Thursday, December 3, 2020

new products - winter edition

Lately I've been feeling a bit like a fall-frenzied squirrel, trying to pack away all my acorns before winter sets in. 

handsome pony, just pretend he's clean lol
Making sure I've got everything we need at the barn for optimal comfort and convenience --- including a couple new items in our tack locker. 

L to R: Fair Tales Tangle Tamer Static Free Detangling Spray for Kids
Mane 'n Tail Hoofmaker Hand & Nail Therapy
Coat Defense Daily Preventative Powder
Let's start with the Static Situation. Last month, I told y'all about Charlie's extreme suffering from being constantly zapped with static. And, thanks to you all, I've got a couple new ideas and approaches, and am happy to announce that Charlie has not been zapped once* since then!!!

(*Tho it helps that weather has been mostly mild.... We'll see when it gets really cold again!) 

safety pins in sleeves to reduce static?
One suggestion from Anna was to attach safety pins to my shirt sleeves, as a way to help reduce the accumulation of static charge. This was also a common 'life hack' per the google, which would never ever lie to me. 

Honestly I'm not sure it made a huge difference, and that same shirt was still static-y when I pulled it out of the dryer later (with safety pins still attached). But I also didn't zap the horse so.... Jury's out I guess haha!

can use Coat Defense as a dry shampoo, or alternatively can wet it to make a paste
Honestly, the biggest difference maker I think is the hand lotion situation, and I upgraded my game in that department by ordering the Mane 'n Tail Hoofmaker lotion, at Sarah's suggestion. A little bit goes a long way, but it absorbs quickly and keeps my hands feeling soft and static-free. 

see the bumpiness? looks like an uneven clip but is actually skin funk errywhere
Additionally, a number of you, including Kristen, Stacie and Mandy, suggested various coat spray products to help keep down the static. After a little bit of browsing around, I actually settled on a detangling product designed for kids. It's a pretty clean product (no parabens, sulfates, or even gluten or nuts LOL), plus presumably fairly gentle and nontoxic. 

It smells nice and was wayyyyyyy more cost effective than some similar products designed for horses haha. I add a few spritzes after currying for a nice shiny static-free finish.

kinda just guessing at how to work in the powder
The last recent addition to our grooming kit is the Coat Defense powder. I don't know a ton of people who use this, but the ones who do seem to SWEAR by it. So.... after some suggestions awhile back (maybe when Charlie was dealing with that disgusting leg fungus situation?) I picked up some powder. 

It apparently comes in both a powder and paste formula, but it was suggested to me that I get the powder since you could just as easily make a paste out of it by adding water. Apparently the paste is good for making a pack or poultice? 

charlie certainly seemed to enjoy the session haha
Anyway, after clipping Charlie, it became apparent that his entire body was absolutely COVERED in those tiny little scurffy skin funk bumps. Like, seriously covered -- but almost imperceptible under all that hair.

relaxed pony off in la la land
Normally I like using MTG on skin funk but.... Eh, I didn't really want to totally soak Charlie in it, esp when he'd need to wear his blanket on top. So I figured I'd give the Coat Defense a chance. I'd previously only really used it for itchy tails and the like, and it seemed to work reasonably well.

aaaaaand he's awake again haha (sporting his snuggy hood shoulder guard)
So Charlie basically got a full body massage with the stuff, haha. It's kinda awkward to apply since... ya know.... it's powder, but I just used my hands and curry comb and applied it fairly generously to make sure it got everywhere. 

snug as a bug in a rug! in Duke's hand-me-downs <3
Notably, even tho it was kinda a cold dry night out when we did that, there was zero static discharges using this stuff too. So... That's useful haha. 

