Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eye of the Horse Photography - Show Photos

Here are a couple more photos from the show, still waiting for the rest from the photographer who is working on background edits for me on some of my others that I ordered. I think that horse show photographers are the hardest working people in the photo industry. No joke. And this is coming from someone who shot weddings professionally for years. Instead of one bridezilla at a time, she deals with hundreds of horseprinceszillas and their unpredictable animals.

Rail photo with background edits - what do you think?
While the background edits don't always look 100 percent realistic, I think they are way more fun to look at than the boring indoor arena. This one in particular had the rail and some trash bins in the original. I like the oak tree because it reminds me of growing up in North Florida :) I had a huge one outside my bedroom window that I was absolutely in love with. This one just needs a little Spanish moss and it would be perfect ;)

Insane skills required for this perfect shot!

If you think photographing children is tough, try shooting a nervous horse who thinks there are monsters in the flowers behind her just waiting to leap out and devour her. The photographer shoots with a remote so she can get the horse to look at her wherever she stands. She also has all these props to make noise and motion to get their attention. It took us what felt like an eternity, but it was worth it. Not a huge fan of my outfit in this one. I borrowed it from a barn-mate when I thought I was going to have to ride trail in the rain since it would dry easier than my others, and I never changed out of it for my inside classes because they all happened so close to each other. It's a beautiful shirt, just doesn't do my body an favors. Also hate the jeans under chaps look. Matching pants look so much better. Live and learn, I guess.

I wanted a backdrop photo with my mom and trainer, even though I didn't win anything super awesome. It is a great record of the show, and no matter what happens in the future, I don't know if I will ever feel this happy or proud of us again. It was pretty much the best. Next year I get to look forward to competing in my age group, though. That might be as big of a deal.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Check-Up Time

Hay is for horses
 Just a quick update on the ulcer situation. The vet was out again this past Tuesday to recheck Abbey for her list of maladies. Her leg has the green light to no longer be wrapped, even though it still stocks up when she stands still for periods of time. Her bruised fetlock didn't get much attention or concern from the vet, so I am just DMSOing that on my own to hopefully help reduce the swelling. And her ulcer trigger point testing came out really well. She was still reactive underneath her belly until he did a "reset" adjustment to her hind leg that is supposed to clear the reactive memories that are associated with a painful area. This sounds like voodoo but I swear I am a believer after seeing the tests verify the behavioral changes I have observed in her. I am all for a combination of Eastern and Western medicine for myself and my animals and always want to address the root cause rather than just treat the symptoms.

The vet adjusted her and said that her neck was really out of whack, and some in her right lumbar region, so hopefully that made her more comfortable, too. That is the last vet bill I want to have for a while, so other than our strength and conditioning work and some stretches that we do after her workouts, she's got to put herself back together a little bit.

She is not out of the woods yet, and he said that it would be smart to treat with Omeprazole when she is going to be stressed, like at shows. The diet will help her body continue to heal, and that will probably take another 2-3 months to fully take place. I used sucralfate http://www.medicinenet.com/sucralfate/article.htm as a temporary band-aid at the show to help her be more comfortable while we were there, since I don' think that the ulcers are all the way healed, and I think that the more pain-free she is the faster she will get better.

I have noticed that her poop smells way less rank and fermented, and is a much drier consistency, which I think is an indication of her gut being healthier off grain. I am pretty sure the grain just went right through her and the fermentation in her fore and hindgut was causing a lot of the problems.

I made sure she had hay throughout the show day, which I know most trainers will not do, but for us it seemed to work well. It gave her something to focus on and helped to fill her stomach so there was less acid sloshing around in there.

For now, the trainer will ride her a few days a week through the month of October, and after that I will probably take November and December off from training unless I am out of town, maybe. I would like to save a little money and also want to get our to ride four or five days a week myself. During the week we can work on the basics and then on the weekend I would like to spend on day on trail and the more precise things about horsemanship.

I rode last night and she was pretty good for me. Our lope is still a pretty hot mess, but that is because we are both way out of practice, so I am trying to be kind to both of us and ease back into that conditioning. We did have some more collected circles and managed a few logs nicely. I feel like I am getting better at placing her so she doesn't split them or step on them, and she is getting better at helping me do that. Our speed was faster than ideal, but I know that is because of a lack of strength in her back end and core. The stronger we get, the slower and more collected we can move.

