How to Dye a Saddle

Trying to find a hunt saddle to fit Fizz, in a price range that I could afford, has proven to be a challenge. I have dealt with the ill fitting one for far too long and finally sold it a few months ago. I have since tried several others, to no true avail, and even sent info to a consignment saddle fitter and they had nothing they thought would work for him in their inventory of over 100 used saddles. I was resigned to the fact that I’d hit show season without a saddle and be stuck not showing. I did a demo a few weeks ago on a brand new Freedman, which fit him beautifully, but I cannot afford to spend nearly 4k on a saddle and fittings after it’s all said and done so I guess I’ll need to start saving my pennies and/or selling some things. (Who am I kidding, I’m a hoarder, I don’t really like to sell things…)

BUT, I am one lucky son of a gun, I picked up what I now know is a 2002 model Freedman hunt style saddle the same weekend. This came from the famed Walnut Way dispersal sale, how lucky am I? The only thing that is really wrong with it is that the knee roll foam is basically disintegrated. But, for $200, I could not say no to a saddle that had good potential to fit him. And guess what? It fits pretty decent, not perfect but better than the one I sold. For being over 20 years old, it’s in surprisingly great shape overall.

Since I am not in love with the reddish color of the leather, it does not match his Freedman show bridle or breast plate, and I have decided that I cannot afford the new one that I am in love with at this time, I have to make this one work for now. SO, I set out to find a solution to the color problem and I might be crazy, but I’m going to DIY dye this saddle. Yes, I could pay someone. But then I’d have less money to save for a new saddle while still having to use this one.

Products I used:

  • Fiebings Deglazer (this is probably acetone based on online research, but better safe than sorry)
  • Fiebings Pro Leather Dye: Chocolate color
  • Wool Dobbers (some online sources have said the “applicator” doesn’t come with the dye so I just ordered some myself to be safe) Low and behold, no applicator came with the dye.
  • Passier Lederbalsam- I have read that this is a great alternative to use for a top coat (like resolene) since it is heavy in beeswax, but still allows you to condition the leather (unlike resolene).

Here is what we are starting with, color wise. I prefer darker brown leathers and this orange/red is just not my style. Also note the wear marks on the flaps where it’s faded/discolored.

Step 1: find a well ventilated area to work and gather your supplies. Believe me you don’t want your house smelling like this stuff. I used my barn, with the horses outside for the day. It was a breezy day so I didn’t really notice the smell until I left the saddle in the tack room to dry overnight.

Step 2: Deglazing. This is to remove any top coat and oils so that the dye is able to penetrate the leather. It is scary. No one likes dull, spotty, dried out leather! But, it’s necessary so try to keep from cringing and keep going. Put your deglazer on a rag or piece of cotton and rub in circles everywhere you plan to dye. For me, it was everywhere with leather that I could get to, top and bottom. After deglazing, notice how everything looks extremely dull and discolored. Not that it wasn’t discolored before, but now it’s worse.

Step 2: Dye and buff!! Here is where you start to see the transformation, but again, it’s scary too!! Due to the dullness/dryness of the leather, the dye coat will look uneven. Do not fear. Just stick the coarse. Use the dobber and apply a thin coat. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect, you’ll be doing more coats. After coat 1, I let it dry for about an hour, then went over it buffing with a rag to remove excess dye. Use the same circular motion like with the deglazer, and use a fresh rag. Microfiber works well and won’t scratch the leather.

Steps 3 (and 4?) Repeat step 2 until you get the desired color and coverage with your dye (or until you run out like I did). I was able to do 3 thin coats on top, and 2 thin coats underneath with 1 dye bottle.

After coat 3 I left it outside in the sun for the rest of the daylight I had left for the dye to soak in and dry. Then once it got dark I moved it inside the tack room to lock up, and left it there overnight (and most of the next day because, real adult jobs get in the way of fun horsey things).

Step 5: BUFF until you think your arms might fall off. OR until you come up with a better way to buff.

Step 6: Apply the lederbalsam. Slather that stuff on there like its going out of style and leave it to soak. Then again, buff buff buff.

Step 7: Repeat step 6.

Step 8: Repeat step 6 again!! Yes. At this point you may not have working arms. Haha but rest assured the end result will be worth the personal torture. I ran out of weekend and had to do this over the course of the next few weeks. Any time I’d get a few spare minutes, I’d just buff on the saddle some. I really think leaving it alone though let the dye set in really well, so points for procrastination.

