Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I Lived

It's that time of year, that time when everyone calculates up all the things they've done this year and posits what they will do next year.

I have accomplished jack shit this year. 

Although, I have picked up a lot of Jack shit.

I've had crappy year, thanks to my Crohn's disease (pun intended).  People ask me what I've done, why I haven't shown my horses, and I just laugh. Many days I'm doing good just to get off the couch, consistent riding just isn't in the cards.

"What are you doing with that big red horse you've got?"

I'm teaching him to drink out of a wine glass. It's an important skill. 
I learned he really likes mimosas.

"Well, what about that nice bay you were showing 3rd Level?"

He learned to play polo. 

Way easier than 3rd Level.

"Tsk. What about that fancy hunter pony you bought?"

He's toting my kids around. That's what I bought him for. 
Shorts and boots, the official uniform of backyard riders.

My goals disappeared the day I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It's not that I "gave up" or "resigned myself to my fate". I fought long and hard against this bullshit disease. I fought against the constant fatigue, the arthritis, the never-ending trips to the bathroom, the degeneration of my spine, the side effects from the medications for the disease and the medications for the damn side effects.

 I fought and I fought and I fought, and then one day I woke up and realized that this was forever. There is no cure, and even the treatment sucks. And there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. It sounds defeatist, but it's actually a relief. Now that I'm not fighting an impossible fight, I can just get on with my life.

So, these are my goals for the New Year: I will drink too much, laugh too loud, live my life and I will just enjoy my horses. All the rest will fall into place.

Instead of fixing the barn clock, I painted this quote on it.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I Think I'll Eat A Worm

Jack ate a worm today.

I was cleaning the heated water tank, which involves flipping it over, when I discovered a bunch of nice fat earthworms in the warm, wet soil underneath it. I have a frog who just loves worms, so I grabbed one for him. At this point, Jack came wandering up to see what I was doing. Naturally, he wanted to know what was in my hand. After all, it might be a treat! 

I opened my hand to show him, thinking he would just sniff the worm and then move on. Nope! He slurped that worm right up and then went back to my hand to look for more. 

I am simultaneously disgusted and impressed. On one hand, ewwwww! A worm! On the other hand, I probably don't ever have to worry about Jack being a picky eater. 

So, tell me I don't have the only horse with the appetite of a garbage disposal. What weird things has your horse eaten?

Oh, and Mr. Frog did get a worm. I picked up another one and was careful to keep it away from Jack. 

Happy Mr. Frog

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Post From Schneider's Saddlery

I get a lot of offers from various people and companies who want to post things on my blog, but most of them are pretty irrelevant. Seriously, why would I want to advertise an Off Track Betting site or review a romance novel, do these people even bother to read my site before hitting "send" on the email?  
Anyway, last week I received an email from Schneider's Saddlery (Slight correction, it was Schneider's Online Marketing Firm) They wanted to post "free, non-advertorial content" to my blog.  I'm not going to lie, I laughed when I read it.  I can write my own free, non-advertorial content, why the hell would I want theirs?  I sent an email back to Schneider's Online Marketing Firm saying just that and figured that was the last I'd be hearing from them.
Surprisingly, it was not the last I would hear from them.  I received a reply the next day outlining, in excellent detail, the type of content they wanted to post and why it was relevant to my blog.  They even used my horses' names and referenced individual posts I had written. Huh, they actually read my work. In all my years writing this blog, no other solicitor has done that.  So, I said they could send me an article and I'd post it.
Moral: Flattery will get you everywhere, at least with me.
About the Author: After being founded in 1948 by Milton Schneider, Schneider’s Saddlery is a family owned company committed to quality, value, and customer service. The family is committed to equestrian culture; offering riders and trainers the tools they need to care for their four-legged companions. This post is brought to you, in part, by Schneider Saddlery
Off The Track Thoroughbreds: Adopting A Champion

