Thursday, May 21, 2020

Happy 1st Birthday, Maizey

Earlier this month (May 12th to be exact), Maizey and I celebrated her first birthday!

Happy Birthday, Moo <3
Despite the very fresh news of her ringbone diagnosis, I was bound and determined to not let it put a damper on my ownership or excitement of her first birthday. It was really shitty for a while (and it still is), but sitting in a slump does nothing for anyone. Might as well enjoy every little milestone we can, right?

This being said, I'm pretty pleased to write that Maizey hasn't been on Previcox since mid/end April. I tapered her down to a low dose, as per the veterinarian's recommendation, and began the process of weaning her completely off of it to see how she did.

For the most part, her soundness is pretty well intact. She flutters from about 80% to (dare I say) 100% sound, and from the videos I've sent to several friends, it seems to be the general consensus. Of course, soundness at this point does not indicate soundness for the future. So again, I'm guarded and cautiously optimistic.

She is living the hard life, clearly.
That's not to say she isn't without dietary support for her ringbone - I am a believer in achieving comfort through less harsh medicine and chemicals. Of course, there is a time and place for heavy duty drugs, but I also have to consider the fact Maizey is 12 months old and will require a lifetime of support. So, best to set the body up for success while I have a chance to.

Upon her diagnosis, I went to work immediately to source any kind of remedies, tonics, tinctures, cures (ha ha ha), and followed several stories from horse owners who also have youngsters with this terrible disease (and reached out to a few in the process). Armed with the knowledge of familiar stories and my own research, I started her on a Herbs for Horses supplement which has a lot of wonderful ingredients that will do wonders for joint support (especially for her "good" leg). It is packed with hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, collagen, herring oil, glucosamine, MSM and an antioxidant blend. It took her a while to accept the weird smelling powder, but she eats it quite readily now with her very tiny amount of mash.

Always and forever sun-tanning.
I also got suckered into purchasing a set of EQU SteamZ magnetic fetlock bands. I read a few studies they did on the bands and there seems to be positive reviews from hundreds of horse owners. I figured why not, I'll give it a try. So far I haven't found any negative issues with the bands, although the first time I put them on Maizey I just about died laughing as she attempted to figure out what the heck was on her legs!

She is also on holistic and homeopathic remedies, as Nicole's mom is a huge advocate of natural healing. She asked if she could give Maizey some remedies and I found no reason not to, so I'm learning about the other side of the coin. She is on a few different mixtures at the moment, but primarily has been on calc fluor, ruta and a few others I struggle to remember. Regardless, it's been a neat way to look at treating an issue and I'm learning a lot about homeopathic treatment from her mom.

(*Please note, in no way am I replacing veterinarian medical advice with magnets and MSM - there isn't really anything anyone can do until Maizey is older, so trying out a few different options is worthwhile to me. Sitting and "waiting" is something I have never been good at, so these things give me options, and give me hope. In addition, they are recommended by quite a few others I've talked to who also have young horses with ringbone. So we will see what it brings.)

Waking up is tough to do, even when it's your birthday!
All this being said - it's very much a waiting game. I remain cautiously optimistic and continue to enjoy working with Maizey as she learns about the world.

On her birthday, I gave her her very first bath - which she was slightly nervous about but OK enough that I was able to fully bathe her without it taking several hours. I had been practicing with the hose on her leg weeks prior, and she has been exposed to cold-hosing and soaking her hoof in a tub of water... so I'd say all her ailments prepped her quite well for bathing, haha!

All clean... for about 30 minutes.
As a sidenote, I'm loving how she's maturing!
As she dried off, she got to graze a bit and we did some in hand work which she was really good for. Once she was dry enough, we got some cute little photos (without the party hat because she had a meltdown with that on her poll... oops).

We've still been doing The Things like tying, leading, picking up our feet, etc and she's done really well. Last weekend Nicole and I went for a ride and she ponied Maizey while I ponied Spud. Annie got to see Maize for a short period, which was cute, although it took her a second to really remember her.

It seems like time is just flying - she was a teeny little baby not so long ago and now she's ginormous!

That being said, I'm looking forward to playing around with her a bit more this Summer and seeing how she matures. We're firmly into yearling territory, and I'm interested to see her personality continue to develop and how she handles meeting new things. We're going to be keeping it quite light this year, for obvious reasons (mostly bc she's a baby haha) and we'll reassess as the year goes on if I'm going to send her to pasture for a month or two. In speaking with the Vets, they cautioned me against sending her just yet, so she might have to wait until her two year old year to do that.

Either way, I'm happy to have her and whatever is best for her longevity and health.

