Wednesday, July 29, 2020

$candinavian $pa Day

Ok so not actually Scandinavian, per se.... But Charlie *did* get to enjoy a day dedicated to his own personal wellness this week haha. Pedicure, massage, acupuncture.... All the creature comforts notably absent from my own life haha, but only the best for Sir!

the absolute cutest, in pony penitentiary bc somebody lost a shoe....
also, yes, it was balls hot out. how could you tell?
Anyone who's been following along this past spring will be familiar with all of my angsty nail biting regarding Charlie's poor soft crumbling thoroughbred feet.

Basically, every year I get a little caught off guard by how quickly his feet change when the grass comes up. And this year was made worse after a two month quarantine....

hooves at the end of the latest 5wk cycle. really pleased with how well the wall is hanging on with near daily keratex!
So it's felt like we've been trying to make up lost ground. Charlie lost his first shoe of the year (RH) back in May, luckily the day before his next scheduled farrier appointment - 5 weeks on the dot haha.

At the time, the farrier encouraged me to really step up my applications of Keratex hoof hardener to as close to daily as possible. I also put the horse back on Platinum Performance, in addition to his normal Farrier's Formula.

you can't tell me he isn't the cutest bronto that ever was
And I've been absolutely zealous ever since, applying the keratex to all four feet (special attention paid to clips and nails) at least 5x a week. And ya know... As of our last shoeing appointment in June, it felt like we'd maybe slowed down the chipping and crumbling.

one freshly shod hoof, and one waiting for a trim and reset.
also a nice angle to see the bone remodeling from charlie's splint surgery
Charlie did end up springing loose another shoe since then - this time the white LH. The farrier tightened it up two weeks ago, but Charlie still managed to throw it -- again tho, exactly one day before his appointment so, eh, nbd.

Even so, tho, I'm honestly still pretty pleased with the Keratex results. Like.... Obvi once the wall starts cracking and crumbling you can't exactly put it back into one piece again. The compromised sections simply have to grow out... But the Keratex seems to have stopped the spread of cracks and crumbles, with the new wall growth staying more durable.

he looks sedate and well behaved, no?
It was nice to actually watch Charlie's farrier this time around too, since I normally work during the appointments. He's used to me sending all manner of panicky texts haha, so it was helpful talking in person about what he saw and why he recommended (or didn't recommend) certain approaches.

Like I had asked via texts about whether Charlie was a candidate for epoxy to hold his walls together. But it's his opinion that epoxy should, in most cases, be used as a last resort -- when there's no other way to get the shoe onto the hoof. Apparently he's esp reluctant to use it since it can trap microbial nastiness underneath, and can reduce the overall wall health and growth.

don't be fooled tho haha, note my hand holding the cross tie bc somebody wanted to constantly check the farrier's pockets for treats.... charles the CDC says keep your mouf to yourself!
He thinks we're about within a cycle of Charlie having pretty robust walls all the way around, so we're better off staying the course with Keratex etc. Plus, obvi, the metric buttload of hoof health related $upplements Charlie gets daily....

And ya know. That works too, haha. I pay the man for his opinions and judgement, and he hasn't let me down. I appreciate that he explains when he doesn't want to carry out an idea. And I appreciate that his recommendations and approaches center on a steady long term plan haha.

I'm also satisfied bc even tho I'm not the most experienced owner, with a limited understanding of farriery... Well, Charlie's got a good team. And multiple pros on his team -- people who could easily scare me into paying them more money -- frequently compliment Charlie's hoof angles and shape, crediting the farrier.

acupuncture!! literally the only pic i took of the appt, whoops
And speaking of the professionals on Charlie's team, after the farrier wrapped up we then got to see an old friend for the first time since 2017!!!! Back when I first brought Charlie home, body work was definitely high on the list of things to address in the first few months.

At the time, my only contact in that field was the chiro / acupuncturist who used to treat Isabel (she's also a DVM and had delivered Isabel as a baby -- how friggin cute!!). She treated Charlie first in January 2017, where she identified the massive lateral unevenness between his two shoulders -- likely directly related to the high/low syndrome in his front feet.

