Wednesday, February 14, 2018

the game's afoot

Get it?? See what I did there??? A foot?!?! Lolololol I crack myself up with the puns....

handsome boy. also, incidentally, currently not good for much else either.
The inevitable has become reality. Charlie's woe-befallen RH, of recent nail impalement fame, has indeed begun showing signs of abscessing. Sigh.

I had begun to hope we could avoid this entirely.... I mean, the spurting blood from the puncture seemed so promising! And he had become so comfortable!! I had even begun to tell myself that it really truly would be ok to school him purposefully again!

Alas, tho. Twas not to be. In fact, it all went down somewhat comically anyway.... In true Charlie fashion, naturally.

RIP horseware liner, you were gone too soon!
(for those curious tho, yes i absolutely went right on back and ordered another one....)
The foreshadowing: Charlie's normal sheet was still soaked from all our rain, so I had asked the woman who helps with blanketing to use my new Horseware liner and Mio sheet. Except.... dun dun dunnnn, I neglected to tell her about the clips on the liner for attaching it to the sheet's rear surcingle straps to prevent slipping.

Womp womp, you can probably see where this is going. Actually I know you can, bc the representative photo is literally directly above this text.

Suffice to say, Charlie shredded the liner beyond repair. I didn't even know if he took it off himself or if he needed to be rescued. All I knew was... that liner was DEAD. And whatever the case, I legit half expected Charlie to have maimed himself in some important way in the ordeal.

hm well golly gee wilikers, nobody could have seen this coming!
So the first thing I did after pulling him out of his stall that evening was methodically check each of his mud-encrusted limbs for blood, swelling or heat. And, Bingo!, I found two out of three where I least wanted to: his RH.

And it was hot. Dammit.

I guess it's possible that he somehow hurt that same hoof in some liner-related debacle. More than likely tho, we're still looking at fallout from last week's nail puncture.

fortune favors the prepared, eh??
So now we're back on full abscess protocol. Honestly I have no reason to believe this will be anything other than a normal, run of the mill abscess. Except that whole pesky "nail" business.... And the fact that it's Charlie and Charlie does things his own way.

But. The gist is: soak and wrap. Soak and wrap. Etc etc etc.

seriously tho. he's a good boy.
As far as I can tell, the nail hole is all sealed up. But I still cleaned up the hoof as much as possible before soaking it - rinsing in cold water and scrubbing with a stiff brush and hoof pick.

Then soaked in hot water with epsom salt generously poured in, plus some betadine too just for shits and giggles.

terrible angle. clean hoof tho...
After soaking for what felt like forever, I then poked around a little more with the hoof pick (finding nothing) then packed with poultice and more epsom salt and wrapped up for the farrier to evaluate.

and if you only saw this post from when i accidentally published it yesterday, you would have missed this sweet post-farrier barefoot pic..... still no sign of drainage tho...
The next day, farrier was able to pull his shoe and look around a little more. But while there's definitely something brewing in there, there's no sign of drainage yet. So Charlie's back on the farrier list for next week, and in the meantime I continue to soak and wrap, soak and wrap.

"hm this isn't so bad!" - charlie, probably
So. Ya know. Whatever, right? It's not like we didn't see this coming...

Frankly I was already pretty convinced that Charlie would wait until Saturday morning, after I'd already packed the trailer and loaded everything up for Loch Moy, to announce his intention to abscess.

"oh wait, shit, i immediately regret that choice"
Silver linings I guess are that the organizers allowed me to apply my entry to a future event instead of forfeiting it entirely (which would have made it the 3rd lost entry out of the last 4 mailed out, including the end of last season... those ain't great odds, Charles!).

now that's what i call thinking
So.... That's basically where things stand right now.

Still no reason to believe there's anything more nefarious going on inside the hoof.... He's been too comfortable for too long to suggest any injury to any of the important structures. Theoretically.

