Julie Howard
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Julie Howard


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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

Riders Support Beloved Area 1 Venue, Huntington Farm

Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlands Foto.

By Julie Howard and Melissa Alaimo

As so many of you may not realize, Area 1 is slowly losing its venues due to expense, time and land issues. The rumor for the past few seasons was that this might happen to Huntington Farm which two years ago, celebrated its 50th year as a competition venue. Anyone who has competed in South Strafford, VT knows what a loss this would be with its big galloping cross country track, tricky stadium course which causes many a rail with the rolling terrain, and the perfectly placed sand dressage rings, nestled in the valley between the Green Mountains.

Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlands Foto.

Thankfully, owner Ann Kitchel took her time and found the perfect buyer. Much to our delight, the new owner wanted to continue hosting events and didn’t miss a beat, keeping the long standing July and August dates on the USEA calendar, in addition to several schooling shows. The new owner, Skylar Clemens is an enthusiastic fan of eventing, and started to work on the vast property straight away.  He cleared land, widened gallop lanes, worked on footing and began to build jumps.  It warmed the hearts of even the coldest Vermont dwellers but being New Englanders, we knew he and his team couldn’t go it alone.

Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlands Foto.

Enter our own gem of a photographer, Joan Davis of Flatlands Foto, who issued a proclamation that she would be donating 10% of her sales to Huntington to help their jump-building fundraiser.  She encouraged everyone to follow her lead.

Fast forward an hour after the challenge was posted and a group of women in the Area 1 Adult Rider Program, Linnea Ackerman, Julie Howard, Katie Murphy, Missy Alaimo and Melissa Drye, heeded the call and a donation for a fence was sent immediately. While still talking about how
we could still help, a light bulb went off … why not ask the Area 1 Riders to meet the challenge as well?

Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlands Foto.

Linnea Ackerman took the lead, using Facebook as a way to encourage any and all who wanted to contribute. Again, the call was answered almost immediately as riders were asked for a $20 donation, or whatever they felt comfortable giving. It turned out to be a successful approach!  In the end, we raised enough money for three additional cross country fences, simply by putting out the word and soliciting the amount of a decent bottle of wine from as many riders as possible.

“Setting the standard at $20 took a lot of weight off shoulders and I think it’s what drove us to be able to pull in so much interest,” said Ackerman, who also set up a poll on Facebook so we could decide, as a group, what fences we would sponsor. We are proud to say, that this isn’t a one and done deal. What started as challenge by Joan, we will now look to sponsor a fence or two or even three at all of our venues over the next few years. In fact, there was left over funding, which was sent to our Area 1 ARP account to be used as the “seed” for future sponsoring.

Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlands Foto.

Challenge Accepted! Go Area 1 Riders! Go Eventing!

Try This DIY Bit Wipe/Hand Disinfecting Recipe/Drinking Game

We love sharing innovative (and fun!) ways eventers are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Send yours to [email protected]

Today’s submission comes from EN blogger Julie Howard, whose “Confessions of a ‘Master’ Event Rider” series you can revisit here. Consider this a DIY edition, as Julie explains: “Gentle readers: we ‘master’ (read: ‘old as dirt’) event riders need to save money where we can. When we can’t hobble out to the paddock any more, we all have to retire, right? Which requires a savings account with actual money in it. So I cut costs where I can. With these unprecedented times, resourcefulness is the watchword. I’ve developed some DIY strategies both to save but to keep myself entertained while I’m NOT COMPETING my hair trigger, fire breathing, cross country machine who is incapable of relaxing and doing a decent dressage test OTTB. Combining DIY wit my love for beer (what event rider doesn’t love beer?!) with crafting this handy dandy useful item. What’s not to love?!”  

Photo courtesy of Julie Howard.

My bit wipe recipe:

Viva paper towels
Peppermint extract
Empty wipe container, like Clorox wipes

Cut the paper towel roll in half using a serrated knife.

Open a beer.

Using hot water trickling out of the faucet, wet the paper towel roll from the top (so that the center roll is facing the top). Make sure to get the center roll first and wet that thoroughly. Don’t get the paper too wet you can always add more water later. The hotter the water the better the roll will release its glue. This glue does not taste good to your horse. Trust me on this. Once center roll starts to separate from the paper, pull it out carefully.

Drink your second gulp of beer.

Pull a few towels out of the center. Now you can squish the paper roll into the wipes container. You can always use a roll that has been partially used so it is smaller. You needed to wipe up the beer you spilled anyway. Try not to waste beer being all DIY and such.

Survey your handiwork. Congratulate yourself for wrestling the roll into the wipe container by chugging the rest of the beer you didn’t spill. Open another because clearly you didn’t drink a whole one because you spilled it.

