Friday, October 23, 2020

trailer essentials review: EPAuto portable air compressor

One thing you learn pretty quickly upon buying a horse trailer is.... there are way more people in the world, let alone in your circle, who could use a trailer than actually have access to one. 

Obviously most of the time I'm trailering somewhere, it's for my own purposes. Sometimes, tho, it's for other people. Like transporting horses for friends in a pinch, or giving rides to horse shows for barn mates who might not otherwise get that opportunity.

portable air compressor in its box
Which, is exactly what I was doing a couple weeks ago when some barn mates wanted to go to Tranquility's starter trial. And I gotta say -- there's something kinda nice about just being chauffeur for the day lol. 

Like, all I have to do is show up with the rig on time at the designated meeting place. Everyone else handles all the packing and preparations necessary for a day off farm with horses -- all the hay and equipment, getting the horses brought in and fed, etc. 

portable air compressor + accessories, unboxed. A) designated tote bag; B) compressor; C) instructions; D) extra parts
Tho... I'm nice and still take care of filling all the water containers, bc let's be real: it's much easier to take the truck to the pump than having to haul 40lb jugs back and forth. So that's exactly where I was, standing there in the pre-dawn darkness, hangin out at the tailgate slowly pumping 15gal of water into our various containers. 

When.... it occurred to me that, hm, that back tire on the truck, the one with the slowest of perennially slow leaks, was looking miiiiiighty low

air hose screws directly onto the tire valve stem
Now, I admit to being a little.... uhm, casual about tire pressure over the years, since every barn I've kept the truck and trailer at has had a gas station with air pump basically right around the corner. Charlie's current barn actually has a legit workshop for the tractors, gators, and other farm vehicles - complete with commercial grade air compressor (that I 100% do not know how or have access to operate).

But ya know. That doesn't much matter at 6am when everyone's asleep. And it's kinda a pain in the ass to have to make that extra stop on the early show day morning, ya know what I mean? 

compressor is powered by the cigarette lighter port in your car or truck
Just at that moment, as I was quietly kicking myself for not doing a better pre-check the day before and trying to calculate how risky it would be to just roll with the tire as it was.... My barn mate Amy walked up with freshly filled nets of hay, and nonchalantly suggested I use her own portable compressor. 

easy to read digital pressure gauge
Now maybe I'm way behind the curve here, but I really didn't know anything about these little compressors. I knew that they existed, and had seen them at places like rental car offices and such... But I'd never researched them or looked into details like pricing and whatnot. 

Maybe everyone else in the world already knows they're pretty accessible, convenient and useful gadgets. Which, ok, good for you haha. This was a new experience for me, tho, and a game changer at that. Thus, sharing here today with you all lol.

compressor in action!
Bc it turns out, this little compressor is quite the workhorse! The air hose screws directly onto your tire valve stem -- unlike gas station air pumps that you have to crouch down and hold in place. The power cord plugs into the vehicle's cigarette lighter, and is long enough to reach all 4 tires. It has a digital tire gauge on it that you preset it to the desired pressure, and it automatically shuts off when it's there. 

Sure, it's kinda slow -- by nature of its small portable stature. And filling that truck tire from its, ahem, cough cough, 17psi, cough, back up to full pressure took a few minutes. Given the auto-shutoff feature, tho, you could theoretically go do other things while the pump does its thing. 

LED flash light is bright enough to see in broad daylight
The pump's buttons are all very basic and straight forward. Sure, I read the instructions up and down a few times before operating the thing, but it was all very intuitive. Plus it has this crazy bright LED flashlight that was indeed quite useful for the dim lighting that morning. 

One detail to note: the instructions are covered in warnings that the compressor can get hot, and will overheat if used for too long. I haven't encountered that issue so far, and didn't notice any warmth (let alone heat) after it filled up that tire. But it's something I'll keep in mind in instances when I'm going around all 8 tires on the truck / trailer rig. Basically, as with anything horse-related, it's best to budget enough time to get it done haha. 

instructions literally printed on a sticker directly on the compressor too
So anyway, as I was standing there waiting for the tire to fill, I decided to look the thing up online. And... turns out, these little gadgets are wayyyyyy more affordable than I would have guessed. Again, maybe you were already in the know about this, but I certainly wasn't haha. 

Which obvi meant I literally put my order in right then and there for my own, and $33.78 later the thing was headed my way via the magic that is online retail. 

neat and tidy package. A) fuse box; B) air hose held in place on body of compressor by design; C) power cord has additional vecro snap to hold it all together
Now granted, some of you out there might prefer to do your own research or comparative analysis on various brands or models of this type of tool, since I'm sure there are dozens available across a broad spectrum of prices and capabilities. 

