A Quick Update Plus My Summer Staples

I’ve had a crappy last few weeks with Bear. After his hock swelled up and we missed our last event, he became nearly three-legged lame the Monday after. The vet came out, took X-rays and found nothing except a very sore foot, so we kept the shoe off, wrapped and soaked it.

He appeared sound by Friday, so I had the farrier put the shoe back on Saturday, but he went lame again, so we took it off the following Monday. The vet came back out and blocked his foot and determined it to be just a bad bruise. Since I was leaving for Italy for 10 days, we decided to keep him on limited turnout and keep the shoe off, which brings us to today. He seems sound again on a straight line, but not so much to the right on the lunge., The farrier came out today and put his shoe back on in hopes that he’s just off from not having the shoe on. What next? Ugh.

My trainer said maybe it was good timing for him to have some time off, just being a young  horse and because of some back pain caused by my saddle (which turned out to be irreparably broken 😦 )

I agree, but I also don’t like losing time with him. My plan isn’t to keep him forever and I want to be competing! It’s been nearly a year since my last event and I’m getting antsy! His saddle situation is also up in the air since I don’t have one now for him and can’t try any until he’s sound.

Either way, she’s confident that he’ll be fine when he comes back and that he won’t forget anything. I just have to keep telling myself that! I’m still thinking it’s just a bad bruise and that he’s just not a very stoic horse!

Oh So is doing well. My dressage trainer, Nicky, rode him while I was gone and I had a nice flat session this morning. I’m thinking of entering a dressage schooling show in the next few weeks and I’m going to take him to see my jump trainer, Lisa, this weekend for a little gymnastic session in my dressage saddle (the new one is coming soon). He’s ready to start jumping higher, but I don’t want to in that saddle!

My Summer Staples

As I stepped out of the airport and onto the curb on Monday, I was reminded that while I was sweating everyday during my vacation to Italy, at least it wasn’t so oppressively humid!

So, I decided to put together a list of some of my summer essentials in the barn.

I’ll write up a separate post about my vacation, but for now, here’s my list.

shoppingEnduraCool Towel

I sweat, a lot, so this refreshing towel is just the trick after I ride. You just get it wet, squeeze it out and snap it to “activate the cooling properties” and it’s instantly cool. It doesn’t really stay cool for hours as the company claims, but it sure beats a normal towel!

 

a207919143e4491c0af262_mAbsorbine Botanicals Natural Liniment

I was excited to see a new liniment on the market this season, and considering it’s from Absorbine, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. While their Veterinary Liniment is a bit too strong for both me and my horses, I do like their products and the new Botanicals line is much more mild. Absorbine calls both the Massage Foam and Body Rinse “aromatherapy”, and they both certainly have a pleasant minty smell that’s not overpowering.

The Massage Foam comes in a drip-free pump bottle, while the Body Rinse comes in a convenient squeeze bottle with measurement lines on the side. One squeeze is enough concentrate for an after-workout bath, and one bottle makes 24 gallons.

I’ve used the Body Rinse on Oh So several times and under his wraps with no adverse effects, probably because it contains natural herbs and aloe vera. Bear loves the Massage Foam, which you apply directly onto the coat and massage into the skin.

KerritsIceFilSShirtSeaglassKerrits Ice Fil Mesh Shirt

I’ve always liked Kerrits’ show shirts to use under my riding jacket at shows, so I decided to try their new Ice Fil t-shirt. Kerrits claims the Ice Fil fabric will lower your body temperature up to five degrees and will leave behind a cooling sensation.

I found that the fabric is definitely lightweight and thin, but it’s held up to many rides in the summer heat. It definitely does breath more than my Under Armour shirts, but since I sweat so much, it also soaks through quicker, thus cooling me with my own sweat I guess?

Either way, it dries fast and comes in lots of pretty colors (including white for use under a show coat)!

10183029Under Armour UA Tech Shirt

As any athlete knows, breathable fabric is essential, so I’ve stocked up on several Under Armour shirts for the summer. Smartpak carries these with their logo on the sleeve, but I found several more color options on Amazon.com.

