Friday, March 30, 2012

Terrible Horse Mom

Holy whoops! Posting that photo from P's Delivery reminded my tiny-little-dinosaur brain that I totally missed our Two Year Anniversary!

Thankfully P doesn't keep a close eye on these things, or I'm sure she'd be pissed... let this be a lesson to me that I should have mercy should a certain husband ever make the same mistake...

Keeping with our Time Warp from yesterday, here's a rewind of some of our highlights (and lowlights) over the past two years...

First Ride!
Early Ride... don't look too close...
The Boy & P (at he vet for a Mylegram)
Freshly bathed for a Supermom visit
Back to work at our second barn
Starting to get *sticky* again under saddle
Lost 6 weeks to a whack to her suspensory...
Back to work! (again)
The Boy Proposes! (P wanted a ring too...)

2011 Started off with a ride from Supermom..(after P dumped me)
Snow (and slowfeeders) at the barn...
Regu-Mate? yes please.
Long and Low was our friend...
The Body - Before Camp (note standing under and total lack of withers..)
June 2011.. starting CAMP!

There's that face again... (withers starting to emerge..)
My absolute favorite P expression...
Who *wouldn't* love camp?
Rock Star Clinic Weekend...
Happy, Furry, Filthy Horse.
What a mare... Haven't exactly don't what I thought we would in two years... but we've shoved a lot in!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time Warp...

I don't have much of anything interesting to say, so I thought I'd re-post this little gem from the day that P was delivered into my happy little hands :)

me, P, supermom
Everyone's hair was a bit darker then (and I have bangs!??!) but other than that, not too much has changed.
P hunts for treats and the rest of us smile...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

P2 tack-whoring

First of all, I'm giving in on this damn new interface.  And I REALLY don't like it.  I've been holding out on the old style forever, so any converts out there, I'd appreciate you sharing what exactly is so fantastic about the new layout and how long it will take me to adjust... (waaaaaaaaaaaaah.  hate change).

More importantly, I figured I'd share the result of some late night internet trolling.  Unlike SprinklerBandit, who is going from a big headed horse to small... I am going from a small headed horse to big...
P's delicate, trim, little schnoz and it's appropriately sized tack does not flatter Prairie's big, huge, honking head.

Prairie doesn't have a total Block Head, but she definitely doesn't have the tapered little snout that P has and I'm sad that hardly any of my tack will fit (attractively) on the new mare.

We can make it work, but right now it sort of looks like P2 is wearing the horsey equivalent of high water pants in the halter and bridle departments...

I love those big, lusciously padded halters typically reserved for regal, FEI stallions.  But they are sneakily hard to locate (aside from asking Antares to custom make one... hmmm NO).

The closest I got was the version that Otto Schumacher makes (which also isn't cheap).  In theory you can custom order the OS halter in whatever leather/patent/padding combo your OCD heart desires.  I love this prospect, but I am simultaneously deterred by both the wait time (8 weeks) and the price ($240).

What I love about the OS is the extra wide padding, with lots of color showing.  It's just snappy.  I don't particularly love either of these color combos, but OS does have a lovely Havana padded with a lighter-Ostrich-patterned leather that looks flipping chic as hell.  (P1 would look like a dynamo in it...).

But this isn't about P1, it's about P2...  So I (unexpectedly) refocused my shopping and hunted desperately on ebay for an OS halter in a color I could handle... The lack of results was oddly deflating. I can't believe ebay let me down.  A deep dive on Google (including searching for "headcollars" in order to catch the European market) also didn't yield much.  A few tack shops in the UK, one in Germany and of course... ordering direct from OS.

Dressage Extensions stocks the black/black version which is droolworthy, but if I'm spending the $240, I would probably manage to contain my need for instant gratification long enough to get a fun and unique color combo...
You should see it on the right horsey head.  swoon. Or in Black with Platinum padding. bigger-swoon.

The Boy can attest that this pursuit has consumed endless nights of my random internet-trolling.  I managed to find a few good alternatives that offered the extra thick padding, a slightly wider noseband and a fixed chin (all things I wanted).  None of them came in cute colors (sad) but in my desperation I was starting to get less picky.

