Monday, September 15, 2014

Color Me Unimpressed: Two Horse Tack Review

But so pretty?
I somehow missed the bus on Two Horse Tack Reviews--I know other bloggers got free things and I so wish I did. But I didn't. So rest assured, this is a not-for-compensation completely honest post. Well, I write those anyways, but here goes.

After seeing some reviews floating around the blogosphere, I got interested in Two Horse Tack. They purported to provide high quality beta biothane tack in vibrant colors. I specfically wanted a grooming halter--I clip a lot of horses in the winter and an adjustable grooming halter that is easy to both clean and recognize would be fantastic. I went to the website to place my order.

I thought the price was a little high at $28 + $6 shipping for a single grooming halter that went in a flat rate envelope, but hey, I wanted the product and I could definitely justify the cost/benefit ratio because I could also clip client horses in it. I checked their product sizing guide and found it rather user-unfriendly. They prefer you don't measure and just want you to go by company guidelines.

Um, ok.

As if
Courage wears cob size in literally everything I have ever bought him, so I ordered cob. He's not even "big cob size" or "small cob size". He's just totally average cob size.

And then I waited. It took it's time getting to me--I guess not unusual for a semi-custom item and I have no idea what their wait list is like. When it finally came, I took it out to the barn to try on Courage.

Yeah... never going to fit. That was it's largest adjustment and it wasn't any closer to fitting on Prisoner, who is a chiseled 15.2 and even smaller than Courage.

Out of curiosity, we ended up putting it on Pandora, Alyssa's 13 hand Quarter pony, and it did fit on her on the largest hole.

So....

Obviously, not going to work.

I immediately contacted Two Horse Tack via email.

And if the headstall goes up, the nose might not fit.
SIX DAYS LATER, they saw fit to respond, if not to answer any of my questions about, you know, sizing, exchanging, and a potential return. All I got was a link to their returns and exchanges page, which basically says "you're f*****".

Again, I replied promptly to try and at least get an answer to what size I should have ordered in the first place. I mean, if cob is this tiny, does my cob size horse actually need oversize? Are there measurements or something I can check?

**crickets**

I finally (more days later) get an email with a 20% off code, which means I could reorder the same product in what may or may not be the correct size and still pay full shipping. It would cost me $30 on top of the $34 I'd already spent and I had no reason to believe that the sizing would be any better and no comparison of any kind that made sense. One data point can't be extrapolated. Plus, the service rep was still not answering any useful questions or even referring me to someone who could. Nothing.

Needless to say, I decided to cut my losses. It really is a nice product and I wish it had worked, but the customer service was useless and at that rate, I was looking at what would be a minimum $64 grooming halter and more likely a $94 halter if the next size I chose at random didn't work.

As such, unless you already have a piece of their equipment to get sizes from, I wouldn't buy from Two Horse Tack. It's not that the product is so bad--it's that the sizing makes no sense and the customer service is that bad. There's no way around it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feet. Always Feet.

He is the best at remembering
No foot, no horse.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost...

And so on.

You know why so much colloquial equine wisdom is lamenting shitty feet?

Because they are the worst thing ever.

Ugh. Courage actually has decent-ish feet. He has heels on all four and the shape isn't terrible. He hasn't lost a lot of shoes and hasn't really presented any soundness issues thus far.

But this summer has been absolute hell on his poor feet. Despite all the other horses in the barn being COMPLETELY FINE, he isn't. His feet cannot handle the wet/dry cycle of (GET THIS) a little bit of dew on the grass in the morning.

Put it on thick
Yeah. That. At his last farrier appointment, his feet were flared and chipped out and all manner of awful above his still-attached shoes and he hadn't even grown very much hoof. I tried moving his turnout time back a little combined with adding bag balm to his hoof walls every single morning to act as a moisture barrier and only turning him out on the field with grass that was quite short to minimize potential dampness.

And yeah, apparently that got us nowhere. Homeboy is trying to completely disintegrate his feet again. Like 4 weeks out from his last shoe job. Sooooooo.

No benefit other than looking shiny.
New plan. Courage spends the first few hours of turnout on a drylot with some hay. When the grass in the fields is well and truly dry, then and only then, he may go out.

It's such a frustrating balance to strike. I really do believe strongly in turnout for horses' brains and bodies, and I cannot spend all of my management energy on making the farrier perfectly happy, BUT I have to take good care of his feet or there's no point in having a horse in the first place.

Maybe I should have gotten a draftie.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Soundtrack of the Ponies

Alyssa did a post talking about what songs remind her of her horses and why. When she told me about writing it, I laughed and told her that Courage came with a song, the homage to his barn name at the track, "big papa":



Cuna had a really obvious one too.


But the obvious choice isn't always the right one. Cuna's song was really this:


I realize it's a lot more obscure, but bear with me. Jugni is an Indian idea, referencing a firefly, or "the essence of life". Essentially, an innocent character that reveals a much greater truth, almost a totem of an idea. Cuna was my rock, but more than that, my guiding light. He had this way of just knowing about everything and those big expressive eyes of his didn't need poetry to express themselves. This song captures that idea (and I apologize to those that can't relate to Hindi music).

