Monday, 27 November 2017 10:37

Keep Dreaming

When your dreams come true, sometimes they don’t look quite like you imagined. Years of yearning can mean that reality can be a little harsh, and the inevitable complications that come all too often with horses can be challenging. I spent twenty years learning to ride on riding school horses and having other people’s horses on loan, but during that time I dreamed of a horse to call my own. It wasn’t until two years ago that I was finally able to buy Archie, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing…

In the early days Archie was a scrawny 5 year old who was full of potential but also full of quirks. He refused to lead, regularly planting himself on the yard and steadfastly refusing to move. The embarrassing sweaty argument that ensued was miserable for all involved and often meant it could take ten minutes to walk the twenty metres to the arena.
A dirty, scrawny but beautifully dappled 5 year old Archie once we finally made it to the arena!

A grey who is scared of water sounds like a terrible idea right? Indeed it was! He was petrified of the stuff, and being the worst colour of all a bath could easily take up to two hours with a sponge and endless reassurance. He was also scared of the hose and spray (spray bottles being an issue we still haven’t quite cracked!) so washing off legs and summer rinse downs were challenging.

Being young and fairly inexperienced I knew I had work to do on his schooling, and our first challenge was the  left canter lead which Archie didn’t know existed. He was always  more balanced on the right and he would chose it every time no matter how many different ways I asked. I was also stronger on my right side which made everything more tricky, and it took weeks of work to get him to even think about cantering comfortably on the left.

Apart from a fear of spray bottles most of theses quirks have now been ironed out. We have had a whole host more problems since then but we have worked on our differences and we understand each other better. A lot of hard work and even more love has meant that Archie has become the horse of my dreams; my horse of a lifetime. I’m lucky because I know it doesn’t always work out that way. When I first realised this dream it didn’t look quite like I expected it to, but two years on it is everything I imagined it could be. Keep dreaming, and one day your dreams will come true!
 
 

Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog

 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs
Friday, 20 October 2017 09:30

V for Victorious | Equestrian Fashion

I love discovering special brands who clearly have a real passion for what they do and I’ve always loved handmade/artisan jewellery.  Recently, I was approached by Viki, from Victorious, who introduced me to her brand and I’ve been an advocate ever since.

I spent the day with the wonderful Lizzie Churchill,  looking through some products which we both adored.  Below are some of my favourite pieces. These can all be found on the Victorious website, here.

The pieces look great by themselves or stacked up. As usual I went overboard on the stacking!

 

What I really love is the rustic feel of the jewellery. While Vikki has a mix of country/equestrian pieces, of course my favourite was the equestrian themed pieces. I particularly loved the double stirrup necklace pictured below.

This jewellery is really versatile and can be worn for pretty much any occasion.

x

A Country Lady


 
 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 14 September 2017 10:58

Part Three: Riding Above Fear | Anna Blake

This is what we knew then: It started with a dream of dancing hooves and a flowing mane. He was strong and fast, and you couldn’t tell where he stopped and you started.

This is what we know now: Your horse is frightened and you know it. Or you’re frightened and your horse knows it. And it doesn’t matter who started it. You’re here now.

(Part One explained how a horse’s anxiety gets confused with disobedience when we don’t listen to his calming signals. In Part Two, we redefined fear. Now we call that emotion common sense.)

Then Corey left this comment:

So the only few lines or paragraph I would have liked to have seen …is the one describing all the methodologies out there one can try, with time and patience and constant forgiveness, before sending a misunderstood horse away to yet another home where lordy knows what will be done to him. IMHO……..

Okay, here goes. If you think this frightened horse is almost within your skill range and you have the aforementioned time and patience and constant forgiveness… or if you have acquired a huge dose of fear common sense but think your horse would be okay if you relaxed…

Begin here: Make sure your horse is sound. No, really, have the vet check him over. Call a chiropractor who does acupuncture. If the horse is the problem, he usually has a problem. Then, be safe. Wear a helmet. Remove your watch and work in horse time. Take good and kind care of both of you.

