Hard to Get Going

I’ll admit, I had a lot of passion to start blogging (or ranting in the case of some textile topics) when I started this, but then, as we all know it, life gets in the way.

Right now, it’s really hard to start up again looking at the fact that my last post was about Lollie… Lollie who has now left this earth.  The animal that has been in my life for 20 years is no longer; the last of the dear animals that came with us from NY to NC is gone.  There has never been a time that I have gone up to the barn on my parents property and she has not been there.  Cantankerous always looking for food Lollie, with her characteristic shrill whinny to let you know that she’s hungry.  It’s been tough on me, but I cannot fathom what my mother is going through.

We lost Lollie to impaction colic.  She was touch and go for a week; going from being very interested in eating, moving around, drinking, to doing none of those things.  I remember she’d go from pulling you around the yard one day, and then next, she was almost falling over.  We made the final call when she just had tons of fluid backing up, and the vet warned us she was exhibiting signs that she was close to her stomach rupturing.  Mom did it while I was at work, and said she’d call so I could come over there to be with her, but she didn’t until it was done, and they had already taken her away to be buried.

IMG_1337 (Small)

I miss her; Kosmo is in her stall now, and it will always be her stall, no matter what.  I try to remember good times, where I would sing “Lollipop” under my breath as she power trotted around the ring.  Or having my mother pick me up at the bus stop at the top of the road in the carriage with her.  Time will let these memories bring more happiness than sadness soon.

On a different note, I’m also going to be using this blog for a while to document my progress on working with Kosmo for the next month: we have truly achieved couch potato status, as my fitness level has dropped to… nothing and his has dropped to where it is causing a negative impact on what he’s able to do.  He’s always had weak stifles, but we’re at a point now where it’s causing enough discomfort for him just to pick up the canter.  It’s all my fault: he’s moved from a facility where he’s out with other horses who like to run and chase each other, to one where.. he’s now by himself (even when Lollie was around, it’s not like she ran).  And I am never good about riding in the summer (I’m out once a week, if that, tops) because of the heat.  SO.  We’re both gonna man up this month.  He’s gonna hate me, but here we come at least every other day for raised cavalettis, hill work, and long and low trotting!

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Throwback Thursday – Horses in My Life Part 1

We’re going to have a little feature for the next couple of Thursdays, where I’ll go back over the multiple horses in my life.  First up is Lollie!

Lollie was purchased as a 10 year old to be my mother’s driving horse.  She is a tank of 15.1 hands Cleveland Bay/Morgan cross.  This little powerhouse would pull a four wheeled pleasure cart with four people on it like no thing.  The nice thing about driving horses is they are trained to not buck or kick (or at least, Lollie was): otherwise you’d have some problems with them being in a cart and either damaging the cart when they acted out, or the person driving!  That just means that when Lollie got excited, she WENT.  I’m pretty sure she could trot faster than some horses could canter.  I was always tempted to enter her in trot-only barrel racing classes (kind of the beginners only barrel racing at 4H shows), but I chickened out.

In one of our first horse shows together

When I finally got to an age that I took lessons consistently and they stopped being essentially pony rides, I started to ride Lollie.  I took her to TWHA shows, and other local schooling shows.  I hadn’t fully gotten into hunter/jumper yet, so this was a majority of flat classes.  She was also my crossrail extraordinaire: if those crossrails were ever too high, she’d just stop, knock the rail over, and then pleasantly walk over.

Sort of like this

She is the cleverest horse I know: in addition to rail dropping, she’d open up latches, lift gates off their hinges, and would generally try to escape work as much as possible.  She was the first horse I ever took to a show.  She was the first horse I fell off of (riding bareback.. at the walk.  Yes, yes, you try sitting on a couch made of blubbery fat and muscle that has no withers!)

Got a little sway back going on now

Lollie is still around at the ripe old age of 31.  She’s finally starting to show her age: she’s not sound 100% of the time, has a little bit of asthma, her back is starting to sway, and she doesn’t mow you down when it’s feeding time.  She has definitely earned her retirement with us, and it’ll be very sad to see her go.

