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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label grooming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grooming. Show all posts

July 24, 2016

A New Favourite: Grooming Hands Gloves Are Hands-On...And Hands-Free!

Tell me if this sounds familiar:  currying off layers of sweat crust & dirt, I manage to drop my body brush at least twice.  I keep the gel curry on one hand to knock the dust off the soft bristles, but then I need to put something down so I can grab fly spray.  Even staging items at strategic equine corners has me juggling tools.  And my spectacular grace & coordination are somewhat legendary...

Maybe I'm just "special?"  <-- i="">obvious statement is obvious

Even included sweet handwritten note!
Even More Exciting Than Sliced Bread

Thanks to Melissa & Barb from, who asked if I'd like to try un-droppable grooming, I have discovered a miraculous world where I can groom my horses, pick up other things, AND not hit myself in the face with a brush AT THE SAME TIME.

I know, it seems impossible...but I had to find out!


Materials needed:  one sweaty horse, one clumsy human, two hands -- check.

Pre-test equine (Solo finds dinner more important...)
The Massage & Grooming gloves were described as a versatile tool which reduces static (not so testable in swamp air, but could be handy in winter) while allowing you to reach all your horse's itchy spots, work out dead hair, massage muscles, clean sensitive areas, & maintain manual dexterity.  A lot to promise, especially to a documented skeptic.

Hands ON!
Thankfully they come in multiple sizes, as my enormous lady hands require a large, but they fit comfortably, so I got to work.  I started at the base of Solo's ears & worked down his neck to his withers & shoulders, which always build up layers of dirt.


Not only did they do "all of the above," I was honestly amazed at the amount of shed hair & gunk they lifted out of his coat.  You can see in the pre-test pic above, he's pretty "summer slick."  But when I got to his back &

Where did all that come from??!
So yes, these are now part of my daily routine & I'm guessing from the sighs & drooping eyelids of relief that both horses are happy about it.

Even More To Love

On top of being great to use, Grooming Hands is our favourite kind of company:  a self-started small business, built by a lifetime rider & groom as a labour of love.  Founder Barb Schuster had an idea during a PA winter & threw her heart & savings after it (as a single mom, no less!).  You can read her story here.

Solo definitely agrees & gives them four hooves up.  Even sensitive Encore leaned into the massage & I really liked the immediate tactile feedback of grooming with a glove, so you can adjust pressure & use different textured areas as you go.

The website is full of videos, tips, & helpful resources to explore; other features include:
  • Machine washable or just put them in the sink with some dish soap
  • Extra massage tips on middle & ring fingers
  • Smooth spots on thumb & index finger for soft wipedowns
  • Latex free for allergic folks
  • Not just for horses -- dogs, cats...hmmm, maybe myself...
Thanks again to the super-friendly Grooming Hands team for letting me try & share!

April 3, 2016

Remember To Not Forget To Not Ride

I watched my horse's eye soften as I worked my hands over Encore's neck, back, & hindquarters, seeking out knots & tension to ease away.  Each time my thumbs dug into a hard burl of muscle, Encore's lower lip quivered & his head dropped lower...and lower...and lower.  He licked his lips & sighed in thanks.

As our horses keep us running in circles (some of them voluntary...), the line between remembering & forgetting & which side we're on (is it the one we're supposed to be on??) can get blurry.  Going through our bodywork ritual, I'm reminded once more of the importance of being NEXT to your horse.

If it sounds familiar, it's because I've combined & updated several (very!) old posts with added comments here to knock the dust off these critical routines.  These tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, are what collectively add up to a well-managed horse.  This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.

Take The Time

Take the time to palpate your horse's large muscle groups before & after a ride to look for tender spots. look in his eyes:  are they bright, alert, free of cloudy areas or spots? run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old. lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature & wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet. really notice the colour, shape & texture of his frog & sole so you know if they change. run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches. take him out on a hack to condition him on hills & uneven ground at the walk & trot. Don't get trapped in the sandbox. watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness. give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body & mind can rest each week.  Let him just be a horse. glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up? watch him eat. Is he chewing easily & evenly or does he just mash it & let it fall out of his mouth? inspect his manure & watch him pee. Is everything normally coloured?  Is the flow & consistency of all his waste the same every day?