Anxiety is normal on both sides. Pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t the same thing as releasing it. Acknowledge the weird balance of dread and enthusiasm. Forgive each other again. Then know that this process will take some time.

Words matter. Negative corrections aren’t effective. Yelling “NO!” is a dead end. It isn’t instructive to horse or human. It’s right up there with yelling “Don’t be afraid!” or “Quit grabbing the reins!” or “Stop running!” Telling yourself or your horse what to not do is like trying to deny reality. Instead, create a new reality by using simple, clean, positive words like “Walk on.” “Breathe.” “Well done.” In other words…

Less correction. More direction.

Start at the beginning. Is there resistance during haltering? At the first sign of anxiety, pause and breathe. Humans tend to speed up when we get nervous. Before we know it, we’re wrestling with a thousand-pound flight animal, when slowing down in the first place could resolve the anxiety on both sides while it was still small and manageable. Go slow.

Then do something mysterious. Take the halter off and leave.

When you both volunteer for the halter, proceed to ground work. Ask for something small, like walking next to you, but you stay out of his space as much as he stays out of yours. Walk together independently. Take time to get it right; let him test your patience.

Think less about whether he’s right or wrong, and more about what your senses are telling you. Practice being less complacent. What are his ears saying? Use all your senses to “listen” to your horse. Soften your visual focus by using peripheral vision to see a wider view of your surroundings. In other words…

Less brain chatter. More physical awareness.

Listen to his calming signals. Cue his movement with your feet instead of your hands. Laugh when he gets it right, and even more when you do. Keep at it until both of you have let go of all the breath you’ve been holding. Then feel the anxiety begin to shift.

Stay with ground work for as long as you want. Build confidence by ground driving and doing horse agility. Your horse doesn’t care if you ever ride him again. Your relationship isn’t defined by proximity; it’s defined by trust. If you don’t share confidence on the ground there’s no reason to think it will magically appear when you’re in the saddle.

When it feels right, groom him and tack up. Go for a walk in the arena and stop at the mounting block. Check the strap on your helmet and climb the steps. Lay a soft hand on his neck and if he’s nervous, breathe until his poll releases. Until his eyes relax. Until he is peaceful and your belly is soft.

Only go as far as the beginning of anxiety and stop there. Release it while it’s still just a flash of an idea.

Then be mysterious again. Step down and go untack him. Remember where you started and celebrate the progress you’ve both made. Know there will be setbacks, so let this time be precious.

Find a good ground coach. Someone who is calm and breathes well. Then take tiny challenges, one after another. Slow and steady, throw your leg over and sit in the saddle at the mounting block. Breathe and feel your thigh muscles. They might need some air, too. Remember you love your horse and melt what is frozen. Dismount without taking a step and call it a win.

Next time, take a few steps. You don’t need to feel like you’re alone on the high dive… ask your ground coach to click on a lead rope and walk beside you and your horse to start. Take baby steps so everyone succeeds. There is no shame in working as a team. Then climb off before you want to.

Think rhythm. All good things for horses happen rhythmically: chewing, walking, breathing. All bad things come with a break in rhythm: bucking, bolting, spooking. Good riding for the horse means rhythm so that’s your first concern.

You can count your breath, focus on your sit-bones like a metronome, or ride to music. Whatever you like, just so it connects your spine to your horse’s movement in a slow, confidence-building rhythm. Then walk on.

When emotions arise, notice them. Refuse to demonize yourself or your horse. Breathe until the feelings get bored and leave.

This is the secret: Remember that science says that a horse’s response time is seven times quicker than ours? While they come apart ridiculously fast, they can also come back together quickly, if we ask them to. Humans believe in a snowball effect; if the horse shakes his head or any other small infraction, the inevitable end is a train wreck.

It isn’t true. If you take a breath as soon as you feel anxiety in your horse, and he will do the same. Other days, your horse might notice you go tense and blow his breath out so loud that you hear it and take his cue.

