Friday, September 30, 2016

Product Reveiw: NibbleNet Slow Feeder Hay Bag

It's been about a year since I purchased this hay bag, and it's seen near-constant use, so I thought I'd review it since I'm very pleased with it.

The product in question is the NibbleNet Slow Feeder Hay Bag. Mine is the 1.5" hole version, and it comes with smaller holes. It retails for $69.99, so this is not a cheap piece of equipment.

(not my photo)

I have previously experimented with slow feeder hay bags when Tristan was on stall rest from his surgery. I purchased the SmartPak Small Hole Hay Net in the hopes of slowing down his consumption. That didn't last long. It was time-consuming for the barn staff to load, and Tristan loathed it, to the degree that my food-crazy pony would often leave the last bit when it got really difficult to get the hay out. So it's been in storage ever since.

Two winters ago, the barn recommended purchasing the NibbleNets for use in all the stalls; that would help with maintaining more of a free choice hay environment in the stalls, which for us is especially important in the winter, given how cold it gets. I didn't have the funds at the time to purchase this particular brand, so I subbed in my old Classic Equine Top Load Hay Bag. I had two of them; I had purchased them after much deliberation as hay bags for my trailer. Joke's on me, they never worked in the trailer because of the way the manger area was set up, so I always used just a regular cotton hay net. That bag barely lasted the winter - it was a smart design and an attractive bag but it was just not durable at all. I stitched it back together several times but finally gave up on it.

Last January, I made my first purchase at Riding Warehouse during their 20% off sale, and this bag was on the top of my list. I paid $55.16 for it. How has it been since then?

Magic. Okay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but WOW, this sucker wears like iron and does exactly what it says on the tin: slows down a horse's rate of eating.

Much to the chagrin of shaggy little roan mustangs.

It does flip over sometimes, but it's easy enough even for the horses to flip back the right way, and for my money, that's extra entertainment value. And there are loops on the bottom and ways you can tie it down more securely if that sort of thing really bothers you.

Thinking I would write this post for today, last night I took a good long look at the hay bag to check for weaknesses, stress points, or wear marks. I found basically none, after 10 months of continual use by a horse who is not easy on his toys.

So despite the higher price tag, I can HIGHLY recommend this hay bag. It durability and usability are worth the cost.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What's the grooming decision you've ever seen?

Everyone has different preferences for grooming and presentation.

I leave Tristan's mane long and on the "wrong" side; I'm too lazy and I don't give enough fucks to either pull it or train it over. It's been ten years. It's not going anywhere. Plus, I do have some backing on this: mustangs are typically left with long manes. His is full and grows long enough not to look awful. (Though, opinions differ: I had a trainer who sighed heavily and looked pointedly at Tristan's mane on a regular basis.)


Sometimes, though: sometimes there are grooming decisions that are less personal choice and more atrocity.

Some years ago, I was helping barnmates get ready the night before an event. We were at the event stabling when a friend from another barn came over and asked for help braiding her horse's mane. She was of the "own a horse but not do tooooooo much of the hard work myself" type. She had the money to pay for top notch care and didn't feel like braiding, so a barnmate who was a former H/J rider and had braided for A circuits agreed to help.

We got over and discovered that instead of pulling her horse's thick, drafty mane, she had half-roached it. And by half-roached, I mean zipped right down the center line of the horse's crest. We stood in horrified amazement for several very long second while the woman chattered about what a great idea she'd had!

But I have a new worst story, told to me at my current barn a few weeks ago.

The person who told it was a working student at a very, VERY high end dressage barn many years ago. It was his second or third week, and there was a new groom. Said groom was an extremely experienced horseman, and had come to the dressage world from a polo barn. The head trainer pointed out one of their FEI horses and said that there was a buyer coming that afternoon; could the groom get him turned out to the nines for the sale?

Cue four hours later, the horse was turned out immaculately and brought out of the barn for the buyer...with a roached mane.


