Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Goals

One of my fav quotes.

Okay, it's only taken the full month of January, but I'm ready to commit to some 2013 year goals. Actually, just one main goal:

Get through a Horse Trial with a total score. IE, do not get eliminated. Make it through all 3 phases: dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. Can be done at any level, even the USEA unrecognized "Intro" or "Pre-comp" levels.

This will be my 3rd consecutive year with this goal. It sounds so easy, yet I'm nervous about it. Its hard having the same goal for so long.  We have 11 more months to reach it. Well actually we have the rest of our lives. But I'd really prefer to reach it sometime this year.

Another goal is to do at least 2 cross-country schoolings at new places. Since we've only schooled at Meadows and Castle Rock, both located in Moorpark, that leaves lots and lots of places to qualify. My heart of hearts really wants to go to Twin Rivers, but Shepherd, Fresno, Copper, or Galway would be great too.

I'm still in the midst of my short term plans, and so far I'm on schedule. His front shoes have been off for a few weeks, and so far so good. We've been doing lots of dressage and I'm feeling very good about it. I do think we can head to our first dressage show as soon as I can find one that is close and cheap. Mostly cheap.

This month we've been sticking to the soft footing of the arena (well, soft relative to outside the arena - but as far as arenas go the footing is not great). I've also started riding him on our flat concrete driveway for a few minutes every ride for the last few days in an effort to continue a healthy hoof transition.  I've decided that we are ready to start hitting the trails. I miss them. It's been months. And the harder footing will be good for stimulating and evaluating his hoof transition.

Additionally we're going to start adding back in some light jumping as well. I still haven't ordered a new jump girth so I better take care of that so I can actually ride in that fancy new saddle of mine.

So here's the plan: February will be adding back in trails and jumping to our schedule, keeping an eye on his front feet. If all goes well, here's our preliminary event calendar:

End Feb/Throughout March - Cross country schoolings anywhere we can get to.

March 9 and/or 10 - Spring Forward Dressage Show at El Sueno Equestrian Center. They have $35 Opportunity classes.

March 24 - Combined Test Derby at The Meadows of Moorpark. $120 for dressage and a combined stadium - cross-country jump course. I'm thinking the Easy Beginner Novice level (jumps 2'3"). Or there's the Derby at El Sueno Equestrian Center that same weekend. No dressage, but cheaper than Meadows.

April 26-28 - Horse Trials at Fresno County Horse Park (formerly RamTap). My eye is on the Intro level.

May 19 - One day event at Twin Rivers. Also is a derby at El Sueno Equestrian Center.

June 21-23 - Horse Trials at Shepherd Ranch.

July 7 - Derby at El Sueno Equestrian Center.

My priority is on schoolings over shows. Cheaper and less pressure, though I do think that lots of horses get lots of training from the experience of a horse trial.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is your OTTB papered?

Many years ago I had a friend who had purchased (adopted) a horse for $1, only to be later sued by the horse's former owner trying to get the horse back. Both parties spent hundreds of dollars on legal fees and local media campaigns (small town = big news), not to mention hours and hours worrying and stressing.  In the end it all got worked out, but it taught me a valuable lesson: make sure your paperwork is in order, just in case. 

This friend had to pay over a hundred dollars in horse association registration fees on the advice of his lawyer, to help bolster his case of his ownership of the horse. So, its worth asking yourself: if some crazy person tries to take your horse - do you have paperwork showing he or she is yours?? This would be a Purchase and Sale Agreement, Adoption Agreement, Transfer of Ownership, etc. And secondly, do you have paperwork clearly indicating that the horse listed on those documents is the horse you are in possession of?? This would be registration documents with coloring, age, and markings, or a detailed horse description on your PSA, etc. All horse people should make sure they have their documents in order, to be prepared should some weird situation occur. Additionally, having your horse registered may one day help in an emergency situation if your horse gets lost, stolen, or set free in some sort of disaster. 

For those who have OTTBs who raced in the USA, allow me to present an outline on how to research your horse, update your information with the Jockey Club, and discover interesting information about their racing history. To have complete documentation on your OTTB, you will ultimately want to have:
  • Description and photos of coloring and markings
  • Tattoo number and photos
  • Registration number
  • Registered name
  • Pedigree
  • Racing history
  • Jockey Club Transfer of Ownership Form

Description and photos of coloring and markings
This is an easy yet surprisingly overlooked step of having paperwork in order. Write down a comprehensive description of your horse, and also take photos, so that you can clearly identify coloring, markings, scars, brands, tattoos, body condition, etc.  This is needed in many circumstances, but most importantly in an emergency when you are parted with your horse. You may also need it when researching your OTTB.

