Friday, January 29, 2016

The Maiden Voyage

Ready, set, GO!
 I had been itching to get the trailer out and about with the horses to not only see how it drives, but to also see how the horse's would respond to it. Some horses don't tolerate straight hauls; this is especially true if they've only been hauled in angle hauls before. It just takes some getting used to, which is completely normal and fine. Since I don't know much about Suzie or Spud's past, I can't confirm if either of them have been in a straight haul.

Truthfully, I didn't really fully prepare for this maiden voyage adventure as well as I probably should have. I simply went with the assumption that Suzie, being as aged as she is, and being as passed around as she was, that she would have been in a straight haul at some point in her life.

Folks, never assume something.

A friend hauled out with me to the next town to take the horse's to the indoor and I pre-warned him that the horse's might not be totally cooperative loading and unloading. Suzie's first impression of the trailer was very balky - she didn't really enjoy the ramp aspect of it and I had a feeling that she didn't like the idea of a "tighter" space to load into. She also seemed a bit lost in the whole "self loading" I was attempting and would stop and back up every time I stopped to ease her on in. She wasn't being spooky or completely refusing to load, but she seemed pretty confused and frustrated with my requests for her to load.

Mare says, "Let me outta here!"
So tell me, how do you load your horse into a straight haul? I'm a straight-haul virgin so I need some advice before I confuse my mare even more!

I will preface by saying that I've never really dealt with loading into straight hauls (pretty much everyone up here in this area have angle hauls) so I wasn't sure if I was just "doing it wrong" or confusing her. In the end, I pulled her leadrope over the center bumper pad and led her up through the opposite stall. She stood quiet as I clipped in the butt bar and didn't do much else.

Spud was a bit of a pain in the ass. In reality, I should have loaded him first. Every time I went to load him, he balked at the ramp. We played tug of war for a few seconds before he reluctantly followed me in and as soon as he loaded in, he tried to flip around and face the other way. No matter what I did, he would turn around to face backwards (which is fine) but there honestly isn't much room so his butt was ducking under the divider and hitting Suzie's legs.

Suzie also christened the trailer with her shit.
My next training tool will be teaching him to load backwards up the ramp and into the trailer. But I for sure will be putting him in first to avoid him trying to turn around and swinging under the divider. Once he's facing backwards, he doesn't move a muscle. I found the same thing with him in the angle haul - he would have to be tied on the opposite wall because otherwise he'd swing under the divider.

I actually had a few people message me on my Facebook about the trailer and how dangerous it is to have Spud able to swing underneath. I understand their concern, as it is valid. At this point, he does not swing under once he's already facing backwards. I had someone message me saying that if he were to fall, he'd fall under Suzie. Well, I suppose that is possible... but he is also tied in the trailer.

So, readers, what would you do? Would you put up a sheet of (removable) plywood for when Spud is being hauled in there or would you just leave it? Remember that I hauled him in an angle haul like this and the dividers in the angle haul were taller, too.

Such a pretty Dressage horse.
Beyond this, the trip was uneventful. I rode Suzie walk, trot, canter and she felt pretty good - she was a bit more stiff on the left rein, but that is normally her "bad" side. I didn't ride her longer than 30min and we did a lot of circles and getting her more and more supple. She really responded well, although her tempo and rhythm were out the window (that'll come back with time, I suppose) but she got a few circles that were really good.

She didn't take any misstep or give any indication she was in pain, which was good to see. She got a bit amped up a few times passing the other horses, but other than speeding up and lifting her head a bit, she still responded well. We had some great walk to canter transitions, although it took her a few strides to get composure and "come back" to me and the bridle.

Fat, fuzzy, and so cute.
After that, a friend and I tried to free-jump Spud and it certainly didn't go as planned (photos to come). He was pretty confused with the idea of the chute and kept jumping out the sides of the chute instead of going down the line. After a few failed attempts, we gave up and I decided to trailer home.

Again, the horses were a bit fussy to load but I shouldn't really blame them. The trailer smells pretty new and weird (paint) and it is a very new concept to them. I plan on, once the snow melts a bit more, to have a few loading and unloading sessions with them. I feel as though once I get them familiar with the trailer, they'll self-load like Emma's cool little mare in no time.

Operation Self-Load is a go!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Price of Time

 This March I'll have owned Suzie for three years.

This means we'll have had 1095 days of adventures, memories, and moments. All these big and little momentos of our journey together.

In some ways, I am excited for this upcoming anniversary and what it represents; but I noticed myself feeling a bit guarded and apprehensive about it at the same time.

