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My husband really likes keeping his horses’ manes long. Although Mustangs don’t have a true breed standard, most people tend to keep their Mustangs’ manes long as well as it’s closer to their “wild” state. However, the long mane doesn’t really go with formal English horse showing. In the beginning I did running braids, but I hate how they tend to fall out, even if I french braid it.

Falling out

The other style I’ve used is the lattice braid. This looks pretty cool, but it’s not really a “braid” and not typical for English shows.

Lattice Braid

What we’ve been doing for the last few years is running button braids.

In addition to looking traditional, these braids are easy to do and they stay in. They’re easy enough that my husband now does his own braiding. He’d never braided anything in his life before doing these and he’s getting pretty good at it.

Braids by Husband

These braids look a bit too bulky for a rated hunter show, but they fit in perfectly at dressage shows and Horse Trials.

So how do you do them?

1. Start with a clean, wet, brushed mane. You may want to add Quik Braid (or another braiding product). I find it helps create neater braids and will cut down on the frizziness. Sadly, we realized we were out of Quik Braid when doing the braids in this photo shoot. If you don’t have a braiding spray on hand, keep a wet sponge nearby to re-wet the mane as you go.

2. Divide the mane into thin sections with rubber bands. I often end up sort of re-dividing these sections as I go along by using a bit of one section and putting the rest into its neighbor. However, this step will keep all the hair you’re not working on out of your way so it’s important.

3. Braid your first section and tie off with a rubber band. I have done this with yarn and actually found it more annoying than the rubber bands as you need such long yarn to deal with the long mane. Your braid should be about 2″ long.

4. Poke a hole through the middle of the braid along the neck and push the extra hair into this hole.

5. Pull the extra hair upwards until you have a neat button of braided hair. The rubber band should be inside the braid, not sticking out.

6. You are going to bring the extra hair over from the first section and add it to your next braid. Try to keep it as flush with the neck as possible (if you leave it loose, it will bob around as it’s own bump and mess up your streamlined look). I find adding it to the middle section of your next braid to work best. Make sure to pull your first outside strand tightly over the added section to keep it flat and incorporated.

7. Braid the second section to the same length as the first and tie off with a rubber band.

8. Continue repeating steps 3-7 and adding additional buttons.

9. As you go along, adding an additional rubber band around the completed button will help the button keep its shape.

10. Especially in the middle – where the mane is very long – you may find that the remnant mane from your previous braid is so thick, you need to use a thinner section of mane for your next braid. This is easy to do. You just remove the keeper rubber band, pull off the amount of hair you need for your next section and leave the remainder to be added later.

11. Continue repeating the steps to add additional braids as you go along. You will need to apply additional Quik Braid or water as you go as the mane dries out over time.

12. The last braid gets tied up like a normal button braid and you’re done.


Looking like a proper dressage pony – you’d never know he’s got a long mane

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I posted this picture on social media months ago promising a DIY guide. Sorry for the wait, but here we go.

One of the things we were sad to leave behind in California was our handmade feed bin.

It was pretty sweet and had a lot of fun features like the shelf for supplements and the white boards that we kept track of our horses’ feed and supplements on. However, it was so big – and painted to match that barn – that it didn’t make sense to move it with us.

I’ve actually had multiple requests over the year for a DIY post on that feed bin. That lone picture is also my most frequently stolen picture on Pinterest. People really like to post that picture and link it to their own sites. I’ve managed to get most of the pins deleted over the years, but a quick search of Pinterest just now show it’s still being stolen.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to write up a post on it, but we made that feed bin back before I had a blog and I had no pictures of the process. When we set to making a replacement bin for our new barn, I took a ton of pictures so I could write up a post about it. However, I want to preface this entire post with a disclaimer: WE ARE NOT WOODWORKERS. We are DIYers. We don’t even own the tools we’d need to make a feed bin correctly. If you can do joinery, if you own a router, if you know how to do woodworking, go ahead and skip this post. This DIY post is for people who want to make a feed bin with the minimum amount of tools and ability. Got it? Okay, let’s go.**

While you don’t need a whole wood shop to make this feed bin, you are going to need some tools. We made the first feed bin with just a circular saw and a cordless screwdriver. It was a pretty redneck project; we used picnic table benches in place of sawhorses. This time around, we upped our game by using some additional tools, but you can get by with less if you need to. I actually think you might be able to do this project if you really luck out and get a very bored home depot employee to cut all your wood for you (they’re only supposed to make one cut for free, but I’ve gotten more done when it’s slow there and a nice guy feels like helping me out). Honestly though, circular saws aren’t too expensive and your chances of getting all the cuts done correctly at Home Depot is low.

Tools I recommend:
  • Circular saw
  • Impact driver/electric screwdriver with drill bits and screws
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Saw horses
  • 1/2″, 1″ ,and 3″ wood screws
  • finishing nails
  • wood glue
  • stain (optional, may substitute paint)
  • hinges
  • handles
  • latches (optional)

While I am providing all of our measurements, you’ll want to modify the measurements for your own. Our feed bin was built to measurements we took of our feed room. You’ll want to modify all of the measurements for your own bin. One measurement I really recommend adjusting is the height of the feed bin. We actually messed the height up a little on the first bin and it was always hard to reach little bits of grain at the very back and bottom of the bin when trying to scrape it clean. For the second bin, we lowered the height of the front a little bit, and it’s much easier to scoop grain out. I’m pretty tall so I would guess that a shorter person might like an even shorter feed bin.

