Keratex Hoof Hardner: A 7 Week Review

What is with me and horses with “bad” feet? Not sure, but my first “reset” after getting the boys home did NOT go well for Duke. I had to get a new farrier, since the previous farrier does not come to my location. The new guy came highly recommended and he did not disappoint in the workmanship area. The boys feet looked absolutely amazing after he left and I was highly impressed. My bank account however, was not impressed. The previous farrier was much more budget friendly, and he always took excellent care of the boys despite their not so ideal feet. I’m hoping since now I can control every detail about their living and working environments, I can help keep their feet the best they can be. I can be extremely OCD and meticulous, and this situation is one of those things I have been very meticulous in managing.

The work Duke needed to keep his feet together required keeping leather pads with a shoe and applying epoxy to fix the parts of his hoof that were literally crumbling apart. He had soft, shelly feet and the bill I paid made me cringe. Shelly feet come from too much moisture, among other things (including genetics, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, etc) and I had a lot of instructions from the farrier to control and fix this moving forward.

  • No hose bathing
  • Sponge off sweat only, keep bell boots on to keep sweat scrapings off feet
  • Keep stalls clean/dry
  • No working on wet footing
  • No turnout when dew is present
  • Always work with bell boots on
  • Start feeding Farriers Formula Double Strength

I will probably do a review of Farriers Formula after he’s on it 6 months or so as it takes a while for the new hoof to grow out and see any benefits from a feed through supplement. I needed something to help FAST as I can’t sustain paying to glue my horses feet back together repeatedly over time. That’s where the Keratex comes in. I had used Keratex previously on Fizz when he lived in a field 24/7 and it seemed to help keep his shoes on longer, but I never really could use it in a controlled environment so I wasn’t sure if it was the Keratex or something else so although I had mentioned previously that we used it, I never did an actual review.

I wish I had gotten better photos, but I will share the photos I do have. Below are Duke’s front feet after being trimmed, where you can see the parts of them with chunks missing. This photo actually doesn’t do the damage justice. Those chunks were just flaking off with only finger pressure.

Below is a photo after the reset. The sections of white are the epoxy to create pieces of hoof to nail the shoe to. Such a pretty manicure!!

The day the above photos were taken, as soon as the farrier was finished, I went and bought a package of farriers formula and started him on it that day. I also started application of the Keratex the same day. Following the instructions on the package, I applied Keratex daily for 7 days. The packaging says to apply twice weekly after that as maintenance, but I went with 3x weekly due to the condition of his feet and how much we needed to improve by the next reset. Good idea/bad idea? I don’t know but in my mind an extra application wasn’t going to hurt anything.

Fast forward to 7 weeks later due to a farrier delay, and here is what the farrier had to say. Duke’s feet are HARD. He was able to do a reset into regular plates, with no pad for winter work! NO epoxy was needed! There is still a little bit leftover from the previous reset but by next trim it will be gone. He said they could actually use a little moisture, so he recommended to use Rainmaker 2-3x a week from this point forward.

Here is a photo of the reset after 7 weeks, just plain plates with no pad. The bill was much more acceptable! The Keratex did it’s job and then some. We have successfully managed to get hard feet in 7 weeks time with the use of this product plus the other management tips listed above from the farrier.

Verdict? If you have a horse with shelly feet that are crumbling apart, I would absolutely recommend Keratex. It appears to be the only product that chemically alters the horn of the hoof to provide results to what is essentially “dead” hoof horn. It also works on the sole, just follow the instructions on the package and stay away from the frog and the coronet band. I am not affiliated in any way with this product and I do not receive any commissions for recommending it. I am just a horse owner who has used this with fantastic results, and want to share so that it may help other horse owners with their horses if you find yourself in this situation. I hope you don’t, but if you do, give Keratex a try!

Building a Cost Effective Round Pen

Since the horses got here a few months ago, we have been doing nothing but working in open space. Having never worked in totally open space before aside from trail riding, this was a new and different experience and I like some of the benefits of this, but also it has it’s disadvantages especially when you have a horse who you need to work on “slowing down” and open space to him means free for all to leave and you best just hang on for the ride.

For the past few months, we have been planning a round pen as a small controlled work area and also a small turnout since currently we do not have any of our pasture area fenced yet. Hand grazing several times a week has been very time consuming and not ideal. Since we are not white collar high class money oozing out our ears folk here, budget and cost is important and we needed a way to create an enclosure that would not break the bank but would contain my two (mostly) broke creatures and give us a safe space for them to have a bit of freedom.

I will explain how we built a round pen for under $400 in actual materials, not including tools which you can either buy or rent if you don’t have them. Considering corral panels are somewhere over $100 each and you need quite a few to make a round pen, and the lowest quote I got for someone to build a 4 board round pen was $2800, I think the $400-ish mark is a total win. Even with purchasing a hand held auger and a few other things to complete this task, we still came out WAY ahead of buying panels or paying a company to build something, and we have tools to help us work on future projects like a larger turnout space, which we will likely build the same way as we did this.

MATERIALS:

• 2 – 5 inch diameter, 8 Ft tall treated fence posts ($20 each from TSC)
• 8 – Treated landscape timbers ($5 each from Menards) These are a decent diameter, and although they are not round like line posts for fencing, they were much less expensive and still treated, so that’s what we picked to use. You could probably use T-Posts if you are comfortable with those, but that’s just not what I wanted.
• 6 – 60 lb bags of concrete ($4 each from Lowes)
• 2 – Rolls of Zarebra Poly Rope (I actually used the balance of a roll of electrobraid I scored for $60 second hand, and used 1 roll of the zarebra for the balance that didn’t cover. I like the electrobraid better, but at over $200 a roll new, I wasn’t going to buy it just for this considering this pen will not be electrically charged. (The Zarebra rolls are $58 each from Menards).
• 2 – Bags of Zarebra electric fence screw in insulators, 25 count. ($10 each from Menards)
• 1 – Bag of Poly Rope Fence Connectors (I got them off Amazon, much less expensive than the name brand ones at the local farm store ($21 for a bag of 20, I only needed 10 for this-1 connector for each the beginning and the end of each strand) Make sure these are made for the size of rope you are using, as there are different diameters and the connectors will only fit a certain size rope. The ones I got are for 1/4″ rope, which is what we used.
• 1 – 6 ft Gate ($139 from a local fence supply company)
• Stain/Sealer (if desired) I used some leftover stuff I used on other projects around the house, it didn’t take a lot to do these posts. I would have chosen a different color had I bought something specific to this project, but this way I didn’t have to buy anything. You could choose to leave them natural.
• Footing if you choose to add any. We did lime dust around the edges just so they wouldn’t be a muddy mess when it rains. The center is grass since we wanted the option to use this as a small turnout here and there while we get enough money saved to work on actual pastures.

