SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 




We Are Flying Solo

October 23, 2014

Thursday Thoroughbred Eye Candy

For your viewing pleasure, with thanks to exquisite fall morning light.

Horse Portraits 23 Oct 2014 012 (Small)
Eeeee, dapples!  Yep, poor Encore, just another scrawny OTTB, hee...

Horse Portraits 23 Oct 2014 009 (Small)
Probably scoping out sharp objects...

Horse Portraits 23 Oct 2014 015 (Small)
I haven't even been working out lately

Excuse me, you're not leaving out the sexiest team member of all??
Horse Portraits 23 Oct 2014 021 (Small)
Solo appears satisfied that camera has found the correct subject

I wouldn’t dare.  And half-Thoroughbred still counts!
Horse Portraits 23 Oct 2014 027 (Small)
My most beloved face

October 22, 2014

Nutrition Reboot, Pt. III: A Much Updated Refueling Of The Tanks

dr julie n tex
The flying Tex!
Before I continue with our reboot, I must give a shout out to my beloved Waredaca 3DE (it's so cool, even Colleen Rutledge can't resist competing, even though she's already a clinician - thanks for the support, Colleen!)!  Today is opening day AND I AM NOT THERE.  *insert very sad & upset eventer79*  

In summary, despite my attempts to prove to my doctor that horsewomen are, in fact, superhuman, he cruelly (ok, he is actually amazing, but still) prohibited my plan to roll to Maryland at 0630 this morning & work four excruciatingly long days of awesome.  Sadly, my body does not seem to time its failures well & I’ll just say it’s been a long year.  My begging cry of “IT’S ONE OF MY 3DE’S, THEY ARE NOT OPTIONAL!” did not sway him.  

There may be a silver lining, though:  it is always a special year when one of our core Team Waredaca 3DE Staff gets to ride.  This year, it’s our vet box champion, Dr. Julie’s, turn!!  She & her boy, Texas Riddle (Tex), have been on fire this year, so I am fairly certain that since I will miss it, they will definitely score not only that coveted completion ribbon, but piles of prize swag!  May ALL the 2014 riders have a safe & exhilarating journey this week; Solo & I are galloping with you in our hearts.


Carrying on, we are all now experts on equine metabolism, right?  Accordingly, I have updated this part of the series quite a bit!  

We also know that the horse must be fit if he is going to do his job well.  We know that he needs fat & glycogen stores in place in order to power his muscles.  He then will need carbohydrates & fats in his diet in order to restock his larders after a workout.

Running on vapours...
So should we stuff him full of fat & sugar the night before a competition so he will have fuel busting out his ears?  Only if you want him to die of colic & laminitis at the same time.

But I Carb-Load Before My Ultra-Marathons!

Equine digestive systems cannot handle "loading" of substances the way a human system would.  Studies have demonstrated that it takes 24-48 hours for a horse to completely refill his glycogen tanks, so it's best to offer him a meal 60-90 minutes after he's tapped them.  Then, if he has really drained the well, a second meal can be offered about three hours later.

What To Look For In Your Rocket Fuel

My base feed (Triple Crown Complete) is a fixed-formula textured grain with 12% fat and 12% protein.  I have heard stated many times that, for the performance horse, you want to maximize the protein content of his diet.  However, this is another instance where understanding the unique functions of equine physiology will help you build a better plan.  Unlike the human body, your horse’s body cannot store protein & very little can be converted to energy.  Instead, protein is catabolized (broken down) into amino acids, which are then used to build new proteins, such as muscle fibre.  If protein levels exceed what the body can immediately process, it will be converted to urea, increasing urine output & simultaneously increasing rate of dehydration.  So while it is an important component of nutrition, for the your horse, it is far less useful as an energy source than fat.