Dressage Extensions also offers this luxe halter by Sabre, which looks damn similar but clocks in at $199.. At first I was so price blind by my search-exhaustion that it sounded like a good deal, but I finally figured out that $200 is still way too much to spend on a compromise (even for me)
Pretty damn close right?? but still two-hundy-dolla..

 Finally after I googled something along the lines of "padded sale halter headcollar horse (no bikini) extra wide giant fixed chin hamster" I stumbled onto Rhinegold and their also similarly styled black, padded halter going for about $80. (for the record "extra padded halter" leads to some weird storefronts.. though admittedly their offerings were way cheaper than OS's....)

Another deep dive on eBay et. al. and I found a UK tack store selling Rhinegold's full-size version for £26.. Even with an absolute crap exchange rate, that's a sneaky-good deal, so I snapped it up and crossed my fingers that P2's massive head will smash into a Full.  I will cry if it doesn't.

please fit. please fit. please fit. please fit....
That's my update on recent tack-whoring activity- which I am proud to say I've been keeping to a minimum lately! In fact, I've been so good... maybe I deserve a reward... like new polos.. or brushes...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Raging, Flaming, Mare Heat (on the trail)

The day after I saw Prairie last week, I made my way to go see the original princess P herself out at camp.

I know I can't keep P there forever, but as mush as I wish I saw her more, I really do enjoy my days out at her camp. I love the ferry ride, I love the drive and I really, really like her barn.

When I got to P, she was happily munching hay with her newest Beau somewhat removed from the rest of the herd.  I can't remember how much detail I went into Knight, but he was the big brash gelding who was introduced to the herd for the first time during my last visit to see P.

Apparently the lust-at-first-sight has stuck as P and Knight are now a bona fide herd of... 2.

Knight is apparently choosing to start his own herd instead of challenging anyone in the existing herd.  He hasn't successfully stolen anyone else away from Boss Mare Rose (aside from P), but he is definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Since P is currently his only mare, he's... protective of her especially when she is in peeing, flaming, obnoxious heat (as she was when I saw her).

Knight is pretty studdy (lots of neck biting, etc) so I can imagine that this only encourages poor Pia to continue down this ridiculous road.  I cannot emphasize how ridiculous her displays were, except to say that the notion of separating those two terrified me, as did the notion of strapping a saddle (or anything) to her back.

As it turned out, P didn't really mind leaving her boyfriend.  She was a little edgier than normal, but still well behaved with her snacks and stood nicely for her hind toes to be trimmed up.  Knight was less amused by someone kidnapping his beloved and thought it would be helpful to blow the the electric fence, not once, but twice.  (dingbat).

P decided that a tarp up in the hayloft was probably going to eat her, so we paused before tacking up and took the opportunity to play with said tarp a bit.
P was a star.  She managed to correct herself from DEFCON 1 to "that tarp is loud and sort of irritating" in about 10 seconds.   At this point, I am happy to accept 10 seconds as an appropriate amount of time to think about the tarp and then correctly assume that it is not an immediate threat to survival.
(here's a quick video of P and her tarp.  Also you can see her new bf.  He is much more impressive than the ratty paint she attached herself to last time)

Having safely negotiated the tarp (and put a fence between P and Knight again..) we tacked up and got ready for the trail.  We returned to a park where I've been before, so I had a decent understanding of the lay of the land.  Lots of hills, lots of changes from dark forest to open fields and some fun logs and obstacles to work the ponies over.
P in the middle - behaving - mostly.
 Cowboy Man and my vet have basically figured out that P's still in some pain when she has to go downhill, but that otherwise, any objections or balks are mostly behavioral.  So, we were empathetic with hill work, but sticklers when on the flat.

All in all, P was a pretty good girl.  She was brave for the first part of the trail, did some nice gait work out in the fields, then politely accepted some hills - showing some signs of discomfort toward the end of the ride.

The big breakthrough here is that P can be "ouchy" and grumpy on the hills - but... instead of staying escalated and angry.  she (gasp) is able to relax again when the discomfort goes away.

This might sound extremely basic, but the fact of the matter is that a year ago one of our big struggles was dealing with P's short fuse and trying to bring her back into the atmosphere after something (anything) set her off.  So, this is the sort of progress I really like to see.

The biggest test came at the end of the ride when we had clearly returned to the parking lot with the trailer.  CM asked P to set off down the trail again for another lap and she disagreed.  I'm sure she thought that we couldn't see the (big) truck and (bigger) trailer just 20' from the trail head and that clearly the (idiot) humans were lost (again).

