Julie Howard
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Julie Howard

Achievements

About Julie Howard

I am an almost-52 year old amateur re-rider with a 7 year old OTTB named "Isn't She Sweet" aka "Sweetie". After a 30-something year hiatus from horses, I adopted Sweetie in what I then termed a "weak moment". I am now back in to the eventing scene, and I am blessed to ride with my dear friends and barn family at Green Acres Stables in Madbury, NH. I have two teenage children who light up my life, along with a loving family. I just started a business called The Tack Tag, which is my invention to help with the confusion of the 80 horses and their stuff at my barn! www.thetacktag.com

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area I
Highest Level Competed Novice
Farm Name Green Acres Stables

Latest Articles Written

Friends of UNH Cross Country Seeks to Serve Area I Eventing

 

While folks may believe we are freezing up here in the cold New England states (and we are), eventing passion goes a long way to keeping us warm. To that end, in February, a volunteer organization named Friends of UNH Cross Country was founded to both update and upgrade the University of New Hampshire cross country course. Powered by dreams that spring soon would come and start of eventing season would again actually commence, the Friends began their work.

UNH is the traditional start of the eventing season here in Area 1, so many of us have a soft spot for it. The UNH event has been running on the UNH campus for more than 40 years and is the only USEA sanctioned event in New Hampshire. It holds two important places in the Area 1 calendar: the first of the season and one of the last. Often the UNH fall event is used by riders to move up a level after a season at a lower level.

As with any event that has been running for so long, the course has weathered and aged. (We as riders, have NOT weathered and aged, it must be pointed out, gentle reader.) The Friends’ main objective is to upgrade existing fences and build new jumps, bringing the course up to par with other Area 1 event courses.

In addition, improvements will potentially include building an elementary level course to appeal to and attract even more equestrians to the wonderful UNH campus. Jim Gornall, talented course builder and UNH alum, has been generous with his time and attention to UNH, but his efforts need an infusion of funds. The Friends seek to raise over $50,000 for this project.

The group has recently sent out an appeal to Area 1 instructors, clinicians and farms to hold clinics or shows that will benefit this project. The response has been immediate and heartwarming. A great many professionals, including Denny Emerson, Jocelyn Hawe, Dawn Dascomb, Katie Murphy, Jackie Gilbert, and the folks at Pipestave Hill have already generously offered clinics and shows.

There will also be a derby cross series of three that will offer great fun and practice, and will benefit the cause. In addition, hats and polos with the sharp and oh-so-on-trend “Friends of UNH XC” logo are being offered for sale.

The Area 1 website is hosting the donation page, and all donations are tax deductible. In addition, a Facebook page has been created to keep folks apprised of clinics and shows as well as progress toward our goal. (Plus, all of us selfie-hounds can post pictures of ourselves riding at UNH – what could be better?!)

Please consider a donation or hosting a clinic or show – with your help we are well on our way with some positive momentum! We will all benefit from an improved course, as will other organizations who use the UNH course in pursuing their horse-related passions!

For questions or comments, please contact the Friends’ Co-chairs: Rachel Greene-Lowell at [email protected] or Julie Howard at [email protected].

Confessions of a Master Event Rider: Trailer Trash

IT WAS RED! IT WAS RED!

It is very cathartic, this confessing. Maybe that’s why my Catholic friends (mostly lapsed Catholics, but still) seem so able to “let it go.” Cue Disney character bursting into song here.

I thank all of you for providing the canvas for my Jackson Pollock musings. For the record, Jackson Pollock was an artist that threw paint at a canvas and saw what stuck — appropriate reference for the writing that comes out of my brain. (That little reference is where I show my mother that my Dartmouth education wasn’t completely wasted on her horse-obsessed spends-time-in-horse-poop daughter).

You, gentle reader, are a gift, being my imaginary audience and all. Remember your giftiness when you are soaking your horse’s abscessed foot in Epsom salts in a 20-degree barn on Christmas Eve. A gift. Yeah, that’s it.

So let’s just talk about horse trailers here for a minute.  As you who have read my blogs know, I collect riding pants. There was a time when I collected trailers. (Those were halcyon days when I was employed). TRAILERS. At one time I had two and my eye on a third, sold one, bought one and coveted all. In the three years of my adult horse ownership, I have owned three trailers. If that seems excessive, you are right. It is excessive. Unnecessary. Stupid. And secretly fun.

When I was a young rider from the age of 8 to 17, eventing and doing Pony Club in New Hampshire, we did not own a horse trailer. And we lived in what was then a very rural (but now unfortunately suburbanized) area, with few neighbors. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. Every time I had a Pony Club meeting or a lesson, I had to ride to it (10 miles round trip). Very undignified indeed (but, as Denny Emerson would say, I was AND my horses were FIT).

