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

 

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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:

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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.

DreamMsg

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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Bye Bye Winter

 

It’s been a while since we posted an update.  Now that the dreaded winter is finally behind us, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes! I’ve been bad about sharing and I apologize to our (few) fans for not posting more.  I’ll work on that!  AOT life is crazy sometimes, and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind!  So, let me update on what’s been going on with Fizzy.

We made it through the winter, but not without a few troubles.  Fizzy got back into the habit of “I don’t want to come in from the field” again, so he has earned himself a halter to wear 24/7.  Well, he’s actually earned himself multiples, because he likes to break them or Houdini himself out of them somehow.  Thanks to Blair’s Bits and Pieces, we’ve been supplied with several leather halters without breaking the bank.  Yay for affordable used tack and equipment!! Check them out if you need anything.  Blair is awesome! Anyway, halter on, he comes right up to you in the field, no problem and no questions asked.  Halter off, and it’s a battle where he crosses some serious lines into territory we’d rather not be in.  So, halter it is.  It’s not the choice we WANTED to make, but he made the choice for us with his behavior.

Anyway, in case you aren’t up to speed, Fiz lived the entire winter barefoot.  We went through the painful stage where he acted crippled, (tried, loved, and reviewed the Cavallo Simple Boot here), then slowly but surely, his hooves tightened, hardened, and his soles became concave instead of flat! He became sound on soft ground without shoes, and mostly sound on tougher ground.  Rocks were still a little bit of a challenge, but we managed nearly 6 months without shoes!

He got his first set of shoes for the season put on 2 weeks ago (3-23-17), gave us a big scare, then turned out to be just fine.  He was shod on a Thursday morning, worked like wonder horse Friday in his full show bridle, then turned up completely lame on Monday with nothing to understand why.  Our farrier was out of town, but another farrier checked him Wednesday and found no evidence.  By Wednesday evening, he was perfectly fine again!  I guess it could have been going so long without shoes, then having them again.

Anyway, he’s fine now (thankfully) and here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to!

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2-10-17: Pretty Sunset at the farm

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2-10-17: What Fizzy thinks of photos

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2-18-17: First drive in about 4 months. He was fantastic!

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2-24-17: Fizz’s favorite activity

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3-24-17: First ride in a full bridle in about 4 months

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3-31-17: Trying out long lining (I still stink at it!)

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3-31-17: A look at his hooves/shoes

 

Overcoming “Obstacles”

Anyone that knows me knows I truly despise cold weather with every fiber of my being.  I imagine hell to be mounds of snow, not fire and brimstone but who am I to question the bible?  Anyway… since we decided to pull Fiz’s shoes and it’s gotten colder outside, we have not really been doing a whole lot, but we have still been learning and overcoming obstacles.  Or running through them, whatever your definition of the word “overcome” encompasses.

So in this post I’m going to talk about the water obstacle.  Following our big successes lately with tarp training, I got this brilliant idea that Fizzy should learn to go through water calmly at home under controlled conditions rather than out on a trail in the middle of nowhere.  Well, what I learned is that no matter how much “control” you think you can have in the comforts of “home” and an indoor arena, you simply cannot control a horse’s reaction to things they have not done before.

Let me give you a little back story. This horse is a pig.  And by that I mean he will find the ONLY wet spot in the pasture to roll around in or stomp around in as to get himself as dirty as possible.  But god forbid you ask him to step in the only puddle around if you’re leading him.  He will avoid it like the plague and even more so if you’re saddled up and riding.  WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE????  How much sense does that actually make??  Horses…

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Anyway, so I got permission from the barn owner to set this contraption up in the indoor arena and I went forth with confidence that my execution couldn’t have been better in building this obstacle.  I brought Fizzy to the arena to introduce him to my handiwork only to find that he was not nearly as impressed as I was with my ingenious build.  We couldn’t even walk near it, Fizzy snubbed it completely.  It was complete garbage, and he was above acknowledging its existence.  I was so disappointed that he didn’t find it as glorious as I did. I am also disappointed that I did not snap any photos of my incredibly awesome obstacle in all its glory.  Here’s the jist of what it looked like and how it was made:

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Anyway, my Momma didn’t raise a quitter, so I just kept at it and finally Fizzy decided to try and shut me up by stepping in.  You would have thought I had asked him to step into shark infested waters, because he went flying backwards at the splash of water that his hoof produced and proceeded to snort and blow in that direction for the next several minutes.