Because you’ll be adjusting the measurements, you may need different amounts of wood, but here’s what we needed:

  • 10 2″x4″x8′ boards
  • 5 4’x8′ plywood boards(we used 5/32, but you can use another thickness)
  • 3 1″x12″x8′ boards
  • 1 1″x10″x8′ boards
  • 4 1″x1″x8′ trim boards
  • 2 1″x4″x8′ boards

Do NOT use pressure (or otherwise) treated wood. You don’t want those chemicals affecting your feed.

Base construction:
  1. Cut a 2’ x 5’ sheet of plywood (your measurements may vary).
  2. Cut two 5’ lengths of 2×4.
  3. Place them on top of the plywood, on each at the front and back, along their thin edges.
  4. Cut 4 21” lengths of 2×4. For each length, ensure that it fits neatly between the front and back 2x4s already placed on the plywood. Adjust the length accordingly.
  5. Starting with the edge pieces, place 2 screws at each junction between the 2x4s, through the front and back pieces and into the perpendicular, shorter pieces.
  6. Place the 2x4s evenly separated (18” apart) perpendicular to and between the front and back pieces.
  7. Remove the plywood from underneath the frame.
  8. Place a thin line of wood glue along the top edge of each of the 2×4 pieces.
  9. Place the plywood on top of the frame, ensuring that the edges line up neatly.
  10. Starting in the corners, screw the plywood into the frame at intervals along each edge.
Side construction:

Do the following twice, once for each side; place the 2×4 sections on one side of the plywood for one side and the opposite side of the plywood for the other; the 2x4s should be on the *outside* of the plywood in each case. One should be a mirror image of the other.)

For ease of understanding the following steps, here’s a shot of the side pieces laid out.

  1. Cut the plywood to 24” x 42”. (For the 24”, measure the narrow length of your base and use that, as the side should fill that length as precisely as possible.)
  2. From one of the corners of the plywood, measure out 10” along a short side and make a mark.
  3. From the corner opposite the first on the diagonal, measure up 30” (your measurement may vary if you want a taller or shorter front wall) along the long side and make a mark.
  4. Draw a line between the two marks and cut along the line.
  5. Cut a length of 2×4 to 24” or the width of your plywood.
  6. Lay a couple thin strips of glue along one of the wider sides of the 2×4, and affix along the short side of the plywood opposite the side with the cut-off corner. Apply clamps.
  7. Cut a length of 2×4 to 10” and lay it on its side at the top of your piece of plywood. Glue and clamp.
  8. Measure the distance between the two existing lengths, which should be 35”. Cut another length of 2×4 to 35” (or your measurement) and lay it between the first two lengths. Glue and clamp.
  9. Cut a length of 2×4 to 26.5” and lay it opposite the previous one; it should fit between the base and the start of the cut-out corner.
  10. Measure the length of the diagonal of your cut-out, which should be just under 18 1/2” long. Cut a length of 2×4 to that length.
  11. Lay this piece along the diagonal, resting it above the 10” and 26.5” pieces on the two adjoining sides.
  12. On each piece, mark where the boards cross each other on the inside.
  13. Draw a line from that point to the corner opposite it on each board, and cut along the line. 
  14.  Set the lengths back onto their appropriate locations on the plywood and ensure that everything fits neatly along the edges of the plywood. 
  15. Glue the piece down with a couple thin lines of wood glue and clamp.
  16. Allow to dry, then flip over and screw the plywood into the 2x4s with 1” screws.
  17. Stand the sides up against the short sides of your base, plywood to the inside.
  18. Using 3” wood screws, screw through the bottom 2×4 of each side and into the base to fasten it into place.

Make sure you reverse your second piece of plywood when you lay out and construct your second side. If you make 2 identical side pieces, the 2x4s will not face out on the second side piece. You want mirrored side pieces, not identical side pieces.

Front Construction:
  1. Measure across the front of your base and side assembly, which should be 64 14/32” wide.
  2. Cut a piece of plywood to 30” x 64 14/32” (or whatever your measurement was).
  3. Cut two lengths of 2×4 to the same length as the plywood.
  4. Place them flat on top of the plywood, one along each of the long edges.
  5. Cut 3 23” lengths of 2×4. For each length, ensure that it fits neatly between the top and bottom 2x4s already placed on the plywood. Adjust the length accordingly.
  6. Start with the two edge pieces and then place the third 2×4 in the middle with all 3 short pieces perpendicular to and between the top and bottom pieces.

    I didn’t get a picture of these step, so here’s a later picture for reference

  7. When all pieces fit neatly, glue each to the plywood using a couple thin strips of wood glue. clamp and allow to dry.
  8. When dry, flip over and screw the plywood to the 2x4s.
  9. Stand the front up and place it, plywood-side in, against the front of your base and side assembly.
  10. Using 3” screws, screw through the bottom length of 2×4 and into the matching 2×4 of the base.
  11. Using the same screws, screw through the front pieces into the side pieces.
Back Construction:

The back is essentially the same as the front, just with a different height.

