Thursday, October 19, 2017

social hour at FHI

Leading up to this year's Fair Hill Fall Festival with the Dutta Corp's CCI2*/3* events, I was having a little bit of scheduling anxiety.

basically my ideal job description
Former barnmate Rachael and I had impulsively decided to tag along with Michele to all the YEH stuff on Thursday and Friday (after which I'd need to ride my own horse too). Then Saturday would be a full day with a jump lesson in the morning, then as much FHI cross country as possible before skipping off to an evening wedding. And naturally Sunday was Loch Moy's second fall starter trial.

"four stars" was a theme among all the decorations at fair hill
So.... Ya know. A lot on the schedule. But it seemed doable. I was anxious but optimistic.

michele! hangin out in the tent watching all the YEH dressage
Lucky (?) for me, tho, Charlie sought to ease my anxieties by just going on ahead and taking the nuclear option with that damned splint. Thus liberating me from the need to school him in those days leading up to Loch Moy, bc obviously he would not be competing. At least he did all this in enough time for me to get a refund on my entry fees...

sarah!! watching the 5yo YEH class
Really tho, I wish someone could explain to Charlie that the anxiety of preparing for an event despite a busy schedule is MUCH preferable to the anxiety of preparing a horse for surgery and recovery. C'mon, Charlie :(

britt!! photographing her friend ride through the 5yo YEH test
But hey, at least that was a big relief to the overbooked schedule. So I could spend the days really enjoying hanging out with everyone at Fair Hill without being distracted by anything pesky like a horse show of my own. (does that sound bitter? sigh....).

Really tho, Fair Hill was a BLAST! I just love this event -- and it was bigger this year than ever before. More shopping, more tail gating, more.... everything. The weather was cooperative too - brisk and chilly towards the end of the week and with some earlier gentle but soaking drizzles to soften up the ground from its previous concrete conditions.

good ol' Dan preparing to enter at A on his 7yo MW Gangster's Game for the CCI2* dressage test
More than anything tho, I really enjoyed seeing so many people! I've been floating around the periphery of Maryland's eventing scene for a couple years now and finally actually *know* people. Whether that's current or former barn mates, lesson mates, trainers, vets, or other horsey peers, it was really cool to bump into so many familiar faces over the course of the event.

rachael, scott and goofy boyd! (looking like a very adult horse haha)
Plus I felt like I had a real insider's sense of the grounds after coming out here for the big event these past couple years, as well as competing at the starter trials myself (the water complex in the above video should look pretty familiar to you if you've ever watched any of my helmet cam videos from Fair Hill).

what's in the bag, katie???? 
Naturally the recent trail ride with Scott and his horses Boyd and Freebee really helped me better navigate the park too. Tho everything definitely looked bigger and more impressive when the jumps were all dressed up in their decorations and numbered for competition.

carly, niamh and austen! plus puppies!
As a nice added bonus, I felt fortunate to see a lot of familiar faces from our own wonderful little equestrian blogging community - including Niamh, Michele, Britt and Austen whom I've had the pleasure of meeting previously. Plus I finally got to meet Sarah, and Carly who surprised us all with a visit!!

what's in the bottle katie?!? also scott and freebee!
Suffice it to say it was a jam packed couple of days. We had familiarized ourselves with the grounds and shopping and all while there for the YEH stuff on Thursday and Friday (even getting in a full walk of the cross country courses during this time too), and saw almost all the YEH stuff and basically all the 2* and 3* cross country, in my preferred style of staying on the move to see as many jumps as possible ridden.

talk about a satin collection! soooo many prizes there, and actually for lots of fun stuff, not just traditional "first place"
I have a ton of media from all that too, so I'll probably spread it out in multiple posts over the upcoming weeks in an effort to not totally inundate you haha.

For now tho I'm just gonna keep continuing work on convincing myself that being adjacent to awesome fun horsey things is the same as doing fun awesome horsey things myself. Or at least, it's a close second, right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2ptober: halfway there!