But in point of fact we did see the truck and trailer and simply wanted to reinforce the idea that P works until we are done working P, even if P thinks that's stupid.

So, P dug her feet in, bit her chest and stretched her weird neck out to give us every warning that a tantrum was coming.  Eventually, she blew - and threw a few monster bucks up (from a standstill) rather than take a few measly steps onto the trail.

(I should mention that at this point I was sitting happily on big 'ol Wendy just watching the drama... this is where I figure CM earns his keep :) )

P finally (reluctantly) took a few steps on to the trail and got lots of praise.  Then, CM decided to hop off and lead the mare farther along to reduce the conflict but still make her walk away from her ride back to the barn (and her bf).  We repeated the process until P was willing to walk along the trail however far CM wanted and to return quietly and calmly.

All in all a great success and nobody got hurt.  P did work up more of a stress sweat than I've seen in a while - but it's also time for her to start feeling some pressure.  She doesn't get to chew on the horse in front of her just to feel better and she doesn't get to be totally catered to in order to avoid "negative experiences."  She's got the capacity to deescalate and take some pressure now, which is awesome to watch.

The other success worthy of note is the fact that P was about as hormonal as I have ever seen her - and yet she managed to hold it together under saddle.  Nice to know that at least at this point - hormones are not a significant factor.  They might be the straw that breaks (or broke) the camel's back, but I don't think it's our main issue.  So the scientist in me is happy to put that old consideration to rest...

She does however, look like a total train wreck.  Dull, furry coat (though that's starting to fall out!) and a tragic haircut... I have got to clean this lady up before we head down to Oregon in a few weeks... I know the "outside life" is good for her, but it makes my OCD self twitch!

I mean seriously.  She looks like she's in some sort of sad witness protection program...
Straight up.  Not the same horse.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Because Sometimes the Snark Comes Out.

I'm not really a huge fan of simply reposting other people's blogs (at least not without my own clever, helpful commentary) and I am also not a huge fan of the Fugly Blog.  But - I am becoming a pretty big fan of Dressage Curmudgeon and I really enjoyed her guest post on Fugly.

I know this went up a while ago, so regular Fugly readers, please ignore, but if you don't know DC or you havent' seen this post, I find it fairly amusing.

It also strikes a chord with me on a few levels.  Having played the "I just want to ride a horse not at a fancy barn because I love horses" game that DC is trying out - I can empathize with the amount of questionable judgement out there with more than a few absent-owners (this is where I acknowledge that at this point in my life, I also fall into this category).

At the time however, it became general knowledge that I "enjoyed" everyone else's "problem horses."  It wasn't so much that I craved a battle every time I got on a pony (although the years 2010 and 2011 of this blog may suggest otherwise), but it infuriated me to watch people shy away from trotting their 14 year old pleasure horse (who they "raised") because trotting made "Joey-boo" (not kidding) rear sometimes.

"I swear he only does this whenever you ask him ANYTHING."
When I asked "well, what's behind the rearing?"  I'd get an answer like "he's spirited" or "he needs to be turned out first" or some other equally retarded explanation for what I would consider to be an incredibly alarming behavioral pattern....

For the record, I wouldn't call occassional-trot-rears "spirited."  Either there is a raging pain issue or you just own a rude, bastard horse.

Realizing that I was never going to find the magical lower-level-anything to hack out (seriously, would have accepted a dressage, H/J, barrel racing... whatever), I finally decided to give up on the amateur catch riding and get my own beast where I could at least account for the bad behavior myself.

We all know where that road went with P, but I'm proud to say that I (think?) I'm addressing P's issues and doing the best I can to make sure that she ends up a good citizen even when I have the gall to ask her to canter on the right lead.

Anyway.  Enjoy the read, and I highly recommend DC's regular blog whenever you need to feel like there is someone more cynical than you out there in the world.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Buildup for bringing P2 home (1 week countdown is on!!) and also some buildup of Prairie's topline.

She's really starting to put some muscle back on and look like a real horse again. I suppose that means I should start my own workout routine back up again too...

Also, I promise the crap-tastic blurry phone photos will stop soon too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Rig!!!

