Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Official Hiatus

You may have guessed this what with the complete lack of posting and all, but I've decided to take an official hiatus from blogging until the new year.

I am trying very hard to shepherd what remaining mental energy I have into riding my horse and getting through the holidays. I am one of those sad-around-holidays people and it seems to get a bit worse every year.

So I am coping by making sure I get lots of barn time, deliberately taking things off my to do list, and consuming every possible Star Wars media that I can. (Because I am also That Person.)

Tris is doing ok, not great, but he is back under saddle as I try to find a program that works for both of us.

I do have ideas to blog about and just need to not have it on my mind for a bit. I also need a working computer at home, which is currently not a thing in my life (after sending it in for some upgrades all of my drivers got wiped which...kind of makes it inoperable. so it is back there getting fixed, hopefully.)

In the meantime, I'm still doing some posting on my FB page, so if you want some updates you should find us there until January.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Next Steps (Literally): Investigating OsPhos & Other Biophosphonate Drugs

Bad news first: Tristan is still lame.

From there, it's actually mostly good news.

He was first off last Monday/Tuesday. He got one gram of bute am + pm through Friday afternoon, and then on Monday I put him on the longe line.

He was definitely not comfortable but a) he worked out of most of it and b) it was much better.

I asked the barn manager to watch him with me, and her observations matched my own: he was acting almost like he had a stone bruise. That RF was short and sort of stabby, like he didn't want it to rest on the ground for long.

He was much, much more willing to move forward than he was at this point last week, offering up a canter to the right several times when he flat-out refused last week.

So what's next?

First step: one month of Previcox, an anti-inflammatory that will be much better on his stomach than bute would. That will help ease overall osteoarthritis symptoms and anything more specific going on in that RF. I'll keep checking in to see how he goes.

My hunch, based what he presented yesterday, taking into account his history and the way he looked? I think he's showing some soreness in his foot from the ongoing RF problems, because that foot is (apparently) always going to be more sensitive and weaker to any kind of problem. It's always going to be thrushy, always going to trend toward abscesses, and always going to show sole bruises immediately. I think it's some kind of sole bruise.

However, I also think he's got some ongoing arthritis issues in both his hocks and that coffin/fetlock. He is on monthly Pentosan injections, and that has helped with his overall fluidity in terms of the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, but I think we also need to add something to help with inflammation.

Again, if he were younger and in full work, we'd start joint injections. He's not and he's not. I said this to the barn manager last night, and she raised a new possibility.

OsPhos is a new drug specifically marketed for the treatment of navicular. It basically helps joints and bones that are remodeling due to arthritis or abnormality. It has a really promising research outlook, and works in similar ways to Tildren, a drug that's been on the market for a bit longer.

For my purposes, the benefits are thusly: it is a system-wide joint support that is not quite as powerful as an intra-articular joint injection would be but at the same time tackles more joints at one time. It is delivered IM, and costs between $200-$300 a dose. (As opposed to $1,000 a dose for Tildren, and $500/joint for injections). Perhaps most importantly, our local best lameness vet is very familiar with it and has used it on several of the schoolhorses in the barn to excellent effect.

That said: it has drawbacks. Some of them are not so great. Because it's such a new drug, there are some serious concerns about longterm consequences.

The most legitimate concern seems to me to be the question of how, exactly, biophosphonate drugs like OsPhos (and Tildren) remodel bone. They work by basically killing the things that remodel bone, preventing bad changes from happening - but also good changes from happening. Bone remodels throughout its entire life. Stopping that from happening prevents bony changes, but it also prevents the kind of bone density growth that's important in strengthening. Do they create truly good, new, strong bone, or do they just make x-rays look better?

These are drugs that have been available for humans for some time now, and on the 10 year outlook there are reports of necrotic bone (particularly in the skull and jaw) and dramatically lower bone density. There are also reports of spontaneous fracture.There's lots on the COTH forums; here's one good thread.

On the one hand: that is scary as shit.

On the other hand: Tristan is in light dressage work and he is 20. He is not jumping or otherwise putting sport horse stress on his bones. Would helping him be more comfortable and keeping him in light work to keep him healthy be worth the tradeoff?

On the other other hand, at least some of his lameness issues in that RF are due to bone remodeling, so the biophosphonates would help in that way. But they're also due to a lack of bone in that area, ie the carved-out portion of his coffin bone from the infection. So they might help one problem and worsen another.

I also don't see any good outlook on how many times a horse has to be dosed before the problems crop up - or before they are sound. "It depends" is always the answer.

There's also the possibility, mentioned by a few people, of doing a regional perfusion of the problematic limb with Tildren. That would localize the treatment to the problematic RF, but it would also do nothing for his hocks and any other overall osteoarthritis he's dealing with.


Lots to think about.

