Your Sale Ad Sucks, Make It Better In 7 Steps

Awhile back I wrote a blog post about how to tell if a horse sale ad is full of shit. As much as it was tongue-in-cheek it was also really to help people read between the lines of sale ads. I didn’t give much thought to the people selling the horses until recently. My friend was selling a nice horse and it got me thinking about the whole buying/selling scenario again. I photographed the horse for the sale ad and my friend received over 350 combined likes of her sale posts and 190 comments, so between the two of us we know a little something about posting an eye-catching ad.

Successful Horse Sale Ad
This sale post in a few different forums got a lot of attention.

 

1.    Take good photographs. Yes, that’s great you can stand on your horse, just like the 70 other people I see in ads. But for all I know, seconds after you snapped the photo, the horse spooked at the wind and you ended up on your ass. What buyers really want to see is conformation, and how the horse looks at a walk, jog/trot lope/canter. Photos can help or hinder what kind of response an ad gets. For example, did you know you can make a horse look high in the backend just by an awkward camera angle? Make sure you’re giving your horse a fair shot at a great new owner. “But what do I care if he looks high in the back end, people will like him because he’s a paint/cheap/draft cross.” Sure, you might have an ace in the hole with some aspect of your horse, but presumably you care about this horse and want to see him or her go to a good home. A home that knows how to take care of horses, so why not catch the eye of a superbly qualified buyer? Wear something nice looking in the photos when riding the horse and don’t put someone on the horse who doesn’t want their face in the ad. A giant laughing emoji is very distracting. I know it sounds picky, but people want to see the horse, they don’t want their eye drifting over to that yellow smiley face.

Jogging Appaloosa In Field At Sunset

2.    Have video of the horse available at all gaits. I know, it’s a pain. But many people want to see a video of the horse moving before they spend their time and gas driving to come look at your special unicorn. No one wants to waste time checking out a horse with a jackhammer “lope” they can see from a mile off. They definitely don’t want to waste gas driving to see a horse that’s dead lame. What’s that? Someone isn’t silly enough to film a dead-lame horse and sell it as sound, you say? Hahahahaha…sorry. Yes. Actually, they are. I know this because I witnessed firsthand a lame horse trotted out for a buyer. Whether the owner didn’t understand what she was seeing or was trying to snow the buyer, I’ll never know. Take video so people know your horse is worth the drive.

Walking Through Water Trail Obstacle

 

3.    If your horse isn’t flashy, know you’re going to have to put a little more effort into the sale ads than someone who’s selling a draft cross, horse with color, or a horse with a solid history of winning at shows. There are tons of horses for sale out there, and tons of ads for people to weed through. If you say your horse is solid on the trail, then take a video of the steed navigating trail obstacles without flicking an ear. If you say your horse would be a great kids horse, then throw a kid up there (for god’s sake, with a helmet, lest you find yourself on the wrong side of the angry villagers (read: Facebook horse experts)). There’s a reason used car lots detail the cars and even polish the tires. People are visual creatures. Don’t assume you can take some half-assed photos of your mud pony and people will see the diamond in the rough. For all a buyer knows there’s no diamond, just rough.

Example of A Bad Horse Ad
This is the same horse as the other photos, but without the sun, the contrasting background, and the horse put into a working frame, he doesn’t look nearly as interesting. And his butt looks little. Trust me, he didn’t have a little butt. This just goes to show how important good photos are for your sale ad.

4.    If the horse is registered, get the paperwork together and be ready to sign it over. Don’t tell people you don’t have the papers but you can get them because your second cousin’s half brother is married to the lady who had the horse three owners ago. Do the legwork yourself. You might not have cared if the horse was registered, but other people do. This isn’t a judgement on the quality of registerable horses vs. grade. I’ve seen some purebreds that could give the breed a bad name and some grade horses that were standup equine citizens. Regardless, registration matters. Give your horse a leg up on the competition.

Bucking Saddle Bronc Horse
Diamond in the rough or just rough stock? If you don’t want people thinking along the lines of bucking stock instead of barrel horse stock, then leave the bucking/rearing/playing photos out of your ad.

5.    I probably should have put this first, but, put the price of the horse in the sale ad. I know you might see some ads for fancy horses that say inquire for price, but those horses are of the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it variety. If your horse is under $15K, put that price tag front and center. People are going to assume there’s a little play in the asking price, but they’re going to avoid a horse that’s $7000 if their budget is maxed out at $3K. If you’re trying to move a quality horse, the sweet spot seems to be about $3500. It’s high enough people won’t assume you’re trying to offload a junker with some intermittent lameness but it’s low enough that you’ll still get plenty of interest. And trust me, you want plenty of interest. There might be 20 people filling up your inbox with questions and promises that they’ll have cash in hand this weekend if you hold the horse. But for some reason, when the rubber hits the road and the check has to be written, all those buyers disappear and you’re left with about 3-5 really serious buyers. Which brings me to my last point…

Mini Harness Horses
Theses little cuties have nothing to do with this post but I just wanted to throw them in here. I want them in my backyard!