 

51SIuE1zt0L._SX300_Roma Ecole Double Diamond Saddle Pad

When it came time to go to Bear’s first show, I needed to find an affordable saddle pad, so I tried out Roma’s dressage pad. It’s softly quilted, long enough for my saddle and comes in a variety of color combinations (Oh So has black with red trim for schooling). It also dries fast, which is a plus in the summer!

Product Review: Smartpak Piper Full Seat Breeches

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After spending some time in Wellington, Fla., this winter at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, I was inspired by some of the cool European style breeches. Red with black full seats? Bright blue? Yes, please!

Of course, I can’t afford the $200-plus price tag that often comes with those breeches, so when I came across the Smartpak Piper Full Seat Breeches, I thought I’d give them a try.

I really don’t like spending more than $150 at the very most for breeches, so the $89 price was a definite plus. I was a little unsure about the Smartpak brand though because I’ve heard horror stories about the fit of their other styles of breeches.

But I picked up my first pair of Piper’s late last year anyway, the charcoal with light grey, and they’ve fast become one of my favorites.

The breeches are described as low-rise, but they fit me more mid-rise and this particular color fit true to size. I’ve heard some people have issues with gaping in the back, and while I’ve never had that issue with other brands, there was some slight gaping with the Pipers. Nothing a decent belt couldn’t fix though!

The 2-inch wide waistband was appreciated as was the mesh lining at the calf, which helps my precisely-fit tall boots go on smoothly. I also really love the contrast stitching, which makes me feel “daring” but not crazy in the color department!

After I purchased my first pair, Smartpak came out with several more colors, so I decided to try another pair. I bought the blue jeans with brown color. When they arrived, they were a brighter blue than the photo, which was fine, but they did NOT fit! I ordered the same size, but the fabric seemed to be less stretchy than the charcoal pair I had.

After sending those back, I exchanged for the black with white piping, which I think looks really sharp. They fit more like the charcoal pair.

There are several more colors I’d like to try, including maybe the tan or the military green, which I think would be appropriate for a recognized event. I’ve worn the charcoal pair twice to schooling shows and I think they look great with a black polo.

I would highly recommend the Pipers, but would caution that the fit might be a bit different on certain colors based on the amount of stretch in the fabric.

Since I had luck with my first pair of Pipers, I also tried the Smartpak Bradley Full Seat Jeans Breeches, and WHOA! I have never had such a baggy triangle in my crotch area as I had with those. They were such a bizarre fit. Ah well, I’ll continue my quest for my first pair of affordable denim breeches.

Product Review: Rapid Groom Vacuum

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After this winter’s horrible wet and mud, I decided it was time to invest in a horse vacuum. My horses, Oh So in particular, love to be encrusted in mud. I actually saw Sam go down in a giant mud puddle and completely submerge himself and Bear loves to get both sides dirty the minute I put him back out after a ride.

There aren’t a lot of options out there, with the high end Electro-Groom being a top choice, but also more than $600, and the Vac N’Blo receiving less than stellar reviews, so I went with the Rapid Groom after some research.

It retails for about $370. The vacuum comes with two nozzle ends, one metal and one rubber for vacuuming legs and sensitive areas, and three bags. Extra bags run about $4.

The vacuum itself if pretty small, but is heavy at 32 pounds. It has little wheels on one end so you can drag the vacuum by the hose around the horse. I’ve also found that picking it up by one end and rolling it works too.

In a perfect world, the cord to plug it in would be retractable, but it’s simple enough to put up by wrapping it around two hooks on the outside of the body.

The nozzle were simple to put on. The metal one comes with a small screw to help hold it in place, while the rubber one just slips on to the end of the hose.

The 10′ hose is supposedly “crush proof”, but thankfully I haven’t tested that theory yet!

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A nearly full bag.

I wasn’t quite sure when to change the bag, so after about two weeks of use on 2 horses, I opened the end of the vacuum and pulled it out. It was nearly to the top, and changing it was simple. I laughed as I realized that all of that dirt could have been on me! THAT is why I bought a vacuum!