Horses that compete in sanctioned races in the USA must have tattoos on their inside upper lip. This is true of Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Arabians, though they do not use the same number-letter system. For TBs, the tattoo will start with one letter, then have five numbers. The letter represents the year of birth. Let's take Bohemian as an example. Here is his tattoo:
His tattoo is I35913. As you can see, the 9 actually looks like a 0, which gave me lots of difficulty when trying to verify his information online. When I typed in I35013, a different horse's name came up, who also happened to be a Bay gelding! I was very worried about possibly having the "wrong" horse in terms of my paperwork and legal claim to him. Ultimately I had to call the Jockey Club to get this sorted out.

To get your horse's tattoo number, you will need have your camera ready to take some photos, and you may want to have a handler there to help you. Take a number of photos - some with flash and without, towards the sun and away, and have a washcloth to wipe the saliva to remove shine. You may have to adjust the contrast in order to make out hard-to-read tattoos. Even if it looks pretty darn clear (as Hemie's does) you will want photos as part of your paperwork collection, and you may need to refer back to it when doing online research. Most OTTBs are fine with letting you lift their lip and hold it up for a bit, but of course be gentle and don't hold it up for too long at one time.

Registration Number
A TB's tattoo number is almost, but not quite, the same thing as the horse's registration number. The registration number does not have a letter - instead, it has the last two digits of the year of birth at the front of the number, followed by the same 5 number digits as the tattoo. Hemie's registration number is 0535913. Bohemian was born in 2005, hence the I in the tattoo and the "05" at the beginning of his registration number. So, if you have the tattoo, you can deduce the registration number, and visa versa. However, this is not widely publicized online because these two numbers are issued by two different organizations: the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau issues tattoo numbers, while the Jockey Club issues registration numbers. Neither can take responsibility for what the other does, so if you ask them they will say that tattoo numbers and registration numbers are different.

Registered Name
The registered name is needed in order to look up pedigree and racing history, and also to update ownership contact information with Jockey Club.  Bohemian's registered name with the Jockey Club is "Bohemian Spirit."  I was very lucky to be provided this name when I adopted him, and very glad to have it listed on the adoption paperwork.

Researching Name, Registration Number, and Tattoo
If you have your horse's registration number but not registered name, you will need to contact the Jockey Club. They are readily available by phone or email. Or you can deduce his tattoo number and use the tattoo look-up database with markings and coloring description to match to your horse. See below.

If you have your horse's tattoo or partial tattoo but not registered name, you can do an online look-up at: Log in or create an account (it's free), then on the far left of the screen click the link that says "Tattoo Identification Services." From there you can search by a full or partial tattoo. If you have a partial tattoo, you will also need to enter the horse's sex, coloring, and markings.

Pedigree & Racing History
Once you have your horse's registered name, you'll be able to get started on researching his or her pedigree, racing history, auction (sale) history, and other interesting information. Here's a list of resources where you can start getting great info. - Primarily serving the California racing industry, this site has archived videos of past horse races. Click "Race Replays" at the top of the screen, then it will ask you to log in or create an account (it's free). Then at the box in center, click the tab labeled "Horse" to search for races by your horse's registered name. Even though its California Racing, it has info from other states. For example it has 7 videos of Bohemian racing at Emerald Downs in Washington. - An excellent resource! At the top of the screen on the right you can type in the horse's name and it will provide lots of details including state of birth, breeder's names, trainer's name, owner's name, jockey's name, racing statistics, total earnings, etc. Click the green band that says "All Years" to get a year-by-year breakdown of starts and placings. Click thh green band that says "Results" to get a list of the races, including location, type of race, placing, etc. There are small green camera icons to the far right of races they have video footage of - unfortunately you will need a membership (free to sign up), but also have to *pay* to watch the videos. Its done on a subscription basis, with one day subscription at about $6. - Bloodstock Research Information Services has pedigree and racing starts information. No registration required. Simply click "Pedigree and Lifetime Starts" at the top of the page. You will need to enter the horses' registered name and year of birth.  - Log in or register (it's free), then click on "Free Services" at the top of the page. From there you can look up pedigree, racing recap, and auction results (if your horse was ever sold at an entered auction). - The Thoroughbred Times is a news service for the racing industry, but does have race videos that you can search. Click the link, scroll down, and enter the horse's name to see if they have videos of your horse. - The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is responsible for tattooing thoroughbreds. They offer Horse Identity Research for free, but you will need the horse's sex, coloring, approximate age, and tattoo (or partial, with photos). Call, email, or download and mail a form to get your horse's registered name and pedigree (free) and racing history ($10 fee). - This has horse pedigrees for all breeds. No registration required - just type in your horse's registered name at the top of the page. Some racing information may also be available at the top of the pedigree chart. Generally not viewed as 100% correct as the website's information can be edited by anyone (think Wikipedia).