6.    If you take great photos and give a good description, you’re going to generate a lot of interest and will have to field several phone calls and messages. I’m an introvert. The above scenario sounds about as fun as shedding my horse while wearing lip gloss. But thems the rules. You never know which one of those 20 people is going to turn out to be the perfect buyer to give your horse a safe, well-fed, sheltered, forever home. If you care about your animals, you care where they end up. Respond to all of the private messages, texts, and phone calls. No matter if it’s just to let them know the horse has sold. The world is a small place, and the horse world is even smaller. Politeness goes a long way.

Percheron Plow Horses
They might be your heart horses, but if you post them for sale, you need to be ready to let them go.

7.  And finally, make sure you actually want to sell the horse. The equivalent to tire-kicker buyers are the reluctant sellers. Maybe you’re in financial trouble and don’t really want to sell the horse but need to. Or maybe the spouse has said it’s him or the horse. Pro tip: always pick the horse. Whatever the case may be, if you put an advertisement up, you have to be ready to make the sale. What happens if you don’t is you frustrate honest buyers, take your post down for a month or two, repost it, and then lose credibility. People watch the sale forums. A horse that goes up for sale, then down, then back up again has an issue. Whether that issue is with the horse or the owner, a buyer won’t know. But you’re losing out on possible great matches.

What are some of your horse sale ad pet peeves? What do you wish every person selling a horse would do? I know we can solve the world’s problems, one sale ad at a time.

Letting Go of the Face To Be A Better Rider

This winter I’ve taken it easy riding, mostly just bareback hacks around the arena talking with my good friend. Last Sunday I threw my saddle on G, slipped on my spurs and set off to get some work done. Nothing too intense, I know we’re both a bit out of shape, but something more substantial than just a bareback walk.

At a jog, I set us about the arena, small and large circles, even speed, a low head flexed at the poll. It was great. I sat in my saddle on my not-so-high-horse smugly thinking about how far we’ve come, how much I used to rely on the reins to set a head, control our direction, bend his body. I actually thought, hey, I’m going to write a really smart blog post about how power comes from your legs, not your hands. How the legs are the engine, hands are just the guide.

And then, as the universe is wont to do when one is feeling especially wise and smug, I was reminded how quickly you can revert to your bad habits.

My good friend was selling a 16.3hh appaloosa who would sometimes drop his shoulder in a left-hand lope. She wanted me to lope him to see how he felt. I was intimidated by his size. I wanted to collect up his face and hold onto it until I trusted him. Let’s just say you’ll probably see my book published (please, god) before you’ll see me fully trust a horse. I have trust issues. But this horse was not trained like my catty 15hh reiner. If I crank down on Gangster’s face it’s like pressing on a coil, he gets tight, pushed into the bridle, pushing forward, looking for the release. (Full disclosure, I don’t always give it to him, which is shame on me and bless him for putting up with me.) But cranking down on the appy’s face wasn’t going to make him push into the bridle or look for release, he would just shrug his hulking horse shoulders and drop out of the lope.

16hh Appaloosa gelding
The gentle giant. Keep in mind I’m 2 inches shy of six feet tall…

It’s so frustrating what we can see for others but can’t see for ourselves. You can pick out amateurs by their dependence on the face. For some reason when you’re just starting out, you think you can control the horse, the speed, the shape of the body with your hands. Maybe it’s because as humans we use our hands for so much. If we were more in tune to the rest of our anatomy, maybe it wouldn’t be such a steep learning curve to not worry about the head with our hands and instead ride with our body.

The next night I was working around the arena at a posting trot. I’m lazy and hate lunging so I was posting at a good clip, knowing G wanted to break into a lope. But I just wanted to let him extend at the trot. My friend was lunging her own horse and told me to slow down my body, to incrementally take just a split second longer to lower back into the saddle, to rise up with the outside shoulder. An amazing thing happened, Gangster slowed down his trot to match the speed of my body. Obviously not every horse is as sensitive, but they all have the ability, if we give them the opportunity and don’t grip the reins so tight.

Arabian Horse Trail Obstacle
Look what a happy relaxed pony!

A few days later I was loping around the arena by myself, thinking about staying off his face, sitting back, using my legs to keep him straight, curved around the corners, head slightly tipped in. An owl that has taken up residence in the insulation on the roof flew out from his perch and into the vision of my horse. Certain we were about to be attacked, Gangster bunched up and prepared to spook himself out of danger. Instinctively my hands tightened down on the reins to bring him down to a total stop. And then for the rest of the night, I couldn’t loosen back up.

Trotting Arabian Horse
I would still like to see his head lower than this and for my reins to be let out more. At least my hand’s not behind the saddle horn in this photo!

I’m sure there’s an allegory for life in here somewhere. Definitely some psychology related to physically letting go of tight control, of trusting in the process. I’m seeing now that this letting go will be the next big hurdle to me taking a big leap in my riding abilities. It will hold me back if I don’t figure it out. You can’t really ever ride in that beautiful space, where horse and rider are connected but not leashed to one another, if you’re one fluttering leaf away from curling into the fetal position and ratcheting down the reins. I’ve never had a bad horse wreck, never had a reason not to trust. Gangster can be hot and reactive, but he’s never bolted, never flung me from the saddle and caused bodily injury. But all the little twitches, sideways jumps and refusals add up I guess. I don’t know how to get over this except to ride through it. I have to figure out how to ride through my trust issues, to put my hands down, my back straight and not lose my nerve over a humped back and a few crow hops.

