Wednesday, April 29, 2020

my first Bartville Harness trip

Bartville Harness & Tack is a locally famous supplies shop in the heart of Pennsylvania's Amish country. Bartville services the farming community (livestock like cows, harness horses, plow horses, etc), thoroughbred racing outfits, and -- most relevant to us -- horse sport enthusiasts like fox hunters and eventers.

The shop is well-known throughout the MD / DE / PA region (probably VA too), but somehow I'd never visited before. Mostly bc.... it's well off the beaten path haha.

It's a beautiful drive, tho. Especially this time of year. Tho the roads are old with blind hills and turns, around any of which might be a horse buggy trit-trotting along. So, ya know, stay attentive and don't speed. 

Bartville is most famous for their leather work. Halters, bridles, harnesses, dog collars, stirrup leathers, breast plates..... All manner of strap goods are made to a high standard of quality in house. 

Not just leather - they also work with biothane and other materials suitable for the rigors of farming and driving. 

Considering the clientele, the shop also has tons of specialized equipment you won't find in a typical tack shop haha -- like this ginormous draft sized headstall for pulling. 

Personally, I loved all the little details and hardware too. Like that shiny pretty breastplate on this horse!!

Beyond the driving and farming sections, tho, Bartville's just like any big shop like Dover etc. The brand selection wasn't as varied, but everything is high quality and well stocked.

Oooh. And one of Bartville's compelling distinctions: the prices. Sure, some stuff costs the same here as elsewhere (and it's  worth keeping your phone handy for price checks). But some is priced ~15-25% below what I've normally seen.

Does Charlie need a new Himalayan salt block? No. Did I buy one anyway bc it was the best price I'd seen? Yes. Yes I did, lol. And a wall hanger too haha, obvi.

I was especially tempted by the tinctures and tonics section. Like, I have no immediate need for a box of Ulcergaurd tubes right now haha, and certainly no need to spend that kind of $$$$. Except.... Wow I almost did anyway bc it was priced so well haha.

Instead I grabbed MTG, Keratex, and a digital thermometer that's basically sold out everywhere else right now.

Really, tho, my favorite sections were the walls upon walls of strap goods. Bridles of all types, every sort of noseband imaginable. 

Racing bridles, hunt bridles, dressage bridles, event bridles.... All with different options for padding or stitching. The racing sections in particular, with the multicolored nylon options, really drew me in haha. 

It's worth mentioning Bartville's other dirty little secret. Maybe you already knew, maybe you didn't.... But this is where basically all of Nunn Finer's strap goods are manufactured. 

Reins, bridles, breastplates, stirrup leathers, etc. It's all made here. And available for like 20% off Nunn Finer sticker prices. Just FYI haha.

Virtually all of it is customizable too and can be ordered exactly to spec. Colors, hardware, lengths, sizes, all of it. Every single last bit. Even their selection of dog collars and leashes!

I also enjoyed browsing the aisles with Scott and his wife. They've kept horses healthy and happy at home under meticulous fastidious care for years - with that key distinction of exemplary horse people: their horses age well. 

So when they say a certain product is hands down the best, I take note lol. Like the above Sole Pack. I didn't buy any bc I currently have a full tub of Magic Cushion. But I'll probably try it next time I stock up. 

I also loved strolling the grooming and supplies section. Where obviously I grabbed another old school hard plastic curry since mine is ancient and losing teeth haha. 

Also check out those fun goggles! One day I'm gonna reprise my pair from our Hunter Pace Jockey Adventure a few years back lol... 

Really, tho, Bartville has everything. For just $125 this beautiful specimen could be yours!

My next leather halter (complete with engraving) will 100% come from Bartville, once Charlie finally kills his SmartPak halter haha.

Scott also clued me in on his favorite halter hardware configurations: namely, avoid adjustable chin straps. Which makes sense to me, since that's the strap Charlie always breaks.

Honestly, it was hard not to buy something from literally every aisle. Does Charlie need a new feed tub? No. Did I almost buy one? Yes. Why?!? Who knows!! Tho I did get new hardware to hang his water buckets LOLOL...

I also lingered among the saddle pad racks trying to rationalize a purchase here too. They had a TON of various padding materials and configurations, including stuff you can cut to size yourself for shims and whatnot. Probably mostly for the racing clients, but still very cool.