So it happened.  I didn't want to jinx it because literally the perfect trailer came along (although it was in Idaho) and I didn't want to jinx the magic before I could get my grubby little hands on it.

It's an '09 Featherlite 2 horse Straight Load.  Its the "big girl" edition so our mares should have absolutely no problem sharing the space with each other.  It doesn't have the "+1" space I was hoping for, but the fact that it was priced at 54% of its original '09 cost more than made up for that.

Oh, did I mention that even though it's an '09 it's brand new and has it's full manufacturer's warranty intact?


So, as we skipped East of the mountains to celebrate a friend's birthday I was more than happy to hitch up and haul the new toy home.  (I also did not mind that the route involved a bit of wine tasting and making use of the new tack room as a wine cellar for a few freshly acquired cases of vino...)
You know you're a horse person, when you find this sexy.
Sadly the haul home involved a mountain pass and a slushy snow shower, so the impeccably detailed and Armorall-ed finish has been reduced to a coating of deicer slime, but it still looks like a happy trailer snugged in among company cars in our yard.   A process that made me happy to have ended up without the +1 space.. and even a few more feet on the trailer would eliminate the option of parking it in my "assigned" parking place.

Just baaaaarrrely fits. :)
Also, I'm happy to report that the Silver-Lite will have a happy new home with D and the ancient pony up north.  So the apprehension of "buying before selling" is also abated.

The trailer's first trip will be to pick up Prairie at the end of the month to move her home and the second trip will be for both mares to go to the Mountain Trail Clinic at the end of April.  Being a total nerd for logistics, I've already put my brain to work trying to figure out all the hauling options for the two mares and two trailers (not unlike the chicken, fox, grain problem of crossing a river).  I ended up making post-it-note-paper-dolls so I could "see" the different options.  This is when the truly ridiculous nature of "where my things are" hit me.  (again.  This realization has hit me before.)

Behold, a map of my mares and trailers:

Legend (because all good maps have legends):
Blue Ribbon = Horse (duh)
Green Suitcase = Trailer (picasa does not have a trailer sticker..)
Yellow Star = Prairie's new home
As you can see, my current spread of ponies and trailers makes for a lot of NPR, a few naps, and some fantastic dance-off short drives to the barn in the near future. 

For the moment I am relishing the totally manure free, dirt free, smell free state of the trailer.  But all the manure/dirt/smells in the world will still be worth loading up the mares and (eventually) bringing them home.


Monday, March 19, 2012

In Defense (sorta) of Dover

First of all, thank you for all of the comments.  I love how everyone has such a specific (and strategic) method for shopping for our beasts.  I don't think I know a single horse person who doesn't have their own Order of Operations (remember PEMDAS??) for hunting down acquisitions.

Mine is less sophisticated than it used to be, mostly because I've figured out that eBay stresses me out to no end.  Buying is fine.  But I hate the worry of not being able to return something if it doesn't work, or god forbid the ridiculous stress involved with selling something.  (I know that most humans manage to overcome this, but I... turn into some sort of eBay monster).  So I've slowly ended up in the no-man's-land with eBay.  Small purchases don't seem worth the hassle, and big purchases aren't worth the risk.  I know most people have the coveted Schumacher bridle they scored for $100 or the perfect saddle or something similar, but I've just never had that eBay gold mine.

As for Stateline and Valley Vet and whatnot.  I definitely still use them.  But, I will say that I might be the only one out there who goes to Dover if my local tack store doesn't have what I need.

Is my local tack store spendy? YUP.  (Really spendy).  And is Dover the cheapest? rarely.  (really rarely).

I can think of two primary influences for my current shopping habits:

1) Customer Service.  

It sounds like some of you have had equally rad experiences with Stateline, or someone else - but I have to give Dover credit on this.  Over the years I've had several instances where a $100 splint boot has crapped out, or a blanket started rubbing not after the first try-on (on a clean horse) but after the 3rd wear when said blanket ended up covered in mud.  Every single time Dover has been FANTASTIC about replacing broken items, exchanging muddy blankets or working with me to find a solution, even if that just meant a refund.   This breeds a certain comfort for me - in that I know if something goes wrong my $40 dollar investment (maybe it was $35 elsewhere..) won't go down the drain entirely.

2) I'm in distribution.

