Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vultures, Mirrors and More Dressage!

Did you know that vultures don't like their image in mirrors? Now you are probably asking yourself, "When does a vulture ever see itself in a mirror?" Well, vultures circling about Adagio Farm in Geneva have that opportunity, thanks to the mirrors alongside the dressage ring. And according to Bruce, sand hill cranes don't like their image either. When I arrived for my lesson this morning, I was greeted by the spectacle of a dozen or so vultures hanging out around the mirrors. One, in particular, was having a one sided fight with himself. Apparently, this is a common occurrence. And the scratches along one particular mirror, Bruce explained, were from the sand hills attacking their "enemy."

Its funny...some horses notice themselves, others don't. Tucker didn't blink an eyelash the first time he saw the mirrors. Jen rode Imp over and Imp didn't react, having seen mirrors before, however, each time she passed alongside them, she would pin her ears. I guess horses are like humans...obviously, from the bare muffin tops and tight clothes, there are quite a few women who don't notice their appearance in a mirror!

Our dressage lesson was great! Bruce is very generous with his praise. We have been working diligently with our leg yields, shoulder support and keeping Tucker round and balanced.

"Don't worry about his head," Bruce told me. "Instead, keep him balanced and collected..the head set will come." And sure enough, by the end of our session, Tucker's head was flexing at the poll, coming on the vertical!

We worked more on leg yields, spirals and canter departures.

There is some communication problems however! Bruce, despite his eventing background, speaks dressage. I however, speak jumper and eventer. Just where the hell is the quarter line? And what do you mean, do a change of direction within the circle? Doesn't that mean ride to B and change direction? I am doing a 10 meter circle...oh, you mean around you standing on the center line, not between you and and rail. Years of listening to loud rock music has definitely impacted my hearing, and the wind blowing doesn't help. We laughed at our different interpretations and he explained what he was looking for.

We got some nice leg yields accomplished. Tucker felt fabulous! I can feel the transformation in him and Jen and Bruce notice it. It was a good end to a start that began with vultures attacking themselves!

AND! Jen tacked Imp and rode her...this was the first time Imp has been under saddle since February. She is sound, and as she rode Imp around the dressage ring, with Imp collected and round, they looked fantastic! Bruce wanted to know why she wasn't showing her! Who knows, if Imp can stay sound and get back in shape.....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friends, horses and food!

Gamblers Choice

Yep, pole bending in english tack!

I belong to the Mane Event, a local chapter of the OPRC...I have to cringe a little when I say what that stands for...OLD People's Riding Club. I am not old, don't like being called or implied that I am old and while I love the club, I wish it were not called the OLD People's Riding Club.
The OPRC was founded as an adult version of the United States Pony Club. Just like in pony club, the OPRC has rallies and ratings.
I have been a member of the Mane Event since it began, which was in the early 2000's. It is a fun group of mainly horsewomen (and a few good men!) who all love their horses. We meet every month for dinner and a guest speaker, and have one hell of a Christmas party! Everything we do has 3 main components: horses, fun and food (and sometimes, some wine or champagne! At my first rating, years ago, we celebrated with champagne....we certainly didn't do that in the USPC!!).
To participate in club sanctioned events, everyone must be rated. I achieved my C2 last year, and remind Jen all the time that I will beat her to becoming B rated!
Last weekend the club hosted a rally. Since our members come from all disciplines: pleasure, dressage, driving, gated horses and eventing, we had a variety of classes at the rally.
It was a beautiful fall day, the morning started cold and quickly warmed into the 70's. An extra bonus, the OPRC President, Sheila Haviland, flew in for the event from Maryland. Our judge was Iris Bolt, an "L" dressage judge from Germany.
Our first class was trail. I was game. I wanted to show how versatile my big draftx is! Tucker was so brave...we tackled the bridge, moved a shirt from one post to another and navigated the L, forward and backwards. The trotting through cones and over poles was a breeze. Then we got to the pole on the ground, which required side passing over. Tucker suddenly developed amnesia...he wouldn't sidestep the pole. Not to the left, not to the right. Not facing the judge, not away from the judge. So our undoing was not the blowing in the wind shirt or the bridge, but a pole on the ground!
Side note, a week later, Tucker executed a perfect sidepass all the way across the dressage arena, from B to E. Go figure! I don't think he liked the pole on the ground!
We rode in dressage training test 2. We earned a respectable 60.9%, which I felt redeemed our dressage test at Rocking Horse a month earlier, where we earned a 42 on what was the first cold morning of the season (in eventing, the dressage tests are low, preferably in the 20's and 30's, whereas in dressage, you want 60's into the 70's and 80's). We took the blue for that class. Next up was jumping. We had a gamblers choice and while the highest jumpers class was only 2'3, we took the blue. Next was pole bending...hey, why not! We had the 3rd fastest time, laughing the whole way in and out of poles!
Of course, a pot lot lunch was part of the day's festivities. Friends gathered around in semi-circles, eating good food and discussing the days events so far. Recipes were exchanged, with Lew's chicken salad being a big favorite, with Jane's pumpkin cookies getting rave reviews!

It was a beautiful day to share with friends and our horses.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Visualizing Dressage!

My daughter, Jen, has a t-shirt that lists the top 10 things about eventing. One of them is that "eventually dressage and show jumping will go away," leaving just cross country!
While that is wistful thinking, it isn't going to happen...if you want just cross country, there are eventing derbies and fox hunting to give you that. Without dressage, while eventers moan about it, is a necessary evil to eventing...that test of training and response on the first day is what makes a great eventer responsive and in tune with his rider on the cross country course.
Even when I was a teenager and didn't know anything about dressage, I still knew that it was important to ride my horse on the flat. I had a hot headed grey jumper, a Perch-QH-Arab cross by the name of Sir Tally. I bought him in his late teens for $800, and he had alot of baggage that came with him...he could jump, but his nick name was Silver Streak. It didn't matter what type of bit we used....kimberwickes, pelhams (God, I hate double reins!), elevators, gags....nothing mattered. Finally, in desperation and frustrated by my lack of control in the show ring, I turned to flat work. No jumping for 6 months. Instead, we did leg yields, circles, transitions and more transitions. When we showed up at our first horse show in a snaffle, at least five people asked if I had lost my mind...after we rode our first course in a cool, calm and controlled manner, everyone was asking what I had done! It was a proud moment for me, and a major turning point in my riding career. I suddenly realized, that any horse can go in a snaffle, if properly trained with flat matter the chosen discipline of the horse.
In eventing, a good dressage score is the opposite of traditional dressage, where the good scores are high...60's, 70's and 80's. Few achieve scores in the 90's. In eventing, the good scores are low. Low 30's is the norm. A few break into the 20's. Jen would pretty much always score in the low 30's, and it was a difficult task to achieve those scores on her hot Thoroughbred mare, yet she made it look so easy. In upper level eventing, such as Rolex, scores average in the 40's and 50's.
Tuckers first horse trial earned us a 38. Not great. It was ok. His conformation, with his short thick neck, makes bending at the poll difficult. We constantly struggle with this. Our next outing, last month at Rocking Horse (see post about the fire breathing dragon!), was horrible...the first cold front of the season meant I was happy to just keep him within the dressage ring without jumping out, or bucking along the way. It was a disastrous 42. Clearly not the direction we were hoping to head in.
The week before that event, I had taken a lesson with Bruce Patti of Adagio Farm. After complimenting my hands and seat, Bruce immediately pinpointed what I needed to work on: getting Tucker more uphill, creating smoother transitions to the walk and getting him to flex through the poll.
Bruce is a visual instructor. I like that. Having images to compare my movements to really helps me. For the transitions to the walk, he told me to imagine that we were about to crash into a padded wall. The impact would result in Tucker doing a boing-boing-boing movement. In other words, when asking for the walk, don't let all the energy dissipate, resulting in a boring, flat walk. Instead, move into the walk and keep the momentum, resulting in a bouncy, forward and animated walk. Now, when I do my down transitions, I simply imagine that padded wall in front of us!
For his heaviness on the forehand, Bruce wanted me to try different half-halts than I was already doing. He wanted them quicker but stronger, so he instructed me to visualize coming down a hill at the gallop, with a log jump at the bottom. Such a ride would entail strong half-halts to get the horse collected and on his haunches, ready to make the jump. So now, when Tucker is starting to get strung out and too heavy on the forehand, I give him the necessary half-halts, just as I would if we were about to approach that jump at the bottom of a hill.
The other instruction I got from Bruce was to increase the transitions. Constantly be changing gaits to keep Tucker guessing what was coming next, which would aid with the bending and flexing as well as getting him off the forehand.
We practiced these every ride and at the next lesson, last week, Bruce commented that it showed that I had taken his instruction to heart and was practicing. "Why wouldn't I?" I spend good money for someone's advice and then not follow it would be a waste of money.
We worked more on the bending as well as learning to do a rein back and ask for a canter. I had never done a rein back into a canter. Again, a visual example: imagine that I am asking Tucker to move forward, but there is a closed door and the only way to move is to go backwards. Keeping him round and supple, he must take a few steps backwards, then stop and immediately proceed into the canter. We need more work on that task! We were able to keep him round and collected, and a few movements got him getting the hocks under him and pushing off, but he was a bit confused and Bruce instructed me to work on this task only in lessons for now, so as to not further confuse Tucker. Our take home work included more transitions and doing 6-8 meter circles with the inside rein leading wide out...."like a witch stirring her cauldron"...yet another visual image....and then to ask Tucker to leg yield on the bend. Bruce explained this is something that he would not instruct a beginner to do, and doesn't use this method often, but with Tucker's conformation, he feels this will help with the flexing. "Anyone other than a reiner may question why you are doing this, but don't worry about what people think" he said. We also lengthened my stirrups and worked on my position at the sit trot...less up/down and more sliding with my seat bones forward and back, like a snow skier. It is a challenge doing this in an all purpose saddle, but Bruce kept encouraging me to allow my calf's to stretch down and keep my knees away from the saddle blocks.
Our lesson today was more challenging. Bruce is asking us to raise the notch a level, and let me say, I am ready for the challenge! Lots of leg yields with more outside rein support, doing our small circles with leg yields, and reinbacks into the canter. Tucker is a tough cookie with his stiffness to the right. We have our work cut out for us, but I say, bring it on! I want to be competitive come January at the Longwood South Horse Trials..with $20,000 in prize money...yes, you read that right, I want to come home with some of that loot!
I can't wait for next week's lesson!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Body Clipping 101