Now carefully pour the alcohol (not the beer) onto the top of the paper roll. This helps the wipes not get moldy. Celebrate this simple feat by swilling some hops.

Photo by Julie Howard.

Add some drops of peppermint extract. Your horse will thank you for the peppermint goodness that is now her bit. You’re welcome.

Label your container “bit wipes” (not to be confused with “butt wipes”). Nobody wants a peppermint butt especially sitting in a saddle. Your horse might disagree but don’t give in. You’re in charge, remember.

Survey your handiwork and pat yourself in the back, while simultaneously not spilling any more beer. That sh*t’s valuable and you never know when you’re going to fall off and need an adult beverage to get the courage to get back on the next day.

The wipes are a little fragile (like your ego, you beer spiller). When you use them you’ll need a few and pull them out carefully. Don’t go all whackadoodle on them or they may break and you’ll have a useless ball of sh*tty peppermint paper. You will be mad and nobody needs that negativity in their life. You’ve got enough problems trying to explain your horse obsession to non-believers.

Once you have wiped off your bit, which is the point, now isn’t it Karen?!, you can use these to wipe your hands and be all happy that you’ve disinfected your hands. So what if you have streaks of green slobber on your hands now. Let’s not get all crazy about it since we horse people know you eat sandwiches after cleaning your stall and forget to wash your hands first. No fake news there.

Here’s a picture of me with my horse Sweetie at Hitching Post pre-social distancing. Her bit is VERY clean! Photo courtesy of Julie Howard.

Don’t forget to reward yourself with a nice cold one for surviving another day as a crazy bit wipe making handwiper DIY horse riding goddess that has nothing to do with any tiger king.

Be kind, be safe, and go eventing (someday!)

EN Gives Thanks: Thank You, Craig

What are you thankful for this year? That’s the question we asked EN readers for the 2018 Thanksgiving Challenge from World Equestrian Brands, and your responses were numerous and heartfelt. Over the holiday weekend, we are honored to share your special stories.

Photo by Lucky Finn Photography.

As I reflect on this past year, there is so much to be thankful for that it makes my heart full. Simple things that are the “big ones” — like having healthy children, a great family, and a roof over my head. I have a healthy (most of the time) horse, lots of wonderful friends, a job that somewhat supports my horse habit, and my own health (well, with some creaks and groans from my 56-year-old body) that allows me to pursue my horse dreams. In thinking about what to write for this contest, those things all come immediately to mind. I am beyond blessed, and I wish all those things for all of you out there, too.

What I’d really like to do though is highlight one individual who I am thankful for, and I know that those of you who know him would agree. My constant companion, significant other and cheerleader Craig Harris is simply a wonderful human, who supports me and many of my friends as we compete and have fun on the Area 1 circuit.

He’s unfailingly positive and cheerful, and enormously helpful not only to me but to anyone who is associated with me. He’s always there to run and get a forgotten arm band, or crop, or number, or jacket for anyone who needs help. He walks horses, walks courses, and keeps his mouth shut when he encounters a jump that might be a little large (he learned that lesson after walking the course at Millbrook with me and commented, “wow, that jump is HUGE!,” giving me an instant heart attack as I contemplated the fact that I’d actually have to jump the thing). He gets up early, packs food, helps pack the trailer, and takes care of both my horse and I through thick and thin.

What people don’t know is his story. His story makes it even more remarkable that he is so wonderful, as he has absolutely no reason to be so cheerful and positive. Craig was married to the love of his life for many years. Karen was the barn manager at a local barn, and owned a special draft cross mare named Tsunami. They had one child, a son, who became a talented and capable sound engineer in Boston after attending college there. They had a wonderful family life. Craig was the volunteer scorer for the many horse shows that the barn put on. Karen was the show secretary and announcer. What a team they were! They were beloved by all who knew them.

One fateful day eight years ago, Karen had a seizure while working at the barn. She had a congenital kidney disease that threatened her health, and sometimes caused seizures. She was airlifted to the hospital in Boston, never to recover. Craig had to make the horrible decision to take her off life support, and she passed away peacefully. It was devastating. Unfortunately, more tragedy was in store for Craig. He subsequently lost his son as well, leaving him alone with his whole family just simply gone. It was a scenario that no one can imagine facing, and shouldn’t have to face. Every day my heart breaks for him that he can’t see, talk to and love the two most important people in his life.

