Tuesday, May 28, 2024

the next big step

Charlie has lived at his farm since 2017, almost exactly seven years now. And it's been 10 years since I started shipping in for lessons here with Isabel. How time flies!

pictured: a group of silly boys looking restless in their hot buggy midday turnout
It's a lovely farm, with extensive grounds, riding facilities, turnout, and a lot of freedom. Plus all the other boarders --- they are some of my best friends! 

when you're dry lotted weirdly late into spring, even the trees start looking tasty i guess?
But ya know. As with all things, this place is run by humans. And humans will be what they will be. This multigenerational family farm is slowly, oh-so-slowly, creeping toward an eventual changing of hands, from one generation to the next. 

finally moved to the summer pastures (just behind the tree line) but... now it's hot buggy and miserable during the day... most local farms doing 12/12 turnout already switched to nights out, days in... but, eh, not here, where the changing of seasons is a perpetual unexpected surprise!
And.... There is a LOT of uncertainty with that, with a not unrealistic expectation of a possibly bumpy ride. Well. Real talk. It's been bumpy already. 

the herd is small enough that it's not unusual for all but 1 or 2 to be in for rides at the same time
notably -- the other geldings herd has something like 10 horses, compared to this group's 5...
Charlie spent some of his best years here, but if I'm honest with myself, his herd life hasn't been great for a while now. I used to always tell myself that, even if *I* wasn't happy with the care or management, at least my horse was happy! But... That's just not really true anymore. It's not the same farm from a decade ago, let alone 5 years.

trying to at least look semi presentable for first impressions!
Add in the difficulties with getting onsite lessons... and... yea. It's time. It's been time. So both of my horses are moving this month. Tho... somewhat gut wrenchingly, they're going to different places. At least for the time being. 

freshly shampooed mane = check
Charlie is moving first, hopefully in just a few more days. And he's moving with another horse from his herd. His new barn is very different -- much smaller, quieter, more intimate, but well managed with good casual vibes. I honestly can't wait!

clean + brushed tail = double check
Doozy will move later in the month. We have a few bits of unfinished business around here to button up --- including hopefully a few last hurrahs with all our favorite riding buddies! 

just a few more days, boys! (red head pictured here is moving with us)
I'm honestly excited, and maybe a bit relieved, too. It's time. Part of why I went out on a limb with a new horse this year was to push myself, ya know? To not get lulled into complacency or get so comfortable with the status quo that... maybe isn't really all it could be, ya know? 

There's more I want to do, more I want to learn, and getting out into a new environment could be just the shot in the arm I'm looking for. Like, think about it: It's hard to go out among new people and be like, "Oh yea, I've done things, been places, I know what's up!" when I quite literally may or may not be able to reliably trot my horse around on a circle. 

oh icee, we were just getting to know you!
Maybe it'll be a reality check, right? Or just the motivation I need to be serious and disciplined. We shall see, right? -- it's (quite obviously) all still ahead of us. 

In the meantime, my head is buzzing with all the nitty gritty practicalities of having my horses in two different places. How to split inventory? What can be realistically divvied up, and what needs to be duplicated at each farm? I've always been that person who has everything, from power tools to charging cables to all the random hand tools and gadgets and medicines and spare everything in multiple sizes. 

But... Now all of that is going to have to get organized, assessed, and fit into new and different spaces.

here's to new open doors windows!
So, eh, definitely lmk if you have tips or tricks for keeping horses in multiple locations -- esp when it comes to what supplies and equipment to just buy more of to have in both places, vs what's reasonably easy to move back and forth....

Also let me know if you have any good tips for moving (horse) house. It might be easy to forget, but Charlie is my first horse, and he's lived at this farm for almost the entire time I've owned him. I, personally, have ridden at a fairly wide variety of farms, including drawing paychecks (in cold hard cash or in-kind credit, and everything in between), from half a dozen farms... But ya know. Every place is different. 