Imp before being clipped..the wooly beast! Imp after....

body clipping: the act of transferring all of the hair on your horse to your body.

I don't know of any horse owner who enjoys body clipping. Many, are willing to fork over more than a hundred dollars to pay somebody to perform this chore.

It is back breaking, takes hours to do, the horse usually doesn't cooperate and requires being sedated, and when you are finally finished, you are covered in itchy horse hair.

For some, it passes sheath cleaning on the "yuck" scale of horse chores.

I have been pretty lucky. For years, I have had very little clipping to do.

Imp, our Thoroughbred mare, never had much of a winter coat. When she was competing, I never had to clip her.

Tucker, my draft cross from Canada, did have a coat. But because he was young and not going anywhere in the winter, I never bothered to clip him. Which was good, because when he was younger, he had an aversion to clippers and even the simple act of clipping whiskers and ears required a twitch. (I am happy to report that he outgrew that aversion!)

Dolly, our little Quarter Horse mare, unfortunately did require clipping. She had an even worse aversion to clippers than Tucker did. And you simply did not come near her with a twitch. It just wasn't going to happen. So, like alot of things with the aged mare, we compromised. She allowed me to do a modified trace clip and in exchange, she only popped me in the face with her knees a few times instead of kicking me to a pulp. It was a good compromise.

Like much in life, things change.

Dolly has crossed the rainbow bridge to greener pastures. Tucker has adapted to Florida and doesn't grow much of a winter coat. Ironically, about the time he stopped growing a coat was the time that Imp did start growing a coat. Imp is now a wooly mammoth. It is strange. The year we retired her and she had her knee surgery, she started growing a coat, which every winter since, gets longer and longer.

I am a regular visitor to the Chronicle of the Horse website and every year, there is a thread about wet clipping.

In years past, when I had to body clip, I did the normal method: you wait for a warm day, bathe the horse, wait hours for the horse to dry and then start clipping. Proponents of wet clipping advocated that you could skip the hours of waiting for the horse to dry and start clipping the horse while wet. I was intriqued.

This is the second year that I have clipped Imp while she was wet. I love it!

Immediately after bathing her, I scrape the excess water off and immediately start clipping her. Fortunately, Imp's impeccable manners carry over to clipping and she demonstrates perfect manners throughout the clipping, although she is ticklish on her left flank and I had to remind her a couple of times that I was standing next to that cocked hind leg. Having a well mannered horse makes clipping so much easier and faster.

With wet clipping, the biggest bonus is that I am not covered in itchy horse hair! The wet hair either drops right to the ground or stays on the horse in a clump, which with a swoop of the hand is removed. You really realize how much hair does not land on you when you get to the final 10% and the hair is dry and flying straight off into your face....I should have re-wet her at that point, but wanted to keep going.

The other advantage to wet clipping is that there are no clip lines. Also, the clippers stay cooler and I don't have to lubricate the blades as fact, this time around, I couldn't find my lubricant and didn't use any at all.

The pictures above are the proof that wet clipping works. Some posters on COTH say it doesn't work for them. I don't know if there is a difference with clippers (I use the Oster Clipmaster), if there is a difference in hair or what, but I do know it works for me, and it is nice to finish the job and not be covered in hair!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to Ride a Fire Breathing Dragon!

October 1 was not only our first horse trial in over 2 years, it was also the first day that fall finally made an appearance!
I had been anticipating the schooling show at Rocking Horse for some time. Finally employed again and somewhat healthy (although still dealing with a torn miniscus and occasional cramping from last years blot clot in the calf), I am ready to finally start seriously showing Tucker!
My fellow pony club mom Pam, was talked into going with me! Even though Pam hasn't ridden her Thoroughbred, Copper all summer, her daughter Brittany volunteered to ride him in a dressage test. Whenever I want to go somewhere with Tucker, I call upon Pam to come with me. Tucker travels best with a companion, and Pam and I always have so much fun!
We decided to go up to Rocking Horse Friday night, rather than having to get up at the crack of dawn.
Unfortunately, that thing called work meant a late departure and we didn't arrive at Rocking Horse until almost 10:00 at night. We got the horses, who traveled perfectly, tucked in their stalls and made a beeline for the ever so quaint Fox Den, a few miles away.
For those not familiar with the Fox Den, it is, according to their website, a renovated 1950's era hotel. It is clean, but I believe they renovated it with furnishings from a vintage store! It is a hodgepodge of 1960's and '70's furniture, but that just gives it more of its charm.

The whole reservation was done by email...

ME: "I need a room for this date"...

FOX DEN: "the door will be left open, leave the key and the cash or check on the desk when you leave and lock the door behind you."
When we arrived, there was a sticky note on the door, welcoming the Tankel Party!
You don't get that kind of service at the Hilton!
This kind of service makes Pam nervous however, and we had to check under the beds and the closet, and I will admit however, that as I showered, I did envision Norman Bates lurking outside the room!
As I said, Saturday was the debut of the first day of fall. The temps were in the mid 50's, which was about a 20 degree drop for us.
Needless to say, my normally sedate Tucker was replaced by a FIRE BREATHING DRAGON!
Giving him a much need bath at 7:30 probably didn't help!
As I attempted to hand graze him, he spooked at the food caterer. He would buck. He would jump at the grass blowing. He spooked at the golf carts and scooters. I realized that drinking my hot tea and trying to hold him would not work.
I am really terrible at managing my time, and suddenly, I realized I needed to have been on and warming him up about 20 minutes ago. Our dressage test was at 9, I wanted to be on him at 8 and here it was 8:20.
We tacked up and headed out to the big front field where the dressage rings are. I didn't realize how bad he was behaving until a woman on a horse trying to come through the gate stopped to let us pass first, and commented how "we should have the right of way." "What does THAT mean, I wondered?" Meanwhile, Tucker was snorting and bucking and than broke into a handgallop.
I ride Tucker in a snaffle.

Suddenly, I wished for a piece of barbwire in his mouth.
Our warmup was, well, entertaining. I am sure we gave several riders quite the scare.

But, I soon realized, we weren't alone. There were other fire breathing dragons warming up, some worse than Tucker.
Long story short, I contained Tucker and got the bucks out of him so that we could ride our test. It was not pretty. It pretty much sucked. We blew through our transition from a trot to a medium walk. His free walk was horrible. He was stiff. He wouldn't bend. He was hollow. I felt like I was riding a camel. I didn't need the comments from the judge to confirm what I already knew. But you know what? He didn't buck, he stayed in the ring and I didn't fall off! So, despite our score of 42, I would have to say it was a success!
He walked out of the dressage test suddenly a much mellower horse. Could we have a do over, please?

