Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tack Swap Meets

The Tack Swap Meet. Tack Re-Sell It Day. Tack Flea Market.
Horse people seem to look forward to these events, almost as much as going to the barn or to an event.
One thing about horse people...we accumulate lots of stuff. A LOT!! And we have the urge to purge our tack boxes, tack rooms, trailer dressing rooms, and probably even the garage and trunk of our cars, so we can make money...and buy more STUFF! It is a never ending cycle. As one horse woman said, it is the place where she finds stuff that she never even knew she needed!
When I left my barn in Chuluota in 2010, it took multiple trips to move all my stuff. With owning multiple horses of different sizes, plus running a horse rescue, I had tons of stuff. We all know that saddle pads and bits multiply like bunnies and I had at least 4 tubs of just those items. I mean, I don't even remember buying or using half the bits that I had in my possession. As a confessed saddle pad junkie, I do not deny buying lots of pads, just not that many!
After sorting through the bins and donating much of it to other rescues, pony clubbers and a therapeutic riding school, I still had about 53 totes full of stuff. Give or take. And as I went from owning multiple horses to just one, those totes multiplied. Eventually, you get rid of the stuff and hopefully, your sanity returns and you are able to resist the urge to buy more stuff.
The best way to get rid of it? Why, it is just a matter of time before your local tack store, feed store, rescue, pony club or somebody will host a tack swap.
Spaces usually go fast. At Tack Shack of Ocala, which they refer to as their Famous Horsey Yard Sale, people start arriving at the crack of dawn to secure a primo spot, and buyers are not too long behind. Many times, you can barely unload your vehicle before people are rummaging through your goods. I have actually sold items from my truck before even unloading.
For a tack swap to be a success, you need to try and follow my number one rule, which is DON'T WONDER AROUND CHECKING OUT OTHER VENDORS! Your goal is to leave with more money and less stuff. But it is pretty apparent from talking to others that that rarely happens. They just sell their stuff and buy more stuff to replace what they sold.
Tack swaps are like a reunion of sorts. You see people who you used to board with, people who look familiar but can't quite put a name to their face, former pony clubbers who are now married with kids and old trainers. There is always a bunch of hugging and laughing and everyone is pulling out their I-phones to share photos of their horse.
If you like to people watch, then this is a good place. You can always spot the non-horsey husband. Dressed in his Columbia fishing shirt, hanging a bit behind his wife and usually is carrying all the stuff that she can't live without, while she reminds him of how much money she is saving. Then there are the horsey husbands, who come to your table, asks if you have a running martingale or a Waterford bit and you can't help but feel a twinge of jealousy towards his wife. There are dads with their kids who are trying to convince their darling daughter that she needs the pink galloping boots and doesn't understand the difference between jods and breeches, but it is ok, because he is really trying to be a good horse dad and that is all that matters. There are moms insisting that their daughter buy the $5 breeches to school in and that she does not need another Breyer. Pony clubbers or 4-H kids usually are running the concession stand, there may be a local rescue group displaying needy pups and barn cats (keep walking, don't look unless you are in the market for a new pooch or kitty) and if you venture inside the store...which is usually crowded to the brims, all for the sake of saving 15%, you will probably encounter product vendors. Give away's and raffles are a must of any decent swap meet and if you win a prize, everyone will look at you with envy as you cart off MORE STUFF!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Just Another Blip In The Road....Part 2