Here is to many more years with my sweet, sensitive, and kind Moo-cow!

Happy Birthday, Moo <3

Friday, May 15, 2020

An Update - A Semi-Abridged Version


It's been a hot minute, blog-land.

In all the years I've been blogging, I think this has been my longest absence from the writing scene. And in a way, I am kind of glad for it. Not because I don't enjoy sharing my stories, or connecting with other like-minded individuals who are rooting for me and my horses no matter what, but mostly because I was (and kind of still am) in a very.... heavy state of mind.

This year has been a colossal fuck-sandwich for many people - COVID19 aside (but hey, why not add a world-wide pandemic to the list?). Lots of just really heavy stuff has been happening and it can be hard to break to the surface when so many things are pushing you down.

One pretty cool not terrible thing that happened is that
I rode Annie sans bridle for 95% of a hack on the last
day of March. So, that's pretty fuckin neat.
She hadn't been out in about... a week and a
half or so at that point and was a total doll.
In truth, I wish I could say that my radio silence gave me the opportunity to become well rested, more level headed and dare I say it... inspired? But no, it in fact decided to do the opposite - see just how much I could possibly bear and then throw a bit more fuel on the fire just to watch me run around in the flames.

I wish I was kidding even a little bit.

That being said, although I am still walking on hot coals, I'm still moving forwards and still pushing just as hard as I was in the beginning. Life doesn't stop and when it hands you giant curveballs, you just have to hit them away as best as you can and deal.

Trying to navigate through life can be a bit tricky
So for the last few months, I've been dealing.

Like most, my job was impacted by COVID19 and ever since the beginning of March, I was working from home. Unlike most impacted by COVID19, this was actually a blessing in disguise. Having the "freedom" (bc that is an oxymoron if I ever did hear one) to do what I needed to do in a day vs a scheduled set of hours in an office gave me the opportunity to get a lot of things done.

I last left off with the news that my horses needed to be relocated. And despite having two months to find a place, it took me several weeks to secure somewhere. And even then, we had to bustle hard to make the area liveable for the horses, as it was previously a vehicle/trailer storage area for the home-owner.

This was taken March 24th - the amount of snow leftover in
spots where the sun didn't yet reach was insane!
I watched nervously as the months of March and first few weeks of April passed by - the snow was melting at a glacial pace and we weren't able to do anything to the new place until mid-April. And just as we started to get things rolling, the home-owners father passed away. Without him home to move his equipment and help move items (since all of it was stuck in snow weeks previous), I spoke to my previous BO and asked for an extension for my horses, given the circumstances. With all the barns closed to non-boarders in the next town, I literally had nowhere to put my horses until we got things ready.

Thankfully, the BO was happy to extend and the following week, we got a jump-start on fencing, footing, and removing a lot of the old garbage back there as well as dead trees, etc. It took about 10 dump runs with the dump trailer, 3 dump-truck loads of gravel (which we need to coat with sand, as the gravel is a bit too rocky for my liking), 30 posts, 80 boards, hundreds of screws, several good friends, and in 3 days time, we had a liveable and safe space for my horses. We did the bulk of it on a Saturday and Sunday and the following 4 days I put up the electric, raked, pulled roots, spread gravel, etc.

A bit too much gravel - we'll be bringing sand in in the coming weeks.
The horses officially moved in just a last weekend (May 9) and they both settled in really well.

Oh wait.

I guess I have to back up.

If you caught onto it, the new place only has Annie and Spud living there for the time being.

Annie, waiting to go for a ride.

So where did Maizey go, might you ask?

On April 1st I got text from Nicole (who owns that cute paint that Spud loves) saying that their old QH gelding was not doing well. I knew he had something going on earlier in the week, but unfortunately, he declined at a rapid rate and that evening he was put to sleep. He lived a very long life - 31 full years! - and their remaining horse, AJ, was very upset about being alone. She asked if I would mind bringing Spud over (as Spud and AJ are good buddies), but the fencing at her parents place is not Spud-approved, so with some quick thinking I walked Maizey the 20 minutes over at 10pm with only my phone light as a guide.

Morning of April 2nd.
They get along quite well and since AJ needs a buddy until they find themselves another horse (which is also delayed because of COVID), Maizey is being "lent out" to provide that duty. I am happy to report that the whole family absolutely adores her and spoils her rotten, which brings me to my next update.

The day after I moved Maizey to Nicole's parents place, Nicole let me know she saw some swelling on Maizey's fetlock but it "felt weird". Upon investigation, I couldn't really determine what was wrong but she was mildly lame at the trot, the bump on her fetlock held a teeny bit of heat and it felt really, really hard. I cold-hosed and poulticed for three days, saw no improvement and called Suzie's old farrier to come take a look (as she is home from the States now due to COVID). We all agreed at that point, x-rays would be best, as no one could really pin-point or narrow down what it was.

