Monday, February 24, 2014

In which Dickie jumps

Badass event trainer came out last weds. Usually she rides when I'm at work to maximize Dickie's ride time. We had planned in putting up some poles and maybe setting up a fence. That is a pain to do alone so for the next few weeks we plan to ride together. 

We gave him a good lunge session then she hopped on. He's getting quite fat after his ulcer diet change. He's moving better and there's almost no girthiness. He had gotten really bad at the mounting block and today was the rockstar we all know and love. I started working on mounting block manners from the day he came home. Even when he couldn't stand still in cross ties and needed to eat my clothes he could still stand solid at the block. Yay my horse is almost back!

Ground poles today Rolex tomorrow? Hahahaha

She got on and had an good warm up. He's been pretending like he has to hang out in one if the corners and objected to being told not to but got his work brain on. She took him through the trot poles a few times and he decided he could do it and carry a rider. At the end of three trot poles we set up a teensy fence w a canter pole over. He was game. He whacked his legs on it a few times but there wasn't a hint of hesitation. He said " rider points, I go over."  

Only a few moments like this. 

After he trotted over w few times without really jumping. The she worked on having him canter away. He was pissed and let her know because she made him come down to trot and switch leads if he picked up the wrong one. For all his drama over being told which lead to land on he figured it out quickly. When she took him through the other way he only picked up the wrong lead once the cantered away correctly like a champ and got to be done for the day.

It wasn't a long session and we didn't go above 18" but I was so happy with him. Even when he whacked his feet it was never the scary green almost fall and die tripping. He never refused forward or tried to duck out. Granted he had an eventer who has gone to Rolex on board but I was still pretty proud of him. Best of all a he looked mentally engaged and happy to play even when his baby brain was on overload. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Last weekend I visited the Washington horse expo. I had the pleasure of watching my friend on her big adorable OTTB. He's a year older than Dickie and an old soul. I remember seeing her at a show last year when he was just off the track. He was calm, sweat, and down to business. He might be the same color, size, and just a year older but he's miles ahead of Dickie in mental maturity. I'm excited to see what they do this year. 

She rode in an eventing jump clinic demo. He warmed up well on the flat. Calm and obedient. You wouldn't know that he's only been back under saddle again for three weeks after recovering from Australian string halt. Watching him warm up you would think "wow that's a good looking horse" but he wasn't over the top flashy. Then she set the jumps up...... His eyes lit up, his ears pricked, and he was suddenly better than a nice horse. He was a fancy mother that was begging to get to work. He gave a few jumps the hairy eye ball and took a couple odd distances but he was game. 

As I looked at his happy face I wondered if it would be a bad idea to start Dickie over some low stuff. I don't believe in jumping them young, their spines don't finish growing until six and you see a lot of sacroiliac problems in horses pushed young. However, I don't think small stuff will be a problem. He's a big guy so his canter is bigger than low stuff. 

The next time I went out to work him I made things a little more fun. I haven't even set up ground poles in a while so I set up trot poles on the quarter line and a cavaletti at the highest setting on a circle. He ho de dummed along on the lunge like usual then i pointed him over the three trot poles and doofus woke up. His ears perked up and he started using his butt. Next we trotted cavelleti a few times then started cantering over it. He was happy as a clam the whole. He even was more jazzed up at the end than when we started. 

Dickie can be a hard but to crack. He's not the most forward horse but I wouldn't neccesrily call him lazy. He needs to be interested and he needs to feel confident. His TB side wants to keep trying when he's learning something new. This isn't what you want? Ok, what about this? The appy side says "this is boring, here's a donkey kick. Think of something fun then we will talk." 

We are at the stage now where he's confident enough w a rider on his back to argue. He knows enough to think going around in circles is boring but not enough to do much exciting. But he is balanced enough to hop himself over some cross rails and seems to find that interesting. So jump we will do. It isn't going to be me because he deserves to start out with a confident balanced rider. To be continued...........

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pit Crew

It might seem that having a horse in full care means it's no big deal if you can't make it out. Your horse is just fine if your sick, or have to work, or your car breaks down, or whatever kink life throws your way. That isn't the case though if your a responsible horse owner. Having a horse goes far beyond three meals a day and a clean stall. They crave attention and need their person. We've all seen that horse with an absentee owner. He's the one who breaks your heart because he wants a treat too. Or he's chewing the barn down from boredom. She's that horse no one wants to lead in because she's pushy and rude. 

