Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nightcrawlers and Yard Wreckage

Ok, this is a real non sequitor to anything having to do with horses or endurance of any kind, but it does have to do with this "farm" life.  It started two summers ago we noticed all these little dirt clods all over the yard.  I could feel all the little bumps under my feet when I walked. We were told it was nightcrawler castings and we should be glad because it meant we had a healthy yard. We were told there wasn't much we could about other than try to attract more birds to eat the worms and maybe run an lawn rake over it to smooth the bumps out.
 That was two years ago and I think we now have every nightcrawler within a 5 mile range in our yard. The yard has developed into a total wreck. Now that most of the snow and ice has melted it's really noticeable.  We have sprigs of brown grass interspersed between clumps of castings . The result?  A yard of mud.  The dogs are not helping. They are out there tearing it up as they run and play. Duncan has discovered these irritating little pests as well. If one particularly pisses him off he,  digs at the ground and barks at it.

Yes, my Borgi hunts worms. A highly regarded skill indeed.

Sly Worm Hunting Dog (You can sort of see all the lumps and dirt in this photo)
With all the mud, the hounds have been sequestered to the garage where they get their toweling off. They enjoy that chore alot more than I do and seem to think it's alot like a spa treatment.

No, Duncan, this is how you do the sneak move on the ball..

a little to the left... yep, that's the spot...

Go ahead, try to get my ball...

I said.......MY BALL!

Meanwhile, all toweled off and back to work at the office (sshhhh, she doesn't remember we aren't supposed to be in here on the nice office rug)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Franken Finger

The injured finger has been given an identity, known as Franken Finger. I guess I can see the similarity:) The story of Franken Fingerm  in case you missed it,  is here.  It's healing, albeit slowly. It's a fine balance of  keeping it covered and splinted and the stitches moist,  versus letting it have access to air to promote healing without letting the stitches dry out to much. I prefer to keep it bandaged and splinted. Otherwise I find myself wanting to try to use it and bend it, which could rip the stitches since the cut goes over the knuckle.  It was recommended by the doctor to leave it open at night while I sleep but he didn't know I  flip flop too much and would be a hazard to myself, likely waking to find I had ripped out the stitches. I have become pretty efficient at cutting gauze , tape and rebandaging all one handed.

These photos were taken two days ago so it looks slightly better than's a little lessy uh, mushy(?) looking...

I  did manage to ride last night but it was awkward holding onto the reins. I can only manage to fit this hand into a mitten with the bandage in place and I can't ride in mittens so this hand goes gloveless alot.  With all the swelling, the circulation is not that great so it gets cold pretty quickly.
So far no signs of infection but I am on a pretty heavy duty antibiotic which is also doing a number on my stomach. I have another 5 days of antibiotics to endure and anither week and a half of stitches. I have not needed any ibuprofen or tylenol for 2 days now as the pain has reduced to a manageable level to not need it. The less I can take of that, the happier my intestinal lining will be. 
In general , this whole thing is such an inconvenience.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tack Cleaning Secrets

 Here in my living room , sit all the trappings for the tack cleaning project that begun over 3 weeks ago. Itwas supposed to have resumed by now.  I just have a ridiculous amount of tack that it's a huge project and I get distracted. I managed to get my two english bridles cleaned, sufficiently oiled  and neatly tucked away in a new bridle bag. That was the important part. They were dry. Taking apart  english bridles for cleaning and oiling is tedious so I wanted to get that done first.


The Duett is also done but it still remains sitting here in the middle of the floor,( not completely out of the way, on purpose as a self reminder), with stirrups and fleece stirrup leather covers unattached. Its still sitting here because I really don't want it to go back to the tack shed until I have a cover for it . Otherwise, all that work will be for nothing. Only,  I can't find the cover. It was just a cheapy vinyl one but it was something. I have looked endlessly until  I got tired of looking and now I am thinking I am just going to purchase one of those enclosed  saddle bag thingy's that are padded, fancy and have a strap for carrying. The only problem is that they are a little more than I want to spend on a bag that holds a saddle.  I am trying to find a used one.