I made an appointment with a vet clinic 3 hours away, and after specifying I needed x-rays, Nicole and AJ (for his own appointment and also so Maizey had a buddy) traveled out.

Vet trip #1.


They didn't have a fucking x-ray machine.

Not a horse one, anyways.

The vet attempted to (poorly) diagnose Maizey based off of 5 strides of trot on an uneven gravel roadway and told me, "Here are some antibiotics, I think it's an abscess that went to the joint. If she isn't sound by the end of it, she's probably never going to be sound."

I immediately started calling vets within a 3 hour radius of where we were because I was ready to just haul an extra 3 hours to see someone with a fucking x-ray machine. Of course tho, with COVID, a lot were reduced in staff and with it being a Saturday at 3pm on Easter weekend, most were closed and/or didn't have the x-ray tech in.


We headed back home, I started her on the antibiotics and pain meds and got to work calling around. I got a lot of "We're currently booked up and can't fit you in until next week, is that ok?" Except... erm... if its a joint infection don't you think I should be seen a bit sooner? I mean, I get it. I understand they are busy, but I am literally trying to plan to haul 6 hours and figure out what the fuck is going on.

Spud, at the new place, stuffing his face.
Which, is precisely what I was doing when I was
trying to get an appointment.
I called around some more, and after literally begging a vet clinic 6 hours away (who was actually closed to all non-essential appointments) to please just take a look at my horse, we had an appointment scheduled two days later.

At 5:30am we loaded back up and off to the vet clinic we went (the same one I took Suzie to when she was diagnosed with navicular and a hygroma/advanced arthritis in her knee). We arrived just after noon and after jogging her out, I handed Maizey off to the tech and they went inside to run their diagnostics while we waited outside the clinic.

With all the vets I had spoken to over the course of the weekend and sending photos/ videos, etc, we all had thought it was a bone bruise or even the weird migratory abscess the first vet diagnosed her with.

Unfortunately, that is not the diagnosis the vet had for us.

Well, that's a big fucking problem.
Maizey was diagnosed with advanced arthritis and high ringbone of the left fetlock. At first, I kind of just nodded along and managed to ask some of the right questions. However, when I asked about rideability the vet looked at me sympathetically and told me the prognosis for a riding life was, "Very poor."

I don't remember a lot of the verbal exchange from there, because my brain kind of shut off. I just kept thinking, "She isn't even one yet." And when the vet brought her out, the waterworks came. Me, Jamie, and Nicole all drove home in silence that day - none really sure what to say or what to do.

Maizey was beyond amazing for the trailer hauls and handled being at the vets all alone like a champ. She was her usual calm, quiet self and the vet had even commented how level-headed and wonderful to handle she was for a baby.

The vet did confirm that ringbone is highly unusual for a baby horse to have, and while it is not unheard of, it is odd. She sent Maizey's file off to a specialist and three days later, that vet called me to tell me that the cause of the ringbone was due to subchondral bone cysts in the fetlock region. Which, is doubly not good. I was advised against breeding her, for fear that the cysts may be genetic in some way.

Bad leg vs Good leg.
The cysts are the two open "holes" you can see near the bottom of the fetlock.
Comparing to the right leg, it does not have cysts.
I spent a good week or two going back and forth with the vets, trying to find out what can be done. We discussed everything and anything and then back again - surgery, pasture life, euthanasia, and new drugs.

Unfortunately, this is a situation where there is no right answer. There is no gaurantee any of it will work, and there is certainly no one size fits all approach here.

The specialist gave me a 60% chance of a light riding life (lessons, schooling shows, trail rides) and 40% chance of a performance career should I opt to do the fusion surgery. Which, in a perfect world I would jump at the chance just for that 60%.


It is a highly invasive surgery and the vets warned me that recovery is long, laborious, and some horses do not handle it well and end up having to be euthanized due to complications (whether that be infection or inability to handle being stalled).

And then there is a financial aspect. I don't have $10,000 sitting for a surgery that may not work and/or may kill her in the end.

We also talked about alcohol injections, but again, she is a bit too young for them and they do not have a high success rate.

The other options are drugs - which are great, but not so great to have a not even one year old baby on long-term. Both the vet we saw and the specialist agreed that long-term use of any "harder" drugs would be detrimental and both suggested I wait until her two year old year before going that route. For now, we have previcox for the bad days.

