Bad Advice

I don't pretend to know everything. I have a lot to learn. I am constantly modifying and improving the way I do things, but I also have some pretty strongly-held beliefs about how horses should be treated and handled (namely, I believe in earning a horse's trust and respect...not making them fear me in order to get my way with them.) 

Being relatively new on the scene in the riding-instructor world, some people like to assume I don't know much and will offer up nuggets of advice. A lot of the time, these nuggets are helpful, and the advice-giver was well-meaning. In these instances I am very grateful for the help and insight. Sometimes, though, I have to bite my tongue and find the strength within to politely let the advice-giver know that I do things differently.

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My favorite is when someone thinks they know how I should be handling my pony after observing us together for five seconds. 

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Yes, once in a while Clay gives some resistance when I am asking him to do something that he'd really rather not. Yes, this can be frustrating, especially when I am in a hurry and he's pretending he's never seen a trailer before let alone ridden in one. But guess what–if you're not a naturally stubborn/patient person with a good sense of humor, you shouldn't own a pony. A pony is never really "broke". You may have trained them to stand still for baths last summer, but now it is this summer, and this summer is completely different from last summer, and YOU AREN'T THE BOSS OF ME LADY.

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Anyway. Clay would really rather not get in a trailer by himself, or stand like a gentleman for a bath, and the same for being clipped, but he will do these things for me, when I slow my roll and go through the steps in a patient and calm way, giving him a chance to take everything in and decide for himself that he is in fact not going to die. No, hitting him with your lunge-whip will not talk him into behaving, it will piss him off ROYALLY and you now have an actual problem on your hands. Two problems. Him, and me.

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What's the worst horse-related advice you've ever gotten? 

What do you Feed?

Feed, amiright? It's a whole can of worms, and I'm gonna go ahead and open it. I want to know what you feed your horses (or what the barn where you board feeds them), and why. It's a topic I want to be better educated on, because to be perfectly honest I am a long-time boarder who has been lucky enough to keep my horses at barns over the years where the BO was very knowledgable and on-top-of-it when it came to feed, so I just relied on their expertise and never really did my own research.

I have also always had the luxury of owning relatively easy keepers, so while we had other things to worry about (like how my old TB's feet would literally crumble beneath him without shoes...), maintaining healthy weight was never a problem. Clay is no exception–being Morgan and Welsh basically means he stays round on air–but I have noticed other feed-related things about him...

Sass. I love me a little sass, which is why I own a pony, but too much sugar in his feed seems to bring out the inner Mother (Father? Uenuch?) of Dragons, and we don't need that. 

Skin issues. I don't totally know if it was environmental or if it was feed related, but for about a year Clay had the worst dry-skin and was very prone to scratches, sweat-itch and rain-rot. His mane and tail were so dry and itchy that he was rubbing them relentlessly in turnout. I tried just about every skin/coat topical product and supplement out there and nothing fixed the issue. Then I switched feeds (from Smartpaks + oats to Crypto Aero), and put him on a heavy-duty live probiotic (Equibrew) for a few months. His mane grew back, he stopped itching, the huge dandruff flakes disappeared, and we had ZERO issue with sweat-itch and rain rot this summer even though it has been one of the wettest summers I can remember! 

Dapples/gut heath. He has dapples, mostly on his midsection right where the saddle pad goes, but they seem to disappear after I deworm him. This indicates that his dappling is connected to gut-health, rather than being a coat "pattern" he was born with.

It's no secret that dewormers wreak havoc on the good bacteria in the digestive track, so to help him rebuild his flora after a deworming, I give him a month of Equibrew. There are tons of powdered probiotic options out there, but the benefit of Equibrew is that the cultures are alive, not freeze-dried, and therefore more potent. And if you're wondering if horses like the taste of the fizzy liquid, Clay freaking gobbles his dinner up when it's soaked in Equibrew. It probably tastes similar to hard cider, and who doesn't like that?! So far I have been happy with the changes I made. I'm saving money since I cancelled my Smartpaks subscription, and the new feed seems to be working great for Clay.

A little fluffy after a winter of reduced work...Enjoying a treat of early spring grass.

A little fluffy after a winter of reduced work...Enjoying a treat of early spring grass.

Then there's the very important factor of forage/hay...The barn where I board makes all their own hay, and feeds mostly round-bales. I like the round-bale system for my horse–it seems more natural for horses to be able to eat hay at will rather than on a feeding schedule, and here in the north where the winters are bitter cold, eating constantly helps keep them warm.