Overall, feeling way better about everything than I did a few weeks ago. Time to look back at my 2014 summer goals and make some new ones for the winter :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The (Show) Hangover

What an amazing (and exhausting) weekend. I am glad we "only" showed in walk/trot classes, and only three each day. That kicked my ass. Totally worth it, though. Another lesson in trainer-knows-best. Listen to your trainer, people!

Things got off to a hectic start, with us leaving late from the barn to get to the show, and with my work travel before the show, I was not packed and ready to go like I have been the rest of the summer when I wasn't even showing. Add to that only three hours of sleep on Thursday night because I was finishing stuff for a deadline on Friday (not helpful when you are not planning to work on Friday). My mom's flights from Tallahassee to Michigan were all jacked up - thanks Delta - and we finally made it home around 11:30 PM instead of 6:00 PM as planned. Ugh.

Adrenaline kept me going strong for Friday, and we managed to lunge in the bombed out beach of a warm-up pen outside, but it sure didn't help Abbey settle in to feel like she was being sucked into the Swamp of Sadness like poor Artax in the Neverending Story. Seriously not sure why this show management never pays for dragging or watering, but when they have a barn of 300 horses you would think they could spring the extra cash to make sure no one pulls a suspensory or breaks a leg. Overall it was a great show, but the lack of ring maintenance was annoying.

artex dying2
Don't let the sadness overwhelm you!
Abbey and I finished up outside and she got her two hour bath (all that white and all that mane). She was really good in the frigid water and tolerated it without being stupid, but we did break hose we borrowed from our new barn-mates. Way to go, twinkle toes. My fault for not keeping it out of hoof's reach. I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked back to the stall. We survived the beach lunging and scary wash rack, what could go wrong? Silly human. This is a horse we are talking about!

Abbey took the opportunity to shake like a dog as she was walking and I watched in horror as her little hooves crumpled underneath her as she slipped and stumbled to regain her footing, which she did. I stood there in shock for a second, and then continued back to the stall. Upon further inspection, she was fine except for a big goose egg on her right rear fetlock from where she caught herself on the cement. She bled a little, but nothing serious. I wrapped her well all around with her standing bandages and Back on Tracks on the rear legs and tucked her in to her sleazy and sheet. Top that off with a tail bag and what we have is a fancy pants show pony.

I finally made it back to the hotel around 2:00 AM Saturday morning for a few hours of sleep before my mom's alarm went off at 6:00 AM. My brain sprung to life with images of a lame horse on three legs with a grapefruit on her fetlock from the slip the night before. I talked myself off the mental ledge and stumbled around the hotel room, showered, did my hair and we headed out to the barn.

My trainer had three other people there with our barn, and they show all day starting with showmanship, so we went and lunged (they must have dragged in the middle of the morning?) and the footing was better, still not great. Saturday greeted us with sandstorms of dust from the unwatered outdoor as we lunged and then warmed up, and Abbey was just fresh as a daisy from the sudden drop in temperature. It went from 80 degrees and sunny to 60 and chilly and windy, followed by torrential rain and wind all night and all day Sunday. What a doozy.

I was signed up for trail, horsemanship, and pleasure, and I thought I would get to end on trail after getting my feet wet in the other "easier" classes. Well the schedule ended up with me barely making it out to trail, and it was down to the wire to fit it in and I hadn't ever ridden a full course, or had time to mentally prepare for getting thrown to it. Luckily I got to watch one of the best riders in the barn go ahead of me.

Horse Show Princess!
I don't think I have ever been that nervous in my life. Ever. I have been married twice, divorced once, in lots of other performance situations, driven a manual car through the streets of Italy, and nothing has come close to the terror that seized me sitting there in my rhinestones waiting our turn. Abbey was looking around with her ears pricked forward, but cool as a cucumber compared to me.

Trail Class
OMG. It's our turn! AHHHHHHH!!!! Deep breaths. We walked calmly to the right-hand gate, worked that with one clunk (I think) on the upright, and turned to trot through the cones - set close together so the turns were wide and loopy, through the first two and around the bottom and back through the center... here is a drawing since this is a lot to write...