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Hard to believe October is already halfway gone.... But the days are in fact getting shorter and the air most definitely has suddenly turned crisp and brisk. Fall is here, winter is coming, and 2ptober is shifting into the home stretch!

Thanks all for reporting your times so far in our fun little rider challenge contest. We've done our best to collect all your info and report it here as accurately as possible, but please look carefully at the table below to ensure we've got your most up-to-date longest held 2pt time!

Rider Blog Baseline Max Time % Improved
Aimee SprinklerBandits 2:13 2:13 0%
Alex TheHorseDream 0:22 1:53 414%
Amanda Bel Joeor 0:25 3:32 748%
Anxious Eventer Anxious Eventer 2:36 2:36 0%
Bee Tea Riding to B 3:00 3:00 0%
Beth A Truby in Tucson 0:23 1:41 339%
Britt A House on a Hill 5:04 5:04 0%
Chelsey Horseback Writing 2:47 2:47 -1%
Emily Frank 5:38 6:15 11%
Fig Topaz Dreams 0:07 0:31 343%
Holly Marescara 2:02 3:48 87%
J. Alexander It's Cosmic 2:00 8:37 331%
Kaity The Repurposed Horse 4:07 4:07 0%
KateRose Peace & Carrots 2:24 2:24 0%
KC The Pilgrim Chronicles 2:37 5:02 92%
L Williams Viva Carlos 5:25 12:04 123%
Laura Anne 1:11 2:05 76%
Maddy CTR+Halt+DEL 1:15 3:15 160%
Mandy The Everything Pony 3:00 5:40 89%
Megan Phoebe the Freebie 0:20 4:03 1115%
Megan K Go Big or Go Home 3:13 3:13 0%
Molly One Bud Wiser 2:09 3:43 73%
Nadia 3day adventures with horses 4:40 6:15 34%
Niamh Misadventures of a girl and her OTTB 2:43 3:17 21%
Nicole Sharp Zen Baby 1:58 1:58 0%
Olivia DIY Horse Ownership 1:17 1:17 0%
Sara The Roaming Rider 0:32 1:22 156%
SarahO Autonomous Dressage 2:05 2:05 0%
SarahW My Red Mare 2:00 2:00 0%
Teresa Journey with a Dancing Horse 1:44 7:40 342%
Tracy Fly On Over 1:45 1:45 0%

The color coding indicates where you stand among the group in both categories. Deeper reds indicate longer times or greater degrees of improvement, and paler hues show where there's more work to be done.

A note on the percentages: An improvement score of 100% would mean that you have doubled your time (a 100% improvement on your baseline).

The contest for Longest Time is already starting to heat up. L Williams currently holds the lead, but J Alexander and Teresa are closing in, with Emily Frank and Nadia close by in the hunt.

Megan's currently got an edge in the Most Improved category - with Amanda vying for the reserve position. Alex, Fig and Teresa have all posted impressive gains however. And if we know anything from years past, it's that the Most Improved division is anyone's game until the very end!

Of course there are still quite a few of you who have not yet submitted a time for the first weeks of October, which is basically akin to automatically absenting yourself from the "Most Improved" game. And, it turns out, the Longest Time game has gone on ahead and gotten past where anyone could win on their baselines anyway.

So if you want a shot at those sweet prizes (custom embroidered saddle pad plus a bath bomb and some pain pills to ease your aching muscles lol) you've gotta put in that time!

Of the 31 participants, the average longest held time is 3:45, and as a group all your longest times add up to nearly 2 hours of sustained two point position while riding. That's really impressive. Nice work!! Keep it up - two weeks left to really push yourself for the longest, most improved position!

Monday, October 16, 2017

but where are the 2pt times??

