Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Life Lesson

I've been putting off this post for a while, moreso because I am embarrassed and frustrated I didn't correct it sooner. But, I figure that I may be able to help someone else struggling or help the "light-bulb moment" go off. In any case, I think it's good to share things like this, especially if there is an opportunity to learn.

Some readers will remember my frustration with Suzie's waist-line and how I was attempting to up her weight. When I became more aware of the situation mid-July, I began trying to "fix" the problem. Initially, I assumed Suzie was becoming a hard keeper because she was getting older - heck, I even had friends comment that sometimes old horses just "sag". I wasn't convinced entirely and went ahead in deworming both horses and picked up some sunflower seed oil, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, senior feed and went to work on graining her once a day.

By the end of August, after graining her every night, we made little to no headway and I was starting to feel as though I was losing the battle. I was frustrated with the way Suzie looked and my efforts seemed futile.

I truly am embarrassed to be sharing this photo,
and not because of Suzanne's facial expression.
  And after seeing photos from our Halter classes at the BVX, I realized we needed some serious help. I contacted a good friend down in the States who is an equestrian nutritionist and sent her the analysis on Suzie's current situation. I felt as though I had exhausted most of my options and needed some serious help, especially before Winter set in.

The nutritionist asked a few questions about Suzie's living arrangements, what type of hay she was eating, what her exercise regime is like, etc. I felt as though most of the questions were answered easily - she gets fed 3-4 flakes of hay 2x a day, 1 cup of oil, 2 cups of beet pulp, 1 cup alfalfa, 2-3 cups senior... Seemed like a pretty solid plan, at least to me.

The biggest, and probably most important thing I had overlooked?

"Measuring" anything in "flakes" or "cups" is not accurate when it comes to horses. Measurements must be in the form of WEIGHT (ie. lbs) - always.

I purchased a small fish scale and as instructed, weighed the feed I normally put out for the horses. Well, imagine my shock when I came to the startling realization that her hay rations were 2lbs less than what it should've been.

Secondly, graining the crap out of my mare once a day was not beneficial, as it is equivalent to eating a rather large turkey dinner and then trying to cram down dessert. The feedings should be split throughout the day to prevent "over-stuffing".

I felt like crying in the middle of the barn aisle.

Essentially, I was not meeting my horse's daily needs and in a way, was starving her. The poor attempt to make up for this in the form of beet pulp, oil, and grain was not well received by my mare because again, I was measuring "cups" rather than by weight. In addition, the sunflower seed oil I came to find was actually quite unhealthy and didn't do much to promote weight gain.

Starting to get somewhere mid-September.
 The nutritionist and I immediately scraped most of my planned regime and came up with a much more simpler version. The final verdict was: 16.5lbs hay (2x daily), 1-2lbs beet pulp (2x daily), 2lbs alfalfa pellets (2x daily), and 1/2 cup virgin olive oil (2x daily)

We have now been on the new regime for just about one month and the change is extraordinary. I am both ashamed and annoyed I even allowed her to lose weight in the first place mostly because my mare was the one who suffered in this.

Before: July 18
After: September 29
 I urge anyone who is having issues with their horse gaining weight to please consult a professional - do not guess and do not assume your horse is skinny because of age, breed, etc. Knowledge truly is power and if I hadn't reached out and asked the questions, we would still be at square one.

So yes, I am serving myself a slice of humble pie in hopes anyone else who reads this will evaluate their own feeding regime and ask for help.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MIA: Work, Weddings, and Wallabies

The last week has been a whirlwind of events - namely, a good friend's wedding. Packing, organizing the barn and arranging care for all the animals was stressful enough, but I managed to seal down a small army to look after my kiddos.

Ironically enough, Jamie returned from a trip to Quebec the night before we were to leave for Alberta, so we didn't get much sleep.

The drive itself was over 1, 100km (one way) so most of our time was spent navigating the roadways to Alberta. It was more or less anti-climatic, and we managed to arrive all in one days worth of driving! Talk about exhausting, though.

