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?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Weighing Advice

Horse people tend to be rather opinionated folks. The same can be said for many people on the internet. When you overlap those circles and dip your toe into the realm of internet horse people – well…. There’s a lot of cray.
I’m sure some of you on Facebook have seen groups like Horrible Horsemanship and Rachet Riders that are maelstroms of insanity. Even staples like OTTB Connect can bring out some really wacky lurkers when a hot button topic is posted. I tend to steer clear of the veritable trainwrecks that ensue when people poll social media for training or medical advice. Before Facebook groups, there were (and still are!) bulletin boards like COTH and HorseGroomingSupplies (although I think that one is now defunct. Or renamed. Or something.). Before the internet, there were other avenues. There are always people asking for/looking to share their opinion. It's human nature.
I’ve also seen quite a bit of advice dished out in my (admittedly brief and limited) foray in the blogosphere. Some of it is requested and well-received – some of it is… not. I do try to make sure my comments are free from unsolicited advice (although I’m sure I’ve slipped up here or there!) – and even if the person is requesting advice, I try to be positive and helpful (while also including the disclaimer that while such and such has worked for me, I’m not saying it will work for everyone). Because literally no one in the history of ever is going to receive advice well if its unsolicited couched in nastiness or being rude. 
Weighing the merits of advice from various sources wasn’t even really on my radar until a FB friend shared a post that really resonated with me earlier this week. It was originally posted on the page NZ Freedom Horse and Rider and it talked about how to keep the opinions of others from stressing you out by checking the source using three succinct criteria:
• Is the person sharing advice someone that you would want to trade horses with?
• Do they have the relationship or achievements with horses that you would like to have?
• Is their horse healthy and what does the “track record” of maintenance and care look like? 

There is nothing wrong with being selective about the advice you choose to follow after deciding for yourself if it comes from a source that is useful. The end of the post was what stopped me in my tracks though – “I do try to keep an open mind to the thoughts of others who are where I want to be or at least are where I am now traveling the same path… DO NOT stress or lose sleep over the thoughts of those who do not understand or are clearly on a different journey.” 
Whoa. I took a day or two to mull this over. I am friends with horse people from every walk of life imaginable. From people who pay board in the four figures every month to people who keep horses on a single acre in their backyard and live in a camper trailer. From people who paid more for their horse than I paid for my property, to people with free horses. From people who have won so many ribbons and awards they can’t even display them all, to people who have never set foot in the show ring. People with grade horses, people with registered horses, people with old horses, people with young horses. People who breed horses, and people who rescue them. People who train horses, and people who pay trainers. People who have intense competition goals and have horses come and go until they find the perfect fit, and people who mold their riding and events around whatever their current horse excels at.

And I didn’t mean any of those in a negative way – just as descriptors of a variety of totally normal situations. And you know what? All of those things are okay. Just because they’re in a situation that’s different from mine, doesn’t negate their knowledge. It doesn’t mean they know less, or know more, or are dumb, or are experts.
 But, what it does mean is that I’m going to weigh advice coming from those sources against my own scale – and that’s also okay. What works for my dramatic Spanish mares might not work for someone else’s OTTB, or green stock horse, or aged schoolmaster – and vice versa. It’s perfectly fine for me to weigh advice from someone who is on a vastly different journey than I am, and choose to discard it. In the same vein, it's totally fine if someone asks for my opinion, weighs it against their own experience, and then decide to do something totally different. 

At the end of the day -- nobody but you knows the journey you're on and is walking in your metaphorical shoes. And only you get to decide if your relationship with your horse is fulfilling. Or whether or not you want to create, trash, or adapt your goals based on... the signs of the moon. Or whatever floats your boat. That's okay. Are you having fun? Are you and your horses safe, happy and healthy? Good. You do you. Don't ever be afraid to weigh advice against your own set of criteria and pick and choose the advice you accept and act on. 
But if you're getting dressage tips from a hunter princess? Or suggestions on your achieving the ideal XC canter from someone who never leaves the arena? Or advice on the perfect showmanship pivot from someone who has never set foot in the ring? Or being badgered to take lessons from an "upper level dressage trainer" whose claim to fame is a few sub-50 scores at 4th level? Or being offered ground manners training tips from someone whose horse is a dick to handle? Yeahhhhh. Maybe feel free to smile and nod and chuck that well-meaning advice where it belongs -- in the trash bin. 
So. Do you have criteria you weigh advice against? How do you deal with unsolicited advice? Or even solicited advice from someone who... maybe doesn't need to give you advice?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Equine Saturdays

