OFF TO SCHOOL

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Back to school season reminds me of kids, and school horses.  One of the more common conversations taking place in American households, is often the “I want a horse” talk.  I know it happened a LOT in ours!  There are many valuable lessons to be learned from a child having their own horse, or at least access to one, but it’s not as simple as they’d like to think.

 

On tv, we see people drive up to expansive barns in shiny cars, step out of the car, dressed in the nicest togs, and walk to where a groom is holding the reins of a gleaming, saddled horse.  They ride for a few minutes, then pass the reins back to the groom, and leave.  It paints a pretty picture, highly unrealistic, but pretty.  I honestly can’t remember a time I’d gone to the barn, even for just a few minutes, and not left looking like a troll.  Parents, if your kids are leaving the barn anything short of filthy and exhausted, they’re doing it wrong. Hahaha!

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When your son, or more often daughter, comes to you wanting a horse, the first question is usually whether or not it’s affordable.  The truth always boils down to this, the horse is the cheapest part of the deal.  If you already have, of have had horses, it’s not such a big deal, but if you’re new to it, the idea is daunting, and not one to enter into without a lot of help.  My recommendation is to find a nice barn for your kids to take lessons in for a year or so as your first step.  This is the closest you’ll get to a trial run, and offers the opportunity to see a lot of what goes in to horse ownership, without the financial obligation.

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First you’ll want to talk with your child about what’s drawing them to horses, and hopefully you already have an idea as to what kind of learning suits them best.  Take as much time as you need to find a barn, instructor, and horse that has the most to offer.  If you don’t have any horse connections on your own, try reaching out in social media, or going to local feed/tack stores and asking for recommendations.  In the U.S., trainers and instructors don’t have to carry a license in order to teach.  There are many certifications available, through a variety of entities, but none are required.

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Consider how much time you’ll be able to devote to the lessons.  Ideally, a good instructor is going to teach them everything from the ground up, including grooming, tacking, and some general care.  This is the best way for your child to learn and understand that having a horse isn’t like having a dog or cat in the house, that you can just play with when it suits you, they’re a lot of work.  As the parent, you’ll be driving them to and from the barn, waiting while they have their lesson , an hour or two, scheduling all this around homework and any other activities going on.

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Once you’ve found a suitable location and trainer, you need to get your child suited up with some basics.  Some barns will offer loaner helmets, but I prefer each rider has their own for a couple of reasons.  One, for sanitary purposes, and two, you never know what’s happened to the helmets when you’re not around.  Someone could have had a crash in one, and just put it back, without having it safety tested to make sure it’s still sound.  They’ll also need a sturdy pair of boots.  They don’t necessarily have to be riding boots, but they do need to fit well and have a good heel, with a fairly smooth sole (no lug or hiking boot types).  Some instructors may ask you supply your child with gloves, chaps, or other items, but they can start without those and can be acquired as needed.

 

If you’re unsure as to what kind of riding your child should start with, my preference has always been (hunter) english, even for the boys.  It’s the best way for them to learn balance and coordination.  Once they have a good foundation in the english saddle, changing to western is fairly easy, and they’ll appreciate their skills when they learn how adaptable they are.  You instructor may start them on a long line, depending on the child’s age, or independently.  Don’t assume you’re welcome to stay in the arena during their lesson.  Ask if there’s a viewing area, or somewhere the instructor would prefer you stay, so as not to interfere, and let the child answer for themselves as much as possible.  There will be an introductory period where more parent involvement is acceptable, but once the instructor develops a relationship with your child, it’s important to step back and allow them space to work together.  If you have questions, try to remember to ask them before or after, or write them down, rather than asking during the lesson if you can.  You paid for the time, but if the instructor is spending more time talking to you than teaching your child, it’s counterproductive.

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As your child is learning, unless their size makes it difficult to do things, like reach to fasten a strap, let them learn how to do it on their own.  There will be nights when you’re rushed or running behind, a little help now and then is okay if it means getting back on schedule, but otherwise, it’s all part of the process.  They need to understand that having a horse to care for takes time and hard work.  The benefit of taking a year or so for their initial lessons is so they learn how to adapt to climate changes.  Horses don’t take snow days, holidays, or sick time.  They still need to eat and poop, even if you want to go on vacation.  Riding horses teaches how to dress for weather, plan ahead, and be responsible, all valuable life experience.

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Most importantly, understand that a rider falling off a horse is a matter of when, not if, and your child is no exception.  You do what you can to help prepare them by providing the helmet that they should always be wearing when riding, and you’ve selected an instructor who you’re comfortable with and trust with your child, and you have to focus on that the first time they “make a real estate purchase” at the barn.  It is scary, to see a little body get launched into the air, and land with a cloud of dirt.  Your first instincts will be to rush to them and asses the damage, but know that it may not be the appropriate response.  Above all, remain calm, and look to the instructor for guidance, they’ll be the first one to your child, and sometimes having a hysterical parent right there can make the situation worse.  If the horse is running loose, and you’re comfortable handling one, try to at least corral it away from the fallen child and instructor, or look for help if needed, but listen first, and act second.  If the instructor sees the child looking to you to decide how to react, they may send you from the arena, and you have to go.  They know what to do, let them do their job, it will all be okay.  In the rare event it happens to be a serious fall, and medical help is needed, the instructor will be able to tell you who to call, where to go, and what to do.  Remember, you can always sneak off and cry behind the barn later.  For now, you need to be calm and stoic.