Has anyone out there used Tildren or similar drugs?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

House Post: Dining Room Rug

Certain shithead puppies have decided in the last few weeks to forget they are housebroken (ARYA) and the dining room rug took a terrible beating.

It was getting to the point where the scent buildup was attracting her to come pee even when she wasn't being actively naughty.

So, far earlier than planned, up came the dining room rug this morning.

Because it's always something, this floor had 3x as many staples as the two previous rooms COMBINED. That handful above? From my third pass. Ugh.

Aaaand done!

(for those who might be concerned, Arya is undergoing a battery of tests to see whether there is an underlying physical problem or whether she is just acting out in some way)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Third Annual Deck the Bobby Christmas Pictures from Poor Woman Showing
ahahahahaha. awesome.

Mr. Moose Baby Goes to a George Morris Clinic, Part One & Part Two from Viva Carlos
Great insights & a very cool experience.

Kenai's Rehab: Complete from In Omnia Paratus
Not horse-related but still fascinating and really cool.

When Disappointment Translates Into Anxiety from No Longer Fiction
An all too common situation, written about honestly and bravely.

The Things I Didn't Like Enough to Review from The $900 Facebook Pony
This is interesting to read and is actually I think kind of important in a blogging world in which all of our reviews tend to be positive (or why would we want to go to the effort of reviewing them?).

How 2015 Has Changed My Blog...and What's to Come in 2016 from The Maggie Memoirs

DIY: How to Make DIY Peppermint Treats from DIY Horse Ownership
These look great. I've tried horse treats in the past but never been happy with how they've turned out.

Pony Club from A Enter Spooking
I was a DC for a few years, and have judged many Pony Club events since then. I love it, but it is not without its flaws. This post does a really nice job of laying everything out.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What breed is right for you, and how do you know?

I've been thinking about this one on and off for a few weeks. I think it started with that 25 questions meme that was going on - one of the questions asked people if they would own a "hotter" breed, and mentioned Arabians and Trakehners as examples of that. I saw a lot of people who were frustrated with that characterization.

Andrea at The Reeling recently wrote about her own transition to rescue horses, and her ideas about breeds & breeding. I really liked the way she wrote about her thought process.

Tristan is a BLM mustang, which I describe as an All-American equine mutt. Some people call mustangs a breed, and they get all involved in the DNA typing of various strains, and they come up with clever names for certain types of them. That's really not my thing. Mustangs are typey mutts, as far as I'm concerned. I've seen a lot of them, and there is an overall "look" but there is not anything approaching the standard set of characteristics that you would get from an established breed.

Tristan's BLM mustang freezebrand identification

I've known and ridden hundreds of horses from dozens of breeds, and I've known a lot of people who have really strong and clear preferences. A lot of eventers are Thoroughbred people. A lot of dressage riders have their own particular breed of warmblood that they prefer - or they sit on one side or another of the warmblood/Spanish type debate. My current dressage barn has quite a few Lusitanos in training.

I live in Vermont, where there are clearly established Morgan People. They have their own tack, their own show circuits, their own style of riding, their own set of views on horses that are shaped largely - if not entirely, in some cases - by the Morgan horse.

And I have been thinking about dogs, too, and how we pick the dogs that are a fit for us. My family - immediate and extended - are dog people. I grew up with yellow Labs, and my parents will always have them (no matter what my father says about no more new dogs...). My brother has a German Shepherd. My aunt had Golden Retrievers, then herding dogs, Border Collies and Aussies. My mother grew up with a Boxer, Doberman, and Irish Setter. My uncle has always (except for one Irish Setter) had hounds.

my parents' current dog, Willow, a few years ago

My own dog, Arya, is some kind of mutt - she was listed as a Boxer/Lab cross, but probably has hound and maybe some pit bull in there. She is a different type than the more solid, more laid back Labs that I grew up with, but I love that.

I chose my horse because I fell in love with him after working with him for the summer. He was not necessarily the "type" that I usually like. I chose my dog because she does represent a type that I have an affinity for: cheerful, sharp, sweet, and has a general look (medium-sized, short hair, blockier head, athletic & slim body) that I like.

Obviously, we all have a brain type that we like, and obviously every horse (and dog) is an individual. So we all know whether we like a kick ride or a pull ride, a thinking horse or an over-eager horse, on and on.

But most of us, however much we say we choose for brain first, have at least some breed preferences. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with those breeds, it just means it doesn't fit our aesthetic or riding choices. And the very fact that there are breeds mean that some characteristics are more common in them than not. While it is misleading to say that all representatives of a certain breed are hot or cold, smart or dumb, you are more likely to get those characteristics because there has been a program of selective breeding to encourage them. That's why we have breeds.

So I am wondering how we get there, as individuals, how we develop preferences for breeds, and how that influences us.