  1. Measure across the back of your base and side assembly, which should be 64 14/32” wide. Measure the height, which should be 42″.
  2. Cut a piece of plywood to 42” x 64 14/32” (or whatever your measurement was).
  3. Cut two lengths of 2×4 to the same length as the plywood.
  4. Place them flat on top of the plywood, one along each of the long edges.
  5. Cut 3 35” lengths of 2×4. For each length, ensure that it fits neatly between the front and back 2x4s already placed on the plywood. Adjust the length accordingly.
  6. Place the 3 short 2x4s evenly separated perpendicular to and between the front and back pieces.
  7. When all pieces fit neatly, glue each to the plywood using a couple thin strips of wood glue. Clamp and allow to dry.
  8. When dry, flip over and screw the plywood to the 2x4s with the 1″ wood screws.
  9. Stand the back piece up and place it, plywood-side in, against the back of your base, side, and front assembly.
  10. Using 3” screws, screw through the bottom length of 2×4 and into the matching 2×4 of the base.
  11. Then screw through the side 2x4s and into the 2x4s along the back edge of each side piece.

At this point you have most of your grain bin built. It should look like this:

This next step is where we’re really going to deviate away from proper woodworking techniques. There are certainly better ways to do this, but we’re not going for proper joinery; we’re going for what’s possible to do with the tools we have.

Adding the Dividers:

I’m going to start with a picture of the end result to make it easier to follow the next series of steps to add the dividers.

  1. Measure the depth and height of the inside of your feed bin and cut 2 pieces of plywood to fit this. Our measurements were 24″ wide by 26.25″ high. Always measure the actual bin and don’t go straight off my measurements – especially if you have adjusted the height of your bin for ease of scooping. Cut 3 pieces if you want 4 sections. Our first feed bin had four sections, but we mostly used that forth for random storage like pre-bagged feed for when we were away. For this new bin, we decided to go with just 3 sections.
  2. You’ll want to decide how big you want your sections to be at this point. Our 3 sections are not equal on purpose. We go through a lot more beet pulp than anything else so we made the one section bigger than the other 2.
  3. Measure from the edge of the inside of the feed bin to where you want your first divided. Cut a piece of 1×2 board to this length.
  4. Add a strip of glue to this piece of board and place it perpendicular to your divider plywood so that the top of this piece is the same height as your plywood piece. Screw from the back into this piece with your 1″ screws.

    I didn’t get a picture of doing the back, but here’s a picture of this technique installing a side piece

  5. Repeat for the next 2 sections.
  6. Now you’ll need to cut and install the 2 side pieces using the same method as above. These pieces should be 8.25″ long.
  7. Now it’s time to install the divider braces. Start by pre-drilling a hole next to the divider plywood where the brace is going to go.
  8. Measure and cut a piece of 1/2 square board to fit between the back brace and the bottom. Glue that board, put it in place, and drill from the back through your pre-drilled hole into the board.

    Here you can see one divider has been braced and the other isn’t done yet.

  9. Repeat this process for the other divider.
  10. The front dividers should be the full height of the interior – in our case 26.25″ (remember you may have adjusted the hight of your bin for ease of scooping).
  11. Keep your divider in place and measure from the sides to make sure it’s even with the back and not slanted. Then line your divider braces with glue and place it next to the divider. Because we didn’t want to see screws on the front of our feed bin, we installed these with finishing nails from the inside and only at the top and bottom where they would go into the exterior 2x4s and thus not be visible. If you don’t care about seeing screws, repeat the the process from steps 8 and 9.

Now your dividers are installed and your bin should look like this:

Supplement Shelf:

This step is actually super easy.

  1. Cut your 1×10″ board to the width of the interior of your feed bin.
  2. Place glue along the shelf braces.
  3. Place the shelf on the braces.
  4. Using finished nails to fully attach the shelf to the braces.

If you do as I say in these directions and don’t do as my husband did, your side braces won’t stick out past the shelf like our (he measured and cut them to fit under the shelf if pressed all the way against the back instead of to the back shelf brace). It’s functional though.

Top Construction:

This is another step where you’re going to want to measure your feed been and use your measurements, not exact measurements from me. I recommend placing your top board (a 1×12″ board) on top and places your hinges to see where you’d like to place your hinges. With two doors, we decided to space the hinges, about 1/4 of the way in from the side of each door. You might want to do 1/3 instead.

  1. Once you’ve decided on where you want your hinges, you’ll need to add support beams for the hinges using 1×4″ boards cut to the width of your 1×12″ board less 2″.

    placed, but not cut do length yet

  2. Here’s a sketch to better explain this:
  3. Place your boards at your measurement spots for where you want your hinges. Glue and screw with 1″ screws. Repeat 4 times.

    Sorry this picture is washed out, but the 1×4″ board are not flush with the back because they will sit inside the frame.

  4. Line the top of your feed bin with glue.
  5. Flip your top board over, place on the top, pre-drill, and then screw from above.

Apparently I captured no pictures of door construction. However it’s pretty simple. Again, you may need to make adjustments for your own measurements.