Oh So and Bear took to it pretty easily. They were actually more scared of the hose and of me dragging the vacuum by the hose in front of them, but I just rubbed it on them, let them sniff it, and that was that. I turned it on near Sam once and he started shaking with fear/spookiness, so as I expected, I won’t be using it on him!

The vacuum has two speeds, high and low. Low works well for dust and dirt, but high is definitely better for crusted, dry mud and loose hair.

It is loud, although the company says the motor is quiet. I’d never used any other kind of horse vacuum before, so I can’t say whether this one is particularly loud.

I definitely noticed my horses were cleaner and had more of a shine to their coats after using the vacuum. With regular use, vacuums are said to bring out the naturals oils in the coat, but I had pretty good results right off the bat.

Oh So is very fidgety about being groomed and he’s definitely quieter when I use it. In fact, when I go back to brushes sometimes, he gets agitated.

Bear likes the suction feel on his skin and does a little lip thing, as does Rocky.

We’re at the end of shedding season now, but when I used the vacuum a few weeks ago, I followed up with a curry comb or my Laser Sheen shedding block to really get the hair out.

When Oh So is particularly encrusted in mud, I’ll sometimes use a curry comb to get the big chunks off first, but in the end, I end up cleaner than I would be by grooming by hand and that’s a definite plus!

The only negative I’ve found is that to take off the end to change the bag, you have to unravel the cord to open the snaps, which is inconvenient, but it’s a small price to pay for a clean horse!

A few of my favorite things

It’s spring shopping season and I’ve picked up a few things for myself and my horses recently that I’m really loving. Here are a few of my favorite items so far.

2014-04-12 08.22.45Higher Standards Leather Care – I kept seeing a topic on the Chronicle Forums pop up about a user who started her own business making saddle soap. Someone in the office tried it when we wrote a story about her, and with plenty of rave reviews on the Forums, I decided to try some.

The soap is made of natural ingredients and you can choose your scent from rosemary mint, lavender vanilla, citrus ginger or unscented. I picked lavender vanilla, which is pleasant, but not over-powering. The 8oz jar, which will last me a really long time, comes with a nice sponge. I’ve barely made a dent so far, but it does clean my tack and leaves it moisturized. It’s not too sudsy, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate when suds get in the holes of my bridles and stirrup leathers, so this is perfect!

2014-04-12 08.13.35Shedding block – I didn’t clip Oh So for the first time ever this spring and this is a miracle worker for getting all of his hair out. Just scrape off the hair, brush on the concrete aisle to rough up the edges, and repeat.

 

 

2014-04-12 09.17.45Back On Track Polo Wraps

As Oh So has come back into work, I decided to start using polo wraps for our trot work and decided to invest in a pair of Back On Track ones. Similar to the BOT blanket and hock boots I have, I’ve never really seen a night and day difference with the ceramic-infused fabric, but I figure, why not?

I tried the 12ft and they were way to long, so I went with 9ft, which are plenty for Oh So’s average leg. They claim to be stretchier than traditional wraps, but I’ve found they’re not because the edges are stitched. They need to be put on perfectly even and straight or you’ll get some looser spots. They stay on through our workout though and his legs are warm when we finish, which is a result of the ceramic fabric reflecting the heat back into the leg.

Pile Lined Boots-500x500Horze Pile-Lined Boots

Ever since Oh So had a bad skin reaction from wearing neoprene boots last summer, I’ve been on the lookout for a different kind of turn out boot. I found these at Horze.com for a reasonable price and decided to try them for Bear first.

They’re lined with fleece and extremely lightweight. They have two velco straps, which are much easier than trying to do three hook and loop straps every morning. His legs were pretty dry after a few warm days outside, but I haven’t tested them in wet weather yet. They don’t have a big shock absorber on the inside like some splint boots have, but they’re thick enough that I think the trade-off for no neoprene is worth it. They run a little large, so I bought mediums for Oh So and Bear’s front legs. The large’s were very large.

advancedbellbootdove_1Horze Advanced Bell Boots

Bear was in need of some durable bell boots for jumping so I tried these affordable no-turn boots from Horze.com. They’re made of a thick neoprene and also run a bit large. The double-lock velcro is very strong and they stay in place. They also feature ventilation holes to keep air flowing. So far, so good for riding and I think they would be a good choice for turn out too.