I didn't necessarily pick Tristan totally blind, as he has lots of things I like:
thick neck, close-coupled, pretty but not delicate head, good bone

I'll go first. I don't like breeds with lots of hair: Friesians, Gypsy Vanners, some of the drafts, some of the ponies. They do absolutely nothing for me. I don't like the more "delicate" looking breeds: most Arabians, some of the taller/thinner Warmbloods (like Trakehners, usually), breeds like the Akhal Tekes or Marwaris.

My all time favorite breed, the one I will buy from someday, the one whose base characteristics match up with my aesthetic preferences and what I like in a brain, is Morgan. I like them with lots of bone, thick through the body and the neck, short-backed and close-coupled, with a fine but not dainty head. I like a horse that's smarter than I am, that has energy and sensitivity but would like to negotiate, and that has more of an all-around profile than something specific.

Why do I like that? I like the feel of a more solid horse. I like a horse that is quick but not reactive. I like the look of a heavier horse, but not as heavy as a draft. It's a bit tough to really spell out.

So: what do you like? Why? Do you think it's nature or nurture - were you exposed to a lot of that breed in formative years, or have you always loved them from afar? Do you really think you have zero breed preference at all? Why is that?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Talking through it

I did not know Irene, as many of you did, nor had I read her blog, through some kind of terrible oversight. I've read posts about her in quiet grief.

I am no stranger to effed-up brain chemistry. I can't imagine that anyone is, in this world. Depression is a disease, and it is ruthless.

If you are in this place, please, please reach out, ok? Doing so is not weakness. It's bravery. You are an extraordinary person, and the world needs you. Don't let your depression tell you otherwise. Depression is a fucking liar.

There are people who are trained to help you, and who want very much to help you, if you feel you are unable to reach out to your regular support group, or if you feel like you don't have one.

Here's just one resource: the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please, please, please.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When is enough, enough and what is too far?

I am somewhere in between deeply morose and utterly pissed off at life right now. Yesterday started with a $373 vet bill for the dog, who has begun peeing everywhere and who got a full barrage of tests to make sure she didn't have a UTI, or a problem with her kidney function, or who even knows. Then problems with my bank, work fuckery, the computer I just got $180 worth of repairs done on refusing to work at ALL because the repair guy wiped the drivers...

It ended with me getting to the barn with plans for 35 minutes of dressage schooling...and Tristan was lame.

Not lame-lame. But...not right. Stepping off his RF a little too fast, not using himself right. Then he wouldn't canter right - Sunday I thought that might be because of my use of the bareback pad. He was deeply reluctant to do it on the longe after I jumped off and put him through his paces. He didn't want to land on that RF.

So I gave him bute in his PM grain, he'll get more today in his AM grain, and we'll see what he looks like tonight. It could be a momentary thing. It could be a more worrying long-term thing. All I know is I've been chasing problems in this foot for 3.5 years now and I am so fucking tired. I just wanted to ride my horse.

I am in a place I have been before, and have been increasingly the last few months. What is the right next step? I can keep chasing things with his foot, and obviously I will do everything I can to keep him happy and comfortable - and he is by no means uncomfortable, he is just not sound enough for work at the moment.

If he were 14, I wouldn't hesitate - we'd inject that coffin joint, and probably his hocks, too. But he's not 14 anymore. He's 20, and he's not in full work, and which path is the best? Basic maintenance and just enough work to keep him stretched out and comfortable, or joint injections and a stepped-up maintenance plan to keep him in work?

I still love riding my horse. I still need that release. I'm not ready to let go of that, but I'm also deeply reluctant to commit to thousands of dollars in maintenance. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that we're getting closer and closer to decision time.

at least he's cute, right?

Monday, December 7, 2015

More Poles

New and different poles exercise last night, done with a bareback pad and at the walk.

Three poles set up in a fan pattern in the corner, with the fourth about two or three strides away. We did it at the walk, starting with just a big warmup around the ring, getting him a little bit loose and swingy and a bit softer and more bent.

Then we did the two poles on the outside line, which were set up so I could avoid the corner fan, and got him to start lifting his back and really stepping over the poles.

Then we incorporated the fan into it, staying in the middle but still going all the way around the ring. This proved trickier, since a) I hadn't gotten the striding quite right and b) Tris still wasn't really with me yet.

I took a break from this to ask him to canter a bit - not really a lot, or to school it, just to get a bit more jump in his step and to get him thinking a little more forward.

He was reluctant to canter, through, I'm sure some combination of stiffness and my lack of really solid seat with the bareback pad contributed to that. Once he did, he moved much better.

Then we moved to a smaller circle and worked over just the fan of the poles. The nice thing about having them out like that was that I could guide the exercise more specifically. We worked on the inside of the poles, requiring a much tighter stride, and then on the 15m circle we spiraled out and went on the outside of the poles, which meant a bigger stride.

