I have been doing a lot of decorating here at the farm house. This house (a small and simple 1890 farm house) is by no means my dream house. However, it's been a fun place to experiment with decorating on a budget and I haven't been afraid to try techniques I might be afraid to try in my final home. Also, I have been decking out the entire place equestrian-style. Why not? My husband and I hosted Thanksgiving at the farm this year, which motivated us to have the place ready in time. Recently, I decorated my dining room in silver and grey with an equestrian theme. There are still a couple of projects left to complete. I have a French-style arm chair I plan to upholster in dapple gray fabric. I may use some stirrup leathers as curtain tie backs, and we plan to build an oak farm table out of salvaged 120 year old boards from our barn. I also might consider a rug. Until then, I put together a gallery of what I have done. I also have included some "before" pictures. Keep in mind that this house was in tear down condition when we bought it. It's come a long way!
I am officially a resident of Chester County, and so is Patrick! We moved Patrick to a full service hunter jumper facility in July and I moved into my (still under renovation) farmhouse with the family in August.
Since we’ve been here, we’ve been focused on settling in and getting the house done so we can move on to the barn and farm renovation. This month I finally feel that we have the house under control. We have more painting, decorating and finish work and organizing to do, but the place is pretty functional at this point. The key is not to stop the work until we are actually done.
I have gotten into lessons with the same riding instructor I started riding with when I was seven. She has retained her gift of being able to explain concepts really well, and as a result, I’ve been able to improve a couple aspects of my equitation since I’ve been riding at the farm. Most of the time, I ride in an all-adult group lesson, which is fun.
I have gotten a chance to show in two Chester County Horse Show Association (CCHSA) shows since I’ve been here. The first was a local day at the Devon Show Grounds in July. It was one of my favorite shows ever. My former regular trainer/good friend Julie came up from Maryland to help me. Patrick did great on the grounds and we ended up Reserve Champion in the pre-adult hunters, 5th in a special two round hunter classic and he won both of his hacks with about 20 in the class. It was a beautiful, well run show. That historic, baby blue show grounds adds an air of class, even if you’re just there for a schooling show on a Wednesday.
My second show was an indoor show at Wyndsor Farm. We earned some seconds, thirds and fourths. I made some minor mistakes over fences. In particular, we had some repeated late lead changes in the more enclosed space. I don’t like to over-school lead changes on a horse that knows them, but I have been schooling Mr. Lazy on them a bit lately since I’m not sure he got the memo that they are mandatory, not optional, even if your course is over and you are just doing your courtesy circle. Hopefully, the next time we show in a smaller ring, we will do our changes better. I also had a harder time than usual with distances in the lines. There was no problem getting down the lines, but I’m not sure if the lines were set “normal” or not (the course diagrams weren’t marked). For me, two of the lines rode pretty regularly while one rode so short we left out a stride once! I admit that I wasn’t entirely happy with my hack placings, because Patrick was great, you couldn’t ask for a better mover or a better behaved horse, and I’m not sure what the issue was, but hey, that’s showing. Oh, and I’m not biased at all!
In any case, it was a pleasant, confidence building show. I warmed up my own horse, and it was a successful first time out with my new coaches. Patrick was a very good boy and added to my confidence. On videos, I can see that he was a bit sluggish at times, so I might have to try lighting him up a bit next time. I think we can handle it. There are so many lovely horses and riders in Chester County. I welcome it. Doing well in a show class means so much more to me when I know we are in excellent company, and my little horse fits right in.
Patrick will be staying at the boarding stable until the facility at my home is up and running. I think that should be late summer or early fall but we shall see. For me, the farm is my family’s (hopefully) forever home and renovating it is a marathon, not a sprint, but must be done right. Some parts of it, like the historic barn I intend to last longer than my lifetime, no pressure!
We are going to try to finish out the barn inside and out over this winter and I intend to post updates on this blog. My husband, Will, intends to do most of the work himself. He is very talented at building and fixing things but this is a tall order. I have no doubt he can do it…the question is how long will it take? Hubby also has a day job which he has to do to fund aforementioned farm as well as general horse stuff. We also plan to install the fencing, which will be black, tensioned vinyl 3-rail Ramm fencing. I am really excited about that because I know the fencing will transform this place into look like a real farm.
After a winter of schooling, baby care and work on the newly purchased farm, March finally arrived. With Spring on its way in, I thought I'd better try a horse show.
