Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shaklano's portrait and catching up to speed

Here is the first of two prizes for the Horse Shaming Contest:

Crystal's horse "Shaklano"
In preparation for Lucy's sessions with a couple of trainers that I am having come out, she is getting her feet done tomorrow, then the saddle fitter is coming out on Friday, and the chiro is coming out on Sunday. I want to make sure nothing physical is going on before I have a trainer get on her. I don't think it would be fair to the horse or the trainer if I didn't double check all this stuff.

I had a pretty good ride yesterday, which I appreciated because it was my birthday :) She still felt quick but was happier going forward and didn't give me any sass.

I hope the trainer(s) will help me lengthen her stride and slow her trot down.

I've had a couple of comments asking for a recap of what I've done with her in terms of diagnostics. I will write a basic list; if you want more info just search through the entries via the tags. There is a "vet" tag that should bring up any physical stuff or injuries.

-I had her feet and ankles x-rayed when I bought her (no issues)
-Treated her for Ehrlichia in 2010
-She had an impaction colic in 2010 that I caught super early and the vet was able to clear it out
-I have a lyme titre pulled every year, has never been positive
-She sees the chiro every month or two, as I can afford it
-Also sees the massage therapist as I can afford it, though my MT got hurt in the fall and hasn't been able to come out in a while
-Saddle fitter appt every six months
-Teeth every six months
-I treated her for ulcers in 2011 successfully and she gets dosed with GastroGard any time we go off the property, starting three days out from the date of travel. If you look at videos of her before the ulcer treatment and compare them to videos of her today, she is 100x better, believe it or not.
-When she was injured in November I had the vet x-ray her ankles and her injured stifle. All x-rays were clean.

She does not have kissing spine per my vet.

She could probably go on ReguMate but a) I don't want to deal with that and b) I cannot afford it. Depo is a possibility.

I am not interested in spaying her.

She is hot and spicy whether she is in heat or not. She gets better in warm weather; she hates the cold. Her attitude depends very much on whether she *likes* what we are doing at that moment.

She is on three supplements: SmartHoof, SmartMare Harmony, and E/Se/Mg. I just recently took her off TractGard after being on it since I bought her in 2009.

What I really do not like in the horse world is the automatic assumption that if a horse is bad, there must be some physical reason behind it. Quite honestly, Lucy is very hot and very opinionated. I have spent a good amount of money treating and testing her for various ailments, and more time than I care to admit researching these types of things online, and I have a very good relationship with my vet, who is the same vet who did her PPE four years ago. My vet understands what is going on and is totally on board with me looking into things as I can afford to do so, without going way overboard on the diagnostics end of it.

In other words, I could x-ray her entire body and send her to Tufts for a $2000+ bone scan, but I personally do not feel those measures are necessary at this time.

Hopefully that brings everyone up to speed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

trainer shopping

I posted on a local bulletin board looking for trainer recommendations, and soon my email inbox was overflowing with them. The list included cowboys, eventing trainers, dressage trainers, and hunter trainers.

I've lived in Rhode Island since 2004 and I have a good idea of who's who in the horse community here, but what scared me was not knowing most of the people recommended to me. I started feeling overwhelmed...I mean, how do you pick the right trainer?

I decided to come up with a list of things I was looking for in a trainer:

-Must have worked with/retrained OTTB's in the past
-Must be willing to ride the horse, not just teach me
-Has to be firm but gentle
-I'd like them to be more about the riding than the groundwork, though I do appreciate the value of good groundwork
-My barn owner requires that any trainer be insured
-I don't want to be paying more in travel fees than I am for the training session so I'd prefer someone who is close-ish

After I had narrowed down the list a bit, I emailed a few trainers and explained the situation with Lucy. I included the problems I was having with her, and my short and long term goals. I asked whether they thought they could help, and what their rates were (including travel). I also requested videos of them working with horses, and that's where I'm at now!

Yesterday I had a pretty decent ride, with zero tantrums from Lucy. I thought back to some of the lessons I had taken on her in the past, and one trainer always said to add leg every time I wanted to pull. Yesterday I said a little prayer and added leg every time she got fast. I kept my contact through the bridle light and steady, and asked her to move up into it, instead of trying to run through it. This worked very well and we had a lovely trot in both directions, and then she offered up a little canter to the right and was very good! She still felt quick and rigid, but not as bad as the day we took that video, and there were a few moments where she carried her own front end instead of me having to hold it up. This all made me feel encouraged and happy, though I will still enlist the help of a trainer to make sure these "good" rides keep happening!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

when bad horses get expensive presents

After last weekend's excessively fun rides, I went and spent a lot of money on a beautiful brand new heavy weight Weatherbeeta Freestyle blanket, complete with the detachable neck. I ordered it through my local Dover store because surprisingly, they had the best price on it, but they had to ship it from their warehouse so it did not get here until this weekend. As I was standing at the counter in Dover, signing the credit card receipt, I thought "my horse is so good, she deserves it!"


