Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gang Aft Agley

Man, June has been one long rolling disaster in terms of horse time. Either I'm working insane hours, out of town, or, well.

So, back up. A week ago, I had it on my schedule to longe Tris, but there were lessons in the indoor. Given his continuing shithead behavior in the outdoor, I dragged my feet, but the lessons ran super long and eventually I just said screw it and went up to the outdoor.

He was, predictably, an ass. He spent the first solid 15 minutes galloping around, and then when he realized he was attached to me, he did several circuits of a 20m circle bucking and squealing and kicking out.

But he settled in nicely, and gave me some really good work.

I took him back to the barn and hosed him down thoroughly in the wash stall. He hasn't yet exhibited any Cushings-related heat intolerance, but I am neurotically careful in this weather, so he only gets worked into a light sweat, walked out thoroughly, and hosed down ASAP.

While hosing him down, I discovered that he had somehow taken a nick out of his LF - right on the back of the leg, just above the fetlock, directly on top of the tendon. I was a bit nervous, but he had to have done it in his initial flailing around and continued quite sound. There was no swelling, the wound was clean, and I'd used apple cider vinegar to help rinse the sweat off, and he hadn't reacted to it at all. So I wrapped it with Corona and a little bit of vet wrap to keep it clean. Friday, there was still no heat or swelling or any indication of unsoundness, so I rode for ~20 minutes in miserable humid heat, and when he was done covered it in Swat.

I came out on Sunday to find localized heat and swelling and to find him off at the walk and the trot - more like slightly stabby with that LF than truly off.

I grant you that it's not exactly a fat leg, but you can see it best on the bottom picture - mostly to the inside, just above the fetlock. His fetlocks tend to hold fluid anyway, so checking on it was a lot of comparison to the other leg, not to a perfect leg. You can't even see the cut with the way the shade is falling - it's maybe 1/4" around. TINY.

Since then, I've been cold-hosing, doing standing wraps overnight, and doing a light vetwrap during the day to keep it covered. It's been going down steadily. My gut says it was actually a reaction to the Swat more than anything - when that thought occurred to me, I looked at the container, and while I couldn't find an expiration date, it had a label on for a tack shop I haven't visited in at least 7 years. So...yeah. That prompted me to clean out my tack trunk very thoroughly and throw the Swat - among other things - away.

The fashion statement known as "somehow my mom arrived at the barn with only one black standing wrap."

In the bigger picture: this was totally my fault, and totally preventable.

I've known for a few weeks now that Tristan is moving bigger and bigger. That's a good thing! That's what we're working toward! I've put polos on him for his lessons for precisely this reason, and in the back of my mind I thought I should pull his splint boots out of storage for other work. I had not yet gotten around to it (part of my brain was engaged in some magical thinking about buying him some nicer Majyk Equipe boots rather than the $10 Dover specials I own right now, stupid brain).

I've pulled the boots out now (they were neatly packed away with his bell boots, my medical armband, and my XC gloves in a neat little XC box in my traveling tack trunk, sob) and he'll wear them as soon as he goes back in work - which I hope to be this afternoon, fingers crossed, with a long walk and some trot to see how he feels.

Fuck June, anyway. I'd like to get back on some semblance of a real schedule, now.

Monday, June 26, 2017

One Pole Exercises

Tristan is both a) lazy and b) weak in his hind end action, both the hock and the stifle. He would happily drag toes all day long, and it's not at all uncommon for him to stumble even in the midst of going beautifully. In the space of one breath, he decides it's just toooooooo much work to pick his feet up, and he almost bites it.

Like many a horse with a less than ideal hind end, he really benefits from good work over poles. What's more, he likes it. Poles are a nice, straightforward challenge for him. He can figure them out, and get a sense of accomplishment from them.

How much would I love to set up full grids regularly, ride complicated zigzag patterns, jump off repeatedly and adjust striding to get exactly what I want? So much. How tired am I at the end of the long work day, before I've even looked at a pole, much less picked one up to set up a grid? SO TIRED.

Over the years, I've worked out a number of exercises to do with just a handful of poles at a time, and I thought I'd start sharing them here.

Today: what can you do with just one pole?

So many things!