 

 

PS… That photo at the top was taken in 2013 of me and Gangster and every time I look at it I cringe. Look at how tight his body is! That mouth pulling against those too tight reins! Why! Why??? Because I didn’t know any better. Now I know better so I do better. But I have no problem sharing this photo (which I titled horrible horseback rider) because I don’t believe in fakeness. Because if I can learn from my mistakes then you might learn from them too.

PPS… THANK YOU to Chris T. Sloan for the photos from the trail course and the competition photo. Without her there’d be no proof that I have actually improved over time!

Letting Go Of The Face To Be A Better Rider

Pillow Covers For The Horse Lover In Your Life

Spring is coming! Spring is coming! I know this because now instead of walking my dogs in the dark and pouring rain, we’re walking them at that magical twilight hour when the sky turns from light blue to black with the stars sparkling and the threat of a skunk lurking behind every blackberry berm. (True story, we once spent a cold Valentine’s night washing the dogs multiple times from a skunk spraying.)

Eventer Pillow Cover

What does spring’s pending arrival have to do with some cute pillows? Because spring always has me opening the windows wide whenever its above 55 degrees, cleaning and fantasizing about updating my home décor. Spoiler Alert: I never get to the updated décor part of that fantasy. You know, because the horse always takes all the discretionary income. However, throw pillows are a great way to update your style without much in the way of a financial commitment.

I received these pillow shams from Horsely to review for the blog. And because I love you (actually more like because my husband would kill me if I owned one more throw pillow) I’m giving them away!

So what do I think about these shams?

Vintage Race Horse Pillow

I LOVE the Vintage Race Horse design, and the fabric it’s printed on has a slight texture to it that’s not too rough. The cream-colored background extends to the back of the pillow as well. The drawback to this pillow cover is that it’s a zipper closure at the bottom of the sham, so it can’t handle a lot of taking on and off if you prefer to wash your shams frequently. One end of the zippered opening already started to fray a bit from taking it on and off the pillow a couple times.

The Equestrian Olympics Pillow cover is fun because you can order the image in mirror, so one design on the left side and one on the right. Those of us with OCD enjoy the balance this brings to a couch. I know not everyone is as neurotic as me, but if you are, it will make you happy. This pillow cover has a slip opening on the back so no trouble with a zippered opening like the above. The silky fabric is really soft, however, the back of the pillow is white. Some people won’t mind that, but it’s just something to be aware of.

Olympic Eventing Pillow Sham

Getting to what you really want to know: how do you win a set of these?! (A set is considered the two Olympics Pillow Covers or two Vintage Race Horse pillow covers. Pillows not included) Head on over to the Facebook page and like and share the post. Comment to let me know which pillow covers you like better!
There is no purchase necessary. By participating in this giveaway you acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by Facebook and that you hold Facebook harmless. One winner will randomly be drawn for each pillow set and announced on Monday March 5th on the Sass In Boots Facebook page. The drawing will close at pm 12pm PST on Sunday March 4. I will PM you via Facebook to obtain your shipping address. The information you provide to me will not be used for any other purposes. Good luck and THANK YOU for participating!

Vintage Racing Horse Pillow

You Might Be A Horse Husband If…

A couple years ago I wrote a poem called Ode To The Horse Widower, to honor those amazing partners who respect our passion, however frustrating it might be for them at times. (I have no idea how hay got in the bed!) I love sharing that poem around Valentines day but I started thinking, what if they don’t they’re a horse widower? What if they have no idea there’s thousands of other horse husbands out there, just like them?

Horse Husband Barn Husband

So I created the below reference guide for those who are trying to decide if they’re a horse husband or not. Are you a horse husband? Do you know one?

  1. If there’s a horse in the barn referred to as the “husband horse” that you only ride once a year, you might be a horse husband.
  2. If you ever thought she was talking about you when she told her friends, “He’s an easy keeper,” you might be a horse husband.
  3. If you trip over her shoes inside the house, and trip over her boots outside the house, you might be a horse husband.
  4. If she rakes the barn aisles every day, but only vacuums the house every couple of months, you might be a horse husband.
  5. If you’ve ever missed a football game to watch your wife in a horse show, you might be a horse husband.
  6. If you’re not exactly sure how much money she spends on horses every month, you might be a horse husband.
  7. If your wife cries a lot and is cheating on you with a guy named Buck, you might be a horse husband.
  8. If you suddenly find yourself having time for long naps on the weekends, you might be a new horse husband.
  9. If you’ve ever had to fix the washing machine because a round of filthy blankets jammed it up, you might be a horse husband.
  10. If you’ve ever faked a back injury to get out of stacking hay, you might be a horse husband.
  11. If you’re annoyed your wife spends money on new shoes every 6-8 weeks, you might be a horse husband.
  12. If you’ve ever been late for dinner reservations because your wife had to swing by the barn for “just a minute,” you might be a horse husband.
  13. If you’ve ever lingered at the edge of the arena, resetting jumps, you might be a horse husband
  14. If she spends $200 on a vet bill for a cough, but tells you to quit being a baby when you have the flu, you might be a horse husband.
  15. If you’ve ever said “Take your time at the barn,” so you could finish a football game, you might be a horse husband.
  16. If you’ve ever had to do barn chores because your wife was sick, you might be a horse husband.

