Help Me Shop: Western Boots

My birthday was this past week, and my husband gifted me the one thing I made him promise to not pick out on his own (because I want to do it!). He’s buying me my very first pair of western boots.

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These seem nice!

I live in cowboy boot country (maybe not as common as TX though), and while it wasn’t love at first sight, the past few years I’ve been slowly getting behind this look!  My husband didn’t help since he has a problem with people who’ve never seen livestock, let alone worked with them, buying up boots.  I just roll my eyes, the guy grew up on a cattle ranch, he’s allowed to have some opinions about our city cowboys if he really wants to.  Whatever, he married a city girl after all.

Anyway, I decided that at this point in my life I would really like my own pair.  I’m tired of wearing my paddock boots around the ranch when we are there, plus I’m now trying to extend the life of my tall boots, so it’d be nice to have a pair to toss on when I’m just puttering around the stable/tacking up/whatever.  I’m excited to go pick out some, and try them on, but I’m pretty clueless.  My husband swears by Ariat, but I want to know more.  CobJockey also did a great review recently, which seems to put another vote in favor of Ariat boots.

My Shopping qualifications:

  • Height of boot to not look stupid on my tall frame – I’m 5’10”
  • Ease of break in
  • Heel is reasonable, as previously mentioned I’m plenty tall on my own
  • I think I prefer brown, something neutral – please nothing super loud, that’s not my style
  • It needs to last me, I get attached to my shoes
  • Pricetag under $250

OKAY GO!

Speak to me people!  Anyone have experience with western styled boots?  Passionate feelings about certain brands?  I know in some places it’s a culture, to me it’s just footwear, so I need any insider knowledge.  I’d welcome any opinions you want to share!

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The last pair of boots I’ve bought.

 

Child Friendly Horses

The mare I bought in late 2012, O, had a lot to live up to under saddle and on the ground. One of her selling points was that literally anyone could handle her. Camp kids to grandparents, she was a peach to be around. Then I snagged the amazing lease on Dee, who again, was a complete saint. She allowed my crying infant to “lunge” her (she cried in baby carrier while I lunged), groom her, share food, whatever. Even the big grey draft I rode in between available horses loved kids, and handled my daughter’s “affection” with grace.

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Essentially my daughter has had full rein of the horses I spent substantial amount of time with, with very few consequences. They’ve put up with the eye pokes, the yells, the constant noises and God knows what else that should’ve terrified them.

All of them, except for Cooper.

img_0563My current ride, who is a fantastic guy, is teaching me a lot about the holes in my training, so this is not a black mark on his record. I’m asking a lot honestly.  But…Cooper hates my daughter. Maybe hate isn’t the right term…he is not her biggest fan.  He doesn’t understand her noises, he hates the invasive little fingers when she pets him and generally he would rather her stay about 10 miles away from him at any given time. He’s not mean about it, but when you’re over 17 hands and not naturally graceful…it’s a recipe for disaster.

It doesn’t change much for me, except for the fact that I won’t take my daughter to the barn alone while I’m riding him.  He’s plenty enough horse to keep track of, without wondering if my daughter is annoying him.  Again, not his fault, it just won’t be fun for anyone.  It does create a bit of a hiccup in my usual riding schedule, but we are working on it.  Lately my Dad has been coming out to watch and wrangle said child while I hack or lesson.  I’m very lucky to have that as an option.

So I guess what I’m saying is: Cooper, I’m really sorry buddy, she’ll still be around…but I’ll make sure that she keeps her distance if you keep yours.  *If not, there’s me or my 6’2” Dad to act as buffer between the two of them.*  This hasn’t changed my views on having my daughter at the barn, I do believe that children have to learn how to behave in many different circumstances.  I work very hard to create situations where both horse and child can have mutual success.

While there is not judgement on Cooper’s part, there is a major learning curve that continues to form any future horse in my mind.  I never would expect any horse to babysit a toddler, because that’s never going to work, but it’s my hope that my next lease or purchase will be more keen on having kids around.

So what do you think?   Do you consider your horse child friendly?

Blog Hop: Dealbreakers

Thank you for the great writing idea Amanda.  This is a topic that I’ve been stewing over since O left in 2016, and honestly will probably continue to change and evolve even more before I do any serious horse acquisition.  But I want to keep it pretty concise today.

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Because she’s adorable.

General thoughts:

I’m not the worst rider on the planet, so I don’t mind a ride that requires some thought, or that keeps you on your toes.  Since my roots are firmly in hunterland, I will avoid something that jumps in dangerous form, or isn’t neat with it’s legs.  I’m good at hurting myself without any help from my 4-legged partner, so it has to help me out a little in this area.  In my selfish ways, I just don’t think I can do greys – because I do not have time to manage that.  I like things to be pretty…or at least brown so I don’t know how dirty they are.