We handled the gate well, a little less fluid than it should have been, and I think we clunked once (deduction). The cones were good (trainer said could have been less loopy). The back through the L was okay, but I only looked back on one side (panicked a little) and was crooked, and didn't back up far enough (front feet should have been at the edge of the logs). Jogged the poles perfectly, and then the evil side pass L gave me a near-heart attack, but we made it after bumping more than a few times. The bridge was excellent, as was the 360 and poles. Abbey was a star.
We exited to cheers from my barn mates, their moms, my trainer, and my own mom who flew up just to be here with me. I immediately did what every cowgirl isn't supposed to do. I cried. It was like the damn that had been holding back months and years of fears, self-doubt, insecurities, and hopes and dreams burst and they all came out at once. I like to think that I was stoically teary-eyed, but I may have been ugly Kim Kardashian crying... not really sure.
Poor Kim...
Horsemanship Class
I went into my horsemanship class after a quick wardrobe change into my other jacket. I was just as nervous, if not more so walking in and lining up on the rail. I quickly asked my trainer how I would know when to go... she said after you feel ready, or before you get too nervous... OMGOMGOMG...!!!!
We walked in, chin up, eyes ahead, slow and steady. Found our spot on the rail, and waited our turn. After the first few patterns, I started to feel better about our abilities to not look like walruses roller-skating. We lined up before A. Waited our turn. Looked at the judge. Nodded, and off we went. We jogged beautifully, with just one hiccup in the middle of the line, I think I was still nervous. As soon as we started our circle to the right, I feel more relaxed and so did Abbey. We got to B and started the circle to the left and I felt amazing! We halted, paused, and backed. Exited, chin raised high, to more clapping and cheers. I cried again.
Here is my terrible drawing that looks a little phallic...
Walk/Trot Horsemanship
September 21, 2104
Abbey was incredible! She listened to my leg and guided around with ease. It was like a dream sequence in slow motion, like being on a magic carpet and all I had to do was think about what I wanted and it happened. We placed second out of seventeen in the class, and this is the ribbon that I am most proud of from the whole weekend. We placed in all our classes, but this one means the most because to me it shows that we are truly a team and that we are in-sync with each other. It proves to me that she is broke and on her way to being a finished horse. We still have a ways to go, but that is part of the fun. What would make this journey exciting if everything came together at once and without struggle?

Pleasure Class
This was by far the most difficult class of the show for me. Abbey is used to our much smaller indoor, and I think with her brain she gets bored going slow on the rail. She wants to DO something, damnit! This is all about how the horse goes, but the rider has to not fuck it up with a lot of moving around or corrections. We almost broke from the trot a few times because I was trying to slow her down, and used my spur stop a little too much. There was only one judge, and I am not sure he saw, but I think so. The walk is the hardest part. Excruciating. We did make a pretty picture, though. I am waiting to get some photos emailed to me from the show photographer. We placed third out of eleven here, so again, exciting! I have ordered photos from this class and I can't wait to get them - we look purdy.

Little Things
Some of my favorite moments have nothing to do with actually showing. My horse was calm. She trailered like a champ. She let me bathe her without acting like the world was ending. She handled everything in stride. I never thought we would be able to ride through the barn on the cement, ride in to the show pen, or walk outside down the road without having a disaster happen. Each of these little moments of success is burned into my mind. And I hope that when I get down and feel like something will never, ever happen in a million years, I remember how it felt to stand there calmly when chaos was happening around us, or to ride in a warm-up pen with literally one hundred other horses in a sea of ears, butts, and tails without batting an eye. These moments are my true trophies.

Things to Work On
I am looking forward to working on all of these things more now that I have a taste for the bigger picture of showing. I want to learn showmanship, and really would love to add hunt seat, but I may be putting the cart before the horse on that. I think to be realistic, we should work on finishing the lope this year, and maybe adding showmanship to that. I can leave hunt seat for the year after that :) For now I will keep working on my side pass, especially over logs, backing around things, being precise on my logs, and working the gate. I will also keep learning how to read patterns, as interpreting them correctly is key to doing well. I need to add some blue to the color scheme, so that is in the works for next year :)

I have a lot more to write about the show, but this is already a book, so I am signing off for now. Thanks to all of you out there in the blogosphere who have sent me warm fuzzies in the comments here. Each one of our ribbons belongs to you, too. Your encouragement kept me going though some tough stuff, and I thought of each of you as I cried my happy tears. Thank you.

The Spoils of War

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Show Day!!!

It was a great day :) I'm exhausted, so info more soon, but here is a photo of Abbey in herjammies and me in my sparkly duds :)


Show Prep!!

