Monday, January 21, 2019

It's the Little Things

 Like flowing water when it's -5 F and the real feel is something like -20.

A brilliantly lit snow scape, looking toward the barn as the full moon rises

"Mom, let me eat"

And a happy mare in the morning who still has hay left from overnight and just got MORE for breakfast (rarity, I do not do breakfast)

And of course I make the doofus face when she actually has decent ears, lol

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Snowy Saturday Rides or "How to Relax and Just Fucking Walk, Mare"

We got a decent snow yesterday to preface our dropping temperatures for what will be at least the rest of January into early February. So it's here to stay. Currently fluffy and light, which means it just puffs up into the gusts of wind that are a near constant at home and makes fascinating drifts.

I was determined to ride in the snow. My current arsenal of cold weather riding gear is complete barring upgrades. But everything is function and it did REALLY well at keeping me warm in low 20sF  (-6/7 C) while riding.

I caved and bought riding mittens. My only regret is that I didn't leave and order the purple from Smartpak. The local tack store only carried boring BLACK BOOOOOO

Eric offered to take pictures of me from the house and so I outfitted the DSLR with my zoom lens that unfortunately requires manual focusing. But I did warn him about that. So while these aren't super crisp clear pictures, they are better than what I usually have! And for being shot from the house, through a screen and dirty glass, they're not half bad!


I was originally planning to just warm up and see how she did and then go up to the fields to ride but then when we got to front pasture I realized just how 'up' she was. Tacking up, Gwyn was nice and relaxed, in fact I was anticipating her holding her breath for the girth but instead it was practically loose on her. I grabbed my mounting block and walked her to the front pasture after her dancing next to the barn was not instilling much confidence.

I unclipped the reins and let her bolt around the pasture while I shut the gate, just in case, so I wouldn't need to be running after a loose horse.

She took off and I was very glad to not be immediately on her. She wahoo'd around once and then stopped and calmly waited for me to come up and reclip the reins. Then mounting up was no big deal and we were off. She was very jiggy as as we ventured toward the road I saw a snow plow coming straight for us.

I sank my heels and sighed. I could feel her body tense as she focused on the very large, loud, snow throwing monster about to pass us.  It set the tone for the rest of the ride.

She proceeded to try and jig the whole time and basically took the liberty to spook with every pick up truck or larger that drove past. And we're in nearly rural Michigan. There are a lot of trucks.

Rare, relaxing moment
I resolved to use the ride to just work on relaxation and moving her feet to keep her brain engaged. Then the neighbor started to plow his driveway with his giant blue tractor that would appear and reappear behind the pine trees. And Saffron started braying because I left her in the other pasture. The wind was cold and blowing up gusts of snow.

We had a lot working against us.

Just after another spook, three feet off the ground!

We had some arguments about turning in her hard direction, especially away from 'home' i.e. the barn and Saffron. But I just focused on being quiet, calm and firm. I talked a LOT this ride. And she listens to me when I do. She keeps flicking an ear back when I have running commentary. And I'd vocally praise and give her scritches every time she stretched down and released her breath.

By the time I decided we were done, she was mostly relaxed, not quite loose rein relaxed, but she wasn't so giraffed and in my face. She was still not happy about the cars. But honestly, I kind of expected this to be an iffy thing. She probably felt good in the cold air. I'm overall pleased with how it went, despite all the shenanigans. We worked through it and ended better than we started and no one got hurt.

And now she'll get to go back and stuff her face with hay, since that's my answer to 'are my animals cold? GIVE THEM MORE HAY"

Best of all, I stayed warm the whole time. My ankle really liked my wide based endurance stirrups (It's still sore, I'm sure skiing all day Friday didn't help matters)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Discuss: How do your hands survive winter?

While some parts of the country (and continent) are well into their deep winter phase, especially with that snowstorm in the mid-Atlantic!, here in Michigan while we aren't deep into snow here (I can't speak for the UP) we are about to drop into sub-freezing temperatures.

So far my glove strategy has been wearing summer schooling gloves or my back on track liners and just making to sure do enough work that I get blood flow to my fingers to keep me warm.

I don't think that will last for long though.

Nothing I'm seeing in actual riding glove options are looking like the solution however. So I went looking at legit outdoor gear companies. A friend from livejournal days recommended the company Outdoor Research and from there my mind was just blown.