Success stories are welcome. Or ya know.... instructive nightmarish stories of "what not to do," or "dear lord that should have been a red flag!" are also always a good time (esp if they can help the rest of us avoid similar fates!)!! 

Monday, May 27, 2024

memorial pictorial ketchup

Happy long weekend for readers in the US, happy Monday to the rest of y'all. We've had a pleasantly quiet week around these parts, easing more or less gently (if somewhat damp from all the sweating...) into summer.

my sweet beautiful red mare. i swear, sometimes i really do groom her!
Last you heard of my intrepid red rockette, we had a dressage lesson originally planned as preparation for another show. She had been kicked, tho, so we missed other prep and I was on the fence about the show even tho it was a great lesson. 

stall noshies are best noshies
Well, she got kicked again, ugh (mare tho, really??), and this time was pretty sore. So. Eh. We took a little time off, and are just now getting back onto the weekly schedule again. 

oh yea... also, she got kicked AGAIN. this time a direct hit to her hock
It's honestly all good, tho. That earlier dressage lesson was really valuable and timely, esp with letting Trainer C sorta zero on in what she sees as our most immediate key issues. Number 1 among them? Inside Bend. 

"my legggg, it hurtssss" --- sad mare diary entry #1,034
And the second biggest issue? (at least from my perspective...) My outside hand's general fuckery. Bc as far as I'm concerned, these two issues are related. I think I've been riding Doozy fairly counter-bent mostly as an emergency braking mechanism, with that outside hand ready and willing to do whatever to bring that train to a whoa.

not a significant wound, but a big ol' hot swollen bruise right on the joint
It's really just in the last couple days that we've gotten back into daily schooling sessions again (vs general hack-abouts), and that's been my primary focus: inside bend. But always. 

in the meantime, somehow without any of us noticing, doozy turned into an extremely pleasant hacking horse!
I'm trying to keep my outside hand literally pinned to the saddle, and my inside leg straight down under me, but **on** the horse to push out for a leg yield feel (with outside leg also down under vs braced out in front doing only-god-knows-what), and inside rein just working that lateral supple --- keeping Doozy's nose visible to the inside.

she doesn't do the gates yet, but honestly isn't far off!
Sometimes Doozy wants to Ping! off the leg contact and shoot off... Often she wants to fall in toward the inside flexion vs staying up straight and moving off the inside leg... And occasionally she wants to go whole hog and exaggerate the whole exercise, falling wayyyyy out onto her outside shoulder with hyper inside flexion. 

she is, however, the "normal" one
My job, as it may be, is to basically not get distracted or baited by any of these slightly not-quite-right responses, and to just stay hyper disciplined on the one thing I'm asking for: inside bend while moving off the inside leg. That's it. Beginning and end. 

Like in the case where she goes way overboard and falls out on the outside shoulder? Fiiiiine. Good girl, that is inside the line I've drawn. (And we'll refine later, right?)

the most pleasantest <3 <3 <3
I also keep repeating in my head advice from erstwhile coach Dan C, when he said, "If what you're doing isn't working, slow it down." Always good advice for Doozy, let's be real. But also good for me to remember that instead of just sorta spiraling into some weird pretzel-y tug of war at trot... Just come back to walk again, and reestablish the posture. 

shift gears to --- spring clean up! holy f'ing lord how did i get so many blankets?!
also. ahem. yes, these are CLEAN. i SWEAR. stop looking so closely tho omg
And guys! Omg, it's working! Absolutely ground breaking to find that.... inside leg to outside rein actually like, WORKS and stuff!