Use it as a target
- Put it in the middle of the ring, perpendicular to either the center line or a quarter line, and count strides to it. Add more strides. Add fewer strides. Imagine it's a jump and nail down the exact feel and timing of coming up to it. Visualize where each hoof will land for an ideal bouncy step over the pole. Do this at the walk, trot, and canter.
- Put it in a corner, diagonal to the corner of the ring itself. Aim for different parts of the pole depending on how deep or shallow you want to make your corner. Use the pole as the target for bending, and if you're like me and have a constant death grip on the inside rein, use the poll as your target for your release.
- Put it on the quarter line, running right along the quarter line, at E or B. There's your target for leg yields off the rail, right up to the side of the pole, then straight down the quarter line or back to the wall.

Use it as an imaginary wall
- If you have a horse that rushes fences, pretend it's a brick wall. Trot up to it and then walk the last stride. Or trot up to it and HALT, right before it.
- How's your turn on the forehand? And haunches? Try setting the poll perpendicular to the wall and asking for just a quarter turn, instead, then go back. Or put it by itself in the middle of the room and take away the mental crutch of the wall, just using the poll as your starting point.
- Now imagine it's a half wall, and put your horse's front feet on one side and back feet on the other. Sidepass down it, keeping it in the middle. Try some shoulders-in. Try some haunches-in. The pole will keep you honest and not squirting out forward or rocking back.

Use it for precision
- Walk up to it. Put one foot over. Now the next. Now the next. Do this in hand for a horse that needs to learn patience in taking one step forward at the time. ("Step up" is one of the most useful things I've ever taught Tristan, who is a reluctant trailer loader at the best of times.) Do this under saddle for a horse who fumbles his way into and out of square halts.
- Put it on a circle, wherever you want. Ride a circle that hits the inside of the pole; then the middle; then the edge. That's roughly 10m, 15m, and 20m. (If you want to be extra precise, you can measure this out.)
- Ride circles around the pole: make two edges of the circle touch the ends of the pole. Do tiny, tight, figure 8s over the pole. Do longer but steeper figure 8s.

Use it as a quick tune up
- Put it anywhere in the ring, and use it as a diagnostic. How's your rhythm? How's your seat? Does your horse need to be pushed, or kept steady? Did you almost get bounced out of the saddle? Did nothing change?
- Not for everyone, but: is your horse refusing to listen? Send him over the pole. If he's more focused on resisting you than his own feet, he'll have something to pay attention to pretty quick. (Note: don't try this one with a horse that's truly acting up or truly oblivious; horses can still fall from just one pole.) But a horse that just needs an outside reminder real quick? It can be a great teaching moment.
- Put the pole back while leading your horse, OR ground tie your horse while putting the pole away. Both are important skills to learn and can and should be reinforced at every possible opportunity.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

House Post: Spring Cleaning

Now that it's officially summer, I thought I'd review my spring cleaning list. I still have some items to clear up, but I've done pretty well so far.

- empty garage of all trash
- cut up shelving unit
- get garden bed ready for planting
- clean gutters
- organize linen closet
- clean dryer vent
- wash all window sills
- put together 1 bag of cloths to donate
- swap out winter clothes for spring/summer clothes
- polish bedroom floor
- clean out pantry
- tidy laundry area
- clean all ceiling fans
- switch over ceiling fan directions
- clean kitchen cabinets
- wash & pack away winter coats
- wash & iron all curtains

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Blog Links

Meet Arya from The Feral Red Horse
Obviously I'm biased in favor of the name, but this is a lovely mare and I'm excited to see where she goes.

OTTBS for Science from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
I can't be the only one who always wants to put an exclamation point after science!, right?

Um, anyway. This is a super cool project and I can't wait to hear results.

Barn Dogs from The Owls Approve
I have more or less given up on making my own dog a barn dog but I live in hope, and in the meantime avidly read posts like this one, about the process of making barn dogs.

Into the land of shiny big belt buckles: PONY'TUDE goes Western from PONY'TUDE
This is a foreign country to me and I am baffled and fascinated.

Four from Pony Express
This post makes me think simultaneously "this is so cool! it's so much fun to see horses grow up to be awesome" and also "fuck, I'm old."

Resistol RideSafe Helmet Review & Giveaway from Saddle Seeks Horse
It's about time the Western disciplines started getting helmet-savvy. I hope this takes off.

Big Star Offspring @ Bolesworth from Equestrian at Hart
I always enjoy breeding tracking posts like this because it's a world I know nothing about. I've known some very fancily-bred horses but my own is obviously a bargain basement mutt.