TOOLS

• Manual Post Hole Digger
• Tractor 3 point hitch auger or gas powered auger-we bought a gas powered hand held one, it was less expensive than the 3 point hitch one for a tractor.
• Pinch bar (we got this one, and couldn’t have completed the project without it due to hitting rock) https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/groundwork-18-lb-pinch-bar?cm_vc=-10005
• Adjustable wrench
• Drill
• Screwdriver
• Bucket (or wheelbarrow) to mix concrete in
• shovel or rod to stir concrete
• Stakes or spray paint to mark your post location
• Tape measure
• level

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Start by deciding the size you want to make your round pen. I chose a 60 ft diameter, as this is standard for working larger horses and gives a space large enough to ride in a balanced manor. It’s also a big enough space to let 2 horses loose in.
  2. Mark the center of your circle and put a stake there.
  3. Divide your desired diameter in half and measure that far from your center to mark where your first post will go. Since we chose 60 ft, I went 30 ft from center and marked my first gate post.
  4. Measure out the rest of your posts and put a stake in each spot. I placed the 2 fence posts for the gate a little over 6 ft apart to accommodate the 6 ft gate. Admittedly the opening is a little wide, but it works fine for my guys anyway. The landscape timbers are each 20 ft apart. You could add more posts if you wanted to, but this distance is fine for the poly rope and worked for my pen.
  5. Start digging your holes. If you have nothing but dirt, the gas powered auger will make quick work of this. I am 5’8 and not the skinniest or the strongest person in America, and even I could use the one we bought without much trouble on just dirt. My husband did most holes, but I did one and it wasn’t bad to use. If you hit rock though… the auger is essentially useless. That’s where the pinch rod comes in. That’s also where I was about useless. My husband had to slam this thing into the holes we were making hundreds of times over the 5 holes we hit rock on. Bless his heart for loving me enough to do this. I tried also, but just couldn’t put enough power behind it to do a lot of good. He would bust rock, and I would use the manual post hole digger to dig the hole out while he took breaks from rock busting. Here you can see an example of one of the rocky holes we dug with this time consuming, tiring, frustrating method. If you have a better way, by all means do that. As first time “fencers” this is the only way we could think of. We spent about 3 hours digging 5 holes manually, and about 20 minutes digging the other 5 where we didn’t hit rock with the gas powered auger.
  6. Once all your holes are dug, you can start setting your posts. We concreted every post because with this being a circle each one was going to have at least some tension on it with the rope. Just mix up your concrete and add some to each hole. We filled the hole somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 with concrete depending on hole depth. Some of the rocky holes were a little more shallow (18-ish inches) but the augered holes were around 2 ft deep or a little more. Make sure your post is straight using a level, and pack dirt in on top to secure it straight. This took both of us to do, I’m not sure 1 person could do this part successfully. We let ours set overnight before we did anything else.
  1. Decide the height you want and measure for your insulators. I put the top strand at 5 ft high and did 5 strands because I felt like this would be most secure. So, 5 ft, 4ft, 3 ft, 2 ft, and 1 ft on the post was marked with a dot on all posts first. Then I drilled a pilot hole on each mark so putting the insulators on would be easier. I used a screwdriver through the “hole” in the insulator as a handle to rotate it until it was all the way screwed in instead of screwing it in with my hands. I hope this makes sense.
  2. Once your insulators are on, it’s time to string up your strands of rope. Start by making a loop at one end through the connector and secure the connector in place. Photo below of how this looks. Put this onto your first insulator and then run your strand all the way around. Pull it tight and add another connector with a loop the same way through the last insulator. Make sure the entire way around is pulled tight, and adjust your end connector to take up the slack. Repeat for every strand you run.
  3. The last step is hanging the gate. Pilot holes were drilled for the gate hinges, then used the adjustable wrench to rotate them until they were secure. The adjustable wrench was used to add the nut to the top hinge piece and tighten. We opted to tighten it until you have to push/pull on the gate to move it, but it could be left more loose if you prefer the gate swing freely.

And DONE! Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Ride in it. Turn out in it. Do whatever you want!!

Disclaimer: We are not a professional fence builders, or even close. We have never constructed fencing, a round pen, or anything prior to doing this method of making a fence/pen. This is just what we could come up with on a budget and within our personal capabilities. Will it hold up over time? I don’t know. Will it keep in wild mustangs? Probably not. Will something very determined be able to bust out of it? It’s likely. Will it work for our purposes for our particular 2 horses? Absolutely. Keep in mind your animals level of training and respect for fencing/boundaries when you are building a round pen or any containment area for them and build something you feel will safely contain them. If this will work for you, terrific! Just know I am under no illusion that what we built will work for everyone. It will work for us so I wanted to share incase it could work for someone else who is also needing a very budget friendly option.

Check out the boys enjoying their first bit of freedom in this new space

I’m Afraid of my Pizza Cutter

You read that right. I’m afraid of my pizza cutter. Laugh all you want, but you’ll understand the relevance if you keep reading. Years ago, I got a fancy new Pampered Chef pizza cutter. One of the first times I used it, I made a mistake in taking the cover off and it sliced the bejeesus out of my finger. I maybe should have gotten stitches, but I’m a stubborn fool and pretty much felt like since the finger was still attached, it was fine. It took weeks to heal, kept busting back open and bleeding-fingers are the worst place to have cuts. I think about that literally every time I use the stupid thing now though, and it’s been probably over 10 years. I think about how it cut me, but I still use it. I have come to understand my mistake and that if I use it correctly it won’t cut me anymore. I learned from my past experience. I moved on.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a blog about horses, why is this lunatic telling me about a stupid pizza cutter? I’m not here to read about how she doesn’t know how to appropriately use kitchen tools. Well, my misguided use of kitchen tools isn’t really the point here. The point is, fear from past experience is a real thing. When you are afraid of something, it affects your decision making and it alters your future choices. Sometimes permanently. Horses are not different in that regard. Helping your horses learn to move past or work through the things that “cut” them in the past, the things they fear in the present, or both, is what training horses is all about. Help them to learn. Help them to move on. We just have to try our best to maintain good judgement and hope we do not become a thing that “cuts” them too.

Horses are inherently flight or fight animals. They have an instinct built in that tells them if something is scary, to just run away as a first resort. If they can’t run away, their next instinct is to fight. The hurdle for us as trainers (or in my case, an amateur just trying to do what I can) is that we must find a way to teach horses that the things they think are scary, are actually not. To build a rapport with that animal so that they know you are not asking them to do things that will put them in danger. My opinion may not be the most highly sought after opinion on horse training, but I think this starts with trust. If your horse does not trust you, how can you expect it to “walk through fire” simply because you asked it to?

Exhibit A, I offer you Duke. He is absolutely not the bravest creature that ever walked this earth. Bless his heart he’s afraid of his own farts. I do think he is very talented and very special, and because of that, he was pushed to be something great before he was ready. Since he has a very high flight instinct, he was labeled a jerk, a no count asshole, difficult, and those are the nicer terms. He was not given the time he needed to mature, and some horses just take longer (cough cough FIZZ). Since he has arrived at my house, I have spent quite a bit of time offering him love, patience, and understanding. I have spent time learning his favorite places to be scratched, rubbing on him, telling him he’s a good boy, and making him feel safe just being around me. It’s been more than a month and we still have good days and bad and I expect that will continue. Possibly always. However, I did this with Fizz when he first came into my life and that horse WOULD walk through fire for me if I asked him to. Back then, I was just so happy to have a horse of my own that I enjoyed spending time “hanging out” with him, I didn’t realize this would be invaluable to our relationship as horse/human. So, I feel this is an important step to take with Duke also.

I can tell his attitude is slowly changing. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t ever offered love or understanding, but having someone spend that extra time just being near him, working around him in a way that shows them your intentions don’t need to be questioned, maybe doing things that are not quite “normal” just to give a reference point for trust. You may not think so, but that is also training. For example, I have “brushed” Duke with a broom several times. At first he thought I was coming to beat him to a bloody pulp. Now, he thinks it’s fun and tries to eat the broom. I drop things around him on purpose. He has stopped reacting to this now. I put strange things near where we work on purpose. He eventually stops snorting and running sideways. I am not gentle in the way I move around him, I am clumsy and flail things around and make a lot of noise simply to show him noise isn’t the enemy. Does he still react? Yes, but it is a simple head raise and ears pricked forward and maybe a slight body twitch as opposed to a running backwards or sideways, into whatever is in the way or over whoever is in the way like it used to be.

Yesterday, we did ground poles in long lines. I walked him back and forth and he walked right over them with me beside him on the first try. Not even a slight side step. Then I left his side, went into lining him as I normally would, and asked him to move over them without me. You would have thought the things grew legs and were standing up ready to take him down. So I went back to his side and we did it together. We had to keep going over and over them, with me gradually moving away each pass. By the end, he was going over them on his own. I wouldn’t say gracefully… but give him a break, it was his first try. He did good enough, he tried and that’s all I can ask of him. But it showed me something, he trusts me. He thinks if I am there doing it, he is OK to be doing it too (at least from the ground). It showed me that I need to work on his confidence, and that if I am asking him to do something alone, it is still OK to do even if I’m not right there.