We had three rides in a row last week that kinda blew my mind, not gonna lie. Not bc they were like, amazing or whatever. But bc it finally felt like I could lay down some mortar on Day 1, put some bricks on it on Day 2, and by Day 3 --- we actually had a solid wall!!

just doing normal dooz things
The first ride really sucked, tho. Not gonna lie. Again, we'd had some time off, Doozy hadn't done any proper schooling in a little while. She was wild. Friends riding with us were cantering and doing things. It was stressful and hot and Doozy had a white lather on her neck despite us not doing anything more than walk and trot. Oh and I also damn near fell off at one point....

shifting gears again: it's the most wonderful time of the year, guys!! lookiee at all my pretttttiessss!!!
But it resolved well. And I reminded myself that what I'm looking for is a response, a feeling. It doesn't matter if that feeling comes from just walking. The feeling is what matters, and what I want to end a ride on. 

why yes, we are embracing a barbie theme this year, why do you ask?
The next ride was... very different. We rode in a different ring -- the dressage ring instead of the jump ring -- and we were alone. Actually, it was the middle of the day on a week day so the whole farm was quiet. And we just picked right back up where we left off the day before. 

poor Icee, tho, not his favorite time of year! it's hard being a svelte pelted Barn Panther in this humidity!
Doozy still sweated more than what was necessary, but seemed less stressed. Actually seemed to be thinking and thoughtful. Focused on ME, not the wider world. Obvi since we were alone I basically spent the whole time singing her praises and verbally encouraging her through every step (which she loves), but she really seemed to get it. 

turns out, tho, the heat makes this Icicle a Nice-icle!! we'll take it!
We actually **Trotted** OMG. Sounds stupid. Isn't tho. It's real, it's where we are, and we celebrate the trot, yo! Went through a few cycles of repetitions too, to confirm that the feelings were reproducible. Got canters on both leads -- including the right lead that's been a bit elusive with her kick-sore hock, and then a little more trot, and a LOT more praise. Short sweet, and done. 

speaking of nice!! look who showed up in one of my lockers --- hello snek fren, pls take care of the source of all those mouse turds!
Third ride really proved the whole concept. Which, again, is staying really hyper focused on extremely basic and gentle fundamentals: inside bend, moving off inside leg. Nothing more, nothing less. Not "on the bit," not leg yields, not shortening or extending a gait. Just.... Inside bend, moving off inside leg. 

a better nice tho --- cute pony frens 
And guys, Doozy clearly felt like she'd had a breakthrough. Like she's starting to understand that... Yes, I'm asking her to do specific things. But... It isn't really hard, and it's definitely not fast. She just needs to tune in, trust me, and try. 

doozy looking sweaty and tired after her 2nd ride of what was a 3-day breakthrough session
And the moments where she gets it??? Omg, GREAT!! She's obvi got a HUGE trot in there, but she also has a stretchy trot just waiting to be understood. And a collected trot too --- tho obvi will need a lot more strength and balance for that. 

figuring life out, learning lessons and stuff <3
Once this horse really understands that, actually, we kinda just wanna trot for the sake of trotting... I think she'll love it haha. But for now, we'll keep staying hyper focused on the basics --- and keep taking lessons --- and see where that gets us!

On that note, hopefully a few more lessons coming this week! Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend too!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

charlie + mud fever

Gosh, it's been a minute since we've featured our good friend Charlie here on ye olde blogge!! Which is criminal considering he's obvi the biggest star around <3 <3

the muddy swamp monster himself, looking adorable as ever <3 <3
The truth is, Charlie's out here living his best life. Getting his daily grooms and scritches and cookies.... Just being a downright pleasant horse to spend time with and be around. 

He's just... Not particularly sound. Still. I was legging him back up for a while, but then he got pretty sore again after a recent shoeing appt.... And I dunno. I kinda backed off completely. Probably not permanently, tho. I'll probably start riding hacking him around again, even if it's just to help him maintain a good enough baseline condition to support his massive frame. 

his group finally moved out to the lusciously grassy summer pastures!
In the meantime, his group finally started the transition to grass. Honestly not sure why it took so long this year, and honestly probably wouldn't have even happened yet if I hadn't gotten them started on the first day myself. But it's done, and everyone is much happier for it. Thoroughbreds + grass are a match made in heaven, imho!!