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So dirty and gross – but you can’t tell (except the socks)!

Safety:

I hope this is fairly self explanatory, but I am done with the days of riding anything that something hands me the reins to.  I want to ride something that I feel like I can handle and not fear for my life the whole time.  That is not enjoyable.  So that’s a hard nope to anything that makes me question my safety.

Poor Work Ethic:

I cannot have another horse with who does not like it’s job.  It is my above all else dealbreaker.  I had a horse, who I loved, which had a bad work ethic and didn’t really enjoy her work.  Summary – it didn’t turn out well, and it totally broke my heart after months of trying and trying to convince her to enjoy the work.  I will not do that again.  Whatever horse I have next will show up for me, and be interested in it’s work.  Obviously no horse wakes up and says “golly, I’d like to work on lengthening”, but they have to play the game.  In return they will be loved, rewarded and ridden with as much skill as I can muster.

Why can’t horse sale sites have a box to search for that quality?

Should I find myself with another horse who decides it does not like it’s job, I will find it a job it does enjoy; whether it’s with me, or with another owner.  It’s not fair to do anything otherwise.

If the horse has to live inside.

Even in the Midwestern ice storms, and the summer sun, I know that to get my husband to even entertain the idea of another horse in the family that is must live the majority of it’s life outside.  I’m not interested in a great debate, he is passionate about this aspect, so I am adding it to my list.  If horse has to live inside 24/7, that is a dealbreaker.

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Doesn’t like kids.

I have one, and she’s pretty important.  I realize that she probably won’t be in the saddle as much as I am (duh), but it’s a dealbreaker if the horse is not friendly on the ground, or is difficult to manage.  I want to be able to share my riding and horses with my daughter, and I can’t do that if I am stressing the entire time horse and child are near each other.

Share your dealbreakers and join the hop!

I Had Forgotten

Since having my daughter, I've been in a consistent riding program. That all ended about a month ago when work priorities took over (for better or worse). After a week or two, I feel like my obsessive "must ride something now" kind of waned.

I was incredibly busy, and horses suddenly seemed like the one thing totally not worth it. Usually I have those moments while waiting on a vet bill, or after I couldn't catch my horse for an hour–the usual equestrian doubts. Having these doubts while just sitting at my house was a bit scary.

As I mentioned before, I'm attempting to revamp my priorities and get some time back for my goals outside of the workplace. Horses are the core of those. So back to lessons I went-no excuses.

Tacking up Cooper today, I actually felt anxious. Cooper had been inside for a few days because of all the rain, so naturally he would be a wild stallion right? (Spoiler alert-nope) Stupid thoughts. Sending my toddler with her grandpa, I swung up and warmed up the giraffe as usual.

The lesson was incredibly hard, a technical ride. Cooper was feeling spicy, but I don't mind a little play as long as it's not stupid. By the end I openly admitted that I was exhausted.

But then as soon as I loaded up the car, gave the kid some snacks, and headed home I could actually feel the buzz. Better than champagne, I kept thinking over my ride; how I could do better, what I can do in the gym to get my fitness back and so on. I realized that in the weeks away I had forgotten how much I love the smell of the barn, the satisfaction of patting your horse after your ride, or the sheer joy of sharing the place you love the most. Essentially I forgot that I do belong with horses, and on horses. It is a part of who I am, and while life is an insane roller coaster I am so lucky to continue to have horses in my world. So next time I forget, and am having all these insane-o thoughts about horses not being worth it, I should reread this post. Because they are.

Work Life Balance

I love my job.

I love the amazing opportunities I have to travel, work with great people, and create my own little identity within the cubicle world.  My company constantly places among the top 20 places to work in the US, and I’m definitely spoiled.  They give us gifts, awesome work life extras (gym, on-site day care, pharmacy, even car detailing), but lately I had felt myself really, really getting drawn in.  What I was doing was way overboard, added to the fact that May-July are huge travel months for me didn’t bode well. I found myself in a situation where I was spending what time I had at home, stressing and thinking (or emailing) about work.

From a recent Florida trip

But then…vacation happened.  Seven days of not being in the office.  Seven days of not feeling the need to be on my phone all the time, I didn’t open my laptop once, and I let the work I delegated actually stay delegated.  By the last few nights, I stopped grinding my teeth at night, slept great, and really took time to enjoy my people.

