A Few Fantastic Finds

Here are four new products quickly making waves in our barn.

PooPooPaper

PooPooPaper is exactly as it’s name suggests: paper made of poo. With all the concern these days about deforestation and the need to recyle, PooPoo products are a wonderful example of sustainability and responsible consumption. The company takes a material in abundance – Horse Poo – and makes a functional and completely useful product, sparing lots of trees in the process. Since horse poo has lots of fibre in it, the base material for making pulp for paper, the company figured they could also make horse PooPooPaper and they were right. You also can find journals, cards, notepads and many other things made from panda, cow and elephant poo from the company as well for an incredibly memorable and sustainable gift!

www.poopoopaper.com

RidersRasp

RidersRasp is an innovative new product designed especially for horse owners to sustain and support hoof balance in between farrier visits. With an ergonomic design and a non-slip, soft grip handle, the RidersRasp is a maintenance tool that rounds rough edges of the horse’s foot, without removing hoof wall and allows you to easily smooth away flares, chips and sharp edges. It is ideal for barefoot horses or for shod horses, as losing a shoe can quickly damage the hoof wall. RidersRasp enables you lightly round the edges of the foots to minimize further damage until your farrier arrives to replace the shoe

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The Nature of Horses

As avid horse lovers, you probably already know that a long muzzle allows the horse to keep a watchful eye out for danger during grazing. However, did you also know that an evolutionary side effect of this long nose is the diastema? This is the gap between the horse’s incisors and the premolars – the space which makes bit placement possible.

Did you also that the horse’s choice of a high-fiber, low protein diet throughout evolution allowed them to avoid food competition from other species? It also meant that they required less energy than smaller animals (compared to their body weight) and can explain partly why the horse evolved to became a larger animal. Additionally, the horse’s cecum gave it an advantage over more digestively efficient ruminant animals as it allowed the horse to thrive in areas with seasonally cooler climates and plant growth – the horse could ferment its diet when all the food that was available weren’t young green plant shoots and was too fibrous for ruminants to cope with.

If you’re interested in exploring equine evolution, intelligence and behavior, the book, The Nature of Horses by Stepen Budiansky is filled with many more fun-facts like this. Budiansky discusses everything from evaluating the mechanics of the horse’s movement, to a little bit about coat color genetics, to explaining how horses see. The author argues that horses were never subject to extinction because of the inventiveness of man and the remarkable learning ability and physical prowess of the horse. He also touches upon one of my favorite discussion topics: does nature or nurture matter more in creating a great sport horse? All the while Budiansky builds up to a full chapter that outlines a breeding program with potential to produce a superior performance horse.

Bound by a hard cover and graced with beautiful equine imagery on the front, The Nature of Horses also makes a delightful gift or coffee table book for all equine lovers. This book offers insightful discussion about where the horse came from and where it is now headed and is a valuable read for any horse owner.

A Handmade Card

There is nothing like a hand made card!

My friend, Deb Rinas from Moose Jaw, SK, makes the loveliest handmade Christmas cards. Her cookies are pretty amazing too! However, today she has agreed to share one of her Christmas card designs with My Stable Life. If you’re handy at scrap booking – or if not – Deb offers simple instructions so even those of us who are not as creatively inclined can make this beautiful homemade card.

So without further adieu, here’s Deb:

Step #1 – Now that the design has been established, I pick out some colored paper to compliment each other in the card layout.

Step #2 – Next, I get some supplies ready such as hole punches, edge cutters, stamps, ink pads, glue, markers, dimensionals and ribbon.  A lot of my stuff comes from scrapbook supply stores, but you’d be amazed by what you can create with various things around the house.

Step #3 – My paper is all cut, punched, edge cut and stamped. And as you can see, the main backing of the card is one piece of white paper folded in half. All that has to be done now is to glue everything together. I tie the ribbons into little bows and give the Christmas ornaments some dimension by gluing them onto solid colored cutouts of the same shape.  Then I give a raised effect between the two layers of the Christmas ornaments with dimension glue dots.

Step #4 – At this point, my card is almost finished. I just have to color the stamped image! Then I glue it onto colored background pieces of paper that have been cut to fit and border my stamped image.