Bridesmaid shenanigans.
The wedding itself was beautiful - very low-key and fun. Not only did I learn "flip cup", but I also was able to talk "horsey things" until 2:30 in the morning with most, if not all of the bridal party. 

And with that being said, real blogging will commence once I am able to unpack, clean house, clean barn, and re-charge (and not necessarily in that order!).

Oh, and if you are wondering what wallabies have to do with anything, they don't.

Monday, September 21, 2015

4 Things; Filler Post

T'is the Season of filler posts, torrential downpours, and pumpkin spice. I am grateful to those who have been circulating this one around the blogosphere, although I do not really know who to created it. Regardless, feel free to utilize it as your own filler post and give the readership some interesting facts!

Four names that people call me other than my real name:
  1. Cat (or any variation of such: Cat Cat, Catty Cat, etc).
  2. Peaches
  3. C-Rod (The guys at work enjoy this one, don't ask me where it even started).
  4. Chatty Cathy (much to my dismay)
That's 6 cats, not including this "Cat". Ha ha ha.
Four jobs I’ve had:
  1. Construction Safety
  2. Veterinary Assistant
  3. Animal Rescue + Enforcement (worked in an animal shelter and was also a dog catcher).
  4. Cashier at a Boat Marina.

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
  1. The Lion King
  2. Van Helsing
  3. Underworld
  4. Frozen
Four books I’d recommend:
  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  3. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  4. The Sight by David Clement-Davies
Four places I’ve lived:
  1. Parent’s House
  2. Rescue Ranch
  3. Basement Suite while going to College
  4. Current home with the Boy.
I wouldn't normally post swim suit photos, but this is one of my favorites.
Porto Moniz in Portugal.
Four places I’ve visited:
  1. Riberia Brava, Portugal
  2. Birmingham Airport in England
  3. Calgary, AB
  4. Seattle, Washington

Four places I’d rather be right now:
  1. In bed, preferably sleeping.
  2. On a beach in Mexico, suntanning.
  3. Riding my mare in an indoor arena (as it's been literally pouring rain on and off for the last week).
  4. In bed...
Because posting pictures of gross tomatoes and mushrooms
isn't allowed.
Four things I prefer not to eat:
  1. Tomatoes. Gross.
  2. Mushrooms. Double gross.
  3. Coffee (Technically you drink it, but it is still gross).
  4. Pepperoni pizza

Four of my favorite foods:
  1. Spaghetti
  2. Tacos
  3. Stuffed Bell Peppers
  4. Nanaimo bars (these are food, right?)
Four TV shows I watch:
  1. Bob's Burgers
  2. Chopped
  3. Big Bang Theory
  4. American Dad
This handsome devil's birthday is my fav <3
Four things I’m looking forward to this year:
  1. My Birthday - cause I'm selfish and why not.
  2. Ty's 10th Birthday!
  3. Christmas - it's always a special time no matter what.
  4. A Friend's Wedding!
Four things I’m always saying:
  1. Fuck this/that. (It's construction, folks).
  2. DRIVE, lady. DRIVE your damn car. (Road rage is real).
  3. I don't wanna get up. (see "Places I'd Rather Be")
  4. And more recently, "ballsack" thanks to a friend.

But this one is my favorite <3
Four horse breeds I’ve ridden:
  1. Quarter Horse
  2. Rocky Mountain Horse
  3. Arabian
  4. Canadian Warmblood
Four breeds of dog I like:
  1. German Shepherd
  2. Doberman
  3. Chinese Crested
  4. Dachshund
Four horse events I want to participate in:
  1. Mini-Event (Instead of 3 days, it's all in 1).
  2. Any "big" Driving competition
  3. A big name mini show
  4. Honestly, any show I go to is fun.

I was crow whisperer at one point.
 Four of my favorite animals:
  1. Horse
  2. Dog/ Wolf
  3. Raven/ Crow
  4.  Sharks
Four places I would like to go:
  1. Back to Riberia Brava, Portugal with the Boy.
  2. Romania
  3. Greece
  4. Egypt
Four things I wish for:
  1. Wealth (don't we all?)
  2. No debt (Ha ha ha.)
  3. Health in myself, family, and pets.
  4. Undying and unrelenting love <3

Looks like I've already found love <3

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Favorite Blankets Ever - A Comprehensive Review

Design is "Avalon"
Having just bought my second blanket from Pleasant Ridge Saddlery, I feel compelled to write a full review on my experience with the Canadian Horsewear Co. blankets. So let's get down to buisness.