Horses do talk to you. You just have to know how to listen.

Hay in my Hair and Sweat in my Eyes

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since I pulled the trailer into our driveway with my boys in tow.

Since we are honest folk here at Twisted Sisters, I’m going to lay it out nice and clear for you. If you are a person who dreams of owning a horse and keeping it at home, and also believes doing so is full of nothing but butterflies, rainbows, and unicorn glitter, you are sadly mistaken and living in a dream world. Come back down from the clouds and join the rest of us here in reality. If you are perfectly clean and look like a million bucks all the time, you’re probably doing it wrong.

That aside, it is still in all reality, a dream come true for me. I take pride in hosting my horses in clean stalls, making sure they are fed, and that they always have clean water. If that means I pick stalls every time I walk by and see a pile of poo, so be it. I have that luxury where I didn’t used to and I am grateful for a life that has given me this opportunity. So I will do all the things and I will be happy that I have that luxury. A lot of folks do not. A lot of folks would love to. Some are happy to pay others for the dirty work, but I’m not that kind of gal. I have always dreamed of a life where I could be intimately involved in every detail of my horses care and I FINALLY have that opportunity. I would venture to say most truly hardcore equestrians dream of a life where they can spend it day in and day out doing all the “horsey” things, even the dirty ones. Either way… here’s my experience and things I have learned so far as a first timer having horses at home.

Helicopter Mom: Apparently, that’s me. I installed a camera to spy on the boys. I check it incessantly. If I wake up during the night, I look at it. If I hear a noise outside, I look at it, if I am working or busy and can’t walk outside just to see if they are OK, I look at it. I mean, in the last 2 weeks I have looked at the camera like I believe at any moment either horses legs may detach from their bodies or some other horrific thing might happen. What do I find? Them munching away on hay, looking outside, or laying down sleeping. Perfectly content with life. OR I find Fizz rubbing his tail, and I can scold him through the talk feature on the camera. Both horses now think God talks to them, below is them listening-they don’t know it’s just little ole me.

Hay: I am pretty sure there will never again be a moment in my life where I am not wearing hay as an added accessory to my outfit. It’s itchy and it gets in places no one should have hay, ever. How does it even get there? Does it grow legs and crawl to really weird spots inside your clothing? Just, how?? Also, if you like to watch your money turn to poop… Just look at your horses happily munching on hay.

Sweat: It’s summer here in Kentucky. It’s HOT and it’s HUMID. I spend a lot of time outside and always have but when you’re working with horses it seems like the heat is amplified 10 fold. I can’t explain why. My eyes have never burned so much as in the last several weeks. I think I’ll keep this as opposed to frozen fingers, but still. I am pretty disappointed I’m not skinny yet after all of this sweating. The universe owes me an explanation on this.

Poop: So much poop. Like, I realize they are large animals and I have worked jobs where stall cleaning was a part of it (back in college and as a kid) but there is SO MUCH POOP. Literally they are poop factories. How did I not remember this? And I feel for all of you who have barns full of horses because just these two create so much!!!

Dust: There is literally so much dust. I use a combination of pellet bedding and bagged shavings, which I had read this combo was supposed to be low on dust. I would like to know what definition of “low dust” is on the internet because this is not it. Therefore, I have been researching this. Evidently, I need to “water” my stalls. Um, excuse me? I don’t even water my flower beds. Those things need to live off the water God gives them or they don’t survive well here. Somebody send help.

Crisis: If you think you’ll never feel like you are in a crisis, just give it a minute-one will come and your little fantasy bubble will have been popped. If you have thought about it and planned for every crisis you could think of (like me) and think you know how it will go, just know it goes nothing like you thought it would. Also know that of all the crises you could think of, the one that will happen is something you NEVER thought of. There’s a back story here I might visit later, but my first “crisis” was experienced and it is over now. Bless my husband, my friends, and my very lovely Vet for putting up with me. I probably worry way more than I should.

Bills: There are just SO many bills. Hay, grain, bedding, vet, farrier, supplements, and the list goes on and on and on into eternity. Some bills can be more than you expect, by a LOT. You might think about finding a street corner to call your own, but in the end you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure your horses are healthy and happy. Even if that might mean eating ramen and never leaving your house again.

Help: Having help is CRUCIAL. I can’t say this enough and to those of you out there doing it by your very lonesome, what kind of super hero DNA do you have and where can I get some of it? Or are you just an alien with weird superpowers I can’t even begin to imagine? Because I would NOT have made it even these last few weeks without my poor non-horsey husband who has gotten a very rude intro on how to restrain a contrary horse, how to work a twitch, and some of the other unpleasant things things that come with being around horses. He has also been learning how to pick stalls and he does so without even being asked. BLESS HIM. Ladies, a lot can be said for a man who isn’t into horses but cleans stalls without asking simply because he knows YOU want your horses living in the cleanest stalls in America. I would also not have survived without my Mom, who comes over simply to make sure I don’t die while working these creatures. She’s a saint.

Work: Having horses at home is work. I work a real big girl job. I spend every other amount of time doing things for the horses and the dog. What exactly is this “spare” time everyone speaks about? Who exactly in this world gets to “sleep in” because yeah, that’s not a thing here (for me). Everyone else is taken care of before me. I am the last to eat, the last to be clean(ish-you know, because hay exists…), and I’m fairly certain the horses stalls are cleaner than my house. I can barely manage to do something as simple as boil noodles and slap sauce on top for dinner most days. Dishes left in the sink? Oh well, maybe I’ll get to those tomorrow. Or not. As long as the 4-leggeds are taken care of those dishes can sit another day. Paper plates? Meals that don’t require silverware? Even better. Sign me up.

LOVE: These animals have so much love to give. They make me laugh daily and they fill my heart with so much joy despite all of the above. I truly enjoy simply watching them exist day to day. Every person has good day and bad days, and I believe all creatures do. Our job as humans and facilitators of these animals is to make sure their days are all as good as possible, and understanding that they too, have days that are “off” and they deserve our compassion and understanding. No one, and no animal, is perfect all day every day. These horses (and our Dog Dixie) give me a break when they know I’m having an off day. They offer me peace and acceptance, despite my shortcomings. The least I can do is offer them the same.

It’s ALMOST Time

LONG post alert, so if you’ve wound up here prepare yourselves. If you’re not willing to stay a bit, please pass on by to other content!! If you’re invested enough to read this whole thing, bless you!

I have dreamed of having horses at home since I was a little girl begging my parents to house a horse on their little 3/4 acre lot as a 6 year old. While that dream never came to fruition, here I am a 38 year old “little girl” a week away from my childhood dreams coming true. I have literally put blood, sweat, and tears (plus some, ok lots, of swear words) into this place for good measure. It’s been a process, and I have to say building outbuildings on this property has been one of the most trying “adventures” of my life. I have laughed, I have cried, I have cursed (a LOT). I have juggled obtaining permits, hiring contractors, contractors not showing up, having major delays, getting inspections, doing physical building, making hundred of phone calls, and trying to keep my husband from divorcing me over this whole process (I kid, I kid) but really… it’s been crazy to say the least. It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think it will be worth it.

So lets talk about the emotional overload that is going through my head right now as someone who has never had horses at home. This is a subject so many horse people experience and yet, few really talk about it. I realize that being the primary caretaker of horses is work. I realize that it’s a labor of love. I am no stranger to doing hard things, but if I am being real and honest, it is a little bit terrifying to know I currently rely on someone else, who provides food, water, stall cleaning, training, and everything in between to my 2 horses… and soon all of those responsibilities will fall on me. Soon, 2 living breathing, very large and complicated animals will rely solely on me for their every need and overall wellbeing. In theory (as a horse person for the vast majority of my life) it sounds easy, but I’ve never been one to pull the wool over my own eyes.