Love The Fat

Fat supplies 2.5 times more energy pound for pound than starches.  How much needed on a daily basis will depend on your horse.  Given that I am not blessed with easy keepers, I top dress feed during work with Legends Omega Plus, an extruded flaxseed pellet with 25% fat.  That is a recent switch for us; I used their rice bran pellets (18% fat) for quite some time due to reduced cost, but a recent price change made it more practical to bump up to the higher fat content & I’m finding I can also use less with the same result.

Bonus tidbit:  if you supplement a horse's diet with fat, he uses less energy for heat production in his body.  He then has more energy available to do other stuff with.  Like a lot more.  Like up to 60% more. 

Ok, don't love it THAT much
All Things In Moderation

Before you go on a lard spree, though -- if the fat content of the diet gets too high, you can actually inhibit the storage of muscle glycogen (that's that thing we really need for anaerobic activities like galloping & jumping, remember?).  Just like everything else involving a horse, as soon as you find something good, you find several ways for him to damage or kill himself with it.   

It’s just not as much fun when you are kicking your horse's guts out just to stumble through the finish flags & slide off while he gasps in exhaustion.  It's not very satisfying to try to pilot him around a challenging stadium course when he's got no gas in the tank & you wonder if the next set of jump poles might end up in your face.  Hopefully, you are now armed with some new information to consider in the context of your own management program.  If you can prepare your horse’s body to maximize the use of your fuel, then you'll have plenty left for that victory gallop at the end of the day. 

October 18, 2014

Nutrition Reboot, Pt. II: Oxygen Optional

Alas, no credible reports have been filed on the location of eventer79-brain.  Even her horses are beginning to show suspicion.  However, Amy's comment on Tuesday's post provided the perfect segue to the next article in the series.  Updated & edited a bit for (hopefully) improvement.



Do. Not. Want.
We were talking about nutrition. And you've been up for days waiting for the secret to growing that unicorn horn (don't lie, own it).

Too bad.

Here's another, equally as important tidbit, though:  different athletic disciplines make different demands on a horse's body. I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right?

Breaking It Down:  The Two Types Of Equine Metabolism
  1. Aerobic - the muscles use oxygen while generating energy; a slow process
  2. Anaerobic - yes, you guessed it, genius; the muscles generate energy without oxygen; much speedier
Which Is When?

A horse working in a long, steady fashion (think endurance racing or your dressage school) creates energy aerobically.  Fat, the horse's go-to fuel, requires oxygen to complete the conversion to horsepower (just like your fireplace must have a flow of oxygen to burn up your firewood & create heat).  He has an advantage:  this is a much easier & longer-lasting method of energy production.

However, if Dobbin has to work hard & fast (think sprinting or jumping), he cannot get oxygen into his body & burn fat fast enough to meet his increased energy demands.  So his muscles turn to glycogen stores (a carbohydrate stored in the liver & muscles that the body can convert to glucose [muscle fuel]), which can be burned anaerobically.

Life Is Full Of Trade-offs

To complicate matters, glycogen is a finite resource & stores are much smaller than his fat supply.  Burning it also produces lactic acid, which fatigues muscles.  So, you, as pilot, want to save those precious reserves until you really really need it.  Save that hard sprint or gallop for your horse trial or other vital moment.  And once burned, you MUST to take time to replenish the storehouse before you ask again.  

ALL TEH SCIENCE!!
If he gets really desperate, Dobbin can also turn to blood glucose for energy.  This is a critical resource for nervous system function, though, & there isn't much of it (about 1% of the body's fuel supply), so we don't really want to push him this far.

Is your brain fried by science-geekness yet? I could go into ATP & muscle cell pH, so be grateful...

Why Should We Care About All This?

Knowledge is ALWAYS power when it comes to horse management.   If I understand what my horse's body needs to do his job & how it uses what I give him, I am better able to meet those needs & maximize his performance safely.

In addition, understanding all of that helps to understand this, the point of action: the more fit your horse is, the better he is able to utilize his fat stores first.  The unfit horse may have to get up to 40% of his energy from his glycogen reserves during even light exercise.  With conditioning, he can drop that percentage dramatically even during moderate exercise, giving you both more time under saddle & reducing the chances of equine metabolic distress.

