Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by!

I want to apologize for having been away for so long. My only excuse is that I was busy trying to get my second book finished and published, which it now is. You can get your copy of No Better Medicine - How Caring for Critters Helped Heal the Wounds of the Past at www.amazon.com  No Better Medicine is the follow-up to my first book, Crazy Critter Lady, and it's chock full of fun new critter stories.

Just because I've been away, though, doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking about blog stories. Indeed, I've given a great deal of thought to today's subject, "Stuff," because I've acquired so much of it! So let's delve into the subject of acquired stuff and maybe you'll see a little of yourself in this post!

When I started leasing Bit the horse, almost three years ago, I didn't need any tack or horse-related items such as brushes and combs because The Healing Barn already had them in abundance. Because so many people have come and gone, through the years, they actually have multiples of pretty much everything. Some have left grooming accoutrements, some have left saddles, or bridles, or lunge lines. Just about everything you might need is there somewhere! But along the way, I've found that sometimes, you need a specific thing that the barn either doesn't have, or that belongs to someone who isn't there at the time you want to borrow it. Which is why I've managed to acquire my own complement of Stuff, even though I'm only leasing.

The first thing I decided that I needed was my own grooming kit. I'll admit that the main reason I wanted it - as husband Dud and I were checking out the items on offer at our local western store - was because everything in the set was pink. Bit may not be a girl but I am, through and through, and pink is one of my favorite colors. So Dud bought me the grooming set, complete with pink curry comb, brush, and hoof pick. Later, he bought me a plastic carry-all to put all my pink things in, and that carry-all resides in the trunk of my car when not in use.

Because Bit can be a stinker sometimes, I found that the best way to get him to move when I said move was to use a lead rope with a chain attached to it. The chain goes through the ring in his halter, over his nose, and through the ring on the other side of the halter. This tends to reinforce your commands much better than just hooking the lead rope to the ring underneath the halter. While I suspect that some people are probably a little harsh when using the chain in this way, I'm always very careful not to yank on the lead rope, or do anything else that might hurt Bit. The point is not to injure him, or order him around through pain and fear, but to be carefully firm in backing up my vocal commands. Since Bit is the head of the herd, and therefore somewhat attitudinal about whether he is the boss of our sessions, or whether I am, this reinforcement is necessary. But again, I am very careful not to hurt him in the process.

In any case, the barn only has one lead rope with chain attached; the rest are just rope. So instead of hunting all over the barn to find that one special lead rope, I went back to the western store (called, in case you're interested, Sonseeahray Western Store) and bought myself a nice lead rope with chain extension. It, too, resides in the plastic carry-all.

I should mention that Baby Jack, a small Quarter Horse rescue with neurological issues that make it challenging to put his two back feet where they need to go, accidentally stepped on my plastic carry-all a few times over the years, which meant that I needed a new one. I found the perfect replacement at our local big box do-it-yourself store, in the tool box aisle. It's much sturdier than the plastic carry-all was, and I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a good solid carry-all for their horse-related items.

Once I started trying to train Bit, I realized that I needed for my arms to be a few feet longer. Since it became obvious almost immediately that I wouldn't be able to grow them any longer than they already were, I went once again to Sonseeahray and bought a riding crop. You might've seen old movies on t.v. where the rider used a crop to beat the horse into going faster. While I'm not entirely certain what the usual use is for a riding crop, I did know that there would be no hitting. If I want Bit to go faster, I know several kind ways to get him to do so without scaring or hitting him. The new crop was meant to be an extension of my arm and nothing more.

At the time that I needed longer arms, I was trying to teach him, in the dead of winter when it was too cold to ride, that he needed to stand still next to the mounting block so that I could mount him safely. I must say in hindsight that the crop didn't help the training nearly as much as bringing in riding instructor Connie, who has a degree in barn management from Findlay University. Connie figured out almost immediately what I needed to do to get Bit to do what I wanted, so the crop was retired to the trunk of my car until I started bomb-proofing training a year later. With the remnant of a plastic grocery sack tied to the end, the crop was resurrected as an aid to get Bit moving when he would've much rather stayed put. Again, I did not strike him with the crop, I merely waved it around his hindquarters.

Once we started riding again the following spring, one of the reins that I had laid across his neck fell to the ground. Bit promptly stepped on it, jerked his head, and snapped the leather rein in two. While the reins belong to the barn, I felt honor-bound to replace the one that had been broken on my watch. So back to Sonseeahray I went for a new rein, and while I was at it, I bought a new girth that was much more comfortable (soft, padded rubber) than the one that was already on the saddle (rough rope macrame). I painted my name in pink nail polish on the girth and it, too, resides in my trunk when not in use.