My saddle cleaning process could probably be described as ritualistic. It's a process and I guess it's all those years of Pony club and ratings and shows where everything had to be perfect that created my madness with cleaning tack. I don't enjoy it but if I am going to bother doing it ,even once a year, I may as well do it right.


So, since I am in the middle of this maybe sharing my process might help motiviate me to finish and and see if anyone has any other tricks they want to share.

This process is geared toward the English show tack because in the world of showing, it has to look perfect. (even though my bridles will likely never see another show) Its just too ingrained for me  to do it any other way and all my western tack gets the same ridiculous attention.

My process begins with undoing every buckle so all the components are separated:

You end up with alot of miscellaneous parts. If you haven't ever taken one apart and put it back together again, take photos and label it.Believe me, you will be glad you did. Good or bad, it's been burned into my brain through years of repetition and I can probably do it blindfolded, thank you Pony Club! 

1. Wipe everything down with a damp cloth to get the dust and most of the grime off.Inspect all the stiching and buckles and arrange repairs if needed.
*BTW- you will need alot of rags.

2. Get a clean rag or sponge with saddle soap  and wipe down again. For the really grimy parts, you might need to get a toothbrush out. (*  It recommended not to use  a loved ones toothbrush and then try to clean it up as best you can to hide the evidence that you used it for something you should not have) Overall, don't get carried away with scrubbing or suds. Good leather doesn't tolerate it and good leather is expensive. If you have cheap leather, scrub away because you probably don't much care.
3. Wipe soap with yet another clean rag and cool water- don't get water too warm, it dries the leather out.
4. Wipe all the moisture off the parts with a clean dry rag.
5. Start singing some kind of tune that makes you happy because right  now is where my ADHD starts to kick in. This is really boring stuff so I prefer to make up lyrics that are based on my dogs because the dogs are usually entertained by my singing... as would you be... in a bad way:) and that makes me laugh.
6. Now that your leather is clean, it's time to recondition it. I use Lexol conditioner and/or Horseman's One step.  Sometimes I use both , one first and then the other.It just depends on how the leather feels to me or  how lazy I feel.
Horseman's one step leaves kind of  weird residue unless you really buff but it's quick if your in a ahurry. There are lots of leather conditioners on the market and most English saddle makers carry their own unique brand. I don't get too hung up on this and stick to what I have found works best for a reasonable price.
7.Once you complete that, I buff the leather, as I said,  to get any residue from the conditioner off as it tends to leave a film . If left without buffing,  this film seems to keep the leather from absorbing the  oil in the next step. I just use another dry rag to buff it.

Did I mention the number of rags you might need?

8. Sometimes I mix the Lexol compound (see step 7) with the Pure Neatsfoot oil in one oily emulsion  and rub it in together, thereby reducing my steps. This time around I did it separately because the condition of the leather was really dry.  I apply the  Neatsfoot and rub it in really well with my bare hands, as opposed to just sponging it on and rubbing it off. The warmth from your hands helps the leather absorb the oil better and you get the added benefit of moisturizing your hands, which if your like me in the winter, your skin might begin to have leather like qualities this time of year anyways. It's a win win.

** alot of people say Neatsfoot oil rots stitching. I have never had this issue so I can't speak to it. Maybe it's because I don't soak the leather in the oil? Maybe there is a good alternative out there, not sure.

9. I then lay the pieces out on a towel and let them set and absorb the oil for about an  hour. So, I suggest you go grab a beer, tea , coffe, or whatever your poison is. You can't rush this part. You may have to add another round of oil as well if the leather is really dry. I will often make another step after the Neatsfoot oil and rub in a layer of  Skidmore's leather cream. I am slightly obsessive about how the leather feels. I really like Skidmores but it will darken light leather.

