Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Every First (...or Third) Time Horse Owner Should Know:

Last Monday I went to my first Horse Management Course at the Cooperative Extension Agricultural Center. I had a blast! An Animal Science Professor from NC State taught a course on things that 1st time horse owners should know. He started with separating things that owners NEED to know, Better know, SHOULD know, and would be GOOD to know. We need to know about facilities, equine psychology, nutrition, health care, hoof care, and who to call when something goes wrong. Although Granite is my third horse, I learned (or relearned) so much. I go a refresher on horse vision. This explained many spooks that seem to come out of nowhere, when actually the horse just sees things that we cant :)

I also learned that horses should be grazing at least 20 of 24 hours and eat for 12 full hours during the day. He reinforced horses being pack animals and stressed that even stallions needed to be able to see horses if not be with others. I also learned that if a horse's body temperature reaches 104, then they can no longer independently get their body temp back. You would have to immediately cold hose them. He proved to us that not cold hosing is an old wives tale (score one for me, I totally hose my horses in the summer).
We talked about new controversies in worming. This one hits home for me because I really like feed-thru wormer because it seems to improve my horse's overall condition. But my last vet was very opposed. She believed that the best method was to do fecal exams to count eggs and determine when to paste. She thought that the less we could paste worm, the less resistance problems we would encounter. The prof from State agreed with my last vet. I think the vets are just out to charge me $23 per fecal exam as many times a year as possible. Alas, it is an interesting concept.

So thats the short version of my first Short Course. I am supposed to have another one tomorrow (about preventative health care) but we got a ton of snow and here in good ole NC, we don't react well to snow (by we, I mean that I do not react well to snow. It is my mortal enemy.) So, I have a funny feeling that they will cancel the course. My Town Hall is opening 2 hours late which is fabulous. But I have a very low toyota solara and I am not looking forward to navigating it the 15 minutes to work!

In other news, tonight's work-out makes 3 full weeks of working out 6 days a week! My weight has been fluctuating a pound or two here and there. But I have lost an inch or so in my waist and hips! Best of all, tonight's hour long elliptical program that Eva created for me got easier than it was for the past two weeks! That means that I am getting stronger and that this is working! I will be ready to ride my horse with strength in 2 months! I am proud, despite what the scale tells me.

Alright folks, chow for now :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Big Favor..

Alright. Everyone knows of my Bestest, well her real name is Eva. We have been best friends since 5th Grade. We met shortly after I broke my arm riding my first horse, Bonnie. A friend of mine called and said that she had a friend (Eva) who wondered if I needed someone to exercise my horse while I was out with my broken shoulder. My response? Hell NO!! I knew that if I let someone else take over my horse, that they may well try to buy her and my parents may well oblige them. So, my mother exercised my horse for me and I didn't hear from Eva about the subject again.
Well, funny how things work out. A boarder at my farm got pregnant (don't you hate when that happens.. it has a way of ruining your riding career), and guess who stepped in to ride her horse? You guessed it, Eva did. I was such a bitch to poor Eva. I let her horse out of the paddock, I left old food in her tack trunk, in addition to throwing plenty of snappy comments and evil glares. Well, one day we got stuck out at the farm together (oh, the days before the freedom of a drivers license) and we ended up riding together. Shortly thereafter, Eva spent the night at my house and we hatched plans to host a horse show at our farm (which we did, complete with a rated judge, customized ribbons, and competitors!-- yes we were, like, 12 years old).
Thats pretty much all she wrote. Eva and I were best friends from then on. She ended up buying the horse she was riding for the pregnant lady (TOLD YOU, see why I wouldn't let her touch my horse?!). We moved to another farm and grew up through local shows, 4-H, high school, heartbreaks, proms and more. In '04 I left for college five hours away and in '05 she moved for college and we were three hours apart. Through it all she has remained my favorite person in the universe. She is Granite's Godmother and I see her as often as possible. She recently moved to a city only 1.5 hours from me and is working on her Masters in Communication. She is training to be an Event Rider. She has been through hell trying to find a new horse and is currently leasing a pretty snazzy Thoroughbred from her trainer. She is still on the lookout for one of her own and is hoping to find something come summertime. But... heres where the favor comes in... I want to let her take over the rest of the story. She is currently taking a social media course in her grad program and is required to write a blog. Her assignment involves having comments on her posts and actual readers. She is BRILLIANT (2nd in her graduating class in High School and Magna Cum Laude in College) so you won't be disapointed. PLEASE PLEASE do me a huge favor and go check out her blog "High Tech Horse". It looks to me like she will be discussing, primarily, how the internet has changed the horse world (through horse blogs, online tack stores, online horse sales, horse marketing, trainer research etc...). You won't be disapointed and you'll be doing my very favorite person (and me) a huge favor!
Thanks so much!!

