Duct Tape for the Win.

Sunny is what I would call accident-prone. If there is any possible way that she can hurt herself, she will do it. It’s not usually life-threatening, or even very serious, but she’s the kind of horse that could cut herself in a padded stall.

So the first time I noticed an odd little nick on her front left fetlock, I wasn’t overly concerned. I did what I always do – cleaned it out, put on a little purple spray, and forgot about it. The next day, she came in with two of these nicks – one on each fetlock. Same routine. By the third day, they had become full-blown open sores, and I started to get worried. I just couldn’t figure out what was happening. She lives in a very safe stall, with a very safe paddock, and there was nothing I could find that would be causing these injuries.

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So, I did what any responsible horse owner would do – I took to the internet in search of “what causes sores on fronts of fetlocks”.

Well, as it turns out, the problem is in the way she’s lying down. Actually, more to the point, in the way she’s getting up. Now, Sunny’s no spring chicken. She’s twenty-three this year, and has a lot of arthritis in her poor old hocks and knees, so it’s not surprising that she has a bit of a hard time getting up and down. We filled her stall up with more bedding (on top of her rubber mat), and hoped that would do the trick. Of course, it didn’t. Sunny’s stall opens up into her paddock, and she is free to come and go as she pleases. Since she wasn’t necessarily lying down inside, filling up her stall might not have any effect at all.

My barn owner, Darlene, and I wracked our brains to try to figure out a way to protect Sunny’s fetlocks. Because we didn’t know if she was doing it at night or in the daytime, and because she spends most of her time outdoors, standing bandages weren’t an option. She was already wearing bell boots almost 24/7 because of some shoeing changes we were in the midst of making, but they didn’t cover the area where Sunny was getting injured…

And then it hit me. Sure, her bell boots didn’t protect her in their proper application. But turned upside down, they provided all the coverage Sunny needed to keep her fetlocks wound-free. An easy fix, as well as a great conversation piece whenever someone visited the barn (interesting side note – people for the most part are oddly apprehensive about pointing out that your horse’s boots have been put on completely upside down).

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Problem solved. Or so we thought. Within a matter of days, the sores began reappearing, this time on her knees. We were back to the old drawing board, except a little worse off than before because, well, have you ever tried finding a way to protect a horse’s knee without bandaging it? Especially a horse who basically lives outside? Not so easy.

Again I took to the internet, and found a few different options. One was these cool “socks for horses”, but it turns out the ones that are good for covering wounds don’t go up over their knees, and the ones that go up over their knees aren’t good for covering wounds. Another idea, which I thought was ridiculous and would never work, was covering the wound with duct tape. And the third option, pricey but appealing, was a pair of Back on Track knee boots.

So I temporarily used the duct tape method, and immediately ordered a pair of Back on Tracks from Amazon. I was very interested in how whether they could pull double duty, protecting her knees while at the same time providing a little heat therapy for her arthritic old legs. Well, I was right one one count.

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The moment I put them on, I could tell Sunny liked them. She got a soft, dreamy look in her eye, and began to lick and chew the same way she does when I’m scratching her favourite itchy spot on her belly. Happy with my new purchase, I turned her out with them on, and asked Darlene to take them off when she came out to do night check. Which she did. Although they weren’t actually covering Sunny’s knees anymore by night check. They had made their way down around her ankles, and were protecting nothing.

Back to Google, to search “how to keep Back on Track knee boots from sliding down”…

Almost every review I read about these boots talked about the fact that they were hard to keep from sliding down, and the preferred method of holding them up seemed to be standing wraps. Which we had already established that we were uncomfortable using. The next day I made a trip to our local Greenhawk store and purchased a nice pair of Stretch & Flex wraps. We then applied the knee boots to her knees, and the Stretch & Flex wraps underneath to hold them up. Which looked great…

 

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But, of course, by the next morning they had slipped down quite a bit. And since it’s been snowing, and they’ve been getting wet, they’ve been slipping down even more, to the point where the knee boots are once again down around her ankles most mornings. We even tried putting the Back on Track boots on upside down, which had been suggested as a possible way to make them stay up, but to no avail.

Then I thought back to that couple of days while I was waiting for the Back on Track boots to arrive. I remembered that the duct tape method, which had sounded so sketchy to me at first, had actually worked. I mean, it wasn’t pretty… but it had worked. So yesterday morning, I got out my duct tape, gauze and scissors, and fashioned Sunny the prettiest little duct tape knee protectors I could. All of the folks in the internet forums had suggestion cutting two long strips and applying them in an X shape over the gauze. So that’s what I did.