Every year, the Jockey Club registers between 25,000 – 35,000 foals, most of which never place at the track.  Even if the horse does run well and becomes a professional racehorse, their short careers often lead to retirement as early as age six. In fact, the number of retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) is so high that more than 10,000 of them are put down each year. 
This makes the breed a popular one for riders, not only for those seeking to rescue one of these beautiful creatures, but also because their relative availability often makes them a less expensive purchase than European breeds.  This doesn’t mean that they are the right choice for every equestrian, however.       
Julie Goodnight, one of only three people to receive Equine Affaire’s Exceptional Equestrian Educator Award, claims that in order for an OTTB to be the right match for a prospective new owner, the person should be a confident rider who is not intimidated by a horse’s speed and need for retraining.
New Owner Preparedness
In addition to being a competent rider, someone adopting an OTTB must have the patience required to assist their new companion in adjusting to an entirely new, unprecedented lifestyle. During this period, you should let your horse relax and adjust to his new role and environment.  He should have plenty of time to play, rest, enjoy the outdoors and begin to understand that his life is no longer just about going as fast as possible.
Along with patience, a new owner of an OTTB needs to be able to provide an environment for their horse that will help the animal to thrive and get used to his new role.  Your ex-racer will develop a bond with other horses he’s introduced to, and will look to their behavior to model his own.  
Once your new horse is starting to adjust to his environment, you’ll likely have to spend a lot of time re-training him on how to be ridden.  If you pull on an OTTB’s reins, they will typically not respond as you might expect them to. 
On the track, Jockey’s would bridge the reins, holding them taunt on the sides of the horse’s neck.   So to your newly retired racehorse, this pressure would indicate that they should move faster.  This leads many owners to assume that their OTTB is being defiant when instead they are reacting to different training.
Common OTTB Behaviors
I spoke with Tracy Palmisano, an experienced rider with more than 30 years spent on top of a saddle. Nearly a decade ago, she adopted an OTTB named Fargo from CANTER USA, an organization dedicated to rehoming retired racehorses.  During the six months it took for Fargo to adjust to his life away from the track, Palmisano observed her horse’s behavior closely and witnessed several common traits among retired racehorses.
“Before I got Fargo, I knew that OTTBs often demonstrated some behavioral tendencies that stemmed from their tenure at the track.  Because active racehorses are kept in stalls the majority of the time, they have a lot of pent up energy that they can’t burn off running in a field.  So, they use their excess energy in other ways.  These behaviors typically continue after they are rehomed and stop or occur less frequently as the horses get increasingly used to their new homes.”
“A lot of OTTBs will chew wood, walk along a fence line incessantly, paw at the ground, weave, crib or, in Fargo’s case, walk the stall.  Fargo’s stall walking was so unrelenting that he initially lost an alarming amount of weight despite being fed more than 10 pounds of grain per day.”
This excess energy is one reason why it’s so important to give a newly adopted OTTB plenty of time to adjust to their new life.  Racing is an unforgiving career, and it can take your new companion a few months to adapt to the calmer “civilian” lifestyle.  Once they begin to adjust to their new home, however, an OTTB’s intelligence makes them surprisingly quick learners.
Health Issues
One issue that new owners of OTTB should be prepared to deal with involves weight loss.  A racehorse enjoys a diet that is high in protein and vitamins that aren’t as prominent in the fare that OTTBs ingest every day.  It’s not uncommon for well-performing race horses to receive additional supplements aimed at increasing muscle mass and stamina.  As your horse adjusts to his new diet during what is referred to as the “letting down” phase, they’ll likely experience significant weight loss. 
While this may be alarming to a new owner, this is a common occurrence that will most likely resolve itself over time.  Once your OTTB is fully transitioned over to his new diet and used to his new fare, he will put the weight he lost back on…very possibly with a few extra pounds, too. 
According to Goodnight, racehorses can develop bowed tendons and various chiropractic health issues that can end their racing careers.  Fortunately, there are treatments available that can heal many of the chiropractic maladies an OTTB might have.  Once dealt with, however, your OTTB should be able to make nearly a full recovery. 
Finding A Second Career
Obviously, OTTBs have the natural gift of speed, but their natural athleticism and intellect makes them versatile companions.  In general, these former racehorses are excellent at jumping and dressage, but they can also become reliable trail horses.  
Once they’re properly trained, OTTB’s also make excellent therapy horses due to their sensitivity to even the slightest changes in the behavior of their rider.   Their intelligence, curiosity, and playfulness makes the OTTB an excellent companion for the patient rider.
If you’re a green rider, adopting a fresh OTTB is likely something that you might wish to reconsider.  While they make wonderful companions, the stress of track and their natural love of speed could make training them difficult. 
If you are an experienced rider who isn’t intimidated by speed, getting an OTTB may very well be the challenge you’re looking for, one where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with an intelligent, playful four-legged friend.  Because racehorses typically retire at a young age, you’ll be able to enjoy his companionship for years to come.

While not for everyone, every one of these creatures deserves a loving, fulfilling second life. If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a Thoroughbred, a good place to start is the official CANTER USA website. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't Forget: You Have TWO Legs

"Inside leg to outside rein" is the dogma of dressage. We DQs chant it like it's the rosary. To extend that blasphemous metaphor even further, we cling to it as our ticket to absolution. When we stand before the Pearly Gates of Dressage Heaven, we will shout "St. Podhajsky! I always rode from the inside leg to the outside rein!"

And St. Podhajsky will reply, "But you let your horse's hind end swing out and he dropped his inside shoulder because you forgot you had two legs, you nitwit!" and then the Gates will swing shut and we'll be relegated to Dressage Purgatory where everyone rides in draw reins and over-pronounces "Baucher".

Seriously though, there is no place for dogma in riding. Every horse and rider is different, and when you put those horses and riders together the combinations are infinite. The inside leg is important, but many horses can and will evade your inside leg, and many riders will then forget to back up their inside leg with their outside leg. 

So, if you find yourself riding around wondering why your horse isn't responding properly to your inside leg and outside rein (as I frequently do), try putting your outside leg on, too. I find it's easiest to counter flex on a circle, then keep my outside leg in place as I flex back to the inside. As soon as I begin to lose it, I counter flex again. 

I hope St. Podhajsky approves. 


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