Thursday, October 31, 2019

Product Review: Two Horse Tack 2 in 1 Bitless Bridle

One of my favorite photos - it shows off the color of this bridle
very well, and it also shows just how nice and long the reins are!
Last year, Two Horse Tack reached out to me via Blogger to test and review one of their products. Unfortunately, I did not initially see the message, and contacted them several months later when I had discovered they had contacted me. I honestly expected the offer to have expired by that time, but much to my surprise, they offered to honor their original proposition.

Some may not know this, but I have had my eye on their bitless bridles for a while now, as I had wanted to transition Annie over to one for trail riding and road hacking just for the fun of it. I had no real motivation behind it aside from "why not" - it had nothing to do with her carrying (or not carrying) a bit, but moreso for her overall comfort when we head out to do some leisurely jaunts.

I've gotten to a point where riding Annie in a bitless bridle is not a pre-qualification for death, and for the most part I can comfortably and reliably ride her in one with zero issues.

Long time readers will remember how I converted Suzie's old (and much too big) leather halter into a bitless bridle for Annie, and at the time, it kinda worked, but it was also way too big and lacked a secure feeling on her head.

I mean, she looks cute as heck in it, but alas the
halter was much too big and I had wanted to "retire" the halter
 for sentimental reasons.
So when I had the opportunity to choose a piece of Two Horse Tack, I knew I was going to choose a bitless option. There are two styles of bitless bridle at Two Horse Tack you can purchase - one being the 2 in 1 (which I opted to go with) and the more traditional style Sidepull with a bit more stability.

I opted to go with the 2 in 1, feeling it gave me a bit more options to play around with what worked for Annie and what didn't. In efforts to stay with Annie's signature color, I ordered it in a beautiful purple with white stitching, and went with regular stainless steel hardware and english style reins with roller buckles. Two Horse Tack offers a variety of sizes - all the way from miniature to Draft and every single measurement in between... including custom measurements.

As for the hardware, there are a few options here for customization, such as the scissor snaps instead of roller buckles, or brass hardware instead of stainless steel, and of course a plethora of color options. If you prefer to layer your bridle, you can also do a combination of two colors or take a look at their rhinestone/bling bridles.

A short few weeks later, the bridle arrived and I immediately drove out to the barn to try it on Annie. It took a bit of fitting to get it just right, and the first few rides consisted of trying out the criss-cross pieces that run under the jaw (which Annie does not like) and bitless action the bridle offered. Annie much preferred the simplicity of the standard bitless and showed much more happiness when in the standard sidepull configuration.

Our first ride in the bridle - I had installed and used
the "sidepull" attachment, but later scrapped it thru the
ride as Annie preferred the feeling of the nose pressure vs jaw pressure.

My first impressions of the bridle was that the biothane was a decent thickness (approximately 3/4") and lacked a shiny finish which could cause rein slippage in rainy weather. The biothane is a more matte-finish and although the entire set up feels heavier than regular leather and buckles, I enjoy the fact it is carries some weight, especially in the reins.

I did have some issues with the fit of the noseband - truthfully tho, my measurements might have been slightly skewed which resulted in a bit too big of a noseband. However, this doesn't bother me and the excess is easily tucked into the D-ring of the sidepull. The remaining aspects of the bridle fit well, but I have had some troubles with the throatlatch section creeping upwards, causing the portion of it which rests behind her ears to "bubble up". It doesn't happen consistently, and all it takes is a simple yank downwards of the bottom of the throatlatch - I also slide the little metal divider between it and the cheek pieces over to prompt it to stay in place.

My favorite part of the entire bridle is probably the reins, which are 10ft overall (5ft on either side), which allows Annie to get a good stretch in and gives me enough rein to lead her over/under obstacles if needed. I also love that I chose the roller buckles, as it allows me to undo the reins easier than if they had Conway buckles.

A bit too long of a noseband, but Bannie doesn't care!
I also love the fact the throatlatch is adjustable from both sides (although it has to be to accommodate the criss-cross configuration which anchors to the throatlatch) and beyond that, I love how much abuse this bridle can withstand. Living in Northern BC where it rains (or snows) 6 months of the year, I need my tack to be able to stand up to moisture, mud, dust, dirt, grime, etc. And as a sidenote, I'm not a hugely passionate tack cleaner so having one less bridle to deep clean and condition is always welcome.

This thing fits the bill ten times over. Having dealt with biothane for a few years now with Spud's Comfy Fit Harness, I already knew how much of a beating this product can take. It's hardy, doesn't show dents or scratches and is happy to be plunged into a water trough or simply hosed off every few months as part of its irregular cleaning.

I haven't had any issues with the biothane rubbing or causing hair loss either, which is a common question when using non-leather products. Annie has gotten wet plodding through creeks and rivers and I haven't had an issue with raw skin or any sensitivity.

We got a purple bonnet, which she shook off fifteen times
so I ended up just stuffing it into my pocket.
Overall, it's a really nice piece of tack. I've had the bridle in my regular riding routine for the last 6 months and its holding up amazingly. No sign of stress, cracking, no drying out, no stitching breakage... nothing.

The makers over at Two Horse Tack are quite generous when it comes to cost - custom measurements and color choice are calculated in the standard price and are not considered an additional cost. There are different variations of this bridle - two color combos, bling (seriously it's so adorable), specialty colors such as camouflage and reflective biothane, and even a real leather option.

This entry level bridle runs anywhere from $60 - $84USD depending on the amount of customization you do and if you include reins or not (the other styles, such as bling, camo, reflective, etc are all a bit more). For a bridle exactly like mine, you'd be looking at $77.50USD, which I think is a fair price, considering the fact it is hand-crafted, is made to your horse's particular measurements (at no charge), and the "add ons" are very reasonably priced.

There are also sales usually running on the site, which means you can typically snag a bridle for a decent price.

The last thing I wanted to mention was how awesome the customer service at Two Horse Tack is - they are fast to reply to e-mails, were more than gracious to extend their offer despite me not seeing it initially, and the bridle didn't take long at all to be constructed, shipped, and delivered. Overall, I am very happy with this product and would recommend it to those who are looking for a fun, colorful hacking out bridle that doesn't require the upkeep that regular leather does. And if bitless isn't your thing, they carry a variety of biothane bridles such as: English, Western, Halter/Endurance, Australian, Medieval, Mule and Racing bridles, all with similar options I outlined above! 

