Sunday, January 22, 2017

Good Day - Bad Day

This past Saturday, I went and had a riding lesson again.  Well, I paid for a lesson, but really it was just me and Mulan in the arena, free to do whatever!  Tsukako-san took a lesson in the corner of the arena, while Mulan and I rode in big L shapes along the other two sides.  The snow was even deeper this time, so I kept her mostly to the path along the fence.

I started at a walk for a bit, then trot, then eased her into a canter.  I was warned that since it was a bigger area, she would want to RUN and I would have to hold her back.  She did want to take off at first, but she also listened well.  Still, she is a little freight train!  I hadn't really had the chance yet to see how she handled, outside of going in circles, or the one time we galloped down the Yabusame track.  I now know that she can turn quickly!  She came close to unseating me just once - as I was figuring this out - but I stayed with her.  I had a lot of fun trying out different things and I was so happy that much of what I had learned about training and riding over the years came back to me (I've been afraid I would forget everything).  Particularly, I remembered things I had learned from Buck Brannaman about opening and closing doors.  I had some neat moments with that.  Mulan is certainly "handy".  

At the end of the ride, Bandi-san asked me to join her and Tsukako-san in their corner.  She took pictures of us with her phone and when I handed her mine, she asked if I'd like pictures of us running.  Yes!  So, Mulan and I took off and did a wonderful "hot lap" of the whole arena.  Bandi-san took a lot of pictures.


Where are they?

Well, that brings us to the bad day part of the post.

I had carried my phone in my coat pocket during last week's lesson and did it again this time.  At some point during my ride, I realized it was gone; it had fallen out of my pocket.  My concern was being able to find it in the deep snow.  Luckily, I found it.  Unluckily. it had been stepped on.  It was *bent*.  It worked long enough for Bandi-san to take pictures and I hoped that meant all was well, but it wasn't.

Jeff and I went into our cell phone provider and they gave me a loaner phone while sending mine off for either repairs or replacement.  They asked if I wanted to back up anything from it, but at that point it was stuck in a constant restart cycle and that wasn't an option.  I was fairly confident that my auto backup would have all of the pictures saved.

I just checked and...  yes, all of my pictures, video, etc. are preserved...  except the pictures of me on Mulan this past Saturday.  :(  I guess the backup didn't get a chance to happen before the phone went into it's death throes.


It was still a good day, afterward riding we hung out in the office for a while, having a snack, some hot tea, and good conversation,  I met a new horse-loving friend named Hana and we talked quite a bit, mostly about horses!  As we were all leaving, she shook my hand and then gave me a hug.  :)

Killed phone and all, it really was another good day.

Since I have no pictures of the day, here's a picture of my cat.  Cat pictures are always good, right?

She was passed out in between us on the couch last night, while I cross stitched and Jeff worked on one of his R/C controllers.

Monday, January 16, 2017

No Excuses

I'm good at making excuses.

There.  I said it.

I have SO many projects and things I want to do, but it seems I'm much better at preparing than doing.  Then come the excuses.

I have an Arabian costume started for Stablemate scale.  It's been "started" for a bit now and I've been feeling like I want to work on it lately.  One thing holding me up is that I don't have a saddle tree made for that scale.  I'm at the stage where I can't go much further without one.  So that was my excuse every time the creative bug has said, "hey, you should work on that".

I don't think I can make THAT particular excuse anymore.

Here's what I made last night:

I am SO happy with how they turned out!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

MUCH Needed Ride

Yesterday I went out to the Misawa Horse Park again.  My new friend, Tsukako-san, told me she would be going out to take a lesson.  I didn't feel up to taking an actual Yabusame lesson; I told her I was embarrassed that I haven't been doing the "hundreds of squats" that I'd declared I needed to do after my first attempt to ride Yabusame style.  I did want to ride though and thought maybe I could pay for a "free ride session" and just cruise around for a bit while she had her lesson.