Reminder everyone: We are officially half way through the month of 2ptober! This means you must be reporting on your longest held times per week to get in on that sweet sweet swiggity swag!!

alpacas outta nowhere
Please remember to leave a comment on your longest time of maintained 2pt (ie jump) position held during the past week. And keep in mind this means no leaning on the hands, no seat touching the saddle (otherwise you must restart the clock!).

so fluffy, so sassy
Should you still be working on building out your time, here are some tips and tricks:

Warm yourself up first. Before getting right down to trying to hold your position for as long as possible, spend a little time practicing finding your balance and warming those muscles up.

wait those are Velvet ears, not alpaca ears!
For instance, if you are practicing at the walk: try posting the walk as if it were trot. Then start holding the "up" of your post for a couple steps at a time, slowly increasing the duration - such as 5 steps up, 3 steps down for break, 5 up, 3 down, etc etc.

oooooooh but that tunnel looks mighty familiar!
During this practice, experiment with your balance as it relates to lower leg position (forward and back) and hip position. If you keep tipping forward, your leg may need to come forward or your seat move farther back. If you keep falling back into the saddle, your leg may need to come back more underneath you.

there's that Freebee horse again!!!
Also check in on how your entire leg is resting against the horse's side. Are you pinching in your knees? Overly tight in your hips? Is your back soft or rigidly arched? Any of these things will affect your position and how long you can hold it comfortably. Experiment!

and for no other reason bc this made me giggle
We are half way through the month of 2ptober so you should have a pretty good idea of how this whole thing is working out. But keep practicing!

horse shows abounded this weekend!!
Not only are those awesome prizes at stake (remember, we're awarding FOUR distinct winners!) - but also your golden opportunity to be the strongest, most secure rider you can be!

posing pretty!
So get your times in asap, as I will be reporting on everyone's progress midweek.

aaaaaand a honey bee bc why not
In the meantime, hope everyone had a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Life continues to chug right on along lately, bringing us to the official one week mark since Charlie's surgery. I'm not sure whether that's a meaningful benchmark or whatever, but it's reassuring that he's just continued to get on with getting on throughout the past couple days.

pictured: charlie enjoying some sun + grass filled bliss
It's hard not to feel like the horse is somewhat neglected while on stall rest, ya know? Like I can take him out to groom and graze him. But no purposeful walking allowed.

didn't bother him that the ground was so dry and dusty either
And I can throw all the hay in the world at him, and keep adding extra water buckets just in case he gets extra thirsty.

we're not technically hand walking... but there's a little exploration going on
Plus naturally there are always the occasional extra meals when I need to slip some medication or another into him.

this little pony stallion was SUPER interested in meeting charlie lol
But it still makes me feel so guilty knowing he's all cooped up. Especially on days when I'm not able to get him out at all, or can only get him out for a few minutes.

this one too
Worst are the days when I can't get to the barn at all. Idk why it makes me feel so guilty -- in some ways I know the horse tends to be a little quieter when I'm not around. As opposed to when I'm there and he gets a little frantic and unsettled, trying to tell me all about his current plight and convince me to somehow fix it.

these studly little dudes have the BEST hair
But.... Only time will do that. So hopefully time will just keep chugging along until we can get him back into at least a little bit of hand walking and then turnout. And in the meantime I'm trying to not let myself feel too guilty by keeping my schedule full of fun distractions.

scribing at a dressage show!
Like volunteering as a scribe for a dressage fix-a-test clinic at our barn. We saw almost exclusively Intro level tests during my afternoon shift, and it was a little monotonous. Except it was pretty clear that for most pairs this was either the rider's first show or the horse's, and everyone tackled the experience with their own combination of nerves and excitement. That alone made it a cool atmosphere.