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And you know what? It kinda works! Once again proving the following three truths that are known to horse owners the world over:

  1. There aren’t many problems for which duct tape isn’t a viable solution;
  2. Sometimes less really is more;
  3. Make it in pink and mare owners will buy it.

Have you ever had a horse with knee sores? How did you treat them?

 

Goal-Setting 101

The Water Trough

Yesterday marked the official end of Stella’s “show season”. And no, she didn’t actually go to a horse show. But I’ve been showing my whole life, and so for me, there is a definite beginning (April) and end (October) to the season. Stella’s season consisted of one “at home” lesson, three “away” lessons, and four trailering excursions.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not much of a season. But for Stella and me, it represents the achievement of some real, tangible goals, and that’s what this post is about. If you don’t set goals, and give them a timeline, how do you know if you’re improving? How do you know where to focus your energy? How do you know where you are?

Some of you may remember that this time last year was the beginning of a very dark phase of Stella’s career as a dressage pony. In…

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Mountain Lions

The Water Trough

I had a thought one day a few weeks ago:

When we are nervous while riding or handling our horses, they are not capable of perceiving that it is them making us nervous. Therefore they assume that we are able to see or hear or smell something very frightening that they can’t see, hear or smell yet. This makes them afraid. Surely there must be a mountain lion lurking nearby. Must run away.

I texted my coach, Wylie, to tell her about my revelation. “Yes”, she answered. “I’ve always thought that.”

For me, it was like an awakening. I had seriously never thought of it this way. By being nervous, we are scaring the bejeebers out of our horses. They must think mountain lions follow us around.

I thought very hard about this the next time I went out to the barn to ride Stella. I am in the process…

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Mind Over Matter

The Water Trough

It’s been a while since I wrote about Stella, my lovely Connemara with the ulcer issues. So, to put everybody out of their misery, I will tell you that she is absolutely fine. No tummy troubles whatsoever, mainly due to her change in venue and lifestyle. Stella now lives outdoors 24/7, with a nice herd and a cozy run-in shed. She grazes at will, is completely grain-free, and lives a pretty stress-free life. It’s a lifestyle that has kept the ulcers at bay, and now I can’t imagine keeping her any other way.

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But that’s not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about expectations, outcomes, and getting the heck out of your own head.

For anyone who remembers the story, Stella and I didn’t really have much time to get to know one another before she got sick. We did spend an awful lot of time together…

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My Favourite Letter is Q.

They say horses come into your life for a reason. I don’t think this was ever more true for me than in the case of a little chestnut quarter horse mare named Q.

When I first met Q, I was a working student for Michelle LaBarre. Q was my “summer project”. In a former life she was a western horse, a reiner to be exact, and my job was to retrain her to be used in our dressage lesson program.

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You know how sometimes people say “reining is the western dressage”? Not true. Not even one little bit. How do I know this? Because for the first month I rode Q, I had to ride her late at night, or early in the morning, when nobody else was in the arena. Not because she was bad, but because she was trained so differently than a dressage horse (or any english horse I’d ever sat on), that I didn’t know how to get her to go. She had so many buttons installed, and if you accidentally hit one, you never knew where it was going to take you. Sometimes she would fly backward as fast as she could. Or sideways. Or she’d just stop dead. Since I never knew in which direction she would go, I was afraid to ride her in the ring with another horse.

After months of hard work, Q became an amazing addition to our lesson program, and I was even able to use her for my “little kid” riding school, where she helped students as young as six years old fall in love with horses and riding. As Michelle often said, I had resurrected her. She had become a solid, dependable citizen who enjoyed her job, and did it well. I was even using her for my own lessons with Michelle, and we were ready to start showing first level together.

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Through an unfortunate twist of fate, Q and I were forced to part ways at that point. I never forgot that little mare. I thought about her every day, and cried myself to sleep many a night wishing I knew where she was, and that she was safe. Then one day, years later, I I was asked to come to the Atlantic Equestrian Centre to judge a schooling show. Of course I said yes. Part way through the day, during one of the breaks, I was wandering along the row of paddocks, and a familiar chestnut face caught my eye. I couldn’t believe it was true. It was my beloved Q, and she was right in front of me!