Product Review: FITS Duet All Season Zip Front Full Seat Breeches

A fun part of my job involves being able to try out new and fun things for myself or my horses as part of a series we call Test Lab. I recently tested the FITS Duet All Season Zip Front Full Seat Breeches in The Chronicle’s new quarterly lifestyle magazine Untacked

FITS

Be sure to check out the magazine to see the rest of the breeches the editorial staff tested. We all worked very hard on the whole magazine and the feature stories are really amazing!

Product Review: Premier Equine Magnetx Boot Wraps

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With Oh So’s recent injury, I decided to look into a new set of magnetic boots. Although I know there’s not a lot of scientific proof that they work, magnets are thought to reduce inflammation and increase circulation. I figure, it couldn’t hurt right? Because I liked Premier Equine’s cross-country boots, I decided I’d give their Magnetx Boot Wraps a try.

I bought a size large for him and they seem to fit well. The boots have a blue pillowy cotton interior and an SMB boot-type exterior made of micro-holed neoprene with stretchy straps to keep them on. The bottom strap cups the fetlock while the three other straps wrap around the front of the leg. It’s important to note that the neoprene doesn’t actually touch the horse’s leg, so if you have a horse with a neoprene allergy or sensitive skin, you should be safe.

The inside of the boots have four magnetic patches and you can shift the boot if you want to target a certain area.

Since the boots are bulky, I wouldn’t want to use them during turnout. Oh So wore them for several hours at a time in his stall and they stayed up nicely and while his leg was warm when I took them off, it wasn’t hot or sweating.

As far as design, the Premier Magnetx Boot Wraps are similar to Back On Track’s Quick Wraps, but are about $10 cheaper.

Premier Equine recommends having your horse wear them for an hour a day and gradually build up the amount of time he wears them.

It’s tough to say whether these boots are helping heal Oh So’s injury faster. I’ve heard people say Back On Track standing wraps have made their horse’s stocked up legs go down in a day, but I don’t think I’m going to see any obvious signs with these boots, or any magnetic boots for that matter.

Despite that, they’re a well-made, reasonably priced set of boots that can be used as another therapeutic tool in your tack box!

Product Review: Standlee Compact Hay Bales and Hay Cubes

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Oh So checking out his Standlee Hay.

This past winter, I decided to start feeding Oh So alfalfa cubes because they tend to be less messy and I felt that if I soaked them in warm water, maybe he would get the same feeling I do when I eat a warm bowl of soup!

My local Tractor Supply carried Standlee Hay Company products, so I bought a couple of bags to try.

Standlee Premium Alfalfa cubes were quick to absorb water and puff up, and Oh So dug right in. They’re easily digestible when soaked and with a good scoop and a half each day at lunchtime, Oh So kept his weight on over the winter and into our competition season so far.

This spring, I decided to try some compressed bale hay and alfalfa because they’re easier to travel with. My biggest pet peeve about baled forage is that it can be messy, flaky and heavy.

Oh So enjoying his Standlee alfalfa.
Oh So enjoying his Standlee alfalfa.

I bought Standlee’s baled alfalfa and alfalfa/orchard grass mix for Oh So to try (I even let Sam have some of the alfalfa/orchard mix as a treat).

The bales were still heavy, but they came in a plastic wrap which made things a little less messy. I didn’t notice as much flaky/chaff fall out and both kinds of hay smelled sweet and seemed tasty to the horses.

Standlee takes their alfalfa from the second and third cuttings so it has maximum nutrients. They offer several other products that my local Tractor Supply didn’t carry, including hay cubes and pellets, straw, compress orchard grass and timothy, and wood shavings.

As with any premium packaged forage, the bales came seen pricy at about $18.99 for a 50lb bale of alfalfa, but the quality is such that I think it’s worth it.

I think the cubes are a little more practical for us and a 40lb bag at about $15.00 lasts Oh So a few weeks.