The Year 2020 Vs. The Bucket List

Last Winter season, during February 2020, I sent out a post titled “What is on Your Equestrian Bucket List?”. Read the original post at

https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/10/what-is-on-your-equestrian-bucket-list/

As someone whose life has taken a number of unexpected twists and turns, I am slowly learning to not attach my sense of happiness to particular outcomes. What happens when I’m TOO hooked on an imagined ending and then arrive at a different real-life ending? This scenario often leads to my getting stuck in a lot of self-recrimination and regret if I don’t hit the exact target. On the other hand, I am pretty goal oriented. I do like to have things to strive for.

I now try to maintain a better balance regarding my drive to meet certain goals. I want to orchestrate them as a guide to help orient me to the general direction of my life, remembering to enjoy the ride along the way, without getting super narrow about the exact destination. The following quote summaries this outlook.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Ursula K. Leguin

So when I started this blog in January 2020, I chose not to include a list of specific resolutions tied to 2020. Instead, I included a bucket list of things with no particular time frame for completion. I did end up doing one of the six listed items in 2020. I rode in a couple of walk-trot classes at a “lesson horse only” schooling show earlier this month. But since I’d like to eventually take Shiloh to a local show, too, I am leaving horse showing on my bucket list for future use.

Considering how the pandemic narrowed options for most of us, I feel fortunate to have stayed healthy and stayed regularly in the saddle in 2020 even without completing more bucket list items. I find it interesting that at the end of 2019, I remember really looking forward to 2020. Here’s a quote from my original bucket list post

“… 2020 seems like a great year to try something new or reach for a long-held goal. Those round, even numbers just roll off the tongue when you say them. The numbers call to me somehow. It’s like 2020 wants to be featured prominently as part of my life story.”

As it turns out, 2020 was a difficult year to navigate with the pandemic. Watching people absorb change and loss on a mass scale is daunting. The death toll is enormous. The changes to the economy have real-life repercussions.

Against this backdrop, 2020 on the whole was oddly a good year for me personally for a few reasons:

-My husband no longer works in a different State (read this post https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/09/07/bears-meeting-with-a-colorado-brand-inspector/ if you want the skinny on that story).

– I finally started to make some good riding progress with Shiloh and also completed ten trailer trips off the property.

-Bear, at twenty-five years old with PPID, EMS and arthritis, had a remarkably good year. No emergency vet visits for him in a little over two years now.

So, long story short, my equestrian bucket list still stands as is:

*Ride in a parade
*Ride in a horse fair/expo demo
*Try a “new to me” discipline like maybe endurance riding, mounted archery or jousting
*Adopt another horse
*Work cattle from horseback again
*Ride in a horse show again

Life is both precious and precarious, whether during a pandemic or not. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. And yet some future consideration is warranted in case we do stick around longer than today. May we all learn to find that ideal balance of living fully in each moment today while working towards tomorrow’s goals.

Fun and Festive Horse Craft for Winter!

Some folks might see peppermints as mainly a holiday candy. I see them as fair game for the entire Winter season.

Peppermints just look so inviting and outright happy to me. I can’t help but crack a smile when I see a peppermint.

Not only are they tasty for both horse and human, but their shape, texture and fun coloring lend themselves to many cooking and craft uses.

While scrolling through Pinterest, I came across this pin at https://www.anallievent.com/peppermint-candy-ornaments/ and later added it to The Backyard Horse Blog Pinterest “Horse Crafts” Board at https://www.pinterest.com/thebackyardhorseblog/horse-crafts/.

I put an equestrian spin on the idea by using a horsey cookie-cutter to make the craft.

While the peppermint horse would certainly look nice on a holiday tree, its potential goes beyond ornament status. You could also use it to decorate the outside of a cookie tin. Another option is to tie it to a present. Either way you have an additional fun and edible gift for all those human and horse Winter birthdays.

Don’t forget that the red color lends itself well to Valentine’s Day. And you could use those green peppermints for St. Patrick’s Day too.