I will have to procure hay, grain, and bedding and make sure it’s constantly available. I will have to clean stalls. I will have to make sure they are fed and watered. I will have to schedule vet appointments, farrier care, and any other care needed. I will have to make sure broken things are fixed and that every environment the horses are in is the safest it can be. Ya’ll, do I sound crazy for thinking those will be the EASY things? I have to WORK these beasts, continue their education, make sure they are upstanding citizens of the equine world. Basically ALONE. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a little overwhelmed thinking about that part.

Back when I was working Fizz as a new AOT, I LOVED every second of the planning but lets be honest. I had zero idea what I was actually doing as a “trainer” and I flew by the seat of my pants most days. Looking back, I thank God every day that I ended up with such a smart, intuitive, and TOLERANT animal. That said, I feel like I have grown and I have learned a lot since 2013, and myself and both boys are better off for it. I have gained friends in this industry who have a wealth of knowledge that I have been able to tap into. I have people I can turn to for help now that I didn’t have back in 2013. How lucky am I? How lucky are my horses?

So lets talk about fears as the complete vulnerability of a “new” horse parent exposing everything for the world to see is something I have not run across. I’m not sure if people just don’t talk about this publicly or if I am that crazy overthinker who can’t stop “What Iffing” things to death. I’ve been riding and showing for a long time and I have cared for other people’s horses in the past. My first year of college was spent taking care of a farm of Friesians and Andalusians. But they were not on my property and I did morning feeding and stalls, and afternoon riding. I was not their one and only sole caretaker. I am not exactly a “new” horse owner, but being “new” to caring for them 100% of the time still comes with some real fears.

Fears about training 2 horses as an AOT, and doing it basically alone:

  • What if they regress with an amateur “trainer”?
  • What if I fall off and they get loose?
  • What if I can’t get them hooked to the cart for exercise?
  • What if there is an accident?
  • What if I have problems I can’t figure out?
  • What if I can’t work them enough?
  • What if I don’t do the right things? Or do the right things, the wrong way?
  • What if I get hurt and can’t exercise them?

Fears about keeping horses:

  • What if they get injured?
  • What if I don’t notice if something is wrong?
  • What if I can’t get what they need (hay shortage, etc)
  • What if I can’t be here?
  • What about vacations?
  • What about emergencies?
  • What about holidays? (4th of July and massive fireworks being shot off for weeks on end comes to mind)
    • What if I can’t get them calm?
  • What if I can’t get a vet here for emergencies?

These are things I can only think of off the top of my head as things I’ve thought about previously and had concerns about. However, as an overthinker, a planner, and a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” kind of person I have taken steps to prepare for most of these and ease my mind to the best extent that I can. Some things will just have to fall into place after the horses are here, we have a routine, and I see that my incompetence isn’t actually as bad as it is in my head a lot of the time. I mean honestly I don’t give myself enough credit. Not to toot my own horn, but I am stubborn. I am tough. I am resilient. I do not give up and I do not lay down and sulk in my own deficiencies. I get up and I research and I ask questions and I strive to do better every day. In my opinion, there is no other option when such smart, also resilient, and talented creatures are relying on me to not only survive, but to thrive. So, lets go through the list again, this time with some answers.

  • What if they regress with an amateur “trainer”?
    • Keep doing things you know work
    • Have resources and don’t be too proud to contact them
    • Be humble enough to own your mistakes and do better next time
    • Don’t beat yourself up. Most horses are resilient and forgiving.
  • What if I fall off and they get loose?
    • Put up barriers on the property to contain them as best possible
    • Duh, ride better, don’t fall off (ha!)
  • What if I can’t get them hooked to the cart for exercise?
    • Teach them to stand quietly until you ask them to move
    • Ground work is just as important as other work
  • What if there is an accident?
    • Accidents happen, have a plan in advance
    • First Aid kit (horse and human)
    • Vet #
  • What if I have problems I can’t figure out?
    • Again, don’t be too proud to ask for help or bounce ideas off someone else.
    • Have a network
  • What if I can’t work them enough?
    • You can only do what you can, and it will have to be enough
    • Set your priorities and make a clear, easy to follow schedule ahead of time
    • yes it requires thought, but it’s important so DO IT
  • What if I don’t do the right things? Or do the right things, the wrong way?
    • If something isn’t working, change it
    • Try new things. Everything great was once just an idea.
    • Ask someone to watch you, give you tips or correct you
    • LISTEN when someone corrects you
  • What if I get hurt and can’t exercise them?
    • Then you ask for help. Remember your circle and keep them close. Support them on their journey, and offer help when they need it and they will, (should) support you too.
    • Otherwise, have (for us: create) a turnout area and let them be horses!! They may not make training progress, but they’ll survive and be happy.
    • If turnout (at home) isn’t possible, arrange for alternative care off property.
  • What if they get injured?
    • Keep vet information handy
    • Read up and have a good base knowledge of basic care for wounds, etc
  • What if I don’t notice if something is wrong?
    • know you can’t be there 100% of the time
    • make sure you know warning signs for common problems
    • know your horses “good” vitals and keep what you can documented
      • Temperature (Average horse should be between 99-101F)
      • Heart Rate (Average should be 36-40 beats per minute)
      • Respirations (Average should be 8-15 breaths per minute)
      • Gut sounds (A mixture of grumbles, tinkling and roars. There is no rhythm but you should hear a sound every few seconds)
      • Capillary refill (should be 2 seconds or less)
      • Hydration (If you pinch your horse’s skin it should return to lying flat within 1-2 seconds. The longer the skin stays pinched up before flattening, the more dehydrated the horse is.)
  • What if I can’t get what they need (hay shortage, etc)
    • PLAN AHEAD
    • Have a standard supplier
    • Have a backup supplier
  • What if I can’t be here?
    • Have a backup plan and arrange alternative care as early as possible
  • What about vacations?
    • Plan early, book a house sitter or arrange to take your horses off site as soon as you set dates
  • What about emergencies?
    • Keep all emergency contacts in an easily accessible location
      • Veterinarian (all contact information including emergency numbers)
      • Farrier
      • Insurance Agency (If horse is insured) to include their 24 hour line
        • details about insurance coverage
  • What about holidays? (4th of July and massive fireworks being shot off for weeks on end comes to mind)
    • Discuss with Veterinarian and have a plan IN ADVANCE (medication, ear plugs, stall fans, music, whatever it is)
  • What if I can’t get them calm?
    • Don’t doubt your abilities to handle a crisis
    • But for real, also don’t live without some reinforcements.
      • Make sure you have something from the Vet (Ace, etc) or otherwise (calming cookies, calm n cool paste, etc) and you know how to administer it incase you need to.
  • What if I can’t get a vet here for emergencies?
    • Get annual exam done so you are on file with local veterinarian and eligible for emergency/after hour calls
    • There is always the option to trailer to an emergency clinic
    • Again, know basic care and make sure you have basic items on hand to use/administer if needed and know what is appropriate for most basic situations.

So there you have it, me in all my uncomfortable vulnerability. Ew. Anyway, I wonder if any more experienced horse keepers have anything to add here? Words of advice, encouragement, knowledge to share, etc. I’m sure there is a lot I am not covering or not thinking about and I’m sure so many other things will pop up over time. I haven’t really talked extensively about this among my small circle, but I am sure if there is anything I need they will have my back.

Overall, I am excited beyond words and I can’t wait to have my boys home with me. So, if you’ve made it through this entire post, congratulations for your exceptional patience, haha, and enjoy these photos! I will make a post eventually on the barn build and how much of an experience the whole process has been! Maybe after I’m happily caring for my horses and the frustration from building has gone to the wayside and I can recollect the process without so many swear words.