Stadium jumping was calm and collected and focused.
Cross country was a total blast! I did not have time to walk the course....remember how I mentioned how I am not good at managing my time? I had arranged with a friend to use her ATV to do the walk, as I was afraid that if I walked the course with my torn miniscus, I wouldn't be able to ride. Well, not thinking, I figured I would have time in the hour between stadium and cross country. Well, first, the cross country had started by the time I finished stadium, so I couldn't take the ATV out, and second, there really wasn't that much time! So we headed out to the course, map in hand, and I watched the other riders go. And eventers, being the kind people they are, gave me tips. Comments like "after fence 9, be looking immediately for the opening in the woods and be ready for jump 10," and " after you come out of the woods, look for the 2 big intermediate benches and the ditch will be on your left," really saved us!
We came out of the start box, looking for the jumps that had numbers on a yellow background and off we went! Imp could count down and would shoot out of the start box like a rocket. Tucker hasn't learned to count backwards yet and it takes a few strides to get him up to speed. Once we got going, Tucker ate up the ground, attacking every jump like a seasoned pro. We settled into a steady pace. At one point, I thought I would emmulate the great Ralph Hill, who is known for singing rock songs as he barrels his way cross country. The first song that popped in my head was Old McDonald Had a voice caused Tucker to bolt a bit (not surprised, my singing has that affect on everyone). I belted out that Old McDonald had a horse, EIEIO and then decided that while singing may help Ralph breath, it was having the opposite effect on me, so I quit! I think Tucker was happy that I did!
We went double clear, finishing on our dressage score. I couldn't be happier! The last time Tucker was out on cross country was last spring, and we hadn't even jumped anything since then, until last weekend, when I set up some of the jumps at the new barn. I remembered to look up over each jump, as pictures from our first event shows (as evidenced in the photo above, which was from our first trial in 2009) show me looking down at the jump, as if I were saying to myself, "wow, we really are jumping that!" Tucker was pretty well recovered, so I am happy that our conditioning plan works. The optimum time was 5:47. We rode it in 5:04. Funny, it didn't feel that fast, so I guess we need to work on his pacing. His huge stride really covers alot of ground. Final results had us tied for 6th.
Next up, December at Rocking Horse! Look out, we are ready for some serious cross country fun!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flying Turkeys, Black Cows and Dressage Tests...Oh! My!

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I arise at 5:30 so that I can be at the barn and on Tucker by 7am. Feel that you missed something? Well, earlier this month, Nikki, who has boarded with me for over 6 years, bought a farm and I moved the horses to her new place in Geneva....hence, the early wake up time.
It is a beautiful time to be on Tucker. There is a mist that is still settled over the field. The sun is just rising, and there is wildlife to enjoy. LOTS of wildlife!
We are entering a schooling horse trial at Rocking Horse in just a little more than 2 weeks. Last weekend, I decided it was time to print out the test (Beginner Novice Test B) and start learning it.
I realized Tuesday morning, the first time trying to ride the test, several things:

1) It is really difficult to learn a test without a dressage ring and letters.
2) It is even more difficult when the field you are riding in was just bush-hogged the week before and is therefore...rough. It is not flat. It is not manicured. There are slopes and the grass is still a good 8-12 inches tall in areas. Prime for stumbling.
3) I am not at my sharpest and clearest thinking at 7am.

So Tuesday morning, I am trying to learn the test. And I am thinking, wow, this is a really difficult test. I am trotting a circle and having to stop, pull the folded up test out of my pocket, study it again, try to figure where M is in relation to K and just where the heck is G, and try again. And again. And again.

Did I mention, that while I am doing this, there are deer and cattle in the field next door? Did you know that cattle and deer EAT horses? Just ask Tucker. He is absolutely convinced that they do!

So we are trotting circles, stopping to read the test, snorting at cows and trying to establish a walk on a free, Tucker, that does not mean you can trot.
Finally, after an hour, I have to stop. Unfortunately, there is that thing called work that I have to get home to and get ready for.
This morning, I am once again on Tucker at 7. Another glorious morning. Mist, sun, the full moon. Absolutely beautiful. We start out at our warm up walk. And we are walking towards the neighbors field. With the cows. The black cows that eat black horses. The cows that are laying down next to the fence line and purposely shaking their head, just to scare Tucker even more. And of course there are the deer. Frolicing deer. They are celebrating the morning, running about in the field, doing pirouttes.
And then, there are the turkeys.
In the 1970's, there was a tv show called WKRP in Cincinatti. It was about a bunch of nincompoops that run a radio statio. Burt Reynolds then-wife, Loni Anderson starred in it. There was an episode where the station decides to drop turkeys from a helicopter. Except, instead of dropping the frozen kind, they drop live turkeys. Apparently, live turkeys don't fly. The tv audience is left to imagine what must have happened after that line.
So I guess I never thought about whether or not turkeys really can fly. Every turkey I see is walking. They love to cross the road in a single file...never in a group. They love to hold up cars by doing so. Turkey humor.
So I was really surprised, that while trying to convince Tucker that the cows were not going to eat him, I suddenly looked up and there in a tall pine tree, was a turkey. And in another tree, was another turkey. Suddenly, turkeys were gliding to the ground. It was like the WKRP helicopter was dropping turkeys from the sky.
They kept coming. And coming. In the end, there must have been 30 or more turkeys that dropped out of the sky.
Amazingly, Tucker was totally oblivious to all of them...he was still thinking about those damn cows!
Oh, and that dressage test? Well, I must have been more alert this morning. I realized that not only is the test pretty easy, it is pretty short. It was still difficult riding it so it looked pretty, but I think we have the test memorized and will worry about the pretty stuff later!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Horses and Extreme Heat

It is only a few more months until we can enjoy winter, although this type of fun, as my mother and grandfather were able to enjoy in 1940's McMurray, Pennsylvania, is elusive to those of us stuck in Florida!

Tucker, Imp and Tyke, grazing reluctantly in the evening heat.

My horses are wimps. They are like me: they simply do not like the heat. And unfortunately for all of us, we happen to live in Florida, where heat is something we must deal with for at least half of the year.
My horses do not want to go outside anymore. They have become the ultimate couch potato. If I ever had to do a long term stall rest, I would not have any complaints from them! They are inside during the heat of the day, fans blowing on them. They have hay in front of them. Fresh, cool and clean water. Deeply bedded stalls. And when evening arrives and the temperatures drop to, oh, 88-89 degrees, they don't want to leave those stalls. It is like having a 1200 pound teenager who doesn't want to leave their tv, computer and unlimited food supply to venture out into the real world!
After dinner time, we turn the horses out. In the winter and fall, we can simply open their stall doors and stand back as they rush out into the field. Nowadays, however, we have to walk them out and if we aren't quick enough to close the gate back into the barn, they will run us down as they try to rush back into their stalls. Even when the weather doesn't cooperate and they have spent nearly 24 hours in their stalls due to heat and storms, trying to get them out in the morning for a few hours is like trying to budge an elephant. And once we get them out? They stand there at the gate, giving pathetic looks. Trying to convince us that they are going to either melt in the 82 degrees heat or the bugs will devour them. It is ridiculous!
Most of America is under extreme heat warnings right now. Hard to believe, but there are places in the north where it is even hotter than in Central Florida.
The good news for them is, it won't last too long, unlike here in Florida, where we are just a little more than half way through our heat. So how should one cope with the heat?

Ride in the Coolest Part of the Day!

As I stated, I hate the heat. As I get older, I despise it even more. A northern girl, I have always preferred the winter. I would rather bundle up and get warm than to sweat and stink and stay hot. We have experienced record cold winters in Florida the last few years, and I loved it!
For me, our summers are like the north's winters. Horsemen in the north find their riding days limited during winter months, unless they have access to an indoor arena or can head south to show. So for me, I simply limit my riding. I have to ride very early in the morning. This means getting up at 5:30 and riding by 7am. I don't ride long. Just enough to keep Tucker and myself somewhat in shape and fresh. I don't do a whole lot of extreme cross country jumping. Instead, I focus on doing lateral work...leg yields, turn on the haunches and forehand, and we are practicing walking on a loose rein. Now is the time to practice for horse trials in the fall and to work on our dressage!
Another good idea is to hose your horse off before you start to ride. This helps to keep him cool, especially if he has trouble sweating or is a draft cross like Tucker. Did I mention he hates the heat as much as I do?
Pay attention to the heat index. There are several available online, including
Know what your horses limits are as well as your own. If either of you are out of condition, or as I mentioned, a draft or draft-x like Tucker, the heat will take an even heavier toll on you.
Drink lots of water, before, during and after. Make sure your horse has access to water and give him water breaks frequently.
Dress appropriately! There are so many options for hot weather riding! As horrible as it sounds, wear long sleeve shirts as well as sun screen! My favorite shirt is this:
Jackie's shirts keep you cool, they are fashionable enough to wear out to dinner or shopping, and they offer UV protection.
For breeches, several companies make several styles that leave you dry and help wick moisture away: and

So what about your partner?

