Monday, June 30, 2008

First anniversary with my devoted, loving horse husband

A Horse Husband's Lament
My wife she has a quarter horse, with flaxen mane and tail
She thinks he is the finest thing that ever jogged a rail
She calls him Dandy Darling, and if the truth I tell,
That fancy pampered quarter horse has made my life pure HELL.

Read the rest...

A year ago today, my devoted, loving fiance became my devoted, loving husband. The day before our wedding, as the sun was coming up, he woke me up and snuck me into the car before all the friends and relatives woke-up. I had been stressing about the flowers I'd planted, which had accidentally been mowed by the mowing company, for most of the day before that. Not that stressing about them would bring them back or anything. He drove me to the barn, and said I should groom my horse because it always makes me relaxed and happy.

I'd gotten Armani a month earlier, on my husband's birthday. Actually, I had gone to the barn for a lesson, and ended up buying Armani as well. Fortunately, I'd had the decency to call him after I signed the check. "Hi Honey, Happy Birthday. Um, remember how we agreed I wouldn't get a horse until after the wedding? Well..." My husband dutifully met me at the barn with carrots to meet his "birthday present to me". We jokingly called Armani "my engagement ring", until I inherited one of those too. This year, my husband spent his birthday photographing us at our second dressage show.

It's been a busy year; new horse, new house, another new horse, new husband. He's been very patient with me. So tonight on our anniversary, I've promised to stay far away from the barn, and spend the evening with my devoted, loving husband.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We loop the loop

Today I rode Armani while my instructor rode Huey for his first time around our usual 3 mile road-and-trail loop. I have to admit to being a bit apprehensive about the outing starting when the weather forecast included this little nugget:


I arrived early at the barn. It wasn't raining but it had been. Huey was inside finishing breakfast. But where is Armani? And who is that dun horse in the distance that looks like him? Oh here he comes. Armani has discovered fresh mud.

20 minutes later I had both horses cleaned and my instructor was finished teaching her morning lesson. When I saw her put on a helmet, for the first time in years, I wondered if I should be concerned... (Note, yes, I always wear mine.)

However, though I had visions of being tossed from our horses while biblical floods engulfed us, everything actually turned out just fine. The weather was quiet. We trotted most of the way around and other than not wanting to go through mud (Don't race tracks get muddy?), Huey behaved angelically. My instructor happily said he is a lot of fun and relaxing to ride.

Meanwhile, as Armani vacillated between squirmy and lethargic, she updated me on her progress with Armani's two younger brothers (They are sooooo cute, and remind me of him. It's that mischievous yet cuddly "I can has carrotz?" look. How much fun would 2 or 3 Armanis be?), and how she was also considering looking for a retirement home for his mother, with some one she knows, where she'd get extra love and attention.

Hmm, my backyard looks awfully lonely and under-utilized. My 1 year wedding anniversary is tomorrow. You don't suppose my loving and devoted husband would be amenable to discussing a third horse over anniversary dinner do you? After I adopted horse number 1 on his birthday last year? And after I have started delicately slipping "Now that I have two horses, it would be so convenient to have my own truck and trailer..." into appropriate conversations? Maybe between discussing budgeting for fuel-oil and fixing up our new home? Do you think so?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Horseless Friday: Blogging tools

I'm doing a horseless post every Friday. This Friday I'll be covering some free tools that can make blogging easier.

Blogging software

There are two main blogging hosts, as well as numerous other ones.

Blogger by Google
This is the host I use. Blogs hosted on Blogger have a web address that reads "". So some times you'll also see Blogger called "BlogSpot". (However, if you have another website, your Blogger blog can be hosted there instead.) For me, the primary advantage of Blogger is it integrates with my other Google Services (more on those later). I've found it's fast to start up and easy to use. Posts can be manually edited in HTML or word processed. The chief disadvantage I've found is that ease-of-use and streamlined process comes at the expense of customization.

Blogs hosted on WordPress have a web address that reads "". Since I don't use this service, I cannot speak with authority about it. You can visit their website to check out their features which include tagging, integrated stats, and regular pages.

Here is a helpful comparison between Blogger and WordPress.

A few other hosts are: TypePad, LiveJournal

Google Services

I was already using Google Services before I started my blog, which influenced my decision to use Blogger. All of Google's products are accessed through one account, including Blogger. So you only need to log in one time.