Then she saw him again in June 2017, mostly as a feel good check-in type appointment. Basically all practitioners (including this chiro and his vet) who see Charlie agree tho -- he's mostly a muscular case. So since 2017 Charlie's mostly seen massage therapists and done some stuff with PEMF.

so here's a throwback to january 2017, charlie's first body work appt with me
But eh, now felt like as good a time as any to bring this pro back in. Charlie's healthy happy and going well, and I'd like to keep it that way. He's also getting close-ish to a year since his last round of injections, so I was curious to see if the chiro saw any red flags or sore spots or anything.

I also really like combining chiro and acupuncture. The acupuncture in particular, it's just fascinating to watch how horses react to it. Like... Charlie was mouthy and feisty and actually a total pest during the chiro portion of the appt -- but as soon as the acupuncture started, he completely zoned inwards. Got tooootally into the groove lol.

And... Honestly? I just wanted to do a little pampering haha. Which obviously Charlie was allllllll about. I can't even believe I failed so hard at taking pictures haha bc Charlie was having the time of his life.

same array of acupuncture needs... gosh, remember how skinny he used to be?
He's got some muscular soreness in his back, and the same persistent lack of lateral symmetry that we'll likely be dealing with forever. Mostly tho, nothing particularly notable.

Charlie is a very high mileage model, ya know? He's got stuff. His body and muscles have been used, and there's all manner of old baggage in there. Sorta like in the same way that I've got my own little areas of stiffness or compensation... Ideally I'd love to stay in front of those little things so that they don't morph into bigger things...

So ya know... regular wellness checks are helpful haha.

compared to today's more plushly upholstered model haha
I like using a rotating team combination of folks who see Charlie often and are intimately familiar with his "range" on a day-to-day level, and also some trusted pros who don't know the horse as well. Where he's more of a blank slate they can assess as he presents in that moment.

Y'all already know it barely takes a feather to knock me into another obsessive spiral of worry and self-doubt about whatever recent woe has befallen this horse haha... So... Imo, having regular check-ins with the pros helps give me the reassurance I crave.

Whether it's believing we're finally back on the right track with his hooves... or getting a rubber stamp on his current body condition, I'm always happy to hear it lol. Or, god forbid, in instances where these pros *aren't* entirely satisfied with what they see, I'm always hungry for their ideas and recommendations to make things better.

Right now tho? It's nice to feel like we can just stay the course. Hopefully, haha. Or maybe I've totally jinxed us by even writing that out....

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

holding my line

I wrote last week about finally getting some rain after a few weeks of drought-like conditions. AND -- we got even more after that!! Yessssss, large horses on small feet everywhere rejoice!!

just charlie being cute
Which worked out fairly perfectly for getting in another jump lesson. Bc ya know... That's basically where we're at this summer, stalking the weather forecast to plan our weekly riding schedule lol.

charlie and a goose!!
The lesson went fairly well, too. Trainer K even tried to grab some video for us, tho.... considering we kept knocking down rails on jumps that were repeated in courses, it meant the footage didn't quite work out. Still got enough for some screen grabs tho! It's not much, but I'll take it.

US show jumper Rich Fellers' approach to flatwork.
source: Noelle Floyd youtube channel
In terms of flatwork, I'm continuing focusing on how we go as it relates to being successful in jumping courses. Right now, as far as I can tell, our biggest regression since quarantine is in the "straightness" department.

Which... obviously also has some serious implications in jumping haha. Like when we jumped through the triple a couple times from each direction -- laying down two completely distinct tracks equally distant from center haha, womp.

lol @ charlie's 'smile'.......
So... Yea. Probably need to work on that some more too. I also think addressing our straightness will help Charlie jump in a better form -- which should also theoretically make it a little easier for him to jump more cleanly.

see the jomp!!
Biggest takeaway from the lesson tho, other than straightness (and straightness in turns too, we were pretty bulge-y in places...) related to me sorta 'giving up' at times.