Craig inherited his wife’s horse when she passed away. Tsunami (“Nami”) became Craig’s solace. They would go on walks, he would take care of her, and shared her with many riders at the barn. He didn’t know much about horses, but threw himself into learning. Craig eventually decided that he would learn how to ride Nami, with expert instruction from Mary Ann Davis at his barn. He has done a tremendous job learning. Most of us learned to ride as kids, when falling off didn’t matter and we bounced back. Craig was learning in his late 40s! His falls hurt more, and he even broke his leg in four places in one fall, requiring surgery and plates. Did he give up? Nope! He recovered and picked back up where he left off. He rides dressage, and hopes someday to learn how to jump.

He has educated himself about eventing, and loves to accompany me to every show to help and cheerlead. He has dried my tears, mucked my stalls, and celebrated when we had our modest successes. He is always there, and our horses have brought us even closer. I couldn’t ask for a more fun, funny and loving companion on this crazy roller coaster we call eventing. I am so thankful the universe brought him to me, and I can’t say enough about what an amazing human being he is.

In the end, it’s not about what we own, how much money we make, or how successful we are. It’s about connection and love. I am so lucky that Craig chose me and to have him in my life. I hope my story resonates with readers, and helps them appreciate the Craigs in their lives. We couldn’t do this sport alone, and having a community of supportive folks is so important. I know that the support of all of our eventing friends keeps Craig afloat in the dark times, and I want to say that I am thankful to all of you for your friendship, kindnesses, and love.

Happy Thanksgiving, and go eventing. With your besties. Stay grateful.

World Equestrian Brands Thanksgiving Challenge: And the Winner Is…

What are you thankful for this year? That’s the question we asked EN readers for the 2018 Thanksgiving Challenge from World Equestrian Brands, and your responses were numerous and heartfelt.

One entry in particular jumped out to EN’s chinchilla judging squad: Julie Howard’s “Ode to the Adult Rider Program.” The USEA Adult Rider Program, in all its various area incarnations, deserves all the praises we can sing unto it — plus we’re a sucker for a cheeky rhyme. Our winner will receive a custom E.A. Mattes Square or Eurofit Sheepskin pad in her choice of dressage or all purpose style and with two piping colors. This amazing prize (retail value: $330) is made possible thanks to our friends World Equestrian Brands.

Over the holiday weekend, we are honored to share all of your special stories of thanks. We’re thankful for YOU. Go Eventing. 

Julie Howard with Missy Alaimo volunteering at GMHA H.T. and getting points for their teams: “The ARP is all about friendship and good competitive fun!” Photo courtesy of Julie Howard.

Ode to the Adult Rider Program

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the barn
I’m thinking of things I’m thankful for, so I’ll spin you a yarn
Yes, it’s cold up here in ol’ Area 1
But all that it means is that we pack in the fun!
It’s a short season but we love it because of our mates
Both four legged and two legged and ones behind gates
We are blessed with the Adult Rider Program for oldies like me
Suzanne Adams runs a wonderful program and we participate with glee
It starts with team selection for young and for old
We’re put with a group at random and we do as we’re told
We come up with crazy names like “James and the Js”
Or the “Lucky Lucious Ladies” and we hope that we slay
We score points for placing and for just showing up
In our quest for those bragging rights and the big first place cup
We all volunteer and get points for that too
Marge Potorski’s got that prize locked up despite what we do
We have our own Facebook page and trash talk others we will
We love to tease each other and compete just for the thrill
It just doesn’t matter if you win or you place
We get points for entering and showing our face
There are the GMHA Young and the Rest of Us challenges
And other challenges at shows
We win saddle pads and ribbons and other swag dontcha know
The prizes we love them because they are swanky
We sport our ARP saddle pads and damn they look dandy
We also have parties and challenges galore
The selfie competition when volunteering helps even the scores
Some people are funny in their rain gear when judging
And others post selfies when they’re scribing and not budging
But the RIBBONS! They’re HUGE! They go down to the floor
As for the color of them, it doesn’t really matter any more
For we are the Adult Riders and our bones they may creak
But we have so much fun, both the bold and the meek!
So yes, I am thankful for that much and more
And look out 2019 – We’ll be watching our team scores!

Many thanks to the great Adult Rider Program Coordinator for Area 1 – Suzanne Adams! It’s a
blast and we can’t wait until next year!

Confessions of a ‘Master’ Event Rider: Movin’ on Up?

Photo by Horse Life Photography.

I have a confession to make. I am old. As in, not young. As in, not bouncy. As in, on occasion, ouch.

Truth be told, in every sport there is an age at which normal mortals (Tom Brady versus Time excepted) have to face the fact that getting hurt, badly, is a real possibility. And that scares the crap out of me.  

I have a spirited (ok, unruly) OTTB that is now 11. I thought she would be over her “enthusiasm” by now, but nope, that’s just her. I got her at 4, when I was 48. After 30+ years of not riding, I thought, well, I’ve never had a Thoroughbred and there are so many that need adopting, and I want a horse.  