And now, a week or two later, the funk seems mostly cleared up except for some small patches. Whether it cleared up on its own, or the Coat Defense helped, seems kinda moot -- as I'd use it again in a similar situation. I also like the idea of using this powder to help dry any sweaty patches after a ride when Charlie has to get blanketed again. 

very sad that the snuggy hood shoulder guard purchased in the 2017-18 winter has finally reached end of life...
And speaking of blankets.... It's definitely that time of year again. Tho I keep feeling like I haven't quite figured out our best system. A couple days I've felt like Charlie was way over blanketed, and other days I've felt the opposite. Plus he seems to be growing out his clip pretty quickly so... Yea, probably have left him a bit cold at times. 

replacement is a Harrison Howard Anti-Rub Vest Horse Shoulder Guard
One thing that has worked for us, tho, is this bib style of shoulder guard to prevent rubs. For the last three winters I've used a Snuggy Hood bib that I sorta stumbled on by accident for like $15, but that's been unavailable in the US ever since. And damn but I LOVE that guard -- the material, the cut, the tab for keeping it attached to the blanket....

loop to connect to blanket straps seems short
I bought a back-up Weatherbeeta version a few years ago and just.... Idk, it didn't even compare. The cut was all wrong, and the seams started coming apart immediately. Plus the material wasn't as nice. So I've clung to the Snuggy Hood ever since. Except.... Well, it's finally died. And while I *could* order it from the UK, the shipping costs as much as the shoulder guard itself. 

polar fleece at the wither and chest. overall fits higher up the neck than the snuggy hood
So I'm trying out this new Harrison Howard instead. First impressions are ok. It has some nice features -- like the fleecy points of contact. And some not great features -- like the giant seams and a tab that's too short to attach nicely to blankets. 

The material seems ok, tho, and frankly we were way overdue for replacing the Snuggy Hood anyway. So hopefully this one will turn out to work just as well, and won't fall apart. 

now we just wait for winter, i guess?
Blanketing is always kinda a tricky situation for us anyway, since it's not a service offered by my barn, and I live ~45min away. At best, Charlie gets one blanket change per day. Sometimes, tho, he'll go a couple days without a change if I can't get out there. Not really ideal, but we make do, ya know? 

So that's the new winter stuff for now. Anybody else discovered any new products lately that makes winter horse keeping a little more bearable? 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

between a rock and an Oakie tree

So let it be known: my absolute favorite socially distant activity is officially trail riding. Preferably on a pleasantly sunny day with temps in the mid 60s, on trails crisscrossing the Gunpowder State Park.

Oakie is a very handsome stately gentleman
And more specifically, with a big ol' group of good friends and great OTTBs!

cute bridle rack!
In other words, the trails at Isabel's old farm were jusssssst the ticket for a covid-safe Friendsgiving activity. 

ready for adventures
Originally we had planned to haul out to a different area of Gunpowder -- the Sweet Air park. But.... light overnight rain meant those trails would be closed to horses. 

So, eh, we improvised. And, given the last-minute nature and some logistical considerations, it made more sense for me to borrow one of the privately-owned lesson ponies rather than haul Charlie down. 

that feeling when your horse is finally sound again!
Which.... Turned out to be an absolute treat, since the handsome black stallion gelding Oakie happened to draw the short straw. 

gosh i love these paths!
You might recognize this horse as formerly pinch-hitting as a stand-in for other big group rides, like a paper chase at Fair Hill years ago... He was also present for our surprise-bridal-shower themed hunter pace at Tranquility. 

kinda love the bleak austerity of bare woods!
Bc this horse has been around for a couple years now, and is massively cool. He's tall, dark, and handsome. And is educated as fuck, having formerly done some of the big eq stuff before being purchased by a young rider at Izzy's farm.

our old stomping grounds - the blue trails
These days he mostly just does lessons, tho. And, while he's quite good at his job, it definitely felt like he enjoyed the opportunity to let loose a little in the woods.

emerging from the woods
Which was fitting since there were a couple ottb mares also out with us who were.... absolutely full of beans lol. Many interpretative dance moves were to be seen, much jigging, and snorts galore ringing through the trees haha. 

