Recently my husband and I found ourselves in Las Vegas on a work trip. But during the trip we had some free time and had booked ourselves a Sunset Trail Ride with Wild West Horseback Adventures. And we are so glad we did!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know this is right up both of our alleys since our honeymoon was spent on a dude ranch in Pennsylvania. We had never been out West and definitely not on the Old Spanish Trail so this was a treat!

The chef and driver, James, picked us up from our hotel on the Las Vegas strip around 4 p.m. and we were off! It takes about an hour plus picking up others to get out to Moapa Valley where the ranch is. The drive itself is very scenic and enjoyable and James cracks all the bad jokes you need for the month. And it’s perfect.

Arriving at the ranch, we signed the typical waivers and one of our guides, Caesar, went over all of the safety rules and made sure no one was drunk or hungover! It’s great for everyone in the group from beginners to experienced because even though my husband and I ride a lot, every horse has different buttons.

The group is really focused on making sure everyone has water which you have to out in the desert. Every saddle has a little pouch for your water bottle and your phone and you could leave other valuables locked up in the van. James stays at base camp while he cooks.

Don’t worry about mounting from the ground here! Everything is by a large platform so it’s easy for everyone of all experience levels and sizes.

And then the ride began! I don’t quite want to spoil the ride, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Once you turn to go home, you are riding right into the sunset and it’s beautiful! I’ll post the photos, but they don’t do it justice!

We were at the front of the line and spent a lot of time chatting with the trail guide Brock. He was super nice and pointed out all of the animals and views. We even found a small lizard – with the help of the dogs – that Caesar caught and showed everyone!

After the ride which is at a steady walk and perfect for viewing the landscape, you’re treated to a steak or chicken dinner cooked by James. The best way to sum up dinner was that it was great, wholesome, good food. The steaks were a wonderful cut and very juicy!

Finally before heading back to the strip, Caesar taught a few of us how to lasso which was great for some laughs!

Some pointers if you decide to go: wear jeans and closed toe shoes and bring a wide brimmed hat! It gets hot the first half of the ride in the sun and you will get dehydrated or burnt if you don’t drink water during the ride from your pack.

I would return here in a drop of a hat. It was a great experience and James, Caesar and Brock made it very fun. Five hoofs up!

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One of the most hotly debated topics in the horse industry is supplements. Do you feed them? Do you not? How do you choose between the thousands of products that are available? I will admit I’ve only been a horse owner for a short period of time. However one of the things I find most important is education. I’ve taken the time to learn, ask questions and read all I can to be a more informed horse owner and to make better decisions.

When I first started out with Jack, my barn was a SmartPak barn. Almost every boarder in the barn and many of our lesson ponies had a SmartPak bin. I feed meals to the horses frequently on the weekends and the SmartPaks were easy to use and great to have around. At the time I was giving Jack Smart Dark and Handsome and SmartDigest Ultra (with ColiCare protection). But SmartPak began getting very expensive and even though the company had great benefits like the ColiCare program and free shipping, it wasn’t very feasible anymore. Also we had several horses at the barn who would balk at different supplements and refuse to eat them.

About a year ago, my barn owner started learning about DAC products. Our barn shows on the Quarter horse circuit and DAC has become very popular in the Quarter horse world. After starting Jack and then Jim on DAC, I can see why.

I feed DAC’s CoolGut, Bloom and Oil. (The Bloom and Oil together make for great hoof and skin support!) I’ve also fed their Foundation Formula for hooves before. I must say I’ve been impressed. Not only do the products work and really show a difference in my horse, but they smell amazing to the point where even humans want to try it! We really have yet to have a horse who has refused a DAC product.

Price wise you can’t beat it. DAC works through dealers in different regions across the country and you can buy directly online as well. DAC has become so popular that SmartPak began to carry some of the products in their wells. Although I’ve considered doing that, you still cannot beat the price for the DAC tubs. The only headache is feeding them out. You are now dealing with a lot of buckets that otherwise wouldn’t have been around with SmartPak.

It’s not to say that I don’t think SmartPak is a great company. They are and I do occasionally order from them. Just for supplements, DAC fits what I’m looking for in a great product.

If anyone has any questions about DAC or supplements, comment away!

(I have in no way been paid for this review and have purchased these products myself.)

 

Recently I went on the search for a new everyday saddle pad for Jim and I. He sweats a lot (black and New England in the summer do not mix well) and I was looking for something that had a lot of moisture wicking, but would be stylish, stay in place and fit my saddle.