I live with an unfortunate ability to process time and I continuously mark it with a more daunting outlook - this is exceptionally true for the older pets in my life... and Suzie is no exception.

The most handsome 12 year old ever.
 My dog Ty turned 12 this past October and instead of really celebrating with him, I felt my heart-strings give a dull ache that this significant moment meant more than just celebrating how long he's been a part of my life. It was also a bleak reminder of the reality of life and death. Still, I planned a little party for him and we gave him an ice-cream cone of his favorite soft-serve.

And I mirror those same thoughts towards Suzie. She is a 1993 model and turning 23 this year; an age that most would view the horse as retired and geriatric. And I find myself caught up in a whirlwind of personal views, politics, and uncertainty that taints the horse-world and I wonder if I am doing right by her.

And then I wish I could slow down the clock.

But life is funny because no matter where you are in the world or who you are, time keeps ticking and forever marches forwards. Like a racehorse breaking free from the start-box, there is only one way to go and it doesn't matter if you aren't holding on tight, because it'll gallop down the quarter mile anyways.

As I caught myself thinking once again about Ty and Suzie and the unfortunate reality of old age, I realized something.

I realized that, above all else, there is no certainty to how long your stay on Earth is. There is no calendar that is processed when you are born that displays a giant red "X" through the date you are to expire.

 There is no certainty in life.

So instead of marking the moments with the fragility of life, I've instead begun to appreciate the fact that my animals are still in relatively good health and can hang with the best of them.

You don't see many 12 year old dogs hiking mountains or running behind horses, do you?

And you certainly don't see many 22 year old ex-gymkhana horse's earning ribbons in the Hunter ring, do you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Knee Update of Sorts

Still sound and still ornery.
 I'll preface by saying that all is well in the land of Suzie-mare, so no need to panic!

I sent my Vet a vast array of pictures, videos, and a lengthy description Friday evening after I had a friend help me shoot some footage. This afternoon I got a reply back and it basically said what I figured it would say "Keep her on Previcoxx, and we will talk about injections in the Spring" (not a direct quote, but the gist of it, lol). I wasn't surprised the Vet wanted me to keep her on Previcoxx - it's normally something she is on during the riding season but I normally do not give it to her during the "off" season since I am not riding.

However, we've had quite cold weather and it's quite possible that because the horse's aren't moving around as much and because we have more snow this year than we had last year, that she's stiffened right up. The extra "boost" that Previcoxx gives her will be beneficial in this instance. And in addition, the snow and rain is causing ice which inadvertently causes trip and slip hazards - something that may be attributed to her onset of lameness. It is quite possible in fact, that the formation on her knee isn't directly related to the lameness she presented last week. Something to think about, anyway.

Little fuzzy chunkster <3
Of course, it is difficult for a Vet to even determine a lot of things about Suzie without seeing her "in the flesh" and I respect that my Vet is doing all she can for me, less seeing Suz in person. There is a scheduled trip for them in March wherein they will be coming up to the area (like they do every year). So although it has been "likely" determined that this change is in fact arthritis, the Vet isn't going to put a label on it until she sees it in person. My belief is that the changes in her knee are largely attributed to arthritis and the knee it has affected was more susceptible to the damage considering that leg is her "bad" leg (ie. barrel racing).

I realize that this isn't exactly practical, nor is it the most beneficial way of doing things (sending a Vet photos/videos), but when your area does not have a large animal vet, you do what you can to get by. I would like to say that I took her to a clinic and we did ultrasounds and xrays, but that is just not a reality in our neck of the woods. It may not be something everyone can understand, but it is a sad reality of where I live.

Pretty sure I shared this photo already but
she is just so damn cute in her new halter.
In better news, my Vet has given me the OK to ride her walk, trot, and canter (within reason, of course). Movement and mobility is critical for animals with arthritis and so long as we can continue progression, I don't forsee any more issues in our future. I was going to haul out yesterday and take the horses to the next town's indoor arena, but it began snowing and hailing so I decided to forgo the adventure. The next available date I'll be able to haul is Thursday, so fingers crossed for some clear roads. Suzie will be worked and Spud will (hopefully) be put through a jump chute.

Friday, January 22, 2016

This Isn't the "Bee's Knees"

Thursday morning I went out to feed the horse's like I normally do;  it was warmer than it had been in previous days and instead of tossing them their haybags and booking it back to the truck for warmth, I checked them both over for any abnormalities.

I had planned on riding later that afternoon and as I ran a hand down Suzie's fuzzy legs, I instantly felt something was off with her left knee. My heart sunk as my fingers brushed over a lump over the middle of her knee. My fear melted into curiosity as I realized the lump presented no heat or swelling and it was quite firm, much like bone.