Any other good stories out there?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Things that people apparently buy

This is a "squirrel feeder," according to the label.

You put a cob of dried corn on the spike part, and the squirrel sits on the horse's saddle and goes to town.

Why you would want to attract more squirrels to your yard is only one of the questions I have.

On the other hand, I bet it looks hilarious.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Visiting the Danish Royal Stables

I'm not sure I'll get up a full post or even series of posts about our honeymoon, but here's a start, for a sort of Wordless Wednesday placeholder. One of the first places we visited was Christiansborg Palace, in the heart of Copenhagen. We saw the kitchens, the royal apartments, the excavated old castle underground, and then the royal stables, which were all part of the same complex.

Apparently the Danish royal family really likes their carriage horses. They used to use a breed called the Frederiksborg horse (named after another of the royal palaces) but they stopped doing that in the late 19th century. The breeding pool was too small and it led to some really inferior horses.

Now, they have Kladrubers, a Czech breed - a whole stable full of gorgeously bred grays. The stables used to hold quite a few more horses, but they have about 15-20 now. We weren't there at the right time to get a behind the scenes tour - in which they would've shown the tack rooms and the indoor manege - but we did poke around the stables themselves and see the carriages.

Stuffed Frederiksborg horses

They did love their swallowtail pads.

That is in fact the King of Denmark riding an Icelandic pony.

Leopard spotted Frederiskborg, stuck caprioling forever.

The label accompanying that horse. Assholes.

All of the stalls were originally standing stalls - you can see the originals on the left - but at some point an animal cruelty law was passed in Denmark making standing stalls illegal, and even the king had to change his barns around!

This guy had such an awesome derp face. We bonded.

This guy slept through multiple families with obnoxious toddlers yelling at him. Good on him.

The names varied in dignity. Derpface above was Extracta. Note the Favory - the Kladrubers are closely related to Lipizzaners.

Fanciest wash stall ever or fanciest wash stall ever? Please note the bottle of Vetrolin whitening shampoo on the back shelf: some things are universal.

Old grain carts.

Six-in-hand livery.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Summer obstacles: hives

If you've followed for a little while, you know that Tristan has struggled on and off with hives over the last few years. I'm pretty convinced that it has to do with his Cushings diagnosis - his immune system just can't cope as well as it used to.

This year's bout held off for a long time, since we were proactive - he's been wearing fly gear and getting a low dose of OTC cetirizine all summer - but when they hit, they came with a vengeance.

First appearance was, of course, about a week before I left for the honeymoon.

These blew up in less than two hours: he was totally fine when the barn manager left after grain, and covered all over when I got there to ride at 7pm.

We started with IM benedryl, a dose that the vet had left with us after last fall's shenanigans with his tail tumor (because one of the possible side effects of the chemo beads was anaphylactic shock or a lesser but still serious sudden allergic reaction, isn't Tristan FUN?). (For those playing along at home, this was per the vet's instructions while on the phone with her and after having sent her the above pictures.)

That helped, but they were back the next day. So I spent a few days giving him a bath every night with long rinses of cold water and a sensitive skin shampoo. In the meantime, no more grass for him; he was sent to a dry lot with tossed hay.

(We also did some work trying to isolate other factors, but nothing had changed for him, and he wasn't getting anything that was not shared with other horses, from hay to grain to water to shavings and so on and so forth. Our best guess was that something was blooming or going to seed in the pasture - which even then are of course mowed down regularly - and that was setting him off.)

Yeah, he LOVED that.

That helped but it did not actually solve anything. Next up: the vet. I couldn't be there when she was, so after some phone calls and emails back and forth, during which I was able to dig back into my obsessive notes and document for her the dates and duration of Tristan's bouts of hives for the past three years, we went forward with a course of treatment.

First: since he is Cushings but not insulin-resistant, and because his Cushings is under control and responsive to pergolide, he was a candidate for dex. So he got a shot of dex at the vet visit and then 5 more days of decreasing dosage, which made a big difference.