Show season was a logistical spaghetti of who was going when, what time, which state, and on and on. Somehow we managed to get to shows, but goodness knows how.   credit my force-to-be-reckoned-with mother as she juggled parenting my twin brothers and their sports schedules with my firstborn’s need (demand?) for organization and clarity around my horse lesson, Pony Club and show schedule. Army generals have nothin’ on that woman.

I think that is where the obsession with trailers began. As adults, we make our own decisions (that’s what we tell ourselves, anyway). If we want to buy something, we buy it, dammit. So when I acquired my OTTB Sweetie, I was determined not to be a slave to anyone else’s trailer. I had my birthday money (yeah, I’m an adult, but I have wonderful parents who spoil me), so I was gettin’ me a trailer.

I searched Craigslist in my area and found something in my price range ($1,000-2,000 — I know, I know, I am wiser now). As a single woman for many years, I pride myself on “doing it myself.” I’ve repaired appliances, painted my house and dug all my gardens. I can do most anything (according to … well … me).

Some might say that it’s a throwback to being 3 years old “I do myself!” and they are probably right. They say that as we age, we regress anyway. So I blame my advancing age. But I digress (because we 52-year-old “3 year olds” have the attention span of a hummingbird, and I digress often, as you know).

So I ventured out alone into the December snowy night (cue dramatic, epic journey music swelling) to see what I knew was going to be my new trailer. I did know it was RED, and the car I had given up to afford Sweetie was a red BMW 335xi (300 hp, for those of you who care … I do), and although I love my horse, I also loved that fast, sexy car.

So, since this trailer was red, that about sealed the deal. Those of you who think that women buy vehicles based on color, you are correct. Shhhh — don’t tell the salesmen/women. Despite being emotionally blinded by the color, I was determined to be a savvy business woman. I adopted my poker face. (Note I am not on the professional poker tour, so facial expressions on me are a dead giveaway).

Last time I saw a horse trailer was in 1979, and this was a 1985 Kingston. To me, this was new and improved. And it was RED — did I mention this? At that moment, common sense went out the truck window, and I took this as a sign from God that this was THE trailer. He even made it the SAME COLOR as a sign to me to buy it! He is so damn smart! Well maybe not damn, but you get the idea.

I got into it, looked around and in my most savvy business woman voice, said, “Looks great! I’ll take it.” I didn’t waste any negotiating skills there. I don’t even think I walked around the trailer, and besides, I couldn’t get behind it because it was backed up to the barn, and there was a snow bank between it and the barn. It looked fine to me! So what if it was 8 p.m. in December in New England (read: pitch black).

The owner said that she just had to use it one more time to take her horse to the vet, and then I could pick it up. Obviously, it was just jim dandy to use! AWESOME! I was mobile! I patted myself on the back till my arm was sore all the way home.

I picked up the trailer two days later and hauled it triumphantly over to my barn. I felt like the Grinch coming down the mountain to Whoville trumpeting his arrival. “Here I come! I have a TRAILER!” I was pinching myself (again with the infliction of pain, what’s with that?!) that I finally had my OWN TRAILER. A dream come true.

I pulled triumphantly into the driveway of Green Acres Stables. I swear in my head I was smiling and waving to all the onlookers like Princess Di at her wedding. Apologies to Princess Di, but the analogy is accurate, as disaster loomed, but I was oblivious to that as I carefully pulled down the driveway.

We needn’t mention that the trailer was riding like a sulky. Trailer hitches and their various levels and angles had not been part of my education — the aforesaid education heavily skewed toward English major and law school and not very heavy on the math/physics/practical.

It could be accurately stated that as I pulled over the potholes in the barn driveway that the back end of the trailer was dangerously close to banging the ground, a fact of which I was happily, and again, oblivious to, my attention focused on waving and grinning, and of the booming bass that trumpeted my arrival.

I was MOBILE and invincible! I inartfully parked my new wheels (50-point turn, anyone?) and fell to inspecting my prize. I knew that there was some rust on it, but it was just “surface rust,” according to the ad and the seller. I hadn’t bothered to get under it in the mud and snow. There was no need! It was RED! Plus, I didn’t want to muss my work clothes!

The trailer MUST be OK — the owner used it the day before to take her horse to the vet! She had assured me all was well! My legal training on purchase and sale and contracts? Pshaw! Who needed that with such an honest seller who I had never met!?

Now, since I was finally in my riding clothes and the trailer was away from the offending snowbank, I could look underneath the chocked wheels (well, I could look through the fender since it was in reality so pocked with rust that I could look through it in the day time. Had I looked at that side of the trailer? How did I miss that one? Blinded by the color and my enthusiasm, no doubt).

