Thursday, March 31, 2016

Name that Disorder!

It is almost that time of year again in my neck of the woods; FLY time. Oh, you know it well, it is the time of year when you spend untold amounts of cash on fly spray and other fly related products, you ask others for advice about what they do, complain about just how many flies/ticks there are this year, and swear that it is worse than ever. You know you said that last year too, right? You Google and read all about adding garlic to your horses diet, and ponder whether any of the supplements on offer that claims to help actually do.

Meanwhile in the barn, your equine is suffering. Not from the bites, or the stings, or even the heat, oh no, something totally over looked by human companions (as far as this rider has ever heard or seen).

 Here is a Hint:
Now, what could it be?

What ailment and discomfort are you totally overlooking? You, who put your equines needs before your own? Who sends half your paycheck to SmartPak, and the other half to a top notch boarding facility?

Well, let me tell you:      SEASONAL TAIL FATIGUE!!! (I coined the term.)

If your horse has a tail, and I bet it does, even if it is not the heavy, thick variety, I bet that horse gets some rear end soreness this time a year. I know Pippi does. But then again, did you take a look at that tail? It weighs a ton!!
Even from a distance like this, you can see that we have a lot of junk in that trunk. 

So imagine......all winter she stands around, tail hanging like a useless appendage, unless a super cute, short and fat pony gelding comes around that is. (Pippi is a Chubby Chaser!) 
Then Spring comes, and then in early summer the flies start to swarm. And the tail goes to work, relentlessly swinging and swooshing attempting to ward off the attacks. It is completely ruled by instinct, but with each swoosh the muscles that make it happen groan. Especially for those who are endowed with a thick, flowy tail, but even for those with a scragglier rear. Its got to get sore. 

I can tell that it does for Pippi. She carries her tail bone a bit lifted, and her rump is just stiff and movements are just not as smooth. So what do I do? Massage!! I rub that rump! (There is a rapsong in that line.) I gently gather the hair in my hand, and pull on the tail, bending slightly to each side. I lift the hind legs and stretch them forward, and a massage that entire rump. Pippi seems to enjoy a deep tissue massage using the heel of my hand. Really get in there, rub the entire area surrounding the tail.

Make sure you keep an eye on your horse, and make sure they actually like what you are doing. Pippi will sidestep when I get to a particularly sore spot, and that tells me to soften a bit. I also use my thumbs and press them into two spots of the muscles. This forces the muscle to contract, which breaks up the Lactic Acid, and flushes it out of the muscle. You should feel the muscle contract, release pressure when it stops shaking under our thumb. With Pippi this often accompanies a deep sigh. 
WARNING: be careful with muscle ointments this time of year, as the sun might cause them to burn. Only use when you are sure the horse will be inside, and rinse off before horse enters the open sun. 

I hope this post helps a few sore tails out there, and that we may help our equines suffering from Seasonal Tail Fatigue. (Clever name huh? Just remember, I coined that phrase!! )  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My most valuable asset - Time!

Do you know what is equal for all things on earth? We all get 24 hours per day! Rich or poor, short or tall, punctual or late; 24 hours per day. I have no idea just how many of those 24 hour days I will get in my lifetime, and a large percentage of that time will be spent in pursuits I may not very much enjoy. 40 Hours per week I will be behind a desk, earning my living for the hours I can spend at my leasure. Let's call that portion "my life."

Here is my work week breakdown of "my life" when I am not working, driving to and from work or sleeping:

                          Monday-        6.5 hours of my life
Tuesday -       6.5
Wednesday -  6.5
 Thursday-     6.5
Friday-           6.5
Total:           32.5

I will defend "my life" from any encroachment on any level. As I age I find myself more and more annoyed at anything that wastes my time or energy. My kids are grown, and I relish in having this time to spend not beholden to anyone. That being said I very much enjoy spending my time with friends and loved ones, and I value and cherish the time they spend with me. Making sure I am available and punctual is very important to me, out of respect for them, and I ask the same back. 

Since I have had some early losses in my life, I am extra sensitive to the passage of time and the value of it. We have no idea how much sand is left in our hour glasses and so it is imperative to use it wisely. Don't waste your sand on pursuits you don't enjoy, or on things that waste your hours. And most importantly don't allow anyone else to steal your time. They have their own 24 hours, let them throw their own portion away. 