I like scribing too, tho it might be more of a challenge at higher levels. At least at this event, bc of the fix-a-test structure, it was pretty slow going work. We'd score the test as it was ridden, then the judge spent ~20min working one on one with the rider in a lesson type format, then they'd ride the test a second time. It was cool to see the riders improve so quickly too!

stewarding cross country warm up!
I kept the volunteer train rolling by signing up to be the cross country warm up steward at Loch Moy's recent recognized event. Usually I just go straight for the easy job of jump judging - esp if I'm doing it with Brita since we just sit around and chat all day. But trying out a new volunteer job was actually pretty fun!

it's another pony(ish) stallion, Lion!!!!
I actually REALLY enjoyed being able to see everyone get into the zone for their rounds - from the nervous just-moved-up riders to the pros on their 4th or 5th rides of the day.

i liked the look and feel of these boots a lot. but then i impulse purchased a different set on ebay so.... yea lol
Luckily there wasn't really any drama either. A couple trainers who were a little bit entitled and rude when it came to getting their clients into the starting box. And a couple horses who struggled a little with the hard ground and greasy top layer of grass from a morning of steady drizzle.

sugar loaf mountain + loch moy's stadium ring. pretty sad i won't be riding in that arena at all this year. sigh.
One poor horse didn't land straight from a jump and slammed the rider down hard as they both lost balance and toppled over. Luckily both were ok and were able to continue through to run their course. But it was scary to see!

also disappointed to miss out on leaving this start box too. womp. volunteering at the warm up was AWESOME tho!
Mostly tho it was a great way to spend the day, and I actually really liked the warm up volunteer position. Plus the folks at Loch Moy know how to treat their volunteers - we got a lot of swag (including a very nice long sleeved shirt and an xc schooling pass!) and TONS of good food and snacks. If you're local-ish to Loch Moy, I highly recommend volunteering at their events!

oh look, another leedle pony!
Tho obviously it must be stated that seeing so much fun action had me feeling a little blue about my own horse's current status. Luckily Velvet has been more than happy to fill the void!

i make her go scary places, poor thing
I've been getting in pretty regular rides on the pony over the past week and feel like we've reached a pretty good understanding. Yes, she's probably going to spook at some invisible monster on the walk up the driveway.... but No, she's not going to nap about leaving the barn any more (thanks spurs!).

including riding past strange critters
Her work under saddle hasn't necessarily gotten meaningfully better yet. There's still a fair bit of jigging and trantering. Tho the better I get to know her, the quicker I can be to keep her in trot even if it becomes a very fast trot.

and she has to wait patiently while friends finish getting ready
For her part tho, she's learning to trust the process and relax a little bit. The trees lining one edge of the arena aren't always as spooky any more, and she's not always totally distracted by what other horses in the vicinity are doing. She's also had to cope with taking long breaks to chat with folks, and then go back to work again (the horror!).

she's great with dogs tho!
But I like her. She's a good girl. The parallels with Isabel are so strong, too. Like someone clearly started this horse - taught her some stuff. Laid a foundation. Then.... through circumstances that all too often befall horses, she ended up passing from place to place, either being left entirely alone or only ever getting irregular work. So she's just.... rusty at a very fundamental level.

and itsy bitsy jumps!!
And this has led to the erosion of her own confidence at the same time it taught her how to scare people into not making her work. A nasty combination. Luckily tho, she's not actually naughty. She's no Krimpet.

wheee go velvet!
And actually she seems to like and enjoy the work when we can get a few breakthrough good moments. And the more good moments she has, the easier it seems to be to find them again and again, and make them last longer and longer. Long story short, Velvet is figuring it out.

nice and relaxing, just as it ought to be
So I'm starting to push the envelope with her a little bit. Making her hack around unusual areas of the farm. Walk alone down different paths. Daring her to feel curious about exploring instead of worried and nervous about the unknown.

This approach seems to be working too - for our latest ride we just hacked out through the fields with Brita and Bella. And Velvet was immediately the absolute most relaxed she's ever been for me. So relaxed that we actually played around a little bit with some of the elementary jumps in the field - our first time jumping together! And she was pretty darn good!

if only we could all be as happy and carefree as this pup!
So we'll see where that goes. She's a neat mare and I'm glad to have the ride on her while Charlie recovers. But.... she's no Charlie. And the jumps definitely do not look the same from the back of a skittery spooky pocket rocket as they do from the back of my giant solid steady behemoth.