Fight the urge to rush, get to know your horse's body & habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know.  Early detection is key to maximizing his chances at recovery, comfort & longevity.  Tendon, muscle, & joint also each need time to rest & recover from micro-injury & stress that comes with work (or equine existence :/).  It is our responsibility to respect that need & to ensure that we are not asking our horses to work in pain or discomfort.   

Encore & I finished with some carrot stretches to each side -- I make him stretch his nose at least to his flank (no cheating & moving his feet!) in each direction.  Upon recheck, his back muscles are softer, his withers are less sore & the knots along his haunches are smaller.

It's a continuous process, but one I must not to forget in the bustle of every day.  Happier body = happier horse.  Happier horse = happier me.  It's that simple.

I eternally love Grumpy Cat...

June 30, 2015

It’s An Organizer! It’s A Mounting Block! It’s…A Pretty Sweet Box!

For 175 lbs of feet or bum! Solo box incl. for scale.
Raise your hand if you are so over digging for the hoofpick in the abyss that is your grooming box.

Yeah.  OVER.  IT.

Lucky for you, I've always got one eye open for the perfect box.  Brush box.  Clipper box.  Blanket box.  Boot box.  Organize ALL THE THINGZ box.

Well, what if it has a treaded top & is weight-rated for use as a mounting block (or picking ticks like a monkey braiding manes) too?  Oh yes.

 The polypropelene Horze Smart Grooming Box has not only that, but also sports a lock loop on the front for security & arrives in your matchy colour of choice (maaaan, I should have gone for the powder blue, it's our accent colour...but hey, there is even something for you crazy pink lovers!).

Removable divider & "bits 'n pieces" tray in place
With a lift-out accessory tote & divider, it doesn't become the dreaded Bottomless Purse.

Neat trick: the basket will sit on the edge for mud slurry avoidance needs!
Its only shortcoming: it is a tad too short for the critical "spray bottle test."

Derp.  But it's ok, your WD-40 still fits!!
BUT. Domed lid still leaves room for sticky-uppies. (It's a word now, deal)
However, as a compact organizer with double-duty stool powers, I think it's a great option with lots of flexibility, especially for the trailer:  a travel grooming, clipper, wrap, braiding, or what-can-you-think-of box for the trail or showgrounds that hangs around to give you a leg up, so you don't have to do that "I totally meant to slide off my trailer fender to check out my horse's girth VERY closely" moment (oh, is that just me?).

Added size information:  boost height is 12", while your standing platform on top is approximately 14" long by 11" wide.
For all your favourite matchy thingz!  Ok, so I really like blue...a lot... What product placement?? ;P
Check it out along with other great grooming goodies here; all products come with a 30-day 'happiness guarantee' & orders over $75 ship both ways for free!

Thanks again to the great & always friendly folks at Horze for the opportunity to share a hands- (& feet) on experience with you!

March 21, 2015

This Is What Happens When You Shed Too Slowly

You get the "My Mom Doesn't Give A Crap As Long As I Sweat Less" designer clip.

It's even awesomer when he's not picking up crumbs...
Yes, this is a cheater post, but geez, the seconds keep ticking by so fast!  I'm so busy volunteering, I didn't even have time to volunteer at this weekend's 2nd Annual Carolina International CIC -- we had so much fun last year.  I hope everyone had a safe day!

December 9, 2014

Tuesday Tack Tips: Revitalizing Tired Fleece

My fluff haz no protective force field??
Whether synthetic or manufactured by sheep, fleece-lined boots, saddle pads, even bedroom slippers suffer much the same trend as I do:


Over time, pressure & perspiration cause loss of fluffiness, burrs & sticks can get tangled in seams & fabric, and embedded dirt just gives an overall impression of dinginess.

While my own condition barely registers on the Give-A-Shit Meter, your fleece, assigned the important task of cushioning, cooling (if it's the real thing), & caressing your horse's sensitive skin, deserves far better!