And an abscess certainly isn't the worst thing in the world. Honestly it's abscess season right now anyway, with all the wet/dry/wet/dry cycles we've been having with rain and freezing conditions. It's still reeeeeally freakin annoying tho.

C'est la vie, tho, right?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

DJD Prototype: sparkles to light up a dreary day!

I'm a pretty relentlessly practical person. I don't spend a lot of time indulging whims or shopping for new, shiny, beautiful or luxurious items. When it comes to my own gear and garb, I generally aim for pieces that "will do" for the job.

behold, the prototype of a new V-shaped browband from Dark Jewel Designs! in a classy silver color scheme
None of my horse stuff is very fancy, and very little of it was purchased new. I like a deal, and I like consignment. And I like spending my dollars on lessons and horse shows, vs the latest and greatest in tack or gear.

Somehow, tho, I've still managed to amass a small but growing collection of "nice" stuff. My jump and dressage bridles are both quite nice (both came to me used from other bloggers, actually!). And obvi my new (to me) dressage saddle is probably the nicest piece of tack I own. And I'm excited to have these pieces for this first horse of mine that will hopefully be my partner for many years to come.

an otherwise boringly practical mail day was made so much better by the addition of bling!
So when Amelia of Dark Jewel Designs asked me to beta test a new browband style she's experimenting with, I could not have been more excited! I already have a collection of her snap-on browbands for both bridles - with interchangeable bead strands for whatever mood suits us.

And this new shape seemed like it could be very flattering on Sir Charles. Knowing that this particular style does not have the interchangeable functionality, I opted to keep the design somewhat universal with a simple, but elegant monochromatic silver look.

and on foggy, gray, drizzly days when the ground is saturated beyond capacity... sparkles help brighten things up!
Which, ya know, was kinda fitting bc it's been gray gray gray here for ages. The amount of rain we've had.... ugh. I'm honestly shocked Charlie hasn't blossomed into every known variety of fungus yet. Esp considering he's started shedding, I just *know* the skin funk can't be far behind!

tho naturally, it was also a good day for some organization too
But before I could try out Amelia's gorgeous new design, my locker needed some fresh attention. I've posted a few times now on the organizational evolution of this locker, mostly bc clutter is apparently my lifestyle.

And the way I had things set up in this locker just wasn't sustainable. It was too messy, too hard to get bridles and saddles in and out. And I kept on finding myself piling stuff on the floor in front of those drawers instead of each item having its own dedicated place.

traded out the hanging organizer for a metal rack so my bridles could hang on the door too instead of along the inner walls of the locker
With this latest lovely browband addition to the family, I wanted to make sure it could be stored safely in the locker. Considering my bridles were previously wedged in along the sides, with the saddles cramming up against them.... I knew I wanted to reevaluate how the door space was utilized.

this makes it a lot easier to get the saddles in and out without tangling up all the bridles
As much as I loved that baker-style hanging organizer, I wanted my bridles on the door instead for easier access. So the hanging organizer is gone, replaced by a simple wire rack from Amazon. Which, amazingly, stores basically the same amount of stuff but takes up less space. I'll call that a win.

and suddenly the inside of the locker seems so much less cluttered! relatively lol
It also means that my saddles don't have as much friction when being pulled off their racks, or put back into place. You can see in the above picture all the nails where my bridles previously hung.

Not sure if I'll put anything else back on them again. Maybe spare girths.... but maybe I'll just leave that space clear. And hopefully a lot of this "spare stuff" will actually make it onto the eventual equestrian blogger yard sale post (keep an eye out for that at the end of the month!!).

the rack manages to hold basically as much as the hanging organizer too, tho i still want to optimize it a little more, esp with regard to boots...
I like the set of drawers in my locker a lot, but it's been hard to keep them as optimized as possible. Esp when other stuff ends up being stored on the floor in front of them. I'm hoping that with these wire racks, everything will be much easier now. Tho boot and polo and wrap storage continues to be somewhat of an issue. That stuff just takes up so much space!! Gah!!!