We have horses of all breeds and ages and on various work-loads (from none at all to Prelim-level eventing condition) at this barn and none of them are obese from eating off a round-bale (there is one plump TB mare, but she tends to sneak some of her pregnant pasture mate's preggo feed...) Even though they have 24/7 access to hay, they also live outside and are moving around a lot, keeping away from flies in the summer, burning major calories staying warm in the winter, etc. So I don't know that I buy into the idea of limiting forage in order to manage weight, but I suppose there are some extreme easy-keepers out there that you might need to be careful with, or perhaps your hay is really nutrient dense and rich, in which case you might need to ration it. 

The one thing I don't like much about round-bales is the horses tend to stand with their heads down inside the bale, breathing in the hay particles. This is bad news for horses with any respiratory issues or sensitivities, especially if the bales are at all musty/moldy. We have a couple horses on the farm who can't handle it, and they get fed square bales exclusively. 

Clay showing off some winter dapples.

Clay showing off some winter dapples.

While I've been very happy with the round-bale system at my barn, I haven't been quite as impressed with the quality of the hay. Hay quality varies so much, from region to region, field to field and season to season. The fields around here have been taken from for many, many years and the landowners don't do much if anything to add nutrients back into the soil, let alone re-seed every so often with new grass. The result is a pretty weedy mixture, which the horses pick through, not rich in essential minerals and vitamins because it's coming from depleted soil. It takes thousands of dollars to lime and reseed a field, so I think we're stuck with mediocre hay for now.

However, my husband and I recently purchased one of the fields that my BO hays, with the hope to one day build a small farm out there. I'm on a mission now to figure out what the ideal hay mixture would be for most horses, and what the soil in our area needs in order to be the right Ph, supply the right minerals, etc. so that I can hopefully someday grow AWESOME hay.

Our field, right after it was hayed this summer. Pehr loved climbing on the bales. 

Our field, right after it was hayed this summer. Pehr loved climbing on the bales. 

Our local Ag Extension has been a huge help in this department. They came out and did a soil sample on our land and gave me a rundown of exactly what we need to do over time to rejuvenate the soil in that field. Unfortunately, there is a very robust weed seed-bank already established, so we cannot simply till the field and plant new grasses...the weeds would absolutely take over if we did that.

What most people would do is to use a glyphosate product, like RoundUp, to knock back the weeds at a couple key times a year. I need to do more research, but my initial reaction is a pretty strong NO to using that stuff. Then again, without it, it will take at least five years to really rehab the soil and start growing better hay, and even then it will still be very weedy. Our field is very close to a contributing watershed to Lake Superior, the Sioux River, and I'm also not keen on my horse eating trace amounts of a pretty heavy-hitting poison, or my kid running around in it. So, I have work to do in the form of research, talking to other local hay farmers, etc. 

Future hay farmer?

Future hay farmer?

I'm curious–what type of forage do you provide your horses...Pasture? Grass hay? Alfalfa? Do you care if the fields your hay is coming from has been sprayed with RoundUp or the likes? What ration-balancers, supplements or feeds does your horse get?  

Clinic Recap: NWDA Jr/YR Clinic with Jodi Ely

I took two students, Abby (13) and Ciarra (11), to the NWDA Jr/YR Clinic a couple weeks ago over in the Duluth, MN area. It was a two-day clinic in the middle of the week, so their parents had to pull some major strings at work to get the time off, but I'm very glad that we were able to make it happen because the clinic was a great experience. And these two girls don't take their parents' support for granted. I am continually impressed by how appreciative and respectful they both are. 

Ciarra and Kismet, fresh off the trailer and ready to rock!

Ciarra and Kismet, fresh off the trailer and ready to rock!

This was the first time both these girls had taken their horses anywhere. I really wanted them to have the practice before we head to their first horse show in August. Ciarra's little Arabian mare, Kismet, is green (as in, they pulled her out of a pasture a year ago and she was basically unbroken.) Abby's Thoroughbred mare, Calypso, used to frequent the local hunter/jumper shows, but hasn't been to a show in probably five years now. 

