Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Gift Giving at the Barn





*a cute, equine inspired Christmas card from the great "Just Horse Gifts" website www.justhorsegifts.com

"....sitting here tonight amidst a lots of bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc. has me thinking that it's time to visit the subject of Holiday Gift Giving at the Barn!  And, when I think of this subject I reflect on the various barns wherein I've boarded over the years and the truth is that every single barn had a different way of handling the holiday season!

We will begin our expose' by talking about the standard barn party.  The menu calls for either potluck or the barn owners provide the food, you bring a bottle of "bubbly" and spread good cheer all around!  In addition to the dinner portion of the barn party, you may have been called on to participate in some type of gift swap!  And, the posted-on-the-barn-bulletin-board invitation states that you should not spend over $10.00 - $20.00, etc. on this gift swap!  Then there's the age-old dilemma of how said gift giving will proceed - will it be the simple task of picking a name out of a hat, keeping your pick name a secret and come party night, discreetly placing your gift under the tree?  Or........will it be "The Yankee Swap".  The last time I was involved in a "Yankee Swap" was at a Dressage Club Christmas party and although my memory isn't serving me well on this particular subject, I will do my best to explain how it's done; 

but first, please allow me to digress for a moment because I want to tell you that, in my humble opinion, I honestly believe that this type of exchange breeds feelings of low esteem about the gift you have chosen for the swap!  In other words, you begin with the fact that everything is cloaked in secrecy - you pick a name out of a hat but don't tell anyone whose name is on the little slip of paper, you buy a gift and rush to get it under the tree so no one will see how it's wrapped (gosh forbid that someone watched you and then you've been caught, they know it's your gift by taking note of the wrapping paper) or if it's the "Yankee Swap"; well, that can be confusing and even confrontational.

*Participants draw numbers from a hat (here we go again with the "hat"!) to determine their swap order from one up to the total number of participants,

*The person who picks the first gift opens it and shows it to the rest of the guests.  Then the number two participant picks a gift and chooses to either unwrap it or swap it for an unwrapped gift.  If the gift is swapped, the person who had their gift taken from them gets to unwrap the chosen gift and the turn passes,

*When all the gifts have been opened, the "ol' Yankee Swap" is over.  Afterward, you might find some people trying to trade and  I guess that's considered an acceptable practice.  However, the end result is supposed to be that everyone goes home with a gift they are happy with but that's not a true rendition of what is going on behind the scenes or at least in my opinion (see my opinion in red)!

*Another variation to the swap is that after all gifts have been unwrapped, it's ok to allow the number one swapper to choose a gift from any of the unwrapped gifts and that means you are taking a gift away from someone!  So, in essence, the item in your possession is not yours until the game is over and even then you're not sure; apparently, until you get in your car to go home with your "swap" gift firmly in tow!  It appears as if the secret Gift Giving or the Yankee Swap can have some extremely different outcomes and from what I've heard has even caused tension at some parties (could this really be true????).

Now, it's time to give you my take on what's really happening and my take has absolutely nothing to do with how the game is played but here goes anyway:

....you breathlessly watch your gift out of the corner of your eye, when someone finally chooses your gift, you make certain that you don't stare too much lest someone figure out that it was you who brought said gift!  Your stomach crunches as you watch that person open your gift and the moment of truth has arrived!  Is your gift a winner, is the person happy that he or she has chosen it and if not, as in the rules of "Ye ol' Yankee Swap", does the unsatisfied person find themselves, at the end of the swap, frantically trying to trade with someone whose gift they like better than yours?  Now, can you see how this activity can lend itself to feelings of low self-esteem or tension - hmmmmmm!