meanwhile, scruffy charlie got to come out and play too! let's just pretend that his mane is brushed lol
At least, tho, at least my primary objective in the re-org was met: Getting my bridles hung in a more effective way, with less likelihood for tangles or damage. Again, bc considering the bridles are some of the nicest I've ever owned, I really ought to take better care of them!

he's a hard horse to make pose lol, but he made some nice faces in his pretty new brow band!
And naturally, the last thing I want to do is damage Amelia's beautiful bead work! All of the browbands I've had from her have been sturdy in standing up to my regular abuse, and this new V-shape seems no different. But still.
mostly tho he kinda just looks like this. slightly confused as to what we're doing standing around like this
And actually I really like the way it fits Charlie. Right now it's sitting "up" a little bit off his forehead, but I think that's mostly just stiffness of new leather. The fit is nice and roomy, and doesn't seem likely to rub or pinch anywhere. The beadwork itself is flexible too.

or ya know, he doesn't stand around at all. it's hard to get a picture bc he's always following me!
Plus I actually really like how the V looks on him with his big bright star (and the silver color does a good job of making that star look even whiter, as opposed to making it look dingy).

so we'll just have to settle for close-ups ;)
Plus, perhaps it distracts a little bit from Charlie's forelock's tendency to hold itself in a dweeby center part??? Lol...

browband fits well and the beads are so pretty! i expect the leather to settle in and become more supple with regular use
Per usual, Amelia worked with me on my ideas for color scheme and style in picking a pattern for the bead work. My vision was "monochromatic sparkles" and that's exactly what I got, with a nice variety in the style and type of bead used.

She offers a ton of different styles, tho - which you can see on her Facebook, Etsy, or Flickr Albums. My personal favorite way to work with her is to give her a general idea of what I'm looking for (colors, dark v bright, type of pattern, etc) and then let her creative juices work their magic in mocking up examples.

but even with charlie's funny expressions, i think i quite like the V-shape on him!!!
I'm not sure if there's anything definitive yet on timelines, availability, or pricing for this particular V shape, as Charlie is wearing a prototype of the design while Amelia works out the kinks. I'm excited about it tho! And hopeful to debut it at a schooling show coming up later this month (fingers crossed!).

Do you like blingy browbands? Or new or interesting shapes? Or do you mostly go with the tried and true traditional look, to avoid distraction? And are you like me, using these dark dreary winter days to fuss around with all your gear and gadgets and organizational stuff to get everything all primed for spring???

Monday, February 12, 2018

let's talk: good reads

And by "good reads," I mean: this wonderful wild equestrian blogging community.

A little background, first:

first ride ever, at a local rent-a-pony trail joint!
A couple years ago, let's say around 2012ish, I was already well-ensconced into my post-college, career-track office job. And had finally started riding again after a ~4yr hiatus (broke college grad problems).

I already had a well-developed and curated set of bookmark folders for all my favorite various internet readings (favorite op-ed columnists, photo galleries, lifestyle blogs, internet comics, etc etc) but was just starting to scratch the surface of horse-focused sites.

Toby was one of the first horses i rode in a "show" (it was more like just a demonstration ride, and our group of lesson mates performed a drill to military tunes)
I'm pretty sure the first horse blog I found was Behind the Bit. Soon after followed by Wyvern Oaks, and The Reeling. I found myself eagerly devouring the full archives, suddenly rapacious for this new-to-me genre of online reading. Horse people, just like me, who were writing about and sharing all their adventures and experiences big and small.

And I wanted more. Was impatient for new posts. And started searching for others; reading through comments, googling various keywords, searching RSS feeds. Slowly, I started finding them. Cob Jockey, She Moved to Texas, SprinklerBandits, PONY'TUDE, Guinness on Tap.

Poor Woman Showing. House on a Hill. Viva Carlos. Hand Gallop. Fly on Over.