Here is the finished product!!! I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I am not sure how it will hold up over time, but for now, I am pretty darn satisfied. The last photo shows how the color matches his new Freedman bridle and breast plate. Pretty perfect!! 😍

It’s Hard to See the Forest Through the Trees

Do you ever get that feeling like you’re just missing something? Maybe it’s right in front of your face and you just can’t see it? Yeah, me too. Since Duke got here in July, and even before that, my goal with him has been to get us to a (real) show, under saddle, IN A SUIT, all up in front of the public and NOT embarrass ourselves. We have hit roadblock after roadblock (he had an abscess that took forever to heal, I had surgery that put me off for 6 weeks, WINTER, mud, etc). It’s so easy to become frustrated and sit back and say we’ve gotten no where. The wheels of progress turn so slow, and the winds of change are barely blowing.

However, I cannot in all honesty say we have not made any progress. While the progress sitting in the saddle isn’t as noticeable as I wish it were, and we still have quite a way to go to be ready to hit the show ring, there are other areas where the level of progression is much more noticeable. On the ground, he is a different horse. I can put a brush to his face without him running backwards. I can put a blanket on without him running sideways. I can work around him without fear his teeth will take a chunk out of me when I’m not paying attention. I can use a mounting block. He still hates anything being sprayed on him, but we are working on it. He might squat a little but he no longe3r becomes a crash test dummy who would slam himself into anything around just to try and get away.

I have never dealt with such an incredibly sensitive horse in my life. So, what do you do when you have a horse that is so (over) reactive to literally every move you make? You just don’t react. You keep going. You take it slow, but you make it a point to continue on. Don’t panic when they panic, just keep going like nothing is happening. It’s just not your turn to have a meltdown. And it probably never will be.

I can’t say this is the way to go with ALL horses, but with Duke it has proven to work. After MONTHS of flailing my hands around his face, dropping things on purpose, kicking things all around him, touching him with any oddball thing I may be walking through the barn with (a broom, a rake, a pitchfork, a feed bag, a shavings bag, a giant rolling magnet, you get the point) he finally just stands and looks at me like I’m the most ridiculous human on earth with most things. He doesn’t shake in fear, he doesn’t run backwards or sideways or anything else. If I happen to drop something next to him, I don’t have to worry he might take me out on the way to getting the hell out of there, or that he will break the crossties trying to escape his fate. He stands there, 98% of the time. None of us are perfect, I’ll take 98%.

I go by the rule that if you spook at it, you get to wear it or be by it or look at it so you can realize it isn’t scary. It may take a few days of seeing it, being touched by it, etc. Some people might think this is cruel, and to those people I ask: how else are you desensitizing your horses? How are they supposed to understand something isn’t going to hurt them if they aren’t exposed to it? If they are not physically shown there is no harm to come from being “brushed” with a broom or “ridden” by a bag? Or whatever else. Please. Enlighten me. I’m always open to new ideas. Everyone has good ones, and I’m ready to hear them. However, this is what is working so far on my extremely sensitive guy, and he’s no worse for wear. Until a better alternative is offered up or discovered, I will stay the course with this. Do I annoy him? Probably. Is he safer to work around (and even ride) because of it? Absolutely. Does Fizz look at me like I’m a horrible human for “torturing” his brother? Nope. Been there done that is probably laughing from the other side of the divider.

Anyway, just because you can’t see progress every single day doesn’t mean progress isn’t getting made. When you feel you’re in a rut, take a look back at where you were a month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago. Don’t focus on today, yesterday, and the frustrations you may feel in each moment. Don’t look at your end goal and think about how far you have to go still. It can make it seem hopeless, believe me, I get it. Instead, focus on where you came from, where you are, and where you want to be. Adjust along the way if necessary. Look at the big picture. See the whole forest (all the little hurdles you’re jumping on the way), not just one tree (your end goal). It’s OK to trip. It’s OK to stand still and evaluate. It’s OK to proceed with caution. As long as you’re not going backwards, you’re doing all right.

The Power of Horses

I had a conversation with someone the other day that made me take a look back through my life. My childhood. My teenage years. My adulthood. My struggles, my fears, my triumphs, etc. I am going to go out on a limb here and be completely vulnerable to my readers for this post, even though it’s out of my comfort zone and not my normal style. I am going to put some things out there I normally wouldn’t, because I think it’s important. There’s a lot of focus on “mental health” these days, as people come to understand more how bullying affects kids and adults alike. If I can shed some light to anyone, anywhere, about how you shouldn’t care about what everyone else thinks through my story, if I can help even one person feel understood, then it will be worth it.

