Tuesday, November 5, 2019

I Know What Horsemanship Should Feel Like

I know what horsemanship should feel like..for me.  I know all my blog friends are the same way.  We know, and we continue to grow into it, our horses, and ourselves.

I used to hate riding bareback, now I love it...with Cowboy. Everything in its own time and season.  Will I want to ride bareback on Tumbleweed? Probably not...for a long while.

I savor this phase of life--knowing to trust myself and my horses and not being pressured into doing things I don't want to do.

I want to be happy.  I want my horses to be happy.

I don't have anything to prove to anyone...except myself.  And what I want to prove to myself is that I'm a horsewoman who listens...

It can be a lonely world when you go your own way, but the type of people you will attract are those who will make your life better.

And in the end, when the noise quiets down, when all the friends are gone, and you're alone, reflecting on past joy--

all that will matter--

all you'll truly remember...

is how you made your horse feel.

So, how does horsemanship feel? Horsemanship should feel...horsemanship WILL feel like what you know in your gut your horses felt.

(Photos taken by my husband, who feels horsemanship the exact same way.)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Best Friend Bareback Pad Review

(Loping ahead of the ride, trying out the new Best Friend pad.)

As all of you know, I love to ride bareback.  Up until now, I've ridden bareback sans pad because I didn't yet know which one to buy that would meet my needs:

#1 The closest contact possible--ie. a thin sheet with a cinch and a little padding at the withers to protect the private parts in a fast stop.

#2 Something with storage possibilities for the trail.

#3 A pad that won't slip up and down hills & that keeps the rider's seat in place, too.

(Tacking up for the ride.)

When I was a kid, and the adults would only let us ride alone if we rode bareback, I felt very sorry for myself, and I thought the adults were jerks.  One day, out riding in the desert, my friends took off running back to the barn and my horse, not wanting to be left behind, followed them full-on Kentucky Derby run away. My flimsy pad "slid off", and I ended up on the ground, walking home alone. It made me hate bareback riding, and when I was finally old enough to have my own horses and saddles, I felt like I had hit payola.  No more falling off. I had a horn to hold onto and stirrups to balance myself with--yeehaw!

But a few years back, in winter, I was very cold, and putting a saddle on my horses for a short ride just seemed silly.  So, I didn't.  I went bareback and started to love it. Not only was it super warm, but I could feel the muscles in their backs--which gave me extra information and better communication.  I could feel the tensing up, the release, and the heart beating super fast (fear) or slow and steady (relaxed).  And I started to use that information to get past some big road blocks with Leah.

I'm a better rider than I was as an 11 year old.  I have better trained horses who know me, rather than my friend's super spoiled ones. A better, more balanced, seat means the pad doesn't slip.  I always blamed the pad, but in reality, I think I must have slipped off the horse and made the pad shift.

I've done a lot of research on bareback since then, and read the pros and cons, but I feel comfortable riding my horses bareback for short rides here and there.  My horses seem to love it.  There is definitely a feeling of oneness when riding bareback.  Not only can you feel their every breath, but you're also a bit more vulnerable.  You can't just ignore them and become a passive passenger.  You really have to be thinking about them and actively riding with them.  You must always pay attention to where you're placing your weight--if you don't, you get instant feedback.

I've ridden sans pad now for years, but getting off my horses and having dirty, sweaty butts of my jeans wasn't working too well.  I needed to find a pad that imitated riding with nothing.


I want to introduce you the pad I purchased after reading many, many reviews and talking to many different equestrians who already own one--The Best Friend Bareback Pad.

(My friend is trying it out here on Cowboy.  She ordered one yesterday.)

And here is a video of the first look.

My thoughts:

The #1 thing I wanted out of this pad was for it to be thin enough that I could feel the heat from my horse, the heartbeat, and the movement of the muscles.  As I said before, I would be happy with something as thin as a sheet for that part.  This isn't as thin as a sheet, and it probably can't ever be, if you want to keep the sweat from saturating your pants.  We did a two hour ride in 50 degree weather and the seat of my pants was a little damp--so there is some sweat through--not much though.  It definitely kept my pants clean.  Bottom line: I could feel his heat, his  heartbeat, and his muscle movements very well.