I lowered the ramp to hop in and stand in my new trailer, talking to myself with the cheerful patter of a crazy person who just spent all her birthday money on …  a … not sure what. A shower of rust rained down from the springs to the mud. No mind, metal things out in the weather always rust! It’s a Kingston! These things last forever! (So what if it was nearing its 20th birthday — it was RED!)  It’s PERFECT!

Perfect for … oh yeah. Stay tuned for part 2 of the story of the little red trailer that could.

Meanwhile, go eventing …

Confessions: Sisterhood of the Way-Too-Tight Pants

The author in one of her many pairs of riding pants. The author in one of her many pairs of riding pants.

So, I’m going to share with you, my newfound Eventing Nation buddies, something scary. You may not want to read this at work (for more than one reason) because you may gasp out loud, and then your co-workers will wonder exactly what is on your screen, and you don’t want them to look over and see yet again our favorite blue and red banner on the top of your screen.

We will keep it among ourselves that we check Eventing Nation approximately 36,562 times a day, and yes, perhaps, even at work (shhhh).

Here goes my confession (my eyes are closed here, so no laughing at my typos): I am not Silva Martin. *insert gasps of disbelief here*

Most days I wish I was Silva Martin, or Sinead Halpin, Allison Springer, Hawley Bennett-Awad, Katie Murphy, or *insert name of young, gorgeous, well-proportioned, FIT women rider here*.

I wish I could spend my days riding horses and waking up every day hurting from riding too much instead of waking up hurting because I bent over to tie my paddock boot and stayed there a little too long for the ever-aging tendons and muscles that hold me up.

I know we all wish we were those women for a host of reasons (not the least of which may or may not be Mr. Silva Martin), but my envy isn’t for the reason you might think. Yes, these women are top riders.

Yes, they are talented, hard working, fearless, determined women who work their backsides off daily in the horse industry. Yes, these women have beautiful horses, beautiful dogs, beautiful husbands, and heck, I bet they even look good with bed head on show mornings. It’s for none of those reasons that I want to be them.

They just plain look good in riding pants. Full stop.

(I can hear you now: “Ohhhhh.” I TOLD YOU not to read this at work. Don’t blame me if you get looks).

You see, I have yet another confession to make. You have already read my neurotic ramblings and true confessions, so I know you will understand and like me even with this horrifying reveal:

I collect riding pants.

By the dozen.

It’s a thing.

But I’m hoping by coming clean, gentle reader, my mother’s voice on my shoulder saying, “STOP buying riding pants” will become my actual own voice when my wallet is in my hand. Right now, I take my dear friend Jill with me when shopping, who will, in the most loving of ways, distract me out of the tack shop by holding some horse related shiny object in front of my face until she can safely slam the car door on me and my wallet.

I have tried on more than one occasion to understand this obsession I have with what we all intellectually know to be beautiful helpful garments, lycra-laced monstrosities feats of engineering, built of carefully riveted sewn girdle-in-a-former-life material. However, insight and therefore understanding escapes me on this one.

Truth be told, to start, I have at least seven pairs of white show pants. Yes, those ones that are called “show” pants not because they are worn exclusively on show day. Nope. It’s because, as we mere mortals, aka amateurs, know, well, they “show” EVERYTHING.

Shout out to the inventor of the under breech thingie, a kind of Under Armour-ish sausage casing. This thingie claims to protect innocent eyes from your VPL aka “visible panty line.”

(For those who grew up in the present age, VPL has all but been rendered extinct by the helpful-but-dreaded thong. Back in the day, the simple, innocent act of wearing underwear under breeches resulted in this demon VPL. However, it was so common that it was considered normal *gasp* and no one thought we needed protection from it, but Victoria blew that secret and convinced us to buy thongs. Devil spawn.  As usual I digress … )

This beautiful flesh colored glorious under-ish armor will also hold in your “I’ve had three kids dammit” warrior wounds we all politely call cellulite. They go under your riding pants to smooth and shape you into blue ribbon perfection. (Just what I need, another layer between my thighs and onlookers. Hey, people, I have a day job in which I encounter far too many donuts and far too few salads.)

If you purchase the aforesaid, which is a very good idea actually, except not on me, good luck breathing/bending your limbs/applying subtle aids/not fainting in those puppies. (Reports back from the frontlines welcome if you experience them, just sayin’. I may have to give up my ignorant pre-judgment of these potentially useful pantaloons and go shopping to get me some.)

Yep, show pants. Seven pairs of those creamy white gleamers. Dividing this venerable number by the number of actual formal shows I did last summer, I could probably switch pants between warm up and performance three times before actually having to try to wash those bad boys.