So What's The Plan?

Do we then stuff our horses full of lard?  How do we refill his glycogen tanks?  Those answers are up next, along with a brand new addition to the series:  why choosy 'moms' choose...uh...their feed very carefully.

October 14, 2014

Throwback...Tuesday: Rocket Fuel & Other Stories

A brain belonging to eventer79 has left the building.  If found, please return to your nearest Missing Blogger Station immediately.  

To fill the static-y void in the meantime, I have brushed the dust off our miniseries on equine nutrition (which you can access in full under the handy Education menu) for new readers.  Ummm, new as in "what, you haven't been reading my riveting brain-dribbles for the past four years straight?!"  



So I have been reading about nutrition (the horse's, not mine, who cares about that?).  Why?  Well, because I don't want to do the actual work I am SUPPOSED to do, so why not. And if it has the word "horse" in it, then it is a pre-ordained given that I must read it. Who am I to argue with those that ordain??

Lots of interesting things to share with you. How horses use their feed, what different types of feed items offer, and what magical food will make your horse grow a unicorn horn (calm down, BFF, one of these items may or may not be fictional). 

Those of us who grew up obsessed with horses learned many important horse-keeping rules that have been passed down through generations.  One of those things that I always heard was that you never worked your horse hard right after he ate. Much like nagging Aunt Margaret told you never to swim right after you ate or else you'd surely get a cramp & drown. I always held equal skepticism for both. Turns out, I was partly justified.

Wait, So I Will Not Kill My Horse By Riding Him After Dinner?

After your horse eats, his body begins to metabolize his food. This means that his blood insulin will spike, which reduces the efficiency with which the body burns fat (fat is generally the go-to energy resource for horses). So, if they need energy when insulin levels are high, their bodies will instead turn to stored glycogen reserves first. While this is hardly deadly, glycogen is something you want to save until you really need it (I'll explore why in the next post).

Psh, can eat AND work...
So, what's a rider to do? Well, you have two choices. It takes about four hours for that insulin spike to return to baseline. So you can (a) wait four hours (Suck! Who wants to do that?!) or (b) ride immediately. That's right, the spike doesn't really get up there for about two hours, so if you hop on within thirty minutes, you can have your ride & then put Dobbin away before he has to switch over from fat metabolism. What you want to try to avoid, for maximum energy accessibility & efficiency, is hitting it right on that two hour mark, when insulin levels are highest & burning fat is the most difficult.

Now, obviously, we're not going to get this right every single ride, but it's something to shoot for as a general trend & a handy bit of info you can toss out if someone gives you crap for riding your horse right after he ate.

Scorecard: Science, 1, Anecdotes, 0!

October 8, 2014

Solo's Always Got Your Back

Well, unless he gets a better offer... 

Solo: No worries, big little bro, nap on, I'll stand guard.

Meh, screw that, the sun feels good.  You're on your own.

October 4, 2014

Just Another Day With Dr. Bob

Yep, Encore decided a whole month was far too long to be separated from Dr. Bob.  Despite the terror-inducing zombie cows that live at the vet clinic (so Encore says).

While Encore was getting stronger, his feet are healing, & he did fairly well in our lesson, I still felt I might be missing something.  It's that little feeling you can't quite put your finger on.  And since you are a horse owner, the obvious solution is to throw money at it

Encore's Kent & Masters - love!
Looking at him from the ground, I could see the tightness in his hind end.  I also checked the fit of his dressage saddle after our lesson & noticed that I needed to narrow it a bit until his topline redeveloped.  Which explained the knots behind his withers I'd been massaging, as the panels were pressing down in the front.  He was also getting quite crabby about picking up his right lead. 

I always expect some muscle soreness bringing a horse back into work & rebuilding muscle.  However, there was just enough weight on the "I just want peace of mind" side of the fence to push me over & make me hook up the trailer.

