The holidays have left me with a few new horse-related possessions. These two are my favorite, proving that it really doesn't take much to keep a horse girl happy! I love fancy gifts as much as the next person, but I will use these constantly for a very long time. It makes me happy to receive gifts like that - I feel like I can fully appreciate them. In fact, all of my horse-related gifts were functional, and I'm thrilled with all of them.
First, the Ultimate Hoof Pick. This is a beast of a hoof pick. It's practically a power tool.
It takes everything good about something like an Oster hoof pick - nice handle design, angled head, pointy - and leaves everything bad, which is mostly the thin metal that has a weird curve in it that leaves you with no leverage whatsoever. I will be surprised if this thing ever dies.
The tip is like a wide flathead screwdriver, so my only complaint is that I have to turn it a little sideways to get all the way down in the clefts on either side of the frog. I think its other values more than make up for that, though. Absolutely excellent for levering huge clods of mud out of the foot! And I imagine it would be very nice for big honking draft feet, though I don't have a horse with big honking draft feet so don't quote me.
Then there's this - Effax LederCombi, or leather cleaner. It's a liquid with a light, pleasant smell. I used it to clean my whole saddle yesterday (aren't you proud of me?) and really liked it. I put some on a wrung-out damp sponge and went to town.
It seems to clean really well. My saddle had a few jockeys (little black spots of greasy-dirt mix...look closely, you probably have some on your tack!) and it did a good job of removing them without too much scrubbing, but it doesn't feel harsh at all. It actually left my saddle with a really nice soft shine. My saddle was grippy but not tacky, clean but not stripped.
For reference, I've previously used Leather Therapy (ugh ugh ugh, sticky and filmy and residue-y and YUCK), Murphy's Oil Soap (slightly lathery, left a nice finish on the leather, but lots of scrub-work to clean any dirt), and plain glycerin saddle soap (same story). I will be sticking with this for awhile, methinks!
In addition to the Effax, people on the Chronicle forums seem to really like MOSS, Tattersall, and Supple for leather cleaners. In general, if a ton of people on COTH agree, I believe them! Maybe next year I will ask for another brand to try.
As far as conditioners go, I use neatsfoot oil to darken and Passier Lederbalsam to soften and condition. I don't need to condition every time because our climate isn't terribly dry for most of the year, so my leather tends to hold its moisture pretty well. According to COTH, a lot of people love a conditioner called Akene - perhaps I'll pick that up when my Passier runs out. I've had it for a year and a half now and it's still almost 1/4 full. I'm not sure if that speaks for the longevity of the conditioner or the infrequency of my tack cleaning...
Anyway, my mom finds it hilarious that I probably would have been satisfied with just the hoof pick. Never mind all the other stuff - that is one freakin' nice hoof pick!
I also had a really nice ride last night. I've been lining out my schedule and goals for the year, and I have my full January conditioning/training schedule printed out and stuck on the tack room wall. (Don't worry - I'm not getting off easy, I have workouts for myself too!)
We went for a quick hack up the road and back. It's a really nice mild hill, levels out, a bigger hill, and then it goes gradually down for a long ways. The uphills felt nice. Pandora walked on a loose rein and it felt like she had good push. Nothing extraordinary, but measured and strong. She was a little sticky on the downhill, so I will be looking for that to improve with conditioning. We also had one little scoot-leap forward when the neighbors fired up their four-wheeler, but thankfully it was fairly controlled. She came back easily and walked on a loose rein the rest of the way.
Then I rode for about an hour in the arena. I've been trying new things lately, namely allowing a lot more variation in where her head and neck are. More specifically, I'm letting her stretch all the way down at the trot at certain times. I'm not entirely sure where it's going, but I think it's going somewhere useful. We seem to be able to get a proper bend easier when she's stretching down, for example, so I did some big looping figure-8s while she was long and low. It's hard to control a smooth bend but I felt like we made some progress. Later in the ride I tended to ride with her neck at normal carriage, ask her to stretch down for a circle, then return to regular carriage again.
It seemed constructive and Pandora does seem to like the chance to stretch.
On a side note, I am FINALLY signed up for dressage lessons! I'll take two in a row, Wednesday the 6th and then the 13th. After that I will go to every other week. The farm is only about a 10 minute drive from our boarding barn, which is also great.
Have I mentioned how excited I am? I am very excited. We can finally get some quality instruction and make some much-needed dressage progress.
I love the end of the year. It's so productive for me! :-)
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