Trainer on Abbey... Hard to photgraph myself on her ;)

Abbey was good for riding after an epic longe sessions. She feels relaxed and settled in. She had thescrubbiest bath of her life with way too much shampoo, broke our borrowed hose, and them managed eff up her right hind walking back to her stall after the bath... Hopefully she's sound this morning. Fingers crossed. I also hope she didn't hang herself on her sleazy. Sigh.

We have pleasure, horsemanship, and then trail!!! So nervous and excited, but mostly sleepy right now. Time for a shower and some Starbucks! Praying for a sane and sound horse and that the rain stays away until after trail this afternoon. 

Wish me luck!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trail Practice

Here is a quick snap from our trail practice two nights ago. It was our first pass at the bridge (technically second, but I didn't have the camera ready for the first pass). I was so elated that Abbey stepped right up, walked over, and stepped off without falling off the side, panicking, or being a spaz in any way. All of the disappointments I was feeling about not being as ready as I wanted to be to show with the big kids evaporated in that moment, and I almost cried with joy. I was really having a hard time with all of our setbacks, and especially with her being so witchy and angry. That seems to have dissipated for the time being, so thank goodness for a happier horse.
Trail Pony - Deluxe Edition
Her lope is still not what it should be, and she is definitely heavier than ideal after lots of time off over the past few months, but we will get back to things and start working towards next show season this winter. By then hopefully we will be solid one-handed and ready for the big-pony classes with loping. We may even try for some hunt seat and showmanship, but that all depends on the almighty dollar and how much I have to spend on saddles and show stuff for myself. I have learned that even when you buy things second hand they still cost a pretty penny. I got one of my jackets from Show Me Again http://www.showmeagain.com/ and it was a pre-owned item from Wood's Western. It was a great price, and I was able to have it altered to fit me a little better. Whoever owned it before had crazy-long monkey arms, or was a super model.
Altered and ready for action!
After getting my jacket back from being altered and having it fit me perfectly, I am beginning to feel more confident. Things are falling into place. I will say that as much as I love all things sparkly, I have never owned something as bedazzled as my two show jackets (the other one is coated in rhinestones). And I'm not gonna lie, I am pumped about how shiny I will be. For a totally tomboy who lives in leggings and workout gear which is mostly all black, I sure do enjoy getting gussied up every now and then.

As a special bonus, my mom is coming up from Florida for a visit, and she is letting me drag her to the show this weekend. Even at 34, I fee like a little girl getting ready for a dance recital, or a play, or a crew meet. I was never nervous to have my parents watch me as a kid, but for some reason I am now. I feel a little silly, but I know she is so proud of me. I suppose that doesn't ever go away for a parent, no matter how big your kids get. I am a lucky girl to have been loved and supported by them as much as they have. My hubby may or may not come, and certainly will only make an appearance if I ask. That used to bug me, but I am more okay with it now. He didn't grow up with parents at every single event that he ever did, so he just doesn't get the idea of going to watch someone run a half marathon or ride a horse around a ring. I have grown to understand that just because he isn't right there it doesn't mean he doesn't love and support me. And I may just ask him to please come one of the two days, just for me.

I am going to practice some more tonight, but it really is more about the miles that Abbey and I have covered together in the past two years rather than this last-minute stuff. The work has to come one day at a time, inch by inch, and the last few days before a show are just more to reassure yourself that you are ready... at least that's what it seems to be to me right now. For now, we will show in walk/trot pleasure, horsemanship, and trail. I feel a little self-conscious that I will be showing with people in the 13 and up category and I'm more than twice that age, but I will keep my chin up and heels down and be proud of where we stand today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All About the Benjamins

When I was born, my Aunt Karen asked my mom if she could buy me a horse. My mom said, to my everlasting horror and sadness, "No". Well, not exactly, "No". She said, "I'll buy the horse if you pay to maintain it." My mama ain't nobody's fool. I knew nothing of this discussion until I was older, since it happened while they were viewing me through the window at the hospital when I was a day or so old. I think that there was some sort of Fairy Godmother Effect with my horsy tendencies even though no horse was forthcoming, and that is why I am horse crazy to this day.

File:Cinderella's Carriage transformation.jpg
Left: Me
Right: Aunt Karen
Bottom: The herd that was never to be.