Since I had put a saddle on him prior to bringing him into the arena, with the intent of eventually riding him (calmly, you know, walking like a sane normal horse) through the water obstacle, I decided maybe I could better encourage him from his back.  Yeah… well, he had other ideas about what was appropriate.  My encouragement produced a horse that charged through the water obstacle like he was riding into a war zone.  I mean, REALLY?  Is that necessary?  Whatever makes you happy Fizzy.  But at the end of the day, he DID do what I asked and he went through the obstacle.  Not with the calmness I would have liked, but he went in his own way, and he did it because I asked him to.  I can’t ask for anything more than that.

After all was said and done, he was still a happy horse in his new trail riding gear, which I did get a photo of.

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Adjusting to the “Off Season”

Our show season was cut short by a number of setbacks this year.  This, for a multitude of reasons, has been our worst show season to date only making it to one show all year and having a number of unexpected things happen to us and to Fizzy.  But you know what?  That’s OK.  You learn from mistakes, you grow through adversity, and you get stronger through struggle, so let’s raise a glass to all of that and begin to enjoy our offseason and prepare for next year.  We have some MAJOR plans for next year, and what I have learned in this whole AOT adventure so far is this:  #1, you HAVE to have a plan.  #2, Plans don’t always work out.  #3, no matter what happens, we will get through it and we will be just fine.

So, what are we doing right now?  We are goofing off, trying new things, enjoying ourselves, and having FUN.  I’ve got some really fun things to share with you guys about next year, but I have to keep it under wraps for the time being.  So I will share with you some recent events.

#1.  Fizzy, after 2 other unsuccessful off seasons trying this, has FINALLY conquered (walking across) the tarp.  In case you are interested, you can watch 7 minutes of us NOT crossing the tarp here: The day we rode the FAILBOAT.  The deep dark hole that is sure to eat him alive actually didn’t this time.  He survived.  I mean, he survived after noticing that I didn’t get eaten alive walking across it before him, and I actually was able to convince him he was still safe to WALK across it while I was riding him too.  However, I have not (successfully) managed to have him trot across it, which brings me to our second point.

#2.  Fizzy can JUMP.  Well, I mean, I already knew this.  However, Fizzy can jump despite the fact that I cannot.  Imagine this:  Trotting horse approaches black hole of death (tarp), trotting horse leaps through the air taking unsuspecting rider by surprise, unsuspecting rider lands on horses neck with no feet left in stirrups.  Yeah, I never learned how to jump a horse.  So what.  We (meaning he) got more confident going (jumping) across the death trap (tarp), but it was only a success when I stood in 2-point and basically handed him the bridle and let him do his own thing.  Which, is not only slightly dangerous, but it’s also probably not the proper method of jumping and it still didn’t accomplish what I wanted him to do (trot across it).  So, yeah.  We will revisit that later, but it sure was fun to just let him have fun and do what he thought he needed to.  Maybe it’s counter-productive, maybe not… either way, we had fun so that’s what matters.  It didn’t HURT anything, so who cares?

Deep Dark Hole of Death, pictured below:

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#3.  Bareback rides are commonplace for me now.  I mean, if we aren’t going to shows, why should we drag out a bunch of equipment and get all serious if we don’t have to?  We can still learn things without a saddle, so that’s what we’ve been doing.  Afterall, a saddle does affect the communication you have with your horse.  Without it, you can feel their every teensy little movement underneath you, which is REALLY cool.  You can feel your connection with their back and you can see how your seat affects their movement, their mouth, everything.  I happen to love it, so much that I ordered a bareback pad to help keep both Fizzy and us more comfortable when we do this.  I’ll be adding a review on that once I receive it.

