Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Are We Showing In The Heat? But We Did It!!

As I blogged last week, I had entered Tucker in the Rocking Horse Stables schooling trials. I had missed the winter season and summer was upon us, and I really wanted to attend, 1) so we could say we had finally gotten to a trial this year, 2) to focus on show jumping and dressage and 3) so we could push ourselves a little in the heat.
I hate the heat. I hate Florida, and I hate summer in Florida. Since menopause, it has gotten harder and harder to tolerate the heat and there is nothing more torturous than trying to ride when it is 95 degrees out and you are experiencing a hot flash! I admit I am a total wimp when it comes to the heat. I will take snow and ice over the heat...and yes, I am from the north, so I know what winter is like.
The week leading up to Rocking Horse was actually decent, but of course, Saturday morning, the day of the show, summer officially arrived and it was just plain miserable, even at 9am as I was loading Tucker. To make matters worse, I had eaten something the night before that disagreed with me and I had a good case of show jitters. Not a good way to start the day.
We arrived at the show and as luck would have it, they were behind schedule in the stadium ring. Figures.
We did a short warm up...the sweet thing about Tucker is that he doesn't need much jumping. He is uncomplicated and thankfully, we can get the job done without a lot of sweat before hand.
I had entered the 2'6 and 2'11 classes, with no expectations, other than to work on my form, our leads and my head game. I used to love jumpers, did it for years on my Sir Tally, but being out of it for years started to cause my brain to play mental games....I am always worried of making a total fool of myself, whether by missing a distance, knocking a rail or just by having bad form. Watching the 2' class erased most of those fears, as I watched some really bad rounds. I only hope that they were beginner riders, but shame on their trainer for bringing a rider to a show who has no idea of how to release and is yanking the mouths of their mounts.  I felt pretty confident as I entered the ring, but had absolutely no expectations, other than to enjoy the ride.
And we did, as we hit every distance. We didn't get every lead, but I had the presence to ask for simple changes and get them. We didn't have Marcea school us, but I think I did her proud and followed her instructions for riding into the corner and flexing him to the outside, which helped for a straight approach. All was great until about the 3rd from last jump, when I think Tucker and I both had the same revelation, which was that it was wicked hot and what the hell were we doing? I decided in a split second that I had nothing to prove to anybody by trying to ride in the heat. We somehow finished the last three jumps, though I doubt it was pretty! We finished clean.
By the time I got back to the barn, to wait for the next class, which was an hour away, I decided to scratch. I was hot and light headed and feeling a bit miserable.  I was pleased with how our class had gone and decided to just ride our dressage test.
Thankfully, there was a bit of a breeze for our test. We rode BN B. When we finished, the judge asked me what size circles I was doing. She said that they weren't 20 meters but that they weren't 15 meters. I just laughed and patted Tucker as we exited. I thought our circles were on the mark, but who knows? We did receive a 33 for our test, a personal best, so I was happy.
When I went to collect our test, I took a gander at the results board. While we were just out of the ribbons for our test...first place was a 24....we did win the jumper class!
And what did I wear? Well, lucky me, my Devon-Aire Signature Granada field boots arrived on Thursday. I have been riding in boots that are a size too big and didn't realize how much it affected my leg until I rode in the new boots! What a difference! And they are so comfortable! They felt completely broken in on Saturday. I wore my tan Madrids and the navy Ariat shirt. I think I looked pretty fashionable!

Blue looks good on Tucker!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Disaster Planning for the Horse Owner

This is a repeat of a blog that I wrote a few years ago. As the DC for our pony club, I would invite the local fire department to come out to the barn every year and talk about disaster planning. On a side note, every farm owner should invite their local firemen to come out to the barn. They will inspect your barn and tell you what improvements need to be made. They will also welcome the opportunity to learn how to halter and lead horses, something which could someday save the life of your horse.




Pictures from Hurricane Charley in Central Florida, 2004:
                            





Disaster Planning

Blizzards in October. Hurricanes and flooding in Vermont. Tornadoes in the mountains. Sound like the latest disaster movie? No, unfortunately, that was the weather pattern last year in the United States. Hundreds of people and countless animals were killed, injured and left homeless. Ironically, Florida was one of the few states to not experience a natural disaster in 2011. But don’t let our quiet year fool you. That just means we are one year closer to our next big disaster. Will it be 2012? There is a good chance that we will be affected by a hurricane or tornadoes. We are already in a drought and experiencing wild fires.
No matter where you live, you need to have a disaster plan, not only for your home, but for your horses. Do you?
It isn’t that hard to plan one. The first thing you need to do is to identify what type of disasters your area may be subjected to. For Floridians, that means hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes and wildfires. Unfortunately, we don’t have much notice to inact an emergency plan with the
latter two, so it is all the more important to know what to do when Mother Nature comes calling.





Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Floods

Should I stay or should I go? No, not a question posed by the rock group The Clash, it is a serious question that you need to address in the event of a hurricane.
Usually, we will have several days notice of an impending hurricane. Except in 2004, when those of us in Central Florida had only 6 hours notice to prepare, when Hurricane Charlie suddenly changed its course. If you are going to evacuate, you need to do so when the first evacuation order is issued. Otherwise, if you wait until the last moment, you may find yourself sitting in a parking lot of bumper to bumper cars on the interstate. Identify what will cause you to leave. For me, living in the Orlando area, it would have to be a category 3 or 4, coming in along Cocoa Beach, to force me to leave. Another major factor to consider is whether or not you are in a flood zone. How close are you to a river or lake? Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 caused major widespread flooding for weeks. Many horses in Hurricane Katrina that were left behind, suffered a horrible death when their barns flooded. Remember, wherever you decide to evacuate to, the aftermath of the storm will most likely follow you, short of heading out of Florida and then going further west.


If you leave:

Take all your animals with you. Don’t leave any animal behind, you don’t know when you will return and it isn’t a good idea to leave their care in someone else’s hands.

Make sure your vehicle is gassed up and ready to go.

Keep important papers in your truck: vet records, identification and proof of ownership. In a disaster, health certificates are usually waived. Make sure your animals are current on their coggins and vaccinations.

Bring along enough hay and feed for several days. Have extra water in your trailer.

Bring your evacuation kit (below).

Know where you are going. Before hurricane season hits, research places that you can evacuate to. Don’t assume that showgrounds or other facilities will be open for evacuees.

Know back roads. Major roads become clogged very quickly.

Staying put? There is a lot to do to get ready, but you can do it!

The biggest question many horse owners want to know is, what to do with my horse? If I stay, do I leave my horse in or out? This is a topic discussed time and time again on countless bulletin boards.
Ask yourself, is your horse better left inside or out?

Look at your barn construction. In the event of strong winds, is your roof likely to blow off or collapse inward? Metal roofs will blow off. In the event of a collapse, what will fall on your horse? Concrete walls or 2x4’s? Is there a hayloft overhead with hay and equipment that can fall on your horse? If you turn your horse out, you have to consider that in 100 mph plus winds, even the smallest object becomes a flying missile. Tree branches, jump cups, buckets, blown off roof tops, will all cause serious injuries and fatalities to horses. Are there electrical wires near your fields?
What about your fencing? If you leave your horse out, ideally, there should be at least 2 perimeters of fencing, as downed fencing is a reality. In Hurricane Andrew, many horses that survived the storm, later died because of downed power lines in their fields and broken fencing which allowed them to escape and to be hit by vehicles. This is something you need to consider not only in a hurricane, but in an approaching tornado. Don’t assume that your horse can
outrun a tornado! They can’t! Nobody can.
The bottom line is, whether you leave your horse in or out is a decision that you need to make, based on your facilities. Personally, I will take my chances with a collapsing barn rather than leaving them out in the elements. In one of the many tornadoes that touched down last year, one farm in North Carolina lost all of their horses that were outside. The stalled horses all survived, save for one. The truth is, in a storm such is Andrew of Katrina, there is only one good answer, and that is to evacuate!
Once you identify where your horse will ride out the storm, you have a lot of work to do:

Fill every bucket, trash can and other containers with water.

Pick up enough extra hay and feed to last at least a week. Cover it with a tarp.

Pick up and store every possible object that isn’t tied down. Knock jumps over.

Plan on identifying your horse with at least 2 methods.
These include:

Body marking with livestock paint. Available at Tractor Supply. Put your address and a phone # on the side of the horse.

Painting hooves with phone #.

Neck banding.

ID tag on halters

Braid ID tag into mane or tail. Use a small baggie with emergency information.

When using a phone number, it is best to include your # and
a number of a friend of relative who lives out of the area, as there is a good chance that local lines and cell lines are not working . Just make sure the person is aware that you are using their phone number!
Never, never, never attach your horses coggins to his body. Many horses were stolen after Katrina because they had their coggins attached to them. This gives the founder of the horse an instant pass over state lines.
Make sure you keep current photos along with your horses coggins in your personal files, so that you can identify your horses, should they become missing.
It is a good idea to use 2 methods of ID, and leave a halter on your horse. It is also advisable to attach reflective tape to the halter, in case your horse gets loose in the dark.