I know that busy seasons will always be busy, but this was a major wake up call for me.  As a people pleaser, I tend go far beyond what is necessary…at the expense of my work – life balance.  I need to be reminded that it isn’t worth it.  My career isn’t going anywhere, but I’m missing out on other things.  I had had to cancel several riding lessons, dinners with friends, and other things that I love.  It’s not my job’s fault, they support my personal life plenty, it is mine for not managing my priorities better.

Horse dress for the win.

So I’m updating my work life balance.  Back in lessons this week, back to being present for my family and friends, and back to myself.  I feel really good about this wake-up call and even better about my decision to stop being so neurotic about work.  And hey, maybe I’ll actually hit publish on the 5 drafted posts I never managed to complete.

I doubt the giraffe missed me, but I’m ready to ride!

It’s back to my normally scheduled horse topics next, but who else besides me gets badly wrapped up in their careers some times?

It Was Okay

In honoring my last post about having realistic expectations, I showed up to my lesson with Cooper in an optimistic mood.  I told myself that he was the best school horse for me, and that I should be very glad to have something that will take care of me today.  I also noted to a riding buddy that he was not my type of horse but that I need to know how to ride him.  Not everything was going to go around like O or Dee did.  Horse #2 may be more like him.  I should be prepared.
I got the big giraffe all tacked up (so cute in his green extras) and headed to our lesson.  Warmup was abbreviated to avoid the heat, and we started popping over a little x.  There were a few ugly ones, usually when I pulled without leg support.  While it was irritating, my trainer just had me keep coming around until I understood that the horse was going regardless, and that he prefers a nice release…so I should probably try that sometime.

Forest green on a chestnut!

We laughed (while I tried to recover from our 1000 attempts) and decided that while he goes around a bit like a giraffe, he really needs someone to be soft and offer a big release. My reaction is to whoa and try to get his head down, but he wants me to kind of toss him the reins.  It really does boggle my brain.

We moved into some courses and while there were a few moments where I should’ve left the horse alone to do his job, it wasn’t totally ugly.  We might of even had a few nice fences…dare I say it.

Super attractive.

At the end of the ride I agreed with my trainer in that he is not the hero in my horse love story-but he has a lot to teach me.  I think after this ride, the biggest win is that I could be grateful, and that I wasn’t obsessing in a negative sense.  I went out, rode, and it was okay!  It’s a step in the right direction both in riding Cooper and mentally handling my riding.

 

Realistic Expectations

This post is inspired by the thoughtful comment that EquiNovice left on my last post, while I was lamenting about how I have been crying my way through recent lessons.  She mentioned that managing your own expectations were some of the hardest part about not being in a consistent riding program.  That was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

From an outsiders perspective, if you had been watching my last lesson on Cooper you would’ve seen a woman who is struggling to not pull on a more forward horse.  You might have seen a few awkward frog hop jumps, and heard said woman shout some angry words (bad habits die hard).  But generally, there was nothing catastrophic happening.  No one fell off.  No refusals.  No galloping away wildly.  Just ugly jumps and some flowery words.

But.

That was not how I saw it.  I went from owning O, to riding some sale horses, a few schoolies, to leasing Dee.  99% of the time I felt very confident on these animals.  I knew I was capable of riding them and looking (within reason) okay doing it.  Obviously there were challenges, but nothing significant that stands out to me now.  They helped me, and I felt good about myself as a rider.

The cleanest horse alive finally got some dirt on him.

When I hopped on Cooper those first rides, and it went so badly, I was honestly confused.  I’d seen much less experienced riders take him around without a single issue.  Why was I struggling so much?  My expectation is that I should not only be able to ride this dude, but also do it well.  Yet everything I did seemed to set him on fire. Our flatwork has improved, buuuuttttt I still manage to turn him into Seabiscuit over fences.  I couldn’t even stop him in a straight line.  Even with my confidence at a high I can feel how hard these rides have been on me mentally.  All because my expectations for the ride were “ruined”.


It made me question buying another greenie – was I even capable of bringing it up correctly?  It made me wonder what I was even doing riding?  I mean, after 15 odd years of riding, I probably should be able to direct my horse over a cross rail.

Please note that I am not saying I’m God’s gift to horsekind – but I truly felt I should be able to ride better than I have been.  Maybe Cooper and I just don’t mesh.  Maybe it’s because I have not been riding consistently.  Maybe it’s just been an unlucky few weeks.  In my opinion, it’s probably a combination of all of those.  Regardless of all of that, I’m trying to spend some time before my lesson really resonating on the idea that I am only riding once a week right now, and I’m in this for the fun part.  I must alter my expectations.  

I don’t need to be expecting to be the exact same rider I was in the past, when I was doing more.  That is going to lead me down a dark path every ride!  I just need to be able to learn, and manage my personal standards for my riding.    Maybe then I can learn to enjoy my rides more.