If you can't be out there everyday it doesn't mean you can't own a horse. You just need to be realistic about what you have to offer and plan accordingly.  I have to admit I'm not an owner who can go out everyday. I work 12 hour shifts, have online classes, and try to help out with aging family members. I knew my lifestyle before I bought Dickies so I always make sure my horses get extra care when I can't be there. 

When I decided to apply to nursing school I started looking for a new barn right away. My old barn was fanastic but it was a big boarding stable. Bre gets depressed and is prone to colic without one on one love. She's now in a private home and is part of the family. If I left the state for some reason I would leave her behind. She's that spoiled. On top of that I have a friend leasing her. She's an extra eye to notice cuts, weight changes, lost shoes. I get to be an absentee owner but bre couldn't be happier if she had a 24hr servent. In fact I had her boarded with Dickie when we were rehabbing her pasture and she was incredibly depressed to be away from her family. 

Dickie has been a bit trickier. I need facilities to work him so that means a boarding stable. I've been incredibly lucky that all the stables I've had him at go the extra mile. They've all let me know how's he's doing when I'm on a work stretch and dealt w his baby antics. I've worked hard to make sure he has turnout and a barn owner who truly loves horses. The current barn owner treats every horse like her own.

When I realized that school made it hard to get out as often as usual I found someone to help out. She's currently riding him weekly for half the price most trainers charge. She lives closeby and will drop in at a moments notice if my schedule changes. She's not just a trainer she's a friend who truly cares for Dickie. She also gives me detailed updates that make my day at work. Win win. 

Life gets busy and our horses shouldn't suffer. I wish more people would realize how much attention horses need and plan accordingly. Maybe you can't afford a trainer but there are ways to get your horse the attention they need. I've had wonderful luck with leases just keep in mind that your horse needs to come first. You might really want half of board, vet, farrier but your horse has to come first. The person who can't afford a spendy lease might actually be the best person for your horse.

 Maybe moving to a not so fancy barn that's closer means you can see the horse more. For me it was the opposite. Moving out further means he gets better turnout and more personalized care on the days I'm busy. It's a killer drive but he's worth it. Sometimes you might even have to admit that right now life is so crazy that you need a smaller barn like Bre lives at. It might not be great for you but your horse will be grateful for the love a private home has to offer. Hang in there until you finish grad school or find a new job or get ahead on your debt. 

If you haven't bought a horse yet take some time to think about these things. If you do have a horse it's not too late to come up with a back up plan. Who's going to see your horse if your leg is broken? Are you at the right boarding facility? What's the bus route? Will you partner give you a hand? 

My friend one of Bre's many personal attendants. 

He's always so excited to see me that I feel guilty for leaving. 

"Life's boring without my people"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tack of The Day (Best website ever)

If you haven't discovered Tack of the Day then you need to go there NOW. Or maybe not. Maybe you should just go there NEVER Run while you can. 

I have been following tack of the day for a few years now. My friend turned me on to it back when I needed a Rambo rain sheet for Bre on a mental health worker's budget. I was tired of blowing through rain sheets and seeing rubs in the spring. Ever year or so TOD has Rambo blankets. They are still a little spendy but often 50% off. For example they had the high end optimo 3 in 1 system for less than $200 and it's usually over $400. I got my weatherbeeta that runs over $200 new for $100 bucks. I'm currently hoping that a Rambo wug rain sheet appears. They seems to be focused on medium weight right now. 

They also have smaller items. I picked up a little cotton sheet for shows for $20. Last year I bought my first Kerrits ice fil shirt and fell in love. I was able to buy two shirts for the price of one. 

Most of the deals are amazing. Be sure to check out both the main and bonus item pages. Over the last year they started a Tack of the Day Too page. This page changes often. Sometimes they get closeouts or irregular items. They post something new every weekday by noon eastern. They do sell out so act quick if you know you want something. Sometimes over the weekend they will have big sales of a certain brand. 

