March 30, 2012

Reflecting on a Blanket Free Winter

Now that spring has officially arrived and the occasional spring rainstorm has cropped up, I started to reflect on our winter without blanketing.

Blanket Free
Prior to this winter I have always trace clipped and blanketed any horse I've had, Rose included. Even the winter before she was started under saddle she got clipped and blanketed. I would watch the weather forecast like a hawk, neurotically updating the weather widget on my phone, making sure that wherever we were boarded they knew at which temperatures to put which blankets on, and I would make sure it happened too. My biggest concern was her getting overheated and sweating under a blanket, although I was worried about the mild weather cold as well.

In winters past, my husband would always point out horses in random fields happily munching on a pile of hay without any blankets on in sub-freezing winter weather. I never had a good answer for him as to why I had to blanket my own horse when those horses were fat, healthy, and completely content looking despite the weather. My response was always, yeah, but we live in Oregon and it rains all the time. Rose needed a rain sheet at the very least. Deep down I knew this was a fib that I was telling myself, since every time it rained, rain sheet or no, I would find her bone dry standing in her run-in shed. My husband's argument against blanketing was that why would I needlessly blanket a horse when they don't need it and cause myself all the trouble of constantly having to wash, hang-dry, and repair winter blankets that Rose was intent on destroying. Not to mention the huge cost in purchasing new ones as she grew. What he was saying made sense, and I didn't have a good argument in my defense, so as one should in such a pinch I'd just change the subject.

Then last spring we moved to Montana and soon after I got pregnant. I decided to only ride through about 20-weeks as per doctors wishes. That put me out of the saddle at the first of December. It seemed silly to trace clip a horse for one month of riding (November). So, I decided to tough it out, leave her naked through the fall, and see if she grew a thick winter coat. I still figured I'd put blankets on her when it got cold though.

Fat, Happy and Blanket Free
At some point in early winter, I listened to my husband, got the opinion of other competitive horse people in our area, and I stopped being neurotic about it. I was still anxious at first though. The first few cold nights, I made sure that she wasn't shivering and then I stopped worrying. Rose managed to deal with occasional temps down to -11ºF, and average night time lows in the single digits/teens without a blanket. Most often winter daytime highs are in the 20's and sunny here. My other concern was she'd loose weight due to the cold temps. Again, a silly concern. Given free choice hay in her paddock, Rose held and gained weight through the winter. She's the perfect picture of a slightly pudgy hunter right now. Horses really are made for the cold, and I've experienced it first hand.

Since Rose made it through the winter blanket free so well, I'm not concerned about spring rain. She has a huge run-in shelter, and always stands under it when it rains. When the temps spike and it's sunny out she romps around her pasture happy as a clam. I never have to worry that she's stuck sweating under a blanket or rain sheet. It feels great to be free from the hassle of blanketing, and I just wish I'd tried it a long time ago. Rose is much happier, and the lack of weight and pressure points from heavy blankets has likely been really good for her back.

My goal for next winter is to see if I can keep Rose in work through the winter and still not blanket her. It is so dry here in the winter that she dries off really quick, so I think that we will be able to manage. I'm excited and looking forward to trying it out, and feel liberated from my blanketing neuroses.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Is it just me or does Rose look like Shrek when she sleeps?
 Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 25, 2012

It's a keeper

After much scrutiny and watching one of my students ride in the new saddle, I decided that it indeed does fit Rose quite well. Actually, I am flabbergasted by how well it fits her. Eventually the reality that she is really that wide will soak in. I was so tickled pink to see that not only did it appear to fit her well, but after the ride she was not sore at all and there were no indications of pressure points. Yea! I can't wait to actually get to ride in it soon. Counting the days...

Close up of the Cardanel Capri Close Contact.
Clearly my baby pad does not work very well with it.

Rose modeling the saddle. Please forgive the mismatched black dressage bridle.
My hunt bridle shall return to the barn shortly.
 Easiest saddle shopping ever. Yea eBay!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 23, 2012

Can it be? Saddle shopping made easy?