I was really pleased with how the exercise worked out, but not necessarily with how I rode. I just wasn't quite present like I needed to be to handle Tristan's stiffness and unwillingness that day.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Quick blog roundup this week.

My Grooming Bucket is a TARDIS from The $900 Facebook Pony
We've all been there.

Success and Yet Failure at the Carolina 100 from In Omnia Paratus
Great perspective, great story.

Fabulous from Pony Express
That looks like an obscene amount of fun.

Your Guide to Equestrian Gift Giving from If the Saddle Fits
Really good selection.

Holidy Hound Adventure from Hand Gallop
I laughed really, really hard at this. #sorrynotsorry

Thinking Outside the Box: Senior Management from Equinpilot
I can't get over how clever this is.

Noble Outfitters Giveaway from Breeches & Boat Shoes
Giveaway alert!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winter Longeing

Though it is a slow start, we are slipping into winter. It's been cold and rainy the last few days, and I have been less than motivated. Mostly I've been either taking care of 8 million things around the house or lying on the couch reading/watching Jessica Jones on Netflix.

I am getting out on and off though, and last night I got home and my husband said "go to the barn. I'll have dinner ready when you get back," which I think was a ploy so he could spend the next three hours playing Assassin's Creed on our new TV, but I'll take it.

So: longeing. I wanted to make it productive rather than simply stretching, so I set up poles in a "circle of death" exercise.

I just clipped the line onto his halter and focused on getting a consistent forward stride, improving his tracking up, and improving the way he used his body over the poles. We started with five minutes of walk each way, then I moved him to the other half of the ring and let him trot without poles for three minutes each way. His trot has been sticky lately, so I let him jump into canter when he wanted to, buck around a little bit to loosen up when he wanted to, and focused on the end game of a smooth, consistent trot at the end.

Tristan may not have fancy gaits, but when he clicks in, consistency is definitely one of his biggest assets. Given proper support in the form of driving aids and framing he will move those hind legs like a metronome.

Then we moved back over to the poles to work over them in the trot. I watched his legs to see how he was using them, and the muscles of his back, and of his stomach. It was really gratifying to see that he tightened his stomach, lifted his back, raised his tail, and dropped his neck. His ears stayed pricked throughout as he hunted down the next pole. He loves jumping so much, I sometimes think pole work that I leave him to figure out - like longeing over them - is a partial substitute.

Like the consistency of his hind end, he's always been a horse that likes to have a say in figuring out his footwork. When we jumped regularly, I never counted strides. (I know, hunters, I'm sorry, but I am telling it like it is!) I focused on getting him put together, focused on the quality of the gait I was riding, focused on keeping him straight, and let him figure out what he wanted for striding. He would usually flub the first few fences but as I worked harder on getting a better quality horse to present, he would start to get into it and would adjust his own striding as we approached. Every time. If I trusted him, he figured it out.

midway through figuring it out

He started off a little stilted and not quite figuring out his placement. He would get to the pole on the same wonky striding every time, placing his left hind right at the base of the pole, then hitching a little bit awkwardly as he didn't have a good angle to lift his right hind over it. Every single time, his left hind would almost tap the pole, his right hind would have to swing awkwardly, his head would raise, and he would look slightly frustrated.

Then, he started to shorten his stride before the poles one stride out, which resulted in some missteps and kicking the poles. Then he started two strides out, and once he started to figure it out he very quickly had the whole thing figured out and was absolutely nailing the striding, getting the pole perfectly in the middle of his stride and carrying an elevated, more swinging gait through the entire circle.

This happened in about 3 minutes at the trot. When I swapped to the left it took him less than 30 seconds to adjust his striding again and he just sailed through it without any mistakes. I asked him for just two circles at the canter, and he was so into it he would've kept going, though he was a bit tired.

Give me a thinking, figuring-it-out horse any day of the week, you guys. I will put up with an awful lot, but I can't abide stupidity, especially deliberate obtuseness. I have never met a stupid mustang yet. (Obnoxious, opinionated, spooky, deadheaded, yes, but never, ever stupid.)

Total time elapsed was about 25 minutes, but it was a hugely fruitful exercise for both of us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stablekeeping Giveaway Update!

Remember ages ago when I did a giveaway and then my brain dribbled out my ears and I forgot to pick a winner? Yeah. That was awesome of me.

Um, anyway.

The winner of one copy of Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill is...

[insert drumroll here, use your imagination]


Renate has a very striking paint horse in her profile pic through Rafflecopter but I can't figure out whether she has a blog. So I'll be sending her book off post haste.

Thanks everyone for participating, that was kind of fun. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

For Your Consideration: #GivingTuesday at Ever After Mustang Rescue

I've written before about Tristan's rescue, mostly here and here. It remains a place near and dear to my heart because it gave me my best friend, and because it is a place where good people do good work.