And the last option is to wait it out. The specialist said that there is a potential that her joint could fuse on it's own and she'd be good to go without any kind of surgery.

I spent a good few weeks feeling inadequate to own horses, feeling immoral for not electing to do the surgery, and for not just euthanizing her immediately. I mulled over rehoming her to a pasture home, but having had worked in the small animal rescue scene I know what sometimes can happen when you rehome your animals.

And I hate to sound so silly, but there is just something about her.

Something that screams "give me a chance".

And whether or not I'm blinded by rose-colored glasses, I've decided that I will do just that.

As the weeks rolled by after her appointment, I started to lower the doseage of Previcox as the Vet instructed to see what the lowest amount is she'd tolerate. I'm happy to report that she is actually no longer on Previcox, and hasn't been for a week and a half now. I reassess her every few days to see how she's feeling, but for the most part her lameness is very, very slight or non-existant (which is stark in comparison as to how she started out in April).

She's on some joint health supplements and I got suckered into purchasing some magnetic fetlock bands. The swelling has drastically reduced in the area and on more days than not, it is cool to the touch.

She is still learning baby horse things - just because she has a limitation does not mean she gets to be a wild child. We still take little hand walks, work on leading basics, tying, grooming, bathing (she had her first bath on her birthday!), and meeting new and "scary" things.

Looking so grown up and sporting her magnetic bands.
Of course, time will tell how things progress and at the end of the day, no one really knows how this all will shake out. We have a plan to recheck the joints next Spring to see which way we're headed and as always, Maizey will be a decider of her own fate. I will not push and cajole her to exist if she is in too much pain or is suffering - I will try as much as I can to make her comfortable, loved, and give her a chance at a normal and happy life, but I will not force it.

In writing this, I actually had to take several breaks because the entire situation still rocks me to my core. How unbelieveably unfair and cruel is life, that it has chosen my sweet filly to burden? I used to hold dear "everything happens for a reason" but after Ella passed, I have a hard time believing there is just reasoning for some things. Some things are just dark and cruel and there is no rhyme or reason why.

Regardless, I try hard to keep positive and remember that I am doing the best I can with what I have available and at the end of the day, Maizey is in a position where she will never not feel loved or cared for. How wonderful that she is in a loving, caring home where she doesn't have to worry about being mistreated, abused, or in crippling pain?

So yeah, that majorly fucking sucked.

But in better news - I've slowly been riding more and have worn my tall boots a total of twice (go me!). Annie has gotten a few schoolings under her belt (specifically, two lol), and despite being very out of shape and unbalanced, she's been a rockstar for it! We don't have any show or lesson plans this year - most of which are cancelled anyways - so the need for serious schooling is out the window and I honestly don't even mind.

The best blurry ears to be behind!
I haven't gotten Spud hooked back up to the cart in a few months, despite having driven him several times at the beginning of the year. His cart is still at our previous barn since I need two or more people to help lift the thing because it's heavier than heck - and I also need to find out where I can store it at the new place. Most of my tack/ hay/ first aid items, etc are all crammed in my little horse trailer. Which, I kind of thought was going to be a pain in the ass and come to find, it's actually super handy. Still tho, the cart won't fit in the trailer because of the center bar, so it'll take some creativity.

There are a few more things that need to be done at the new place, but for now it is a safe and secure spot and that's all that matters. It isn't fancy by any means, but it works and weirdly enough, Annie seems more at home there than at our previous barn - I had thought for sure she would be a pacey, sweaty mess (esp since there are horses right next door) but she is the exact opposite. I mean, not that I should complain!

He got a clip before moving to the new place - what a handsome potate!
So yeah, that's kind of the abridged version of the happenings here - we've been going full tilt at the lot recently and are getting lined up to build this summer so cross your fingers we don't run into any hiccups there.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Moving On

A few weeks ago I was notified that the barn owners wanted to close their doors on boarding and get ready to sell their property. I can't say I didn't see it coming - it had been alluded to in the past, but there was never any concrete plans or any real conversations about it. Without any definitive answers, I was happy to continue boarding and although I knew the prospect of change was in the future, I was still a bit blindsided by the declaration.

I've been lucky to call this private little barn "home" for the last several years - having the area completely for myself and my horses. It gave me peace of mind knowing I had a place for my horses, especially considering there were several problematic situations preventing me from changing barns, or moving on.

Of these problematic situations, and perhaps the most frustrating, is owning land, and having had a complete and utter fuck-around by the City as to what we can do with it. Sparing the nitty gritty details, the way the properties were sold to us were as three separate lots, which does not bode well when you want to build a barn and fence one section- if you do not have a primary residence, you cannot build a barn. Except, by that logic, we would be required to build a primary residence on each lot in addition to whichever outbuilding we would like to erect.