This right here is a fucking problem.
Or is it?
 As I palpated and flexed the area with no reaction from Suzie, I racked my brain for what this could mean. Suzie has a pretty vast array of old scars and injuries that cover almost every inch of her legs, so sometimes it can be difficult to pin-point what is an old injury and what is actually new. This bump, however, certainly was not new despite her knees being a bit of a bumpy mess.

I do have to insert some kind of disclaimer here, I guess, because I'd like to remind everyone that Suzie is an older mare. Not only that, but she led quite a difficult life and hard life for most of her younger years. Barrel racing is so hard on horse bodies and minds - even harder when the horse is not treated like an athlete. But still, I appreciate Suzie and I appreciate every one of her scars and bumps because that is simply who she is. I can't change any of those scars and I can't change any of the lameness oddities that she has. She is who she is and I have to be enough of an owner to realize her capabilities, respect her boundaries, and always give her the best possible care.

OK, stepping down from my proverbial soap-box.

Jeez, settle down human.
 With Suzie being an older horse with many old injuries, I knew riding her after having so much time off would be interesting. She does take time to limber up and like any older horse, needs to be brought back to work slowly and with great care. I figured a walk around the block would do no harm. Unfortunately, once we started to jog down a dirt road, I noticed she felt a bit "meh". Not necessarily off, but not necessarily sound. I decided to continue riding, as like I have stated before, it's impossible to tell when something is a "true" lameness and when something is a "I haven't been worked in a while" lameness. Regardless, I wasn't asking for anything (she was ridden in a halter on a loose contact) although I imagine she was stretching muscles that hadn't been used all winter long.

By the time the ride ended, Suzie was walking sound but certainly was not sound at the trot. I got back to the barn, dismounted and started her back on her regime of Previcoxx and shot some quick videos. I drove away from the barn that night feeling pretty crummy about the entire situation, having a thousand thoughts running through my head.

This is what I had when I went back to the barn (I apologize for the awful video, I was by myself):

Did I do the right thing to ride? But there was no heat? And she didn't get progressively lame into the ride... Wouldn't stretching the area help? Was that bump there before, perhaps just not as big? Did Spud kick her?

So many questions, so much frustration and inner-turmoil. I took to my horsey-friends and sent them a million video clips, pictures, and my own thoughts on the entire situation. In true equestrian fashion, I was given a multitude of opinions. One suggested an abscess in the hoof causing the lameness, another offered that perhaps she had slipped in the snow and banged her knee, another told me it was arthritis and to look into injections. So I did what any sensible person would do - I opted to contact the vet.

This photo shows how flat her right knee is, and how lumpy
her left knee is...

 (Again, I will interject here that we do not have Equine Vets in this area. The closest one is a 6hr round trip away. This is something our entire equestrian community has been struggling with since our last equine vet passed away. We do have "traveling" vets that come up 2x a year to perform routine maintenance to horses, and this is the vet I consider to be "my" vet, despite the fact her clinic is over 8hrs away)

I still didn't have anything concrete when I went out to feed Friday morning, but I still dosed Suz with her Previcoxx. I figure that now I'll be riding more, I should begin the routinely regime that we normally follow every Spring/Fall.

The Vet asked me to send her some videos and photos, so I went back out to the barn later on Friday afternoon with a friend to get better shots and this is what I ended up with.

A completely sound horse.

So yes, chances are the Previcoxx did it's job and took the edge off of her discomfort. This still doesn't answer the "big lump" mystery and what it means. Is it an arthritic change? Or could it be something else?

Horses keep things interesting, that's for sure.

Fingers crossed for Suzie-mare and hopefully the Vet gives us some good advice because this mare is confusing as hell sometimes.

Trailer Restoration: Part 5 (The Finale)

Drum roll, please!

It has taken great lengths and much patience, but the once grey behemoth of a trailer has been converted into a beautiful rose thanks to the hard-work and effort put in by my significant other. Seriously guys, I couldn't have even begun to start on this thing without his help. He truly is a life saver!

With that being said, let's quickly recap what has been done since the last posting and bring you guys up to speed on all that:

Spacing the boards and laying them down.
We chose to go with 2 inch rough cut fir. Tough as nails
and will never rot, not in this lifetime, anyways.

The floor boards were painted to protect them against
moisture and rot.
It took about two days worth of drying and after that, we placed the floorboards down. You will notice that the boards do stick up a little from the trailer frame, but I don't really mind that much. The wood is a lot thicker than what was in the trailer before.