Second: he had been getting 20mg cetirizine 1xdaily as a preventative. He was now to go up to 200mg 2xdaily as a treatment.

Except by the time the cetirizine order was called in to Wedgewood I was in Europe so the vet dropped off a supply from her own stores and that took a little longer, so in the meantime the hives came back. Which meant that he didn't get ridden at all while I was away - so basically he did not get ridden through all of August. I didn't want to irritate the hives, or rev up his metabolism in a way that would make them worse in case this was an allergic reaction that went deeper.

Once he got the higher dose of cetirizine on board, the hives receded and - knock wood - it's been almost 4 weeks and they have not returned.

In the meantime, the Wedgewood order came in and we are leaving the danger season, so I have a fresh bucket of cetirizine ($$$, sigh) in the fridge to keep good until next June, when he will start on it and stay on it through the summer and we will hopefully not monkey around with this bullshit again.

I swear, I keep telling people that he used to be an easy keeper and they don't believe me.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

House Post: Patching the Bathroom Ceiling

Not the most exciting project, but one of those that makes the house feel a little more finished.

See, when we did the electrical work we wired for two ceiling fans, one in each bathroom. My father and I put the one in the upstairs bathroom in place, and the downstairs one came about months later with the help of a handyman, who also vented the upstairs fan with me.

When we put the upstairs fan into place, we didn't realize that it came apart into as many pieces as it actually did. So we cut the hole bigger than was strictly necessary for the fan to fit in. Result: a gap around the fan. There was also a hole from the old light fixture.

For about 14 months, then, the upstairs bathroom ceiling looked like this.

The fix was a two part piece of work. The straight-up hole had to be braced with another piece of sheetrock and then mudded over, and the hole where the light fixture was had to be just mudded over.

So part one: patching the sheetrock. That required going up into the attic and working from above.

I had actually saved part of the sheetrock that we cut out, because the sheetrock used throughout the house is not normal. It's an older form of the stuff, that has a basic concrete core (yes, really) and in this case it also had a thick layer of plaster over it. So it was both thicker and sturdier than modern sheetrock.

Unfortunately, that meant that it did not cut or break like the sheetrock I was used to, so after several attempts to get a piece that would fit into the gap, I was left with just a pile of broken sheetrock.

On to Plan B: using some of the endless scraps I have in the basement left over from the wall project. That went much more quickly, and after quite a bit of trimming I got a piece that dropped into the gap easily enough.

Then, I found a scrap piece of 2x4, also left over from building the wall, and because I didn't want to actually trim the thing and it was so close to fitting, I hammered it into place.

It wasn't going anywhere short of an earthquake, but I put a couple of screws diagonally and down into the floor beams anyway.

Next step, going back underneath and screwing up from the new piece of sheetrock into the new wood brace. I put one of the screws through the fan itself, though it was already quite secure, just to be extra careful - it was easy enough to just move a screw half an inch to the right and get some extra solidity.

Then: bring on the mud!

Two layers for the patched area, and three for the hole leftover from the old light fixture, with sanding in between. This was mostly a matter of hurry up and wait. 24 hours to dry a coat, 5 minutes to sand it down, another 5 minutes to apply more plaster. I could've done it in three days but there were a few evenings I opted out on account of laziness. So this past Friday night I did the last sanding and put the light back in place and voila!

The real last step is to repaint the bathroom ceiling but that's not happening. I might use some of the paint from the downstairs bathroom ceiling to patch these pieces really quickly, but it won't match exactly. Until we redo the entire bathroom, I'm not going to repaint the entire ceiling.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

House Post: Best Laid Plans, or, One Step Forward, .999999999 Steps Back

We rewired the house last July, but I'm still working on the various pieces of things leftover from that.