I Don't Call Him Batman For Nothing

It was worth the trip.  And while paying vet bills is never any fun, there is no such thing as a Dr. Bob visit where you don't learn ten things & get lots of good stories!

What do you mean I have FOUR legs??!
My hypothesis was, for once, pretty accurate.  Dr. Bob confirmed that the saddle was indeed collapsing a bit up front behind his shoulders.  Encore got his withers & shoulders adjusted back into place with much relief.

He also had a very sore muscle bruise on the lower half of his left hindquarter, a likely result of an incident BFF reported when I was traveling for work:  Encore had an idiot moment galloping across his paddock, once again forgot he had back feet, slipped, & fell hard on his left side. 

She said he hopped back up, she checked him over thoroughly & walked him out, and I checked him out when I got home.  We found no evidence of injury & he was moving evenly.  He's not exactly in heavy work these days either!

It's Going To Be Ok...Today

Dr. Bob showed me how to feel out the spot in the muscle where he said there was probably just some fiber separation that was healing.  I'm just to massage in the Majykal Butacore Creme Of Awesome & keep him moving as he finishes out recovery.

Our farm pond is zen
Overall, good news, some minor tweaks, and the plan & peace of mind I was looking for!  His feet & shoes got the thumbs up, so we can keep moving creeping forward.  Which I was thrilled to hear just as the gorgeous fall weather has begun!

All I Need Is Time

Who needs a bank balance anyway??  For now, Encore will just have to think up something new, since this one didn't get him out of work.  In the meantime, he gets to enjoy medicated ass massages while I schedule the saddle fitter for some wool adjustment & dig through the couch cushions for $1200 to stock our winter hay!  0.0

Today, though, the grass is still green & the air is crisp & perfect, making it worth every bit as I can hear the satisfied nomming of two happy horses floating through the open windows.  I think I might have earned a nap after dragging pastures & detailing horses this morning...

The best kind of sunset has horses in it
     

September 28, 2014

Drive-By David Lesson Report!

Skinny Oxer 01 19-21 (Small)
Owning it in July
If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I have THE BEST NEIGHBOURS EVER!  Behind me lives a wonderful professional trainer who rode her now-retired Appy at Prelim/1*/CCN in the late 1990's/early 2000's; back when I was still a spectator, eventing was Eventing with a full endurance day, and they ran all the classic events like Radnor & Ledyard & Bromont.  As she has an all-weather arena, jump field, & hosts a variety of clinics & practitioners in addition to her own lessons, I walked over after our last David date (erm, I totally meant to post Encore’s videos for that one) with a big question.

Skipping through some cat-herding to the exciting result: we collected some of her clients & a few of my fellow David-disciples and I was able to have my lesson…IN MY OWN BACKYARD!  In some odd fantasy world with no trailer-packing, no driving, I could just saddle my horse & ride up the fenceline to enjoy my Circle of Death.  The word gratitude doesn’t even describe it, given how much I need good things in my life right now!

The Jumping Dressage Lesson

Despite my plans of improving on our jump performance in July, Encore had only been back in work for two weeks & still lacked hind strength, so I opted to put on the dressage saddle.  I wanted David’s eyes to evaluate my horse once again



Encore Transitions 0 04 43-20 (Small)
Not Hackney trot anymore!
Perhaps the most rewarding part of our initial warmup (aside from the words, “He looks pretty good to me!”) was that the Circle of Death now includes less Death!  Due to my own exhaustion, humid days prior, & a horse who’d been standing around on duct tape for six weeks, much of our schooling had been at the walk & trot.  However, I had focused hard on fine-tuning & brushing the dust off of one concept:  You Will Move Off My Inside Leg & Accept My Outside Rein

Hello, payoff.  Imagine that:  break it down to simple, clear things, teach your horse to respond to individual aids, and *gasp* I didn’t have to work so hard to get a response to my aids!  Erm, some of us are slower learner than others…  *raises hand*



My lessons are so rare, they are incredibly valuable to me.  While forward energy is crucial, David reminds me each time we meet how important it is for this horse to unlock his body & open his topline FIRST.  Encore must be correct & balanced before he is asked to move out, otherwise you end up back at downhill rushing.