As I mentioned, mine are inside during the heat of the day, fans blowing on them. When you consider a fan for the barn, invest in a good quality metal fan. Household box fans are not safe for barns, and there have been recalls over the past few years involving Lasko fans, which have caught fire. Make sure you utilize outdoor extension cords and that the fan and cords are not accessible to the horse. has a good selection of fans.
Cool, fresh water is essential! Horses colic in the winter due to their water troughs being frozen over and inaccessible. I have a feeling that a lot of summer colics are also the result of horses not drinking enough. I am flabbergasted at the number of farms that I have been to where outdoor water troughs are hot and dirty. Even inside, extreme temperatures can heat up water buckets. If you can not refill buckets during the day, I suggest adding ice to at least one bucket. Horses should have at least 2 buckets. Imp has 3. Know what your horses drinking habits are. I do not like the idea of using muck-style buckets for water in the horses stalls: they take up a lot of room, being low on the ground makes them get dirty easier and if the horse doesn't drink all of that water, they are heavy to empty and clean....yes, water buckets should be dumped DAILY! They should be scrubbed at least weekly, more if you have a horse that is prone to dunking his hay or otherwise getting his bucket dirty.
If your horse needs electrolytes or salt, be sure they have access to it either in feed, water or in loose form.

As I mentioned above, make sure you and your horse are in top condition. If you are competing, make sure your horse has adjusted to the heat. When I used to compete in the summer, I rode my horse during the heat of the day, so that we were both used to the heat and didn't pass out at shows. Know what weather conditions are like if you are planning on traveling out of state. Years ago, at the 2004 USPC Champs in Lexington, Kentucky, the temps were perfect for the southern region teams, with highs in the 70's and nights in the 50's. Our kids were teased because they put sheets on their horses at night! Yet for teams from the northernmost states, the humidity (humidity? It was about 50%....come to Florida and see what 100% humidity is like!) really bothered them! It was funny to talk to these competitors and to compare their impression of the weather (too hot) to ours (perfect!). Needless to say, I think the southern horses were better suited at that competition!
August is just getting started...for some, the extreme heat has given way already to normal summer temps. For us in Florida, we have at least 2 months of heat to deal with. But fall is just around the corner, and with that, perfect riding and showing weather! Hang in there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Eventing Rally

Amanda and Pilgrim, the day before he died. Note the flooding in the run off his stall. TS Fay, August 2008.

Cross Country schooling at Rocking Horse

Like all of the horses that I have lost, writing about them is painful, because they have all been sent over the rainbow bridge too soon. It is much easier to write a loving tribute about them while they are still grazing contentedly in the pasture and nickering for another carrot.
Pilgrim was one of those who passed too soon. Like the others, I miss him tremendously.
Pilgrim was a freebie on the Chronicle. He was in the Corner Lakes area, just south of Disney, so he was close enough to look at. I had initially recommended him to a pony club family, who was looking to move up to a new horse. They liked him, but his age discouraged them. He was 18 at the time.
I love the older horses! I love that they have so much to offer. And you just can't predict when a horse's time is up...a 4 year old can just as easily have a fatal accident or colic and die. There are no guarantees.
Amanda, who was 12 at the time, was getting ready to require a move up horse. Her Dolly was getting too small and was at her limit for what she could do. We had already introduced eventing to the 20 plus year old, and she took to it fabulously, but we weren't going to push her beyond beginner novice.
The horse advertised, was a former preliminary eventer. His jockey club name was Amarillo Albert...because the man who bred him was named Albert and was from Amarillo. Ick! His current owner called him Rillo.
When we looked at him, he was a tad underweight and his feet hadn't been done in months. He was out of shape. Amanda rode him briefly, but I was so concerned about his condition that I kept the ride short and proclaimed to his owner that we would take him.
When we brought him home, my farrier, Kevin, was at the barn. He couldn't understand why I was taking pictures of his hooves. When he saw them for the first time, he politely asked me to return the horse. I replied that I had faith in him!
Without realizing it, Kevin gave Rillo his new name, when he asked him to "move over Pilgrim." We liked the name. It fit. We kept it. Pilgrim was also given a show name of Storm Chaser.
He was a plain bay, about 16.1 hands. He had a kind eye. Some people fall in love with the color of a horse. For others, it is the height, the sex, the breed. Me? It is the eye I look at first. I am a sucker for a soft and kind eye. Pilgrim had such an eye.
After Pilgrim got his hooves done, it took about a month to get the weight on and to become sound. When Kevin returned five weeks later, he was impressed with how much better his hooves already looked.
Amanda started riding him. He was kind and a wonderful teacher. As all good horses do, he taught Amanda alot. And with Amanda, Pilgrim learned a few new things. As a pony club horse, he went to games rally! And they went to dressage, show jumping and eventing rallies. He was a star. He didn't know anything but GO! He loved to jump and he was a star on the cross country course. They were a good team together.
Two years after we got Pilgrim, just before Halloween in 2007, Pilgrim came in scrapped up from the field one day. We thought he had been in a tussle with the other geldings. I dressed his wounds and didn't give them another thought. A few days later, we loaded him up for a ride to a Halloween costume party for pony club. Amanda wore pajamas. We put curlers in Pilgrim's mane and tail, and pinned small stuffed animals to the saddle pad. Hey, I didn't say I was creative! They were cute though!
Pilgrim was fine walking around, but when Amanda began to trot him, he was clearly lame. I attributed it to his getting beat up. We brought him home and gave him some time off.
He seemed to be getting better. Then, he started having intermittent lameness. And by intermittent, I mean sound one minute, then lame, then sound again. And so it went. I was perplexed and ready to call my vet.
Then, one morning, he came in fine for breakfast. My morning routine was to bring them in for breakfast, and because it was fall, they went back outside. I would lead Tucker and open Pilgrim's door and let him follow us out. This morning, he stumbled out of his stall, suddenly lame again. And I noticed as I led him out, he pressed his nose to Tucker's side. He kept his nose there the whole way out to the field. Out in the field, he continued to keep his nose on Tucker's side. With horror, I realized he was acting like a blind horse.
As I watched Pilgrim, I realized I was watching a dying horse. He wasn't colicing. He wasn't thrashing about or acting like a seriously ill horse. I can't explain it, but I was watching the life of him being sucked out of him. It was as if an invisible demeantor was hovering above him, sucking the life out of him. I couldn't see the demeantor, but I could just as surely see the life seeping from him.
I was paniced. I walked out to the field. I felt that somehow, if I put my hands on him, the reason would reveal itself.
I started with his legs, and moved up. I moved my hands over his belly and body. I moved to his head. And suddenly, there under his jaw, the answer revealed itself. Embedded in his winter coat, was a tick.
I pulled the tick off. I continued watching Pilgrim. Miraculously, he started moving around, grazing and acting like a horse. With each ticking minute, he seemed to grow stronger. The demementor had been stopped, at least for the time being.
Watching the life return to him, I started thinking of tick diseases. I had been a Vet Tech, and knew that dogs could suffer tick paralysis. Dogs are literally crippled, only to have their use of limbs restores once the tick is removed. I wondered if horses could suffer the same fate. Once barn chores were done and Pilgrim seemed better, I headed home to do some research. I called my vet and left a message, letting him know what was going on and setting up an appointment for him to come out for an exam.
Once home, I learned that while horses cannot contact tick paralysis, they can contact Lyme disease. Knowing that, when my vet called back, I told him what I had learned and asked for a Lyme test, which is a simple ELISA blood test.
Upon exam, my vet also wanted to rule out EPM, and so we tested for both. The results came back negative for EPM but positive for Lyme.
The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. It was making sense. Horses suffering from Lyme suffer intermittent lameness, characterized by an ill defined shifting lameness. Laminitis, personality changes and poor performance are also typical. So is anterior uveitis.
It is estimated that 75% of horses will test positive for antibodies to the organism. Not all show symptoms. Until recently, many vets did not believe horses could contact Lyme. Especially in Florida.
There are two methods of treatment. Intravenous Tetracycline or oral Doxycycline. I opted for the Doxy.
We treated Pilgrim for several months and he seemed to make progress. In March, I began to ride him, gradually building up his strength. Amanda began to ride him as well.
In May, we trailered him to a pony club function. The girls had been invited to perform at a fundraiser for a local horse park. As Amanda started to mount Pilgrim, he suddenly pulled back with all his strength. I somehow managed to hold the reins, preventing him from pulling free. Surprised at this spook, I readjusted his tack and Amanda started to mount again. And he again pulled back and tried to get away from us. Again, I held on with all my might. Once more, I readjusted his tack and Amanda prepared to mount. This time, he pulled back so hard, he fell backwards. At this, I quickly untacked him and put him in the trailer and drove him home. Something was clearly not right.
Back at home, Pilgrim was back to his normal self. There were no issues mounting or riding him. And so, confident that what had happened was a fluke, we loaded Pilgrim back in the trailer and headed off to another pony club function. We put Pilgrim in the crossties in the barn and I headed back out to the trailer to assist Jen and Imp, who were working out of the trailer.
I heard a commotion in the barn and ran to find out what was happening. Pilgrim had reared in the cross ties for no reason, falling back onto his hocks, which were scraped from the concrete aisle.
He appeared ok by the time I arrived, so we finished tacking him with no further incident. Amanda led him outside, and I held my breath as she mounted. She was able to mount him without any problems.
Just as I was letting my breath out, Pilgrim exploded! He jumped in the air, then just as quickly, he sat down. Thankfully, Amanda took the opportunity to make a quick dismount. Pilgrim quickly stood up and as I went to grab his reins, he reared back. He fell over backwards into a horse trailer, and everything suddenly became slow motion. I thought to myself that I was about to watch my horse break his neck and die. He fell into the trailer and slid down. It was almost comical as he sat there on his haunches, front hooves splayed out in front of him. He was dazed, but alive. After a few seconds, which felt more like eternity, he stood up. I don't remember why, but the first thing I did was to open his mouth and look at his gums. They were dark purple. I yelled at everyone to move away, certain that he was going to drop dead. I grabbed for the girth and quickly undid it, pulling the saddle off of him. He was still standing and when I checked his gums again, this time they were returning to a pink color.
I led Pilgrim out to a paddock and turned him out. By the time we loaded for the ride home, he was by all accounts was back to normal.
I stopped by my vets office the next day and told him what had happened. We both concluded that Pilgrim could never be ridden again, it was too dangerous. He gave me the number of the U of F mobile vet clinic, and I made an appointment for them to come to the barn and take xrays. I did not want to risk trailering him the 3 hours for a neurological workup. I needed to know what was happening to Pilgrim.
The U of F team..a vet and 3 handsome residents arrived to much fanfare...many neighbors and pony clubbers wanted to check out this mobile contained everything needed for a thorough exam. Xray machine, diagnostic equipment and more. Xray images are beamed back to U of F via satellite and reports are almost instantaneous.
After 3 hours, of which the vet and his students were able to get Pilgrim to recreate an episode of pulling back, which resulted in his breaking free, the vet was unable to reach a definite diagnosis. The xrays revealed a calcified bump on the back of the poll. It was apparent that pressure applied to the poll was the trigger...but why, I wanted to know, did it only happen away? He had not had any type of episode at home. Was the bumpiness of the trailer ride causing pressure and pain on his poll? It wasn't adding up. Unfortunately, this was a vet who did not believe in Lyme Disease in horses. We had no answers.
We did conclude that Pilgrim was most definitely retired.
Over the course of that summer, Pilgrim would suffer what I termed "mini-strokes." I would come into the barn to find him dazed and in a state of confusion. He appeared to not be aware of his surroundings. Next, he would have days that he would not leave his stall. Four or 5 times I had my vet on the phone, making plans to euthanize him, only to arrive at the barn to find him back to normal, forcing me to cancel the euthanasia.
Christmas was coming and I made the decision to put off euthanizing him until after the holidays. Incredibly, he had no more episodes of either the mini strokes or the refusing to leave the stall. We were elated and thought he may not need to be put down.
In January, we learned that Imp had to be retired from eventing, due to the bone chips in her knee. She was to have surgery in February and would be on stall rest for 6 weeks. I wondered how to best handle her stall rest, while keeping her calm. Dolly, her best friend, would stay in for 12 hours, but I couldn't expect to keep her in a stall 24 hours a day. Pilgrim solved the problem and would keep her company the other 12 hours. Then, the question was who would be her companion in rehab, once she was allowed to be turned out. I didn't want her out with Dolly, who could have a temper and kick out at Imp. No, again, I turned to Pilgrim, who's docile personality made him the perfect rehab partner.
For six months, Pilgrim was Imp's constant companion. He had no more episodes. I thanked God for not putting him down. It was almost as if he knew he had an important purpose to serve and was letting me know that he wasn't ready.
Then, in August, we had a storm named Faye came through, flooding the farm. The horses couldn't be turned out for over a week, due to the flooding and the floating ant colonies. The stress was too much for Pilgrim. He foundered and was in a great deal of pain. I made the difficult decision to end his suffering, and we put him down under a tree, in a dry part of the farm.
If we had to fill out a death certificate for horses, I would list his cause of death as Lyme disease. There is no doubt that Lyme disease robbed Pilgrim of his golden years.
I miss Pilgrim. Alot. I miss his soft, kind eye. I wish I could have given him the same type of retirement that Imp is would have been nice to have them living together in retirement, grazing peacefully side by side.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's Tucker's Birthday!