Everyone, including me, was a little nervous about how the horses would load on the trailer and behave away from home, but they were perfectly behaved from start to finish. I believe that this is due to the hours upon hours that these girls spend with their horses, bonding with them and building trust. Neither of these horses had been in a trailer in over a year, and the last time we tried to load Calypso (a couple years ago) she put up a major stink. That was before Abby came along and started leasing her, riding twice a week and spending many hours grooming, pampering, tooling around bareback, etc. When she asked Calypso to get in the trailer, the mare hesitated for a second and then followed her in calmly. Kismet also walked right in behind her devoted human (who feeds her an ungodly amount of delicious homemade treats.) 

Abby and Calypso, taking a stroll around the new farm.

Abby and Calypso, taking a stroll around the new farm.

Trainer and tiny co-trainer braiding Kismet's mane.

Trainer and tiny co-trainer braiding Kismet's mane.

Day One of the clinic was Dressage, and Day Two was jumping. This was a great format for my students, because it gave the girls a chance to get comfortable with Jodi Ely, their horses a chance to get in the new ring and settle in, and Jodi a chance to see the horses move and the students' equitation, skill level, and weak spots. Jodi was fantastic–full of energy, funny, complimentary but not too soft in her corrections. My girls responded great to her and took her corrections very well.

It can be nerve-racking as a trainer to watch your students lesson with another trainer, in front of their parents no less, but Jodi was very complimentary of how both girls are doing. Phew! ;) I saw the girls' confidence grow over the course of the clinic, and that was my main goal for them.

Of course, the jumping day was the girls' favorite part. Jodi had them start out with ground-poles, then a short gymnastic, then a longer gymnastic, and finally a whole course with the gymnastic as part of it. They did phenomenal, and their horses were good sports. Kismet even picked up her right lead canter multiple times, which has been a main challenge for her/Ciarra, and Calypso didn't turn into a race-horse mid-course but kept a steady hunter-y canter throughout! 

Abby and Calypso

Abby and Calypso

Ciarra and Kismet

Ciarra and Kismet

I'm working on uploading video from the clinic to our Youtube channel, and I'll post it here once that's done. 

I couldn't be more proud of how Abby and Ciarra rode, handled themselves, and took care of their horses at the clinic–from picking up manure to congratulating the other riders, they were great sports and very mature. A big thanks goes out to the girls' families for helping to make this clinic possible, to our wonderful host Jen at River Ranch Arena (it is a beautiful and comfortable farm), and Jodi for the great experience. 

Horse Show Here We Come

Clay and I are headed to our first show of the season this evening. We'll be attempting to beat our 1-3 score from last year and debuting Second Level...and apparently we'll be doing so in high heat, humidity, and possibly thunder storms. Goody!

I'm a little concerned because we haven't had any hot weather yet this summer, so Clay actually isn't fully shed out yet and hasn't had the chance to acclimate to working in heat. I'm giving him some electrolytes today in his feed, and bringing a fan, but the stalls at this particular show are small and stuffy, and my little northern-climate horse tends to wilt in the sun. Praying for a cool breeze and enough gas in his tank to get through 2-1 with an respectable amount of energy. Luckily, he's pretty good at sweating. 

We've been training through all of Second Level for a long time now, but I still feel a little unprepared to show at this level due to my inconsistent riding schedule over the past year and my infrequent lessons with trainers. We have some rides where it all feels easy, and other rides where even just a smooth, obedient transition while staying on the outside rein is a battle. I know it's related to how much tension I'm riding with (DON'T TENSE UP YOUR LEGS, TONIA!) Clay always demands my best, or else. It makes me a better rider, and also sometimes a frustrated one ("You know what I want–even though I'm asking for it poorly–just do it!!!!") 

I ran through our tests last night briefly (I try to keep our rides before a show pretty light), and there were some, um, interesting moments of embellishment on Clay's part...

Me: At C, halt and back-up three steps. 
Clay:

And a couple times I blanked on what the next movement was, even though I've had it memorized for weeks...

I'd really like to ride these tests from memory, because my friends at the show have *so* many people to read for already and I hate asking them to add me to their list at the last minute. I didn't even try to memorize them last summer because Baby Brain was full-on destroying all my brain cells at the time. I feel a little more with-it this year, at least. 

So, here we go! Plunging into the 2017 show season for better or worse! I have no idea how we'll score and no clear perspective on whether or not we've progressed a whole lot in the last year, with limited rides and lessons, but I do know that I will have fun on my handsome golden pony who always tries his best for me, as long as I ask the way he likes. ;) 

Pony Pedigree

I don't know a whole lot about horse breeding, but it's a facet of the equine world I am very interested in learning more about. I love history, and every once in a while I find myself going down the never-ending internet rabbit hole of long-ago sires and dams that were influential in creating this or that breed. It's pretty fascinating stuff.

