The Secrets Behind The Eyes of Horses

Earlier this month I attended the Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association plow competition in McMinnville. You might recall I attended last year and you can find those photos here. The day was a little wet. As in, I was continuously wiping the lens free of rain drops and turning my back to sideways rain. I had been hoping for sun, but I think I got some good photos anyway. Always an adventure shooting in the elements. If you live in the area and have the chance to go, you should. Everyone is very friendly and the horses are awesome. 

But what does this all have to do with that mysterious title The Secrets Behind The Eyes of Horses? In photographing these horses, a few of them really spoke to me, the emotion in their faces, the hint at something beyond the pigment of their eyes. It inspired the poem The Eye of the Horse which I embedded further down. We shall never know all that goes on behind those eyes, but certainly they stir something in all of us.

I hope you enjoy the below photos and the poem.

Rainy Draft Plow Team


Old Cowboy Sepia
Love this gentleman’s hat. Notice his “hat pins”?


The Eye of A Draft Horse
This sweet guy inspired the below poem.

The Eye of the Horse

Oh, how that eye will get you every time.

No matter how much the fall hurts,

How much the fear holds you back,

Or the coldness of the damp night.

One look from those deep feeling eyes

Will be enough to carry you on for another day

Your soul spoken to

A prayer in the air between you

A gift from god

Fit for kings

But treasured by all.




Draft Horse Look of Emotion

Plow Team Braided Horse Tails
Colorful butts!
Horse Plow Driver
The people are fun to photograph as well.

4 Horse Plow Team

Products To Love & Win: THANKSgiveaway

For a little holiday cheer, I’m reviewing (and giving away!) the Solo-Ride mounting aid, a Pink Pinecone Studio neck warmer, a subscription to Northwest Horse Source and a bag of barn-useful goodies. Before we get to the goods, a little legal stuff. I was not paid by any of the below businesses for my reviews. Where I received a free product, I will let you know that. It’s important to me that you know this isn’t just an advertisement parading as a heartfelt product review. So now you know!

Oh, and the winners of the Solo-Ride, the neck warmer, and the barn goodies, will also receive a custom Sass In Boots canvas bag featuring my original photography.

Sass In Boots Original Photography Canvas Bag

If you were around for last year’s review and giveaway, you know I love discovering new, useful products. And finding businesses built by women is even more invigorating. I love seeing all of the wonderful, amazing, inspiring things that you ladies do. And I say ‘you ladies’ because I know even though we’ve never met, you’re doing great things.

Solo-Ride Mounting Aid

Up first is the Solo-Ride Mounting Aid by Hairy Back Ranch. I stumbled on this tool by accident and was smitten by Randell’s story about how the mounting stirrup came to be. The quick version is that after finally having her own horse and living her dream of horse ownership, the dream hit a roadblock when she took a solo bareback trail ride, had to dismount, and couldn’t find a good stump or rock to help her get back on. There was a mossy log, and a resulting injury that still didn’t get her back on her horse. So she had to walk all the way back to the truck, sad and bruised.

Solo Ride by Hairy Back Ranch

Randell sent me the Solo-Ride free of charge to try and giveaway. I’ve had the Solo-Ride for about a month and it’s been making the rounds at my boarding barn getting tested out by different riders on different horses. The Solo-Ride is a well-made aluminum stirrup, on a nylon strap with padding under the stainless-steel hardware. To use it, you drape the nylon strap around the foreleg of your horse on the opposite side from where you’re mounting. The strap then drapes just in front of the withers, and you can adjust the stirrup height to wherever you need it. Once you’ve mounted, you unhook the strap and slip it in the included carrying case, which you can either wear (if you’re bareback) or tuck in a saddle bag.

Solo Ride Mounting Aid By Hairy Back Ranch

This is such a great idea to help you get back on without a boost or hunting for a suitable rock or log. You can use it for getting back on a bareback horse or to help when you can’t quite reach the saddle stirrup from the ground. You can see the Solo-Ride in action with a saddle here.

Or you can watch a video of the mounting aide being used on a bareback horse below.

Pink Pinecone Studio Neck Warmer

Next up is a handmade neck warmer by the Pink Pinecone Studio. You may recall I talked about Sara Baker and her artistic skills when she did a memorial painting of our dog Connor. Why do I love this neck warmer so much I bought one to give away to one of you lovelies? First off, it’s like a hug for your neck, it’s so soft and warm. Second reason I love this thing? It has no tails! Whenever I wear a scarf and lean over to pick hooves, the ends of my scarf always get in my face. I find it annoying. So I love that no matter what, my neck is warm and the scarf isn’t shifting or getting in my face. Once you try this thing, you’re going to wonder how you ever lived without it. And it requires no special care and feeding. Just toss it in the wash when you need to get the horse slobber off.

