New Year, Real Talk

Hi, maybe you remember me from my last post about my local vet’s crummy bedside manner… well, turns out he may have been more right than I cared to believe at the time even if his delivery was decidedly poor. Harley and I had a few months of bliss over the late summer and early fall. Bliss!

 

 

 

 

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The vet mentioned that Harley was looking a little pudgy so he got put on a diet over the summer. He responded like any chubby bunny worth their salt would and rooted out a stash of fattening acorns in the pasture to supplement his diminished rations. Clever little truffle pig…

 

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And then things changed. In what felt like the blink of an eye. No identifiable injury, no change in demeanor, just continuous and obvious not-quite-rightness at all gaits. I gave long spells of time off hoping it was muscular or a mild injury. I’ve used various combos of BoT therapies and support boots. Have I called the vet out again? No, I haven’t. I had my trainer, who is very familiar with him take him for a ride to confirm the things I was feeling. She begrudgingly admitted that he felt like her old warmblood whose canter was the first thing to go as he lived with DJD. Is it time for more injections? Maybe. Will they fix the problem? No. The writing was always on the wall, the timeline just moved up.

 

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The Bionic Horse

 

We had our annual Christmas ride where I dress up like a fool and Harley tolerates my shenanigans. This year we were gingerbread cookies.

 

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I have been in the market for a horse for about a month now. Knowing it is not likely I will find a lease scenario as wonderful as my lease with Harley, I am specifically looking for my first horse to own. It’s a big scary step but I have saved up, I have leased, and I am ready.

So far I’ve let my gut be my guide but dang it’s tough out there! I impulsively drove down to Georgia one Friday to try out a baby warmblood in the pouring rain. I had a decent ride but left telling the seller he was too green for me. I had a six hour drive home to second guess that decision and practically work myself up into an ulcer trying to figure out how to get one of my trainers down there to ride him again. I have two trainers and a small group of horse friends willing to offer advice but sometimes that is great and sometimes it’s not. In this case, I had one trainer saying “so much fun! go get him!” and the other saying “I would absolutely not choose him for you for several reasons”. Thanks trusted professionals… I went with the latter and was back to the drawing board.

Next I found a local lead on a well-bred Belgian Warmblood who was started late. I exchanged many emails and finally went for a visit with a trainer and a friend in tow. There was a small herd of homebred warmbloods that all looked super cute but definitely seemed like none of them were regularly ridden and a couple have never been started despite being 8-10 years old. They had no arena and everything else was mud, so after watching the owner ride, I hopped aboard and rode down the paved road. He soundly walked and trotted barefoot on asphalt and although he was a little buddy sour, he was very sane. I am not willing to make such a big decision on so little information so I floated the idea of a trial at my home barn. The owner agreed and he arrived just after the new year.

 

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Cute, but ultimately not a good fit for me.

 

Harley says, srsly, good luck trying to replace me… I’m literally perfect.

 

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Horse shopping is hard. I really do just want to magically have a younger Harley. Many of you have ambitious goals for 2019 and I have just one- find the new EquiNovice blog header model! Wish me luck!

 

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Bedside Manner

A few weeks ago my veterinarian came out to give Harley his hock injections. Harley was pretty overdue for them and had started to take more bad steps behind during some of our rides. He is pretty stoic about pain and also gets a daily Equioxx so even though he hadn’t had injections for a year he was never unsound.

 

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Drunken cross-tie naps

 

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Weeble wobble back to his stall

 

Harley has some White Coat Syndrome and is always wired for sound when the vet is treating him. The vet checked his hooves and back for any alarming soreness before flexing Harley and having his student trot him in the arena. Surprising exactly no one- his hocks were bad. Bad bad. Especially on the right. The vet mentioned it also might be worth considering injecting his ankles too. He wavered back and forth and ultimately told me it was my decision about the fetlocks. I said “I think maybe the hocks today, and I’ll wait on the ankles” to which he halfway interrupted, “Oh, I’m injecting these hocks today or I’m putting this horse down.”

uh….that escalated quickly….

I understand that he was trying to make a point about the necessity of the injections but there are certainly better ways to do that than making me feel like The World’s Shittiest Leaser TM.