Thank you Two Horse Tack for the beautiful bridle, and thank you for creating such a lovely product!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Sorry, not sorry.
She's fucking cute.
(And you better believe that slightly dark shadow off to
the right of the photo is A Lurking Bannie).
Following Maizey's arrival, I began to work diligently on breaking her unwillingness to be caught - we had some good days, and we had some very, very bad days. I can't say that chasing down a stubborn as Hell weanling in the pouring rain directly after work for 40min + was on my list of Top Ten, but I persisted nonetheless. On one particularly terrible day, I indeed made a slow motion dive and snatched her grab strap after thoroughly being soaked to the bone after attempting to rouse her with food, inpromptu round-penning (which is much more difficult in a square paddock), approach/retreat, and a few Hail Mary's. Nothing worked and the little bugger would let me get close enough, and then rip roar across the paddock and stand smugly with a leg cocked at the opposite fence.

As the days went on, I switched up tactics to find out which approach worked best to encourage Maizey's natural curiosity, as well as ensure she was still respecting me and my movements. Of course, as a mere babe, she has no idea what the real world is about, so I used the help of Annie and Spud over the fenceline to quip Maizey's interest in me (and humans in general). I worked with some of the suggestions mentioned and began integrating food as a primary staple of our relationship - I am the Food Lady and as the Food Lady, I will hang out with you while you eat. I asked nothing of her for a few days, aside for some brief (but full) attention. 

We were both miserable and SOAKED. The rain had gotten down into my T-shirt
and I was frozen by the time I got home. This was a very miserable day, despite the smiles that
suggest otherwise (Maizey's expression is more par for the course).
She began to blossom just before the weekend and started to meet me at the gates of her paddock, happy to walk up and receive a scratch. I took the pressure off after realizing it was less about being able to catch her and more about developing a relationship with the horse. I was so fixated on being able to grab the catch strap and move her around, I forgot the most integral part of working with a new horse - getting to know eachother. 

It's kinda taught me to slow down a bit and appreciate the small things... which, I think, is something horses teach us time and time again. It can be so alluring and tempting to Do All The Things, but there has to be a starting point somewhere and sometimes you have to back off a bit to gain traction. So, I backed off and started to work less on the short term goal (catching her) and started focusing on the long term goal (becoming a person to trust).

I fed Annie and Spud treats in front of the gate lots, to entice Maizey to come see
what all the fuss was about. It worked, and she started to become more interested in
why these other two equines so badly wanted to be my friend.
I'd love to say it was my change in attitude, or some weird voodoo magic I did in her paddock to help her bridge the gap. But I think change in her demeanor could be due to several factors - the largest being she shared a fence-line with two horses who are very personable and in your pocket. Watching how Spud and Annie interacted with me, and naturally being gravitated to join them at the fence-line, she watched and saw first hand how much both wanted to be with me. 

Of course, second to that was the fact I was no longer fixated on "catching her" and was more interested in getting to know her and her feelings. Which, sounds hilarious until you sit back and think about it. She's been through a lot the last month of her life, and while a lot of it is #ToughTitties, I can sympathize that she went through a lot of monumental changes that she doesn't yet quite understand. It's my job as her new "mom" (although Annie might fight me for that position haha) to fill in that gap and give her a good foundation and start in life past what she was taught as a foal. 

And then I couldn't get rid of her.
Over the last week I put in a few days of work with her - nothing too over the top or crazy. This past Saturday I brought her out of her pen and walked the fencelines in the back paddock to show her the open spaces and where the fences were (which is a bit stupid because I doubt she was paying attention lol, but it made me feel better that she'd know the "layout" before being turned out). She led well, and Annie made sure to join us because #stalker.  

After that, I brought her out into the barn (by herself), tied her, and worked on brushing her all over and lifting her feet. When I first brought her out, Annie started to trot around and call for her, and Maizey anxiously called back. It took about 2-3 minutes before both of them quit and Maizey cocked a leg quietly and let me touch her all over and brush her like a big, grown up pony. She also lifted all of her feet - altho hopped around a bit (learning to stand on 3 legs is hard, haha) and let me pick each quietly before setting them back down.

First time being tied in front without her friends.
She was a bit worried, but otherwise was a good girl. 
Sunday was Farrier day and all of the horses were well behaved and Maizey was fabulous - our Farrier was able to rasp all of her hooves with minimal wiggling. With many pats and a newfound friendliness and inquisitive nature, I made the elective decision to turn Maizey out with the herd. Reason being, the first crisp snowfall is ever approaching and I'd prefer she be well integrated before then and also for her to be aware of the pasture layout before the inevitable daylight savings time. Sunday was the perfect day, as I had a lot of daylight to play with and had the ability to check her multiple times throughout the afternoon to ensure things were going well. 

If you look closely, you can see all three of the amigos.
It also helped that all of the horses were now well acquainted with one another after a week of over the fence business - I had zero indication there would be issues. In fact, Spud had snuck into Maizey's pen a time or two during cleaning time because he's a rotten boy. 

I was a bit unsure about taking the halter off and turning Maizey out completely naked, but I also did not want to leave the halter on. We did a few halter on/ halter off exercises before I slipped it completely off and removed the lead from around her neck. 

After checking Maizey a few times throughout the day on Sunday (#helicoptermom), I had all the evidence I needed to go to sleep that night without worry. All of them were getting along, and I was pleased to see that the addition of Maizey didn't make Spud the third wheel. I have seen Spud snacking out of the haybox with Maizey while Annie stands off across the paddocks on her own, and I've seen Annie standing quietly over a sun-bathing Maizey in the warm, late afternoon sun. 

Organized from largest to smallest.
I was a bit concerned with how interested Annie was in Maizey that it would translate to some Spud chasing (I had actually removed Spud's grazing muzzle to leave the little man armed with his teeth and ability to bite should Maizey step out of line), but Spud could simply care less about the weanling and although he's thrown her a few ugly faces, he is happy to munch hay with her.