Due to my geographical location, I came to the realization that saddle shopping was just going to have to happen online. That is if I wanted a jumping saddle ready to ride in once I start riding again, rather than just sitting around until something I could afford surfaced locally. Going online, I scoured every used saddle website and tack trader I could find, and eventually ended up finding a wide 17.5" Cardanal Capri Close Contact saddle on eBay. I was definitely nervous about buying a saddle online, simply for fitting reasons. So I got anal. I measured everything I could on the saddle, myself and Rose. I researched the Cardinal brand, since I'd never heard of them before. I was comforted by the fact that they are the manufacturers of some of the Trilogy saddles. One of the most amazing dressage saddles I've ever sat in. Also their customer service was great when I contacted them about how they manufacture their trees. Yea laminated beech wood! Figuring that I had done everything possible to make sure that the saddle would fit her and me, aside from trying it out, I took a big breath, and made my eBay offer. This afternoon the saddle finally arrived

I opened up the package and the saddle was indeed as described and everything I expected to see. It's weird to me to go to English leather after having lived in french calf skin for so long, but it's good quality leather and good workmanship, so I'm pleased. After wrapping up the work week, I headed off to the barn in anticipation that it would fit her, but for some reason doubting it. Figuring that I would need to pad out the saddle a bit, I dug through all my plastic tack storage bins and grabbed every half pad and liner I owned. I've just never had a horse that needed a wide tree before, so it is still difficult for me to really believe that she is truly wide. That is ridiculous I know, because all the measurements and facts say she is. Still, seeing is believing.

Once I arrive to the barn with my barrage of half pads, I uncovered the saddle and hoisted it up on her bare back and sure as can be it fit her like a glove. Like a glove! No padding out needed.

The next step will be to ride in it. This is not something that I can do at 9-months pregnant (officially as of today)! Well, it's the getting off of her part that I can't do anymore to be more precise. My belly just gets in the way of turning and sliding down. Instead, tomorrow morning I'm having one of my students come out and ride in it for me so that I can see how Rose moves under the saddle and get another opinion. Photos and updates to come!

By the way, if this saddle does work out, this will have been the EASIEST saddle shopping experience of my life. That my friends is even harder for me to wrap my head around than the fact that Rose needs a wide tree saddle.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 20, 2012

Springing Up

Happy first day of spring everyone! Today was one of those days where I had errands to run, and therefore had no expectations. Isn't it funny that those are generally the days that turn out to be the best?

I had to hit up the feed store for Rose's grain this afternoon and then I planned on a beauty parlor session for her, followed by some free longeing. As I was going to all sorts of weird lengths to lift, balance, and pour her two 50lb grain bags into her feed tub a happy thought occurred to me. This was the last time that I would have to lift a 50lb grain bag while pregnant! Yep, we are closing in on the due date folks. Only 4 weeks and a few days left to go (or less). I can not wait for the little guy to arrive and to start getting back into the swing of all things Rose and prepping for the summer show season. I know that the little guy will take up most of my time, especially at first, and I'm excited about that too and I accept that I will likely be a zombie like creature for the first couple of weeks after he arrives. However, I'll be back in that saddle the afternoon that my OB gives me the all clear!

In addition to happy end of pregnancy thoughts, I had a delightful time with Rose this afternoon. She decided to be an absolute sweet heart today. Dare I say she's back to her old self? Maybe she's finally decided that it's okay that I'm pregnant and have two heart beats, or she's just gotten used to it? Who knows? Quite frankly I don't care. I just delighted in the moment as I hung out with and doted on my sweet mare. While grooming her and coating myself in a thick layer of shedding hair, it occurred to me that she looked taller in the front. I pulled out the barn's measuring stick and sure enough, Rose is a solid level 16.2h at long last! That was her predicted height as a foal and she turns five at the end of May. I know that some warmbloods keep growing a bit more until they are seven, so it will be interesting to see if she gets any taller. If she does, than that's fine, but I'm tickled pink with 16.2h. As far as I'm concerned that's just perfect for my leg length, and after all she has definitely been getting wider these days and I'm sure that she will continue to do so.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 16, 2012

EHV-1 at HITS Thermal

Compliments of the Montana Hunter Jumper Association, I woke to see this on Facebook this morning: Heads up to those who attend the shows in Thermal, there are now 2 confirmed cases of EHV from horses that attended the shows. One is in San Diego other in northern California.

I did a bit more research and found plenty of info on Chronicle of the Horse forums, among others. Bottom line, if your or a fellow boarder's horses were at Thermal during week, 4, 5 & 6, they are at risk of infection.

"Oh, great, here we go again" was my instant thought. Almost every show in our area/state was shut down last year from the outbreak at the cutting horse show and many barns went into voluntary quarantine, including my old barn. That meant no one could leave or come in for any reason other than a vet emergency. In last year's incident there was only one horse from one barn in our town that had attended the cutting show. He recovered and no other horses were infected. That barn did an amazing management job and really kept the public informed. Aside from horses at that barn, last year's outbreak offered no big reason for panic for the rest of us, but it did kill the majority of scheduled shows. This time around, I know of at least two different trainers (and I'm sure there were more) from two different barns, that have clients who board with them and haul-in's, all of which went to Thermal. I'm not sure during which weeks though. Potentially, this could make for a much more wide spread outbreak and kill the show season once again.