The blankets feature a 1200 denier rip-stop, which is fabulous considering most blankets that are 600 denier and below will not last a full season. And each has a waterproof and breathable DuPont coating so adding a protective coating over it (like Scotchgaurd) isn't necessary - I have literally watched the water roll off the material and the blanket has never gotten heavy or wet.

Double buckled front to allow one size up, and one size down.
The blankets feature a double-buckled front (which I love!) that allows the blanket to fit one size up AND down from the marked size. So no matter what, you have that perfect fit!

All of the yearly blankets have three options to choose from - a Standard Rainsheet with a 210 nylon lining, a Mid-weight Turnout (160gram fill w/ 210 nylon lining), or a Heavy-Weight turn out (300gram fill w/ 210 nylon lining). I own both a Mid-weight and a Heavy-Weight.

Regular shoulder gusset's on a
different brand.
Extra-long shoulder gusset for comfort.

Most of their blankets (especially the newer options) feature extra high shoulder gusset which allows more freedom of movement and allow the higher neck coverage to work adequately. The high neck also prevents that build up of rain from dripping down onto the horse's chest or into the blanket (I find this a lot with other blankets).

Suzie has quite prominent withers and I find that these blankets are the only ones that fit properly, as the standard neck blanket's catch on her wither and tighten around that area, despite having gaping room at the chest.

The HW blanket from two years ago.
There is quite a bit of new-age design and thought going into these blankets, including a little fabric tab that covers the belly-straps. It's kind of an ingenious design, especially for horses who tend to undo their belly-straps on occasion. The only downfall is that the belly straps are fixed on the off-side - meaning if they break, you will need to stitch-rip and replace the entire strap.

 It could potentially be a deal-breaker for some, but my horse isn't hard on her blankets to begin with and the Heavy-Weight I've had for the past 2 years has shown little to no wear. I was comfortable purchasing a blanket that did not have fully removable belly-straps. And on this note, the elastic leg-straps have double snaps instead of the typical "knotted end". Very handy and I'm certain if they upgraded their belly-straps to this type of a design, it'd be a 110% flawless design.

The inside features a neat design, as well as double snaps on the
elastic leg straps.
Beyond this, the customer service from PRS was excellent. The price of the blanket and shipping was super reasonable, the package arrived fast, and it was exactly what I ordered. There are plenty of sizes, colors, and designs to choose from and it truly doesn't stop there. Each year, PRS puts out a "new round" of designs and colors so there is always an upgrade to these blankets.

My only real "beef" is I wish they also made them in "mini size" because I'd totally love for Spud to have one of them. In my dreams, right?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Happy "Birthday" Spud

His royal fatness.

In reality, it is Spud's "gotcha" day but because I don't actually know when his birthday is, I decided to make it a combination of "Happy Gotcha Day" and "Happy Birthday". Two birds, one stone and all that.

Officially, this commemorates Spud turning six years old and me legally owning him for a full year. Despite this, I didn't actually get to bring Spud home until mid-November, once his training was completed.

If you haven't heard the story as to how I met Spud and later on bought him, I'll re-hash it for memories-sake. So here goes.

This is how we trail ride.
During the time I had been leasing my friend's jumper mare, Tally, I realized that I didn't have enough time to split between two riding horses and a full time job. Suzie was getting put on the back burner and evidently, it was sad that I couldn't juggle my time between the two more evenly. In addition to this, with Tally leaving in mid-October to head back home for the Winter, Suzie would be left alone at the barn and subsequently lonely. I needed to either lease out a pasture mate, or purchase another horse to keep her company. Some might say, "Why not buy Tally?" In truth, she is a fabulous mare with nothing wrong with her, but we just didn't "mesh" in some regards. She was a great riding horse and fabulous to show; just didn't exactly tick all my "check boxes". That, and she wasn't really for sale either.