Now, on to the important issue of buying holiday gifts for your barn owner, your trainer, your instructor, the vet, the farrier, the barn help, ahhhhhh, what to do, what to do!  My personal rule of thumb is if I am at a barn for a year and I am happy with the care my horse has been given, I want to take the holiday season to show how grateful I am (in other words, I'm grateful that my horse is gets good care) so, in this case, I will purchase a gift for the barn owner.  And since I am not usually at my barn when the barn workers are there, I normally don't even know who they are; so, that brings me to trainer, instructors, etc. and that's a big "YES"!  Ohhhh, my instructor is a saint (yup, that's you Caitlin O'Neill) and quite honestly, she deserves more than money can buy.  She has put up with my disabilities, my fears as a result of my disabilities, my inability to prevent my family from getting in the way of consistent lessons, my horse (although he is usually not the problem, I'M the PROBLEM) and in addition to her expertise as an Instructor and Trainer (sometimes just a few simple words from her help me adjust so well that my ride becomes effortless), the mere fact that she is always and I repeat the word, always calm, cool and collected (which is exactly what I need), she deserves a gift not only at Christmas time but at every other USA holiday throughout the year, even Flag Day, for that matter!

I don't know my new Vet very well and I have not yet met my new Farrier but if I did know my Vet, it is doubtful that I would him a gift.  However, the Farrier is one person who puts up with a lot, in one way or another; so, if next year at this time, Valie still has the same Farrier, he will most surely get a token of my appreciation!

So, now it comes down to what my readers think, what do you do at this time of year and/or what don't you do?  Also, I think it would be equally interesting to hear what gifts you received from your barn owner.  When I arrived at my present barn in November of last year, I never expected to give anything or receive anything.  However, I was delighted to find a gift in my cubby and it was a great looking, long sleeved, sport jersey (inscribed with the Barn Logo on the front, the back of the jersey identified me as a member of the Four Winds Farm Equestrian Team and finally, on the sleeve was my first name)!  I really love the jersey and along with a Christmas stocking filled with peppermint treats for Valie, this gift actually did make me feel like "part of the team", a nice way to welcome me to the farm!  I immediately sent my barn owner, the wonderful Jamie Blash-Arsenault, a thank you note because I was really touched by her gesture!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Better Rested equals A Very Alert Driver

My boy, Valie, shows me what I should do before driving to the barn - as seen here, he wakes up from an afternoon siesta, on an unusally warm winter's day!
Early last week I made my way to the barn and although it was late afternoon and it was still "daytime", it quickly began to get dark and the story goes downhill from there!  When I bgean the drive, I was exhausted and by exhausted I mean that I was probably in danger of dozing off behind the wheel on the way home.  However, imagine my surprise when I found myself nodding off on the way there and as such, I then knew that traveling to or from anywhere had been a mistake!  But, on the other hand, I know that had it occurred to me prior to leaving the house, my desire to be with my horse would have been stonger than my inner voice of reason.  I know that isn't a responsible way of looking at the situation but being that he lives quite a distance from me, a 50 mile round trip, it's hard to get to him as much as I want and many times, during the course of a week, I find myself missing him so much that it hurts - as for my non-horsey friends, they tell me that they just don't understand how I can miss him that much! 

The truth is that, from time to time, I envision moving him closer to home but I always worry about creating change for him.  What I mean is that Valie is happy, he's never looked as good as he does right now and has several equine buddies that he truly depends on.  In other words, I would worry about how he would adjust as he is truly a creature, errr, I mean a "horse-of-habit, he thrives on a schedule and unsettling that schedule would surely cause a mood shift but there's also something to be said about being in closer proximity to him and that would mean more "face" time for both of us!   But, in the past, prior to moving him, I always worried about such things and he always surpirsed me by settling right in to his new home! 

In the interim, I have made a promise to myself and that is to be better rested before I drive to the barn.  In the scheme of things, that's a small task for me to accomplish if it means keeping me safe and my horse happy -  better rested equals a very alert driver!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

George Morris Mark III Helmet by Pegasus


 
 
Presenting the Pegasus George Morris Mark III Helmet
 
 

"...in a recent post I talked about being a winner in the Riders4Helmets "Helmet GiveAWay" Contest.  In my humble opinion, this contest increased "helmet awareness" and it was also one of the many ways this group continues to illustrate the importance of wearing safety headgear.  Furthermore, donations by many top name helmet companies, such as GPA, Samshield, Troxel, Tipperary, etc., aided in making the contest a success!  In addition to these top name brands, a relative newcomer to the helmet market, Pegasus Helmets, also donated quite a few helmets to benefit the cause!  And, as one of the winners, I was the lucky recipient of their George Morris Mark III show helmet!"