It was happenstance that I ended up with Sweetie. I was “just visiting” the Thoroughbred Retirement Center on an emotional Christmas Eve in 2011. The first horse I saw was being ridden by someone who was clearly a hunter-jumper: dressed to the nines with no dirt or scruff on her boots. (Eventers, you know we don’t go places without at least a peck o’ dirt on us at all times…) I took one look at the horse and said to myself, “that is no hunter jumper; that is an event horse.” Don’t ask me why I thought I was qualified to make that distinction, but like I said, I was emotional. It just so happened I had my helmet with me, so I hopped on the horse. BAM. I owned a horse. No matter that she hadn’t been ridden more than five times after leaving the track. I could handle it. Couldn’t I?

I brought her to my barn and began the long process of teaching her how to be an event horse. Why I thought I could do that is beyond me, but looking back, I think it was meant to be. Even the pet psychic (yes I am one of those people) said Sweetie was supposed to be mine and that loved ones who had passed over had helped bring her to me. So, while I was re-learning how to ride after so long, I had this young horse that I was supposed to bring along too. Green plus green equals black and blue? I had not heard that phrase in time to save me from my folly.

Don’t get me wrong. I have made dear friends, had wonderful coaches, and have reignited a passion long dormant. It has been an amazing ride with an amazing horse.  I just have one niggling little problem that I’m not sure anyone can help me with.  

I’m scared to move up. And I argue with myself ALL THE TIME about it.  

I have campaigned Sweetie through Novice at Area 1 events with modest success. I have pride that what she knows, I have taught her. I have done Training level height jumps at schooling shows and at home. She, without me on her back, has free jumped 4’3”. Clearly she has the chops to jump Training level, but do I?

As a kid I went Training easily. No fear. The bigger the jump, the better. I had a Morgan/Saddlebred that could and would jump anything. I suspect Sweetie, with another rider, could and would jump anything. I look at pictures taken by everyone’s favorite Joan Davis, and Sweetie is way over the jump. Speed also isn’t a problem. So what IS the problem?

I have had two really bad falls. The first required six weeks of pool therapy so I could move my knees again. The second involved me versus a jump cup bolt. The bolt won, and my thigh had a giant hole in it requiring 14 stitches. I physically recovered with just a scar (and I don’t care because bathing suits are so yesterday and I’m too busy riding to swim anyway). Emotionally though, the non-physical scar hasn’t healed despite my attempts at recovering my mojo.

So, I planned to move up to Training last year after becoming bored by Novice. I just. Can’t. Seem. To. Do it. I’ve told people I’m going to do it. I’ve assured my coaches I’m going to do it. I’ve told myself I’m going to do it. Next year, I say. Definitely. Pfffft. No problem. Except there is. It’s me. And I’m embarrassed by it. Even now as I write this, I’m teary. I had goals. I wanted to be Walt Gervais of Denny Emerson fame (for those of you who don’t know, Walt did his first Prelim at 70). I wanted to come off cross-country exhilarated that I had overcome my fears and made it over a Training course. I think, though, that I have to take a step back.

I have spent the winter thinking about this. It’s been too dang cold to ride, so I’ve had a lot of time to think. Revelation: Maybe it’s OK NOT TO DO TRAINING. Maybe I can enjoy being a “Master Novice Rider.” Maybe I can enjoy my time with my friends and not be terrified in practice or competition. It’s supposed to be fun, right?! Right?! So why do I feel I’m letting people down? Like I’m letting my horse down? Maybe as a type-A achiever I have to disappoint even myself. And that’s harder than I ever imagined that would be. At 55, I feel like I have only so much time left and I have to push it to the limit before I’m too old.  

However, I had another fall last weekend. I did not get hurt; I was just sore for a few days. But during the warmup around the jumps I had literally felt my legs shaking. Ultimately, my horse stopped and I rolled off. No big deal. But the demon reared its ugly head again – the Training Argument. I decided right then and there that it’s going to have to be ok not to go Training. I don’t want to be in pain. I don’t want to invite anxiety. Shows are hard enough without that added pressure. I especially don’t want to push Sweetie because of some goal I have that is not fair to her. She doesn’t care how high we jump. She doesn’t know Novice versus Training. It’s just about enjoying the ride, with my favorite four-legged fur baby. I have to find a way to give myself permission to be ok with it.  

With apologies to whoever I am letting down, and with a little tear in my eye, I am now publicly giving myself that permission. I thank you, gentle reader, for allowing me to confess my biggest fear about eventing, and I hope that I have given some of you permission to be ok with just who you are, too.

Go, be you, have fun and Go (Novice!) Eventing.

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 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!