Circa '06

Circa '07

The wheel of the world keeps turning around...

This week has been ridiculous. I only had one day in the office and had to spend 11 hours of that day working 90 miles an hour to situate things for my absence. I then spend the following three days at a conference. I learned a lot and really enjoyed myself at the conference, I even got to spend one night at my Bestest's apartment. The conference got me really jazzed about my job and I needed that.

In the mean time, Daphne had to go live with D and I didn't get to go see my horse for 4 straight days. I went to visit him yesterday and he was doing wonderfully, as per usual. I absolutely adore my farm. Becky and Allen always have such a close eye on Granite yet they aren't over protective and don't try to tell me what to do with my own horse.

I have managed to work out 6 days this week (and last week) despite the constant travel and late nights at work. I feel so sore and thus so happy thinking that I will be strong enough to do right by my horse come April. I just have such a problem with consistency. I am afraid that something will come along and throw me off track. I have made a promise to myself to make sure I work out 4-6 days a week for 6 weeks. I don't care if it involves working out before work (which is often has these days) or staying up later to do it. I just have to stick with this for at least 6 weeks and by that point, I hope to have made it habit or at least be proud of the results.

But alas, it is the weekend and what am I doing? I am working on writing a grant for 4-H. If I am going to start a Hippology and Horse Bowl team, they need educational materials and buzzers. The County 4-H asked me to prepare a proposal to the North Carolina Horse Council educational grant. It is a lot more involved than I had anticipated and its due NEXT WEEKEND, but I have to get it done. So, next week is shaping up to be just as busy as the last. Which is good, because I thrive on feeling busy and needed.

What else is on the docket for this week? Well, my first Horse Management Short Course is tomorrow night. The subject is "The First Time Horse Owner: management, feeding, safety, purchasing and owning a horse, manure management". Although Granite is my third horse, I plan to go for a few reasons. First, I really want the opportunity to meet new people. I have only a small handful of close friends here and a few of them are gearing up to move after graduation in May. I want to expand my friend network, and I want to take any opportunity I can to meet new people. Another reason is to recruit interested youth for our new Hippology and Horse Bowl teams. There are currently no such teams in the County and this will be a great arena to gauge interest and to let them know that teams are forming. This should be interesting and educational. The courses will be held for 8 consecutive Mondays. I'll update you on how they go.

On Wednesday, I am supposed to give my friend Carrie (check out her blog)  a riding lesson on Karma (you remember her right? The mare of which I had to relinquish possession). But Karma has had a runny nose and a cough that have come and gone for the last few weeks. She has a vet visit scheduled for Monday, so we shall see if we are still on. I guess I should get to creating some lesson plans for her! Sheesh, I have too much to do... what happened to having some free time after graduation?!

Now for your viewing pleasure... a picture of my big man in his new blanket (which he will not be wearing until he breaks his current togs).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Amazing Day at the Barn

Do you remember CG, an ex boyfriend from this time last year? Well we hung out last night (with my roommate and her bf too). We had a great time, until I came home and discovered that Daphne has apparently evolved and grown thumbs. She escaped from her kennel (where she stays if I have to leave her home alone). She then proceeded to chew a approximately 3 square foot whole in the carpet at the seam at the bedroom door. I cried and cried because this was the third time she has destroyed carpet (at my old apartment, my parent's house, and now this apartment). I just don't know what to do with my dog anymore. Her separation anxiety is getting ridiculous. She is over protective and down right insane when I am gone. People suggest training, but Petsmart isn't going to teach her not to be nuts. Does anyone have any advice?? I just don't know what to do with her anymore. I love her so much. D volunteered to take her, basically permanently. I just don't know how I can take that adorable little puppy (see above photo taken at 6 weeks) whom I promised to protect and take care of and just give her to someone else to "deal" with. FRUSTRATED!

So after a horrible evening and depressing morning (a run and yoga workout did not even help to clear my mood), I headed to the barn. CG went with me because he has never seen Lil Aspen Farm and hasn't seen Granite in 6 months. He and Granite used to be pretty tight. He fed him for two weeks for me when I was recovering from surgery this Spring. He also helped build Granite's shelter at D's farm. Hes a real A+ guy. Anyway, he came with me to the barn and was SO impressed with Granite's progress. His first trainer Cynthia really did an amazing job with his ground manners.