Jockey Club Transfer of Ownership Form
Last but not least, you may want to update the Jockey Club's records with your information for your OTTB. To be honest, the Jockey Club doesn't really promote this because it takes up their valuable employee time and database storage on horses that (most likely) are not going to be breeding. Above all else, TJC tracks breeding and names.To update Jockey Club's records, you can do it online at (again, free to create an account). Click "Transfer Ownership" towards the bottom of the page in the center. Or you can email or call them and they'll send you a written form to fill out and fax or mail in.

Another great resource for researching your OTTB is's guide to researching your OTTB. As of today it's a tad outdated, but it will still get you to the right places.

Pleasantly Plump Cakes

Last week I won my first Facebook contest! And what's better, I won something horsey!

Allow me to present a new item on the market: Pleasantly Plump Cakes horse treats. They're a new business based out of Simi Valley, California, and let me tell you - they are on to something here.

For winning their FB contest we received a 16 oz container of "Sweet Apple Kicker" flavored cookies. As any good horse mommy does, I immediately turned the container over to inspect the ingredients list.     Let me share:

Wholesome ingredients you cook with at home! 
Not only can I pronounce all of the ingredients, but I actually know what they are! There was nothing in there that I personally wouldn't eat guessed it: I ate one! My husband almost spewed soda out of his nose while shouting "but those are HORSE treats!"

I decided not to mention that I've tried all types of hay, grain, pellets, and cookies - pretty much everything short of medicine.**

Back to the cakes. It was pretty tasty, and it certainly did have apple in there. Very soft and chewy, which I liked but Bohemian had to get used to. The first one I fed to him he waggled his head up and down while chewing and he gave me the googly eyes. He dropped half the cookie out, and wasn't interested in the 2nd half. I gave it to Pixie Dust and she loved it. So I gave her another one.

Soft and chewy, so you can break in half
 or even quarters easily.
Approx same size as a
Mrs. Pastures or Paddock Cakes.
The next day I gave Hemie another cookie, and he was definitely more into it this time. He understood the chewing part, and eagerly looked for more!

Overall this is a great horse treat. It's easy to break this cookie in half, and because it's soft it doesn't crumble everywhere when you do so. It's made with wholesome ingredients and comes in convenient packaging. Clearly lots of love has been put into these cookies!

To get more information, please visit their Facebook pages: - Business/Product Page - Contact the Owners

Yes, that is a human-sized bite missing...

**Note: this has gotten me into big trouble. See #3 on my Product Reviews page.

Monday, January 28, 2013


That's German for weekend.

I had the pleasure to meet fellow blogger Karen of Bakersfield Dressage who came to my neck of the woods for the Dr. Christian Schacht clinic at the lovely White Birch Farms in Somis. Unfortunately the clinic ran early on Saturday so I missed the first day's rides, but I showed up early on Sunday to make sure I caught the action.

First of all, if you don't already follow Karen's blog, head over there right now and add it. She is not only witty and articulate and talks about everything under the sun about horses in a totally relateable way, but she's also very down to earth and just a really nice person and fabulous horsewoman.

Dr. Schacht was a good clinician, and I would be very interested in clinicing with him someday (maybe after we do at least one dressage test - first things first here). He's uber calm, has a soothing voice, and gives a fair evaluation. I was impressed that he was able to clearly communicate when an issue was caused by rider, by horse, or by himself (in continuing an exercise too long, for example). But there was never an ounce of blame or negativity, so riders didn't get defensive as they might have in a regular lesson.

He also knew when to say "ignore it" when a horse did something undesirable - he really picks his battles with horses, and he picks a lot less of them than we riders do, I think. By and large we are quick to call something a disobedience when its really just nervousness or silliness. Moving past it and into an exercise was Dr. Schacht's approach, and it worked - the behavior quickly ended and rarely came back.

Dr. Schacht on left, coaching Karen on Speedy G.
Additionally it was clear that he made the riders think outside of the box. He pushed them into areas of discomfort in terms of their mental riding. He had riders doing things they'd never done before and had them working on their aspects of riding that they had some mental blocks in, and he did this with all the riders - from Training level riders all the way up to International level riders.

He wasn't afraid to give exercises that challenged both the horse and the rider, but he also ended the challenge sooner than I think most of us riders would on our own. His method seems to be to make the horse do the exercise promptly and correctly, then to move on to something else before it can go "wrong" in any way, and maybe come back to it later. That way the horse is always thinking, always working hard, and constantly having to work on something new.

