gear · product review · winter

Product Review: SSG Fleecee Knit Winter Riding Fleece-Lined Gloves

I’ve talked before about my big blind spot in winter riding gear: good winter riding gloves. This year, I set about fixing that, and so I have several pairs of gloves that I have been testing out to share & review with you.

First up are these SSG gloves, a purchase with Christmas money. Years ago, I owned a pair of fleece-lined knit gloves that I adored, and have never been able to find since. (I bought them on clearance and suspect they were being discontinued; they didn’t even have a manufacturer’s tag on them.) I found these and hoped they would live up to those long-ago gloves.

MSRP is $15.00 and I paid $9.56 at Riding Warehouse, so I really couldn’t go wrong.
First impressions: I really like them. They are not my long-ago gloves, but they actually look kind of stylish. They are thin and flexible, which is great, and you can get a good rein feel through them. 
I’ve now ridden in them about 8 times, including a couple of road hacks outside, so here’s a longer list of pros and cons.
Pros: they really are light and flexible, yet surprisingly warm. They held up to a short road hack outside in 25 degrees with a wicked wind. I like schooling in them, as I can really use my fingers. The cuff is long enough to be useful.
Cons: they’re not waterproof, and the knit will not hold up to lots of barn chores like throwing hay or undoing anything with velcro. The seam on the index finger is unnecessarily bulky, but I found that this didn’t really bother me after a few rides; either I got used to it or it got mashed down.
They’re also not really, really warm gloves. They’re middling gloves. I used them while longeing earlier this week and they did just ok; in situations where my fingers weren’t actively moving all the time, or I wasn’t exercising and therefore warming up my core, the fell short.
They ran pretty true to size; I’m a 7 in SSG gloves, and the small was meant to be a 7/8. If I could get between an XS and a S I’d be happy, as these are just a smidge large for me. (I have TINY hands and short fingers, which is a perpetual challenge for me in finding gloves.) I’m not sure that they’re the highest quality and most durable gloves out there, but at $10 each they are miles and away a better value for the price than many $20 gloves I’ve seen.

clothing · winter

In Search Of: Winter Breeches

Please send help, blogosphere!

I only own one pair of winter breeches. In past years, that has been sufficient for Vermont, but this winter has been so mild that I’m riding a LOT more than I usually do, and the years of wear & tear on this pair is getting to be too much.

let’s just say the breeches have outlasted literally everything else I’m wearing in this photo except the boots.

I have some fairly specific things that I know I do and do not like in winter breeches. I will have to order these online and test them out, so they need to be returnable. (I don’t have time to play the tack swap game!)

My current breeches are Devon-Aire Fleece Full Seats. They are fleece-lined with a suede full seat. They are great, but they are getting quite thin and they have a hole in one knee from a spectacular ice wipeout last winter. I would replace them with the same brand, but the last time I tried that, buying a pair on clearance that were the same size and type on spec, they did not work AT ALL. They were seemingly way too small, and the fit had totally changed. I may end up ordering some of the same kind again, just to make sure that I wasn’t way off base, but…ugh.

So please help! Send your ideas and suggestions!

Here’s what I know I like/need:

– They must be real breeches, not tights. NO pull-ons with elastic waistbands; proper zippers & buttons only. I used to have a pair of the winter Tuff Rider pull ons that I hated with the fire of a thousand suns. They all end up feeling like diapers.
– They must be realistically winter breeches. I live in Vermont y’all and ride down to 10 degrees. None of this “oh well they were warm in Texas in the 40s so they should be fine!”
– Ideally they should either run a bit long in the leg or have a tall option. While I rarely need a tall, I am almost always more comfortable in the tall version of jeans and breeches.
– Also in sizing, I recently learned that sometimes breeches aren’t made over a 34? Fuck that. I usually run 30-32 depending on the breeches, which means my ass fits but there’s gapping at the waist, but otherwise it’s just a no go.
– Ideally they should have a full seat option.
– They really really should be below $100.

Help? Anyone?

senior horse · winter

Fall 2015 Cushings Update

So, continuing on in our Cushings journey.

Previously: Tristan’s fall 2014 ACTH levels were back within normal range, and he had a good spring and summer.