And finally, if you think your wife likes her horse more than you, you might be a horse EX-husband!

What’s missing from the list? What needs to be added?

Never miss a blog post, horse photo or witty thought, follow me on Facebook.

 

Wyoming Husband Approved Horse Back Ride

How To Tell If Youre A Horse Husband

Pictures Of Ponies Jumping

Last weekend at the Oregon Horse Center they hosted an indoor eventing show. Sans the dressage portion of eventing. I really don’t know much about eventing or show jumping. I just know it’s cool to watch, I never want to do it and it’s lots of fun to shoot.

I was struggling mightily with my camera in the low light of the arena and the fast movement (blurry photos, me getting irritated) so my photographer mentor handed off her camera to me and I had an absolute blast. I’m a big believer that the clothes don’t make the woman, but I’m pretty sure in this case the gear made the photographer. My saving grace is all the post processing is completely my touch.

Please enjoy some photos jumping ponies from this fun event and amazing course that the crew at the Oregon Horse Center put together.

Bay Eventing Horse Jumping Log

I love the look of this guy. Big, beautiful, bay. The three b’s.

Black white & Blue Jumper

Weeeee! Look at that length!!

Dublin Boots & Breeches

Dublin boots abound. I cropped out the part showing them all on their phones, ha ha.

Bay Eventer Warm Blood

 

Blue Eventing Show Tack

Don’t you just love the look of boots and breeches?

Focused Horse & Rider Galloping

 

Beautiful White Horse

 

Eventer Pony Jumping Log

 

Show Jumping Pony White

 

Show Jumping Pony Pole Down

 

Sorrel Eventing Jumper Horse

 

Appaloosa Eventer

 

 

Why You Need To Get In The Picture

A couple years ago I came across a picture on Pinterest. A 1950s cowgirl sat on the ground, her dog next to her and her horse behind her, head resting on her shoulder. I wanted a photo like that image, my beloved dog and horse all in one shot. I had the best intentions but kept procrastinating. I thought I should lose a few pounds, wait until the weather was better, sunnier, cooler. I never made the time. Then Connor died. I have plenty of photos of him. Even some with me in them. But I didn’t get to recreate that Pinterest photo that would capture my bond with my dog and horse.

Arabian Horse & German Shepherd Puppy
The new puppy, Hinter, is desperate to play with what he thinks is a giant dog.

I follow a fellow horse blogger (turned MFA student) Lauren Mauldin of She Moved To Texas and she had some absolutely gorgeous photos taken of herself and her dogs and horse during the bluebonnet bloom in Texas. In her post, she talked about previously not getting photos taken because she wanted to wait until she was thinner. But like she points out, we could be waiting forever on the idea of perfection that’s never going to happen.

I took her words to heart and talked to a photographer friend of mine about getting photos of me with the new puppy and the horse.

Equine Photography

Chris (of Chris T. Sloan Photography) took some amazing photos. I love the golden light, the good friend off camera making me laugh and my beautiful animals. Oh, and my husband too. I will tell you a secret though. When I first saw the photos, I didn’t see how gorgeous my horse looked, how his ears were up and forward, or what joy in my animals she caught. What I noticed was how my jeans fit a little too tight; how I could lose some fluff around the middle.

Chris T. Sloan Photography

It’s a great gift to get older, not just for the added time here on earth, but also for the wisdom gained as you age. But does letting go of insecurity come much later? Because I’m still working on it. I had to tell myself to quit picking my body apart.

German Shepherd Puppy

Adding to my insecurity, a few people asked why I had the photos taken. I should have answered, “Because I wanted them.” But I didn’t. I said I wanted some updated photos for the website, some family photos. And those things are true. But the truest statement is “Because I wanted them.” Please listen to me, get photos of yourself with your horse, your dogs, your family (What?! That’s not in order of priority, I swear!). Whatever you want, and for whatever reason, get them.

Theresa Rice Writer Horse Blogger

Our horses, our pets, and members of our family, won’t be with us forever. Someday you’ll want to look back on photos that transport to you to that time, how you felt in that moment, the love you had in that split second of time. To relive that love shared or laugh that filled your soul with relief.

I know a woman who regularly gets photos taken of her children, but she never jumps in the pictures. I’m not the first person to say this, and hopefully I’m not the last. But I’ll say it anyway. Get in front of the camera. Get in the picture. Someday your children will want to look back at photos of their mom or dad. Don’t leave them just a photo a year. Let them be reminded of your love long after the flash burned. 