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At the end of your year, you’ll have enough experience under your collective belt to know whether or not the child is still interested and willing to put in the work.  You’ll have an idea as to if you can continue on the schedule you’ve created, or if you could afford more money and time either in lessons, or with your own horse.  If you decide you’re ready for the next step of ownership, you have a valuable tool in your instructor who can help guide you to a suitable first horse.

 

Sending your child off to school, in a barn, can be an experience that they’ll learn from through the rest of their lives, make it a great one!

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GIRL CRUSH

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You’ve read about my passion for horses, dogs, and helping people.  You know I love my friends and family.  But there’s more to me, I get excited about a lot of things, and when I do, I like to tell everyone, so they can get excited with me!  It’s important to remember that horse people have other needs too, here are some things I’ve become a little obsessed with that are great for everyone…

 

Last year I started using a new mascara that I fell in love with.  It works better than any other I’ve worn, and actually costs less than what I used to spend, win-win!  I love it so much I let myself get talked into selling the whole line, and now I can share my lash love with you!  Have you heard of Younique 3D Fiber Lash mascara?  I can’t help but think how much I would have loved it when I was still showing.  A good mascara that helps your face remain visible on the rail is a must have of showing.  You need to check it out immediately, here’s where to go…

 

mascara younique mascara

https://www.youniqueproducts.com/karenmelroy

 

One item I always kept in the horse trailer was a ball cap.  There’s nothing worse than sweaty hat-head after a long day at a show or in the barn, when you don’t feel like wearing your cowboy hat another minute longer.  I spotted these on social media, worn by several of the Real Housewives, and I was hooked.  Started by a couple busy moms, Mother Trucker & Co. is a simple, yet fantastic concept.  Feminine trucker caps, decorated with spot-on hashtags and sayings.  For $25 you can sport a variety of hat personalities, or for $30 you can coin your very own.  Smart style by smart women…  LOVE!

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http://www.mothertruckerco.com

 

 

Thirsty after a long, hot day in the saddle?  There’s a new brew coming to town from Scotland, BrewDog!  I’m especially excited for this because their first US location will basically be in my front yard, and even better, it’s a crowdfunded business, so if you like it, you can have ownership benefits.

 

If you’re sensing a common theme in my interests, it’s passion.  The gents who started this business are passionate about bringing great beer to the people who love beer.  I can’t help but want to support products that people are so emotionally involved in.  If they love it so much, it must be good stuff, right?

 

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http://www.brewdog.com

 

 

When you spend a lot of time in the barn, or on the road hauling to shows, that creates two problems.  One, no time to shop in stores, and two, no money.  www.6pm.com is a solution!  I overheard about this site at a family reunion, and kind of even forgot about it until I saw someone wearing those cute Hunter muck boots, but wanted to find a good deal on them.  This site has a great selection of brands for all kinds of things, clothing, shoes, accessories, and the discounts are incredible!  I was really impressed with what all I could find, and how much I could save.  They’re also affiliated with eBates, but usually don’t offer a % back (at least, that I’ve seen yet, or I’d really be wound up!).

 

Let’s take a second to remember eBates too.  If you shop online for anything, ever, you’re a fool to not set up an account with them.  It costs you nothing, and you get paid to shop, it’s really that simple!

http://www.ebates.com

 

 

Lastly, when the daily grind becomes too much to bear, and you need to escape, you can actually afford to with Vacation Express.  If your heart is crying out for a white sandy beach and turquiose water, but you wallet is just crying, don’t despair!  Travel to Mexico, The Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean is affordable and easy.  They offer more and more non-stop flights to tropical destinations from the US, and lots of all-inclusive options so you can make one payment and enjoy a whole vacation without having to touch your wallet again unless you want to pick up some shopping or an excursion.  Check their site on a regular basis or sign up for email updates to stay on top of the latest deals.  You can book last minute, or plan well-ahead, and score a vacation you’ll actually enjoy!

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http://www.vacationexpress.com

 

Now if you’re super savvy, you’ll book that vacation, shop for new swimsuits and hats, stock up on mascara and makeup, and enjoy an ice cold brew when you get to the beach.  What’s not to love about all that?  I’ll meet you there!!!!