Tucker at age 2 months on a Canadian PMU farm

Johnny's Showtime, Tucker's sire, 17.3 hand Percheron

Tucker at age 6 months, off of PMU truck

Tucker, age one year

Tucker, 2 years old

Tucker's first ride, age 3

Tucker and best friend Tyke

Tucker and me!

Tucker's first horse trial, barely stepping over the beginner novice jump!





Today, May 25, 2011, Tucker turns 8 years old! I cannot believe that I have owned him for seven and a half years! When he came off the PMU trailer, he was a gangly, gawky baby, covered with ringworm. He was taller than the other babies, and ornery! Everyone told me I would never be able to tame him! There were times that I believed that, like the time he went up and over the round pen panels...twice! But once he was halter broke, the rest came pretty easy to him. He is smart and wants to please. He is talented, athletic and a beautiful mover, with the personality of a Labrador..we just need to remind him that 2000 pound beasts do not belong in your lap! He loves going cross country, we both think that is the greatest sport on earth..galloping across the countryside, jumping insane fences, feeling the wind through mane and across your exhilaration! I cannot imagine that he was bred to be destined to be some one's dinner sad to think how many did meet that fate. I am glad he came into my life...even on those days that I have to repair a broken board or purchase an expensive piece of tack to fit the beast (trailer, saddle, bridle, halter, blankets, you name it, I've had to buy everything new for him!)


Thursday, May 5, 2011


Imp imitates Secretariat at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2004

Thirty eight years ago, the great Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby and was just a few short weeks ago from immortalizing himself in greatness.

Most of us remember where we were when we watched his amazing feats...I watched the last two legs at my grandparents farm in McMurray, Pennsylvania.

He is my horse hero! My most expensive and prized possesion is a sculpture that I bought of him, after winning several thousands of dollars at Church Hill Downs! It graces a shelf of my antique corner cupboard in my living room.

When Jen and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Lexington farms, we instead called Claiborne Farms and got a personal and private tour, where we saw his grave and his stall (and Jen got to pet Unbridled and Go For Gin!)

Jen's former eventer, Bates, is a grandson of Secretariat and has the same golden chestnut coat.

I have his videos, dvds and books!

His death came the day before Jen was born, on October 4, 1989. His obituary is in her baby book. Probably the only infant who's baby book holds such an item!

For me, there will be no greater horse than Secretariat!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Irresponsible Horse Owners

(Tucker gives his opinion on ignorant horse owners!)

The movie Parenthood is a favorite of mine. Not only does it boast a great cast, but it was filmed here in Winter Park and Orlando. There is a great line in the movie, that to paraphrase, goes something along the lines that "unfortunately, they don't require parents to get licensed". In other words, anybody can be a parent. The same holds true with horse ownership (yes, I know, replace horse with any, cat, rabbit, etc...but this is an article about horses!). Unfortunately, as we all know, there are people who should not own horses. We encounter them all the time, I am sad to say.

For example, at a pony club rally...the last place on earth I would expect to see an example of poor horsemanship, a boy presented a skinny horse for the vet jog. This horse desperately needed some groceries. When questioned about the weight, giving him the benefit of the doubt, afterall, the horse was older (not that that justifies a skinny horse), the parents, who were watching the jog chimed in that they were trying to cut back on expenses! Seriously? You are cutting back expenses so you don't feed your horses as much? Yet you have the audacity to spend money to come to a rally? I was reeling all weekend over this.

I am always a little surprised when I encounter a clueless horse owner. Yes, even after being involved in horse rescues. Afterall, horses are expensive! They consume time and money. I do not take horse ownership lightly. I read all I can. I keep up to date with the latest news in my chosen discipline, in horse care, vet care, nutrition and more. I work solely to support my horses and I do not want to waste any money on unnecessary vet bills, feed, supplements, or tack, because I did not do my part to make sure I was knowledgeable.

For instance, based on latest research, did you know that you should not be deworming your horse every 8 weeks? Our dewormers are fast becoming ineffective and instead, we need to be relying on fecal counts and deworming only when necessary!