Wouldn't you know, she was a complete and unholy TERROR this week. She had the first part of the week off because I was dealing with some personal stuff (a friend passed away Sunday night) and on Wednesday I went out there and lunged her first, and then rode. Kenny wanted to ride her but I wanted to get on first to make sure she had a brain, which she did not. I did the best I could but here is some video to give you an idea of what I was working with:

The idea of going from one jump right to the next was to make her think about what's coming up, instead of thinking about throwing a fit. It worked very well.

On Thursday night, I went to work with her again, this time keeping it to ground work. She was outlandishly bad right from the start, at one point rearing straight up in the air. She had the full 21' of lunge line at the time, but as soon as I got her back down to earth I took away most of the length of the line, so she only had about 10' to work with. Gradually she stopped breathing fire and started to listen, and then I felt comfortable giving her more line. By the end of it she was cantering softly around in both directions, and then we did some work disengaging the hind quarters, backing up with her head low, and some stretches. That evening, I got a call to tell me the new blanket was in, so I picked up this lovely new blanket and gave it to a horse that I really did not like very much at the moment! Spoiled mare.

Last night I tried riding again and while she was not quite as bad as she was on Wednesday under saddle, she was still pretty fired up.

So today I sent out some emails to local trainers to see if I could find someone to come and help me out a bit. I feel like I am at the end of my rope, both in ability and patience. I do think that this week, she was a gigantic cow. We'll see if I get any replies. I really hope to figure out how to do a better job with her.

Today I went and picked up a big load of hay with Maddy and Kenny, and that is probably the last present Lucy will get for a while, or at least until she starts behaving herself again.

Here are some photos of Lucy modeling her new blanket:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

rough boarding is rough!

The day before yesterday, I started to get an itchy rash in a few spots on my stomach and wrists. I had no idea what it was until yesterday, when it had very clearly developed into poison ivy!

Without fail, I get poison ivy at least a few times during the summer but we are in the middle of a New England winter! There's a ton of snow on the ground! Where was this poison ivy coming from?

Thanks to some wise friends on Facebook, I realised that I most likely got it from handling Lucy's hay. No clue how it got on my stomach, but I guess that a few pieces of hay could have gotten up under my shirt. The whole thing is crazy, especially because I am on the last ten bales of a 50 bale delivery and this is the first time I've had an issue with it. One of my friends noted that poison ivy can grow along the edge of a field and it is very possible that just one or two of the bales that I got have the weeds in there. She also said that the vines can retain the irritating oils for months even after the plant itself is dead!

Just my luck :(

Saturday, February 16, 2013

ahhhh such a great ride!!

I planned to ride in the indoor today, and maybe do some jumping, but just as I got on a lesson started and I didn't want to interrupt. I decided to ride in the outdoor instead, but when I got on I realised the footing really kind of sucked. After all that snow fell last weekend and Maddy and I rode in the outdoor, we had an entire day of rain, then it froze, then it was very warm for a couple days (in the 40's), then it froze again, and the result is a lot of layers of uneven and slippery footing where the footprints were from last weekend's ride.

In the small grassy paddocks, though, the footing was perfect because no one had been in there. I gave it a shot and can I just say, LUCY WAS PERFECT.

Here are some photos!

just as I started riding, the snow began falling. we're supposed to get another
six inches by tomorrow! 

here I was saying, alright this footing sucks -- onto plan b!

YAY heels

got her back, got her together, and got her back into the canter in less
than two strides. NICE :)

Lucy says, I'm glad that you love me and all but where's my damn cookie?!

Friday, February 15, 2013

happy little Friday ride

On Monday I puttered about the indoor on Lucy, practicing some very low key things and just enjoying her in general. Then she had Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off because this week was nuts and life took over all of my spare time!

Today I went out to ride after work and I almost got on without lunging, then at the last second decided to send her out on a lunge line just in case.

She proceeded to GALLOP for 20 minutes.

Bucks, squeals, calamity in general. I am very glad I lunged!!!

When she settled down, I hopped on and we had a lovely ride. I think I will try to set up some little jumps tomorrow and see how she does.

