Friday, October 30, 2015


Germany.  On MONDAY.  I'm so excited I can't stand it. 

I really should have made one of those elementary school paper chains so I at least could have been snipping one off every day.  Instead my countdown has more closely resembled a prisoner marking days passing. 

twenty three more boring-non-horsey days until GERMANY

three. more. sleeps.
(can we say a quick word f thanks for the new emoji? I've used the champagne bottle like 400 times already, and between that and the taco - I hardly need to use words anymore.)

I fully acknowledge that my life does not resemble jail in any way shape or form, BUT OMG, the WAITING.  Especially when it's consumed by obsessively checking for new videos of Brads, or re-watching the olds ones over and over again.. That's a mental prison of it own I suppose..

At least the waiting is almost over. 

You guys should know that aside from being horse crazy and tack obsessed, I'm also a huge travel nerd.  I secretly enjoy long haul flights, and get a tad OCD about trying to learn everything I should expect about service levels, airports and routes I'm unfamiliar with.  I acknowledge this is a really weird thing to be a geek about, but there you have it.  And when I say "travel" I don't mean "oooh I want to go to Thailand," (although I do.. want to go to Thailand).

I mean, travel an in the act of traveling.  Like the process of getting from point A to point B. 

I can assure you that the blog presence on this topic is EPIC.  You can google any airline, or airport or train or whatever and get serious play-by-play posts on just about everything. 

It's amazing.

For a nerd anyway.

So when BA started sending me my "get ready for your trips, oh, and btw did you book your complimentary spa appointments?" 

excuse, me, wha??  How did I miss this detail??

Somehow I managed to snag a mileage ticket for our trip over in First Class, and apparently that comes with spa treatments. 

I usually make an extra effort to upgrade to business class when flying to Asia or Europe, because- sleep.

But since most airlines offer flat beds in business (and booze.  Let's be honest I'm also concerned about booze), I've never seen a reason to travel First Class internationally.  It's always seemed like an unnecessary use of extra miles. 

But for this trip, there was no availability in Business, so on to First it was.  And apparently with British, that means a facial and massage during our layover at Heathrow.  I'd be lying if I wasn't sort of excited. 

Plus, when we're going to be surgically in and out of Germany in only four total days.... I'm looking forward to enjoying a new travel class and fun experience for the first 10 hours of the trip :)

Other things I'm nerding out about?  Packing. 

I am an obsessive carry-onner and take pride in rarely having to check bags (unless I'm traveling for more than 3 weeks). 

Ski trips? CARRY ON (wear your coat and rent the damn skis)

Week long weddings that require 8 costume changes and 11 pairs of shoes? CARRY ON

Thermal for 3 weeks with a baby:? CARRY ON (though I cheated and sent some stuff with my parents)..

So I will be dammed if I will check a bag for what is functionally three days on the ground.  Even if that means I have to wear my boots and helmet through security. 

I'm sure the Kardashians have worn weirder crap through LAX.

So the organization is well under way.  There are small piles in my bedroom of riding clothes, a few shirts just in case we make it out to a meal, and lots of warm layers. 

Oh, and a new Alessandro Albanese coat I obviously justified for the trip because my love for outerwear is fueled by the fact that tack ho-ing without a horse to... tack, is pointless. 


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mementos - Etsy Style

The other day I was sitting on the couch scrolling through Insta drooling over lots of feeds ripe with gorgeous shots of Indoors, when a cool digital design caught my eye. 

I clicked through and found Designs by Isabel Wild, where for a small fee (though her prices are going up!) your favorite snapshots are posterized in quite a classy manner.

Ever since I mentally committed to retiring Prair from jumping (regardless of her rehab), I've been dreaming up fun ways to commemorate some of our accomplishments in a slightly more organized fashion than the garage Ribbon Wall.  (though I assure you the garage ribbon wall is totally and completely indexed across several different data points.)