So, how did the Thermal horses get it? Apparently the outbreaks in the California polo horse community started in December. The Empire Polo Club, who is nearby the showgrounds had an outbreak at their barn immediately prior to the start of Thermal. In early January the polo club noticed the first symptoms of one of the infected ponies. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state put the entire polo complex on a 21-day quarantine starting January 25th and ending February 14th. On January 25th, Thermal issued a notice to trainers and competitors about the nearby quarantine, but assured everyone that the risk of contamination was low and it was safe to show. Thermal began on January 24th and ran through March 11th.

Today, on March 16th, news is spreading over the internet that once they returned home two horses that were at Thermal have been confirmed with EHV-1. Confirmation was on March 14th. According to one of the horse owner's Chronicle thread the Thermal vet was reluctant to test for EHV-1 insisting that the gelding had skeletal issues. The owner quickly packed up her three horses and headed home. Upon arriving home and taking her neurological horse to the vet hospital he got the EHV-1 diagnosis. The owner and her horses had been at Thermal for 20 days when the gelding became symptomatic. The incubation period is 2-10 days, meaning he definitely contracted it while at the show.

My random thoughts on how this all happened:
Given how easy EHV-1 is to pass from contact, I imagine someone went to the polo club on Sunday for a match, pet one of the (still) infected horses, went back to the Thermal stables and pet another horse. That or someone from the club went to Thermal with unwashed hands and clothes and perused the stables petting and infecting horses. Polo people love big "velvet head" horse shows just as much as we all love having a Sunday picnic on a polo field.  I spent many wonderful years working in the high-goal polo industry, and I know how much those horses cost and how much money flows through the business. Equestrian facility owners could only dream of the money and profits that polo clubs take in. As for the horses, they often cost far more than most people's A/O H/J show horses, so polo clubs, owner's and top trainers don't mess around with diseases like this. However, their grooms tend to have the attitude that all you have to do to cure a horse from anything is to turn it out in a field for a couple months. Given that the bulk of work involved in a quarantine would fall on the grooms, my hunch is that the polo club quarantine was not run as well and with as much care to detail as the one at our local barn last year. There is big money in polo, and often the desire to dazzle the crowds brings a "show must go on" mentality. Something I love about polo, but something that may now have caused a potential outbreak in the wider horse community for the 2012 show season.

I'm just hoping that none of our local horses were infected. Fingers crossed.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 15, 2012

Sleeping Like Dogs

It is amazing the new (little) things you notice when you are forced to slow down and enjoy your horse's company.

Yesterday morning we were greeted with a couple inches of snow. However, it quickly melted, the sunshine working it's magic and turning the day into a fine afternoon. Mid-day I headed to the barn to meet HR for her weekly ride on Rose. It was a delight after the long winter to feel the need to roll down the jeep's windows and let some clean cool air fill the car. I arrived at the barn about 15 minutes before HR was to get there, so I was delighted to see Rose, Roxy and Molly all sleeping together on a giant pile of hay. Rose is often sleeping when I arrive at this time, but I've never seen all three of them sleeping together. I grabbed Rose's halter and walked down to the mares.

Lately Rose has allowed me to approach her and pet her a bit before she jumps up from her nap. Yesterday she must have been particularly enjoying the snooze in the sun, or she's just really comfortable with me now when she sleeps, as she seemed to not mind me at all and definitely wanted to stay put. I decided to sit on her for a while whist she snoozed. I laughed to myself that I was "riding" my horse, sort of. Being eight months pregnant I'm not as care free about sitting on a sleeping horse as I used to be. My reflexes and balance are defiantly slow, uncoordinated, and just plain off these days. Carefully, I perched myself on her back with two feet firmly on the ground and ready to hop up if needed. It turned out that that was a good way to approach it. As I sat on her scratching her wither and processing my own D vitamin, Rose became more sleepy than when I arrived. All of a sudden I felt her shift her weight and stretch out her neck. I jumped up just in time for her to roll flat on her side and fall into a deep sleep. I walked about ten feet to the nearby fence rail and took a seat. A few minutes later Roxy also rolled on her side for some REM sleep. Then it happened. Roxy snores!

I've never heard or seen a horse snore, so I pulled out my phone and found the video camera to capture this momentous occasion. Then I started noticing that both Rose and Roxy were twitching their ears, noses, and a rather familiar way. I couldn't help but think of my dog when he whimpers and runs in his sleep! Since I've never had a horse on my own property, I've rarely seen them in the REM phase and I've never noticed that they sleep like dogs before.