That’s it for now, folks.  Stay tuned for some special news about next show season and Cindy and I’s new, what I’m going to call “project awesome” with Fizzy!!!

Cavallo Simple Boots: An Initial Review

First and foremost, I am in no way, shape, or form paid by or affiliated with this company, nor did anyone give me any incentives to review these boots.  I did my own research, and decided on this purchase due to the good price of these in comparison to other brands, plus the reviews I read on the internet (which, lets be honest, you can’t always trust).

Short version:

Cavallo Simple Boot is well constructed, easy to apply, and immediately helped Fizzy walk across rocks like he still had shoes on 10 days after having them removed.  They stayed on at a walk, trot, canter, and gallop, and did not twist or turn.  I look forward to using them a while and writing another review!

Long version:

Let’s backtrack for a minute and let me explain what led us to the decision of purchasing hoof boots to begin with.  If you read our blog, you read about the shoe throwing incident on the day from hell a few weeks ago.  If not, that story:  Just Stay Home!  Well, the farrier could not get out to reapply the shoe, and Fizzy managed to destroy that hoof in the two weeks it was off.  We had planned on one more show this year, but did not want to put the shoe back on a shorter hoof, just to pull all 4 shoes less than a month later.  We decided to go ahead and pull all 4 shoes, and let him go barefoot until spring.  However, he is very uncomfortable walking on rocks, as we also shared, and seems not as comfortable even in the arena as he was with shoes on.  It’s now 10 days after the shoe removal, and it’s obvious it will be a long process to get him comfortable being barefoot.  To aid in this and allow us to keep working him lightly and maybe even go on a few more trail rides, we decided to try the boots because, well, we will do anything to make our horse happy and comfortable.  That plus the cost of them is less than one shoeing for 4 hooves!  Since our plan is to keep him barefoot until April, we’ve got 7 months ahead of us.

So, I ordered the Cavallo Simple Boot via Amazon Prime (sold by Cavallo Inc) in a size 2 Friday night after measuring using the tool they had provided on their website www.cavallo-inc.com.  First of all, it was VERY easy to measure using this tool, and if you know even the slightest teeny tiny little bit about horses you can use this tool.  The boots and also the pastern wraps (purchased separately) had come by Sunday.  Oh the joys of amazon prime and 2 day shipping especially as a horse owner, but that’s another conversation.

Anyway, I was excited as a kid on Christmas morning opening up my (Fizzy’s) new boots! They even sent me a free hoofpick and another free gift (some digital info on barefoot trimming that is very informative). From here on out, I will probably refer to these boots as his “Nikes” because they are indeed comparable to a tennis shoe for horses. They came in a box very similar to a shoe box human shoes come in, too!  Upon initial inspection, I can tell in their new state that the boots are well constructed, sturdy, and to me very interesting looking contraptions! They appear easy to apply, so I head on over to the barn to give them a go. I wish I had taken photos and video of him actually wearing them, but I was a little bit pressed for time and wanted to pay him the attention he needed while I was there.  I promise I will provide more photos at a later date, and also intend on doing a follow up review after using them for a while.

Putting them on was not hard, once I figured it out. I’ll admit,  I might be slightly slow with new things I’ve never seen before.  I proceeded to put on the pastern wraps first. Of course I read the directions! (Those of you who don’t know me, understand this is the first thing I normally throw away). Yes, I will admit I tried to put them on upside down, then felt really dumb after I actually DID read the instructions. I felt dumb again after I put the first boot on the wrong hoof and didn’t realize it until I went to latch it.  I share these mishaps with you all because it does us all good to be able to laugh at ourselves at times.  Anyway, once I got them on the correct hooves, and all latched up, I took Fizzy to the arena (across the rocky driveway at the barn) and could immediately tell a difference in his level of comfort vs. having nothing on his feet.  Praise Jesus! Because watching him walk on rocks barefoot as it is right now makes me want to cry.