Even now, I can't listen to it without crying.

My relationship with Courage isn't like what I had with Cuna. I still love the little guy, but he's less the embodiment of everything I need and more my partner in crime. He's a cocky little bastard. He's gorgeous and he knows it. And yes, he would absolutely say, "If you want the world, I suggest you come with me."


So there you go. The soundtrack of my horses. I guess I left out Izzy. I'm sure there's a song called "homewrecker" or "I'm a Raging Bitch" or something like that out there. Just think of her when you hear it.

I think this should be a blog hop. Who else has a song for their horse? What is it? I'm usually annoyed by videos (and rarely watch them, guess I fail at the internet), but I'm loving this idea.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trouble in Bridle Paradise

It's possible you've noticed that I'm a bit of a tack ho. At last count, I owned (gulp) seven bridles. It breaks down like this:
See by this logic I really need two more. It would make a better infograph.
Top: Cob size Nunn Finer Figure 8, Horse size Nunn Finer event bridle, Cob Size Aramas fancy stitich.
Middle: Cob Size Circuit figure 8, Cob size M Tolouse fancy stitch, Horse size Mark Todd with flash.
Bottom: Cob size micklem, TBA, TBA.

Despite his mellow look here
Anyways. People think that's a lot, but it really isn't. Courage can't even fit in the two horse size entries. The Mark Todd is out on loan because it's too pretty to sit around and the other one, well...

S the biomechanics instructor has me ride in a loose cavesson to keep everything super mild. That's all well and good since I have um... three... of those, but sometimes I get bored. I stuck the little bay horse in a figure eight last week and yeah. Ladies, meet C-RAGE. Not even kidding. Despite the fact that most of the riding we did last year and this spring was in either a micklem or figure eight, SOMEONE's little brain COULD.NOT.DEAL.

Not at all. It was bad. (Oh, and he also doesn't do full cheek keepers, in case anyone was wondering. Yes, I tried.)

D'awwww
So. Horse size bridles out. Figure eights out. Micklem out. The M Toulouse is on loan to everyone's favorite Prisoner, so that's out too. It's also just a hair small for Courage, so that's ok.

Realistically, that leaves me with the Aramas that I stole off of ETT but has a broken keeper and then my ridiculously patched together bridle that I flat in. It's the body of the (borrowed!! thanks Ellie!!) Nunn Finer Figure 8, the cavesson off the horse size model, and a horse size browband with fancy laced reins I threw on because they're pretty.





This face needs more bridles
So how does a tack 'ho end up with essentially 1.5 bridles?

I don't know and it isn't right.

Who wants to go bridle shopping?? I'm looking for recommendations for something that I don't already have but would want to own. I like details and nice leather and Courage can't do more than about an inch of cavesson, so nothing too huge.

What's everybody wanting?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Putting the Pieces Together

And then this happened. Photo by horselessinhalifax.
Riding my horse.

That's why I'm here.

We had a lesson two weekends ago that was really quite educational. I mean, they all are, but this one felt almost more like starting to ride my horse correctly like he understands his job, instead of constantly compensating for how green he is. I had to put my
leg on and ride STRAIGHT and trust my horse.

He's a damn good horse, by the way.


In case you doubted.

photo by horselessinhalifax
I was thrilled with him and happy with how I rode (once I got my possessed right hand sorted out) and felt like it was a great experience to build on.

And I felt like I needed more flatwork. Once I got Courage really balanced and going forward around his turns, he almost didn't know what to do with all that power and I was taken aback by how, well, FAST it felt.

Normally I like speed--Cuna and I spent more time galloping through the hills than taking dressage lessons, that's for sure. Since I don't have access to all hills all the time and I sort of think galloping laps around our arena is a mix of boring and terrifying, I had to come up with something else to get both of us rolling forward in balance.



Apparently the only picture of riding in the field
Enter pasture #3. It's my favorite field at our barn--it's flat at the top (by the neighbor's fence) and bottom (by the arena), but has this lovely little slope in between. It's big enough to really get flowing with forward motion and wide enough that I can do any number of swoopy curves.

So Monday, we went out there. I focused on riding really correctly--leg to hand, steady outside rein, keeping my inside rein honest. He responded with some of the best trot work we've ever done and then we rolled up into the canter.

Completely unrelated picture
Wow.

Just wow.

My little man was so freaking awesome. I finally got that really connected feeling with him at the canter--we almost didn't touch the ground and the fence posts were just flashing by. Up, down, figure eight, flying change. Hell, we even counter cantered a lap and it felt amazing.

As I rode him back to the barn, the jumps in the arena were just calling my name.

I didn't have time today, but even just the feeling of wanting to is so good right now. :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When I Have Nothing to Say

I wish I had something really cool and inspiring and interesting to say, but I'm having a shitty week piled on top of a really shitty year and about all I'm good for is staring at pony pictures and wishing I could afford some form of dairy-slathered carbs topped in protein to stuff my face with. Since that's out of the question, here's a fun picture collage I put together.
Photos by horselessinhalifax
Shots like this make me laugh at myself for worrying about big jumps. The fence is a solid 2'6" (I measured!) and he's a good foot over it.