After dwelling on Tucker's diagnosis all weekend, the vet came back today with the xray machine. Actually, a different vet, but the same one who I saw last fall....
Let me digress a moment.
My wonderful vet, Dr. Pultz, "Doc" passed away almost 2 years ago from cancer. Doc was the kind of vet who would stitch up a homeless person who knew where to find help; he was old school and had lots of tricks up his sleeve that new vets just have no clue; I had his personal phone # and could call him anytime; he knew just by feeling her knee that Imp had a bone chip, even before he x-rayed her; he was gruff but could calm even Imp while administering vaccines to the needle phobic mare.
Our visits always lasted hours because he would share some of his stories with me when he was finished, which always nearly left me rolling in laughter in the dirt, they were so funny. He could sure spin some stories and he was a damn good vet. He was my vet for over 25 years and he left some mighty big shoes to easy task.
Last fall, on the advice of Kevin, my farrier, I contacted Dr. Lori Gifford. When she showed up last fall, I immediately took a liking to her. She has a calm and easy going vibe and is gentle around Tucker. And she likes Tucker! She talked to him, petted him, you know, did things to make me happy. She also is fine with me consulting with Dr. Reilly about Tucker's EPSM and while she is pro-vaccine, she understands that I have to be selective with what vaccines I administer to Tucker.
When I called last week, she sent her partner, Dr. Donna Woelfel. Like Lori, she is on a first name basis and has a calm and easy going nature about her. I found out that the reason Donna came instead of Lori, was that since it was the same leg, Lori felt a second opinion would be good.
Today, Lori came and she x-rayed Tucker.
The good news is that there are no changes in the arthritis that showed up last fall. And, the arthritis is in the pastern, not the fetlock. The hoof looks good as well.  She said that there was a good chance that not all of the nerves were blocked, hence the reason for him not being sound until Donna blocked the fetlock. It is a small amount and I am encouraged that there are no changes. She also said for me to get on him this week and that if he is lame still at the trot, it would be ok to walk him, which is good for keeping his EPSM in check.
I will hop on him in 2 keeping my fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Being Fashionable Without Breaking The Bank

I have always been a bit out of touch when it came to being fashionable in the riding apparel department. I like ribbed, because I no longer have a perfect body, post 3 kids and menopause (mainly menopause) and the ribbed are more flattering, and I like a classic rise instead of anything that reveals a butt crack or a muffin top.
I used to snub my nose at any breech that cost more than $100, so you can forget about me even trying on TS, Romph or the like. I think it is absurd to spend hundreds of dollars on breeches, simply for the sake of wearing a label.
Then Devon-Aire came out with their new Signature line of breeches and I am finally riding in style!
Devon-Aire Signature line includes breeches, coats and boots, that have catapulted the company into a new category. Once thought of as a company that made decent entry level, kids and budget minded clothes, they are now venturing into the high end market....but without the high end price! So if you want to look like you spent $200 for a pair of breeches for your horse to snot all over, now you can do so but for a fraction of the cost!
I was a bit skeptical at first when the Signature debuted over a year ago. Introduced in a line of colors for universities with riding teams, the options quickly increased as customers started asking for more. The material is a European style woven fabric. It is a high tech, poly/lycra blend. And it is water resistant and moisture wicking, so perfect for those many hot and humid days of Florida riding. I was doubtful that I would like a mid rise, but once I tried them on, I was hooked. They give excellent control and lots of stretch...I could easily pick out hooves and not worry about exposing anything. The waistband gives lots of support and I don't feel like I need a coat to cover up my waist. It has a Euro seat and the Devon-Aire has done away with the painful Velcro and instead opts for elastic ankles, in the color of the trim of the piping. And like all of Devon-Aire breeches, they do not have inside leg seams and the snaps are heavy duty with reinforced seams. While they do come in a show tan color, which is identical to the TS tan, the other color options come with a colored trim on the waist to match the ankle. Overall, it makes for a pretty sharp looking breech, whether you are looking for a show breech, or a breech to match your school's riding team or even your barn colors.
But while it is a pretty it a comfortable riding breech? While they passed the test of functionality around the barn, I am pleased to say that they are just as comfortable in the saddle. There is no constriction of the material and I appreciate the comfort of the elastic ankle instead of Velcro digging into my skin. They are great for summer riding as they are light weight and that is a huge plus for me.Since trying them on, I ordered more pairs in a variety of colors and they are my go to breech for lessons and shows.
Just when I thought that they couldn't out do the Signatures, Devon-Aire introduced the Signature Madrids a few months ago.These too are also a woven, technical fabric and incredibly, they have even more stretch to them than the Signatures. They are a micro-poly and cotton blend and they provide even more support and control to the waist area than the Signatures and they are just as flattering. They are very comfortable while riding. An issue I have with riding in the Florida heat is of chafing and rubbing, and neither the Signatures or the Madrids do either, which is a sweet relief! They are cut very similar to the Signatures, with a mid rise, Euro seat and elastic ankles. They do not come in as many color options as the Signatures, and the four colors that they do offer come with contrast piping, but I am confident that they will add more colors and do a plain show tan as well.
Both breeches are very affordable. The Signature retails for $99 and the Madrid retails for $109.