Well. Except, ya know, there are a few downsides!! Like all the bugs and gnats that are chewing up poor Charlie's belly!! That'll get partially resolved when they switch to overnight turnout instead of daytime... But for now, it's a real pain for him (literally lol). 

Also, all that dewy grass can wreak havoc on hooves and legs. Charlie is notably prone to mud fever, aka scratches, aka pastern dermatitis, on his one white sock. It's a nasty scabby persistent painful skin infection that is a pain in the you-know-what to clear up, but that you don't really want to leave brewing lest it explode into a larger systemic infection like cellulitis. 

i washed the leg with regular shampoo first to get it mostly clean, then did a proper scrub with the betadine cleanser
I've tried to be proactive over the years with keeping Charlie's legs clean and clear of all scurf, and routinely treating with MTG to get ahead of any scabbing or small abrasions... 

But honestly? I think 100% prevention is probably a losing battle. At least for horses with white legs. Maybe there's some sort of special secret sauce I'm missing (in which case, lmk!), but, eh, Charlie seems to get an infection about once a year, like clockwork. 

the infection kinda just looks like an innocuous scab. these things are stubborn and persistent, tho, and can take a bit of determination (and strong drugs) to clear up
So we focus on treatment. Skin funk in horses is one of those areas where opinions vary widely. I have seen and heard of folks using so many different topicals on this type of skin issue. 

MTG, That Blue Stuff, Coat Defense, Krudzapper, Furazone, Desitin (yes the diaper rash cream), Vitamin E, Silver Honey... 

Not to mention all the various cleansers and scrubs, like chlorhexidine, betadine, Listerine, apple cider vinegar, etc....

they're usually a bit painful too. this issue is the main reason why i don't put fly boots on Charlie's hind legs
The lists go on and on and on. Please definitely add in the comments if you swear by something I didn't mention! 

And while I've had better luck with some of these treatments vs others, in the end I've come to the conclusion that.... the most important distinction in which treatment works vs which doesn't is... Your time, attention, and dedication in actually doing the treating

a few more scabs on the other side --- and all those slightly deeper pink spots are potential eruption sites
At least in  my experience, this is not the type of skin funk that you can treat once or twice and then be on your merry way. For Charlie (and Isabel before him), it usually takes about two weeks of consistent near-daily attention to completely clear the infection. 

this has been my go-to treatment since the isabel days. always handle with gloves. will test positive on horse show drug tests too
The "standard of care" method that's been recommended to me by a vet involves first scrubbing carefully and continuously with a betadine solution (I like the surgical scrub product, personally). Then let the leg dry completely, before applying a steroidal antibiotic ointment Animax (also known as Dermalone or Panalog Ointment). 

I get the ointment directly from the vet. It contains steroids, so always handle with gloves and be thoughtful about using it if you have imminent recognized/rated competition plans.

unrelated -- found another lone star tick, this time on charlie. photo for future reference in case i need to know dates... ugh
A lot of folks consider this medical grade treatment to be the "nuclear option," tho, and prefer to start with using either natural or less medically intense remedies first. Again, I don't necessarily think there's a right or wrong way -- so long as you're attending to the treatment regularly.

This seems to work for us, tho, so hopefully Charlie's socks will be all nice and bright white again in short order! 

at least Icee's cute <3 <3
And hopefully I'll be better about grabbing more pics of the handsome guy (maybe from actually taking him out for rides???) in the near future. Can't keep going so long without updates on him, right?? Doozy is cool, and all, but Charlie is still my favorite haha <3

Anyway. Anybody else dealing with skin funk or other seasonal ailments? Discover any new tools or techniques in helping the horses adjust to summer??

Friday, May 10, 2024

disease vectors

Happy Friday, y'all! We are officially into the height of spring around these parts. The local flora absolutely erupted into leaf and flower thanks to frequent rain showers and rising temperatures, and with all that comes the bugs omg the bugs! 

pictured: ticks, so many ticks
Tho, realistically these days... The ticks are with us year round. Actually, at least in my experience, the winter ticks are the sneakiest of them all bc nobody expects or is looking for them... I was appalled to find an engorged one hiding under Doozy's jaw recently, ugh. 