We did some free lunging at a walk, trot, canter, and Fizzy’s personal favorite, the uncontrolled gallop.  They stayed on at all speeds!  They stayed latched and didn’t twist or turn.  So far, so good and I am impressed!  I look forward to using them to work and hopefully trail ride him some this fall, and then I will update with another review of how they performed doing those things.  So far, I love them for what we purchased them for and would recommend them to a friend. I feel like if Fizzy could speak, he’d recommend them to a friend too, because he seems to feel like a million bucks wearing them on rough ground vs not wearing them.

Check out the video of Fizzy wearing the boots!

Cavallo Simple Boots Video

 

Sometimes, You Should Just Stay Home!

True story.  Sometimes you can make all the plans in the world, but if the stars align just right and the moon is in a funny position, pigs can suddenly fly but unicorns are stabbing them out of the sky and all kinds of other freaky crap happens.  I have a story to share with you, and it’s a story about how some days you should just listen to the first sign and stay the hell home! Lesson learned, universe!

It was a nice day outside, sunny, not too hot, not too cold, just perfect for the trail riding I had planned with Mary Jo.  Yeah… little did I know, life had some more lessons to teach me.

First of all, I am not sure I shared here the story of Fiz’s”game” with not wanting to come in from the field? Well, he wore a halter for nearly 2 months (until he broke it into several pieces) because at one point this year he decided it was fun to run away at the sight of us, presumably just to laugh at us chasing him down. Since he broke the halter, he hasn’t worn another one and he has been fine to catch, no issues whatsoever for over a month. I decide I’d like to take him trail riding, and arrange to meet Mary Jo for a nice little ride at McNeely Lake Park.  Fiz decides that’s the day to begin another round of the “game” with the running away in the field.  Hilarious, I tell ya (note the sarcasm here).

I go to his field the day of the ride, about 30 minutes before I needed to leave the barn to meet her.  He runs away like a bat out of hell. So, I run him and run him and run him until he’s tired enough to let me catch him. Then, I realized that he’d nicked his front heel with his back foot, and pulled the shoe off his front right hoof. Despite that, it barely bled and he seemed fine, so I decided to load up anyway…. NOTED UNIVERSE, I SHOULD HAVE JUST STAYED HOME.  I get it.  Really, I do.  Note to readers:  It’s all downhill from here.

Fiz and I got to McNeely about 30 minutes late and unload. Well, Mary Jo dropped the butt bar before I unhooked the trailer tie (totally not her fault, I should have had this done) and he tried to fly out of the trailer, getting STUCK by the trailer tie, and then tearing off a piece of the rubber on the side of the trailer by flailing around before I could get him loose. The tie is supposed to be one of those emergency release things, which did not work as intended. EPIC FAIL.

Get him out of the trailer, finally, and again, he’s fine. He seems in good spirits, looking around, acting nice and calm, eating grass, etc. So we decide to see if he would tie. We tied him to her trailer, on the opposite side of her horse, and stood there with him about 10 minutes while he was again, calm, and being good. I decide to go back to the trailer and get his bridle. Well, AS SOON as I walk away, he ran backwards BREAKING the damn lead and GOT LOOSE. At McNeely! REALLY??? He begins running away down the road we came in. At this point I’m thinking “Well, I hope whoever finds you will give you a good home, because obviously I’m never gonna catch you out here in the open.” At this point, I also wanted to cry, felt like I was about to have a heart attack, but didn’t have it in me to give up.  I guess that’s just not in my DNA, as I keep coming back time and again for more, no matter what!

Luckily, I had some grain in a bucket in the trailer, so I go retrieve it to try and coax him back to me. Finally catch him about 10 or so minutes later. At this point it’s like “REALLY, this day is cursed” but we’re already there so might as well keep going.  Finally get saddled up and on the trail… he’s again going along fine and happy like no big deal. Until we hit some places with rocks on the trail, then he proceeds to act as though he is completely crippled on the foot with no shoe. Well that’s terrific. (Again, note the sarcasm here).

