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Betty’s Customs

I am not crafty. I love to read DIY blogs about all the fabulous things people make, like ribbon belts or Christmas ornaments, but it’s just not a talent I have. I’m always a teeny, tiny bit jealous looking at the beautiful things that some people can make.

But I do know someone who is very, very crafty. She has loads of experience making all manner of equine-related items. We joke about opening an Etsy store all the time, and I might be a little bit biased, but I’m pretty sure she could quit her day job and make a ton of money. So who is this amazing artist? My mother.

Betty’s Customs (my mother’s future Etsy store) has been hard at work perfecting the art of equine inspired crafts for many, many years. Growing up, I showed 4-H in all manner of classes, including western and she made almost all of my western outfits. Slinkies, vests, Showmanship Jackets — you name it, she made it. Custom for me!

She shined in the costume class at County Fair,  where she made numerous fabulous costumes for horse and rider including BatHorse and BatGirl, Pirate and Parrot, and Pink Panther and Inspector Clouseau.

Alterations? No problem! When I bought the widest horse known to man, she altered blankets to fit him. When I bought new show shirts with sleeves that hung down to my ankles, she fixed them.

Today, she’s specializing in horse clothes of all manner. Alterations or custom items for the hard-to-fit horse is her specialty.

Need some examples? Her latest endeavors included many of Miles’ Christmas gifts, including recycling an old slinky into a shoulder guard, the fabulous custom quarter sheet and five matching ear bonnets for all of Miles’ barn friends (pictured left). They’re not quite De La Coeur, but damn they’re a helluva lot cheaper!

I’m currently trying to convince her that we need an embroidery machine so we can put my initials and Miles’ name on every single saddle pad I own. And maybe some of my show shirt collars.

Her next project is all things wedding though, including lace applique shoes, gift card box and escort card holders. I told her that she’s at least picking areas of expertise where people are used to a huge markup! I mean, face it, if it’s for a wedding or a horse, it costs at least 20% more.

So if you could have one thing custom-made for your horse, what would it be? 

grumpy cat

Setting the Tone

When I first bought Miles, I knew he was grumpy — it’s just part of his personality. I don’t love it, but in my price range if that’s the sacrifice I have to make, I’m pretty damn lucky. But lately, he’s turned more from the cute, Grumpy Dwarf in Snow White, into the evil wizard Saruman, from Lord of the Rings.

And I don’t like it.

grumpy cat

So I went into my hack on Friday with a very simple goal: ask for more forward and not tolerate severe resistance. I borrowed a heaver whip, mounted up and set to work. Through the walk and trot, Miles was good. I only corrected his behavior once. I usually begin my canter to the left, so on Friday I switched it up and started with the right lead. At first, Miles declined to go forward so he received a quick correction. He did a small buck, but after that every upward transition to the canter was more prompt and without any big resistance. I did notice, however, that in order to pick up his left lead, Miles seemed to “throw” his hip to the outside. This got me wondering… is he bucking because he’s hurting? Maybe he needs to see the chiropractor.

On Saturday, I had scheduled a private lesson, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I told my trainer I had a few goals for our lesson:

  1. Work on standing still at the mounting block
  2. Evaluate Miles’ movement to see if the chiropractor needed to come out
  3. Work on a more appropriate and prompt response to forward aids

So I walked into the ring as usual, and stopped to finish tightening my girth, lowering my stirrups, etc. When I asked Miles to move forward to the mounting block, he refused. This is typical, and right then and there trainer said “Stop.” And while of course I didn’t think to address the whole “forward when I ask” from the ground, she did. So she got a lunge whip and when I asked him to walk forward again and he declined, she raised it behind him. And he shot forward like a rocket! I’ve never seen his eyes so big, it was actually kind of funny.

But boy, did it work! I stopped and started a few times and he promptly walked off. And as soon as I got on, he was already more forward. We spent the first five or ten minutes discussing the basics of groundwork. Then we warmed-up at the trot, doing some circles and turns down the centerline. Each time I asked for more forward, Miles responded promptly. We got in some fabulous trot, with Miles stretching over his topline and really tracking up underneath himself all the way through the bridle. It felt fabulous!!

black jumper

Then we moved on to cantering and jumping. The exercise was simple: we re-created what occurs in lessons and corrected Miles’ response to forward. So we started out standing in the middle for a minute, and then I went directly to the rail and asked for a left lead canter. Of course, Miles did his usual “thanks, but no thanks” routine. The next time, trainer retrieved her lunge whip and when I asked for the canter, she waved it behind him — and of course Miles shot forward! We did this exercise a few times in each direction, and finally I did one left lead canter depart without the lunge whip and Miles was much improved; still a bit grumpy, but he at least respected my leg and moved forward.

As I cooled down, trainer and I discussed Miles’ movement. Yes, he isn’t as fluid to the left as he is to the right. But the cause? Who the fuck knows. It could be a combination of several things, so our steps moving forward include finding a new saddle (because we KNOW this one doesn’t fit), add him to the list for the chiropractor to evaluate in the spring and continue to monitor. But my big take-away from this lesson was simple: set the tone from the very beginning. So Miles will now be led around with a dressage whip, so that he respects my aids from the ground all the way through to the time he goes back in his stall.

