Monday, November 29, 2021

#2 - in - 1

Woof, okay everybody I'm still hardcore digesting all that food.... Well, ha, ok, I'm possibly still hardcore eating all that food omg #LeftOvers4Lyfe.....

So. In the meantime, I have an easy breezy twofer special for y'all today....

sight seeing with Michael
First up. Charlie's barn structure is .... old. And the building foundation is older still, as the building itself has, ahem, gone through some iterations. That's the deal with these old multi-generational farms, tho -- they're in a constant state of updates. 

Latest on the list, tho? Stall mats!!

somebody's been napping <3 also... yea, the name plate :'(
Charlie's stall mats have been a constant source of frustration for basically ever -- both he and I were always tripping on them. The owner has been systematically working through all the stalls, and finally it was Charlie's turn!

But.... A funny thing happened. Charlie moved temporarily into his Best Friend Forever, Iggy's stall during the renovations, and, I noticed a change in him --- subtle at first, but definite. 

right smack in the middle of everything -- including a grooming bay to the right out of frame
As the renovations dragged on, and Charlie spent more time in Iggy's stall... The impression stayed with me. So I checked in with the BO, who does all the morning and weekday shifts. She agreed with my impression, and... Well, I talked it over with Iggy's mom too, and we decided to keep Charlie here. 

with so many neighbors in view, plus one is nose-touchable!!
Ya know. If you'd have asked me last week, I would have told you Charlie was in the "best stall in the barn." It's certainly the biggest haha -- designed for foaling. But... One feature of foaling stalls is solid walls. Which I'd maybe never really noticed or considered before standing with Charlie in Iggy's stall -- which is mesh grating on all sides. 

and the big horse FITS!! as evidenced by him being absolutely *covered* in pee every morning all of a sudden (bc omg guys charlie keeps the grossest boy stall ew). also, spy that little lord of mischief in the background...
Plus the new stall is centrally located, right in the middle of all the action where Charlie always loves to be. AND -- he can touch noses with friends!! 

He used to always stick his head out and whinny that sad tieback whinny whenever he heard my voice -- which I secretly loved. Except ya know what I love better? Watching him stand settled at his hay observing the world around him, rather than whirling away to the door all the time. 
shifting gears --- altho, now we're just covered in *poo* instead, ahem...
Seeing the evidence that Charlie is laying down to sleep so often now really kinda sealed the deal for me. He used to sleep laying down in his last stall too -- sure -- but this is apparently a whole new level. So. New digs for Charlie, and it just feels so right! 

Plus, obviously, we all already know that Charlie just loves getting covered in his own mess so.... how's that for a transition to our next topic, eh? 

"i need an adult" -- charles, probably
Back in the summer of 2020, I wrote about a new-to-me product -- the Shires Arma Tail Guard & Bag. To solve a fairly.... specific problem. Which, ahem, is pictured directly above -- with the tail guard doing exactly what it's supposed to do. 

this picture accompanies Merriam-Webster's official definition of dad bod omg
Charlie and I shipped out for a 9am lesson last weekend in brisk 35*F temperatures --- meaning way WAY too cold to even attempt bathing off the pee from Charlie's newfound stall-snugness, ugh. Plus, homeboy still hasn't really gotten clipped for real yet (aside from the kinda crappy "trim" job he got before Loch Moy ((that I still paid full price for wtf LOL)))...

ok back to the grossness ---- just LOOK AT IT OMG EW
Obviously it's embarrassing enough showing up with a smelly unkempt homeless looking horse (let's not talk about the rider, m'kay?). But this tail guard, guys -- this thing seriously punches WAY above its weight and at least spares us some modicum of shame?? Maybe???

and, voila!! remove the tube and it's basically neat and tidy! or, uh, at least DRY, ok? i'll brush it when i'm dead
Like I wrote in the original review, it goes on easily with two individual components: the neoprene* padded tail guard, and the nylon tube attachment to cover the whole tail itself. 

So far, this thing hasn't fallen off Charlie's tail once. It keeps his tail completely dry, or at least, it does when I'm careful enough to make sure the whole thing is adequately covered (whoops!). AND -- most importantly -- the contraption cleans up easy as pie with just a hose-off (and an occasional launder). 