In an effort to spare our pocket books from having to consolidate ($$$$$$) or building three homes ($$$$$), we attempted to work with the City over the span of four years. Making little to no headway, in addition to one of the planners quite literally stating she would not approve a bylaw change for us to use of one lots for horses anyways, we battled it out during our City Council meetings for a year and a half. And it still is not over. Our Mayor and Council is very much in favor of helping us achieve our end goal, but once the final documents were sent to the City for processing (October 2019), they've remained with the status "processing" for the last three months. Our lawyer finally reached out in February, stating that things should be moving "soon".

It's been an incredibly frustrating process, but we will make it to the other side. We have the law changers on our side, but it's just going to take time.

And unfortunately, I ran out of time boarding while we've been trying to figure out this silly mess.

Long time readers will know that boarding in our area is.... non-existent. If you own horses in our little town, you better own property (we do, but are still working on being able to do what we want to do with it) because the options are very few and far between.

It has been a really rough few weeks of trying to find accommodations for three horses - especially when one of those three cannot be on pasture. Options that were limited in the first place become even more limited when you have a Spud.

I panicked for the first few weeks, tossing and turning in bed, waking up in the middle of the night just to stare at the wall for hours. I felt sick, knowing if I could not find something it would mean sending my horses potentially to another town (where Barn C is; 50min-1hr away) until I could figure shit out. I waffled between selling - finding board for 1 or 2 horses is much easier than 3. And without the ability to self-board, I would have a very difficult time affording board on three horses.

I went to work straight away, I called up old mentors, instructors - quite literally the day I was notified. Having two months to find a solution wouldn't be much time, especially as we are still in the middle of a very cruel and deep Winter.

This was taken yesterday. The horses are still relegated to the
left side of the barn, in a little cleared space. The right side of the barn
(pictured) is still buried in snow. Some of the fencing did not fair well with
our snow storms.
There were several options offered - most of which would result in splitting up my herd. I had meetings with a few potential places in town and in the little subdivision my horses have called home for the last few years and have finally come up with something that'll work.

It is a small section of land being offered to me and my horses by a family friend, who is graciously lending a helping hand during what is a very frustrating and trying time. The kicker is that although the area was used for horses many moons ago, it no longer has shelter or fencing, so it'll be up to me and the SO to implement those things. I won't have the amenities like I did at our current barn - days of having a tack room will be in the past, and the hay storage capacity of the barn will be long gone.

Some of the pros are that I have the ability to set up the fencing myself - no more old fencing that might fall when the wind blows, I am still 100% in charge of my horses care, I can come and go when I please, and perhaps the most exciting - I am much closer to the outdoor arena and the entrance to the subdivision. Also a neat thing, we will be right across the street from Nicole and AJ!

Barn -> Outdoor Ring.
Yellow is current barn.
Blue is new barn.
It'll take time to get things set up, especially with the snow load preventing any kind of fence building for the time being. It is also hard to appreciate the size of the area, given the fact it is still buried beneath 3ft of snow. Since I have some concerns about the size, I went ahead and set up alternative measures for Maizey, who is scheduled to be on pasture for most of the year anyways. If she has to be a bit of a feral beast for a year or two on pasture an hour and a half away, then that is what we will do. It's not a perfect solution, but I'm trying my hardest to keep things as easy as they can be without exhausting finances or time.

This being said, as much as I am relieved to finally have a place, I am overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do to make this new place a safe and happy home for my horses while we work towards bringing them home. I don't think I will finally relax until they are actually home on our property - where I won't have to worry about being told I have two months to move.

It has been a really weird few weeks. I feel really out of place still, and as much as I am "happy" that I have found a solution, I am concerned about getting everything set up and implemented. I'm trying to be thankful, and learning that sometimes life doesn't always work out and sometimes, you need to roll with the punches.

So for now, I am thankful for people who are willing to help, because I have had so many offers in the last several weeks. None of which were "perfect", but sometimes you can't have perfection and must do what you need to do to survive for now.

Speaking of imperfection, we did a lot of work to
this barn to make it safe, secure and home for the
last few years.
We can do that again <3
I've slowly been gathering up my tack and have brought home a few tubs of equipment and have started to clean up the barn to prepare for leaving in May. We've begun picking plans for shelters and have plans to begin cutting boards on the sawmill within the next few weeks as things begin to thaw and melt.