According to the original Pinterest Pin instructions, you will need peppermint candies (I used Starlight mints), metal cookie cutters, nonstick cooking spray (I used a canola oil spray) and parchment paper. You preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the insides of your metal cookie cutters with cooking spray. Arrange peppermint candies inside the cookie cutters. Cook them for about 6 to 8 minutes. Take them out to briefly cool. Poke holes at their tops to later add hanging string. Last but not least, pop them out of the cookie cutters.

I followed the instructions closely, but I did run into a couple of glitches. For example, I needed to add more candies than shown in the photos. With my horse cookie-cutter, I ended up using 13 candies and stacking some of them to better fill out the head and legs. The saying “no hoof no horse” applies to this craft.

I also had problems with the candies melting out from under the cookie cutters. This resulted in a blob, not a horse. And I found it tricky to pop out the candy from the cookie cutter without destroying the horse. I broke several necks and snapped more than one limb.

My hints to avoid similar candy carnage? Make sure your metal cookie-cutters lie flat on the cookie pan. Use cookies pans that aren’t warped. Consider using a glass Pyrex dish to put over the top of the cookie-cutters to tamp them down flat (and then be prepared to cook the peppermints about twice as long as the original recipe). Go very slowly while removing them from the cutters, using gentle and even pressure to pry the horses loose.

If you do end up with any broken pieces, never fear. Remember that they can still be eaten by you, your horse or dropped into a cup of hot cocoa. Yum.

So do you have any Winter craft ideas for creating home-made equestrian gifts or decor?

www.thebackyardhorseblog.com

***Please note today’s post will be my only blog post this week. After celebrating the reason for the Christmas season, next week I plan to resume my typical 3X a week posting schedule. ***

“Every time a person writes, for the public or not, he or she is connected to all who have ever felt that magnificent charge of communication through the written word- whether carved in ancient hieroglyphics or glowing in code across our computers… there will always be the brilliant conspiracy between author and reader.” – Betsy Lerner in The Forest For The Trees

This quote from the book, The Forest For The Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, anchors the written work across time and space. If a writer chooses to share their thoughts, the writing lives a life of its own beyond the author. It becomes part of the reader too. In the best case scenario, the writer’s words leave an impact, giving the reader something of value to take with them when they close the book or power down the screen (or leave the Egyptian temple in the case of reading hieroglyphics?).

Maybe the reader finds a moment of release through entertainment. Maybe a parcel of information they can apply to their own lives. Maybe the inspiration to think about an issue from a different perspective. Maybe the motivation to try something new. To me, this must be part of that “brilliant conspiracy between author and reader” that Betsy Lerner described. I hope that The Backyard Horse Blog has entertained, informed or inspired you, the readers, at some point this year.

In preparation for 2021, I finished The Backyard Horse Blog website update. I still have a few future tweaks in mind, but the main changes stand complete. I felt some frustration, but the process went much better than I anticipated. The blog did not explode. I did not cry even once. I have to say I am impressed with the use of the blog hosting program, WordPress, for a non-techie like me.

If you receive The Backyard Horse Blog posts via email and don’t typically visit the website to read the posts, please head on over to http://www.thebackyardhorseblog.com.

Take a look at the new set up. Click through the site. My backyard horses encourage you to have some fun and run with it!

Further Banter About The Canter

A brief December warm up in my area has come to an end. I am thinking that my at-home riding is pretty much done for Winter, save for the occasional bareback stroll perhaps.

In late 2019, I had some footing installed in my roundpen that allows me to get in more rides at home than I did when the footing was just grass. Still, it’s no substitute for an indoor arena as protection against wicked Winter weather. Instead, I am starting to think about my potential 2021 goals for Shiloh, particularly in regard to the canter.

I had been hoping to add the canter to our riding repertoire this year. Back in the Fall with Winter approaching, I decided to dispense with cantering on the longe and give it a try mounted. I first mentioned my canter plans in the “Banter About The Canter” post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/11/02/banter-about-the-canter/. Since then, we have practiced canter transitions a hand full of times with varying degrees of success.