Normally I can get 'em the first day or two after they attach, but that one managed a full meal. Oh well, it happens!

oh look, there's one right there! fun thing about lone star ticks is they don't even try to hide, they'll just bite the horse in any old place, like on the shoulder or right there on doozy's belly
Virtually every horse in my region will have a mildly positive Lyme titer, reflecting at least some presence of antibodies. Tho I'll still do a test if there are indications of a more acute case. 

Around here, we'll usually say that if you're horse is acting a little off, his behavior or manners are a bit changed, he's cranky or maybe seems body-sore or NQR in a hard-to-pin-down sorta way, it's wise to at least run a titer. 

common tick types
source: Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Science
In recent years, another tick-borne illness has become increasingly common: anaplasmosis. Charlie had a case back in 2020, following my first run-in with a lone star tick. 

I was honestly expecting he'd pick up the infection mostly bc of the huge swelling at the bite site, despite the tick being fairly freshly attached. And Charlie miserably obliged that expectation after a 9 day incubation period by spiking a gigantic fever and feeling very sorry for himself.

an increasingly common diagnosis. familiarize yourself with these symptoms: BIG fever, puffy legs
source: https://stablemanagement.com/barns-grounds/tick-diseases-in-horses/ 

Treatment was fairly straight forward and the horse recovered quickly... It's honestly not a huge issue. Except that if you aren't thinking of tick-borne illness when those symptoms appear, it can be easy to panic or freak out. Nobody likes giant fevers and swollen legs! 

let the countdown begin, i guess...
Time will tell if Doozy goes down the same path. It's possible that I missed the tick the day before... but doesn't seem likely given that it was right at the girth groove. So I'm guessing it latched on the morning I found it. Getting it off was a little weird tho --- the body came apart in pieces!

sorry it's fuzzy, but the body literally tore in half when i tried to pull it out -- not just the body separating from the head 
Like, the segment of the body where the white dot is came off from the rest of the body, which has literally never happened that I can remember in years of plucking ticks off horses... Like, sure, the head will often pull apart from the body... But idk, this was weird lol. Luckily a barn mate knew where an old pair of forceps was hiding, so I could dig out the last little bits o' tick (ew). 
is this lifestyle worth it? yes lol, the answer is yes
Doozy, for her part, seemed very grateful for that little bit of attention and vigorously nuzzled my elbow while I worked, as if to say, "Omfg it itches get it out get it out!

So we'll see what happens. Maybe we'll get lucky? Anybody else had to deal with tick issues? 

Thursday, May 9, 2024


So I had a whole bunch of big plans leading up to another show this weekend... But with Doozy getting kicked and missing some rides from that (and also from me being out of town... and also from, on occasion, having other things going on in life... you know how it goes), things are kinda up in the air now. C'est la vie, amirite?

hangin out at the trailer like the most civilized creature while Amy + Punky had their lesson first
Ambiguity and fluidity are new friends to me, and... honestly, I'm appreciating just enjoying my horse on a day by day basis. On this day, that enjoyment took the form of another eagerly awaited dressage lesson with Trainer C -- intended as show prep but still independently delightful!