CJ lived at a trail barn that would let me do chores in exchange for free rides during the summers
The list was growing. And growing. And growing. With each new blog I found (each of which I voraciously read through all of the archives), more would bubble up to the surface - through linked profiles in the comments sections (pro tip: one of the easiest ways for people to find your blog is by commenting on others!), or links on each blog's "Reading List."

It's hard, really, to explain the impact these blogs had on me. I'd loved horses longer than I could remember. Had always worked hard to have horses in my life. To learn, and be better.

But.... I'd always somehow felt this separation between my own riding life and the glossy pictures in magazines like Equus or Practical Horseman. Those riders and their experiences were just.... so different from mine. Those horses looked nothing like the humble, fuzzy lesson ponies I knew. To the point where I didn't even really believe that type of reality was an option for me.

Snowy was a sensitive, humble appy pony. such a good girl tho, and a horse who taught me so much during my very formative high school years
When I found all these blogs tho? What struck me was.... so many of these authors are just like me. Sure, we all have somewhat different backgrounds, resources, hopes and dreams. But materially speaking, the JenJ who keeps her horses at home but trailers out to lessons... The Carly who had almost single-handedly brought her horse along to cruisin' N like nbd (complete with helmet cam footage sure to include epic commentary)...

The only difference I could see between me and these riders was that they were actively pursuing those goals. That they could make a choice to do a thing, and then do it.

It had never even occurred to me that I could have my own truck or trailer. That I could choose trainers at different barns and ride with them on my own terms. I had just gotten it stuck in my head that, you take lessons with a barn head trainer. And since there was no trainer at Isabel's barn... Whelp. Isabel just wasn't a horse I trained with, she was simply my exercise between lessons at my "real" barn.

at college, my barn would take 4-6 horses, each ridden by multiple students, to all the local schooling shows. my first season on Harry was very successful for us and got my name on a perpetual trophy!
But with the advent of all these great blogs, of all these riders sharing their stories, following their dreams, and writing about every step of the way... I realized that I could do that too. And that, actually, Isabel was looking more and more like a pretty cool horse when viewed through this new mindset. And that, maybe if I invested in her the way these bloggers were investing in their own horses, she could become something really special for me too.

And so I went all in. Got my truck and trailer. Found new trainers. Decided to event. And, in mid-2014, I started my own blog too.

One of the most important aspects, therefore, in the construction and layout of this blog, is my "Blog List" in the sidebar.

I had been so unexpectedly hungry to find new blogs as soon as I scratched the surface. And yet... they were so hard to find! Each newfound blog felt like a brand new portal into the horse world for me, full of new discoveries and ideas.

Ellie Mae was very fun for making the rounds at the local schooling shows too
So I wanted to collect all of those blogs in one easy to find place, easy to use and peruse for anyone else likewise interested and eager for more.

Thus. We finally get to my point today. "Good Reads."

I'm extremely fond of my blog list, updating and adding to it often. I try not to let it become too "curated" tho. I don't really want to be a "gate keeper" or "taste maker," handing down judgement on which blogs make the cut and which don't. Rather, I try to collect them as I find them, to share with anyone else looking for more to read.

My only real criteria is that I, personally, am less interested in commercial type blogs. Sponsored posts, paid content or teams of professional writers.... Those are all well and fine, but trend more in the direction of the Equus or Practical Horseman examples I wrote about above. They're less relatable and compelling to me as an individual rider on my own horse journey.

lad was one of my all time faves from rochester, and my days with him were what made me gravitate to a horse like charlie
There are SO MANY great bloggers now too. Even just this month I've found and added like.... 7 or 8 more. And I'm always surprised when I find one that has apparently already been well known to other readers for some time now.

SO. My question and request to all of you who also love reading and following along with equestrian blogs: Can you help me out? What are some of your favorite blogs? What am I missing from the sidebar? Care to share any new (or not so new!) links with me?? Do you have a blog that isn't already listed??