The Horse for the horse's sake

I think as we ride and train, and make plans for the show season, and day dream about perfect canter departs and smiles all around, it is important to remember that the horse doesn't give a hoot about ribbons or any of that crap!

A few years ago I came across a great documentary, and just this morning as I was watching the video of that rider punishing her horse for stumbling ,I remembered it. And I thought I would watch the documentary again to remind myself of the magic, of the horse and of my responsibility to my horse. I don't agree with everything mentioned, but after watching it I can't help but feel humbled.

Pippi doesn't care about ribbons, or first place, or Regionals, or where her head is placed, or how long her stride is. She does it all for me. Because she is kind, and caring, she does all these things that she doesn't understand, doesn't see the value in, and/or finds annoying. She does it not because I force her, but because I ask. Isn't that just amazing? How long would your best friend (the human ones) do something they saw no value in, for you? How long would you do it for them? A few minutes? A day or two? 3-4 days a week? and then sacrifice weekends when all you really wanted was to hang out and chill? When all you really want is green grass, sunshine and a friend or two dozing in a warm breeze? Would you give up a trip to the beach to exercise for hours in the heat after a long and cramped journey, for your friend?

Clearly I am over simplifying here, but I just think we need to be reminded often of the magic gift our horses give to us. Go hug your horse and say thank you, today and every day!

Here is the Video:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Riding is about "time", so take it!

“Time – take it” I say to myself when I wonder when (will it happen), how soon (until we get it), how long (will it take) and how many (times do we have to do this). The answer is, of course, “who the heck knows!” It’s going take the time it’s going to take. Few things with horses can be rushed, and anyone who has tried to rush a horse has found that it’s kind of like rushing a man or a child; you just slow yourself down more. (My apologies to the opposite gender, but you do tend to put the brakes on whenever we try to get you to hurry. You don’t even wear make-up or do your hair, why are we the ones waiting at the door?) .

Are we there yet?

The most important tool to use in conjunction with anything else you are doing is time. Take the time, because it is going to take some time. A former Trainer, a very wise woman, told me often that “there is no substitute for time in the saddle.” For anyone who started riding as an adult this statement really hits home. I see a comfort level in riders that started young, a balance and certain comfort in the saddle that only comes with experience. The Trainer also meant that no matter how the ride went, you were riding and the horse was ridden and so there is value there. When I prepare for a ride, or a lesson, I think about what I want to work on, but I quickly remind myself not to put pressure on whether it will work out. I have goals, a timeline, but not a deadline.

When are you starting your young horse? When are you starting over fences? Does your horse have a flying lead change yet? When do you think you will move up to 2nd level? Are you going rated yet? These questions are really all about time. We determine our success based on where we are on our goals list, while our horses only know when you were supposed to feed them! Pippi learns things at her own pace, and all I can do is look for clues as to what she is ready for. I learn at my own pace, and all Pippi can do is hope that I catch up to her at some point. She doesn’t put too much pressure on me, and I appreciate that. She sure is happy when I pick up a new skill, and gives me lots of praise, but she has yet to stomp away from a ride disappointed that it didn’t live up to expectations. She gives me all the time I need, and I do the same for her.
One of our first real rides a long time ago.....

What are your goals ? Mine is to keep riding, maybe show if the opportunity arrives, and to enjoy my time riding. Riding is my “Me-time” after all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Enabling your horse/Queen of the horse world?

I think it is important to know your horses limitations and which battles to avoid with your horse. There are things that you may chose to avoid confronting with your horse, due to a variety of issues that may not come under the heading of enabling.
For example, Pippi does not get clipped. We tried for a year to desensitize her to clippers, and made some headway on her legs, but a bridle path or her face was out of the question. When she had some teeth work done, we decided to take advantage of her drugged state and try to clip her bridle path and muzzle. She walked two people out of her stall, and just about came unglued. It was at that point that I said "enough!" We can use scissors, and bikini shavers and I was no longer willing to fight this battle, potentially hurting her and us. I could go into all the ways that we tried to work with her on this, suffice it so say we tried it all (daily) for over a year. (No doubt some well meaning person will still offer advice, and let me just tell you now: this ship has sailed!)
Shows are busy places!