Ok, I Couldn't Help Jumping A Little...

I knew his butt would tire soon, but we decided to do some simple jump work at the end, for the sake of my rusty self.  I confess, hearing “keep his poll up & wait with your body” STILL after five years makes me beat my head on the table a little.  Perhaps you can even hear me mumble, “I should get a tattoo of that” in the video, ha.  I have to wonder if David gets tired of saying it…





While Encore was compensating a bit at the end, it was good for both of us to feel some balance & pace again.  Watching the videos, I realize that I lapse into riding him like he is still a green horse!  Although our three years have been rather a roller coaster, I need to remember that I have actually trained him along the way and he now has a skillset of his own.  Fortunately, I have no control issues whatsoever, ahem, none at all…  *shifty eyes*

The Big Takeaway

I do consider Encore a Training horse now, but this reinforced for me yet again how vital it is to stay focused on the core principles – effective aids, consistent rhythm, balance for you & your horse, enforcing & rewarding correctness in your horse – no matter what your level or discipline.  Riding can seem overwhelmingly complicated sometimes, in a world full of books & articles & forums & clinics, which makes me appreciate David’s focus on methodical simplicity even more.  It’s the perfect antidote for my crazy hamster brain.  My horses have no idea how much gratitude they owe that man for that!! 
FenRidgeFHT2013_0812-2847848484-O (Medium)
Chill, mom, I got skillz

September 21, 2014

Riding Solo Makes Me Happy...And A Tiny Bit Frustrated

Partners
Learning to be an effective, thinking rider is awesome.  And it sucks. 

How Does One Come To This Odd Conclusion?

I actually got to ride Solo yesterday, on the most glorious of Carolina fall mornings.  Even as I fed him breakfast, I could feel the palpable restlessness flowing between us.  It was a quiet, echoing chorus of, "let's ride, let's shine, let's be US."

Part of the beauty of eight years of partnership is knowing exactly which of your horse's joints need longer to loosen & the precise schooling exercises required to stretch the tightest muscles.  Every ligament, every sinew in his body is yours because you have spent more than 3,000 days as a team of two become one.

Trademark Solo "forward walk sux" face
Warming Up

After an obligatory Orange Horse protest on the principle of "forward because I say so," leg-yields were followed by shoulders-in followed by haunches-in suppling aging bodies (ahem, we won't say whose) at the walk.  These are vital for Solo's hocks & back before asking him to step forward in trot.

Moving down to our dressage 'arena,' we coaxed his inside hind leg to truly step into my outside hand & kept that QH butt active.  Creating that kinetic energy gives you something to work with, allowing you to create bend & corners & balance.  We are nothing without forward.

As the days cool, it is harder on arthritic joints (let's not name names here either...), so I kept our canter warm-up brief, but correct because I really wanted to take him over a few very small jumps.  It's a fine line, walked by feel, between pushing to strengthen & asking too much; I am always listening carefully to my horse.

Jumpy Jumpy!

We both wandered to catch our breath as I made a brief jump plan.  Perhaps 8 or 10 efforts, with an emphasis on balance & softness for us both.  I included extra care with my lines: he wears his trusty Cavallo Sport boots on his wussy front feet & there were still traces of dew on the grass.

Not so much like this (8 yrs ago!)
I channeled my inner David O. & found a steady rhythm, making sure to keep my shoulders back & my upper body VERY still so I didn't throw him on his forehand.  My legs had to stay wrapped around Solo's ribs to keep his hind feet stepping under & my hands had to stay connected, yet soft.  Repeating the David mantra of "soften in the last three strides, you can't change anything there anyway," I kept my hand in front of me, yet on his neck over AND after the jump, resisting the ever-present instinct to pull back after landing.