Step #5 – Here is your completed homemade Christmas card, ready to be mailed and enjoyed by all!

1 Week ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

It’s exactly one week until Christmas. Can you believe it? Ditto for me.

I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for Christmas gifts over the past six weeks or so. You can check them out beginning here and move forward through my posts. Or check out both Jenn Webster of My Stable Life and mine right here.

If you’re still stuck for Christmas gift ideas, I’d like to share with you the story of a horse rescue here in Alberta, and to which, I would suggest, a donation of cash, goods or pledge of volunteerism would represent a worthwhile gift at any time of year.

The facility is the Rescue 100 Foundation, located east of Sherwood Park, Alberta. This rescue was inspired and created early in 2008, when 100 Arabians in various degrees of neglect, were seized from a farm by the SPCA. Susan Fyfe, founder of Rescue 100 literally came to the rescue and asked the SPCA to bring the 100 horses to her Keno Hills Stable.

Susan says, “Upon arrival, it was clear to see these horses had been severely neglected for quite some time. Some were so weak that we had to carry them off the trailer. As time passed, all but one horse was brought back to health and then placed in “forever homes”. Since then, Rescue 100 has received four more herds ranging from all levels of starvation, malnutrition and neglect.

“To date, we have successfully placed all but 14 horses which are still awaiting to be adopted. With the winter months quickly setting in, we are well aware that more horses will need our help to make it through until spring.”

Susan is sending out this request this Christmas season, in hopes of increasing much-needed donations:

“Rescue 100 is experiencing difficulty in obtaining donations to continue it’s important work. There are still many horses in care and overall interest in assisting the organization has dwindled. We are making a plea that you think of an unusual present this year. Making a donation and putting it under your Christmas tree.

“Your hard work as a volunteer is also coveted. The job of caring for our remaining herd has fallen to only a small handful of overworked volunteers.  We desparately need assistance at all levels of the organization.”

To donate to Rescue 100 Foundation visit the website. While there be sure to read the stories of horses successfully placed and also those still needing good homes. Finally, don’t miss the story of Pearl, which will give you huge insight into the love and care Susan and her volunteers give to their charges.

There are very many horse rescue farms and facilities throughout North America. With the reduction of humane slaughter options, it’s unlikely that trend is likely to experience anything but acceleration through the coming years. So, if you want to give yourself a great feeling of doing a bit of good at this time of year, go ahead, pick one. Donate, give goods, pledge your volunteerism.

Ask this guy.

He’ll tell you.

It’s a good thing, friends.

Leah Batchelor of Safe Havens Stables Horse Rescue also sent me a list of supplies and services which a horse rescue can utilize at any time of year including:

• round or square hay

• dewormers

• blankets

• veterinary services

• farrier services

• massage, chiro and other alternative health services

• dentistry services

• grooming products

• delicer

I’m guessing any rescue would be grateful to be gifted with any of the above during the Christmas season.

I’m signing off for a weekend with my family now. If you too, are beginning your Christmas holidays this weekend, may your holidays be peaceful and uplifting.

A Homemade Present

I figure this one should be entitled "We 3 Queens.."

Happy Monday everybody! If you’re in the mood to stay indoors and create some homemade Christmas presents this year, I have a sweet idea for you. It’s a gift straight from the heart of the kitchen and it’s so easy to do – even I managed okay!

Before we get into the wholesome goodness though, please remember that My Stable Life has a wonderful Christmas contest going on right now. Since I love our readers so much, I have an awesome gift basket for anyone who’d like to share their favorite Christmas memories with me, or the reason why this upcoming Christmas will be special for you or someone else! Check out My Stable Life Christmas Contest for more details.

Alright back to the warmth of my oven… literally, do you know how cold it’s been in Regina, SK, for the last couple of days??

BANANA BREAD

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Butter or Margarine                    1/2 cup

Granulated Sugar                       1 cup

Eggs                                             2

Very ripe, mashed bananas      3

All purpose flour                        1 3/4 cups

Baking soda                                 1 teaspoon

Baking powder                            1/2 teaspoon

Salt                                                a pinch

Chocolate chips                          3/4 cup

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cream 1/2 cup margarine (I use Becel) and 1 cup sugar together.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add to your sugar mixture together, beat and mix together until smooth.

