brakes did not get power.


Luckily, when planning for my rig I was very conservative: the truck can haul and stop the empty trailer under normal conditions. Which is what we had to do, over dirt roads, down steep hills, around a few tight corners, and then into the lot at the mechanic’s.

High: Backed that sucker right up in there.
Low: Looked around at the neighborhood and decided I should totally empty the trailer before leaving it. I have accumulated a LOT of crap in that trailer. More spring cleaning on the list!
A portion of the crap.
On the way home, I swung by Autozone out of curiosity. The truck has a date with the mechanic on Tuesday anyway – it has a bit of an oil leak, ugh – so I figured if I could pick up the right part they could swap out the electrical hookup for me too.
Can I just say: that may have been the first time in my LIFE that I have entered an auto parts store and been treated like an intelligent adult? Something abut muck boots + breeches + muddy coat + mussed hair + baseball cap set me apart. I was also able to intelligently describe what I wanted and they admired my truck when we went out to double-check the right part. Excellent experience all around: I will definitely go back for future stuff!
High: The part I needed was only $15 for the high-end version, and one of my new friends at the store told me if my mechanic charges me more than $20 for installing it he is ripping me off and I should tell him so. High five, random dairy farmer dude!

Then today: saddle-fitting!
I spent a solid 30 minutes outside with curry comb and shedding blade trying to get some hair off of him, and he still looked like a homeless ragamuffin at the end of it. SIGH.
 A cute homeless ragamuffin, at least.

Saddle-fitting went exceptionally well. One of my favorite things about Vermont is how genuinely lovely all the horse people I’ve met are. My barn manager, trainer, farrier, vet, and now saddle fitter. We’d actually met some years ago, when I lived in Vermont before; she was the first person ever to fit Tris, and advised me to buy my jump saddle. So it was terrific to see her again and find she hadn’t changed at all.

It was also terrific to find that my assessment of his saddles was spot on: both were a good overall fit, but both needed adjusting, the jump saddle much more dramatically than the dressage saddle. 
I am somewhat ashamed that when I pulled out the jump saddle – which I haven’t ridden in for about 6 months – it was badly in need of conditioning. Oops.
A pricey, but excellent, couple of tasks checked off the to do list. While the fitter was working on the dressage saddle, I conditioned my jump saddle. Then it dried out. Then I added another layer of conditioning. Then another. (!) I’ve brought it home to keep it up. Ack.
I am not sure how much riding I will get done this week (PUPPY) but Tris will be a beginner lesson pony tomorrow, then he’s going to be a pretend IHSA horse on Saturday for the local university. 

\For the record: dose 3 of 4 of the Pentosan loading dose was today.

trailering · truck

Getting Ready for Hauling in Eight Million Complicated Steps

So: free admission up front that this is my fault. I got myself into this situation through a combination of neglect, laziness, and being broke. But getting my truck and trailer back on the road is proving an uphill battle. It’s one that I will win eventually! But man, is it frustrating in the interim.

Step 1: Re-registering the trailer.

When I moved to Vermont, I parked the trailer. I planned on registering and inspecting it in the spring – no worries! Then Tristan had surgery, and my attention was wholly taken up with his recovery and rehab. Before I knew it, it was late summer again, and there was no way he was ready to go do anything off property.

So, in short, the trailer has been sitting in the same field since November 2012. The registration had expired, and transferring it to Vermont required a) a VIN assignment (horse trailer rules, they are different everywhere, and the trailer is too old to have had a VIN previously), b) paying the sales tax on a trailer I bought eight years ago, THANKS VERMONT, and c) finally getting the registration current.

(when registering all vehicles in Vermont, if you have no proof that you have paid the sales tax, even if the vehicle is 30+ years old and you bought it many years ago, they require you to pay sales tax; in this case, they assigned a basic minimum value to the trailer of $200 and made me pay $12 sales tax, which was not quite enough to refuse in righteous fury but was still enough to be annoying)

All of this was accomplished in a joyful 90 minutes at the DMV last week. Good grief.