Or, if you don't necessarily have any links to share, maybe you can tell me about how you go about discovering new blogs? Or, more generally, what is it that draws you to reading equestrian blogs? How did you find this community, and what does it mean to you?

Friday, February 9, 2018

about that lesson....

Thanks all for your kind words and wishes for a speedy recovery after Charlie's nail-impalement mishap. It's hard to believe.... but he seems.... fine.

me, when my horse keeps finding new and inventive ways to maim himself
Idk how he does this. Like, he seems to toe right up onto the edge of catastrophe, maybe even sticking his nose ever so slightly over the line... And yet manages to walk away relatively unscathed. I know in my gut that one day, Sir, those wax wings of yours will melt. But today does not appear to be that day.

Vet's orders are to remain vigilant for a potential abscess. Barring that, tho, the horse is sound and cleared for duty. Crazy, I know. But that's Charlie for ya.

aaaaand.... how i cope.
I, on the other hand, might need a few more days to emerge from my cocoon of slightly muted panic. Bc a giant nail in my horse's hoof can have that effect, ya know? But seeing Charlie feeling healthy and happy (and SOUND), with his standard dopey expression really helps!

So in the meantime, while I try to pull myself and my tangled nerves out of the puddle we melted into... In the meantime, let's talk about that how that lesson went before Charlie discovered that nail in a manner exactly opposite of conquering heroes from days past.

flashback to that time my horse did cool things like arena eventing at loch moy
The lesson was kinda fraught with disaster from the start - since we had an overnight ice storm and I needed to reshuffle my work schedule to move the lesson to the afternoon. It was still rainy and icy tho, and the walk up to the arena was slightly harrowing.

Then as we got started, Charlie was moving out a little stiffly. Probably from having stood on literal ice for the past few hours (tho at least his new Mio sheet kept him AND his medium weight blanket nice and dry!!). He loosened up quickly tho, esp with some open cantering on each lead.

oh he also won a year end award too!!
New upper level event trainer K had promised we'd do something other than grids this week, and she did not disappoint. Plus she'd already set everything up - since Charlie and I were her third back to back lesson in a row (and yet Charlie had to be the one to find the nail... grrr).

It was pretty simple stuff, and all starting nice and low to help Charlie ease into the exercises and tune in. We started by trotting up the center line to a single blue vertical at the far end, repeating and changing directions as the jump grew slightly with each pass. Then turned around to do the same exercise, but taking the short turn down the center line to the vertical (coming from A instead of C) and focusing on landing straight in canter.

somehow we pulled 3rd in the BN rankings despite only completing one BN for 4th place lol
This was all well and fine for Charlie, so we quickly moved on to the panel jump with placing poles on either side at E. It started as a panel cross rail and grew every couple of passes, and we circled from each direction cantering in.

My biggest focus here was the turn: Turning early enough with outside knee and open inside hand, and sitting my ass down in the saddle through the turn to encourage Charlie to step up and carry himself forward on his hind legs.

anyway, more interesting things: this lesson's course diagram. plain vertical on center line. vertical at E with placing poles. hog's back oxer at B. 4" mother fucking nail at H.
I also needed to focus on keeping the canter coming forward. My tendency is to try to micromanage Charlie a little too much, to ride him in too quiet of a canter, where we then have to make big last minute moves to get to where we want to be at the jump. And as such, we had a couple misses where I kinda just threw the reins at him and let him find his own way through lol.

Mostly tho, the whole art of this particular exercise was the turn. Given that the arena is 40x20m, and the jump was set on the E-B line, if I got my turn right, we'd then have 3 forward strides after finishing the turn to reach the placing pole. If I didn't get the turn right? Getting through the whole mini gymnastic was a bit trickier.

photographic representation of the same.
After repeating that for a while, I expected the hog's back oxer to ride just fine. And we treated it in the same manner: approaching at canter off both leads, with it going up every couple of passes. Turns out tho, it only really rode easily if I executed the turn well. In this size arena, there really isn't a lot of forgiveness for being sloppy turning down the center or quarter lines. Go figure.

