Friday, February 27, 2015

Uncle!

I give up!

I've been doing pretty well with riding this winter. I mean, I'm not training the Grand Prix Special or anything, but I've been getting out there and getting the basics done. The horses are fit and don't think they're retired, at least. But this last round of weather has thrown a wrench in the works.

The secret to winter riding without an indoor is having an exceptionally good surface to start with. When I built my arena, I built it with this in mind. The base is rock solid, it's crowned, and the footing is a mix of fast draining coarse sand and heat retaining rubber. Not to brag, but it's pretty much the perfect all-weather surface. Unfortunately, February decided to accept that challenge and crap all over my nice arena.

It started with about four or five inches of snow, which usually isn't a problem. If the footing is smooth before the snowfall (you have to drag it before it snows to accomplish this), you can ride on the arena just fine. The frozen footing acts as the base, and the fluffy snow becomes the footing.  I mean, don't try to jump a 4' course or train one-tempi's, but for just basic WTC exercises it's fine.

The problem arose when the temperatures rose to 45 F a few days later. All that snow turned into a sticky, soupy mess that was going to freeze into an ice rink as soon as the sun went down. I knew I needed to get out there and get rid of it. 

Unfortunately, chain drags don't like sticky snow soup messes, and my drag was completely fouled after only two passes through the arena. 

Yes, there is a chain drag in there.

I abandoned it where it was in the middle of the arena, because there was no hope of salvaging that mess.

February:1, Chain Drag:0
The next day, temperatures were back into the 20s, so I was able to get out and work the snow around.  I've learned through the years that the secret to getting my arena to not be an ice rink in subzero temps is to break up the surface with the drag. That increases the surface area, and exposes the black rubber to the sun, which speeds up the un-freezing process.  I've successfully gotten the arena rideable in freezing temps just with my neurotic dragging.

Not pictured: The sippy cup full of brandy that's keeping me warm while I'm doing this.
Alas, it was just not to be this time. My neurotic dragging did unfreeze the arena, but the water from all the snow has nowhere to go because of the snow dams on all sides. My arena is a mess of puddles that freeze every night.


&*$%!
It will eventually dry out and become normal again, but until then I think I'll just read some books, maybe clean my tack and wait for spring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Are You Doing For The Sport?

Once upon a time, I was a young professional with the whole world ahead of me. I worked for FEI trainers, Olympians, people who "mattered". Then it all came crashing down.

In the blink of an eye I was injured and diagnosed with a disabling disease. I was only 25, and my career was over. I was just another Adult Amateur.

I sulked for a little while. Who wouldn't? But sulking didn't make me feel better. So, I decided to suck it up and make a difference in another way. I may not be able to train and teach, but that doesn't mean I don't matter. As an Adult Amateur I'm a part of the biggest demographic in equestrian sports. I'm financing the Pros, the shows, the clinics... I'm the driving force behind the whole industry.

So, I joined my local USDF GMO. Now I run shows and clinics and sit on the Board of Directors. Me! I'm just another Adult Amateur, but here I am making a difference. I don't have to be a Big Name Trainer to influence the sport, I'm out there every day shaping the sport through my involvement with my local GMO.

I'm probably a bit overzealous in my involvement, but you can still make a difference by just joining and volunteering in your local organizations. Never underestimate how important you are. The AAs are the blood of the sport, our money and our horses make the FEI trainers and the Olympians. We are the people who "matter".

Some of us probably do not deserve this responsibility.










Monday, February 23, 2015

Blanketing

We're having record setting cold in my part of NJ, and everyone is freaking out. My Facebook is flooded with "My neighbor's horses are outside with no blankets, ABUSE!"

I hope they're not talking about me....

My horses are currently outside with no blankets, for various reasons. Spider has a coat that would make a yak envious and he sweats like a three dollar whore if he has to wear a blanket. Spots has made his views on wearing blankets perfectly clear by running like hell anytime he sees me get blankets out and throwing himself around on the ties while I try to put it on, but standing absolutely perfectly still when it's time to take the blanket off. Jack slithered out of his blanket a few days ago and left it inside out in a snow drift, it's still drying out.  So, my boys are outside naked and they couldn't be happier. Now, they could go into their generously bedded and very warm barn anytime they like, I even drug two bales of hay down there to load up all the stalls with piles of hay to lure them in, but they're outside playing instead.

They look abused, don't they?

When thinking about horses and cold weather, it's important to remember that what you feel is not what they feel.  All mammals generate heat from various internal functions, but horses' bodies are designed to conserve that heat, while humans' are designed to dissipate it. And, yes, I know the argument is "Nuh-uh! We've bred them to be DIFFERENT!" No, we have not. We've specialized them to a small extent, but we have not changed their anatomy and physiology to the point where they feel heat and cold the same way we do.

Unless your horse looks like this, in which case you probably have bigger problems.

Humans have long limbs with our muscles pretty evenly distributed down the limbs, this helps dissipate the heat generated when we exercise to keep us cool.  We have small, short noses so that the air we breathe in doesn't heat up too much. Our skin is thin, mostly hairless and vascular, so that our blood can circulate to the surface and release heat very effectively. We have thin, flattened torsos to provide more surface area for our skin to dissipate heat.

Horses' muscles are concentrated in their torso, they have few muscles in their legs, which conserves the energy generated by the muscles. Their noses are long and thick to heat the air before it gets to their lungs. Their skin is thick, hairy and doesn't have as many capillaries, so heat does not escape as easily. Their torsos are thick and full of huge, heat generating muscles with much less surface area to dissipate heat and their digestive process generates much more heat then ours.  It is much easier for a horse to become critically over-heated than it is to get hypothermia.

For most horses, blankets aren't really necessary in cold weather. If the horse is clipped or unhealthy, then it needs a blanket, but otherwise most horses are just fine with the coat they grow on their own. What they do need in cold weather is shelter, plenty of liquid water, and as much hay as they care to eat.

So, before pitching a fit about how evil your neighbor is, go see if the horses have shelter, water and hay. If they don't, then you have a valid concern. However, I can tell you that bitching about it on Facebook just makes you look like a sanctimonious jerk.  Most people don't leave horses out with no food and water just because, so maybe instead of brandishing your ethical superiority all over social media you should go over to your neighbor's house and ask them what's up or report it to police, animal control, ASPCA or some other authority who can check it out. The horses may have a nice shelter with food and water somewhere you can't see on the property. The pipes may have frozen or the barn doors are frozen shut and they're having difficulty getting food and water to the horses. Maybe your neighbor is ill or dead. You don't know and can't help until you ask or report it.

However, if the animals are really in trouble and when you bring it up the owner and the authorities brush you off, then feel free to blast it all over social media. I'll be right there with you.





Sunday, February 1, 2015

Spider Is A Supermodel!

He always knew it was in his destiny, and now my pretty, pretty princess has made his dream a reality!

He's a natural.


Spider has been featured in an advertisement for a Kickstarter fund!

A little while ago somebody contacted me about using Spider's picture from an old post in a Kickstarter ad for a stand alone belly brush for horses.  Naturally, I said yes, because it's a hilarious picture and the guy was really nice (flattery gets you everywhere with me). The picture in question is of Spider scooching his butt and belly across the ground to scratch himself.  The Belly Brush is something horses can use to scratch themselves with that's been developed by two members of the Animal Science Department at UC Davis.

So, here it is: Spider's modeling debut: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/922437409/bellybrush-the-simple-tool-that-solves-the-impossi

It actually seems to be a pretty good product, too. And I'm not just saying that because my horse is one of their models.

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