I was excited to be a winner but more so because I was looking forward to trying a new brand of helmet and I have to report that Pegasus helmets did not disappoint!  So, without further adieu, please allow me to give you my personal review of this "classy" helmet!

First and foremost, George Morris actually endorses this helmet!  Now, I don't know if that means anything to you but none-the-less, it does have a seal of approval from this well known, top notch rider!  And, as for my endorsement (I may not be well known or be a top notch rider) but I like to think I'm well versed on what makes for quality equestrian gear and clothing)! 

Upon arrival, I opened the box to find a very beautiful helmet!  It has such a classic look that it actually brings back memories of days gone by, days when we called a "riding helmet" a "hunt cap"!

This helmet is so light and comfortable that you actually forget it's on your head and as for me, I know that I have a better ride when my helmet isn't giving me a headache!  I researched the Pegasus website and then talked to the creator of the line, Ron Friedson, a long time horse person who really makes an consistent effort to maintain customer satisfaction.  It was then I discovered that the company's use of 17 different head molds make for a custom-like fit!  For example, the very first time I put it on, there were no "pinch" spots nor were there any "loose" spots, just a comfortable fit, right out of the box! 

As for the actual outward appearance of this helmet, the velvety exterior, the classic bow sewn in on the back of the helmet plus a decorative braid across the top of the brim, adds even more elegance to the classic design of this model!  Also, the skin-colored, leather harness system offers a myriad of adjustment possibilities.  I especially like the fact that the beauty and form of this helmet doesn't negate its function as a necessary piece of equestrian safety gear!"

If you are in the market for a show helmet or even a schooling helmet, you might want to take a look at the Pegasus website.  You will then be able to see their entire collection and if my helmet is any indication of how the other helmets fit, I'm quite sure you'll love your helmet as much as I love mine! 

*I have not and will not receive any compensation for my glowing review, the purpose of my post is merely my way of letting my readers (and anyone else who happens along) know what I think of this new-to-the-market helmet!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Behind The Bit - Bling Browband Giveaway

"....many of you have already trotted on over to Stacey Kimmel's blog, "Behind the Bit", http://behindthebit.blogspot.com/, to get the specifics for an opportunity to win a "gorjus" bling browband.  However, if not, let me give you the information if you choose to go direct to the designer's site!  Her name is Kimberly and the company name is Enter At A Jewelry 
http://enteratajewelry.com/.  Her designs are beautiful and of course, you can create your own; so, go on over a take a look!  However, in order to enter the contest you must "like" her facebook site, Enter At A, and also, write a little bio about you and your horse and why the two of you should win the "bling" browband!

Lastly, if you are an equine/equestrian blogger and you help to promote the contest on your blog, you will get $30.00 off and free shipping on a custom browband!"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



a beautiful, custom browband made by Kimberly of Enter At A Jewelry
 http://enteratajewelry.com
  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gucci & The Equestrian Fashionista

"....please allow me to post my personal disclaimer before delving any further into the world of equestrian fashion!  In other words, I want ya'll to know that even though I was browsing riding gear on eBay, I wasn't, am not now and never will be interested in this helmet! 

But hey, who knows, since it "is" a Gucci and many of us do follow the trends, then there MUST be someone who will buy it!  So, if this helmet "speaks to you", for a mere $3,499.00, you will be able to show your fellow barn buddies that in addition to your riding prowess, you also posses a keen fashion sense!

*the below captioned excerpt was copied directly from eBay (insignificant parts were removed to save space)

Brand New 100% Authentic Gucci Leather Equestrian Riding Helmet - Size 57

Limited edition, was purchased in Europe. Less than 50 was made, very hard to find piece. Newer been used, original tag still attached, comes with plastic cover, dust bag and original Gucci box.
* Made in Italy
* Condition: Brand new, perfect condition, no damage or discoloration!