But.... Eh. I've been friends with Amy a long time. And we've spent countless hours in the truck over the years passing the time talking about everything and anything while on the road to this or that horsey adventure. And... tbh, even without asking her, I felt pretty confident that she'd probably done her due diligence in picking this particular pump. And that there was no need to recreate that particular wheel haha. 

accessories include a spare fuse, bicycle wheel adaptor, and nozzles for using the compressor as an air gun
Which, haha, she did confirm later in conversation that yes, she had googled and researched all about which was the best value pump and all that goodness, and so this was what she bought. Good 'nuff for me lol, and so it's what I bought too. 

And now I have it and.... I gotta say, just knowing that it's there has given me a surprising degree of relief. Apparently the tangled roots of my anxieties were deeper than I realized lol. Just coping with managing the whens and wheres and hows of keeping my trailer tire pressure topped off was apparently a low grade stressor. 

all of which stores in this nice little tote 
Not any more, tho! This little portable pump has now joined the ranks of "essential kit" along with my jumper cables, tire iron, and easy-up trailer jack. Just one less thing to worry about, right? 

Have any of you also used a portable air pump like this? Am I really the last person in the world to get one (lol)?? Or maybe you had some other recent discovery in automotive or trailering-related gizmos and gadgetries that changed your life forever?? 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

hunter paces #4lyfe

Just the other day.... A couple weeks ago.... Ahem. Way back over Labor Day weekend, Tranquility Manor Farms held their annual Fall Hunter Pace!! And obviously, we just had to go -- considering it's become a bit of a tradition around these parts.  

charlie looking majestic before we set off
Things are a little bit different now in the covid-era, but it actually worked out perfectly for us. Instead of hosting a single-day event, Tranquility decided to spread the pace out over the full weekend. Riders would sign up in advance for an available time slot (first come, first serve) over Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. 

In this way, Tranquility could better manage the number of people onsite at any given moment, while still ensuring everyone who wanted a time could get one. Works for me!

lol just kidding, take a look at this goon haha. i swear, the longer you look, the funnier it gets
Actually, it worked especially well for us, because it turned out there was kinda a large contingent of friends from various barns who wanted in on the fun -- just under 10 of us. But with scheduling shenanigans being what they were, it actually worked out better if we split into two groups that went on separate days.

And since there are always more horses wanting to go places than there are trailers, the Chucklesmobile (and, by extension, Charles himself) ended up signing on for double duty: We'd go with both groups, Friday and Sunday, and provide transport for different friends each time.

hangin with charlie's spicy little nugget of a friend, while the mares are off doing god only knows what
This ended up sorta kinda working out okay-ish for Charlie. Mostly. Haha. Meaning.... He was downright perfect on Friday (today's post), tho I opted to take it sorta easy to "save him" for Sunday. But then he was a fricken spastastic maniac on Sunday (post for some other day) soooooo.... oops? 

Oh well, tho. C'est la vie, I guess. 

Anyway. Tranquility's Fall Pace is held on a shorter course (2-2.5mi) than the Spring Pace (6-8mi), but it's still virtually the same idea. Teams of riders can navigate the marked track at whatever speeds they see fit, pausing to jump whatever jumps they see fit. Every jump can be gotten around for those not inclined, but there are also entire fields full of jumps that you might want to stop and school.

evening riding means hella sunbursts all over the screen <3 <3
Each division has an optimum time (for instance, entrants in the "Walk-Trot" division have a different time than those in the "Some Jumps" class, which is also different from the "High Options" group), and the teams that finish closest to this optimum time (which is secret!!) win.

We usually have a mix of green and experienced horses, and enter the "Some Jumps" division. Honestly, tho, we really don't ride for time. This type of event is essentially a glorified trail ride with some xc schooling and galloping thrown in for good measure, let's be real haha. 

familiar jumps are still fun jumps
Tho.... It ended up on this particular ride that a couple unexpected curveballs sorta slowed us down. First of all, the track (which is always different) ended up having a ton of downhill runs. There had been a fair bit of rain the day before too, so everything was a bit mucky and slippery. Idk about you guys but... Eh, running downhill in slick mud isn't really our jam. 