Animal Family Portrait
Animal Family

Don’t let the fact that you think you should lose weight, or have shinier hair, or wear more stylish clothes, hold you back from capturing your life. I’m pretty sure your future self will look back on the photos and think, “Wow, I looked great.” In reality, and sorry to be a buzz kill here, we’re only getting older, saggier, fluffier. You’re more beautiful than you think.

There are 215 photos on my phone of Connor. That’s 35 for every year he lived. About three per month. That seems like plenty. But I wish I had more. When it comes to those we love, there are never enough photos.

Get in the picture.

Please.

 

How To Be A Better Boarder For Dummies

The name of the blog is Sass In Boots, and I’m feeling sassy today. I’m at a boarding barn, and for the most part it’s fine. I stay out of trouble, pay my bill on time and keep most of my opinions to myself. But sometimes it’s just plain annoying being around other people. The Horse Channel recently came out with an article on “How To Be A Better Boarder.” The article has things like don’t complain, get to know the barn staff, and just be nice. Good try Horse Channel, but I have some more specific advice. Being nice is as obvious as paying your bill. Paying your bill on time is better advice. Kind of how don’t put the hose back like a drunken toddler is better advice than just saying “be nice.” I don’t really care if you exchange pleasantries with me, as long as you put the hose back in an orderly fashion.

So, because I’m feeling salty and this is my blog and I’ll do what I want, here’s my list of how to be a better boarder: Don’t be these people at the barn. The worst people you’ll find at the barn.

The Dirt Whiner

The dirt is too deep. The dirt is too shallow. The dirt is too sandy. The dirt isn’t sandy enough. It’s too wet. Too dusty. Too dirty. This person thinks they’ve got a future National Reining Horse hall-of-famer on their hands and needs the dirt screened through a baker’s sifter in order to complete a 30 foot slide. But, and I’m just spit-balling here, maybe they could alter how they ride their horse depending on the footing that day. The dirt gets worked up every day. This isn’t a private training facility. The ground is never going to make everyone happy. The dirt whiners really need to just chill about it. Or, call me crazy, they could offer to work the dirt up themselves. Or schedule their rides when it’s been freshly turned. So many possibilities. A flexible person makes a great boarder. For both the office and for me.

Palomino Reining Horse Sliding Stop
I cut off his head to protect the innocent.

The Arena Hog

Oh dear sweet fellow rider, I love you but you can’t take over the arena with your gauntlet of poles for some kind of hedge-maze pole work. See where I reference that this isn’t a private training facility above? So no, your impromptu dressage test for which you roped off the arena is not cool with me during the busiest ride time of the day. Clear it out. Do some rail work like a normal, polite, non-irritating human being.

Unsolicited Advice Giver

What’s that? Did I just hear a collective groan from horse people everywhere? I believe I did. That’s because we’ve all been there. We’re minding our own business when we get blindsided with impromptu lectures on the merits of feeding beet pulp/alfalfa pellets/rice bran/magic weight control sparkles because it’s so much better than what we’re currently feeding. Unless my horse’s hips look like Kate Moss’s cheeks, please don’t come to me about my feeding regimen. Trust me, if I need advice, I’ll ask. Until that happens, I don’t want you chewing my ear on how I can better care for my animal. Who, apparently, you think belongs in a Sarah McLachlan animal cruelty commercial. I’m not having it. I’m not feeding him your magic beans or whatever else you’re selling.

Golden Pony Signature
Yes, we’re aware your horse is the golden child, full of love and light and high-cost feed. But quit yapping at me about it.

Hose Sociopath

I already mentioned this but I’m just saying, there’s someone who’s unclear on the concept of coiling a hose and hanging it on hooks. It makes me crazy. Bat. Shit. Crazy. Look, I made a special, super easy-to-follow instructional guide below. Share it with your friends (or hose enemies). I know hoses can be complex but you drive a 1000 pound animal with your legs, I feel like this should be basic horse sense. Like cleaning poop out of the wash rack. (Quick aside, if you just thought to yourself “I’m supposed to pick the poop out of the wash rack?” then I can guarantee people at your barn are plotting your death. That wash rack poop doesn’t disintegrate down the drain and go into magic poop-disposal land. Yes, it looks like it washes down the drain, and then it stops somewhere along the way. And then it builds up. And then some poor shmuck that uses the wash rack sometime after you is standing in poop soup because you clogged the drain. Pick the poop out of the wash rack. Please and thank you.)

How To Properly Store A Hose For Idiots
Please enjoy my hi-tech rendition of hose storage for confused people.

The Facebook Vet

Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. The fellow boarder whose horse seems to always have a problem of some sort and who relies on Facebook for veterinary advice. Lady, I’m sorry but Bernice from Idaho who told you WD-40 makes excellent fly spray is an idiot and I think your horse now has scald. You need a vet. Not the next step in D-I-Y veterinary medicine. Call your vet. Then ask a trusted friend. You have no idea how ill informed those Facebook armchair trainers really are. I know the vet is expensive. But your Pinterest solution to a serious health issue is not the time to cut corners. Trust me on this. And I’m cheap as hell.