Specifically -- Charlie became very forward (which I like!!) but instead of keeping his hind end up under him even as he went forward, I sorta just surrendered to it and let him drag me along. This showed up especially in the bending lines we did -- 3 and 4 stride lines off both leads.

be the jomp!!
Somewhat amazingly, the right bending lines went wayyyy worse for us than the left bending lines, even tho they were the same lines just ridden opposite directions haha. I would have expected the left to be harder bc of our drift and lack of straightness, so this was maybe a good wake-up call.

Bc what was happening was that we'd get to the in jump in a little bit of disarray since Charlie was kinda running on his forehand, but then we'd land in a heap and not be able to make the turns effectively.

me thinks we need to tighten up and improve straightness with some gymnastics again....
After messing up two courses in a row in this way, I managed to sit down and bring Charlie's hind end back up underneath him again. Tho, actually, it was really interesting the feeling in the connection at that moment bc I still felt like I could have a softer contact and Charlie still made the adjustment. That's definitely a feeling I need to remember...

And anyway, when I rode the canter more appropriately, go figure, Charlie jumped much better and had way more options when it came to getting to the fence from different distances or approaches.

gotta love his enthusiasm tho!
On one hand the lesson was kinda annoying bc it followed what seems to be an all-too-predictable pattern: warm up was amazing, almost like we should have just finished with that (fwiw, warm up was a twisty turny cycle through a couple single verticals and oxers, and Charlie turned and burned!!). But... No, bc it's a lesson and we want to do the actual exercises. 

But then the exercises ended up exposing quite a few weaknesses, which meant maybe more repetitions than I want in my head. BUT.... Isn't that actually kinda the whole point of the lesson anyway? Get into a rhythm, then tackle a challenge. Figure out the weak spots, then address them, and smooth it out.

we luv left
Emotionally haha, sometimes I wish I could do the beginning and end of that cycle -- skipping the whole "exposing the weaknesses" bit in the middle. But then, would we ever really learn?

For me, the feeling I need to remember was how well Charlie came back to me when I asked, and how it actually wasn't nearly as "high volume" an ask as I expected. Maybe I'm still kinda expecting him to pull like a freight train... But he really just isn't. Like he still gets strong and forward (and hopefully always will!) but his education means that he "hears" me make a quieter request now.

So my biggest takeaway is to make sure that I make that request, that I react and recover quickly, instead of letting myself get pulled out of position and then just kinda surrendering to it. Bc it turns out, Charlie will do it haha. Not the worst lesson to learn, honestly!

Friday, July 24, 2020

a tale of two press releases

Happy Friday, guys! Usually at the end of a long summer week, all any of us want to write or read about are cute light hearted pictures of cats or something. Today tho.... I'm gonna ask you to read haha. Words, sentences, and entire paragraphs -- the whole shebang. Kinda sorry... Kinda.

But like.... Probably like most normal (?) people these days, I tend to start my mornings by casually scrolling the news and my various favorite feeds while resisting getting out of bed until the last possible moment.

you want Mikey pics? you'll get Mikey pics <3
The Eventing Nation post copied below caught my eye and snapped me out of my morning stupor for 2 main reasons, tho.

1) Another major event has been stricken from the calendar. An event not scheduled until November, which.... further affirms my fears that we may very well be facing another wave of restrictions, cancellations, and lockdowns.

2) This isn't just some tedious little press release that glosses over the surface with threadbare copy and all the expected pleasantries. No.... It's actually.... kinda scathing. Maybe I'm reading through the lens of my own perceptions but.... The OJC seems pissed to be cancelling, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of our massively dysfunctional state of social discourse and the politicization of basic mitigation efforts.

"Hope is not a success strategy." Indeed. 

he's obsessed with charlie's stall haha
I also appreciated just how detailed they are in outlining exactly why an event like this is untenable given what we know today, and whatever confidence (or lack thereof) we may have for where we'll be in four months time.

So. Ok. Yes, please read all of the OJC press release. Even if you're not into horse showing or don't particularly care about Ocala.

Next, after the OJC press release, I'm also copying a second press release published by The Equiery from the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Board of Directors.

They are announcing that since their typical venues are not available at present due to state and local Covid-related restrictions, and because they still have obligations to their sponsors, they will be moving their horse shows down to Florida.