10.Once the  oil is soaked in, buff the leather again with a cloth until the oil residue is off.

***This next step I think is what makes or breaks the whole process just described. At this point the leather is clean and should be well oiled. How often have you experienced oiling tack only to find it gets layered in dirt that has stuck to it because its tacky from the oil?? Well, the trick is to seal that oil in.

11. Moisten your bar of saddle soap slightly with water and rub a little on either a sponge , rag or your bare fingers. I prefer my fingers . Rub a layer of soap all over the leather but make sure there are NO SUDS.. SUDS ARE BAD. You simply want a layer of thin saddle soap all over the leather, like a wax sealant or a final clear coat if you will.

The hubby's Courbette sits awaiting cleaning as well , as soon as I move mine. I suppose I should move mine so he feels more compelled to clean his?  I actually have  two more saddles to clean, which isn't helping my motivation to get it done at all. I have my Specialized which won't require much more than running over it with a damp cloth  and since it's not leather per se, I am not as concerned with it. I also have my western which requires several hours because it's bigger, fancier with alot of brass and tooling. If I am going to bother cleaning that thing, I am going to polish the brass too and it takes FOREVER but it looks so sharp when I do...again, obsessive.. a bit. Both of those saddles are  sitting in the garage on another saddle rack, slightly in my way and waiting for me to become tired of walking around them, which hasn't quite happened yet. Now that I have this finger injury, I can't really get the hand wet so I guess those saddles will just have to keep on waiting.. Good thing it's mostly still crummy weather and riding is minimal.

Happy Tack Cleaning! Your horse will thank you!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Horse camp, Sharp Objects, and Training Holes with Sensitive Emotional Mares

It was a stupid move on my part. I know better, but I was in a rush , wasn't wearing my gloves and wasn't paying close enough attention and had bad aim. My right index finger paid the price. Since my husband  insists on keeping everything surgical sharp around here, I didn't feel much at first. Then I saw the blood. I had no idea a finger could bleed that much.  I mostly tried not to look at it, just enough to make sure it was still glance and nope, a bandaid wasn't going to  fix this little mishap. I got a few papertowels, applied direct pressure and went about getting myself on the way to get some help.  I was home alone but not dressed for the day .  Dressing yourself with a gushing finger is no easy task without making a mess.  I got myself in the car and made the 25 minute drive to Urgent Care.  They got me right in but I managed to panic the girl behind the desk because apparently  I was "too calm" for the amount of blood coming from my finger.

It's a terrible thing to be in the middle of your own trauma and then have to reassure the staff who is supposed to be taking care of you. She turned a shade of what I would best describe as greyish white  but quickly paged someone to come get me before she nearly passed out and was escorted to the back by her coworker. Thankfully, the male nurse who arrived was not squeemish about blood.  Or atleast he didn't let on that he was. It was a 3 hour process between arriving, soaking the finger m  numbing the finger (that was the worst part) so they could sufficiently irrigate  and clean the wound  and assess  the damage. The Physicians assistant  was going to send me  to the ER if I had severed any tendons or liagements. I got lucky and missed all that, somehow. She did quite a fine job stitching it even though part of the cut was resisting the lidocaine injections. I had to suffer through some of the stiching without numbness. Stitches don't come out for 14 days. Fantastic....

I am no longer playing with sharp objects,  atleast not for a while.  I have this gigantic bandage and splint on my finger. It's been pretty painful, especially at night when it seems to want to start throbbing. The antibiotics are pretty heavy duty and not playing nice with my stomach. Most of all it's irritating because it limits what I can and can't do. I am left  handed and the injured finger is my right hand but as with  most left handers, I am more right handed dominant so it's been awkward.

Maggie is officially moved to the boarding facility but I told her she was going to horse camp. I thought it sounded better.  It has been a long time since I have boarded a horse somewhere and it's very strange to not have her here. To be honest, it makes me a little nervous to have someone else responsible for her daily care but it will give me the ability to work her consistently.  I also have direct access to miles of trails which is a bonus.