My horse is sad because jump standards are not part of his diet.
Tris has not had a ton of work in these past weeks; every time I think my work schedule is about to even out, it ramps up again. The house has been taking the lion’s share of my mental and physical energy. I’m getting him worked maybe 3x a week in light work. So his physical condition from exercise is not terrific.
Overall, though, he’s in great shape as we head into the winter. Last week, on November 4, he got an updated flu/rhino vaccine, an overall physical, and his vet pulled blood to run another ACTH level so we could make sure we were on track.
She was pleased with his overall condition and demeanor, and reported that he tolerated her kissing his nose several times. Good pony. ❤
Last night, we got his ACTH levels back: 33.7 pg/mL, which falls within the normal range of 9-35. It’s a smidge on the high normal side, but the vet was not concerned, and it’s definitely still within a safe range.
So: good boy, Tris!
For reference and future blog posts: he is down to 1/4 quart of Blue Seal’s Carb Guard AM + PM, still on what grass is left, and 3-4 flakes of hay. He also gets a ration balancing vitamin & mineral supplement and a hoof supplement. He is maintaining a healthy weight just fine on that. He’s started his blanket rotation for the season – depending on overnight temps, he’s in either a stable sheet, turnout sheet, or slightly thicker honeycomb sheet. He seems more comfortable with the temperature swings this year, knock wood.
clipping · winter

Clipmageddon 2015

Last year, I angsted almost endlessly about clipping my horse. I asked for opinions, got a ton of awesome thoughts, and then still waffled and flopped around. When I finally got around to it, I was relieved and happy and wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.

So: I knew without question that I was going to clip Tristan for this season. Then I dragged my heels, shockingly enough.

Then, on Monday, it was warm. Tristan was huffing and puffing and sweaty after just 30 minutes of relatively light work. (Granted, some of that was because he insisted on flailing around, crowhopping, and trying to pull me toward the jumps in the ring at a dead gallop, so it was kind of his fault. 20 years old, huh?)

It was time. So I pulled out the clippers.

Let me just state at the outset that I am like your model of What Not To Do. I had no intention of bathing my horse – it’s November in Vermont, you have got to be kidding me. I own clippers that are a good example of what they are, but are classified as “ear and nose trimmers” so yeah not exactly your fancy $400 body clippers.

I was also too lazy to get an extension cord so I, um, stood on his lead rope to keep him in one place. DON’T BE LIKE ME, INTERNET. Your caveat here is that I know this horse intimately, he is solid for clipping (he was antsy last night because it was dinnertime) and I did actually position myself so I could duck into an empty area off the aisle if he decided to snark about it.

I aimed for a very light trace clip, and used the 0 blade cover. I think I have some more to do, but I will live with this for a week and then update it next week.

…wow I didn’t realize how bad those lines were until just now. sigh.

So there you have it. First clip of the season is out of the way.
I am very seriously considering some kind of My Little Pony style clip on his butt when I expand his current clip. It would need to be some kind of geeky symbol. Suggestions welcome, keeping in mind that I possess exactly zero artistic talent and would need to use a stencil.
chores · winter

Night Check

Does your barn do a night check? What does it consist of?

I’ve always felt most comfortable keeping Tristan at a boarding barn that does night check. I think it’s a good double-check, and a good way to help keep barn management flowing smoothly. It makes me feel more comfortable, as a nervous horse owner.

Last Friday night, I did night check, since one of the regular barn workers was visiting with the trainer in Florida. (And posting photos of kayaking in t-shirts on Facebook, sob.) I hadn’t done it in nearly a year, so the barn manager left me a list of what the current night check routine is.

Holy mackerel, guys. Here was my night check.

sigh. summer.

9:00 pm – Arrive, turn on lights, walk up and down the aisle to make sure everyone is bright and alert

9:05 pm – Duck into tack room, let cat out, check the list.

9:06 pm – Put on lined rubber gloves and start soaking hay for the two recent colic cases. Tear the hay up into tiny shreds, flip over and over and over again to make sure water penetrates every possible nook and cranny.

9:15 pm – Start haying remaining horses in the barn. Everyone gets two flakes, except for a few who get three, and the yearling, who gets one. 2/3 of the horses in the barn have Nibble Nets right now. All of the Nibble Nets are double-clasped and those clasps are tied together with baling twine. The first stall takes me a solid 7 minutes and I swear, out loud, repeatedly. You haven’t known frustration until you’ve tried to stuff two flakes of hay into a Nibble Net hung at head-height, while undoing the tiny clasps with thick winter chore gloves, while a deeply impatient horse is dancing back and forth, snatching pieces of hay that are escaping your arms.