For as long as I can remember, horses have been a constant in my universe. When all else has gone awry, I can always count on the horses to bring me back to center. They have literally never failed me. Embarrassed me, maybe (haha) but failed? Never. There has never been a bad day that has been spent with horses. All the hard days, frustrating days, disappointing days where work or show doesn’t go as planned, have all still been wins because they were spent with horses.

I was never that kid that was like all the others, never one that was popular or well liked among all the school kids, especially the popular crowd. I was that socially awkward, shy kid that never quite fit in. In elementary school, middle school, and even high school I didn’t have all that many friends. I was bullied and made fun of. I was the target for kids looking for someone to poke fun at a lot of the time, and kids can be so incredibly cruel. Though I tried to stay quiet and fly under the radar, there’s only so much you can do to “hide” yourself in a small square classroom of 20 or less kids. “They” always found me. Don’t get me wrong, I did have (and still do) some AMAZING friends for which I am truly lucky to have, but that fact doesn’t make the other less true.

From my clothes, hair, and glasses to my weight (I’ve never been “thin” although I am not obese either), everything was fair game for mean kids in school. I won’t get into the whole “be kind” movement here, but really ya’ll, would it kill ya as adults to just be nice? To correct your kids if they’re the ones doing the bullying? To teach your kids it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to be themselves, and it’s OK to stand up for what they believe in, and do what they love? To make sure if they’re being bullied, they know they are enough-just the way they are? To make certain they are aware they are loved? To give them something to participate in (no matter what is) that makes them feel confident and useful? My parents did all of the above and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful despite their financial limitations, they found a way to give me an outlet in horses, they found a way to make it happen and keep making it happen no matter what.

This was somewhere around 1993 or 1994, my 10 or 11 year old self with an Arabian lesson horse called “Dancer”.
This was around 1996, if you look closely, you can see my round wire rimmed glasses other kids were so quick to make fun of (I got those in 7th grade) at a schooling show aboard a Saddlebred called Mr. K.

I will probably never truly know the hurdles my parents jumped just so I could spend my summers at the barn, get my weekly lessons, or go to horse shows. But it’s important to note that because of that, I knew I was enough. I had great parents and because of them, I had horses. Even at an early age, I had goals for my equestrian life and motivation to focus on meeting them. I had something outside of school and away from the “mean kids” to do, a place where I fit in. I had something that gave me the confidence to tell those mean kids to shove it. I had an activity where my participation was paramount to my success with my partner (my horse). Bit also due to my parents limited financial means, I had to WORK to reach some of my goals. I cleaned stalls to get more lessons, and did other farm work to help offset show costs. And besides that, if I was working, I was learning and I couldn’t dismiss any opportunity to learn about horses.

Horses can be terrifying. Riding large and rather unpredictable animal makes you resilient, it pushes your expectations, it makes you physically tired but emotionally calm. Horses can feel your heartbeat and mirror your emotions, so you have to learn to control your emotions around them. Being an equestrian as a kid gave me an activity that instilled in me many of the qualities and skills that have propelled me though life and shaped my success as an adult: Dedication, hard work, confidence, critical thinking, organization, focus, forgiveness, compassion, and a myriad of other words you would think of when describing a successful person. Being an equestrian as an adult keeps those qualities and skills in check.

Why do I consider myself a successful person?

#1: I have never been in jail. I could have been. There was a time in my life where I had some friends who were “from the wrong side of the tracks” and I could have rode that train right into juvie. But horses took me a different direction.

#2: I am a contributing member of society. I do not expect anyone or anything to be given to me and I WORK for everything I have. Who/what (mainly) taught me that? You guessed it: Horses (along with my parents constantly reminding me that life is full of lemons, and I just needed to learn to make lemonade.) Horses are my “lemonade” complete with all the sugar in the world.

#3: I didn’t murder anyone. There was a time in my life where I possibly could have been one of those women on an episode of snapped. I was once married to a man who didn’t think I was smart enough or brave enough to call him on his crappy actions, who berated me for speaking up, who tried to make me feel guilty for doing things that made me happy, who called me crazy when I reacted to his transgressions. When I finally got the courage to leave, who was there for me, motivating me to keep going? FIZZ. He never expected anything of me (except that I produce snacks when I showed up). He counted on me to show up for him, and that’s all I really needed.

#4: I am now living the life I dreamed of as a kid. I busted my butt to get here. I fell, a lot (and still do from time to time), but every time I get back up. Another lesson I learned from horses. Drag your ass out of the dirt, dust yourself off, and KEEP GOING.