Lollie loves getting festive for Christmas

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Bamboo: the so-called friendly “fiber”

A few years ago, I encountered my first case of major marketing gimmick that went horribly wrong.  This was the case of bamboo fibers/fabric.  A few of you may remember this: there were tons of towels, washcloths, clothes, socks, anything all advertising that they were “100% bamboo” and thus had a lot of great claims: naturally antimicrobial, doesn’t hold odors, eco-friendly, sustainable, softer than cotton, etc.  It was touted as the eco-conscious mother’s savior!  Well, if you heard about all of the Federal Trade Commission notices to all sorts of companies (Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, to name a few) who were touting these claims with their bamboo fabrics, then you know it was all a lie.  Some of these retailers even had to pay fines as little as a year ago because they continued to sell misleading bamboo products.

You see, you can’t take a bamboo stalk and extrude a fiber out of it.  Imagine doing that to a tree: it just can’t be done.  What really happens is that they take that bamboo and expose it to a range of noxious chemicals to break it down to it’s sub level of cellulose.  Then, once you have this cellulose pulp, it gets treated with more chemicals and then extruded: this is the process of making rayon.  You can do it with any plant that contains cellulose: but it is by no means environmentally friendly because of all of the chemicals needed.  You also can’t tell with any lab equipment that the product you have in your hands was made from bamboo: cellulose at that level is just cellulose.  It could have come from bamboo, trees, or even cotton.  As such, it can’t keep any properties of the plant it was made out of: rayon made from bamboo is not inherently antimicrobial or odor-free.

Provided by oecotextiles.wordpress.com

Process breakdown: complicated!

Now, you might see textile labels touting “rayon from bamboo”: this is the correct way to label their products,as long as they can actually prove that the rayon is being made from bamboo cellulose pulp.  This generally involves someone (maybe a 3rd party) monitoring the factory processes: a few testing and inspection organizations do claim they can provide this service.  It’s not something you as a consumer will be able to see, unfortunately, or check, because as I mentioned before, once in cellulose pulp form, there is no way to discern where that pulp came from.  And you may still see antimicrobial/anti-odor claims on “rayon from bamboo” products.  That’s OK too: provided that the manufacturer has put an additive on their product to provide that sort of finish (and has testing to prove that it works!).

And here’s my call-out for the day: Dover Saddlery, you need to catch up.  I get it, I know that your primary source of business didn’t USE to be textiles (let’s be real equestrians: it’s only been in the last few years that our offerings for fashionable riding apparel has gotten, well, fashionable), but you’re STILL marketing this stuff:

Riding Sport, you’re guilty too!


So uh, Dover, if you need a textile expert on your staff… call me?

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The Horse

And finally, the man of the hour, the horse in the checkered suit!

Now, I get it, he’s not really in a checkered suit, but it’s as close as it gets!  Kosmo is my current horse that I’ve owned for almost four years now.  I love this creature to pieces.  The little whuffles he gives me everytime I call his name when he’s out in the pasture makes me melt.

How can you not love this face?

How can you not love this face?

Kosmo is of unknown breeding (some Tennesse Walker, QH, something with feathers, who knows), and around 11-12 years old.  If he slumped at all, he would probably be considered a pony.  He’s my steady eddy: he won’t win any flat classes (aka, he doesn’t move the greatest), but he’s so chill and laid back no matter how much you ride him.  He doesn’t have a spooky personality (that would take too much effort) and is a huge lovebug.  Hold on your hand and he’ll lick it (I like to try to catch his tongue) and if you stand too long in the ring in one spot, he’ll try to grab your feet (I think he likes his mouth being itched).  I have high hopes of him being someone’s short stirrup or young entry horse one day, so I’m keeping him for as long as I’m physically able to!  He just has so much personality.  Oh, and he is definitely the type to let you know he doesn’t appreciate you getting too many long spots with a few crow hops afterwards.

What is really cool about Kosmo is his coloring: he is technically a blue roan.  As the seasons change and his coat goes longer/shorter, his color also changes:

Taken in April

Taken in April

Taken in May

Taken in May (complete with a little bit of sassy tongue)

In the beginning at my barn, I can’t tell you how many times I got asked “Is.. is that Kosmo?” or “Did you get a new horse?” because the change is so different.  It’s so cool to watch, and that roan pattern is why I thought of him as the “Horse in the Checkered Suit”.

