Aging is Ouch

The main physical difference I can see between middle age and when I was in my teens and 20s is that I have to keep up athletic endeavors every day or I feel really sore. Even stuff I do all the time, like riding and jumping, or riding my bike, if I miss a couple of days, I’m sore when I do it again. This is kind of disheartening. I used to be able to go long stretches and then do the activities I do all the time without getting sore. No more. I took for granted that soreness was only reserved for the unusual. I was naive. I guess this means I will have to just not skip days, although my horse needs a break now and then too. I will just have to put up with it.

I wave around a heavy kettle bell to keep my midsection strong. I look like a fool when I do it, but it does help keep my core strength, which I need for racing across fields jumping obstacles on an equine. Actually it also helps with the dressage and stadium as well, but it’s really cross country where I notice if my core is feeling weak. Galloping miles in a half seat while occasionally throwing in a fence or 18 is a lot of work.

Last weekend my horse and I did a schooling cross country show in preparation for the rated one we have coming up in June. I was a little disheartened after dressage. Johann started really fixed and tense. Some days he comes out like butter, soft, and forward, and stretchy. Yesterday was one of those days, the type of day that if we were in competition he would get a score in the low 20s. The show day? The opposite. He was stuck and it took a good hour warmup to get him soft enough for a 37. Not so great. There’s a train! There’s a kid cutting me off! There’s a breeze! Press him into the outside rein. Spiral spiral spiral. Supple, supple, supple.

This was a two day event, so after dressage and a four hour break, we headed over to cross country. I was a bit worried he was going to be fixed again, holding on and wanting to run. Last year we rode a course where on parts it felt like I was riding a steeplechaser and it was all I could do to keep him in control. I just held on for the ride for many of the fences. This weekend, it was bright and sunny. I jumped him over a few warmup fences, which were great, then let him just walk because it was warm and running him around doesn’t make him run any less on course.

As I was waiting my turn, I got the little nervous feeling in my stomach I do sometimes before jumping. A couple of the obstacles weren’t anything we had schooled since last season. The fourth was a bank up and then down to a 3′ roll top one stride off to the right. In the past, before a winter of solid work on rideability and adjustability, this would have been one of those fences that might work out and might not. I still wasn’t sure how it would go because we hadn’t schooled anything like it recently. The other was a narrow triangle fence near then end of the course. Same as the other, in the past it was one of those fences Johann might have just said, “Nope,” and run out the side or barreled at it like a bullet out of a gun. Neither option is fun. We had spent a LOT of time schooling to keep him between my aids, rideable, and light in front, but hadn’t actually schooled anything like these since last year.

I sat there in the sun with my stomach doing its flip flops and thought, why am I doing this again? Then the clipboard holder said time for me to head to the start box, the start box person asked if I was ready for the ten second countdown, I said yes, hit the stopwatch, and Go! We cantered off easily toward the first obstacle. I remembered to keep my hands light and low, crouch in my half seat, let him move forward without getting too fast, settled in 10 strides out, and jumped the first fence, a big, ol’ pile of logs, like it was nothing. The adrenaline kicked in and we were off! The flip flops were gone, we were connected, Johann was locked on every fence, light and forward. It was SO MUCH FUN!!

We popped over the second and third fences easily. One was a coop, the other another log. Then we headed for the bank to the roll top. Johann was completely adjustable. He didn’t hesitate at all. No barreling, but in control and comfortable. It was perfect. I had figured out by the minute beeps on my stopwatch that we needed to slow down on some of the long galloping sections so we didn’t come in too fast. I sat back, pressed him into my outside rein, said, “Easy,” and “Slow,” and he did! All the work this winter was paying off. By the time we got to the narrow, any thoughts he might not jump it were completely gone. It was pretty near the end. I aimed for the left side of what was a pretty narrow jump so that he would be jumping the narrow side of the triangle. He stayed right on track in a perfect line. “Whoo hoo!” I hollered in joy as we carried on.

The final fence was challenging because it turned sharply to the right away from the crowd and other horses. Near the end, the horse had to be still listening and willing to ride away from the herd. Several kids had issues with horses bulging too far left on their approaches, which gave them crooked tracks for the finish and a few run outs. I held my left rein and leg and made the turn, pressing him into that outside rein. Johann didn’t even bulge against me, but rode straight and true to the final fence. We galloped over and done! Only 13 seconds over the optimum time, which was such a major improvement over last year, and the speed at the rated event is going to be 400 mpm, while this was 350, so we were doing well.