Trainer K wanted to see me be a little more disciplined in both my upper body (sitting up taller and deeper in the saddle in turns to the jumps) and legs (lower legs forward over the fence). And wanted to see me ride a more forward canter, but still keeping Charlie's attention and softness, moving the bit in his mouth if he was getting away from me.

charlie, looking bored by ground poles one evening earlier this week
The final exercise was to be: come down over the mini gymnastic on our right lead, find somewhere to change directions, then come down over the hog's back on our left lead. But... Charlie picked up that nasty little giant nail just as we were picking up our canter.

So. Ya know. That was kinda that.

It was otherwise a good lesson tho, lots to think about for me as rider. I need to commit to memory this feeling of a more forward but still balanced canter. While also being more accountable (ie, less sloppy) in our turns and straightness to fences. When those pieces check out, then it's just a matter of making sure my body parts are all where they belong lol.

It was also yet another lesson making me wish we had more options when it comes to conditioning right now. Private jumping lessons are.... a lot more intense than group lessons haha. And Charlie was constantly trying to drop anchor at every passing standard to catch a little break. As if he couldn't figure out why it was always "his turn" and nobody else was going in between our trips to give us a breather lol.

That's fine tho. More fitness will help. And esp when we're outside more consistently (or when summer rolls around and Brita's school is out) I expect we'll get more group or semi-private lessons too. Which, honestly, tends to be my preference for jumping lessons anyway.

Ya know. Assuming Charlie doesn't get himself killed between now and then. Always a big "if" there, apparently.... Sigh. Do you like private jumping lessons? Or do you prefer groups? Or do you just kinda roll with what you can get?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

like a shot in the arm

Or like a nail in the hoof?? Idk... I think I'm getting my metaphors confused and mixed up....

Charlie and I had a great lesson yesterday. I'll probably write more about it soon (it's worth documenting) but it ended abruptly with the world's most unlucky hoof fall. Charlie somehow found a 4" nail with his RH. The nail is likely an artifact of all the construction that's been going on with our indoor over the past month or two.

houston, we have a problem.
In fact, as best I can tell, based on the location where he picked it up (bc, uh, yea he was instantly crippled even tho I wasn't able to pull him up for a few more strides.....) the nail has probably been lying in wait for a while.

Why Charlie, of all horses, had to be the one to find it is beyond me.

fucking christ
Actually we couldn't even figure out what was up at first - he was just suddenly very, very lame. Once I got him stopped it seemed like he was maybe kicking at his belly. I wondered if he was cramping up or colicking maybe?? Trainer K thought maybe his stifle locked, and he was extremely reactive to any touching or prodding.

It didn't take long, tho, to find the source of Charlie's extreme angst: a giant goddamn nail embedded in his hoof. Actually, it took way longer to even get the thing out of there (no way in hell was I gonna wait to pull it so we could x-ray. the last thing I wanted was the nail going any deeper if Charlie stepped hard on it.).

the foam is hydrogen peroxide. the dark brown stuff is blood.
About an inch of nail was embedded in the hoof, and it spurted blood immediately upon us finally getting it out of the hoof (which... again... took a while even with tools. Charlie was.... very unhappy throughout this process).

The blood is a good sign. Another good sign? The nail appears to have been angled underneath the shoe in the direction of Charlie's hoof wall. As opposed to... say.... his coffin joint. Or navicular bursa. Or the deep digital flexor tendon.

Fuck it, take your pick. There are literally so many really fragile, delicate, but oh-so-important structures inside the hoof.

see? blood. ugh...
A third good sign? Once we got the nail out, Charlie was instantly more comfortable. Clearly sore, but no longer three-legged lame. He was weight bearing and easily walked out of the indoor into the attached barn aisle for us to flush it out and get a temporary wrap on it for the long walk down the driveway to our own lower barn. 