The tack room was outfitted with sheets of soft
interlocking foam tiles (because I refuse to have my saddles
fall onto a metal floor!). The saddle rack was also
sanded down and repainted.
 The above photo shows the foam tiles we placed down in the tack room to protect my saddles should they ever fall. I think it adds a bit more class to the trailer and it was super easy to install. Just get an exacto-knife and cut where needed until it fits. The even better part about this? The floor below will NOT rust like it did before because this new floor is removable. The previous flooring in the tack-room had carpet which was sealed down and trapped a lot of moisture in. This removable floor will be convenient for when I need to wash the trailer or even when items spill.

We took a break from the trailer over the Holidays and ramped up again in the new year with the bumper pads, as one of the local sewing shops had a sale on all fabric (50% off everything store-wide!) so we took advantage of that and bought all we needed (and more) for a whooping $65. Considering the cost of the fabric was initially priced at $26/meter, it was a good buy.

The vinyl is also crack-proof and is good up to
-25 weather-wise!

The re-making of the pads was pretty simple - all they are composed of is vinyl, a thin layer of foam padding and a wood backing. The BF and I were pretty smart and had kept the old pads from the trailer to utilize as templates to ensure we wouldn't mess up the sizes and waste fabric or wood. I didn't purchase any foam for the pads because I wanted to see what shape the foam in the old pads was and go from there (spoiler alert: the foam in the old pads was pretty decent, so I saved a few extra bucks by reusing!).

Firstly, I stripped the old pads down and separated the them by pulling each and every damn staple out (this task took me nearly four hours). Once that was finished, the BF and I numbered each old pad with the corresponding wood so that we would know which "set" went together. We laid out the old squares of vinyl over the new black fabric and "drew" them all on the fabric before cutting. Each cookie cutter shape got a number which matched the pad it was from. This way, after we were done we could ensure we had cut two of each number and would know what size wood belonged on the backing.

The task of cutting the fabric, cutting the wood, and stapling it all together took no more than four hours which was great. The pads look very clean-cut, fresh, and elegant. I will say that there is a bit of an art to folding the vinyl down on the backside so the corners are neat. The BF has that art mastered, so I let him go right ahead.
One of the many pads.
So pretty.

After the pads were completed, the Boyfriend and I finished the wiring and the remainder of the electrical.
We have lights!

My friend from Calgary flew up for a visit and ended up
helping us install some lights.

So, ladies and gentlemen.... the trailer is officially finished.

So there you have it. A complete trailer restoration done primarily by the Boyfriend. I think this guy is a keeper.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cold Weather = Pony Purchases

I did ride Suzie tackless last Saturday, though.
 After two weeks of having a Arctic Outflow Warning for the region (where temperatures dipped down to -23C with the windchill), it has finally been warming up enough to walk the pups outside without feeling like your face is going to fall off.

In that same breath, I've been anxious to ride my mare, but there are a few factors playing into my "no riding" mantra at the moment:
    • The outdoor arena I normally school in does not get cleared in the Winter, so it is unrideable.
    • The closest indoor facility is a 45min drive and the horse trailer still needs electrical wiring (so that's a no go).
    •  The roadways out where the horses are boarded are still slick with ice, so it would be quite unsafe to try and hack out around vehicles on a slippery road.
    • The last 5 days have seen freezing rain, so... yeah.
    Still, I am OK with waiting. The weather is still quite brisk and it makes for a pretty miserable ride - although some hand-walking may be in the horse's futures. In the midst of our cold snap I did some ordering online and the following items have just landed in my greedy hands...

    Please, for the love of all that is sacred, do not judge the weird
    bump over my crotch or the fact I am wearing mis-matched
    socks. I literally just got home from work and threw it all on.
    I finally took the plunge and got myself the show jacket I had been dreaming about since last March. At the time, it was priced way out of my budget at a staggering $270 (and some odd dollars); but I always kept a search online and when it came on sale, I snapped it up for $180. It is the Arista Modern Hunter Jacket - a much more modern jacket which features the soft-shell fabric that is all the rage on the showing circuits. Saying goodbye to my frumpy, heavy wool show jacket (that I've had for the past eight years) will be oh so easy.

    I will have to wear it around a bit more and let the fabric "mold" to me a bit more and ride in it to see if the sleeves need to be tailored, but other than that, it seems like a good fit. More to come later with a full review.

    She was NOT in the mood for posing and this
    was the best photo I got.
     At the same time, I figured I should splurge a bit on Suzie and decided to purchase her her very own leather halter with a name-plate that features her AQHA registered name. It was a decent buy, as I wanted something with a secondary overlay as I find the single strapped leather halters to look "meh". I was wanting to hold out for a beta-biothane halter like some other bloggers have, but the few places I did contact were too backed up with orders to take my business.