Horse shows make me nervous even though they usually go pretty well for me, so I shouldn't be overly nervous. Heck, even the thought of scheduling a horse show sometimes makes me nervous. Furthermore, I had been taking care of my baby, Liam, on the weekends solo while my husband, Will, worked on the farmhouse, making it difficult to show since most shows are on Saturday or Sunday.
I was going through all of the logistics in my head and realized that I was over-analyzing everything and I had better stop thinking about whether or not I could manage to show and just schedule a show!
I picked a local farm show because it's a shorter day, an easier trailer trip and a small friendly show. I told Julie (my trainer) that I needed to "just do something" to break the ice. After all, with being pregnant and then having a newborn, I hadn't showed since April of the previous year.
The farm show was everything I had hoped it would be; a good ice breaker! I went over with my friend, Mary Ann, and her horse Lincoln and Julie met us there with her horse, Cat. Another friend from the barn babysat Liam at her house while I showed.
Liam is a very good, easy going baby, but horse show prep with a baby is definitely harder than horse show prep without one. In spite of that, I made it to the show where Patrick and I kind of picked up where we left off. The only thing I wasn't used to was the pace for jumping down show lines. I felt like I was going mach10 but as you will see in the video I will post, we weren't moving fast at all. We went in an open equitation and an open hunter division. My eq test could have been better. Of my three jump courses, two were decent and one I thought was quite good. The good one was my handy hunter course which I will post here. We were Champion for both divisions.
So I think it's fair to say we are back and it mostly feels like we never left the show ring. I have survived pregnancy, birth, being the mom of a newborn and I'm still riding and showing. I give myself little credit for this feat. It is more a testament to the awesomeness of my support system, especially my husband and my friends who are willing to babysit long enough for me to ride my horse.
I was asked recently by a friend about my preferences for riding clothes and if it was worth it to purchase certain items. My top 3 are as follows:
#1 Insulated Paddock Boots-I have Ariat Brossard Paddock Boots. Retail-~$120. Imagine never having cold toes at the barn again and never having to fear that pain you get from cold toes when you dismount the horse and it feels like your toes are gonna fall off. I lived and rode in Maine for several years and these insulated riding boots are my number one most useful cold weather riding gear purchase of all time. They basically changed my life. I like the Brossards because they are rugged in their construction and have a synthetic upper which also makes them waterproof. I am normally not a fan of synthetic boots (instead of leather) but it works well in these boots and they won’t get wet in the snow, so they are also good for barn chores. They are comfortable to walk in too. If you purchase these, you will not regret it.
#2 Insulated Breeches-I have Kerrits Sit Tight n’ Warm knee patch breeches. Retail-$99-120. They also come in full seat. They are much warmer than regular breeches. They have an outer surface that does not attract horse hair and dirt, etc. They have a wide waistband and are lined with microfleece which makes them comfortable. I am told they run slightly long, so while they fit people of average height like me, if you are petite you might consider other brands.
#3 Heavy weight insulated riding gloves-I have a pair of medium weight insulated gloves by Kerrits that are not much thicker than a regular pair of gloves. I also have a heavier, bulkier pair of insulated Dover Saddlery brand gloves (they may not sell this particular type anymore, but they are similar to the SSG microfiber thinsulate gloves sold at Dover for about $14). I wear the most appropriate pair based on the weather and if it’s really cold, I layer them and pull off the over pair when I need to do tasks that require me to be more dexterous.
What I might like for winter gear that I don’t already have:
A pair of riding overpants-Like the Mountain Horse Mountain Rider Pant-Retail-$99 at Smartpak. I would like to wear these over breeches on really cold days for riding and doing barn chores. They look like snow pants but with grippy legs and seat so you don’t slide right off the horse. They also look like they’d be handy in the event of spilling part of a water bucket on oneself in the middle of winter or similar barn chore accidents. If you’ve ever had that happen you’ll understand what I mean.
What I don’t need for winter riding:
I think that riding-specific jackets are generally over-rated. You can probably get a warmer jacket at a better value that is not riding-specific or stay warm by layering, depending on your climate. Similarly, neck cozies, scarves (as long as you tuck them into your jacket for safety) and ear warmers are all useful for staying warm but don’t have to be specifically made to be “riding apparel.” In addition, when I purchase winter riding apparel, I try to buy items I can use for both riding and barn chores since I only want to get dressed once when it’s cold out and I don’t want to mess with my clothes at all once I’m out at the barn.