Well, for most of them anyway.  Did I mention learning?  Yeah, it's still a process, a long, stumbling process, but a snail's progress is still progress!

When I got it right, we were...THERE.  If Solo believes you won't fight him (I'm not sure why he wouldn't after our long history of, errrr, pulling matches, heh), he will jump & land & canter away like a lovely beast.  He might take 3 or 4 quick steps, but that is where the trust comes in:  I punch my instinct in the face, stay off his back, shove my fists into his neck on landing, & sit up.  My trust is rewarded by his & we just...flow.

Um, So Which Part Of This Was Sucky Exactly?? 

Thanks to Priscilla & David & my clinicians & in no small part, to Encore, I am finally GETTING how to really use my leg, thigh, core, & upper body.  I am GETTING how to ride the horse into the outside rein without sacrificing the forward energy.  I am GETTING how to feel, process, & respond with the correct aids when my horse needs an adjustment.

Creepers gonna creep...
Emphasis on "getting," there are still plenty of intervals of fail!

We hear these things suggested, yelled, repeated, written to us & at us over & over & over throughout our riding lives, but it really isn't until the 10,000th time we feel the links connect & our brain & our muscles finally digest that feeling, that it becomes truly knowing.

I wouldn't call it a lightbulb.  It's more like...a train.  Sparks fly from wheels spinning on the tracks at first, while the locomotive strains to begin moving.  But slowly, the momentum builds as the effort is put in, until, with enough time, you are rolling down the line.

So now I ride Solo & while I revel in how very little rein I need & how responsive he is to my lateral aids & how much FUN he is...I want to go back & do it all over again!  I want the rider I am now to bring along the horse he was when we began, to do it better, to do it smarter.

As if I'd say maybe to Tennant!
That Whole Big Picture Thing

While it's a frustrating tickle in my head, at the same time, he made me & I made him.  We learned from each other (even if it was "ok, never do that again") & I am still proud that we got here in spite of my fumbling about.  What's that saying about a blind hog & acorns?

Besides, I lack a time machine unless The Doctor shows up.  And even though it may have been a bumpy ride, Solo is still the one who carried me here.  It is his wisdom, his quirks, his baggage, his personality, & his heart that continue to teach me, call me out, & remind me that every step counts.  Both the mental & physical ones. 


September 19, 2014

REAL Real People With Real Lives...And Real Riding*

Adjust the focus
We are flooded daily with stories of 20-year-olds winning Grands Prix, of young professionals adding to their eventing records every weekend, of the lucky demographic of adult amateurs in weekly or daily training programs, spending weeks at a time at clinics & competitions.

All of these people that I've met work very hard in the process.  But for the multitudes of us who have not stumbled upon the luck & opportunity to devote that kind of time to our passion, it can be easy to get discouraged.

Don't be.  The trees are merely blocking your overlook of the forest.

Still amazing with a gorgeous partner!
My Neighbour, The Legend

I am going to cheat & share the message I sent to Susan Mcsherry-Jones (no relation, LOL), an old friend & the subject of this gorgeous article (my fingers are tired...).  When I met her, she worked full time at a marketing firm & needed a hand keeping up with her small personal barn.  Not long after, she decided to start her own company & it appears to have blossomed!   I am thrilled that we have been able to reconnect (I guess Facebook isn't ALL ridiculous).

But Susan is a full-time business owner, full-time mom (omg, I can't believe the baby I looked after is 17!!), & a self-made woman who has faced & overcome the challenges we are all familiar with...and continues to every day.  Even more, she is hope for each of us who might feel that even our modest goals are too much to expect.  Never forget that your journey is YOURS; the course may be unpredictable, but no less valid than any other just because it doesn't involve gold medals.



I Command Thee To Watch And...Just...Wow

Maybe I'm biased, but this is possibly the most beautifully shot & edited interview I've ever seen & now I am in tears.   I am SO proud of Susan, who hired me to help her with her farm when I was in high school & home from college, almost 20 yrs ago.