This is information that is not only in magazines like Equus, but it is available on line, at such sites as The Horse and the Chronicle of the Horse!

So I am always a bit baffled by horse owners who don't properly care for their horses. They don't feed them proper nutrition, subscribe to wacko training methods, purchase ill fitting tack, don't learn how to properly warm up and cool down, and so on and so on.

We all have stories of idiot horse owners. The owner who over bits their horse; jumps a 3' fence the first day back after the horse has been rehabbing for 6 weeks due to an injury; the owner who doesn't know how to properly apply polo wraps, leaving them sagging and twisting. And those examples are from the same owner and horse!

My new barn neighbors are not only clueless, but downright dangerous. They have a 2 year old colt. Of course, he lives with a mare, who is now in foal. The property is small, and of course, they turn them out in a small paddock, which shares my fence line. I have put up hot wire 8 feet in from my fence line, so there is 9 feet between the horses. Of course, the owner tells me that her colt is so sweet and well behaved! It's ok that you have a mare. He won't mind! Of course, the first night that mine are turned out in the adjoining pasture, her sweet colt paces the fence line the entire time. A few days ago, a new horse joins her two. She has the smaller paddock divided from the bigger (now their property is maybe an acre, so we are talking small parcels) paddock by round panel fencing, that she has reinforced with posts in the ground. Which I totally don't get. I mean, if you are going to put posts in the ground, why not put up fence boards, that cost about $7-8? Why spend about $40-50 per panel? I just don't get it. The first night, her colt and mare are in the small paddock... of course, why not put the colt next to my mare? Soon, he starts attacking the round panel fencing, trying to get to the new horse. Then, he starts charging my fence line. Soon, I realize why the sudden aggressiveness. The new horse is also a colt! My guess, is he is about a year-year and a half. The older colt is so upset and out of control, that we move my horses to the other pasture. This is an accident waiting to happen, and I don't want my horses to be blamed for having any part. Sure enough, the next morning, half of the round panels are half down, despite having posts in the ground for support! I don't know how her horses fared, but the poor colt must have spent all night and all his energy trying to attack the new colt. By that evening, the fence panels were put back up and the horses were returned to their former turnouts.

I have left my horses in the other field!

In todays age of technology, there is no excuse not to expand your knowledge base and learn what is best for your horse. Magazine subscriptions and riding lessons are expensive, but there is so much free information out there on the web...of course, alot of it falls under the ludicrous category and we have to be smart enough to decipher it and use our common sense. Go to big competitions. Watch the pros warm up their horses. Watch how they care for their horses afterwards. Talk to the the eventing world, just about everybody is approachable and they love to help out one another. Ask about nutrition. Talk to your vet. Talk to your farrier. Talk to your feed store owner. Become an educated and informed horse owner! There really is no excuse for ignorance.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Disaster Planning

Barn damage after Hurricane Charlie, 2004

Horses still wearing their ID's on their sides!

Make sure that horses cannot escape to roadways or downed power lines.

Note ID around ankles.

With the recent devastating events across the southeast, not to mention the wildfires in Texas and floods in the midwest, as well as the upcoming Hurricane season for Florida, I thought it would be a good time to address your disaster plan for your horses.

Don't have one? Well, you should. No matter where you live, you may sooner or later be faced with a natural disaster. At least in Florida, we have the luxury of advanced warning, although as the 2004 hurricanes showed us, that warning may come just 6 hours before landstrike. Unfortunately, in the event of tornadoes and fires, you do not have much, if any forewarning. Nobody could have predicted how horrific these string of tornadoes last week would be and no amount of preparedness could have done any good. You have to place your faith in God or Mother Nature or whomever you believe will save you, and hope for the best.

Have a Plan!

To paraphrase the Clash, " should I stay or should I go?" should be the first order of your disaster planning.

In the event of hurricanes, you will have several days to decide this. As Hurricane Charlie in 2004 proved however, hurricanes can change their paths at the last moment and therefore, any chances of evacuating are gone. So if you decide to evacuate, leave days beforehand to avoid traffic snarls, long line at gas stations and the risk of becoming stuck on the highway as a hurricane strikes. It is better to evacuate for no reason, then to wait until it is too late.

If you evacuate, know alternate routes. Make sure your truck is gassed up.

And of course, if you are evacuating, take your animals with you!

That is the reason for evacuating, right? If you leave animals behind, there is no telling how long it may be until you can return. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the photos of animals left behind in the radioactive zone of Japan, including horses. Those animals which are stalled or locked indoors, are dying a cruel and slow death of starvation.

  • When evacuating, take enough feed, hay and water for at least 3 days.

  • Now is the time to make sure your horses are up to date on coggins and vaccinations. In the event of emergencies, the state will not require health certificates.

  • Now is the time to locate potential evacuation sites. Contact now to find out requirements.

  • Make sure you take your equine emergency kit with you (listed below).

Remember that if you evacuate, there is a good chance that the storm will follow you! Unless you head north and then turn west towards Tennessee or Kentucky, there is a very good chance you will at some point find yourself stuck in the storm. So ask yourself if you want to risk being stuck in a strange location when a storm hits. In 2004, horses that were evacuated to Central Florida from south Florida actually endured more of Charlie's wrath than if they had stayed at home. Barns were damaged, and while there were reports of trapped horses, there were no reported fatalities. And farms that evacuated to Georgia, also ended up bearing the blunt of the storm after it passed over Florida. Sometimes, staying home and keeping your horses in their familiar surroundings is better.

My personal plan is to stay put, unless it is a category 3 or higher and the storm is coming in around the Melbourne/Cocoa Beach area. Being less than 50 miles from Cocoa Beach, I feel that devastation from such a storm would be catestrophic.

So you decide to stay! What should you do to prepare?

  • Secure all loose and potential flying objects. Knock jumps over and pick up jump cups that are lying on the ground.

  • Fill every bucket and trash can with water. After Charlie, the barn that I was at was without power for over a week. Thankfully, we had filled every bucket and trash can and we also had access to a swimming pool, which we used to rinse off sweaty horses. The day the power came on was the day we were about to start hauling water in. A tiny amount of bleach added to water will keep it purified.

  • Stock up on hay and feed. Make sure it is high off the ground and covered. Even throw a tarp over the hay inside, in case of roof damage.

  • During the storm, leave halters on the horse. ID them with at least 2 methods (see below).

  • Take the following into consideration if you are staying: elevation, flood zone, type of building construction and category of storm.

To leave in or leave out, that is the question

This is a hotly debated subject. It is a personal decision and sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. In last weeks tornado, one farm that had horses both inside and out, lost all of the horses that were outside. Only one horse inside died, despite the barn being destroyed.
If you leave your horses inside, you risk subjecting them to collapsing roofs and walls. If you have runs off the stalls, it is a good idea to leave the doors open, so that in the event of a collapse, the horses have an escape route.
Horses that are left outside will be subjected to flying shrapnel. The smallest of objects become flying missles. Don't kid yourself...horses left outside cannot outrun a tornado! Tornadoes are moving much faster than a horse can run, follow an erratic path, and may be too wide for a horse to avoid its path. Downed fences make for escapes, so if you turn out, make sure that you do so in an area that is contained by at least 2 fence lines. Many horses that survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992, were killed when they escaped through broken fences. They were either hit by emergency vehicles in the middle of the night, or electrocuted by downed power lines.

Types of ID for horses

  • Microchips

  • Freeze markings

  • Tattoos

  • Front and side view photos of your horse. Have at least one shot with you in the picture. This is to prove ownership.

  • Bill of sale. Again, to prove ownership.

    Emergency ID's:

  • Painting info on hooves

  • Body marking with livestock crayons. Include phone # and address. Make sure phone # belongs to a friend or relative out of the area. Many times, cell phones and land lines don't work immediately after a disaster.

  • Neck banding.

  • ID tags on halters.

  • Braid ID tag into mane or tail. Use a small baggie to include emergency info. Luggage tags are also good to use.

  • Tape or velcro strips around ankles with information.

Do not include your coggins anywhere on your horse! Somebody who finds a horse that with its coggins, can remove this horse from the area and sell it.

Also, use more than one method of identifying your horse!