Fortunately for both of us, the solution (for the fleece's condition, at any rate) is simple, quick, & nearly foolproof (I'm not going to say I have NEVER scraped myself with...any object that fits in my hand).

Top: Teh Fluff Lives Again!  Bottom:  Iz Next...
Observe -->

And you're done!  For those who particularly love grooming, now you even get to groom your horse's outfits!!

Simple Solution

In the photo, all I've done with these Dover Pro Sport boots I borrowed for Encore & his new game of "How Many Of My Own Legs Can I Kick During Playtime?"

*insert owner disapproval here* a short soak & pre-wash on 'gentle' in my garage-sale washing machine (Remember when you put the clothes in FROM THE TOP?  And they only came in white?  The horrors I somehow manage to navigate daily...).

After a brief air-dry, I dug out my wire dog-grooming brush that I'm fairly certain is old enough to vote (and I'm almost as certain you can find at your local Dollar Tree,if you don't have one lying around)...and I spent a whopping three minutes brushing the top boot's fleece & velcro.  You can see how much grit is gone, especially if you click to embiggen, compared to its as-yet-un-groomed mate below it.

In addition, the loft is restored & Encore's legs are now wrapped in the revived soft fluffiness of his own personal leg-clouds.  Or weird analogy of your choice.

Hey, I've just spent 10 hours in December hunting inch-long rare fish in swampy ditches full of sticks & 10 degree-C water.  You get what you get...

What are you waiting for??  GO FIND FLUFF IN NEED!

I believe these come pre-fluffed...

November 30, 2014

Haircuts & Happiness

Tractor w Drag
It IS satisfying, though...
Yep, that’s what passes for excitement around here – unless you really want to hear how gratifying it is to drag a 3-acre pasture.  The satisfaction of decimating every little poop pile…


Sorry, where was I?  Oh yes, a brief update, aka “weird things that horse people find thrilling.”


Saturday found me bound & determined, with a set of T-84 blades in hand, on my most beloved AGC2's (dang, they used to be a lot cheaper AND I got a #10 blade included) & a can of Cool Care at the ready.  I truly hate that sweated, matty winter girth-hair.

It's a start -- my clip jobs are generally piecemeal works over the course of weeks, heh.

*not sure why these photos are showing up blurry, but if you click to embiggen, they will sharpify, sigh*

Solo Nov 2014 Clip 002 (Small)
Oh no, she haz teh clipperz...
Encore Nov 2014 Clip
Relax, bro, I feel pretty...


Even simpler.  Work & the other 500 aforementioned sources of stress have left me with little energy to climb on horses.  We won’t discuss why this picture does not include liver chestnut ears.  But bliss is the perfect word for Solo & I with a small piece of the world all to ourselves:

30 Nov 14
In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.
-Helen Thompson, author, b. 1943

July 20, 2013

Lusting After Your Own Absorbine TryPak???

That title ought to get me some Google hits, ha!  But you know you are.

Well, now you can win one.  And I'm going to tell you how.

Get ugly.

That's right.  And now I'm going to explain (apparently, I'm in the mood for announcing intent).

We all know us working class horse people are broke.  Some of us more than others.  As a result, I do not buy a replacement item until its predecessor has well and truly collapsed into a panting corpse at my feet and gasped its final effort.

Example.  My VERY favourite gloves, a pair of mesh-backed Moxie gloves, never too slippery, never too sticky, always comfortable, inexpensive, and with a lifespan of TWO YEARS, as opposed to 6-10 months for my traditional SSG All-Weathers.

As an aside, I do now own a pair of SSG Digitals and another of SSG 10 Belows (sale on both) and they are worlds above the All-Weathers and so far excellent after their first year. 

When I finally had to give up on my dear Moxies, my skin was getting peeled off because they looked like...well, just look left.

It was a real shame -- had it been any other finger but my rein finger, they would have lived on, because the top still looked like...yep, look down.