One of those things was the dining room chandelier. We had taken it down as part of the rewiring, and then it looked like it was old, bad wiring, so we left it down. About a month after that, I had time to examine it more thoroughly and it was fine! Someone had just done a dumbass patch job that they didn't even need to do - basically they thought they didn't have enough wire to reach the ceiling box, so they spliced in some extra inches very badly, and after who knows how many years that had started to fray and come apart. I just yanked that extra wire out, the original wires were in fine shape, and with some careful maneuvering and help from a friend, put the fixture back up.


It was a very old chandelier, and it was in many pieces down a central column. Each piece was held together in a slightly different way, mostly variations on several long hollow screws. They were all precisely measured, and try as we might, we could not get them to all work together to allow the fixture to look and hang normally again.

(this is where I'd put a picture of that crooked chandelier if I had thought to take a picture of it but alas I was not that smart_

After a while, we just left it as best as we could, and so the fixture hung crookedly for about a year. Also, sort of from the wires which was obviously less than ideal and okay, fine, kind of dangerous, but you had to be there to realize just how maddening trying to get that puzzle right was.


I finally got sick of staring at it, and started to think about how I could fix it, when I was at the hardware store looking for something I discovered two things.

1. Those hollow screw things are called "lamp nipples."
2. You can buy them in all sorts of sizes!

Well, boom. I took the fixture apart, found the one that was the worst offender, went to the hardware store, and bought one that was 1" longer. Old one is on the left above, new on the right. $2.52 with tax, sweet!

Then I put the fixture back together, and hung it back up and lo, it hung straight and beautifully.

Then I flipped the light switch.

And there was a loud POP with a sort of echo-y fizzle, and the light turned back off.


Other lights were on, so it wasn't the breaker. I went to bed grumpy and feeling like a failure and the next morning got up, flipped the breaker off, and proceeded to take apart both the switch (totally fine) and the fixture itself (no obvious scorch marks, melted wires, etc).

Stumped, I put up a bulb in its place, and that turned on just fine. So...the fixture was dead. I must have tweaked something in all the twisting and movement that I had to do to take it apart and put it back together.

On the one hand: it's kind of dated, and was slated for replacement in 3-5 years anyway.

On the other hand: GOD DAMN IT.

So, we lived with a bare bulb for a week.

Wicked classy look.

Then we ordered a fixture off of Amazon for $75, because we are Millennials, and honestly there was ZERO room in the budget for the ideal perfect fixture right now.

And that's the story of how I accidentally installed a new dining room chandelier.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

That's right, I'm trying again!

This week, a collection of gruesome injury stories, with lots of photos, because if you're like me that stuff is catnip.

(needless to say they all have happy endings so far)

Treating Lily Wounds from Wait for the Jump
Not just a fascinating wound story (deep necrotic wound on the hindquarters) but brilliant bandaging tips.

Brego Wrestling from Wyvern Oaks
Hoof resection! Look through previous entries for the exact process. This is an alternate form of treatment for a very similar injury to Tristan's. I, too, know the madness of wrestling a horse to wrap its foot.

And okay, not a gruesome injury but nifty treatment/recovery stuff, Henry's Day at the Spa from The $900 Facebook Pony.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Things that were probably not a good idea...

...though I guess they got away with it?

So let's break this down.

This is a photograph taken for a promotional pamphlet about training at the US Government Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, VT. At that time, it was the cavalry remount station for the northeast, breeding primarily Morgans but also some other horses: Thoroughbreds, mostly. Their goal was to breed for the cavalry but also to research horsemanship as an outpost of the US Department of Agriculture. The photo was probably taken c. 1920 - 1925.

That is horse harnessed to a box made out of 2x4 boards with wagon wheels on the outside. The man sitting behind is holding reins which presumably are just for whoa and go, since the box is attached to a pivot point in the center. Scale is tough, but let's say it's a 20m circle.


