Friday, December 18, 2009

So this is a horse blog right?

If it seems like I'm on a cat rant lately, that's because I am. But Armani thinks he deserves a mention. It is his blog.

While Baby was sick I spent 2 weeks away from the barn to nurse her. (...I also burned almost all my vaccation time for 2010.) It was the longest Armani and I had been apart. Armani was ridden by his trainer and was reportedly good... at first...

She called me a few times to ask how the cat was. "How's Armani?" I asked.
"Oh, don't worry about him." Hmm, ominous?
...I tried hard not to. When I got back to the barn finally, I had to pry the whole story out.

Armani makes hay

First, Armani apparently made hay at a lesson. Another Grand Prix trainer had asked to borrow Armani once a week for her students. Evidently his last lesson was cut short because of erratic behavior.

Armani declares war
Armani did not leave a fence untouched. He went on an unabashed board breaking, fence jumping, gate unlatching spree. Most uncharacteristically, he even left his dinner behind when he ran wild.

Armani is unrepentant
2 weeks later, I returned. Armani squealed and raced to the gate. He began working at the latch. "Hang on, Stinker!"

He danced around in the crossties. "Settle, settle..." I softly intoned. He completely disregarded my advice. He tried to follow me into the tack room. The crossties snapped, swung about. He knocked my trainer's saddle off the rack.

Back in the saddle, "It's not like riding a bicycle." I mused. I had my period. I felt out of sync. It was a windy, snowy day. Armani was high as a kite. He leapt at every gust. He carreened toward walls.  He snorted. He stomped. He spun. He flew.

Armani decided the indoor arena was a gladiator arena. For 3 days I struggled through his airs-above-ground. "He sure has gotten stronger."

I was frustrated. Armani needs a steady hand. I knew it was my fault for having been gone so long. But I couldn't have neglected Baby.

Armani reforms himself, a bit...

Then I was invited to go on a trail ride. My companions were a 80 year old lady on a quarter horse and a close friend on a 4 year old. In such company, Armani was expected to be a seasoned leader.

Armani rose to the occasion - sort of. Actually he grumbled and grunted for the whole ride. But that was his only display of defiance. We rode through wood and field, through 2 feet of dense snow, for over an hour. The ladies had a wonderful time. After we got back I gave him a massage and treats.

The next day it was back to the gladiator arena.

Vaccine-associated sarcoma in cats

Daisy made a very good point in comments, which is that there is a risk of vaccine-associated sarcoma in cats (read more...). It's good for cat parents to know about this risk. Our vet does vaccines in a leg, because that is easier to remove if a sarcoma develops. In our state, a rabies vaccine is required for cats, but nothing else. Keeping your kitty indoors can protect them from FeLV and other communicable diseases. Our cats are all indoors and only go out on supervised leash walks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More about Leukemia in cats

We got Baby Scout's ashes back yesterday. We are having a very hard time accepting her death. A few weeks before she was vibrant, healthy and active. 

Here is some more info to go with this post about leukemia in cats.

It's hard to find info about leukemia in cats because most results on Google are for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) - which is a misnomer, it's a retro-virus, like HIV, not cancer itself, though it is suspected that it can cause cells to become cancerous.

Baby didn't have the virus. Baby had leukemia the cancer on its own. I got a little sad yesterday because I was telling someone and they scolded "Oh, well you should have vaccinated your cat!", implying I was neglectful and deserved it. I had to explain that it wasn't the same thing - but I'm not sure they believed me. It hurt because my husband and I treated Baby like she was our own baby. She couldn't have been more protected and pampered with care. Still I resisted my urge to slug this person. After all, if I thought someone failed to vaccinate a cat, wouldn't I "tsk tsk" too? I've been wondering if I should just tell people she died of "cancer" and leave it at that.

Info on standalone Leukemia in cats
There's two types of Leukemia, acute and chronic. Lots of subsets of each.
1) Chronic hits older animals, but is much slower, more treatable and the symptoms can be more subtle.
2) Acute usually strikes the young to middle aged and healthy. It kills very quickly. Based on Baby's health beforehand, symptoms such as very large, immature blasts, the extreme severity, and very sudden onset, I think she very clearly had Acute. The prognosis for this is "bad" as I highlighted below. Autopsy revealed it had already spread to her spleen.

A good plain-English article on Leukemia in cats and dogs

Therapy and prognosis for the different types of leukemia are quite different. ALL tends to have a very poor prognosis, and affected animals often succumb to secondary infection.... Unfortunately, pets with ALL often die within days to months of diagnosis.

A more medical article on Leukemia in cats with photos of blood cells

Although there are many similarities between the human and animal forms of the disease, the clinical course and outcome are very different. The prognosis with chemotherapy treatment is poor in canine and feline patients, and the average survival time is only a few months. Untreated, the estimated survival time from diagnosis is less than two weeks

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baby passed away on Friday

Scout, "Baby", lost her battle on Friday.