Lol and obviously when one owns a Charlie, one spends some time in the bandage section. 

The bit wall was extensive too - tho mostly fairly standard stuff. Also in this section was a whole wall of replacement hardware pieces and little odds and ends. From which I grabbed a few spare leather keepers since I keep losing them off one of Charlie's crank nosebands.

Lol and even the Amish sell CBD oil these days. It's a whole new world, y'all.

So yea. It was an awesome trip and I almost bought just about everything. But contented myself with a fairly practical haul: 

A brown buckle end pair of flexible rubber reins I've ogled at literally every tack shop for years, and finally bought! Boring stuff like a salt block and hanger, hardware to hang buckets, a thermometer, leather keepers... Another elastic trailer tie since I keep shredding them (whoops), plus necessities like MTG, Keratex, and a new curry. 

Aaand...... Then I went home and kept the party going online haha, bc once ya pop, ya can't stop, amirite? 

Online purchases included finally FINALLY finding a fuzzy elastic BROWN monoflap girth. Charlie has very specific girth preferences: "zero edges and maximum flexibility plz!" Brown short girths fitting that description are rare, but this HDR looks promising. And, turns out, Charlie's girth tastes are pretttty cheap, bonus! 

Oh and I got a decidedly not-cheap pair of Passier nylon-lined leathers. Bc it's time, yo. I've been running cheap ass stirrup leathers for so so SO long. I love the fancy nice ones, but could never justify the cost. But eh, with what I saved on all those other goodies, it sorta works out, right??

So there ya have it. My first (and hopefully not last) trip to Bartville Harness & Tack, complete with all manner of impulse purchases. 

Have you been to Bartville? Interested in learning more? They don't have a website, but their catalogs are excellent - you can order standard OR fully customized stuff of all sorts. Phone number is 717-529-6992, Ext. 0, for anyone interested haha. 

This little shopping spree was a fun escape from quarantine related doldrums. And a fun way to spend $$ I'd otherwise be using on lessons and shows. Retail therapy, right? It's not the same, but I guess it's good enough for now. Anyone else finally springing for a purchase you'd resisted for years? 

Friday, April 24, 2020

'Fraidy Cat Kentucky Coverage!

It's kinda bizarre saying "TGIF" when all the days blend together anyway. Is it really Friday tho?!? Or something more like ThurTueSun?!? Who knows! And does it even matter??

boyd + thomas!
Ahem, cough cough. Pardon the outburst lol....

Moving on, it's Kentucky 5* weekend!!! Or, at least, it would be if the entire world wasn't sidelined in some way shape or form by covid.

you know what it be
Eventers, tho.... Haha -- they're a resilient, adaptable bunch.

I can't even imagine the personal devastation some of the would-be 5* entrants are feeling... And yet, ya gotta appreciate the brave face so many have put on -- what with virtual jogs and whatnot all over social media.

complete 2019 xc coverage

Plus - as you've likely already seen elsewhere in the blogosphere and on social media, everyone is doing their best to relive all the good memories without thinking too too deeply about missing out on the "now."

boyd + thomas show jump!

Long time readers might remember that I've gotten into a sorta annual habit with my Kentucky trips. One of my good friends hails from down yonder, and her family always opens up their home in Louisville to our raucous group.

It's become tradition, and we always book our tickets at the earliest possible moment. Because it's a forgone conclusion - of course we're going!

ollie townend + cooley master class -- winning round!

So ya know, just like everyone else this year, we're a little bummed.

bonus grand prix invitational round with karl cook

And obviously all these videos barely scratch the surface of what it's actually like to be there. Seeing all those amazing horses up close and personal. Walking the xc course, observing the warm up rings, strolling through all the tent sales and vendor booths....

complete 2018 xc coverage - including footage of winner Michael Jung
also plus some show jumping footage! inc P Dutty, Boyd, ML, and Jung

But ya know. At least it's something haha. Unfortunately for some reason I never made an overall compilation video from my 2016 trip. Not sure why, bc I must have had at least a little bit of footage in order to grab the still shots used in that post.