Pink Pine Cone Studio Neck Warmer
Don’t you just want to curl up with this cozy little thing? She makes blankets too!

Northwest Horse Source Subscription

I’ve been writing for Northwest Horse Source for two years now and I am so excited at the chance to give one of you lucky readers a free one-year subscription. In the age of the internet and arm-chair experts, Northwest Horse Source gives you useful information you can depend on. Their contributors are veterinarians, trainers and experienced horsemen and women. If you’re a horse-related business you can order bundles of the magazine to stock in your retail space.  My local feed store is where I first discovered Northwest Horse Source and it was a column by Trainer Allison Trimble that kept me checking back for new issues.

Northwest Horse Source Print Subscription

Barn Hack Bag

Last up, a little gift from me to you. I call it the Barn Hack Bag. I’ve packed some ultra-useful items to make barn life a little easier. Also, if you’re struggling on what to get your favorite boarders, this makes a great gift and can be put together for as little as $15.

Barn Hack Bag Makes A Great Gift under twenty five dollars

You can never have too many rags out at the barn so I’ve included two rags. During these winter months, I don’t care how puffy your jacket is or how well insulated your socks are, having hand and feet warmers can keep you going even on the coldest of days. I’ve included Softsoap antibacterial soap, which I use pretty much any time I need a good clean area on my horse, including cleaning wounds or washing rain rot patches. Along the same lines, triple antibiotic ointment is another barn necessity, so I’m throwing in a tube. Scissors. Where do they all go?? I’m giving you another pair. A toilet brush? Yes, a toilet brush. Toilet brushes are perfect for scrubbing out buckets. It’s brand new, I promise.

I’m also including a sample of Finish Line Herbal horse shampoo as well as a sample of Willowcin-X, a paste for when your horse has sore, stiff muscles due to a hard workout. Did you know you can save on your shampoo and conditioner when washing your horse’s tail? Once you’ve wet your horse’s tail, add shampoo or conditioner, and then add a bit of water to a plastic grocery bag and put the tail in the bag to work the suds/conditioner thoroughly into the hair. It will save you a lot of energy and product.

And the last thing in there is a strainer. Even if you don’t have a hay dunker (I’m not so lucky) having a strainer makes it easier to fish debris out of water troughs.

Barn Hack Bag For Equestrians

So about this giveaway… The Rules

There is no purchase necessary. The giveaway will take place on Facebook so you must have a Facebook account and you just need to like and comment on each post related to each giveaway item. Each item will be listed as a separate giveaway post so that way if you aren’t interested in a certain item, you’re not entered to win that item. For the Northwest Horse Source subscription, I will provide the winner’s information to the magazine. The neck warmer, Solo-Ride mounting aid and the barn hack back will be shipped by me personally and I will cover the shipping costs (it really is a free giveaway!). You can enter once a day for each item by adding a new comment to the giveaway post on Facebook. 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 item (4 items: 1 Solo-Ride mounting aid, 1 subscription, 1 neck warmer, 1 barn hack bag) and announced on Friday December 1st on the Sass In Boots Facebook page. The drawing will close at 5pm PST on Thursday November 30. 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 and giving these businesses a look-see.

Did you read all the rules?? You little rebel you! Go on over to my Facebook page and comment and like the free item posts to get entered.

Barn Hack Bag Necessities To Make Your Life Easier At The Barn

Don’t Make My Mistake: Thank A Farmer

Today was National Farmer’s Day.

I only saw one post on social media about it. None of the horse pages I follow mentioned it. Not even the feed stores I follow posted anything about it. They mentioned a fundraiser for FFA, Future FARMERS of America, but nothing about thanking a farmer. No wonder someone made a day to encourage some  recognition. Even on the day, farmers can’t get a thank you from those who should know better.

I’m not laying blame, just merely observing. Obviously I can’t judge the speck in someone else’s eye when I’m posting at ten o’clock at night the day of.

But I did think of some farmers today. There was Earl who wore overalls and a white shirt so thin you could see through it. He sold me my 4-H lambs while I was in middle school. There was also my friend’s dad who raised cattle, and hayed properties every summer while still showing houses as a realtor. But I never really appreciated those two farmers. I was too young. I didn’t have a concept of the work they did.

There is a farmer though who I knew right away was special. Initially he won a place in my heart because he kept his promise that he wouldn’t make me back up my trailer to his hay stack. I didn’t know how. He just chuckled and said I wouldn’t have to back the trailer up. When I first bought my horse Gangster, that man even let my buy a ton of hay but leave half of it stored with him to pick up a few months later. He didn’t give me a receipt or take down my name. He just said “sure” when I asked him if he could store half of it. This blows my mind five years later because real estate on a farm is precious, and he let me take up room in his barn for no additional cost.