2017 Show Gear from The $900 Facebook Pony
The subtitle of this weekly blog roundup might as well be "no gear post left unlinked."

5 Things I've Learned Owning a Small Farm from Hand Gallop
I know the work is neverending, but this is still the dream.

Reconsidering Pentosan from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management
I've had Tristan on Pentosan for a few years with good results, and this is a good research roundup & review of the thought process of starting Pentosan.

Costs of keeping horses at home vs. boarding horses from Hand Gallop
I love this kind of granular detail. It really makes me want horses at home now.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston

Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston
by David Cruise & Alison Griffiths

If you've read Marguerite Henry's Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West, then you have some passing familiarity with the story of the American mustangs and with Velma Johnston, the Nevadan housewife who made it her personal crusade to save them.

If that's all you've read about the preservation battle behind the mustang, then you've only got a quarter of the story. This book is a superb way to get the rest of it.

Velma Johnston was born in small-town Reno, Nevada. Stricken with polio at an early age, she grew up solitary, smart, and driven. She spent her entire life in pain from post-polio syndrome and facing a world that judged her harshly for the hunched back and misshapen face that polio left behind.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is its unflinching, compassionate look into Velma's life, achieved through a deep dive into her personal papers - tens of thousands of pages of letters, primarily. The Velma you get to know through this book would have initially said she was happiest as a successful executive secretary to the owner of a real estate business and a ranch wife.

The trajectory of her life changed when she followed a truck dripping blood to discover that it was full of badly injured and dying mustangs. She and her husband Charlie were gradually drawn into a life of activism as they started finding and releasing mustangs that had been rounded up for dog food, then networking to stop roundups before they started. Soon, Velma was the central figure in a widening campaign to ban mustang roundups by airplane.

The book doesn't shy away from the cruelties inflicted on mustangs, and it does a good job of dispassionately presenting the various arguments for and against the mustang. It's perhaps a bit light on the history of the mustangs (a little more time spent on parsing the difference between "wild" and "feral," and the different emotional weights to each, would have given context to one of the main points of disagreement between mustang activists and cattle men), but gives a pretty decent overview of the ecological challenges of the Western ranges.

As someone who knew the broad outlines of the story, I found this telling of it to be superb. It was tightly and engagingly written, well-researched, and had a strong narrative and tight focus on Velma herself. Nor did it shy away from Velma's failings and character flaws, particularly in her dealings with photographer Gus Bundy and then in her relationship with Marguerite Henry (which began warmly but grew overly emotional and difficult). The section dealing with Henry was actually one of the best in the book, since it allowed both for a grounding of the broader story and for a reflection on Velma's life and character.

While it presents both sides fairly, the book can probably be said to have a point of view that is pro-mustang. The Bureau of Land Management doesn't come off terribly well, though all of the most damning material is simple statements of fact and quotes from BLM officials. (The authors acknowledge this in a note at the end.)

University of Reno - Nevada, Special Collections
Ultimately, the last chapter after Velma's death is the most unsatisfying; she passed away just in the midst of the architecture of wild horse management as we know it today, with its inherent contradictions and fatal flaws. It's especially depressing because she fought for a comprehensive scientific range management from the start, and never saw that urgently needed piece of the puzzle realized. Without thoughtful, objective study, it was inevitable that we get to the place we are now, where no one can even agree on the number of mustangs in the West, much less how they actually use the range and how to effectively balance the needs of the flora and fauna.

In that last chapter, Cruise & Griffiths bring the fight quickly up to date and touch on the process of adoption and the regular Congressional attempts to round up mustangs for slaughter again. They also point out how deeply unsatisfying Velma herself would've found the holding pen system, in which thousands of mustangs are rounded up and simply transferred from the range and pastured on private land, paid for by tax dollars.

Despite its muddy ending, this is a really terrific book. I'm very picky about my narrative nonfiction: the writing has to be good, the interpretation deft, and the research solid. This ticks all of those boxes. I generally have even less patients for topics I already have a background in, but this holds up to that test as well. I genuinely couldn't put it down.

If you're looking for a thoughtful read about horses and history, I strongly recommend this. If you want to understand more about mustangs and how we've reached this point in our national discourse about them, it's essential reading.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

House Post: Basement Insulation!

This is a project that has been looming pretty much since the day we bought the house. It's also a HUGE step forward in building out our garage. I'm super excited it finally is done, though it is far from the sexiest or most exciting project we've done.