I mean: I freely admit that driving makes me a bit nervous because of the potential for wrecks. In fact, the day I took this photograph I was researching in the archives of the National Museum of the Morgan Horse; for lunch, I got a sandwich and went over to Weybridge to eat at a picnic table at the Morgan Horse Farm. The current director of the farm was schooling a young horse in a cart on their wide front lawn, and said young horse gave a perfect demonstration of what it's like to train a high strung, fractious, young horse to drive. He was beautifully handled and it worked out but man, would I much rather have been in the saddle for some of those moments. Hats off to the driver, who was calm and professional and ballsy as hell.

But doing that while you're trapped in a 2x4 box? Not to mention this is pretty clearly not a permanent installation. No way is that flat platform bolted down to the ground. I've seen other pictures of the area where it is and it's a wide grass field. So if the horse went sideways, that sucker's getting dragged with him

Honestly, the longer I look at it and think through all the implications the worse it gets.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Patience and Deliberate Steps Back

I've been thinking a lot about the training pyramid lately. You know, that infamous dressage textbook illustration.

I know we've all seen it a million times, but I'm putting it up anyway.

My riding and training has been so hopelessly sporadic this summer. Not everything has been terribly productive, and I haven't put nearly the miles on that I wanted to. I was busy at work, the house demanded attention, Tristan went through health issues (again, some more, blog post to follow, resolved now), and then we went away on vacation.

A lot of my life is in a tumult right now. I've been doing a lot of long, hard, deep thinking, trying to mine my own brain to sort out my reactions to things, the ways in which I can control my own reactions and behaviors, and the decisions that I'm making. My watchword right now is deliberate: I have to be ok with the choices that I make and why. No letting things happen.

On Sunday, I had a ride that worked out beautifully. It was a combination of a lot of things that led to success, but if I had to put my finger on it, the thing that worked out best for me was after walking around the fields to warm up, we trotted around the outdoor dressage ring. Two times, each way, and all I asked for was rhythm and focus from him. No squirreling around, no sucking back, no slamming in and out of the contact, no fights. I simply held the reins in such a way that I could feel the bit, and asked him to trot forward consistently. It was nothing fancy or extensive - it took us maybe 12 minutes.

On lap 3, he started to soften through the corners instead of motorcycling. On lap 4, he started to fill out both reins evenly, and then by the end of the lap, he had stretched into the outside rein and begun to soften. I called it quits. I dropped the reins, patted him, and we moved on to something else - walking the roads for a bit, then up the hills to get some quality muscle work time.

I've been reflecting on that ride since, in the same way I am turning everything over endlessly in other parts of my life. I think I've finally untangled something in my brain. See, Tristan is a more or less trained horse. Buried inside his brain and in his body are all the tools and memories necessary to put together a very good Training test that on a good day is schooling first. 

But that's not where or what he is right now. I can't swing a leg over and expect that horse. And I guess I have been: I've been putting him through a cursory warmup and then trying to school shoulder-in, or haunches in or canter transitions. These are all things he has schooled well in the past, and yeah, we've been sort of getting to them. Not well - not happily - not cooperatively - but the work has been produced.

Sometimes it's the right call to muscle through and get to the horse you know is inside. Not right now. Tristan needs to go back to the base of the pyramid, and that needs to be our only focus. Just because he has all the pieces of the pyramid doesn't mean I can just slap them together and zip up to the top.

So, tonight: rhythm. Short, sweet, 30 minutes focusing on a forward, elastic gait in the walk and trot and maybe in the canter. If we get it, our reward will be a taste of relaxation at the end. Then we repeat. It's a self-discipline thing. Just because I feel something in him does not mean I have to reach for it and drag it out. Just because I know what a balanced connected trot and canter feel like does not mean we have to get it tonight. Or the next night.

It's both humbling and frustrating to have to do this again, once more, for the millionth time. Tristan is 21, and he has been under saddle for 11 years now. I have been riding horses for 2/3 of my life. Back to the beginning we go.