The wither padding is excellent, and if you're a bareback rider, you will appreciate that. It also has a suede type top that keeps you from sliding around. It comes with an adjustable cinch with rollers--which I love. It has pockets and D rings so you can take what you need on the trail. I didn't experience any slippage, and we went up and down pretty steep hills and trotted and loped.

I could have ridden in it much longer than two hours.  I felt great when I was done.  Cowboy seemed to love it, too.  It probably gave him a little protection from my seat.  He  moved so freely and had such energy.  He even gave a little buck of happiness when we first started loping in the arena.  (It was Day 3 of his Equioxx treatment, and he was like his old, younger self.)

I like it so much that I just purchased a second to have when guests want to ride bareback with me.  I bought the blue version.

Here are some more photos from Amazon.

Note: I am not being paid for this review, and I did not receive this product from the company, I paid cold, hard cash! However, if the company reads this and wants to send me another one...I would be very appreciative! (just kidding. not kidding.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Return to Maine (Part Two)

When we crossed from New Hampshire to Maine, my husband and I were so excited, we pulled over on the side of the road and took a selfie at the sign: Welcome to Maine, The way life should be.

On the third day of the trip, we were entering Limestone, home of the Limestone Eagles, and Loring AFB, home to B52 bombers. Interesting fact: Loring was the closest base we had to Russia during the Cold War, and a single B52 bomber would circle North America everyday from there.  They were on constant standby / alert. 

Limestone was the little town a few miles away from the base, and it's where they bused the junior high and high school kids.  The government built a big, beautiful school with an Olympic size indoor pool and state of the art everything.  One wing was for the junior high, and the other wing, the high school.

Nothing had really changed, physically...

The cafeteria.. 


Band room...


Trophy case...


but, in fact, when the base closed, it gutted the school's population and they had to send the high school kids to the neighboring town.  They closed the elementary and brought it here to this building-combining one wing with it and the junior high school.  The other wing, formerly the high school, became a magnet school for math, science and engineering geniuses.  It is now the #2 high school in the country.  Quite amazing.  

Yet, sad for the community.

The town hadn't changed much, and still had my favorite pastry EVER--the cream rolls from Labadie's Bakery in Lewiston, Maine.  In between school and sport practices, we'd walk to town and buy one of these yummies.

My husband and I bought a few to take home.

Northern Maine (minus the base, which was a ghost town) was just like I remembered, except better. So beautiful. The view from the soccer field, overlooked all of Aroostook County. As I stood up there, I was so happy, and I realized what a gift it had been to have lived there.

We continued our drive along the St. John River through Van Buren, Maine, and up to Madawaska, Maine.  Each town seemed perfectly preserved.  The further you drove north from Limestone, the less the communities were affected by the loss of the base.

As I drove through all those areas, though, I knew I would never have stayed there.  The whole experience was a closing of a chapter.  I had always pined after Northern Maine, but when faced with the reality, an average of 117" of snow annually, few jobs, few horses, ...it was clear I am exactly where I want to be in life and would not change a thing.  Every step, good, bad, or otherwise, brought me to this life I love so dearly.

Oh, my favorite pizza place was still open.  We'd ride our bikes there and splurge for a hamburger and onion pizza.  It had the same owner and my husband and I had a nice talk with him.  Rendevous pizza.

One last thing.  I spent much of last winter reading all of Phillis Wheatley's poems and correspondence so, when in Boston, I was eager to walk from the North Church to the South Church (where she attended) and then to the Women's Memorial, where there is a statue in her honor.

It did not disappoint.

It's great to be home, and today I'm heading out for a bareback ride on Cowboy--two days into his Equioxx treatment.  I have a new Best Friends bareback pad I'm trying out.  More on that soon...

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Return to Maine (Part One)

I'm back from Maine, and it was a whirlwind! My husband and I had so much fun exploring together.  I'll give you a brief tour--only highlighting the particularly interesting points of the trip and saving you the FULL tour!