Exercises I want to try (some sooner, some later):
  • Shoulder in then haunches in, on a straight line and on a circle. 
  • Leg yield at trot, after turn down centerline to quarterline, then change diagonal and change bend, then leg yield back.  
  • Circling in then circling out. 
  • Half-stride work/ultra collected (wow!). 
  • Canter up a long stretch, then turn at C or quarterline past C, and come back to E to form a teardrop shape into counter canter (can be done at all levels, according to Dr. Schacht). 

My main takeaways:
  • "Each canter stride is a new beginning."
  • "Think shoulder in." (To prepare for a turn and on a circle.)
  • "Ignore it."
  • "Pet him." (Very big on rewarding horse).
  • Canter aid comes from inside leg first, then outside seat.
  • Change your posting (faster, higher) to encourage forward trot.

Sometimes it's not that you're learning new things, its that you're learning old things in new ways. Overall I'm so glad I went. The riders, horses, and clinic exercises were all great to see. I came away inspired.

Meanwhile, back at my barn, although it was a stunningly gorgeous weekend, the rings were not ride-able  The turnouts were iffy but since Hemie is pretty careful I decided to let him get a turnout both days. He promptly covered himself with as much muddy grossness as possible (I saw him flip over while rolling for the first time - yay!). When grooming (if we want to call it that) I was very careful to do his whole body before heading to the girth area, and then watched carefully to see if he would have any girthiness...

None. Not even a twitch. Whew.

We will see if it comes back when I have an actual girth, but at least he's okay with me brushing and patting all around down there. Both days I was trying to see if there's fungus or anything else that might be bothering him in that area, and nope - all clean. When it warms up I want to give him a full medicated bath though.

This week I hope to (a) meet with Laurie to discuss shows and schooling plan, and (b) measure and order a new girth for the jump saddle. Thanks to everyone for the advise on girthiness - I've been reading and re-reading all those comments and doing homework.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Uh oh girthiness

Type of jump girth I've been borrowing
Okay, I think we may have an issue here. Before the colic scare this past Monday I recall maybe one or two instances in the few weeks prior where he showed a little bit of girthiness when tacking up. I didn't think much of it, because the leather girth I've been borrowing doesn't look super comfortable (my old girth doesn't fit the new jump saddle). It's a "balding" girth where the straps cross each other in an effort to be chafeless but I think it might be pinching hair.

Anyways. So Monday was the minimal colic scare. He acted girthy when I tacked him up, even with the dressage saddle and synthetic chafeless girth he has never had an issue with before. I chalked it up to some digestive upset. His girthiness behavior included: pinned ears, evil eye, and lifting hind leg in a quasi-threatening manner.

Our dressage girth
Tuesday. Girthiness again with dressage saddle. He seemed to only mind if I put my hand behind the girth or shift it forward - he was not bothered by tightening it up. We had a nice ride.

Wednesday. Angry girthiness while grooming! Simply brushing that area, even rubbing my hand behind the armpit and below belly (hard enough so not tickling), and Hemie was trying to nip my arm! Clearly he was bothered back there so I decided to ride bareback (he's doing great with that!). He was very gassy, so I'm wondering if its still some lingering digestion situation?

Thursday he got the night off and tonight I have a lesson (rain, rain, go away!!), but in the meantime I've been googling the heck out of girthiness trying to figure it out. The top hits are:
  1. Poorly fitting tack
  2. Ulcers 
  3. Needing a chiropractic adjustment (this one surprised me)
  1. Our saddles have been evaluated by a professional, so I feel good about their fit. Girths, though, are another story. I need to buy a new jump girth and maybe consider fleece covers to eliminate hair pulling.
  2. Ulcers. I don't really want to even think about ulcers. I've been researching and it really bothers me that there's no affordable, clearly indicative test, and that the medicine is so overpriced. Has anyone done the sucrose absorption urine test on their horse?
  3. I'll have to do more research on chiropractic adjustment. Some people swear by it. When I personally saw a chiropractor I only felt results when I did it 3 times a week for 2+ months. 
For now my plan is to keep an eye on it and record his symptoms to see if it gets better or worse. I'm hoping its just a passing tummy ache and it will clear itself up. 

By the way, a friend found a piece of a hot dog in Hemie's waterer on Monday (the day of colic scare). Yes, a hot dog. WTF? According to google its not toxic to horses (in fact it can be fed as an occasional treat?!?!) but maybe someone fed him one and it upset his stomach. Maybe someone was eating it and dropped a piece near his stall? I have no idea. So weird. I can't wait 'till we move barns. Seriously. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Creeping forwards

Horsey-life has felt bogged down lately. Its been windy and cold, and I'm sick of it still being so dark by the time I get off of work (5:30 pm). We are still making progress in our training, but its much slower than our normal pace.

