Thomas Goes Schooling Again, And I Go To A Show!

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy busy and exhausting. It all started at the American Eventing Championships at Tryon where I drove 7 hours with our intern and put in four 15 hour days before driving 7 hours home.

It’s not often that I get stressed on assignment, but I can say I was extremely overwhelmed and fatigued by the end of each day with 21 divisions plus trying to pay attention to other interesting people. There just wasn’t enough time or manpower to get to everyone. I made a dozen or more trips up and down the media center steps every day, so I can say I’m getting better at that with my ankles!

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A rainbow at Tryon!

I went to the barn when we got back on Monday and was unpleasantly surprised to find Oh So with a nasty puncture wound on his upper leg.

I ended up calling the emergency vet because it was a toss up between stitching it or not, and she decided not to because it ended up having a very deep pocket that I had to flush every day.

So I assumed we wouldn’t be going to the VADA/NOVA recognized dressage show I’d signed up for on Saturday.

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Burghley or beginner novice?

But by Wednesday it was looking a little better, and he was sound, so I hopped on to see how he felt. He was definitely bored to death in the rehab paddock, so I put him to work, and he felt good!

We had two decent rides on Thursday and Friday and off we went to my first show back from my injury at Morven Park.

I had signed up for training level test 3 and first level test 3 because I wasn’t sure I could make it through two first level tests back when I entered, but I probably would have been fine.

He had a lovely warmup but the minute he trotted into the ring and saw people getting up from the stands and then saw the photographer that was the end of that! He’s only 17 you know….

He completely tightened his back and neck, and I felt like I had no control over the ride. Not surprisingly the comments were, “short in neck, behind the vertical,” etc.

We ended up with a 59 percent, which is absolutely embarrassing. It’s frustrating because he’s capable of solid mid to upper 60s work on a good day, and probably better on his best day, but it’s all just tension.

The second test a few hours later was the training test, so I just kept it simple in the warmup, and he felt the exact same as the first warmup. I was able to hold him together for the first half of the test save for the trot loops where he assumed he was going on the diagonal to a medium trot, but we lost it a bit after the free walk. That’s always been his MO, and I can school it at home until we’re blue in the face, but he will still be a jerk in the ring.

We ended up with nearly 66 percent, and I know he could have been near 70 if he’d just been more relaxed. We did get a third place ribbon, so that was cool for our first foray into recognized dressage.

It’s frustrating because he knows better, and I got into a bit of a defensive/leaning forward/wide hands position that the judge commented on.

I’m giving us both a (reluctant) pass this time though because I haven’t seen a video or photos of myself riding since my accident, we only had one lesson and off property ride in four months, and he’d been cooped up in a small paddock for several days.

I’m trying to look at the positives of the weekend, which were that it was a beautiful day, I was at a horse show, and my horse and I were both sound!

I’m hoping to try a bit more jumping this week to see how I feel and maybe enter the Morningside combined test in two weeks to either jump or do two dressage tests.

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“Do I have to go in there again?”

Thomas got to go schooling at Loch Moy on the Friday before the show, and he did a good job with Meghan. They popped on and off a bank, went over a ditch and through water and over some logs.

He definitely doesn’t care about the hard stuff, that’s for sure! I’m hoping he can go somewhere this weekend, but if not, Oh So gets to have an outing!

 

 

 

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Thomas Goes Schooling!

On Sunday Lisa and I took Thomas to Hunt Club Farm for an outing with my friend Meghan riding him. I’m still not quite ready to get on him yet because I’m not mounting and dismounting without a very tall water trough, and I’m not as strong or quick as I want to be in the saddle, so Meghan’s been riding him and doing very well.

He certainly enjoyed posing for some impromptu photos and did very well over some of the little intro jumps on cross-country. He seems to have no problem with water, faux ditches and banks, and that’s the hard stuff! He just needs to trust his rider over the actual jumps without looking at them first, but we’ll get there.

It’s definitely an interesting but fun experience to be an owner on the ground. I get to take pretty pictures of my horse and use my skills to capture his personality, which never gets to happen when you’re on them!

In other news, I had a jump lesson on Friday! No photos or videos, but Lisa and I played it by ear and jumped a few things in trot and canter to see how I felt. My stirrups were a bit long but it didn’t feel too bad. I’ve mostly got pain on the inside of my right foot, so when I stand up in the saddle it bothers me, but the doctor is confident the pain will go away eventually.