It’s a partnership; sometimes we carry them and sometimes they carry us. It doesn’t matter who starts it. Just so we all come home safe.

Then one day you notice that the dark thoughts are rare. Instead, you’re distracted by something bright and shiny. It’s your childhood dream, balanced with common sense, right here in real life.


annaprof150Anna Blake is a horse advocate, equine professional, award-winning author, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. She trains horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and writes parables about horses and life. | Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

 

Books By Anna Blake

annab150

 

Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 31 August 2017 17:30

To Give Up Or To Give It One More Shot?

With every challenge or obstacle in life, there is always the underlying question as to whether you should give up or give it one more shot when times get tough. I recently read ‘Forever Amber’ by Katy Dixon, and as it so truthfully says

“When the impossible is your reality, be prepared to fight harder”.

Whether you are a child trying to learn to ride your bike and can’t quite grasp the concept without stabilisers or you’re trying to perfect your canter or jump your biggest course, there are times in life when giving up feels like the only option. It’s impossible, I can’t do it. It’s just easier to walk away.

Now this isn’t a sob story, oh no, see I want this to be a motivational post to anyone whose facing a difficult time or situation and just feels the need and want to give up. I want everyone to realise that there is always a glimpse of hope in any situation and that this should be your foundation on which to grow. As most of you will have seen on my profile, I recently got a new horse called Freddie! He’s 16’2hh with the biggest pony personality and honestly one of the kindest horses I have ever met. He’s such a food addict for a thoroughbred but we could work with that, after all it’s better than a worrier! So the countdown began from the 21st May for my new superstar to come home once I’d finished my A Level exams. However a phone call on the 15th June was one of those heart sinking moments where to give up or give it one more shot became real. 

Freddie was staying at the racing yard he’d retired from which is a stone’s throw away from where my horses are kept now, which meant I could still visit him even though he wasn’t with me full time. On the 15th June 2017 I got a phone to say that Freddie had contracted a swelling on his near fore tendon. I was heartbroken and so worried as a suspected tendon injury as we all know could jeopardise a horse’s future and wellbeing altogether. It was also awful timing with a history exam the very next day! But nevertheless the vets were contacted and Freddie was due to be scanned the following week. 

Wednesday 21st June Freddie travelled down to Whitelodge Veterinary Clinic. He got off the lorry happy as larry, even in the sweltering heat and was such a good boy standing impeccably the whole time. I was so proud of him. We had the best man on the job, Phil our vet is honestly the best in the South West, especially anything leg related, his advice and verdict was to be crucial. After carrying out the X-ray Phil confirmed our worst nightmare, Freddie had injured his superficial digital flexor tendon. To be precise he had created a complete hole, more than likely caused in his last race but had come to the surface a few weeks later, Phil classed it as a 3/10 injury. I was heartbroken, my darling Freddie was injured and there was nothing that could be done. I tried to remain positive and held onto the thought that Freddie was not lame or actually feeling any pain, he was as happy as ever eating away, not a worry in the world! Phil explained a rehab plan which included:

4/5 months of complete controlled rest 
Ice treatment for no more than one hour at a time for around 2/3 weeks until swelling reduced
Bandage both front legs- gradually after 3/4 weeks begin to take bandages off for around 4 hours and then if no swelling or heat appears keep bandages off for longer etc.
NOT complete box rest- a controlled environment (small paddock + stable) – must not gallop! 

Walk him gently and gradually 

 A lot of discussions were now needed with my parents as to what we were going to do.

This wasn’t the same as purchasing your average horse. Freddie has lived a million stories, he’s battled through the good and the bad and having been at a national hunt yard from age 4-9 and then the point to point yard for the last two seasons, he sure has given it his all. Freddie was a horse that deserved this chance, no it wasn’t ideal, it sounded completely obscured to most people. But from the very first day I met him I had the biggest dreams for him and they still stand, I know he will be a superstar. My amazing parents agreed that I could give Freddie this chance and after agreeing it with the owner of the pony which I ride and where Freddie would be staying, the countdown began again! 