Hemie had a colic scare on Monday. Not the classic signs, but enough abnormal behavior that a barn-mate called me and Laurie. Laurie graciously went right over to check on him, but decided he was just fine. I left work a little early to go visit him in the daylight. Besides being girthy (a new development in the last few weeks) he was okay. He pooped, ate, drank. But being a nervous mommy I have been checking on him constantly.

As to the girthiness, I'm thinking it has to do with his fluffy coat. He is fine when I tighten the girth, but doesn't like when I slip my hand inside it or shift it forwards. My gut feeling is that its tugging his hair, so I'm thinking of clipping his girth area. As if he wasn't silly enough looking already with my failed attempts at cute patterns.

It's been 2 weeks since we pulled his shoes, and so far so good. I'm still gonna give it another few weeks before introducing jumping or trail rides. Even though I'm so bored of cold, dark, lonely dressage practice rides. The other day it was so windy I ended my ride after only 5 minutes and we worked on our "jog-ups" by doing an in-hand working trot, then a square halt, several times all the way around the arena. Hemie was pro. I rolled my ankle and had to call it a day. -_-

We've got back-to-back lessons Friday and Saturday. Hopefully that will make me feel a little bit more productive. Laurie went to the Galway Downs fundraiser clinic, so I think I'll be getting some fun, new concepts thrown at me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Barn shopping, or How I met Jan Ebeling

Barn shopping is one of those tasks that starts off stressful - the whole reason you're looking around is because there's some sort of problem with your current place, right?  But then it starts to get kinda fun: you're meeting lots of people, touring some interesting places, and visualizing that perfect facility that you're sure will be just around the next corner.

Philosoraptor meme made by yours truly at
But then it gets stressful again, because you can't seem to find that barn of your dreams. For some reason or another each barn doesn't seem to work for your group. Too expensive. Too far. No lights. Don't like their feed. Poorly kept paddocks. Bad arenas. Owners are crazy.

Its always something.

In the course of this barn shopping endeavor, I called over 20 boarding facilities. Some immediately got the ax, but I visited a total of 10 barns, and barn mates visited an additional 3 without me. I also did drive-by's of 4 facilities (and for 2 of 'em I couldn't drive away fast enough! Gross!).  All told, that is A LOT of barns.

When you're in that stressful mode of not being able to find a barn, you start to get a little desperate. As J.D. and I were driving through a neighborhood that had several boarding facilities, we happened to notice an arena with several riders in it. It appeared to be a well-groomed facility, from what we could tell through the trees. We slowed, looking for a driveway and hopefully a sign for the facility. We found a driveway with a big black gate, but no sign. We went around the other way and found another entrance, but again no sign.

So J.D. decided to ring the buzzer on the gate. I was surprised by her guts, but hey - you never know unless you ask, right?

She rang the buzzer and a pleasant woman answered. We asked if they had horse boarding and she said they were a private training and boarding facility, and offered to give us a tour. We drove in, and immediately knew we were not in Kansas anymore. We parked in between a yellow porshe and a red shelby cobra. Oh dear.

The pleasant woman was none other than Amy Ebeling, respected Dressage rider and wife of Jan Ebeling (pronounced: yawn). He's world renowned Dressage trainer and instructor, with recent fame from riding the lovely Rafalca at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Rafalca got lots of press, being partially owned by Anne Romney (Amy Ebeling is also a co-owner). Turns out we had stumbled upon The Acres, the Ebelings' pristine training farm I had known was somewhere in Moorpark but never knew where exactly.

Amy graciously gave us a tour. Those horses live better than I do. Huge stalls with fancy mat system and mountains of fresh shavings. Covered eurociser. Security camera system where they can view the horses in their stalls from their iPads and iPhones. Highest grade nike + sand footing dressage arena with over sized mirrors. Immaculately manicured grounds. Full time staff of the highest caliber, with working students living on-site. Professional music sound system. Watered grass grazing pastures. Tack room sparkling with perfectly oiled bridles, matching tack trunks and saddle covers.

Jan Ebeling aboard Rafalca at the 2012 Olympic Games
Photo courtesy of
We went to the ring where several lessons were going on. The gal being instructed by Jan was doing no-stirrup work.  All the horses were gorgeous - fit as a fiddle and gleaming with the full bloom of health. Everyone was very welcoming and kind. Jan personally greeted us and shook hands. We watched the lessons for a few minutes before we took our leave.

It will come to no surprise that the price point was well above my capabilities, though I'm sure its worth every penny. Maybe I could save up to haul over and take a lesson once in a blue moon. Hemie and I are a ways off from that though.