I was pretty much in shock and thought sure he was joking but he reiterated and said it again. I responded, “Awww, this horse is too good-looking to put down”

His response: “Yeah, the Canadians would LOVE him!”

Dude. WTF?!

 

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Broken, useless, old, disposable

 

Yep, lets put down this fully functioning 20 year old and then sell him for meat. Cool.

 

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Horrific body condition for a senior horse

 

 

I’m going to try and assume that the surgery he had before coming out to the barn went long or maybe he didn’t sleep much the night before and was kind of slaphappy- but seriously, it’d be nice to try and never say these things to a client whether in jest or not.

I’m a slightly captive audience and he does render decent care, so I guess I’m not mad enough leave…just disappointed. How’s your vet’s bedside manner?

 

 

Feeling Fine

Harley and I are now collectively 51 years old having both recently celebrated another birthday. That said, we are both doing pretty darn well despite our mutual arthritis 😉 I have lost some weight, which is helping us both, and Harley is sound, shiny, and happy with his work.

 

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We have recently been forced to take a brief hiatus from riding because another horse at the barn developed a high fever. To be safe, any horse that could have had potential contact with the sick horse was quarantined and monitored closely. Harley does not share a pasture with the sick horse, but his stall is right next to a temporary feeding “stall” that the sick horse uses daily. So, Harley and his stall mate got to be 24/7 pasture horses for two weeks and all of us were prohibited from taking our horses up to the main barn and arenas. I think he loved his break. I was bummed at first because the quarantine started right before the holiday weekend but as it turned out, I got my own nasty sinus/cold bug and have been down for the count ever since. The quarantine has been lifted after the other horse went one full week fever free so we all hope we are out of the woods and maybe it was just an isolated incident. Harley never temped high and was in great spirits. I spent the holiday weekend almost entirely in bed but I did emerge to visit the pony on Memorial Day to fly spray, check temperature, and stuff with cookies.

 

*****PUBLIC HEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT******

I want to take a minute to explain a stupid thing I did in hopes that no one else does this. I was recommended an essential oil to use with Harley and I don’t have a ton of experience with essential oils but acquiesced to giving it a try because even if it didn’t help, it smelled good. I cut or diluted the oil with coconut oil per the directions and had a little container of it in my car. On Memorial Day when I went to visit Harley, I noticed a spot of dry skin on my hand and rubbed a bit of the oil on the spot before I got out of the car at the barn. I was out there just for a quick visit, being sick and with sun blaring down, I stayed out there for maybe 20 minutes before I noticed that the spot where I had rubbed the oil was bubbling/blistering. I thought it was a skin reaction because it never hurt so I immediately washed it off my hand. Well, the damage had apparently already been done and that oil BURNED THE EVERLOVING SHYTE out of my hand. The bottle warned against it in tiny print that I didn’t read. I have since learned that many essential oils, especially citrus based oils are EXTREMELY PHOTOSENSITIVE meaning they react with UV light and produce a phototoxic reaction in the skin. It’s pretty much a chemically induced exaggerated sunburn.

 

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My skin thankfully never hurt from this burn but it did hyper-pigment because, as I learned later, bergamot based oils like the one I used, are notorious for causing extreme skin reactions when exposed to sunlight. I am thankful I didn’t rub this stuff all over my face or neck because…could you even imagine?!?! Anyway, don’t be like EquiNovice, carefully read about any essential oils, and don’t make margaritas at the barn- because apparently the oils from the limes are photosensitive as well and there is such a thing as a Margarita burn.

So… yeah… aside from that…..

 

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He’s just a little uphill

 

While I was sick I bought some barely used stirrup leathers on eBay. They were supposedly “unbranded” but they are clearly branded, they are Albion calf wrapped leathers that I got for $13.

Mic drop.

Like, I feel a little guilty and bad for the seller.

 

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I rode Harley for the first time post-quarantine and was worried he would be feral. I lunged him to start and he lunged like a pro and was a perfect gentleman for our ride as well. I focused on the canter in our ride and it has been a while since I have really worked much in that gait but he looked so steady in his canter on the lunge that I just had to ride it. It was productive and he surprised me by being more relaxed than I thought he would be after his spring break. I would think it is about time for his hock injections but he is just moving so well right now, I don’t know if I should wait or go ahead and get them in.