So, guys, come on, any takers or, at a minimum, any comments?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cross Country - The X-Rated Way!

"....Michael Matson (we all know who he is, right?) just posted this video over at the "Barnmice" site and since I wanted to "brighten up" the Sunday doldrums for myself and anyone else that needs a lift tonight; well then, watch this controversial video and have yourself a giggle!"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Riders4Helmets


Riders4Helmets
....cute t-shirts, etc. for sale to support their message
 I am a big fan of Riders4Helmets and have been since Lindsey White and Jeri Bryant introduced their website.  It seems as if these two people got together when the stark realization of how important helmets are hit the "horse world" and that was when Courtney King Dye had her accident.  From the beginning, I have loved their goal, it's short, sweet and gets right to the point, "To get more riders wearing helmets ... period"!  Furthermore and I quote their idea on the purpose of their website, "To educate equestrians on the basic facts of wearing a helmet; to promote a helmet wearing campaign on a National level by involving leading equestrians in various disciplines that will encourage an increased use of helmets; and to provide important links/resources to enable riders become further educated on the importance of wearing a helmet."  ....don't you just love their purpose????

I don't have access to statistics but I really feel that their website and subsequent campaigns have really paid off and that more people than ever realize the importance of wearing a helmet.  I must say that I felt a chill when I first saw some of the top Dressage riders wearing helmets rather than top hats in competition and although I attribute part of that to Ms. Dye's accident, I believe that Riders4Helmets was the catalyst for the push that was needed to inspire change!

On a personal note, when the R4H website was in its fledgling stages, Valie and I were featured, along with many other other equestrians and their horses, in a pictorial that showed us with our horses and wearing our helmets, along with a little blurb as to why we do so!  I was quite proud to be part of that but wait........it gets better!  Along with selling wonderful merchandise such as the cute t-shirt pictured above, they have spear headed several contests and one of those contests was a huge helmet give-a-way!  On one of my visits to the website, I  randomly entered the contest and lo and behold, I was shocked to find that I was a winner!!  Many different helmet manufacturers were sponsoring this contest, every one from the new Samshield, to the GPA, Charles Owen, the new helmets made by Pegasus and many others.  And as a winner, I was the lucky recipient of a brand new Pegasus George Morris Mark III Helmet and although it has not arrived yet, after viewing it on the Pegasus website http://pegasushelmets.com/, it is one beautiful show helmet and features a very unique approach to custom fitting as well as comfort.  After I try it on and use it a bit, I will review it right here on my blog!

Well anyway, that's it for tonight, it's way past my bedtime and I have a full day ahead of me beginning tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM.  I will be visiting your blogs very soon and will return to mine to write again - Goodnight!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Once In A Lifetime

Valie with Kyle Rao in the saddle
at
Four Winds Farm in North Oxford, MA
 "....sometimes you get to experience one of those chance encounters with a person that has a deep impact on your life and it happens when you need it most!  The anomaly is that when this occurs, you suddenly find yourself wondering how you managed to get by prior to meeting such a person.  As for me, I did experience one of those once in a lifetime events by meeting a young man named Kyle Rao and it happened when I was going through multiple surgeries during the winter of 2010 - 2011."

As one surgery turned into multiple surgeries, I was neglecting my horse Valie because I was in and out of surgery and I was often in pain.  In addition to feeling very guilty about not being with him on a daily basis, I was misssing him like crazy.  During that time, I received a call from my trainer/instructor, Jamie, the owner of Four Winds Farm.  She wanted to know how I felt about letting one of her students ride and care for Valie.  Now, since I have the utmost trust in Jamie, I immediately said yes but I never expected how much care he would really receive!

Over a period of a few weeks, Jamie and her barn manager Caitlin relayed reports about the first few rides that Kyle had on Valie and when I was able to get down to the barn, albeit only a few times, I was happy to find that my horse was in excellent shape as it related to grooming, weight gain and even muscle development.  His coat gleamed, his mane, ears, muzzle, etc. were pulled, clipped and so forth and he looked content and happy!  I began to wonder about this young man and was anxious to learn more.  I found that he was a senior in high school, didn't have a lot of riding years under his belt but had excelled from his very first time in the saddle.  Now, even though my guy Valie is quiet and has a good, honest mind, he's still a Thoroughbred and he has his moments.  However, Kyle handled him with patience and understanding.  In other words, this young man took the time to get to know my horse, to bond with him and to care for him as if he was his own.