Oh well, tho, the 2018 and 2019 videos are pretty epic <3

missing this crew right now!
Honestly, tho, the thing I'm most sad about missing is hanging out with the gang. Getting dinners, buying ridiculous things together, tailgating, ooh-ing and aah-ing over all the amazing horses.... And also just those long car rides between Lexington and Louisvlle... Getting cozy in the basement with everyone strewn about on couches and air-mattresses....

All of it. Which, not coincidentally is not far from a reflection of missing out on that social interaction in normal every day to day life right now for so many of us.

Sigh. Oh well, it is what it is. Hope you are all having a great Friday - and enjoy reliving some of the Kentucky glory from years past!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

that Red horse!

Lol guys it's kinda ridiculous right now. I'm sitting on my couch (like, ya know, basically everyone else), not doing a whole heckuva lot more than my day job. Except --- actually plus some other horsey stuff.

FUN horsey stuff!! Legendary retiree horsey stuff!! With ALL the media OMG!

But... It's weird haha, I know what I want to write but like, just haven't written it. Meh. Those #quarantinefeels are unpredictable I guess!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So rather than force out any words, let's just take a closer look at that Red horse, aka Killian <3

bc. guys. I LOVE this horse, wow. I didn't even know that I missed the view between two redhead ears. sure, getting to peer through Eeyore's ears just a few short weeks ago (tho at this point it feels like a lifetime...) was such a welcome reminder. 

bc really, there's something so so special about these redheads. in case you forgot, Red aka Killian is ~21 and moved into my friend Scott's barn in the winter of 2018, skinny, recovering from EPM, and in the throes of some major hoof catastrophes. 

Red is an experienced and accomplished veteran event horse, and was campaigning at the Prelim level around the same time as Scott's other retiree, Freebee. but after his retirement and some massively disruptive life circumstances for his owner, he sorta got shuffled around for a little bit.

but luckily he found a soft landing at Scott's farm. and over the past two winters, Scott has nursed this incredible OTTB back to a healthy condition. meaning: now he's able to carry a rider for some light rehabilitative conditioning riding. (even yours truly, who has most certainly gained that #quarantine15)

the first time I rode him, I felt.... a little uncertain of his balance haha. he has a history of front end injury and hind end, uh, EPM... so i just did a 15min walk for his first under saddle in like 2 years haha. our next ride Scott was in the irons for a light hack and the horse was definitely spritely. the third time was me again, and the difference in his movement was substantial. in the best way. Red was feeling GOOD again.

possibly.... too good haha

bc homeboy immediately took to the pastures to express his newfound delight in regaining physical strength. and ATE FUCKING SHIT OMG. just look at his face in the left most picture. that is the face of immediate Life Choice Regret. 

but ya know. these special redheads. they are beloved, ya know?

and coming from the local community, Red's long-time body worker is also local. and was actually already scheduled for a visit even before his ill-conceived pasture party haha. so ya know, that was convenient haha. even better - she was able to tell us all manner of stories from this horse's history, which is always fun. 

more important than anything else tho, coming back into work -- and especially getting visited by his familiar body worker -- has really helped Red come out of his shell. he's a special boy, but sometimes these highly experienced horses kinda recede behind a wall of "obedience" without really showing their personalities.

and considering the brief (tho likely impactful) period Red spent getting shuffled around, he definitely seemed a bit walled up. suddenly, tho, that's changing. yessss!! <3 <3 <3

lol obvi that's not the Red horse, just his stall neighbor Chase, Scott's young horse. he was jealous of all the attention Red is getting right now

tho let's be real, every horse in Scott's barn (all three of them) are basically living the life. and i'm so so so so grateful that i have this small private socially-distant-compliant opportunity to interact in horsey endeavors during this unbelievably challenging time...

i think Red is enjoying it too. after marinating for a day or two post-bodywork, it was time to evaluate soundness under saddle again. and damn if this red mother fucker didn't just about bolt with me when i first got on haha.

being perfectly honest, the weakness in his walk made me really question soundness. Scott had the idea that we might try a trot that ride to see what was what, but i was verrrrrry doubtful upon walking him around for like 15 min. frankly, i just didn't feel like it was necessary to risk a potential horse + rider face plant, ya know?