Wildfires

To me, wildfires are the scariest disaster, as they can occur in an instant. All it takes is for one inconsiderate person to throw their cigarette butt out a car window and disaster can result.
If conditions are prime for a wildfire in your area, be prepared to evacuate at a moments notice. Do not wait! Fire officials will close down roads making evacuation impossible. Therefore, it is a good idea to have your truck gassed and the trailer hooked up and ready to go. Have your
evacuation kit packed, including feed and hay.
To safeguard against wildfires and to protect your farm:

Keep shrubs and palmettoes 50’ from your barn.

Have tranquilizers ready. Low flying helicopters, smoke and fire trucks may agitate your horse and make loading difficult.

And make sure that your horse knows how to load!



Now is the time to prepare your evacuation kit!

Evacuation Kit:

3-7 day supply of feed, hay and water

Bandanna’s (blindfolds)

Batteries

Blankets

Copies of vet records, coggins and proof of
ownership

Duct tape

Emergency contact list

First Aid kit

Flashlight

Fly Spray

Heavy gloves

Hoof instruments

Instructions for feeding and medications

Knife

Leg wraps

Maps of local and alternative evacuation routes

Medications

Non-nylon halters and cotton leads

Paper towels

Plastic trash cans with lids (to store water and
feed)

Radio

Rope

Shovel

Tarps

Trash bags

Twitch

Water and feed buckets

Wire cutters

Water purifier (bleach)

Disaster can strike at any moment in time. Know what can occur in your
area. Blizzards and earthquakes also require forethought.
Be a smart horse owner and plan now!

Horses with their emergency info still painted on them, the day after Hurrican Charley hit Central Florida. This was near Winter Park.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy Birthday, Tucker!!

Tucker turns 13 today! Gosh, a teenager in the barn! Unlike human teens, however, he is full of wisdom, he has no interest in talking back, and he is not embarrassed to be seen with me!
Where did the time go? I can't believe that he has been a part of my life for 12 and a half years. I like to think that the next 13 years are going to just be even better and full of lots of adventures! I have learned so much from him, whether it is stuff I would rather not have had to experience (EPSM, allergies, habronemas), or things that I can't get enough of (dressage...who knew!), my time with Tucker has been a valuable learning experience, helping to shape me to become a better horsewoman every day!


Tucker at 6 months old, just after arriving in Florida

Tucker at 3 months old, his photo on the adoption website
Johnnie Showtime, Tucker's sire
 
Tucker's first birthday
Tucker's first ride at 3 years old
Tucker as a yearling
Our first horse trials
Our first horse trials
 
 



We're Going To A Show! Now What Do I Wear?

Wearing my navy Madrids
So the story of my life is that as much as I love to show (or used to, anyhow), I haven't really been to many shows with Tucker. Work, my health, his health, being poor...blah, blah, blah.
We got through the EPSM episodes and I threw myself into dressage lessons with Bill Woods and this year was able to connect with Marcea Funk at Rocking Horse for our cross country and jumping lessons. We were entered in a schooling show last December, just a month coming off an injury to his front left ankle but while he had been sound and appeared on the mend, I pulled him up after our 3rd jump, not liking how he felt.
We pretty much missed our eventing season, which in Florida, is from January to March for recognized events, so we entered the March trials, only for him to come up lame 3 days before the show. Hmmm....was my always sound horse trying to tell me that he didn't want to compete? I was feeling paranoid!
So fast forward, the month of May comes to an end next week...and my husband Peter, myself and Tucker, all May babies, will be another year older. I have been preaching about trying to start making myself deal with this horrid heat and how I want to focus on our dressage and show jumping, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and I entered a schooling show at Rocking Horse this weekend. That, and my friend Tuesday kind of pressured me into going with her. Nothing like peer pressure! We are NOT doing cross country however...it is just too hot for that. One test (USEA BN2) and 2 stadium rounds ( 2'6 and 2'11) will be plenty.

We had our first dressage lesson since March this morning. I picked Bill's brain, as I have never done a dressage schooling show. Do I have to braid Tucker's mane? (No, but I just might anyhow!) And the biggest questions: What can I wear? I have the lovely Devon-Aire Madrids in navy, tan or charcoal. Are they acceptable? Yes, Bill assured me. But, he cautioned me: wear dark breeches with a light shirt or light breeches with a dark shirt. NO pink or purple and please don't wear black breeches and a black shirt, especially on a black horse. No Zorro or Batman styling. As a judge, he has seen it all! So! What do I wear? I am limited on my tops. I have a beautiful Ariat Sunstopper shirt in navy with white polka dots, but it seems to have disappeared.
Ariats Sunstopper Shirt