Ofcourse my riding for the next couple of weeks might be a bit limited given the injury. I had to cancel my jumping lesson this past weekend.

Now that Maggie is at an arena where I can ride her.. the timing is a bit maddening but the boarding facility could not hold my spot for another 2 weeks and I wouldn't ever expect that. I didn't want to cancel and risk losing my spot. The facility is full so I threw caution to the wind and kept with the plan. There is still alot I can do with her on the ground. In fact it's exactly what she needs.

It was nice to have those couple of days of riding last week but it really made me reevaluate a couple of Maggie's training issues that I have not been able to completely address. There are training holes in her and as her trainer, it's maddening but humbling to admit that. The first few spring rides are frequently the roughest and that is to be expected but Maggie still gets so mad at the slightest things. I have never known a horse with such a quick fuse. It's been a challenge in her training progress. A thorn in my side that has yet to quite go away. I have learned that meeting her for the challenge in a full frontal attack will not work. She will not relent or acquiesse at a certain amount of pressure. No, she will just increase the pressure. She is too strong willed. She has taught me to remain calm no matter how upset she gets. If I get mad or frustrated things go south at a high rate of speed and I may as well just put her away for the remainder of the day.  A good horseman once gave me the advice that when a horse up the presure like that, sometimes the trainer has  to follow that pressure up, in a persistant but calm manner, until the horse drops the pressure. In other wordsm increase my pressure as she increases her pressure. I have tried that. It does not work, or , more likely, I am not doing it right.
I  have instead attempted to  redirect her in different ways , to find a way to slip in the back door. She often wants to buck, throw her head or worse,  attempt to rear  when she is upset and this softer approach seems to work to diffuse her mad and allow us to move on . Over the course of time , persistance and consistency have lessened her temper tantrums .They are less frequest and less severe but still they creep up.  I am not getting through to her like I need to or want to.

 Our time at the arena will hopefully allow me to continue to work her through these issues. Ground work  and work on the lunge will become her main purpose in life . At the end is this very simple goal : be able to apply a leg aid for a quiet leg yield  and /or canter depart without the explosive transition.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I just needed to get on my horse

Saturday I rode, but it was on someone else's horse. A Trakehner named Fancy.. It 's the cause for starting that irresistable urge to ride, regardless of the temps and footing that always occurs this time of year. ( More about Fancy later)

I took Monday off and it was relatively nice out so the hubby and I took the" kids" up the road for a quick ride. I don't know what we were thinking because we always try to avoid riding Maggie and Brego together. It's bad  ju ju between those two but it was one of those afternoons where we were trying to get some household chore stuff done and then simultaneously  we both had a " I just need to get on my horse" moment.

In only a few minutes from home both "kids" (juvenile delinquents would be a more appropriate description) found every excuse to act out. Maggie nearly kicked a car that went by and Brego just wanted to run, far and fast. Good think he has a braking system well installed.

We eventually  managed to get them sorted out after a bit and it actually turned from "what were we thinking" to "this isn't so bad" kind of ride.  Ofcourse, coming home Maggie had some less than obedient moments but we mostly worked through it. I would have given anything to  have gone straight out to the arena to ride her for a few more minutes but it's still covered in snow and ice.

It was really nice to get on my horse  and ride her, even if she was a bit fiesty. The good news however is that  after this weekend Maggie will be getting worked on a more consistent basis  regardless of the capricious late winter/early spring weather and bad footing.

 I will be moving Maggie to a boarding facility for the next two months. It's a big decision that has some financial compormises but I found a reasonable priced facility with access to an indoor riding arena, albeit a small arena.We have traditionally hauled to nearby arena's in the past once a week , for a not so reasonable price but its never consistent and hard to get anything of value accomplished. This facility also has direct access to the trails I often train on for endurance conditioning so it's almost the best of both worlds.