Still tho, it's fun to play :) We gotta keep ourselves busy somehow, right? How do you handle time away from your #1? Do you try to find other rides? Or stay involved in the action one way or another, whether by volunteering or just hanging out? Or do you go in the other direction - taking the opportunity to get in a little bit of a breather from the whole routine?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

surgical wound care + bandages

I typically like to provide a little variety in the content presented here - usually avoiding too many posts in a row focused on the same subject.

As an eventer, this is relatively easily managed bc even if I'm just writing about one schooling ride or lesson after another, at least we've got three distinct phases to work on, right?

old shot from when we first moved in - but this shows the tack locker's general space blocking and storage capability
Right now tho, obviously Charlie is doing none of those phases. Rather, he is sitting in his stall looking bored and disinterested while nosing through the mountains of hay I can't stop myself from throwing at him.

And, perhaps you'll understand that this boring monotonous unchanging situation takes up the greatest portion of my attention and thoughts. It's on my mind, ya know?

So here's another post talking about Charlie's post-surgical care. This time, looking at the ungodly amount of material needed to keep his wound safe from infection -- and how I've updated the tack locker to accommodate all that.

top drawer clockwise from top L: sandwich baggies (for pre-measured supplements); freezer bags (for packing meals on the go); vet wrap; latex gloves; spare kitchen sponges; non-stick sterile pads; bandage kit inc. multiple sizes of rolls of guaze; and more variously sized non stick pads
First up on the chopping block: that nifty set of drawers needed to be cleared out and organized in a major way. It had over time grown into being a "catch all" space for small odds and ends that I didn't necessarily want to trash, but that weren't otherwise very utile.

Each drawer was fairly well stuffed, and the important stuff that I used most often was beginning to take up disorganized, stacked up residence on the floor space directly in front of the drawers (thus rendering the drawers less accessible).

So I finally threw out all the useless junk that I tend to hoard (OCD Brita was so proud of me!), clearing out some of the latest mice nests in the process (ew). Then I tried to think a little more deeply about how to restock the drawers in a way that makes sense and is useful.

Top drawer became: mostly baggies and bandage pads, and other boxed up medical stuff that didn't fit into the tool box described below. I hope to not need this drawer often, but do want to keep this stuff easily within reach should the need arise.

middle draw clockwise from top L: rolls of duct tape and clear packing tape; mini cordless clippers; tubes of bute paste; flash light; epsom salts; random mug bc why not; supplement tupperwares; SMZs; spray wound flush; half used tube of bute paste; alushield; furazone; bute tables; measuring spoons; ichthammol ointment; and baytril.
The second drawer is a little more cluttered but I'm hoping the shallow nature of the drawer will keep from letting it get overrrun. All my medications and topical treatments that aren't likely to leak are stored in here. Exceptions are the MTG, Animax, Betadine and Keratex that are stored in the hanging organizer.

A lot of the stuff here had been previously left out on the floor of the tack locker for easy grabbing when needed, but I'm actually happier to give them all a dedicated 'space.'

new stanley tool box - perfectly sized to nestle between the above set of drawers and the tack locker wall
I also picked up a new tool box that would ideally have enough space to fit a fair amount of goodies in it, while also being small enough to squeeze between the drawers and the wall. I had envisioned more of a fishing tackle box style, but this is shaped perfectly: long and wide but not very deep.

It doesn't really have many meaningful compartments, but that actually worked out well for my purposes. It's nice that the lid opens from either side and can come entirely off too.

absolutely filled with bandaging materials
I had planned to fill the box with more of the stuff that went into drawer #2 - all those medicines and ointments and whatnot - plus maybe the gloves and some rolls of vet wrap.

But actually it only fit a fraction of the bandages for Charlie's wraps so..... Yea I maybe was a little delusional about how much space this stuff really occupies.