2 yrs, perfectly fine!
I happened to be in a tack shop and replaced them with a pair of leather and mesh Heritage pull-ons...which got the first hole in the finger (I apparently have devil monkey claw fingers and toes, you should see my socks!) in ONE WEEK.  BooHiss.  This is what I longed in today (below).  The rest of the summer fall will be spent in a pair of sale SSG crochet-backs.

What they look like today.  I just cut off the fingers when they fell apart.
OMG, woman, this is the longest contest description ever!  Yes, you're right.  But here's what you do:

-Click the email link in my sidebar and send me an email titled "My Awesomest Gear." 
-Attach a photo to that email of your most persistent piece of equipment (dang, I should have taken a picture of my half chaps that are legally old enough to drive!). 
-If I don't get some photos of duct tape and hay string, I'm going to cry.
-Make sure all photos are submitted by Thursday, August 1st.

I want to see ugly, I want to see determined, I want to see creative!  However, said piece of equipment must still be in regular use.  I'm going to count on your honour for that!  I will post the top ten photos and the FIVE most talented salvagers (that's right, say thank you to Absorbine generosity) will be chosen by my mere whimsy careful scientific rankings to receive your very own Limited Edition TryPak Of Shiny Goodness to rock out in travel-size convenience at your next show or just to wave around the barn to the envy of everyone else.

Get out there and start collecting photos!!  May the most desperate poverty-warrior win!!

July 16, 2013

Absorbine Shine!

I owe the good folks at Absorbine a massive apology, but the climate has just NOT been cooperative.  I think we had something like 30+ straight days of rain, which is unreal for Carolina spring/summer.  

Getting the horses in from the pasture.
But ages ago, Absorbine sent TFS a nifty new product called the TryPak.  In this handy, dandy travel-sized kit is an equine body shampoo/conditioner, a green spot remover, and, naturally, their classic detangler/shine product, Showsheen. 

So I set to work (once it finally took a rain break for about an hour) giving it a go with the ambassador of shine himself.

Mr. Shiny is doing his best to impersonate Mr. Muddy.
Maybe the world's shiniest horse isn't the best demo, but Encore is always clean!
Solo was more than happy to be lavished with the attention as I soaked and scrubbed.  Shampoo first, then the stain remover on his white socks, and I finished by brushing the showsheen over his body and through his tail.

Here, mom, let me adopt my most awkward pose for you!
Now he has serious shine and immaculate white legs!!!
How is that for a clean orange horse?!  All three products worked really well and I was especially impressed with the stain remover, which got his legs amazingly white.  I absolutely recommend you give it a try!  We may even have a contest for you to win some of your own coming up shortly -- I just have to check with Absorbine, who may have disowned me by now for taking so long!

Hopefully, the sun is shining where you are today, we finally have a few moments respite from the clouds peeing on us here!  So I'm heading out to enjoy the blue skies while I can --

June 7, 2012

Stop The Vampire!

Now that Solo has settled into his new home and stopped using Encore as a security blanket, he has gone back to being his old, bossy self -- which means he is a vampire, sniping pieces of Encore's skin when no one is looking.

You might wonder how a fit, young, clever, agile racehorse would fail to dodge the swipes of a teenage stock horse with a stiff back, but you see, Solo is a stealth vampire.  He will graze along, sweet as can be, and then BAM! with no warning, he strikes like a snake and then goes back to grazing like nothing happened.  If you blink, you'll probably miss it.

A poor photograph of both horse and sheet.
Since I prefer not to have Encore looking like a piecemeal blood donor who turns into a SWAT appaloosa after grooming, I am trying the flysheet approach.  I just had to wait until a quality one went on sale low enough to appease my budget. I knew my $20 cheapo in the trailer wouldn't last a day. 

I put it on with a sigh tonight -- it's, well, PRETTY, so I asked Solo nicely to please let me keep pretty sheet pretty. 

Only time will tell if the vampire can show mercy.

April 15, 2012

Why Not A 5 Day Weekend And A 2 Day Workweek?

I vote for that instead.