A Little Love and a Little Hate

I have come to the conclusion that the horse industry is forever in a love/hate relationship with itself. We all love horses and that is terrific. We all love doing the different things we can do with them, competing, trail riding, watching them eat, whatever each person does with their horse(s) is their version of love. But we hate too. We hate on each other for having different practices. We hate on horses who don’t “fit into the box” that they are “expected” to be in. We hate on other disciplines for doing things differently than we do. We are jealous of this person or that for having more than we do, or judge someone for having less than we do. Last time I checked, we are all in this industry for the love of the horse, so I have to ask…

Why is the horse industry like this? We all have a little bit we can teach someone else. I will be the first to admit I do not know everything. As the years have gone on in this AOT/non-AOT/Back to AOT adventure and throughout my lifelong love affair with horses of all breeds, shapes, sizes, and disciplines I have learned to be humble. I have learned to ask for help and I have vowed to learn something from literally EVERYONE I meet in this industry. Even if what I learn is something I do NOT want to do, it’s something learned and there is value in that.

I love my horses fiercely. I will do whatever I can to keep them safe, protected, and HAPPY. I will love them to the ends of the earth and back and no matter what, there will always be someone out there who hates my horses for some reason or another. Or who thinks I am an abuser because of the way my horses move, the way they are shod, the fact that we show, or maybe even because they don’t like me. AND THAT IS FINE. Ya’ll haters just take your negativity elsewhere.

Can’t we just choose education and understanding over hate? There is so much negativity and anger coming from people who have literally ZERO education on the topics they are mad about. When you see something that is questionable, try ASKING about it before you immediately persecute someone for doing something you don’t understand. And actually make an effort to understand. I’m not saying you need to implement someone else’s practices with your own horses or riding, I’m just saying don’t judge and hate something you have not actively tried to understand first. Keep an open mind and understand that most things have a purpose. The vast majority of us are just trying to do things that are best for us and our horses, for all of our respective activities and disciplines that we participate in.

OK, now that this has turned into rambling about more things than I originally intended, back to the subject at hand. I love, and I hate, many things about the horse industry. But time and again, I keep on keeping on, because when it comes down to it, I enjoy my horses for what they are. For all their flaws, mistakes, and idiosyncrasies. For their wins and their losses, for every time they have embarrassed me or made me proud and everything in between. For doing things on their own timeline and not mine. I love them for loving me, despite everything that I know and everything I don’t know, and everything I have not learned YET. I love them for trying, as that is all I can ask. So, I will keep showing up and I will keep on educating myself, FOR THEM and FOR ME. And if someone doesn’t like that, that’s just too bad.

What’s the Rush?

For all my (like maybe 2) followers, you might have noticed we added a page for a new horse!

Those that need a reminder, check out the post here: DUKE

Anyway, this guy is a 2015 model American Saddlebred. He is ALL BLACK you guys. My own personal black beauty. In real life. Like, how did I even get so lucky? My luckiness has not come without it’s struggles though.

Duke is, for lack of better words, a firecracker. He is bred to be hot. And HOT he is. When I first started driving Duke for his previous owner, the first time I grabbed the lines was at our first show together in Sept of 2020. We had a short little warm up that went really well. The literal MOMENT he stepped foot into the show ring though, I had a different horse. It took me by surprise, and I fell in love. That is a feeling I can’t explain. I have shown in many classes, on many different horses, in many different situations and places and this was a feeling that was completely new to me. I had a show horse. A fancy, fire breathing dragon who stomped the ground like he OWNED the place.

He had barely been pulling a cart for 30 days at that point, and since I had never driven him before we did have our share of mistakes. But we looked pretty good at our first show together and the few subsequent ones if I do say so myself. Evidence below. Disagree? You’re allowed but please kindly take your negativity elsewhere!

July 2021:

Fast forward to April 2022:

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Fizz and I moved to Brickyard Farms in early 2021, where Duke had been since late 2020. As time has rolled on, it’s becoming apparent that pulling a cart is not where Duke will ultimately excel so over the winter 2021/2022 we began to switch gears and focus more on riding. Duke has had a lot of negative experiences with riding in the past and has not been taught a lot, so we are basically working from the ground up here to re-teach him things that are paramount to his success.

So aside from my rambling because I haven’t talked much about this horse, my point is that too often, horses are rushed into situations for which they are not prepared. They are pushed too hard too fast and they do not learn everything they need to learn before they are expected to do all the things right. Then, when the FLIGHT animal shows it’s flight instincts, people misinterpret that as bad behavior. However, is it really fair to assume they are misbehaving, when infact, they just have never been given the chance to understand what is expected of them, and to learn a basic foundation on which they can rely on? The answer, in my book, is no.

Teach them the easy stuff. Let them understand the basics. Don’t expect them to know the hard stuff automatically just because you’re asking it. And if you are asking them over and over, and getting the same results, maybe evaluate how you are asking and ask in a different way. Just as with humans, horses do not all have the same personalities and they do not all learn the exact same way. This complicates things and makes training more difficult, but to me, a good trainer has patience. They have the good sense to know when to change their methods. They research. They learn new things. They are humble enough to ask for help.

All that said. We are still being patient. We are still researching. We are still finding new ways to ask for what we want. Slowly but surely, Duke is beginning to provide the right answers more often than not. We are in no hurry, when he’s ready, he will let us know. Check out the short video clip below. Please ignore my chattering, asking him not to “fall apart” since he was going along so nice!

Is 14 Really the Age they Grow Up?

Ya’ll. Again, it’s been a while. Things have changed, AGAIN. My husband Wes and I are in the process of building a barn at our home. We have been here for a year now, and I have only been trying to get a working barn built for basically the entire time. Hopefully soon it will be a functional space for Fizzy and Duke to come live, but in the meantime, they are happy and healthy over at Brickyard Farms. A little over a year ago when Phoenix Farm shut down their training operation, we were scrambling. We weren’t even sure if shows were going to be a thing for us. Plus, the stupid pandemic, you know. What an epic disaster.

Since Duke (before I officially owned him) had been living at Brickyard for a year, it was the obvious first choice for Fizz to go there too. That way, both horses I was showing could be in the same location and I could work with both of them at the same place. Luke at Brickyard welcomed Fizz to join the crowd there and got to work. And lord has it been the blessing we have been looking for. His alternative thinking and fresh outlook has been just what we needed. Plus, he loves Fizz and Duke like they are his own, and there’s no amount of money that can buy that kind of support.

Anyway, we only went to a few shows in 2021, but they were nice, successful shows. We had FUN. And isn’t that really what it’s all about anyway? So, fast forward to now. We have successfully gone to our first real show of 2022, the BlueGrass Arabian Horse Associations Spring Blast Open Show. Yes, that’s a mouthful. However, LOOK AT IT.

So, yeah. That happened. And I am just over the moon with how well behaved this horse was. He’s fourteen this year. I simply cannot believe it’s now been NINE years with this incredible horse. He continues to keep me on my toes, humble me, teach me new things, and the list goes on but I won’t bore you all. It seems like fourteen is the year my sassy colt has finally decided it’s time to grow up and play ball with the big boys. I do not deserve him. He is literally too cool for me, but I am just going to soak up every minute and feel grateful that he’s mine.

That’s all for now!

Sometimes Maybe it’s YOU

Ya’ll. Again, it’s been a while since I posted here. Things are ever changing and ever evolving and I constantly re-evaluate the horsey things in my life and wonder if I am making the right decisions. Sometimes I regret not making certain decisions sooner. Sometimes I think I suck, and sometimes I think I am a genius. Everyone has their days I guess. But here’s some facts for you.

I am what I would call an experienced rider. I like to think I can hold my own and I like to believe I can handle a tough mount and enjoy a good one with ease. BUT, when I watch a select few others ride my horse and NOT have the same problems I had, I started wondering if it was just ME. SO, a while back (maybe about a year or so-has it really been that long?) I decided to start working with a riding instructor. As an ADULT. Who has been riding since I was 6 years old. She comes to visit Fizz and I and she gives us lessons together. Sometimes she schools him, which is GREAT for both of us, but mostly she coaches while I ride. Do I consider myself a failure because of this? HELL NO.