10:07 pm – Finish haying (YES, REALLY), and do blankets. Every horse that had a neck cover got that neck cover that cover pulled up and buckled down. One horse was wearing a cooler from being worked earlier in the evening; I pulled that and put on the two blankets in the aisle. Probably about 1/3 of the horses had some layer that needed to be added. I also took that time to look hard at all the other blanketed horses, and fixed two leg straps that had come undone. Fortunately, I was warmed up enough from haying that I could take my gloves off to do the straps.

daytime, not last night, but Tristan’s blanket waiting for night check

10:23 pm – Toss grain to the horses who either got a snack at night check, or whose evening grain had waited until night check because they had been worked right around dinner time. Add water to all the grain.

10:30 pm – Start water. Oh, winter water. My nemesis. I had two options: hose or buckets. Using the buckets would take longer, be harder work, and involve more walking back and forth. Using the hose would guarantee that I would screw up the draining, hanging, and putting away, especially with the barn manager’s warning that the hose would freeze very, very quickly once I stopped using it. Buckets, then!

11:07 pm – Water done. On the one hand: I am now twice as cold, have ice rimmed all over my jacket, and pulled something in my elbow hauling water to 25 horses. On the other hand: is there anything quite as satisfying as using a sledgehammer to smash out ice from buckets?

11:08 pm – Quick double-check of the list the barn manager left for me. Check everything off. Do one last walk up and down the aisles, checking doors, latches, and lights. Everyone looks happy, and the mare who earlier was a bit unexcited about her hay is going at it with gusto now. Good. Tristan, who got extra hay scrids and a sip from every water bucket as I went by, doesn’t really want to see me go, and shoves me all over the place with his nose while I close up his stall door, which I had left open with a stall guard up.

“But having my stall door closed is booooooooring!”

11:15 pm – Put the cat back in the tack room, over his loud protests. It’s 14 degrees and predicted to hit 1 degree by about 3 am, so I don’t feel right leaving him out. Make sure the space heater is on and near the water line and not touching anything. Make sure the frost-free hydrant outside is not dripping, or the dripping water will freeze right back up into the water line, no matter how well-insulated.

11:16 pm – Get into my car, blast the heat, and sit for a moment checking off the list in my head. Decide I’m done, drive away.

11:17 pm – Turn around because I have no specific memory of tucking the draft blockers underneath the front door. I hadn’t really disturbed them when I entered, but the barn gets unbelievable wind coming up the valley and hitting the hill, so this is actually an important piece. I double-check: yup, they’re in place.

Barn in winter, earlier this season. We have way more snow now.

11:18 pm – Back on the road again.

11:43 pm – Home. Bed. I’m too keyed up from what amounted to two hours of constant physical labor to sleep, so I read for about 15 minutes until the adrenaline passes and then I am out.cold.

Whew.

So yeah. Our night check routine is pretty intense right now. In the summer it’s just to put eyes on everyone, toss grain and sometimes a little hay, and make sure all the lights are turned off.

winter

See, I wasn’t just whining: coldest winter EVER.

I would just like to leave this here, as evidence that I am not simply a whiner who can’t cope with winter. While Boston was getting record snowfall, Vermont experienced literally the coldest winter in recorded history. I have never sacrificed so many riding days to the extreme cold.
From Eye on the Sky, our local non-hysterical and actually-meteorological weather guys:

The February 2015 Summary: 

This was one of the coldest months on record for several stations. 

For Burlington, it was the 3rd coldest February, and the 7th coldest of any month, with an average of 7.6°F. 

In St. Johnsbury, this was the 2nd coldest February, and ties the 6th coldest month, with an average of 7.7°F. 

In addition, this was the coldest January-February period since 1904, and includes 41 days (so far) with temperatures consecutively at 32°F or colder, the second longest stretch at the Museum (the longest, 51 days, ran from late December 1976 through early February 1977) 

This is the only February on the Museum records with no above freezing temperatures.
Southern areas also received heavy snowfall, with 45.6 inches reported in Marlboro, VT, and Hillsboro Upper Village, NH had 56.5 inches. 

To get an idea how extraordinary the cold was, the image shows the average February temperature in St. Johnsbury since 1895 (the dark blue line), with the red line a 7-year running mean to show a trend over the years. It is only the 2nd February to average less than 10°F since 1934. This was NOT just an “old-fashioned” February!

They do not report on my area, but did in a previous post: my city averaged 4°F for the month of February, which was officially its coldest ever.