And, more to the point, their show dates are within weeks of the very same OJC 3 Day event that just cancelled via the below scathing press release.

and naturally takes his supervisory role very seriously
In my head, the fact that these two press releases exist in the same day and time, reflecting the such similar events (note: both have FEI classes!) and parameters regarding funding, spectatorship, competitors, location, all of the things....  And that they come to the exact opposite conclusions.... Idk. It's a real head scratcher.

I also really wonder about the leadership of governing associations that sanction these events -- the USEF and FEI, among others. What are their thoughts? Or are they really ok with these major events behaving as "every man for himself" vs having comprehensive guidance??

Honestly, at the end of the day, it's impossible to know what will happen. Will OJC ultimately be proven to have cancelled unnecessarily with too conservative a world view? Will the WIHS go through all this rigamarole of relocating and securing all the details for the event, only to have to cancel at the last minute anyway?

Who knows. I know where my money lies tho.... It's just all very curious. But ya know. Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of some Friday press releases haha... What do you think?

"y'all are crazy, i'm outta here!" - Mikey, probably
Press Release #1: From Eventing Nation, the Ocala Jockey Club released the following statement announcing the cancellation of this year's 2020 Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day Event. I know it's a long read, but I highly encourage you to get through the whole thing.

The health of our competitors, spectators, officials, volunteers and everyone else involved in the Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day Event production is very important to us. We announced on May 24th that we felt confident in OJC’s ability to run the 2020 Event and the accompanying CCI4*-L National Championships as scheduled. We have continued to feel confident in our ability to implement ample and strict social distancing, sanitization, mask and health screening protocols on site. It was clear in March that Covid-19 would not make it possible for OJC to conduct the 2020 Event as the high-profile community and spectator-friendly event of the past four years that has created over $1 million of annual economic impact to the community. Still, OJC heard the desire of competitors and USEF to run the Event as a spectator-free competition-only event.
The 2020 Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event was set to run from November 12th to 15th at the picturesque 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club farm in Reddick, Florida. It was designated as the CCI4*-L National Championships. Additionally, due to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games set to occur in the summer of 2021, the OJC Event was to serve as an important Olympic qualifier. As a number of 4* and 5* events have cancelled across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, OJC has recognized the importance of the OJC Event to Team USA and USEF High Performance program and worked diligently to plan the Event. However, with less than four months remaining for the planning of the Event, OJC’s Covid-19 concerns have become significant enough that the hard decision to cancel needed to be made. Ocala Jockey Club wishes to provide competitors sufficient notice in the hope that they will be able to re-route to other events for their qualification requirements.
“We have wished to serve our part in the economic recovery of the community and the competition needs of the eventing sport, however there has been increased concern on OJC’s part regarding the significant increase in community transmission of Covid-19, and a corresponding concern regarding current and continuing insufficient availability of local and national tools to combat such community transmission of this virus,” said Pavla Nygaard, President of the Ocala Jockey Club. “Hope is not a success strategy. We felt responsible to define a strategy that would provide the economic and community benefits to Marion County, the 3-Day Eventing sport and the Thoroughbred Eventing Champion program we have been proud to advance at our Event, but only if we could reliably minimize public health risks.
“While there are current and upcoming equestrian competitions on the calendar at this time, our responsibility is to study trends and project likely impacts on a competition four months in the future. I have read hundreds of articles and scientific studies about the virus’ behavior, transmission, prevention, available therapeutics, screening apps, wearable technology, mitigation effectiveness and otherwise. In addition to USEF and FEI guidelines, I have followed the design, effectiveness and limitations of protocols of major sports such as NFL, NBA, MLB and horse racing. I have spoken to organizers and competitors of other equestrian competitions regarding protocols, compliance and factors affecting decisions of when and how to run. OJC has worked on designing protocols including health and other feasibility metrics that would assist us with pre-event and onsite decisions and processes.
“While most 5* and 4* Eventing competitions around the world have cancelled months ago, until recently we have felt that our strategies were feasible to continue even in a very uncertain environment. However, with recent spikes in infections and changes in the demographics affected, available public health metrics no longer give us the same comfort that the strategies within our control would reliably overcome the elements outside of OJC’s control.”
Some of OJC’s concerns include:
  • While the end of May showed positive trends in declines of new cases, this trend has now reversed for much worse both nationally (almost two million increase in cases) and locally (almost a 12-fold increase in cases). Barring significant changes in mitigation strategies, this trend is expect to continue into fall and winter of 2020 and has prompted many cancellations of in-person college programs, professional sports and even the full remainder of the 2020 Broadway season. While hospitalizations and deaths were trending lower for some time even as cases increased, this trend is also beginning to reverse to concerning levels.
  • The recent changes in the demographic affected by Covid-19 to affect younger adults, including increased hospitalizations, are more likely to impact our multi-day gathering of 700 or more competitors and related staff than we anticipated, even with mostly less risky outdoor activities and the already planned ban on attendance by anyone other than competitors and event staff.
  • Unlike at the end of May when public compliance with public health directives was high, current personal and political divisions regarding basic infection mitigation strategies have been laid bare and are likely to affect our guests’ health and safety during travel or while in the community, aside from our onsite protocols. As the Event is scheduled just 8 days after the upcoming presidential election, which now experts believe could take a week to gather results for, we expect these politically driven divisions to continue to impact health risk mitigation outside of the Event’s control.
  • While major sports leagues and workplaces with significant financial and human resources have designed valuable protocols to mitigate against the effects of the virus, they have still experienced case positives and illness in otherwise healthy athletes.
  • Testing strategies, among other valuable tools available to sports leagues to combat the pandemic, have proven a limitation for other organizations due to lack of availability of diagnostic tests, or key components such as reagents and swabs. Some tests are unreliable or results too late to be useful. There is significant variability of testing availability by state or country, becoming exceedingly challenging to employ as a reliable mitigation tool for the OJC 2020 Event.
  • Our competitors and officials typically arrive not just from Marion County or Florida, but from every corner of the United States as well as internationally from at least three continents. Therefore, some of the Event’s key international delegates would be more vulnerable to travel health risks, travel restrictions or mandatory 14-day quarantines, such as those currently restricting travel for Canadians or Europeans needing to enter the US or return back home.
  • Most competitors are in the less risky young, healthy and fit category. However, they are not an island and a sizeable share of officials, volunteers and OJC employees fall into higher risk categories for COVID-19 health complications. With high community transmission, even strict onsite protocols may not be sufficiently protective.
  • While the scientific community continues to work tirelessly on vaccine candidates and therapeutic options to mitigate against Covid-19, it is now clear that even early vaccine candidates, with expected limited availability in October, would not be available in time to be useful to our stakeholders. While current treatments such as remdesivir and dexamethasone provide some relief to some of the hardest hit patients, there are no therapeutics available yet to rely on as a prevention or mitigation strategy.
  • Our typical staff team is lean and mean, and there is little room to losing key members to illness, travel quarantine or exposure-related isolation. It would be necessary for us to establish a long list of Plan B options for all key personnel, necessitating increased funding. Similarly, there would be increased resources needed for increased sanitation protocols, masks and other PPE, pre-event and at-event testing and/or health screening, any needed contact tracing or isolation if indicated onsite, stabling configurations to allow social distancing, and protocol enforcement personnel.
  • Unlike lower-level competitions which are structured to be compensated solely or mainly from competitor entry fees, FEI level competitions are much heavier on event production expenses. Competitor entries cover a smaller share of the event budget. The OJC event, as other FEI level competitions, relies on non-competition income such as sponsorships, VIP hospitality, spectator and tailgating ticket sales, vendors, and advertising to offset event expenses. Due to social distancing requirements, these non-competition aspects are currently not allowed under USEF Covid-19 mitigation rules. Our conversations with select sponsors and other event organizers point to a clear need to understand supporters’ economic challenges to their support in these times. We understand that everyone has been affected differently in this pandemic, and feel it necessary for our supporters to be able to regroup their own lives and operations. However important this Event may be, we feel that this is not the year to ask people for increased support.
The Ocala Jockey Club has heard from many participants over the years about the importance of this Event. Jennie Jarnstrom, an eventing rider who has competed at OJC Events, wrote to OJC in May: “Just can’t thank you enough for keeping the hope up and motivate us to work towards one of the Greatest Events in the country.” It was for the benefit of tireless and committed competitors like Jennie that we continued to search for ways to produce a safe high-quality level even with restrictions on many activities.
However, as more of us now know those who have been affected by severe illness or death due to Covid-19, the more important it is to recognize our responsibility to take care of each other, even if it means that it is wiser to cancel this Event than to keep pressing on this year. Updates and information about the 2021 Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event will be available in due course at the Event website at For more information on the Ocala Jockey Club, visit Best of luck to all staying safe, happy, healthy and successful in 2020. See you in November 2021!