Our company STRUGGLES to stay branded as the high customer service, not cheapest place to buy your fire hydrants and lawn sprinklers.  In today's economy I promise you that this is a tough niche to fill.  Most people aren't willing to consistently pay 3% more in margin for slightly more consistent customer service (I think I can admit that when things go smoothly, you don't notice if the service is exceptional - only when the proverbial crap hits the proverbial fan).
My unwavering belief that this is the right decision for our business means I have a soft spot for any other business that I perceive as having similar traits.  Dover could be huge jerks, but they've saved my ass (and pocket book) enough times for me to not cringe (horribly) at the shipping prices.  (oh, and I also empathize with the real cost of freight... and how currently our consumer culture is horrified if we pay more than $4.95 to magically transport 30lbs of stuff 3,000 miles, but that's my own soapbox so I'll avoid it here).

Anyway.  This isn't meant to be an all out defense of Dover and their price gouging, but it is why I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, and why I was EXTRA PISSED to feel like they were trying to dupe me - a loyal customer with their sale shenanigans.  On a positive note, when I emailed them to "double check" my shipping quote and also ask them to make sure I was getting their best prices, I got a prompt email lowering my shipping price (she shoved everything into a smaller box) and let me know that one of my items was slated to go on clearance in 2 days if I was willing to wait for her to dispatch it then.  That is the sort of response and attention that repaired my lost confidence pretty quickly.

All I know is that regardless of where my package comes from.. as soon as that tracking number lands in my inbox I compulsive click "track my shipment" as though that will speed its delivery to my doorstep.  I'm pretty sure it helps.

****Editor's Note****
I did want to make it clear that I do LOVE SmartPak.  And I've had similar customer service experience with them.  I suppose my current order of first Dover, then SmartPak is due mostly to the fact that I don't have a current auto-ship SP for either mare at the moment... When I do, I have to admit that SP is my first choice. I hope that makes me sound less crazy.  :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Really, Dover!?

Has anyone else ever noticed how obnoxious Dover is with their sale pricing?  It infuriates me how hard it is to actually pay the lowest price on something they have marked down...

Basically, upon returning home and still on a total "holy shit this horse is awesome and maybe one day I will be able to actually do her justice" high, I decided that if we really are moving her in two weeks then there are a few bits (literally) and pieces to pick up in order to really round out Prairie's arsenal.

So I hit the internet, and all my favorite sites, starting fancy then working my way down to "realistic."  I grabbed a few more brushes, an extra lead rope, new halter, another turnout sheet so we can do laundry without going naked and (most importantly) the magic bit from yesterday's ride (which - for the first time of me discovering "magic new bits" was a $30 model, not a $130 one... win).

But, then (because I'm OCD), I hit the clearance section and also the sale section.  Why these are two separate tabs, I really don't know.

I was thrilled to see a few of my items "on sale".  "Good for me!" I thought, "for the first time in my life I'm naturally picking out the good values."  Of course then I noticed that I "thought" my new halter was $43.something, not $39.99.  Weird.  But I couldn't let it go, so I double checked my shopping cart only to see that the exact same halter (when added from the-not-sale section was still listed at $43).  My lead rope was $18, not the sale price of $11 that was listed on the sale page, and a few other items had discounts that were not extended if you were shopping in the "normal" area of the site.

I immediately removed the regular priced items, replaced them with the sale prices and watched my total bill drop by $80.  For a while I was feeling extra smart and sneaky that I found all the good deals.  Then my glee turned to irritation that Dover makes you work for your savings.  Then my irritation turned to wrath at the thought of previous orders I perhaps hadn't thoroughly double checked in the sale section.

Has anyone else noticed this? Am I late to the party?

Friday, March 16, 2012

BBM Breakthrough

Yesterday I was thrilled to exit my manager meeting, grab a sandwich and shoot over to the BBM's barn.  The fact that we have a new office opening up 12 minutes from that barn is exciting, although I realize that the opportunity of doubling up on reasons to visit will expire in a few weeks...

Anyway.  I'm pretty sure the reason why we had a spectacular ride was because The Boy wasn't there to document it.  Which means the only evidence I have that I actually saw my horse are blurry and dark photos that very well could be the Loch Ness Monster...
Nessie?? is that you?
The other explanation for a fantastic ride might be the fact that J tried out a new bit and it has been a miracle with Miss Prairie.  The real beauty in this discovery is that the miracle lies in a (simple, boring) Eggbutt Mullen mouth.  Easy enough.
 Not sure what exactly it is, but the bit (combined with another 30 days of training and fitness) has the Mare sitting up nicely and not hanging on the contact.  She's under herself, happy with a steady rein, but not ripping you out of the tack like a 60lb pony clubber.