I ended up taking a lesson with Tsukako-san, we both rode together and Banri-san (the instructor) gave us a basic riding lesson.  My mount was Mulan, the horse that I've ridden each time out there.  Turns out she is the boss of the herd and she is also much faster than Orphee, Tsukako-san's mount.  We started with me following, but Mulan was a horrible tailgater, being much faster in her gaits, and I had a hard time keeping her from being up Orphee's rump.  So we switched and I was our front leading the laps, but then I had to listen for changes from walk to trot, and also when Banri-san called out for circles and change of direction.  It went fairly well, Mulan was much happier to be out on the lead.

After we trotted around and around for what seemed like forever (I was made aware that I'm not in tip-top riding shape anymore!), we took turns having laps at the canter.  Mulan and I went first and did a bunch of laps at the canter.  It was SO much fun and certainly a much needed ride.

As Tsukako-san took her turn at the canter laps, Mulan and I hung out in the center.  I fished out my phone and snapped a picture to remember the ride.

We walked a few more laps, then rode back to the barn.  Before I hopped down, I asked Banri-san if she would get some pictures with my phone.

Another thing of note: you might notice the snow on Mulan's legs.  We did the entire lesson in almost knee-deep snow!  It was also quite cold, but riding kept us warm.

After the lesson, I was invited to stay and have lunch.  They were having a get together and cooking what seemed to be the Japanese version of gumbo - all sorts of things thrown into a pot - cooked over a log on end with a fire in the middle.  It was very good and I tried some crazy stuff - fish parts that I won't mention.  Thankfully, I'm not a very picky eater and was brave enough to try all of the "scary food" (as someone joked).  Then we went and hung out for a little bit in their office type building, with a kerosene heater running, had coffee and tea, and a good chat about learning Nihongo (Japanese language) and English.  I made new friends and had a wonderful time.

It was the best day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Updates and A Wonderful New Tool

I decided to take a bit of a studio break after launching my Patreon page, the building of which has taken up a lot of my time and brainpower, particularly over the past couple of weeks.  I'm SO excited to have my first patron on there already (Thank you again so very much, Katherine!) and I'm having fun getting my blog and picture sharing going over there.

One of the challenges I was having was to make a cool banner picture.  I had a vision, but was really struggling to make it work.  I stumbled across this site which has a FREE photo collage builder!  They have other photo editing tools as well, but the Collage Maker was the only one I tried.  It was an awesome find and without much trouble at all, I created this:

(another tip: the center image is actually another collage that I made, saved, and inserted into the one with the larger Japanese horse pictures)

Afterwards I went on to make a collage of pictures to advertise one of our laser products (with lots of options) and I will be going back to make many more collages I'm thinking.

Also in the update department, the response to my custom horse giveaway/incentive program is promising and exciting.  I already have a few people offering show homes to my creations and I'm very much looking forward to getting all of that up and running!

If you are interested in participating, feel free to send me an e-mail (, or message me on my Facebook page.

Aside from taking a minor studio break, yesterday I went back into "laser mode" for our laser cutting/engraving business, which is my "day job".  Worked on some orders, did some design work and ran the machine for a little while.  I'm still trying to work out a schedule to fit in ALL of the things.  I had thought I'd do a few hours of each (ie: laser and studio) every day, but it seems to work out better if I devote most of a day to one or the other, really get into the zone.  So maybe I'll alternate days and see how that works.

In the travel department: We have two trips coming up.  In early February we are going to the Sapporo Snow Festival.  It should be quite an adventure!  We'll be riding an "overnight ferry" to get up there, a first for me for sure.  Sapporo is on the island of Hokkaido, north of the main island, Honshu, which we are on.  I've been wanting to go to Hokkaido for quite some time, as that's where most of the Thoroughbred breeding farms are, including Big Red Farm - home of Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another.  Alas, on this trip there will be no horses, since it is a guided tour we are going on.  I suppose winter is not the best time to visit anyhow.