"pretty sure my friends are out there - let's go!" - oakie, probably
At first, Oakie definitely thought maybe he'd breathe fire too... But... Well, he's kinda an old man now (somewhere around 21 or 22, I think?) and so instead he was just jigging in his heart and spirit, but otherwise simply walking a big walk to keep up with those silly mares lol...

cutting back to the barn -- see the arena through the trees?
And damn it was so nice to be out on those trails again! Back in the day with Isabel we used to crawl all up and down all of those hills, across all those streams, wandering and looping around all over the place. 

"this is definitely not what i ordered" - oakie, definitely
Those trails are definitely a bit more rugged than what we have at Charlie's barn. And a few spots are slightly more eroded than I remember. But they're still super horse-friendly, albeit on the technical side. And just so so so beautiful -- even if it's hard to catch on camera. Probably my favorite pictures of the trails can be found here

who remembers this ring from the isabel days??
Before long, tho, we were back at the barn -- and actually back into the arena, where some riders wanted to do a little trotting and cantering and obvi I couldn't resist the opportunity with Oakie too <3

fun with friends <3
Toward the end of my time with Isabel at this barn, the arena base had started to deteriorate and disintegrate, with lots of deep holes forming. They've done a great job rebuilding it, tho, and it looks better than ever. Definitely felt like a nice little bit of nostalgia to ride in there again haha. 

So all in all, it was a really nice way to spend a holiday during these strange covid times. I'm super grateful that, with all the upheaval and unknowns, horse activities have somehow fit more or less cleanly onto the relatively safer end of the spectrum. Go figure, lol.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

double header weekend

For the first time in what feels like ages, Charlie and I actually had a fairly busy weekend -- with not one, but two riding lessons!!

Tho.... To be totally honest with you, they were both, uh, fairly low key in terms of actual work lol. Alas, I have exactly zero relevant media from either, too. Boo. 

this is charlie's "tall horse" impression
Anyway, tho, on Saturday I somewhat impulsively decided to piggyback on to one of trainer P's early jump groups. It's been forever since Charlie's done any real proper jumping. 

Like we had those couple hunter paces, but probably haven't done a full real "course" since the Fair Hill Derby in August. And actually, our last jump lesson was also in August. So ya know. It's been a minute haha. 

it's really quite convincing haha
So I figured it'd be appropriate to start back small -- thus joining an earlier group than what I'd typically choose. Tho, uh, yea... I definitely thought I was joining like a 2'3-2'6 group and it ended up being crossrails with kiddos instead haha. Hahaha. Uh, whoops?

fuzzy ears in a very pretty little ring
It was still fun, tho. Fun to just get back into that rhythm of a group lesson again. Even if it was sliiiiiightly agonizing trying to be patient while the 8yos fumbled through learning the patterns and remembering whose turn it was.... lol.

Also I think it was pretty good for Charlie to remember that in some rides we go, and then stop and wait, then go again, then stop and wait again. It's been a long time since he's had to abide by that kind of system and he's gotten kinda opinionated about feeling when he ought to be "finished" with a ride. So again, it was sorta a useful experience. 

this side eye brought to you by a horse that's about to pretend-lose-his-shit
The jumps themselves were honestly kinda silly too, haha. The biggest thing was maybe an 18" oxer, and obviously Charlie was strutting like a peacock, so proud of his prowess over the little speed bumps lol. Even still, tho, the arrangement and exercises turned out to still be pretty beneficial. 

We trotted into everything in a nice polite balance, then halted straight after each little line. Then did some three-element diagonal lines where each individual jump was kinda on a different angle but we were supposed to find a nice straight line across all three. 

aaaaand that wraps up my relevant horse pics, so here, have barn cat + great dane pics instead
I liked this exercise bc one diagonal was a 4-to-4, and the other was a 3-to-4, so kinda a slightly lengthy overall distance for Charlie to remain polite and balanced. 