In the interim, we began to chat on the phone and I knew right away that this kid was all-right!  He never failed to keep me updated via email and texts and when Valie had a minor paddock accident that resulted in a corneal injury, Kyle was right there for both of us!

This young man had managed to enrich the life of my horse and while doing so he gave me serenity and with that came the peace-of-mind I needed to focus on my recovery.  I now have renewed faith in young people.  We often hear the down-side of the "kids of our times" and when the media sensationalizes gangs, drugs, etc., we rarely see the good role models.  However, when one comes along that does what he says he'll do and does so with care and consideration for the task at hand, that's when you know there's hope for our future!

I think it's very important to share positive stories about the young people of today; therefore, if you know anyone like Kyle Rao or you just want to comment on this story, please feel free to do so!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boarding Woes - Absolutely Hysterical!

This "YouTube" horse-related video is one of the funniest I've ever seen!  Unfortunately, I believe that it's a tail, errrr, I mean, a tale that many stable owners have surely experienced!  So, what do you think, has anyone ever encountered a potential boarder like this one!



Thanks to Cedar Crest Farm for this evening's entertainment!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Last Few Days of Winter


Epoch and Valie

photographed by Kyle Rao, at Four Winds Farms in North Oxford, MA, these two buddies were enjoying one of the last winter days here in New England!

Epoch (on the left), owned and loved by Haley Becker and of course my Valie, are depicted here enjoying turnout time together.  Haley and Epoch make a great team and they "shine" on the show circuit! 

When Valie first arrived at FWF, he immediately attached himself to this handsome Chestnut and from there on in, they were inseperable.   When we had our own farm and then at several boarding barns, Valie has always gravitated toward only one or two close buddies and while he hates to leave them, it is not the whole herd that he misses, it's usually just that one special horse!  When I used to ride during the day, taking him out of turnout and away from his buds was not a good thing and........when I was finally mounted and ready to begin, he would "scream" for his friends, his head going straight up in the air; thus, forcing me to feel as if I was losing control at a rapid pace.  One day, when he chose this type of behavior for our jumping off point, I found myself singing to him (the first tune I sang was "Just In Time", an old Jazz song) and while I did attract a fair amount of attention (not all good, I'm sure), my singing calmed him and we then got down to the business of schooling!

In any case, I chose to insert this little tidbit because I have not posted for awhile and after a bit of commotion caused by the "Tall Boot Dilemma" (news of the story carried to far reaching places!), I thought that this filler would be a good segueway for what's forthcoming!   I'm working on a new blog feature that will focus on the people in my life and their relation to our equestrian lifestyle.  So, please look for the upcoming addition of "Team Members" and with that, have a wonderful holiday today and I will definitely return soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Tall Boot Dilemma

 (WARNING:  this is a long but fairly comical story and hey, you may even find that my shopping experiences will help you find the perfect tall boot!)

I spent a great deal of energy on this "tall boot" dilemma and when I look back over the agonizing I've done, while attempting to find boots that I would actually keep (as in not returning them or selling them on ebay), I think I had and continue to have a borderline case of obsessive-compulsive disorder about the subject matter at hand.

I'd like to bring you back to a time in my equestrian history when the only "off the shelf" tall boots you could find were made by a company called Colt Cromwell.  These boots were very much unlike anything we have available to us in today's day and age, they didn't go up to or right under your knees, they were only made in Dress Boot style, they were considerably shorter than they should be and didn't have a Spanish Top, modified or otherwise!  Further still, they had a "spur strap" type of attachment around the top of the boots that you had to buckle and....to this day, I still don't know what purpose that strap served but it was there so I buckled it!