but the longer we went, the more lively Red marched. march march March MARCH. and then, suddenly, 15 min into looping around the small grass ring, Red starts jigging. and like, ok brosef. i'm happy you feel lively. let's go on ahead. and i just sorta let the jig melt into a proper trot. 

aw and guys. this old boy just trotted right on around. shockingly sound. like, sure, maybe not FEI jog-up sound. but like, whoa bro. Get. It. hahaha. it was amazing --- haha homeboy was actually almost running away with me at times!! what a feeling <3 <3 <3

obvi we didn't go for very long. his muscles are weak and need gentle conditioning. but what a special feeling. it ain't much, but it's enough during these crazy times <3

Hope you all are doing ok too, and hopefully also getting those glimpses in whatever way possible of those amazing good feelings that help remind us that there's still good stuff out there, and good times coming again.

Monday, April 13, 2020

news from the front

Like many of you, it's been a few weeks now since covid-related rules, guidelines and regulations have completely and utterly interrupted my horse habit. Basically, all things Charlie have ground to a halt. Absolutely and without exception.

now i'm allowed to visit my horse once every 2 weeks to drop off supplies
Refining our ring-craft in dressage tests? lol.... nope.

Carrying an uphill balance consistently in show jumping? ....maybe later ha

Building strength and fitness to carry us through when all else fails?, at least he's getting turnout?

it was so nice to get to see him! altho, i was surprised to find them out on grass a month early
And to be perfectly honest with you all?? That's not even what's occupying the bulk of my attention at this point. Rather, it's missing the simpler side of things. The simple joy I get from being in my horse's company. The fact that, even tho I drive 45min-1hr to get there, just seeing Charlie is usually enough to melt away the stresses from my day.

Winston Churchill is widely celebrated for a few reasons, but also credited with noting that "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." I'd say it's simpler than that tho - time spent even just in the company of horses is always time well spent. For me, and for many of you too.

it's the sort of change in a horse's routine you'd wish management would communicate... esp since charlie has a history of colic during this transition period
Losing this special time is... well, honestly, a heartbreaking adjustment. For everyone.

I already wrote about having reservations on how Charlie's barn management is handling these completely unprecedented circumstances. Had they bothered to ask me, or confer any degree of authority on me.... Well, ya know, haha.... I'd probably do things differently. But.... Nobody asked me. And nobody handed me the reins.

And so, because I *do* agree with the intent of the rules, even if I would design them differently myself.... ya know.... I comply. Sigh.

but. eh. there's not a lot of grass yet. and he's fine. honest to god, happy as a clam, doing just fine living his life every day as a horse, just a horse who gets a little less attention now
Hiring a groom from among the existing staff (ie, that enviable class of "essentials") was hands down a game changer for my emotional state. There were a few options on how to go about this. Originally, I planned to post on the barn's page asking whether anybody was interested in earning a few bucks. There are plenty of experienced ppl on the staff, ya know?

But.... After thinking on it, I changed tactics. Bc.... I didn't want someone who was just in it for the cash, or someone who was going to be the type of "experienced" that makes them believe they know what's best for my horse even if it doesn't align with my wishes.

from here on are pictures my groom J has sent. she figured charlie out right away haha, and loves playing with him!
Rather, I wanted someone who was going to approach it out of love for horses, love for learning, and excitement at the opportunity to increase their responsibilities. And I planned to pay plenty well enough to forgive my sliiiiiiightly micro tendencies haha. (You all read my letter to this groom, you know exactly what I'm talking about, let's be real!).

So I reached out to an inexperienced high schooler and offered her the gig. And she's been ahhhhmazing. She LOVES Charlie (what's not to love tho, ya know?) and over the past few months had already demonstrated a quickness to learn and an eagerness to put the horses first, rather than cut corners. Any of you out there who have ever had to train barn staff - you know exactly the type of worker I'm describing.

case in point lol: charlie likes to help out by lending an extra hand mouth to hold grooming tools
True, the inexperience means that she's less likely to recognize early warning signs or small discrepancies. Tho, obviously, such should be covered under my standard full care board agreement anyway, the whole reason I'm deemed not essential (cough cough....).

she made homemade cookies for all the horses too, and took videos of them snacking!!
But... Idk. Charlie is a sensitive soul. He needs to be loved and petted and have someone tell him he's pretty and kiss his nose. And he's getting that in SPADES with J. Plus... probably along the way, this young rider will also learn about some of the other aspects of observing a horse's day to day health and well being.