We did everything medically possible to save Baby, including rounds of ultrasounds, endoscopy, IV/oxygen, and brought in our other 2 cats and my mothers cats as potential blood donors. But she was unable to recover and we had her put to sleep. We had an autopsy performed. The vets determined it was leukemia (the cancer not FeLV).

It would be impossible to sum-up what she meant to us. There are so many stories. She was more than our "pet cat" she was like another person to us and our best friend and baby. My husband and I are devastated.

Instead of gifts for us this Christmas, we asked our family to give to the Springfield Humane Society in her name. If anyone else would like to give to a very good independent, non-profit, humane society please consider leaving a donation in the name of "Scout". We did so the day after Scout passed.

Their Website is:

I also blogged about visiting them here. I visit frequently. And I can tell you that all the animals are wonderfully cared for and they are active in the community. They are a very deserving charity.

I probably won't feel like blogging for a few weeks. We are, anonymously through our vet, giving all of Baby's diabetic supplies to a needy family whose cat was just diagnosed. I couldn't throw away her last test strip just yet. We saved it in a baggy with her hair.

I wish you, your furry friends, and family a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Leukemia in Cats versus Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)

Might be of interest to cat owners, the similarities and differences between "Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)", a retrovirus that causes illness, for which there is a vaccine, and  "Leukemia", a form of cancer. Baby had Leukemia alone. She was vaccinated for FeLV and was retested as negative before her death.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow and is characterized by an abnormal proliferation (production by multiplication) of blood cells, usually white blood cells (leukocytes). Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases. In turn, it is part of the even broader group of diseases called hematological neoplasms. ...continue reading about "Leukemia"
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that infects cats. As a retrovirus, the genetic information of FeLV is carried by RNA instead of DNA. FeLV is usually transmitted between infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved. If not defeated by the animal’s immune system, the virus can be lethal. The disease is a virus, not a cancer. The name stems from the fact that the first disease associated with the virus was a form of leukemia. By the time it was discovered that the virus was not the same as leukemia, the misnomer had already found its way into the vocabulary of pet owners.
...continue reading about "Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)"

FeLV can infect wild species of cats as well, as in this case of an infected Bobcat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Please think of my cat Baby

I've been quiet because my cat, Scout, aka "Baby", is seriously ill. She has been living with diabetes for a year. But recently she spiked a fever and out of control immune response.

She's in a vet clinic on multiple IVs. They aren't sure at this time what the original cause of her illness is. The outlook is poor.

Baby is my most beloved pet, and really my best friend. Please think of her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Mom was sick on her birthday. So the birthday dinner I promised her morphed into an unexpected early Thanksgiving. My husband and I invited over Mom, my brother, and friends.

I cooked:
- I roasted an 8 pound chicken. I let other shoppers fight over the turkeys.
- Mashed potatoes with gravy
- Carrots
- Green and white asparagus
- The last fall beets I saved from our local farmer
- And for desert: Yellow cake with chocolate cream frosting and ice cream. ...I admit I bought those.

I also picked up every barn girl's favorite fashion accessory. New muck boots for Mom.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mom's birthday

Today was my mother's birthday. But I shouldn't say which. Anyway, we planned to ride and then I'd make dinner at my house.

"Hi, Mom. Happy Birthday. Are we still getting together tonight?"

"Uuuuhhhh.... I'm... siiiiiiiick...."

"You're sick...? Did you catch the flu?"

"I've got to go, Honey.... (Burp)... Bathroom..." *click*

So much for our plans.
"I have a lot to do at work. I can't catch swine flu..."
What's a daughter to do? Same thing I do any time life presents a quandary...

I went to the barn. I pulled Huey out and rode. Then after I got him untacked, Huey put on his "treat face".

"Wait here, Huey. I have an idea." I got his treat. And my phone.

"Hi Mom."


"Huey got the phone. He said he had to call you to say, Happy Birthday. Here he is." I held it up to Huey's ear and gave him his treat.


"Mom, don't make him deaf."

Huey looked puzzled. He turned his head sideways. He nickered quietly in his throat as he inhaled his treats. I suppose that is horse for "Happy Birthday."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training: Spinning in circles

...dizzy, tizzy circles!

Continuing our bending work. Our trainer has challenged us with more circles, loops and some lateral work in the mix.

New Exercise: Lazy B
This can be done on either side of the arena. You can also reverse the direction. Walk or trot.