I felt high and excited after the run. THIS was why I did this! I answered myself. Why? Because it is the most fun in the world. I LOVE it! Johann loves it! He was prancing and arching his neck, soft and delicious in the bridle. I hugged him and got off. He rubbed his head on my shoulder, his way of saying, all good, Mama!

The next day for stadium, he was absolutely perfect. Funny, he’s often the most rideable after a day where he starts out with a ton of tension in his jaw and shoulder. We loosen that up, then he’s a dream to ride. It helps that I have been figuring out that I hold tension in my arms and shoulders, which I’m sure translates to how he goes. I’ve been riding with my arms like wet noodles, and he has been going much more relaxed from the beginning. It doesn’t take a half an hour of lateral work to get him soft, he starts out soft. It’s teamwork, and I definitely fit into the equation.

We have another schooling event coming up in two weeks, then Aspen the week after. It’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ll keep riding my exercise bike and waving around the kettle bell and taking maybe only one day off so I don’t end up sore and sorry–like I am today, which prompted this little post. The muscles above my knees are screeching at me. What did you do that for?!? Ride two horses, ride the exercise bike, wave around a hunk of metal 40 times? You trying to kill us? Um, no? Trying to keep from being a blob with no muscle tone. I’m not taking any of it for granted any more.

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Winged Gods and Goddesses

I published a story on Huffington Post. It can be found here.

Winged Gods and Goddesses
Little girls and horses. I think part of why girls fall in love with horses is to have someone big on their side, someone on whom they can fly. I fell in love with horses before I had a logical brain, then they just lodged there, between the myelin bulges. Later when I actually acquired a horse, they were my escape from a reality that was less than. Horses were my winged gods and goddesses, flying on four legs. I was naive, silly, and fearful, but with a horse I could forget all that and imagine anything. And I did.

Before a real horse actually came to live with me…click here to continue reading.

Winged Gods and Goddesses

Little girls and horses. I think part of why girls fall in love with horses is to have someone big on their side, someone on whom they can fly. I fell in love with horses before I had a logical brain, then they just lodged there, between the myelin bulges. Later when I actually acquired a horse, they were my escape from a reality that was less than. Horses were my winged gods and goddesses, flying on four legs. I was naive, silly, and fearful, but with a horse I could forget all that and imagine anything. And I did.

Before a real horse actually came to live with me, I would ride my imaginary horse along next to the school bus in the morning and again in the afternoon. Galloping freely, jumping driveways, mailboxes, shrubbery, and drainage ditches; along we would glide. As the flattened shadow of the bus crawled in among the deep spaces, lengthening and shortening according to the landscape, I would fly over them, stopped by nothing.

When I was fifteen, my dad the auction-hound bought a thoroughbred off the track. He was handsome in the way of thoroughbreds, so we named him Prince. He was a nearly black bay, a Sam Savitt thoroughbred, with perky ears and an unruly mane. He watched the world sideways, as if to ask, You talkin’ to me? I love thoroughbreds; love their minds, their impossibly long legs, the way they are fretful because they can be, but give them an opportunity and they will prove what they are capable of.

As is often the case with thoroughbreds who have been racehorses, Prince was damaged goods. Something had happened to one of his legs–I can’t recall which one now–so he was not able to jump. However, he could still be ridden, and he could certainly run. I would ride him bareback, my skinny legs clinging to his slippery back, and canter around the field below our house.

One afternoon when Prince had only lived with us for about a month, I decided to take him for a ride down the driveway. Ours was a legendary driveway. We actually had to walk a mile, one way, to the school bus, regardless of the weather. Rain, shine, snow, sleet, you name it, no matter what, we did not get down that driveway by any means other than our legs. Down the long hill into the curve over the creek, up the steep curve, down the long, rocky stretch under oaks to the west and a pasture to the east, then through the gate at another bend in the creek, around the corner, and down the last flat stretch for another half a mile. This portion ran under a cove of cottonwoods. Once while walking to the bus a bird pooped in my sister’s hair. I imagined the birds up in the trees, taking careful aim and firing. We would see poop land nearby as we trudged toward the bus. I laughed hysterically when one finally hit.  Melanie did not laugh. She was mad and she hit me in the arm for my glee. It was worth it because it wasn’t me.