We are chugging right along and I told myself that if I hit my initial weight loss goal, I would look into starting lessons with the other trainer at my barn (my current trainer’s trainer). This sinus/bronchitis thing hasn’t helped, but hopefully by next week we’ll all be feeling fine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Size Fits…None.

I may be jinxing myself by saying this out loud, but I have made several high-priced used tack purchases on Ebay and I have yet to be truly burned. That being said, I have overpaid for items and I have been frustrated by what I felt like were some sizable disclosures that were omitted from descriptions.

You see, Harley and I just recently passed our two-year lease-a-versary which makes this easily my longest term relationship (both human or equine, but that’s a different story). Harley was not my first lease horse but he was my first FULL lease. I never had a reason to own tack and had never even thought about “fit” for several tack items. I understood that bridles and saddles had to fit the horse but learned quickly that very few items are one-size-fits-all if they end up on the horse. A saddle pad is a saddle pad, I thought, you can just buy any style or color you like! Nope. What’s the spine length? What’s the drop? Does it fit your saddle? Does your giant horse make it look like a postage stamp? Is it contoured enough for his shark fin? How did I learn to consider all of these variables? Oh, the hard way… by buying incorrectly sized things.

Harley came to me with a bridle, a sheet, a blanket, and a cooler. Which, was pretty freaking awesome! The only thing I had to get right away was a saddle. It was a tall order. I have posted about it previously. At the time, I thought I had found a good deal but new information and new market situations have since changed my mind. I searched for several weeks to find that ONE used saddle and then I was pretty much stuck buying it. I felt like it fit Harley reasonably well but I never felt like the saddle fit me. I battled for an entire year and half to resolve the issue with various “bandaids” like half pads, riser pads, offset girths, etc and still never felt comfortable.

 

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Doesn’t look too terrible…does it? 

 

A few months ago, Harley once again, spooked and bolted me off during one of our rides in the arena. It has been an issue for us in the past but he hadn’t done that in over a year. It is always some kind of noise that triggers the spook but then it’s as if he feels like the monster is on his back and as soon as he gets it off- he stops and just stands there. No longer afraid of the noise, or spooky corner that triggered the bolt in the first place. He had some moments of mild soreness or lameness that I couldn’t attribute to anything in particular and he also slowly started to become resistant to standing at the mounting block. I tried some things: gave him some time off; upped his calming supplement; worked with him on the ground; had the trainer ride him. Of course, I also did the thing, where I was like, “this wouldn’t happen to a better, skinnier rider so I should probably end my lease and let him retire”.

I became increasingly frustrated that despite the number of lessons I took or rides I gave him, I had so much trouble with my seat. Every ride felt like a battle. It seems fairly obvious to me now, but you know how these things work- it’s never so simple when you’re in the middle of it. It finally hit me that maybe saddle fit was playing a bigger role in all of this than I was willing to admit.

Around this same time I started to see a huge number of used Albion saddles go on the market. Suddenly they were everywhere! Facebook, eBay, used tack sites. These things must trend kind of cyclically, I haven’t heard of people trying to “unload” Albion saddles for any particular reason, but maybe I’m missing something. All I know, is that two years ago when I bought my repaired, base model, MW Albion SLK HH, I had exactly 2 purchase options- the one I bought or a new demo model for around double the price. Now there were choices! Several high head models, different price ranges, different saddle configurations. On Ebay I stumbled across a beautiful used Albion SLK Ultima HH in a wide with 3″ rear gussets- newer, upgraded leather, better condition, and $500 CHEAPER than my old saddle and I started to get ideas…

I took off all of the gadgets and gizmos I had been using to try to force the saddle to fit and I put it on him sans pad. Looking at my saddle perched slightly-crooked on his frame, pommel high, lacking even panel contact- I was sold. I bought the new saddle.

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not horrific

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until you look from the other side

 

The price was so unbelievably good on this new saddle that I thought I could likely even flip it if it didn’t fit Harley. When it arrived it needed a little love- it must have been sitting uncleaned in the sellers tack room for awhile. But once I finished cleaning and conditioning, I knew I had found a hell of a deal. Now, would Harley and I like it?