Here are a few of the services I use while blogging.
GMail - email
Documents - I work on posts and save progress here. It works a lot like Microsoft Office, and you can import documents from your computer.
Reader - I use this to keep up on other blogs. It keeps track of what I've read and alerts me to new posts. It does this via RSS/Atom feeds. If you've never used those before, it's not hard to get started.
Picasa - Images I upload to Blogger are automatically hosted here.
Analytics - I could probably devote an entire post to this service. Google Analytics tracks visitors to your blog; how they found you and what they read. It does require setup, but it's not challenging if you've got some basic computer skills. I've found helpful the features that track how people found your blog. It will reveal new links to your posts, for one thing.

Image Editing
IrfanView is a really easy to use program. You can view your images and re-size and rotate them. It does not have the advanced editing capabilities that Adobe Photoshop has (which I have as well, but it costs $$). But IrfanView loads quickly and is simple, and it's free, so I use it most frequently.

Web Browser
FireFox is the web browser I use. You've probably heard of it unless you've been living in a cave (or the barn). But if you haven't, it's free and easy to use. It's safer and more secure than Internet Explorer.

Writing HTML
HyperText Markup Language is the language most webpages use. Primarily it controls fonts, colors, images, and links. Most blog software supports HTML to some extent. Here is a beginner tutorial on HTML. It's very hard to find guides for a complete beginner. Nerds tend to assume they are writing for a fellow nerd. I write my blog posts in HTML, rather than in word processing, because it allows for greater control. But you certainly can do either.

Getting your blog out there
Submit your blog to Google. Google's spider will probably find your blog eventually anyway. But you can hurry it up by submitting it yourself. No it's not a real spider, it's ok!
HorseBloggers is a directory of horse-related blogs. It's free to add a link to your blog. If you do, I'll be reading yours too!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Blogging Space

I was reading another horse blog and saw that someone had started a "My Blogging Space" theme of posts. Here are a few entries that others have written:

* Pony Girl

* Grey Horse

...What about yours?

My Blogging Space

That's Baby, my cat, blogging away at my laptop. You first read about her on last Friday's post. Baby is always either sitting behind me on the floor, or on the table, or right on my keyboard. So if you are reading this blog thinking, "Sheesh, my cat could have written this!", now you know our secret.

My laptop is upstairs in our loft. I originally started this blog in the basement study, but outdoor horsey people don't thrive creatively in the dank, darkness. The loft has natural light and lots of air. Plus I think Baby enjoys watching birds through the windows when she isn't helping me type.

My husband and I just got married last year. Our families have been very generous helping us feather our nest. So as you can see our furniture is hand-me-down in an interesting and eclectic color palate, and our decor is sparse. But that leaves more room for house plants! (another of my hobbies) Isn't my 7ft tall Yucca impressive? Now as I'm looking, there is a lot of space above that sliding glass door. I better start growing some hanging baskets!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Surviving your first dressage test: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my series "Surviving your first dressage test". You can read the other parts so far here:

Part 2: Packing

Try to pack a day or two before your first show. That will give you enough time to remember anything additional. And you'll be able to relax as you pack and feel prepared early. Next time you might be able to pack at the last minute, or keep a box of "show stuff" that you don't use often packed away and ready.

I think it's better to over prepare. I was over prepared for my first test, but I did not forget anything and was even able to supply paper towels and braid bands to friends.

First, find yourself a plastic storage box or footlocker that's easy to carry, roomy, and can fit in your trunk or trailer. I already had one with old sweaters in it. I just evicted the sweaters for a few days and bought a replacement later. You'll find my packing list at the end of this post. Here are a few tips to get organized:

* bring a notebook to the barn and make a list of things you use: while you prepare to ride, after you finish, when you feed
* use my list as a guide, and compare it to the list you made to come up with your packing list
* zip-lock sandwich bags are good for organizing small items
* use rubber bands to keep other things together
* clothes pins and paper clips can help with paper work
* If you'll be feeding your horse meals at the show, measure them out at home and pack them ready to eat.