I finally did get a chance this weekend to ride my horses, and I wish I was super excited to blog about that… but I’m just kind of uninspired at the moment. Maybe I’ll get inspired if I just start writing? Let's try it and see.
Freshly mowed back pasture.
I will give a public shoutout to Mother Nature for the awesome weather we have been having for the last few days (and hopefully will keep having haha). We had a bit of rain last Thursday that brought the temps down, and mercifully they’ve stayed down. I spend plenty of time bitching about it when it’s hot so I should probably devote equal time to nice weather, right? So here I am, telling you how NICE our weather was this weekend!
My badass husband dragging the arena.
Friday night I had to grab groceries on my way home and I was frustrated because I wanted to finish mowing the back pasture so I could also drag the arena (once the brushhog is hooked up we have to do alllllll the mowing because getting it on and off the tractor is a BITCH), but I really wanted the arena dragged so I could take advantage of the beautiful weather in the forecast. When I got home I was pleasantly surprised to find DH already out on the tractor mowing ❤ so I made sure I got all the other chores done (and took him a beer!). I gave him a shoutout on my FB page, but here’s another one for those of you not on the ‘Book. He worked an 11 hour work day, spent two hours driving, another two on the tractor mowing, and then dragged the arena. Best. Husband. Ever.
Super throwback of him with bebe Ruby lol.
Saturday I was up bright and early to knock out chores and some errands. Then a friend came over to keep me company (Cinna still has not achieved the level of trust necessary for me to ride at home alone when no one will be back for hours lol) and we tacked Cinna and Trigger up to tool around in the arena a little bit. Cinna hasn’t actually been saddled and ridden for…. a while? But she was shockingly good when I just hopped on without lunging and went right to work. We did a little bit of W/T/C – she was a little “sticky” about leaving Trigger to work on the other side of the arena, and I lamented not thinking to grab my whip. I let her be done once we had gotten a few decent circles at each gait both ways -- and by be done, I mean we hit the trail!
Sparkle hat, sparkle browband, and bridle! Thanks SB!
Cinna led the way for most of the ride (she did have a freeze and snort moment at the rubber mat on the trail…. you know, the one that’s been there every single time we’ve GONE on the trail). It was the first time my friend had been on my little trail, and she had some nice comments about it that I relayed to DH when he got home that night, because he’s the one who put it in for me :) we looped back and forth a few times, since it’s pretty short, and had a really nice time! Cinna did have one minor spaz out moment where I thought maybe she had snagged a branch in her tail or something, she got very goosy for about 30 seconds, but she eventually walked out of it.
Thankfully since the weather was so beautiful, the horses didn’t work up too much of a sweat, but we hosed them off anyway and parked them back in their stalls in front of fans for the rest of the day. We hung out and chit chatted for a bit, then I grabbed some lunch and a super quick nap before heading out to the barn do ride Ruby and do chores! I was totally on a mission Saturday – the horses have been losing a lot of “clothing” in turnout, so I wanted to ride all over it and see what sorts of treasures I could recover. In the first five minutes I found a missing shoe, so I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to recover a bunch of lost items.
Except I rode for another hour and didn’t find a damn thing…. haha. We did hack all over the perimeter fence and criss-cross the turnout, then hacked out along the road to look in the big pasture for more items, but no dice. Ruby was a total rockstar about the traffic and me getting on and off while trying to juggle holding the shoe, my phone, and the reins haha. After detouring by the barn so I could toss the shoe in a safe location, I went over to the mowed section that is functioning as our outdoor riding space for the moment and did a little W/T/C – Ruby is going on a field trip soon and I kind of wanted to make sure we still had functional buttons. Which we sort of do. But I definitely need to start riding more (story of my life).
Her sparkle hat is technically "pony" sized and maybe doesn't fit her at all..... hahahaha.
Sunday we knocked out some projects around the house (including putting up some fun decorative lights on the tack shed) before hanging out with some friends for a rocking BBQ! We also had a houseguest on Sunday necessitating some cleaning, so I had limited horse time.
Testing the lights!
Sassy red squirrel encouraging me to nap instead of ride ponies.
Monday was a long day at work and knocking out other errands (including dropped off my Kastel dresses to hopefully be shortened into wearable shirts?), plus also my awesome new Kensington screens arrived. That necessitated a frantic trip to the hardware store, but tragically I live in the boonies so I ended up having to order the mounting hardware online. Which greatly annoyed me. So hopefully it arrives sometime this week so DH can get the awesome screens mounted before my next big pony adventure!
I am SO EXCITED ABOUT THESE SCREENS.
Also a really pretty sunset. No editing, just straight off my phone.
At any rate -- the weather looks good for most of this week, so hopefully I can get in some more good works with the horses! (I was gonna call them ponies, but I'm trying not to do that anymore Alli, haha). And by good, I mean less than a billion degrees. So yay!