I took Granite out and lunged him. Then I added the side reins again. He was spectacular although a bit sluggish (Becky {owner of Lil Aspen and the woman who will be getting Granite under saddle} said that he may be part Elephant).

So then I decided to get back on him. It was a complete non-issue. I got on and off multiple times even making sure to brush my leg over his butt to see how we reacted (he didn't).

After getting on him multiple times, Becky offered to lead me and Granite around the round pen (he obviously doesn't know the cues to move on or stop). He walked VERY slowly but he was completely agreeable to the whole process. I could not have been more proud of him!

(He still just wants to nibble my boot.)

(Doesn't he look thrilled?)

(He is getting LOTS of pats from mom. And Becky was so encouraging. I can't wait for her to ride him!)

Needless to say, my day got much better. CG even has a friend who has agreed to fix my carpet for less than 100 dollars, so I won't have to worry about a huge damage fee when I move out, and I won't have to deal with an unsightly carpet. I still don't know what to do with my dog and I can still barely make my bills, but I can see the light in the long wait to ride my horse, and it makes it all OK.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

364 days later... a momentous moment!

One year ago today, I had a defining moment in my life. I am pretty sure Granite did too. I was up early in the morning and headed with an empty trailer to get my amazing new horse. In the past year he has lived at D's, gone for a month of training with Cynthia and then moved to Lil Aspen Farms where he happily resides now.

Yesterday, it was finally warm enough to work Granite. He remembers everything and trotted around on his lunge rope like a a complete pro. Then I decided to test him a bit and I added some side reins. He was amazing and completely stead. Sometimes I still forget that he is only two (and 9 months). And then, I decided to try something else new. I grabbed my helmet and a mounting block. I put one foot in the stirrup and for the first time, leaned all on my weight onto his saddle. He didn't move a muscle. So, I tried it again. He took a few steps forward so I hopped off and lead him back to the mounting block. This time, I put all my weight into the stirrup and moved my weight into his center of gravity and then.... lifted my right leg over his back and.... SAT ON MY HORSE for the first time ever.

He didn't move a muscle. I'm not sure if this was because he was scared (the first time he wore a blanket he wouldn't move an inch) or because he was being good. As you can see, he just looked back at me and seemed to ask "mom, whatcha doin up there? and can I nibble on your boot?" I got off and on 2 more times putting all of my weight in the stirrups and sitting properly on the horse, all as beautifully uneventful as the first time. I was absolutely elated, the view from up there was worth every minute of the 364 days that I waited. It is starting to become real to me that in just a few months, I won't just be sitting on my amazing boy, I'll be riding him. By this fall, I hope to have him in schooling shows and taking him to hunter paces. Its unreal and absolutely blissful, I am in truly in love with this horse. 

In other, significantly less exciting news, I have worked out every day from monday-saturday this week. I am so sore today that I can barely move, but I have lost 3 pounds and already seem to see a difference in my strength. I finally received my Rider's Fitness book. It is very technical and illustrates many exercises which you would need a gym to perform. But there are also many exercises that I could do with just dumbbells, a balance ball, and bands. I am currently using some dvds that I can do in the morning before work. Hopefully, I can buy some supplies in the next month or so and begin following the Rider's Fitness book in addition to the 6 week dvd program that I am trying to follow. After sitting on my horse, it makes it all the more imperative to quickly get my strength up in preparation for being the rider of such an amazing, special, and talented creature.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is Alex Trebek??

OK, I have answers to the Hippology Sample Questions for you!


1.     1.  B. Grain sorghum
2.     2.  30-40bpm
3.      3. C. Parturition

1.    1.   A. Toward the Center
2.    2.   B. Arabian
3.    3.   A. Periostosis

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Head, Heart, Hands, Health... the 4 Hs.

