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We Are Flying Solo

March 12, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Safety Vests

This week has been spent rebuilding Solo's muscle and fitness.  Which means transitions, lateral work, hill work, and longeing.  Which means he is b.o.r.e.d.  As he comes out of the barn, he says "Please god, don't take me to the sandbox again.  PLEASE GOD!"  Today, a long wander through the woods on a warm sunny day is in order!

We are back to the vet next Thursday to check blood levels, etc and hopefully progress will continue.

This morning though, I wanted to talk about safety vests. A must-have item for any aspiring eventer and generally falling into the "big ticket item" category at prices from $100 to $500. Fortunately, unlike helmets, you can fall on them repeatedly without having to replace. Whew.

But the air vests are $800, you insist. Yes, yes they are. And they also require a conventional vest underneath. And they also have failed to provide me with sufficient data that they are anything more than yet another product riding on a tide of very successful marketing. I know there are people out there who claim, "It saved me!" but I claim, no, your conventional vest underneath and your helmet saved you. It's simple physics: an air vest CANNOT PROTECT YOU FROM A 1200 POUND HORSE CRUSHING YOU. Not going to happen; for that you need a rigid structure, like the Woof Exo's magnesium cage, which I have recently heard will soon no longer be available? An airbag will also not protect your neck from any of the torsional injuries which are usually associated with a fall from a horse; once again, you would need a rigid, fixed structure for that. In fact, it will not doing anything more than offer a bit of cushion from bumps and blows. Which is exactly what the conventional vest you are already wearing does. So, to this particular scientist, I cry redundancy.  However, if data (anecdotes do not equal data) does become available, I am open to hearing about it!

That said, if folks have the money and simply want to wear it (or you are a BNR and you get a free one, but then I doubt you are reading this smurf blog, ROFL!), knock yourself out. I do believe that it does offer an extra layer of bump protection, but that is not something I personally have that much money to throw at. But please don't make any wild and crazy claims unless you have good data to back it up.

Ok, moving on....

My criteria for my own vest: BETA 3 approved -- yes, I know this is not required. However, it tells me that some level of testing has been done on the product I am trusting my internal organs to! And it may be required in the future, at which point I do not want to have to re-shop. The vest must also be comfortable, not restrict range of motion, and be easy to put on/take off.

The first vest I owned was a secondhand eBay find.  It was comfortable and did the job for schooling, but I needed a little better fit as we moved on to competition.  Mum once again generously stepped up and offered to donate one for my birthday (parents like safe kids, LOL!).  So I ended up contacting the good folks at VTO saddlery and submitting a set of measurements for a Rodney Powell Elite vest.

I LOVE THIS VEST. And I have, uh, "field-tested" this vest. In all ways. Yeah, even that way. Hey, no, not that way! Get your mind out of the gutter!  You can laugh at my stupid picture face instead.

It fits like a glove. When you put it on, within two minutes, the foam conforms to your body and you no longer even notice you are wearing bloody body armour. My range of motion is completely unimpaired. After two Carolina summers, I can tell you it is no hotter than any other vests I have tried on, which is pretty impressive considering this is heavy-duty armour!  I also did get the shoulder pads -- I'm not sure I buy their claim that it will prevent collar bone breakage, but they certainly will absorb some impact to the shoulder in a fall on an otherwise unprotected area.  I can't say I wear them every time, but for big courses, I strap them on!

I highly, highly recommend this vest and the VTO folks to anyone in the market. Each vest is custom built to fit you based on a series of measurements you send in. They also have a model specifically designed for those of you with large female metronomes in the chest region. ;-) Can't tell you much more about that, sorry, I am happily not a member of that group! But Rodney Powell has made a great, great product that will serve you well in your eventing adventures, so I would encourage checking it out post haste!

March 8, 2011

Who Said Horse Owners Weren't Creative

Once Solo finishes his 14 day regimen of daily omeprazole later this week, he graduates to ranitidine. Dr. Bob merrily handed me this big jug of pills and says, "Here, give him 5 of these with each meal."