1) Go down the long side. (Optional: in shoulder-in)

2) At E circle left 10m

3) Leave circle toward A. At A, turn right. Go back up long side toward E. (Optional: in shoulder-in)

4) At E circle right 10m

5) Ride toward C. At C turn left. Repeat.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Training: Bending a sausage

First session! Worked on bending and connection today. Armani is like an overstuffed sausage. In lateral work he tries to shuffle with his body straight. So our instructor challenged us to bend through the body more.

New exercise: Sidepassing down the wall

(Now, I'm not one to split hairs over linguistics. Technically this may not be called "sidepassing". Basically the goal is to stretch and bend.)

I stand facing his shoulder. My right hand holds the bit. My left hand holds the reins by the saddle and a whip. With the whip I tap his right-hind over. We move down the long-side of the arena. My right hand asks him to soften and bend. His right hind should step under his belly. We proceed down the wall at a brisk walk. He is bent toward me, and away from the direction of travel.

Switch hands and go the other way.

Armani grunted and groaned a good deal during our session. Our instructor encouraged us to practice on our own. Which we did. It felt easier the second day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our new assignment: official dressage training

I've taken a lesson every other week for years. And Armani has had some professional schooling. But this month we are officially "in training" together with my instructor, a Grand Prix rider. We'll both be riding him and she'll show me techniques. Armani and I will both learn. I've been saving a while for it and I'm pretty excited. Armani is not so much.

My goal is to be showing 1st Level next year and maybe 2nd Level. I'll chronicle our progress.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall riding photos

It is late fall here in Vermont and winter is rapidly approaching. The days are already short. We had quite a cold snap with night temperatures below 20F. For October that is cold. But by January it'll barely break 20 in the day.

Then we had a few warmer days in the 50s. So Armani and I made sure to get outside to ride often. We don't have many more good days left. The leaves are brown already.

Horses at pasture with blankets on. Armani in the navy.

We go for a ride. View between the ears and our shadows.

Armani turns to see the camera. It looks like we might be falling off the edge of the world, but I just was holding it at an angle.

View of farm and mountains beyond.

getting dark

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Things that are stressing me out." Or not so much. Part 1a: Armani is better

When Armani went lame suddenly, as advised by a reader, I told myself, "Our show season is done."

Armani's mysterious lameness dissapeared after a week and a half, without any abcess. I've accepted that it was a mild stone bruise. And I recognize that it probably did not cause any lasting damage. Although, as a sort of "mommy" I find I always have nagging doubts. No question it'll be worse when I have actual children.

We missed the last Dartmouth hunter/jumper show of the season. I was sorely dissapointed because we both had enjoy that series. I waited a good few weeks for him to feel consistently sound. I was happy that we managed to snag the last CVDA show of the year. And it was a good end to the season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Show Report: CVDA Part 2: Downpours, mud? Oh what the heck.

Continued from Part 1...

I called the show office that morning. I asked if there were any scratches in Training Level. "Yes, the weather is awful. We have a Training 4 in the afternoon." I immediately snatched it. "I'm hardcore." I explained. Going to a show, in the rain, unprepared? Sure, why not? That wouldn't be crazy!

My husband was overworked and tired. So I called my brother. He agreed to serve as my "groom" in exchange for an evening at the pub. We headed over to the barn.

Armani's legs were covered in mud. I scrapped it off. But more stuck to him. "Oh well, it's just a schooling show. Everything will be muddy."

Armani gave me a funny look. Where the heck are we going? But we loaded right up and headed over. At the show we ran into a friend, who had been grooming for someone else. She was about to leave, but offered to stay and help us. Two grooms for me!

We tacked Armani up. He gave me more funny looks, but he behaved. Then I warmed up on the slick grass. I kept it slow and all went well. We entered the ring for our test...

"Loose horse! Look out! Loose horse!"

I halted at the gate. An acquaintance's horse cantered by. "Oh dear!" I said. When he was caught I quickly put it out of mind. "I won't let it get to me." I thought. We rode into the ring...

The mud was up to Armani's knees and hocks in the corners and a steady rain fell on us. It looked like melted chocolate. He went forward willingly. I felt his muscles working to lift his legs high above the slop. We came around to our first canter depart, I queued him.

Slip... slide... Jump! Hop! Canter!.. slide... trot... queue... skid...

Hmm... We were back to the point where we go back to trot. Ok - no blue ribbon. We got around to the 2nd canter depart. Queued...

Leap! Jump! Canter! Hop! *Grunts, groans* Slip... (lands on butt) slides... trot...

He's being honest. I thought. At this point I made no attempt to queue him again. I just got a forward trot and in two strides we were back to where we'd trot anyway.

After our salute I sheepishly smiled and thanked the judge. "Great gaits." she said, "It's tough weather. When he's stronger behind, he'll have an easier time in mud."