Packing List

- Copies of the class schedule
- Copies of stall assignments
- Extra photocopies of your horse's Coggins Test
- Copies of each test you're riding

- All your brushes, curries, hoof pick
- Braiding bands
- Fly spray
- Shine spray
- Shampoo
- thinning shears
- regular scissors
- regular towel
- paper towels
- sponge
- hoof polish

- bridle
- saddle
- girth
- 2 saddle pads
- whip
- leadrope
- halter
- tack cleaner

Horse clothes
- cooler
- trailering gear (shipping boots, etc)

My gear
- helmet
- boots
- muck boots
- show breeches
- cover-up pants for over breeches
- schooling breeches
- show jacket
- show shirt
- tie
- stock pin
- gloves
- extra sweater
- waterproof jacket
- spurs
- hair brush
- hair net
- hair pins
- hair elastic

Stall and trailer
- 2 buckets
- shavings
- pitch fork
- wheelbarrow
- hay

- needle and thread
- safety pins
- tylenol
- black duct tape
- chairs
- cash
- box o tissues
- allergy stuff
- cellphone

- sandwiches
- bottled drinks
- fruit
- chips
- horse treats
- your horse's meals

Continue to part 3...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Late night at the circus

Last night I got to the barn late but managed to ride both boys. My instructor had installed new mirrors along the short side of the arena, and I was eager to see how my gentlemen would react. I walked Armani up to them. He snorted and then gave himself a big, sloppy kiss. At least that's how it looked to me, but I'm sure he was just trying to feel the texture of the mirror and determine if it's edible. Armani always likes to discover if a new object can be ingested. Next I rode Huey. His Thoroughbred side gave the mirror a few sidelong stares but was unwilling to approach. But after a few times around the arena, his Quarter Horse side took over and he simply forgot that the mirrors were there or that he even cared.

Meanwhile my instructor's 5 year old was joyfully jumping and splashing in her new pool while mom planted flowers and dad was working with the tractor. I'm always happy when there's a three ring circus at the barn while I'm riding. I feel like exposing my gentlemen to these things while at home will help them feel more comfortable with similar sights and sounds when we are away from home.

For example a couple of days ago Armani and I passed a new, much larger farm tractor dragging a hay rake while on the trail. Armani snorted at it. But I reminded him (and myself) that we see our farm's tractor at work almost every day. This was just it's big brother. I believe Armani doesn't view the world the way I do. When he sees a new tractor, he doesn't necessarily categorize it in the "tractor" file drawer, the way I can. However, I've begun to feel that exposure to sensory stimuli and situations can help when similar ones are encountered later. Was it my confidence in saying "We know about tractors" that helped him? Did it sound and move enough like other farm equipment he'd already seen? Whatever the reason we were able to go by it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Show Report: GMHA June Dressage

Piaffe meets the Slip-and-Slide

The GMHA June Dressage Show ran from June Fri 20 - Sun 22 at the historic GMHA grounds in Woodstock, VT. Armani and I didn't sign up because I haven't registered him with the USDF yet. So we'll stick to schooling shows this season. However, I went to watch my instructor and help out on Sunday. The weather had been gorgeous all weekend. Until Sunday morning as I was on my way I drove through sheets of solid rain and lightening streaking over my car. I could barely see, and really tested my new car's handling (new-used... I own horses, I can't afford new). "Oh no!", I thought, "I'm bringing the bad weather with me!" By the time I got to Woodstock (We were half a million strong?) everyone was hiding in their trailers and vehicles. Fortunately, my instructor's horse, nearly 18-hand Big-Bay, has a butt that is pretty hard to miss. It's like a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet sticking out of a two car garage. So I had no trouble finding the trailer in the downpour.

The rain became off-and-on and classes resumed, with some rings running around a half-hour behind schedule. Overall though, I thought it was a testament to how well organized everything was. I was surprised things weren't more behind. And with the number of scratches the rain brought on, they were able to catch up by the end of the day. The only trouble I saw was that the warm-up ring was very, very slick with mud. And although the performance rings were better, I saw more than one horse challenged by the footing. Good reason to spend more time trail riding with my horses I think.

Lil-Pretty-Face did very well in her classes and even my less-than-expert eye thought her last test was a winning test as I watched (and it was). I horsey-sat Big-Bay for the better part of the afternoon, while my instructor rode Pretty-Face. Big-Bay was actually fairly respectful of me, and missed stepping on my feet as I grazed him and tried to curry the mud off of his belly. Being stepped on by my 15-hand Armani is bad enough that my toes are all various shades of blue. So I couldn't imagine if nearly 18-hand Big-Bay had trodden on me.