I also used this time to call the vet, who will be looking at the horse at some point today. She determined it did not merit an emergency visit since, without the nail still being in the hoof, she couldn't x-ray to see where it went anyway. And with Charlie walking ok, we had every indication that the nail somehow did not injure any of those critical structures inside the hoof.

Obvi, fingers crossed there. We'll know more after the vet looks at him today, and gauges his degree of lameness etc. 

only a fraction of the supplies...
So.... Initial consensus is that we dodged a bullet. That perhaps, this is the best case scenario of giant-fucking-nail-in-hoof that you can have. That maybe, somehow, we got lucky. The thing is, tho... The thing is, I really don't feel lucky. If anything, I feel the opposite of lucky.

flying pig duct tape. bc pigs will fly when charlie can go longer than six weeks without some horrifying injury.
But Charlie needed my attention, so Emma's pity party #1879 had to be put on temporary hold.

Instructions for once we got back down to his barn were:
- Scrub as much mud off the hoof as possible (I rinsed in a bucket of cold water and scrubbed with a stiff brush)
- Epsom soak with hot water for ~10min
- Flush with betadine using a syringe (note to self: buy one of those long curved tip syringes)
- Pack with poultice or magic cushion. I used poultice since that's what I have.
- Wrap hoof. I did a gauze pad first to hold in the poultice, then vet wrap, then a piece of feed bag to keep his toe from wearing through, then duct tape. (note to self: buy more duct tape)
- Give that pony some bute.

i still love him tho :(
And now we wait. To hear from the vet. To see if Charlie spikes a giant fever or goes very lame. Or if the thing will abscess. It's hard to tell whether he'll need stall rest or for how long, since the ground is so wet and muddy right now. 

But for now, I'm tamping down the urge to panic with the idea that.... Charlie's probably going to be fine. The puncture's location seems promising, as does his level of comfort on the foot. 

Dammit, tho. Just... Dammit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

punxsutawney phil predicts: more winter shopping!

That's what the off season is all about anyway, right? Buying stuff to make us feel better about the cold and/or to get us pumped up and excited about the future!! Or something like that!!! No February spending freeze happenin here lol....

modeling a cozy 100g liner by Horseware of Ireland
I wrote last week about how fluctuating temperatures (and precipitation) have been complicating the blanketing game with Charlie. Basically, the long and short of it is that, to date, Charlie has owned a sheet and a medium that can be layered together to make a heavier weight blanket if needed. He also has a Back on Track mesh sheet that I often use interchangeably with the regular sheet as a liner.

he's wearing an 81. i freaked out at first bc his butt hangs out a little bit, but i think that's by design so it doesn't get wet from peeking out underneath a top layer
This has worked well for our region and typical climate, for the most part. Except when we're dealing with frequent rain and one of the layers isn't drying out quickly enough. So after a little brainstorming, I picked up two new layers:

- Horseware of Ireland 100g blanket liner
- Mio turnout sheet

velcro closure at the chest, and extra velcro tabs on top of the shoulders should you be inclined. no belly straps.
My thought process being: Even when it's been extremely cold here, Charlie's done fine with layers as opposed to a single heavy weight blanket. And the layers give me more options with varying temperatures in wet and dry conditions. So buying more interchangeable layers seemed like a my best bet for always having something(s) on hand no matter the weather.

new cheapie 600D Mio lightweight rain sheet layered on top
The liner seemed like a good choice bc it's in some ways lower maintenance. For instance, it can be laundered in a normal machine with normal detergent bc it's not waterproofed or sealed. It works with all of my current blankets by clipping onto the surcingle straps, and works great with Charlie's anti-rub shoulder bib.

So I can layer it under the medium instead of my sheet, or use all three together for extra bundling. Or it can layer with just a sheet alone if the medium is wet, for instance.

the Mio just has an adjustable tail strap, no rear surcingles. that's fine. the Horseware liner has clips to attach and prevent slipping.
The reasoning behind getting a second sheet is just to have an alternate for instances when our normal sheet (the Smartpak Ultimate turnout blanket, with the 10 year guarantee) is wet.

