Thursday, June 28, 2012

We interrupt this blog silence with an update... from France!

Apparently the Interwebs aren't terribly good in France - we've been here for four days and I FINALLY have access! We're here for a family wedding in the south of France, but spent a few days in Paris to see some of the sights. Both hubby and I have been to Paris before, so we skipped some of the "standard" tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tour and the Arc de Triomphe. However, it's been almost 20 years for us, so we decided to see some of the museums we didn't remember too well.

First stop: Le Musee d'Armee (the Military Museum)

In addition to holding an impressive armor collection, Napoleon's tomb is housed in the Musee. Napoleon was adored by the French, but hated by European powers - since he and his armies kept, you know, invading their countries! This tomb is a monument to all the great social and political works he did, from building bridges and public hospitals, to enacting laws based on Justinian's code. It was a very interesting stop!

 Then on to the armor exhibits! Hubby was very excited about this find. It's a suit of 14th century armor, which is VERY rare. I have a ton of pics of this including close-ups of the clasp mechanisms and other functional details, which I won't bore you with. :)

 15th century jousting saddle. This one was particularly interesting because the pommel saddle steel is asymmetrical. My best guess is that the slightly hooked steel on the right helped the rider if they leaned over to the left for a better hit. More research is needed!

 Late 16th/early 17th century saddle. Wouldn't you LOVE to have a modern saddle covered in velvet and gorgeous stitching like this one? I guess that's why I love fancy-schmancy saddle pads so much!

 Napoleonic-era saddle. You can see it starting to transform to more of a modern English saddle style, as it's missing the thigh rolls and the very high cantle.

 Ye gods, it's a spade bit with a port and rollers and little keys, not to mention the 12 inch shanks... I can't even imagine trying to stuff this into a horse's mouth, much less riding with it! 

 Oberon would look good in a suit like this, don't you think?

 Crinet (top, it protects the horse's neck), chamfron (center, face guard), and engraved metal rein covers.  While we have functional chamfrons, we don't have the crinet or rein covers. Perhaps a new armoring project for hubby?  

 Ring and quintain lances from the 1500s. I've never seen a lance with such a fancy guard!

Detail of the engraving on a grande guard shield, used for jousting. These shields were used in the 16th century, and bolted onto the armor. Gorgeous!

A frog-mouthed helm and jousting suit. This one was particularly interesting because it had a two-foot lance rest (the spiral sticking off the back) on it. I wonder if this made aiming the lance nearly impossible, since the lance would essentially be locked into place?

Napoleon's Arabian, Vizier, is stuffed and mounted, on display in the museum. I couldn't help but take photos of his front feet for all the hoof nerds out there! He needs a good trimmer to work on that long toe on the right front, don't you agree?

I have a bunch more pictures AND Internet access for the next few days, so I'll continue to post. In between drinking wine and eating brie cheese on fresh baguettes, of course! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby Oberon Pics, and a little help with history

Oberon's previous owner sent me some pics of him, and since everyone loves baby horsey pics, I figured I'd share!

Mom and baby Oberon. I think her brand is 73, then 3, and either 1 or a down arrow. Can anyone else tell? I tried blowing it up in Photoshop, but the picture quality is pretty crummy.
 As a weanling bought at auction. 

 As a four-year-old, ridden by the trainer. (So next time he tells me he can't possibly go on the bit and carry himself, I'll know that he's LYING.)

Now for the help with history part. I believe Oberon is a PMU baby. Mom was supposedly a Standardbred mare (although dang, she is a BIG STB!), name unknown, and Dad was supposedly a black Percheron named Commander. Other than that, I know absolutely nothing. I've done a little Google searching on Commander and haven't found anything. There are a couple of Perch stallions with "Commander" in the name, but their ages aren't listed. Oberon is supposedly 10, so the stallion would probably have to be 1999 or earlier.

Does anyone know anything about ID'ing brands, or tracking down PMU babies? Google searches weren't very helpful, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in the world who is interested in doing this.

Any help would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weekend sewing project: Baby blanket

When I was a kid, I wanted to be creative. I remember having visions of grand drawings in my head, but somehow when pen was applied to paper, nothing recognizable came out. I can't sing or act very well, and while I used to play the flute, I was no virtuoso. Even now, my job requires some graphic design skills, but I'm the last one you'd want to go to if you want something sexy and gorgeous-looking for a web site. Heck, even when it comes to painting my house, I have to get a professional interior designer friend to choose colors for me. It's that bad!