I was wearing my casual-Sunday-at-the-show clothes while grooming an 18-hand braided bruiser wearing a "Saratoga Dressage Champion" cooler, so I'm pretty sure I was mistaken for a groom more than once. But I actually didn't really mind at all. In fact I felt really happy to be useful. Although I'm confident if anyone closely inspected my "grooming" results, they'd know instantly that I don't have enough talent to be actually paid. That's another reason why I'm happy with the schooling show circuit so far, two words, braiding optional!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Horseless Friday: Outward Bound Cats

I'm going to start doing a horseless post every Friday. We'll have to see how long I can keep up! Some topics might be cooking, other pets, humor and hobbies. This Friday's topic is enjoying the outdoors with your cat.

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Your cat probably does too! There are a lot of health and safety reasons for keeping your cat confined indoors. (Click here to read a few.) My family has always kept our cats indoors. But my husband came from a no-cats-in-the-house family. However, when we married we both agreed to keep them indoor-only, and outdoors only under supervision. For some folks, this debate is a sure-fire way to start an argument, but we've fortunately "married" our differences. We sit on the floor and play with our cats every day; remember to have a friend you must first be a friend. And we provide toys (ping-pong balls are cheap thrills) and a screened porch for our two cats to enjoy. They enjoy the outdoors, but only under our supervision. Most people would never think of leaving their dog for long periods unattended outdoors, particularly toy dogs. As I once told my vet (and she heartily agreed), "Cats are not second-class pets!". Cats can be an integral part of family life, and can even be trained. (Yes, my cat does tricks for cat-nip. It's ok, you can laugh.) Which brings me to the topic of walking your cat on a leash, and other safe outdoor adventures. If Fido can enjoy life on the leash, so can Fluffy!

Here are some ideas for you and your cat:

Leash walking

Walking my cat on a leash has been a cooperative adventure. Some times I pick the direction, other times she does. But we always enjoy ourselves. She often finds interesting plants and insects that I would have walked right over. We use an "H" style harness. These are much more escape-proof than a "Figure-8" style or a collar and leash alone.

When you first put your cat on a leash, she will probably do one of four things:
* Lie down and refuse to move
* Wiggle backwards and attempt to escape
* Flip-around like a fish on a line
* Be just fine

In my experience, cats who have lived indoors think "the sky is falling!" when they first go out. If she has any trouble, try having her wear just the harness part, without the leash, around the house while you supervise. Supper time is a great time to introduce the harness as a good thing. Play time in the harness or cat-nip can also help. Our cats haven't had any trouble after a few sessions. When you start going outdoors together, only stay out for a few minutes at a time, and only go as far from the house as Fluffy is comfortable with. Slowly introduce her to meeting strange humans and to road noise. Also, we don't walk even our seasoned cats in the road on a leash. The traffic could be dangerous if they get startled. For that we use a carrier.

There are a number of pet chest-carrier-packs made for small dogs, which work great for cats too. There are also completely enclosed strollers for small dogs or cats. I bet strollers would be perfect for city-dwelling kitties with access to nice sidewalks. My country kitties ride in the carriers I mentioned first. Again it's easiest to introduce this idea indoors, for short periods, before going on excursions. My cat, Baby, learned to ride in her pack, we call it her "Land Rover", at 10 years old, so no kitty is too old to learn new tricks. We carry her if we'll be walking near traffic, or if we are going on a long hike. Just smile while the neighbors stare and scratch their heads. We took her on our Humane Society's charity walk last year and she turned a few heads.


If you have an enclosed porch or sun-room at home, your cat probably already really enjoys it. Cats can get over or out of almost anything, so a complete enclosure (roof and all) is safest, especially if you aren't going to have your eye on Fluffy every minute. There are also a line of "KittyWalk" products on the market. They work like snap-together, cat-sized, hamster tunnels. I haven't tried them since we already have a screened-porch, but they look fun. Or Do-it-yourself - I've also seen houses with homemade kitty kennels, just like smaller versions of doggy ones. Or if you'd rather keep things simple, look for a "cat window seat (or perch)". These hook on to your window sill.

So don't be afraid to try some thing new with your cat, as long as you can handle a few funny looks from the neighbors. You may find you and Fluffy will become better friends! I won't say best friends, because cats VS dogs is one debate I know enough to stay out of!