  1. Take two 1×12″ boards and cut them to the width of your feed bin (64 and 14/32″ in my case) and place them next to each other.
  2. You’ll be placing four 1x4s across these two boards. You’ll need to use the same measurements as you did in your top construction to space out your cross beams. In our case, 7.5″ from the edge. 
  3. The length of your 1x4s depends on your sawing abilities. If you can cut on an angle, the board’s should be the width of the two 1x12s pushed together, less 1″. If you can’t cut the board on an angle, make that length 2″ less.
  4. Cut the 1x4s straight on the one side and at a 45 degree angle on the other.
  5. Glue and screw your cross beams.
  6. Measure and cut the boards apart in the middle to make 2 doors.
  7. Set your doors on the feed bin and use 1.5″ screws to attach the hinges.
  8. Screw handles onto doors in the middle of the bottom of each door.
  9. We also added some twist latches to keep raccoons from opening the doors. This step is optional depending on your barn design (our feed room only has a half door).

    handles and latches

Final Steps

Paint or stain the outside of your feed bin. Do not paint or stain the inside as you don’t want the chemicals in paint or stain touching your horses’ feed. It’s a lot easier to do the painting and staining if you do it before putting the doors and hinges on (they’re annoying to get around). Our first bin was painted and it was infinitely easier than staining, but we wanted stain for this one to match the walls. I haven’t added white board to our new feed bin yet, but I plan to. They’re great..

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DIY Horse Ownership by Olivia - 1M ago
Cross Country Course

We have a small cross country course on our property. When we first moved in there were 3 ditches in a row, one set up with posts and field cups so we could make an adjustable trakehner. It was just missing its log.

The 3 ditches – one set up for a trakehner

There was also a completely worn down log pile jump. I once tried to mount off of it and the whole thing was squishy. It’s more moss than wood at this point.

There’s also bank complex in the second field and there used to be a water obstacle, but it was washed out in Irene and never fixed. We’d like to eventually re-gravel and replug the drain. As part of the setup for the indoor going in, we had to remove a bunch of trees to make the path to the arena traversable by a semi. While I hate chopping down trees and was upset about it, we were both excited to put the trees to use. Most will become firewood, but some have become cross country jumps.

The first jump we fixed was the trakehner. Although the log might not look that big, I assure you it weight a f*ck-ton. It was very difficult for the two of us to get into the ATV and then out again and onto the jump cups, but we did manage it. Eugene jumped it really well for being a very ditchy horse. It probably helps that the ditches are currently growing weeds. They need to be dug out and re-graveled next.

Our next fix was the log pile jump. My first thought was to just cut more small logs and add them in the same wood pile stack they were in, but my husband – who has read more about designing cross country jumps than I have, said that’s an old-school style of jump and is somewhat dangerous in that the edge of the wood can splinter into the horse’s leg if they hit it. It’s safer to do log piles in the other direction. So we did.

We’ll eventually need to take out all the old logs and replace them, but this is a good temporary fix.

Finally, we added some new jumps. One of the trees we took out was massive. I was particularly sad to see this one go, but it was on the turn and there was no way the trucks could get into the arena with it there.  We had the two largest pieces cut and placed* in the cross country field. * It’s been so FREAKING rainy this spring, we couldn’t have the excavator drive onto the field, so he dropped the logs down the grass bank you can see to the right of the picture below. The right hand log landed where it lies. It dried out one day and my husband was able to get down there with our tractor to roll the other log into place. It has since rained more and we can’t get down there again.

We’d like to make a few more jumps in the future. I’d particularly like to make some combination jumps (I’ve seen one that look like a rolltop from one side and a bench from the other) to maximize on our small space. What other jumps should we add?

Freakin’ H2O

It just will not stop raining here. I know a lot of the country is getting inordinate amounts of rain too, but being in good company isn’t making me any happier about it. We haven’t been able to mow anything because our ground is so wet, the tractor would tear the ground up. We’ve been contemplating buying a riding lawnmower and trying to mow the pastures with that. It would only take a few years to mow ~20 acres of pasture (+XC field) with a riding mower so maybe we’ll do that.

As if the rain weren’t bad enough, it snowed 2 weeks ago. It was all melted away within a few hours of sunrise, but I was not happy to see that crap again.

View this post on Instagram

Spring in Vermont. #farmlife #vermont #thisisvermont #vermontlife #springsnow #snow #spring

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on May 14, 2019 at 7:03am PDT


We have about 2 miles of trails on our own property. We can also connect in to miles and miles of trails as well. With all the rain, the trails have been a bit muddy and we’ve been doing most of our longer trail rides on the dirt roads around us to preserve the trail footing. We tried to go out on our trails one time and couldn’t get around a large, downed tree. We just detoured to the neighbor’s trails (which have a ton of downed trees as well, but we could get around all of them) for that day and came back to chainsaw that sucker down another day. The next time we went out, we hit more downed trees, but were able to get around them. At one point we were going around a downed tree and Levi managed to get a small sapling underneath him and lost his damned mind. I don’t even blame him. I’d probably go nuts if a tree were jabbing me in the crotch. I did manage to get him to stop after he ineffectually hurled himself around for a while and then I hopped off and walked him off the sapling. But it was time to fix the damned trails.

Last weekend we got out there with pruners and a chainsaw and cleaned up the major blockages. We still need to clear some smaller branches and re-grade a few sections that have been chopped up by the spring melt water, but we can ride the loops again.