I know money stuff is pretty personal, but I figured that I might as well write it all down and stare it in the face a little more to help me sort out what my priorities are, what they should be, and if they need to change. I probably also need to do a budget for time, since that is one thing that I also have a limited supply of each week, and my husband and I have talked a lot about how much time I am spending on my horse instead with him and on our life together. These conversations have progressed from angry, tear-filled affairs, to mostly rational and unemotional, but they still aren't easy.

I have been scribbling dollar amounts on post-it notes for years, making spreadsheets galore, and I actually do know how to balance a checkbook. Have a lost track here and there? Yes. Have I remembered everything there is on the lists below? I am certain not. The reason this is all percolating in my mind has a lot to do with the amount of cash I (and my husband) have spent this summer on animal bills. I am going to avoid a total, but it is a lot.

There is also an incredibly sweet lady at the barn who has been coming out for the past six months or so with her boyfriend who has a horse there. She has fallen in love with horses, and has started taking lessons on one of the school horses. She is going to be 65 next year and recently announced her plans to own her first horse as a retirement present to herself.

Bibbidy, bobbidy, boo!
Bless her heart, I get it, but I definitely felt the need to impart some budget reality, so that got me thinking about all this. When you are in love with something, it's hard to live without it. I'm sure that dreams are just as pressing, maybe even more so, when you are 65. Mostly, I encouraged her to talk with our barn owner about what it is that she wants to do, and to absolutely have her help in selecting an appropriate horse. I don't like falling off now, so I can't think that it would be better 30 years from now, and a nice retired show horse would be the perfect partner for her. One that has been there, done that. That also means maintenance costs, most likely. I just would hate to see her go out and get one that was less expensive initially, but ends up costing her big time later, especially if it isn't trained for the job she needs it to do.

I love Abbey so very much, but I don't know that I would do things the same way if I ever take the leap of finding another horse some day. I would probably spend more up front on purchasing a finished horse rather than spending it in training. My trainer says either way, you pay. You pay less for a prospect, but there is uncertainty and money put in for training. Or, you pay more for the time and training that someone else has put in to get a horse with a more defined and mature personality. I would also vet check, just to be more aware of potential issues that I might have to deal with. I am pretty fortunate that my less-informed I-think-it's-meant-to-be-so-I'll-buy-her approach has turned out as well as it has, but it hasn't come cheap.

One fact remains true regardless of how much you spend on the initial purchase: maintenance always costs more.

Abbey's Purchase Price
$700 (what a steal!)

Monthly Budget
$400 - Board
$120 - Training rides 2 days per week
$120 - Lessons 3 per month
$75 - HP1 Supplement
$20 - Sand Clear
$10 - Wormer
$40 - Trim ($110 for front set of shoes for summer - usually three sets)
$785 - Total average expenses in a good month (no vet visits)

Other Annual Expenses
$300 - Vaccinations
$150 - Dental
$100 - Fecal Screening
$500 - Misc Vet visits
$1000 - Unexpected vet costs - injuries, illness, etc.
$2,050 - Estimated wellness care for average horse

Total Estimated Cost of Training
$6,000 since 2012 (ballpark, and probably on the low end)

Average Show Budget (Hopeful for three to four shows next year)
Camping - $50
Trainer Camping - $50 (less if split)
Stall - $55
Tack Stall - $55 (less if split)
Shipping - $95
Trainer expenses - $25
Entry fees - $100ish
Food - $75
$505 average per show

This doesn't include the thousands that I have spent on tack and clothes, especially the stuff for showing. If I stay in a hotel then the cost nearly doubles unless I share a room, and this budget above assumes that I will be riding in my trainer's truck and not spending my own gas.

Looking back to what seems like a lifetime ago, I see the total novice thinking I would be able to board and maintain a horse for under $350 or $400 a month. (To be fair, pasture board was only $180 there, but that situation changes as soon as I bought Abbey. Of course.) The older, wiser horseperson I have become looks at that retrospective me, and it makes me want to fall on the floor in fits of hysterical laughter at my naïve self and ridicule her till the magical mice-turned-carriage-horses come home. Since that really won't solve anything, I will keep crunching the numbers and fitting things in the best I can. I also am coming to terms with the fact that at some point maybe we will have to have smaller goals, like me just riding and lessoning every now and then, and that we can keep the cost more manageable. And that some things, like maybe having kids, will have a whole different level of impact. But, for now I want to keep living in my fairytale world where dreams of showing still dance in glass slippers.