Equine Emergency Kit:

  • 3-7 days supply of feed

  • Bandanas (blindfolds)

  • Batteries for flashlight and radio

  • Blankets

  • Copies of vet records and proof of ownership

  • Duct tape and hay string

  • Emergency contact list

  • First aid kit

  • Flash light

  • Fly spray

  • Heavy gloves

  • Hoof instuments

  • Instructions for feeding and medications

  • Knife

  • Leg wraps and bandages

  • Maps

  • Medications (might be good to include Ace or other sedative as well as Banamine)

  • Non-nylon halter and cotton leads

  • Paper towels, rags

  • Plastic trash cans with lids (to store water, feed)

  • Radio

  • Rope

  • Shovel

  • Tarps

  • Trash bags

  • Twitch

  • Water and feed buckets

  • Wire cutters

  • Water purifier (bleach)


Nothing scares me more than fire, because all it takes is for one careless idiot to throw their cigarette out their car window to start a fire. If wildfires are prevelent in your area, leave your horse trailer hooked up to the trailer and have the trailer loaded and ready to go at a moments notice. If you have to work, leave contact numbers for your neighbors, as well as displayed visably for firefighters. A recent dramatic rescue played out recently on the internet, as firemen rushed to a farm to save a horse and a herd of goats in Colorado. Filmed by a news crew in a helicopter, the firemen bravely battled the approaching fast moving flames, saving the animals. A followup news story revealed that the owners were at work and rescue crews would not allow them to go home and save their animals. This is why it is a good idea to evacuate ahead of time. Better to be safe than to have to risk the aforementioned scenario.

In addition:

  • Keep tranquilizers on hand. A friend of mine was in a situation where she tried to load her horse as a wildfire was approaching the barn where she boarded. The horse was so spooked by the fire, helicopters and fire trucks, she was very difficult to load.

  • And now is a good time to make sure that your horses will load!

  • If you do not have a trailer, or have more horses than trailer space, have a list of people you can contact to help.

    To protect your property from fires (both wildfire and otherwise):

  • Trim palmettos, shrubs and trees. Keep at least a 50' clearance around your barn.

  • Install ground rods.

  • Use metal conduit for wiring inside the barn and underground use pvc.

  • Use industrial extension cords.

  • Inspect cords regularly for signs of chewing from rodents.

  • Do not use indoor box fans. Use industrial fans. Lasko fans have been recalled due to starting fires.

  • NEVER use a heater. A tragic fire in Ohio last month killed several horses and was the result of a heater being left on in a barn.

  • Install smoke detectors.

  • Install fire sprinkers...costs less than you may think!

  • Have fire extinguishers every 40' and at both ends of the barn. An extinguisher may not put out a fire, but it can help buy enough time to evacuate animals.

  • Store hay and shavings in a separate barn. Do not store fresh hay on top of old hay.

  • Keep cobwebs and dust to a minimum. This is not just for aesthetic reasons!

  • Do not store gas cans or lawn equipment in the barn. Do not store anything flammable!

  • Use a metal trash can instead of rubber. If a fire starts in the trash can, the metal will help contain it.

  • Make sure your driveway is clear for a firetruck to reach your barn Trim the trees and bushes. The closer a truck can get to your barn, the faster they can start to extinguish the fire.

  • Install easy to read street numbers at the road.


In the event of flooding, you need to evacuate as soon as possible. As with wildfires, you cannot afford to wait.

After Tropical Storm Faye, in 2008, our farm was about a foot under water for weeks. I was initally concerned about snakes. The real threat however, were ants. Did you know that ants float? I didn't. Fireants will attach to each other and form a floating island. I quickly discovered that leaning on the fence was a painful experience, as ants sought refuge here. Sadly, a man died near my barn after coming in contact from a floating ant island.

In the event of tornadoes, I really don't think there is much you can do, other than to seek shelter and pray. One house may be totally destroyed, leaving their neighbor unscathed. Just as in hurricanes, I will take my chances and leave my horses inside. I will risk my barn being destroyed over having my horses impaled or electrocuted.

Now is the time to plan and prepare. Know your options and devise an emergency plan now!

Thank you to the Chuluota Fire Department and Dr. Jennifer Fowinkle for their contributions that allowed me to write this blog!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yes, a new barn!

Yes, the rumors are true...I have moved the horses again!

And the horses are now just 10 minutes from my home! I love going to the barn in the mornings again (although Nikki, who came with me, does feed during the week in the morning...she is 5 minutes away!). Now that summer is here (what the hell happened to spring? 98 degrees and it is only April...oh, fall, please hurry here!), I love having the option to ride in the mornings again before it gets too hot.

So besides the distance, why did I move? Well, for one thing, I didn't appreciate finding people smoking in my barn. It is a cardinal sin in my book. Do I need to explain anymore? Enough said!

The barn is adorable...small, but charming with potential! Potential, as in yes, the owner is talking about selling in the near future and it is in our price range. Peter likes it, it is close to town and doesn't need much to meet our needs.

The property is small..smaller than I would like, at just about 2 and a half acres. But it is set up so all land is usable. Most is high and dry. I don't plan on having more than 3 horses on it, even if we do buy it, so it is simply a doable setup.

The barn, as I said, is small! Originally built to accomodate ponies, the concrete barn has a low roof. One stall is small. The aisleway is narrow. We had to build a washrack/grooming area outside of the entrance. But if we should purchase it down the road, it has the capability to be added onto.

The best thing, it is peaceful! Imp, who had stopped eating her grain for 6 weeks at the last 2 barns (did I mention there was a brief boarding barn after the barn in Apopka? We didn't stay....bears and bugs kept the horses on edge the whole time), has now resumed eating. At the last barn, the horses lost it if one of them was out of their sight...that was very unusual behavior for them. Nobody at this barn seems the least concerned if one steps out of sight for a ride. We have no bears here and the bugs (at least the biting bugs that left Nikki covered in welts) are at a minimum. The barn is heavily wooded on one side and heavy brush surrounds most of the other sides, making it pretty private. The barn is on a dead-end road. Only one end of the property has neighbors that back up to us. We decided that Imp prefers a peaceful setting with not a whole lot of horse activity. All I know is, she is happy again, something that she hasn't been in a while.

We have 2 pastures. There is a pond with ducks, herons, turtles and egrets. To enter the property, one has to walk past sweet smelling jasmine lining the front fence. I love taking deep breaths as I walk past them.

Did I mention that the barn is 10 minutes from home? Yesterday I forgot my cell phone. I knew my farrier would be calling me, so I simply returned home and retrieved it. No big deal! Peter, who is used to it taking me a good 45 minutes to get home from the other barns, is slowly getting used to seeing me just a few minutes after I give him my heads up phone call to get dinner started (yes, he cooks dinner!). Possible chance of rain? No problem...simply leave the horses out in the pasture with the barn, and if it rains, I can run out and bring them more leaving them inside because it might rain, only for it not to rain.

I feel like my life is finally getting back to normal after a rough year with lots of changes. I set up a riding lesson for my birthday in 2 weeks! While it is to hot to go to a horse trial until fall, I hope to go cross country schooling soon. My eventing plans did not materialize as I had hoped this past spring, but there is always the fall. I feel pretty confident that it will happen too. The horses are happy. Hobbs, the barn cat, is happy. Everybody is happy and life is good!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It is Official..Imp is retired

USPC Champs, Lexington, Ky 2004 (above and below)