Today is Giving Tuesday, as those of us in the nonprofit world know well. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is the busiest time of the year for fundraising. People are feeling more generous around the holidays and the more practical among them are looking at their impending tax filings.

So, on this Tuesday after the shopping and spending orgy that was the long weekend, many are considering giving back to their communities.

I will be making a donation to Ever After Mustang Rescue to support their work in rescuing and retraining mustangs.

Here's my twist.

Please comment on this post today with a horse-related nonprofit that you support. Even better, tell me that you've donated to that organization.

For each comment, I will donate an additional $5 to Ever After Mustang Rescue. (Up to a reasonable amount, I do still have a horse.)

So: let me know where you will be supporting with your donations today, or where you have supported in the past. (Last year, I did a roundup of horse-related charities; you can find it here.)

(I did think about making additional donations to the organizations you all support but the logistics started to scramble my brain. Maybe next year.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Jumping on the bandwagon so late there might not even still be a bandwagon. That's just how I roll lately.

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?

Geldings. Mares and I do not work. I've only ever enjoyed one.

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?

Aspiration: fully broke.

Reality: green broke.

Tris was basically still wild when I started working with them - he did not know how to be groomed or pick up his feet. I helped put him in a squeeze chute at the rescue to get his shots.

Training him has been a remarkable experience but every time I sit on a trained horse, I feel so much better about myself. I feel like I do actually know how to ride.

3. Would you own a "hotter" breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).

Nope. Not my style. I prefer a kick ride to a pull ride.

I mean, I would like to do a little less kicking, TRISTAN, but I am not mentally built to enjoy a horse with a bit of an edge.

4. What was your "dream horse" growing up?

Black mustang stallion. I had it all planned out, you guys. He was going to be untamable by anyone but me and we would go on moonlit adventures and I would spend hours crying into his silky mane.

I got the mustang and the crying part right, I guess?

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?

I've gone over the bits of my past before.

Tris currently goes in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle for dressage and trail riding, and a full cheek double-jointed snaffle for jumping. He hasn't needed anything more in a long time.

6. Helmets or no helmets?



Jesus Christ, people, it's 2015, buy a goddamn fucking clue already and wear your helmet.

7. Favorite horse color?

Hm. I am honestly not sure I have a favorite. Maybe a nice bright blood bay with a blaze.

Or, really, secretly I think we would all answer this question as that lovely dappled iron-grey look but as we all know grey horses are all about getting your hopes up and then getting gradually disappointed.

8. Least favorite horse color?

Paint. Any variation. Meh.

9. Dressage or Jumping?

Dressage, no question. It has the kind of problems that my brain likes to solve.

10. How many years have you been riding?

Ummmmmm. 20+, I think, on and off.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?

Both. Every time I go without, I regret it. See also #3 above.

12. Your first fall?

Big rawboned QH lesson horse; I was in a semi-private lesson with another girl, her horse took a nutty and my horse did a patented little hop and twist. I landed on my feet, directly next to his head, facing backwards, still holding the reins. Still not sure how. I ruined the effect when my knees buckled and I then sat down on my ass almost immediately.

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?

Last Friday night (goddamn it); worked on loosening Tristan up and then on his canter, particularly getting better quality up transitions.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?

My dressage saddle, for sure. But even then it is way less than what most people consider expensive for a saddle. I paid $1,200 for it. It's a used Albion.

15. How old were you when you started riding?

I'm honestly not entirely sure. 10, maybe? Middle school.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?

Personally, I prefer leather for their oh-shit-breakability, but I have nothing personal against nylon.

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?

Leather. Again, nothing personal against synthetic. I owned a Wintec saddle for a while that I still wish had worked out. It didn't fit Tristan, but it was great to bomb around in and not worry about.

18. What "grip" of reins do you like?

Hm. I have yet to see a webbed dressage rein with stops that didn't get all crappy after a while. I love my rubber reins on my jumping bridle, but not for every day use. I really kind of hate laced reins. I like the idea of plain leather reins but not the actuality of them.

I wish you could still find plaited reins. Actually braided, not laced. I loved those.

19. English or Western?

English. Western saddles make me feel like I am trapped and give me panic attacks.

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?

Just the one, thank God.

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?

Boarded at a barn I love.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?

Not personally, but I was a strong advocate for the first horse I ever truly loved to be put down. He was in terrible pain and no longer comfortable even in a field, and he stayed too long before his owner was able to make the call. Someday, I'll decide for Tristan.

23. How many saddlepads do you have?

Ummmmm...three? Four? Three in regular rotation.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?

Straight. I buy the argument that slant loads are uncomfortable for most horses.

(Really my ideal is open & loose in a stock trailer, but that is a semi-rare thing in the northeast.)