Kenny and Cairo came by the barn while they were out for a run. I love that he comes and visits Lucy just to feed her a peppermint :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

You got me a boyfriend?!

Poor Lucy. She wanted a real stud for Valentine's Day and all she got was a bag of stud muffins.
that is not a stud!!

Good thing Cairo still loves me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Horses in the Winter

 A few people commented on my last entry about not ever having lived in an area that gets a real winter, with ice and snow and other delightful weather.

I can tell you that not only do bad winter conditions pose a problem for everyday tasks (driving places, walking, maintaining power, etc), but they can also make horse management a real challenge. There are a lot of health care mistakes to avoid during the winter to ensure that your horse stays fit throughout the entire year.

Take for instance the blizzard that we just had, "Nemo". The main issues were:

-cold temperatures
-30 inches of heavy, wet snow in a short time period
-loss of power
-very high winds: up to 80mph gusts and 30mph sustained winds
-downed trees blocking roadways and falling on fence lines
-travel ban that prevented people from getting to the barn even after the roads were cleared

The cold temperatures posed a problem mostly for us humans. Combined with the lack of power, a 9 degree low over Saturday night made for a very chilly evening. All of our horses wear blankets/rugs in the cold weather, though, and I am pretty sure they were toasty warm in their stalls with loads of hay. Lucy has a lovely purple high-neck Weatherbeeta rug with 300g of fill for the real cold days (below 30 degrees). It is starting to show some wear and tear this year and I would love to get her another heavyweight horse rug for next year.

I would prefer a combo rug with a neck attachment. I love the combo rugs that allow you to detach the neck piece, which might be overkill if the temps are low but the horse is stabled indoors, without any adverse weather conditions like rain or snow to deal with. The high-neck blankets are a great compromise between the combo rugs and a regular-fit blanket because they will stop rain and snow from getting down the front of the blanket, but prevent the horse from overheating because their neck is able to dissipate any extra heat.

For temperatures above 30 but below 40, she wears a medium weight blanket. She has two MW blankets that both have 200g of fill: one Rider's International (Dover's brand) and one old Rambo that I got at a tack sale for $8 last year. She has a lightweight sheet, also a Rider's International, that she wears when it's above 40 degrees, and once it hits 50 degrees, I keep her naked. There are exceptions to these rules, like if it's in the mid 40's but very sunny, I will put her out naked so she can soak up the rays! She loves that, but those are the days I get to spend ages getting all the mud off of her after she's spent ages rolling around in it!

Every horse is different in terms of what blankets they wear at what temperatures. Some horses grow a fantastic winter coat and do not need to be blanketed. Unfortunately Lucy grows only a very flimsy winter coat, one that would never keep her warm enough in very cold weather, so I keep her blanketed. Some horse owners clip their horses so that they are easier to cool out after riding. Those horses need to be blanketed a bit heavier because they've lost that layer of natural protection from the cold. For a horse that is unclipped, another winter essential is a nice polar fleece or wool cooler to cool them out in so that they don't get a chill.

Our horses are stalled overnight in a barn with no insulation, and our town also prohibits heating elements inside barn structures, so these horses are dealing with cold air and cold water. The best we can do is to perform a night check to make sure everyone's water buckets are unfrozen and full. Some people like to give one bucket of warm water and one bucket of cold water. Surprisingly, warm water can freeze faster than cold water (called the Mpemba effect), so while some horses prefer to drink warm water in the winter, owners should not give them warm water with the intention of prolonging freezing.

Each horse has an electrically heated bucket outside in their paddocks, and when there is no issue with power, those work extremely well to keep water unfrozen and slightly warm. Lucy typically drinks 1/3 of both of her buckets in her stall in the winter (each bucket is 5 gallons, so 10 gallons together, and 1/3 of that is about 3.3 gallons…not a lot for a horse of Lucy's size) but when she's outside, she will drink up to half of her 16 gallon heated water bucket in a day. In warm weather, she drinks much better in general and I am always, always worried about impaction colic in the winter. To make myself feel better, she gets her PM beet pulp soaked until it is more mush than anything else. I am lucky that she is a little pig and will eat whatever I put in front of her face. Some horses will not eat soaked feed.

The loss of power over the weekend at the barn meant that outside water buckets froze and had to be replaced with fresh, unfrozen water right out of the spigot. Sometimes that happens and though it's a pain to do, it makes us really appreciate that the heated buckets work most of the time!