Shiloh seems to understand what I am asking and also seems happy to give it a go. We can usually now get maybe eight canter strides or so going to the right. But in the other direction, I feel like he is trying to organize himself for the canter but can’t quite make it happen.

We both kind of get out of position during the attempted transition in the difficult direction to the left, and Shiloh ends up moving into a hard pace rather than canter. I’ve been very pleased that we’ve mostly moved away from pacing at the walk and at the intermediate gait. But the pace still pops out at times during moments of physical/mental tension. In the pictures below, you can see the difference in our way of going to the left and right just after I ask for the canter.

We may be at the point where we need some additional support to further our canter work. I have already started resuming Winter riding lessons on lesson horses at a nearby barn so I should get some good cantering practice this Winter in an aim to improve my position/feel/timing apart from Shiloh.

Adding Shiloh back into the mix, I’m making a list of possible interventions at home such as asking a professional to throw a leg over Shiloh a few times or maybe arranging some chiropractic or massage sessions.

Back in the day, there were times with Bear that I found some combination of the above interventions helpful to our progress.

For example, I remember struggling during a multi-day clinic to get even one step of sidepass from Bear. The clinician eventually asked me to dismount so he could mount up. Within about five minutes, he had Bear sidepassing. I wasn’t able to get the concept across to Bear, but the clinician was, and I was then able to continue from there. It was a quick intervention that saved Bear and I grief.

Likewise with chiropractic and body work. I found that regular chiropractic work as he aged helped Bear pick up his left lead canter so much more easily than without it. Here we are during a lesson from a reining instructor in Colorado. No, we weren’t reiners, but boy do those reining folks canter A LOT, so it was a great opportunity to practice work at that gait.


It was never that Bear couldn’t or wouldn’t do those movements. Rather, I wasn’t giving him the tools that he needed. He needed more support than I could give him alone, so I sought outside help.

It is disappointing and frustrating not being the kind of effective rider that I’d otherwise like. This is an unfortunate reality for many of us who are horse enthusiasts. Sometimes our skills and talents fall considerably below our level of riding passion and ambition.

I don’t ride as effectively as I would like, but I can put in effort to improve, recognize my limitations and seek help at points along the way. To that end, I came across an article about a week ago. It has some really interesting insights about the canter.

The article is by Jec Aristotle Ballou, author of 101 Dressage Exercises fame. I mentioned her in my previous post describing the “equine pole straddling” exercise. Jec is definitely one of my favorite horse training/riding authors. I’m including the “Benefits to Cantering Your Horse” link here in case you’d like to read it:

https://www.horsejournals.com/riding-training/english/dressage/benefits-cantering-your-horse.

The article gives me great food for thought as I make plans for, Lord willing, more cantering with Shiloh in 2021!

What to do on a warm winter day?

How about some groundwork play with ponies?

Last week, I took advantage of a brief warm snap to ride, do some property maintenance and play around with my horses on the ground.

In his retirement, Bear mostly likes to spend his time walking between hay piles.

Sometimes, though, Bear still likes to show off his groundwork moves in exchange for a treat or two. Without my asking, he will prop himself up on one of the two tire pedestals that is in the horses’ paddock. Then he might go through his little repertoire of “salutes” or “bows” with my giving him a treat after each maneuver.

Shiloh will see what is going on and usually come on over to get in on the action. He’s always up for treats.

A “new to me” groundwork exercise that I just started playing around with is the “stand your horse lengthwise over a pole”. I got the idea from the blog, Equine Ink, in a post that referenced an article in the Canadian Horse Journal at

https://www.horsejournals.com/riding-training/english/dressage/building-stronger-horses

Here is a video on Facebook of the exercise:

The article and video are by Jec Aristotle Ballou of 101 Dressage Exercises and 101 Western Dressage Exercises fame. Definitely one of my favorite horse training authors.

I’ll let the article link and the Facebook video link above tell you about the exercise, but in my practicing it with Shiloh, I will say that I was impressed with the challenge.