I would suggest doing a quick search online of princes elsewhere. Every so often it will be an item you can find on closeout somewhere else. I've never found cheaper bu sometimes the price is close enough that I don't feel the urge to buy RIGHT NOW. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday Belle Editiion

Kokoro Reed
1982 Thoroughbred Mare
By Dr Reed's Kin out of Barbielaine

I haven't talked about my Belle horse much here. She was my first horse and one of those special horses that everyone remembers. She came to me when I was at an ultimate low in life. I had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and was struggling to get on good medications and back to my life. Belle brought me back from the edge and I don't know if I would be here without here. She was an A circuit hunter who had been donated to the therapy program I started working for. She was too hot for the kids so I ended up as her lucky owner. She taught me how to keep my heels down because she spooked if things got too boring. She taught me how to have soft hands because she would take off if you pulled too much. 

She died of colic when she still had too much life left. I haven't talked about her much because, well  you just had to be there. I still don't know why this hot, impatient, opinionated mare decided to put up with this beginner rider. Whatever her reason I am a better person for it. 

This was six months or so after I started riding. I'm so lucky she taught me how to ride. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I ranted two weeks ago about ignoring a sinus infection only to have it turn into a double ear infection. I took a day off work and after a week of antibiotics my energy was almost back to normal. And my head felt so much better. Sinus infections are insidious. They creep up so slowly you don't realize how shitty you felt until it was over. Then last Thursday night I felt a bit of a scratchy throat and figured it was just from being in my car for three hours in stop and go snowpocalypse traffic. Woke up at 2 on Friday w a high fever and have been battling the flu since then. 

Bre's barn owner has cheered me up sending fun snow pictures. It makes me feel so good to see her happy. Even if I am stuck inside at least she's enjoying life. I feel guilty for how shabby I've let her mane get but overall the old girl looks pretty good. She's kept her weight and is working in her summer coat. She's starting to get a saggy belly but she always keeps muscle like I've had her in work even though these days she only asked to carry a skinny rider for a few minutes maybe weekly. Spoiled she is. 

I'm looking forward to this weekend when I feed at bre's barn. Luckily I have a little slave staying w me who can clean stalls. And the place is set up for easy feeding. It will be nice to give the process mare a kiss on the nose. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bre's Story Updated

I started a tab for Bre and Dickie forever and a day ago but didn't write anything. Bre's story is my post for today ;)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Acupuncture Visit

My vet came out on Thursday to give Dickie an acupuncture treatment. I started using pressure poin therapy rather than chiropractic when a human chiro friend was training to work on animals. I liked the idea that my horses weren't getting manually cranked on. She was worked on most of the horses at our stable for free and it was crazy to see the results. Lame horses (mine one of them) were sound. Horses that never had a lameness issue were all moving like fancy warmbloods. When my Aussie slipped a disc and became paralyzed from the waist down we thought he was done for. She worked on him several times a week and he fully recovered. 

Sadly my friend went to work at a human/animal clinic in Boston so I was left without someone to work on my pets. I had a wonderful vet/eventer/acupuncturist in the area but she decided just to work on small animals out of her office about an hour away. I was SOL until I found out my vet just finished training with vet/eventer person. I saw results right away with Bre. It wasn't as drastic as when she had treatments as often as needed. I love my vet because she will watch the horse move and explain everything she sees. She points out where she sees uneven hip bones, tilted pelvis, slight even movement. 

I decided to have her take a look at Dickie since he has grown, slipped in the pasture, and had a variety of saddles on him. She also thought it would be great timing to look for tell take ulcer pressure points. A little over a week ago he was kicking if you touched his girth area and irritable a few inches past his elbows. When the vet came he could care less. No nipping, no kicking, not even a flinch. She was surprised because most horses at least under their bellies. He just watched what she was doing and wanted to know when he was getting a treat. She also found nada in his other muscles. That's a new one. Bre usually needs needles everywhere and even Romeo has sore spots. Apparently the Appy has muscles of steel. 

I lunged him for a bit. I really wanted to ride but I am still getting woozy spells from my ear infection. He moved nice and had his worker bee brain on. He still would rather kick out or break to canter but he looked pretty dang nice. Then I drove for three hours at 5mph because we had snow and people FREAK OUT when it snows here. 