We've worked a bit more on All The Things A Baby Should Know - namely leading, yielding to pressure (yielding forehand, haunches, backing), and lifting her feet. She's done a complete 180 since I brought her home and it's been fun to see her personality blossom. She's a very quiet and happy little filly - she'd rather stand around than gallop (unlike Annie, who had a full on PARTY in the back paddock and littered the grass with skid marks and deep hoof-sized holes). 

Annie has been so kind and motherly towards Maizey - its
actually super cute.
Things are chugging along quietly, and I'm happy to see the progress so far. My main priorities are getting the basics down and letting her be a baby, so we play some days and other days we simply say a quick hello and I'm on my way. 

I'm happy she's finally integrated though and all the horses are seamlessly co-existing. I think aside from saddle shopping, introducing horses to new herds is just as stressful, haha!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Part 3: Welcome, Maizey

We left Alberta Sunday morning, somewhere around 5am (4am our time), and it didn't take too long to get the baby loaded. Unfortunately, she was not handled much as it is not the breeders way of doing things, and as such, she can be very difficult to catch. I got it done tho, and although she took some encouragement and a little bum rope to pop into the trailer, she appeared none worse for wear, just confused.

It was one of those situations I kinda sat back and sighed - getting the horse into the trailer needed to be done and while we did it as kindly and quietly as possible, I felt bad for this weanling, who had been through quite a lot within the last three weeks of her life (being weaned, leaving her weanling friends, first trailer ride, and now a second trailer ride). It is a lot for a baby, and we did our best to make the trip as low stress as possible.

A break in the travels for a walk-about and some pets.
We removed the divider in the trailer and left her loose for a good 80% of the journey - she ate well and drank at one of our many rest stops. We made sure to stop a few times, just to give her a break from bracing and tensing around the corners, as that in itself uses a lot of energy and muscle memory. She did good though, and we unloaded her midway and allowed her to walk around, drink, eat, and check out her surroundings. While I wrangled dogs, a friend who had traveled with us handled the baby and actually managed to get her to load on her own, which was really nice to see.

Somewhere close to 10:00pm, we finally rolled into the driveway of my barn and I had never been so thankful to be back home again. Stuffing a long drive into three days was insane, and we were certainly feeling the effects of the 3000km long journey.

The baby unloaded well, although was a bit nervous about backing out (the divider was reinstalled closer to home, as I picked up a friend of a friend's horse from Trainer K) but I just gently reminded her she was a brave baby that could do this.

Just before she popped into the trailer.
It took a bit of wrangling to get her all settled in her pen, as we had to pass directly through Annie and Spud's pens to get there. I opted to halter Annie and hold her and Spud off to the side as Jamie led the baby through and into her new little paddock. Reason being, I had no idea how everyone was going to react and we wanted to integrate them slowly and methodically - as well as having the baby in a smaller pen since she is not very friendly at the moment.

Everything went well though, and I could tell immediately that all would be fast friends, as I watched Annie and Spud sniff noses with the baby over the fence. We monitored them for the next 30-40 minutes just to make sure everything was buttoned up, tossed the baby some hay and filled up her water and made the remaining 10 minute drive home.

We mulled over the names I had picked out months ago, and waffled between two of them. I had an idea as to which I wanted to use, but without knowing her true personality, it was hard to really give her an identity when I felt I didn't really know her.

Starting to get a bit inquisitive. Ignore how soggy and
wet everything is... we live in a perpetual rain-forest.

We actually didn't officially name her until Tuesday evening, and settled on the very first name I had chosen back in May when she was born - Maizey.

I had smartly taken Monday off of work, and used that as an opportunity to muck around the barn a bit, gauging how everyone had fared overnight. I noticed some slide marks on Annie and Spud's side of the fence - from trotting about in the absolutely mucky and saturated ground no doubt (it has been raining 10-15mm on average for the last 2 weeks and I am so over it). 

Annie seemed to be a little too interested in what Maizey was doing, and part of me worried a bit she'd become a bit too possessive. My nervousness grew as I worked Maizey in her little paddock and Annie trotted around the outside perimeter nervously nickering whenever I started to lead her away.

"Annie kisses are gross!" - Maizey, probably.
Thankfully tho, after a few days, everyone has started to settle into themselves and Maizey has become a bit of "old news". It'll still be a while before she is turned out with Annie and Spud, as her lack of handling as a fresh foal has left some gaping holes that require filling before I even think about integrating her into a herd. Some days have gone good - like on Tuesday wherein it took less than 3 minutes to catch her.... and some days are bad - like on Wednesday when it took 30 minutes. It was kind of funny to watch in a way, as Annie had a bit of a coniption on Monday when I was working Maizey (pacing the fence, standing and shaking her head at me) and then on Wednesday, as Maizey took off loping away from me for the 5th time, Annie peeked her head out of the undercover shelter at the two of us in the pouring rain, kinda smirked and turned back to her hay as Maizey called for her. "Sorry kid, can't you see it's raining?"

Despite the catching woes, she seems to have a very level head on her shoulders (much like her half-siblings) and it'll just take time to bring that out. Once caught, although she can be a bit uncertain about what is going on, she takes it all in stride. She's very handleable and feels malleable - so much that even my non-horsey Dad handled her when we went for a stroll around the street with Annie.

Right now, we're just working on playing catch up - doing all the boring things that a horse needs to learn. Catching is just one component of learning, and we've been doing variations of a few exercises just to get her used to being around people and that we aren't always going to "bug". Having two horses on the opposite side of the fence we are curious and in-your-pocket is helpful so that Maizey can see how they interact with me. 

It was much easier to work her at Alaina's, simply because she was in a round pen but I no longer have that luxury at my barn. We work with what we have tho, and I've been ensuring she still stands to face me instead of turning her butt and ignoring (and eventually walking or trotting off). She does gravitate towards my other horses tho, which makes it helpful and once she gets integrated with the herd I feel she'll blossom even more, as Spud is one of the most friendliest creatures in the world and tends to bring out the inquisitive side in everyone.