Peel and mash bananas with a fork in a small bowl.

Add mashed bananas to sugar / margarine / egg concoction.

In another bowl, mix your remaining dry ingredients together: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.

Stir dry ingredients up.

Add banana / sugar / margarine mixture to dry ingredients.

Stir altogether to moisten.

Then using two 14 cm x 23 cm glass pans that are greased, divide the batter evenly among them.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes and ensure the outside has browned. Place a toothpick in the center of each loaf to make certain it comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes.

Once the loaves are cool, wrap them with plastic wrap and a nice Christmas bow and your gift is ready to give. (The glass pan is part of your gift.)

3 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Counting down the weeks to Christmas, hope you’ve managed to catch all of my Great Gift Ideas, if not you can catch them all by clicking on Gift Ideas in the right hand side column under Topics.

Western Horse Review lifestyle editor, Deanna Paulsen shared some of her “bargain buy” ideas with me recently, and here’s a few of my favorites.

Elusive Cowgirl, concho star Swarovski crystal sunglasses – $55.00. Amazingly vogue.

Reata Ranch Gear, iPhone and Blackberry western and horse themed cell phone covers – $39.00. I really hope I’m going to find one of these under our tree!

Miss Me boot cut jeans, available at many tack store retailers – $92.00. I have a pair of these and can give witness to their amazing comfort fit.

Gypsy Soule, bucking cowgirl belt buckle – $42.00. The epitome of vintage chic.

You can catch the rest of Deanna’s Bargain Barn suggestion in the Feb/Mar. issue of Western Horse Review. We’re already working on this issue, complete with redesign and a whole new take on content – we think you’re going to like it. Find it on newsstands and in your mailbox mid-February.

4 Weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

I think I’ve finally caught up to the calendar . . . just under four weeks ’till Christmas. I can hardly believe it.

I hope I’ve been able to offer you some unique and nifty ideas for holiday gifts. You can catch them all by clicking on Gift Ideas in the right hand side column under Topics.

My dream Christmas wish list usually involves plenty of travel – a little out of character for me, because I’m really a home-body. I love spending most of my time at the log house. Still, who doesn’t like to travel?

Continental or international travel is inspiring and opens my eyes to the lives of others and often, how horses figure into those lives. If I hadn’t have travelled to Europe in April, I wouldn’t have learned about jousting in Germany. And . . . I might never have found the time to finish the Nobel-prize winning novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, which I completed on the long plane ride back!

That sort of thing.

What I’m sharing today isn’t necessarily a gift idea, but it might help you plan, and save, on your next gift – in particular if it involves airline travel, and hotel stays.

Here’s a few of my best strategies for saving time and money on travel:

1) Stop considering it junk mail and start signing up for hotel and travel e-newsletters. They can be valuable time-savers. For instance, American Airlines sends out a “Netsaver Fares” e-bulletin every Thursday, offering last minute hotel and air travel deals. We found deals as fantastic as three days in Austin, Texas, at a luxury hotel, and flights included, for $550 per person.

2) If you’re not completely particular about which hotel you stay at, and can live within a certain flexibility, bid on your hotel room at Priceline.com. You can choose the destination, star-level, and length of stay, and bid on your room. We used this to book at the 5-star Boulders Resort near Cave Creek, where rates begin at $300 a night and garnered rooms for just over $100 a night. Be sure you specify star-level, or you might end up at the Bates Motel.

3) Be prepared to act fast. Pick a week, or weekend, and be ready to travel. Many of airlines offer last minute packages designed to fill hotels or flights. Be aware of this and you can translate an upcoming week into a spontaneous luxury vacation – often at a location or hotel you’d never have been able to afford by planning ahead.

4) I use Yapta.com to track airline flights from Canada to Arizona. Because of the number of “snowbirds” flying in and out of Phoenix, these flights are becoming increasingly difficult to purchase at low rates. If I know the dates I will likely be traveling, I’ll punch the details into Yapta months ahead, and receive regular updates on price drops through this site, which tracks all major airlines.

Airfarewatchdog.com offers a similar service, with a few extras.