Esp with the jumps being so small, it was a good reason to really focus on the flatwork and treat the jumps more or less like cavaletti. Tho.... next time I'll probably just go back to the 3' group lol. 

clearly this cat rules the world!
Honestly, tho, I'm still just kinda taking things day by day and seeing how Charlie does as we increase his workload again. With winter coming on, it doesn't make much sense to be in any sort of big rush to go balls to the wall, ya know?

So we'll see what happens haha. All told, it just felt good to get back into that sort of riding routine again so hopefully we can at least keep that up!

no pics of our crossrail lesson from this weekend, 

The other big lesson of the week was planned a little bit more in advance, and required a quick little trailer ride over to my friend's absolutely charming farmette. 

or at least, that portion of the world not including jack russell terrier puppies lol
We signed up for another riding lesson with Molly K, using the equiformance resistance band training system. This was actually our third lesson with her, tho I never ended up writing about the second lesson and it's too far gone out of mind now to even try to resurrect it lol. C'est la vie. 

Like I wrote last time, these clinic-type lessons are intended to focus primarily on the rider's bio mechanics, using the bands as essentially 'posture slings' to reinforce correct alignment and help the rider better identify and isolate the appropriate muscle groups. 

here, kitty kitty!
Tho naturally.... After three lessons with Molly, we've kinda gotten a little bit away from the "focus on the rider" and started digging more into Charlie's way of going. Because let's be real here, there are few trainers around who can resist the deep need to, idk, "fix" Charlie. 

Poor horse, he just doesn't have a great way of going on the flat and it's made ever more evident by his size extra large frame. 

awwww he reminds me of my old gray tuxedo cat <3
Still, tho, it was good stuff. Molly basically worked me through some exercises intended to get Charlie moving his spine up and down and all around, of his own volition. 

First up, she had me trotting him around in a very jockey-esque position. Like, very, haha. She wanted me bridging the reins, with knuckles firmly planted right in front of Charlie's withers. And I was to really lean into my hands, with my upper body and hips directly above my hands. This took a minute for me to understand -- esp the leaning into the hands bit, since that's.... ya know, just ever so slightly fucking opposite of literally every direction I've ever rec'd before haha... 

very helpful with horse chores!
The idea tho was to allow Charlie's back to be completely free and unimpeded. And with my knuckles pressed into his mane, tho the reins were short enough to have a feel he was only ever really taking as much of the bit as he wanted -- vs me having any backward influence. 

The only thing I was to do with the reins as we went along was ever so gently (and while still leaning into my knuckles) flex Charlie to each direction. She had me flexing him to the outside down the long sides, and to the inside around the short ends. Very subtle flexion. 

lol this great dane was just about charlie sized haha
After that, we put the bands on (this time the green bands, since she thinks I'm kinda between the heights. green felt fine tho!) and kept going. Molly felt like my torso has gotten much better, legs sorta kinda better-ish, and hands still definitely suck. Idk what it is but letting my arms hang straight down is.... Just not how my fetal-y self wants to roll!

Anyway tho, we kept up the exercises focused on loosening Charlie's spine. This time, with canter. It was very much more of the same with the flexions, tho she wanted me doing more outside flexion with strong outside leg coming out of each corner. Really sending Charlie forward with his inside leg totally free to reach out. 

We continued the same feeling but next utilized just the quarter lines. So we'd come down the quarter line with almost a leg yield type feeling through the turn, focus on that outside flexion and outside leg down the line, then U-turn right around onto the next quarter line (arena is only 20m wide so these were roughly 10m half turns). Rinse, repeat.

Last exercise was spiraling at the canter -- but again with the flexion patterns. She wanted me spiraling Charlie in using outside flexion and outside leg, then spiraling him out using inside flexion and leg. But.... More spiral in than out haha. 

So I'll be curious to try repeating those exercises at home during our own schooling. Charlie's been kinda frozen in his spine for.... Well, the whole time I've owned him, if we're being honest. I'm sure a better rider than me would have gotten him more limber by now but... Well, we're trying haha. 