The Horses:  

Encore radiographed clean on Friday *HUUUUUGE sigh of relief* and was pronounced "He Who Hath Excellent Bone Density" by Dr. Brian.  He is on another course of antibiotics because there is still a little fluid pocket around the wound and slight fill in the ankle/tendon.  But it looks a little better every day.  No more bandages, just the daily bute/abx and tomorrow, I'm going to hold my breath and get on him.

Solo got his huge, shiny butt ridden today -- I think he will always be lopsided (not that he ever was NOT) because of the scar tissue in his back and his weakness there, so the bulge to the left is just default now.  I correct every second stride or so, along with constant reminders that locking the left side of one's jaw is not allowed.  I have begun to let him jump about 2' and under -- he is so terribly excited to jump again that he locks and goes, overjumps dramatically, flings his head in the air and tries to take off at a XC gallop every time.  Mr. Shiny may get his martingale and jumping bit back after all...

The Weekend:

Yes, it is Longleaf weekend, my favourite event of the year.  And I WILL pack up my trailer and my OTTB and we WILL go to the Carolina Horse Park on Friday.  Because the cruelty of eventing is that you can't get your money back.

The Plans:

Plan A:
We do the world's most expensive dressage test on Saturday and then withdraw and volunteer for a while before heading home Saturday evening.

Plan B:
We do dressage, check the leg, if it looks clean and tight, we run XC.  Cold wrap leg and standing wrap it overnight and if he jogs out tight in the morning, move on to SJ.

Plan C:
We do dressage and if leg does not look perfectly tight, we have a chat with Ground Jury to see if we can skip XC and just CT-it by show jumping on Sunday for the schooling experience on level footing.

Plan D: 
None of my plans will go according to plan and I just wing it, tottering about CHP on my bike with my bright orange milk crate while my brain chases its tail trying to figure out what to do.

The Added Bonus:

No matter which plan actually occurs, I still get to use the New Totally Awesome Horse Organizer's Dream Box.  Check it:

It starts like this.  Boots added for scale.  TFS sticker added for coolness.
Then it does this, like a fishing tackle box.
That's right, my OCD friends, just remember
to wipe up your drool.

Of course, I have to make it our own.
 Not only that, but it has a retractable handle like a suitcase.  And wheels.  WHEELS!  And you can lock every section.  Can you just step away and let me and the box have a few minutes alone together in the tack room....

October 29, 2011

It Only Takes 30 Minutes To Feed The Horses

Especially on a cold, rainy evening.  There's only six of them, easy, right? Bring horses in, dump the feed, turn them back out, done!

Except the water on the beet pulp's gone cold and I want to run some hot water in there.

Except since it's raining and 45 degrees, I want to put a rain sheet on Solo.

Except he's got festy gnat bites on his belly that won't heal and I want to clip around them and spray tea tree oil on there.

Then I decide to go ahead and clip his back white foot because the fungus is always attacking.

Then I need to smear some more desitin on that foot anyway.

Then I need to take Solo's rain sheet off of Encore and put it on Solo.

Now Encore gets Solo's mid-weight blanket because it's not QUITE cold enough for his winter blanket but he's skinny so he needs more than a sheet.

Then Danny needs his sheet because it's wet and cold.

Danny and Solo can finally go out but now I have three leftovers.

Tigger's pasturemate is out of town and he can't stay alone. I can put Tigger with Pete and Encore but now they all need their own hay piles.

Except there are no open hay bales so now I need to climb the stack in the extra stall and roll a couple down.

Then I need to take hay out to each horsey so no one feels left out.

Then I have to scrub all the feed buckets so they are ready for the next morning.

Then I discover Tigger and Pete both left presents in their stalls for me.

Then I need to sweep up fallen hay and make sure everyone has water.

An hour and a half later, I can finally go home.

September 11, 2011

First Dates

Encore is used to having a job, so I decided to spend the weekend introducing him to our trails around the farm.  We've got hours worth, winding through woods and fields, so it should keep us busy for a while!

I met up with a friend on Saturday so that her horse, Diesel, could provide Encore with a steady buddy. Not that he seemed to need one! He trucked right out in a huge TB walk -- I could feel his shoulders swing out beneath me in a smooth, open stride, what a feeling! With steady steps, he booked right by cars, mailboxes, dogs, shady woods, fallen branches, dead leaves and quite willingly dipped his toes in the ponds. Until....