When Your Horse Looks Like A Moose
My horse looks funny…should I call the vet? Your “horse” is a moose. You should call whoever sold you that thing.

*My apologies to all the horsewomen named Bernice in Idaho.

I’m not always so snarky, but you’ll have to follow me on Facebook to find out.

Are you still reading? My goodness. Well you obviously can’t get enough of me so here’s a little something titled Five Things No One Tells You About The Cost of Horse Ownership. New to horses? You should definitely read it. Old horsewoman? Read it anyway and then say “Mmmmm hmmmm. I’m with you.” Looking to buy a horse? Well then make sure you read How To Tell If A Horse Sale Ad Is Full of Horse Shit. And then allow me to improve your riding by making fun of mine in Four Rookie Riding Mistakes To Avoid.

How To Be A Better Boarder For Dummies AKA The Worst People At The Barn
Pin this article so everyone can be a better boarder!

 

What To Do When Rotten Bales Ruin The Day

It’s been hot here, hotter than normal, hot enough to put people on edge. Smoldering embers take hold and roar up into wildfires where you thought there was only gentle ground. Literally and figuratively.

My horse has been refusing to eat much of his hay for the last two weeks. I thought it was the heat. Then someone commented on his weight loss. I was of course annoyed before accepting that, yes, he was losing weight and I needed to do something about it.

So on a 102 degree day, I picked up four bales of alfalfa after work. I unloaded the bales, stacked them, stacked my existing hay in front of them and then broken one open to feed. I saw a funny looking patch, I wondered if it was mold. I pulled a couple flakes off and then saw the expanse of mold covering the entire bale. Expletives were uttered. Then I opened the second bale. More mold. More expletives.

Moldy Alfalfa

I opened the third and fourth bales. By now, my stack of hay, bales of alfalfa four layers down, is wobbling and falling all over the place. It was hot. I was stressed and tired and mad. I knew I had to load this alfalfa back in the truck and spend another 100 degree evening returning the rotten bales and unloading and restacking the new bales.

I wish I could say I saw the humor in it. I didn’t though. I only saw the hot miserable work done for nothing and the hot work left to do the next night.

So I did what any normal person would do. I went home and took out my bad mood on my husband. Why do we do this? Turn on our closest allies in times when we need them the most? Maybe you don’t, maybe it’s just me and my crazy temper. I can’t be the only one though, even if it’s tough to admit.

The ironic part is that I spent the morning telling a good friend, who is going through a rough time, not to dwell on the negative, that there is much to be thankful for, to practice gratitude. Turns out high horses buck, and rightfully so, because what business do I have giving advice I can’t follow even under the smallest of trials? Rotten bales. I lost my temper and hurt my loved one over rotten bales.

Be Grateful
Be Grateful

I should probably take a dose of that medicine I was trying to force down my friend’s throat. Because really, just being alive is a win. Having a job, having a home filled with food and water and clothes and a decent air conditioner, are all blessings. But in that moment, coated in sweat and alfalfa, all I could think about was my misfortune. I could only see the rotten bales in my life.

So, as hard as it is to admit when I’m wrong, when I have work to do, I have to make a commitment to appreciate how much I have, how much I am blessed with, instead of letting a few rotten bales spoil the rest of what’s good.

What are your “rotten bales?” What do you do to keep yourself grounded in times of stress and frustration and not give into negativity? I’m honestly asking, help a gal out.

As for the bales, a barn angel appeared the next night and helped me load the three bad bales back into the truck. Rest assured I was thankful for the help rather than bitter I had to do the work at all.

PS: Gangster’s appetite hasn’t returned to normal levels, but he is happy to eat the alfalfa and he is drinking plenty of water, so I’m hopeful he’ll put his lost pounds back on. I was going to say I wish I could lose weight as easily as he can, but I suppose if I ate a plant based diet all the time I’d probably be pretty slim. Starbucks fraps and bagels don’t make for lean bodies!

Horseback Ride In The Sunshine
With views like this, I should never be ungrateful. I am blessed.

 

How To Carry The American Flag For Rodeo Grand Entry In 7 Easy Steps

I’m coming up on the one year mark since I carried the American flag for the Eugene Pro Rodeo. Although I’m happy to relax this fourth of July, I’m also a little nostalgic about my experience carrying the flag. What better way to take a trip down memory lane than give you some tips on carrying a flag for the rodeo? So here you go, how to carry the American flag for rodeo grand entry in seven easy steps. So easy.

1. Step one: You got invited to carry the American flag (YAY!) at your local rodeo. Now its time to FREAK OUT because being asked to carry America’s most powerful and enduring symbol is a huge honor and you’ll be riding in front of 6000 people and you cannot, under any circumstances, drop the flag. Get cold sweats. Consider backing out. Immediately shame yourself for thinking of backing out of something you desperately want to do but are scared shitless to do.