Step 2: Get the truck inspected.

No problem right? Except. With this horrible, awful winter, I did not get out as often as I should have to start the truck and run it for a bit to keep the battery primed. So it died. It really died. After a jump and 30 minutes of running it had no intention of starting again.

Not only that, but it was good and buried in a snowbank, which is not a problem of shoveling. The truck is a 2WD and does. not. do. snow. That’s why it sits in winter. But I had a suspicion that even if I could get a jump and start it in order to drive to the mechanic myself, it would never get out of its parking space.

So last night I called AAA, and they showed up with a very big flatbed tow truck and winched the truck out of its parking space and brought it to the mechanic. And I do mean winched it out: it turns out that the tires had been frozen in at least 4″ of ice, and in fact the winch dragged the tow truck back a few inches before the driver re-leveraged it. Holy crap. But eventually, the truck got on to the flat bed trailer, got to the mechanic.

Then it got inspected. Thankfully, it passed inspection with zero problems, just needed a new battery and oil change. GOOD TRUCK.

Step 3: Get the trailer inspected.

This will not happen until the snow melts in early April. There is quite simply no way the trailer is getting out of the snow bank until then. Not. Happening.

Of all the steps, I am dreading this one the most. The trailer has been sitting for nearly 18 months. It is an old trailer. At minimum, it needs the brakes and wheel bearings gone over, and most likely a new breakaway battery. I am worried about the tires, the floor, and the general health of the frame. I don’t know what Vermont requires for an inspection, and I can’t find that information online. I can’t figure out how much money to set aside to fix it – more than $1k? I hope not. I just don’t now. If it’s too much over $1k, I will have to make some serious decisions about the trailer’s future with me.

stupid human tricks · trailering · winter

Fail again, fail faster, fail better

The theme of this week might be something like I get knocked down – but I get up again. (Sorry for the ear worm…)

Sunday was good! Quiet afternoon chores, in the middle of which I did a really nice longe session with Tristan. Then I hopped on bareback with a quarter sheet and we attempted to go for a bit of a hack through the snow, which he was having none of. The snow was well over his knees and he took about three steps and decided it was way too much work, eff you, lady and spun right back around for the road. I tried again at a different entry point and we didn’t even get three steps, so I relented and we walked up and down the road for a bit.

Monday was not easy. I stepped up to do morning chores, though my hand was not quite up to physical labor, and it was a solid, exhausting six hours in temperatures that never went above 5, and whenever the wind picked up were easily double digits below zero. Most of the paths were too icy to get to regular turnouts, so we rotated the horses for shorter periods through the accessible turnouts, and cleaned stalls as best we could. Every piece of manure made a clinking sound as it hit the wheelbarrow, and every water bucket was so frozen it took me three, four, five stomps of my boot to break through the top, pour what little water was remaining onto the manure pile, and then tip the buckets over in the sun to help dislodge the icy rims. Most of the buckets had an inch or more of ice all through the insides, clinging to the bucket walls.

Needless to say, too cold for riding or working, and on top of that Tristan had once again – somehow – irritated his eye. I flushed it with saline, which was an adventure, and gave him a gram of bute and another gram with dinner. It was dripping clear thin tears, he was acting totally normally, and there wasn’t a hint of anything different about the eye itself. Plus, it was clearing up slowly through the day. So I worried, of course, but held off on the vet. Will check in later this afternoon and see what he looks like, and vet out tomorrow if it hasn’t cleared up.

Today has gone downhill: after a plan to get my truck inspected and ready for summer, I have discovered that a) the battery died during the recent cold snaps, and b) I somehow lost the freaking registration after renewing it in January. Why why whyyyyy can’t I keep on top of things this winter? So, back to the drawing board: new copy of the registration tomorrow, will get the trailer updated while I’m there, and hopefully back on track in general. It’ll be my daily driver for the summer, and I hope to do quite a bit more hauling in general, so it needs to be in top shape.