The breeches match up beautifully with the Mango Bay belts. If you haven't seen these, check them out at
Whatever your riding discipline or your color, Pam has it for you. These belts are fun, stylish and at $19, you can afford multiple belts! The flat rings that she uses mean that the belts won't slide and loosen up while you are riding. Most likely you will find Pam at one of the shows...I don't think she is ever home because she is at every major horseshow and event, including Equine Affaire (both!), Rolex, pony finals and more

Here I am wearing the Signatures. I love how they move and stretch with my body!
 The Madrids:

                                       Here I am wearing the Madrids in the navy and white:
The Signature side zip:
Some of the many color options of the Signatures:

                                               I love the navy and white! It is so classic.

Go Gators! My youngest daughter begged me for a pair so she could wear them around the UF campus. Many riders of the UF equestrian team will be seen wearing these!

Mango Bay Belts!

Just Another Blip In The Road

So a few days ago, Tucker was diagnosed with arthritis in his left front ankle, and I have been wracked with guilt and frustration ever since.
You see, last fall, when he had an issue with the same leg, which was the result of striking the stall wall in retaliation of a new stall mate, the vet told me then that she saw a bit of arthritis in the ankle and suggested I put him on Cosequin. Which I did.
I also started him on Hilton Herb's Multi Flex, but in the liquid tincture formula, because he gets so many dry supplements for his EPSM and allergies.
He was on Cosequin for about 3 months but I stopped around the end of January and just kept him on the Multi-Flex. My reasoning was that he was just getting too many supplements and I had read the many arguments against joint supplements because most of the ingredients are not digested, that it is a waste of money. I was a huge fan of the joint supplement Gluquestrian, which does not contain all those wasteful fillers, and I attribute that product to keeping Imp sound when she should not have been, but it is hard to find. I kept telling myself to order it online but in the end, I decided to just go with the Multi-Flex.
But then I entered the recognized event at Rocking Horse, and I stopped the Multi-Flex because it would test for the devils claw (by the way, Hilton Herbs is working on a competition-legal line of products, which are now being tested in the UK.) Honestly, arthritis and unsoundness were not even on my radar when I stopped it.
And then, a few weeks later, he was lame.
I pride myself in the care that I give my horses and that they are sound and healthy. Tucker has been one of my most challenging horses, between the EPSM, allergies and habronemas. I have to keep him micromanaged.
All I have wanted to do is event Tucker. One of the reasons I adopted him rather than buying another OTTB, was that while the girls were actively showing, I could concentrate on them and not have the show expense of my own horse. Jen would be graduating high school and off to college by the time I was ready to get serious in competing.
But life throws you curve balls. In my case, it was a blood clot in the leg that left me weak for a year,
then unemployment/budget constraints and just as we were ready to finally hit our stride, Tucker is diagnosed with EPSM. The first round, we got it figured out pretty quick, but then summer arrived and I don't do summers. Not in Florida. A quick ride in the morning and I am done for the day. Another round of unemployment, then another round of EPSM, this time more debilitating and once we figured out the missing pieces of his diet, it took nearly a year for Tucker to recover. And now that we are finally ready, we have another setback.
Tucker was all ready for Rocking Horse until he trotted lame on Thursday, with the show on Saturday. Kevin, my farrier, came that afternoon, as he had reset Tucker on Wednesday, but hoof testers revealed nothing.
Over the next few days, Tucker alternated between head bobbing lame on a 10 meter trotting circle, yet almost 100% sound on the 20 meter, to off every 7th or 8th stride on the 20 meter and almost sound on the 10 meter. I fired off an email to Dr. Reilly to ask if he thought it could be EPSM related, and he was pretty sure it wasn't.
The vet arrived Friday and Tucker was a trooper. Trotting him down the driveway, I could hear the uneven foot falls without even looking to see that he was off on the straightway. We decided to nerve block him and while distracted with Hilton Herbs Herballs, Tucker was numbed, first the hoof and then, when he was still lame, the ankle. This time, he was sound when I trotted him around.
The diagnosis is arthritis, and tomorrow we will confirm with x-rays and compare the new ones to the ones taken last fall. The vet was relieved it wasn't anything more serious and I guess I should be as well, but I am still feeling guilty. The vet felt that given his size and being almost a teenager in another month, this is about the time to see something. But should that be normal? It isn't like I am an eventing warrior, taking him cross country every week or even jumping him at home weekly. Quite the opposite. Because of his size, I didn't even start him under saddle until he was 3, and did not jump him until he was almost 6, and yet here we are, still getting arthritis before he is 13. Maybe I should have added a joint supplement all along, and perhaps we would have been able to compete last weekend. I guess we will never know.
I know that this is manageable, and we will start with Adequan,and he is back on the Multi-Flex. But I wonder if I should have taken this a bit more seriously back in November and when I took him off the Multi-Flex, perhaps I should have had a back up plan.
And so once again, another eventing season has come and gone and with us ready to attack it, we have once again been sidelined. Maybe someone is trying to tell me something?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Just Because You Run A Barn Doesn't Make You God..Or A King...