As we came around the corner where a herd of Herefords were calmly dozing in the shade, Encore suddenly grew to 18.2 hands and stopped, shaking and blowing as if his life was over.  I quickly decided that since he wasn't going within 50 yards of them and he had only known me for a day, I was dismounting.  Poor little bugger was convinced they would leap the fence and fang him to death.  We just hung out and watched them for about 30 minutes, until Encore returned to normal size and started breathing less like a steam engine and more like a horse.  He dropped his head and licked his lips a few times, although still keeping a careful eye on the beasts.  I felt that was very good progress and I certainly wasn't going to pick a fight or drag him past them, so we turned around, remounted and headed home.

Project Cow Terrors filed for future work.

Today, we headed out with lifeshighway and Pete for a brief ride just to stretch everyone's legs.  Encore was fantastic and led the way most of the time with eager curiosity.  He seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring new places -- as soon as we got on a trail we had not ridden yesterday, his pace tripled!  When we got back, we walked over two small jumps, a tiny crossrail and an 18" bright green and yellow vertical with flower boxes.  As soon as he hopped the cross rail, he said "WHEEEEE, JUMPS, YAY!!"  He peeked at the vertical but jumped readily over, even remembering to pick up his back feet.

Finishing off the weekend, was a good scrub in the bath, a hair trim, and a brushing-out of everything.  The shine came out in the sun and he reveled in the hearty devouring of clover patches.

He might want to be a poser after all.
Inside of front leg.

Front of cannon.

Encore shows off his pinfire scars.  The theory behind this practice is that you use a red-hot bolt to burn through the outer layer of the cannon bone and stimulate the flow of blood and calcium to heal bucked shins.  Valid?  I'm not sure, but it sure looks insane!

I see shiny-ness!!!  Clover noms...

March 5, 2011

Take The Time

It is so important to do the little things to keep your horse sound and mentally and physically fit no matter what his job is. Far too easy is it to get lost in the rushing and scheduling and riding that consumes us on a daily basis. But it's those tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, that collectively add up to a well-managed horse. This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.

Take the time to palpate your horse's neck, back and haunches before and after a ride to look for tender spots. Just running your fingers down the big muscles with medium pressure can tell you a lot.

Take the time to run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old.

Take the time to lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature.

Take the time to wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet.

Take the time to really notice the colour, shape and texture of his frog and sole so you know if they change.

Take the time to run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches.

Take the time to take him out on a hack to condition him on hills and uneven ground at the walk and trot, getting him fit the RIGHT way. Don't get trapped in the sandbox.

Take the time to watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness.

Take the time to give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body and mind can rest each week.

Take the time to dip his bit in a bucket of water after your ride so there are no sharp-edged crusties next time you tack up (and you don't have to scrub later!).

Take the time to lay out your girth and saddle pad after riding so it can dry and stay mildew and fungus free.

Take the time to glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up? Sorting out the supplements he doesn't like?

Take the time to watch him eat hay or grass. Is he chewing easily and evenly or does he just mash it and let it fall out of his mouth?

Take the time after you pull his saddle off to curry the matted, sweaty hair, letting air reach the skin and re-fluffing his coat.

Take the time to inspect his manure and watch him pee. Is everything normal coloured? Is the flow and consistency of all his waste the same every day?

I am sure there are others; the take-home message is that these seemingly miniscule things can catch a problem early, saving you potential headaches, vet bills, and missed competitions. They also help make your horse's job more pleasant so he doesn't resent what you ask him to do. Keeping his body and mind fit is 100% vital to keeping him going year after year, not to mention it goes a long way to keeping your maintenance costs down. Fight the urge to rush, be a horse(wo)man, and train yourself to a routine that incorporates getting to know your horse's body and habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know. The faster you notice, the faster you can fix it and get Dobbin back on track, which only gives you both more time to enjoy the good stuff!