Shiloh did manage to straddle the pole with two front hooves but was very careful to keep both hind hooves on the right side of the pole. No straddling of back hooves for him just yet. I could see Shiloh carefully thinking through the placement of his hooves and immediately recognized the potential benefits of the exercise that the article described.

A lot of Jec’s exercises are like that pole straddling. Super quiet and low key. Easy to set up. And yet with surprisingly deep benefits for the horse. It’s definitely something I can easily play around with over Winter while I’m not riding much at home. I haven’t practiced pole straddling with Bear yet, but it is on my Winter to do list. I’ll have to see if I can snap a photo of one or both horses with all four hooves straddling the pole!

Rebates on PRASCEND, EQUIOXX, GASTROGUARD and ULCERGUARD

My senior backyard horse, Bear, has been prescribed Prascend and Equioxx for over three years now. Prascend addresses the symptoms of PPID (Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction or Cushing’s Disease). Equioxx is a pain reliever that helps mitigate discomfort caused by Bear’s arthritis symptoms.

While both medications seem to work well for him, they are painfully expensive for me to purchase. I pretty much wince every time I ask for a refill.

Fortunately, the company that sells both these prescribed products has offered rebates for several years now. I certainly hope they continue to do so. The rebates are a balm to my budget, especially when I purchase the larger quantity boxes/bottles to get the best price per pill.

The company that offers the Prascend and Equioxx rebates also issues them for Gastroguard and Ulcerguard. I have never used the latter two products, but if I had to, I would want to take advantage of those rebates too.

Go to https://www.boehringeringelheimequinerebates.com/#/home for all the details and to fill out the rebate forms online. Please note that you must first purchase the prescribed medications from your veterinarian before you can apply for the rebate offers.

Review- Face Mask Coverlet (Snowflake Horse Winter Holiday Design) by The Painting Pony

If there is something that equestrians face constantly, it is risk. I weigh risk at the barn on a daily basis. Every time I am with my horses on the ground. Every time I put a foot in the stirrup. As horsemen, we assess the risks of interacting with our horses and implement appropriate safety measures. We also deal with the very real outcomes of our safety decisions. As a backyard horse keeper, this is something I do on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

There are no guarantees of absolute safety in working with horses. We try to make smart decisions while going about our daily horse lives. We want to continue to do what we love.

Weighing the risk of contracting the Corona virus (or unwittingly being a silent carrier and passing it on to others) is not dissimilar to me. I make adjustments to when- how much- at what distance I interact with others in an effort to mitigate risk while still living my life. Even though a vaccine is on the horizon, it looks like mask-wearing to lower the spread of the virus will be recommended by health officials for the foreseeable future.

If you are looking for a mask specifically for Winter, check out the Snowflake Horse Winter Holiday Face Mask Coverlet by The Painting Pony.

When I first saw it online, the beautiful design and bright colors (red or blue) caught my eye. When I read that it contained a pocket to add a disposable earloop mask, I knew I had to order one. What a great idea! While the mask may be touted as a holiday mask, I think the universal Winter design will make it appropriate for wearing until Spring.

I recently wore the coverlet with disposable mask to a group riding lesson and to a schooling show. I wore the combination in the barns but also took the mask off to ride. I was able to take the mask off easily even while wearing my riding helmet. The coverlet was comfortable to wear and stayed in place well. Having two earloops did not irritate the skin on the backs of my ears. While the combination of a coverlet and disposable mask might be a bit too much cover in the heat of Summer, it works for Winter.

The 100% polyester mask coverlet, size 7″ x 3.5″ is machine washable. Please note that it does not come with a disposable face mask. You provide your own. While there are certainly cheaper masks available, the lovely design and the coverlet feature made it worth the price to me.

Go to https://thepaintingpony.com/snowflake-horse-winter-holiday-face-mask-coverlet/ to order. While the coverlet is the only item I have ordered from The Painting Pony, I wouldn’t mind having many of the other items I saw advertised on their site. Looks like a great place to buy all sorts of fun and attractive horse-themed items!