Both soaked after 30 minutes of trying to catch her.
Rotten baby.
It's a new journey, for sure. And I am excited to finally have brought home a piece of a dream I started several years ago. While I am predominantly an English rider, I have no real showing aspirations with Maizey like I do with Annie (although hey, maybe that'll change). Her main job when she becomes a reliable riding horse is to tote The Boyfriend around and give us the ability to ride together, attend poker rides, and have fun with our horses. I'm looking forward to sharing my passion and interest in horses, and I think a comfortable and reliable Paint is just what we needed.

Aside from future plans, we're breaking things down piece by piece and working to shape her into a confident, quiet, and reliable horse that anyone can ride. I'm excited for the challenge and look forward to learning more about young horses and how to adequately develop them and work with them. I certainly don't claim to know everything there is, so we're working through things bit by bit and I'm doing a lot of research, reading, and ordering of books and videos to make sure all my bases are covered (bc just like Annie, I am #anxiousallthetime).

Annie was such an awesome "leader" for Maizey on her first
short little trip out of the barn. Very calm, quiet, and confident.
Maizey got to check out some garbage cans, signs, etc and
took it all in stride!
All of that being said, so far I'm pretty pleased with her. It'll just take some time to build up some trust, confidence, and respect. A large part of me is hoping that Maizey is quick to draw herself to me, as the first snowfall of the season is inching its way ever close, and I'd like to have her into the herd at that point as our massive snowfalls make a majority of the pasture they are in unused.  

As I go through this journey with Maizey, rest assured we have awesome Trainer K to help us out along the way, and I have plenty of time scheduled in for her to just be a horse and grow (in fact, she'll be turned out to pasture next year with a half-sister for a good 4-5 months). It takes a village, and I am looking forward to bringing up baby and seeing her grow and change!

As a sidenote - does anyone have any tips, tricks, or personal stories to share in regards to difficult to catch weanlings or weanlings that were not handled much since birth? 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Part 2: Flipping a Coin

She spent a lot of time lounging in the hay piles, haha.
Following the message of the foals birth, I danced around a bit at the prospect that she would be for sale (the only Tristan foal out of 5 this year to be up for grabs... they are hard to get a hold of!). And just as quickly, kinda recoiled into an eternal pros/cons list as I figured out what I was going to do.
I mean, talking babies is a fun pass-time, but would I actually bite the bullet and commit? 

In a lot of ways it felt surreal - most Tristan foals were snatched up long before I had the opportunity to actually think logistics instead of, "Oh my god he/she is so cute, that would be so cool if I could bring him/her home!" But this one arrived into the world safely and was 100% available, with me being first in line to make that decision, so should I choose (stalking tendencies do pay off).

It honestly took a few weeks - I mulled the prospect of adding a baby to my herd over and over again in my head. 

Was this something I really wanted? 

Did I have the time/money/energy to commit? 

In the end, I played hokey pokey with commitment, and although my heart said, "Do it, you won't regret it!", my head was ever-logical and reminded me I didn't really need another horse. 

But I had waited years for this exact opportunity. And it was right in front of me, within a fingers grasp.

Would I let the opportunity slip past me again, or would I see all of the signs for what it was? I mean, of all the days to born, how fitting that the only available Tristan foal arrive on Suzie's birthday? And how perfect that a really good friend of mine in Alberta offered to pick her up and board her once weaned so we wouldn't have as long of a drive to go get her...

Despite all of the signs pointing in one direction, I still wavered. 

One evening, a few weeks after the foal was born I abruptly got up from the couch after playing the "Should I/should I not?" game for the twentieth time in a row and marched into the bedroom, calling behind me to The Boy, "Where is your lucky coin?"The coin was one he found in the hospital parking lot after his grandmother passed. 

My Dad had always told me if you have an important decision or a moment of indecisiveness in your life that you simply cannot choose, you flip a coin. Taking in his words of wisdom, we stood in the bedroom, on the edge of deliberation and hysterics that a coin was going to make the final decision. 

I noted that I would call the side as the coin was flipped in the air and as The Boy tossed the Canadian Loonie into the air, I verbalized, "Tails." 

It felt like eternity as he caught the coin, flipped it over and showed which side had come up.


We both looked at each other, a bit dumb-founded and I simply stated, "Well I guess we're getting another horse!"
I let the new owner of the broodmare know our final decision and sent a deposit for the filly after a contract was drafted up and everything appeared to be savory. 

The next few months were filled with brief updates and as the days ticked by, it started to feel more real. We made some adjustments at the barn, including modifying the one existing paddock to keep the baby separate upon arrival. 

I kept the news quite guarded, despite the amount of excitement and happiness I felt, as I knew all to well that horses are horses (especially baby horses). The next five months were painful, and I sent requests for updates probably way too often. However, she was growing up well and looked like a healthy young horse.

Over the period of a few months we started to work out the logistics of transporting her, as well as the timeline of her weaning, as Northern BC and Alberta tend to become treacherous near the end of October and into early November. Safety was top priority, and we didn't really plan definitive dates, as the weather would be a large indicating factor. The broodmare's owner offered to let the foal stay on property until Spring, should the weather be too poor to effectively navigate the Northern Highways which claim so many vehicles in the Winter.

As October came, we waited with baited breath as Thanksgiving weekend arrived and a good friend of mine was scheduled to pick her up and bring her back to her place. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and it looked as though we would be in the clear to safely head that way the following weekend. 

The baby arrived in good spirits at my friend's place in Alberta - the lack of handling she received as a foal made things like leading and catching increasingly difficult, but Alaina assured me there was a good brain under there. 

Baby and Alberta Equest <3
As a sidenote - why do people kick their foals out to pasture and do nothing with them until weaning?! I seriously cannot understand the reasoning and while I understand it is quite common for some horse people, I really don't understand it's purpose. The breeder who was more local to us did a lot of preparation training with her babies - including trailer loading and farrier work - and its a bit sad to see that her own ethics with her foals did not carry on past this. 

Anyways, that soap-box rant aside, we made our way to Alberta this past weekend in a whirlwind trip that I still need a few days to recover from. We covered over 2500km (more, if you include driving to outer cities for shopping, etc) in three days and suffice to say, I am officially over being in a vehicle for any period of time.

Thankfully, the baby travelled well and she is officially (and finally!) home!

I met her at like, midnight when we got to Alberta, haha.