So when I started sewing as a hobby in my early 20s, I was excited to find that I'm pretty darn good at it. I make all of our jousting outfits, and everything for the horses. I've done saddle pads, comforters, and loads of 14th century clothes. I don't make modern clothing, and I don't quilt, but I can look at a painting or photograph of something and make it come out pretty much the same. Yay, creativity I can handle!

Anyway, the latest assignment was a blanket for a baby boy for a good friend of mine. The nursery colors were spring green, grey, and purple, with a forest animal theme. I didn't want the blanket to be too warm (it's Texas in the summer, people!), and I wanted to keep the purple to a minimum, so that a little boy wouldn't mind the colors as he got older. I also wanted to include some cute animals on it to keep with the theme, but they needed to be animals I could applique on, since I don't have a machine that does embroidery.

I liked these cute animals and used them as the basis for the blanket, although as you'll see I changed it up a bit.

I ended up choosing a spring green polarfleece for the blanket background, grey polarfleece for the critters, and a blue flannel lining. I used purple thread to applique the critters on, as well as to create a decorative stitched border around the entire blanket.

 Applique is about 10000x easier if you use iron-on wonder-under stabilizer. The only trick is that you have to keep your iron hot enough to iron on the stabilizer, but not so hot that you melt the (100% polyester) polarfleece. Ask me how I know this! Here's the first two sheets ironed on the polarfleece.

 After freehanding the critters onto 8.5x11 sheets of paper and cutting them out, I traced them onto the stabilizer and cut the critters out of the fabric.

 Laying out the critters on the blanket. I don't recall cutting out a cat?

 The final layout. Critters were then pinned in place.

 Ironing the critters onto the blanket so that I could then applique them on. I used a sheet of paper between the iron and the fleece so as not to melt it.

 Here's a close-up of the purple stitching I used to applique the critters, as well as the decorative border.

Maddy supervised the final blanket assembly, which involved sewing the blue flannel liner to the green facing.

 Volia, the final product, all assembled and ready for delivery. Hopefully my friend won't read this blog post until AFTER I deliver the blanket!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Random weekend horse rides

Despite the heat, this weekend has been a good one for riding.

Saturday morning, I went out with a neighbor I haven't ridden with before and won't be riding with again. For starters, she was 30 minutes late and didn't bother to apologize. Her horse couldn't keep up with Oberon on the trail, and he's SLOW. Her horse is a 4 yo red roan gelding that she's been riding since he was two. He looks halter-bred... biiiig old muscled butt and shoulder, tiny feet, tiny head. He's probably 1300 lbs and is like 14.1 hh. Her farrier sold him to her but refused to tell her the horse's breeding or hand over his papers, despite saying that he's registered AQHA (can you register roans as AQHA? I don't know...). Are you shocked to hear that the horse is almost certainly HYPP+? She described muscle tremors down his back and flanks, and heavy labored breathing, that he does occasionally. Sounds like some HYPP attacks I've heard of.

The best part? She's taking him to a children's summer camp next week and hopes to sell him as a family horse to one of the children there... because his attacks "aren't that bad."

Yes, that's the sound of me smacking my head against the wall. Repeatedly.

Ok, on to better things...

Yesterday I rode Oberon and today Bre (from G is for Greta) rode him. He was a little looky for me but a tap or two on the butt with the bat, and a solid kick, gets him going again. He's learning to march on no matter what, which is really what I want him to do. His one big spook (big = he took three steps sideways and stared) was when a cicada started buzzing loudly in the shrub we were walking past. Silly boy.

 This horse-eating donkey, however, was apparently not scary at all.

I have no idea how Bre manages to ride in shorts, but she does... and makes the horse look pretty nice too!

Oberon's new bridle came in the mail Friday. I think it looks good on him, although white stitching is not my favorite. I'm waiting on his French Snaffle bit to arrive, but for now he's going in a kimberwicke, which will be his hunting bit. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find 6 inch bits that don't cost $200? Sheesh!

MC also came out to ride this morning, as she does pretty much every weekend. I must say, she's got Cash going fantastically well! I'm thinking they need to attend a dressage show or three this fall.

I found this enormous tomato hornworm caterpillar munching down my tomato plants. I think that's the biggest caterpillar I've ever seen... that's my hand holding that twig, and I don't have small hands! I fed him to the chickens after taking this pic. Yeah, revenge is SWEET!

 In other news, Saga is out of work AGAIN. This is what his hind legs looked like Saturday morning, the morning after our long walk. Um? He's not running a temp, he's not lame, his front legs are fine, he's eating fine, and he's turned out 24/7... he's just really really stocked up! Cold hosing and ice wraps don't seem to help any. Bre is loaning me her BOT wraps, so maybe those will make a difference?

 I hope everyone else had really great weekends for riding!