Not horse related, but I spent this week doing a 4 day bread baking class at King Arthur Flour. I’ve alway been pretty good at baking pastries, but breads scare me. They’re a totally different beast. The class was super helpful and I learned a ton. I also came home with like 3+ different bread products every day. Today I cam home with 5 loaves of french bread and scones. Previous days have included rolls, loaves, sticky buns, braided jam breads, and much more.



We finally got chicks. I’m getting a bit of a late start on chick season because I wanted the little bantam breeds that weren’t available until May. I’ve got Silkies, Polish, Salmon Faverolles, and Turkens. I got way more chicks than I need chickens because the cuter the breed, the less they come sexed so I may have some boys and those will NOT be staying. I also expect some loss. I lost 2 chicks in the first 24 hours – which is pretty normal with mailed chicks because that’s so stressful – but the rest are trucking along. Although I plan on getting an electric poultry fence, I imagine I’ll still loose some to predators once they go outside since we have every predator here: coyotes, foxes, fishers, racoons, hawks, owls, bears. You name it, we’ve got it.

This is an old picture. They’re already much bigger. I’m really looking forward to them getting old enough to go outside.

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I know, I know; everyone just wants the damned plans for the feed bin, not a schooling show recap, but I need to take more measurements first so you’re getting jumping pictures for now.

Last weekend, we went to our first show of 2019. The GMHA Jumper Schooling show was a clear rounds show – you get a blue ribbon if you go clear and nothing if not. Since we only own two arena jumps at the moment and they’re all strait wood brown, the main goal of this excursion was to practice getting the boys around a full course of colored jumps. Clear rounds was perfect.

Since we’ve never shown at GMHA, I wasn’t sure if the divisions would be at height or soft. Signing up in advance, I considered starting at the crossrails division, but my husband convinced me that’d be dumb and I consented to start at the 18″ division. The heights were all soft and a few of the jumps in the 18″ were crossrails so that ended up being a perfect height to start at.

Levi likes to be stupid about jumps he’s never seen before, but either the height was low enough to bore him or he’s grown up. Since he skittered to a near stop and then lurched drunkenly over the first tiny jump in warm up, I have my doubts about either of those things. Anyway, he was great all day.

We had a long break before the 2-2’3″ division so he went back to the trailer to chill with Eugene. The next division remained soft and was more like 18″-2′. I had signed up for 2 rounds at this 2′-2’3″ because 2’6″ is where Levi starts getting dumb. Rather, he’s always dumb, but when the poles go up, I need to be a better rider to stay on when he does something awkward. And I’m not.

However, if i’d known the divisions were going to be so soft, I would have done 2’6″. That division ended up being actually 2’3″. While going a bit higher would have been nice for the challenge, it was also nice to go in and get around a course three times without any issues. Levi was responsive and listening to me, we didn’t knock anything down, or have any temper tantrums. Success.

My husband started at 2′-2’3″ as a warm up round. Eugene bopped around that quite casually. Although he wasn’t impressed enough to pick up his feet, the jumps all stayed up.

Their next round was 2’6″, which – as I mentioned before – was really about 2’3″. Eugene went and and just marched around that course like it was easy. Although he’d finally got to the point of being able to go clear at BN height last year, I didn’t think he’d come back from the whole winter off without missing a beat, but he did.

We had a long break before the 2’9″-3′ division and went back to the trailer. Since Levi was done, he got untacked, but then I had to walk him back to the arena when Eugene went back as I was concerned he would rip himself and/or the trailer apart if left alone. Levi was happy to go over and munch grass and receive lots of pettings and admiration for bystanders.

Eugene has always really struggled when a course is raised. It doesn’t seem to matter if he does warm up jumps at the new height or not. If he’s done the course before, when he goes in for the next round at a raised height, he bashes into the first jump. For whatever reason, GMHA decided the 2’9″-3′ division should be at actual height instead of soft and they raised those poles a lot. So when Eugene went to that first jump, this is what happened:

pole (on its way to being) down 

But he rallied after that and went clear up until the two-stride combination at 7. Jump #7 had been solo up until this division and I think coming around the turn and seeing a whole ton of poles all of the sudden backed him off a bit. He knocked the first jump of the combination, but kept the second one up, which is pretty good for him as he usually takes out the second jump in a combination. But only 2 poles down in a course at 2’9″ is as good as Eugene was doing last year. Since he had only jumped once since October, I thought he might need more time to get back into it, but clearly the time off didn’t hurt him any.

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When we first started thinking about moving to the frozen tundra of Vermont, I knew we’d need heated waterers. It was always part of our budget for a property wether we had to add them to an existing barn or to one we built. What we didn’t count on was the shocking dearth of plumbers. Finding a plumber who would return my calls was frustrating enough. Finding one that services my area was worse. And finding one who isn’t completely booked up for the forseable future proved impossible. I did manage to find a good plumber to fix some of the barn plumbing – we needed to move the hot water heater from the bottom of the bank barn into the heated tack room and heat tape and insulate the pipes (the previous owner went to NC for the winter and the barn wasn’t set up for winter use). However, despite my wanting to pay him money for a large project, he was booked up for anything more than quick projects and wouldn’t take on installing the heated waterers.

While the barn does have electric, I don’t trust heated water buckets. To begin with, I own toddler horses who think everything must be put in their mouths. Even if I managed to drill holes in a way that would keep the cords safe from them, I don’t trust heated water buckets.