Further resources:
* Don't forget to have Fluffy wear identification, in case you are separated. Ask your vet about microchips and for any other tips.
* has a good essay here on safe outdoor alternatives. The email list is a really good resource for cat owners. You can sign up here.
* You can order the Pet-A-Roo pouch from PETCO here. This is the one we use, but there are other similar products.
* We use this Lupine "H" style harness. It's been very secure and sturdy. They are very attractive too. Baby wears "Cherry Blossom".
* Check out KittyWalk Systems here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two horses are better than one

Today I got the the barn late after work. But I had a happy evening riding both Armani and Huey. I do double duty a few days a week. Some times I have to step back and remember how lucky I am to do this. Just riding one horse is a real privilege and riding two is just an incredible luxury. Sometimes I feel like I could ride horses all day, if I had the time and the money. Oh those are just minor details.

I feel that riding more than one horse has improved my riding and understanding of horses more quickly than riding just one. I've figured out a few nuggets along the way, like riding the short one first makes the tall one seem a lot taller. But on the other hand riding the tall one first makes the short one feel like a Ferrari.

But the differences between the two make me appreciate the qualities of each. Huey has more "go" and more forward swing than Armani. Armani has more collection and lateral movement. Huey is more reserved and instinctive, while Armani is boisterous and fun loving. Huey is more passive, but Armani's respect has to be earned. Armani is more inclined to argue than Huey, who is more inclined to give-in when pressured.

I suggest to you, that you may enjoy riding another horse now and then too. You may find your riding improves and you will find you know your own horse's personality better by getting to know another horse. Try taking some lessons on another horse, or borrowing a good friend's for a few rides. And remember how lucky you are to enjoy the privilege of riding.

And tell your horse it's not really "cheating" because you and the new horse are just going out "as friends". (Armani still doesn't believe me about that.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Surviving your first dressage test: Part 1

Here is Part 1 of my series "Surviving your first dressage test". You can read the other parts so far here:
By now you've probably already submitted your entry and are on the "acceptance list" for the show. But if you are just getting into dressage and are looking for a show, you should contact your local "USDF Group Member Organization". You can find your local dressage club on the website. Your local group can help you figure out how to get started in dressage. They can recommend instructors, shows, and probably even have some books or videos for you to check out. Don't be shy about contacting them, they'll be thrilled to welcome you to the sport.

Establishing a routine

So now that you are accepted to the show, where do you begin? I like to start by establishing a relaxing and reassuring routine for myself and my horse. As the show draws near, now is the time for you and your horse to feel proud of your progress and to keep up good habits that'll help you have fun and relax.

Some suggestions:

1. Establish a good sleep routine. Before bed, I relax in front of a short, soothing TV show or with a book. I enjoy a cup of herbal tea and a light snack of popcorn. Since I'm used to this routine, I usually feel sleepy within half an hour. Then I go to bed, sleepy or not. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. It will help you get relaxing rest before any exciting day, not just a dressage show.

2. Stick with your training program. Give yourselves a break and wait until after the show to learn a challenging new movement or before starting a new schedule. You've come a long way with your current program, so stick with it! Keep taking lessons with your regular instructor (if you've got one). They know you and your horse. Work on reinforcing what you and your horse already know, so that it becomes natural. That'll help you get in your groove at the show. It's also not the best time to change around your tack. But don't worry, I busted a bridle before my first show and had to get a new one 2 days before and we managed fine.

3. Help your horse relax. Spend time doing things with your horse that helps her relax. It'll help you unwind too! My horse enjoys a massage and I've learned a few basic techniques for him. You could take a trail ride or have a few "grooming only, beauty-parlor days".

4. Enlist your friends. Get advice from horse-friends who've shown, even in a different discipline; we're all under one big tent after all. If you can, find one experienced friend who can help you at the show. Or perhaps your instructor could help? I asked a friend from my barn to help me through my first show. Basically, she carried me through it, and I was so fortunate to have her help! Even the company of a non-horsey friend or family member will be wonderful. You'll be glad to have a buddy at the show. You can also ask them to read your test to you at the show. I'll write a lot more on this topic in a later entry.

5. Do some non-horsey stuff. Don't forget to spend some time doing non-horsey things you enjoy, go out with your spouse, family or a friend. Spend time on another hobby. Or you could even just clean the house while blasting loud music (works for me, and I feel good looking at my clean house afterwards). You are a multi-faceted, 21st century, renaissance person! Relish your diverse talents and interests.