"cookies pls!"
There's an actual metric buttload of video footage... But, eh. It looks a lot like a green TB trotting around inverted, weak, hollow and counter-bent while her rider fumbles around trying to put all the pieces together. To me? Glorious! To the average viewer tho? Well. You know... LOL....

fair warning --- i cherry picked only the best moments from legit endless footage of my untrained racehorse twirling around like a dervish
So I did everybody the favor of parsing through all that footage frame by frame to find the little moments where pieces clicked together, where one or both of us had a little "aha!" or gave a big try. In other words, pics today aren't exactly "representative" of the ride, but rather little "dots" that eventually I want to be able to connect into a bigger future picture.

when slanty walls attack!
And guys, it was a good lesson. Like, really getting back to our roots here. This arena has such good juju, Trainer C has been such a supportive and positive coach over the years (since 2015 omg!), and Doozy and I are really feeling like a proper team. 

sorta kinda tryna leg yield
It's a relief, in a way, too. I cringe at so many photos of me riding these days bc I feel sloppy and slouchy and all over the place... And ya know, I am.... Bc that's just the reality of having to come back from a period of protracted downtime. Skills, strengths, abilities... They're only ever really on loan, ya know? We don't "own" them. Use it or lose it, right?

"ohhhhh bennnnd" -- doozy, figuring things out
That's where the video is so helpful, too, tho. Like I can only realistically keep track of mayyybe one or two body parts at a time when I'm riding. 

Given enough routine consistent coaching, eventually all the various bits and bobs fall in line.. but right now? Good lord, if I'm focusing on one hand, the other is probably wafting out into the stratosphere. If my mind is on keeping my inside leg draped down long like the pole in a carousel horse... my outside leg is likely stuck straight out ahead of me like some kind of brace. 
proof that even this monkey of a rider can eventually write shakespeare, if only briefly
Doozy, meanwhile, is legitimately always counter-bent. Like. Wayyyyy more than I realized. And honestly, I think it's bc of how I try to slow her down -- that I try to hold her out. But seeing it in this lesson, paired with Trainer C's coaching, really made it plain. 

canter transitions!
Trainer C wants me to constantly be thinking about bringing Doozy's nose in, while keeping my outside hand low -- as if to invite her outside shoulder to stay out and upright. I should be always aiming for a sorta "leg yield" feel, without being afraid of putting my inside leg on to not leg Doozy's rib cage push inward.

trotting diagonals without bolting off into the sunset
We practiced some very basic figure work -- first trotting circles in the ends of the arena focusing on bringing the nose in, slowing down the trot. Then we'd go up the long side along the "second track" (about 8' off the wall, so kinda halfway to the quarter line) and try to gently glide back toward the wall with an "out and over, out and over, nose slightly in, body out" type feeling. Not exactly a leg yield, but working on that feeling.

probably did the most trotting of our lives in this lesson lol... step one to making the trot better is actually trotting at all
We found that smaller circles (15m or even smaller still) helped in the ends of the arena, esp when I tried to channel the spiral work we've been practicing. And obvi trying to keep the pace steady and not rushed --- thinking of telling Doozy, "wait!" then relax, "wait!" then relax, again and again to help her sort of understand the beginnings of a 'half halt.'

and another canter transition!
Doozy, for her part, was a superstar. I legit wish I'd tinkered around with her bridle way sooner, bc this flash strap is making a huge difference. Trainer C actually said she starts all her babies in a flash -- bc it's easier to start with "this is a normal part of the bridle!" that can be discarded if unnecessary, vs having to add it in later. In retrospect, I wish I'd done the same -- bc I can be a lot softer now with my hands and we both like that!

pretty pleased with this pony
(no idea why i look like an illustration from an airplane safety instructions booklet here... but it's a cute pic anyway!)
Separate from the bridle, tho, Doozy was just... again, really good. She tried so hard in this lesson. Legit trotted for about 7 goddamn minutes straight at one point (I know bc it's all on video) without trying to break into canter once. Like.. wow. Good girl! 

It was hot and humid and we were both sweaty and puffing (and I may or may not have almost damn near fallen on my ass when I dismounted LOL), but she tried the whole time. Doozy has a "tell" when she's getting worked up and tense, where she sorta whistles and groans and holds her breath... Like a cartoon bomb about to drop... But she didn't go there once this whole lesson. Just stayed present and responsive, in her own red way. 

good girl, dooz!
For me, this is the good stuff -- and I'm so excited to keep growing and developing with this special little mare <3 <3