Products I’m Loving Right Now

As I’ve written before, I’m a product junkie, horse and human! Here are a few items I’ve been loving this year.

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Oh So loves his Frilly Fillies bonnet.

Frilly Fillies Bonnet

I was late to the party on the custom ear bonnet trend, but I finally bought one for Oh So this spring in our cross-country colors. I can’t say it’s something I needed for showing, but it does spice up our simple black and white dressage outfit and makes us look cool on cross-country! I’m not huge of glitter, so I went with a shimmery white thread on the red trim.

I’ve used the bonnet a few times so far, and it washes easily by hand and comes nice and clean. The thread is quite soft and the ears are made of a stretchy fabric that is custom fit to your horse’s ear size.

They have every color combination imaginable, and you can get logos stitched on too. They range from $85-$110. Now the fun is picking out one for when Thomas is ready to show!

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Officinalis Avocado Gel Soap

I’d never heard of this European brand before, so while ordering from EquestrianCollections.com, I added this saddle soap to my cart. It’s a liquid with a mild sweet scent. It absorbs quickly as advertised and is made from natural ingredients.

I like to wipe my boots and bridles off after riding, and this has made for a good daily cleaner. It doesn’t soap up too much, which I appreciate for a quick wipe down of my bridles. The soap retails for $11.

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Officinalis Dry Shampoo

I’m always down to try another dry shampoo. I love using them on days when I’m just grooming or when my horse’s are just a little damp under the saddle.

Officinalis has several versions of their dry shampoo, including Blueberry and Blackberry for dark coated horses, Chamomile for grey horses and stains or for horses that need a skin-soothing topical, Lavender with soothing and antibacterial properties, Rose for chestnuts and bays, and Sage, another for itchy, flaky skin that can help repel insects.

I love the scents, and they leave my horses as clean as they can be without a bath! They retail for $16.

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Shires Satin Anti-Rub Bib

A co-worker turned me on to this alternative for guarding against blanket rubs. Living out for the first time this winter, Oh So has a narrow chest and shoulders and Thomas has a wide chest and shoulders, and the both got blanket rubs with Weatherbeeta and Rambo blankets, and with the traditional stretchy shoulder guards.

I was skeptical that these would stay in place with just the small tab that the chest buckle goes through, but lo and behold, these things shifted less than my other should guards that attach under the chest and belly!

Oh So and Thomas already had mild shoulder rubs when I tried these halfway through winter, but the rubs definitely did not get any worse, so I think they’re a keeper!

They’re easily washable and less prone to getting soiled than the other brands. While they’re not made of a breathable fabric, I’m wondering if I might try them under my fly sheets on days it’s not deathly hot. They retail for about $13, which is also cheaper than the stretchy ones!

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Kastel Denmark Sunshirts

I’ve tried a lot of sun shirts over the last couple of years, and Kastel’s Charlotte Signature shirts are my absolute favorite. While they’re quite pricey at $75 each, I’ve never paid that price because I monitor their site for summer clearance sales. They’ll also put some products on Ebay where you can get a shirt for $25-$35.

The fabric actually feels cooling, and dries quickly, and the mesh under the sleeves is great for ventilation. I’m a huge fan of color blocking too, so I love the color combinations they have. I’m waiting for the above shirt to go on sale because I’ve had a hard time finding a true red and black technical fabric shirt for cross-country!

They feature antibacterial odor reduction in the fabric, and I definitely smell less when I drive home from the barn!

I wear these on assignment and for riding as long as it’s not 90 degrees and humid. At that point, any type of long sleeve shirt is too much for me!

My only nitpick is that I purchased a short sleeve version for the first time this year, and it didn’t fit as true to size as the long sleeved ones. In fact, the cuffs on the sleeves fit me quite tight. I would recommend sizing up in the short sleeve version. I love the full zip version too, but it looks like they might be phasing those out. Sad face!

 

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Back In The Tack!

About 10 days ago I decided to get back on Oh So, and so far it’s been going better than I expected. The surgeon didn’t exactly say no, he just wanted me walking 100% first and asked if I could wait until the end of August. I stifled a laugh. If I wait any longer I won’t be able to get to any shows this season, so the sooner I can start the better!