If I could have one splurge for an item I don’t already own:
I would buy the Gersemi Isabella Long Plaid Coat (Retail-$279 at Smartpak). I would buy it for no other reason than it is pretty and I like it. I am sure there are warmer coats out there, and I have just gone on about how I think riding specific coats are unnecessary, but if I was going to buy one, I would buy a long one for added warmth and wind protection, and no, I probably wouldn't do barn chores in it because it would be too nice.
I would like to announce a new addition to my life. Please welcome the Hunter Jumper Connection baby, and I need to clarify for all of my horsepeople; I mean an actual human baby, not a foal or a new pony!
William "Liam" Campion Jones was born on October 12, 2013. He weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was 21.5" long. His hands and feet were so large, he immediately earned the nickname "Squatch" and in Sasquatch, you know, Big Foot. My husband is 6'7", so between that and the size of the feet, I may soon have a large lad on my hands. Both Liam and I are doing well although let me tell you if you don't know, having a young baby is all-consuming!
I am finally starting to come up for (short breaths) of air, but like everyone says, totally worth it! Liam is seven weeks old now. I have been visiting Patrick regularly but have only been on him once. I'm looking forward to getting back to riding later this week.
Yes, it's true! Not only are we having a baby in a matter of days, but we bought a farm. Yes, we are crazy, but my husband and I have actually put a lot of thought into this and for us, it's the right thing to do. We closed on the farm a couple of months ago after several years of looking for a suitable property, but I'm just now making it blog public.
I gave the farm its own website here:
Fly Away Farm
There are a few photos up but not much else yet. I'm mostly just preparing the space for later.
I use the term "farm" a bit loosely. It's more of a "future farm site" right now. It's a beautiful 18.7 acre property in West Grove, PA, which is in southern Chester County. Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Louise Serio, amongst many others, have farms nearby. I'm pretty thrilled about the location. It's also convenient to other great horse things like the Devon Horse Show grounds, Fair Hill Equestrian Natural Resource Center and New Bolton Center (U. of Penn's vet hospital). I am beyond excited to have ownership of the property.
However, it's a major project, which will take some time to complete. We are pacing ourselves. The house is a gut job. The barn is going to be amazing but requires a lot of work. It is a 2-story 1890 Pennsylvania bank barn. It is a beautifully crafted, built-to-last building that would be difficult to replicate today, but it needs a full conversion for horses. The house repairs and barn conversion are currently underway. We also have future plans for new fencing, an outdoor riding arena, a hacking trail and a grass derby field with some permanent jumps. Essentially, my goal is to turn this place into an equestrian playground.
I would eventually like to take a few select boarders as well, although I don't think we'll be ready for that step until Summer 2014 at the earliest. I want to get the facilities in order and get settled before I start thinking about that too much. I'm a social rider and I would love nothing more than to share the place with some like-minded horse people! What fun is it to own (what should become) an awesome horse farm and then keep it all for yourself?
More details to come. I would say that between the new baby, the new farm (which is being built from the ground up) and the horses, this year is bound to be quite an adventure!
I am currently almost 39 weeks pregnant. My back basically crapped out on me for no apparent reason about 10 days ago so I am staying home and taking it very easy until I can hopefully pop this kid out, which I can only assume will make things better. On, the bright side, everything else seems to be going well. I even managed to briefly go out to the barn today for the first time in more than a week, which made me feel a lot better.
Books, the interwebz, and TV are my friends right now. I have watched so much TV. I am sick of TV. I miss seeing my horse and am tired of back seat directing my generous friends on how to check on and care for my horse.
The interwebz told me that you know you are ready for labor when “the prospect of taking care of a new human is less scary to you than the idea of staying pregnant any longer.”
By that definition, I am ready.
In the absence of any real horse activity, I decided that the best thing to do was to re-watch corny horse movies I have not seen since childhood and that are available through Netflix On Demand. They didn’t have “The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit”, boo! But they did have the ultra-corny 1977 classic, “Danny.”
