Welcome 2017!

Every year I sit down and go back over the previous year. I think about what I want to make happen in the new year and settle on a “Word of the Year.” In 2015 my word was Inspire. I spent that year really making head way with Billy, riding him on the trails and going to Colorado for a week long Level 3 Freestyle/Bridleless course. It was a fantastic spring/summer!! Even if I did break my arm on April 1st.

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Then I had my confidence shaken while riding, in September and broke my other arm. Though I didn’t need surgery this time, it really broke my heart. I thought I wasn’t worthy of horse ownership. I cried. A lot. That was a difficult winter. So when I sat down to look at the past year and come up with a new word I was searching for peace, harmony and contentment. My word for 2016 was Calm. I was needing to spend some time getting centered again.

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Calm: a state of tranquility

I read lots of books that would help me figure out a few things. I spent lots of undemanding time with Billy and I knew that I wasn’t going to ride anymore. It was a bit of a struggle to admit that to myself, but I wasn’t enjoying riding. I was worried and tense and scared most of the time I was sitting on Billy. Trying to find my Calm while feeling so tense and scared was difficult.

On top of those feelings I had to balance my family. I homeschool my two boys, neither of which are even remotely interested in horses, and try to keep my hubby happy, knowing he doesn’t like horses. At all. My two accidents put a dent in my ability to homeschool, do my housework, cook and clean AND spend time with Billy. Not to mention bring in a small amount of money every month to PAY for my horse addiction. Things were not working out. My hubby was upset with me and we fought. A lot. I made the extremely difficult decision to find Billy a better home with someone confident and fun and understanding. He needs LOTS of understanding. He is definitely a one-of-a-kind horse.

Choosing to let Billy go to someone who would ride him was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made – and I have sold and re-homed horses many times over the years. Billy was one of my heart horses. Luckily I am not the type of person who believes we only get one heart horse in our lifetime. In fact I have had 7 heart horses so far and believe I have one or two standing out in my pasture right now. However, Billy was a very special boy.

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Billy would lay down on command and was well known for his funny faces.

Billy wasn’t happy just being a pet and because he was so young, only 5 years old, I knew he would thrive with someone that would ride him. He found a wonderful home up in the mountains at a guest ranch. The owners of the ranch are kind, compassionate people. When they met Billy and he put his big old head on them they wrapped their arms around it and gave him big hugs. The wife had a pocket full of cookies for him. They are both the real deal and thought Billy was just about the neatest horse they had ever met! He would have lots of horse friends at the ranch and there would be lots to do and see. There would be no chance of him getting bored. I made it a point of delivering him to his new home so I could see him settle in. They were very impressed when we pulled up with my tiny two horse trailer. (In order to shut the door Billy would have to stick his head out the front window!!) Billy was so good. When I opened the back door of the trailer he waited patiently for me to ask him out. Then he stepped out slowly, one foot at a time, calmly looked around and then walked quietly to the arena. The arena is surrounded by big dry lot pens full of horses and Billy’s eyes were WIDE open taking it all in. We walked around a bit and I showed them a few of his talents, including laying down on command, then I let him go and he went around making friends. He immediately befriended a horse that usually doesn’t like ANY horses. Within a few minutes they were sharing a mutual groom over the fence. His new owners were amazed!

When we drove away I was crying, but Billy didn’t even look for me as I left. Before he would follow my vehicle, whinnying, if I left him anywhere. I had a good feeling about this home.

I kept in touch all summer but couldn’t bring myself to go see him. Every time I thought about it I would cry so I figured it was better for both him and myself to let him go. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’m sure when my boys leave for the military or college I will feel the same way.

I ended up being very surprised at the people that no longer wanted anything to do with me after I found another home for Billy. First the loss of Billy then the loss of some of my “friends” was almost too much. So many times I wanted to walk away from this blog and delete Facebook all together. I can’t say why I didn’t.

I think watching me feel so heartbroken was hard for my Hubby – after the initial anger he felt because I feel the need to have a horse. He watched me struggle for a bit and then casually mentioned miniature horses one day while we were out fixing fence. (One of the many reasons he doesn’t like horses!) I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that myself! I had been dreading the idea of living without horses. (Something I am NOT good at!) And I had never stopped missing my minis.

So…

He opens a window.
When God closes a door he opens a window.

I called my Mom to tell her my great idea of getting minis again and she offered me her two minis, Sky and Zorro! My good friend Katrina offered me back Captain Planet and walla! I was the proud owner of miniature horses again.

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Sky and Zorro arrive!

I found Bonnie for sale on Facebook (good thing I didn’t delete it!) and soon I was the proud owner of 4 miniature horses!

The ponies and ME!
The ponies and ME!

My mom also gave me her little show cart and Sky’s harness. I have spent some time upgrading parts of the harness and also bought a little easy entry cart. This winter I bought a gaming sled and had an attachment built so I can put my easy entry cart shafts on it. This way I can enjoy some sledding with my ponies! I am looking forward to lots of hours in the cart and sled this 2017.