My hand has been alternately aching and stinging all day, as I almost certainly opened the cut up doing chores yesterday. It is supposed to get up to a high of 18 today, but considering at noon it had just edged above zero, I find that unlikely. So I am stuck inside, cleaning and making lists of things to get ready before we have a house full of weekend ski guests and oh man, the apartment is something else after three weeks of me not able to do a whole lot of intensive cleaning.

Sigh. Chop wood, carry water, etc. /whine

product review · trailering

Product Review: Chain Shank

Product Review: Chain Shank

This goes hand in hand with last week’s ode to the cotton lead rope, but this one is slightly more specialized.

99.5% of the time, I lead Tristan with just the regular cotton lead. He’s well-behaved enough that I’ve been known to just toss the lead rope over my shoulder and let him follow me. In the barn itself, we’re working on a “go home” command that sends him to his stall.

Enter the horse trailer.

Tristan hates horse trailers. With fiery passion. Horse trailers mean not only the stress and discomfort of the ride itself, but also the near-guarantee of hard work at the other end. He’s pissy enough about them that he will stop and stare at parked trailers in the driveway, quivering in horror, hoping against hope that I won’t make him get on.

So, when we haul, we use a chain shank. We have a system: I bring him up to the edge of the ramp or trailer. He is allowed to stand still, and allowed some sidling, but he may not under any circumstances go backwards. When he goes back, it is never just one step: it is a bat out of hell zoom straight back. When that happens, I follow him and shank hard one, two, three times. If he rears (which happens less and less often now but is not unexpected) he gets shanked again and chased back.

When he comes down or stops he looks at me, and he looks at the trailer. He licks and chews. He ducks his head. And then he walks on. It never fails. He just needs to register his complaint, at maximum volume, before he submits.

Hence this chain shank. Tris has no need for a chain shank in his regular life, and I don’t want to complicate things by switching lead ropes every time we go anywhere. So this chain snaps to the end of the regular lead rope, and it snaps off again when we’re done. Instant chain shank lead. In the meantime, it lives in the trailer’s tack trunk. It is an elegant, simple solution to needing a chain shank – but not wanting a whole other lead rope.



We interrupt this blog’s regularly scheduled posting to say WHOOOOOOO.

I have found my trailer registration!

*flop of relief*

Backstory: when I moved to Vermont, I parked my trailer and figured, I’ll re-register it in the spring. And lo, it was promptly snowed in, and I have a rear wheel drive truck that does not go anywhere in the winter.

And then in the spring Tristan’s surgery happened and nothing else entered my brain for many months.

And then in the late summer I thought, hm, I’ll get that trailer registered and we can start to think about hauling out for all sorts of fun things.

The trailer in question, getting some tune up
work soon after I bought it.

But there was one problem: my trailer registration had completely vanished. It was not in any of the logical places. It was not in any of the borderline illogical places. Gone in thin air.

I don’t know if you’ve gotten this sense, but: I am of the neurotically organized stripe. Those tendencies triple when related at all to Tristan. So I was simultaneously deeply confused and freaking out. I could put my hands on every single repair bill I’d ever had, every receipt for every US Rider subscription, you name it – I had documentation. Except for the registration. And I was dreading the process of ordering a copy of the registration, and then it was clear we weren’t going anywhere this fall, so I held off and decided not to worry about it yet.

But tonight, I settled in to do some organizing in my study, filing some things that had piled up a bit and doing at least some cursory reading of professional journals, and I pulled out the folder behind my trailer’s folder in my filing cabinet. And lo and behold, there was the trailer registration! It had been stuck in there accidentally. I was so good about filing it away when I took the trailer off the road – maybe a little too good.


Tomorrow: to the DMV, and then next week please God let the snow hold off just long enough for me to get it inspected. And while I’m wishing for things, after a $1k month of car repairs, I’d really appreciate a minimum of trailer expenses, so nothing major wrong, ok? Ok.

foxhunting · trailering


I’m about to head to the DMV for the third time this week to convince them to please let me register my trailer. Vermont has bizarre rules about registration and sales tax and I’m trying to prove that I’ve owned the trailer for more than three years and therefore have not bought it new and therefore do not owe them sales tax on it. (wtf, Vermont.)