J thinks that the bit gives her more stability (which she likes, apparently this mare would prefer to be swaddled at all times if possible), so it has the added bonus of really quieting her brain down too.  She literally doesn't spook as big or as often in it.  PLUS (yes, there's more), it also seemed to make it much easier for me to keep her in my outside rein.

That progression is likely a result of 30 more days of training, but instead of fighting the whole ride to get her even and through in the outside, Prairie was already there.  It was just on me not to screw it up.

So what did we accomplish was our fantastic leg yields on the rail (so much cleaner).  Lots of our figure-eights. 15 meter circles at the trot and canter.  zig-zag leg yields down the quarter line (to the right, super.  to the left.. eeeeeehhh).  And our piece de resistance was working Prairie's walk-canter departs.  At first I was terrified, because our trot-canters aren't exactly polished, but I was thrilled (thrilled!) to discover that we actually have a pretty darn good walk-canter when I ask correctly.  With the lighter contact courtesy of the mullen mouth, she's really easy to scoop up into the canter.  And that makes me feel like I can ride again.

In the end it was a bit bitter sweet.  On one hand I'm even more excited to get the mare home.  But on the other, I'm sad to leave J.  She clearly is working well with Prairie-dog, and I have to give her credit for working with me too.  I enjoy taking  lessons with her and her method of explanation really clicks with my brain.  So that's too bad, but I'll just have to be diligent about returning for tuneups. 

She's the cutest.  I hate pawing, but clearly she's been told not to.  This isn't an action shot.  Prairie actually just holds her foot in the air and desperately wants to paw, but politely refrains.

These photos are awful I know.  I promise I'll get the official photography back soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thermal Imaging

I promised to share some of the thermal images of P that we had taken, so this is for just that.  I apologize in advance for the mediocre quality, I was in a fight with the scanner - and apparently lost.  Such is life.

I've had several conversations with my vet about the merits (and pitfalls) of thermal imaging as a diagnostic tool, so I was really interested to see first hand what sort of information she was able to gleam for the pictures as well as how the photo shoot (for lack of a better term) would go.

If you'll recall, the day that we took the Thermals of P, we went on a nice trail ride then turned the beast out and let her play with a new herdmate who was just being introduced.

Vet was adamant that Pia had at least 30 minutes to relax in pasture before we took images because even a low key trail ride that doesn't warrant a sweat causes a pretty serious change in blood flow to muscles and whatnot.  I picked up early on how critical it is for the subject to be as clean and dry as possible.

Dry I could arrange for, but please recall that yak-mare looks something like this at the moment:
There's only so much a 2 minute curry can accomplish when fighting against 9 months of pasture time...

The reason why "clean and dry" is essential is because unlike thermal images of... oh say... a baby's bottom, the furry coat on horses does a fantastic job of insulating them and masking true variations in blood flow.  On top of that, any change in hair pattern, cowlick, matted bit of sweat or damp spot reflects the heat slightly differently and will result in an irregularity in the image.

This is why it's critical (IMHO) to be in front of the real live horse when reviewing thermal pics.

Vet has expressed her frustration at being sent sets of images remotely to examine and then expected to try and guess which cold (or hot) spots are due to blood flow, and which ones are manure stains from an afternoon nap...  It's hard.

So I was grateful to be present when she took pics of P and was able to explain her methodology to me.  First, an image:

As you can well imagine, these images are of P's shapely bottom, and then a bird's eye view of her spine (head away from us).  You can also see my creepy (apparently warm) eyeballs glowing in the top shot...

The scale on the right shows you what the colors mean as well as the range of temperatures that the camera is reading.  What's cool about this is that you can basically control the sensitivity of the camera to the point that if you see a "hot spot" on a leg, you can "zoom" in by stretching the color scale out over a smaller degree range.  The top pic had a range of 49 degrees to 90 degrees, where as the spine picture ranges only from 66 to 84. Essentially this provides more detail in the temperature variations.