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The Human

Sorry folks, I’m saving the best introduction for last: you get to read about me today!

A little background on me, and where I’m coming from both a textiles perspective and a horse one.

Textiles Background
I haven’t always been interested in textiles or fashion.  When I got to college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do.  I went to a technical college in the area, knowing I at least wanted to do more science and math based other than liberal arts.  I ended up loving the people and professors in the textiles college.  So I ended up pursuing a textile chemistry degree.

Out of college, I got employed by a company in Illinois that has a primary focus of providing technical advice and testing consumer products (apparel, jewelry, toys, home textiles, etc).  I saw a lot of products coming through and learned a lot about how these products performed and just how much a brand name meant.  It was surprising how many things would bleed after wash, a print would fade after wash, etc and the retailer would just accept it!  I had learned about dye types, and fiber types and typical things you should expect of all these, but this job exposed me to constructions skills as well as regulations and requirements surrounding apparel.  Anyone who worked in that type of environment had their outlook of clothes shopping completely changed by what things they saw there.

I now work closely with the testing and quality of a local manufacturer of apparel/accessory items.  This is the first time I’ve been in a manufacturing environment, and been a little more exposed to challenges from this point of view.  It’s all a learning process from here as I become more and more familiar with exactly what happens on a manufacturing floor.

Horse Background
We’ve had horses in our backyard since I was born.  My mother roded and jumped since she was a teen, and had taken up driving later in life.  She did some pleasure driving but also did combined driving (which is essentially cross country driving).

(not my mother, but look how fun that looks!)

She would sometimes pick me up from the bus stop in the horse and carriage: which always prompted SO much discussion from my fellow schoolmates on the bus.  “Do you have a car?!”  “Are you Amish?!”  “Er.. you saw my mom pick me up in a car yesterday…”  I probably started actively and consistently taking lessons and riding when I was 10 or 12 (I can’t remember, I know).  Since then, I’ve done a little bit of everything.  I’ve participated in foxhunting, hunter paces, trail riding, 4H horse shows, plenty of breed shows (Quarter Horse, Appaloosa) doing both English/Hunter and even some showmanship, driving, etc.  I’ve kept my horse at home, and I’ve boarded in a few places, and been with a few trainers (and have even showed just me and my mom).  Primarily, I’d consider myself a hunter rider.  I don’t have the nerves for cross country.  Never really did jumpers either, as I had horses that were competitive as hunters and that’s how I got my jumping fix.

 So that’s me in a nutshell.  Next up: the four legged man in my life who this blog is named after!

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Welcome to the blog!

I’m 100% completely and totally new to writing in the blogosphere (if that’s not obvious), so I’m not entirely sure what exactly your first post should be.  I guess a little description about what I plan to write about would be helpful.

This is the Horse in the Checkered Suit: a play off one of my favorite horse-related movies of all time, The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit:

An absolute must-see if you’re any sort of a horse fan.  It’s a charming story about how a marketing father gets a beautiful gray horse for his daughter as an attempt to kill two birds with one stone: marketing a indigestion medicine and fulfill his daughter’s dreams of owning a horse.  There’s not much to the story, but watching this gorgeous gray jump and all of the old school equestrian style is worth it.

Anywho, as it may be obvious to the reader by now, I enjoy horses.  Well, I also enjoy textiles and sharing my knowledge of textiles and common misconceptions (or gimmicks) placed around them by clever marketing agencies and how to spot apparel items of good quality.  I got a BS in Polymer and Color Chemistry, or, in simple terms, textile chemistry, with gives me a little bit of scientific background to what we’re dealing with here.  So, you’ll get a little bit of both here in this blog: things about horses, things about textiles, and even things about horsey textiles!  So thus, the name: combining a little bit of horse fun, and a little bit of fabric fun.

I’ll introduce THE horse in the checkered suit in a few posts.  Stay tuned!

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