Saturday, February 18, 2012

Frugal Friday: Tack of the Day

If you haven't heard of Tack of the Day yet, you're missing out!

Tack of the Day, better known to most tack addicts as "TOTD," is a flash sale website that offers tack and other horse-related items at scandalously low prices. TOTD announces two new products for sale Monday through Friday at 12 noon EST. The quantities are limited, so checking in on the daily offerings before they're all gone is imperative if you want the best chances of finding something in your size, color, etc.

Sometimes, you can find unbelievable deals through the TOTD website. A couple of years ago, I managed to find a fitted Mattes sheepskin show pad for my close contact saddle for 69% off of the manufacturer's retail price. It fit Sam perfectly and arrived just in time for our A-circuit show debut. The quilted top was baby pink, but at that price who cares? It's not like you could see it under the saddle anyway.

Sam and I schooling on a brisk morning at Penrose Farm in our fancy Mattes pad from TOTD!

Be sure to sign up for the daily notifications from TOTD so you never miss a chance to snag great horse stuff at unbelievable prices!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back To Basics I: Why Does My Horse Need a Refresher Course?

If winter weather is making riding impractical, you can still use your barn time to give your horse a refresher course in ground manners. Many people don't realize that every interaction with a horse is a training opportunity, for better or worse. It's tempting to let a little quirk or misbehavior slide until it snowball into a full-blown problem, but you can avoid most groundwork issues all together with just a few simple exercises.

 You've owned your horse for years. You know all of his little quirks like the back of your hand. He does a few things that might annoy other people, but you've learned to deal with his antics and adapted your routine accordingly. Why should you worry about going through a refresher course for ground manners?

Odds are, you are not the only person that handles your horse. Since most horses in the United States are boarded, your horse likely comes into contact with the barn manager and/or stable hands on a daily basis. Every 6-8 weeks, he'll need to be seen by the farrier, and he'll probably need to see the vet a few times each year for a variety of routine procedures. Everyone who comes into contact with your horse will be very grateful to you if he is well-mannered and respectful, particularly because a mannerly horse is also one that is safer to handle.

World renowned trainer and horseman Clinton Anderson says"Whatever a horse practices, he gets good at." If your horse practices crowding or pushing you around as you're leading him in from the pasture, he'll eventually turn that bad behavior into a bad habit. Likewise, the horse that is asked to turn and face you in the stall will eventually turn that good behavior into a good habit (not to mention that the likelihood that you'll be kicked when you come into your horse's space will be greatly reduced).

How do you teach your horse the difference between good and bad behavior? "Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy," says Anderson. "Correct him the first time [he shows bad behavior], and every time he does it, until he forms the right habit."

Over the next several days, I'll be bringing you a series of articles designed to help you regain your horse's respectfulness or, in the case of young horses, teach him the good manners he should know for the rest of his life. The result will be a horse that is safer, more fun to be around, and more marketable should you ever decide to sell or lease him.

Monday, February 6, 2012!

Last week, the editors of Judge My Ride (JMR) put out a call for an intern that could help promote the site via Facebook. I put in my application and, within a few hours, I got the job!

If you've never heard of Judge My Ride, you've been missing out! JMR was designed to provide riders with a unique opportunity to receive feedback from a number of highly qualified judges, riders, and trainers. All you have to do is sign up for an account on the JMR website (don't worry -- it's free and only takes a few minutes!), post photos or videos of your riding, and wait for your critique.

I have personally used JMR to gain a different perspective on my dressage work with Sam. I've found that having a fresh pair of eyes can sometimes cultivate a different way of thinking, especially if I've been grappling with an issue for a while. Most recently, JMR's dressage judge, Jennifer Barrows, gave me a few tips to transition my leg from a very huntseat pose to a more elongated dressage silhouette. Instead of thinking about twisting my toes into a more forward-pointing position, she suggested that I take a few minutes to think about rolling my thighs more inward, without stirrups, at the beginning of my ride to let my legs loosen up, stretch downward, and wrap around Sam's ribs with better contact. Within a few rides, I could already feel improvement!

Even if you already have a relationship with a trainer, I strongly encourage you to join the discussions on JMR. It's an excellent way to promote your sales horses, discover what the judges are looking for in the ring, and meet up with like-minded riders the world over. You may even be featured on the website or Facebook pages!

Judge My Ride on Facebook

Equitation, by Judge My Ride on Facebook

Style My Ride on Facebook

Friday, February 3, 2012

Frugal Friday: Save on Suds!

Now that the weather in our area has been unseasonably warm for a few weeks, I'm starting to feel the need for a little spring cleaning around the barn. After Sam decided to turn himself into a muddy monster last night, a bath is certainly at the top of my list!

The sheer number of horse shampoos available on the market can be mind-boggling, not to mention pricey. I recently saw a 500ml (16.9 oz.) bottle of plain-Jane, no-frills shampoo for sale in my local tack shop for $19.00. Yikes!

What's a girl to do when she wants a clean horse, but doesn't want to pay a small fortune on shampoos and conditioners at the tack shop? Hit the local grocery stores and supermarkets! Although the products may not be "specially formulated" for your horse, many human products contain the same (or better) cleaning ingredients than their specialized counterparts for a fraction of the price. What's not to love?

One of my favorite grocery-aisle grooming products is Ultra Ivory Concentrated Dishwashing Liquid soap. As with all Ivory products, the dish soap is made of only natural, organic ingredients that are biodegradable and will not remove the natural oils from skin. In addition to its common-sense use as a soap for scrubbing feed bins and buckets, I swear by Ivory Dishwashing Liquid as a mild shampoo and bit cleaner.

Product Image Courtesy

When I bathe a horse, I typically dilute 2-3 oz. of Ivory soap in approximately 4 gallons of lukewarm water and use a sponge or wash cloth to work the soap into the coat, mane, and tail. I've found that Ivory works into a nice lather that gets up all of the dirt and dandruff without requiring an epic scrubbing battle. Even better? The diluted soap rinses out easily without leaving an icky, skin-drying film behind.

A 24 oz. bottle of Ivory Dishwashing Liquid usually sells for approximately $3.00 in grocery stores and supermarkets, but larger quantities are available. If you have a big barn with lots of horses, buckets, and other "stuff" to clean, and other online retailers offer bulk-buy packages of two to six 90 oz. bottles for as little as 10 cents an ounce.

The Breakdown:
24 oz. Ivory Soap: $3.00 / 24 oz. = approximately 12 cents per ounce.
16.9 oz. basic horse shampoo: $18.95 / 16.9 oz. = approximately $1.12 per ounce.