More than that, tho, our Friday group ended up being a wholesale showdown between the mares and geldings. Charlie and his spicy little nugget of a pony friend, Austin, were absolute perfect gentlemen as always. But the two ottb mares - Cherry and Marlee - were.... having a day

recently learned while setting up for tranquility's starter trial that they don't like using this coop for shows. apparently the wrought iron design can be downright catastrophic if a horse slides into it.... legit never considered that, oops. luckily charlie always jumps it beautifully!
But ya know, it's schooling, right? And our group philosophy has always been to ride to the lowest common denominator. If any member of the group - be it horse or rider - needs things to slow down, for any reason, we make it happen, ya know? 

And whether these particular mares agreed or not (hint: they did not), they needed things to slow down a bit, lol. So, especially at the beginning of the ride, Charlie and Austin spent a fair amount of time kinda standing around, waiting for the mares to get around to catching up lol. 

wheeee jumping with frens!!!
Eventually, tho, everyone kinda settled - just in time for what was hands down the best part of the track: After reaching the bottom of what had felt like a never-ending descent downhill, we finally faced an enormous uphill treeline gallop (complete with little logs and such along the way) that spit us out into one of our favorite schooling spots near the road. 

Most of the jumps along the treeline are just like piles of rotten logs and mulch and whatnot, honestly haha, plus a small assortment of coops and barrels etc. And we've jumped them all a million times over the years. But damn, it is Fun. Every. Time.

fun fact: this was the first ditch charlie ever jumped, way back in 2017!!
Charlie especially loves running and jumping and following his friends haha. Sometimes I swear he goes slow on purpose just so he can fall in line behind someone. In this case, even little pony Austin was able to outrun monster truck Chuck. 

And it was just.... great, ya know? Once in the little schooling area, we continued jumping around over all the little things up there -- like the pheasant feeder and a line from the ditch to a house. And stood around for a while watching everyone else school too. 

kinda love this chonky red roll, tbh
Tho, when I looked back over the video afterward, there were a couple jumps out there that I wished I'd taken a shot at, too. But ya know, I figured since we'd be going back two days later, I'd get straight to them then. Haha. Famous last words.... Oh well tho. 

Again, more on that second ride later haha, probably. Wasn't really a big deal at all, but it turns out I guess wild gallops across the field with friends should probably not be such a frequent occurrence for Charles, lol, or else he risks entirely forgetting the rules of civilized discourse...
wheeeeee poneh jompies!!
Honestly, tho, it really doesn't matter. Like I said, we've jumped almost every jump at Tranquility a million times over the years, and these rides are more about fun with friends than anything else. At some point I'd like to get back for a more proper school, but eh. This was plenty good 'nuff as far as I'm concerned!

All our group had fun too, although, ahem, cough cough, the mares were decidedly less well-behaved than they had been during our Spring outing.... Everyone finished strong tho, which let's be real -- that's kinda all that matters.

the mares were almost never close enough in front of the camera for a decent helmet cam screen grab, sorry :( they finished strong tho!
It was also kinda nice being out for the evening ride too. It was a different sort of mood than a weekend ride, if that makes any sense. Like, the light was different, it was the "end of a long week" kinda vibe where we were all able to just sorta sit back and enjoy that Friday feeling. 

Obviously the days are getting shorter and shorter now, so these sorts of rides won't even be possible pretty soon.... But maybe that was part of why it felt like a special stolen treat haha. 

honestly these rides are some of my all time faves <3
So, all told, we were very slow around the course -- taking something like an hour or a little more to get around the ~2ish mile track. Super fun, tho, and as is my habit, I condensed it all down to three and a half minutes of helmet camera action for your viewing pleasure lol.

It's been kinda a wonky year for helmet cam videos -- as in, there really haven't been many at all... But the outings we *have* been able to get out on were super fun. So I'll take it. And who knows, maybe more to come soon!! 

Fall is definitely my favorite time of year, and I'm really loving these hunter paces and derbies and trials and whatnot (vs an actual full fledged three phase event...). So hopefully there will be more chances lol.

Monday, October 19, 2020

going the distance @ Fair Hill

Happy Monday everybody! Wayyyyyy back a million years ago in the before times of April 2018, my friend Amy and I took our horses out to the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area parking lot on Telegraph Rd to meet up with Michele and Sarah for a trail ride

charlie and the water tower <3 <3
And just a few months prior to that, my friend Scott had offered me a ride on his own legendary retired prelim / 3rd level dressage campaigner Freebee for a similar ride across Fair Hill.

setting off!!
Both of those past rides were incredible -- for a few different reasons. Obvi riding with Sarah and Michele is fun under any circumstances, but that ride was esp poignant since it came right before Michele moved down to Tennessee, and was my only encounter with the dearly missed Batt horse <3. 