Overall it was a delightful accidental adventure while barn shopping.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Collegial Equestrian Blog Hop

What is a Blog Hop you ask? A link list that lets viewers hop from one blog to another, discovering blogs they may not have known about before.

I'm happy to participate in my first blog hop from Collegial Equestrian, which we learned of via Viva Carlos. I love the internet and blogosphere  =)

Share a memory from: 
1. The first horse experience you can remember.
2. Your first "aha" moment -- when something really clicked for you as a rider.
3. Entering the ring. Could be your first show, or another time when simply entering the arena could be considered a "debut" of sorts.

My answers:
1. The first horse experience I can remember would be from my early childhood riding lessons at the saddleseat show barn down the block from my house. I remember my early lesson horse, Wings - a stately American Saddlebred who was the best babysitter horse ever. I remember a polo bandage wrapped around his neck as a grap strap. I remember loving every moment on and around horses.
My first lesson, at The Saddle Horse Works in Canyon Country, CA.
You can tell from my boots that my parents were *not* horse people.

From one of my first shows. Looks to be at LAEC in Burbank.
Academy division (no jackets). Back when you wore derbys instead of helmets.

2. My first "aha" moment when something really clicked for me as a rider came when I was about 12 years old. Ironically it wasn't really a technique or concept from a lesson, but rather an "aha" moment of my adventuresome spirit, when I realized I could do more with my horse than just what I had been taught to do by professionals. I was watching an old western film Duel in the Sun (I think that's its name - they all sound alike). In the film the leading lady nimbly hops onto a horse bareback and takes off galloping into the desert. I distinctly remember thinking "I sure wish I had a horse where I could hop on bareback and go galloping off into the desert.....hey, wait a minute, I *do* have a horse...what's stopping me?"  That thought started me down the path of bareback riding, trail riding, galloping (*gasp*), and eventually combining all three (Bo was a pretty tolerant ASB ex show horse!). I fell off more in the 6 months following that moment than any other time, but ultimately I gained lots in the way of my riding self-confidence. It was the start of my core value that you can and should try new fun things with your horse - something I still value very much.

3. Entering the ring. A debut. So much symbolism packed into a transitional moment. Several such moments come to mind but the one to share presently is the first time I left a start box. The start box is 3-sided box shaped paddock you enter to await the countdown to begin your cross country course. The timer gives you 30 second warning, then 15, then 10, then "5...4...3...2...1...Go! Have a good ride!" at which time you and your horse exit cantering away towards your first obstacle. My first start box experience was at my first horse trials at Shepherd Ranch in Santa Ynez in June 2011. I was nervous. I was excited. My heart races even thinking about that first countdown. I trotted out to my first jump, but I felt like I was soaring. I sure can't wait to do that again.

~ ~ ~

How to join the blog hop:
1. Copy and paste the logo, the prompt, and the questions in bold.
2. Respond to them on your blog. 
3. Publish your blog post and copy the URL.
4. Come back to this page, click the button below, and enter your blog name and the post's URL.
5. Then click the link that says "get the InLinkz code" and copy/paste the appropriate cote in the HTML of your blog. Enter the code at the very end of your post so it appears at the bottom.
6. The list will update on everyone's blog automatically once you sign up!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Short Term Plans

I've been ruminating on a 2013 goals post for a while, but was getting frazzled and overwhelmed trying to think past the next few months. Sometimes you gotta just break things up into bite sized pieces. So here goes mine and Bohemian's short term plans.

1. Plan rides/exercises that will be kind to my recovering knee and to Hemie's newly barefoot front hooves for the next 3 to 4 weeks. Basically that means no jumping (too much concussion on newly barefoot hooves, as well as increasing chances of my falling off - very bad for the knee), avoiding hard footing (no trails, again for the hooves), and starting off with short walk-trot rides where I'm sure to carry a whip (for my knee).

Love this. 
2. Take this as an opportunity to really work on our dressage - I'd like us to feel solid with Training level movements (great description here), especially the moving freely forward part, since Hemie will sometimes get "stuck" going up and down instead of forward when he is confused or frustrated. Also I need to focus on achieving right bend without having that shoulder fall in, nor let it fall out when tracking left.

3. Once we are both a bit more solid on our feet, start hitting the trails. We've been really missing them since November, and I think hacking out is healthy for both of us - mind, body and spirit.

4. Start thinking about the show season and cross country schooling. Ideally I'd like to school at least 2 different cross country locations that we haven't been to before entering our first real horse trials. Shepherd, Ram Tap and Twin Rivers have "intro" level jumps available.

In other short-term future news, we are moving barns! It's 95% certain we're moving to a few facility in about a month. Plans will be locked down in the next day or so and I'll have more to report.