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Other things I have gathered over the summer and fall are a miniature horse Hoofjack, mini horse Easyboots and a pair of miniature horse Cavallo boots! Miniature things are so cute.

I came across an awesome wholefood horse feed this year as well. I was thrilled to have a local feed store agree to order some and begin carrying it. My ponies have flourished on it!

All four miniature horses after eating Crypto Aero Wholefood.
All four miniature horses after eating Crypto Aero Wholefood.

The girls and I did a lot of hiking and walking this year. Until my health made it too painful for me… This fall we didn’t get out as often as I would have liked!

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I have been struggling with some different issues for the last few years. This was my “Year of the Doctor” and I found out I needed to have a full hysterectomy. I was scared but also hopeful! Scared to have that much of my body removed, but hopeful that I would have energy, no more pain and be able to resume my walking! So for the month of November and much of December I recovered from surgery. It really cut into my time with my ponies, but allowed me to work on my website/blog. Many changes happened around here during that time. Hopefully they were all good!

I love making graphics. So I started making lots and lots of graphics for my website:

And I have made lots of Young Living graphics too:

Someday maybe I’ll make money doing this! I really enjoy blogging, photography and graphic design.

I have been thinking about the year 2017 and what I would like to make happen. I will get Sky going in harness again and we will spend some time sledding around the fields and driving on the roads, getting ready for some mountain driving this summer. I am even kicking around the idea of another driving book, this one centered around sledding and mountain driving. I am going to start Bonnie ground driving and wearing the harness, going slowly with her so she is confident. It’s important to me that she enjoy the process so she can enjoy driving! I’m going to keep watching Zorro grow up. He is getting so handsome! One of my grandma’s little mares is bred for an early summer foal, so I am looking forward to that baby. It will be a half sibling to Zorro.

So back to my “Word of the Year” – I’ve put a lot of thought into it… After lots of deliberation, doodling, jotting down notes and making a word map, I have settled on the word MOXIE. Moxie resonated with me in two ways. It made me feel energized about the year ahead and made me feel excited about learning even more about horsemanship, horses and driving!

My word of the year!
My word of the year!

I am very excited about 2017. I see many great things happening in the next year and I plan to meet it with lots of vigor and pep!

If you feel moved to do so, please share your word of the year in the comments below!

 

Measuring your miniature horse for a harness isn’t too hard – getting accurate measurements can be a bit trickier! One trick is to use a soft, fabric measuring tape. Another trick… don’t be in a hurry! Just slow down, measure and re-measure.

If you measure your horse in the winter be aware that hair can add an inch or more! I’ve found that typically the measurements you send in are the middle holes of the harness giving you a few holes smaller and a few holes larger. There are exceptions to that, for instance if you order from a less reputable seller.

How to Measure for a Harness
How to Measure for a Harness graphic

**You can either measure the horse or a harness that you’ve been using. If you measure a harness it’s best to lay it flat for the measuring, even unbuckling some of the buckles to get an accurate measurement.

When measuring the Horse:

A) Bridle: Measure from the corner of the mouth, over the poll to the other corner of mouth

B) Browband: Measure from behind the ear around the front of the head to behind the ear on the other side.

C) Noseband: Measure around the nose, two fingers below the prominent cheek bones.

D) Girth: Measure around the body behind the withers, where the saddle will sit.

E) Back Band: Measure from where the saddle would be, down the middle of the spine to the top of the tail.

F) Hip Strap: Measure from where the breeching will sit over the top of the rump to where the breeching will sit on the other side.

G) Breeching: Measure from the whorl just in front of the stifle on one side around the back of the rump to the whorl on the other side.

H) Breast Plate: Measure just behind the elbow around the chest to behind the elbow on the other side.

I) Neck Strap: Measure from where the top of the breast collar would sit, over the neck to where the breast collar would sit on the other side.

J) Traces: Measure even with the chest down the body to even with the rump. (DO NOT measure around to the middle of the chest and rump as you do when measuring for a blanket.) **Find out from the harness dealer if you need to add 12 inches to this number.

Here is a fantastic video that shows how to measure for a harness as well!

Oh I have so many harness dreams! Buying harness can get quite expensive. Over the years I’ve learned that trying to save money by purchasing the cheaper, lower quality harness just doesn’t work. They are not well made, don’t fit the minis well and typically are not even worth the little amount you’ll pay! So saving up and getting a good harness (or two or three!) will actually save you money.

I have always loved the Camptown Harness. I had one years ago that my main driving mare, Chamomile, wore. It was beautifully made, really a work of art. They have a saddle with a tree and the nice Deep V breast collar. Their bridles are well made and fit the minis tiny head perfectly.

The Camptown harness ($799) is a mix of leather and synthetic materials. It was my first synthetic harness. Cleaning it was a snap!

 

I have been looking at the Comfy Fit harness ($700) recently. I did purchase the Deep V collar from them and LOVE the quality. Their customer service is awesome! I do plan on getting one of their harnesses. It’s on my “To Buy” list. They have saddles with trees and a sliding back strap saddle. Their bridles are very well made and fit the miniature horse head perfectly!