During my search, I came across the Professional’s Choice VenTECH Jump Pad. Retailing at $39.95, it wasn’t a bad price. Attached to my western saddle is a Professional’s Choice VenTECH cinch so I knew I really liked the VenTECH technology that the company puts in their products.

 

I ordered it in red since I decided red would be Jim’s new color. I ordered it on Horse.com with a $5 gift certificate off my next purchase on the site. When it arrived, I was so happy. Along with a wonderful underside which is entirely moisture wicking and VenTECH, the pad features D-ring attachments at the top and the usual girth holder at the bottom. Around the girl is reinforced and the pad just feels well made. It’s also shaped very nicely for a typical close contact saddle.

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Overall, it’s a great pad and I would definitely consider ordering more colors. For the quality and the price point (I can’t exactly afford a Mattes!) it’s a well-made, gorgeous pad that does a great job.

(I did not in any way receive compensation for this review, I purchased the product myself and the opinion is entirely my own.)

It is officially summer in New England and with summer comes amazing things like more horse shows, long days under the sun, equestrian tans and bathing ponies. There’s also not so pleasant things that crawl on tiny legs or fly through the air and torment both us and our equines.

Here in New England, one of our major issues are ticks. But as the population has changed, it’s not only just New England that is tormented by these eight-legged bloodsuckers.

There are a couple of ways to help protect your horse against ticks.

One – keep tall grasses under control. Watch out for the grass growing tall against your fence lines especially if the fence butts against forest. Ticks love dark, humid places and can survive throughout the winter.

Two – use a permethrin-based fly spray that strictly mentions ticks on the label. You don’t have to spray them all over, but watch out for legs, chest, under the tail and under the belly.

Three – check your horse often. Check them all over for ticks that may have crawled onto them and attached. Ticks love under the tail bone, under the elbows, IN the mane at the base where the skin is thin, and under the jaw. If you find a tick, break out those handy tweezers and a bottle of rubbing alcohol to drop them in after. Be careful not to squeeze them. The sooner you find them the better that they may not transmit diseases.

Four – consider spraying your property with a pet-safe tick repellent. They are a few to choose from and they can be a great option considering how bad the tick population has been recently.

As far as fly control, I have a few favorite methods that I employ once they start flying through the air.

For turnout, Jim goes out in a fly sheet from Schneider’s (sstack.com). I really love their mosquito mesh and the soft interlock. (The soft interlock is a bit heavier than the mesh but has better UV protection.) I also have a mosquito mesh neck cover and a good ole fly mask. I don’t really bother with the leg wraps, but that’s just me. I know some people have had good success with the leg wraps if their horses are constantly stomping at the flies.

For fly spray, I love the Pyranha aerosol or Equiderma’s fly spray. The Equiderma feels like lotion even when it sprays back at you and the Pyranha does have permethrin for the ticks.

While riding, Jim always has on a fly mask or a fly bonnet. The fly bonnet is probably my favorite of the two for style reasons.

Inside the stall, yes fans can be great at keeping your horse cool and keeping bugs off of them. However the benefits do not outweigh the risk of the fires that box fans can start in a barn. Our barn are not huge box fan users and I’m totally ok with that.

This is for the girls that can’t afford the $5,000 saddle or the $1,000 pair of tall boots. This is for the girls that have spent years dedicated to trying to move up a level and just won’t give up. This is for the girls braiding and shining their grade pony for a show because they know he’s just as good as the $10,000 warmbloods.

This is for the girls that cheer on others, that don’t care what other girls are wearing or who they’re riding. This is for the girls that support each other on the sidelines and in a sport based on judging, just wants everyone to succeed. This is for the girls that don’t let winning get to their head because they know the next show they might not do so great and that’s ok.

We are all equestrians.

Part of being an equestrian is also having the tools from going from the barn out into the general public. And what girl doesn’t like their makeup? For me though, I don’t have hours to sit and do my makeup. I tend to have a makeup bag in my purse ready to throw a face on while I’m rushing around doing things. I’m also incredibly picky about my foundation.

While at the store, I found they didn’t have my usual foundation. So I decided to mix it up a bit. I’m not typically a Sephora shopper (let’s face it, that money is spent at the tack shop.) I do subscribe to the Ipsy bag so I can have some fun with new products once a month and it isn’t expensive. I typically use a lot of drugstore brands.

I picked up Maybelline’s Dream Cushion Luminous Liquid Foundation.

I was drawn to it since they had it in my shade and it was marketed as on the go. That intrigues me. Once I got it home, I immediately opened it up to try it. It has its own little sponge with a strip of fabric for your finger. You dab it on the cushion underneath that has the product on it, dab it on and use little taps to blend.