**** Please note this review was unsolicited and uncompensated by The Painting Pony. 🙂

Can’t Ride During Winter? Six Ideas For What To Do Instead

Is your riding season winding down? Depending upon where you live, you might be experiencing the start of Winter just like I am. Without an indoor arena to protect from wind, cold and snow, I find it painful to ride at home in Winter. I might enjoy the occasional ride on an unusually warm and dry day, but any hope of regular riding at home is dashed.

Very soon I will most likely have my final backyard ride of the year. I’ve already been making my annual Winter transition to taking lessons at a nearby barn on their lesson horses. I even recently participated in a lesson-horse-only schooling show.

I enjoy my lessons and learn so much. They definitely make me a better rider. But sometimes my budget, holiday schedules, polar vortexes, six-foot snows or a pandemic interfere with those riding plans too. Over the years, I have had many a Winter where I didn’t ride for weeks or months at a time.

If like me, you find it incredibly depressing to have your riding plans sidelined every Winter, read my recent guest-post on The Savvy Horsewoman Blog titled “What to Do If You Can’t Ride in The Wintertime.” Just click the link below for six ideas on what to do instead. While there’s no exact substitute for time in the saddle, there are ways to keep moving forward in our horsemanship journeys even when we can’t ride much or at all.

Movin’ on Up: The Backyard Horse Blog gets its own website

When I started this blog in January 2020, I decided to use a WordPress-hosted, free site at https://thebackyardhorseblog.wordpress.com/the-backyard-horse-blog. I wasn’t really sure if I’d take to blogging so a free site seemed a harmless way to test the waters.

After almost a year of blogging, I recently got an invitation to host an affiliate link for Trafalgar Square Publishing’s HorseandRiderbooks website. Affiliate links allow the hosting website to earn money every time a reader purchases an item after clicking on the affiliate link.

Horses and reading are high on my “favorites” list. I knew I had to take advantage of this hosting invitation, but there was a problem. My free site didn’t seem to allow me to post affiliate links. At the same time, I balked at the price of purchasing a self-hosted website that would allow me to display them. I had a dilemma on my hands.

Lo and behold, within days of learning about the affiliate opportunity, I received an email offer for a substantial discount on the price of a self-hosted website. Talk about kismet. Now The Backyard Horse Blog has evolved into having its very own web address at http://www.thebackyardhorseblog.com.

And here is The Backyard Horse Blog’s very own affiliate link to HorseandRider Books:

https://www.horseandriderbooks.com/category/WNEW.html?Affiliate=thebackyardhorseblog.

The Backyard Horse Blog can now earn money every time a reader clicks on the affiliate link and purchases an item. I enjoy making money. My backyard horses enjoy when I take said money and purchase treats for them. It all comes full circle, right?

My first improvement to the website was adding a Pinterest sharing link to the bottom of each post. Pinterest is so far the only social media platform where I participate. I am excited to have readers now be able to share content with Pinterest via one simple button click.

I have further website improvements in mind, but the structural process of upgrading the blog is new to me. And a little scary. I will be taking the month of December to learn about the new features available to me as I make changes to the blog website.

I still plan to post blog content this month, but if the blog momentarily goes dark or you notice some inconsistencies, please see them as part of my blogging learning-process and not as an intention to jump ship.

It’s kind of like when you put yourself out there in a horse show arena with the best of intentions. You are looking for things to go well, but you are also aware that things sometimes go sideways. You might go off pattern in a dressage test, hit a barrel during a run or let the cow sneak back to the herd after a cut. When we dare to act, we dare to fail. For better or worse, it’s all part of life.

Long story short, I look forward to continuing the blog as I try to implement some structural changes within the new site. Hopefully all will go smoothly, but since you are along for the ride, you might want to check your girth.

Horsin’ Around with Puzzles

Do you like to complete puzzles? I’m not a fan of the one-thousand-piece wheat field type of puzzle. A puzzle with horses? Now I like that!

I recently stumbled upon the website I’m A Puzzle. It allows you to put together puzzles online. The site provides gallerys of photos, including horse ones, to be made into virtual puzzles. For even more fun, you can upload your own photo as I did with the above photo featuring Bear and me when we lived in Colorado.