#5: I still have goals. I still work hard. I still do not expect handouts. I still get up every single day and take care of business.

#6: I couldn’t care any less about what everyone else thinks of me, or what they think of my horses. They are imperfect, as am I, and it’s OK. Expectations vs. Reality is a real thing and a lot of people seem to live in some skewed fantasy world where everything is perfect. All that matters in the end is that we do our best and try to do better every time than we did the last.

I could think of a million more reasons, but I don’t want to drone on. The real point here is, a thousand times over and continually throughout my life, horses have saved me. They have gotten me through some of the hardest, darkest days and been my light at the end of the tunnel more times than I can count. They have given me reason to get up in the morning, put on my proverbial boots and trudge through the mud of life to get to greener pastures. (Or you know, actual mud because it is currently mud season here in Kentucky-YUCK-where is summer again?)

I wanted to share this because I am 1000% certain I am not the only “horse girl/kid” that was an awkward child who didn’t fit in. I am also 1000% certain I am not the only one who despite it, grew up to be awesome. Horse people are extremely resilient, and some of the most hard working people I know who are not afraid to be unapologetically themselves. Why? Because the horses don’t care what you wear, what you look like, how expensive your clothes are, etc. As long as you show up for them, they show up for you. Your “school years” or the other kids/bullies who reside there, are not your defining factors in life and overall, they are only a small part of what your life will be. Build relationships with people who love you for who YOU are. Do not change yourself to be who they want you to be. If they can’t accept you, get on your horse and leave them in the dust.

That’s all for now… I’ll post some normal content soon, we’ve had a lot going on over here with Fizz and Duke, just working hard in the background and grinding away toward show season 2023!

Tail Rubbing-A Lifelong Battle

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before but ever since day 1, Fizz has been a “tail rubber”. It is literally the WORST. He will rub his behind on just about anything he can find if left alone and naked with something to rub against. He’s 15 this year and I’m pretty sure after 10 years of doing this (probably longer), he isn’t going to stop now.

He’s been in just about every living situation one could think of since we got him in 2013: Full turnout, part turnout, full time stalled, in full professional training, part time training, etc. He’s been fed a variety of different feeds, been evaluated by several different veterinarians, all the things have been cleaned, he’s had just about every potion known to man slathered all over his tail. It’s been put up, it’s been let down, it’s been conditioned to kingdom come and back again. NOTHING stops the rubbing. I feel like it’s just a habit of his that started for one reason or another and now he just likes the way it feels to scratch his behind.

People suggest:

  • De-Worming (pinworms are common cause of tail rubbing)
  • Sheath/udder cleaning
  • Check for sweet itch
  • Check/Tests for Allergies
  • Condition Dry Skin
  • Consider a “no grain/anti-inflammatory” feed
  • Feed ground flax as a supplement
  • Apply Listerine/Baby Oil 50/50 mix
  • Use MTG (Sorry, I can’t get past the smell-I tried, really, I did)
  • Use coconut oil

While the above (or something else I haven’t heard of yet) may have worked for some, it did not work for us. It’s always been bad, but by November of this year I had enough. There wasn’t even enough left at the top for me to start a braid so that was just not going to work. I also suspect Duke was munching on his tail too, making it even worse. They have a wall with open bars in between their stalls, and I watched Fizz put his butt up to the bars and Duke bite at his tail one day! That was the last straw.

My solution: Just keep it covered, and keep it clean and conditioned as best I can. He lives in a turnout sheet or blanket with a tail flap (depending on the outside temp) since it’s winter and colder here right now so when he does rub, it just goes on the smooth lining and doesn’t mess with the actual tail since the surface is slick. He will live in a fly sheet/scrim sheet in his stall in the summer if he keeps up the rubbing!

Here is the process I follow, aside from keeping his sheet/blanket on him.