My last opportunity to show this year is coming this weekend and we will only be showing walk/trot classes, which is disappointing in a way since we worked so hard all year to be more finished. I was feeling pretty down about it, but we practiced some trail last night during a lesson and I think it will be fun and a good introduction to my first show ever since Girl Scout Camp when I was eight. The reality is that ever since June we have been fighting my travel schedule, Abbey's leg injury, and now treating for gastric ulcers again. Conditions are not in our favor, but we are fighters and I need to be happy with what I can do instead of focusing on what I can't - the eternal struggle for me.

The reality is that when you put pen to paper, owning a horse doesn't make any logical sense, whatsoever. Thankfully, I am able to suspend reality for the time being just enough to keep dreaming the impossible dream.

Cinderella- Mice as Horses
Show ponies!
So, cross your fingers that we make it to the ball, and that we don't turn into pumpkins before then!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ulcer Diet & Supplement Program

Today is the day that we will be starting Abbey on the ulcer treatment diet and a supplement from Equine Health and Performance https://www.facebook.com/myhpdaily (HP1) that my Vet's technician has used on an eventing horse and that the clinic has recommended to many other clients who have had great success. Will this be the silver bullet I am hoping for? Probably not. I am not being a Debbie Downer, just being realistic about what I am coming to learn about horse ownership, especially with a performance horse that gets ridden five days a week and travels for shows.

Abbey is a prime candidate for ulcers, in my opinion after reading countless articles and opinions online, and applying some common sense to how nature intended horses to live and thrive versus how my horse is kept:
  • Anxious personality
  • Sand paddock for turnout with some hay fed, but no access to pasture-
  • Stalled from 5:00 PM to 9:00 AM each day, some days with no turnout
  • Ridden 4-5 days a week most weeks, sometimes twice a day
  • Ridden on an empty stomach, or one that has consumed only grain and little to no hay within an hour of work when I ride in the evenings
  • Not always fed hay before grain is fed
  • Had a change in routine from being turned out with other mares to solo turnout - change occurred mid-June
  • Injured leg (bone bruising to right rear canon bone) from stress of change in turnout - June
  • Traveling to shows once a month since June
  • Reinjury of same leg in trailer (not sure what happened) - July
  • Administration of Banamine for second injury - July
  • Administration of antibiotics for second injury - July
  • Inconsistent access to forage, not always having access to it 24/7
  • Grass hay with no alfalfa
I really do like my barn, my trainer, and the style of riding and the overall environment where we are, so moving to a new barn is the very last thing I want to consider. There are not any other performance barns in my area that wouldn't require a 35-45 minute drive one way (current drive is 22-25 minutes one way, less from my office). Even if they were closer, there is no way of knowing how the trainer and I would click, what the other people at the barn are like, or how that would all pan out. Spending more time away from home would be detrimental to my marriage, so that really can't happen.

Things I can't change
  • Horse personality/ tendency to be anxious
  • Type of turnout
  • Stalling/turnout routine (herd sour/amount of riding done - better attitude with stall kept and individual turnout)
  • Injury - she's just clumsy
  • Drugs - when she needs them to treat an illness or an injury, I will use Western medicine, but I will talk to the vet about better supporting her during these times with supplements
  • Showing - this is a goal I have for us. It may not be forever the life she has, but it is still something I want to work towards and have in my mind for next summer
Things I can change
  • Diet
  • Access to hay
  • Supplements
I am going to start feeding alfalfa/timothy pellets, beet pulp, and rice bran to Abbey, along with the HP1 supplement that is supposed to be "organic", all natural, and free from fillers and additives that are found in grain that are possibly contributing to the ulcers. Abbey will be taken completely off grain and the grain replaced with one pound of the new mix for each pound of grain. This diet should cost about the same amount as the Tribute Kalm n EZ that she has been on forever. A 40 lb bag of Standlee alfalfa/timothy pellets is about $14 from Tractor Supply, the rice bran pellets (stabilized) Natural Glo 40 lb bag is about $30, and the beet pulp pellets (no molasses added!) is about $15. BO will be purchasing this stuff going forward.

The supplement from EHP will replace the vitamins and minerals that are found in fortified grain so she is still getting what her body needs. This supplement is certainly not cheap, at $75 per month, or $900 for the year. But that is the cost of one month of treatment with GastroGard (we are using the less expensive AbPrazole, but that is still a few hundred bucks each time).