I’d say I’m about 85% back to normal and I just tend to get stiff walking if I’ve been sitting. My range of motion and strength is not quite there yet, but I feel fairly normal when walking once I’m loosened up. Going down stairs is a bit of a challenge, mostly due to calf pain and some pain/stiffness on the inside of my right foot, and that’s been manifesting itself when I ride too.

There were no fireworks or fanfare on the day I got on. In fact, no one was around but the barn owner’s son, who was working on his car. But at about 12 weeks since my accident I wanted to at least try to get on and see what happened.

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I created a custom mounting block by putting the three-step block against an overturned Rubbermaid water trough, and climbed up. I should preface by saying I started lunging Oh So about 10 days before just to get him going and see how he felt. I’ve avoided longing him over the years because of his tendon issues, so it took a few tries for him to remember to stay out on the circle, but he got it pretty quickly and even wanted to play a little in canter, which was hilarious.

I longed him the day I got on just to be safe, and the climbed aboard. He pretty much felt like nothing had changed!

Over the last two weeks I’ve played around with warming up without stirrups, then taking them up, doing some posting trot, doing some canter, taking a break and dropping them, then repeating.

I’ve felt some mild pain, more like discomfort, around the plates and on the inside of my right foot, which has been giving me trouble going down stairs. Overall though, I think it’s just going to be building up endurance, mine and his.

I’m not really riding firmly with my lower leg due to discomfort and lack of strength, so I’m not able to help him in the downwards transitions as much as I’d like, but we’re getting there. Cantering is much better, and I’ve even done some trot poles.

It might be ambitious, but I feel like I’ll be ready to do a dressage show by mid-September. That’s my goal. I’d like to try jumping or at least riding in my jump saddle next week to see how I feel. If I could make it to a couple of events this fall I would be thrilled.

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Thomas comes home tomorrow. I’ve been visiting him a few times a week and watching Dusty ride him. I finally got to see him off property this weekend at Morningside, and he definitely seemed to go better there. He still needs to look at jumps before he goes over, but once he gets the idea he’ll go. He popped up and down the bank a few times and went into the water no problem. Dusty and I discussed that he just needs to learn about where to put his feet or he gets worried. I sense a lot of gymnastics in his future.

Last week I tried a new farrier for him, and I thought he did a good job. It was a quiet, calm experience which is what he needs since he tends to get worried about things involving his feet.

My hope is to utilize some of the things Dusty’s been doing to get him used to things under him and around his feet. Unfortunately he had a minor mounting incident at Morningside where he backed up quickly, but didn’t take off. I’m sort of at a loss as to what to do. It seems so trivial that something like mounting could cause me to want to sell him, but it’s going to be on my mind for a while unfortunately. Even if it happens once out of 100 times, I now realize what could happen.

I suppose I’ll have to learn to ride that out if I want to keep him, but I just can’t afford to get injured again. He is so sweet on the ground and wants to try under saddle, but something upsets him during the mounting process. I will be riding alone the majority of the time, and it’s just scary to think about not having any help.

My friend Meghan will be riding him a bit while I continue to get stronger, so I’m hoping to use the extra time to bond and do some longing and ground work.

Money is extremely tight right now with medical bills and a lack of a roommate, but I hope to have a chiropractor out to look at his back and make sure there are no signs of something like kissing spine that could be contributing to the issue.

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One of my favorite shots from Great Meadow.

Otherwise it’s been a pretty quiet month, which I needed. I covered the Great Meadow International as my first assignment back and hobbled around, but it was nice to see all my friends again.

I fulfilled a bucket list event when I went to Montana for Rebecca Farm. It was pretty incredible. The jumps were works of art and the scenery and weather was to die for. It was a lot to cover NAJYRC and the FEI divisions, and it was all kind of a blur, but I did find an evening to go to Glacier National Park to take a breath.

While I only scratched the surface of what there is to see at the park, it only inspired me to go back again. Now I have a few more weekends before the fall season picks up again with the AEC, Plantation Field, Fair Hill and then my rescheduled vacation, which I desperately want to go on since I had to miss it because of my accident.