In any case: the box holds my full supply of brown cling gauze, animalintex pads, telfa pads, elastikon, and most of my rolled gauze and vetwrap. All the rest of the vetwrap and non stick wound pads are in the top drawer.

omg and even more.... rolls upon rolls of cotton gauze and wraps
Naturally tho, there are other elements of Charlie's wound care supply that take up even MOAR room -- and are also maybe highly susceptible to mouse infestation. This would be the fluffy rolls of gauze and the big leg-sized rolled cotton wrap for encasing the whole cannon.

These goodies.... don't really fit anywhere and I've taken to storing them in my car for fear of the mice getting in there and making a poop-filled mess of things.

So.... yea. It's a lot of materials. Most of them are specifically devoted to Charlie's post-surgical wound care and will be used up in short order and not replaced at nearly the same volume. The rest tho are just every day first aid type stuff that's nice to have on hand. I imagine once a lot of the stuff in that tool box is used up, I'll be revisiting ways to pack it up to be a little more versatile.

the hospital bandage after 2 days. top two layers: blue vetwrap and elastikon at top and bottom to seal.
In the meantime, let's talk about the surgical wound and it's bandaging in particular. The vets at New Bolton changed the bandage the morning before he was discharged to make sure all was well - then left detailed instructions for care over the next two weeks.

The bandage is to be changed every 2-3 days. Early if it's wet, slipped down, or really nasty. Later if all looks well. In Charlie's case, the advantages of frequent changes (being able to visually assess the wound) are outweighed by the need to keep the site as sterile and clear from contamination as possible.

The top layer of the bandage is all about reducing the risks of contamination: a thick layer of vetwrap covers the entire bandage. And at each end, sticky elastikon seals the edges of the bandage directly to Charlie's knee and hoof. This creates a barrier protecting against anything slipping underneath the bandage.

middle two layers: brown cling gauze covering a full size cotton roll
The next layer of the bandage is essentially a standing wrap: thick rolled cotton covered by brown cling gauze. I'd never used this brown gauze before and am not totally sure what hugely important purpose it serves in existing between the cotton roll and the vet wrap.

But that's ok - I'm more than happy to do whatever it takes to keep that wound wrapped up like Fort Knox. The brown gauze is kinda nice too, as it sticks to itself relatively securely so you don't have to keep a hand on the bandage while gathering materials for each successive layer.

bottom layer: cotton gauze covering a telfa non stick pad
And finally, the innermost layer of the bandage - and arguably the most important: a non stick pad (in this case a Telfa pad) to dress the wound directly, held in place by a roll of cotton gauze.

The cotton gauze rolls from New Bolton are giant and fluffy and take up a ton of space compared to the vacuum sealed sterile rolls in some of the packs I've picked up (that you can see in the tool box pic), but again I'm not convinced there's a major difference. Both seem to work just fine, tho there's more volume to the hospital rolls. Like a big fluffy pillow lol.

the sutured up surgical site. chicks dig scars tho, right?
Below all that, we get to the wound itself. Idk. It's ugly. It's long and is closed by two different layers of sutures (for different tension relieving purposes) and definitely looks like a leg that has undergone some trauma. Poor Charlie.

i'll probably have this wrap figured out by the time i don't need to wrap it anymore lol
I'm not the world's greatest bandage wrapper but this whole situation seems mostly fool-proof. Plus it doesn't hurt that Charlie is an easy patient: he mostly keeps his leg pretty still when I'm working on it (tho all bets are off when I step away - he hates the feeling of a loose wrap and will shake and stomp the leg to make it come off. this is.... not helpful lol).

But it helps me feel a little better about the whole thing by getting all the materials organized and stored for easy access. Small wins, right? And maybe I'm not the only one who gets that odd self-satisfied feeling when looking at a freshly organized, well-stocked kit?

How have you gone about building out your first aid kits? By necessity bc of some major disruptive illness or injury? Or slowly over time as needs arose for this or that?

How do you keep things organized? Do you like everything to have its place, with similar items stored together? Or is it more a function of how often things get used? Is there any one item in your kit that you rely on head and shoulders above the rest? Or things you thought were very important that have gone unused for ages?