Essentially, we got 6" of spray foam insulation in one garage & underneath the future man cave, and 1" of air-sealing insulation in one garage & the root cellar.

The 6" of insulation will serve as both an air barrier and as proper insulation. The 1" will be our vapor & air barrier to prevent moisture from migrating up to the sealed off house above as well as providing an extra level of air sealing to keep nasty things like carbon monoxide from the cars from getting into our living room.

I've agonized for months, maybe even years, over just how to structure this so that it meets our needs, gets us the best results for keeping the house warm in the winter, and doesn't bankrupt us. The original attic insulation project was $12,000, done with money leftover from the purchase. For this project, we got an extremely low-interest loan designed specifically for energy efficiency projects and our projected cost is $4,000.

I'm thrilled so far. We're one huge step closer to completing the garage, and we've made a huge dent in the overall comfort level of the house in winter.



The downside: remember all that basement organization I was so proud of? Well...we had to move everything out of the other rooms so they didn't get foam dripped on them, and...


I'm not too upset: a big part of the reorganization was making sure everything had its right place, and now the work will just be in putting things back. Time-consuming, but not nearly as onerous as organizing in the first place.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Your links roundup for weekend reading! As a reminder, if you want these in your email inbox, sign up here.

Avoid This Dangerous Donut in Saddle from Saddle Seeks Horse
It never occurred to me that this could happen, and I'm going to be thinking about it going forward for sure. It's always amazing how horses find new ways to try and kill us or themselves.

Cavaletti Building from Equestrian at Hart
These look terrific, and the photographs were especially helpful! Cavaletti are so incredibly useful, and it's good to have at least a few pairs around.

Ponies Coming Home: The Realization of a Dream from Stampy and the Brain
I can't even put into words how jealous I am. I've loved watching the progress photos of this barn coming together; here's the happy ending!

Saddlebox Giveaway from The South Dakota Cowgirl

Blog Hop: Favorite Exercises from The $900 Facebook Pony
Great idea for a blog hop - I'll probably write something out soon.

Guess What Breed Our Mustangs Are & Mustang DNA Report from DIY Horse Ownership
I've always wanted to do this for Tristan - so cool!

Hula Hoop or Belly Dance from Not So Speedy Dressage
I had never thought of following the canter this way, but I love it!

Bitting Up from PONY'TUDE
I've done it, and written about it. But I'm always curious to see other philosophies.

Heart of Texas Working Equitation Series Show #3 - 5/20-5/21 from The Reeling
This is so freaking cool. I'd love to try this someday.

Economic Case Study: TB v WB v OTTB from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
This is REALLY interesting, and a vector of analysis I'd never thought about before.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blog Hop: If your horse were a drink...

My life has been such that I have only put hands on my horse once in the last seven days, but when I arrived last night to pet him on the nose before getting back to work, my luck was in: the farrier was just pulling him out of his stall! It was really great to chat with him about how Tristan's feet are doing, and about life in general, because he's a really nice guy.

While we were finishing up, I remarked that Tristan's face was zoned out in way that made me remark that he was on a sunny beach somewhere, sipping a fruity drink with an umbrella in it - off in his happy place, basically, ignoring the idiots around him.

The barn manager happened to be walking by. "No way," she said. "He's not a fruity drink horse. But what would he be drinking?"

"Straight vodka," was my prompt (and not terribly kind) response.

"Something a little bit classier, but also sassy," the barn manager suggested. "Whisky, or scotch?"

"Whiskey sour!" I hit on immediately.

That was an instant success. Barn manager said that when he's behaving in a lesson, using his hind end and all packaged together, he's a whiskey sour in a nice tumbler etched with his monogram. When he's bolting hell bent for leather and running into the curb chain on his kimberwicke, he's poured out the kind of whiskey you need the sour mix to disguise, and bolting it down out of a red solo cup.

We've decided that naming drinks for all the horses in the barn will make an excellent future game for long winter days.

So now I put it to you all.

If your horse were an alcoholic drink, what would it be?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

House Post: Garage Cleanout

This is not going to seem nearly as exciting via blog post as it actually is in person.

When we gutted the man cave room, it created a LOT of trash. On top of other trash that had accumulated from various projects around the house, and we hadn't exactly kept on top of major dump runs.

Through the winter (while the truck is parked, because it's 2WD), we stashed it in the extra garage.

It took four truckloads to finally get it all to the dump; keep in mind, my truck is a 3/4 ton with an 8' bed. There was A LOT of trash.