The day I rode Prince down the driveway, it was severely overcast, but not yet the sort of gray where the clouds seem almost to meet the earth in their desperation to drain. The light was nearly fluorescent, and cold. I threw a small snaffle bridle on Prince, hopped on using an old tractor as a mounting block, and headed down the hill. We walked carefully along the rocks on the first part of the road. Prince was not wearing shoes and the rocks along the beginning of the driveway until it met the long flat place were large chunks, uncomfortable to bare horse hooves. Where I could, I guided him into the grass along the edges to protect the soles of his feet.

As we headed down the long stretch downhill, I felt the itch to run him, but I was also afraid. We hadn’t had him long and I wasn’t riding with a saddle. I did not know if I could get him to stop if he started to run. Yet I was an overconfident rider. I believed myself capable of so much when it came to horses and my family did nothing to disabuse me of this notion.  Ignorance is bliss, obviously. If I had only any clue then what I know now. But I didn’t.

As we met the straight, flat place, I squeezed him into a real gallop. He was only too happy to oblige. I felt his energy surge forward, the strength of him move under my narrow thighs. Too late I realized just how fast he would run and what little I meant, perched there on his back like an organ grinder’s monkey. Wrapping my fingers into his black mane, I held on for dear life and screamed.

Rock. Cold. Fear.

The wind rushing at my face ate the scream right out of my mouth. It didn’t make a dent. I lowered my head and wrapped my arms around his neck. Wind lashed my bare arms icy. I had read of landscapes passing in a blur. Now I could see what this meant–the landscape really was blurry.

In spite of the speed, in my brain it was as if time stopped, like a narrator hovering above, watching a train veer off its tracks. First the engine, then the cars, and finally the caboose, whipping like a snake’s tail where it didn’t belong. There she goes, I thought. See the horse galloping? See the skinny girl holding on? I cannot fall from here. I will not live if I fall from here. I must stay here until this horse stops running. But how can I make that happen?

Yet the road at the end of our driveway was coming, and across the road there was a fence, then there was a field, and Prince could not jump, so at some point the train’s tail would whiplash and there would be a problem. On and on we thundered and I actually settled in. I was not falling off and had joined the rhythm. But there was an end. What if someone was driving on the road as I came to meet it? I controlled nothing. If a car was coming at the same time we were coming then there would be severe damage.

No car, just the road, hooves sliding on cement, then mud, grass, fence, and crash. I hit the ground with magnificent speed, I rolled over onto my shoulder, Prince rolled across me and up and continued to run, reins flinging wildly around his neck. I sat up and screamed and screamed and screamed. Prince slowed. I screamed and screamed and screamed. Only there was something about the cold light and the wide space that made the screams seem small and insignificant.

I could see far up the road, see a car, see it drive along, slow, then continue. It did not stop so I screamed again. Prince had trotted back over towards the fence, away from me, but not far. Another car moved along the highway. It slowed beside Prince, then sped along, then slowed as it saw me. I screamed and screamed and screamed. These sounds were so tiny, escaping me. I felt like I was putting all my lungs into the screams, but they were silent in the wind. The clouds moved closer.  A drop of rain landed in my hair and then another. I realized my left shoulder was screaming too, in a different way.

The car cruised by, long and slow. Then it stopped and backed up. The people disgorged from all the doors. A gold sedan. I was rescued.

I severely bruised my shoulder that day, but other than that, I was okay. Prince was none the worse for wear. The only real difference was that for the first time in my life when it came to horses, I had fear. The next time I climbed on a horse, I remembered. I stayed on and kept going, but I could not ride bareback for a month. I would not go on the driveway.  Over time, the fear faded. Horses came back to me as gods and goddesses, my protectors, my escape from a dismal reality.

For some reason, Prince came to me recently. I remembered the merciless run down the long road, the sharp, icy air, the cold, gray light. I remembered all of it except being afraid. In spite of everything, the fear was forgotten. In its place instead was this lightning god on four legs, flashing down the road at magnificent speeds.

No wonder girls love horses. They give us power and help us fly and they do so without brutality. Winged gods and goddesses, indeed.

Growing Up Strange

Perhaps part of why I have not become a pillar of the intellectual community, aside from the fact I’m not thick enough to serve as a pillar, is that while growing up, I did devour books, but I was mostly interested in stories, particularly stories about horses or animals.  As a teenager, I expanded my interest to include books where girls chased boys, but not much really.  I was only interested in those if there was something especially intriguing about the girl–like if she had a horse.

I especially loved horse/girl books where the girl was the underdog who wanted a horse and succeeded through grit and determination in getting one.  I wanted to be like those girls, and I was to the extent I succeeded in getting a 35 dollar Shetland pony.