Press Release #2: Now, from The Equiery, The Washington International Horse Show Board of Directors announced yesterday (July 23) that the 2020 WIHS will be held at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.

For Immediate Release
From the US Equestrian Communications Department
WASHINGTON. July 23, 2020–The Board of Directors and show management teams of the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS) and Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) presented by MARS Equestrian, are pleased to announce their venue and dates for 2020.
The PNHS and WIHS are committed to providing a safe environment for competitors, families, and staff in the face of the ongoing pandemic, while still meeting the requirements of sponsors and competition schedules. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in place in Harrisburg, Pa., and Washington, D.C., the PA Farm Show Complex & Expo Center and Capital One Arena remain closed and unable to host the PNHS and WIHS, respectively.
Following a comprehensive search for an alternative venue, the PNHS and WIHS Board of Directors have selected the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida, as the best location for this year’s events with the PNHS scheduled Oct. 8-17, followed by WIHS Oct. 20-25, 2020.
The change of venue and dates for these competitions have been approved by the United States Equestrian Federation. However, in line with the FEI regulations, the venue change for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ – North America League qualifier in Washington is being reviewed by the FEI. A recommendation will be prepared and presented to the FEI Board for a final decision. Additional information regarding this approval will be made as soon as it is available.
Hosting these historic indoor competitions outdoors will be a change from tradition, but in a challenging and uncertain year, each show is dedicated to providing a safe and high-quality competition experience for exhibitors, their families, and sponsors that will be remembered for many years to come.
PNHS and WIHS will continue to work closely with local and state governments along with venue management to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Florida and are prepared to adjust accordingly based on health requirements and guidance from the CDC and USEF.
The Bob Thomas Equestrian Center is a well-established facility having previously hosted the Southeast Medal Finals, World Cup qualifying events, and the World Cup Finals.
Spread over 23 acres, the outdoor venue can facilitate effective social distancing where all USEF COVID-19 protocols will be followed to the fullest extent, including not permitting spectators. It contains multiple competition rings with newly installed, top-quality, all-weather footing, as well as recently updated permanent stabling, newly renovated restrooms, a spacious viewing area, and more.
Both PNHS and WIHS are developing revised show schedules for competition to be held in two arenas with classes running only during the daytime, minimizing the time spent on the competition grounds each day per USEF recommendations.
Changes to qualifying criteria and further venue information will be updated in the coming weeks.
For more information, please visit


Thursday, July 23, 2020

rain dance

2020 is a year that just continues to amaze (or astound, bewilder... choose your own verb lol).

January was approximately 8.5 years ago at this point, April dragged interminably for a full 294 days straight, and even tho July 1 was only just yesterday, it'll undoubtedly already be mid August by tomorrow.

riding the edges of the cornfields bc it's the only soft ground to be had
And so it goes.

But... If there's one thing you can always rely on during Maryland summers, it's the heat.

was grateful to just be volunteering at this dressage show rather than riding. doesn't this pic just LOOK hot??
In a typical year, it's a truth universally acknowledged that the native Baltimoron [sic] can expect the hottest weekend of July by checking the Artscape dates. Which, had this been a typical year, Artscape would have been last weekend.

set charlie up with the double fans!! ....for which i was immediately reprimanded by mgmt, womp
Which was, indeed, a hot weekend. And dry --- oh it's been oh so so so dry.