With no real lease options available (and the fact that I didn't really want a full-sized pasture ornament raising my board price and not really doing anything but eating and pooping), I turned to the idea of a second horse. While it was tempting to look at all the new prospects, I resigned myself from pursuing the idea further for a multitude of reasons. Namely, the fact that I already had a difficult time riding both Tally and Suzie, as well as the fact that if I did purchase another horse it would be a young show-prospect (ie. costly). I liked that idea, but at the same time, if I barely had time to ride Suzie, how would I feel about having a costly show-prospect sitting around doing nothing?

Friends with e'reybody.
Upon exploring what options I had (at one point we briefly considered a goat) and how to make them work, the SO and I came upon the idea of a miniature horse. I was game for that, as I wouldn't have to feel bad about not riding a second horse, or wasting a second horse's talent. It seemed like a real win/win situation - mini horses can't be ridden by me, they don't eat a lot, and they can be useful for other purposes if I would want that.

I explored numerous classified ads and realized that if I were to get a mini, I'd want one that is capable of doing a job. I'm not a huge fan of pasture ornaments if the animal is servicably sound mentally and physically. And thus, my search expanded to a driving mini.

I posted a few ads throughout various Facebook groups and was approached by a Driving Trainer down south who had given me some good pointers to look for in video ads and what to steer away from. I was both appreciative and thankful for her advice and it resulted in us communicating and discussing several For Sale ads at length and her dissecting the videos and giving me her impression on them.

He practically came broke.
At one point, a cute little paint mini was on my radar but after being made aware that he had health issues (locking stifle), I backed out of the deal. I scoured hundreds of ads and most, if not all, were minis who were just "pets". None were broke to ride or drive and I realized that finding a driving mini was going to be a lot harder than I had initially anticipated.

Crystal, the woman who had been helping me look for a horse messaged me and tagged me in a varnish appy's ad. It featured a portly little mini stood up and the ad read that the mini had been extensively ground-driven, although never hooked to a cart. I brushed it aside - the mini was not broke to cart and how would I arrange training for him down here? There are no driving trainers where I live, not even close. And in addition, he was over 16hrs away. How would I even meet him?

Nearly a week later, Crystal re-messaged me, asking to "just message" the owner of the Appy to get some additional photos and videos. Begrudgingly I did and after watching the first few videos of him ground-driving, I fell in love. Immediately I realized he was a sane, quiet, and pretty cool little dude. Crystal recognized this and offered not only her training services (at a discounted rate), but to look over Spud for any conformational defects/lameness - which I accepted with many thanks and hugs in-between.

On September 18th, 2015 I signed the paperwork and bought Spud sight unseen. He was transported by his old owner to Crystal's boarding barn where she received him and gave me the green light that he was represented accurately in his ad. The same portly pony in the ad showed up at her farm and she stated that although he needed a hoof trim, he was in good shape and was certainly not lame or dying. Both positive signs.

And he didn't kill me at our first clinic. So that's good.
In no time Spud was introduced to the cart, hooked, and driven. I chronicled my journey with owning a horse I had never met or seen and having it being trained with a trainer I had never met. It was a hair-raising situation and most people probably would have succumbed to gaping ulcers, but I was surprisingly calm throughout the entire thing. Spud didn't go missing, die, or injure himself. Crystal represented herself, her business, and Spud accurately and did not sugar-coat anything. I am thankful that she was honest with me and understood both my goals and Spud's abilities. The entire situation could've gone a very different direction I am sure.

On September 30th I was able to drive down and meet Spud for the very first time since purchasing him. He was everything I expected and I actually was able to drive him as well. I could understand the green-ness Crystal spoke of in her e-mails and we agreed to leave him with her for an additional month of training. He was in good hands and he was making great progress.

I am sure that the month of October and November went by painfully slow for Suzie, who was living solo for nearly two months. She certainly was not happy to be on her own and I can't say that I blamed her. The weekend we went down to pick Spud up was a bit nerve-wracking after the Trainer's truck broke down and she was unable to meet us halfway with my new boy. I had to put out a SOS on a local classified for someone trailering through to bring him and thankfully, it all ended up working out. Instead of trailering 16hrs one way we only had to drive 7hrs. It cut down a large portion of gas costs and missed days of work, which was a huge breath of relief.