  1. Wash 1x per month with an antibacterial/antifungal shampoo (you know, just incase-even if there isn’t the kind of funk you’d usually attack with this type of shampoo). I use EQyss Medicated shampoo that I got at Tractor Supply, our local farm store but you can find it on the internet also.
  2. Condition ( I like Biomane’s conditioner-it smells so good! Or Cowboy Magic’s Rosewater conditioner)
  3. THOROUGHLY dry. You do not want your tail to rot. It will rot if you put it up the least bit damp, then all your work and effort will have been for nothing. I use a blow dryer, but he careful to desensitize your horse to this and make sure they aren’t going to run off, kick you, break everything in the general vicinity, etc.
  4. Do NOT rake through it with a brush. Hand pick out all the knots, use a wide tooth comb but be careful not to rip on the tail or you’ll be losing valuable tail hairs. Every little one matters especially when the tail is as sad as Fizz’s tail.
  5. Braid/put up into a tail wrap or tail bag. I use a Sleazy Sleepwear 3 tube tail bag. He doesn’t have a long tail, so it’s sort of tricky but it still works well, even if it works better on Duke’s nice long thick tail. Lots of people use vet wrap and/or a sock but I don’t prefer this method. If you’re interested in that though, HERE is a great resource with some more tips on “show horse” tails.
  6. Keep dock/tail bone conditioned/oiled. I use a variation of THIS concoction by the Savvy Horsewoman (who has a TON of really handy DIY recipes and ideas) and apply it 3-4 times a week. I just keep an eye on his tail bone and put more on if/when it starts looking crusty again. So far, it’s working pretty well and it smells great if you add the essential oils!
  7. Repeat once monthly. Fair warning, this is not fun in the winter. You’ll have to use a bucket heater, if you don’t have hot water in your barn. You’ll have to try and wait for a “nice” winter day where temps are not freezing. If you go over or under on the month mark, don’t fret. Just take the tail down and inspect it, and re-wrap/re-braid regularly to make sure everything is still good.

This photo was taken somewhere around Summer 2022. Sorry for the crap quality, but you get the point. You can see all the super short hair up by the dock, and the rest of the disheveled hairs all down the top of the tail bone.

This one is from January 2023 (a few days ago) after using the above method. You can see the tail braid bag, down in the lower left corner of this photo. This is still not the “ideal” tail, but it’s MUCH better than it was.

I will have to keep revisiting this page when I have more updates to his tail “progress”. I don’t think we will ever have that long beautiful dream tail, but at least we can keep it from looking like a brillo pad.

The Stubborn Abscess

In typical Duke fashion, he has caused trouble again. I mean, not intentionally but if I don’t make light of it and laugh at the troublemaker, I just might cry. I have dealt with lameness in the past before with Fizz, but never to this degree. It’s always been “Oh, you removed my shoes? I’m now crippled” or something else that is basically no big deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s never lasted more than 3 days. This had been going on since the end of September. It’s December now like really can Santa bring me an unquestionably sound horse?

On Sept 25th, we had the boys reset. Since we are going into winter in KY we had Duke’s show shoes (with the little leather pad) removed and plain plates put on. If you read/remember the post about Keratex, I was absolutely thrilled his feet were in good enough shape to even be able to do this. I thought, this will be GREAT for winter work. Then on the 28th, he turns up dead lame. My initial thought was, he’s uncomfortable after we took the pads off. Give him a bit for his soles to harden up, and he will be fine. So I waited a week, but he was the same. The farrier came out to put hoof testers on him and he removed a nail on one side where he noticed a little bit of heat, thinking it could have been a hot nail. I didn’t notice this heat, but I’m no professional. Anyway, it wasn’t that. He believed it was an abscess and suggested I soak and wrap for a week, and see where we were. I agreed and did as directed. Below you will find “how to” of sorts.

If you’ve never soaked a fidgety horses foot before, good luck, Godspeed. I hope you have the patience of a saint, especially if you’re trying to use a bucket or pan like normal people do. If you’re like me and have maybe just a smidge more patience than your horse who thinks standing still is stupid and knocking over buckets is funny, I highly suggest you invest in a product that stays with them as they move. There are multiple products out there but I got the little contraption below from my local Tractor Supply and it’s worked out well for soaking thus far (with the exception that Duke promptly broke one of the keepers for the velcro straps).

Dissolve some epsom salt in warm water with a splash of betadyne (if you have it or want to go buy it-my vet recommended it).

Soak the horses foot in the solution for a minimum of 15 minutes once daily.

I like to wipe it “dry” with a towel, inspect, then wrap.

There are some options with wrapping. You can just put some warm water and epsom salt into a baby diaper and wrap if you don’t have anything else on hand, but I find that an epsom salt poultice you buy is easier to use and stays “in place” better. You can also use something like icthamol drawing salve, or some sort of hoof packing like sole pack. In all instances, you still should wrap with a diaper (or other type of cotton) and duct tape boot on top. I use the diapers because the generic ones are cheaper than rolls of cotton and they secure on the foot so it makes wrapping slightly easier. I suppose you could put on a hoof boot or some other hoof wrapping if you choose but I haven’t found anything I like that works as good as the old duct tape way. If you have a better method, I would love to hear about it!