(Part 3 coming soon)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Part 1: Full Circle

Back in 2016, when I had freshly retired my elderly Quarter Horse mare Suzie due to navicular and arthritic changes in her knee, I had talked a lot about what my future with horses would look like. I contemplated then the possible reality of owning a foal - one from a very specific stallion and mare, a breeding program I had followed for several years.

Suzie, the epitome of red-headed mare, haha.
I dwindled down that road for a while, and had even had it lined up to put a deposit on the mare's 2016 colt. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me it just wasn't meant to be. I picked myself up after his loss, and carried on, eventually finding Annie and bringing her home 6 months later. 

This whole chasing baby thing has been a bit of a chaotic adventure - I set my eyes on this breeding program years ago and watched, forlornly from a distance until I edged out and tried to make it work. Life is both funny and cruel, so I took a step back from pursuing a dream that I couldn't seem to gain any traction on.

So after Annie, I kind of let it go. 

More foals were born, weaned, and sold, and I watched with tepid interest. 

Annie was working out great, and as my first foray into young horse ownership, she was a perfect teacher. I slowly gained traction on various goals I had wanted to reach, and the more I expanded my knowledge and interest in developing her, the more I felt I could actually "do this". As someone who rarely rode young horses, it was a big change, and I've learned so much from working with her that I feel more confident in dealing with green horses - something that was not a learned skill as I weaved through my equestrian journey, with a variety of coaches and friends to help us along the way.

These flashbacks from two years ago still make me pinch myself!
And then the Summer of 2018 came, and the breeder announced she was getting out of breeding and as such, was selling a vast majority of her broodmares as well as her very successful and decorated stallion. I reached out to her, not really sure what I had in mind, but had a very soft agreement that should my pick of the broodmares remain on site, I would have first dibs on her resulting foal come Spring.

A few broodmares went to their new homes, and soon enough, I was offered to purchase the mare in foal (a kind of two for one deal). Despite the Boyfriend vigorously chanting me on to do it, I took the time to mull the proposal over and in the end, respectfully declined for a variety of reasons. 

First off, I'm not a breeder nor do I have aspirations to foal a mare out (especially in our area where Emergency Vet care is non-existent), as well as the fact I lease property (as well as feed hay all year, so think of the added costs there), and lastly, the mare herself was only breeding sound due to a pasture accident. I felt that with all of these items combined, I had to walk away. It was tough, but it was the responsible thing to do, especially if I felt that care would be compromised. 

And despite several people telling me to "just sell the mare after", I don't think I could ever do that. After having Suzie, I have become acutely aware of just how much horses can be passed around - as a sound and (mostly) sensible horse, I was Suzie's 7th registered owner. Who knows how many people she got passed around by who didn't register themselves on her papers.

She was a temperamental, hot-missile barrel-seeking red-headed mare and I loved
every single moment of it. She was my first foray into horse ownership and
I couldn't have asked for a better, and more understanding equine partner.

So, with considering the financial strain of owning a non-riding horse and my own moral feelings on buying and selling right away, I chose to walk away.

Don't despair tho, because the breeder found all of her broodies excellent long-term homes - including my favorite (who is actually only 45 minutes away now!). 

And of course, like the stalker I am, I reached out to the woman who purchased the mare to let her know I was interested in the resulting foal. Which, obviously is the whole reason she bought the mare in the first place. Despite this, she offered the mare on a breed lease and I went to work on figuring out the logistics of shipping semen, etc, as the stallion had since relocated to Alberta.

It all made my head spin and I hit roadblocks at every turn - first the stallion was not yet being collected, then the Vet I had hoped to use wasn't doing AI anymore, and the list goes on.

Before the New Year though, I had reached out to a few of the remaining broodie owners and had basically told them, "If a foal hits the ground, let me know." 

I didn't hear from many of them, as there weren't many broodmares to begin with, and very few wanted to part with the resulting foals once they had hit the ground.

I honestly didn't expect to hear anything, as it seemed as though this whole baby adventure was to be for naught.

However, on May 12th (poetically enough, Suzie's birthday), I received a message through Facebook that read, "She's here!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

That Time Annie's Eye Blew Up

As promised, here is the story about Annie's eye and what resulted from an emergency Vet trip which led me to cover 500km (310 miles) in a single day.

First, let's back up a bit.

Oh dang.
Following my trip to Mexico mid-September, I immediately hopped in the saddle the first chance I could get. Naturally, the second day of my return also featured some saddle time. However, as I pulled Annie from the paddocks, I noticed her lower lid had some slight swelling and groaned inwardly as I threw her in the cross-ties.

She didn't seem too bothered, so I opted to continue tacking up and figured a light ride in the snackamore wouldn't hurt any. I had plans to meet a friend, and we were going to wander the subdivision and catch up - my favorite activity as of late.

As I swung a leg over and cruised down the drive, I started to message our vet with information and pictures, as I know full well that eye injuries are not something to take lightly. I met up with Nicole and AJ as I finished sending the e-mail and we plodded along for the next 45 minutes. The ride was alright, but Annie grew increasingly agitated and would toss her head every several strides. We were close to home by that point, so I hopped off and walked home with Spud and Annie in tow.

Back at the barn, I called and texted the vet (bc #anxious), and gave Annie some previcox before heading home for the evening. It didn't take long for the Vet to message me back, which I was extremely thankful for, and I was advised to watch the area and see how she did.

Monday morning the eye looked great and the swelling seemed to recede to the point where I felt pretty confident it was a minor scrape to the fleshy part of her lid and she would be fine.

However, Tuesday surfaced and Annie was very uncomfortable - cocking her head and trying to hide her injured eye into my sweater, as well as attempting to "run away" from whatever sensation the eye was giving her. I took a few videos and frantically contacted the Vet again, noting a small scab had started to form near the outer corner of her eye.

Banamine and antihistamines were our best friends that day, and although the swelling receded that evening, by Wednesday morning it was back with a vengeance and I sent the Vet a four-worded text that read "We're on our way.". While I feel as though it could have been handled at home (knowing the outcome now), at the time I was positively frantic with the possibilities, despite physical evidence in front of me dictating the eye was not compromised.

Wednesday morning I came out to the barn to find this and promptly headed
back home to hitch up the trailer.
Still, better to be safe than sorry.