Now, flash forward to the years 2007 - Present and to say that I have tried on, purchased, returned, ordered and re-ordered so many different brands of tall boots, I'm ashamed to blog about the details!  The truth is I don't know if I even remember the actual count but I'm certain of one thing, there were many! 

It's a darn good thing that I didn't want to show during that particular time period because I continued to wear my Ariat 1/2 chaps and paddocks for lack of ever being satisfied with any one pair of tall boots!  I used to think it was my calf size that was holding me back from getting a good fit but after much discussion with tack store employees and fellow equestrians, I don't actually think that they're that wide, they measure 15 3/4 but I'm also considered a "peanut" by many standards as I barely measure 5'4" in height so that also leaves me with the possibility of a height dilemma.  Anyway, from gazing at online size charts till my eyes became blurry, I checked out Fuller Fillies because they had bigger calf sizes but found that their smallest calf size was too big and the height was too short and then checked out the Mountain Horse Richmond or High Caliber Field Boot and while the footbed fit just fine, the calf was too wide; ahhh, what luck, huh?

So, let's start with me giving Ariat a big "thumbs up" as they have finally added a wide calf/short height to their size chart!  I often used to wonder if the boot making industry thought that only tall woman rode horses.  And, even worse, were they trying to discourage short people from riding by making sure that the boots would either go almost over the knee or bunch up behind the knee so one would just say, "O.K., I'm short, I can't find boots that fit so I'll just sell my horse and get out of riding all-together!".  Hmmm, I know that thoughts like this are a bit nutty but the truth is that although comical, when I got frustrated I sometimes thought that it was a plot to "get rid of short riders in the show ring" (where are the men in the "white coats" when you need them?).  Anyway, thanks Ariat, you have gone where no other off-the-shelf boot maker has been before!

1. The Olden Days - From childhood until my late teens, I wore the ol' Colt Cromwells.  Then the industry gave way to some unknown tall boot maker that finally realized the benefit of making an actual "tall" boot, rather than ending them several inches below the knee!  Anyway, this boot became available in my neck of the woods around the year 1977 and for a little over $100.00, the leather was nice and the break-in time was short but........still no field boots in sight!

Digression:  I have many old Dover Saddlery catalogs and my collection begins with the year 1984; so, I can't reference any further back than that.  At that time Dover offered three different boots, an off-the-shelf boot named "The National" and they touted them as, and I quote, "they look like custom".  These boots came in field (yup, finally field boots!) and dress for both men and woman and retailed for $159.00 and the other two styles were "The Sussex" for woman ($79.95) and "The Marlborough" for men ($135.00); however, they still didn't have a Spanish top, modified or otherwise but........"The National" did have "swagger tabs"!  In the 1987/1988 catalog, we saw the addition of "The Nouvelle" ($99.00 - $119.00) and the German boot maker, Cavallo, made "The 4000 & The 7000" ($320.00 to $350.00) and we finally saw the modified Spanish top!

2. Present Day - Prior to bringing Valie into my life almost 5 years ago, my last pair of tall boots were sold along with my wonderful Thoroughbred, Brandie.  I didn't bother to replace them, even though I still rode from time to time, but excited about being a horse owner again, I decided the time was right to shop and that I did, starting with

the Saxon, a great non-leather starter boot that fit nicely, looked like leather from afar but unfortunately just didn't hold up to the rigors of "my" riding and/or the way "I" worked around the barn!  We then went to

the Ariat Challenge and while they fit O.K., there was just something about the leather that felt stiff and uncomfortable!   However, thanks to my buddy, Lindsey Canesi, I was introduced to the Ariat Crowne Pro and oh, how that buttery, soft leather sang to me!  I had to have them so I browsed through ebay and found them on sale from $549.99 to $349.95 and as only a bargain can do to a person, I found myself "clicking on" ebay's buy-it-now feature faster than the speed of light!  They arrived and I was thrilled, each boot was encased in their own individual dust sleeve and there was an extra set of traditional (rather than the elastic permanent laces that came standard on the boot); so, if you wished to convert, you could easily do so!  I was in love, I didn't want to even try them on, I found myself gazing at them, opening the box every day and finally, at the coaxing of a family member who reminded me that my boots were not a new addition to my house decor, I was shamed into trying them on - immediately!  But wait, why didn't they zip up? The Challenge zipped up just fine, what was going on?  I went to their online size chart and saw that both boots had a calf size of 15 3/4, the mystery deepens!  I then did a visual side-by-side comparison in the catalog and after close inspection, I found that Ariat designed the Challenge with a shaped calf rather than the Crowne Pro's slimmer styling.  But as my luck would have it, I had wasted too much time "gazing" at my boots and not bothering to try them on.  Since I was too late to return them off they went to be listed on ebay and it was there that I sold them at a considerable loss.  At this point, after a failed attempt at purchasing Der Dau customs, I gave up for several months but when Tall Boot Fever hit me yet again, I decided to try