If we even get one snowflake it means 24hr coverage and mass panic in the grocery stores. 


The cat stealing my blanket She got cold watching me shovel the driveway. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Snow day

Bre lived in Alaska for several years so she didn't bat an eye. Romeo wasn't so sure he needed to be outside. This photo makes me miss long gallops in Alaska powder. 

The horses are staying in at Dickies barn. He has shoes and runs around so I don't want him to get snow ball feet and bow a tendon. Wish I wasn't working and could go crisco his feet to let him play. 

Dickie's Got a Tummy Ache (Dickie's Ailment Part II)

Trainer was the first to have a light bulb moment ULCERS. I don't know why I didn't think of it first. My Bre mare was colic queen for years back when we didn't know half as much as we do now. I learned how to take care of her by changing one food product at a time. These days the Internet is a wealth of information and I am going to share a bit of what I found out. 

Ulcers can happen fast:
Dickie's behavior changed within a few weeks. Looking back he had a similar episode when I changed his grain last year. I promptly changed it just as quickly I had my old horse back. At the time I just assumed the different grain was making him "hot" now I think it was giving him a belly ache. Research shows that ulcers can be induced in less than five days so it isn't suprising I saw the negative affects so quickly. 

Alfalfa is a miracle drug:
Alfalfa is apparently a natural buffer. Feeding alfalfa reduces stomach pH and can help an ulcer prone horse even fed just once a day. Feeding alfalfa before riding reduces pH during the stress of work and soaks up acid. Most of the myths I was led to believe by old school horse people about alfalfa have been debunked. Alfalfa doesn't hurt kidneys. It might make them thirstier and pee more often but horses' kidneys are more than able to deal with the extra protein in alfalfa. I was also worried about it making my horse "hot". Too many calories make your horse hot. If you are feeding alfalfa and your horse gets hot take a look at reducing concentrated feed first. 

Early Signs are Small:
Is your horse girthy but your saddle fits? Do they pick at grain? Do they take a few bites of grain then a few of hay? Does your horse chew wood? Does your horse seem irritable under saddle? Is he suddenly spooky? Does he have weight loss for no reason? Dull coat? If you don't see these signs in your horse I can be you have seen at least one or two at your barn. 

Dickie had all of these except the last two. He's shiny as a penny. He did lose weight but he's also growing and his work increased so the jury is out on why he lost weight. 

Ulcers Are Common:
Estimates run anywhere between 50 and 90% of horses depending on discipline. I am not so sure about this statistic because the people most likely to look for ulcers are also those in high stress disciplines. Regardless of how high the number really is, the fact remains every horse is wired for ulcers. They are meant to eat tiny amounts constantly and to be endlessly on the move. Most of our horses are fed twice a day (if they are lucky three times), spend most of their time in a stall or small pen, and few get to eat real grass. 

There is something you can do:
The treatment for ulcers is SPENDY one month of omeprazole is over $1,000. However, my vet said she often scopes for ulcers and doesn't find them. Horses can have signs of acid irritation before the damage hits. If your horse has any of the risk factors you should just start prevention techniques now. One of the steps you can take is adding alfalfa. Just a flake a day will help. Don't ride on an empty stomach. Toss them a handful of pellets, soak a handful of cubes, or throw them a flake of hay. Whatever is easiest for you. There are a few supplements with research behind them Egusin and Smart Gut ultra both had promising studies. They have the same main ingredients as Ugard and a few less expensive options. Psyllium also might help but I can't find as many studies on it. Just watch the active ingredients because licorice will cause you to fail a drug test. You can also put your hay in a slow feed net. It is better for his mind too and it is the cheapest solution I listed. 

How this relates to Dickie:
There were some major stresses at the barn, I hadn't worked him as much as usual over the holidays, I added a new hay pellet, and turnout is less due to weather. I think we had a perfect storm for his tummy ache. I started alfalfa and within two days he was back to eating grain. He went from picking at his grain to wolfing it (like normal). I was out there today and he kept checking his grain bin then licking it for good measure to let me know just how much he loves it. He's getting a flake of alfalfa a day and his night time hay goes in the slow feeder (I had gotten lax on that at this barn). I cut out the new hay pellets I added just before this episode. I gave him a round of psyllium and will start him on Smartgut ultra once it arrives. 