Christmas Loot

For me, the holidays is about more than just receiving a bunch of gifts from everyone I know. It’s really an excuse to get time off work and spend it visiting family and eating lots of good food. My favorite part of the holidays though is watching everyone open the gifts I bought them, and seeing their reaction.

My favorite this year was my Mom. The three of us kids sent her on an adventure, following ribbon draped throughout the entire house, to find her final Christmas present. It was pretty funny! You can watch the entire video here, if you really want. (Spoiler: her present was a 2500 piece Lord of the Rings Lego set)

I’m also starting to really enjoy seeing the presents my “children” (Rocky and Miles) receive. And let me tell you, my family made sure Miles’ first Christmas with us was one to remember! I think out of everyone he got the most presents:
  • Oster ClipMasters
  • Custom Quarter Sheet
  • Custom Shoulder Guard
  • Ear Bonnet in barn colors
  • Nameplates x5 and Halter Tag
  • 2 lbs of Peppermints
Custom shoulder guard because he was getting rubs from his blanket… and he has a baby neck so store-bought doesn’t fit. Of course!


Custom ear bonnet in Brookside colors: Yellow, Navy and Hunter Green!


Custom, reversible Quarter Sheet!
What did your pony get for Christmas this year? 

Thank You Equine Snob & Fancy Pony

After spending the holidays with my side of the family, I returned to a wonderful and fabulous gift via the Equestrian Gift Exchange from Equine Snob (and Fancy Pony!). I probably would have received it a little sooner, but somehow our leasing office lost my phone number… and Sam’s phone number… yeah.

I digress, back to the excitement! So I arrived home to this wonderfully wrapped package, and since I’d read about others receiving theirs, I remembered to whip out my phone for some amazingly high-quality hopefully decent cell phone pics.

As soon as I ripped through the paper (yes, I’m a ripper!) I saw that it was a box from SmartPak and I ripped faster. In my excitement I did not get photos of the carnage… but it probably would have been rated NC-17 anyways.

Inside everything was individually wrapped! Plus there was candy, so Sam was quite pleased. I’m pretty sure the exact sentiment was “Oh, you must write about me all the time since they know my favorite candy!” Yeah, right. Uh huh.

So pretty! And earned me bonus points with the fiance. 

Being the responsible adult I am, I opened the card first. It was very sweet — and I appreciated the note so, so much. I’m so glad everyone is enjoying this little gift exchange so much and it means a lot to know that I am making connections all over the country. So thank you, Equine Snob!!

Next I quickly opened the first blue package and was SO freaking excited to receive a bottle of Higher Standards Saddle Soap (in Ben’s Rosemary Mint)! Everyone in the blogosphere has been raving about this stuff for months now and I’ve been dying to try it. I opened it and the smell was so wonderful I almost left it open next to bed all night… almost.

I also got two AWESOME pairs of Zocks (well, not that brand, but riding socks). I absolutely love the patterns: pink plaid and blue English bits! I have an obsession with fun colored riding socks… it’s kind of intense. I can’t wait to try them out soon!!

So thank you, thank you, thank you, Equine Snob and Fancy Pony for the wonderful gifts!

Christmas Loot!

On a side note, I want to thank each and every one of you who participated in the gift exchange this year! I wasn’t sure how well it would be received, but it’s been so much fun to organize the whole thing and read about all the fun things people got.

Bad Pony!

In all the hubbub that the holidays bring, I haven’t had a chance to entertain you with a recap from my last lesson, which was on Saturday. And nothing entertains quite like reality TV GIFs, especially Mob Wives and Real Housewives.

I had a great hack on Friday, so I rolled up to the barn early was all like:

I was early, but was on a fairly tight schedule so I was happy that during grooming and tacking, Miles was fairly cooperative. I got on and warmed up, and all was normal… nothing really to write home about.

Right off the bat, my trainer wanted to put the pressure on, so we started with a 2′ oxer. I went to the rail and asked Miles to pick up a left lead canter, to which he politely declined. We worked through it and about five strides out, I realized I was going to need to more pace. I put my leg on and… not nothing.

So I came around and did the same oxer a few times until we found a good pace and correct path that equaled the right distance. But every single time I would stop to talk to my trainer, Miles would refuse to go back to work.
He started cow kicking, which I ignored. Then he cow kicked so hard he hit the wall. Loudly. To which I said:
We proceeded to begin some coursework, and Miles was good once we got to the first fence. We mostly worked on pace and found a small habit I’m beginning to form. I had hoped to work more on that but when I asked Miles to go forward after a short discussion with my trainer. He refused and started bucking.
I managed to stick his antics and HAULED his head up. We proceeded to back almost the entire length of the arena until he got the picture. Bucking is not acceptable. Ever. For any reason.
After that we did a small course and ended on a good note. And thus ended the first ride in which Miles was a bad pony.
Hopefully when I visit today he’s in a better mood!