Rodeo Sun And Flag

2. Secure a horse. Can’t be just any horse. This must be the rodeo unicorn above all unicorns. Must be cool with a giant flapping monster chasing him down while he’s galloping around the arena. (Step 2a. Make sure you and your horse gallop. You’ve got to pick up speed in the song, you can’t be loping at a western pleasure pace. That flag isn’t going to stand out if you’re loping at a slow trip.) Your unicorn also must be able to cope with the clicks and pops and from the sound system, the roar of the crowd that will come at the end of the song, the thunder from their boots stomping the bleachers and the adrenaline-drenched scent pouring off the stock animals pacing in the back chutes. No big deal right? Oh yeah, your unicorn also needs to be okay if the flag wraps around his face and completely obscures his vision because the wind changed and pushed the flag forward as you made your circle. And under no circumstances can the rodeo-unicorn-horse freak out at the fireworks that go off when they sing “bombs bursting in air.”

Rodeo Flag Horse

3. You’ve been invited, you’ve decided on your flag-horse unicorn, now you and your horse need outfits. The saddle pad is the requisite flag pattern with the stars and red and white stripes. Then you need to add some festive polo wraps or splint boots. When you put the splint boots on the big day make sure you control your nervousness so you don’t hyperextend your thumb. Not that you’ll feel it in the moment, but after the adrenaline wears off and for a few weeks later every time you try to grab something you’ll marvel at the fact that you were so hyped up on adrenaline you hurt yourself and didn’t even know it. Not that I have any personal experience with this or anything. Your outfit should be something red, white, or blue. I don’t advise wearing a flag shirt while carrying the flag. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in a weird who-wore-it-better scene with an inanimate object. (Obviously the flag wore it better.) I opted for a red, sequined shirt from Hobby Horse that made my boobs look big. I figured I could distract with shiny boobs so no one would notice any flubs. “Is she on the wrong lead? I think she is. But wait, oh look at that glittery red bosom. What was I saying about the wrong lead?” Also, buy longer pants than you normally wear. You want your boots covered. You don’t want that awkward look where the pants are hiked up and revealing half your boot.

American Flag Rodeo Run

4. Tools to get the job done: A flag boot and a big ass spur. Yes, I said only one spur. I don’t care about your inside leg’s spur. It can be a ball spur if you want. But that outside spur should be something a little longer and beefier. Here’s why, it turns out when you have a ten foot flag pole resting on your stirrup and against your leg you can’t move your leg nearly as much. Now maybe your unicorn has a barrel for a ribcage and you have shorter legs so you can easily lay your heel right into his side. But if your leg is a little long, if your horse is a little slab sided, you’re going to have a harder time getting your spur into the horse’s side. What was that I was saying about the wrong lead? Yeah, that was me. I picked up the wrong lead. Let me teach you, learn from my flubs. Now maybe I didn’t ride to the best of my abilities. Or maybe there were 6000 people watching me carry a 5 ½ by 10 ½ foot flag, including my brother, a Major in the Marine Corps, and my father who is a Vietnam veteran and I was more nervous than a horse in a glue factory. Anyway, get yourself a big spur and use it on your horse before the big day so he doesn’t jump out of his skin when you lay that poky rowel on his side. Get a flag boot that is pointed at the bottom so you can snug the flag pole down into the point and get a tight grip on it. You want the flag boot to fit tight around the pole so it doesn’t move at all.

Rodeo Horse

5. It’s the BIG day! Warm up your horse. Curl your hair. Use lots of hair spray. Do your makeup. I opted for lots of makeup that said “I love being out here and I’m not scared at all.” Pin your hat to your head with more bobby pins than seems necessary or even wise. I don’t care about your headache. No one wants to be distracted by your hat flying off in the middle of the NATIONAL ANTHEM. They want to be thinking about God, their country, their military family members past and present, their love of horses and rodeo and dreams untold. They do not want to think about your silly hat flying off mid-“rocket’s red glare.” Use another pin.

I forgot to add this earlier. You know that friend you have who always says “I have an oil for that?” Get some essential oils from her for decreasing massive amounts of anxiety. Apply liberally to your wrists and neck and cleavage and pretty much your entire upper body. I don’t care how excited and confident you are. You are going to be nervous. And again, people do not care how nervous you are, they want to see you carry that flag with pride and glory and gallop around the arena. They do not want to see you choke under the pressure and hunch in your saddle because, oops, this is actually super intimidating.

Okay, so you’ve got your hair and makeup done and hippie oils on. I’m all for naturopathic solutions. But I’m also for tried and true methods of anxiety control. About an hour before, go get yourself some whiskey. I prefer Pendleton. One, maybe one and a half shots. Nothing more or you’re going to turn to jello. You can’t be jello. You have to be Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider, the hero. You are the bad ass carrying the flag. No jello. I take back the half shot, just do one shot only. I don’t want you coming back here telling me how I got you drunk before your big ride.

6. Pick your horse’s hooves. Get back on your horse. Wait at the in-gate for 45 minutes. Push away any anxiety or fear. You are Clint Eastwood. I’m sorry your spirit animal is Clint Eastwood in this scenario and not some strong female lead. I couldn’t think of one. If you do, think of her. And then tell me. Anyway, you’re Clint Eastwood. You get to carry the American Flag (What an honor!!!) don’t screw it up. I’m kidding. Kind of. Have someone pick your horse’s hooves one more time.