Two years ago we had the wettest year on recent record, with shows cancelling left and right bc of the water-logged ground. Last year tho was exactly the opposite. Equally distant from "average" on the spectrum, just bone dry from June all the way through September.

probably commiserating with each other about the heat + flies
I'd gotten into the habit so far this year of saying that 'at least we're not as dry as last year!' But.... Honestly I don't know if that's true any more.

i took this picture solely for the turtle factor. you're welcome
At least this year tho, I've got some new learnings about how Charlie did while training hard on all that hard ground last year. Hint: not particularly well.

Obviously Charlie is and always has been a superstar. He loves to gallop and jump and pack my ass around while he's at it. But... The cumulative effects of constant training on hard ground eventually led to him being slightly less able to pick up my slack.

cornfields ftw tho, for real
But 2020 is a whole new ball game. The horse feels amazing. He came out of quarantine feeling refreshed and healthy in his body. And we've been able to get in some seriously awesome rides before the ground got quite so bad. Including obviously our epic hunter pace (where the ground was perfection) and the recent CT too.

basic exercise of pole -- low wide swedish oxer -- pole (hard to see but there is a ground pole on the other side!)
If I learned one thing from all this.... It's that Charlie maybe doesn't need a ton of practice to stay more or less right where I left him. Like, let's be real, *I* probably need practice haha... but.... eh. A healthy happy Charlie is easier to ride so that's what I'll prioritize.

canter poles. doesn't the ground just look so hard too?
And anyway, it seems like ground pole exercises are just as useful for keeping Chuck's body moving in the right "jumping" sort of way, and helping him keep his eye sharp.

About once a week I try to set up the same basic three exercises: long line of trot poles, long line of canter poles, and the pole-oxer-pole grid from Doug Payne. Ideally these three exercises are placed such that it's reasonably easy to cycle through from one to the next again and again off both directions.

and trot poles amid the dust
My sorta long-term goal is to make this a weekly 'barn night' kinda thing, where other riders will want to meet up to work on the same stuff. So far tho I usually have at least one or two other riders with me to set it up -- kinda helping to make it worth the effort haha.

Esp since... ya know, with the heat and dry ground, each individual horse is only cycling through everything a couple times. It's def fun for a group, tho, esp riders of mixed levels.

obsessing over the forecast... tuesday was ALL LIES, but yesterday was legit
Even that has seemed like too much tho this week, bleh. Maybe made worse bc the forecast keeps jerking us around with the promise of thunderstorms coming off the mountains further west.

But... Idk what it is about the farm's particular geographic location or whatever, but these friggin storms keep straight up either missing us entirely, or evaporating just before they arrive.

from tuesday. clouds parted ways around the farm like the red friggin sea
Probably some sort of effect from the proximity to the Chesapeake? I don't really know how it all works haha, other than: Charlie's farm is somehow uniquely positioned such that areas north, south, east and west will ALL get rain while the farm itself stays bone dry.

WTF ugh....

wednesday. when the group texts are lit bc everyone is comparing pics of the imminent storm clouds lol
We got lucky yesterday tho when a larger storm rolled through, and left a period of steady rain in its wake. Which like.... Wow, you don't realize how parched you've been until you're standing out in the middle of a rain shower grinning like a giddy idiot lol....

Hopefully this should be enough to soften the arena footing for a proper jump lesson tomorrow.... Lol, cross your fingers for me!

yassssss rain!!! please also be raining at the farm too!!!
I'd love to get out for some fun xc schooling in the near future too, but alas our home course is closed in advance of the annual recognized horse trial. So ya know.... We'll see what happens.

Could be fun to go up to Windurra again or something, maybe. Honestly tho, at this point I'll let the weather and Charlie call the shots, rather than try to force my own agenda on things LOL.

enjoy virtual Mikey nose rubs for making it this far in a post about the weather <3
For years, my approach to riding in extreme conditions has been: If I'd show in it, I'll practice in it too. Meaning, if it isn't bad enough to scratch a paid entry, then I better be prepared to ride.

And ya know. Honestly I still believe that's a pretty good philosophy for most conditions. Like rain, for instance, or wind. Or most hot or cold days.

But perhaps that attitude needs to be modified to appreciate the cumulative effects of sustained extreme conditions. For Charlie, the cumulative effects of hard work on hard ground just don't seem worth it, so I'm trying to be a little more selective.