When you find an interesting spot you can set the range to just a few degrees and get a much sharper picture of what's going on...  (based on blood flow).  You can literally tell if the heat in your horse's tendon is a strain, or just a concussion from whacking their leg on the fence...

That is pretty bad ass in my opinion and would be a really handy piece of information to have before whipping out the checkbook for ultrasounds... plus it's just cool to see.

What these couple pictures of P show is that our fantastic Vet isn't making anything up.  P's "hammies" are tight in her butt (a side effect of her compensation for tight shoulders) and she has a hot "cross" on her back that is basically her spine and a stripe across her shoulders.  This isn't the best picture we have to illustrate that, but it's the best one I have a copy of :)...

What's even cooler is I was able to look at comparable images from other horse's in order to see how much cooler their spines/withers are and see how P's body is unique. 

Here's one more example of the thermals:

Top picture is a side shot of her wither/shoulder (the purple blob at the top is a piece of mane) and the bottom picture are her front toes.  I don't know if you remember but it looked like P had blown an abscess that day (she hadn't been sore) but we couldn't quite tell if it was an abscess or part of the blister that her (mean, nasty, awful) boots gave her.  You can see the flaming white hot spot on her pastern from the boot (I felt so guilty), and just below you can see a different heat pattern in her hoof which pointed toward abscess.

just as a side - we did then "zoom in" on that foot and get a more detailed shot which literally showed where the abscess had been in more detail.  Vet said that she considered this image a very "general, almost fuzzy" image that she would always follow up on.  Once again.. how cool to think "gosh, does my horse have an abscess?" then be able to take a thermal image and see the compressed heat and know for certain that an abscess was the answer... so interesting.

I definitely came away from the process with more understanding of how careful you have to be when taking pictures.  Directional sunlight is enough to warp the results, as is pretty much any sort of recent activity, mud, water, or sweat.  But, I feel like taken with enough consideration, the thermal images are a great additional tool for a vet to have in their tool box.  Certainly provides an interesting bit of information...

P wasn't so sure though.  She thought the camera was definitely a snack....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Double Down (payments)

So, while I was supposed to be casually soaking on the sun on the white beaches of Zanzibar (I mean seriously, doesn't it sound like you're supposed to be thinking only of tropical fruits and poetry?)  I couldn't quite get my brain to shut up about things like trailers and the mares and why do I own two horses that I don't ride... and what about sparkly browbands... I can't believe NEITHER mare has a sparkly browband...

Okay, so maybe some of the musings were more important than others, but really, the two biggest "these aren't tragic issues" issues that kept rolling over in my pea brain were

1) new trailer, get one.
2) BBM, Why aren't you riding her 5 times a week yet. Isn't that why you got a second horse you silly, silly girl

So.  This gray and drizzly Monday I bucked up and did something about it.  We have officially put down a deposit on a trailer (pictures and explanation to come) that we will be picking up this weekend in the heart of Washington Wine Country.  Lucky me I get to celebrate a friend's 30th, go wine tasting and then hitch up a new trailer on our way home (YESSSS).

Also, I just popped a check in the mail securing a spot at a LOCAL (15 minute drive away) barn for Prairie.  It's not the perfect DQ barn, but it does have lots of turnout, a few people I know and a decent indoor and outdoor ring for us to clock some hours in.

Because you know what? the perfect trailer and the perfect barn weren't just going to materialize (at least not anytime soon).  So we found a great trailer (at a good price) and a good barn for us to go to.  If our needs change or we hate either, we'll make a move then.

I am feeling a huge weight lifting off my shoulders (and out of my wallet).

Just think! in three weeks I'll be using the NEW TRAILER to bring the new mare practically to my backyard.

About time if you ask me....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

BBM - pre-honeymoon rides..

Okay okay... so I'm more than a little late on this post - and if my pre-teen attempts at keeping a diary taught me anything (other than the fact that the locks on hello kitty diaries can be picked with pretty much anything), it was that the longer I wait to write about actual events, the less likely I am to remember any relevant details thereby leaving the opportunity for wild creative and assumptions.

I had to check my iCal to confirm when we actually took these pictures, but apparently I last saw Prairie on the weekend of February 12th.  I'm pretty sure nothing else exciting happened that weekend, but my angst filled teenage self would prefer that I insert some of melodramatic side plot in order to enhance the somewhat basic lessons we had.