This photo was taken halfway through: so two loads down, two to go.

And here it is, finished. The trash bags in the front contain asbestos tiles that we pulled out of another part of the house and carefully bagged up. They'll go to hazardous waste disposal ASAP. In the meantime, they are double-bagged and sealed and we do not touch them.

Tomorrow, we have a contractor coming to start what is probably the biggest of our summer projects: insulating & finishing off the basement.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

There was enough interest last week in having these roundups as an email that I've gone ahead and created a list. Sign up below if you're interested. Weekly roundup emails will include the blog posts linked in this post, as well as some additional content, and they'll be sent out at noon each Saturday. Next week will be the first one.

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Jolene and Her Trailer from In Omnia Paratus
I love a good love story, and the best love stories feature trucks.

Trail Riding at Horseshoe Bend from A Collection of Madcap Escapades
Dom always does a superb job of recapping her trail rides, with thoughtful commentary & great photos.

Wedding Photos from The Exquisite Equine
Gorgeous photos on a farm, with horses!

Buying a Baby from Pony Express
It's never been my ambition to raise a baby (human OR equine) so I found this fascinating & full of things I had never thought about before.

Custom Portable Drying Rack: Another SB Blog Non-Crafty DIY from Sprinkler Bandit
I laughed really, really hard.

Gear Post: 2017 Edition from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
I could read gear posts all day, every day, especially when they're as good as this one.

Epic Blogger Meetup and Winery Ride from DIY Horse Ownership

Kaitlyn Karssen Photography: Houston B from Equestrian at Hart
Jaw-droppingly gorgeous photography.

Transformation...Wednesday: The Conformation and Color from A Enter Spooking
Count me in the camp that wishes grays would stay that way forever. This is a very cool photo progression.

Viva Carlos Book Review: The Natural Rider by Mary Wanless from Viva Carlos
This sounds fascinating.

Temperament vs Rideability from The $900 Facebook Pony
I'm torn on this. I do tend to think there's a link between a horse's basic way of presenting to the world and how easy they are to train, but I don't think it's a direct, straightforward connection. I'll have to think about this a lot more.

Fungus Leg from Poor Woman Showing
I know I'm not the only one who is fascinated by injury/illness progression posts.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2017 Goals: May Recap

Previously, I set horse goals and life goals. April was an abysmal failure. Was May any better? A bit.

January Recap
February Recap
March Recap
April Recap

Horse Goals - original post here

1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week - Other than 8 days off when I was traveling, I did great at this. I'm starting to turn the screws and challenge him physically and mentally in some longer dressage schools, and I'm ramping up his fitness work.

2. Be less perfunctory - decent! not great.

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows - I will almost certainly not make any dressage shows this year due to work schedule, so I am trying to re-orient my thinking. I may do a test during a lesson. We're definitely attacking pieces of First Level (!) and confirming Training stuff like keeping our damn head down in the canter.

4. Take more lessons - May, check! Scheduling June soon.

5. Horse-specific income stream / funding emergency fund - Still on the struggle bus, especially since after the truck's transmission went in April, my daily driver CRV went to get its summer tires on and came back with new brakes all around. So the emergency fund took another hit. But I've written out my path back to solvency, the credit card will be paid off soon, and I've started chipping back away at those savings accounts.

6. Do more thoughtful work - Slowly clawing my way back to this. I've been doing a lot of writing things out especially for the craft things I'm making, and trying out new ways of thinking related to those that's proving to be an interesting exercise for my brain.

7. Get more media - I took some pictures? Still none of me.

Life Goals - original post here

1. Pay off car - yup, still on track

2. Read 75 books - 39/75

A slower month because I read one big bit and only a few smaller ones.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
After Atlas by Emma Newman
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

3. Revive history blogs - lololololol nope x2

4. Do better about food - Other than the trip to Texas, I did great at this. And you know what? I also did pretty well in Texas. I ate a lot but I hit the gym a lot, walked a lot, and stuck to logging what I ate and generally making smart choices about portions and carbs. End result? I ate what I wanted and after 5 days of eating out and a wedding, I stayed the same weight. Now that I have my kitchen back, and control of my entire production this will go even better. I think at this point - knock wood - I can consider my habits well and truly changed.

5. Decorate the house - I reorganized the library, and it does look dramatically better, though it's not strictly speaking "decorated."