You don’t need any kind of plugin or app. You simply select a picture, game mode (puzzle piece shape) and game difficulty (number of puzzle pieces). You then click “create” and voilà! Your virtual puzzle appears onscreen. Finally, press “start” and your puzzle will display with all its pieces separated.

Now the fun of putting the puzzle back together begins. A timer tracks your work. You know you’ve correctly added a new piece to the puzzle when you drag it onto the board and the piece pops off the screen in a 3D kind of way and then snaps into place. No pop and snap means the pieces don’t go together.

When you play, the website gives you a generic ID that you can leave as is or customize with your information. The time it takes to finish the puzzle is tracked against other players (or just yourself in the case of selecting your own uploaded picture). You can see your time and rank as compared to other players for those of you who like to engage in some competition.

When you complete the puzzle, confetti comes down across your screen. Very reinforcing! For you clicker trainers out there, you may appreciate that the confetti coming down was definitely a click and treat moment for me. I couldn’t wait to do another puzzle after that first confetti reward! Never mind that it took me like one hundred times as long to complete my first gallery puzzle as the fastest ranked player.

If you are rearing to give it a go, head on over to
https://im-a-puzzle.com/gallery/gallery.php?gallery=Horses.

Let’s Talk About An Eclectic Approach to Horses

ECLECTIC- Selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles

Definition from http://www.yourdictionary.com

If you have followed this blog for awhile, you may have noticed that I like pulling from different discplines and training styles. I don’t stick to one discipline or one training philosophy. I don’t object to others who do. It’s just that has not been my particular path. I’m constantly gathering information from one source or another.

Some folks might see this as a rather scattered approach to learning about horses, but for me, I see patterns. The details might be different, but I often find deep connections between seemingly dissimilar styles of riding.

Sure, breeds and disciplines have their distinct differences. Even so, they are still dealing with the basic nature and mechanics of the horse’s mind and body. Take away all of the trappings, and a horse is a horse.

I like to learn about the “whys” and “hows” of various styles so I have a well-stocked pantry of information I can use at home with my backyard horses. I’ve often thought working with them is a lot like cooking. On a good day, I combine different ingredients to create one delicious result.

In recognition of that fact, I like to post a variety of links to different horse professionals. I know that not everything shared on this blog will be appealing to all readers. And not everyone likes an eclectic approach. Nevertheless, I hope that all readers will find something at some point that resonates deeply and is helpful to your own horsemanship journey.

So continuing in this same eclectic vein today, I share a link to a video from CRK Training at https://www.crktrainingblog.com/better-riding/arm-position-for-riders-hands-at-the-withers/. Callie King from Honey Brook Stables shares her expertise via her CRK Training Blog. Most of her material comes in short articles and video clips illustrating a basic riding principle, exercise, etc . . . She comes mainly from a hunter/jumper background but has experience in other disciplines too.

I find I can apply a lot of her information even though I don’t ride in a huntseat saddle at home. The material is easily digestible, and for someone like me with an unsteady internet connection, I appreciate the short video clips that play better than lengthy ones.

The most recent video clip I saw was about arm position in the saddle. She talks about how rider conformation plays a roll in rider arm position. This caught my attention.

As someone built with short arms and legs myself, I constantly struggle to find some kind of effective riding position. As horse people, we hear lots of talk about horse conformation and how it enhances or limits horse athleticism. We hear less often about how rider conformation does the same for the human.

On a side note, Callie rides in a bitless bridle for this episode. Readers may remember that I ride my horse, Shiloh, in a bitless bridle. I don’t have a whole lot of experience viewing how other peoples’ horses go in bitless get ups, so I found it super interesting to see.

While you are on the CRK site at https://www.crktrainingblog.com/, check out their other offerings. Whether you are a beginner rider or further along, I think you will find something useful on her site that you can go right out and apply during your next ride. I got word that Callie has a book coming out soon too. I’m definitely looking forward to reading that one!