Fancy- ok, back to Fancy. I am totally excited about this new adventure I seem to have fallen into. The first things was finding a trainer, which I never thought I would be able to do  since I knew of most of the local trainers could not really get excited about taking lessons from any of them.  Not because they are bad people or anything. I just didn't share any of my same training philosophies or was overly impressed with what they were teaching. I was fortunate in my child hood to have had the opportunity to work with some really great trainers so I guess my expectations are high. About the time I was going to can the whole idea of trying to get back into a little jumping,  I found this lady who is relatively new to the area. She has only been here two years. I called her, and she actually called me right back. First test, passed. Then I arranged to go out to her facility to meet her. That went well and he invited me to come and watch a lesson or offered to come let me watch her ride and I did that too. I definitely felt like she was someone who could help me and I could learn from. So, I signed up for a lesson. My first lesson was last Saturday.

 From the time Iwas a young girl I always dreamed of owning and jumping a Trakehner. I got to ride one Trakehner gelding that was stabled at the show barn I was employed by,  but he was deemed a horse that was dangerous and whicked off to some other training barn. I cried the day he left the barn. I was hoping to save up my pennies and buy him. Young girls and their horse dreams.

As it turns out, as a not so  young girl, I might be get to live out that dream just yet....

Fancy is  the lesson horse, owned by my  trainer. She's a Trakehner. Wow, that sounds weird, I have a trainer?? It's been years since I have gotten to say that! Anyways, Fancy is a Trakehner and she is pretty darn cute.  In my lessons, I havent actually jumped yet and don't expect to for a while yet.  Relearning how to ride with such incredibly SHORT Stirrups will be my first big challenge and relearning how to stay balanced and secure in a two point position will be my next challenge. Only one lesson and my legs , lower back and hips were already screaming at me. How the heck did I do this for so many years??!?!

I guess it's safe to say that  Endurance is definitely on the back burner as of right now.  We may try to attend one LD later in the summer if we have time to train but it's definitely not the priority.

Honestly,  I have no idea where things will go, whether I will ever jump Maggie, or ever do endurance with her again but I am looking forward to having a different focus for a while. I even  have tentatively set up some time to work on cows later this spring with her.  I really want to take this time to figure out what her niche is. I know Endurance probably isn't it, even though she has the speed, she is missing some other key things that make a successful competitor. I will continue to work on Maggie's training in the arena setting. Lots of dressage focused work (boring I know , right?)
I plan to  put her on the lunge for a concerted amount of our training time and work on her canter  and cnater transition. Right now  her canter transition is not a transition at all , but better described as an explosion with a few bucks thrown in for good measure and once I get her through that, her canter is a gallop. 

There is no lack of things to work on and that's just with Maggie. I still have JB to work as well and I officially have the riding bug!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

You have to read this and comment!

I have been shopping and reasearching a bit. Ride season is just around the corner and I really WANT TO RIDE ..

My goals for Maggie this season have little to do with endurance. It was a decision that was both easy to make but hard all at the same time. I love the sport, more than any other riding discipline I have ridden in, but when I look at the facts, it's not the best fit for Maggie. Yes, she is fast and tough as nails but she is also very hot and the competitiveness of it all just fries her little brain. She doesn't eat well, drink well or rest well. In time, some horses might figure this out. Maybe Maggie would also, in time, but I think she has more to offer in another direction. It's my responsibility to find what that is as her owner.

 After a lot of looking, I  have tentatively arranged a few lessons on working cows to begin in the coming weeks. It's  a local trainer who is supposedly trained in the Buck Brannaman styles of horsemanship. Ofcourse, I proceed with caution on that because alot of trainers make that same claim and most can't cash the check. Only one way to find out. Go ride with him a time or two and see for myself if it's a fit.

In the meantime, I need to get some concerted riding time on the ol' girl and grease the wheels again before I ask too much.  She's been a pasture muffin since October and I am sure we will have a few issues to sort out. I certaintly can't do anything at home with the footing. What to do? Find a boarding facility and board her for a month or two so I can have access to an arena. That's my only choice right now.