blue stone lanes behind the race training stables
The ride with Scott was a treat unto itself too, as he's been a volunteer mounted park ranger at Fair Hill for years. All of his horses have been likewise certified for duty, and over time he's come to know just about every single little thing there is to know about this park. 

scott knows literally everything about everything fair hill. including this history behind this grove of newly planted trees. maybe the boy scouts?? i can't remember haha
Ever since those rides, I've been trying to coordinate, cajole or otherwise coerce everyone into a return trip. But ya know. It turns out, schedules are hard and people have lives or some shit like that haha.

charlie <3's punky
Every time I saw Scott, tho - including all this spring when he so very generously loaned me the rides on his amazing horse Freebee and another special retiree Red while Charlie's barn was quarantined - we talked about getting back out to Fair Hill. By hook or by crook.

one of many (MANY) bridge crossings
And as these things always seem to happen, it finally happened pretty freakin randomly lol. Scott texted me one Saturday night around 9pm, asking if I'd like to go the next morning. Naturally, yes I did like, haha. 

ruins (restored and otherwise) errywhere -- they come up so quick yours truly couldn't even frame up a shot haha
Doubly naturally, I shot off a quick text to Amy inviting her to come along with her intrepid ottb Punky. Which, triply naturally, she also quickly rsvp'd, "Yes Please!"

we've been down this road a few times
And so, bright and early the next morning, off we went to that very same parking lot on Telegraph Rd, right across the street from the new International Arena. 

charlie's look here aims to remind me that he is *not* an endurance tb, thankyouverymuch
I warned Amy that we might be in for a slightly longer ride, since Scott routinely lays down some pretty long tracks at the park.... But even I was surprised after we clocked in somewhere close to 9mi when it was all said and done. Poor Charlie haha, he's been pretty coddled with his little 20-30min jaunts LOL!

covered bridge!! 
Really, tho, it was amazing. I luckily remembered to initiate two different tracking apps at the beginning of the ride, too, so we got some pretty good meta data on trails, elevations, speeds, distances, etc. 

in my experience, horses don't seemed to perturbed at entering the bridge -- but the echoes of hoof steps often catch them by surprise (check out the video to see what i mean!)
It was especially cool bc this is my fourth time now riding the trails at Fair Hill. First ever was actually in the BC {before Charlie} era, a paper chase with Isabel in July 2016 wherein we got hopelessly and irretrievably lost, all in the name of charity, and loved every second of it

this section was SO PRETTY -- the trees were so straight!
And somehow, during this ride with Scott as our fearless leader, we managed to cover basically almost allllllll the same ground as all those previous rides, plus some new tracks and paths too. Including one little dog leg that nudged jusssst over the MD-PA borderline (see the map below).

my pictures don't do it justice at all, but i <3'ed it
It felt like we crossed just about every single bridge in the park, tho realistically I know that's not true. Bc omg there are SO MANY BRIDGES at Fair Hill haha. We crossed a bunch, tho. Quite a few streams, and even through some tunnels too!

there are buildings and even private residences strewn throughout the area
We went back behind the racing stables; through some of the resource management fields used for hay, butterfly habitat, and other ecological studies; briefly into Pennsylvania; forged a stream and climbed a wicked canyon-esque hill; past some old ruins and bluestone lanes where the fox hounds live; past the streams where families were playing; through the Appleton Lot fields; into the very old International cross country fields; and the more recently "old" International xc fields; past the former main arena and into the Sawmill field (site of our recent derby); then finally back across to the stabling area and eventually over the final bridge to our parking lot on Telegraph Rd.

another bridge, this time over a busy highway
Let me tell you -- it was a hike. But ohhhh so beautiful -- and perfect weather and footing too! Scott was mostly looking for an outing where his horse Chase could just settle in and chill, rather than spaz out all the time. And obviously Charlie and Punky were happy to oblige. 

nostalgic for this old international arena. the new one is nice but... this old site has so much character and is so iconic!
Tho when Chase proved to be in a reasonable state of mind, we may or may not have snuck in a few trots and canters across the open fields <3 <3 <3

only barely resisted the temptation to dart in for a quick pretend victory gallop haha
I was actually slightly worried that Charlie might be likewise a bit wild too -- since we'd just done back-to-back hunter paces the week prior (uh, spoiler, post on that coming soon too, probably!). But actually he was pretty much spot-on perfect. 