Without further adieu here is some video of the mare's sleeping like dogs:

When I turned my phone off, I realized that about 30 minutes had gone by and HR hadn't arrived. "Too bad I" thought, "she would have enjoyed this". A quick text confirmed that she'd forgotten our lesson due to Spring Break plans. "No big deal" I thought, given that Rose was still passed out and at this point it was foolish to disturb her. The idiom "let sleeping dogs lie" never seemed so applicable before.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 9, 2012

Getting Show Season Organized

Perhaps it's because I only have six more (or less) weeks of purgatory pregnancy left, but I cannot stop thinking about show season and getting Rose over some baby green hunter fences this summer. My plan is to drag her to every schooling show in my area and take her to one or two rated shows this summer.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of shows scheduled. One or two per month all summer long. Last year everything got cancelled because of the EHV outbreak, so it seemed like no one around here showed and I'd have to do a lot of traveling. I'm relieved to see that's not the case. Now I just need to have this baby so I can try and buy a new (to me) saddle that fits Rose and get us both back into show ready shape!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 7, 2012

A Week Treading Water

I finally made it to the barn today after a week of "hanging in there". After we dropped my tack trunk off at the barn last week life, as it is know to do, became a bit overwhelming. I won't bore you with the details but to sum up my week I had a real estate closing to deal with, out of town guests to entertain, a riding team to coach, end of year awards to organize, lots of work to do, and my baby shower to attend. I barely made it to the barn on Thursday for Rose to get her feet trimmed, and even then didn't have time to do much of anything else with her. I'm sure she didn't mind. What's a week off here and there?

Today though, with everything else behind me, I made it out to the barn to work with HR and Rose. It's chilly out, but sunny and beautiful. Rose was a pretty good girl and HR got a good workout in preparation for this weekend's horse shows. With any luck, HR will place well at the IHSA Regionals this weekend and gain a bid to Zones. As for me, I'm counting the days until my little guy arrives and I can finally get back on my own horse. Only six more weeks!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

March 2, 2012

Tack Trunk Hardware List

Having Hubs build me a tack trunk was the easy part, for me anyway. Next I had to come up with what hardware I wanted on it. Seems like a simple task, until you realize you live in a smallish town and no one carries what you need/want. Of course that meant relying on the internet, which is fine. I'm a good internet shopper and it is part of the lifestyle that comes with living in smallish towns. However, trunk hardware isn't necessarily so easy to find, and the same part can have several different names, and they aren't necessarily related to tack trunks, hope chests, or steamer trunks. Also, cost was a concern. If money were no object, then the hardware search would have been so much easier and more fun! But then I'd probably have just ordered a trunk years ago, have my own ranch with private indoor and trainer and be living like the 1%. I'm the 99% though, so cost of hardware (and shipping) came into play.

Here is what I would have loved to have (total Cost $187.69 +shipping)

Handles: (2) Chrome Trunk Handles - $26ea + shipping
Hasp Latch: Boat Marine RV Door Hatch Cupboard Chrome Plated Bronze Hasp 1" Wide x 3" long - $44ea + shipping
Hinge: Stanley Hardware 478500 2" x 72" Heavy Gauge Continuous Hinges - $15 available locally
Name Plate: Deluxe Oval Stall plate / Tack Trunk plate -$39.95ea + shipping
Case Corners: (2) 4 Large Flat Corners ATA Flight Case Speaker Cabinets - $5.38ea + shipping
Gas Springs: (2) 20" Columbia Gas Strut Spring Shock Support Arm Spring Lift - $12.99ea + shipping

Here is what I ended up getting (total cost $82.63 w/shipping)
Handles: Stanley Hardware 758305 3-1/2 Inch Zinc Chest Handles - $8ea available locally (mine were free)
Hasp Latch: 3" Chrome Boat Cabin Hatch/Door Hasp Latch - $8.95 w/shipping on

Hinge: Stanley Hardware 478500 2" x 72" Heavy Gauge Continuous Hinges - $15 available locally (mine was free)
Name Plate: Custom Metal Monogram Cutout - $20 w/shipping on
Case Corners: (2) 4 Large Flat Corners ATA Flight Case Speaker Cabinets - $15.68 w/shipping on
Gas Shock / Spring: 20" Columbia Gas Strut Spring Shock Support Arm Spring Lift - $15.00 w/shipping on

All in all, I am very happy with the hardware that I ended up ordering and it looks great on the trunk.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


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