Oh, lordy!
We have all seen the threads online and the blogs. About how people hate boarding and how barn managers/owners, hate boarders. Honestly, it is amazing that there are boarding barns anymore with all the drama.
I have been on both sides of the fence, as a barn manager, who for 6 years, kept the same loyal and sane boarders and as a boarder for more years, at some really good barns and at some really bad barns.
I don't understand the mentality of someone getting into the boarding business only to sacrifice the care of the horse for ego and/or money. My mantra has always been It's All About The Horse and in my world, the horse comes first.
Running a barn is hard work. It is not glamorous, although one girl who ran a barn that I boarded at really did believe that it was....she was out of the business in less than 2 years. I am surprised she lasted that long, although the quality of care began to decline after a few months, which was when I left. You are on call 24/7, 365 days a year and horses do not understand the word Convenience!
I have learned, as a boarder, that you have to chose what is most important to you (besides quality feed, hay and water, not to mention safe and clean, ) because no barn is perfect and everyone who is running a barn thinks that their way is the best. Which is why I keep Tucker nearly an hour away. Each way. Yes, I drive it every day and am thankful that I don't have a 9-5 job and I do wish we would hurry up and sell our house and buy a farm. For Tucker, it is important that he has a turnout schedule to accommodate his allergies (no night time t/o, and in the summer, in his stall, fan on, by noon), he is getting fed what I want him to eat for his EPSM and allergies ( I once spoke with a barn manager who insisted that it was ok for Tucker to eat the same as the other 30 horses in her barn and he would be just fine, EPSM or not!) and when I travel for work, I want to make sure he is getting his supplements. His Vitamin E, magnesium and other supplements are crucial to his well being and quality of life. EPSM is potentially life ending without those supplements. I also want him on grass. I cannot believe how many expensive show barns in Central Florida do not practice pasture management and can't even be bothered to remove the weeds or at least mow them. I refuse to spend my money on a weedy or sandy lot.
As a barn manager, I was lucky to have excellent boarders, who cared for their horses. It was a small barn so there was no drama. I did ask my first boarder to leave because her trainers tactics resulted in a colicing horse every Monday after she would return from the weekend with the trainer. She couldn't make the connection and I asked her to leave. I never had any rules other than to clean up after yourself. Everything else was pretty much common sense, but then my boarders were seasoned equestrians and knew better than to run in a barn, leave gates open or put a hot horse up.
I have heard stories from time to time of people who have had to call the police in order to leave a farm. For one local hunter/eventer trainer, it seems a common occurrence. I had the opportunity to assist in such an extraction this week, when I was called to help some friends remove their horses from a farm where they were no longer wanted, but the barn owner was making it difficult for them to leave.
I will try and be brief, but it is a good story!