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Book Review: New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

This review originally appeared in the July/August issue of the Chronicle’s Untacked.

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New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

By Kimberly Godwin Clark

This book came across my desk at exactly the right moment. I’d just picked up my new off-the-track Thoroughbred and was excited to start his retraining. I’ve brought along two other OTTBs in my life—one straight from the track who was quite simple and sweet, and the second who came to me with walk, trot, canter and knowledge of basic jumping, but after reading Kimberly Godwin Clark’s book, I realized there was a lot about the breed that I didn’t know.

Clark has galloped, trained and owned Thoroughbreds for 30 years and has been promoting them for adoption since 2007, both on her own and through her non-profit, Thoroughbred Placement Resources, so she brings a wealth of detailed knowledge.

Before I bought my OTTB, the only time I’d ever been to the track was to watch a race on a summer evening, so Clark’s step-by-step description of how the track works was extremely interesting. She describes the details of everyone’s job at the track, what kind of tack your OTTB wore, and how they were ridden and trained. She then walks the reader through a first trip to the track and what to expect—researching the horse online before you go, etiquette in the barns, evaluating a horse for sale, and how to make an offer.

In the second half of the book, Clark offers advice on everything from how to start a recently retired race horse to what to feed, how to deal with turnout, behavior modifications and when things go wrong.

If you’re new to OTTBs, it’s always a good idea to get help from an experienced person. But before you embark on the journey, New Track, New Life is an educational read to help you have a positive experience with your new partner.

A Thomas Update And Good News From The Surgeon

I haven’t said much about Thomas since my accident, mostly because I’ve only been able to see him a handful of times on the weekends, but also because I’ve had a lot of thoughts floating around in my ahead. Unfortunately I’m a chronic over-thinker, as evidenced by my last post, which is the worst thing I can be in this situation.

I’ve found that just not thinking about him is helpful, which sounds awful and is completely against my nature! I can’t control what’s going on with him, which is hard, so I just don’t even think about it. But I know he’s in good hands with Dustin and Michelle Craig at WestWind Farms in Upperville, learning all about the world.

He’s gone to a couple of local schooling facilities with a group of horses in the trailer and by all reports has been getting on the trailer fine and standing to wait his turn and when he’s done.

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Thomas on May 21.

He did his first cross-country schooling a couple of weeks ago, and went up a bank, through water and over some little logs following another horse. He even left the group to go back to the trailers with no problem. Hopefully I can go watch him soon.

On the flat, Dustin’s been working on getting him to bend in all three gaits, and each time I’ve gone out he’s been more willing sooner to stretch downwards, first in trot and now a little bit in canter. He still wants to fall in on his left shoulder naturally, but it’s getting better.

He needs to learn to relax, so Dustin has been taking him for long hacks and working in the field a bit.

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Thomas on May 29

 

He did have one similar incident to mine with the mounting block where he started moving and felt the mounting block under his feet and got upset, so Dustin let him sleep with the mounting block in his stall for a few days, then had a helper move a short pole under his legs while he walked so he’d have to get used to having his legs get a little tangled up. He worked him over piles of random poles too, and when I saw him after that one weekend I was a little surprised to see him so sensitive to trotting over single rails and small jumps, but he had to take a step backwards to go forward as they say.

He’s going to stay through early August so I can get back in the saddle with Oh So first, then I’m hoping I can get on him at Dustin’s under supervision to see how it goes.

I was finally able to stand up close to him this week without my wheelchair, and he seemed friendly, but I wonder if he even remembers me? He definitely seems like a different horse, and it’s only been 7 weeks or so. I’m hoping as I get back to the office in the next week or two that I can visit him more often and start bonding again.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about him, so for now I’m going to keep him. He’s just overly sensitive and will need a lot of time, which is the exact opposite of what I wanted, but so it goes. Slow and steady wins the race. It has definitely become a new learning experience for me. Hopefully I can take some of the groundwork techniques from Dustin to use in the future.

As for my recovery, I was surprised to get permission to start fully weight bearing last week. My X-rays looked good, so I’m on the move with crutches and ankle braces that look like lace up high tops. I was also given permission to go to Rebecca Farm in July, so I’m super excited about that.

