Thursday, March 31, 2016


Yesterday, for the first time in 2016, four things lined up: it wasn't raining (or snowing), it had not done either of those things in the last few days and the footing was good, I got out of work before dark, and the temperature was above 45.

So, we headed up to the outdoor arena for our first outdoor schooling of the season.

My goal for this one was primarily "don't die." Tristan tends to be a total ass for our first few rides outside in the season. He's both excited to be outside and angry to be working so far away from the barn and his stall. There are plenty of distractions.

this view never gets old

He feels a little bit like riding a wonky bottle rocket, honestly. All that fizz but no clear focus or direction. And since he's so rarely like this, I always struggle to manage it in the way that's best for him.

We ended up walking for the first 15 minutes, until he started to relax, blow out, and hold less tension along his back. Then we picked up a trot with the same goal, gradually adding in circles and diagonals. I picked up the bit, but only enough to feel it and let him know I was here and ready to start to steer.

We picked up a canter for a little bit, which was really more straight up and down than actually workmanlike. Plus, it had that edge of potential bolt at any moment, especially directed toward the barn. But I picked it up and put it down a few times to confirm that I did, in fact, have control of him with my core and my seat and the reins, and then we were done.

I was riding way more defensively than I would have liked, but I got the job done nonetheless.

Tristan was less than pleased with the whole endeavour, of course.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

None of the words I have are good, so here, have some picspam of my last week or so.

(the cat would not let her share the water bowl, with much hissing for emphasis)

(i am a pro at conformation shots that make my horse look absolutely awful)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring 2016 Vaccinations

Previously, in 2014, I did a quick table of the vaccines that Tristan usually gets. It's changed a lot over the years.

So what did he get this year?

Some things are standard: rabies, flu/rhino, and Eastern/Western/Tetanus, West Nile.

In the past, I noted that he got strangles at the discretion of the vet and the barn. This year, we passed on the strangles vaccine because there's a pregnant mare in the barn, and there were concerns about the live virus vaccination. My barn takes biosecurity very seriously, which is a thing that I appreciate and support, so no strangles until after the foal arrives - and maybe not even then. We won't be traveling much.

Tris will get Potomac and a flu/rhino booster in the fall as usual.

One new development this year is that my vet noted that she now has a Lyme vaccine available, but did not recommend it for Tris this year. We haven't had many ticks in this part of Vermont, and in fact I've never pulled one off Tris at this barn. I have definitely done so at previous barns! I've emailed her and asked for more information, since I didn't realize it was available for horses yet.

Last year, Tris had some mild reactions to his vaccines, and this year the vet gave him some banamine alongside his vaccines. He was still quite sluggish for our ride the next night. An interesting new development for him, as he'd never previously been a horse to react in any way - even having all his vaccines on the same day with zero stiffness in his neck. Age, I guess!

Are you opting for anything different in terms of vaccination this year?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

House Post: Front Entryway

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the front entryway. Some of the wallpaper was peeling, so I tugged it. I truly had no intention of making it a project for the day, but - I started and it came off so easily that I couldn't stop. 

Because this is what was underneath the wallpaper.

It's damaged and faded, but SO beautiful. I cannot fathom the decision to cover it up with floral wallpaper. I just can't.

We'll see if it survives. I emailed pictures to a paintings conservator. I have only the bare bones of the education and skill it would take to restore it, but perhaps with some guidance we can bring it back. Here's the worst part of it - the paint came off with the wallpaper. I was so over eager I just pulled. But on the flip side - if I had steamed it, the paint probably would have been more badly damaged.

So: the house holds surprises still!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Coggins Forms Online!

O, what a fascinating modern world we live in.

I got this email the evening after Tristan's first round of spring shots.

Here's what the link got me.

My previous Coggins is in there as well, but I have zero memory of having access to it, and had to set up a new account this year, so I think I just got emailed a PDF before.

This is freaking awesome. I always scanned my Coggins certificates so I would have them in the cloud in case I lost or forgot it. We've come a long way from those carbon copies in triplicate!

Does your vet do something like this, or are you still getting handwritten copies?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tristan is Ron Swanson

So there was a blog hop thingy going around a little while ago and I skipped it because I had zero inspiration and also, lately, zero time to write. (I am in a funk where I get home and I collapse onto the couch and stare zombie-like at the TV while eating dinner, then read in bed. None of this is conducive to blogging, though lots of riding is getting done. More than you needed to know. ANYWAY.)

Then Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony posted that her Henry is April Ludgate and I figured it out!

Tristan is Ron Swanson.

He is the most stoic horse in the barn.

He has a really extraordinary capability for completely zoning out and ignoring everything around him.

Food is his reason for living.

Everything, literally everything, has to be his idea first.

This is his first reaction to literally every question I ever ask him.

He is really independent to the point of almost actively antisocial in the field.

But when he settles in and decides on something, he is ON.