 

 

 

 

VETERANS GO VIRAL

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Take a look at the newly released infomercials about The Shane Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship!  I’m so proud to be a part of such a fantastic program, and see the difference in the lives of the people we work with.  For more information or to make a donation, please go to:

 

www.shanecenter.org

 

Here is their general promotion video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smOTBdK4P6Y

 

The video focused on Shane’s Cavalry, the veterans program I volunteer with:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTpH5jC5wHg

 

Do whatever you can to make a difference in one person’s life.  Whether you volunteer your own time, or make a monetary donation, it’s all appreciated and put to very good use.  We all have something to give!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guardian

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As is common with horse people, we’re also dog people.  You’ve read some about my Beagle, Sami, but I want to use this time to tell you about our other girl, Neela.

 

My boyfriend adopted her from a rescue agency some 11 years ago.  She was just a yearling, and they almost didn’t meet because she was in heat, so it wasn’t a good idea to have her around the other dogs at the mixer.  The foster parents kept her safely in their car until they found David.  He loves to describe the first time he saw her, sitting tall and proud in the passenger seat.  Neela hadn’t had the best life so far, previous owners had beaten her so badly they broke a hind leg and never had it vetted, so it healed in it’s own way.  Most people would have turned away, an abused dog with an injured leg is a lot to ask, but David knew she was the right choice for the family.  We’re so glad.

 

From there he took her straight to his vet to have her checked out, and it was decided despite the appearance of the leg, it wasn’t causing her pain.  They decided to leave it alone and see how it went.  Neela had adapted, and continued to do so her entire life.  Our home has many “Neela-colored” marks on the wall at hip height where she’ll lean to get comfortable.

 

Neela had joined his family around the same time the two youngest kids were adopted.  She immediately took to them both, but formed a special bond with his son.  Today they still cuddle on the couch together.

 

Our girl is now 12, and despite having a rough start, has stayed fit and young with the help of her little sister, Sami.  Over the weekend we noticed unusual behavior, and when we felt around, pain in her abdomen.  We were able to get her right in to a Veterinary ER, and soon learned that our girl had a cancerous tumor on her spleen.  It was advanced, and likely metastasized.  The Vet explained all our options, but agreed that a surgery was risky at best, and since it didn’t offer any life prolongment, not the right choice.  We brought her home, and opted instead to manage her pain with meds, until the time comes to let her go.  Her possible life expectancy is up to a couple of months, but of course, there’s no way to know for sure.

 

Heartbroken as we are, I wanted to use her remaining time to share her story, and our fond memories with you…

 

The photo in the headline was taken shortly after we started dating, that was her first play date with Sami.  It was a chilly fall day, we took them to an arboretum to get to know each other on neutral ground.  They took to each other right away, but the funniest moment of that day was when we crossed the pond on the Japanese garden on stepping stones.  Ice had formed on the pond, Sami was light enough to skip across it, but Neela tried and went halfway into the water!  David flailed, grabbing at Neela to pull her up and not drop his camera.  When we finally got her back to shore, she tossed a glance back at the pond and snorted.  I don’t know who the pond thought it was, trying to get her, but she had no time for it’s nonsense!

 

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She’s always been difficult to photograph, her eyes often take on a green glow, like here.  This was taken during her daddy’s recovery from shoulder surgery.  Nursing has always been one of her skills.

 

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Another shot with her glowing green.  This is her Neela Marley look.

 

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Ever the big sister to Sami, Neela loved to taunt her, just out of reach of the tie-out.  It’s obvious Sami didn’t appreciate being teased.  Neela responded well to the invisible fence training.  A hound dog is a different story…  We did have to run the fence all the way across the driveway after she made it into a couple of pizza delivery cars, a FedEx truck, and the school bus.

 

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Neela and Sami love their boy, especially when he brings other boys home that they can share.  The girls are always the life of the party when there’s a sleepover.

 

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At home, her furniture is the ottoman, but at Gammy and Gampy’s house, all grandbabies are spoiled.  Here she is with her Gammy, on the sofa!

 

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We only took the girls boating once, but safety always!  Neela wasn’t a fan of the experience, but handled it like a trooper anyway.

 

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Ever the Guardian.  Neela takes her job as watchdog over our family very seriously.  Despite her affectionate behavior with all of us, I’ve never doubted that if someone who didn’t belong did get in the house, she’d gladly escort them right back out.  It’s difficult to imagine that the barking that drives us crazy sometimes, won’t be heard for much longer.  The sound of her furry THUMP, then slide as she would settle in right next to our bedroom door during thunderstorms.  The way she drooled watching us eat pizza, because she loves the crust (which she’ll now have as much as she’d like).  Sami and Neela chasing each other, and singing together in their doggy duets.  Both of them circling like sharks when we have eggs on the weekends, then eating them so fast they couldn’t have even tasted them and looking expectantly back at us for more.  All those precious moments we take for granted, I’m doing my best to commit to memory now, before they fade like the sun at the end of summer.

 

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This is my most recent photo, just taken last week.  I’d needed to get new bedding for Sami’s crate, and I picked up a new blanket for Neela so she felt special too.  I just got the plastic wrapping off before she took it from me, eager to start working her smell into it.  I wrapped it around her, then later spread it across her bed, where she spent the rest of the evening trying to touch every inch.  This is how I want to remember our girl, blissfully happy and comfortable on her little floor throne.

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