Spud traveled like a trooper - completing a nearly 6hr trip for the first day, and a 7hr trip the second. Not once did he fuss or act naughty, which was wonderful to see. I can still remember unloading him in complete darkness at the barn. He glanced around warily, but we made our way to the barn and evidently, where Suzie was waiting. They sniffed noses and after the initial sniff, Suzie nickered and nibbled at Spud's neck (I'm pretty sure she figured he was a foal).

Since then, they have been turned out together 24/7 and have been the best of friends. Although Suzie has shown him who is boss a time or two, she's been incredibly gentle with him as if she knows he's a "small person".

They are pretty comfortable with one another.

So would I do it all over again?

In a heartbeat.

It has been a crazy, wild adventure and the journey with Spud has just begun. I may not have accomplished all the goals I had wanted to this year, but there is always next year. I have big plans for this little guy and I'm not sure he truly knows that.

Onwards, speckled pony.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Building The Dream: Update 2

Carrying on with last year's post on the "BTD series", I figured I should probably show you all we've actively been working on the lot and quite a bit has gotten done. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of work still but with both of us working full time (70+hrs weekly) and trying to do things ourselves (ie. the cheap way) I think we made a pretty good dent.

It has been quite the process. Because the plot is literally a forest, we've had to cut down trees and literally de-forest the area bit by bit. It's exceptionally time consuming, especially due to the fact that we want to try and keep and preserve some of the larger trees to turn into fence boards later on.

Driveway punched in on April 22nd.
Turning left will take you to the house, turning right
would take you to the horses.
This is where we started.

Standing at the edge of the driveway, looking to where the
arena will be. Barn will be to the left.
Taken in May.

Towards the end of July. Added more "driveway" and started to
dig down to clay.
Comparison photo L-R is April, May and July.

We finally struck clay at the end of July!

And now, end of August we have a giant swimming pool.
A very expensive swimming pool.

It's been a roller-coaster of work and emotions. We contracted out work on the lot mid-August and had a lot of the crappy soil and stumps trucked out which left us with the attractive swimming pool we have now.

The plan is to continue pulling down trees and pulling out the soil to clay. The current "dirt" on our lot isn't the greatest and if anything, absorbs water. Another contractor in town has offered to dump "reject" dirt at our lot free of charge, so naturally we've said yes.

It doesn't look like much and I honestly don't have much to say about it other than holy shit it's a lot of work and we still have another 4.3 acres to clear. Although, the rest of it will be easier as it will be pasture land and "dead space".

I have narrowed it down to a few barns and designs, though.

Barn Choice #1

Barn Choice #2
(And most likely what we will go with, but with
3 stalls instead of the 4 pictured).

Stalls will be "rolling doors" for added

In addition, some other thoughts include corner feeders (so I don't have to worry about Spud getting Suzie's food), possible automatic waterers, saddle trees and a blanket closet.

I am still figuring out how I want the barn placed and where I would want a feeder to go, manure pile, etc. The biggest issue is figuring out if I want the barn to go length-wise with the property or width-wise, which is frustrating in itself because both pose positives and negatives.

This is what I am tentatively thinking.
The barn would also have 12' overhangs on the long sides and the side where no stalls are would be trailer storage. I am thinking if I want to start the fence on the stall side or on the other side... I could put another overhang on the back end of the barn and use it as a storage space for a lawnmower or driving cart, etc. It all depends, though.

Still so much to do. So much to think about.

Screw it, we'll just keep our mud swimming pool the way it is.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why Horse Riding is the Most Expensive Sport

I had intended to do a post like this for quite some time, but between readying myself for shows and work, I hadn't had much time to sit down and pump out a comprehensive post. Ironically, now that show season is officially over, I haven't even hopped up on the mare since last Saturday. Between the epic rain storms, trying to get last minute hay (the dealer I had set my last load with flaked out at the last second... grrrr), and some grown up financial woes, I've barely had time for the saddle.