In the meantime, my friends are off doing this.

Not. Fair.


Quick rundown of the trailering, which I was so worried about. It was not without incident, but in general went well.

I trailered two horses, who will be known as Big Mare and Little Paint. I’d been in agonies for weeks beforehand about whether Big Mare would fit in my not-huge trailer, given that Tristan can flip his head and lift his front legs and nearly hit the ceiling, and he is teensy.

Big Mare did indeed fit, just barely. I’m not sure she was wild about it – rolled her eyes and planted her feet a bit when it came time to reload at King Oak – but she was not scraping the ceiling, and we got the butt bar done up. Little Paint jumped right on.

About 40 minutes into the trip, I looked in my rearview mirror – as I do very frequently when trailering; I can see horse’s heads and the hay bag through the front window of the trailer – and noticed I couldn’t see Little Paint’s head. Just withers with some sticky-up mane. Well, okay. “H.,” I said, “I can’t see your horse’s head.” H. looked. She was not concerned, and it was entirely possible he was stretching out behind the hay bag, or even snoozing.

20 minutes later, still can’t see his head. Call E., Big Mare’s owner, who is following us; she doesn’t have a good enough view inside the trailer to tell either way. I make the executive decision to pull over, though H. is still unconcerned. We find a Wal-Mart parking lot, jump out, and…Little Paint has somehow put his head UNDER the chest bar. (H. didn’t tie him very tightly at all, apparently?)

Bless the Little Paint’s brain, because he was just standing, perfectly calmly, waiting for someone to rescue him. So we did – unhooked the chest bar, and he lifted his head and started attacking the hay bag.

Continued on totally without incident (unless you count being behind a big Econo van with literally some person’s entire worldly possessions strapped very precariously to the top, and clothes flying off of it with every gust of wind, oh my god) and arrived at King Oak.

Unloading was another small piece of excitement…H. did not unhook Little Paint’s trailer tie. He very politely told her so, twice, and on the third try shrugged, stepped back, felt resistance, and did what any sensible horse does in that situation, ie panicked. Popped the leather crownpiece of the halter and came flying out. I reached up, put my hand over his nose as he skidded out, turned him toward me and pulled his nose down, and he heaved a big sigh of relief and stood beautifully to get a new halter on. Seriously, what a great brain he has.

Saturday morning we arrived at the showgrounds to find it POURING rain, and I made perhaps my best decision of the weekend: hooked up the truck immediately and pulled it forward from its overnight parking space so that the entire rig was pointing downhill. At the end of the day, we loaded up the horses (neither was wild about getting back on, but they both did quite nicely after lodging a short, polite formal protest) and tried to get out of the field (which was now a muddy pit).

The only, only thing I would change about my truck is to make it a four wheel drive. It’s one of my big anxieties about trailering, getting stuck. And yes, King Oak already had the tractor out and ready, anticipating just my situation, but – still. So I built up some momentum, crested the hill with the truck, alllllmost crested with the trailer…and skidded out.

Okay. Back down the hill, then back up the hill so we’re pointing downhill again, then more momentum, and this time I’m anticipating the mud even more so I start jigging the steering wheel juuuuuust slightly so we’re not going in a straight line, and the truck diiiiiiigs in and there was a split second where everything felt greasy and then, breakthrough. It’s a difficult feeling to describe, but I can feel, through the seat and through the gas pedal, when the truck starts to get some bite. And once I felt that, even though we were still wiggling, even though the truck was snarling and spewing smoke, even though we had attracted at least 20 bystanders and no doubt some event organizers a bit peeved about what I was doing to their field – I was no longer worried. We inched up and then made it.

The ride home was totally uneventful, we were all chatty and giddy and happy in the end-of-event exhaustion. When we got back to the barn I pulled the truck up and left it while I rode Tristan. They cleaned my trailer out I think better than I EVER have, and I popped it into a perfect parking space on the second try.

So: trailering anxieties are not disappeared, but they are seriously diminished.