So, yeah. I own the equine version of Ron Swanson.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My horse is a saint, part eleventy billion

First story:

A few weeks ago, I was tacking up in Tristan's stall and dropped the saddle pad. It was covered in shavings when I picked it up, so I shook it out, hard, putting a good snap into the end to get the last of them off. In the stall. Right next to Tristan. The last snap was maybe an inch from his belly.

He flinched in place then turned his head to GLARE at me, every line of his face saying "You are so damn lucky that I'm your horse and not 99% of the rest of horses."

Honestly, I didn't even think about it, not for a split second. I just did it and knew he'd be fine.

Fast forward to last Thursday, when we did a dressage school. Everything went splendidly, and in the last ten minutes or so I picked him back up to work on our walk-canter transitions. The walk collected nicely, and then I started putting some jump in it.

Then I asked for the canter, and all hell broke loose. He flailed with legs in all directions, cow-kicked out behind when I put my outside leg on, raised his head to the sky in his best giraffe impression and then shook it, hard. When he stuttered into a canter it was tense, bracing, and wholly terrible. I must have tried a dozen transitions and they were all like that, some worse than others, but none of them even marginally acceptable.

I ended up trying to salvage the moment with a few semi-clean (but still not good) trot-canter transitions, and then cooled him out while regretting my entire life. I texted Hannah and whined about ruining everything, I thought again about having the vet do a lameness eval when she comes out for spring shots. You name it, I went through the depressed rider's toolkit over and over again.

Then I got off and turned to pick up his hind leg to pick out his foot.

Oh. OH.

That is not the Back on Track quick wrap. That's a hock boot. Around his fetlock. It had probably been there for a while.

Hence the angry flailing.

How many horses would have limited themselves to angry flailing only when asked for a walk-canter transition if they had a hock boot flapping around their fetlock the entire time?


Sunday, March 20, 2016

House Post: Kitchen Renovation Begins!

Our kitchen is actually in terrific shape. It's one of the things that sold us (well, me) on the house. It's spacious, thoughtfully laid out for its space, has tons of cabinet space, and everything in it is quality, from the cabinets to the appliances.

That said: it's still pretty outdated.

Here are the pictures from the real estate ads.

The last is a close up of the wallpaper border. Yeah.

What the kitchen needs, over the long term: new paint, new counters, new floor, new hardware on the cabinets, patching the holes in the ceiling, new curtains over the sink windows, and a new microwave over the oven. Luckily that's all cosmetic, the kitchen is perfectly functional in the meantime, and it can be done in slow, small pieces over the next few years.

So last weekend was the first small step: removing the wallpaper border.



SOOOOO much better already, right?!

It does leave the walls a bit bare, so that's something to slowly figure out - how to put something of visual interest up there that fits our own design sensibilities but doesn't clutter. I have some ideas but nothing that's really landed yet.

In the meantime, I'm also researching new hardware and countertops. We'll probably go granite, and we have some ideas for what type of granite. It's not a next year project, that's for sure - it will probably be the final piece of the design puzzle.

I've also picked out a possible wall color and may do a test patch in the next week.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

Friday, March 18, 2016

Product Review: Bamboo FurBuster for Horses

I am a longtime user of Furminators for dog and cat. I think they're terrific at getting deep into an animal's coats and taking care of stray hair before it ends up in my dinner. (Though let's be honest everything in my life is covered in animal hair anyway.)

So when I came across this knockoff version of the Furminator specifically marketed for horses - and it was $5.50 on clearance at TJ Maxx - well, that was worth the price of admission.

ps packaging does not hold up to idiot dogs

The FurBuster comes in two parts: the handle and the blade itself. The blade was a bit tricky to get into the handle, but a little bit of wrestling and it clicked in. It has not even threatened to budge since then, so I think the tough part was worth it.

Does it work?


It really does. That was a not-too-hard pass on Tristan's shoulder. It absolutely digs pretty deep and gets up quite a bit of hair.

Next question: is it worth it? Nah.

Look, it's a great little toy. I'm not sorry I bought it to try out, and it's definitely part of my shedding arsenal now. That being said, it does have some drawbacks, and I'm not sure it performs all that much better than a good old-fashioned shedding blade.

First drawback: it clogs up pretty quickly. Because of its design, hair gets caught in the blade and stays there. Shedding blades sort of push that hair ahead of them, and you can just keep going and going and it piles up. This gets much more hair in a single pass - but you have to manually remove the hair after each pass.

Second drawback: it's not flexible. It does a great job on the large wide spaces - neck, shoulders, back, butt, etc. - but it's stiff and tough to actually get any hair off the legs.

Third drawback: it's pretty invasive. Which means Tristan loves it! My horse has never been groomed hard enough in his entire life. He loooooooves a good hard, deep curry and half falls asleep while you use this thing. I think it helps alleviate some of the itching from shedding while it pulls the hair out.

But I know that an awful lot of horses cannot handle being groomed deeply (or even at all!). This is soooooooo not the tool for those horses! They would absolutely hit the roof. It's much more invasive than a regular shedding blade - it goes deeper, it grabs more hair, and its rigid nature means that the horse's skin has to yield to it, unlike a shedding blade, which shapes around a horse's curves.