I consider myself a badass. You know why? Because sometimes it IS YOU. Sometimes you need to be humble and you need to admit that regardless of your experience, you do not, and will not ever know everything. Others have had experiences that can help you. Others have knowledge to share. You need to be open to accepting their knowledge, to learning from them, and to reaching a new level of potential you maybe never knew existed within you. And you know what? IT FEELS GOOD.

That moment when you’re sitting on your horse and you have a ride like you’ve never had before. A ride where you don’t struggle with things you used to struggle with. A ride where you don’t fight with your horse. A ride where you realize for the first time in YEARS, your horse is HAPPY. All the puzzle pieces are there, and you made them fit together. Maybe you don’t have a perfect ride consistently, 100% of the time. BUT, you did it and you FINALLY realized that you’ve moved past the hurdles that once stood in front of you and you didn’t trip and fall on your face trying to jump them.

If something is not working, CHANGE IT. Get help. Keep working, keep training, both you AND your horse can benefit from it. I mean, even professional sports teams have coaches. This is just like that. Go out and DO WORK ya’ll. Respect and appreciate your coaches and learn yourself something. Your horse will thank you. YOU will thank you. That’s all for today, I’ll report on other news soon! ❤

So It’s Been A While

I guess it’s been a minute.  I have not posted to this page in a long time.  I have a lot of reasons for that, but mainly it’s because Fiz is still under the direction of Phoenix Farm and trainer Blair Cecil, and we have been VERY busy.  Let me explain:  Owning horses is hard.  Training horses is harder.  Caring for horses is challenging in many ways, albeit rewarding.  Giving up on training your own horses is the hardest.  I had a hard time letting go, and honestly, I still have days where it hurts me to my core that I don’t see Fiz and interact with him every day-or even every week sometimes.  My heart literally hurts.  Every.  Day.

BUT, I know it is for the best.  When we signed on to this journey, we made a promise to him to make the best decisions FOR HIM.  What we didn’t understand in the beginning is that those decisions may be hard.  They may hurt.  And they may be financially challenging at times.  But a promise is a promise, and we are keeping our word as difficult as it may be.  Blair is an exceptional trainer (and person) and we are grateful for the care and training she gives Fiz, and for the opportunities afforded to us due to having him in her barn.

This June, after showing Fiz primarily saddleseat for the entirety of our ownership (with some occasional trail riding) we have decided to go a new direction.  As the Phoenix Farm resident expert in all things dressage/Hunter/Jumper, our friend Emily showed him in his very first ASB Hunter class at the Lawrenceburg horse show and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.  He really took to this style of riding and we have decided to try and campaign him for the ASB Hunter classes at the World Championship horse show in 2020!  Now, we may make it and we may not, but we are certainly going to try.

For me, this means basically forgetting everything I know and re-learning how to ride in a new way.  Thanks to Emily, I am also learning some dressage techniques that she has used successfully on Fiz to help us in our new discipline and she has also been teaching Fiz (and me!) how to jump.  He LOVES IT, and is actually GOOD at it!  We will see how that goes in the future, but I am looking forward to it.

Also in store for next year is potentially having him carry Cindy’s oldest daughter to her first lead line classes if she decides she wants to.  This is super exciting as we have hoped from the beginning that one day he would be able to carry her girls to some of their first horse shows and the time is near!

This horse is quirky and infuriating on many levels but he has taught me SO much over the last 6+years and he holds a very special place in my heart for everything that he is, and everything that he isn’t.  There really aren’t words for what he means to me.

Emily showing Fiz in his very first hunter class, June 2019:

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Kayla and Fiz winning the Saddle and Bridle Hunter Classic at Owingsville, July 2019

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Kayla and Fiz winning the hunter under saddle class at Owingsville, July 2019

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Appreciate Your Professionals

Guys, I have to tell you, I’ve had a good run.  I’ve overcome a LOT of challenges and received a LOT of help along the way.  Working a horse as an Amateur is no easy feat.  From May 2013 when we brought this horse home to April 26, 2018 when we pulled in to Phoenix Farms drive, Fiz has been worked primarily by me, with the exception of that one month a few years ago when was worked by a trainer for 30 days.  So yeah… I’ve had a good run and gained SO much knowledge in this AOT experience.  Lets just say if nothing else, I’ve produced the most tolerant equine on earth.  If he can put up with me, he can conquer the world.

You’re probably wondering at this point:  What am I even talking about?  Well, a month ago, Fiz went to live at Phoenix Farm to be worked by Blair for 30 days.  Then he was supposed to go back to the boarding facility to be worked by me after we showed at Burlington.  He has just thrived there, and Blair is an AMAZING person, horsewoman, and trainer, so it’s been decided he’s staying indefinitely.  That said, there comes a time where the limitations of your knowledge, experience, and ability are keeping you and your horse from excelling.  And for the love of everything holy, you have got to learn when to say, “I need help” or “I can’t teach them anything else” and you have to be able to admit when you’ve met a roadblock you can’t get past. We’ve met that point, and I for one, am unsatisfied with being mediocre.  Fiz probably doesn’t care, but I want more for him! I want to see him reach his potential.  I 100% feel that he will be able to do so under the Phoenix Farm banner.  So I have gracefully accepted the facts, that I have taught him all I know, but that there is someone who can teach him much more, and as that happens, I’ll be able to learn too. We can all learn from others, if we’re open to it.

People, you have GOT to respect and appreciate your professionals for the exceptional job they do (that is, if it’s in fact exceptional..).  You have got to understand that they make a living doing what they do FOR A REASON.  They are experts, and work every day towards a common goal: For your horse and you to succeed.  Their success as a professional rides on your success, as the way your horse competes is a direct reflection of their work. For 30 days in, I am completely in awe of the drastic changes in this horse.  I’ll let the photo speak for itself.  We can only go up from here!

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A lesson in Bit Converters

When you’re an AOT, you should always, and I do mean ALWAYS be open to learning new things and to hearing others opinions and experiences.  Not everything works for everyone, and not everything works for every horse.  But having an arsenal of different things to try is definitely a good thing.  I feel blessed to know a few trainers who are willing to help me when I have questions.  This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go watch and learn from one of them.  Trainer Blair Cecil of Phoenix Farms, my AOT hat goes off to you and your awesomeness!

The lesson?  Bit converters. I confess, I bought a pair of these in August 2017 and I haven’t so much as snapped them to a single thing.  Yes, that’s been 5 months ago. No, I’m not afraid to admit my lack of confidence on things I know nothing about. Hence why I started asking questions, to learn from others!

What is a Bit Converter?  A bit converter is, as the name states, a contraption that “converts” two bits into one.  It allows you to line/jog a horse in a full bridle (two bits) using just one set of lines, making 2 bits usable as one.  The photo shows this on a short shank pelham bit, not a 2 bit weymouth style that we normally use in saddleseat, but the same general concept applies.

Bit Converter

Why do this?  My horse, like many others, is SO much happier when only ridden one, maybe two times a week.  He loves to jog, which is terrific for his back end, building muscle, and conditioning.  BUT, when you can only ride a few times a week, it’s difficult to log much time in a full bridle.  Without wearing a full bridle often, it’s difficult to get them completely comfortable wearing it.  As explained to me by Blair, using the converters in a lining/jogging situation is a lot more forgiving than riding.  Here’s why:  When you ride, there’s a lot more going on.  Your seat, how you shift your weight, your leg aids, how good your hands are, how much you’re in or not in their mouth, how you hold two sets of reins, and what kind of pressure you put on each.  Not to mention the stress on their backs from carrying a rider every single day on top of everything going on in their mouth.  All of that is removed when you line/jog using these bit converters.  The horse gets used to wearing the bits without all the stress from every day riding.