A couple started a training and boarding facility. I knew them from my current barn, where they were boarders, and they seemed really, really nice and on the same page as I am about the care of horses. They secured a lease on a local farm and 2 of my friends moved their 3 horses there. The first week was great. Except that the husband, a farrier, changed his mind about allowing their own farrier on the premises, and required them to use him. He agreed to lower his fees, but after getting one friend to sign a TWO PAGE contract (!!) his bill included fees such as a consultation fee and modification fee. Oh, and the horse was lame after he shod him. My friends approached him about his "fees" and he became belligerent, told them that his fees were his fees, and that he could charge what he wanted. He also bad mouthed their old farrier (who has done my horses for 13 years) at which point one of my friends told him that he was out of line and not being professional.
The next day, a set of rules were affixed to the barn walls in several locations. Among the rules,
"It is expected to be polite and respectful at all times and act with professional conduct. Bad attitudes, inappropriate behavior and unfriendliness WILL NOT be tolerated and will result in being asked to leave the facility instantly."
Then the following day, more rules were added! They included (my favorite!):
" When entering/exiting arena, announce GATE for the safety of yourself and other riders" (it is a small facility, a small ring with 3 other horses!)
 "Under No Circumstances what so ever are lessons to be given by no other than...(the trainer) And since one friend was helping the other friend with her riding, it was obvious that this rule was also aimed at them specifically, despite being initially told it would not be a problem.
"No jumping unless during a lesson"
"Immediately after riding, pick up manure from your horse"
"You must pass left to left while riding" (they have to post this?)
It was quite obvious that they were thinking of how they could make my friend's lives miserable. There were now 3 pages of rules, most of which were your basic rules: don't run, turn off lights, close gates, etc. And this fee happy couple would assess you $30 for every infraction!
At the end of the 3rd page of rules, riders were reminded to have fun! Seriously! I would be so worried that I was going to be fined every day for going in another horses stall, leaving a light on or feeding treats to my friend's horse, there would be no way I could have fun.
Yesterday morning, having given notice that they were leaving, they were greeted with a bill for twice what they had initially agreed to and an altered boarding contract, where the barn manager had added that he could place a lien on the horses for unpaid bills. Again, he was quite the pompous ass, and committed battery on one of my friends by slamming a gate into her knee, knocking her to the ground.
I received a phone call shortly after that I was needed that afternoon, with my trailer, to help move the 3 horses.
They were advised by the police to go in only with a police escort, and what a sight it was, one friend in her suburban, followed by the next friend in her truck, 2 deputy cars, myself and our farrier was following, as he came to assist.
I will spare you the 2 hours of total nonsense that ensued, but despite all of his attempts to keep us from loading 3 horses in two trailers and get their personal effects out, we managed. If the deputies were not there, I don't think it would have gone as well, considering he was pretty hostile to them as well as the rest of us. He was ranting and raving the entire time and very disrespectful to the police.
My parting words to him, were that I was disappointed to see that he was not conducting himself with class and integrity and I told him that the horse world was a small community and that if you acted like an ass, everyone would know it and he would not stay in business. I am mad at myself for allowing myself to think that he and his wife were wonderful people. I hope I don't make that mistake again and I hope I am never involved in a police assisted extraction again!
And if you are looking into a boarding facility, do your homework.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What's In A Name