I met with the 4-H Youth Development agent for my County on Friday. I decided that I would like to volunteer for 4-H because it integrates my love for horses with community service in a setting with which I am familiar since I was a 4-Her growing up. She seemed really excited for me to start helping. Apparently, although my county has the highest per capita horse population, the county only have ONE 4-H Horse Club!! I had at least 5 in my rural county where I grew up. This one club only exists so that the members may show in the 4-H horse shows. 4-H offers some other really interesting and challenging activities for Equine Enamored 4-Hers and its a pity to me that no one in the county has the opportunity to participate. This is where I will step in. The Youth Development agent told me that there has been interest from some of the 4-Hers in doing some of these horse related activities, but no one with enough basic horse knowledge has been willing or able to step up in leading teams. I'm thinking, "I can totally do that!".
The activites that I am speaking about are the following:
1. Horse Bowl: This is like a "quiz bowl" or game show format consisting of horse related trivia. The questions range from tack to breeding, to barn management, to conformation. The teams consist of 4 members and the teams compete in Jr or Sr divisions depending on age. They use buzzers to buzz in and answer questions in a specific order for multiple rounds. There are a list of fairly detailed rules, but you get the drift.
2. Horse Judging: Pretty self explanatory. Teams of 4-Hers judge horses and are judged on their accuracy and explanations.
3. Hippology: "The purpose of the Hippology Contest is to provide participants with the opportunity to blend knowledge and skills acquired in horse judging, bowl, demonstrations, public speaking, and showing into one activity. Additionally, the Hippology Contest will encourage participants to continue expanding their horse knowledge and participation, recognize participants for their total involvement in the horse industry and their comprehensive  knowledge of the horse industry and teach good sportsmanship through a friendly and competitive environment."

After the Youth Agent knew what my interests were, she sent me to the neighboring county's 4-H office on Saturday morning to watch a mock Horse Bowl and Hippology competition. That County is very active and has numerous Horse Clubs and Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Judging Teams. It was very interesting to watch the kids practice. The questions were much more difficult that I had anticipated! Ouch... I have a lot to prepare before I begin leading kids into these competitions. I also got some good tips about how to help the children prepare from the leaders attending the mock competition. Suggestions included a Velcro board of anatomy and using finger pains on a grey horse to illustrate conformation (fortunately, I know where to find a grey horse :))

OK-- Test your knowledge on some Hippology Questions I brought back with me:

Jr Level Sample Questions:
-What is another name of milo?
a. sugar cane, b. grain sorghum, c. millet, d. sudan grass
-What is the normal pulse rate of an adult horse?____
-What is the proper term for giving birth?
a. gestation, b. defecation, c. parturition, d. prehension

Sr Level Sample Questions:
-What does the term medial mean?
a. toward the center, b. toward the outside, c. toward the back, d. toward the front, e. toward the ground, f. none of the above.
-Combined immunodeficiency disease is associated with which breed?
a. mule, b. Arabian, c. Morgan, d. Andalusian.
-Abnormal growth of the periosteum is termed?
a. periostosis, b. exstosis, c. calcititis, d. chondropalasia

Sheesh! I have my work cut out for me!

I will leave you now with a photo from this morning of my boy and his pasture buddies :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Researching Conformational Flaws...

...can certainly drive one nuts!

I am working on some good stuff for you :)
A piece on Upright Hooves
Some research into Judging Hunters (I am currently 1/2 way through an influential book published in the mid- 80s Re: Judging Hunter Seat Equitation).

Both of these topics require identifying even the smallest flaws and realizing how they can effect an animals "way of go". Thus, effecting their suitability for a given sport.

I am in thus in dire need of a Xanax, or a cocktail, or a vacation....or perhaps a combination of the three.

More to come this weekend :)

PS: Tonight, I meet with the Cooperative Extension Center regarding volunteering for the 4-H! YAY!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Blankey!

I just ordered Granite a new blanket on Ebay. It was $57.00. Its a waterproof heavy winter blanket. I hope its not TOO heavy. Its 1000D. I think the older I get, the more I question on horsie-parenting abilities. I enjoyed the ignorance of my youth more than my every-questioning adulthood.
Anyway, His current blanket is holding up nicely, but I've started to notice some teeth marks and tiny puncture wounds in the blanket. He is out with another 2 year old and a 4 year old, they play a lot and the blankets are currently baring the brunt of the action. It is in the 20s currently and I would hate for his blanket to rip and him not have anything since he has gotten accustomed to having one on. So, he is getting a back up.
I'll let you know about the quality when it comes in. The ad only said "Irish" as far as brand. hmmm.... ebay is often sketchy, but always cheap!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Plethora of Rider's Fitness Books for Your Reading Pleasure

After some of you expressed some interest in the book I have ordered to perhaps get me in better riding shape, I wanted to share with you some others that I have found in addition. I haven't ordered any more because, well, I'm broke and lets just take one thing at a time. But I figured if others were interested in improving the fitness of the other half of the horse and rider team (read: the rider!), I would help you with some options. Of course, I will demand that you share your opinions and experiences if you purchase any of the following books. Perhaps I can convince some of you to write a post on my blog about them? Anyway, check um out...
I got most of the ideas from but is always my go-to when ordering... by far, the best prices on a regular basis.