Stacked Hay Bales

He was already old when I met him. Somewhere on the back half of his eighties I believe. He was always outside when I pulled onto the property. He’d see me and stop what he was doing to step into a tractor and load bales. I had to be patient though because gentlemen in their late eighties don’t move with the swiftness of youth. A little extra time was a small price to pay for the knowledge that my money was going directly in his pocket. My money kept his business going and put food in his lean belly.

I always wanted to make him an apple pie.

I never did.

That farmer passed away last January.

It’s funny how you can have such affection for someone you barley know at all. But I did. I cried when I found out Lloyd with the horse hay died.

You don’t have to do anything for National Farmer’s Day. But I beg you to tell a farmer how much you appreciate the hard work they do and the long hours they put in to feed you and your animals. Better yet, show them. Make them a pie. I lost my chance.

cow at watering trough

Barrel Racer Amberley Snyder: Racing While Paralyzed

How do you think you would respond to a devastating change to your life? One that impacted your mobility, your athleticism and interfered with your ability to follow your passion? Perhaps you know because you’ve lived through such a blow. In the deepest reaches of my soul, I don’t know how resilient I would be. When I first saw Amberley Snyder, paralyzed from the waist down, I was in awe. How could you not be? She not only survived a rollover accident that ejected her from the vehicle, but she’s thriving and rejecting the limitations of what typically can be accomplished with a T11/T12 spinal cord injury. Amberley’s accident happened 7 years ago, when she was just 18. Her life stretching before her like an open highway to endless rodeo wins. But in the time it took for Amberley to overcorrect the wheel, that life ended and a new journey began.

Although the first doctor to treat Amberley told her riding horses would be out of the question, her resolve was firm in that she’d be back in the saddle. She felt sure that in all the ways her life would be different, her life with horses would remain. Sure enough, she was back on horseback by April, just four months after her injury. But that resolve was tested one day in August, eight months after her accident, on a trail ride with her mom. Her mom’s horse started acting up, being a bit naughty. In her old life, she would have traded horses with her mom and schooled the naughty pony. But with her new limitations, she could no longer play that role. In that moment she felt she had truly lost her ability to have horses. She told her mom to sell them. If she couldn’t train her horses to her liking, then she didn’t want to have them at all. But her mom didn’t sell the horses, and Amberley didn’t give up on her dream to keep riding and competing.

Amberley Snyder Barrel Racing on Faith

And compete she did. Winning her first buckle in 2016. Her first since the accident. I asked if she was nervous to be strapped to her horses (she rides seat-belted into the saddle, her legs secured into the stirrups). She hasn’t been nervous because she’s been careful to get on horses she trusts, the surefooted and well-behaved ones. Her mom did catch flack, however, at the races for “letting her daughter be strapped to a horse.” If I could see Amberley I’m sure she’s shrugging at this. As if her mom could have stopped Amberley if even if she wanted to.

It took a bit of time between the accident and winning at a race. I asked if she ever doubted herself, how she stayed motivated. She credits her hardworking family for bringing her up with a resilient attitude. She was brought up to work hard and dedicate herself to her passion. Although this new set of challenges were not what she pictured for herself, her dedication to achieve her goals was already a part of her spirit before the accident.

Amberley Snyder Horse Love

What the accident did bring out of her is a deeper understanding and empathy for other people’s struggles. She’s come to understand that everyone has some kind of trial they are working through. She has brought that deeper level of empathy and encouragement to her public speaking events. Encouraging the idea that people need to focus on what we each are capable of and not put limitations on ourselves or others. She heard three different physicians at three different points in her recovery tell her she would never barrel race again. But they had never met Amberley before. They didn’t realize it wasn’t a question of if, but rather how she would ride and compete again.

Do you get a sense of just how fierce and faithful she is? Those traits are driving her work to walk again. In December, while in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo, she worked with Project Walk. Physiologically you can’t make a muscle fire that doesn’t have an operational nerve, but they worked to identify previously undiscovered firing nerves that she can continue to develop and use to make her muscles work and grow.

Amberley Snyder Horsewoman Inspiration Horseback Rider

She knows that one way or another, either through miracle or medicine, she will walk again. I don’t doubt that she will make this dream a reality as well.

Currently she is working on her masters in school counseling, traveling each week for public speaking engagements. Any free time she has is spent cooking or catching up on Netflix. Although, as you can imagine, she doesn’t have much free time.

Amberley is a brilliant example of how we get to decide what we are capable of. Whether we remain trembling beginners in our sport, in our jobs, in our dreams, or if we stretch and push and grow in order to make our desires reality. She certainly makes an excellent case that the choice is ours.

You can follow Amberley’s exploits on Facebook

I’m clearly not nearly as awesome as Amberley, but you can also follow me as well on Facebook

Do you have your own story of resiliency and pushing through the limits you thought you had? I’d love to hear it.

All photos courtesy of Amberley Snyder.