one of fair hill's iconic tunnels!! watch the vid to see Punky almost lose his shit at the noise reverberations haha
His only real moment of patented Charlie Sadness was when we spotted a horse-drawn buggy in the distance. And oh, poor Charlie! His sadness was extreme, his despair deep. He lived tho, lol.

punky & chase were like two peas in a pod, almost twins and super similar in temperament 
Finally, tho, we were back at the parking lots, with three tired sweaty and happy OTTBs <3 <3

What a cool ride! I honestly can't believe it's been so difficult to get back here -- it's not like it isn't close to home. But it's an enormous park, and as we've demonstrated before, kiiiinda easy to get lost there. Going with someone like Scott who knows, inside and out, all the various trails and loops and connection points is really the way to do it. 

seriously tho, what a perfect day! <3 <3 <3
So here's hoping it won't be another 2+ years before we do it again haha. And, seriously, for real this time, hopefully we can eventually be organized enough to get a group together, rather than such a last minute set to. Altho.... Honestly, there's something kinda nice about the impulsivity of going out on a ~9mi lark haha. 

stats from what's officially both my and charlie's longest ever ride haha
Not sure I have the tolerance for much longer than that, to be honest, 6-8mi is more my limit. But it's nice to stretch out and challenge ourselves every now and again. And I think even Charlie was a little surprised at his own stamina LOL! 

Anyone else ringing in the fall with trail rides of epic proportions? Or, maybe more to the point, anyone local out there annoyed I didn't get the invites out fast enough and feeling more particularly motivated to make another ride like this happen asap?!

Friday, October 16, 2020

we like Mike

Just before our barn shut down for the covid quarantine last March, we welcomed a new resident: Mikey the barn cat!

This was pretty exciting for us all, bc unlike all past barn cats here, Mikey is decidedly not feral. In fact, he'd previously been a house cat (returned for unknown reasons).

Mikey has taken to this new job with gusto, too. He's basically the best barn manager cat ever -- with no task too minor or insignificant to escape his attention. For instance, you can always rely on his help while grooming your horse!

Tacking up, too!! And, bless him, Mikey takes a 'light touch' approach to his supervisory duties -- often staying back and out of the way even as his presence is always felt.

Really, tho, safety is Mikey's biggest concern.

He's a big believer in routine trailer inspections, especially at nighttime when small issues might be easy to miss.

Daytime too - tho! Bc Mikey likes to make sure Charlie and all Charlie's friends are always comfortable and safe for their many adventures <3

Which, while we've been a bit delinquent in writing about adventures here, anybody keeping track with the YouTube sidebar would have seen Charlie's been getting out and about lately. More to come on that soon!

Really, tho, it's so reassuring having Mikey around and checking everything out for us, making sure everything is packed up and secured down!.

"All cleared for takeoff!!" - Mikey, probably

Obviously in-barn duties are his specialties, tho. Like mixing supplements and organizing our tack lockers -- Mikey's always there to lend a helping paw!

Fall is coming on strong in these parts so it's a good time to switch out fly gear for all those winter wardrobe items fresh back from the cleaner's.

The nicest part about having a cat around to help is that he won't let you cut corners or rush through things. No no -- the job isn't done until Mikey says it's done. By which he means, it isn't done until he's finished napping on top of your stuff, thankyouverymuch.

Lately, Mikey's gotten a bit more 'hands-on' too -- his favorite new trick is climbing right up onto your back whenever you might happen to be sitting or crouching in his general vicinity.

It's pretty cute tho, and at least he's good about not scratching while he's treating his minions the boarders like his own personal jungle gym.

And anyway, esp in this year 2020 in which basically every single person I know is feeling exhausted and threadbare in one way or another, you gotta appreciate Mikey's energy and 'go-get-em' type attitude haha!!

Or at least, that's what I try to explain to Charlie whenever he startles at my sudden sprouting of a second head haha.... Bc omg, Charlie's face in this picture cracks me up lol

Mostly, tho, it's just nice having a buddy like Mikey around all the time. With shorter and shorter days, and a barn that remains closed during PM feeding (continuing covid restrictions), I've been doing more midday barn trips. It's great for getting the best of the fall weather, and having Charlie already in his stall (vs having to hike out to catch him). But it means quieter and less social visits.

That's ok, tho. Winter is coming, as is an eventual end to this godforsaken year 2020 (please dear lord). But in the meantime, fall is basically my favorite riding season -- and it's been refreshing to just follow Mikey's lead. We're getting involved with anything that looks fun and interesting, and otherwise just laying low and chilling the F out when the rest of the world gets too noisy or chaotic.

Anyone else out there wishing to be a little more like Mike??