    The halter itself was really supple coming out of the box, but I noticed it was pretty large and hung quite low on Suzie's face. I've punched a few holes on the crown-piece (one punch on either side) so hopefully it'll change the fit and I won't have to sell it. The halter-tag is still in the mail coming from another shop, so I'll update once I get it installed (and also better photos to come!).

    I didn't realize I had ordered a fucking sleeping
    bag instead of a bridle bag.
    Lastly, for my coveted BR bridle, I purchased a bridle bag. Simple, a bit boring, but certainly a necessity - especially for a bridle of this caliber (my most expensive bridle before this one was a whooping $80).

    In a sick twist of hilarity, the bridle bag is apparently an "Extra Large". I had no idea when I ordered it and it could literally fit several Clydesdale bridles in it if necessary. Since I don't own a Clydesdale,  I could sleep in it at horse shows if I get really cold!

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    Spud Finally Has a Show-Name

    I can't recall if I've ever divulged this information yet, but with the sporadic posting and waiting to be able to wrap up the several posts sitting idle (waiting for a few things IRL to wrap up so I can actually post about it!), I think you all will appreciate this post.

    With the help of a Facebook group, I have officially decided on Spud's show name (note: he is not registered, so it isn't that *simple* to pick).

    So, without further ado, I formally present to you:


    Those who can appreciate the little cleverness imposed on this show name get extra points!

    And for those unfortunate souls who cannot, just think about it. His name is Spud. Spud's are potatoes. And sometimes you like to eat your potato FULLY LOADED.

    Hilarious, I tell you.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

    Hamer and Clay, You've Done it Again!

    Thinking that Christmas was over, I was surprised to learn another horsey friend had a little something for me tucked away over the Holidays. I managed to catch up with her last weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find that she had commissioned Hamer and Clay into sculpting a Hunter-esque Suzie!

    Some long-time readers may remember when I ordered from Hamer and Clay last year and did a product review. I had always wanted to get one of Suzie done, but never got around to it (I enjoy buying things for other people rather than myself, truth be told).

    So it was fantastic a friend went ahead and ordered one for me. There is no lack in attention to detail and the ornament is just priceless. And as if my own love-affair with Hamer and Clay wasn't enough, our very own $900fbpony has done her fair share of reviews, and love-proclamations for Kelsey and her company! I love that the blogging community has really marveled at these treasures and has done a lot to promote them!!

    Four Mares No Money
    As a sidenote, check out the PS of Sweden bridle, breastplate, and the Ogilvy!

    the 900fbpony
    So much detail!


    With that being said, I repeat that Kelsey's prices are reasonable, her work is impeccable and she really captures the true essence of each horse she sculpts. I know I'll be treasuring this ornament for years to come!

    Monday, January 4, 2016

    2016 Goals and Aspirations

    You may remember last year I had mapped out some future goals for the horses - the thing about irony is that half-way through the year I changed what I wanted to work on and how I was going to achieve it. I did manage to cross several of the items off of my list, such as buying Spud a new harness, showing Suzie in an AQHA show, purchasing a horse trailer, taking a clinic with Suzie, and even getting Spud ready for a rider.

    I'm ready for you, Summer.

    The thing is, 365 days is a long time. Things change and sometimes we have no control over it. I prefer my monthly goal analysis (which probably won't be up until February, as the horse trailer is not finished yet and the outdoor arena is not ride-able at the moment)  - it gives me the ability to tailor a methodical plan for the next 30ish days or so and I can always change around what I don't like/want.

    With that being said, there are some goals I certainly want to achieve by the end of the year and I think I have more of a grasp on what is a more attainable goal vs what is a "random" goal. Last year I admittedly put some "filler" goals in there - things I wasn't particularly smitten with or even tempted to really do, but knew I could achieve them if I wanted to. But at the same time, having these "random" goals is what makes horse-riding fun. So although I initially had a very short list of more attainable goals, I also wanted to include the more "random" ones.

    • Continue to show and work towards a High Point in any discipline we choose.
    • Perform a Dressage Freestyle (Kur). 
    • Go in a Gymkhana. 

    • Put a rider on him and have him going walk, trot, and canter if possible.
    • Show in harness; placings do not matter at this point.
    • Have his "lay down" trick more refined, without me having to hold up his leg.

    Something like this, but with a bigger overhang.

    The Property
    •  Start building a barn. Hopefully to have the horses moved in by late Fall 2016. This is going to be a pretty "big" goal, as continuing to self-care for the horses where they are now has gotten a bit more strenuous and time consuming (more on that later).