I was really pleasantly surprised. At $15, it needed to be something good. It covered nicely, blending was pretty easy and it’s very light. I don’t feel like I have a whole face of makeup on. And my usual shade came out perfect. It definitely lived up to its name of being a dream.

I’m going to continue using the product and see how it goes, especially when I sometimes do my makeup in the car. For right now, this gets two thumbs up!

(I purchased this product with my own money and did not receive any compensation for this review.)

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The other day I saw a meme about what life would be like without horses and I could relate to how that feels and the pain it causes.

I wasn’t always fortunate enough to be around horses as much as I am now. When I was young, I think my parents hoped horses were “just a faze.” They hoped the dozens of model horses, the endless supply of horse movies, the horse books stacked up in my bookcase and the constant asking for a pony for Christmas would end. Quite frankly, it makes sense that they would think it was just a faze. For many children, it is. A love of horses starts young in many girls and although they still enjoy them, most get distracted and move on to other sports or boys or just something beside spending all of their time covered in dirt and hay in a smelly barn.

But stubborn, sassy me was determined. I rode in middle school and through half of high school until I had a bad fall. Confidence shaken, I succumbed to a life without horses. I took up dance for my final two years of high school. I had danced from age five to middle school so it wasn’t a stretch. I did do well in dance, but something was missing. In college, I didn’t have access to horses. I was too busy and too broke to do anything about it. So I tried to live without and what a mistake that was.

I struggled to figure out my identity. I made friends and enjoyed college life, but something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, but I was more on edge. My anxiety worsened. I got caught up in a relationship that wasn’t right for me.

Finally, during my second out of three years at university, I reached out to a friend with a Morgan/Arabian mare in her backyard. My friend was attending school in Ohio and her mare needed some love and work. I readily agreed.

I started to blossom again. I soon got out of the bad relationship. I caught rides to see the mare as often as I could. I begged my now husband (then a friend) to bring me to see her. I arranged for my co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega to do work at a local horse rescue. Seeing others enjoy the 1,000 pound animals that I love so fiercely was amazing.

After college graduation, I found myself at a barrel racing barn volunteering to ride a green horse for his owner. Although that match didn’t work out, I came across my first lease horse, Bo. And the rest is history. Even though I didn’t stay long at the barrel racing barn, it was enough to open my heart back up. My then-fiance fell in love with equines too. The anxiety-induced panic attacks started to lessen. I gave up trying to be someone I wasn’t.

So when people ask me why I spend so much time at the barn and thinking and dreaming of horses, I can simply say it’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a passion I cannot be without. It’s part of who I am and I’m proud of that. And I never want to know a life without horses again.

As I mentioned in my blog post about saying goodbye to Jack, when one door closes, another opens. While I bid ado to my friend, I said hello to a new one.

Down in the lower barn, at the way end of the aisle on the left sat “Jim.” He had just come to the barn in December as a lesson horse. At 15.2 hands, Jim is a solid black registered Paint. With some white stockings up his leg and a funny backward question mark looking stripe, he also has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.

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Jim is almost the complete opposite of Jack. He’s 11, broke, he jumps, does barrels, trail rides. You name it, Jim does it. The best part? My husband can also ride him since he’s tall enough and quiet enough.

My barn owner offered us a lease on Jim with plenty of rides during the week. We couldn’t turn it down. There was just something about him. Although my heart is still mending over Jack, I started to get excited about Jim. Thomas and I started thinking about our show season and all of the fun things we can do. I started making plans to go trail riding with one of my good friends around the property because finally, at last, I had a horse I could do it with. My world started turning.

Jim can never be a replacement for Jack. I don’t expect any horse to completely fill his void. Jack left an awful big mark on my heart. But Jim is here to nuzzle my shoulder and remind me of why I love horses. He is the biggest teddy bear I’ve ever known.

While I’m on Jim, I’ve started to relax again. I’ve started to gain back the confidence that Jack had thrown in the dirt. I started to feel more like me.

It’s been a bittersweet couple of months in my life. It’s been hard to say goodbye, but it’s a welcomed feeling to say hello. Jim seems to know I need him. After Jack left the barn, Jim let me pamper him for over an hour, braiding his long, fluffy, unruly mane. He took it like a champ and fell asleep, lower lip drooping. Each day it gets a little bit easier. Every step I take with Jim reminds me I can do it.

You are a horse owner or have a friend who owns a horse and you’re looking for the perfect gift for him/her. Horsehair jewelry is out of the question. The person doesn’t want to cut their horse’s tail. Or they would never wear it. In comes Vibrant Clay and Jewelry.