Friday, June 15, 2012

I know everything is bigger in Texas, but could we please have smaller spiders?

Tonight, I took Saga for a looong walk. We were out for about an hour and a half, enjoying the sunset and the (slightly) cooler temps as the sun went down.

 It's been a month since we've had rain, and things have turned their usual heat-baked brown.

Saga was doing his "power walk" down the trail on a loose rein, and I was admiring the deer, birds, and rabbits... until I almost got a face full of this:

Holy Giant Lichen Orb Weaver Spiders, Batman! 

Yes, I know it's a crappy iPhone picture, but I SWEAR, this thing was about an inch and a half across. That picture was taken from about five feet away, and that's how ginormous it was! I managed to duck at the last minute, and we avoided it, but I swear if I had run smack into that spider and had it ON me, I would not have been responsible for my actions.

 Here is a way better close up of a Giant Lichen Orb Weaver taken by somebody with a really expensive camera who was probably not trying to control a horse while taking a photo one-handed. Photo credit goes to this web site.

After that bit of excitement, I kept a sharp lookout for the buggers. I've never seen them before, but  saw probably half a dozen of them tonight in huge webs that span the width of the trials. Yeesh. I'm not sure whether to be glad that they were so big I could see them and avoid them, or totally freaked out that they were so big I could see them from 10 feet away.

In other news, the snake I found crossing the road last month was hanging out in the barn last night. I'm not sure where he disappeared to - he slithered off while I was running for the camera. I do hope he leaves a note as to his location, so he doesn't scare the ever-loving-crap out of me when I go out to feed. The neighbors might wonder if they hear screaming at 6 a.m., you know?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Garden bounty - come snack with me!

It's an amazing time of year here for the garden. Everything is ripening all at once, before the heat sets in for good. Although I didn't get a huge amount planted this spring, our fruit trees and grape vine are going crazy. It's a ton of fun to go out in the garden when I get home from work, pick something for dinner and dessert, then go make something tasty with it.

Well, ok, except for the blackberries. There aren't many of them on our single blackberry bush, so they don't even make it in the house *nomnomnomnom*
 This year we didn't actually plant any tomato vines... all of our tomatoes are volunteers from the compost we mixed in with the garden soil (yeah, I'm cheap). Over a dozen vines survived, and we have Romas, some grape tomatoes, and some sort of medium-sized eating tomato. Yum!

 These grapes are tiny but super-tasty, and there are loads of them! I think we might have to get another grape vine or two... maybe we could make wine?

Sometimes is really haaaard waiting for things to ripen!

Today's haul. The tomatoes went into a nice insalata caprese, and the plum got eaten for dessert. 

One of the benefits I have noticed of having the outdoor cats, Maddy and Artemis, is that they like to sleep hang out in the garden during the day. This means that produce-thieving birds do NOT hang out in the garden, really at all. Which means there's more produce for me.

Totally win-win. I gave the kitties an extra treat for their hard work. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

First jumping lesson on Oberon

Saturday we took Oberon for his first jumping lesson. I'd jumped him during our try-out ride over a few x's, and he did fine, but we wanted to see what our jumping instructor thought of him and how he behaved in a new place.

The lesson was at 7:30 am, which while insanely early, was also relatively cool. It's been 100 degrees here in the afternoons for the last few days, so riding when it's 70 is very nice. Oberon was inattentive during warm-up, but not spooky. I could not get my spurs to stay on the spur rests, and as a result, our canters were pretty much non-existent (really gotta work on that). We did, however, have some lovely medium trots, which our instructor commented on. Too bad I wasn't asking for a medium trot...

We moved right into jumping two small x's on a line. He sort of stepped over them, and our instructor asked me if he's actually jumped at all. I assured her that he had, and we just needed something slightly more impressive. We tried the x's from the other direction, and in between the two fences, Oberon spotted a car coming down the driveway. He watched the car quite keenly as we trotted on, and at the last moment remembered to pick up his feet over the second x. So much for keeping his mind on the task at hand!

The fences went up, and up some more. He started to canter in a nice, forward rhythm. Two verticals became a vertical and an oxer, and the oxer went up. We ended at 2'9:

I commented that the fence wasn't all that scary, and could we try something like a gate. So Paige put up a gate on the oxer, and we had a slightly hairy moment:

Definitely not my finest riding moment ever, but we made it over and didn't land in too much of a heap. Of course, we had to try it again to perfect it:

Overall, it was a huge success! Considering that Oberon hadn't jumped until a month ago when he went to the trainer to be sold, I'd say he's doing fantastically well. I don't think he'll have any problems at all with the 3' coops we find out in the hunt field, and he should be able to bomb around a Novice course with some good miles on him. It's pretty clear that he hasn't seen much in his life and needs experience, but he does try, which is good. My riding didn't help much at all - I felt super loose in the tack, and couldn't seem to keep my leg on him to save my life. I also wanted him to pick up the pace, instead of just letting him get to the fence. Old habits of "chasing" down the fence die hard!