5) Autoslash.com cuts through the clutter of rental car coupons and e-mail alerts and searches through all the major rental car agencies for best deals, taking into account discounts and promos. Best of all, once you’ve already booked, it keeps checking your rental for you. If the price drops, you can cancel and rebook at the better rate.

6) Expedia.ca is still one of my best go-to’s for booking flights and hotel rooms, particularly together. But also for searching out lowest priced rooms and flights. For instance, I recently booked a one-way flight back from Phoenix to Canada for my son through this site. Expedia put him on a United flight to Las Vegas, where he’ll switch to Alaskan Airlines for the last leg home, a combination I wouldn’t have been able to find on my own, and for less than half of what any airline was asking for a non-stop flight on the same date of travel.

Happy traveling!

Greycup Reflections & Help for a Rare Present

It’s kind of a sad day here at the farm. By now I’m sure you are all aware that the Roughriders lost in their quest for the Greycup, for a second time ’round yesterday.

Everybody has their own way of coping. Defeat was written all over quarterback Darian Durant’s face as the game moved into the final few seconds of play. When it was over, each of our friends wore the same shocked looks on their faces as we all departed from the Greycup party. And immediately after that, my husband felt the urgent and drastic need to move snow with his tractor.

But today is a new day. And lots of interesting things are happening these days as well. The 2010 Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, SK, wrapped up another year this past Saturday. Shawn Flarida and Shine Chic Shine are currently sitting at the top of the leader board in the Open Futurity division, as the end of the first go draws to a close and the second one begins in Oklahoma City, OK.

Oh and my husband has caught on to my Christmas shopping plans… While that may be a crime in itself, the real injustice is that I can’t find what he wants – anywhere! And I’m hoping that one of you fine friendly readers can help me? If anyone knows where I can purchase a rare DVD release of the inspirational, true story “Pharlap,” please drop me a line!

Please note that of the few DVDs I have found available for sale on the internet, all thus far are Region 4 versions – meaning they only work in places like New Zealand or Australia and will not play on North American machines. We’re looking for a Region 1 DVD.

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Duck You Sucker

So, last weekend, we decided to indulge in a retro Saturday night, by watching one of the collection of director Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns.

(For those of you who missed the era, Spaghetti Western is really just a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western film that emerged in the mid-1960’s and early 1970’s, so named because most were produced and directed by Italians, the most famous of which were the series of films Sergio Leone directed.)

I haven’t watched one of these films in a very long time, but last year for Christmas I gifted my boyfriend with the Sergio Leone Anthology, containing, most notably, the three movies in which Clint Eastwood starred, The Good, the Bad and the UglyA Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, as well as the lesser known Duck, You Sucker (1971).

It was the latter we decided on.

Duck, You Sucker.

Yep.

I wondered about that too. The story is Sergio was mistakenly under the impression “duck, you sucker” was a common slang saying in America. Later, the movie was renamed Fistful of Dynamite, and it’s lengthy two and a half hour span nailed down to under two hours for an American audience.

(I wish they still made movie posters like this, don’t you?)

The edit and re-title didn’t take, and the movie became a bit of a lost film.

That is, until the release of this anthology. For the first time on DVD, the fully restored English-language version of the original 157-minute Italian cut of Duck You Sucker, which was never shown in American theaters, is available for spaghetti western fans in the Sergio Leone Anthology.

And, I’ve got to tell you, I loved it.

The gist of the movie revolves around an Irish explosives expert, James Coburn, with a bad history back in his homeland, who meets up with a Mexican bandit, played by Rod Steiger. Together they become somewhat accidentally – at least on the part of the Mexican bandit – immersed in the Mexican Revolution. It is a story of race, of hardship, of friendship, and of the lessons learned in those friendships.

What with the Mexican Revolution central to the plot, the back-flashes to IRA activity, and even a crazed Nazi-resembling German thrown in, the movie is anything but historically in context.

But it matters not. The filming is ahead of it’s time, the soundtrack incredibly rich, and the story, ambitious and layered.

Don’t expect one of Eastwood’s Fistful’s with this film, but do expect a very unique Sergio Leone experience.

And, enjoy the Anthology, if you happen to find it in your stocking this holiday.

Here’s a sneak peek. . .