 

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The new saddle! straight girth, no rear riser

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Long story, short… we LOVE it. 

 

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Harley immediately moved freer and started to offer his back and carry himself during our WARM UP. I was floored. The upgrade Ultima leather is nice and tacky. The larger blocks and deeper seat fit me SO much better and though, I am by no means a great rider, I finally felt comfortable and aligned while riding. I nearly cried. So many emotions. I had no idea that the same model of a saddle could fit a rider so poorly – I thought I had bought the same saddle my trainer had and that I was set. I was completely naive to these tiny details about fit that make such a huge difference. I felt awful that Harley was uncomfortable in it, though I have no way of knowing for how long it has felt this bad to him. My confidence even got a little boost thinking about how many times I have thought- it’s just me- I can’t ride this horse- I can’t even sit normally- we’re never connected. I’m not saying a saddle swap is about to make me ride like a pro, but I am hopeful that I can make even more improvements to my riding now that I am not fighting my own equipment so much. I am so so so happy Harley is more comfortable, too!

 

 

 

Holiday Hoopla

We had a tiny little ice storm today where I live but apparently I missed the memo that it was “coming in to the office is optional” day. I’m a little bitter… so I am blogging! I realize it’s already a couple weeks into January but I have a few more holiday antics to catalog on here for posterity before I jump into 2018.

For the past several years, I have annoyed delighted my dressage trainers by dressing up like a fool for my last lesson before Christmas. I always do something a little different and since it all started with wearing a goofy hat over my riding helmet- I have continued that tradition with a new hat every year. I used to only dress myself up for lessons because I was never riding my own horse. Harley and I have been together for almost two years now so he also participates and last year we started assembling recruits to join in the fun as well!

 

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Harley says you can always make your own Santa beard!

 

I knew I was going to have the big holiday ride the night before I left to go home to the Northland for Christmas, but to keep up the tradition, I also had a holiday themed dressage lesson. My barn does a voluntary Secret Santa which is a lot of fun and a couple of my barn mates had been pulling some lighthearted holiday pranks “jingle jokes” along with leaving their gifts. My friend sneakily filled our trainer’s treat pouch with jingle bells instead of sugar cubes! She only found out when she started trotting and jingling during her lesson with her trainer!!! Priceless.

Trainer thought she was being so clever when she took those jingle bells and zip-tied them to MY saddle but I just rolled with it and we jingled festively through our whole lesson.

 

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Sorry Trainer, jingle joke’s still on you!

 

This year for the main holiday ride, I made my own hat and Harley got to be a little more involved in dressing up as well. We ended up with a pretty good-sized group with riders aged 12-45 and horses aged 3-20. I went with a frosty the snowman theme and got to wear a tutu and there was plenty of leftover decor for the rest of the crew to borrow!

 

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Harley had some feelings about his antlers but his plaid polos are perfection.

 

I texted my old trainer so she wouldn’t be sad about missing out on the fun this year.

 

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The whole festive crew!

 

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That extra special between the ears

 

We all had a great ride and decided that tutus should be a riding staple. The ponies were all very good sports, got lots of candy cane rewards, and solidified their precarious spots on Santa’s nice list. 😉

Bright and early the next morning I headed home for the holidays and enjoyed a lovely break with family, friends, and furrbabies.

 

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Christmas cat can’t hang

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This is obviously MY puzzle, and you people clearly needed help holding the pieces down.

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Considers himself a gift to humanity

 

I spent New Years Eve back here in Indiana with my friends and we celebrated in style despite the frigid weather. I went out on New Years Day to visit my main man and we shared some frozen selfies.

 

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That face you make when your pasture buddy tries to steal your cookies

 

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Chillin in my warm new blanket because I destroyed my old blanket last year

 

We have had a few great rides to kick off the new year and let me tell you, after a few months of weekly trainer rides this guy is fancy AF. I can’t believe he’ll be 20 in March and in April we will celebrate two years together!

Thanks for tolerating my sh*t, Harley, and for always letting me kiss your mustache.

 

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