Once I acquired the pony, I had big dreams for us.  We would win competitions and show everyone it did not matter if my steed was forty inches tall.  I imagined interviews with sportscasters.  I would ask questions then answer breathlessly, as if interrupted in an effort.

Actually, interviews of this sort also extended to my gymnastic prowess.  It mattered not that by twelve, I was nearly five foot eight.  In my mind I had achieved gold in gymnastic floor exercises. I would breathlessly answer these sportscasters as well.

So while I indeed spent my childhood buried in books, I can say without equivocation it was only towards the effort of avoiding other children and immersing myself in worlds far more desirable than my own.  If I happened across a great piece of literature, it was always the result of happenstance.  I had no illusions about reading my way to fame and fortune.

Ironically, if I think of it now as I seek to live so much in the moment, I absolutely did so as a child.  My parents’ chief concerns seemed to be to first ensure we did all of our chores, second that we did not bother them with sibling arguments, and finally that we entertained ourselves so they did not have to.  I was very good at the latter.

I did the chores grudgingly.  We were promised allowances that never materialized and performed jobs I still consider beyond the necessary scope for children.  The chores usually resulted in fights with my sister.  We argued prodigiously over whose turn it was to do what, then raced to be the first one done, if only to prove our superiority over one another.  The race to finish jobs served my primary purpose, which was to either read a book or ride my horse, and preferably both.  Melanie wanted to play with her friends.  I didn’t really have a lot of friends beyond the horses in my imagination, so rushing off to live in my head was my priority.

Before I got a horse I would pretend I had one.  i once cleared my closet, opened one side, and strung a rope across the opening to keep in my stick horse.  I shredded paper for her bedding.

She was lovely.  Her stick was yellow, her fur head white.  She had large, brown  button eyes with long, plastic lashes.  I called her Snowflake.

I spent the time creating this stable, enjoying every minute I did so, imagining the conversations I would have with my trainer over her care.  Again, I played both parts.  As myself, I explained very carefully what would be the best plan for my horse’s future.  My trainer would nod and take notes, her head cocked to one side as she leaned in the stable doorway, loose breeches puffed around her hips, a cap pulled low over her brow, alá Mickey Rooney.

Snowflake stayed in my closet for months.  I was attentive for about two days, feeding and brushing.  Over time I needed my room for other things and the stick horse was relegated to the corner again, her home prior to the stable.

Finally, when I was twelve, I acquired a real horse. Of course, this horse was only 40 inches tall and therefore a pony, but I did not care. She was mine and I loved her.  Her name was Rosie.  She was a bright, red chestnut with a thick, flaxen mane and tail.  But she was tiny.  I rode her anyway.  My best friend Jodi and I both rode ponies.  We made plans together to start our own pony farm as adults, no horses allowed.

Happy Birthday, Star Bright

Anyone who knows me well knows I am basically horse crazy.  I didn’t come out horse crazy, but certainly acquired the insanity not long after birth.  I was three years old when my mom took me to visit her little sister and the sister’s pony, Patches.  I fell in love.   From that moment on, I was hooked.

When I first told my mom I wanted a horse, because her little sister was twelve when she first acquired a horse, she promised me I could have one at twelve as well.  She made the promise less with the intention of actually getting me this equine nearly a decade hence, but more to shut up my incessant requests for my own four-legged friend.  She never believed her three-year-old would remember this promise.  Ah, the naivete of parents.  Of course I remembered and at age twelve years, three months, I did indeed receive a pony of my own.

The story of that pony is for another post.  Suffice to say I absolutely adored her, but she was only 10 hands tall, which is basically forty inches.  Considering I hit 5’7″ by age 10, this pony was much too small for me.  In spite of my adoration, I eventually had to sell her and purchased a larger pony.   I continued to grow and outgrew her as well.  At age 14 I was 5’9″ tall and it was time to move on from ponies.  I simply needed a horse to accommodate my ever-lengthening legs.

I had started doing some work for local farmers, helping out with horse training and stable cleaning.  Through this I met a couple who had purchased a two-year-old gelding they did not have the time or experience to train.  They offered him to me to buy for $200.  Having just sold my pony to a good friend for $350, I had enough to buy him.  They called him Volcano because he was born on the day Mount St. Helens erupted, May 18, 1980.

I remember the day I went and picked up my very own horse.  I was so proud as I walked him up the road along the railroad tracks from their farm to ours.  Though I would never have admitted it to anyone, and although I was terribly excited, I was also a bit frightened.  He was big!  I changed his name to Star Bright because of the bright star on his chestnut face, plus Volcano seemed a name that did not bode well.  I took him home and settled him in.  He was my horsey companion for the next twelve years.  Life in my extremely dysfunctional family was difficult; Star made those years as a teenager bearable and even brought me happiness.