In April we will be going back to the U.S. for a visit!  It promises to be a whirlwind tour of most of the country.  We are quite spread out, having family, friends, places to be, in just about all four corners, plus the middle - I'm talking to you, Colorado and South Dakota!

I think that about covers all of the updates on the goings on here.

Oh, yeah...  it's been SNOWING!  :D

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Okay *gulp* here we go!

First up, a few days ago I posted asking "Do you show?"  I've always been curious about that, but it also ties in with my first announcement.

That is:


I am going to be giving some horses away.  That's right: FREE.  I'll even pay the shipping to you.  It's not a contest or drawing and there are no strings attached, but a few small conditions.

Basically, I'm looking to get more of my custom work out there in the world, and showing.  I had planned to do that myself, after coming back from my hobby hiatus, but, then, well...  Japan.  So I've decided that I'd like to give some of my work away, with some conditions:

1 - I'm looking for people who show and will show the horse that they get.  You don't to be hardcore, I don't even have a "minimum" number of shows in mind or anything like that, but since I'm doing this to get my creations out there, at least some shows would be good.  I would prefer them to go to live shows, but if you are active in photo showing and will add them to your string, that's good too.

2 - You have to let me know how they do at the shows!  I'm wanting to get better and better with my work, so I would welcome any feedback, good or bad - as long as it's constructive.  And of course I'd love to brag about them if they do well.  ;)

3 - If you ever decide to sell them, please offer them back to me first.  I'd like to keep track of them and I'm not doing this so that someone can "flip" a free horse.  I'll have quite a bit of time into each one of them and I'd like to keep track of them if I can.  At the end of the day though, they will be your horse, to do with whatever you'd like.

That's it!

Overall the horse will be "artist's choice", but I would like to match everyone up with horses they are interested in - and more eager to show! - so I plan to at least ask what type of horse you'd like and if there are any that you don't want.  As far as more details on what is offered: for now they will be Stablemates, repaints only or possibly repaint/hair if you are interested in that sort of thing.  (I still enjoy doing them, but I realize they are apparently "SO ___ years ago"... haha)  I have many Stablemate remodels too and eventually might add some of them to the program.

I really have no idea how much interest there will be in this, so I don't have a limit set right now on how many I will give away or when this ends, but you might want to act fast in case the response is bigger than I'm expecting!  ;)

For now I am ONLY offering this to the followers on my blog and Facebook page.  I don't plan to "go public" (if I do at all) until you guys get a chance at this first.

I'm still gathering some of my thoughts for down the road with this.  I'd like to turn it into some sort of incentive club.  Possibly after you show the horse X number of times, you can have another horse if you like.  Also, anyone in the "club" would get a discount on any horses that I might sell in the future.  Things like that.  It will be evolving over time, but for now: let me know if you are interested, and willing to commit to showing your new horse.  Then I'll start playing matchmaker.  ;)

I aim for LSQ with my work, which is a subjective term, so I won't jump up and down and say that I absolutely do LSQ work.  However, before my hiatus, I had man NAN-qualified custom horses, as well as a small handful of Champions and Reserves in limited showing.  I'm a bit rusty now getting back into the swing of things, but still managed to get fresh NAN cards on a bunch of my horses (old and new) before our big move.

My herd of custom minis with their winnings at a live show in March 2015

That's announcement number one.

*deep breath*

Number two is:


What is Patreon?  In a nutshell, it's a platform that allows creators and those who wish to support them to get together.  I learned about it several months ago and thought it sounded like a really fun thing to try and, well, I'm finally doing it.  It took me a while to decide what I'd like to focus on there and I settled on, no surprise: horses.  My page will be a fusion of photography - focusing on horses and events here in Japan - along with my model horse projects.

What does all of this mean for my blog?