I'd indulge that sentiment if every shred of energy I had wasn't currently being focused on digesting the mound of bacon that I so desperately needed to consume at brunch...

So! the Mare:

True to our previous visits we slammed out two rides - one after work on Friday, and one Saturday Morning before coming home again.  Let's start with Friday:

We started off much better than our previous trip, although, as the picture above shows.. we're far from perfection.  Hollow? usually.  On the forehand? most of the time... stuck on my left rein? yuppers.

BUT! more importantly, we stayed mostly between my aids.  Legs were on and functional, and I managed to get the mare off my hand much, much better than before.  Small victories.  Which must be celebrated when I feel as though we're still careening around the ring like drunk toddlers.

Anyway.  We started with our leg yields against the wall (decent), which are quickly becoming my favorite tool for really making sure that I have Prairie in my outside rein and I'm not cheating (too much) on the inside.  Then we moved up to our figure-8's in the trot, which were so. much. better. than before.  our change of reins didn't always result in me dropping Prairie on her face (good for me).

Sidenote:  The Boy also played with this cool slow-motion feature on our camera... it takes 5 seconds of real time video (taken at a crazy high frame rate) and turns it into about a minute of playback.  It doesn't do well in low light (also the indoor's lights cause a painful, seizure-inducing flicker..) but something tells me this will be fun to play with in some better light!

Our canter departs were lighter and less disastrous mostly due to the fact that I got my ass out of the saddle and let the mare just step up on her own.

By the end of the lesson when we were cantering to the left (my bad side), my left rein was on full lock down.  My hand had turned into some sort of claw gripped to the rein and my elbow was braced.  Did I know it? yes.  Was I aware this was not an effective strategy to balance the mare? absolutely.  Could I release my death grip on the inside rein?

Not even a little bit.

Of course, then J pulled a mean old pony club trick and removed my left glove, exposing the somewhat raw screaming blisters that were already starting to form as a result of my clenched claw.

Mean.  But effective.  I literally had no choice but to let up and stop reefing on the left rein - which (to no one's surprised) ultimately helped soften the mare.  Sigh.

We squeaked out a few "good" transitions and called it a night.

Saturday we basically repeated the same exercises, but with a slight improvement (apparently my gangly, horse deprived body can be taught!).

Leg yield on the rail, into figure-8's with lots o' transitions...  After a few drama-llama moments, I was actually feeling pretty darn good.  I'm not exactly amping up the impulsion or lateral work, but I am feeling like I am at least getting a feel for the mare and starting to lose the sense that I'm out of control 90% of the time.  Am I repeating that fact? I apologize if I am, but even though I know it's not impressive - it's really contributing to me not feeling like a total moron.  Which I like.

She's adorable. I'm excited to get a ride in this week...

Here's a clip of our leg yield on the rail... I'm not doing a great job of catching her when she tries to avoid my outside rein... but I'm getting better and I can't cheat.. so thats good too..

here's some figure-8's from Saturday:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Annnnnnd We're Back.

The Boy and I managed to safely return to the real world sometime on Tuesday.  I think the plane landed around 4pm, but our body clocks adamantly screamed that the actual time was somewhere between midnight and 3am.

Regardless, we were both thrilled to be back home and get a chance to squeeze a few of our creatures ensuring that our clothing resumed having the appropriate amount of pet hair smeared about.

The horses have yet to see either of us, but hopefully that will change as soon as I stop craving lunch at 2am and successfully stay awake at late enough to watch Jeopardy....

The trip itself was over the top fantastic.  The animals were incredible, the scenery was storybook and our time together was really just fantastic from start to finish.  The low point was really not getting to ride either in a jungle or on a beach, but I tried to enjoy the fabulousness sans horses... (It wasn't actually that hard).

But we are back, the mares are good, and hopefully I get to see them soon.  The biggest downside of taking almost 3 weeks off work is that I have a ton of backlogged visits to our other locations to get done... and I'm pretty sure that's going to make it hard to sneak in midweek visits to the ponies.

I did figure out that one of my meetings next week is about 15 minutes from BBM.. so hopefully I can stop for a ride after.  I've already informed my colleague that they may have to endure a three hour pit stop brief delay so that I can squeeze in a lesson...

Can't wait to catch up on everyone's blogs! I promise I will soon!
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