To make a long story short, I got in touch with Q’s owner, and made arrangements to come and ride her once a week. That riding arrangement not only reunited me with my old friend; it was also the beginning of a new friendship, with my coach, Wylie. Which, of course, has changed my riding life.

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Q and I are now a regular item. I ride her a couple times a week, I take her out to shows (where she often wins), and I ride her in clinics. She is turning twenty-four this year, but she’s still going strong, and usually comes out into the arena like a four year old, snorting at the scary back door and playing like a youngster. She lives in the stall next to Stella, and sometimes I stand in the aisleway and watch them both in their stalls, munching on their hay, thinking how lucky I am to have such amazing and wonderful horses in my life.

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Finding Q changed my life. It gave me a horse to ride ‘just for fun’, with no pressure, no expectations and no fear. It made me realize that the old saying is true, about loving something, setting it free, and trusting that it will come back to you. And it taught me to never stop looking for what you want, because someday you might just stumble across it standing in a paddock looking back at you.

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“I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore.”

-A.A. Milne

Cold Day, Warm Bit

So, since we’re in the grips of (another) huge winter storm today, it seems like the perfect time to talk about bits. In particular, cold bits (and how to warm them up).

Some horses don’t care so much about cold bits. This is not true of my precious pony, Stella. The mere thought of me putting that cold piece of metal in her dainty little mouth is enough to send her running to the back of her stall with her jaw clamped shut.

There are a few ways to make a cold bit warm. Run it under hot water. Breathe on it. Hold it in your warm hands (which will, of course, end up turning your previously warm hands into two blocks of ice).

Bit Warmer on BridleFortunately, my friend Heather (mother of Dee, Stella’s best friend and paddock-mate) came to my rescue with this wonderful little bit warmer that she made herself.

It’s a small rectangular fabric pouch, filled with rice, with ends that snap together. Honestly, it’s just about the best thing since sliced bread (and super-cute to boot).

You just pop it in the microwave for one minute, then snap it on to your bit. Leave it there while you finish grooming and putting on your saddle, then remove it just before bridling.

Philip Warm Bit

Since Stella was enjoying a day off, I tested it out on Philip. I think he was happy to have his bit warmed up. So, will warming the bit make your horses go better? Maybe not. But it might make them a little happier to be bridled, which means maybe (just maybe) your ride starts out a little better.

So, how do you warm your horse’s bit up on a cold day?

The Baby Bug

Well, it’s official, and all my fabulous followers get to hear the news first:

I just signed the breeding contact. Stella’s going to be a mommy!

Her baby-daddy? The Westfalen stallion, Freestyle (Florestan X SPS Paloma):

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My vet’s on board, my coach is on board, even my husband’s on board, and I’m beyond excited. Stella’s such a beautiful pony, and I just know she’s going to make a beautiful baby. And better yet, I think she’s going to like being a mom. I think it will make her happy. My vet says she’s a sweet pony, and she’ll pass that on to her baby.

Stella one day old
Stella, 1 Day Old
Sunny one day old
Sunny, 1 Day Old

So, in April, Stella will move to my friend, Holly’s farm. Holly has done a lot of breeding so it’s nice to know that she’ll be there along the way to help. We’ve tentatively chosen May 13th as the breeding date. It’s a Wednesday and my vet says he prefers breeding on a Wednesday. And it’s the closest Wednesday to the 10th of May, which will be the one year anniversary of my meeting Stella for the first time. So I’m hoping that date brings us some luck.

While we’re doing all of the waiting that comes along with breeding (waiting to see if we’re in foal, waiting for the foal to be born, waiting for weaning), my husband and I will be hard at work getting our house in the city renovated and sold so we can move to the country and build our little farm. Then, after our little baby is weaned, the most exciting day of my life will come: Stella, and my sweet old paint mare, Sunny, will move home to my back yard and finally get to be sisters. Sunny can have the best friend she’s been longing for since my old gelding (and her old best friend) Nico passed away, and Stella can get back to being my adorable little dressage pony.

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The next couple of years are going to be a roller coaster, for sure. And rather than wish the days away until Stella’s foal is born, I’m going to try to remember to savour every moment.

Please keep your fingers crossed for Stella (and send us some baby-dust around the middle of May)!

Hmmm… is it okay to have a baby shower for a pony?