It was a nice long 500km roundtrip to the Vet, which made for a very long day for everyone involved. However, I was relieved to have our Vet get her hands on Annie and perform a few tests to ensure the integrity of her eye, as well as explore the area to give her findings.

Ironically, I had reached out to the Vet and had scheduled to be in her next set of appointments at Barn C (our Vet just moved up from the Alberta area and is located a bit far from us, but she comes up 1-2x a month to Barn C for appointments, which is HUGE considering for the last decade we've simply had Traveling Vets who come up 1-2x a YEAR) for an alternate issue I had wanted explored.

We were able to both assess the eye and look into the other issue I had outlined previously with the Vet - a semi-persistent cough that has plagued Annie since she had a horse-cold mid-July. It isn't persistent, and it isn't exercise induced, but she will randomly cough (hard) in the pasture and/or under saddle and I was becoming a bit worried, as Annie has never been much of a cougher since I have owned her.

Just living her best life, content to eat all the grass on Vet C's front lawn.
We did a few tests, including eye-staining, and the overall findings in her eye were very promising - the eye was intact, not scratched or ulcerated like the Vet had disclosed the day previous. We weren't hugely concerned about the eye itself, as she hadn't been blinking furiously or squinting tears/pus. The only real issue was the amount of swelling. The Vets official diagnosis was "insect sting/bite". We carried on with some NSAIDs, as well as cold-compression, and a nifty "eye patch" adorned to her fly mask, as the UV rays were causing a lot of discomfort (ie. head tossing).

Next we moved onto the cough, which included a few laps of trotting on the Vet's front lawn, palpation of the area, a pre and post-exercise lung check, and a few other short-duration tests. The number one concern I had was that the cold she had had back in July had caused some kind of lung scarring and her ability to effectively draw in and expel air would be compromised.

The vet findings were that the lining of her trachea appears to not have completely healed - as just like in people, horses may have weaker immune systems and require a greater length of healing, especially after contracting an upper respiratory tract virus. We discussed at length that this particular virus is not something that can be vaccinated for, and I personally know of three other horses who had contracted the same virus over the Summer. The horses with weaker immune systems seemed to have been hit the hardest, as Spud never showed any issues despite being hauled and exposed as much as she.

An ice-pack was not to be tolerated, so I took to
freezing dish cloths in the freezer and she seemed much
less objective. 
The final recommendation for this was limited, but sensible exercise for the remainder of the Fall/Winter.

Following the Vet appointment, it took nearly a week and a half for her eye to stop being so extra. I sent daily messages to the vet, including photos, and did as much cold-compression therapy I could. Her eye turned into an even bigger, swollen mess before the weekend, and the skin began curling and peeling in the most randomest places due to the toxic substances attempting to leech their way out of her body.

Its painful just to look at.
Thankfully this came in the days to follow.
Once the last of the deadened skin fell, the swelling vanished and along with it, Annie's sensitivity to light. The first day I took her eye-patch fly mask off it was kind of hilarious, as Annie had spent the last several days navigating the pastures with one eye that she seemed shocked to discover she had two of them again.

Since the appointment and her eye healing, we've relegated ourselves to 1 hack a week - mostly walking, although I have thrown in a few short-lived stretchy trot sets. I did have to cancel my last Anthony clinic of the year, but the horse comes first no matter what. If time off is what she needs, that's what we'll do.

It's been kind of weird to not have a strict riding schedule, and I was worried with one ride a week Annie would become a bit of a fire-breathing dragon, but for the most part she seems to be enjoying the downtime, despite the fact I can tell she is bored (I have spied a few gallop marks in the back paddocks so she can't be too bored lol). We have been working on some in-hand stuff as well as hand-walking, but I'm kinda just letting her be a horse and enjoy the downtime. Which, she couldn't have picked a better time of year, as our riding season slowly dwindles from October onwards, so we aren't necessarily missing much.

The pink highlighter sheet is out in full force.
Pictured is Annie, ready for our weekly toodle <3
Regardless, she's worked so hard these past two years that she deserves it.

Friday, October 11, 2019

10 Questions for October

As always, L at Viva Carlos is giving us prime blog fodder - thank you for the 10 questions!

1. What discipline do you ride? What would you ride if you could pick any other one?

I played western with this saucy red head for a bit <3
This one is kind of a two-fer, as I both ride and drive (although I suppose driving is not *technically* considered "riding" in the literal sense). Regardless, I am what one would define as an all-around English rider - I don't really fit into the mold of a Dressage rider or a Hunter rider - I kinda do a bit of everything and spread my learning across a the broad spectrum of disciplines available to the English community. Mostly tho, I stick to Dressage and the low Hunters.

If I had to pick another discipline, I think it would be fun to try my hand at Eventing. At the same time tho I'm a huge wimp when it comes to jumping, so Reining or some kind of Ranch Horse competition would be fun!

2. How many horses have you ridden in your entire riding career?

Hilariously enough, a friend and I were just talking about this the other night. A few years ago I captured names of the horses I've ridden, but since then the list has grown. I've updated the linked list below:

  • The Quarter Horses/ Paints/ Morgans (and respective X's):
    Annie, Mac, Suzie, Pal, Cobra, Flash, Monroe, Pippa, Cheyenne, Beauty, Myriah, Sunnyboy, Nifty, Riott, Rookie
  • The Arab/ Anglo Arabs (and respective X's):Amythyst, Flicka, Jazzy, Oliver, Paloma, Zephie, Stormy, Smokey, Fly
  • The Warmblood/ TB/ Andalusian (and respective X's):Czar, AJ, Geronimo, Havana, Bubba, Tally, Lacey, Sinclair, Diamond, Peppy, Roxie, Asterix, Neveuhm, Navarro, Cloud, Annie, Nixie
  • The Gaited Horses/ Standardbreds:
    BJ, Bumper, Goldie
  • Ponies:
    Lightning, Prada
With the inclusion of these new horses, the total is now at 47 (and I know I am missing some!).

Pictured: Tally the jumper extraordinaire! 

3. Most bizarre activity you've done with your/a horse?

Oh gosh, I used to do all kinds of silly things with the horses I rode.