Star was an amazing horse.  He could perform circus tricks and would give me a hug with his foreleg in exchange for a treat.  I rode him hunt seat and also in gymkhana.  At one horse show, I rode him in an equitation semi-finals class in the morning, which we won, placing us in the finals that evening.  That day, I rode him in a bunch of gymkhana classes because he seemed to really enjoy the speed and agility required for these gaming events.  He won the hi-point championship for the gymkhana.  Then that evening, still energetic, I rode him in the hunt-seat equitation finals and we won reserve champion.  He was amazing like that.  The horse was as happy in a show ring as he was trekking up the side of a hill or at the beach playing in the water.

Keeping a horse after I grew up and moved away from my parents’ farm was a bit difficult to say the least.  I moved him around and even leased him for a year while I traveled.  I was modeling at the time and spent a good deal of time out of the country.  At some point, it became clear that keeping him was not in his best interest.  He needed someone who could focus on him and I wasn’t doing it. My parents didn’t keep horses anymore, so he could not go back to their place, and he would have been ignored there anyway.

The day I sold him was heartbreaking.  He would not go into his new owner’s trailer.  It was as if he knew what I was doing and did not want to go.  I felt horribly guilty and sad.  I visited him at his new home and he always remembered me.  The new owners eventually sold him to someone else, a woman in a small town in the northwestern part of Oregon.  The last time I went to visit him, he was 19 years old, and seemed genuinely happy to see me.   He rubbed his head on my chest.  I rode him and visited, then said goodbye, not realizing I would never see him again.  The farm was over two hours from my home in Portland.  The next time I tried to contact the owners to arrange a visit, their number had been disconnected.  I was not able to locate them and do not know how Star’s life turned out.

Every year on May 18, the rest of the world remembers the day Mount St. Helens blew its ash all over Oregon and Washington, flattening trees and decimating a forest.  I, however, remember May 18 as the day my Star was born.  Not a year goes by I don’t remember this day and think about the big chestnut horse who made me happy.   Happy Birthday, Star Bright.  Thank you for being my friend.

Goodbye Lady

When I was about three years old, my mom took me to visit her sister, then age twelve.  Her sister had an originally named pony named Patches, an old pinto with large patches of brown and black covering her white body.  My aunt took me riding and I was hooked for life.  From the day of that first ride, I begged my mom for a horse.  Finally after listening to my ceaseless cajoling, she promised I could get a horse when I was twelve, never imagining for a moment her tiny child would remember the promise.  Ah, such simple logic.

From that moment I read, slept, breathed horses.  I took riding lessons when I could, went on trail rides at farms that rented horses, attended horse camps.  When my twelfth birthday came and went, I knew a horse was on the horizon, and not long after, the promise was fulfilled and Rosie came home to me.  She was too small for my long legs, but I adored her and she quickly became a part of the family.

Riding was fun and my sister started saying she wanted a horse too.  My parents relented and took a trip north of Salem to the horse auction.  They came home with a larger, seven-year-old pony mare.   She was a perfect bay, shiny and red, with black points and a rambunctiously thick mane and tail.  She was dainty and pretty, quite ladylike, and so we named her Lady.

I had outgrown Rosie by the time I got her and a year and a half later, my feet touched the ground.  It broke my heart, but I had to find a bigger horse.  This story continued for the next several years.  After I sold Rosie I bought a larger pony, sold her and bought a horse.  As time progressed I became rather horsily proficient and started doing some training work.  For one such job, I traded training work in exchange for stud service to Lady.  Eleven months later, Lady had her first and only baby, Prize.

We had many horses live with us during those years.  We experienced many different horse personalities, some pleasant, some obnoxious.  Lady always lived up to her name.  Where many of our other horses were difficult to catch, Lady would always come wait at the gate, eager for human contact.  She was a smart girl.  She seemed to know the capacity of the rider.  If the person was skilled, she was right in front of the leg, willing and capable.  If the rider was timid or really young, she responded in kind, taking gentle, gingerly steps and walking very slowly.  My mom was terrified of riding.  Her young sister had jokingly put her on a horse with much too much spunk for her abilities or willingness, scaring the daylights out her in the process.  But she rode Lady a few times, the only horse who made her feel safe.  My brother would ride Lady like a wild hellion up and down our mile-long driveway, his whoops filling the air as Lady’s feet clattered on the gravel.