I can totally see why I liked this movie as a ten-year-old. The plot goes something like this:
A horseless young girl who works at a rich family’s private stable falls in love with the rich daughter’s cute, grey, champion, large welsh pony, Danny. Then the rich daughter loses interest in Danny after he refuses a jump and she falls off of him at a show. At this point, the horseless girl starts schooling Danny for the rich daughter, but then Danny goes lame and may never show again, so the rich father gives the now presumed useless Danny to the horseless girl. The horseless girl then rehabs Danny. Her efforts are almost thwarted when the rich daughter lets Danny out of his stall and he runs away. After searching for Danny, luckily, he comes back with his injury doing better than ever! Then, the horseless girl and Danny prepare to face the rich daughter and her new thoroughbred in the county horse show. Drama ensues. The rich daughter blocks Danny from view of the judge during the flat class (that bitch). But in the next class, she doesn’t and Danny still doesn’t get a ribbon. Redemption is to be had in the Children’s Hunter over fences class! Danny beats out the rich daughter and her thoroughbred to win the class. However Danny goes lame again as soon as the class is over and that’s basically the end of the movie. The credits start rolling and a sappy song starts playing while the horseless girl leads lame Danny around a field.
Now as an adult, I find I can’t just suspend belief and enjoy the darned movie. So here’s what I keep thinking:
Why did people in this 1977 have that beaver/cleaver old fashioned way of speaking? I mean, these same people are still alive and no one talks like that now.
The horseless girl’s name is Janie? Really? Janie? You couldn’t just call her Jane or anything other than Janie?
The female riding instructor/barn manager is always wearing a bandana/headscarf around her head 24/7. Did riders really used to do that or is that just some type of rider lady dress code stereotype?
Why if Danny’s owners are so stinkin’ rich, can they only afford a horse that places second on the flat at the county horse show? Shouldn’t it be winning at The Garden or something?
In the first horse show scene in which Danny refuses to jump, the ring is some ghetto grass dirt combination. The footing looks so bad, it’s no wonder he goes lame. Why are the rich people messing with such a ghetto show?
Hunt caps without chin straps on kids…yeah! Go safety.
The fences in the two horse shows (which were filmed on location at real shows; one in CT, one in NJ) were set at 2’6” or so for the kids. Guess that disproves the people who say in the ‘70s all of the fences at shows were at least 3’6”. The people making those claims must also be the ones who walked 20 miles one way to school…uphill…in the snow.
Janie’s mom’s boyfriend and the rich dad just bet $500 on the Children’s Hunter division at the county horse show. Yep, that just happened.
And finally, the pony is lame again after only one jumping round although Janie doesn’t seem to care. As a jaded, horse owning adult, all I can think is “damn kid, that sucks. It’s not even a horse, it’s a pony and those are long lived. You’ll be paying on your lame pony until he’s 35.
I know, I know! I am so cranky. I need to get back to doing real horse things soon.
Diane and I took Patrick to the August Black Eyed Susan Series show at the Prince George Equestrian Center to compete in the Dover Adult Hunter Classic Finale. The weather was great; not too hot, not too humid. The ring was really nice and we pulled and braided Patrick’s mane so he looked extra sharp. He was a really good boy. He looked relaxed, had a nice open stride, and was jumping with nice style even though the jumps were pretty small (it’s a 2’6” classic).
His warm up round was very nice. Unfortunately, during the over fences portion of the classic class, Diane and Patrick got way too close to the first fence, a long approach to a single, straight fence. As a result, Patrick did not have enough space to pick up his feet in front of him and knocked a rail down on his way over the fence. Diane was kind of upset with herself about it. She said later that she did not see a take off spot approaching the fence and instead of leaving Patrick alone to find a spot for himself, she took back on the reins, causing him to shorten his stride and get way too close to fence. Like a good horsewoman she praised Patrick for doing his best to clear the jump in spite of the difficulties. Many horses might have refused the fence or protested after the fence, but Patrick did neither and continued on unfazed with what would have otherwise been a fairly competitive round.
I was only disappointed because taking a rail down is a serious fault in hunter ring, so I knew the judge would have to score the round accordingly. I wanted to know how Patrick would stack up against the nice group of horses in the class, but with a major fault, it was impossible to compare the ride to the rest of the rounds which only had minor faults.
Diane and I did really enjoy participating in the qualifier classes and the Dover Classic Finale this season. The Blacked Eyed Susan Horse Show management did a really nice job running the class. It was great to see a class like this offered at the local level. It was fun to work toward the goal of qualifying. Show management treated the qualifying specially by sending out official invitations to the finale, providing special prizes (embroidered saddle pads, neck ribbons) and doing a victory gallop after the class results were announced. A custom tack trunk was provided to the finale winner. The venue was nice and a water and drag of the ring was performed right before the class to ensure the best possible ring conditions. For the finale, most of the competitors put a little extra effort into turning out their horses, braiding, etc, so it was a nice looking bunch. In a sea of local horse show classes, it was really nice to do something that felt a little different and special. I would definitely consider doing it again next year. Maybe I will be unpregnant and actually able to ride my own horse!