PC: Dr. Peter Conserva via Woodstock Veterinary Clinic

While we’re still planning to install the Nelson Waterers – which keep water warmed but in a safe way – we need it to be not freezing cold outside while we’re doing it. My husband is actually taking a plumbing class so we can do this ourselves – and also it’s a super useful skill to have for minor projects. I may take the class too at a future date. That said, with heated waterers being a next summer project, we needed a way to keep the horses’ water warm in the meantime.

Enter insulated buckets. I looked around online and found a few different ways of insulating water buckets. While the two buckets with foam in-between looked great, that involved buying second larger buckets. The bubble wrap and duct tape method seemed best. Especially given that we had just moved across the country and had tons of free bubble wrap. I opened lots of boxes marked fragile, gathered stacks of bubble wrap, some packing foam, duct tape, and – to try something a bit different than what I had seen online – some Reflectix – which is basically bubble wrap, but with reflective metal sides and sold at Home Depot or other stores in the insulation section.

Sadly, I got very few pictures of this project because I was doing it on my own and didn’t have a 3rd hand for picture taking. Luckily, it’s really easy. You basically wrap the bucket in bubble wrap (and in my case some packing foam too).

I found it helped to duct tape some pieces down – especially around the edges – to keep things still as I went along. Once you’ve got several layers wrapped around the bucket, cover everything in duct tape. I made one bucket with just the regular bubble wrap.

Then I made another bucket with the reflective wrap. I used the regular – in my case free – bubble wrap for the majority of the layers and just used one layer of the reflective wrap to keep costs down. The Reflectix is only ~$16 a roll, but free is still cheaper than $16 and I managed to cover 4 buckets with one roll of the Reflectix doing just one layer and I have some left (1 roll should make 5-6 buckets I think). I think 1 roll would do maybe 2 buckets if you only used it. Regular bubble wrap is about 1/3 to 1/4 (depending on where you buy it) the cost of Reflectix if you don’t have stacks of it lying around like I did. Sadly, I got no pictures of making that one until the end.

They were super easy to make and didn’t take very long at all. I think about ~15 minutes for the later ones. The first one probably took 20-25 minutes as I was figuring it out. The cost was great too. I think each one probably cost me about $5-$6. Even if I had to buy the bubble wrap, the cost per bucket would probably still be <$10.

The price is great, but I know what you’re wondering, because I was wondering this too. Do they actually work?

The answer is an astounding yes.

I really want to do a timelapse video to show just how well these buckets work, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, so here’s a poorly lit picture. For added comparison, Nilla’s bucket has the SmartPak Insulated Water Bucket Cover on it and Levi’s bucket is uninsulated. Why is Levi’s bucket uninsulated, you might ask?

Because Levi is the living embodiment of the phrase “this is why we can’t have nice things.”


Seriously though, he shredded his so now he doesn’t get one.

This is a downside to this type of insulated bucket. If you have an incurably mouthy *asshole of a horse, this isn’t going to stand up to them. Then again, I don’t think SmartPak cover would survive him either. Possibly the foam method would work.

Anyway, in this picture of all 4 buckets, you can see that Nilla and Eugene’s (on the left) are completely free of ice. Shasta’s – the green one on the right- has a very thin layer of ice on the top. Levi’s is iced all the way around (his was nearly empty). I took a picture of those two after dumping them. The lighting wasn’t great in the barn at night so I threw the picture into an editor and jacked up some of the effects so it looks weird, but it does help you see how Levi’s has developed a thicker layer of ice all around the sides and bottom. Shasta’s only has a the skim on top.

Since Shasta’s bucket is the one with just regular bubble wrap, you can see that even regular bubble wrap and duct tape will help. However, in the picture of all four, you can see that the reflective wrapped bucket is working just as well as Nilla’s expensive SmartPak cover.

I will say I think the SmartPak cover works even better than the DIY buckets. Nilla’s stall is a lot colder than Eugene’s (reasons I’ll get into in another post) and her bucket started freezing before everyone else’s before I added the covers. I bought the SmartPak cover back when I did the other ones because I was curious if my DIY covers could work as well. For the most part, they have. However, the temps were only in the high teens evening when I took these pictures. When the temps get below 0 the DIY buckets get more iced than the SmartPak one. They still get significantly less ice than the uninsulated one. I’d like to try making a duct-tape lid for one of the DIY ones to see if that helps. If you’ve got lots of $ to spend or don’t like Doing it Yourself, the SmartPak covers cost $45 and really do a great job. The DIY covers only cost about $5-$10 though and do a pretty damned good job as well.

I highly recommend making some of these if you ever worry about your horse’s water freezing.

As a side note, if you’re thinking “My horse has been living in the cold forever. He knows how to break through ice to drink, and doesn’t need warm water,” you should really read this study. To sum it up though: In the winter, horses will drink more water when the water given to them is warm, but will chose cold water – and then drink less – if offered a choice. Since I want my horses drinking as much as possible – especially in the winter – I want them to have warm water. Even with the insulated buckets, I like to mix in a little hot water to my horses’s buckets when I fill them. The insulated buckets will keep that water warm too. I’ve hung an insulated bucket outside in the wind with some hot water mixed in and found it still nice and warm hours later.