Saturday Bohemian's fecal test came back negative for worms (whew!) and again I can't say enough good things about Horsemen's Laboratory. Maybe I can start backing off some of the bags upon bags of feed I buy him every month...

And finally, I'm happy to report that Hemie's front hooves are adjusting very well to their new nudist state. He was a bit tender for the first 3 days but has been quite fabulous ever since. No chipping or flaking either, which is good. =)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Liver Break

We interrupt your regularly scheduled horse-related blog post to make a public service announcement about livers. As in, your internal organ, responsible for detoxification and other important bodily processes.

Every year over 1000 people die waiting to receive a liver transplant.

And my Uncle Warren is NOT going to be one of them, due to the amazing selflessness of my little sister Leah.

Two days ago I got the news that my little sister (she's only 24) has been medically cleared and matched to donate her liver to our uncle, who has a degenerative liver condition. He's been on the transplant list for a while, but unfortunately liver disease has a lower priority than liver cancer, so his chances of getting a cadaver organ are low. Over the holidays my sister flew to Pittsburgh to get the tests done to check a match. Only one in three candidates clear the tests to donate. It was reviewed by a panel of physicians, and they gave the green light. The surgery is scheduled for February 14th.

Live liver transplant is a major invasive surgery for both people. About 60% of Leah's liver will be given to our uncle, and both halves will grow back to approximately full size in just 2 months.

Both will have to stay in Pittsburgh for surgery and aftercare (about 3 weeks) and may have to fly back for follow up visits as well. Leah has to drop out of school for the semester to do this. My uncle and aunt as well as Leah and at least one of our parents will be taking off work to fly out for the surgery and aftercare. Health insurance helps to cover the actual surgery/hospital fees, but everything else (all flights, hotels, food, etc) is out of pocket. To help cover the costs, we are having a fundraising raffle. The drawing will be on Feb 10th, my uncle's birthday, and the winner will receive $1,000. Tickets are $5 each, or 5 for $20.

Please keep both my sister and uncle in your thoughts and prayers for a successful surgery and speedy recovery. And if you are able, please consider buying a raffle ticket at

Leah Schulman
 It is a rare person who volunteers to fly across the country to get poked and prodded by doctors and undergo tests, and chooses to go under the knife to give away part of an organ, completely putting the rest of her life on hold for several weeks. Please send my sister Leah and my Uncle Warren your happy vibes for good health!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Virtual Clinic

Allow me to share a fascinating discovery:

Videos available to watch, for free, from the George Morris clinic. I just watched "Day 1 - Anne Kursinski Flat Work" which was about an hour long. Their live streaming has been advertised a lot, but since I work during the day I  knew that wouldn't work for me. But they also have recorded sessions you can watch anytime, and its *professionally* videotaped. Multiple angles, panning in and out, so you can actually see the rider's movements from both sides and from a great view.

Good reminders on things I already know, old things said in new ways, and some new new things too. My main takeaways:

  • Starting the ride by seeing how the horse responds to and moves off of leg aids.
  • Release rein pressure to reward performance without letting it all go.
  • Constantly, constantly changing contact pressure. 
  • Forward. Straight. 
  • Finesse and subtlety comes from correct position and a horse who has been trained to mind the aids.
  • Patience through naughtiness, not overreacting - firm but not dramatic. Not emotional. 
  • Cantering one on lead and holding a bend, doing serpentines (turning around).

Tonight I longed Hemie and he seemed a tad less sore compared to Tuesday. He was turned out today with his girlfriend Pixie and apparently they were running around like crazy horses, so I was thinking he might show more soreness/sensitivity due to his antics today. But so far, so good. 

My trainer and barn mates have expressed a mixed set of feelings about Hemie going barefoot, but so far I'm still on board for trying this out. 


Look ma, no shoes!
This past Tuesday I had Hemie's front shoes pulled. Although I've been thinking about it for a while, I realize I haven't actually posted about going barefoot before. Given Hemie's hoof health, the weather/competition season, and my knee recovery, I decided now was an excellent time to give it a try.

When I first got Hemie, his feet were not in good shape. They were quite long and his front shoes were missing, though his rear shoes were on. His hooves were chippy and cracked, striated and overly dry looking. Surprisingly he was only a tad sore and it quickly got remedied with a farrier visit. I pulled his rear shoes off at that first trim, thinking we could always put them back on if he didn't adjust well.

Day 1 - looking good!
Over the last 8 months (I've had him 8 months now!!!) his hoof health has dramatically improved. We started with an 8 week trim schedule, and in the scorching hot summer I regularly applied hoof conditioner (in addition to him soaking his own hooves). Then over time his hooves started looking overall healthier and growing faster, I'm sure helped by the buckets upon buckets of vitamin-filled feed. We had to switch to a 7 week trim schedule. Then to a 6 week. His hind hooves always looked better than his front hooves, which got me to start thinking more about going barefoot.