It started in Massachusetts at The Wayside Inn in Sudbury. After a long flight--awake at 3:30 am PST and flying out at 5:30 PST--we drove to the Inn and had drinks & appetizers in the pub. (pictured below).  Bacon wrapped scallops and the oldest drink in the New Country--The Coow Woow.  After drinks, we went into their dining room where I had lobster pie and bread pudding for dessert.

After dinner, we retired to our very old, rickety, authentic bedroom--where we opened up the shutters to let in fresh air--then fell asleep.  While we slept, a Cyclone Bomb moved in--a drastic drop in pressure--which brought wind and rain and blew the shutters against the side of the outside walls.  My husband, dazed and confused, thought they'd blown off, and had to feel around in the dark to find them and get them closed.

So, a very authentic N'or Easter experience in a very old, authentic room at the Wayside Inn.  Fun!

The  next day, we drove to Walden Pond, where we hiked around the pond to Thoreau's old cabin site.  That  has long been my dream, and it did not disappoint.

It just felt good to get out and walk.  It was about 2 miles total, if I remember correctly. (The pond, above, and the old cabin site, below.)

From there, we drove around the coast of Maine and meandered up to Belgrade Lakes where the play/movie On Golden Pond was based, but not filmed.

"Norman, the Loons, the loons, they're welcoming us back!"

"I don't hear a thing."

We had another wonderful dinner in Belgrade Lakes at The Village Inn and Tavern, where we also stayed.  Amazing dishes there.  And amazing cocktails. We had a large suite that night, and it felt like being home.

The next morning it was up early for the drive to Northern Maine, where I wanted to see my old school, the base (Loring AFB, closed in 1995), and the surrounding towns as you drive up the St. John River--Van Buren to Madawaska, New Sweden, Stockholm.)

It was a lot of driving, but we made it to Limestone.

As we were coming into town, we saw buses filled with potato harvest kids.  That was a blast from the past because I used to be one of those kids in the 80's--picking potatoes in a basket, and loading baskets to a barrel, until it was filled, tagging it, and starting again.

I made fifty cents per BARREL.

Bringing in the harvest.  I read that they had stopped letting kids out to work the harvest, but because of the labor shortage, farmers requested they start up again, and the local councils voted this year to do that. The harvest is mostly mechanized now.

In the book, Travels With Charley, In Search of America, John Steinbeck drove to Northern Maine to be a part of the old-time harvest--the one I got to participate in.  He felt like it would be a thing of the past.  I think it survived longer than he assumed, as little farms could not afford to invest in big machines we called, "harvesters." Eventually, most of those little farms, run by large Catholic families, sold out to bigger ones.

So here I was, thirty six years later. I had finally arrived at the closest thing I had known to a hometown.

And so far, very little seemed to have changed...but there was much more to see.

(To be continued...)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Autumn Snow, Hay, Pumpkins, and Trail Rides

What a year! We had snow in September and early October...

which hasn't happened in September for almost a hundred years.

Then it disappeared and Autumn returned: pumpkins, yellow and orange leaves, crisp sunshiney days.

We have a tradition of going to the pumpkin patch together--and we continue it, but in a more adult fashion--stopping for beer, wine, and hard cider.

The vet came for Cowboy.

She gave him the RX for Equioxx, but she wants me to give it to him in spurts with sections of rest in between to allow his body time to cleanse itself.  I'll definitely give it the night before and after a ride.  But, overall, she thinks he's doing pretty well and not in need of a daily dose yet.

We got our hay.

Fourteen round bales and about 10 tons of small square bales that, unfortunately, we've been going through way too fast already.  I can't find normal square bales anymore.  Instead, I'm seeing hay sold in rounds and squares.  I purchased 3 rounds at $95 per round.

3 rounds is about 1650 pounds, so you can see it's an expensive proposition.  I was paying $200/ton delivered and stacked. Rounds work out to a bit more, and we had to pick it up in my horse trailer.

The traditional "round" bales are about 750 pounds and run $45 a bale.  Our supplier puts away 42 for us.

Well, heading back out on the trail with some friends and my Cowboy!  And my sweetie and I are getting ready for that super romantic Maine and Boston trip I was telling you about earlier!  I'll share that adventure when we get back!  Happy Autumn!