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DIY Horse Ownership by Olivia - 6M ago

It’s pretty, but good luck getting anything done

There’s really not much going out here in the frozen north. Honestly if it would just stay frozen, that’d be fine, but we keep getting these bizarre heat waves with rain. 2′ of snow followed by 50° weather and 2″ of rain is a disaster.

We’re lucky and we’re up on a hill so we don’t need to worry about flooding, but a lot of people in our area do. I saw this crazy video of a ton of hay bales going over a waterfall in a town nearby. Sucks for whoever’s hay that was.

We did get a bit of flooding back in December during another rain. That time we got more than 2″, though I forget how much.

The problem with the rain for us is that after it stops and gets cold again, everything turns to ice. The ponies have been stuck in their stalls with turnout in the small paddocks near the barn because it’s too dangerous to walk them down the path to the far barn and their pastures. The pathways are solid sheets of ice. There are sections I can’t walk on even in yaktrax.

The boys really seem to like the snow. Levi thinks it’s all a fun new toy to play with.

Shasta and Nilla don’t care for it as much. Nilla will roll in the snow, but if given a choice (when she’s down in the lower barn and can go in and out) she’ll stay inside all the time. We did catch her napping in the paddocks by the barn the other day.

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Nilla taking a nap in the sun. #mulesofinstagram #horselife #mules #longears

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Jan 30, 2019 at 10:57am PST

Since it’s not safe enough to even walk the horses down the path, it’s definitely not safe to ride. While we’re not getting any riding done, we have been busy with DIY projects. I’m hoping to put together posts about each of these soon, but here’s a sneak preview:

Feed bin construction

Comfort Stall Installation

DIY insulated water buckets

Blanket Upgrades

But mostly, I’ve been staying inside and baking – and eating – a lot. Because if you cant ride, you might as well shovel in those calories, right?

Banana Bundt Cake


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Because of our impending move, my 2018 goals were a bit sparse and honestly I’ve not done the best job of achieving them. However, look back at the post did remind me about some things I need to work on again in 2019.

✔ Read More

I set my GoodReads goal at 75, but I hoped to read 125+ books in 2018. I made it to 130, which is generally a success, but the quantity wasn’t the whole point. I wrote in my goal post “the total number of books isn’t really my goal though; I just want to spend more time reading real books instead of wasting time online.” I was really good about that before the move, but after the move I was so busy that sitting down with a book seemed like too much and I would decide to just look at Instagram for a “few minutes.” I need to get back on this goal in 2019.

✘ Nilla Soundness

“It’d be cool if we could make it to 2019 without any more injuries.” Well, that was a big, fat fail. She re-injured herself in January of 2018, had until August off and was declared 100% healed and ready to return to work then. She did well with rehab work before the snow put a halt to all riding. She turned up with swelling in the suspensory area again a few weeks ago. My best guess is she slipped on the ice. We’ll see what she looks like in the spring.

✔ Figure out what to do with Levi

“Hopefully by the end of the year either I’ll have found a way to enjoy him or found someone else to enjoy him.”

I think this was mostly a success. We went through another period where I seriously contemplated selling him. He can be the biggest *sshole sometimes. But when he’s good, he’s so freaking good. We’ll see what 2019 brings.

✔ Stop buying shit

“I’m not going to set a budget because I’m not eliminating buying things I do need – like a dressage saddle so I can stop doing dressage in my 20 year old close contact that doesn’t fit me. However, I need to stop buying crap I don’t need, like more saddle pads or new breeches. If something breaks and I need a new thing, I’m free to go ahead, but no more buying stuff just for fun.”

An example of a thing I didn’t buy despite really, really wanting to

I’d actually say I did a pretty good job of this. While I certainly bought stuff this year, I got a lot better about not buying random stuff just because I wanted to. I bought almost no saddle pads. I also made an effort to buy quality items that will last instead of endless replacements for cheap crap.

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Favorite show picture

PC: Andres Bergsneider – used with purchase

This wasn’t a successful event for us, but I do love this picture.

Favorite non-show picture

This photo reminds me of how much I actually do enjoy riding Levi. When he’s good, he’s so, so good.

Favorite thing you bought 


I think this wins by a long-shot.

Favorite moment on horseback

I have so much more fun going to random games days than I do showing. Sometimes you have to just get out there and enjoy the horse you have.


Favorite moment out of the saddle

Little horse in a big world

My husband and I spend a lot of time together since we both ride. I love that. But it’s not time out of the saddle – unless you count the hours we spend in the car together. Going to Twin was different though. I wasn’t riding, so I could just concentrate on playing groom and helping him get out there and show off just how amazing little Mustangs can be.

Favorite “between the ears” picture

Damn California really is pretty.

Favorite horse book or article

Technically I read this at the very end of December 2017, but it was my favorite. My husband and I listened to the audiobook together and I highly recommend it. The history of the Oregon trail is really interesting, but the information about mules then and now was the best part. Mules were much more important in American history than you might think. You don’t need to love mules to like this book either. I think any equestrian will enjoy it and any history, travel, or adventure buff will as well

Favorite horse ridden (or groomed/cared for) aside from your own

PC: MGO – used with purchase

Does Eugene count? I think he should as he’s really not mine. He’d be the first one to tell you that too. He really only likes my husband and frequently won’t even let me catch him, despite the fact that I feed him. But he’s an awesome little horse who tries harder than any other horse I’ve ever met. But if he doesn’t count, Devro, my friend’s Mustang – also out of the Carson City prison training program – was a lot of fun to ride too.