 

14th August 2017- 84 days since my countdown began back in May, after trying and falling in love with Fred, he finally made his way home. To say he was excited was an understatement! Being a 4 minute walk down the road to his new home, it was much easier than fussing about with travelling! After over 8 weeks on confined rest, he saw his bridle and thought “Yeehaaa!” So I walked my 18hh+ stallion home clinging to the reins for dear life and thinking “Oh dear god what have I done?!?!” But Freddie being the Freddie I knew settled immediately, happily snacking away on his haynet and poking his head out to talk to his new friends! Definitely time for a cuppa by this point! 

Freddie has been such an angel since, he’s been walked out in hand, behaving so, so well and has begun to go out by day in his little paddock. He’s as happy as anything as his ‘all-inclusive holiday’ has continued! Not sure when to warn him he’s not retired …!! I honestly feel so lucky to be able to keep my boy with my other best friends, they all get on so well which is so important. For now its lots of care for his leg, lots of good food to keep him looking and feeling well and lots of kisses and cuddles! (He’s getting bored of these already!!)  

I know Freddie will be a superstar, and I have the biggest of dreams for him. One day I hope everyone will have heard of OHIO GOLD, for being the true champion he is. I love him dearly and can’t wait for the real adventures to begin. But for now, that’s our story, chapter one I like to call it of a book that I am sure will be a rollercoaster journey but whether it be up or down, to have my lionhearted best friend by my side means the absolute world to me. 

 
Stay tuned for more updates! 
Kaitlin & Freddie xx
Published in Member Blogs
Wednesday, 30 August 2017 11:42

Part Two: Now I’m Afraid | Anna Blake

[Part One: My Horse Betrayed Me.]

Something bad happened. The details don’t need to be repeated for me to understand. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was; whether it was you or your horse. Excuses don’t help and emotions are rarely swayed by logic. Your trust has been broken.

Now you feel fear. Fear in the saddle. Fear about horses in general, but most importantly, fear toward your own horse. 

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist; I just act like it when I give riding lessons. 

First, can we all admit that tight feeling in the gut is something we have all know well? There is nothing unusual about a feeling of anxiety while climbing on a thousand-pound prey animal with keen senses and a flight response. It’s normal human instinct. 

The most common thing that good horsewomen tell me is that they don’t ride like they did when they were kids–as if that’s a bad thing. Kids don’t have good hands or clear cues; what I remember most is going where the horse wanted to because I had no steering. Some of us rode fast and bounced when we fell, but the truth remains. Riding wilder is not better. It frightens horses. Bravado or dumb luck will never qualify as good horsemanship.

And worst of all, there is a huge ration of self-loathing that comes along when a rider admits they’re timid. It takes up as much room in a rider’s heart as the fear does. It’s the self-loathing that hurts the most to hear and see in a client. I’m certain horses feel the same.

Well, words matter. I’m going go back and do some editing before we continue.

Now you feel fear common sense. Fear Common sense in the saddle. Fear Common sense about horses in general, but most importantly, fear common sense toward your own horse.

The problem isn’t that we have fear common sense, it’s that we love horses and aren’t giving them up. Now what?

In my experience, hard feelings grow in the dark. Most of us have some time or place that the bogey man threatens us. I won’t say ignore him; there’s usually a spark of truth there. You should be cautious about monsters under the bed (lock the house, be careful in parking lots, and yes, monitor the dangers of riding.) Part of that fear common sense is an instinct for self-preservation. Like a horse.

At the same time, it’s incredibly powerful to drag your bogey man out into the daylight. The first time you admit that you’re timid, your voice might quiver a bit but right after that, your heart starts beating again. Your jeans feel like you’ve lost weight. And you have.

Riders get told to relax because horses can read our emotions. It’s true but humans who listen with their eyes read them, too. It doesn’t matter what you think intellectually, how much experience you have with horses, or what you should have done. Act timid or act with bravado, but you aren’t fooling us, so why not admit it out loud?