Equipment Needed:  Surcingle (with or without crupper), martingale (optional), full bridle (use the bridle/bits your horse is used to wearing), long lines, and 1 set of bit converters.  Oh, and if you use a lunge whip for lining, that too!

How to:  I wish I would have taken pictures.  When I attempt this with Fiz, I’ll definitely update.  Until then, I’ll do the best I can to describe everything.  So here goes. (NOW UPDATED WITH PICS!!! Yayyyyyyy!!!!)

Apply all the equipment as usual.  Tie reins for the bridle in a knot and attach them to the top of the surcingle using string, a double ended snap, whatever you’ve got, so they don’t just flop all around and get tangled in the rest of the equipment.  Or I guess you could remove them if you wanted to, your choice. To attach the bit converters, attach one snap to each bit on both sides of the bridle.  Running your lines:  Here’s where you’ll find there are different configuration options, which I never even thought of before visiting Blair! I promise to update with photos once it’s not so frozen outside and I can start working Fiz again!

  1. Run the lines through the converter ring and to the snaffle. This is where you should start with introducing your horse to the converter and lining in a full bridle.  The curb will be in their mouth, but basically it’s just there, with no pressure on it.IMG_20180121_1352572.  Run the lines through the converter and attach it to the curb. This puts pressure only on the curb bit. This seems better suited for a horse who is BROKE to the curb. IMG_20180121_140318.jpg
  2. Run the lines and attach to the ring on the converter. This puts pressure on both bits.                                                                IMG_20180121_140403
  3. All of the above configurations can be done running the lines through a martingale or not using a martingale. It’s up to your preference and what you and your horse are used to using.
    1. Adjusting the converter: If you have purchased a set of bit converters, they should come with some kind of adjustment holes, so you can adjust how much pressure goes to each bit.  Naturally, if you want even pressure, adjust them to the same length.  If you want more pressure on the snaffle for example, loosen the end going to the curb.  Proper adjustment for the horse you are working is the key to success.

Here’s a video of me lining Fizzy in the first configuration.

Fizzy Long Lining – Full Bridle

 

Let’s Just Throw This Away

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Yep, in the trash right along with all our hopes and dreams for how this summer was “supposed” to go.

Ok, so let’s be honest here.  There are times when your life and nothing in it goes as planned.  There are times as an AOT that it’s a struggle to justify how and why you do this.  There are times when you feel like everything you’ve worked so hard for is so far out of reach that there’s not a snowballs chance in hell you’ll ever get there.  This summer has been that.

We officially closed out the summer with one horse show in the books, our smallest to date since the summer we began showing in 2014.  This, after we’d planned to go to many events (conventional and not) aspiring toward a breed ambassador award with the American Saddlebred registry, to say the least was highly disappointing.  I’m no genius, but I’m fairly confident that no awards are to be given for one less than stellar show and nothing else the entire year.

Shoes have been pulled as of last weekend (10-1).  This means that 100%, we’re not going to another show this year.  That’s disappointing to say the least, as we’d really hoped to make good progress this year after finding what we think is the perfect bit combination for his show bridle.  I was looking so much forward to getting in the show ring and trying it out, but alas, no such luck.  Since Fiz pretty much destroyed his ride (our trailer) going to and from our first show (see the fun on that post here), that had taken out the rest of the season for us.  He still has no ride to date, as it’s still getting worked on.  Slowly but surely?  I guess that’s a thing that patient people say to keep faith that what they’re waiting on will one day come.  I wouldn’t really know, I am not a patient person.

Anyway, back to the point.  There are times when you truly might feel like giving up is the best option and you may ask yourself over and over, “Why do I put myself through this?”  You may also say things like “it’s easier not to have to pack for shows” or “maybe we should just trail ride instead” among other things.  But then, THEN… by the grace of God and everything holy you remember yourself.  You remember your horse. You remember why you started this journey, what it meant to you in the beginning, and you remember, YOU deserve better.  You deserve a chance to see what you can do, what your horse can do.  Damn the details, you deserve the satisfaction of “We did it” whatever version of success you see for yourself and your horse.

So, the show book might be going in the trash at the end of THIS show season, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get another year.  That doesn’t mean we don’t get to try again.  That doesn’t mean we can’t redefine and keep redefining our definition of success. That doesn’t mean we can’t still create goals, and take steps toward reaching them, no matter how far in the future they may be from being met.  That doesn’t mean there’s only one path.  We make our own path, and we are allowed to do whatever it takes to carve that path.  We can crawl, walk, jog, or run, or any combination of those things.  Just because we’re crawling right now doesn’t mean we can’t run tomorrow. I’m probably not even making sense anymore, so here’s this piece of advice:

goals

On that note, I guess I’ll stop and just share some photos from the last few months.

The Catching Games

Ok, so I’m going to share a secret with our readers, and anyone else who may stumble across our little blog.  Our beloved Fizzy, yes, this absolutely adorable little face that we rave about and praise most of the time. Yeah.  He’s a jerk.  Really, I mean it.

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On and off for the last few years, we’ve had problems with catching him in his field. It got so bad he actually turned and kicked at us, and there was a time that he ran AT me, ears pinned and everything… and I’d had enough.  It had to stop.  All of it.  He’s got a large field, about an acre or so.  Now, imagine trying to catch a horse on that much land when he decides he doesn’t want to have a halter put on.  Are you picturing lots of inappropriate and offensive words?  If you are, that would be about accurate.  So, let me tell you our story, and all about how we (think) we have remedied this issue.

For a good while, we put band aids on the problem because it was just easier, and quite frankly we didn’t know how to address and fix the real problem.  The band aid was, make him wear a leather breakaway halter 24/7.  It was, lure him with food and distract him while you sneak another halter on as you search for the destroyed one in the field.  It was cry because you couldn’t work him that day.  It was letting him win, over and over, leaving the barn upset because you failed… again.   Let me tell you a secret.  Those band aids?  They always fall off, eventually.  Then, you’re back to square one.  Band-Aids don’t work.  Let me repeat that again for good measure.  Band-Aids. DO. NOT. Work.

So, you ask, what does work?  Well, I’ll tell you what worked for us.  There will be a short summary at the bottom for those that don’t feel like reading our story, so scroll on down if you’re short on time, but read our story if you want all the good stuff!  Good old fashioned ground work and exercises in respect (and of the cardiovascular kind) is what ultimately works.  I’m sure all the natural horsemanship people out there knew about something often referred to as “join up” or something like that.  Well, I didn’t know squat about how to achieve this, until the day I did with the help of our boarding facility owner. And let me just say, it was epic.  I wish there was video evidence of this epic battle, that I eventually won!  It would surely have all of you laughing (probably at my expense) but hey, it’s worth it!

Here’s how it went down. I prepared myself as instructed with his halter, lead attached, and a long lunge whip, and I marched out to the field ready for battle.  Halter in my right hand, whip on the ground.  As instructed, I walked toward him calmly, speaking the word “whoa” in a very firm voice, giving him an initial opportunity to submit to my demand.  As expected, the little turd looked at me, saw the halter, and the game of wits began as he turned to trot away. As instructed, I began cracking the whip, chasing him.  Smacking it at him, on him, in his direction, whatever I could do to keep him moving.  If he thought running away was a good idea, I made it my idea to make him run.  If he wanted to stop, I didn’t let him stop.   Keep chasing, keep running:  Do. NOT. Stop.

Not until YOU want to, that is.  When I wanted to stop, I stopped.  I was told to lay the whip on the ground as to not appear threatening, and give him a chance again with the “whoa” as I approached.  If he stood, I kept walking forward, repeating the word “whoa” in a very firm voice.  When he would step away or turn to walk/run away, the game began again and I went after him.  3 or four times, this happened over a period of about 45 minutes.  Are you laughing yet?  Looking back on it, I am… I am sure we were hilarious.  My less than totally in shape self, chasing a much more fit to run horse around a gigantic field, flailing my arms and the whip around and yelling at him “get out of here” and all sorts of other things to make him move.