Favorite funny picture of your horse

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Levi: “We are best friends, the very very best – oh sh*t.” #blmmustang #horselife #farmlife #horsesofinstagram

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Oct 7, 2018 at 2:32pm PDT

Favorite fence that you successfully jumped or movement that you conquered

Not the best shot, but if you read my post about the Woodside event, you’ll know I was panicking the entire weekend about this jump. I was literally sick over it. So getting over it was a big deal.

Favorite horse meme or funny picture

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Another year, another gift exchange! I always love doing this and I highly recommend anyone with a horse blog join in next year if you’re not doing it already. Check out Tracy’s blog for more information.

This is my 5th time doing the gift exchange. Sadly, I can’t find a post from the first year, but here are links to 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Today I opened the door to find a small stack of packages. Most of them were either gifts for other people or boring household good like new outlet covers. So when I opened one of the packages at random to find wrapped gifts I was so excited. I have been scrambling to finish the gift I need to send for the exchange and kind of forgot that the other side of the gift exchange is actually receiving gifts!  Woo hoo.

Let’s just pause to talk about how amazing this wrapping paper is. It’s freaking unicorns carrying packages with a banner reading “Have a Magical Christmas.” I legit sat there with a razor blade cutting the paper off so I can re-use it.

This year I said I was interested in getting things to help me survive this frozen wasteland I have moved to and my Secret Santa did not disappoint.

Look at these beauties! I cannot tell you how much I love socks. Like, possibly more than I like saddle pads. I dunno though; I do really like saddle pads. It’s a close call. Nonetheless, I love getting socks as gifts and wool socks are my favorite. So excited about these.

Also, those gloves are cashmere. I don’t think I own anything cashmere. To my mind, that’s like for fancy, rich people. They’re not going anywhere near the barn. I am going to put those in my nice, non barn coat.

I have being eyeing those toe warmers at various stores, but just not pulling the trigger, so I was psyched to see them. At first I was like, I can’t wait to try these and then I was like

Wouldn’t it be better if it just never got cold enough to need these? That seems unlikely though. My package didn’t come with a card, but the return address gave me enough information to track down Holly from Marescara on Instagram and ask if they were from here and they were! Thanks again Holly! I’m really excited about all my winter weather gear and I’m sureI’ll be using them soon.

So true it’s not even funny

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I’ve been quiet over here lately. I’m more active on Instagram so if you want to see what the horses are up to, follow us over there. However, I can sum up what we’re up to in one word: nothing.

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At least it’s pretty… #winterishere #farmlife #vermontlife

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Nov 13, 2018 at 7:51am PST

Snow hit early here and just hasn’t let up. While I knew we were moving to a place where it snows a lot, I wasn’t expecting to move just in time for the 5th most snowy November in Vermont history. Without an indoor arena, the snow basically put a halt to us doing anything other than shoveling money into the horses on one end and shoveling manure on the other.

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Levi’s just not as good at sliding in the snow as Eugene. #blmmustang #horselife #horsesofinstagram #winter #vermont

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Nov 26, 2018 at 8:03am PST

The horses seem to have adjusted to their new lives. Eugene loves the snow. He’s always grown a huge winter coat so it’s liking he’s been prepping for this move his whole life. If the weather’s bad and we have to bring them in overnight, he just stands at his window and stares out of it. We’d leave him out, but Levi and Shasta would lose their damned minds if they were separated and they like coming in. Neither of them ever grew a great winter coat and they’re not as happy living out, even with blankets.

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Nilla’s with me; she’s sick of this snow already. #mulesofinstagram #horselife #farmlife #snowfordays

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Nov 29, 2018 at 9:47am PST

Nilla has always grown the most ridiculous winter coat. She’s probably even overly prepared for Vermont, but she hates the snow. She spends all of her time in her run-in shed even if I put a sheet or blanket on her.

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Nilla is already over it. #mulesofinstagram #farmlife #vermont #winterishere #horselife

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Oct 27, 2018 at 2:37pm PDT

My husband took Eugene out for a brief ride the other day. Eugene is sure-footed and has snow pads and studs, so he’s fine. He was super excited to get out and go too.

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Snow ride. #blmmustang #horsesofinstagram #horselife #horsebackriding #funinthesnow

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:44am PST

Sadly, Levi has been developing snow balls in his shoes despite snow pads so I didn’t want to take him out. That horse trips on himself regularly, the addition of snow is just overkill. He’s got his own ways of coping with the snow.

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Yummy #winterishere #vermont #blmmustang #horselife #horsesofinstagram

A post shared by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on Nov 28, 2018 at 10:38am PST

That’s pretty much it that’s going on around here: snow, horses in the snow, staying inside to avoid the snow, trying to pick up manure in the snow, slipping on the snow turned to ice, snow, snow, snow. I do have a few DIY projects I’ve completed that I hope to post about soon if I can get some time to write them up.

If anyone has handy tips for managing horses in the snow, hit me up in the comments.

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