Mountain Horse's newest Field Boot, The Venice!  They looked so nice in the Dover catalog so off I went to the store but was, yet again, not satisfied.  I had a feeling that they would be a custom fit because of the vertical stretch-elastic insert located by the zipper.  And, although I must tell you that the fit was perfect, I did not like the leather at all, they reminded me of my Saxons but I loved the Saxons because they looked like leather and I disliked the MH's Venice because, to me, they looked synthetic (go figure!).

3. The End - After carefully checking as many online tack shops as I could, just to see if there was a brand I missed and then doing a Chronicle of the Horse (COTH) forum search on Tall Boots, I discovered the Treadstone Grand Torino Field Boot (not to be confused with Tredstep).  Ohhh, the online photos of these boots screamed, "classy", the leather looked ever so soft, the swagger tab has a button down brass-like insignia, they look like they have good ankle flexion and my list of "likes" went on!  But keep in mind that these were purchased sight unseen and even though the good people on COTH seemed to love them, with my poor tall-boot-buying track record, I should have resisted but....I didn't!  The order was placed, they arrived, I tried them on immediately (see, I do learn from past mistakes!) and I just love them!  Ahhh, I finally have "form and function" in a beautiful but durable leather tall boot.  The calf and height size feel like custom (deciding on sizing was easy due to Treadstone's vast array of sizes) and even the foot-bed fit like a dream.  The search is over, I'm satisfied and I highly recommend these boots to everyone!
       
                 We have a winner in the                   
Cathy's "Dare to Dream of the Perfect Tall Boot" Contest
Treadstone's Grand Torino Field Boots
                                                    
Post Script: I received an email from SmartPak last week, it was an announcement by Tredstep to introduce two new field boot styles. I immediately tried to stop reading the details but sadly, my curiosity would not allow me to delete! As visions of "tall boots danced in my head", I began to think, "Ahhh, the Tredstep Donatella is gorgeous and who couldn't use two pairs of boots, I bet many riders have at least two, maybe even three so why not me? Shall I call SmartPak to reserve my pair, Yes, I will!"  And, as I began to dial the SmartPak order line, I was interrupted by the miracle of call waiting and with that, my attention was momentarily diverted and I was able to come to my senses by the time the call was over. However, I will still look for reviews of these boots as they hit the market later this month! Lastly, if you see me wandering around SmartPak in Natick, Massachusetts, you will faintly hear me chanting my mantra to the Tall Boot Gods, "Please allow me to remember how much I love my Treadstone Grand Torino Field Boots!".

Has anyone had a similar experience? If so, I would love to know that I'm not alone in my "Tall Boot Dilemmas" and/or any like subject!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Down Side of Winter

"....i'm glad to be back, blogging was one of the things that I had to table for the past weeks.  And, that's because for one, we've experienced the single, most difficult winter Massachusetts has seen in a long time.  Moreover, I've been the "Director" of snow shoveling and ice scraping for the family and that meant barking commands to various family members that did not want to leave the warmth of the house and finally........because of the subsequent mental exhaustion that ensued, I was hard pressed to even make a phone call much less blog about Valie and I.  But, what with daylight savings time soon to happen in March and all things equestrian related to go back into "full swing", there will be lots to say!  When I blog again, I plan on finally attacking the age ol' subject of my ongoing "Tall Boot" dilemma and I am actually looking forward to chronicling my efforts to find the perfect tall boot (I've already found the perfect half chap and I'll tell you all about that as well).  I sincerely hope that you guys, my followers, have had a peaceful winter season and I will be catching up with your blogs right away!"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why I Ride