It is going to be a change, and as much as I am sad to see this chapter close, I am reinvigorated with fire and passion to start rolling with our future plans of a barn and horses at home. It will take time, so for now, we will roll with the punches.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2019 Season by the Numbers

A friend reminded me I hadn't posted a 2019 Season by the Numbers yet, so I figured better late than never?

Unfortunately, this year I did not have the time to prepare a fancy infographic like years past, but I feel like these are fun to do all the same.

Without further ado, here is our 2019 riding season, specifically calculated and broken down into numbers for no other reason than for fun:

2019 Season by the Numbers

Highest Dressage Score

Since I rode multiple different tests this year, I'll break it down a bit further than just one number. However, out of all the tests I rode this year, our highest was a 69.3% for Training Level 3.

We did play around at First Level, so here are our highest marks for those:

Highest Score for First Level 1 - 68.1%
Highest Score for First Level 2 - 66.8%

For a first foray into First Level territory, I feel pretty good about the averages we hit. Of course, we didn't go to many shows in 2019, simply due to lack of shows available in our immediate area. Hopefully this year we can work more on sussing out Annie's Dressage ring anxiety/ buddy sourness issues and we can have less theatrics in the ring and more steadiness and reliability. In the end, it is something that can only be 'fixed' by miles anyways.

Highest Scored Movement

We had an interesting sprinkling of 8's throughout the year, with quite a few 7.5's.

8.0 - 20m canter circle at B (in a TL3 test)
8.0 - rider aids (in a FL 1 test)

Knowing me and Annie, the 8.0 on a canter circle is pretty awesome, considering the fact that the canter has been a really difficult gait to get our shit together in in the Dressage arena. Annie's go to is to cross fire or lead change when she gets tense and stressed (regardless of where I have her flexed), so it's been a journey to get things smoothed out. The fact most judges reward my tactful riding makes me believe it's something that'll just take time on Annie's part to get "settled" and less fractious in the ring.

We also did get a good deal of 7.5s for the following: working canter right lead (FL2), A down centerline, X halt salute (FL2), canter 15 meters (FL2), and FXH change rein (FL1).

Number of Tests Ridden

We rode a grand total of 11 tests throughout the entire year. The following numbers include the tests we rode from showing as well as the tests we rode at percentage days.

Training Level 2: 1

Training Level 3: 3
First Level 1: 3
First Level 2: 3
First Level Freestyle: 1

Number of Lessons Taken

For 2019 we took a grand total of: 13 lessons.

These were split amongst 4 clinicians, and hosted in 3 different venues. One of which was 5 hours away!

Lesson formats were a bit of everything - private, semi-private, group lessons and a good mix of flat, in-hand, dressage, and jumping. A little bit of everything!

Number of Shows Attended

There weren't many shows in 2019 in our immediate area, but we attended 2. One of which was a Dressage Only show, and the other was the BVX wherein we did a bit of everything (halter, jumping, dressage...).

Number of Outings

We hitched up and headed out for a grand total of ~20 adventures (there may be one or two that I am missing).

Of these 17 adventures, they broke down as follows:

We visited the Vet twice, once for an annual health check up and a second time when Annie's eye blew up.

Seven of these outings were for lessons.

A total of 4 outings were to our outdoor arena, once to partake in the fun cowboy challenge day I planned, another time to play with jumps, once to ride without having to hack home (which is about 20min to and from) and another time to meet up with the saddle fitter and try out a bunch of jump saddles (none of which worked well).

We also hauled out to two shows, as noted above.

Twice we hauled out to trail ride off property with friends, which was a lot of fun.

We also journeyed out once in the early Spring to ride in the indoor arena with a friend before all the snow melted.

And twice, we played at Percentage Days/ Clear Rounds.

Total of KM spent in the Saddle

We rode a total of 328.1 logged kilometers in Equilab. However, I did not track lessons, shows, or fun days. In addition, the Equilab app did not work properly for quite a few rides and subsequently read 0.3km for hour long rides, which is not accurate. Despite this, it's still a cool metric to play with!

Number of Ribbons Accumulated

1st place - 3
3rd place - 2
4th place - 3
5th place - 4
6th place - 2

Doing the season by the numbers is a fun way to recap what we did during the year and just how many adventures we had. 

Finally completing this recap, however, has made me long even more for Spring... we were hit with another 8" of snow and I'm just so over it. I'm ready to swing a leg back up onto Annie, drive Spud, and play with Maizey. Unfortunately, I think that will take a bit longer than I would like. So, for now, we patiently wait for sunnier days and fast melting snow.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Self-Boarder Chronicles: How to Survive Winter

While your winters may (and probably do) differ from the absolute chaos that is our little corner of the globe, I have a multitude of tips and tricks to help you survive the cold, wet, and (sometimes) downright miserable season!