Plus this new sheet is actually quite a bit lighter in weight than the Smartpak (it's only 600D and not lined, compared to the 1000D nylon-lined Smartpak) so it may end up getting more use in warm spring or summer rain showers. Assuming it doesn't get shredded by any of Charlie's pasture buddies haha.

if i had composed this picture a little better with the color block line in charlie's sheet level with the horizon, it would have turned into camouflage lol
And as far as I'm concerned, it's reassuring to have additional options in various weight configurations during all this spastic weather.

snowy mane!!!!
So that when I decide to squeeze in an early morning trail ride to beat a pending snowstorm, I don't need to worry about whatever layers I put on the horse afterward knowing he'll wear them for 36+ hours straight.

and see, charlie does prick his ears on the trail! just... not when he's mindlessly following another horse i guess
And speaking of that trail ride.... It was short and sweet, and just me and Chuck. No better way to pass a strange Sunday morning, as far as I'm concerned.

cute ears too <3
And it makes me so happy that Charlie is as willing to strike off on his own solo trail adventures as he is to go with a buddy or two. He's also basically got the paths memorized by now so I mostly just sit there with my legs off, reins on the buckle, and either chat with him or enjoy the ride in silence. It's peaceful.

and a surprising coverage of snow speckles even just from our short jaunt
Our only little bobble was crossing the deeper stream - it was iced over pretty thickly, such that the ice didn't immediately give way under Charlie's weight. So he took a stutter step on the ice before it broke and he crashed down through. Which.... naturally upset him a little bit and he thought maybe we ought to turn around and go home right that instant.

A few pets and words of encouragement tho, and some sniffing of the water's edge, and he was willing to give it another try. Good boy. He was a little snorty after that, and had to trot and canter through all the rest of the little tiny stream-like depressions in the trail... But that's ok haha.

it all got rained away shortly thereafter tho.... ick
We kept it pretty short tho all the same - cutting back to the barn through the summer pastures that are all lying fallow over winter. Considering the snow was getting heavier and I knew freezing rain would follow shortly after, I wanted to get home before the worst of it.

were it not for the sleety snow i could have gotten better pictures. sorry!
It was good tho. Even tho it had taken a little convincing to get out of bed that morning to make it out for an early ride, I definitely felt better for it through the rest of the day. No regrets there!

but i finally replaced my DIY hackamore noseband with something a little sturdier....
And we also got to try out a new hackamore noseband while we were at it! The DIY version I made for Isabel has held up remarkably well.... But the closure I used on it just isn't strong enough. It's a simple hinge-constructed suspender clasp.

It was strong enough to hold everything together on Isabel, who was extremely respectful of the curb chain (so much so that I always kept it covered with sheepskin). But.... Charlie's a little more dull in that department. Plus about 400lbs heavier so.... yea.

the DIY version held up admirably over the years, but that suspender clasp was just no match for freight train Charlie...
The suspender clasp was allowing the strap to slip through during a ride. And I just *knew* we'd eventually end up with the whole thing falling off Charlie's face at what would surely be a very inopportune moment. Thanks, but no thanks.

So back to a more traditional, commercial noseband we go. Luckily Brita had a friend who had a spare, so I didn't have to buy a whole new set of cheek pieces and chain and everything, I could just change out the noseband. 

charlie's all snugged up in his new liner. bc ugh, this precipitation is never ending....
And who knows, maybe I'll fuss around with trying to put a proper buckle on my DIY version so that it might hold up better for Charlie. We'll see.

Maybe if this cold rainy weather continues I'll have nothing better to do with my time than dream up unnecessarily fussy / complicated DIY project haha. Maybe.

At least in the meantime Charlie will hopefully be all snugged up in his new layers! Does your horse often wear layers? Or do you have a specific blanket for every occasion? Or no blankets at all?