Golly, but that's a lot of stuff! And we're not done, yet, either!

When my original Justin barn boots wore out, I went, yet again, to Sonseeahray for a new pair. The new ones have pink leather and little bits of bling on the sides. Even though my jeans cover those pink parts, I still know that they're there! In addition to new barn boots, Duddy bought my wedding boots at Sonseeahray, too. They're a flashy dress pair (as opposed to the work pair that I don't mind stepping in horse poop while I'm wearing), black leather with designs cut all around them, with hot pink leather in the designs. I wear that pair strictly for dressing up and going out to dinner; the only time they were ever in the barn was the day I got married.

One of my more recent purchases has to do with Bit's girth issues. For the last 12+ months, every time I tried to saddle Bit, he'd get very upset about it. Initially, he'd move around in the cross ties a lot, and paw the ground with his front hooves. This would escalate into squeals and mini bucks. Sometimes, he'd kick the wall. While I worried for my physical safety, I worried more about the reason for his behavior, and the idea that I might be hurting him had me mighty concerned. I consulted barn co-owners Ron, and Wendy, and instructor Connie, but to no avail. No one seemed to have any idea how to fix the problem. And if you can't cinch the girth, you can't keep the saddle on the horse. The only alternatives are not to ride, or to ride bareback.

Since I had very little experience with riding bareback, it seemed like an opportune time to give it a try. Happily, Bit didn't have any apparent qualms about me riding him in such a way; indeed, he stood still and patient while I climbed on and adjusted the saddle pad that I was sitting on. We rode bareback several times before winter reared its ugly head again, and while I did o.k., I also made a mental note that I needed to keep working on balancing myself and generally having a better seat. In the meantime, I discovered the existence of bareback pads and went - yet again! - to Sonseeahray to check them out.

The selection wasn't very big, and to my surprise, the bareback pads all had stirrups and girths attached (meaning we would be back at square one again with another girth). I bought one on clearance - why buy something more expensive when you're just going to putz around with it? - and put it in the trunk with all the other Stuff. Then winter struck and I haven't yet had an opportunity to use it.

The most recent item I bought was a winter riding coat with butt flaps. I'll explain: a number of years ago, when my cheap, crappy barn coat had worn out, I happened to come across a nice Schmidt insulated coat at Tractor Supply Co. The best part: it was bright pink! I promptly bought the matching insulated overalls, too, which made me the butt of innumerable jokes at the barn, given that I now looked like a giant frozen bar of Pepto Bismol! The matching hat and gloves did nothing to offset the look. The coat had a tail that came down below the waistline in the back, which proved useful for those times when I had to bend over or crouch down. But as I got older, and noticed that it was still possible to get a cold draft up the backside, I decided that a longer coat would be more useful, particularly for cold-weather riding. So I started looking around online,

Contrary to what my frugal husband thinks, I don't just get a bee in my bonnet and immediately want to buy something. I have a process, which involves thorough research and a fair amount of time: I want the best possible product at the best possible price. You can't just find that with a small amount of looking. And since the coat I was looking to buy was rather expensive ($200 new), and since I knew that Dud would have a cow at the idea of me buying a $200 coat, I kept looking until I found something marginally cheaper: the coat I wanted at a slightly lower price owing to the fact that it was being sold used on ebay. And, after a fair amount of explaining to Dud exactly why I felt the need to own a coat with butt flaps, I received his blessing in buying it.

The reason I felt the need to own a coat with butt flaps: because it had butt flaps of course! The new riding coat has flaps around the backside that are not only long enough to keep drafts out, but you can snap them closed if you just want to wear the coat out in the world, or unsnap the flaps so that they sort of fan out around your butt, keeping it insulated along with the rest of you. Ordinarily, a shorter coat tends to ride up when my arms are outstretched, which they are when I'm steering my horse. If I want to get more riding in during colder months, a longer coat with butt flaps is the way to go. In addition, I get a major kick out of turning my back to people out at the barn, waving those flaps around and announcing, "Butt flaps!" Nothing amuses the barn urchins more these days than Kelly showing off her butt flaps!

So all in all, I've acquired quite a bit of what the British call "kit," considering that I don't actually own a horse. Still, every single item that I've listed here has served a valuable purpose and continues to feature in one way or another in my work with Bit. I'm sure the list isn't finished yet, either, even though I can't think of anything else I need at the moment. Eventually, something else will present itself, and take up residence in my trunk! In the meantime, if you think of anything I might need, by all means, leave a comment below!

That's all for now, Folks! It's good to be back in the blogging saddle, and I will definitely be back again soon! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!