I am also going to purchase a second NibbleNet http://www.thinaircanvas.com/nibblenet/nibblenetframe.htm, the Double Nibble 1 and 1.25 inch openings to hang in her stall with the first one I bought this past winter when she had her first bout of ulcers. My reason for doing this is so that hopefully she can make it through the night and the morning always having access to some hay. That will cost me about $130 to order, and the first one has held up amazingly well, so I should not have to replace it any time soon.

She still gets sand clear, which is about $20 a month for 7 days of treatment, and she won't get it once there is snow on the ground in a few months (ugh).

I have a detailed instruction sheet I made up with how to measure the correct amounts of feed for the transition from old grain to new program, and I hope my trainer will tolerate my extreme micromanagement of this process. It helps me cope with being stressed to write it down and see it on paper. That, and hopefully it will help assure that everyone feeding her will feed the same way.

This year has really stretched me in a lot of ways: as a rider, a horsewoman, a person with a budget, a wife, a friend, and a person in general.

Next post is all about the Benjamin's.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Motivate Me Monday (Which is Actually Tuesday)

Weight Watchers only advertises certain days of the week, especially Sunday nights and Mondays. By Wednesday afternoon/evening, they don't really bother. Why? Because each week is a fresh start for people looking to make a hard change, like diet, which is really not even about the food. It's more about control and a mental thing than about chips and cookies. But, midway through the week, people mostly give up because that perceived window of opportunity already passed them by.

I have been in a funk for a while, and ever since we went to Italy in May, not at the gym, letting myself eat whatever, and now over the past month, I haven't even had the barn as a workout since I couldn't ride. While bathing a horse with a mile-long mane is a workout, grooming and lunging just don't get the job done, as my bras and pants can attest with the snugness of their fit.

I did get out to the barn over the weekend, and my husband was nice enough to come and suffer through a few hours of me doing my thing with him being bored. I rode, and Abbey was great. I know she doesn't feel her best, and her lope is still off, but not as bad as it was the week before. My husband even rode, and I was so proud of my girl. (Proud of him too, but she was so great.) She took care of him, and even helped him stay out of the way of some other riders who aren't the most ring-aware riders by skill or by choice. When he lost his center of balance a little one way or the other, she slowed down or stopped, and when he asked her for things she listened. She even loped off when he asked (I smooched, too) and she was just awesome. That was the happiest I have been at the barn in a while. He's actually a pretty good rider for someone who never rides, and only rode people's field horses as a kid (crazy country kids!). Sure he looked like he was sitting in a LaZBoy in his tennis shoes, but she was such a trooper.

So, looking back again, I am reminding myself that when I set off on this unexpected journey of horse ownership on a very cold January of 2012 when she was greener than grass and only two coming three in March, I am amazed at where we are now. We faced some of the hardest challenges of my life together. I didn't always make the best choices, and sometimes I was paralyzed by fear of making any choice at all. I have stressed my marriage over the time and money I have spent with this creature. I have watched her get hurt, sometimes because she's kind of a klutz, and other times because of human ignorance (mine and others), and once out of anger and cruelty at the hands of a "trainer". I have worked hard to heal her, and to keep her as safe as I can in this man-made world where she lives. I know there are still miles to go with my own education, and I never want to stop learning. But, as I watched her this past weekend with my husband, I can say with confidence that my original goal of making her a safe and reliable horse that I can ride and enjoy is met. It will keep work to stay there, and without consistent training and more lessons, it would be easy to lose it to some degree.

As my horse dad said when I asked if she would be a good fit for me, "She has a kind heart and a good mind. She will work hard to please you and try her best." I was worried that it might change as she matured and got more mareish, which there is some of that hormonal factor now that she is five coming six in 2015. But I get it. I deal with that crazy mare side of myself on a regular basis. On a good day I am passionate, on a bad one I am crazier than a bus-full of Orange County housewives. People always say that animals resemble their people, so I feel pretty good about that. She and I are a lot alike, although I think she's much more patient and forgiving than I am, but we are learning from each other.

So, if I want to be the best I can be to take care of her, I need to get myself back to the gym with my husband, because I know that means the world to him and I like going with him. I need to get to the barn and ride at whatever level Abbey is capable of for that day. I need to get to the feed store and sort that out and not worry about stepping on some toes with changing that routine, because damn it, she is worth fighting for and so am I. So, as I hit "publish" I am off to the gym for what is sure to be an hour of feeling floppy and out of breath, but you have to start somewhere.

Time to make a change, even if it's Tuesday.