Continue to Read Part 2

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Huey got baby daddy problems

Happy Father's Day! We couldn't have timed this better if we tried. Today when I brought Armani into the barn and began grooming him, he told me something was wrong outside. Over the year we've been together, I've been learning his language. I can tell when he's worried, usually what it is, if he's happy or mischievous (his default state), if he's got an itch and where to scratch. I can even tell if he has to go potty and if it's number 1 or number 2. I'll even wipe Armani's behind if he needs it. What an extraordinary friendship! My non-horsey husband is not as impressed. My husband once asked if I'd do the same for him, "No honey, only best friends do that."

Anyway, Armani told me something was up outside. I assumed it was my instructor's Big-ol-Chestnut-Gelding, a free-range retired dressage horse, who's often digging into the flower garden. I, the eternal optimist, assumed it was nothing worth that much fuss. I even teased Big-Chestnut when he came into the barn to visit. Oh, I should have listened to Armani.

It wasn't until I brought Huey in to work later that things became clear, in that chair-flinging-on-Jerry-Springer sort of way. Huey had been turned out with Sweet-ol-Appy, a retired event/foxer, who's now a baby sitter for weanlings. With her was Armani's Lil-Bro. As soon as Huey came in, everyone outside in the pastures fell apart. Lil-Pretty-Face, an up-and-coming young dressage mare, was leaning over the fence from an adjoining pasture. She was nickering enticingly to Lil-Bro, who was naturally curious. Meanwhile, Sweet-Appy was hysterically trying to use her body to block Lil-Bro from leaving her, while neighing for Huey, her "stallion", to come to the rescue! Every time Lil-Bro got herded back by Sweet-Appy, Pretty-Face would kick Fizzy, her gelding pasture-mate, in frustration. And of course poor Fizzy was just totally oblivious to everything. He only wanted a drink of water, which was unfortunately located in the midst of the trouble.

Poor Huey had no mind for work, and it was all he could do to keep his attention on me as I tried to sooth him. Despite the hysteria around us, mom and I were overwhelmed by the sheer humor of Huey, a sweet little gelding, with hardly a stray hormone in his body, trying desperately to defend his "new lady" and his "baby" from "another woman". And the two ladies, bickering back and forth, with the Lil-Bro just innocently in the middle and Fizzy just wanting a swig-o-water, was all just too much. Baby-swiping! Talk about lady problems! And who knew Huey was baby daddy?! Sign this family up for Springer!

Fortunately, the pastures have been rotated and hopefully there will be peace on the farm tonight! Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Surviving your first dressage test: Introduction

Armani and I now safely have 4 dressage tests under our belt. I'd taken dressage lessons for years (...and Hunter before that. I am sure my dressage instructor is sick of saying "Sit up, elbows back!"), and had been active in 4-H in my teen years, but Armani is my first horse I've owned as an adult. And in so many ways, I feel more responsible for his health and happiness than previous horses. My mother would readily suggest it's my mothering instincts and that I better "Get to it before it's too late for grandbabies. Tick tock."

Finally all the college exams and early years drudging in the work force have paid off. I knew there was a reason I ate late-night ramen noodles, hadn't bought new clothes since circa 1995, wore my aunt's old suit-pants to the office, and got home from the barn around 9pm each night to my adoring new husband. (Now if I could just convince by husband it was all so worthwhile!)

When I was a teenager I easily relaxed and enjoyed 4-H shows on my bouncy off-the-track Thoroughbred. However, when my instructor invited Armani and I to our first show, I did feel unfamiliar nervousness. I knew it wasn't pressure to perform, because frankly I just wanted us to pull-together and have a good time. No, it was more nervousness about the unknown. Would we have fun? Would we be relaxed? Would he enter at A with his whole brain, half his brain, or a few neurons and a whole lot of nerves? Would he spook at the judges booth, jump out of the ring, leave a "load" at X, or stop and eat the flowers from the planters?

Ah yes, but now I can look back at the great time we had. And having survived one show, we were more able to relax at the next, and I am eager for us to continue! And so, while it's fresh in my mind, I'm going to write up some survival tips for anyone else out there, who is eagerly, if nervously, anticipating their first dressage show. So yes, these are tips from a recent beginner to another. And before you faint with curiosity, we got a whopping 47% on our first test. But I am reasonably sure we were the happiest (perhaps dementedly so?) 47% anyone had ever seen! But fear not, it only got better from there. You have to stand on solid ground before you can take off!

