Jun 9, 2010

And the Answer Is....

This past winter, I whined about not having anything to blog about because I was stuck inside. And now that the weather is nice, it seems I don’t have time to sit down and blog and when I do, my mind is a blank. Mindee from Our Front Door (who is a local blogger & I have yet to meet in person) gave me the idea to do a Q & A post and she provided me with the questions.

Since it’s all about horses, feel free to copy these questions & post to your own blog with your answers. It would be fun to see your replies and how/if our horse life is similar or if we come from different worlds.

1) What is the biggest mistake you made as a newbie horse owner?

Not taking lessons before or even during the first few years of horse ownership. I had horses as a kid. I knew it all, right? Wrong! Now that I was thirty-five years older and lacked a sense of balance and had a new friend called “fear” and a big sense of self-preservation, all of that changed. Of course I blamed the horse – which in fact was not an appropriate horse for my first horse, but I could have been riding Trigger himself and it wouldn’t have made any difference. I was still just a middle-aged woman trying to be a cowgirl!

2) Other than brushes, picks, saddle and bridle, what are the top 3 most essential pieces of equipment?

1 - A horse trailer! I don’t know what I envisioned us doing when we got our first horses; riding down the driveway over and over again or through our pasture? A trailer gave me the freedom to go anywhere, ride with anyone and try all sorts of new things. I have two trailers – the big 4 horse gooseneck we use for camping and my 2 horse bumper pull. If I had to give one up, it would be the gooseneck. Since the boys don’t ride much, probably 80% of the time I just use my bumper pull trailer, but I love, love, love my home on the road with my big one.

2 – I’ll sound like a nerd, but I consider my helmet essential equipment. Even if I were the best rider in the world (see #1, trust me, I’m not), I protect my head so I can protect my brain which hasn’t aged well at all. If you are interested in why I choose to wear a helmet, you can read my blog about it here.

3 – A good saddle pad. You should see my tack room! There are a lot of not so good saddle pads in there. I just want my horse comfortable. She’s got to haul me around and a hot heavy saddle. So I want her comfy, too and having a good pad between the saddle and her back is important.

3) Have you used a trainer? If not, how have you learned new skills?

When I got Windy back, I sent her to a trainer to put some “buttons” on her. When she came back from the trainer, I realized she knew more than I did. So I started using a local trainer to help me sync up to Windy. In these lessons I realized I didn’t even know the basics to riding and really learned a lot. I would love to continue to take lessons but with the boys so active with school sports and events, there are just not enough hours in the day. I’ll save that for when we get that empty nest.

4) Are all your horses shoed? Why or why not?

Most of the places we ride, our horses don’t need shod. Even the gravel on our road is not big rock. When Blue was regularly ridden, we kept front shoes on him as he would get sore & this helped him. But since he has moved to semi-retirement, he hasn’t been shod in almost two years. We are taking the horses to the mountains this summer and those who make the travel team (Windy, Ginger & Butter) will be shod for that trip. They all have good feet, but I don’t want to drive that far and lame one of them up the first day there. So it is a preventive measure. I am not anti-shoe, just thrifty. If they don't need it, I don't shoe 'em.

5) Favorite trail? Locally? Anywhere? Least favorite?

My favorite trail of all times is Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a gorgeous ride up the mountain with tree-lined trails, caverns and breathtaking views. The trail down – a different one – followed a stream for what seemed to be miles. It took my breath away.

Favorites locally or semi-locally: Camp Moses, just 20 miles down the road from me. Lots of hills and wildlife and hidden trails and bushwhacking! The Oak Creek Trail from Valparaiso to Loma because over the course of three years, about 10 of us cleared that trail so I like to say “we made it ourselves!” And Rock Creek Station near Fairbury, because I have so many good memories there!

Jumping to least favorite (locally) is Pawnee Lake. And it is nothing against the trail or lake itself, which is very nice. It just seems like every time I have rode there, I didn’t have a good ride. So rather than blame myself, I blame the trail. I schedule the Platte River Ride there when I know I can’t make it!

6) Best trails for beginners?

I asked the Horsetales bunch what trail they thought was the best for beginners and had a lot of opinions and they were all right for the reasons they stated. If I were to take someone out for the first time, I would take them to the Oak Creek Trail in Valparaiso because I know that trail so well and can avoid the scary parts. Branched Oak is also beginner friendly with wide, groomed trails.

7) Did you ride at all as a kid? Did you want to?

We didn’t live on a farm growing up, but had cattle at my grandparent’s farm. They were deceased, so no one lived there and we went out every day after Dad got off work to do chores. Dad bought us a carousel pony named Dolly. She was fabulous. You would ride her and she would just go in a nice little circle like she was still on the carousel. She had a filly we named Misty who was a terrible little thing. When we sold the farm, Dolly was sold for $40. Dad kept Misty and boarded her on the outskirts of town for a bit. She was never a good horse and was eventually sold. I always dreamed of living in the country and having horses. It just took me a few decades to get there. (Above picture is me on Dolly, my sister, Ann, standing next to Dad.)

8) Do you do any conditioning to make you a better rider?

When I first started riding, no. I was overweight and flopped around like a sack of potatoes. Over time, my balance improved, but I was still a tub of lard. When I decided I wanted to try distance riding, I knew I had to lose weight. I started dieting in January 2008 and joined Curves to tone up. I lost 37 pounds and felt better than I have felt in my life. I was wearing a size 10 – which I hadn’t seen since my early twenties – and had energy to burn. Over the past year, about 10 pounds have crept back on, so I rejoined Weight Watchers last week & am committed to getting back to where I was … or less, so I have a little cushion…. I still go to Curves two or three times a week.

9) If you could never ride again, where would you turn your passions?

Hobby Lobby, of course! (Just kidding, in case my friends are reading this!) If I couldn’t ride again, I would have a small retirement home for horses so I could still see them out my kitchen window, smell their scents and feel their breath on my face.

10) What are areas where you can cut costs with the horses? Where should you never cut costs?

We order our own vaccinations from the vet supply catalogues to reduce veterinary costs. I only shoe when needed and grain only when one needs to gain weight or if they need added energy for some distance riding or other above average activity.

We cut our own hay and alfalfa from our place so I know they are getting good hay at all times. When they are not on pasture, they are on round bale 24/7 and I don’t think you should ever cut costs when it comes to haying your horse.

Thanks, Mindee! This was fun. I hope some of the rest of you do the same on your blog. Leave a comment if you do, so we can be sure and read up on your horse life.


  1. That was very interesting to read. thanks for sharing.
    I used to love to ride the pony rides when they came to town.

    Yep, Oak Creek Trail is a good 'un!

    I want to learn to take my horses out in their horse trailer. I envy your freedom.

  2. I learned a lot! Thanks Tammy.


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