I wore it last week, now I cannot find it. I have taken to changing clothes at the barn, since I have a new car, with leather seats, and I want to keep it looking new a little while longer, but the shirt is not at the barn. I am sure I will find it. So I am thinking of pairing that shirt with the tan breeches. With my Mango Bay eventing belt in blue. Or, I could wear the charcoal breeches but I would have to get a white shirt. I have ratcatchers, but without a coat, or even with a coat, they don't seem like a very fashionable option anymore. And speaking of coats....I know it will be hot and it will take every thing I have to ride a 3 minute test without passing out from the heat, but the really vain side of me does want to wear my coat. I hate my post menopause bloating that won't go away and I really would like to hide it with a coat. That is one nice thing about the Ariat shirt...I normally refuse to buy anything Ariat (and I didn't buy this, it was a gift!) but this shirt is not form fitting so I feel that it hides the belly a little better than other shirts of similar styles. Oh, #eventerproblems!






As for our lesson? As Bill put it, accuracy, check, impulsion, check. Roundness...well, lets just say it is still a work in progress. Bill would like to be able to check that off, sooner than later. He suggested a different bit for schooling. Tucker goes in a loose ring snaffle, for both dressage and jumping. Bill thinks a skinnier snaffle or even a twist will get a little more respect from Tucker for a more immediate reaction to my asking him to round. Our test this weekend will be a good verification of where we are and what our summer goals need to be. Stay tuned.....




Sunday, May 15, 2016

I am Going To The Grocery Store....For The Horse!

Several of us were talking today at the barn about the many items that we buy at Target or the grocery store... for our horses. Some of these are items that nobody would think twice about...except that the cashier or bagger may think it odd that you are buying enough gauze pads to patch up a literal army of wounded soldiers, while other items are embarrassing enough when you buy one of. When you are buying multiple tubes of Prep-H...extra strength and in large tubes....well, you may see a raised eyebrow or a smirk.
Chances are when you see someone ahead of you with some of these items, you know that they are probably a horse person and you can commiserate with them!


The Raised Eye Brow/Giggle List:


  • Multiple tubes of Preparation H, extra strength and largest size (great for closing wounds that can't be sutured)
  • Multiple packs of maxi pads, extra strength (for packing hooves, stop bleeding wounds)
  • Multiple cases of beer, especially at 7:00 in the morning (for non-sweaters)
  • KY Jelly (sheath cleaning)
  • Desitin (wounds)
  • Vaseline
  • Tucks wipes (sores, fungus)




Then there are the items which, well, lets say you put all of the following items on the conveyor belt, you can be sure that the cashier is going to be curious:
  • WD-40 (great to remove tangled tails)
  • Duct tape
  • Electrical tape
  • Zip Ties
  • Athletic foot ointment (fungus)
  • Saran Wrap (poultice)
  • Baggies
  • Baby Oil
  • Vicks




And then there is the list that no matter how many times my husband is with me, I STILL have to explain why I am getting these:
  • Multiple packs of organic applesauce (every time he reminds me that the kids are grown!)
  • Apple Cider vinegar (fly control)
  • Diapers (see applesauce) (same use as maxi pads)
  • SOS pads (clean bits)
  • Castille soap (leather cleaner)
  • Listerine (we don't use that kind he tells me) (dandruff, linament)
  • Large gauze pads, usually multiple boxes
  • Betadine
  • Saline
  • Hydro cortisone ointment, large tube
  • Epsom Salts
  • Baby wipes

I know that the list is endless....peppermints, Murphy's soap, bluing, Dippity Doo, oil, cornstarch...what unusual item do you buy for the barn?


Farms of Lexington

One of my favorite past times is to photograph horses, wildlife, old cemeteries & churches and barns. I have been known to be cruising along a back country road, only to slam on the brakes, put the car in park and jump out with camera in hand. I have gotten better about this....now I check the rear view mirror for cars behind me and if possible, I pull off to the side of the road. Sometimes I stop in the middle of the road if no cars are coming and will click away from the drivers seat. Honestly, I need a bumper sticker warning cars behind me that the car is prone to sudden stops and driver jumping from vehicle.
Whenever I leave the Kentucky Horse Park,  upon exiting the park onto Iron Works Parkway, I will find a county road to turn down so I can ooh and ahh the beautiful barns, farm houses, stone walls and of course, horses. Actually I do this on all of my road trips. The state of Connecticut even has a barn app for your phone! I think my love of barns dates back to my own grandparents barn that was built in 1903. Standing in McMurray, Pennsylvania, it still stands today. It was the site of my best childhood memories, whether it was digging through and finding antique tack from my mothers youth, jumping into stale piles of hay, climbing into the rafters or playing hide and seek.
Enjoy my special photo essay of the Lexington farms!