Share your feelings. Notice that the rest of us are just like you and let go of the self-loathing part. Besides, a bogey man doesn’t have a chance in the broad daylight with a bunch of middle-aged women glaring at him.

And while we’re being honest, one more bit of sideways truth. However it happened that your trust was damaged, it wasn’t that you lost control of your horse. You never had control. As a recovering Type-A who thought she could steer her horse, and the rest of her life, to brilliant happiness, I feel qualified to say the sooner we get over thinking we can even control our hair, the better we’ll be.

Let it go. 

Forgive your horse. He responded by instinct; he didn’t betray you or want to hurt you. Forgive him because holding a grudge doesn’t work. Breathe and forgive him again. Feels good, doesn’t it?

If your fear common sense tells you he isn’t the horse for you, then lay down your silly ego and don’t be a martyr, owning him forever in purgatory. Confess that he’s the perfect horse… for someone else. Trade him for a horse who better suits you. It isn’t a failure to do what’s best for both of you.

Then forgive yourself. We are our own worst enemy and holding a grudge against our own instincts is crazy-making. Show your heart some tolerance and ask your brain to rest. Leave the trash talk to others.

Sit a little taller and remind yourself that you have a noble goal. To collaborate with another species in equality has been the life’s work of élite equestrians and children from the beginning of time. You have a rich heritage.

And there’s time. Horses are patient teachers and you’re lucky to have lifetime tuition. Buy the hay and you’re enrolled. On the ground or in the saddle, the lessons will be learned. Horses are perfect that way.

Most of all, count your blessings. Fear Common sense is not a tumor to be cut out. Fear Common sense isn’t a weakness, just as bravado isn’t courage. Think of it as a training aid. Fear is common sense trying to get your attention. Say thank you.

Word choice matters. We need to understand each other’s instincts for self-preservation because that’s how both species–horses and humans–will flourish.

If your fear is truly too big to have a conversation with and you freeze in the saddle and can’t breathe, just stop. If your anxiety is debilitating, get help from a real therapist. Do it for your horse, if not yourself. No joke. Having the bogey man with his hands on the reins is a truly dangerous place.

Short of that, just keep chipping away. Make friends with your instincts. Smile more. Reward yourself for small wins. Breathe. Go slow. Show yourself the kindness that you show your horse. Let him carry you to a better self.

Ever think about where courage comes from? It isn’t born of arrogance and success. It’s purchased, one drop at a time, by internal moments of persistence in the face of challenge.

You’ve got that. It’s holding to a truth about yourself. And then horses. In the process, keep your love just an inch bigger than your fear common sense and you’ll be fine.
 
[Next: Riding Above Fear.]

annaprof150Anna Blake is a horse advocate, equine professional, award-winning author, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. She trains horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and writes parables about horses and life. | Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

Books By Anna Blake

annab150

Published in Trot On Blogs

The smallest changes can sometimes reap the biggest rewards. Getting stuck in a rut is frustrating, and when you are happy to put in the work and are just desperate for an improvement it can just get infuriating when it doesn’t happen.  All I can say is perseverance is worth it…

A recent breakthrough for me was a very slight adjustment in my position which was made by an instructor. I hadn’t appreciated that my weight was every so slightly heavier at the back of my seat, and as a result I wasn’t following Archie’s movements, I was blocking him. By altering this I was able to allow him to move freely behind and not give him confusing mixed messages of forward with the leg but back with the seat and hand. This was the epiphany I needed! And wow did it make a difference. I suddenly found my leg position was more effective, I was more secure, and more importantly Archie was more settled.