So we turn around and head back to the trailers. We were out a little over an hour. He loads FINE. Like no issues at all. Then, Mary Jo’s horse wouldn’t load, and he NEVER has issues! So we finally get both horses loaded and all is right with the world. So I thought.

I get back to the barn, and now he’s managed to get cut up on one of his back legs also. So that’s bleeding everywhere.  I say everywhere, but in all reality it really wasn’t THAT bad.   WHAT THE HELLLLLLL????? And then he won’t back OFF of the trailer! I assume afraid because of what happened at McNeely. Dear sweet baby Jesus please help me! It took about 10 minutes to convince him he could go backwards and step down. The wall of the trailer looks as though all he did was kick at it the entire ride back home. So much for having a sane, normal horse. Or wait, did we ever?  Anyway, I doctored his leg, turned him out, and went home.

I fully expected the next day for him to be super sore, but NOPE!  He was just fine.  His cuts healed in less than 3 whole days and he is perfectly fine now, but we have not since been off the farm.  We have also purchased a set of shipping boots to protect him from those type of cuts in the future.  Hopefully the next adventure is not as… adventurous!  As always, stay tuned for more adventures of Fizzy!

Scratches, AGAIN

Every year, without fail and without warning, this crap pops up on Fizzy’s leg(s).  The first time, we had no idea what it was as we had never seen anything like it before.  So, to try and help any readers we may get from the frustration of this crazy stuff, here’s an explanation of what it is and how to get rid of it.

Scratches is also called greasy heel, mud fever, dew poisoning, or in more technical terms, pastern dermatitis or pastern folliculitis. Anyway, it’s some sort of nasty fungus that happens when the conditions a horse lives in are muddy, wet, etc. It seems to be worse when there is repeated wetting/drying of the legs.  Horses that live in fields are prone to it since overnight can get dewy (dew poisoning) and then during the daytime the field dries out. Even more prone to it are white legs.  Lucky Fizzy, he has 3 white legs!!

Early on, it might just look like some kind of liquid/gel on your horses leg(s) and if detected early, will be no big deal.  The earlier you begin treatment, the easier it is to treat.  As it progresses, it will look like scabbing, and it can be very sensitive to the touch and in bad cases even cause lameness.  Avoid picking at it, trust me on this one.  I tried to “wash” it off the first time Fizzy had it, and that did not turn out very well and he was very uncomfortable.  I feel like a bad mommy because I didn’t know any better.

Some recommend you have it diagnosed by a veterinarian and receive anything from antibiotics, antifungals, to steroids… I know, I can see the dollar signs too.  However, THERE IS HOPE!!  I’m here to tell you (and save you some major money) that you don’t necessarily need that for this junk to go away.  However, if you try my method and it’s just not working, then by all means, you need to call a vet.

Anyway, I remembered to get a few photos this time since the last few years I did not.  I was at the barn Wednesday morning, did not go Thursday morning, and showed up Friday morning to picture #1, below.  This tells you how fast this stuff can pop up. I always groom Fizzy’s legs (and use polo wraps/splint boots) so there’s no way I would not have noticed this Wednesday.

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I immediately knew what it was as we had dealt with it before, so I began to treat it with what I am going to call my miracle mix.  Yes, you will get funny looks buying these items together at the department store or pharmacy.  Yes, your horse is worth any humiliation you might experience.  #1, Bordreaux’s Butt Paste, I buy the larger tube size in maximum strength, with 40% zinc as this is the active ingredient. I assume generic diaper rash cream might work, but I like using the best of the best with the 40% zinc. #2. Jock Itch Cream. These are usually in small tubes like .5oz, I buy 3 or 4 of them in a generic brand because they all basically have the same ingredients.  #3. Triple Antibiotic, again, small tubes in 1 oz, I’ll buy one or two in the generic store brand.  Mix it all up, and there you have it: Miracle Mix. I keep it in tupperware at the barn, and it’s held up and kept well til I need it.  I always have it on hand so I can begin treating this immediately when I notice it.  That way, it doesn’t spread.