Our jumping instructor really liked him - liked his pace, thought he could be super cute with his knees, and liked that he tried.  Alas, she did say that he's a bit "clunky" for the hunter arena. Poor Oberon. Clunky. Imagine that!

Is this the face of clunkiness to you? With those cute ears? I didn't THINK so!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's official... we have a new horse!!!

Hubby finally decided today, we're keeping Justin! And as of now, his name is Oberon. He just isn't much of a Justin, it seems.

He's really been a star for the last few rides. It doesn't seem that jousting will be any problem for him, although we are still working him up to the full-blown joust. He's got a ton of lovely dressage buttons - leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in, half-pass, as well as turn on the forehand and haunches. He's got a lovely medium trot, and his previous owner even told me she was working flying changes. He can be a little hard to get going, but we're both used to riding horses that are very forward, so this is a change. He can be a little inattentive both on the ground and under saddle, but even in two weeks, he's much more respectful and easier to work with. He loads great, and my trimmer loves him and his feet.

Big honkin' drafty-feets.

Decent conformation - uphill, short back, decent shoulder, good bone.

Did I mention that he's kinda cute?

One of the main things we were concerned about - his tendency to stop and look at things - is apparently easily overcome. We've been riding with small spurs and a bat that makes a good "smack" sound, which he is very impressed by. He now stomps on manhole covers - literally, he slams his foot down on them so I know he's stepped on it. He's also miraculously lost his fear of the front gate after just one session:

We had a fantastic jumping lesson this morning which I'll fill in on tomorrow - we're going to a jousting practice in the morning, and I need to get to bed!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What normal horses spook at

Things with the hubby’s potential new horse, Justin, are going well. We did another jousting practice the other day, with more armor and with Saga passing by him on the other side of the lane.  Here’s how that went:


Justin: Ooooh, look! Grass! Nomnomnom…

Me: Saga, don’t be an eediot. You’ve jousted before. Besides, *I’m* not wearing armor, the armor is on Dad, who is riding the other horse. Justin, STOP EATING. You’re fat enough already!

We ride around for a while, and Saga pretends to be a crazy racehorse, tossing his head like he’s two. Hubby has to kick Justin twice to get him to trot. I wish Saga was a little less crazy, and pick up a quintain lance that’s resting against a tree.

Saga: OMFG! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM!!! *Levitates 4 feet upward and sideways while trying to get a look at the lance that’s waving around.* 

Me, to myself: Gee, I always wondered what it was like to ride a capriole. Maybe it’s something like that? Out loud: Saga, you moron. It’s a LANCE. Remember those? 

Saga, snorting and skittering sideways: Nope, never seen one of those before! OMFG IT’S FOLLOWING MEEEEEE!!!

Justin, to hubby: Really, we have to keep trotting? Sigh.

We ride around a little more, and I start to take Saga down the lane at a walk. Or at least, *I* think we’re walking. He takes the opportunity to fling his head up and start to bolt down the lane. I stop him and convince him that walking is the way to go. He spooks sideways as Justin trots past us, hubby and armor aboard.

Me: Sigh. Really?


Saga and I manage to hold it together long enough to trot past Justin a couple of times, and hit the hubby’s shield with the quintain lance. Justin could care less. Saga thinks he’s going to die.

He’s right actually. It’s possible that I might kill him.

We decide to call it a day when I’ve gotten Saga to go past Justin a couple of times at the trot without shying too much. Justin was pretty sure it was time to call it a day before we started. 

We decide to go on a short trail ride to cool off, but hubby wants to take off some of his armor first. He removes his gauntlet but doesn’t have anyone on the ground to take it – normally that’s my job – so he tosses it down, waiting for Justin to spook. Justin calmly gazes at where it landed, while Saga rolls his eyes and snorts a bit. Next, Hubby removes his shield and tosses it down. Justin contemplates chewing on Saga’s bridle (he’s VERY mouthy) as the shield hits the ground. Saga contemplates running away from home to somewhere that doesn’t have any armor and he can do easy things, like jump four-foot fences.

Hubby and I walk from the jousting lane over to the front gate to head out on the trails. Saga heaves a huge sigh of relief, while Justin takes one look at the front gate and has a huge meltdown.


Saga: Mom? Do you see this horse? He’s crazy spooky…

Friday, June 1, 2012