Monday, January 4, 2010

Taking Care of Your Equipment

My last entry said it was chilly when I got up. Ha. Today is flat out freezing cold, literally, and forecast to be even colder for the next basic week. The routine will include but not be limited to having pipes to wrap and or faucets to let run, busting the ice in water tanks to keep the horses drinking, covering of the camellias that are in bud now, just trying to protect those things which are not accustomed to such temps . It probably won't include any riding unless the sun comes out and I can find enough clothes to wear. I plan to do a bit of inside stuff and then maybe some tack cleaning and assessing as to wear and stress damages on the leather, and tidy up the barn.

It is Monday of the first week of a new year. The revolving door of visiting family and friends has now stopped spinning, sheets and towels have been washed and put away, the last of the chex mix has been consumed, and a few resolutions have been tossed around. I love having the company of everyone at the holiday time but wish somehow that their visits could all be coordinated to happen at one time instead of being strung out for a month. It is just exhausting keeping up with all the hospitality jobs that it entails. My world, today is now back to the quiet of pre-Thanksgiving, just me and the critters out here. Big sigh.

As soon as I find my lovely camo jump suit I will head to the barn to feed and assess cold damage and hope seriously to not find any. I need to top off the bird feeder too. Looking out the back porch window I can see some very slowly moving, very fluffy birds frantically searching for one more sunflower seed. A likely time for a visit from a sharp shin or coopers hawk to come blasting thru to get themselves a meal of bird. Nature is a tough chain to be in the middle of. My personal preference is being in situations where humans are pretty close to the top.

Cleaning bridles and saddles was something I used to never give a thought to, because I just simply never cleaned them. At first I didn't because bringing my things home from the barn to clean gave reminder to my father that I greatly preferred riding horses with all the dirt and smells and not so lady like activity to being at the country club visiting with friends and playing tennis. He would give me such a hard time about it that it just wasn't worth it. Funny, he used to have a stipulation that every time I spent out at the barn had to have been earned by equal time spent playing tennis. I got very good at tennis and my saddle was dry and crispy.

My attitude changed about the importance of first, buying only good quality leather and then second, taking care of it, when I had a major equipment failure. Trying to be a bit frugal years ago, I bought a cheap bridle thinking it would be a great way to not waste the use of a good bridle while working a young recently backed mare. It was stiff and a poor piece of what might be regarded as leather, made in India, and a really dumb red color and, sure enough, I got what I paid for.

This young mare had been sent to a trainer and had just returned, supposedly, quite broke and ready to go. It didn't take too long to see that she still had some bucks under the hood, so I set up my ride to deal with this issue. What she did not want to do was to go forward on command, so I put my leg on and suggested that she move. As predicted her head went down and her back came up and the cork was just coming out of the bottle when I grabbed the right rein short up and lifted with all I could to rearrange her teeth. Pop went the rein.

Uh oh is right. With her newly found freedom from the effects of me, she then proceeded to let the next cork out with more conviction. I was already off balance so sending me flying was nothing. On the way back down into earth's atmosphere I was already thinking about that poor choice of bridle and how I needed to get back on her once I was back on the ground, and use the better bridle back in the barn.

It was then late October and the ground had dried to a well seasoned concrete slab and I hit first on my left hip and then face planted into a fire ant bed. With my breath knocked out and stunned, I laid there for several minutes wondering how bad was it. When I had finally realized the ants were all in my hair and I was being eaten alive, I got to my feet and went to the barn to catch the horse. My back hurt like crazy and I was allergic to the stings but my plan was to get back in for a few before heading to the emergency room.

I didn't make it back on the horse that day because I could not lift my left leg to get up, (later it was discovered I had broken spinal processes L3 and 4, hence no connecting functional muscles.) I drove myself to hospital,where I spent the next week in total bed confinement scratching the ant bites, followed by another month of rest wearing a corset. All of this, because of a weak and poorly tanned and made piece of leather, followed by an equally poor decision in buying it.

Coughing up the cash for a well made bridle any time, but especially in these economically disastrous days, is a tough thing to justify. One of my bridles that I did splurge on nearly 15 years ago, a Stubben, is now a bit worn after a lot of use, but the leather is still strong and pliable. I take good care of and try to use only the best leathers now. There are many places for error and mistakes in working horses and it isn't such a good idea to cut any corners on this area. It is just too potentially expensive to do otherwise.

Ironically the title above is a part of the mantra that my tennis promoting father used to preach to us as kids about caring for the things we had and used (I guess he didn't regard saddle care as falling into this category at that time). The whole saying from him was for us to "take care of your equipment and your equipment will take care of you". I have learned all I need to know about this lesson the very hard way and I do follow the mantra. Some times what our parent say actually makes sense...sometimes.

Hey, the sun is now out, the sky is blue, and the mud is frozen. Sounds good enough to go riding for me. Besides today if I get bucked off I will at least have on enough padding to bounce.

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