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November 23, 2015

The Trouble With Horses

But Encore-face, impossible to not love...
Is that they're horses.  One minute you're on top of the world, the next, you're typing "NQR."

Also, never write about "winds of change".  They snicker & knock you down next time you walk out the door.

The silver lining is that change is, well, changeable.  I was disheartened last week when Encore was cooling out on the long lines...and started limping.  At the walk.  And post-grooming revealed stifle soreness. Again.

I tried not to go completely bonkers, after all, I've had plenty of practice. :/  He is out of shape & I had just asked him to really use himself,  albeit for a very brief session.

Work stepped in, I had to go flail around in mosquito clouds in the swamp, so he had a week to think about what he'd done anyway.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous when I climbed on today to feel things out & at least get a road hack in.  You want to know but you don't want to know, you know?


I kept our lines wide & straight in a brief W/T/C/hop over a couple logs warm up.  He started out with that anticipatory tightness that something might be sore.  But I just asked him to move forward through the bridle, & waited.   Not uber round & compacted, just connected to a soft feel & working over his back.

When he began to stretch down & swing a bit, it was a shared relief!  (Offer valid for the next 12 hrs only, terms & conditions may apply...)

I didn't ask more than about 10 minutes of moving out before we looped out into our road route, about a mile & change with some rolling slopes to walk.

It's (another re-) start, but such is the nature of our much-loved, yet maddening partners.  Circles both real & metaphorical & no predicting how small they'll be.

The goal & challenge will be to rebuild consistency - garnering what energy I can find & keeping my butt in the saddle so Encore has the strength he needs to support work & play.  At least until he thinks of a new trick.

Um, anyone want to ride a very cool horse while I'm stuck in meetings?

Scenery included at no charge

November 11, 2015

Catching Up: Like, RIDING HORSES!

It’s a tad squishy out, what with several inches of rain over the last 24 hours.  But the sun is warm & some of the grass is still green.  And my carefully guarded drainage sloughs & soils are hard at work already, drying it out for me & eight expensive hooves!

Storms make great sunsets though
There’s a lot to catch up on, both on these pages & in the saddle.  I commend the patience of anyone still clicking over to TFS.  One look at my annual post numbers over there in the right-hand archive tab reveals yawning gaps in our journey.

It’s not that there weren’t stories to tell.  More often a general overwhelm of the universe conspiring towards my demise combined with…well, who really wants to read, “I didn’t ride my horses because I’m sad & tired?

There are hints of change in the wind, though.  I’m not entirely sure of their direction yet, but I’m thinking that they’re the good kind.
To my shame, I have to admit that my riding muscles were actually sore after giving Encore a chance to stretch his legs on Sunday.  If that doesn’t tattle on me…  I was reminded, though, that vacations are always good for our partners.  They don’t forget what we’ve taught (good OR bad, heh) & more often than not, giving things a chance to settle in has brought us better results in the long run.

Encore: Please, admire at your leisure...
Encore Escapades

The Turf Beast has had quite a bit of down time, with intermittent bursts of exercise (let’s not go crazy & call it ‘work’), first to heal his X-Games injuries, then to wait for his rider to finish grubbing fish out of swamps through the fall (only THREE trips left this year, woohoo!).

While that naturally means we both get to rebuild muscle, all the buttons are still there, & once we start moving, it’s now only a few minutes before he is working over his back properly & staying elastic in the contact.

Um, super exciting progression from ‘llama/hackney cross impersonator locking the left side of his jaw’ that we started with.  It helps that I’m getting better at staying focused on how I WILL ride & remembering to notice that if my left shoulder starts aching, it’s probably because I’m hanging on to that rein like a climbing hold.

Psssh, with my eyes closed... By High Time Photos
 Because guess what:  your horse goes forward so much nicer when you aren’t blocking all of his energy with your iron grip.  You can have that earth-shattering tip at no cost!
Life on Solo terms: not the side of the fence I left him on
Solo Shenanigans

Solo’s been keeping my guilt active with his very special “I’m making a list of every time you don’t play with me” look.  He had his own vacation (or in Solo-terms, ‘horrific neglect,’ because somehow I have a horse who thinking eating grass & hanging out with his best horsey buddy is punishment), thanks to aforementioned ridiculous employer demands that I actually EARN my paycheck, as well as working out Weird Shoulder Thing.

While he is Member #3 of Muscle Rebuild Club, he assured me he was a solid, sexy, fancy stud both under saddle & on the longe last week (feel my awesome canter, mom, hey, let’s jump this log, did you see how awesome I was, yeah, check out this sexy canter, did I show you my badass canter?).

I couldn’t stop giggling (er, between panting) – I’d ask him to trot & he’d step up into his favourite canter instead, with that trademark spark in his eye & both ears cocked back at me to make sure I was paying attention.

Naturally, I’m rediscovering my ability to begin picking up (& searching for) pieces as soon as that nasty winter time change sets in.  But that’s ok; when it’s dark out, that's when you get to see the stars.
My Solo superstar

November 7, 2015

Fairy-er Magic: What Makes Good Hoofcare Great

See what I did there??  Admit  it, you snickered.

We all learn within roughly 17 minutes of owning or managing a horse that a farrier can make or break you.  Without a good one, abandon all hope, ye who attempt to enter at A…

But what makes a Good Farrier?  In the US, becoming a farrier requires extensive effort – to write the word after your name, with no mandates regarding skill or experience.  It’s up to us to clamber up the painful learning curve of figuring out who knows what they’re doing.  Because, ya know, we’d hate to make some aspect of equine-keeping easy (I think that might actually be illegal?).