This past Tuesday I, too, had a farrier visit of sorts - it was my orthopedic follow up for my left knee. Good news, it still looks as though its just a tendon issue; however, in another month I should have very few episodes of pain or else I will need an MRI to check the meniscus. In any case, he gave me some advice on exercise and recovery, and I am officially cleared to ride. Okay, okay, well actually he said I shouldn't ride because he's afraid of me falling off and hurting it again, but he said the actual act of riding shouldn't bother the knee at all. Which is practically official clearance. I'm going to spend the next month or so trying to get back into the swing of things but without pushing myself too much or doing anything that might be asking for a fall.

Anyway, Tuesday I decided to longe Bohemian just walk-trot to gauge what he thinks about no shoes. And he was a bit tender. His behavior was normal - willing, aware. And he was willing to do a nice medium walk as well as some trotting. But his head was hanging a bit lower than normal, bobbing a bit, and his front leg action was clipped - just overall sore on his fronts. We'll see how it improves over the next few weeks.

I welcome your thoughts on barefoot, as well as suggestions for making the transition easier for both me and Hemie!

On a random note, I got the fabulous Oster hairbrush for Christmas and I LOVE it! Way better than my old hairbrush which knowing me I probably got for free somewhere. It seems to detangle much faster, and fluffs the hair so it looks fuller. One of many horsey gifts I got. =) 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Back in the (new) saddle!

New Years Eve was amazing. I finally rode!! I hadn't ridden since Thanksgiving, due to the knee injury and horrible weather. It was amazing. We only did walk-trot, doing circles in the small area of the arena that wasn't mush, focusing on not letting his shoulder fall in nor his hind quarters fall out while bending.  But boy it felt good to be in the saddle again.

Speaking of saddles, allow me to introduce Roxane, my new saddle! 
This is a Stubben Roxane, which I purchased used from a friend-of-a-friend. For only $900. Including a cover, and including the Stubben stirrup leathers and irons. And it was delivered by a hot guy who drove an hour up the coast to drop it off at my office. It's barely been used, is in immaculate condition, and to top it off he let me have it on trial for several weeks! SCORE!!

I haven't jumped in it yet, but it was so comfy during the flat ride that I didn't want to keep the poor guy waiting forever, so I officially bought it. Plus if it doesn't work out, I can always sell it. At a profit.

To catch up on our winter progress, most of my barn visits have consisted of grooming and feeding. I also have practiced my clipping skills by doing designs on his neck. I figure if it looks too horrible, I can always do a heavy-necked trace clip or something.
Heart and half-moon
 The half-moon came out more like a pac-man, so I abandoned my true calling to do a fleur-de-lis. I'm gonna need different clippers and lots more practice before I can handle that!  My trainer has offered a few times to help me "finish" clipping him. I think she's mildly embarrassed by my horse's fuzzy coat and childish designs. But too bad - I love 'em!

Even though I wasn't able to ride for a few weeks, I have gotten some lessons on how to bit-up, aka longe him with side reins. This is a really cool training tool for when you can't ride. Here are my main takeaways from the longe lessons:

Proper procedure:

  • Start off without side reins to warm up in each direction. Then connect so that his nose is just a few inches in front of the vertical.
  • When walking or trotting, make sure is at a forward pace - to almost breaking. Unless you're specifically working on slow trot. Need to make sure he is always marching forward.
  • If he falls out of a gait, do not rush back into upwards transition. Its no longer about obedience - its about demanding balance at all times.  If he falls out because he's getting tired or unbalanced, that's okay. Wait until current gait is balanced and then ask for nice upward.
  • Its okay to have the whip in front of us. Use it to prevent falling in.
  • Do not crack the whip. Only flick it. (This is a hard habit for me to change!)
  • Use the same verbal commands you'll use under saddle. Keep it consistent.
  • Try to minimize hip swinging, and head/neck counter-bending. Little tugs plus clucks to keep him focused on me.

Notes from Hemie's trainer rides and bit-ups:

  • Hemie falls in on the circle, especially when tracking right. Need to block by having whip in front of us when longing, or by dramatic inside leg aid on shoulder. Kick!
  • Hemie will still sometimes counter canter when tracking right. Need to move hip to the inside to correct.When riding, note that dramatic outer leg aid (moving back towards hind) is okay.
  • Hemie is doing good with increased contact, both at bit-up and under saddle. Keep this level of contact going.

Tomorrow, we take our stool sample to test for worms! Ah, the joys of horse ownership. Weather permitting, I'll get a lesson too!