So: fun purchase in the moment, not something I'm going to recommend everyone run out and buy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Riding Notes: 5 Things

The real takeaway of my last few rides: I really need a lesson to pinpoint what I need to work on next. I'll have to see how March bills shake out first, though. :(

Anyway. We've had some really good dressage rides the last few days, and I wanted to document a few things that have gone well or that I need to work on. With pictures, because I don't want to scare you away with a giant wall o'text.

Thing the first: Hips to hands. Always. Everything about our rides goes better when I remember this one. A former trainer used to tell me that I'm really riding and managing the horse in the space between my hips and hands. When I think about that so many other things click into place: my elbows soften, my hands somehow magically come up from my lap, and I start to engage my core. It's most useful when we are almost, but not quite, at the point of collection; usually those small but crucial pieces are the ones that I'm missing, and putting them in place makes a big difference, and then lets me ride the collection much better.

Thing the second: Tristan has been flinging his shoulders more than usual in warmup. It seems to be a refusal to go into the outside rein. For example: there's a particular spot in the ring. It's one of the short sides followed by the corner to go back to the long side. About midway through the short stride, as I'm asking him to come off my inside leg, into the outside rein, to collect more and go into the corner, he flings his shoulders and nearly squashes my leg into the wall. I respond by cringing away from the wall, shifting my weight, and totally disrupting what I'm asking him to do - which, of course, was the point of his shoulder-flinging all along. He gets away scott free from having to do anything in that corner. It's purely a learned behavior at this point: he doesn't do it in any other corner, for example! He replicates it in small other ways at other points in the ride (on the open curve of a 20m circle, while getting ready for our first canter, etc.) and I need to better anticipate it, because once he's got those shoulders moving, they are going, no matter what I can do. Prevention is the name of the game.

Thing the third: I need to add more 20m circles and serpentines back into our repertoire. Those changes of bend are so, so lacking right now. A good thing to remember for walk breaks - stay on the bit, stay collected, but work on changing the bend to increase suppleness.

Thing the fourth: Trot to canter transitions are so so SOOOOO much better when we both stay straight. Like a miracle. You'd think I would remember this from day to day, but if you think that, you have infinitely more faith in my brain than it deserves.

Thing the fifth: We are pretty darn close to ready for a Training level test right now! Not a good one, but all the pieces are there once we warm up and we're capable of them. Two nights ago I did a lovely free walk long diagonal to medium walk to medium trot at A followed by the first curve of a 20m circle. Everything was on point. Now, can we put those pieces together coherently? Nooooope, not yet. That's still coming slowly, those transitions between gaits and the quality geometry. But it's coming, and the gaits themselves are feeling awesome.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

House Post: Drywall in the Basement

I know that you've all been desperately worried that things are not progressing on the house. Fear not. Still tons of work being done, still tons to do. I don't think I really understood how all-consuming home ownership is.

Last weekend, my parents visited and we did a number of projects around the house. I spent a significant chunk of time helping my dad continue to work on the wall in our basement that separates the garage space from the main basement space. It has to have 5/8" sheetrock on it to help it be fireproof so that it meets code. I guess garages are prime spaces to start fires. It will also have to be air-sealed so that noxious fumes can't get into the rest of the basement.

So the first step was actually to put a vapor barrier on the warm side of the wall - which is what you see here. My dad did this one, thankfully, because I had been sitting on it for weeks and dreading it.

Then we sheetrocked almost all of the other side. Cue lots and lots of measuring, re-measuring, and swearing. My dad insists that a really good drywall guy could've done both sides of the wall in just a few hours, but whatever. It's getting done, and the quote I got from the drywall guy was in the multiple thousands of dollars and way out of the budget.

The Monday after he left, I did those two sheets all! by! myself! Which kind of sucked but was also very validating.

Baby steps, baby steps! Next for that space: get the rest of the insulation in the ceiling, spray foam the gaps around the garage door, and then sheetrock the ceiling. Then buy & install a 90 minute fire door, and caulk along where the floor and walls of the basement meet. THEN I'll think about re-sealing the floor, and maybe by next winter I'll be able to park in my garage!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mud Season

We had a high of 64 degrees yesterday, which was the warmest it has been in MONTHS. By the time I got to the barn it was still 60 degrees. GLORIOUS.

Especially if you are a Tristan, and you got to be without a blanket for the first time since November. So much mud, so little time.

So yeah, that happened. Curry comb + shedding blade + stiff brush for a solid 20 minutes. He was a happy boy. I've never known another horse who so enjoys a deep grooming.

Our ride was actually shorter than the grooming session, because 20 minutes of moderate work in 60 degrees when you're packing that much winter hair is tough. He was warm and a touch sweaty, and panting pretty hard. His wind is still not really recovering - hence why I was thinking about the SmartBreathe. It's something that may come up with his vet at spring shots.

Other than that, though, sound as a bell and in great shape overall. Bring it on, spring!