Finally, that moment came.  He was out of breath, I was out of breath, but the “whoa” worked, and he didn’t try again to run.  As directed, I approached him from the side at about his neck (never went toward his face) and used the lead rope first to go up under his neck and around, as to make a sort-of lasso, instead of going straight for his head with the halter.  Then, while keeping a tight grip on my “lasso” with my body facing the same direction as his (so basically my behind to his chest) put my hand up around his head, brought the halter up to his face.  He didn’t run.  THANK God, Sweet Baby Jesus, and everything Holy because I was tired of chasing him!

Then, much to his dismay, we went up to the barn and prepared for a session in the jog cart.  He was worked for another 25 minutes, while I sat on my butt in the cart!  He worked nicely, well behaved as usual, but I swear I thought by the end of it he was going to fall over he was so tired!  Then, I cooled him out and turned him back out, removing the halter.  There was no praise, no treats, nothing at all in the way of encouragement.

Next day, I walked out to the field prepared for battle again, but to my surprise, he only THOUGHT about running.  I could see it in his face, the wheels were a turnin! But, followed the “lasso” protocol, and he was caught.  This happened days 2-6, and each day he got lots of praise and treats for giving me no problems getting the halter on.  Then on that 7th day-It was NOT a day of rest.  This horse is so backwards! So, back to battle we went! However, I only had to chase him about ten minutes this time before he decided it was not a clever idea anymore.  No treats, no praise… just marched up to the barn, got ready, and worked.  No treats for working.  Nothing.  Not even a “good boy” voiced in his direction.  Day 8 rolled around and it was back to letting me catch him, treats, praise, etc.  Day 9, 10, 11, and so on… all good to go.  It’s been 34 days now since Day 1.  I haven’t been out EVERY one of those days, but I have been out MOST of them.  2 of those days were a battle (Day 1 and Day 7), and the other days have so far been GOOD. Even the day after we went to a horse show!

So, have we ripped off the band aid?  I think so!  He doesn’t wear a halter.  There hasn’t been a day since day 1 that I went out with the intention of working him that I haven’t worked him, and there certainly hasn’t been a day I cried because I didn’t know what to do.  So, if anyone out there has a horse they can’t catch, I can attest that this method has worked for us.  Eventually, they will get tired.  Eventually, they will give up.  You just can’t give up before they do!  DO NOT get intimidated.  Stand your ground and show your dominance as the “herd leader” and let it be known that they are to follow your commands, not the other way around.  As always though, stay safe!

As promised, you’ll find below 10 steps to happier catching.

  1. Give the horse a chance to be caught without issue.  Walk toward their SIDE, not their FACE, and firmly and calmly say “WHOA” as you walk up.
  2. If/when they run, make him keep moving. Use a lunge whip, your voice, whatever you need to do.  DO NOT let them stop when they wants to stop.  ONLY stop when YOU want him to.  Also, do not allow a change of direction, unless it is your idea.
  3. Give them a chance to be caught when YOU decide to stop. Make sure you drop your whip or anything else that could be seen as scary.  Remember, horses are flight animals and they flee in the face of danger. (YOU and your contraptions, whip, halter, lead, etc are the “danger” here) Again, walk toward the side, not the head, and firmly say “WHOA”
  4. If they move AWAY from you, make them move again, and do not let them stop again until you want them to. If they move TOWARD you, and in a calm manner, that is OK.
  5. CAUTION: Keep in mind the body language horses use.  Ears forward means they are interested, and OK with what you are doing.  Ears pinned back, not so much, so use good judgement.  If they are pawing the ground, they are trying to assert THEIR dominance.  Make them run, asserting yours.  There is potential they could run AT you.  Use your whip to deter them, but be cautious and use good sense to avoid getting hurt.  The point of this exercise is to establish yourself as the “herd leader” so that they understand they are to follow your commands, not the other way around.
  6. When they allow you up next to them, use the lead rope and go up under the neck and around, making a “lasso” around their neck. THEN with one hand on their head, use your other hand to bring the halter up around their head.
  7. NO TREATS and NO PRAISE if they make you work to catch them.
  8. If and when they let you catch them, give them all the treats and praise you want. Eventually, they will come to understand it is easier on them NOT to run, and they will always choose the easier way.
  9. At first, you have to be persistent and do this every day until you establish that dominance. If you’re lucky and you have a smart horse, it won’t be long before you’re back in charge. If you have a very stubborn horse, it may take a little longer! Be patient and keep trying until you win.
  10. Happy Catching Games, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Sometimes, Plans Fail

Sometimes, you’re just being crazy, and sometimes, you’re RIGHT.  In this case, I’d rather have been crazy and not right.  Before our show, I had a dream that I forgot essential stuff and then I got lost.  See the message below, call it a premonition.

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Well, that’s not exactly how it all went down, but I did forget an essential piece of equipment.  The driving lines!  I know, right… The one piece of equipment that connects the driver to control the horse.  Yeah, let’s just hop in the cart and hope he knows where to go!  Uh, no.  Thank God for knowing people, we were able to procure a lunge line, a snap, a cable tie, and a lot of electrical tape from Blair Cecil, trainer at Phoenix Farm and get Cindy in the ring!  Really, we aren’t above ghetto fabulous at this point, and they really didn’t look bad in the grand scheme of things.  See?

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So, after the fiasco getting him ready, we were good to go get him hooked!  Except we didn’t know that the first two driving classes were going to take over an hour as each driver went individually to show.  So there we were, in the warm up ring, for an hour before the class walking around with the cart hooked.  Poor Fizzy was rather unamused, but for the most part he behaved. By the time the class rolled around, he was rather lazy probably because he’d already been hooked and walking/trotting around for the better part of an hour.  However, he went in and did his job and didn’t act a fool, which is always a good thing.  After the class when we were unhooking the cart, I had a lady tell me “That is the calmest, most well behaved Saddlebred I have ever seen” which, is a very good compliment!  He CAN be, he definitely has it in him when it counts.  Check out Cindy’s class:

Driving Class w/Cindy

So, on to my Halter class.  I realized when I went to get ready that I had no tie.  Great!  Suit with no tie! What good is that?  Anyway, I had a plan, really, I did for this class I’d never done before.  It was to go last and do what everyone else did.  That plan did not work.  It was an epic fail, because we thought we still had time but they were calling numbers for the class so we rushed up there. We were FIRST in the ring on THIRD call for the class.  SO, there we went.  I just asked the judge “what would you like to see” because I didn’t know the first thing to do!  She had me walk him toward her, then wanted me to trot him away and around to line up “head to tail” whatever that meant.  He wouldn’t trot… then he sorta did, it was rather ugly I’m sure as he was so confused!  When the other participant lined up, I found out that “head to tail” meant parallel to the rail, haha!  So, we quickly moved to match that.  Pretty sure if the judge could have given us 8th place, she would have, even though there were only 2 horses in the class.  The photos from Bluegrass Girl Photography  turned out great!  All the photos in this post are credited to her.

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There’s one other thing… The trailer.  So, Fizzy has developed this new habit of kicking in the trailer.  He’s shredded the wall off his side of the trailer twice now.  The metal toward the bottom is now bent.  SO, in an effort to keep him somewhat safe on the way home as best we can, Cindy had the idea of Duct Taping the metal so any potential sharp edges were not exposed.  Then, we put shipping boots on him to try and protect his back legs (where the shredding occurred) even though it was 93 degrees outside.  Before you ask, yes, I stood and took pictures of the pregnant lady working-and told her, “these are going on the blog!”

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THEN, upon leaving (why does this always seem to happen to us?) we got stuck in traffic while some street sweepers decided to close the road and sweep up literally nothing.  No wonder our poor horse hates the horse trailer!  Every time he gets on it we get stuck in traffic while he has to stand back there being all hot with no airflow!

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But, we all made it back in one piece, safe and sound. I think someone was really happy to get back into his field.

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