Nothing, really.  I still plan to post here regularly (aiming for everyday, or as close as I can to that) and I will still be sharing a lot of things from Japan on here, just like I always have.  More tutorials are also in the works.  However, I've got some really big plans for my creative and horse-loving journey, starting this year, and I thought it'd be fun to explore Patreon as a platform to develop and share some of them.

It's uncomfortable to "ask for money" and that is something I certainly don't enjoy doing.  That's the number one reason why it's taken me so long to launch my own page on there.  I certainly don't want anyone to feel like they *have* to pay me anything, but if you'd like to support what I'm doing and what I have planned, that's great.  Either way, I will still be creating a lot of free content, like I always have - but I thought I'd give a try to a new platform that puts a lot of emphasis on community building and growth between creator and patrons.

Please take a look at my page here:  Horse Tender Studio on Patreon

I've put a lot of work into it and I'd love to know what you think!

And now I'm going to take a nap.

The very first picture I put up on my new page, appropriate for new beginnings.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tomorrow Is The Day

Okay, I'm committing myself.  (to the loony bin?  maybe I should...  ha!)

In tomorrow's post, I will be spilling ALL of the beans on my "big plans" - ready or not.

A glimpse of some of the craziness going on today in my last rush before "launch":

I am going to make a video of myself.

Oh my.

I am NOT an "on camera" person.  However, it's good to get out of your comfort zone, right?  Right...?

Excuse me, while I go take a dive out of it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Skittles Made Me Do It

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quick Post - Blankets Going Up!

Thanks to everyone who answered my question on "Do you show?" it was fun to read your comments!

I spent most of yesterday working hard on one of the two things that I plan to launch very soon.  I'm hoping to possibly wrap up preparations today and then put some time into the other one this weekend.  I'm *hoping* to announce them both by Monday.  I'm not trying to be so vague, but my anxiety and negative self talk has been through the roof about both of these things ("everyone is going to laugh at you!"... and such), so I'm trying to get everything "perfect" before showing my ideas to the world.  There's no such thing as perfect, I know...

ANYway, I've just listed the very first Stablemate blanket to my Etsy shop!  I decided to start with the baby blankets.  As soon as I hit "post" on this, I'm going to be back on there listing a few more.

Then it's back to work on my oh-so-secret big ideas.  Eeee!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Quick Question: Do You Show?

I'm curious how many of my readers show their model horses, so I thought I'd ask!

Do you show?

Live show?

Photo show?



Aside from curiosity, there's another reason I'm asking.  It has to do with one of my big announcements coming later this week (or early next week).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Baby Blanket and Big News Coming Soon

The last couple of evenings, I've been working away on more Stablemate blankets.  Last night, I finished my first official project for the year: a foal blanket in a baby blue color.

It is modeled after real foal blankets, with a belly band and velcro closures.  I was happy to find that some velcro I had bought a year or so ago is thin enough to work!  (I also recently bought some online that is supposed to be suited specifically for such things, but maybe I don't need it after all - oh well, it will get used I'm sure!)

I also made another baby blanket:

In my typical assembly line style, I did a round of buckle making and hip dart sewing.  Then I organized the last round of straps and buckles that I'd glued and pressed from the night before.

I'm planning to have at least the first few Stablemate blankets listed in my Etsy shop by the end of the week - including these foal blankets.

Now for a quick mention of two big announcements that I have coming up.  I have been working on them quietly for a little while now and I think it's juuust about time to "go public".  Though I am very nervous, I must push on through.

The first is an exciting (new to me) platform for building a community of creators and supporters.