Basically, it's useful enough that.... I use it every time. Which, in Lazy Emma Land, is pretty high praise, let's be real!

(*Lol omg yes I put neoprene on my horse and he hasn't died yet --- don't believe the marketing gimmicks, guys!!!!)

"it's not my fault i look homeless" -- charles, definitely
A few friends who have ordered the same guard, either for my exact problem (omg my horse is actually a retired off track kentucky-born HOG ugh), or for similar issues like leaning on the butt bar, etc. And so far everyone seems really happy with it! 

Just a heads up, tho, it seems like this product always ships from the UK, and shipping time can be lengthier than you might be typically used to in today's Prime Universe. 
we can't all be as fastidious as mikey snuggled in horse blankets!!s!
Hopefully I'll have more actual proper updates to come -- like a couple recent lessons and fun rides oooh! But, in the meantime, for any of you who were intrigued but on the fence about this tail guard, a year and a half into use; I'm still definitely loving it!

Anybody else discover any new life-changing (or even just generally practical or modestly momentous) gadgets or pieces of equipment lately? Or maybe you're all just like me -- still too full of pie to consider much else??

Thursday, November 25, 2021

happy thanksGIFing !

Happy Thanksgiving!! To my US readers in particular, but honestly -- to everybody, wishing you a wonderful late November week full of thankfulness (and good food!) <3

These last few years of holiday seasons have been.... tumultuous, to say the least. 

And actually, this summer -- especially with the emergence of vaccinations etc -- it feels like society is very deliberately trying to put covid and the whole pandemic situation firmly behind us. 

And, honestly? I'm HERE for that. Like, obvi the pandemic *is not* over, even as it shifts closer and closer to the (apparently more desirable?) 'endemic' classification. And, at least here in Baltimore, we're still on somewhat strict protocols. 

But ya know.... My family and I are vaxxed and mostly boosted -- even the kiddos now too omg!! And we are ready to be together <3 

So this holiday, at least for me and my family ---- which you may recall is enormous with many different branches, all of whom I want to see and spend time with ---- actually marks the first proper return to something like "normalcy" for us. 

And ooooooh buddy, we are READY!

Obviously every individual community and family may or may not be in a different place right now --- but I hope you're looking forward to a good meal too, at the very least. 

Resuming normal traditions for me means that I get *two omg* Thanksgiving meals in *one* day (omg). 

And I do mean two haha --- there will be NO saving myself from one to the next. We go hard here, mkay? 

So. If you need me, I'll probably be either seated at some ridiculously opulent spread --- or trying to rest up between meals haha. Wishing you all a similarly indulgent return to this wonderful holiday intended to bring everybody together in a spirit of gratitude! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Charlie's Great Hoof Year

I went into 2021 determined to reframe my overall goals and ambitions relating to horses and riding. The objectives didn't necessarily change -- I want to enjoy my horsey experiences to the absolute fullest, while striving to be the best rider and horse person I can be. The methods, tho. My attitude and approach -- that's shifted. 

pictured: possibly the single most important puzzle piece in charlie's stellar 2021
Put simply: my intention going into this year was to be ready for tomorrow, whatever may come, but not ruled by it. 

In practice, this means avoiding situations where it seems like any given thing has to happen RIGHT NOW in order for LATER to be possible — even (and especially) if NOW is not ideal.

march 2021 -- last cycle before going into leather pads for the season
A specific example is feeling like we *need* an important schooling or lesson to be ready for a show, even if that meant working hard on bad ground. Instead, this year, I aimed to capitalize on good ground whenever possible, while avoiding heavy pounding during the driest hottest months.
flashback picture (you can tell bc there aren't stud holes drilled) -- but representative of the leather pads 
Obviously it helped sticking to all things Novice -- where we're experienced, comfortable and don't need a lot of "prep." Bc ya know.... if we really *needed* that last practice to be ready, despite bad conditions.... well, eh, maybe that meant we just weren't ready, right? 

flashback to Nov 2019 when we pulled a shoe while xc schooling with Martin Douzant -- but a good view of the leather pad side profile, and the considerable cushion it adds
Anyway, possibly as a result of this new approach - combined with other maintenance aspects I’ll get into - Charlie had his absolute BEST hoof year with me yet. 

