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FOO Chronicles: The Beginning

I believe that people are largely a product of where they come from, and that a person’s past helps shape their future. Not that you can’t take your future into your own hands and change whatever you like – but to truly know someone, you have to know their history.
So I’m embarking on a mini-series that will tell you all about my past with horses… complete with embarrassing pictures of my childhood, featuring wonderful examples of all the things you SHOULDN’T do around horses.
I started riding at age nine, when I was in the fourth grade. My best friend, M, received riding lessons for Christmas that year and I got to tag along. There was a group of four of us, me, M, M’s mom and M’s neighbor Jane, who went for weekly lessons on Saturday for quite some time.
Jane picked out the barn, Huntington Stables, and it was quite a hike: 45 minutes away out in the middle of nowhere Amish country. What she liked was that we were able to be involved in grooming and tacking, not just getting on and riding.
Satellite view of Huntington Stables, thank you Google Maps 
Huntington was a good size facility: approximately 50 stalls, with an indoor arena, two outdoor arenas, several large paddocks and miles and miles of trails. The owner/operator had a string of lesson horses, in addition to several boarders and her Thoroughbreds.
She adopted many of her lesson horses from a program called Crossed Sabers/Second Wind Adoption, which more recently has been surrounded by controversy I hear, but regardless, these adoptions would have taken place quite some time ago now  in the late 90’s, early 2000’s) and I never had any personal contact with the place anyway. Aside from lessons, Huntington offered pony parties and trail rides as well.
The owner was also involved in breeding and racing Thoroughbreds – many raced here in Ohio and in West Virginia. She had a few Silver Charm babies, which was pretty cool, although they were all pretty crazy… as in, missing a few screws.
I rode at Huntington Stables from winter 1997 to winter 2004, seven years, on several horses. I worked at the barn in the summers doing all manner of things, from pony parties to leading trail rides to feed and turnout. I have a lot of fond memories of summers spent there, and many of the horses I still miss and wonder where they are today… although I’m sure most have moved on across the rainbow bridge by now.
Stay tuned for the next edition of the FOO Chronicles: my first horse show!
Pinnacle Bridle and Martingale Review

Product Review: Pinnacle Bridle & Martingale

It snowed 2+ inches here today and the forecasted low is 3 degrees. My lesson got cancelled and who knows when I’ll get to see my pony again. Oh winter, you are an evil bitch.

Product Details

Pinnacle Padded Fancy Stitch BridlePinnacle Standing Martingale
Size: Horse/Full
Retail Price: $69.99 (bridle) & $54.99 (martingale)
What I Paid: Full Retail
Purchased: Winter 2011

Miles wearing Pinnacle Bridle

The Review

I purchased this set so I could have a schooling get-up and a show get-up. Since I discovered my free bridle was a Vespucci in Nov. 2013, I’ve been using this as my schooling attire, meaning it gets used 4 times a week on average. Considering this is a pretty cheap set, and is advertised as Schneider’s Saddlery’s “middle of the road” house brand, it’s actually fairly decent. So far it’s held up well to so much abuse, although some of the leather on the martingale is starting to separate. It took a long time to break in, and even now the leather at the buckles is a bit stiff. Unfortunately, I think it will always be this way due to the lower quality. I like the color, which has oiled up to be a beautiful dark brown and the fancy stitch, plus padding makes it an attractive look on every horse I’ve put it on. It fits true to size, and overall, I’ve been happy with the purchase. (more…)

Miles winter 2013

Earning Respect

I don’t know if all equestrians are this way, but my rides always seem to go better if I start with a plan. For the last few months I’ve been working on this and I think it’s really been working, as more often than not I get off feeling as though I at least accomplished something instead of wondering “where did 30 minutes go?!”

Since my lesson on Saturday, my plan has been to set the tone early and get upward transitions to the canter without serious attitude from Miles. On Tuesday, things were going okay until I went to bridle. I was reaching up to unclip Miles from the crossties and he bit me!

I saw red.

I kept my wits about me and unclipped the crossties before waving my hands in the air yelling “NO!” and backing Miles right there in the aisle. We did a few forward, stop, back maneuvers before I successfully bridled the beast and went into the arena.

I was still pretty pissed, but I channeled my energy into forward, forward, forward. I was actually pretty proud of myself because while I was still clearly angry, I didn’t get in Miles’ face for every little thing and instead we had a good ride where we worked on circles and transitions. I made Miles work, and he didn’t really get much of a breather for the 20 minutes I rode, but it was very productive.

Miles winter 2013

Wednesday I was able to go out to the barn in the daylight (yay for holidays!) and I again went in with a plan. But my plan started from the very beginning, instead of just goals for my actual ride. I didn’t put Miles in crossties, just stood him in the aisle with the lead rope over his neck. As soon as I turned away to grab a brush, he tried to bite me.

This time, I was ready. I grabbed the lead rope and immediately corrected his behavior. And you know what? Throughout the rest of my grooming session, Miles was a perfect gentleman! He didn’t even put so much as an ear back the whole time.

And the only misbehavior during our ride was when I first asked for the left lead canter. He picked his head up, flicked his ears back and refused to walk forward. So I gave him a reminder tap right then, and sent him into a forward march. Five steps later I asked for the transition to the canter and he obliged without a fuss!

It might take a few more times out, but I think I’ve finally got Miles’ number and I’m beginning to earn his respect.