The other problem with such dry, cold weather is that leather goods like tack and boots, need a bit of extra TLC. I have tried to keep up with tack cleaning and conditioning this winter. It's a good habit to get into because well-cleaned and conditioned tack looks better, lasts longer, and has a smaller chance of failure. I love to use a product called Supple, and I also love the Stubben Hammanol that my saddle came with when I bought it.

Here in New England we deal with this type of weather every year, and though it is not ever convenient to have to trudge through almost three feet of snow to get out to the paddocks, or spend an entire day shoveling little paths around the barn, the snow sure is pretty and the horses love to play in it. By the time March rolls around, though, we are usually ready for some warmer weather! Then summer arrives and we get to deal with all the humidity and bugs. Luckily Equestrian Clearance has all the gear you would need to survive cold or warm temperatures, so check them out. They have some great deals on blankets, among other things.

Written in association with Equestrian Clearance

Sunday, February 10, 2013

snow, and more snow, and more snow, and finally power

We finally got power back this afternoon, after two very cold sub-freezing nights. Last night it was 9 degrees outside and 40 degrees in the house. Yeah, not a great time at all. We had the wood stove going but with no power to run the fan through it, the stove wasn't doing much to heat more than the living room area. We blew up an air mattress using an inverter plugged into Kenny's truck and slept on that in the living room as close as we could safely get to the wood stove. We both had multiple sweatshirts on, two layers of pants, a few pairs of socks, and Cairo had her fleece jacket on and slept buried under the covers with us.

Saturday car is buried on the left and Kenny's Silverado
(i.e. not a small vehicle!) looks shrimpy on the right

The truck had no problem!

9am on Saturday, no plows in sight. Some roads still aren't plowed.

finally I made it to the barn and the driveway hadn't been plowed. One of the
trees had lost a few big branches that were blocking the driveway. Kenny and
I returned later with a chain saw and moved the branches out of the way
so that the plow could get through.

all the horses were happy to be out once I finally got them out there!

Lucy also had a branch come down in her paddock but the fencing was not compromised at all, and I didn't want to leave them all in just because she had this branch in her paddock. I decided to turn her out and just watch her for a little while to make sure she wasn't going to be stupid with the branch there, and she was fine.

Each morning I was actually excited to get out of bed and get moving, so I could warm up. I did a whole lot of shoveling this weekend! I even dug my elderly neighbour out this morning so I could feel warmer. Kenny and I went driving around in the truck to get the heaters on us. We went to Maddy's house this morning to take a hot shower, which made me feel so much more human. Then we went home and puttered around and then all of a sudden, the power came back on! We had a little dance party.

I had wanted to ride yesterday but by the time I got done shoveling the cars out, clearing the snow from the house, getting to the barn (when there was still a driving ban, by the way), shoveling the barn out,  cutting down the tree blocking the driveway, getting the horses out, and doing the stalls, I was exhausted. I was way too tired to ride, anyway. All of the other rough boarders were snowed in but I didn't mind helping them out. We all pitch in and help each other when we can. That is what makes a rough board barn work!

Today, though, Maddy and I finally got out and enjoyed ourselves! We did a bit of work at the barn and then tacked up and ventured out onto the trails. Lucy was very, very spooky. Lots of snow was falling off the trees and making loud SPLAT noises in the woods, which she did not like at all. I sat several pretty big spooks and went right over her left shoulder when she pulled a quick and dirty spook and spin.


I was using the rope halter/longe line set up again today, and it worked PERFECTLY! I executed the most textbook tuck and roll, dropped the reins mid-air, landed lightly in the 2.5 feet of fluffy white snow as Lucy flew backwards for a stride or so, she stopped immediately when she felt the rope halter, and I got up and yelled happily, IT WORKED! Then I asked her to come back to me, which she did happily, and I let her know she was a really good girl.


Then Maddy and I cheered and I was absolutely thrilled.

Ahhh we are so weird.

I wasn't hurt at all and after bushwhacking through some trees to find a good spot to get back on, I was back in the saddle and off we went. Kenny met us in the woods (the trail runs right past my road so he just walked to the end of the road and met us out there) and took some photos, then came back to the barn with us to get some more pictures. So, a huge thanks goes out to him for taking lots of wonderful photos today for us.

she did get a bit excited at times. this was one of them, and she ping-ponged
back and forth across the trail, so excited but not really sure where to go.

forward is always better than ping-ponging, even if she makes nasty faces

back at the barn, in the outdoor ring

this is what it's all about :)

silly moment

and one of Pretty and Maddy - I will leave her to share the rest of her photos
on her blog! :) - click here if you don't already have the link.