I look at pills. I look at Dr. Bob. Because horses are so easy to give pills to. Especially shiny, picky, food-snob horses who don't even like peppermints. I open the jug and sniff suspiciously. Dr. Bob watches me with great puzzlement.

"Do I have to crush them up then?" I ask warily. "Because Solo is not going to eat these voluntarily."

"Sure!" he says as if this is all no big deal.  As if now I don't have to come up with some ingenious plan which involves my BO not having to crush horse pills every time she feeds and Solo not snuffling out the medication into a neat little pile left in the corner of his feed bin.

My last experience with crushing horse pills (aside from SMZ's which dissolve so nicely in water) was watching lifeshighway with a bowl and a hammer and a strategically placed paper towel, banging away on a daily basis. I am committed to go to any lengths necessary not to engage in this particular activity.

I go home and check with SmartPak, who, much to my delight, will not only grind it up for me, but add yummy flavours! Yay for no work for me!

But for the next month, it's me. And the jug. And five fat yellow pills per meal.

Ho ho, nasty pills, I am tricksier than you thought! Enter my compatriot, Mr. Pill Crusher and his strong, inescapable jaws! Combine that with a little tape, some empty SmartPaks, and my favourite sharpie...

And VOILA!! I emerge victorious!! One neat little package for each meal.

Just one more day I escape my BO's hatred at feeding time...

March 7, 2011

Dr. Bob's Magical Worm Plan

Sounds like a great amusement park ride, doesn't it? Having spent a rainy day in a fit of cleaning the house (it gets done every six months, whether it needs it or not), I dumped out my huge box of wormer from Valley Vet (having laid in stock as per Dr. Bob's instructions for an aggressive six week schedule) and attacked it with a sharpie.

I keep pretty careful records anyway, thanks to the great database at Rendaivu (accessible from any computer!), but now all I have to do is open the cupboard door and know instantly what and when is due next. I have the deepest pity for Solo's tastebuds this year.

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!

March 1, 2011

We Have Merchandaise!!!!

I've been keeping a secret from you. I wanted to wait until the fruit ripened into its full fruity awesomeness before I shared it with you.

A little while ago, I was contacted by the folks at Build-A-Sign, offering Solo & I some custom printed goodies of our own to try out.  Unable to resist every horse owner's weakness of wanting your horse's name on EVERYTHING, I tried not to sound like a giddy schoolgirl when I said yes.

Our stuff arrived in my mailbox today.  Yeah, that was that screeching whoop you heard about 5:00 pm.


Yes, my very own license plate displaying Flying Solo pride.  I can't say enough how totally great & professional it looks & how wonderful their rep was to work with; she sounded just as enthusiastic about the whole thing as I was!   AND, as if this wasn't cool enough, they also printed me some bumper stickers. 

Now, I currently have...a few...of these.  I am pondering making some available in giveaways.  Would anyone out there be interested in displaying some Team Flying Solo pride of their own?

If you can hardly contain yourself, here's how it's going to work:  if your name is specifically listed on the "Pit Crew" menu link at the top of this page, you are entitled to a free sticker -- you have given an immeasureable gift to Solo & I with your help and support, so it's the least I can do to repay you!  Should you, as a core Team Flying Solo member, want to cash in on this (undeniably once-in-a-lifetime) offer, just click our email link & I will hook you up!

Now, don't lose hope if your name isn't on the list, it is still totally possible to attain this incredible badge of honour & glory!!  If you, dearest of readers, express interest, there will be a contest whose nature I have not yet decided to disperse said priceless items.  So let me know in the comments if there are any of you who can't wait to emblazon your vehicle/tack truck/horse trailer/desk/refrigerator/cat with these totally fantastic stickers!

I'll stop now, but not without a huge THANK YOU to Megan & the folks at Build-A-Sign for your generosity towards my humble endeavors here at We Are Flying Solo. You have a great product & you've absolutely thrilled us to bits.