25. Why do you ride?
It keeps my brain on an even keel, and when I ride, I can't think or worry or stress about anything. I just ride. It's like when I sit on a horse there's a minute adjustment and all of a sudden all the tiny watch gears inside my body are well-oiled and run smoothly again.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

House Post: Preview of Bathroom Work

Hopefully next Sunday's house post will have the complete story of this godawful saga, but the last 3 weeks have been all about the bathroom.

And on and on and on. Getting there...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Still here

I hear you, puppy.

No blog post roundup this week, sorry!

Tris and I are both still alive and well. We've just been insanely busy this week.

Him, eating and sleeping and doing lazy horse things.

Me, going at breakneck speed on house projects, dealing with eight million things at work, and then hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving. Which went great! Despite the usual snags and oh the upstairs toilet and the kitchen sink going on the fritz. Sigh. Also, the downstairs bathroom not being finished (more on that later).

In addition to that, I brought my home computer in to a shop this week hoping that they could give it a tune-up. I am one of the last of the dinosaurs using an older desktop computer for most home computing, and mine was running like molasses. They cleaned it up and are going to double the available memory for me, which should get me another 3-5 years of use before I have to re-purchase.

Hence, less blogging. I didn't really think about how much I relied on having a home computer to blog, especially during an insanely busy work week, but there you have it.

I am hoping for a return to normalcy and sanity soon. I'd like that.

In the meantime, here's a shirt I bought while getting new shower curtains at Walmart. I would like t-shirt weather back so I can wear it!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

House Post: Energy Efficient Sink Faucet Aerators

This is not the sexiest or most glamorous or most exciting home improvement project, but it was lightning quick, really easy, and should make a nice difference in our utility use.

The basic gist is this: the average showerhead and sink aerator is set to a fairly high gallons-per-minute, or GPM, rate because energy used to be cheap and the ideal was to cover yourself (and/or your dishes) in as much hot water as possible while cleaning. Think those rain shower things. Which is all well and good if you don't care about the cost of the water and the cost to heat that water, and then overall world conservation problems regarding water and energy resources.

But I care, because I hate paying more for bills than I have to, and I live in Vermont, and climate change and world resources and all that stuff is a Big Deal here. I mean, we're going to mandatory composting of household food waste in 2016, so.

Previously, I had already done our showerheads, which was an easy thing to do. Last weekend, I tackled the three sinks in the house: kitchen and two bathrooms. Some of the aerators didn't have info on them but the one I removed from the upstairs bathroom was marked as 2GPM. I replaced it with a 0.5GPM aerator, so I cut both water use and energy use in 1/4 by replacing it!

Here's the step by step of the process. I used these aerators from Niagara; they cost about $1 apiece, which seems insanely inexpensive to me! They should pay themselves off very quickly.

Step 1: the old faucet in our upstairs bathroom sink

Step 2: here's what 2GPM looks like

Step 3: wrap the old aerator in an elastic. this will provide better purchase for the wrench and make sure it doesn't scratch the metal

Step 4: remove the old aerator simply by turning left with a wrench or pliers

Step 5: here's what an aerator-less faucet looks like. clean out the faucet a bit, there's probably mineral buildup in there. you can soak it with vinegar if your faucet is shaped correctly, or just take a small brush up in there, or just loosen it with your fingers

Step 6: here's why aerators are a thing! water goes everywhere without one

Step 7: place the new aerator in and get it threaded on. my least favorite part; for some reason I've been having horrible trouble threading things lately

Step 8: elastic again!

Step 9: tighten as much as you can. don't half-ass this, or water will go everywhere

Step 10: here's what 0.5GPM looks like!

Step 11: voila! a bit deeper than the old one, but by maybe only 1/4"

The whole process took 10 minutes start to finish, and that's partly because I was photographing. So let's say for 7:30 minutes and $1, you can cut your energy use in one faucet by up to 75%.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Happy weekend, welcome to the blog roundup for the week!

3rd Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange from Fly On Over
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Mountain Trail Adventures from Pony Express
Holy shit that looks like a ton of fun.

An Equestrian Thanksgiving Table from If The Saddle Fits
I am focusing more on bathroom renovations than I am on dinner table decorations but I loooooove these!

Motivate Me Wednesday; How to stop being a people pleaser from Viva Carlos
This is really, really good.

DIY: Dyeing a Saddle from The $900 Facebook Pony

Things You Should Never Take for Granted as a Rider from The Legal Equestrian
...what. Not only would I not take these things for granted, I doubt I will ever do any of them even once. Maybe #4, but not likely in a horse that I own.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Small Victories

Some months ago, I found a really nice Goretex insulated barn jacket on clearance at SmartPak. I examined every inch and determined that the zipper was broken: it no longer had a retaining box at the bottom to stop it from opening up again once it was zipped. I was willing to live with that for the great price - it was a style of coat I really wanted.