When I saw what Isabel was doing, I immediately loved the idea of having a trio of images done (in tri-color hues), then somehow framing them with one or two of our circuit awards...

Knowing me and my total-lack-of-crafting skills, it's unlikely that I'll actually execute that plan anytime soon - But in the meantime I can thoroughly enjoy these images, one of which has obviously already become my wallpaper on both my phone and computer. 

If you're looking for a great way to stylize some of your favorite shots, I highly recommend giving this a try - that is, assuming you aren't already a photoshop ninja capable of doing it yourself ;)


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Insurance, Part Dos

I was going to do a post script in the comments of my last post, but after an illuminating discussion with the agent, I thought I should just spread the wealth (if a modest amount of information - from a salesmen - can be considered wealth).  If nothing else, I suppose it's interesting...

Thank you to everyone who commented on the last post, it's amazing how much I rely on the hive mind of experience when approaching something I have little to no experience with in horsey land.  Oftentimes anecdotal evidence is all I've got.

It's clear to me that if you ask a herd of horse people "should I get Loss of Use coverage?"  You could simplify their answers into one, dull roar of "NO."

And I understand that.  I really do. 

It makes sense,  it makes sense that its hard to prove a claim for payout, that the vet exams are crazy and that it's hideously expensive for not that great a benefit...

But there was just something in the back of my brain that was still intrigued by it...

So with full acknowledgement that I am (somewhat) looking for an answer that reinforces what I want to hear... after a bit more digging - here's what I've found out.

Loss of Use as a category of coverage, has changed pretty dramatically in recent years.  The traditional coverage, (and as I recall it from my Junior years), was extremely expensive, with premiums that surpassed the cost of mortality and medical, usually averaging around 6-12% of insured value, depending on the declared "use." 

Once established, Loss of Use would pay out (usually 80-90%) for anything that ended a horse's career.  Arthritis, soft tissue, trailer accident, old age, you name it.  The product was aimed at the top competitive sport horses (really those competing at international levels).  Meaning that both the realistic insured value, and the cost of campaigning such a horse was well beyond the expenditures of the average mortality/medical purchaser. 

Because "cause" was so broadly defined, and included "internal" issues such as arthritis, the initial vet exams were extensive, often significantly past what a normal PPE would require (though maybe not if you were investing in an International Grand Prix star...).  This makes sense when I think about the insurance companies needing to know if there were any signs of degeneration or hints of conformation issues that would lead to joint issues/breakdown/etc. 

Additionally, the high payout values meant that paying a claim was a very expensive decision for underwriters, so often there were second opinions needed, affidavits signed, etc. 

Basically, everything about traditional Loss of Use was in line with the horror stories I've heard from both vets and other owners. 


It seems as though the product itself is rather different these days.  I'm not certain, but I don't think that any company offers the old Loss of Use product I've just described anymore. 

Instead, it has evolved into an "external" Loss of Use coverage, that will not pay for things like arthritis, or kissing spine, or any degenerative condition.  What it does cover is any "accident" or sports medicine injury.  You horse falls in pasture, your horse whacks it's leg on a fence, your horse flips over trying to load in the trailer, you horse contracts a respiratory virus that leaves permanent damage... Basically anything that happens to your horse, is (in theory) covered.  Because those internal, degenerative issues are no longer covered, the extensive initial vet exams also disappear.  They don't need squeaky clean x-rays, because.. well, they doesn't impact their liability.

My immediate question about the new coverage was Prairie: Soft Tissue injury, but without a discernable "accident"... more of a slow sprain or overuse injury.  Is that covered? How long do you wait to pay a claim, how do you even make a claim?

Essentially, she is my litmus test.  Would Loss of Use pay out on Prairie if I had it. If no, I don't want it for any horses going forward... if yes... that's interesting.

It appears, given my description of Prairie's scenario, that Loss of Use would likely have paid out on her current injury (in addition to medical also having covered the diagnostics and treatments... facepalm). 