Better Rider, Better Ride by Linda Schultz:
 Identifies common riding problems and how they can be corrected using specific exercises.

A Gymnastic Riding System Using Mind, Body, & Spirit by Betsy Steiner: Her approach to riding "gives comparable attention to the body, mind and spirit of both the rider and the horse as they ascend the Classical Training Pyramid together."

Pilates for the Dressage Rider by Janice Dulak: Both basic and advanced exercises are included, as well as exercises in the saddle. My Best Friend got this book and promises to give us a Guest Blog review of it!

Ride from Within by James Shaw uses Tai Chi principles to teach riding from the inside out.

Ride Right by Daniel Stewart teaches balance for your frame and frame of mind with unmounted exercise and sports psychology.

The Rider's Fitness Guide to a Better Seat by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt features three full exercise routines for riders at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Yoga for Equestrians by Linda Benedik and Veronica Wirth cultivates mental and physical flexibility and balance.

Horse and Rider Fitness by Linda Purves uses simple barn and farm based exercises to make fitness training fun and accessible.

 Riding from the Inside Out by Lisa Champion combines the talents of an exercise specialist, physical therapist, and gifted rider to create a new exercise and stretching program to practice off the horse and improve your performance on the horse.

Alright, there you have it. Now lets all get fit during this horribly cold winter so we can wow our trainers and ourselves come spring when its time to get it in gear!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A fat girl can do it too, or can she?

I just read a really enlightening article called "Winning the Fitness Battle" in this month's, January 2010, Practical Horseman. The article centers on international eventing rider, Becky Holder, and her realization about weight. She wasn't a large woman by any stretch of the imagination but she wasn't your "average" long, lean Olympian in size 26 breeches either. Here is a picture of her on her horse "Courageous Comet" in 2006.

Becky is quoted in the Practical Horseman interview as saying, "I was not as fit as I could have been, and I was competing to prove a point-- that a 'fat girl' could do it." In 2007 at the Fair Hill International, Becky had a fall that resulted in broken ribs and a realization that she had to be able to match the athleticism of her horse, or sell him. She said that "I had to think about what was holding me back and what was in my power to change."

These words really resonate with me. As you know from my boot struggles, I am a larger girl in a size 12. I have been the same pants size for years, so it doesn't bother me as much as the fact that I am Out. Of. Shape. With a young horse who is not yet under saddle and having given up the mare I was able to ride, I am getting no exercise at the barn. My previous excuse for not getting in gym time was that I was in school and always doing homework or sitting in class. I no longer have an excuse (although I am quickly filling up my nights with horse management courses on mondays, giving riding lessons on wednesdays and meetings for work on thursdays). I didn't want to resolve to diet as I do every year because, why add breaking a resolution to the already disappointing failure? Although my New Year's Resolution is to not kiss anyone this year that I have kissed in previous years (the explanation probably would deserve a blog of its own), I do want to get in shape before I start riding Granite. He turns in 3 on April 13th and will go into training. I hope to be riding him by May and to have him in some local schooling shows by fall of this year. To do this well, I think I need to get a grip on my athleticism (or lack thereof) sooner rather than later.

Becky Holder decided that her weight (or rather her health) was something that she could control. She began making herself a priority and cleaning up her diet. She made time for workouts even if they were very small workouts. I think this is something I am going to have to put in the forefront of my life as well. I have been in school literally since I was six years old. School was something I had to do for me and I made the time to do it. Now, getting back into shape is something I have to do for myself, but most importantly for Granite. He is such an amazing horse and, as D constantly tells me, all eyes will be on us. How can you not look at that big beautiful boy as he walks into the ring. And I will be lucky enough to have the spot on his back. I should deserve that spot by being in shape and being a rider who matches the ability of my horse. Just like Becky Holder, I need to do my horse justice. Below is a picture of her in 2008 after he lifestyle changes. She says that she threw away her scale when she began the process, so she can't say how many pounds she lost, but she feels better and she performs better, and it is obvious that she looks better too!

I ran 3.5 miles on Wednesday night and attempted to do the same on Friday morning which resulted in a sprained hip-- OUCH! So... I need to start slow and preferably with a plan. Despite not having the money, I ordered the book The Rider's Fitness Program to help me.

It includes exercises and workout programs designed specifically to help you ride better. It apparently even has some exercises to get you back in riding shape! BINGO! So I will take a page out of Ms. Holder's book and try to do my horse justice. I have 3.5 months. I have no specific number for a goal, but I would like to begin seeing a difference in the gym before backing Granite in April. Wish me luck!