I have had a number of custom animals made by Leanne. A quick Facebook message is all it takes to order. She does have a waiting list and is usually booking custom projects for the next month or so. They typically run anywhere from $40 up depending on the complexity of the custom work. She will add props or different poses or anything you can imagine! You can even make your horse into a unicorn.

The dog I had done (shown above) was my childhood Sheltie named Oreo. All I had was a few photos of her from when I was a child. Leanne worked with me and made a spot on replica of her. I treasure it forever. I’ve also had gifts done for other people of their horses.

Don’t want to order custom? She posts horses, dogs, cats, chickens, elephants – almost any animal – up for sale on her Facebook page. Right now she’s running a whole line of Easter-themed animals she has done!

If you’re interested, go ahead and like her Facebook page and send her a message! She will let you know the wait time and after you send photos and describe what you’d like, how much it will be. She does accept PayPal.

(I have paid for all custom work done by Vibrant Clay and Jewelry and did not receive any compensation for this review.)

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(Photo courtesy of irhhelmets.com)

Helmet. The second you say the word it’s like you stepped onto a battlefield and raised your flag, signifying your troops to charge on full force like a scene out of Braveheart. It’s one of the most polarizing topics on Facebook groups and Instagram wars. Why, when you step onto a 1,000 pound animal with a mind of its own, you should wear a helmet.

Anyone who has met me has known me to be very straightforward about my advocacy for wearing helmets. I have had one save my life and I know some of my smaller falls probably could have been a lot worse had I not had my helmet on.

I was in high school when I was on a runaway Arabian gelding named Fireman. No matter what I did, he kept on tearing around the arena. The barn I was at at the time had an attached barn to the indoor. He felt like he was going to go out the door. Instead, he veered to the left and I took a hard fall right – into the indoor arena wall.

I was bruised, I tore muscles, I was shook up, but I never blacked out. I destroyed the back dial of my black International helmet and cracked the outer shell. But alas, I was walking, talking, breathing, reading and did not suffer a traumatic brain injury. All because of my helmet.

I hear so many reasons from riders why they don’t wear helmets. “You don’t wear helmets riding Western,” “it’ll mess up my hair,” “I’ll be penalized in shows for wearing one,” “they make me look stupid,” “I know my horse and that would never happen to me.” And my favorite one, “it’s my head and I’ll take the risk.”

A few myths to dispel. 

1 – you cannot be penalized in a show ring in any class for wearing a helmet. AQHA, USEF, USEA – you name the organization, the rules state you cannot be penalized.

2 – it’ll mess up my hair or I’ll look stupid. I think I’d rather look stupid or have to run a brush through my hair than not have the motor skills left after a TBI to brush my own hair.

3 – You don’t wear helmets riding Western. Well actually, it’s perfectly safe and acceptable. Even though I dislike Fallon Taylor, at least she has introduced more helmets to the barrel racing and western world. I was at a barrel race years ago when a girl came off her horse going around a turn and slammed into the barrel. She almost didn’t live. Now would a helmet have kept her from most of her injuries? Maybe not. But it would have increased her chance of not suffering a TBI. 100%.

4- I know my horse and that would never happen to me. Guess what? Horses are animals. They have minds of their own. They get scared and spook at things. I don’t care if you’re on a 30-year-old mare you’ve ridden since you were 2 years old. There is ALWAYS a chance at an accident. It’s simply part of our sport. I have seen that same 30-year-old mare go flying across the arena after snow fell off the roof.

And finally,

5 – It’s my head and I’ll take the risk. Yes, it does come down to your decision. However say you do fall and hit your head and if you live, suffer a TBI. You also affect all of the lives around you. All of your loved ones and friends. You also have changed your life forever. Don’t expect to be back in the saddle soon or if ever. You also set an example for younger riders at the barn.

It’s not difficult to find a helmet that fits, is fashionable to you, and is comfortable. There are helmets ranging in price range from $35 to $500. They all are certified ASTM/SEI as long as they are an equestrian helmet. No bike helmets, Mom and Dad!

Going into the spring riding season, it’s a great time to check your gear.

Have you replaced your helmet since your last fall? They do get compressed after a fall and really only can sustain one fall. Has it expired? Has it been left sitting in a hot car at one point and warped and doesn’t fit correctly? Now is a good time to snag some deals at your local tack shop or online.

Hopefully you never have to experience a fall like I did. But every fall has a chance at hurting your head. Be smart and protect yourself. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not end up a vegetable in a hospital with no brain function because I chose to forego my helmet – for whatever reason.