It's been over 10 years since I have had to board a horse somewhere. I had no idea it was such a process. I think ,a fter alot of calls and looking, I may have found a suitable place but I ran into a situation with one place that really shocked me.  This particular facility came to me highly recommeded , that it was run very well, kept clean and had vet techs on staff there. It sounded great . It was also pricey. In speaking with the owner , she seemed very nice and sent me all the paperwork. It turns out you have to apply to board there and they have to approve you. Ok, I could appreciate that. They were trying to weed out less than reliable boarders. Made perfect sense. They required vaccinations and coggins. Vaccinations I could understand but I explained to the owner that I do not vaccinate my horses any longer due to some ongoing reactions . The owner was willing to still accept me as a boarder in that case since I would be the one taking the risk. As far as requiring Coggins, that seemed to be a stretch to me because  MT law states that if a horse has had a coggins,  and has not left the state since, you don't need to renew it yearly.  That said, I was willing to  go get a Coggins regardless. The owners were obviously trying to protect themselves from an EIA outbreak and lets face it, not everyone is honest about their horses whereabouts or health for that matter.

Here is where the wheels fell off for me..
Apparently somewhere in the communications and the emailing back and forth about the vaccinations, the owner took it upon herself to ask the vet techs about my horses health history. I had not signed any paperwork or made any committments to board at this facility. She essentially "checked" up on me and the vet techs openly told her they knew of my horses reactions to  vaccinations in the past.

As far as I know, in selling or buying horses, a  release  of information has to be signed by the owner for others to have any medical information. In this case, this info wasn't highly confidential or anything , but it's the point that the facility owner took it upon herself to pry because she happened to have access to people who knew and that the techs openly discussed it without my consent. At the very least, the techs should have known better.

It bothered me.


No, it flat out pissed me off.

The owner claims she is working very hard to run a facility without any "typical horse boarding drama".  It seems to me her actions don't quite follow her words. Had she asked,  I would have gladly told her she could contact my vet for records or even talk to my vet about my choice not to vaccinate. But she did not and took it upon herself to get information that I did not consent to, that she had no right to know. I had to wonder what else the techs are sharing that they shouldn't be with other horses or potential clients.

In the end, I have chosen another facility and the owner lost a potential client but I am curious about what your thoughts are .

What would your response to this be? Was this innappropriate on the owners and the tech's part or am I having too high of expectations?

**disclaimer in the off chance that someone who was involved in this  or knows someone that was involved in this and might be reading....Professionalism and Client Confidentiality are important and I would be happy to discuss it with you.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February Frump

February and I have a love hate relationship. Mostly hate. Here in Northwest MT, we always seem to get the end of January thaw ,which inevitiably reaches into February. Things become icey, sloppy, muddy and just plain ugly and gross, yet certain days are sunny and  nice enough (40’s) to make me yearn to get going with riding.

February likes to play games like that. It’s a month that demands patience  while it dangles the proverbial carrot of warmer days ahead just on the horizon, giving us glimmers of sunshine  and then  stealing it back to into it’s cold wintry nights.
February is not the month of love. It is a tease, a mocker, a leg puller.  The temps are bearable to ride in but the footing is treacherous and the arena is still snow covered. The horses have not begun to shed , although every few days I go out and check …just in case.
Nonetheless, I want to ride and  my patience with winter has run out.  I become restless , anxious and generally irritated because I know I still must wait. just a bit longer.

I am sequestered to indoor arena’s to act upon my urges to ride,  along with paying steep arena fees, while trying to manage riding for just an hour. An hour worth of riding is not much after I have have spent years training for endurance. An hour is just a drop in the bucket, but , atleast it's something.

On the horizon, pending the plans come together, I begin a new , but old , adventure with riding. I have threatened to do it for a few years now. I think I finally will.

Stay tuned