Oh little man. Still my bright spot in a dark year. <3

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Grinding it Out

When I jumped last Monday, I was fantastic. I came out ready to conquer the world and I totally did. I was excited to jump, I sort of marinated in my success, and I was gung ho to jump again on Thursday. Monday's ride video below:



And then I wasn't.

Baby steps. Also oxers.
I've spent way too much time complaining about how horse training isn't a linear process to miss the rich irony here. Confidence isn't linear either. Redheadlins and I set a fun hunter-esque course. I told myself it wasn't that big of a deal. I told myself we could do it. I visualized riding over the fences. I knew he could do everything out there.

Hell, he overjumps everything by at least a foot anyways, so it's not like height should be a remote problem for us.

But it was. For me that day, it just wasn't going to happen. I mean, yes, I could have jammed myself around that course and made it through the day, but that wasn't going to build my confidence. It was just going to unnerve me and keep setting me up to fail.

So instead we broke things down and made everything smaller.

Yay giving a nice release!
I'm focusing on the positives from this session. It wasn't as smooth and world-beating as last time felt, but we completely changed up the questions. We did related distances and slightly bigger jumps and lines up and down the hill (our arena is on an ever so slight slope). Instead of completely losing the ability to function in front of the fences now, I'm able to focus on finer details and keep my leg on and think about my line of direction.

Do I need to ride straight and more forward and have a better plan? Yes, absolutely. I can nitpick all the things I need to do better, but for me, right now, this is progress and I am happy with it. I was able to ride my horse forward and put my leg on and be committed to my jumps and give him some release. That's a great start.

I'm happy with how I rode and happy with my horse and we're getting through this together.

Friday, August 29, 2014

LOOK AT MY HORSE LOOK HOW CUTE MY HORSE IS

After a really productive flat ride on my birthday, I hacked Courage around the fields. I was thinking about all the things that changed since my last birthday and how I'd chronicled them on my blog and then I remembered that last year, my BO took a picture of us hacking through the field. 

So because I am the BEST CLIENT EVAR (ha!), I called the house phone and my BO obligingly came out and took another picture for me. Also I got an incredible birthday present. I am wicked spoiled.

Anyways. Behold another progression picture sequence!!! 

Every piece of tack is different in these, but my boots/helmet are the same.
August 2013. Courage is about four weeks off the track and just figuring out this whole "not racing" scene. He still has his racing muscle (and shoes, I believe), his body is right, and that's probably the lowest his head ever got in the first six months. It's hard when all the muscles are on the underside of your body. 










It's football season. Get over yourself.
August 2014. He looks like a whole new horse and not just because I got his mane under control! 

I'm absolutely loving the muscle development I'm seeing. He has twice the neck he used to. His whole body has just relaxed and lengthened out a little bit, and you can just see him swinging. His stride is longer, his tail is longer.

The only thing that's the same is his ridiculously kissable nose. <3 

I promise I will stop doing these for a while now, but omg how much fun is a quick peek back now and then?!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Faces

I ride Courage all the time. redheadlins rides him regularly, and Alyssa pops on now and then. I try (sometimes) to ride other horses and I think it's really good for Courage to learn to carry other riders of all skill levels. Part of training the little man this year has involved letting him toodle around with different riders.

In no particular order:
He is the best at making funny faces
A friend from the track who hasn't had much saddle time. She started on the lunge line, but was able to confidently steer and do some basic transitions on her own by the end of the session. Courage's first time with a beginner up and he did great.








One of those fearless jumper girls that we all wish we were. She's actually ridden Courage a couple of times now, most notably when it was something like zero degrees in January and he had to figure out how to deal with frozen footing and uneven ground.

Courage rose to her level and they started out a little rocky, but ended up popping around a little jump course. Can't fake those smiles.











And then Rinsie from Nanakorobi Yaoki came to play! I haven't gotten to hang out with her much since we now board on opposite ends of our little world (geographically), but she's moving away and leaving us west coasties here soon so we had to do something.

I was SUPER paranoid that he would do something insane and hurt her right before her big trip. I don't know why. I have made a cross country move with a broken arm and I can tell you I wouldn't recommend it. Regardless, she rode well, he behaved, and if calamity strikes, it won't be because of C-rage.

I think Courage is starting to get it. He's learning to communicate with each rider a little differently. He's got it in his head that this is his job and he isn't doing anything too silly. It's all a part of the plan. I want Courage to be a super fun all-around horse, and that includes being mentally flexible enough to accept all levels of riders.

I hope to start mixing it up and hauling out more in the near future. I'm even day dreaming about maybe a dressage lesson (in the heated indoor) this winter*. Plus team penning. I need to get him exposed to cows. Ha! We'll see how things go.

*It's really more about the heated indoor than the dressage. We'll see if he's trained enough to be able to see the fancy trainer without totally embarrassing ourselves.
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