I mean, bizarre vs stupid can be kinda subjective, haha.

However, I've done the following: rigged up a children's wagon and had Suzie pull it, swam with the horses, ridden tackless (and once received a concussion after being bucked off lol), jumped ditches, ridden in the snow, have gone jogging with Spud, etc...

4. Do you consider riding to be your outlet? If so, why?

They remind me to stop and smell the flowers <3
While horses can be a great addition to stress, it is also the main thing in this world that keeps me sane. I don't know how to explain it, but there is just something about horses that grounds me and brings me so much joy and fulfillment. The ability to communicate with an animal of such beauty and power is simply incredible.

5. Have you ever read horse-related magazines? If so, which one(s)?

When I was younger I had hoards of them - every now and then I'll grab one for some light reading but most of the time I use the internet to source information and articles relating to things I am wanting to learn. Back in the day I used to read from several different magazines, namely: Horse Canada, Canadian Horse Journal, Equus, Horse & Rider, Horse Illustrated, Young Rider... I had stacks of magazines when I moved out from home.

6. Most memorable advice given to you?

 I remember my first clinic with Anthony Lothian and he told me that, "Horses teach us a lot; and most of it isn't about riding." It was such a profound statement, but one that I've carried with me throughout the years.

It was this clinic, to be exact.
Riding the hot-headed Geronimo.

7. Did you ever collect Breyer models or similar?

I had a ton of horse toys, but none were of the Breyer variety. I had a bunch of the cheaper "Grand Champions" - the ones with magnetic muzzles that would hold apples or "kiss" each-other. I also had a few of the Barbie horses to play with as well.

8. Favorite "celebrity" horse?

This is a tough one. As a kid, I loved seeing Eric Lamaze's (now deceased) mount Hickstead cruise around. Now, I'm not really sure I could pin-point a single horse aside from the ever-famous Valegro - he's a pretty cool guy and I love the fact an older lady hacks him a few times a week.

I remember as a kid, he was such a powerful athlete. 

9. If you could spend a day learning from any horse person (past or present), who would you choose?

This is a tough one - there are so many amazing people I'd love to sit down and chat with. I think I'd be pretty pleased if any of the following would entertain my questions and prying eyes: Ingrid Klimke, Carl Hester, Beezie Madden, Lainey Ashker, Elisa Wallace...

10. If you could ride in any international arena in the world, where would you choose to ride? 

The kid in me would be tickled to gallop around Spruce Meadows bc #Canadian, but I would also love to rip around one of the FEI driving competition marathon courses - the courses look so fricken amazing I'd love to do that one day.

^ Does this not look like a TON of fun?!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

After The BVX

As I eluded, what followed the BVX was a lot of let down time for both me and the mare. I gave her a few well-deserved days off before throwing on the bitless bridle and doing a bit of toodlin, mixed with some stretchy trotting. She felt good, not at all sore or as tired as I thought she'd feel. The mental aspect of the BVX can be draining, which was the case when I took her to the BVX in 2017. With that in mine, I had upped her feed intake and calories for a few weeks prior to leaving, to prepare for the inevitable weight loss that would occur. Much to my surprise, she came home looking great once she let her belly down and relaxed.

Once home, I did have the opportunity to attend a final, more local show... but I kinda looked through the show book once and didn't open it again. Mid-August horse-show-burnout is real, ya'll.

So, with empty entry paperwork sitting at my work desk, I chose to do what any logical person would do.

I went for a 10k trail ride with a friend, on a loop that I hadn't done in several years. It was the perfect day for a ride, and Annie was more than content to plod along, pulling Spud along with her (one of the reasons I chose to do this trail is because it is wide enough for Spud to be ponied).

We continued with the trail riding trajectory, and enjoyed some more ponying time with Spud and catching up with friends while we let our horses maneuver the rocks and dirt beneath them.

I also washed my trailer.
I had nothing in mind to work on, and my carefree attitude was only manifesting because I was gearing up for my first out of country vacation in 5 years with my soul-sister. Being gone would mean time off for the ponies, and instead of working hard, we chose to simply enjoy eachothers company and work on other aspects - like riding over varied terrain, water crossings, etc. But mostly, just catching up with friends, haha.

My trip came and went - soon I was back home and like any real equestrian, I climbed in the saddle the very next morning and ponied Spud around the subdivision. Annie was foot perfect, and I even had to cajole her into a canter down the long dirt road like a small child who had just learned how magical the canter is.

I found ponies in Mexico.
Throughout the period after the BVX, I also shifted my focus to Spud and working towards conditioning him to his new cart since the addition of the weight threw him off a bit initially. He's working quite well in harness now, and is learning the weight distribution of the cart and how he has to use himself now. He's still on moderate trot-sets, as I want to do this methodically and carefully to prevent any kind of muscle strain or otherwise.

I've also started to incorporate some lunging into our routine, but lately the rain has been so terrible that I lack the motivation to stand out in the elements and watch him go in endless circles. It's a good alternative tho, because sitting in the cart I'd end up much wetter than standing!

The handsomest dude.
Of course, this recap wouldn't be complete without some kind of Annie-induced injury which required a vet trip, so I leave you with the image below. A post detailing that very scenario is coming shortly - but until then, give me your best answers at what you think happened!

Upon discovery.
A few days later.

(She has since made a full recovery with 0 complications :) )

Friday, October 4, 2019

BVX 2019: Day 3, Hunters

By the time Saturday rolled around, I was pretty tired, sore, and miserable. Did I mention I went downhill biking with the Boy on Friday night? No? Because I did, and for 3 excruciating hours I regretted my life choices and began a never-ending train of taking advil for the remainder of the weekend.

I was going to put a photo of us biking here, but Annie is cute, so....
Out of the entire weekend at the BVX, I was most nervous for the jumping. While Annie seems to be pretty unflappable with hopping over sticks, I worried about the amount of fill, brush, and overall atmosphere the jump ring would hold for us. With her acting sticky in the Dressage court, I questioned if it would spill over into our solo-trips in the jump ring as well.