We didn't lose a single shoe!! And Charlie was very sound all year long! Sure, we did our routine maintenance, including joint injections and a box of Adequan. But... That was it. Considering the hoof struggles we've had before (including necessitating coffin injections in 2019), this was kiiiiinda a big deal haha.

flashback to May 2019: charlie's front hoof condition by late spring with no pads. pretty hard to bounce back after this sort of chipping -- esp so early in the year
Because the hoof care reality is... The toothpaste just won't go back into the tube. Literally — inflammation and effusion are expansive forces that can compound soreness significantly when trapped within a rigid hoof capsule. 

It’s MUCH better to prevent it altogether rather than deal with resolving it once it’s begun.

compare to May 2021: charlie's front hooves at 5 weeks with pads, shoo fly boots, and near-daily keratex
Charlie has fairly normal thoroughbred feet -- they're proportionally a little small for his big body, and they tend toward being shelly and crumbly. His soles can also be thinner than is ideal.

flashback to June 2020 : still no pads, looking really shelly and crumbly, with older nail holes chipping out completely
His hooves spurt into growth nearly instantaneously at the earliest signs of spring. But they grow out soft and crumbly -- and as seen in the 'flashback' photos in this post, they usually chip and crack excessively around the shoe clips and nail holes by May or June. 

In past years, we've transitioned Charlie into full leather pads up front around June-ish. But.... ya know.... The thing with hooves, at least for me, is that by the time I'd recognize a problem, it was usually too late.  

compare to August 2021 : charlie's front hooves looking solid at 5 wks in August, despite drought 
Once the hoof wall gets so compromised, the only solution is to grow it out. Except those existing cracks and holes obviously aren't particularly stable, tending to spread and create new vulnerabilities even as the hoof grows. 

So we'd walk this fine line between 1) long enough shoeing cycles to grow more new wall between new and old nail holes; or 2) risk Charlie losing a shoe, possibly along with big chunks of hoof -- thus setting us even further back. 

Sept 2021: charlie's hind hooves at 5 wks. he doesn't wear pads behind, so you can see more advanced crumbling here -- tho near-daily keratex helped keep the walls intact
This year we got Charlie into full leather pads up front starting in March 2021 -- months earlier than normal. Which... I'm now convinced had two main advantages: the pads substantially reduced all that early spring chipping and cracking; plus we got the pads on *before* Charlie had a chance to get sore on hard ground. Yessssss!

Oct 2021: a good looking hoof growing out an old defect. leather pad is clearly visible here
My farrier also suggested applying Keratex as close to daily as possible. He said polymers in the compound accumulate with repeated applications, giving the hoof wall the strength and flexibility necessary to resist cracking or chipping.

Nov 2021: transitioned to leather rim pads in time for wet pre-freeze ground conditions. he'll wear the rim pads for a cycle or two, before ditching pads altogether for winter.
I also added fly boots to the mix -- tho he mostly just wore them up front. Ideally, fly boots reduce stomping on hard summer ground. Charlie's Shoo Fly boots work great -- they're easy to get on and off, loose enough to not cause restriction or harbor leg funk, and brightly colored so they're easy to find if one falls off in the field. 

flashback to June 2017, when charlie went into rim pads for the first time
It's impossible to know what made the biggest difference for Charlie this year. If I had to pick *just one* practice to carry forward, it'd be the leather pads. But the keratex and fly boots seem effective enough to justify the cost. For those curious -- we went through 5 keratex bottles this year, costing about $200 total.

Also notable -- Charlie discontinued ALL feed through supplements last year. Bc, eh, he already has a great diet, and IMO the supplements were the least effective and most expensive part of Charlie's hoof care. 

whatever it takes, buddy!
So. Long story short: We made some big changes this year. I was more selective about footing and ground conditions for our training, and Charlie got into hoof pads ~3 months earlier than past years. Plus we continued basic mitigation efforts like keratex and fly boots. 

And gosh.... It's made ALL the difference for Charlie. Not one lost shoe. A very sound horse. And *ZERO* comments from dressage judges about irregular or uneven steps. Yessssss

Obviously I'm tempting fate writing it all out like this. And lord knows Charlie could go step on a nail (or a bit of mulch, ahem) tomorrow lol (plz don't tho, buddy!). But, eh, as a first-time horse owner, it feels like we finally got it right this year with Charlie's hoof care. 