These are just a few of the many Winter tips and tricks - it all is dependent on your living situation and what kind of barn set up you have, but I hope you enjoy regardless!

Because sooner or later, this stuff comes!

1. Begin Your Preparations in the Fall!

In late Autumn (end of October/ early November) I start getting things organized and putting away items I won't need for the incoming Hell Season. Things like saddle pads and leather goods get cleaned and put away in the comfort of our cramped spare room until Spring blossoms again (if I do ride during the winter, I simply bring these items from home).

I also take the time to re-organize the tack room - refolding sheets and blankets, sweeping under the grain bins, etc.

During this time I'll bring out things like the horses's winter blankets, water trough deicer, extension cords, and pack the barn aisleway with roundbales that I dole out as needed. It's much nicer having a few rounds available right then and there versus driving out to where we have them stored, especially if the roads are bad or it is snowing/raining. It also works out well to feed rounds during the Winter, as in the instance of winter storms and inaccessible roads I never have to worry about the horses not having hay. And if it's cold? No worries, the horses have hay. However, it's important you prevent hay wastage, because its a bitch to clean up in the mud and snow (see point 5).

Circa 2015 - a headlamp has been in the
rotation for a while now.

2. Invest in Useful Gear

Aside from the obvious (like a tank deicer), I have found it increasingly helpful to have separate Barn Only clothing (especially footwear). There is nothing quite like showing up at a friends house smelling like horse pee. For this reason, I alternate boots and usually keep a pair in my truck during the Winter months. I still run them under water to get the bulk of the yuckiness off, as they still reside in my truck. If you have a closed off tack room, you could easily leave a coat and boots there, but mine is open to invasive species and the barn cat enjoys spreading his scent on things that he shouldn't...

In addition to wearing a warm toque and gloves, one of the best items I have ever been gifted was a head-lamp. Trudging through the snow to the barn in the evenings has become a less precarious task with a light on my head, and it works well for doing tasks around the barn where the regular lights don't illuminate. As an added bonus, I like using it for precarious tasks like packing hooves (like abscess holes...) during the evening light where I need something that doesn't play off the shadowy light so I can see what I'm doing.

Extension cords are also severely underrated - I often move the horse's water trough around during the winter, as it is typically stationed on the west side of the barn and during the winter, the horses often only break trail to the east (where the sun shines). It's important to have cords that are long enough so I can plug in the deicer.

A snow-covered Annie, ft a Spud butt.

3. Maximize Pasture/Paddock Space 

Once it starts to snow, the horses use less and less of their paddock area. This means that they'll be stuck to the same old 14x14 area all Winter long unless your horses are good at breaking trail and exploring around once the snow has fallen.

Once the snow starts to fall and accumulate to the point where the horses don't venture around too much I take a few flakes of hay and toss them out onto the snow to encourage the horses to break trail and pack down the snow. It works quite well, especially if you save the fancy alfalfa hay for this occasion. Its important to note that my horses won't venture out for hay if it's too far off the initial path - I only toss hay a little bit off the trail and each time progress it a bit further as we go. They do have access to 24/7 hay in their lean-to shelter, which is perfect for days when it rains or snows, as they do not have to stand in the elements to get their food.

I've also found that horses are much hardier than people think - yes they may require extra maintenance during the cold spells (depending on their age, body type, etc) and they may need additional feeds/forage, but for the most part, they don't need to be babied when it starts to snow and they often won't stand in their lean-to where it's warm and dry (because, horses).

This is the reality of winter.
Filthy horses, frozen poop, and a hideous manure pile
in the background. It might not be the prettiest picture, but
this is reality. And it really, really sucks until Spring comes and I can clean
everything up perfectly again!

4. Designate a Waste Space/ Manure Pile

When the snow comes, my usual manure pile (into the back gully) is inaccessible and pushing a full wheelbarrow in snow is impossible. I struggle a lot with accepting this aspect of the Winter, as I cannot stand a pasture that is overrun with manure. Unfortunately, with the snow and freezing conditions, poo-picking is a bit difficult and as such, we do the best we can until Spring comes!

This being said, every Winter I poo-pick every single day and continuously clean (especially removing waste hay) to the manure pile in the back for as long as I possibly can. Once the snow hits and hauling heavy snow-laiden manure is too tough, I start to make a manure pile that is on the opposite side of the horse's shelter. I move as much manure as I can and toss it into a big pile. Come Spring, I have a large pile that I get removed and dumped by a tractor and it works well to prevent too much manure build up.