Why do I ride? A simple four word question that has such a complex answer lies in wait of an explanation, doesn't it? I go back in time to tell you that I began to ride when I was just a little 6 year old munchkin. Moreover, like many young girls, my mount’s kind, soulful eyes captivated me as did the scent of hay, grain and shavings, the smell of leather in the barn owner’s tack shop and most of all, the sheer joy of receiving such a gift from my Dad, the years of lessons he provided for me. Even though my Dad has passed on, I clearly remember him patiently standing by the dusty outdoor ring! I would catch his eye as my mount, Snowball and I, went round and round and his face always told a story, “You’re doin’ great honey”, that’s what his eyes said. Oh, how I miss that encouragement today!

Anyway, the truth was that I was filled with a compulsion to ride because of the excitement and even the fear I felt when astride these beautiful creatures. The horse, with a mind of his own, unpredictable with flights of fancy, provided a melting pot of happiness and a healthy dose of fear. I forged ahead and my passion grew with the inevitable passing of time! However, over the years my feeling and the reasons why I continued to ride changed dramatically. In my early twenties, my riding then morphed into a new phase, it was all about the competition or the fox hunt or the tall boots or the new saddle and of course, my horses were important to me as well but the focus was different – a different time and a different place in my life. Therefore, when I look at my reason for riding today and what I feel for my horse, it’s a whole lot different from why I rode and what I felt so many years ago.

So, flash forward to finally “growing up”, I suddenly realized that I had taken some 17 1/2 odd years away from horse ownership and did so to finish college, begin a career, raise a family, etc. When I reached my early 50’s, it occurred to me that I was missing something primal and that was my need to reconnect with a horse again, on a one-to-one basis, “Yup, I was ready to be an owner again!” I realized that the desire and passion that drove me to ride as a child and as a young adult was replaced by a strong need to “give something back” to equines in general. I needed to find a way to show my thanks and my respect for the horse and that led me to feeling passionate about “rescuing” a horse rather than buying a “pleasure or show ready” horse as had been the case as a younger person. I wanted another Thoroughbred but this time I wanted one that was unwanted because he was not fast enough, one that would have been tossed aside because he was in poor mental or physical health or even both and sadly, one that might end up facing a horrific end at an auction. In other words, I was determined to give a new life to a horse “after he left the track” and that’s what prompted the revitalization of my interest in horse ownership! 

I suddenly realized that my desire to ride again, on a horse of my own, had taken on a whole new meaning. The possibility of helping a horse find a new "life after the track" became my single focus.  I found him, a horse that had been taken from a fairground race track, a horse that needed sustenance, love but most important was that he needed to learn to trust.  So, I began to devote myself to his well being and what he gave me in return is why I ride now.

The truth was that I did not care if I couldn’t ride the horse I saved, as long as I was able to save even one horse from auction, that selfless act would satisfy my needs! However, as it turned out, my boy, my Valie, retired from the track in sound condition! So, I ride and he takes me anywhere I want to go, do I want to forget the troubles of the day, do I just need to relax and enjoy this simple pleasure, whatever my reason on that particular day is why I ride!

We walk to the mounting block, he stands like a rock because I really believe that he knows my mounting hand is disabled and despite the fact that it may take five times and sometimes even more to get in the saddle, he doesn’t move until I am safely astride and cue him that’s it’s time to walk. So, off we go! I ride him and he carries me with care, I encourage him when he hesitates or is wary and in turn, he trusts me enough to go forward when he feels my leg and hears my voice, when I’m scared, he takes baby steps and when I’m not, he gives me as much as I want but never more. “….could I continue to go on expounding about the genuine connection we have, “Yes, I could but I think you get the picture”.

"....only 3 months off the track!"
If you would like to comment on this topic, I would truly love to hear why you ride and how you connect with your horse!