What I felt in the moments at home when I put everything together on my own and managed to re-create the feelings I had in the lesson was such a moment of relief. It can be hard work when you want to improve and get better but you feel that things have stagnated, both for you and the horse. Getting a new opinion, a different perspective and some alternative advice (from someone you trust), might just open that door which is being so stubborn. I won’t go through all the details of our lesson, as every rider is different and what worked for me won’t necessarily work for those reading this, but I urge you all to think outside the box and if things are feeling stale don’t stop searching for you own epiphany.


joae150As it says on the tin, this is a personal blog about the journey Archie and I are taking in discovering the world of eventing. Archie is a 6 year old Irish gelding, and I am a 26 year old horse addict. I didn’t grow up in a family with horses, and Archie was the first horse I ever owned, having loaned for over 20 years. I hope that we can show other riders who perhaps don’t feel that they can achieve their dreams, that anything is possible!
 
 
Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog
 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 22 December 2016 10:43

Holidays and Horses

It’s the holiday season: families, friends, eating, travel, reflection, spirituality and gifts. Before running out to buy the new I-Phone or that GAP gift certificate, I’d like to share some thoughts with all of us lucky enough to have a horse in our life. As the years go by I become more aware of and grateful for the amazing gifts I receive not only from my horse Austin but from every horse I try and help.

I believe happiness is a feeling that spontaneously originates inside me. No matter what things or situations I have on the outside, if I look to them to keep me happy, my happiness eventually disappears. If I’m feeling good about myself, if my relationships are working positively, most of the time I feel happy. So the question becomes; if my happiness begins to fade as I start to get scratches on my new car, what can I do to help me feel good about myself and stay happy on the inside.

For me the answer is the same advice I got when I was a little kid: It’s called”The Golden Rule”: Treat others the way I want them to treat me and treat myself the same way. If I have a happy relationship with myself, I have a very good chance of having a happy relationship with others; spouse, partner, father, mother, son, daughter, friends, boss, etc. When my relationships bring me happiness, I feel even happier. It’s the ideal win-win situation.

The greatest teacher of The Golden Rule and all it’s ingredients I have ever known is the horse. From years of studying how horses treat each other in their relationships I now understand that they are treating me the same as they would another horse. I have discovered they possess the same 12 “Golden Rule” qualities that I want to be treated with from others as surely as they want me to use to treat them: acceptance, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, trust, consistency, honesty, justice, respect, compassion and forgiveness. Another way to say it with just one word is”Love”... READ MORE


 
Published in Articles
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 12:59

My Happy Place

happy place

NOUN North American
(With possessive adjective) a place which a person associates with happiness, visualized as a means of reducing stress, calming down, etc.; (hence) a happy state of mind.
Origin

1990s ; earliest use found in The Ottawa Citizen. Source: Oxford Dictionary

Not only when the days are getting shorter the barn is my happy place. Every day after work I can go there to come down, to charge my batteries, to simply be there and think of something else than work, money, life. The barn seems to be like a whole different world, where only horsey people meet to do only horsey talking. Most memories I have regarding barns are positive ones. Sure, sometimes bad things happen there, too. But you will never feel depressed there. Not only you can do what you love (e.g. horseback riding), there is also somebody waiting for you.

Last week, when I was on holiday, I missed to go to the barn. I wasn't unhappy, of course, holidays are great and doing a little sightseeing is a treat. But coming back always feels like coming home. I am lucky enough to have Hafl in a barn that is more than gorgeous and the common rooms are as comfy as my apartment. So I really enjoy to be there not only to have great training sessions but also to just hang around and chat, watch Hafl graze, do some barn chores or whatever I feel like doing.

Happy places come in all sizes and colors and you can have more than one. According to professor of psychology Christopher Peterson happy places are easily accessible, neutral and without penalty. What's more, he emphasizes that happy places are always contributing to the meaning of our lives.

I am pretty sure that everybody has his happy place, but just in case, here are five things you need to do to find yours:

Recall places you’ve been where you appreciated the sounds.

Summon the places where you’ve enjoyed the imagery.

Choose a place where you can experience the elements that contribute to your happiness.

Remember where you were when you experienced deep contentment and meaning.

Stay open-minded.

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


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