Neither horse seems remotely concerned about my other worldly responsibilities, and I don't think they really care all that much. Other than Spud finding some magical escape portal in the back pasture, there hasn't been much action going on with either of them. (I still have yet to find where he is escaping from, so for now they are locked in the front paddock).

But enough of my mindless blabber and onto the point of this post.

I had a revelation the other day, after there was mention from a co-worker that I must be "loaded" because I have horses. I brushed the comment aside, mostly because it's one I encounter every 20-30 people I meet. What I didn't expect was coming home and seeing the following photo floating around in the Facebook media-sphere. I laughed at it, initially, but the more and more I thought about it, it started to make me think.

It's not wrong, though.
And thus, the "Top 5 Reasons Why Horse Riding is the Most Expensive Sport Ever", was created:
(this list is comprised of comparing levels of sport at a provincial level rather than a global one, because otherwise we get into things like sponsorship, etc)

5. Our "team" is made up of another living, breathing being that requires YOU to pay for it's longevity. And I'm just talking basic necessities - not even the tack or apparel that normally comes with riding a horse. Things like yearly vaccinations, hay/board, dentist appointments, joint/hock injections, etc.

Think of it this way, Soccer players don't pay to feed their team-mates (heck, they don't even pay their COACH), or even remotely pay for eachother's vet doctor appointments. And I'm pretty sure Tennis player's don't buy their rackets $10 bales of hay because it's pure orchard and timothy.

4. Competitions are extremely expensive and not only do you have to factor in your own lodging and accommodations, you must also factor in your horses. Oh, and don't forget the cost to haul and the cost of a groomer/braider.

In other recreational sports, athletes use this thing called an airplane to get to their next game. Or, they use fuel-efficient vehicles that do not haul a 1,500lb animal in the back. And yet, pretty much everything is covered by the league (this is where equestrians go horribly wrong). I don't think many 16 year old horse crazy girls are going around collecting bottles from their neighbors to assist in sending them to the next show. But you certainly will see a team of Hockey players selling raffle tickets, partaking in hot-dog stands, etc.

The cost is minimal to none simply because, as a shower/ equestrian, you are alone for the most part.

3. There is no such thing as "off season".

Stuffing your saddle, horse, and the rest of your riding belongings into a duffle bag in the basement and reopening 5 months later is not only inhumane, but it just doesn't happen. Board still has to be paid and the horse still needs to be ridden - that is, unless your horse sustains an injury (but we'll touch on that in a second).

Hockey players go out and play rounds of golf when Summer is in full swing - the ice rinks are more or less drained of the ice and no one even thinks "hockey" until the first week of September. While us equestrians are freezing our asses off in the Winter, dragging buckets of water from the heated tack-room to the pasture because all the other taps are frozen.

2. In most sports, if your team-mate gets injured, you swap in a different player and wish the injured person well. HA! In horses? The best of us WISH we could wave and smile and say "get better soon", but the reality is that horses can and will get injured. They will require stall-rest, vet visits, and expensive vet bills - all things that we must do/pay. If a soccer ball deflates or becomes defective, soccer players just replace it with a new one.

So yes, your team-mate gets injured and most sports continue on with a substitute. YOUR team-mate gets injured and your entire season is put on hold for the fate of your "other half". Sure, a replacement could be given, but fees are still attached to your injured horse and more often than not, the replacement as well.

1.  We do it all for the grace of a 98 cent ribbon. And it may not even be a first place ribbon.

In some competitions, yes there are trophies and "high point" awards, but mostly everyone is ribbon hunting. The irony in this is that we keep these 98 cent ribbons for years and years, to display proudly on our book-shelves until they become "old" and get boxed away for a decade.

All kidding aside, we are a pretty rebellious, strong, and independent sport. We are the ones who are convincing a 1, 500lb animal to jump oxer spreads and to not spook at the Judge sitting at C. Our language is completely silent and completely mesmerizing when it all comes together. We do it because we love the sport, we do it because we love the rush. We do it because we're crazy.