Maddeningly, my pony's dam side is a big fat mystery (someone had a favorite little Morgan lesson horse and decided to breed her to a nice Welsh stallion), but his sire's side is real fun to look at...

Here are a handful of photos from Clay's sire's pedigree:

Clay's sire! PENRHYN SWORD OF HOPE pal. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1988

Clay's sire! PENRHYN SWORD OF HOPE pal. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1988

PARC WELSH FLYER  b. H, WELSH COB, 1966 – Royal Welsh winner at 3yrs, 3 times tricolour at Lampeter Stallion Show, Supreme champion at Royal of England show 1974

PARC WELSH FLYER  b. H, WELSH COB, 1966 – Royal Welsh winner at 3yrs, 3 times tricolour at Lampeter Stallion Show, Supreme champion at Royal of England show 1974

PARC LADY  b. M, WELSH COB, 1948

PARC LADY  b. M, WELSH COB, 1948

PENTRE EIDDWEN COMET  b. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1946 – Bred by J Davies, UK. owned by John Hughes, UK. Pentre Eiddwen Comet was a bold free moving stallion, winner in 1951 of the George Prince of Wales cup, supreme accolade in the Welsh Cob society an award which he was to win again five years later. It was at the 1951 Royal Welsh show that he brought the house down and the grandstand to its feet when he won the Tom and Sprightly Cup, an award which he won a total of five times. He made his presence felt as a sire throughout Wales by his participation in the Premium scheme, where he was an exceptionally popular stallion. He appeared just as fiery and active travelling the various counties as he was when waiting to go into battle in the show ring.

PENTRE EIDDWEN COMET  b. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1946 – Bred by J Davies, UK. owned by John Hughes, UK. Pentre Eiddwen Comet was a bold free moving stallion, winner in 1951 of the George Prince of Wales cup, supreme accolade in the Welsh Cob society an award which he was to win again five years later. It was at the 1951 Royal Welsh show that he brought the house down and the grandstand to its feet when he won the Tom and Sprightly Cup, an award which he won a total of five times. He made his presence felt as a sire throughout Wales by his participation in the Premium scheme, where he was an exceptionally popular stallion. He appeared just as fiery and active travelling the various counties as he was when waiting to go into battle in the show ring.

MATHRAFAL  ch. H, WELSH COB, 1936 – Bred by David Griffiths, UK. Owned by Frongoy Stud (Jones Bros). Mathrafal has been the most influential Cob Stallion in terms of siring potential future Royal Welsh Champions. Between his progeny they represented a total of 13 Championships. Mathrafal duly won a first prize at the 1937 Montgomeryshire Show. At the 1938 combined Royal Agricultural Society of England and Royal Welsh Show he won the young stock class and went on to win the male championship. His show career was then interrupted by the war years. He won a second prize at the 1947 Royal Welsh Show, third in 1949, second in 1950, third in 1951, champion in 1952 and fourth in 1953.

MATHRAFAL  ch. H, WELSH COB, 1936 – Bred by David Griffiths, UK. Owned by Frongoy Stud (Jones Bros). Mathrafal has been the most influential Cob Stallion in terms of siring potential future Royal Welsh Champions. Between his progeny they represented a total of 13 Championships. Mathrafal duly won a first prize at the 1937 Montgomeryshire Show. At the 1938 combined Royal Agricultural Society of England and Royal Welsh Show he won the young stock class and went on to win the male championship. His show career was then interrupted by the war years. He won a second prize at the 1947 Royal Welsh Show, third in 1949, second in 1950, third in 1951, champion in 1952 and fourth in 1953.

MATHRAFAL EIDDWEN  b. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1914 – Bred by Evan Lloyd, UK. Owned by J Davies, UK. Died 1940. 1926, 1927, 1929, 1930 Royal Welsh Supreme Champion - WINNER the GEORGE PRINCE OF WALES RWS 1926,1927,1929 & 1930.

MATHRAFAL EIDDWEN  b. H, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1914 – Bred by Evan Lloyd, UK. Owned by J Davies, UK. Died 1940. 1926, 1927, 1929, 1930 Royal Welsh Supreme Champion - WINNER the GEORGE PRINCE OF WALES RWS 1926,1927,1929 & 1930.