He's feeling much better already!! He had two weeks off and Weds trainer got on him. He was his normal naughty busybody self but not the least bit irritated. He was just ready to cause some trouble and have party time. He hardly even looked at the girth when she tightened it and there was no sign of him trying to take off or roll with a saddle. He's pretty rusty after his time off but I am really happy with the diet change. I am hoping that we dodged a bullet and his dramatic nature let us catch it while it was still a tummy ache and not full on ulcer. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Clinic Disaster (Dickie's Ailment part 1)

I Killl You!!

I was so excited for the clinic. Dickie was going fantastic. He was starting every ride with his worker bee hat on. Excessive speed is never going to be a fault of his but he was getting consistent about bigger trot instead of being stuck in a tiny trot. Leg yield were coming along, turning was pretty dang great. Sure he had his days where he couldn't organize his baby legs but what can you expect from a horse who's just turning four. Canter is galumpy and on the forehand but it's willing and balanced. Seemed like a very good starting point for this clinic. She happily works with babies and I made sure ahead of time that our greenie status was appropriate. The week leading up to the clinic there were a few small issues that looking back told me trouble was brewing. He had stopped standing at the mounting block, was really girthy, and just seemed a bit pissy. 

The day before the clinic rolled around and he was really grumpy. I haven't had to lay the smack down about just getting his rear in gear for a long time. Right off the bat he tried to say that he wasn't pleased. I gave him a few smacks and he stompted his feet, kicked out, tripped over himself, then got his working brain on. It was a bit out of character but it didn't prepare me for clinic day. 

The clinician came to our barn (the reason for this is another long and stressful story) and I was stressed. My family came, Dickie was pissy, and I am always nervous with a new clinician. I started out by lunging him and I knew it was going to be bad. He was chomping the bit, grabbing the lead, prancing, slamming into me, running, bucking, and tuning me out. If it wasn't a clinic I wouldn't have even gotten on. I would have at least done some in hand work until he was calmer and tuned into me. But it was go time so I got on and even that was a chore. He didn't want to stand at the mounting block, snatched the reins from me, and tried to bite me when I tightened the girth. Not just Dickie nipping but full out "I hate you" bite. 

We ended up walking only on day one and her husband worked him on day two. At the end of the ride he decided he was done, and just stopped moving. While it was a completed disaster and injured my ego. However, I learned a TON from her. Her husband is a cowboy and real horse whisperer. It was amazing to watch him work with Dickie.

While I did learn because she is fantastic I still knew my horse wasn't right. He was acting like an unbroke horse. Horses have bad days, especially babies, but this wasn't even Dickie. Trainer was puzzled when she heard the story and curious what she would find during her weekly ride. He was even WORSE, he bolted on the lunge, tried to roll in her saddle, took off when she tried to mount and was entirely tuned out the whole ride. 

We both agreed this wasn't usual happy (naughty) but happily naughty horse. And we started to compare notes on what led up to this.....

1) He's been picking at his grain 2) Getting increasingly girthy 3) irritable 4) doesn't want me to brush his belly 5) Started chewing wood 6) Kicking out under saddle 7) Spooky 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cause of the Raging B$@%*

Ive been exhausted the last month my usual allergies have been particularly out of control. I was sure I had a sinus infection before Christmas and self treated it with nasal spray and oral steroids I have left from my last sinus spaz out. I used to get a yearly sinus infection then about five years ago had nasal surgery and was I heaven for years. The old problem has been creeping up but in true nurse/horse woman fashion I decided to ignore fatigue and brain ache. 

Finally yesterday when I had dropped the f-bomb 20 and kicked the Pyxis machine all before even hitting the floor I decided it was time to concede defeat. I made an appointment with urgent care for 830pm and swung by after work. It wasn't too soon because my head hurt so bad by the end of the shift that eve the pressure of glasses on my face was killing me 

It turns out that I wasn't a total wimp. I have infected ears and sinuses. I feel like the worlds worst horse mom because I have abandoned him all week but all I want to do is sleep. I am still dragging and it is almost noon. I plan to have a lunch of antibiotics and sudafed. Hopefully that will perk me up enough to turn in late assignments. Thank goodness I don't work until Friday!