Click here to read the next part.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Foot

No Horse.

Click here to skip this post and go straight to photos

If you've been around horses for years, you've probably heard this a few dozen times. I was reminded of it today when I arrived at the barn late from work with the good intention to work with both our horses. Last night we had a bit of rain, and by a bit I mean a bucket, and by a bucket I mean the jet stream picked up half of lake Erie and dumped it over Vermont. And right now, some where out in a soggy 10 acre pasture, Huey's right front shoe is relaxing in a mud bath thinking, "Boy it's good to be out from under that lummox!" If you asked Armani about it, he wasn't as pleased. I had extra time to work with him and gave Huey a good grooming instead. The farrier will be coming as soon as he can and we will discuss, as he had suggested the possibility earlier, if Huey might go barefoot.

Armani has been barefoot for over a year. Let me assure you, I am not a granola munching (ok I like it a bit), broccoli hugger (ya I do love broccoli), nor am I a toothless Texan (sorry Texas, not messing) looking to star on an episode of Animal Cops Houston (love the show), nor is Armani a brood-mare, and believe me I'm quite, quite sure I don't miss that much. If you asked me before I owned Armani if a horse could be barefoot and learn dressage, trail ride, jump a little, and work every day (Ok almost, but I do try), I would have told you no. And I know I'm not alone. We've gotten a few questions about our barefoot babe look (at least one of us is, and I know I had boots on) at shows.

A horse is a bit like a suspension bridge, sprawled over four tooth picks. Throw a pick up truck on top (or even a sub-compact), add a little motion to the ocean and you are asking for a lot out of those tooth picks. The trouble is people just do not breed for soundness enough. As far as I see it you've got 5 things you can breed for:

1. Appearance
2. Bloodlines
3. Ability
4. Temperament
5. Soundness

Oh, but what is with that order, you ask? I think too many people breed in that order and often enough do not get beyond 2 or 3. As far as I'm concerned you should flip that list up-side-down. They wouldn't all free-jump 6ft, piaffe in the pasture, or win the Kentucky Derby, they wouldn't have great-grandpa-super-pants, or be homogenouzigiouziezed for rainbow stripes, and they wouldn't get mistaken for unicorns. But there'd be more healthy, happy horses, living out their entire life with content owners.

I'm no expert but I believe not every horse has good hooves. Some horses will always need shoes. And even the best feet will need maintenance to stay that way. As I said Armani's been barefoot for over a year. It began when he threw a shoe himself and the farrier said "Let's try him without them."

  • The farrier still trims Armani on his visits.

  • He eats a balanced diet and gets plenty of good grass and hay.

  • He gets lots of turn out and regular exercise.

  • On the trail I dismount on rough gravel and I try to avoid too much pavement.

  • I pick his feet every day, if I'm riding or not.

  • I use a good hoof dressing to keep moisture in. I'm not sure if they work, but I don't think they hurt.

His feet have held him up, and me up, for a year, and I'm hoping for a good, long, long while (he's half Morgan after all).
And speaking of farriers, if you find a good one, keep her.

If you are looking for photos of good and bad feet, this website has some fabulous galleries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The incredible growing Huey

We just sticked Huey for the first time since he arrived in April. In April he sticked just a hair below 15.3hh. Today he sticked at a hair above 16hh. We used the same stick, same shoes, same concrete floor. He has definitely grown. There's magic beans in that there field. If I find the one he's been munching, I'll plant some in the garden and climb up over the rainbow, find Dennis Kucinich, say "Look, behind you! Darth Cheney!" and steal his pot-o-gold.

Anyway, I also rode Huey out and around the fields today. He stopped a few times to look at imaginary boogy-monsters (he knows they're out there!), but he responded to my encouragement and did very, very well.
Do you recognize this horse? He seems to be much too nice a guy for someone not to remember him.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buying a Quarter Horse without papers

We recently purchased a Quarter Horse without his registration. In this post we listed a physical description of the horse and details of our purchase. We've been learning the hard way that it is very, very difficult to recover a horse's registration, and perhaps impossible, when you have nothing to go on except a physical description and approximate age.