I remember when that indoor was just a fantasy, when one day it became flags in the grass & the first time she had furniture in that little (but always gorgeous) office, as she showed me the layout that would allow her to watch her daughter, my then-babysitting charge, Jacquelyn, while she schooled her dressage horses.


Thank You

Susan, you look amazing & even though I remember your stress then, I always admired you & I knew you would be wildly successful.  Thank you for being one of the strong women who were role models in my life, & for all that you so generously shared with me, that scruffy, horseless girl desperate to be near hooves any way she could.

Even dragging a sled full of manure uphill over ice out the back of the barn was well worth the rich return you gave, whose names were Nick, Flame, Weanie, & Finaud.  You made your farm feel a little like my home, too; I guess that's why those familiar fields put a lump in my throat.  It really doesn't seem all that long ago when I rushed to the best part of my day, my time with your beautiful boys.

This is the view I remember...
I hope I can pass it on even half as well as you did.  Courage is a difficult & exhausting thing; congratulations on your determination & well-deserved harvest of seeds well-sown, as well as the wisdom to sit back & relish those precious moments when you're finally THERE.

*sorry I couldn't think of a genius title, so I just used the same word 27 times, go with it...

September 14, 2014

Ordering Could Save You Money…And Your Life!

Horze signup_competition
Click to enter & get a 15% off discount for new customers!
Yes, you may now call me a Horze ‘ho. Albeit within the confines of a most basic TFS Commandment:  thou shalt always receive open, honest feedback!

I continue to enjoy our appallingly stylish (if you’ve read for a while, you know my trendiness aversion!) bell boots & gloves (week two: still no holes!).  But the goodies don’t end there:  check out two more!

#1:  Tired Of Losing Money In Trampled, Peed-On, Rolled-In Hay?

Another equine product that makes you want to throw things & scream:  the Hay Net.  The holes are too big.  The holes are too small.  That drawstring at the top has demonic intent to prevent the loading of any actual hay.  If it doesn’t have a drawstring, the holes are too big...again.  If the holes are just right & it lacks an evil drawstring, well, you must have entered a parallel universe of impossible fantasies.

Currently, I hang a small-hole drawstring net in the trailer.  Yes, it makes me want to scream very bad words while filling it.  But I love that I no longer lose huge quantities of $$$$$ hay onto my trailer floor.  It frustrates the crap out of Encore; unless I pull out a bunch of “starter clumps” for him to grab, he believes it’s too much work & gives up.  *insert eyeroll here*  In the fields, I dole out flakes on the ground or in an old trough with a pin-holed bottom.  I don’t. do. round bales.  (Unless someone wants to mail me a $300 net & a spear for the tractor…)

Hay Net 2
Mine!!
The Horze Slow Hay Feeder Net looked like a promising solution:  HUGE open top with perfectly-sized holes with a simple hanging design that I could move between trailer & run-in in a snap.  While slightly more expensive than my $11 trailer net, at $24 it was still half the cost of the $55 wall-mount from CinchChix & more flexible.