Tho.... life sure would be a lot easier if we could just get a couple good days of rain around these parts LOL.... Anyone else have to make riding choices based on weather or ground conditions? Or maybe you have better footing options that stay consistent no matter what?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review: Shires Arma Tail Guard + Bag

Brace yourselves for a metric buttload (lol puns) of pictures of Charlie's rear end. Because today I want to talk about the latest piece of essential equipment to join the team: the Shires Arma Tail Guard + Bag.

charlies face in this pic kills me lololol
pictured: just the tail guard, notice the bottom closure strap has externally facing velcro too
First, the Problem: Like many horses, Charlie will often, ahem, relieve himself while riding in a trailer. Usually multiple times. We're talking a veritable mountain of manure.

Plus, ya know, he's a big boy for even my over-sized trailer - and he frequently leans into the back bar of the trailer. Which, to give you the straight poop about the situation, means that after even only a moderate length trailer ride, his tail is absolutely saturated with schmeared shit.

like so.
pictured: the problem i want this tail bag to resolve
This obviously poses problems if you're arriving at a competition with minimal time before having to enter at A.

Tho... the absolute worst is going to a destination xc lesson or clinic or something, and trying to get studs in without being swatted across the face and body by poop dreads. Those greenish brown streaks reeeeally aren't the kind of flair I'm going for with my #rootd, ya know? And you all wonder why I wear dark colored breeches so often LOL...

sorry not sorry for posting a pic of charlie's other brown eye, exactly 3sec post poop. #dealwithit
the nylon sleeve attaches over the external velcro of the neoprene guard, and protects the whole length of tail in this exact situation
I've tried a few different solutions previously, with disappointing and/or messy results. So after seeing a friend use an older version of the above tail bag, it seemed to be worth a shot.

Details: This tail guard + bag shipped from the UK, and took a couple weeks to arrive. It cost just under $30.

behold, my hi-tech, state-of-the-art tailgating deterrent system
It arrived in two separate pieces - the guard and the bag.

The guard is made of a thick squishy neoprene with a rubberized inner surface. This adds grip to prevent the guard from slipping down the base of the tail. It also has an extra gel-like pad that extends up to the very top of the dock.

Four velcro straps make up the closure, and the whole thing is squishy enough that I think you'd have to make it prettttttty fucking tight to even slightly risk compromising circulation in the tail.

everything appears to still be in place after the ~30min trailer ride!
The bottom velcro closure strap also has velcro on the external facing side, which creates the connection point for the second component -- the bag.

The bag is basically a big long nylon tube that's open on both ends with a fairly wide slit and velcro at the top. You stick your hand up through the tube from the bottom as if you were doing a rectal exam, grab the tail, and pull it smoothly through the nylon tube. Then adjust the velcro at the top such that the slit (which I guess exists to make this process easier) faces away from the poop factory.

clean tail underneath! without any of the crimping you'd normally see with a tail braid!
It's easiest to put on the horse in two stages - first the guard, then the bag - rather than trying to do it all at once. I put the guard on right before the horse goes on the trailer, and then attach the nylon tube once he's loaded. The idea is that he's less likely to swish it off once he's already on the trailer. Maybe? Idk.

Because honestly my biggest concerns were first: over-tightening the guard on Charlie's tail; and second: whether the guard would stay in place or slip down to be lost on some anonymous country road in rural Maryland.

all that mess would normally be smooshed into my horse's tail. instead, i can just hose it off the guard!
So far, tho, it's stayed put. AND, it's kept Charlie's tail completely dry and shit-free. There isn't any absorption through the material -- not even any wetness or seepage. The tail comes out glossy, dry, and shiny -- without any of the crimps or weirdness you sometimes get from braiding. Plus, the guard actually seems to smooth it down a little bit.

As for cleaning the guard, couldn't be easier. I literally just hose it off haha. It dries quickly and somehow doesn't seem to attract or cling to any dirt or debris.

So.... Overall, I'm actually pretty pleased with this solution. Charlie has an absolutely gorgeous tail and I'm excited at the prospect of being able to show it off straight out of the trailer vs spending any time cleaning it up first.