Spa days like these would have been more affordable...

One of my concerns was the argument that a soft tissue injury could be possibly attributed to conformation and not considered a sports injury... But the agent said that she's never heard of such a thing. 

In exploring the issue of making a claim further, she clarified that second opinions are no longer part of the process, it's simply a matter of the treating veterinarian declaring "horse not sound." 

In Prairie's case, my vet would need to send a letter accompanied by a record of treatment and diagnostics performed.  Prair would probably need another ultrasound so show that there is still damage to her suspensory, but that's it.

But what about injuries that just take 4 years to heal? Do claims have to wait a certain amount of time??

Maybe.  She said she hasn't seen a claim (with the current product) ever ask for more than six months of rehab before paying out.  Which means we would just being coming up on the long end of that time frame...

Certainly something to think about. 

Also important to remember that payouts have been reduced to 60% of insured value... so you don't get full replacement cost... but I heard one other owner describe the payout not as shopping money for the next horse, but $$ toward the happy retirement of the one who lost their job - an interpretation that resonates with me from a planning perspective.

So, for my purposes (peace of mind), the newer Loss of Use product is still very intriguing to me.

As a parting thought, the agent offered one more thing to think about - which is that she's seen a lot of owners choose to add Loss of Use for the first year or two with a new horse (especially imports they may or may not have seen in person...) while they evaluate how "sound" of an animal it is.

Again, maybe I'm looking for reasons to pull the trigger, but especially when I think about the notion of a horse who is (maybe) younger, and (maybe) doesn't have an established show record to suggest prolonged soundness at a certain level of work... It doesn't seem all bad...

So that's my update on Loss of Use.  Reduced coverage and reduced payouts have simplified the process of obtaining it, and also claiming it.  Those changes also allow insurance companies to offer this type of policy at a much more affordable rate than the original policies that were really designed for only the really expensive, really elite athletes in our sport.

In the end I think my decision as to whether or not I add a Loss of Use policy to Mortality and Medical coverage will depend on who the new horse is and what they've done. 

Food for thought. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Summer Vacation... in Fall

Once again, me and my ability to collect horses with special needs - have been bailed out by one of our oldest, dearest friends. 

Lacking the significant improvement we were hoping for at Prair's September check-up, my vet gave me a look that said "thanks for continuing to write me checks... but I really don't need to look at your (still) lame horse this often.."

Well, shit.

Enter Plan B (or is it F or G at this point?), a slightly long-er term layup at our friend's barn up North. 

With a still positive flexion test on the books, I made plans to pack up Prair's bags and send her to a lovely Summer House... just in time for winter.

The plan is to give her (more) time on stall rest - though she is allowed to make us of a small run! - and then see where we are in the new year. 

Moving her (to our savior's farm) allows us to significantly reduce Prair's bills (she wasn't really making use of that "full training") which is the only way we can afford the (possible) addition of another horse to the herd.  (Also, it's possible The Boy has requested that while we can have more than one horse... maybe we only have one in active full training at a time... I guess that's fair)
It's just like the Jitney...
Moving Prair buys us some time to see what her future holds - will she come back sound? She's certainly comfortable at this point, but who knows under what circumstances she'll stay that way.  I'd be lying if I wasn't hoping that D is able to work her magic "somehow I get horses sound when no one else can" magic, but you know.... no pressure

I do know that I trust her implicitly, she has great horse sense, a great team of service providers and manages to make even the most difficult beasts somewhat personable and friendly (see - Pia). 

oh right, Pia.  Remember her? Well when the special red mare made it known that she would not be stalled D was our savior again in providing a flexible, lovely home while we figured out wth to do with her. 

Oh, and when we had to move Gus but didn't know where we were going to land? D to the rescue... He had a fun stopover at her farm as well.