Rodeo Waiting At The In Gate
I have no idea how this photo was captured with almost no one else in it because there are people everywhere at the in-gate, but here it is. Right before that glorious ride. Photo credit to B. Smigelski-Young

7. Go ride that flag around. Don’t run over the person singing the national anthem. Don’t even get too close to them. Again, not that I did this and saw the singer’s eyes get big as he watched me swinging wide around the corner. I’m just saying, as a precautionary measure. Running over the guy, or gal, singing the national anthem might be as bad as dropping the flag. Don’t worry about dropping the flag, I know you won’t do that. Your hand and shoulder will be numb at the end but I know you won’t drop the flag.

8. Ooops, looks like there’s an eighth step. Go have some whiskey and breathe a sigh of relief that you carried our beautiful flag and you looked beautiful and your horse was flawless and your hat didn’t come off and you didn’t drop the flag or pick up the wrong lead or run over the singer. Congratulations! Have a happy Fourth of July!

Post Ride Hug
Hug your friend who knew you could do it the whole time and never doubted you for a second. Even when you got the cold sweats.

Follow me on Facebook for more helpful tips with spots of sarcasm.

All photos, except where noted, credit to Chris T. Sloan, my favorite equine photographer!

 

There’s More Than One Way To Shape A Hat

Have you ever fallen in love with something and then realized it wasn’t quite right? That’s how I felt about my beautiful Resistol hat with white ribbon trim. Something about the crown just didn’t look right to me after I wore it a few times. A month ago Pa Fig of Pa Fig Hat Works was at a show and I stopped to ask about my hat. I know next to nothing about hats. I’ve obtained my hats by three criteria: is it pretty, can I afford it, and does it fit. Who knew there was so much more to it than that? He said he could reshape the crown for me when he was back in town a couple weeks later.

Pa Fig Hat Shaper

Once he was back in town, I showed up with two hats in tow: my Resistol that I wanted reworked, and my silver belly Stetson from my Arizona days that I absolutely love. I wanted the Resistol to resemble the Stetson.

I stuck around as he started working my Resistol over the steam and then on the poplar wood hat block. The blocks are made of poplar because there’s no grain to leave creases in the hats. He took my hat all the way down to its original, neutral shape: round top and flat brim. He took dirt off with a horsehair brush and worked the felt in a clockwise direction, the calluses of his hands pulling the fibers of the hat tighter. A tighter felt holds a sharper shape.

Pacific Northwest Hat Shaper

As he worked he told me told me the difference between the wool and fur concentrations in hats. The more fur (can be beaver, hare or others, like mink) the higher the quality and more expensive . A hat labeled 20X has more fur in it than one labeled 10X, and if you sat a 10X next to a 100X you’d be able to see the difference in texture: more fur translates to a smoother feel and finish. Wool is nice, but it’s heavier, doesn’t breath and weathers poorly. A soaked wool hat not only loses its shape but also shrinks. I once worked with a cowboy from Montana who wore a hat that had melted into something resembling the Gorton fisherman’s hat. Now I know why, he needed a nicer hat!

I have to tell you that when I first saw Pa working with hats, I thought he might be a hipster. With sideburns approaching mutton chop territory, a canvas apron and a hat that looked like it could tell its own tales, I was perhaps a tad skeptical. But you know what they say about books and covers and judging. Pa Fig, that’s his name, is by no means a hipster. He has a genuine love for his craft that came through as he let me pepper him with questions and incessantly take his picture.

Oregon Hat Shaper Pa Fig

So how does one get to be an artist at such an unusual job? For him, Rod’s western Palace of all places. He worked two Quarter Horse Congresses. It was doing 100’s of hat shapings that he developed a system for shaping multiple hats at once and learned the best way to coax those wool and fur fibers into the desired shapes. He also learned some mistakes to avoid, like fully shaping a hat before realizing the crown rests on the customer’s head (it shouldn’t do that). With fifteen years of experience now, he stays busy. He had a steady stream of people stopping by to drop off hats and pick up hats the entire time I was there. He also collects vintage hats to clean, reshape and sell. Resistol is his favorite vintage brand. I didn’t ask what his modern-day favorite is, but he sells Greeley Hat Works hats, so I think that’s a clue. I didn’t ask how much they were, their smooth texture told me they were probably higher quality than I could afford right now. Blogging is not a particularly lucrative career. Nor is writing a book for going on three years. But perhaps someday. I can picture myself in a granite-colored hat with a deep cattleman crease.

Cowboy Hat Reshaping

Ultimately my Resistol could only approach a baby cattleman’s crease. The crown is not as tall as my Stetson and so can’t support a really deep crease. The Resistol was made to be a bricker. Buying foam inserts at a show last year, a lady told me the Resistol wasn’t my hat. Not sure if you know this or not, but you can’t tell me much. So I took my foam inserts, added a layer of hairspray to my head and pinned the hat down with several bobby pins on each side. I’d show her. Well, as is the case many times when I dig in to my stubbornness, that woman is probably right. But my beautiful hat works for showing and now I know what to look for in my next hat.

Shaping A Cowboy Hat