I was in a similar position when I was her age --- tho I'd already been riding for quite a while and had more experience in that regard. But I craved nothing more in the world than that sort of special responsibility and special relationship with individual horses. I guess it comes with the territory of not owning, and not even seeing a path to ownership.

lol she made a good effort at trying to get him to eat a peep on easter too. no dice tho, turns out there's something charlie WON'T eat, who knew!!
Regardless, tho, getting her twice weekly updates and pictures is such a relief to me. I know Charlie is in good hands. And now I'm allowed to drop off supplies once every two weeks, which also helps me just confirm with my own eyes that everything is.... Fine.

she might be inexperienced at horses, but as a highschooler she certainly knows her way around social media 
enjoy this compilation of the many videos she's sent me! my personal favorite is the clip of charlie standing in his patented statuesque majestic way, which she overlaid with the 'calvary charge' music lol

It's fine. Charlie is fine. He's happy, content, doing his thing. He's healthy and dirty and losing fitness at an astounding rate. And not at all perturbed by that or anything else in this world haha. Charlie has always taken the "retired" part of Retired Racehorse wayy too seriously, let's be real.

So I'm ok. It's ok. It's going to be fine.

J also got the honors of giving charlie his birthday groom and apple <3 <3 <3 this big guy is 11 now, can you believe it?
What is not fine, tho, is letting this general malaise, this general feeling of frustration, sadness, concern... translate into hostility (overt or otherwise) toward others.

As far as I can tell, everyone (not just the horse community) is feeling the effects of prolonged uncertainty and angst. It's scary. People are fucking scared. And maybe a little angry. Maybe it's getting better... Maybe it isn't... Maybe at this point you find yourself distrustful of whatever news comes through. It's just... hard to know.

screen grabs from aforementioned statuesque majesty lolol
And there is a LOT of blame going around. At all levels of society. Everyone is suffering in some way. Many from losing someone they loved, or from having been sick themselves. And many more from losing their jobs or livelihood. Plus, ya know, 98% of the population experienced at least some small degree of unwelcome upheaval.

And lacking any sort of tangible concrete target (bc viruses are invisible), it's unclear how to vent all this pent up frustration, fear and anger. So people are going straight up vigilante.

she's gotten into the habit of grooming him out in the field lately. imo that's not ideal in the case where she might identify a wound or something... but eh, so far so good
I read an article about how some vandals slashed the tires of car parked at boat yard. Presumably bc they figured it was a vacationer going out on a yacht. Actually, it was a nurse self isolating from her family, sleeping on a boat between shifts.

Closer to home, I've seen some *insane* comment threads on social media. Blasting people every which way from Sunday for barring boarders from the facilities ("IT'S ILLEGAL!") or for choosing to ride ("SO SELFISH, THE RISK!"), and literally everything in between.

charlie's certainly not complaining, anyway
And even at my own farm, people are slinging venom - including at Charlie's nascent groom - about why some staff are allowed when maybe the owners see themselves as better qualified for that staff position. Or why they don't trust management after years of (silent) unrest or whatever.

Idk. It's hard. So so so hard. For everyone who is angry, I.... totally relate. Bc I'm angry too. If I had control over this situation, I'd do it really really really fucking differently. But. I don't. I have zero control right now. And it fucking sucks.

sorta sad to be missing all the rest of spring at the farm. but that's ok.... we'll be back eventually. probably.
But it's going to be ok. Maybe. Probably. Maybe not in the ways we'd expect or wish, and maybe not perfectly. But it's also not the fault of the people around us who are also facing exactly the same unprecedented situation.

Maybe there will be a reckoning later. I don't know. But.... Honestly I'm just gonna try to keep my peace and hold fire until the dust has settled. Just gonna try to make good choices. Gently poking and  prodding when possible, sure. But resisting the temptation toward outrage, at basically all costs.

And in the meantime... I'll do whatever the hell I can to stay in the good graces of the people who *do* have control over the care of my animal, Charlie, whom I love. Because at some point theoretically this current situation will be over, right?