Note to self: not a bad plan given what we all now know from my previous blogs. Riding Sweetie, warmup is just an exercise in how to avoid running over the steward. Changing show pants might provide the perfect excuse to avoid that whole soiree … hmmm. Goal for 2015: acquire enough show pants to avoid warm up altogether, thereby ensuring the safety of innocent bystanders.

But back to reality: For common, everyday riding, I have at least 20, that’s right, two zero, pairs. I have my prized purple pair, two pink pairs (pink is my “signature color,” dontcha know), three blue pairs, plaids, stripes, black and pink combo … well, you get the idea. I’ve never met a pair I didn’t covet.

If I meet you at a show or other horse gathering, I will smile and be polite, but I’m probably checking out your riding pants. Don’t be offended. I think my condition is in the DSM under “OCD,” that is, “ocular covetousness disorder,” subtype: tight shaped pants. Really. It’s there. (Note to self: contact author of DSM to quickly insert OCD: TSP as a thing. Whew, that was close.)

It defies logic that one person can need so many riding pants. I do have a job that is not horse related. OK, well, I have worn breeches and tall boots to work on more than one occasion, ostensibly in the name of “Ralph Lauren-ish” fashion, and not because, as many suspect, I’m too lazy to change after work to go to the barn. Try it girls and boys. You feel like you’re connected to your pony all day long. Sigh. *insert dreamy look of horse love in eyes*.

So why so many pants?

Having carefully worked this through with a licensed and highly experienced therapist, I have hit upon the answer. I bet you already guessed. It’s akin to why we women buy so many shoes, or so many handbags. (P.S. I have gotten over the shoe/handbag obsession, because horse economics dictates that if I buy a pair of shoes for myself, that’s one fewer pair of shoes for Sweetie. And God knows I can’t buy one pair for ME to deny her one of HER 11 pairs PER YEAR. Dang, did I just type that? Anyway, you who prioritize like me see my point.)

It’s the quest for ONE PAIR that will make me look like a perfect, actual elegant rider who isn’t all over her horse like a cheap suit.

Seems reasonable, right? I mean, let’s think about how often we shop for bathing suits. I have eight bathing suits and I never swim (unless it’s on Sweetie’s back, yeah, ok, so maybe once a year). I have it in my head that there is a suit out there in retail land that will make me look PERFECT, like *insert name of supermodel du jour here*.

I haven’t hit upon it yet, but I still spend hours searching, trying on, checking my booty in multiple mirrors, start crying, promise myself I’m going to the gym, and cheerfully handing over my credit card to the outwardly smiling but I’m sure inwardly cringing sales clerk.

So it is with riding pants. So far, I haven’t found the holy grail of breeches, that one pair that makes me look like Silva et al. I have had to settle for looking like almost-52 year old me, that five foot three one hundred forty pound (there, I said it) mother of two teenagers, complete with cellulite, bumps in weird places and an ever thickening waist (damn you, Ben & Jerry, you and your cursed best ice cream on the planet. What do you do, put a siren song in each pint that sings my name in the grocery store, turning me into a robot that … Must. Obtain. Chubby Hubby. ?!)

Wait, what’s that you’re mumbling? Perhaps it’s not the … pants that will do it? I have to actually, like, work out, eat right, lose weight, ride more and gasp! Even ride without stirrups for the entire month of November? Um, no, where have you been? That’s clearly not the answer, and very un-American. That would be HARD (insert whiny voice here), and require effort! No! No, no, no, no.

Crud. So, wait, I do THAT and my pants won’t be too tight? I might not look like a sausage in them? My leg muscles might lengthen down around my horse instead of being impeded by my thigh fat? My boobs might not hit me in the chin when I sit the trot? (Sorry, I know we were talking about pants, but can anyone relate? Thank you.) I’m hearing Denny Emerson’s voice here … “It’s work people! Good riders don’t bounce!”

Ok, ok, I get it. I can’t just BUY something, some magical garment that will hide my flaws and make me look and ride like a champion. I have to work at it. Therefore, I promise, girls and boys, that I will actually try to use the pants I already own in my riding work. I will sew the ones with the tiny holes in them that I may or may not have poked into them seeking an excuse to buy more.

That is, I will if you will, sisters.

Having taken this pledge with me, now you are free to ignore the fact that Black Friday is coming up! Isn’t that liberating? Just by reading my confession, I have saved you hours of clicking through sales and deals, trying on the pants when they arrive (“Isn’t this stuff supposed to stretch?!”) and multiple dollars out of your wallet. You can thank me later.

The quest is real. Go shopping! Go riding pants!

Go Eventing!