I'll try to keep this brief, because Lord knows I can go on sometimes.
* My little mare is turning into a really nice ride. :) I have had several great rides in the past week, the sort of rides I could never have had last year. For example: I didn't get to ride at all during the week of Christmas. We did have a lesson on Christmas Eve, though, and I wasn't about to skip it. So I got Rev out, tacked her up, longed her a bit, and hopped on -- and she was completely ridable for the lesson. Com. Pletely. Then, on Monday, after not riding on Sunday, she was so good under saddle, so willing, that I just wanted to squeal and hug her neck like a kid. It was one of those days when all she has to do is exist to make me just the happiest camper in the world, and all I really needed was to sit on her to feel like we'd done something. So I pulled the saddle off and we hacked around a while bareback. I love getting to do that. :) And it's something I could never have done a year ago.
* I got a gift card to the FLTS from my best friends for Christmas. OMG, y'all. The Sprinkler Bandit and I went to the shop and absolutely banditized it. Okay, maybe not banditized, but I felt like I got a lot for the money. We traded a couple of things, and after a few more things moved from her place to mine (a great relief to her husband, I'm sure!), we're even on the trade of the Tipperary vest. The final tally, after trades and purchases, ended up being:
1 fleece jacket on consignment
1 pair of cedar boot trees on consignment (the woman at the register tried to insist that the boot trees were $20 EACH, not $20 for the pair. I was boggled. And glad I caught the error.)
2 saddle covers
1 bottle of Effax Ledercombi (more on this in a bit)
1 set of black ThinLine reins
1 pair Kerrits Sit Tight & Warm breeches
1 nibble net
1 Ultimate Hoofpick
1 royal blue grooming tote
So yeah. I am utterly thrilled with all of it. :) Of course, I need a new lead rope and completely forgot to get one -- ah well. They're inexpensive.
* 25 years ago, my parents gave me my very first piece of tack: a Courbette bridle. It was gorgeous, top of the line for the price they were willing to pay, and very well-made. I used that bridle up until two years ago, is how good it was. My father also picked out some leather cleaner and conditioner to go with it. He was the sort of guy who believed in buying something nice and then taking good care of it, so he got the best cleaners he could: Effax Ledercombi and Lederbalsam. I suspect that the fact that he spoke German and believed in German engineering and quality had something to do with it.
I hadn't bought another bottle/bucket of the Effax products again since -- other tack shops didn't carry it as I was growing up, and all I remembered was that it was in an orange container, smelled like something utterly delicious, and the package was printed in German. Once I finally made the connection, though, I wanted to get some for myself as an adult.
The smell of the cleaner and the conditioner evokes incredibly strong memories of my father and of the horse-crazy girl I was and remain. I was so unutterably thrilled at having My Own Bridle then, and I cleaned it as often as I could. I had finally become an official horse rider, because I had a durable thing as proof of my commitment.
Ledercombi smells, to me, like commitment, joy, and my dad's belief in quality -- and his desire to get me the right thing, the most effective thing, and the thing best designed to help me get where I wanted to be.
I cleaned my dressage tack this afternoon after I rode. I can't think of a better smell than the combination of warm, dry horse, leather, and Ledercombi. This is my favorite life ever.