Loves:
  • I can walk up with 4 flakes balanced on one arm, pull the top wide open, & dump them in without loosing a bit
  • Easily holds at least 1/2 a square bale
  • Two simple mounting loops give you endless hanging options, including my carefully engineered “tie it to the rafters with hay string” technique
  • Two sets of short “shoelaces” are sewn into the top binding so you can dissuade Dobbin from just shoving his entire head in
  • Since the boys love to camp in their shed on rainy days, it lets Solo continue to “graze” under shelter & holds so much hay, I don’t have to worry about mid-day refills (not tested on Princess Encore-I-Like-To-Pee-In-My-Hay yet)
  • After I add a double-ended snap to each hanging loop, I can hang or move it anywhere by simply unclipping & don’t have to mount anything permanent
Hay Net 1 Arrows
Awesome MSPaint arrows indicate shoelaces
Minor Design Struggle:
  • The enormous top-load is amazing; it could be even better if the “shoelaces” were not both sewn onto the same binding edge.  I weave them to the other edge a couple times & tie a slip-knot for easy release, but it’s a bit awkward (hey, some people have weird, super-logical brains that struggle with lopsided things).
  • Alternatively (& what I initially thought the “shoelaces” were), a simple drawstring inside the top binding with a cord lock, like this, would be awesome!
One Sad Discovery:
  • Because the netting is softer than a traditional hay bag, it is easier for the horse to snag the hay, & hopefully will be less frustrating for Encore.  However, after about 5 solid days of Solo-use, the net string on a bottom corner is unraveling & pulling out of the side binding.  Mr. Shiny loves his hay & is serious about getting every scrap; it appears that the string is not strong enough for full-time shed residence. 
Despite this initial material failure, though, it shall receive some hay-string patching for continued use!  Horze DOES have a 30-day "happiness guarantee," should you have problems with any product, as well.  While not cut out for full-time “grazing,” I still think it has great functionality for trailering, temporary show-stabling, & other less “aggressive” situations where easy filling & hanging are key!

hunting visibility
Probably not the helmet I'd choose for deer season...
#2:  Serious Safety

While there are many things I love about the Carolinas, fall is not one of them.  It’s perfect riding weather, the trees break out their technicolour dreamcoats, the demonic insects begin their retreat.  What’s not to love?

Oh, it’s also rifle season for white-tailed deer.

A Little Perspective

As an employee of my state’s natural resource agency & a wildlife biologist, I get to see both sides of this…interesting time of year.  Nearly all of my co-workers hunt deer, as well as ducks, doves, turkeys, & feral hogs with bows, muzzleloaders, shotguns, & rifles, as personal preference varies.  And they do it right:  each one is careful, responsible, ethical, educated, & experienced.


wrong end of gun
MN wins the prize for Best Safety Graphics
Unfortunately, just like horse-world, riddled with double-edged swords, a conscientious participant in hunting-world is not a guarantee.  Outside of work, as a horse & property owner, I must always be alert for the bad apples.  It only takes one guy who thinks it’s funny to shoot a horse out from under someone, or brought a case of beer to the stand, or fires blindly at rustling leaves, or…it happens every year (and all over the country).

We Can & Should Share The Woods, But Be Proactive

As a result, many of us simply stay out of the woods once rifle season begins (the bow hunters & muzzleloaders are so much better at paying attention).  When we do head out on trails, we stick to state parks & private properties.  Even then, I always wear my very sexy DOT safety vest from work (sigh, trespassers…), attach a bear bell to my saddle (I need to fix that), & wear bright-coloured clothing.  I’ve got the vest on for tractor work too; the favoured.30-06 rifle can send a bullet 2-3 miles, so at least no one will be able to say I looked like a deer through the scope!

Solo Reflective Horze Strips Sept 2014 compressed
Glow-in-the-dark Solo!
TL;DR:

I have finally completed my seven-year quest for very affordable riding accessories that didn’t make my horse sweat & screamed “THIS DEER-COLOURED CREATURE IS NOT A DEER!”  And the answer…is $4!!!!

A handy set of four hi-vis reflective sleeves with open ends, the Horze Bzeen String Covers, despite their odd name, incorporate the two best elements of product design:  versatility & simplicity.  I’m not sure if this is standard, but I received two that had velcro down one side & two slightly narrower sleeves that were sewn on both sides.  I slid one of the latter onto a browband & velcro’ed both of the former on my martingale for a test run.

You can definitely see them!  I’m very excited to have these additions to my safety arsenal & am already pondering how many I could fit on one horse!  The nylon fabric feels thin, but sturdy & can get tossed in washing machine whenever needed.

My only “in a perfect world” very picky detail changes

  • Either include velcro on every sleeve or give the buyer an option
  • Offer them in blaze orange, the universally (or at least in the US) recognized hunting safety colour 

Thank you so much again to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want more of their stuff try out their great products & helping me share them with you!
www.horze.com