Did you know such a thing exists as a waterproof/windproof mitten shell with no insulation? I knew I could get fingerless gloves/mitten convertibles, but this was new to me. I'm pretty sure it's going to be my answer.

I put together a set of thinner gloves plus the shell at Outdoor research and grumbled at being $9 away from free shipping.

Then I checked amazon, because I'm a good drone with a prime account. They didn't have exactly what I was hoping to find and I wasn't sure how best to search for a shell with no insulation of its own but then I remembered REI.

Not only did REI have the original gloves I wanted from Outdoor Research (just not the color) that were sold out, they also had a slightly different version of the mitten shell in their brand. The gloves were cheaper, the shell was more expensive and the threshold for free shipping was far less and I came out to less than my original plan at Outdoor Research.

Instead of a $55 glove, I am getting the Outdoor Research Melody Sensor Glove which is much more reasonable at $35. 

And then the Minimalist Goretex Mittens REI branded. They can be adjusted at the wrist and should be good for my waterproof/windproof needs. I can change my layering underneath fairly easily to adjust for temperatures plummeting but I suspect just by creating the mitten effect it will be far more insulatory than just a liner alone. 

Now none of these are really riding appropriate, but for my needs at the moment, I don't need a high performance winter riding glove and I do have my  Ovation thinsulate gloves that I HATE getting in and out of because it doesn't stretch enough at the wrist to accommodate my hand width and I end up feeling claustrophobic and stuck, especially if my hands start to sweat.

I picked those things because I see a dual purpose use for them with outdoor barn chores, snow shoveling and skiing but also using for running as a windbreak. Someone else suggested the reusable snap heat packs like these:

They can be recharged by boiling for 10 minutes and you just snap to activate the chemicals and they heat up. I've added those to a wish list for now. I don't want to go too crazy. I'm just hoping my current solutions will work.

What do you do? What temperatures would you rate your gloves to work down to keeping your fingers warm? 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ringing in the New Year

Reviews take effort. I'm not sure I can spare the summation at this point in time, nor the goal creation. Sometimes it feels like I jinx myself if I really put goals out there into the world. So I won't be doing that. At least nothing specific.

Best Christmas Sweater EVER (and on sale!) 
 Our neighbors have a new foster child (12 yo) who was helping them with barn chores while we were away. They have asked if she can earn horse time by helping me with barn chores. I readily agreed. I was given a lot of opportunities as a kid for free because people wanted to share their love of their horses, for me it was a woman named Jane. If I can be a Jane to another kid, I feel like I'll have paid forward a kindness. All it will cost me is time and patience.
No faces will be published, per agency rules. Nor will I use her actual name. We'll call her Sarah. 

She's a good kid and eager to learn. Still figuring out her limbs and everything, in that gawky pre-teen stage. While I want her to be reunited with her bio-family, if she does stick around for a bit, I won't mind the company.

Today I met up with a bunch of people I didn't know and one person I did for a New Years Day trail ride. I always like starting my year off right :D   Gwyn was an ass loading and roundpenned herself, then hopped right on.  Have some screen shots from my go-pro video.

Of course it's all tilted. Sorry. I still can't figure out which bit is tilted (I suspect the helmet).             

There was a giant pile of deer guts just on that other mowed path. 

 The black horse (a Canadian) got spooked by a twig snapping and apparently thought it was a gunshot. He used to be a mounted police horse.

We kept the trail ride to walk, which was good since I've sprained my ankle. I spent half the ride with my left foot out of the stirrup because keeping it flexed for too long was getting painful. Thankfully my boot was overall supportive.

This picture is of Amy (another one!) taking a photo of our group, lol

There was a nice lake we rode by.

I used my new reins and they were so wonderful and thick in my hand. It's perfect for trail riding and just the right length too. Not too short, not too long. I will want a rein loop thing though to make sure I can give Gwyn enough length for eating and drinking on the trail.

The benefits to being around a bunch of endurance riders is that they often have the colored tack you can use to see if the color will go nicely with your mare :D

 It was a really pleasant way to start off the year and I'm hoping bodes well for the rest of the year. It was cold, and a bit snowy, but the trails weren't bad (or at least we supposedly stuck to the sandy/high and dry trails)