I have started wearing it in past weeks, as it got colder. First I thought I would just leave it unzipped. That did not work. Then I thought I could use a safety pin to hold the bottom closed once zipped. That did not hold up to the rigors of riding.

Then I thought I would have it fixed, but the sewing shop I have used for small things in the past said it was unfixable, and I would have to replace the zipper at a cost of 2x what I paid for the coat. No thanks.

So I bought a zipper repair kit, and spent about 30 minutes Googling and thinking and trying different things. The end result? I added a second zipper clincher (the thing that actually moves up and down) to the bottom of the zipper. So now I can unzip it from the bottom if I want (like if I want more freedom of movement in the saddle) or leave it down, and it will stay zipped.

The zipper kit cost $10, I paid $40 for the jacket, and it retails for $279 right now. I call that a win!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reminder: Giveaway of Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill


If you haven't yet entered to win this awesome book, don't delay - enter today.

It's an awesome book chock-full of useful information. And who doesn't love a free book?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


So I was going gangbusters for a while there, and I not right now. I'm not coping terribly well with my life. My usual coping skills are frayed and taut, or I am not giving enough attention to them. I have so many balls in the air I am honestly not sure how many there are, much less what color and shape they are - and when they'll come down.

Case in point: I wrote a stack of cards, some of them with payment of bills. I addressed them. I put stamps on them. I carried them in my purse for 3 days to mail.

I have no idea what happened to them next. Literally no idea. I cannot place a memory of them, and I cannot find them. I assumed that I had mailed them in a fugue state until I checked my bank balances and the money was still there. Shit. Cue emails and apologies. I will double-pay the farrier on Friday. I will re-mail another payment. I will re-write the card to my friend who moved away.

Moments like that terrify me, because what else am I not thinking of? I run over and over and over the things I need to do and check on, and add to my lists, and review my lists from last week and yesterday, and hope that I've got it all, and that I haven't screwed up any of the important things.

Which is a long way of saying I'm tired. I have family coming for Thanksgiving and a bathroom in pieces and I have to rip up part of the attic floor to try and get the upstairs bathroom functional and I have to shampoo my carpets because the dog decided for a few days to forget she was housebroken and I have to find a turkey and I have to plan everything and finish unpacking the library so there's somewhere for my brother to sleep and and.

What does this have to do with horses? Well, I was late to work this morning because I woke up and it was 18 degrees and I ran around getting things ready for the handyman to work on the bathroom this morning and fretted about the cat and then I realized that Tristan's medium blanket was still in the back of my car. So I dropped the dog off at daycare and then dropped Tristan's blanket off at the barn and was late to work. It's ok though I'll be here until 9pm today!

Last night, I did get to the barn and free longed Tristan for a while, which was not his favorite thing, and soaked one of his feet because he's been having some thrush problems. He was spunky and a little grumpy about not having had his grain yet, but overall it was good to fuss over him for a while.

I'm happy with his general condition right now, though I would like more muscle; he's in good flesh and overall happy and healthy.

Pony JAIL. They never feed him, clearly.

We never feed this one, either. Her life is really hard. She did not believe me when I told her she was going to daycare today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

3 Things I (Re) Learn Every Time I Drop Stirrups

Happy No Stirrup November, everyone! I am not fully participating in the festivities for a variety of reasons that mostly boil down to, I can't always do the work I need to with Tristan without stirrups, at least not right now.

I am, however, trying to do 15-20 minutes of quality schooling work within each ride without stirrups. When I dropped them for the first time last week it had been quite a while since I'd purposefully schooled without stirrups. I ride without a saddle all the time, but am rarely working in trot or canter when I do that.

So I started thinking about all the things that change on me when I drop stirrups and try to be productive.

1. I ride some things better and some things worse.

With stirrups, I am far better at riding and improving the trot than the canter.

When I drop stirrups, my trot abilities go by the wayside, and I am magically much better at sitting deep and properly using my core to lift up in the canter.

My up transitions are better without stirrups; my down transitions are better with stirrups.

The walk is a toss up, since I ride that so often both ways.

I am better at encouraging and correcting for straightness in Tristan without stirrups and am just more sensitive to tipping or weighting one hind leg over the other.

On the other hand, I am much better at putting together a cohesive, planned ride with stirrups.

2. I am somehow always surprised by the journey I go through with my muscle groups.

It always starts out with me tensing my hip flexors as I try to go a little bit fetal.

Then, as I learn to let go of those - usually just as they're getting a little sore or tweaked - I re-re-re-realize how much more deeply I need to engage my core. So I go down that route.

Then I re-learn just exactly what engaging my core means, usually about the time I've given myself a nice little side cramp from holding my breath and/or letting my lower back muscles slack off.