 

Another harness – the next one that I will purchase- is from Patty’s Pony Place ($335). She makes nylon harness. I have never been a fan of nylon, but after reading about Patty’s harness and visiting with her on Facebook I have decided I am going to give it a try! I LOVE the color options and think this harness would be so fun for parades. I am going to get a Turquoise/Teal harness with black lining. I think that will look so nice with my black draft style collar. And I will be able to use my black leather driving bridle with it to mix things up as well! This harness has a saddle with a tree and Patty is willing to make me a sliding back strap. I like how well the harness is padded and the bridle fits the mini head very nicely!

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Patty’s Pony Place purple harness.

I am also going to purchase Patty’s newest design… a skijoring harness ($160 this includes rope driving lines) for miniature horses!

There are other even more expensive harnesses out there, but these are my top three favorites. I know that I can use the Comfy Fit harness for Combined driving, which is my ultimate dream/bucket list. It has been around for quite awhile so I know it’s a good quality harness that will stand the test of time!

Now that I have miniature horses again I have been getting my harness all ready for the more vigorous terrain of mountain driving. I’ve been purchasing parts and pieces that will make pulling a vehicle easier for my minis. As I’ve been shopping around for those pieces I have been dreaming about all the harnesses I would like to add to my tack room… but that’s for another post!

I am starting with a leather harness from Silver Penny Farms. I love brass so we bought our harnesses with brass fittings. This harness is actually my mom’s and was purchased many, many years ago. It’s about 13 years old now! It’s been well used and well loved and has many many more years of life left. That’s partly why I love leather! Some elbow grease and leather cleaner and walla! It looks new again!

I love the little bridle. It fits very well which can be a problem with the mini harnesses. We use a Kelly brand miniature horse bit. It’s a Myler knock off and not as nice as the real Myler bit, but about 1/4 of the cost. Years ago I had the real Myler bits and they were a work of art for sure!! As soon as this blog starts making me some money I will purchase the real deal once again. Not only does Myler make the bit miniature, the mouth piece is also much slimmer and more refined.

The Kelly does the job though. Many miniature horses have a low roof of the mouth, thereby necessitating a bit with a low port. Using a regular broken snaffle can cause all kinds of problems because when you put pressure on the reins, the bit will break in the middle and bang the mini in the roof of the mouth. The mullen mouth Kelly bit does not do that!

Kelly Mullen Mouth Bit
Kelly Mullen Mouth Bit
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My Driving Bridle

This little harness has served us very well over the years while driving on flat, level ground, back country roads and in parades. But now that I am going to be driving in the mountains over various terrain I need a saddle with a tree and sliding back strap. I have learned a lot about the different saddles out there and am very excited about getting one with the sliding back strap. The saddle I have now has the shaft loops attached to the saddle. So when the cart hits bumps, rocks and pot holes, the entire saddle will shift with the shafts and the weight in the cart. When using a sliding back strap, when the cart hits a bump then the shaft loops slide back and forth across the saddle absorbing the shock. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea! Also the sliding back strap was used when driving the two-wheeled vehicles. The solid saddle was designed for four-wheeled vehicles. So it only makes sense to use the proper equipment for the job at hand!

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Saddle, Attached Shaft Loop, Crupper

I have upgraded my breast collar from the straight, sewn-in-traces to a Deep V Comfy fit collar. This is the collar I had for my main driving mare years ago, though that was made by Camptown Harness

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Cammy in her Camptown Sport Harness. A beautiful harness, very comfortable and well made!
Comfy Fit Deep V Collar with Neck Strap and Martingale
Comfy Fit Deep V Collar with Neck Strap and Martingale

I prefer breast collars with the buckle in traces as they are more adjustable. The sewn on traces can only be adjusted at the cart and sometimes they are just too long or not quite long enough! I purchased my Deep V collar from Comfy Fit. I also had to purchase the neck strap and the martingale as all the pieces work together!

I just bought a used miniature horse draft collar. I wanted this for when I either build a sled or convert a hunting sled into a sled for the minis to pull. This will result in a lower draft of pull making the deep v breast collar not the right tool! The draft type collar will also make pulling through deep snow easier for my horse.

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Draft Collar and Buggy Hames from Chrysalis Acres
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Draft Collar Buckle

I wanted the buggy style hames, the kind without the balls that stick up. I don’t need anything for my lines to get tangled on! I like this collar because it has a buckle so I won’t have to slide the collar over my horse’s head. This will make her happy. She looks so cute in it!

Sky and the Draft Collar!
Sky and the Draft Collar!

My harness has a nice double hip strap and is wide enough to be comfortable even when going down hill. Breeching is very important when driving as it acts at the brakes of your vehicle.

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Sky in her old harness with the new Deep V collar. I can’t wait to see her in her new Draft collar!

As soon as I am healed up and given the green light by my Dr. I am going to start Sky in the travois again. I will be sharing lots of photos and video of that process. I am so excited for the snow to fly and my horses to take me sledding in the fields!