What I mean when using the term "enabling," is when someone allows their horse to not handle routine things. Things that they should, and quite frankly has to handle, in order to be a safe horse,  but their human shelter them from. Pippi not clipping does not affect anyone but her and I, and it puts no one in danger, nor should it annoy anyone (but I am sure it does).
When you take your horse to a show, or a clinic, trail ride, whatever, there are certain things that your horse should be able to handle. Routine things like another horse being lunged (with a lunge whip), trucks and trailers being moved around, horses coming out of those trailers, music, announcements, horses being worked in arenas or running in a field, people yelling and making noises, horses being hosed off, water buckets being filled and dumped, wheel barrows, etc etc. This is all routine horse show stuff. If you have a young horse, they will be nervous and perhaps a jumpy mess, but sheltering them does not help in the long run. Instead, it is important to stay calm, and let your horse get used to it.


If you go on a trail ride, your horse must cross water more than likely, so if you don't want to tackle that, don't go.

When it rains the arena will be sloppy, make your horse deal with it, or go home. Do not ask that the clinic/show/whatever be moved inside because your horse doesn't like to get dirty. (Pippi is a Princess, so this could be a battle for me)

They will announce you at a show, deal with it! Do not ask the show not to announce you and your horse because it bothers the horse, you are not the Queen of the Universe, and your horse will never get over it unless you deal. Stand close to speakers leading up to your ride, and your horse will get the drift. Or not, either way, you decided to go to a show and they announce stuff there.

Do not ask other riders to stop clipping their horse in their stall next to yours because your horse (Pippi) is afraid of the sound. Instead, ask that they stop for just a moment so that you can remove your horse. Go for a walk perhaps? It is your horse that has a problem, so your horse has to go, not theirs.

If your horse kicks out at other horses when they come close, put a BIG red ribbon on its tail. Sure, people should always keep their distance, but since your horse is the "aggressor", how about you give a reminder to the other riders? It doesn't mean that your horse is mean, it means you are a considerate and responsible equestrian. I am considering one even though Pippi has not kicked out (she pins her ears a bit), just because I think people ride too close and I would hate to get anyone hurt.

Do not expect horses stalled near you not to be fed whenever. Sure, your horse may have a conniption because their neighbor is eating. Throw yours some hay and teach your horse to deal.

Other people will lunge their horse with a whip, and they may even crack that whip. I don't mean, Indiana Jones style, whipping it around like a lunatic, or hurting their horse, but just your every day average lunge whip style. You know: Trot! 1-2-3 and Swoosh/crack whip, to get desired reaction from horse. Your horse is out in public, and should be able to handle seeing another horse being lunged with the accompanying whip. If it doesn't, you need to go home and desensitize this. Another option is to ask the other rider to stop "cracking their whip," which will at some point or another result in you pissing off a person who has shown admirable skill with a whip. I wouldn't advice it!

By not insisting that your horse deal with these type of things, you are enabling your horse to not learn and grow. Dealing with these issues is not just better for you, but it helps grow your horse's self confidence. A horse needs to learn to do its job regardless of what average stuff is happening around them.
Pippi, for example, needs to stay on the bit even when a fly is buzzing around her face. She needs to learn to keep her attention on me, even when a trailer is being unloaded directly beside the arena (with great parking nearby I might add - aaargghhh). She needs to pick up her cues, even when a horse is running at a gallop on a lunge line in the next arena.

 And if I for some reason chose to enable my horse, like with the clipping, it is MY problem. You should NEVER EVER EVER ask another rider to help you enable your horse by asking them to cease doing their normal behavior. You are in fact not the Queen of the Universe, and the world does not revolve around you and your horse. If your horse can't play ball, or needs the rules changed to accommodate issues, go home and start your own league. Or go home, work on your issues, and try again another day. "Bomb proof" horses became "bomb proof" (there is no such horse) not by running for shelter, or asking the bomber to stop, but by learning that the sound was not in fact an explosion.

Just sayin'......