So as I have made a return to blogging, with so much to write about, I find myself contemplating the name of my blog.
You see, when I started this, several years ago, I was leasing a farm that I called Calypso Farm. My daughters were heavily involved with horses and both competed actively in eventing and pony club.
But girls grow up and things change. My youngest, Amanda, who was never as passionate about horses as her sister or myself, lost interest when her horse Pilgrim, died. She was 17 and had other interests. She now lives in Manhattan and while she dreams of owning a dog or bunny, horses are not in her future. Jen has never lost her interest, but when Imp died her last semester of college, it was easy for her to focus on her career. An engineer, she now lives in Arlington, Virginia and does a pretty good job of catch riding. She has been foxhunting and riding warmbloods.
I no longer lease the barn, as with just one horse, it didn't make sense but eventually we will buy a farm and it will earn the Calypso Farm moniker.
Where did the name Calypso come from? Well, I am a HUGE fan of John Denver and one of my favorite songs is Calypso, a beautiful tribute to Jacques Cousteau's ship. My husband is passionate about fishing and boating, so I thought the name would be a nod to John Denver and to my husband's hobby.
Hmmm....I guess the name stays. is too much trouble to change it!

An Update On Tucker's Skin Issues!

A lot of my blogging in the past has been about Tucker's skin issues. A lot has happened since I last blogged about his skin.
So, when I left off in January of 2014, I was still dealing with Tuckers summer sore from hell, which had reopened in the fall of 2012. Through my research, I found that Dr. Porter of Performance Horse Vet had a cream for treating habronema's. Because I had used him years before for Pilgrim's neurological issues when Dr. Porter was with the U of F mobile unit, he graciously sold me a tub at a cost of about $80. I had strict instructions to keep Tucker bandaged for at least a month, a feat when you are boarding, but thankfully he is a couch potato when he goes outside and he left his stable bandages alone while turned out. The sore did close, but did not give me a 100% success rate that I had hoped for, more about 80%, but that was better than nothing.
So after about 3 months, the sore did close and we were in good shape for the summer heat and flies. The sore stayed pretty much the same through the summers of 2014 and 2015.
Fast forward to this past December. The weather was cooling off and I allowed Tucker to go outside without his fly boot on.
I literally cried one day when I arrived at the barn to find his leg bleeding.
The sore had reopened.
Hilton Herbs had come out with a new product the year before called Mud Defender. Hilary trialled in in the US and the UK with amazing results. The supplement and lotion are designed to treat scratches and rain rot and every horse in the trial had an improvement, in that they either did not come down with a case of scratches or rain rot, whereas in previous years they had, or if they did, their owners reported it was a much milder case.
I was having pretty good luck with the topical Mud Defender, with glowing results from whomever I gave a sample to. Bloody, crusty ears in a fellow boarders boxer: healed after 2 treatments where the vet's steroid medicine had failed. Crud on the front of a horses back legs: healed. Rain rot in another boarders horse: gone in days. The crusty collarettes my male German Shepherd gets: gone. I had given a sample to a friend who had been trying to heal a summer sore on one of her horses, with no luck, despite 6 months under the care of a vet. She called me the next morning, wanting to order a bottle and gushing over the results of just one treatment! The summer sore healed up in 3 weeks on the Mud Defender!
So while I was very bummed about Tucker opening his sore up, I was excited about using the Mud Defender on him and I even put him on the supplement, which is designed to toughen the skin, support the elasticity and integrity of the skin and support the body's overall immune response to infection.
The sore was healed in 3 weeks!
As of now, the sore looks great. It was interesting to photograph the sore on a daily basis while treating with the Mud Defender and to see the changes that occurred almost daily. The skin integrity has definitely changed for the better
and I am hoping it stays closed for good, but of course, I will continue to micro manage the hell out of it.
Meanwhile, the rest of Tucker's skin looks pretty good. Besides starting him on Hilton Herb's Bye Bye Itch, which I after 3 years, I can increase and decrease depending on the pollen, weather and bugs, the best decision I made was to keep Tucker inside at night. It means that I have to drive nearly an hour each way to the barn in order to find a barn that will accommodate his schedule, but it is worth it. When the pollen count is high, usually spring and fall, he does tend to get hives, but overall, his itching has decreased dramatically. He has had a full mane and tail for 3 years, and he no longer has raw, bloody scabs all over his body.

A reminder of what I have been dealing with over the years

I arrived at the barn in January one morning to find this :(

After one application of Mud Defender. The following photos are over the next 3 weeks:

All healed!

A reminder of how Tucker's tail looked 6 months of the year

How Tucker's tail has looked for the past 3 years, 365 days a year, with the use of Bye Bye Itch

This is my medicine cabinet at the barn!