Regardless, we were there and I had signed up for the jumping, so jumping is what we were going to do. We weren't doing anything crazy - just the 18" and 2' courses, but Annie is still quite green to the jump ring and although Anthony helps us make it look easy, there is still a lot of knowledge that we both need to navigate our way around. I mean, it's not to say we aren't completely inept, because you can only do so much with an 18" jump, but the logistics of creating a horse that can jump safely, and a rider who can keep their head screwed on the right way takes time and patience.

Right away, I could feel that Annie was behind the leg and because I don't jump with spurs, I had a hard time getting her amped up and going forwards. After each pop over the practice fences, she casually motored down to a lethargic trot and after several pony club kicks to the ribs, she would moderately speed up.

I started to get nervous as time went on, letting my brain run away with images of us crashing and burning in the jump ring, and abandoned warming up until I noticed Trainer K was giving pointers to a few of the competitors. I wandered over and popped over a few x-rails as she gave me some clear direction (which were like... obvious things I knew I needed to do, but then again my brain and body were just not clearly computing to one another). I felt a bit better after getting some instruction, thanked Trainer K for her time, and parked myself at the rail while Show Buddy helped me and her younger brother learn our courses.

I didn't realize I didn't button up my show shirt so it looks terrible but oh well.
Soon it was my turn and we wandered tentatively into the ring. I took my time looping through some jumps before heading down the long side, taking the opportunity to give Annie a little look at everything. She seemed on alert, but not necessarily anxious or thrown off - just curious what all the funny looking jumps were about. I decided to trot her in, riding a bit defensively and probably too conservatively, but I just wanted to get around the ring quietly and relaxed before pushing ourselves.

It was a good round from what I remember - we had a little trouble with our turns with Annie bulging to the outside and had a bunch of wrong leads, but her cadence was there and she bopped around the course quite easily. We placed 4th out of 6 riders.

Look at those happy ears <3
Next class was equitation, and I remember we had some issues coming to a combination (the grey line in behind me in the photo above) - the jump seemed to throw a few horses off and Annie staggered to a western jog in front of it. I was thrown off guard, but we got over it and carried on. We did have an unfortunate rail that toppled over - just from Annie not getting her feet up in the front end so we placed 5th out of 6 riders.

Our last class in the 18" division I pushed a bit more, insisting she go through the course a little more eloquently and professionally. She did as I asked, and although we still had some minor blips, it was a pretty decent round and good enough for 1st place out of 6. I was ecstatic, and gave her a few good hearty pats for her efforts.

I dig how artsy this photo is.
Moving on into our 2' classes, I was a bit nervous, but had a feeling that Annie would just do the thing. She seemed level-headed and cool, so we just went with it (I'm probably more nervous to jump sticks than anything, haha). And wouldn't you know, it was probably our best class of the day. She felt good, and again we had a minor blip with her one lead, but she felt rhythmic and confident. A bit sore and not very supple, but she never said no and did the thing. I was beaming when the announcer stated we had placed 1st once again, out of 9 riders.

Unfortunately, by this point, the horse show hangover was real and I floundered hard in the 2' Equitation class - my body was just not working properly and the previous days of hard riding and biking were taking it's toll. Annie did good, but me not so much. I struggled to keep a two point and we also had another silly little rail - just Annie not being particularly careful with her legs. We pinned 6th out of 9, which I was pretty happy about since it still meant we got a ribbon.

Sorry not sorry, but she's so fucking cute.
Our last class of the day was 2' Working Hunters, and it was marginally better. We didn't have any issues with rails this time, but both of us were quite pooped. I was pretty happy to be done by this point though, and hopped off my horse as soon as I finished my round and began pulling her braids. One of the show moms looked over at me and laughed as I furiously pulled each and every braid from Annie's mane. We stuck around for a bit and snuggled while waiting for the placings to be called - Annie was pretty done by this point and truth be told, so was I! We placed 5th out of 9 for this class, and I was happy to wrap it up there.

Tired pony snuggles (notice how her mane is already void of braids lol).
Overall, I was blown away by Annie's willingness and attitude in the Hunter ring. It was a complete 180 from our issues in the Dressage court, and despite not doing a ton of jumping over my period of owning her, she has taken to it quite naturally and happily (I mean, look at those EARS in the photos!! She's a happy bean!). I can't really object too much because she barely looked at any of the jumps, and was content to casually bop over them without too much of a care. Moving forward, I want to get a more serious about her landing leg, to ensure we're moving off the correct lead and my own position, but otherwise I have zero complaints. 

That's a happy Annie.
It was a great way to end a long and laborious show week/weekend - we had some ups, we had some downs, and most of all we had a ton of fun. Overall, I was pretty pleased with her efforts, especially in the flat classes and hunter classes. These were the two things I was most concerned about, and she didn't give either situation a second thought. Looking back, I kinda laugh because we prepared so much for our First Level debut and our goal was to do well (I mean, we did okay, but we were lightyears off of where I wanted to be in terms of willingness/acceptance from Annie) and yet, the things we didn't necessarily prepare well for are the things we did well in. 

A few friends laughed, shrugged their shoulders and simply declared that Annie is a jompy pony now and thats where she wants to be. Which, it certainly appears to influence her happiness but at the same time, Dressage is important, Bannie! 

Regardless, we came home with a whole lot of satin. 11 ribbons out of 13 classes.
The colors don't really follow the standard, but we have
Two 1st place
Three 4th place
Four 5th Place
Two 6th place
(Hilariously, the one 3rd place ribbon does not belong to us... it was
one that had been abandoned by Horse Show Buddy in the camper from a previous
BVX. The helpful boyfriend had dumped my ribbons into a pile and that one ended up
with it. We actually found the old Dressage test it went with later that evening).
And we can't forget our annual Show Buddy photo <3
Love this lady and all of the encouragement she has
given us over the years!
We finished off Day 3 (technically, it was Day 4, since we arrived on Wednesday, but it was Day 3 of the actual show) on a high note, and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of our time at the fair before packing up and heading home Sunday morning. Annie got a few days off before we resumed our very professional and progressive trail riding plans, and despite having one more show that was on our calendar for the year, I opted out of it. This year has been busy and full of training and lessons - I was ready to just breathe for the first time in a while, so we sat out the show and instead of schooling, we went trail riding with a friend. 

Officially, that's a wrap BVX 2019. See ya next year!