It's nice to have some new ideas for loosening up the stiff horse -- esp bc these exercises feel like they could be useful no matter whether Charlie's feeling particularly peppy or sluggish. Anyone else have any good exercises for improving a horse's flexibility?

Thursday, November 26, 2020

corona-alona, thanksgiving style

It's kinda surreal looking back on the year. Remember those interminable days of March? The sweet innocence of April where we mused that "some say it could go through July!".... Then the sudden rush of denialist freedom as things opened up for the summer. 

Only for it to now be... Well, the start of holiday season, and, somehow, December already next week. 

My typical thanksgiving tradition includes two big dinners in one day -- one with each of the main branches of my absolutely enormous family. 

Obviously tho, this is not a typical year. And, just like for many of you out there, we're not having any big family feasts this time around. Frankly, probably not for Christmas either. 

We're choosing to stay apart now, so that we may all be present later. Or ya know, that's the idea at least!

Naturally, tho, there will still be some good food involved haha. I know I'm not the only one who has had to up her home cooking game this past year haha. 

And there's a lot of things I'm willing to sacrifice for the greater good. But, dammit, pumpkin pie is not one of them

We have to draw a line somewhere, for chrissakes!!!

Lol... Just kidding. Sorta...

For real, tho, it's still gratitude season. And if anything, this current environment and past year have put a pretty sharp focus on appreciating the stuff that's really important to us. 

Like wine.

Ahem, cough cough, I mean family. And friends. And obviously our beloved four legged critters, large and small.

So ya know. I'm grateful haha. And maybe secretly enjoying the excuse to take a year off from all those other contrived superficial commercialized forced-fun holiday related obligations too haha.  

Anyway, hope you all the US readers out there have a wonderful thanksgiving in whatever form it comes. And especially, I hope that -- if nothing else -- it at least includes some pumpkin pie!! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

brown but not forgotten

I don't know about you guys, but I'm really a very visual creature. Like, I love to read and write.... but there's something about the act of taking pictures or video and knitting them into their own little self-contained stories and narratives that really gets my creative juices flowing.

you know the pic sitch is dire when i'm reusing a weeks-old pic that was only kinda meh the first time around lol.... 
Which.... Makes things slightly creatively challenging in winter time, when the entire visual landscape feels monotonous, dull and brown

also an old pic, but at least this version is new-to-you?? it's charles in a stream!
We're super lucky to have multiple well-lit arenas, tho, and you better believe I'm making use of them most weeknight evenings. Naturally, with the help of our Illumiseen breast collar that was a secret santa gift from Susan at Saddle Seeks Horse way back in 2017!

I gotta say, this thing is friggin great, and I use it every evening ride -- esp as y'all already saw how long our driveway is between Charlie's barn and the riding arenas. Add in that it's pitch black and twisty, and... yea, can be super sketchy. And I say that as a driver -- trying to see horses around a 90* turn when they're outside of my headlights is damn near impossible. 

bc... yea, basically every new picture is some variation of this shot. sooooo much brown!
The lights make a big difference, tho. And actually, since Charlie started sporting them back in 2017, gradually just about every single other evening rider at the farm has picked up some of their own. In allllll different colors too! Purples, pinks, whites, blues, oranges, reds.... 

Each strand of LEDs has its own micro USB charging port, and the thing is crazy adjustable. I don't even snap it to the D-rings, honestly -- I just snap the two clips together to make it a neck strap with girth attachment. Tho I've also worn it draped over my own body. 

with added bonus disco party!!
i generally just leave them on solid vs blinking, but this gif is more fun ;)
My particular breast collar is from Illumiseen, as mentioned before, and they're sold through various retailers (including Chewy and Amazon), along with various other LED pet products like dog collars and leashes etc. 

A simple google tho showed that there are wayyyyyy more companies offering a similar product now, presumably bc it's so practical and popular. For anybody doing any real amount of night riding, it's a nice thing to have. Esp bc the way the lights are positioned -- they create a fairly ambient glow around you, without shining directly in your or the horse's eyes. So it's not like a wall of darkness beyond where the light reaches. 

stand still charlie, lol
Anyway tho. Lol that was a tangent haha.... But also maybe a nice xmas gift idea for the equestrian who already has it all? Anyway. Moving on haha....