KING FLYER  ch. H, WELSH COB, 1894 – Bred by John Jones, UK. Won THE GEORGE PRINCE OF WALES CUP RWS 1913 & 1914

KING FLYER  ch. H, WELSH COB, 1894 – Bred by John Jones, UK. Won THE GEORGE PRINCE OF WALES CUP RWS 1913 & 1914

LLANARTH MARVEL pal. C, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1956

LLANARTH MARVEL pal. C, WELSH PONY OF COB TYPE, 1956

...All photos and info from the public pedigree database

With hunks like these in his sire line, it's no wonder Clay is so handsome! ;) I love how substantial and strong all these ponies are...you can tell their purpose was farm work originally and they really look like mini draft horses.

Have you researched your horse's breeding, or learned anything interesting or surprising about the history of your favorite breeds? 

#RiderProblems: Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

Generally speaking, humans are not anatomically perfect. This is kind of a bummer when it comes to horseback riding–and specifically when it comes to the discipline of Dressage, which has been described as the art of taking an asymmetrical person and an asymmetrical horse and making them both straight.

But straitening a naturally asymmetrical body is not an easy task considering the sport that aims to do so can cause a lot of physical issues in the process, in addition to the ones we may have just inherited. The fact is that riding is demanding on the body, and when you don't counter-balance your rides with cross-training, stretching, and other supportive and restorative therapies, problems arise. Many riders ignore these problems their whole lives, and end up nearly crippled by age 70. We all know an old trainer who can barely walk. But it is extremely common to see even young riders suffering from lower back pain, hip pain, numbness in their legs, etc.

Hopefully our horses are being maintained in a way so that they do not feel pain after a life of demanding work...But how to properly support your equine-athlete is a whole other topic for a whole other post. Today I want to talk about some of the physical issues that arise for riders, how to identify them, and how to work towards reversing or minimizing their impact with proper support. I'm going to focus on sciatica, which is extremely common, and piriformis syndrome, which is related. 

Obviously, I am not a doctor or physical therapist, so please don't let your research on these issues end here. This is meant to be an introduction to this topic and a discussion of these issues as they relate specifically to horseback riders, since we are a group in which these issues are common and yet I rarely hear these things talked about in our community. 

So what are we talking about when we talk about sciatica and the piriformis? Well, one is a muscle and the other is a nerve, and they are next-door neighbors in our bodies. Paraphrasing from an article on piriformis pain on the Health Post website:

The piriformis allows us to move the hip, upper leg, and foot outward from the body. This muscle covers the sciatic nerve, that runs from the lower back down into the legs. The piriformis is not only important for hip and leg movement but it is a key part of our overall balance while upright.
One end of the piriformis is attached to the front part of the sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of the spine. It’s the only pelvic muscle that attaches to the front of the sacrum, providing balance between the pelvis and legs. Its counteraction with the psoas muscle at the front of the pelvis and the gluteus maximus at the back maintains stability.
An impeded piriformis limits both mobility and balance. Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is pinched in some way, causing pain.

If you want to determine whether or not a pinched sciatic nerve or tight piriformis might be the culprits of any back, hip or leg pain you might be experiencing, I found a couple great Youtube video that demonstrate a few positions to try. The doctors are pretty hilarious. They're worth watching just to hear their intro-music...

By now you might be able to tell if you fall into the camp of having some or all of these common rider problems. Or you're simply interested in preventing these problems from arriving. So, what can you do? 

1. Get serious about a yoga practice. From body awareness to relaxation, from breath-control to increased strength, flexibility and alignment, the list of benefits that yoga offers us is long. Regular yoga can reverse the issues we're talking about in this article, as well as prevent future issues like slipped disks that could otherwise require surgery to fix.

Ideally, find an instructor with a therapeutic-yoga license or at least a detailed knowledge of anatomy. Steer clear of instructors who focus purely on flexibility or the flashy, athletic poses. Acrobatics will do very little to fix your pain or improve your riding, and it's likely to cause additional problems and injuries. 