And if we're going way back, D also inherited and adored the original Pony that started all these adventures back when we were barely teenagers (that cranky old pony was with us until just a couple years ago btw)

So yes, if there's anyone I trust to watch over the Big Mare while she enjoys her convalescence... it's her.

She's farther away now (though D pointed out not that much farther away than I already drive to the barn...) but hopefully we'll still get to go kiss her lovely nose and give her some love - though I know she isn't lacking in that department...

Enjoying the new view
(also, can we discuss her sexy topline even after all this time off???)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Insurance Question

The Germany trip is getting closer, and my to-do list is (slowly) getting checked off.  Some things are easy (get new gloves that don't smell like dead rats).  Some things are harder (get a haircut).  Why scheduling and actually getting a haircut is an insurmountable task for me, I don't know.  but it is.

Also on that list is getting my ducks in a row for an insurance policy that's ready to bind asap.

In all likelihood, even if we find a magical unicorn beast that we love, the deal will probably not be finalized until I'm back in the states. But if it is.... I want to have an insurance policy ready to bind.  Immediately.

Looming in the back of my mind is a friend bought a spectacular horse overseas only to have her arrive with a career ending suspensory injury.  Whether it occurred before or during transit, she'll never know, but the horse wasn't insured during travel and everyone was sad. 

You might remember that Prairie is also not insured.  Not ideal when dealing with soft tissue injuries... but formerly my "herd" was large enough that I consistently beat the annual premiums by paying my own vet bills and I have always carried a "rainy day vet fund" for emergencies.

Now, with a diminished herd of one, a potentially expensive horse purchase, and the taste of freshly written checks to the vet in my mouth - the new horse will for sure be insured. 

The question is - for what and how much.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.... in dollars.

For those who haven't dabbled in the insurance realm, most horse owners are primarily concerned with acquiring major medical coverage.  Insurance companies are smart, and know that there is NO MONEY to be made betting on the chance that horses might stay sound (hahahahahaha), so medical coverage is only offered (to my knowledge) on top of mortality coverage.  So mortality becomes your primary policy, and medical is a box to check on top of it. 

Mortality seems to have a fairly standard going rate of 3.5% of insured value for a competitive sport horse (or $3,500 for a $100k horse). I'm using a $100k valuation because math is really easy that way. 

Medical is relatively cheap, and seems to vary from $400-$1000 depending on your state, co-pay and annual limit options.  in Washington, for a $100k horse, no co-pay, higher deductible and a $15,000 limit it is about $500.

However, since lots of owners seem to use mortality as a stepping stone to medical, many choose to under-value their horse in order to lower annual premiums.  Many I've spoken to operate under the assumption that while an accident resulting in death is not that likely.... budget crippling vet bills are almost a certainty.

So, why would you want to properly represent your horse's market value?  Well, if you are adding "Loss of Use" coverage, which exists to reimburse (part) of your horse's value if something happens prevents them from doing their job (let's say jumping) but doesn't kill them (like, let's say a soft tissue injury...). 

The ins and outs of Loss of Use vary from agency to agency, but typically they cost between 2% and 4% of insured value and most pay out between 50% and 65% of your horse's insured value if the claim is honored.  Some have clauses that allow the insurance company to become the legal owner of the horse, and others offer a lower payout that doesn't require you turn over your horse....

I have heard wildly different stories about Loss of Use claims.  Some say the policies are a money pit and it's nearly impossible to get the insurance companies to pay out (which I understand..) and others say that it has been what's allowed them to retire beloved partners while still providing some shopping money for a replacement...

I have a personal friend who got the Loss of Use payout on her eventer - only to have him return to competition soundness (several) years later and enjoy a second career at the lower levels...

I have also heard stories where horses were NOT sound for their upper level jobs, but could still perform at 2'6" so the insurance companies declined claims stating the horse was still a "jumper."  (this makes sense to me).

So it's all a matter of how you like to spend your money and where your anxiety rests at night. 