Jane Brownlow and Imp

Imp and Jen sharing peppermints

Imp and Jen cross country

Show Jumping Rally

Jen's senior portrait

Competing at Poplar Place

Rocking Horse

Jen trying Imp out

Today was a bittersweet day, as Kevin Young, my farrier extraordinaire, removed Imp's shoes. Imp is now formally retired from all riding, including hacking and dressage.
When Jen was home a month ago, she rode her and Imp performed so well, despite having not been ridden in months, she probably could have gone to a dressage show the following day and cleaned up. Since retiring her from jumping in 2008, Jen has pretty much allowed Imp to decide what she wants to do while under saddle. Sometimes she wants to just hand gallop. Other times Imp wants to do nothing but her extended trots which never fail to give me goose bumps. On this day, she was doing her extended trots and they were doing lead changes every few strides. Hard to believe she had not been ridden but maybe twice in the past 6 months!
The following week, Kevin came out to reset her shoes. It was difficult for her to bear weight. Her knee, that had been operated on when she was diagnosed with multiple bone chips and fragments as well as extensive DJD, was wobbling with the extra weight. Kevin, always careful and sensitive to Imp's special needs, took his time with her, but was concerned.
Last week, I decided to ride her. She had not been ridden since Jen's last visit. Amanda wanted to ride Tucker, so I decided to tack Imp up. Although she was her normal fresh and forward self, her knee kept giving out at the walk. An attempt at the trot was very lame. It felt like it was coming from her knees. After talking with Jen and Kevin, we decided to formally retire her. We have nothing to prove or accomplish by riding her. So today, Kevin pulled her shoes and gave them to me. No retirement ceremony, no fanfare, no bottle of champagne or bunches of carrots. A simple gesture of handing me her shoes. A symbol of what this horse has meant to my family.
We got Imp in 2003. Jen's pony, Z-Z, had died in May, from complications of epiglottis and aspirate pneumonia. An unexpected death, it was devastating to a 13 year old girl, who loved her first pony very, very much.
I was enrolled in on-line classes at St. Pete College in the Vet Tech program. It was about a month after Z-Z's death and I was discussing his death with my professor. Class had not started yet, and there were a few other students logged on, who could follow our conversation. During class, I received a PM from one of the students.
Jane Brownlow, had been following our conversation. In her PM, she asked if we were looking to get another horse. We had communicated a few times before and she knew that Jen was eventing. She mentioned that she might have a horse for us. She asked me to contact her after class.
Jane had moved to Florida and had a Thoroughbred mare named Impulsive that she was boarding in Ft. Meyers. She had evented her extensively, but was no longer doing much riding and the mare was doing nothing. "Perhaps your daughter would like her?" she asked. As we talked, I discovered that this mare had competed at the advanced level. Thirteen years old, she was Jen's age. Jane wanted to give her to us! I was stunned that someone I had never met could be so generous.
Incredibly, I did not immediately take Jane up on her offer. Jane told me that Imp's hocks had fused, so she would never compete at advanced again. Having retired my beloved Sir Tally to hock issues, I was concerned that this would mean expensive monthly treatments, something I didn't want to tackle. After Tally was diagnosed with bog spavin, I was able to only ride him for another year before he was retired. I didn't want to get Jen a horse, only to have to retire her in a short time.
After a few more weeks of driving around the state, looking at potential horses for Jen, all which were disappointing and did not live up to their seller's description, I mentioned Imp to Dave and Lisa Sumner of English Acres. Lisa was Jen's instructor. When asked why I didn't get her, I voiced my concern about her hocks. Dave then proceeded to give me an education about fused hocks, and letting me know that Manny, their school horse that Jen had been riding and jumping 3'6, had fused hocks. I learned quite a bit! Dave suggested I call my vet to get more information. In the meantime, he was going to research Imp's record with the USEA.
Dr. Pultz pretty much said the same things that Dave and Lisa told me. He wanted to see Imp's x-rays, which Jane graciously sent. After reviewing them, he told me that we had nothing to lose. "Go get her and bring her home" he told me. By now, Dave had researched Imp's record and was pretty excited at what he saw. He and Lisa could not wait for us to go and try Imp!
Jen and I make a trip to Ft. Meyers. We met Jane and followed her to the exotic farm where Imp and another horse lived...along with kangaroos, llamas and and assortment of other exotic animals.
Jane had sent us pictures of her competing Imp, and she was even more stunning in person! A plain bay with not a speck of white on her, she was exquisite. Refined, well mannered and obviously well bred, she had a noble look to her.
Jane explained her quirks to Jen (like her being sensitive around her udder) as they tacked her up. We headed out to a field with llama's where Jen mounted Imp and rode her. Their flat session went well and Jen loved her. After an hour or so, we cooled her out and made arrangements to meet Jane the next day for a jumping session.
The next day did not go quite as well as the flat session. Imp, not having done much jumping in a while, was bold, fresh and strong. But Jen handled her well. We decided to take Imp, on the condition that it would be trial. I wanted to get her back home and see how she did once she was worked on a regular basis. I also wanted to experiment with her bit.
We brought Imp home 3 weeks later. Not only had we lost Z-Z, but I had retired my Thoroughbred, All That Jazz about the same time, when he was diagnosed with a calcified coffin bone. I gave him to a woman that wanted to just trail ride and do lower level dressage with him. In addition, we had just bought Amanda her first horse, Dolly. I had not replaced Popcorn as we called him, but was looking for a new horse. Needing 3 stalls meant that I had to find a new barn. So with new horses and a new boarding facility, emotions were a bit high for all of us!
The first few days that we had Imp were disastrous! Jen would end up crying after every ride. It was difficult transitioning from a 14.1 hand Arab pony to a 16.2 hand TB mare. Jen mistook her big strides for going too fast. She told me to return her, that she would never be able to ride her.
Instead, I called Lisa, explained what was happening, and scheduled a lesson for that coming Saturday. When we arrived at English Acres, Lisa asked to ride Imp first. After about 15 minutes, she dismounted, handed Jen the reins and proclaimed that if we didn't want her, she would gladly take her off our hands! Forty five minutes later, Jen dismounted with a HUGE grin on her face! Lisa had explained what she needed to do to ride a horse of Imp's talent. If I had the money, I would have gladly paid Lisa a thousand dollars for that lesson! The transformation was amazing and it was the start of an incredible partnership!
That first year, we made Jen compete in the novice division. Imp was not too happy about jumping such low jumps, and she decided to jump every fence as if it was at least 2 feet bigger! Everyone would comment about how big she would jump everything! The two qualified for the UPSC Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a great experience, and one to be blogged about another time. Their team finished 6th, with all members finishing on their dressage scores. Jen was 3rd individually, out of 80 riders!
When we returned to Florida, I let Jen move up to training. We were selective in how many events we went to. With the miles that Imp had, I didn't want to waste whatever amount of jumps she had left in her. We attempted one schooling show, which they won, but it was obvious that competing in all 3 divisions in one day was too demanding and we stuck with only recognized and USPC events. Her hocks held up just fine. We kept her on supplements and later added Adequan and if we traveled out of state, she got Legend. Her legs were poulticed after cross country and she got at least 12 hours of turnout every day, weather permitting. She was treated like a rock star...perhaps we pampered her too much, but she demonstrated that she could extract her and Jen from difficult situations and she made sure to always take care of Jen. It was my pleasure to bow to her every whim!
They did training level for several years. I wanted to make sure that Jen was really prepared before she moved up. They competed at pony club rallies, Rocking Horse and Poplar in the winter, spring and fall. Summers were off season. They never finished out of the ribbons, and all but once, placing on their dressage score. Their only fault occured in show jumping at Poplar, with a rail down. A pretty impressive record!
In December of 2007, the pair were ready to move up to Preliminary. They would be tested at back to back clinics at Rocking Horse. First, a clinic with Young Riders coach Kyle Carter, followed by another clinic with Jen's new instructor, Jennie Jarnstrom. Dave and Lisa had relocated English Acres and were to far to travel to on a regular basis. Eventually, they moved back to their native England. We felt that Jennie, who had competed at Rolex, was a perfect fit for Jen with her outgoing and positive personality.
If Imp could stand up to the rigors of 2 back to back clinics, then, we figured, she would be able to move up to prelim. They had already been schooling prelim for some time. At Kyle's clinic, they schooled at the Intermediate level. Imp and Jen were both up for the demands, and Imp was so fresh and bold, that I decided that she easily had another 10 years ago. I realized that if Jen was going to make the big move, then this was the horse she needed to do it on. Imp was going to continue to take care of her as well as teach her. Kyle was equally impressed and invited Jen to join the Young Riders program
She returned to Rocking Horse for Jennie's clinic, just as fresh and bold. She proved her athleticism by performing an amazing contortionist act over the intermediate corner, which left everyone gasping and wondering how she did not crash. The only concern was raised when Imp had her first refusal on xc, at a bank jump, which after 1 stride on the bank, required a jump over a tree limb. Jennie was very pleased with their overall performance, and suggested that not only should they move up to prelim after doing one more training, but they should aim for doing a 1 star in the spring. We were pretty excited!
Imp recovered from her strenuous outings with flying colors. Christmas and New Years came and went. Then, one day in the middle of January of 2008, Imp came in from the pasture lame.
Dr. Pultz knew after examining her what had happened, and xrays confirmed his diagnosis. The damage was severe and her prognosis poor. We were stunned. We were so focused on Imp's hocks, positive that that would be what ended her career. She never gave any indication that her knees bothered her. She had never been lame.
We shipped her to Ocala Equine Hospital in February. Dr. Maddison could not believe she had been schooling at the intermediate level just a few weeks prior to her onset of lameness. What should have been a 10 minute procedure took 35 minutes. He told us that based on the amount of damage, her knee had been bad for quite some time. For whatever reason it was that caused her to suddenly go lame, it was a blessing. That much damage was an accident waiting to happen. It was just a matter of time before the knee gave out on landing after a cross country jump, with disastrous results to Jen and Imp. He was truly at a loss to explain how it was she was able to go as long as she did without a lame step. I attributed it to her being a Thoroughbred mare who loved her job and loved her rider.
I suppose the timing couldn't have been better to retire Imp. Jen graduated from high school that year and attends the University of South Florida as an engineering major. There is not a whole lot of time for riding. They had 5 wonderful years of competing and learning that had it not been for Jane's generosity, Jen may never have had the opportunity to do...certainly not on a horse like Imp! Imp was a very difficult horse to ride, and Jen made it look so easy. I used to forget what she was like until I would get on her. Bold, strong, fast and brave were all good descriptions of her! And still are. We are sad that Imp's riding days are over, but we are so grateful for the memories.