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Put it on the affected area, and leave it alone.  Because we really have no other option, we have to turn Fiz back out, so he goes into the field with this on.  Apply it daily (or as much as you can) and the scabs will start falling off.  Keep applying until the scabs are gone and the area starts growing hair back.  If after seeral days to a week, the scabs persist, please call a vet and get some more serious treatment for your horse.  However, this is the treatment that has worked without fail for us on Fizzy every time for the last 3 years.

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I didn’t take a photo after the first day, this is after the 3rd day of treatment.  As you can see, the scabbing is going away but still present.

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Below is after a week, and not treating every single day.  Only a small amount of scabbing remains.  I keep putting it over the entire area anyway, just as a precaution.

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His first case was VERY bad.  I only have a photo of the spot after it had begun healing. As you can see, this area is much more largely affected than the above, because we didn’t know how to treat it and it spread.  Once we began treating it with the cream I talked about above, it looked like the below photo within 2 weeks.

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The Show Must Go On

We have a horse show in less than 2 days.  Saturday, the 16th, Fizzy will show in Country Pleasure at the Hardin County Fair. Those of you who care, the show starts at 8pm, we’re in the 12th class, and the address for the fairgrounds is 5617 South Dixie Hwy, Glendale, KY, 42740.  All shameless self-promotions aside, lets move on.

I was going to save this story until after the horse show because I know my loving Mother reads this blog, and you know how Mom’s worry.  I felt this situation to be similar to that time I wrecked my motorcycle days before a horse show and did not tell Mom until after I’d ridden in the show.  I did this to prove that I could function normally,  that I didn’t somehow become a paraplegic due to some scrapes and bruises.  Anyway, she’s been informed, so I guess the rest of you can be too.  Love you Momma!

Here’s the scoop.  Why is it that every time it’s crunch time, it seems like the universe wants to rain on our parade?  I mean, does this kind of crap really happen to other people, or is it just me? First let me begin by saying Fizzy has now been promoted to certified Saint, absolutely the most perfect horse in the universe of all horses.  (This week, anyway.)  Really, I should never speak ill of him ever again, in any capacity, for any reason!

That said, here’s the reason why. We had an accident in the cart Wednesday morning. Before you gasp and go “OH MY GAWWWDDD did you DIE?” No, we didn’t.  We are both just fine, by my definition of the word! Horse unscathed, Human might have walked a little weird for a day. Anyhow, here’s what happened. Coming around a corner in the indoor arena, the cart tumped over.  Yes, I mean, flipped onto its side.  As you can imagine, it’s not easy to sit on a seat that is no longer parallel to the ground, so I bit the dust pretty hard. I’m talking arena sand in my ears, nose, mouth, and pretty much covering my body hard. Probably ate some poop too, but we’re going to pretend that didn’t happen. I admit, picturing how it must have looked playing out, I’m laughing. I am going to assume this happened because of the bent pieces I later discovered while inspecting the cart.  I KNOW it was not previously like this. Despite the hard fall, I was still was able to hold onto the lines by some miracle (rope burned fingers, aside). Dragging the cart, now on its side, I shouted out  “WHOAH” and Fizzy stopped, immediately, and turned and looked at me. He stood perfectly still until I was able to get myself together, stand up, and walk over to put the cart back on it’s wheels and unhook him from it.

He literally could have ripped the cart apart, but he listened to me without a second thought and saved both of us the grief. Thank GOD that horse has a brain, and sometimes uses it! You know, when it counts! It’s one of those things you look back on and say “how in the actual hell did we get so lucky?” when you remember those “driving disaster” videos on YouTube where all hell breaks loose and some crazy equine is running loose, wildly trying to remove the rolling object from its self. Parts flying everywhere, a wheel here, a shaft there, and people scrambling around trying to stop it from further damage while it crashes into anything in its path. In case you haven’t had the luxury of seeing one of these terrifying videos, check this one out:  Driving Class Gone Wrong.  Yeah, thankfully that wasn’t us.  Saint status, yep, Fizzy has earned it.