Here's hoping I can keep it up, haha, and not have to learn any more lessons the hard way -- at least on this one subject LOL. Bc damn... hooves really are the epitome of the "long game" with horses, it seems. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has taken a couple tries to figure out the secret sauce for their horse? 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Iggy + Charlie Best Friends Forever

Longtime readers might remember that Charlie had a .... surly streak when I first got him. Maybe inherited from the infamous stallions in his pedigree, or maybe just deeply rooted defense mechanisms after a lengthy and sometimes difficult career on the track.

Either way, Charlie's early days with me were punctuated by occasionally aggressive behaviors, legitimately necessitating a warning sign posted on his stall at our first boarding barn.  

Iggy + Charlie, best friends forever, in this life and the next <3
That first barn was a lovely place with excellent horse people, tho we eventually moved on anyway to be closer to our trainers at the barn where Charlie lives now. And, obviously, I made sure *everybody* involved in day to day care at the new place understood to watch their backs when in Charlie's stall, and do whatever was necessary to stay safe if they felt threatened. 

twinsies twinning
Honest-to-god, they all thought I was a straight up lunatic. They could not understand what I was going on about. Because Charlie.... just... it's hard to describe, but he just completely let his guard down at this new barn. He was settled. Relaxed. Gentle. Trusting

buddy system #activated
Again, I really don't think anything was wrong with the previous boarding barn. But something was definitely RIGHT about Charlie's new home. And.... I figured out that secret sauce pretty freakin quickly: Charlie's new best friend, Iggy. 

literally attached at the hip
Iggy and Charlie have been inseparable since day 1. Well, not "inseparable" in any sort of obnoxious herd bound sort of way.... But just.... Always together. Always close. Always on the exact same wavelength together.

"you swat my flies and i'll swat yours!" -- charlie, 100%
It's funny bc it's a big herd, in a big field. And they all get along together. But.... Charlie and Iggy always and without fail stuck together --- no matter what the rest of the herd was doing haha....

featuring killjoys Iggy + Charlie *not participating, kthxbai*

and on the opposite end of the spectrum: 

And of course, the whole bromance was made all the more adorable by Iggy + Charlie being complete twins in basically every dimension except height. 

"i've got your back, igs!" -- charlie
Just a couple of basic bay boy TBs, with a left hind sock, star and snip <3

both so expressive about the flies
I've always really loved this aspect of Charlie's life -- that he has such happy and fulfilling society haha. Call it anthropomorphizing if you want. But it's just oddly reassuring, ya know?

even wore their hair the same <3
Iggy became suddenly very very sick two weeks ago, tho. It's not entirely clear what happened -- except that it had likely been brewing undetected for possibly a long time. 

rollin with his homies
Somehow, some way, Iggy had managed to brew an enormous infection somewhere in the cavities inside his head -- with various abscess pockets branching out from the source.  

snacking together too
The current hypothesis, tho of course we'll never really know, is that one of these pockets was aggravated and possibly started draining internally after a routine teeth float. 

chatting with the neighbors at the watercooler 
And the illness progressed so so quickly. Ugh, poor Iggy. There was just so much swelling around his head, he began to have difficulty breathing, and pretty soon the pockets of infection were draining through his sinuses. Obviously, he was referred to hospital. 

snoozin together too, obviously
Once admitted, he underwent a few emergency procedures -- first to open his airway and facilitate breathing. Then various exploratory incisions to locate and drain the primary infection source. 

oh Iggy, Charlie's overgrown foal <3 <3 
Amazingly, although it seemed touch-and-go for a couple days, the hospital staff were able to finally get to the source, and Iggy began responding positively to the antibiotics. 
your friends already miss you, buddy
But.... the swelling had caused significant nerve damage. Once they tried reintroducing water and food, it became clear that Iggy could not swallow. His owner made the only possible choice, and let him go. 

It's all just so heartbreaking -- it happened so fast, but then he was getting better! But... No. Iggy, you were gone too soon, and your friends miss you terribly <3