If videos/online is your only or best option, the same cautions apply. I personally really like the website of Certified Yoga Therapist Olga Kabel. Here is a list of her videos and practices that apply to the issues discussed here:

Three Types of Butt Pain and What to do About it
Yoga Practice for the Hip Flexors
–And conversely, Stretching the Hip Flexors is Not Always a Good Idea
Yoga Practice to Release Piriformis Tension

2. See a chiropractor and/or acupuncturist regularly. Muscles can actually pull our skeletal structure out of whack, so getting adjustments from time to time helps ensure we're not going around with one leg an inch longer than the other. Acupuncture is extremely helpful for healing injuries and calming nerve and muscle pain. 

3. Stop ignoring pain. Pain is a signal from our body that something is wrong, and we should use it as a tool to inform our decisions and actions. 

Let's continue the conversation: Do you struggle with pain while riding? What therapies have you tried, and what have you found helpful? 

2016 Gift Guide: Charitable Giving

I think we all hit a point in the pre-Christmas scrambling, shopping, decorating, cooking and traveling where the excitement and joy of the season starts to wear off a bit. We're tired and stressed and we think to ourselves, "What is this all about again???" It's a good thing when we hit this point–it helps bring us back to what really matters (hint: it's not the tree and the trimmings). Personally, I am at that point now. I really enjoy myself when I'm shopping for and making gifts for my friends and family, but I also get pretty disgusted by the materialism and greed that surrounds the holidays.

So, to wrap up my Horsetastic Holiday Gift Guide this year I thought I'd talk a little about charitable giving, both because a donation in someone's name to a great organization makes a super gift, but also because we can all appreciate a teeny bit less materialism and a teeny bit more love, compassion and generosity.

Here's a short list of organizations doing important work out there in the horse world, and they could really use our help:

1. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation: giving ex-racehorses a second chance at life after their racing career is over. Adopt a horse, sponsor a horse, or simply donate money. 

2. PATH Internationalstarted in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Assoc., they support and promote equine-assisted therapy programs all over Canada and the US. You can donate to PATH or find a local PATH-certified program in your area. Here at Sioux River we have the Reins of Inspiration program, and it's always in need of volunteers and donations to keep it running.

3. The Horse Fund: dedicated to ending horse slaughter for human consumption. Donations go to lobbying for equine protection laws at both state and federal levels and working with government and law enforcement to ensure neglect and abuse laws are upheld. Similarly, there is the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which was founded in 1979 by attorneys fighting on behalf of animals everywhere (not horse specific), and the ASPCA Equine Program which works to protect horses from slaughter and auctions, and prevent equine cruelty.

4. Return to Freedom: caring for over 400 formerly wild horses removed from their home ranges, and dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity, and habitat of America’s wild horses and burros through sanctuary, education, advocacy and conservation. Similarly, there is the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource, which is devoted to preserving open land for horses and horse-related activities. 

There are so many more, both on a local/state level and on the national/international level, so do your research and find one that speak to you. Wishing you and your horses a wonderful holiday! 

2016 Gift Guide: Your Horse-Lady Friend/Wife/Sister Who Kind of Already Has Everything

She's been riding her whole life, and over the years has stacked up a small mountain of tack and gear. It's actually kind of a problem...like, border-line hoarder-status. What to get for the horse-lady who has it all?

1. A custom browband or stock pin in her horse's colors (or her birthstone colors).

2. A gorgeous leather belt to make her feel extra fancy at shows and clinics.

3. A custom stall-guard with her barn logo on it.

4. A saddle mattress, to protect her saddle.

5. Organic shine spray for her horse (it smells SO good!)

6. A batch of homemade horse treats for her to spoil her baby with.

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7. A fun shirt for her to immediately get dirty at the barn. ;) This one is great too.

8. A custom ornament for her tree with a photo of her horse on it.

2016 Gift Guide: That One Guy Who Rides

For whatever reason, most equestrians around here are female. If we lived in the south where cowboys are an actual thing, or in England where scores of men fox hunt and play polo, then things would be different. But we live in Wisconsin. Male riders aren't super common in these parts, but there's usually that One Guy Who Rides at every barn, and he deserves a Christmas gift just for putting up with all us crazy horse ladies.

1. Heritage leather trail riding gloves. Equal parts work glove and riding glove, long-wearing and practical. 

2. Bluetooth speaker for his saddle, because he has broken two cell-phone already by dropping them while riding.

3. Helmet/headlamp for doing chores in the dark or night-time trail rides.

4. Custom leather saddle bags, to pack a trail lunch in.

5. Books about hunting and fishing on horseback, to inspire his inner outdoorsman (or maybe even an experience like this).