Our rides lately are never particularly long bc for some reason Charlie's barn / gate sourness is massively amplified in the dark. 

Which.... Is kinda a real challenge. He puts in good work, puts his nose to the grindstone. Does everything I ask him to do, when I ask him to do it. And then like... Ya know, he expects that that's good enough and aren't we done yet??

aw ponies are always cute even if they're brown too!
So last week I figured we'd switch it up and go to the jump ring for our evening ride instead. I typically opt for the dressage ring mostly bc it's easiest. I drive past the lights on my way in and can set them on a timer if they're not already on and in use. Alternatively, I can also reach the light switches from horseback. 

The jump ring, tho, the light panel is outside the ring so I have to dismount and climb over a fence. Not really a big deal.... But just sorta one of those lazy things. 

Damn, tho, idk if it's just bc I don't ride Charlie up there as often but he really seems happier. It's also so much more spacious, plus, ya know, is fenced in haha. 

remember when it was green out??? also, picture chosen as it includes the little rollercoaster line top left corner
We're still just doing a very little bit of work anyway, as part of our combined "couch to 5k" plan (lol). So it also felt like a good opportunity to torture my own self instead of Charlie. A few laps of two point at trot here, some laps of posting the canter there.... Ya know, the usual. 

But then... towards the end of the ride, the one lone crossrail, made of white poles and positioned right in front of the lights, kept beckoning. You know how they do. It's been ages since Charlie's been aimed at anything, but eh, what the hell, right? So we popped over it off both leads and... 

Gosh this horse <3 <3 Even little jompies are fun jompies with Charlie!

same line! but like... wow a million years ago!
So fast forward to the weekend when obviously we have to do whatever we can to escape the brown confines of our weeknight prison.... And, obviously we'd get out into the cross country fields!!

I figured we'd do the same exact interval sets as in the arena (using a run of the mill interval app). But also expected that the terrain (and baalmy high 60s temps!) would be plenty added intensity. Which.... It was, haha, Charlie was sweating like a pig omg. 

jumpin it with izzy!! (helmet cam video here for those interested)
lol who woulda thunk this pixelated potato-y gif would be resurrected for re-publishing?? desperate times, y'all
But again.... Being out there, being on my favorite brown horse and cantering around all those fields... Even down all the hills, which I hate... Idk, he was just being so good and felt so good and happy, that I couldn't resist popping over a little log next to the water. 

We did that off both leads, and then I more or less forced myself to push onward up the little roller coaster line too. It's kinda stupid, to be honest with you, but I'm not sure I've ever jumped this line with Charlie. Mostly bc I'm kinda a crazy person when it comes to expectations re: striding. 

From what I've observed, and from my experiences back in the day with Izzy, this line tends to school in a 5, but go in a 4 during competition. So I never really knew what to expect with Charlie or felt like it was worth a potentially awkward jump. 

But eh, what the hell. This past weekend, we went for it anyway lol. And, bless him, Charlie did a perfectly sedate five <3 <3. Ooh, and since obvi those two efforts kinda messed up our symmetry in terms of equal numbers of efforts off both leads, we went ahead and popped over the faux and then real schooling ditches nearby off the other lead. 

that's ok tho, old pics are still cute <3 bc let's be real, there's a whole season of brown ahead of us...
Obvi not exactly a "real" cross country schooling to write home about.... But, ya know, who the hell cares at this point??? Running and jumping is the absolute best sometimes <3

And maybe I'm kidding myself, but I like to think Charlie has a little more pep in his step now in our evening darkness, after remember that, "Oh Yea! We get to do fun stuff too!"

Whatever it takes to make the winter monotony a little more bearable, amirite? At least now that he's getting fitter and staying sound, we can start introducing cavaletti again. Anyone set up any exciting exercises lately?