In general, my family LOVES insurance.  We insure everything, sometimes more than once!  We certainly aren't good enough to use it as an investment strategy, but we mostly operate under the assumption that you should buy as much insurance as you can possibly stand. 

So, to take this back to horses... let's look at what that might be. 

A dreamy $100k pony comes home with a $3,500 mortality policy, with an extra $500 for a medical policy... The company I'm currently thinking I will go with offers limited Loss of Use at a 2% rate, which is another $2,000 annually (providing a $60k payout).  That's $6,000 a year for fairly extensive coverage - a check that makes me choke a little bit to think about writing.  (of course, the total cost for a $50k horse drops to $3,250, a $20k horse to $1,800...)

But let's pretend you have a magical horse who never gets hurt and so you hardly utilize your medical coverage on a regular basis.  (if you find this horse, please tell me).  Even assuming no benefit from the medical coverage, you'd still have to pay 10 years of premiums, before you had put more in than you would potentially get out in a Loss of Use claim. (and that assumes 10 years of no career ending injuries).


I know there are horses out there who manage careers much longer than that, but sadly I haven't had one of those since my pony back in middle school. 

So I'd love to hear if anyone has had any good or bad experiences with Loss of Use.  I'm still very much on the fence as to whether or not it's something that will offer peace of mind or if it's unlikely to ever be utilized...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mr. Gus' Update

Gus hasn't been featured in a while on the blog, but it's high time he got some of the recognition he so heartedly deserves.. 

From the snapshots I get of it - Gus' life certainly seems to be charmed, not that we expect anything less from the big man.

Gus in situ

From all accounts Gus seems to have life pretty well figured out.  He's got his big green pasture, perfect for snoozing and escaping any expectation of "work"

Gus is closed.  Come back later.

But there's a price to be paid for such a wonderful life.  The love of a little girl comes with some risk - particularly if there are scissors involved and "all the other horses have short forelocks"

uh oh.

Not Pleased

But the toll must be paid!

All in all, it seems like a small (although slightly tragic) sacrifice for such a good gig.

Special thanks to Gus' Mom for keeping us all informed of Gus and his many adventures.  Love that big horse!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No one said it would be easy...

In fact, most people seem to agree that horse shopping is hard.  Frankly, on the list of things that I "think I love, but am totally sick of after 3 months" Shopping for a horse just barely nudges out shopping for a saddle to grab the top spot. 

Both things I love.  Both things I drool over incessantly and am quite proficient at daydreaming about. 

But both things are completely and utterly frustrating to look for after all of the "easy" options don't work out.

In fairness, this round of horsey shopping hasn't been horrible (yet). 

I'm only $300 in to my vet, and no hearts have been broken.  But as I mentioned a while back, I have been struggling with how my to blog about the process, and I still don't know what the correct answer is - but I have definitely identified a wrong one. 

In trying to keep the blog as a (small) outlet for excitement and progress, I have bamboozled myself.  Because, well- you guys are smart and you guys have opinions and my self-imposed limitations on how much info to share makes it totally impossible to respond to them

For a while I toyed with the idea of giving discretion and etiquette a big middle finger and just blogging everything, but then the wine worked its way out of my system and I came back to my senses. 

So, I will probably be going a tad radio silent until we have an end result.

And not because my feelings are hurt that not everyone loves MY BRAD (I totally admit he has flaws).  But more because I'm so frustrated that I can't provide more info and go into more of a dialogue.  I can't show you the other videos, or commentary, or give you more of a history because I don't think it's 100% appropriate at this juncture.  Particularly now that there is a Capital B. Capital N. Capital T. BNT involved.  (much to my chagrin). 

Anyway, so consider this my preemptive apology for (continued) boringess on the blog.  it's my sincere hope that this trip to in three weeks (omg it's never going to get heeeeeerrrrre) will provide some decent content - whether its from a fabulous Brad to bring home, or some massive fails.

Onward we go!

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