Anyway, here’s the culprit, I assume… now to figure out how to fix that and get back to business, since we have already established that working Fizzy with the cart more has tremendously helped him! I apologize for the crappy cell phone photos, it’s the best I could do at the time.

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The aftermath:  I’ll spare you photos of my purple hip, so be glad for that.  My wonderful and caring man bandaged me up, politely telling me I should always wear my helmet for any activity, not just riding.  He might be right, but don’t tell him that.  He also laughed (because he knew I was OK), called me “Grace” and commented on how I like to “practice falling down” as he says.  I admit it, I’m not the most graceful person to ever walk planet earth and he’s witnessed a multitude of “mishaps” I’ve had.  A long time ago, he bought me this little plush horse and named it “Bandaid” in reference to my uncanny ability to inflict harm on myself without trying. So what? the show must go on, and we will be out there Saturday night giving it all we’ve got! So come join us in the fun.  🙂

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More Trail Riding!

It has been a few weeks, but I just want to say we took Fizzy trail riding around Seneca Park.  It was loads of fun, even it it was hot as Hades outside!  Fizzy hadn’t been ridden in a few days and thought walking was optional.  He’s a character, with a very backwards mind.  We learned a few things, such as stationary silent objects such as large rocks and gazebos are not OK, they are every reason needed to move sideways, snort, blow, and try to turn around. Loud moving vehicles (fire truck with sirens blaring) doesn’t get a second look or thought. I crack up at his decision making skills, and what he chooses to be afraid of.  None of it ever makes any sense to me!  If only I could see inside his mind and know what he was thinking sometimes.  Nonetheless, he always keeps me entertained.  I do feel like he likes getting away from home to do something other than go to a show, and I anticipate lots more trail riding this fall.  Here are some photos and a short video of our fun in the park!  In the video, you can hear the siren blaring and can tell that this doesn’t even phase him!

Keeping Up the Good Work-Cantering Continued

So I realize that I haven’t posted much in the training and AOT category since we updated on Fiz’s month of boot camp with a professional trainer.  So, here I am to give some updates.  Here goes.

Let me just say first and foremost, since starting this AOT journey I have found a new respect for trainers who make a living out of caring for and teaching other people’s horses how to behave.  It is, in a word, DIFFICULT.  To elaborate on that, to care for a very large and complicated animal, and teach it to behave in an appropriate way no matter where you take it, is an undertaking not for the faint at heart.  When we started this journey three years ago, I thought “It can’t be THAT hard.” Well, I am here to tell you now, that I was completely, in every sense of the word, WRONG.  IT IS HARD.  Very, very hard.  It is time consuming, and at times, life consuming.  You give up a lot.  You work harder than you thought you knew how.  You make difficult decisions, hell, you make EVERY decision.  You lose sleep.  You face challenges and you fight an uphill battle.  You set goals.  Sometimes you meet them, sometimes you work harder and try again next time. You have to be stubborn, determined, DEDICATED.  You have to push through, even in the times where you feel you’re getting no where.  For the sake of your horse and sometimes even your own sanity, you push through.  On top of all of that, as an AOT, you still have to go to work at some random full time job. So in many ways, we have it even more difficult than actual trainers do, since they spend all day every day focusing on just the horses.

Anyway, off the soap box of how difficult the “trainer” role is, the last two months have been going pretty dang good.  What Fiz learned at boot camp was a fantastic base for furthering his education and I can’t be happier with the results we got from spending a small fortune on one month.  I talked about everything he learned in a previous post, so you can go back and read about it in case you missed that.  We have been using the jog cart a lot more.  So much more that the poor $200 thing is falling apart.  I’ve had a slew of issues lately with that (do professional trainers have these same things happen, or is it just me?)  Over the last month, the dash has fallen off the cart twice, the tug fell off the harness once, the traces can’t seem to figure out how to stay on (the keepers are messed up), and there was also one fateful morning of the tire explosion.  Poor Fizzy has been more than patient with me and all of the crazy things.  He keeps coming in day after day happy to work, also regardless of the oddball hours I show up to work him!

