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!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to Reality

I'm in denial that I'm home from horse camp. Too tired to write out all the things I have to say yet but suffice to say it was an amazing experience and I have blog fodder for at least a week. I'll leave you with some highlights!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mobile Blogging Sucks

I've been MIA most of this week because I haven't had access to a desktop, and mobile blogging is basically the worst! Things have been manic while I have been trying to do a lot of packing and organizing on top of all of the usual shenanigans.
New window screens installed, check.
OCD level matching, check.
Loading the trailer? Well.... Spare halters and and hackamore, check. 

Cinna took down a section of fence yesterday and went on walkabout. Thankfully she ended up in the barn lot and stayed there grazing until I came out to feed and found her, and I'm grateful that situation ended well. I've been working on taming our feral kittens and have made some progress with the little black one that I call Elvis.
My phone takes the worst low light shots ever haha. Elvis and his mom Nubs.
We've also moved into our busy time at work so that's not really helping me maintain any kind of balance, haha. I am very much looking forward to unplugging this weekend and getting away from it all! And hopefully I will be taking lots of pics so I will have plenty of things to write about upon my return. Hopefully I'll be refreshed and ready to jump back in!
Although how am I going to leave these sweet faces??
In the meantime, back to the grind, punctuated by random scribbling on my packing list. Anyone else have fun weekend plans coming up?

Monday, August 7, 2017

In the Clutch

So I don't think I went into too much detail on the blog, but we've been experiencing a series of unfortunate events with our diesel. I know I mentioned the original brake issue, and that we had already scheduled some front end work so it was going to be out of commission for a hot minute anyway. All of this happened in July, but I wasn't super worried because I didn't have plans that involved the trailer until mid-August, and surely everything would be squared away by then -- right?
Famous last words mom.
Hahahahaha. Cue Murphy's Law. So our fabulous mechanic got the front end work sorted out, so all that we needed was a front end alignment (which had to be done at an actual shop, vs our front yard). So we dropped it off two weeks ago expecting to pick it up that evening. After the alignment, it was still doing a little bit of "wandering", so he crawled back under to see what was going on. Apparently some sort of very important box was missing -- a box that stabilized the steering. The brackets were there, but the box was not. Fantastic, right? Since it was already at the shop, we told him to go ahead and order it and put it on -- at this point we still had like 3 weeks before my trip so I wasn't super concerned.
The truck in question. Brienne.
So a day or so later, the box arrived and got installed. Yay, truck is good to go. Right? I'm sure you can see where this is going, lol. Mechanic took it out for one more drive to test the steering stabilizer, and all was well. Until the clutch pedal broke. Fun fact about the actual clutch pedal -- kind of hard to buy alone. Locally, our auto parts store only sold it in conjunction with the gas and brake pedals, which I didn't need. Our normal online auto parts store was similar. And at this point, we had definitely blown the parts budget out of the water (which ultimately wasn't THAT big of a deal, but I also didn't want to spend 3x more than I had to on this stupid pedal).
Owning a truck with 200K+ means maintenance. Oh well. C'est la vie!
So we found an eBay seller (a Ford dealer out of Ohio incidentally) and purchased one. Shipping was going to take a week, and at that point I was getting a little nervous. Luckily, it arrived a bit ahead of schedule, so we got it down to the mechanic and crossed our fingers. He was able to get it installed, and we picked it back up Friday. So fun fact about replacing the clutch pedal in an almost 20-year old standard truck -- that new clutch pedal is going to make it drive like a totally different truck.
We bought this truck before I started blogging, so it isn't chronicled online, but my friends know exactly how much I hate driving a standard. Like hate. Particularly this truck -- it was SUPER hard to learn on. So the year we bought it, I made myself drive ALL. THE. TIME. And I got pretty decent at it. And by pretty decent, I mean I went from killing it 10x every time I drove it to killing it like once every few months. Instead of feeling a deep pit of anxiety in my stomach thinking about driving it, I started picking it for my trips to town. It got to feel comfortable, like a broken in pair of boots.
And then came the new clutch pedal. Ack. I drove it home from the mechanic last week and I'm not gonna lie. There was a lot of swearing on the struggle bus... haha. So I drove it again the next day to the feed store. And again to town. And to the barn. And I'm hopefully working through the pain of breaking in a new pair of boots -- because this truck is gonna be around for a while, and I've got to feel comfortable driving it :)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Packing for Overnight Trips

Happy Friday folks! To kick off the weekend, I want you to talk to me about your packing process for overnight trips with your horse. I'm taking Ruby on a weekend trip in the not-so-distant future, and when I sat down to think about it, I realized I've never taken a horse on an overnight trip. It's one of those things I felt like I'd done before, but when I actually sat down and mentally ran through my life experiences.... I came up empty. Oops? But I'm going to remedy that!
Not really interested in my trip if it requires work. Too bad Ruby. You're gonna go, and you're gonna like it!
We are going to be traveling to a ranch a few hours away -- the campground offers trail riding and a venue for a lot of events (typically western). Ruby and I got offered a place to crash, and since I've been wanting to check out their trails anyway, I jumped at the chance. So it won't be nearly as formal (or stressful!) as trying to pack for a show -- it's just going to be a super low-key weekend all about having a good time.
Although it's gonna be hard to leave these little monsters for a few days.
Because I'm extremely type A, I've already started making packing lists. My horse trailer is well equipped for day shows, with hay nets, buckets/bucket hooks, fly spray, chairs, a pop up canopy, spare halters, a pitchfork, etc., that permanently live in the gooseneck of my tack room. I can pack my own clothes no problem (hopefully? lol). I've got shavings and feed on my list -- several bales of hay, labeled baggies of Ruby's grain for each meal we'll be gone (including an extra, in case we run late for some reason). Obviously we'll need the tack I plan to ride in for the weekend, and it probably wouldn't hurt to bring spare stuff (I'm going alone so plenty of room in my trailer!) -- I'm tentatively planning to ride her all weekend in my western saddle, and I can throw either my endurance saddle or my dressage saddle in as a backup.
Trailer chairs!
Ruby showing off my day set-up at a clinic last spring -- no I don't really love teal and black that much... why do you ask? ;)
I think I'll plan to thoroughly bathe her before I go, although I'm not sure anyone will care how clean and shiny she is on the trails, haha. Aside from those major points.... what am I forgetting? The truck will be freshly back from the mechanic and ready to roll. DH will go over the trailer and check the tires and all that good stuff (and hopefully my new trailer screens will be installed by then). I have her Coggins both electronically and physically in the trailer. Ruby typically travels super well and does not care about strange water, new stalls, other horses, etc, so I'm not *too* worried about that.
Ruby is the queen of giving no fucks. As long as there's hay. There better be hay!
How do you pack for overnight trips? Do you have a mental checklist, or a paper one? Are you a "toss everything in the trailer and go" type, or do you methodically pack and repack, making a list and checking it twice? Have you ever forgotten anything major for a big overnight trip?