However, with all of our ice, I do tend to leave manure on the well-trodden pathways for the horses, as I've found that by removing this manure layer, the horses slip quite a bit. So, I begrudgingly leave it and remove it closer to Spring, tossing it into the Poo Mountain for it to be removed via tractor.

(Seriously, having a neighbor with a tractor is SO useful. I used to have to do big Spring clean-ups with a wheelbarrow and it was a week long extravaganza. With the tractor, I make a few piles in the paddocks when cleaning up all the Winter manure and the tractor comes and removes it.)

Shoveling this roof was hard, but necessary.
You can't even see my manure pile anymore.

5. Work Smarter, Not Harder 

A saying my Dad often says, I find myself trying to maximize my effectiveness at the barn. Because of this, I religiously check the weather forecast - if sub-zero temperatures are incoming, I know that my hoses and the well are going to have a tough time pumping water (I do drain excess water out from the hoses, but they still freeze a bit and sometimes the well is frozen with how cold it can get) due to freezing, so I make sure the water trough is topped up before the cold weather hits. The same goes for hay - if I notice the horses are running low on hay, I make sure to refill their net to the brim BEFORE the cold weather hits so I don't have to spend time mucking with hay and string and twine and freeze my butt off.

This also goes for blanketing - I didn't blanket the horses much this year aside from a cold snap, but I pulled everything I needed out two days in advance and had them ready to go when the cold weather hit.

Again, the same goes for incoming snow. If I see it's snowing and it isn't supposed to stop, I don't go out and toss hay for them to break trail (the hay will get buried and get left untouched). Or if we are supposed to get a large dump of snow, I'll head out to check the horses earlier than usual, ensure everything is topped up and then avoid the highways when the bad weather hits.

I'll pull extra bales down from the hay loft during weekends, when I have more time, or on evenings after work if I know I'm running low and have time to do so.

I also clean as I go - the barn doesn't get neglected because it's winter. Hay bits in the hay stall are still swept into a pile and baling twine is placed in the trash. It's easier to clean up as you go instead of trying to clean up a big mess come Spring.

The black hole.
Just kidding. This is where the water trough was before
I moved it under the lean-to.

This all being said, Winter is a very trying time. Things get frozen, covered in snow, and horses go a little feral. But with a bit of preparation and time management planning, barn time can be less frustrating and chores can be made easier (especially if the remainder of your clean up rolls over into Spring like mine does).

What is your best winter survival type where you live? What gear can you not live without?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

After The Storm: Return of Snowmageddon

Visions of Snowmageddon 2015 have been playing in my mind for the last 48 hours, and I am happy to say that we seem to be on the other side of the worst of it. I am trying to remain positive, although I frantically am checking the weather network at a religious pace (and it is snowing yet again...). The storm I had briefly mentioned in my last post came to fruition and ended up causing a bit of pandemonium in our little town - so much so that schools, businesses, and non-essential services were closed, shut down and told to stay home.

I can't even calculate how much snow we got, but I'll say that I waded through waist-deep snow to get to the horses (the BO didn't have her driveway cleared for 48 hours, which was FUN).

Since we had a "snow day" yesterday (I actually cannot remember the last time we had a snow day, wherein schools and businesses were closed) the SO and I got to it and tried to cross as many chores off our list as we could.

Over the weekend I smartly moved the horses's water trough under cover, as the threat of even more snow made me nervous. It was a daunting task, excavating a trough from packed down snow, but I got it done and managed to get everything set up just in time for the storm to roll through.

Yesterday was a busy day - snowblowing driveways, shoveling, clearing vehicles, and clearing the horse's lean to roof (as the pitch of the roof is not as steep as the rest of the barn roofs, so it needed a bit of help, as the threat of rain is coming later this week).

Since every bone in my body hurts, I'll leave you with photos of the chaos and once again, will announce that Spud would like to move to California please and thank you (I also would like to go with him).

The lean to roof doesn't have the highest pitch, which makes snow accumulate at a higher
rate than the other roofs on the barn.

It took me 2 hours to get the bulk of the snow off. The remainder is laden with
ice, so too difficult to scrape off.
The snow was easily 4ft high, not including
the ice layer I couldn't get to budge.

They don't know how lucky they are.
You can see Annie's trail to the left, but you can no longer see
my back pasture fences.

I took the dogs for a walk around town lastnight, and it was
Some of the sidewalks had not been plowed yet.

There is a house back there somewhere.
My horse trailer is back there... somewhere.
Ghost vehicles who did not get cleared during the dump of snow.
At this rate, it will take until June for the snow to melt. I might get to ride my horse at some point in 2020... maybe.