If you’re like me and you have never had to wrap a hoof by yourself before, again, good luck and Godspeed. haha. But really, don’t fear, for we don’t live in the stone ages and there is YouTube now.

This video will explain how to make a “duct tape boot”

Check out this video for some good wrapping tips.

After the initial week of soak/wrap process, nothing had changed. Another week of soaking/wrapping. Duke’s frog was soft and pliable and seemed to be bothersome, so the farrier came back out to trim his foot and make sure the shoes didn’t need anything. Still, the lameness persisted. I thought, let it go and give it a few more weeks. Still the same. Unfortunately.

I watched and waited about as long as I could tolerate him looking uncomfortable and to the point where I had exhausted all efforts that I knew of and that had been recommended to me. Then I called the vet. On Nov 3rd, they came out and performed an exam. He didn’t respond to hoof testers. His digital pulse was not elevated. There was no heat. But the lameness was evident. They did X-Rays to diagnose, since everything else looked normal. However, the X-Rays proved it is without a doubt, an abscess. As shown in the images below, the “pocket” of infection is clear. The vet was concerned about the infection spreading to the coffin bone, so prescribed antibiotics for that, bute to make him more comfortable, and ulcerguard to help ease his stomach from the bute. You would have thought I was poisoning his food, but he reluctantly ate it over the course of the next 10 days. The vet recommended to resume the soaking/wrapping and wanted a report in a week if he was still uncomfortable. It did not resolve.

The farrier came back on the 9th to trim and reset, and recommended another soak/wrap immediately following the trim. And then….I had surgery on Nov 11th!! I was not able to soak, wrap, or really do anything after the 10th! However, it still had not totally resolved. He seemed more comfortable on and off, but would still take “gimpy” steps trotting around the turnout and coming out of his stall. On Nov 17th, the vet returned to do magnawave therapy on his hoof to draw the remaining abscess out. They said improvement should be seen within 24-48 hours and if not, they could do another session, or more! At this point, I’m wondering (not for the first time during horse ownership) if I needed to find a street corner somewhere, or sell my soul to come up with enough money to pay for this insanity. How has it been 2.5 months and this thing is STILL hanging on?

Being the stubborn horse person that I am, I enlisted my poor non-horsey husband to help me soak and wrap… it can’t hurt, even if it hasn’t helped (yet). We did one day with epsom salt, then the second day we packed with sole pack. Left this on for nearly 24 hours. Yes, I realize the package says 18 hours max. But, being limited in what I could do, that’s the best I could manage. When this wrap was removed, a literal CHUNK of his sole picked away with a hoof pick. I was concerned, but it didn’t seem to bother him. I turned him out without soaking or wrapping and over the next several days, he seemed a lot more comfortable.

THEN, he threw a shoe. Actually, both of them did. They both threw one front shoe each. FAIL. Duke’s abscess side shoe was still hanging tight, but called the farrier anyway. Thank GOD for a good farrier, he showed up the next day. We had a nice chat about their work and living arrangements over the next few months and decided to pull ALL shoes off BOTH horses. I was SO nervous this was going to be a disaster, but the farrier assured me they would both benefit from it and if not, he would come back and nail shoes back on. Both barefoot boys pictured below.

He examined the abscess hoof and he thinks it may have blown out under the piece of sole that came off. I tend to agree. They have been barefoot for 2 weeks now and today, he was a hot mess but he looked like a SOUND hot mess! Praise the lord I (cautiously) think we are over this, but apparently this is the most stubborn abscess in history and soaking/wrapping usually works a lot faster! In extreme cases the vet can cut in and drain, but in Duke’s case the vet thought that would cause additional problems and felt it would be best to let it come out in it’s own time.

If you’re dealing with lameness, and everything you are doing isn’t working, PLEASE have your vet out to confirm an absolute diagnosis. It could be a (should have been more simple) abscess, but really while you’re blindly treating symptoms there could potentially be a bigger issue that if treated sooner, would have a better outcome. While my bank account may be drained, my heart is happy knowing I have done my due diligence as a horse mom and caretaker. I exhausted every effort I could do myself within a reasonable amount of time before enlisting professional help (and spending a small fortune) but at the end of the day, my horse is happy and comfortable now and I feel good that I didn’t let it go on and on without asking for help. As much as we ask of our horses, we owe them that much.

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.


• 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.


• 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)
• 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


  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)
    • 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


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