In using the jog cart more though, we’ve come up with some very clear signaling to help with our cantering problems.  If you’ve been following our journey, you know by now that this horse is a difficult one to get “correct” at the canter.  He anticipates the takeoff, then gets all mixed up, has a BIG takeoff, and if you get out of sorts as the rider, he gets out of sorts too.   So we’ve been working on cantering in the jog cart hoping the voice signals and more work will help with his “mix ups” cantering.

Since one of the key things Fizzy learned with the professional was how to push up to the bridle and go faster without breaking into the next gait, we didn’t want to ruin that.  So, whenever we ask him to move on and extend the trot in the cart, the whip always taps him on the top of his butt.  The voice signal is always a cluck, and if you feel him getting off, a “whoop trot” is in order.  He listens to that because we have said it enough he knows what it means.  When signaling for the canter, I will slightly turn his head to the rail (this is by no means a big signal, it’s just a tiny bit) and say “ready…. CANTER” and then tap him on his HIP if he doesn’t take off cantering. The “ready…canter” tip came from one of Smith Lilly’s DVD’s on training, and the “ready” part is intended to prepare them mentally for what we are about to ask, and to separate it from a “Whoop Trot” very easily. 95% of the time using this method, he takes off on the correct lead.  And since he’s so smart, he now tries taking off when I say “ready…” so I might have to drop that.  However, I do my best not to allow him to take off before I ask him to by saying the word “canter”.

I’ve been riding him less, but when I do ride him, I ride harder, and I ask for more than I used to.  Since we don’t ride as much, I can do this.  If I were riding every day, I wouldn’t be able to ask for as much all the time, as that would cause issues such as back soreness, etc. It’s more difficult for a horse to carry a rider than it is for them to pull a cart, but pulling a cart helps build the muscle necessary to carry a rider more easily.  You want to make sure you balance their workouts, the same as people do.  Don’t make them perform the same tasks every day, or work the same muscle groups.  They get bored doing the same things, just like people do.  This can cause them to act out, so change up the routine and keep it interesting.  Don’t be afraid to try new things.

 

 

American Road Horse and Pony Show

The first horse show of 2016 is in the books.  The first show since Fizzy completed his 30 days of professional training.  Overall, he was much improved and looked terrific.  We have not purchased photos from this show, but we might depending on how the rest of the year goes. They can be seen in this album over at Stevie B Photos: Bluegrass Select 3 Gaited Country Pleasure.  She got a few really great shots of Fizzy and I!  Better than any in previous years, partly because she’s a great photographer and partly because he looks SO MUCH better this year!

Special thanks to my Mom who got these few great shots of us on the rail!

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Things we learned at this show:

1.  Make sure to check, double check, and triple check your tack before you get on.  Malfunctions and oversights happen.  Make sure you’re good before you get on and go warm up.

2.  You have a voice, use it.  If you practice at home in speaking to your horse and giving voice commands, and he executes it perfectly that way, don’t suddenly forget you have a voice when you get in the ring.  Be understanding of why your horse may have been confused on what you were asking.

3.  When the right people are behind you, any loss can feel like a win.  We made it to the show and in the ring with the perfect cheering section, and that’s all a girl can really hope for.

4.  When you get stuck for 2 hours dead stopped on the interstate with a horse in tow, anything is fair game, such as watering your horse with blue Gatorade.  Peeing in a bucket in the horse trailer not excluded, either.

Said Traffic, at least the sunset was pretty:  trafficjam

5. At the end of the long, long horse show days, all that really matters is that you arrive home safely and have a happy horse!

Also a special thanks to Cindy for the video and commentary!

 

3 years

It’s been 3 years today that we brought Fizzy home. So, here’s a video, mostly in chronological order! There’s been a lot of challenges, learning experiences, good times, hard times, fun and frustration. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and wouldn’t want anyone other than Cindy as my co-owner in this crazy horse!

Check out our video here:   3 Years of Fizzy!