Great Meadow is first though, and I know I’ll probably be a bit lame, but there’s going to be less walking there. I’ve got a few weeks to get my endurance and strength up. I’m mostly just sore at the end of the day, and stiff in the morning. I’ve started outpatient physical therapy in Leesburg twice a week, so that should get my mobility back.

I’ve been able to groom Oh So a bit standing up, and we’ve both been enjoying that. Here’s some photos from the last few weeks!

 

 

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Product Review: Saddlebox Monthly Subscription Box

I’m always up for trying new products, so when I discovered Saddlebox, a monthly subscription box for horse lovers, I was excited to try it.

I’ve been a subscriber to A Horse Box for several months, and I enjoy getting a box of surprises in the mail each month! I’ve found a few new brands that I enjoy through my monthly boxes and have received a lot of old favorites too.

Saddlebox retails for $37.95 a month and contains around $60 worth of products. Each month subscribers will receive 6-8 products for horses and humans. A percentage of the proceeds goes towards helping “rescue abused horses,” but the portion donated and names of the charities are not listed on their website. They do have a page that suggests places to donate to though, so I’m guessing those are the organizations that will benefit.

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The Products

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Horse-Shaped Hand Soap

Each Saddlebox will contain at least one item for riders. There’s nothing special about this unscented soap, but it would look nice on a bathroom countertop!

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Kiss My Horse Sample Set

I love sample sizes for traveling and testing products. They’re especially good for sensitive horses (and humans) too so you can make sure the product doesn’t give yours an allergic reaction.

I was surprised to find out that Kiss My Horse is a brand from the makers of Mrs. Conn’s soap-filled sponges, which I’ve received twice in my A Horse Box.

The kit contains a shampoo, conditioner and detangler. I haven’t used the samples yet, but wow, they smell good enough to eat! Sort of a mix of coconut and pineapple…very appropriate for summer.

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Bridle Bites Horse Treats

Saddlebox features a different recipe of their homemade brand of treats each month. Rocky got to be the tester, and he gives them two thumbs up! They contain flour, molasses, cinnamon and frosting.

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Epona LOVE Curry Brush

This wooden brush retails for $11.99. It can be used as a mane and tail comb or a massager on the body, and it also helps loosen hair, dander and dirt. No complaints from Oh So!

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Epona Sponge

This appears to be a smaller version of Epona’s Scrubby Sponge Sack. It contains a sponge inside, which can be replaced. I’ve used the larger version before, and it’s definitely better than a regular sponge due to the textured fabric that helps work the shampoo into the coat. It’s easy to hang dry too, making it a must for bath time.

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Herbsmith Liniment (sample size)

Made with witch hazel and Chinese herbs, this natural liniment smells nice due to a small amount of menthol. I’ve tried it before from A Horse Box and liked it. It’s not too tingly for Oh So’s sensitive Thoroughbred skin.

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Spurr’s Big Fix Filly Cream Moisturizer (sample size) 

Spurr’s sells several products for horses, cattle and dogs, including a hoof spray and wound ointment. I’d never heard of this brand, but it seems a little pricey for full-size items. The all-natural moisturizer included in the boxcan be used on horses or humans and has a light citrus scent. I couldn’t find directions for use on horses, but I think it might work as a leave-in conditioner on manes and tails.

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The Horse Lovers Guide To Massage (book)

I’m not a fan of hard copy books these days, but this looked interesting enough. It’s a quick read about basic massage techniques, equine anatomy and how to find a massage professional. There’s a coupon code for 20% off any e-course, and a link to a free video series that goes along with the book. I don’t read a lot of books personally, so I don’t think I’d want to get one every month.

Overall, I think the selection of items was quite good. I think trial-sized items are good, especially if you have one horse. Things can start piling up quickly! A Horse Box sends 5 items a month for $25 in comparison. I don’t want to get a book every month, and if Saddlebox could maybe replace that with another full size item, I might be inclined to subscribe. But for now, $37.95 is a bit too pricey for me.

I do like the idea of donating proceeds to charity though, so if I could afford it, I’d probably try a few more boxes.

The company just started in May, so this is their second box, and I’m sure they’ll refine things as they go along. I like the idea of having a theme each month too. They’re offering 10% off for life for new subscribers, which brings the cost down to about $34 per month.

Disclaimer: Saddlebox contacted me and sent a box to try for free.

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