My top criteria (compiled mostly the hard way, of course), embodied by The Amazing Wonder Farrier:
  • Eyes.  He’s watching my horses move even before he gets out of the truck.
  • Ears.  He (no offense to Lady Farriers, I’m just sticking with mine for simplicity) LISTENS.  If this was a numbered list, it’d be #1!  No one knows your horse better than you do & a Good Farrier knows & respects that.
  • Curiosity.  He asks how my horses responded if we changed something.  He seeks out continuing education & is not afraid to try new products & techniques.
  • Experience.  My farrier is actually younger than I am, but has been handling hooves for nearly 20 years.  Experience also means he knows what he DOESN’T know & never lets pride stop him from consulting with other farriers & my vet (see next bullet).
  • Communication.  Ok, he may not agree with me that MY horses are the most important (duh!), but if there’s an injury or special need, I get a response, even if it’s a text at 9 pm (I’m not the only one with an over-committment problem). 
  • Attention.  It takes him two hours to do Encore’s shoes – because he is meticulous.  If he doesn’t like the way Encore blinked when he drove a nail, it gets pulled.  Each hoof gets tested multiple times.  Even before he pulls the old shoes (or trims the bare feet), he walks around the horse & stares at everything thoughtfully. 
Solo: always waiting for me to get with the program
Magic:  Exhibit A

Let’s see this combination in action.  Last winter, Solo became very sore in his right shoulder.  It was perplexing, as he’d suffered no injury I was aware of, had no previous issues there, & was not under any taxing workloads.

During the same time, there was a persistent whisper in the back of my head every time I looked at that front foot.  It just…looked funny, in that way you can’t quite put your finger on.  But that’s his white front ankle & with furry winter fetlocks, there’re plenty of optical illusions.

Dr. Bob (vet) & Wonder Farrier were both consulted, we found some saddle wool that needed to be re-fluffed, but it didn’t quite go away.  Finally, I dug into my extensive collection of “obsessive photos of my horses’ feet through time.
You should totally make one of those, if you haven’t already.  Bingo.

When I pulled up a photo from the spring of 2011, when Solo was competing at Training Level, the light bulb practically exploded.  His front feet had just crept out in front of him incrementally.  Enough that his angles were NQR but still so slight if you hadn’t looked at him every day for 9 years, you wouldn’t see it.

Creativity Win!

I’m not sure who was more excited when I dragged the laptop out at our next appointment, me or Farrier.  ANSWERZ!!1!  Now:  a plan.  This is where the awesome happened.

Along with backing up his feet, he needed a slight wedge (which he’s worn before) & a square, rolling toe for easier breakover.  However, the shoe we’d used for that previously was aluminum.  I have come to hate plain aluminum, primarily because it transfers significantly more concussion to the foot.  I won’t sidetrack into the materials science, but a steel shoe, however counterintuitive it may seem, absorbs more shock.

Ready to roll
As I thought about things the Sunday before we met, I sent a message:  “Ok, we know what biomechanics we need & what shape we need.  But how do we do that with steel?”

Farrier:  “Hmmm, I shall ponder while at kids’ horse show…I have an idea…”

And then he invented exactly what we needed.  (Although I told him it would have been much more impressive if he didn’t say, ‘wow, I didn’t think that would actually work,” LOL!)
He took a set of steel hind shoes which are made with a tiny wedge & simply widened the heels.  Because there were rounder & squarer (it’s a word now) than a typical hind shoe (sorry, I can’t remember the brand), they gave us both the shape & angle we needed.

Solo couldn’t stop licking his lips as he set his restored feet down.  The next time I got on, I could practically hear him giggling, “Yeah!!!  So much better!!  Let’s go!!”

Not only that, but they worked so well, we gave Encore a set too!  I think I’ll call them The Johnathan Special. 

And that is why it pays to be picky. 

Can we have some more of this?

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!

Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!

October 18, 2015

Help Me Help You! Sharing Struggles?

The almighty Google Webmaster has been telling me that there are many sharing fails occurring on the desktop version of our site.

Please help me quench the wails of anguish: I've tested both sets of sharing buttons in 3 browsers in both mobile & desktop platforms & can't seem to break it (make that ONE thing in my life that works).

Share your input so I can make everything better! Please add any relevant (or irrelevant, that's how we roll, after all...) info in the comments.

Do You Struggle With Sharing?

October 13, 2015

Ever Tried To Catch A Greased Weasel?

Because that's pretty much what it's like trying to pin down sentences in my brain anymore.  Little buggers are elusive...

I know my last post was not entirely upbeat.

But a life is always far more complicated to actually DO than it may appear.

It could appear that my life is its own paradise. And there are many good things:
  • The farm is beautiful in every kind of light.
  • Fall field work, aside from the 4-hour drive to get to the watershed, is usually a lovely change from the heat-stroke ridden July trips.
  • Two chestnut faces greet me twice a day, each voice unique.
But memories can be haunting.

But I’m doing my best to break everything into 5-minute increments.  My brain can just about DO 5 minutes.  And then I can check something, however small, off the list.

Well, my knee surgeon told me in 2012 I'm not allowed to run.  But I have a match in my hand (which means I’m probably burning my fingers, heh), though it flickers.  And I'm walking as fast as I can.

And damn it, I'm going to at least see what the walls of the tunnel are made out of.  And then my horses & I are going to gallop out into blazing sunlight.

At which point we’ll probably trip & throw a shoe, but hey, someone’s got to provide comic relief!