In our case, the horse came off the track without his papers. We've read that this is a common practice, but is against American Quarter Horse Association rules. Unfortunately in our case, we are at least the 4th owner this horse has passed through since he retired from racing. We haven't been able to trace back to the individual who purchased him off the track. But we assume that person will be the key clue, who might lead us to the track-owner.

For others in this situation, this website has a good walk through of recovering a registration.

The AQHA really offers little help for this, although everyone we've spoken with has been friendly. They simply have no way of looking a horse up by its physical characteristics and do not keep photos. They also can't (or won't) search a tattoo with wildcards. What we have is a very hard to read tattoo, a gelding with an ambiguous color (bay or chestnut?), and hundreds of possible matches.

Since the AQHA requires money for the registered name and information on a possible match, it quickly became clear we would not be able to look them all up. In our opinion, this lookup service should be offered for free. Then the AQHA could bring "lost" registered horses back into the fold with new owners (and then collect fees for updated registrations, memberships, showing, etc.).

The (Standardbred registry) U.S. Trotting Association allows you to lookup horses by tattoo (with wildcards) for free online. Shame on the AQHA for not doing the same.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wanted: Information on racehorse "Word by Word"!

Huey's true identity has been found! Click here to read the whole story! Thank you everyone who assisted us, helpful posters on the Chronicle Forums and particularly the courteous folks at the Jockey Club.

Huey is "Word by Word" a March 2, 2000 Thoroughbred by "West by West" out of "Word Harvest". His tattoo reads "D16521". He primarily raced on Mountaineer Race Track (and casino) between 2003 and 2007.

But we aren't done yet! We are looking for photos, stories, or just a quick "check in" with anyone who can fill us in on his past. Got photos of Word by Word racing? Remember seeing him on the track? Were you his trainer, owner, groom or jockey? Get in touch!!
We will call, write, whatever you want. I'll keep your contact info private. We will pay for photo reprints, shipping, etc. View Word by Word's Past Performances / Lifetime Starts report

I've updated the post below:

Please pass this on to your horse friends and folks in the racing industry!

(More photos at bottom!)

Searching for information about our new horse! Photos, stories etc.

"Huey" is very loved, well cared-for, and living the good life in Vermont. He is learning dressage and just enjoying being a part of the family. We purchased Huey in March of 2008. We were able to trace his tattoo with the JC and are now looking for photos and info about him. Get in touch. We love this guy! See photos at bottom. More photos on request.


Registered: Word by Word
Sire: West by West
Dam: Word Harvest
Born: March 2, 2000 in KY
Barn Name: "Huey" (came with him, but might not be his original name)
Gender: Gelding
Breed: Thoroughbred
Height: 15.3hh
Color: Liver Chestnut. Mane and tail darker than body.
Raced: Mountaineer Race Track (and casino) between 2003 and 2007.
Last owner: Nicole Brinkley
Last trainer: Franklin Brinkley

Race Record: View Word by Word's Past Performances / Lifetime Starts report
Markings: - Star-stripe, even and mostly symmetrical.
- Disconnected nickel-sized snip between nostrils (seasonal, there in winter, faded in summer)
- quarter-sized patch of roan-white hairs on left-side jaw
- no white on legs
- hooves dark-brown-gray, med-large hooves
- large pink spot half-way on his "you know what"
- slightly sooty knees, croup, and very sooty mane and tail (sometimes almost looks "bay"). Mane a few shades darker than tail.
- a couple of "Bend Or" (pale black spots) on left hip

Lip Tattoo: D16521

Origin: Purchased March of 2008 from a horse trader in Pennsylvania.

Build: Thin, athletic, a little awkward.
Slightly toed-in
Offset "bench" knees
Big boned for a TB
Well muscled
When moving tends toward up-headedness
Nice movement

Personality: Gentle, Happy, Quiet, somewhat aloof.
Likable guy, horse people always like him
Loves food. Never late for supper.
Dislikes flies (who doesn't).
Quiet in pasture.
Respects the fence.
Lower-man on totem-pole.
Learns quickly
Good in traffic on roads
Hates walking in mud
Sensitive to aids
Somewhat girthy
Reacts to "clucking" and not words (i.e. "trot" doesn't mean much to him)
Very, very calm around machinery and commotion

Contact: Please leave a comment on post or email