The second involves... free horses - not for me!  *hint hint*

Those are all of the hints that you get for now.  I'm hoping to launch both of them by the end of this week/beginning of next week at the latest.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Motivation Monday - New Year 2017 Edition

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might already know that...  I like Mondays.  For me they represent a fresh start to the week, a new chance to "start again", if needed, and keep marching forward.  So, I suppose it's only natural that the New Year feels like a BIG reset button - for many of us, not just me.  With that in mind, I present my Happy 2017 version of Motivation Monday. As always, I hope you have a wonderful week.  I hope you are are able to start the new year off by chasing whatever it is your heart says you need to chase.  (I'm doing just that!)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day In Japan

First off:


We didn't have any plans for New Year's Eve this time around.  Last year we'd made the 5 hour drive south to Sendai city for their "Pageant of Starlight".  It was stunning - every tree along a wide downtown street is completely covered in lights.  We did the trip down and back in one (long) day, making it back to Hachinohe city (not far from where we live) right before midnight.  We'd heard that at all of the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples have celebrations to bring in the new year.  We managed to find a small shrine (and more importantly find parking!) just in time last year.

This year, we decided not to make the trek to Sendai, but instead decided to go and try to see the celebration at one of the Shinto shrines in Hachinohe.

At the last minute, I decided to take Chewie with me, snapping a quick picture of him in the car.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get any pictures of him at the shrine in the dark.

We got there around 10:30pm and it was not dark at the shrine!  In fact, the area was very well lit.  So I snapped a quick picture with the Torii gate to enter the shrine in the background.

Lighting in the area was done with a lot of lamp posts and such, but also many beautiful lanterns...

...and some fire.

There were two braziers of fire, right outside the main Torii gate and each one had a crowd gathered around for most of the time we were there.  It was very cold and the warmth of the fire was very nice.

The picture above was taken just before midnight.  The line of people that you see are a tiny part of a massive line that led into the shrine and up to the spot where people pray.

We stayed until just after midnight, when a cheer spread through the crowd and the line began moving to the prayer spot, and then we headed home.

Today (New Year's) we thought we'd go on a drive, maybe do a bit of shopping if any of the stores were open.

I happened to see a message on Facebook about a big sale on yarn going on at one of the malls.  I told my friend Holly, who has a crochet business, and she set out to see if she could score some yarn (boy, did she!).

She called after a while to warn us that if we were headed down there, that the roads were packed, she barely found parking, and the mall was a sea of people.  'What was going on?', I had wondered.

It seems that New Year's Day is the equivalent of Black Friday.  Huge sales, everyone (or so it seemed) heads to the mall to shop.

We finally managed to find a parking spot out in the boonies and made our way into the crowd.  The mall recently reopened after a massive remodeling project and I'd been eager to see how the craft store (one of my favorite places to shop here) was looking now.  I was also curious what other sales, in addition to the yarn, that they might have.

It turns out that in addition to the yarn sale - which was: all of the yarn you could stack and then dump into a basket for 1,000 yen (basically $10) - they had another deal where they had a large bin of scrap leather and anything you could fit into a ziplock bag, was 1,000 yen as well.

Did I do that?  You bet!

Here's my bag (pencil for scale):

I'm happy to report that I was able to get every piece that I wanted (barely) to fit into the bag - AND close it.  Before I took my turn, there was a woman CRAMMING leather into her bag and trying to get it to close, so I wasn't the only one trying to make the most of it, haha.

The first thing I'd seen were some of the colors: reds, blues, metallics.  All small pieces, perfect for model horse projects, and about everything I got seems to be good stuff: small grain, smooth, most of it already thin.  There are even several pieces of very thin, super soft suede!

I had to dump everything out and get a quick picture.

I think my favorites are the metallic light blue pieces, one on top here.

After the craft store, we wandered around in the crowd a bit, poking our head into a couple of other stores, and then slowly made our way back out of the mall.  It was a experience, that's for sure!

In the end, I'm glad that we braved what appeared to be the Japanese version of Black Friday and I'm really excited about the scrap leather find!!

I'd say this year is off to a great start!

Oh, and Holly's yarn score?  She managed to stack and dump into her basket: 43 skeins of yarn..  for 1,000 yen ($10).  She is an avid Lego builder and she said her brick stacking skills helped.