Time progressed and I grew up and moved out.  I kept riding in various capacities, but when I left, my sister’s desire to ride left as well.  My brother only seemed to like riding because horses went fast.  Once he moved on to cars and motorbikes, horses lost any appeal.  My parent’s horse farm dwindled and eventually Lady and Prize were the only horses remaining.  After a few more years they sold Prize to some horsey acquaintances of mine.

For a few years, Lady did not get much attention, but she enjoyed hanging out with my parent’s cows.  They would band together to eat and block the wind.  Then my sister started having babies, I had a baby, Derek had a baby.  All these babies grew into small children who liked to ride the pony at Grandma’s house.  When Milla was two, we rented an old farmhouse in West Linn, Oregon.  It sat on two acres of land right in the suburbs with a grandfather clause allowing livestock.  We decided to have Lady come and live with us.  I was riding at a large hunter jumper barn and Milla had been begging to ride.  I did not feel confident putting her on a tall Thoroughbred, but Lady was just right.

Milla would go out the back door to spend time with Lady.  Lady would lower her head and allow Milla to put on her halter.  She would then lead her around the yard or out into the fenced paddock.  Milla used an old log to clamber onto Lady’s back so she could walk and trot the perimeter of the field.  Friends would bring their children over for a ride.  Our suburban neighbors were thrilled.  They would stop by the fence and offer Lady bits of carrots and apple.

We eventually bought a house and moved on from there, so Lady headed back to my parent’s farm.  My sister had four children and between them and Milla, Lady got pretty regular rides.  My sister bought a farm and Lady came to live there for a while until the place got too muddy, then back she went to the farm.

Lady was long in tooth and pretty swaybacked, her eyes cloudy with cataracts, but she would always come to our whistle, eager to see if we had any special treats in our pocket for her.  Last winter her weight dropped dramatically.  The year was bitterly cold, far below the average, and we worried Lady might not make it through the season.  My parents bought her a warmer blanket and started bringing her up to the house to eat her grain separately from the cows who were hoggy and pushed poor Lady to the back of the line.  Her weight improved and it seemed she would get to see another summer.

The last time I was in Oregon, in late December, I went to visit my parent’s farm.  Like an old fixture there stood Lady out in the pasture among the cows, grazing on the stubby grass.  She was so familiar, such a part of the landscape.  I pointed her out to Boyfriend, who had not been yet to my family’s farm.  “That’s Lady.  She’s got to be in her thirties by now.”  Little did I realize or even think to consider it would be the last time I saw her graying face.   My mom called this morning to let me know that Lady died on Martin Luther King’s birthday.  I had been driving the death truck across country on the day of her death, and my mom had not wanted to add further stress to our blisteringly stressful trip.  Apparently Lady was lying down in the pasture as if asleep.  My dad saw her and realized she was gone.  They buried her on the hill below the house in the place were as children we always rode.

Over the years, Lady patiently allowed little hands to braid her mane and tail, and stood untied while they brushed her, bathed her, and picked her feet.  She would carefully nibble treats from outstretched palms, making certain to leave fingers behind.  In her easy manner, she helped us learn how to care for horses.  She was a part of my life for so long, carrying three generations of our family on her back.  So many children rode, played with, and cared for Lady.  In turn, she cared for us.  I will miss her.

How to Get Salt Stains Off Your Shoes

Ever gone walking around in the snow only to come home with weird white goo on your shoes? The white goo is salt deposits.  Salt is poured on snow and ice to melt it so people don’t slip. But it makes kind of an ugly mess on shoes that will not dissolve when wiped with a rag dipped in plain water. The way to remove these stains is to dip a cotton ball or Q-tip in vinegar and then to wipe the spot clean. Q-tips are nice because you can get down into the cracks where the sole meets the shoe. Cotton balls are nice for the top where they provide more coverage.

A product that works really well for leather is Horseman’s One Step. It is marketed to riders who use it on tack. It cleans and conditions at the same time, a necessity when leathers are out in the weather, getting wet and dirty. Pure oils make leather slippery and are really unnecessary more than once or twice a year.  Lexol is good too, but it doesn’t clean unless you buy the cleaner separately. One Step does both. I used to clean dozens of saddles and bridles daily and One Step was my favorite. I highly recommend it. And I did not get paid to say this. I wish! After cleaning your shoes of salt, a quick swipe with the One Step makes the leather clean and supple again, ready to head out into wet, winter weather.