It is important to pull a horse’s mane if you intend to braid or plait the mane. Pulling manes, unlike cutting manes, both shortens and thins the mane, making it easier to braid. The mane should be pulled to about 4-5” in length. Even if you don’t intend to braid, a pulled mane creates a neat appearance for the hunter/jumper horse.
See a video below of me pulling Lincoln's mane!
Most horses tolerate mane pulling well since the mane is attached to a layer of fat on the top of the neck called the crest. However, mane pulling is uncomfortable for some horses. If your horse isn’t cooperating, be patient and reassure him. Getting frustrated or angry doesn’t help, especially if the horse isn’t used to the mane pulling procedure. Make sure you are only pulling out a few strands at one time, don’t pull out too much hair at once. Pull in multiple sessions to give the horse a break. If the horse still will not cooperate, you can consider having a trained person give the horse an oral or intramuscular tranquilizer to help them relax, or consider pulling the mane after a veterinary procedure in which the horse needed a tranquilizer anyway.
If you plan to braid your horse for an event, don’t leave mane pulling until the last moment. Pull your mane several days in advance to ensure you can do a good job and leave time for multiple pulling sessions if you need them.
I do not recommend cutting horses’ manes. Cutting shortens the mane without thinning it. It usually leaves the mane looking choppy and makes it uneven and difficult to braid.
For those who are counting, I'm almost 33 weeks pregnant now. So I'm not riding, although I do pay visits to the barn a few times a week. I am not riding, but Patrick is keeping a full schedule.
He has been doing great with his half leaser. Recently he went cross country schooling with his leaser in Virginia and it looked like they both had a great time!
It's wonderful to see Patrick enjoying riding out and going cross country. He did not come to me with any cross country experience and he was rather uncertain of jumping down banks and drops in particular at the beginning. Now he is starting to become much more confident about them and it's great for his training in general. I owe a lot of his progress as a versatile horse to Julie Devine, who had to skillfully talk him into the cross country questions the first couple of times. Patrick and Julie have the funniest relationship.
I hand Patrick over to Julie for disciplinary action as needed, so no one is harder on him than her, yet he just loves her! If he sees her at the barn or on foot in the riding arena, he walks up to her and touches her with his nose in a special greeting. He is disgustingly lovey dovey with her. Go figure. My theory is that, while she'll dole out the discipline, Patrick is smart enough to know that she treats him fairly and I also think he trusts her as a good leader and therefore wants to follow her and respect her. That's what good training can do!
Julie took Patrick on his second cross country outing in two weeks, a lesson with one of our favorite professionals Mogie Bearden-Muller at Fair Hill this week, and they had a fun and successful time.
In addition to the cross country outings, Patrick has been competing lightly with my friend, Diane. Diane is an amateur adult rider who grew up riding hunters and equitation similar to me, but for the past few years she has been focused on eventing her draft cross, Lincoln, through training level. Recently, she also purchased an off the track thoroughbred prospect who she has started bringing along. I got to help her pick him, and I must say, I think we picked well.
Diane had been offering to catch ride Patrick in some hunter shows while I was pregnant even before I actually got pregnant, so naturally, when the time was right we executed the plan!
We chose to compete in the Black Eyed Susan Horse Show Series, a nice show series held at the Prince George Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro Maryland (same venue that hosts The Capital Challenge). The class we chose to focus on was The Dover Saddlery Adult Hunter Classic. This is a class that allows horses to qualify for a final, so we though it would be a nice "mini goal" to try and qualify. We only competed Patrick in 3 of the shows, which was only about 1/3 of the shows offered, so there was no guarantee we would qualify him. To qualify, horses had to either win the class or be in the next top 4 high point horses. In the first two shows, Patrick and Diane got third place in the class, but they performed better together each time. For them, the third try was a charm. They won both parts of the class (the first part had 20+ horses competing) for an overall high score, securing a place in the final.
The Hunter Classic Finale is tomorrow and we are looking forward to attending. There is no telling what the outcome of the class will be, as the qualifier classes drew a very good quality group of horses. In any case, Patrick has had a good summer of outings. We met our goal of qualifying for the Final. I think Diane has enjoyed masquerading as a Hunter Princess and Patrick probably prefers going a few places to make things interesting over staying home all the the time.
He will get a couple of low-key weeks after the final and then we'll play it by ear!