Somewhere in there I also go through a slump/straighten cycle with my shoulders and neck, and a round under/straighten up cycle with my pelvis as I work to follow Tristan's movement without jarring him.

3. Tristan is not an easy horse to ride without stirrups, but he is a saint.

Tris needs a lot of leg. He needs to be sharpened off the aids early and often. His default is to slam his shoulders around and get thick and heavy and difficult to steer when he's not thrilled with what's going on. His gaits have never really been smooth (though in his defense they are not dramatically choppy, either). So that means that I have to make trade-offs in what I want to accomplish with him versus myself when I'm riding without stirrups.

On the other hand, if I am fair to him and warm him up properly, soften his back a bit, and then start to work without stirrups? He'll tolerate my flailing around all day long. If I get too badly off-balance, he pulls up automatically. He gets very worried about me when I'm clearly not coping well. He'll truck along and take the joke all day long, and often, once I've got my feel and my rhythm and my balance nailed, he gives me big lovely sweeping on the bit trots because he's just glad I finally connected my damn core through my seat.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Trying a new thing with these blog roundups: a bit of audience input & interaction at the same time. So, here's this week's poll before our blog links. I'll try to keep on top of giving results at the end of next week's blog links, and so on.

I'm going to cheat a bit and put my own giveaway at the top to remind you it's going on, so:
Giveaway: Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill

Accident-Prone Humor from Guinness on Tap
Yep, I laughed. HORSES.

What Do We Owe Our Horses Part I & Part II from DIY Horse Ownership
Really, really good and an important conversation to have.

Five Things I Learned Scribing at a Dressage Show from Hand Gallop
YES! I love scribing, and I do it whenever I get a chance. I have found all of these things to be completely true.

1K Facebook Fan Giveaway from If the Saddle Fits
This is a Serious Giveaway, you guys. Wow.

Eventers Wit' Attitude from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management
I laughed pretty darn hard at these.

Event Recap: Myopia Fall Hunter Pace from The Maggie Memoirs

On Elderly Horses from Hand Gallop

Caring for deep thrush - in pictures from Wyvern Oaks
Really, really interesting and a useful photo essay.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Disney Horses: Maximus from Tangled

I am not nearly into Disney as much as some people are into Disney, but I love me a Disney movie. We just watched Tangled again and I thought about all the great horses that have been featured in Disney animated films over the years and I thought: this needs to be recapped.

So, we begin with Maximus from Tangled, arguably one of the best of the lot.

We meet Maximus for the first time as a determined mount for the Captain of the Guard chasing Flynn Rider. He ditches the captain pretty quickly and enters into his own pursuit. His facial expressions are amazing and I'm most impressed at the way he still moves (mostly) like a real horse, despite being way more anthropomorphic than the average cartoon horse.

He quickly develops into a strong personality, taking his role as a guard horse very seriously and pursuing Flynn with determination, grit, and real anger. His actions are played as hilarious but the movie clearly respects him and just lets him be awesome. Even though you're supposed to sympathize with Flynn and Rapunzel, if you're a horse person, you're secretly (or not so secretly!) rooting for Maximus all along.

Eventually, he teams up with the heroes. He hates Flynn until pretty much the last few minutes of the movie, but he warms up to Rapunzel all unicorn-like. (Or maybe you're supposed to think that since he's a palace horse he somehow recognizes that she's the princess?)

But eventually he and Flynn are BFFs, and they are a fun sort of odd couple. Law&order and the rascal, but they have Rapunzel in common.

Usually Disney horses are helpmates, even if they've got cool personalities, but one of the fun things about Maximus is that he has his own agenda and he's often better at his job than the humans who surround him. (You get the sense that he just puts up with most of them in order to do his job better; does that sounds like any driven sporthorses to you?)

Fun fact: Maximus is also Disney's first - and so far, only - computer-animated horse.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Clipping Update: My Little Rebel

Remember I asked for ideas about what geeky thing I should clip onto my horse's butt, My Little Pony style? There were some awesome suggestions, and I mulled them all over.

Being not in the slightest bit artistic, it needed to be something I could transfer easily to a piece of cardboard to create a pattern. I thought and I thought and then I figured it out.


Why yes, my poor long-suffering little mustang is now a member of the Rebel Alliance. (The husband cracked a joke about "Roan Squadron," proving that he actually does pay attention to horse vocabulary sometimes. We then spent a solid 10 minutes reciting dialogue, which I suppose is one of the reasons we're married.)

I am so insanely thrilled with how it turned out. It's not perfect by a long shot, but damn, it looks so cool.

Here was my process, in case you're curious.

It took some finagling, especially since my clippers are not the sharpest, and Tristan had to be convinced to stand still and within the range of the cord of the clippers while all the other horses were being grained. About an hour start to finish, all things considered, including cutting out the pattern.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and probably will keep this design touched up through the winter!