After we left the arena, I checked on my acquaintance. She was reunited with her horse. He had bucked, unseated her, and then slipped and fallen down on the wet grass, before taking off. Fortunately, they were unhurt. She bravely rode her test afterward. Who said dressage riders aren't tough?

It was a few hours before the scores were ready. I put on his Irish knit and my sweater. I gave him more hay, a drink, and sat with him. Armani gave me a dirty look and grumbled. I handed him half of my granola bar.

"Did you hear, FOUR horses went down?" At the office, I learned that 4 horses, including the one ridden by an acquaintance, fell down. I felt fortunate to have stayed upright. We got our score: 51%. I went over our marks. Most were 6 or 7 except the two canter sections. "No canter" "No canter so no transition" the scribe had written repeatedly. In the comments, "Good job despite difficult conditions!" and advice to work on strengthening his back-side.

Armani had been willing and obedient despite the weather. We headed home soaked but pleased.

Time to get some beers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Show Report: CVDA Part 1: I'm a good girl, really

One of my favorite show series is the CVDA. They put on 3 shows a year.

Show 1 was on my husband's 30th birthday. I "Surprise!" bought Armani on his 28th birthday. On his 29th he was my groom. So this year, I was a good girl. We didn't go.

Show 2 was in a new location, further away. I opted to take the horses to the County Fair instead.

Show 3 was the weekend of our nephew's 1st birthday. I was a good girl again. I didn't sign up... but I'm not saying I didn't go...

My husband and I went to the inlaws on Friday night. The party was on Saturday morning. I kept my composure as 50% of the only childless couple present. Little whirling dervishes, high on frosting, careened recklessly around and into each other. They smushed perfect little cupcakes into their faces and cried; or were the cupcakes eating them? Proud parents, mostly younger than us, ate pretty finger sandwiches and exclaimed over their Junior's genius; how his daycare says he's one of the brightest bulbs in the pack. And when will we expect a little bundle of joy? they asked. Meanwhile the millions of toys played with themselves; beeping, singing, and flashing lights as they gyrated around the floor. When did toys start doing that?

Finally, after a few families left, we left too. I took my headache and stomachache with me as party favors. Yes, I know. I'm a terrible, cold, childless lady entering middle age; a cruel aunt who gives her only nephew boring baby books and wooden puzzles for his 1st birthday. What 21st century baby boy wants those?

My husband suggested we drive home that night. No, no, dear. I insisted, We can spend time with your family. However, he pointed the car for home and home we went. Maybe he was all partied out too. We got in bed at about 1am, an hour that hadn't seen me awake since college. All night a thunderstorm pounded the metal roof of our timberframe. I woke up early. Rain was coming down in sheets. Hmm, the CVDA show is today. It's raining. I bet they've got a lot of scratches...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Skunk does not equal cat

As you may recall, Armani had a little trouble distinguishing a frog from a carrot the other day. But that isn't the end to his wildlife safari.

Armani loves cats; big ones, little ones, kittens. He hasn't met a cat he can resist yet. They are all cute and demand snuggling and licking. I love cats too and can relate; except to the licking part.

This spring Armani found a fluffy black and white "cat" in his pasture. He gave it a good snuzzle. OOPS - it turned out to be a very smelly cat.

After 5 baths with vinegar, baking soda, tomato juice I figured he'd learned his lesson. Until the other day when the barn owner called. Apparently Armani had found the same "cat".

I've heard of horses getting skunked once, but twice?!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Be the Advocate for Your Horse

I remember reading this a while ago. I haven't studied Jane's work. But this is a good anecdote on why you need to know your own horse and speak up for him.

Nobody knows your horse better than you do, and nobody cares more about your horse than you do. You can’t expect a clinician, trainer or teacher to know your horse as intimately as you know him. That’s why it’s your job to look after your horse and be his advocate. It’s a lesson I have learned the hard way. the rest of the story

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Things that are stressing me out." Part 1: Armani is lame

So I'm a big believer that when something is bothering me, taking action is the only way to make it better. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to make something better by taking action. Sometimes all you can do is wait, or let other more knowledgeable people help you.

I'm really bad at handling those situations. So I have to satisfy myself by misdirecting my "do something!" initiative. So in other news, my yard is looking really nice this fall.

So here is part 1

As you may have read, Armani and Huey got a new farrier. They were both overdue. The farrier had to remove a good amount of hoof from Armani. The next day I rode him down the road and back. Everything seemed fine.

We got back to the driveway. Suddenly, I felt him slide his left front and then trip over what must have been a rock. (I couldn't see it. Maybe he hit that frog with his frog. Har har.) It felt like he stubbed his toe and then his shoulder dropped. It wasn't really dramatic.

But he continued to stumble. I rode him into the soft arena. He continued to take short strides on the left front.

This can't really be happening. I thought. I ride him on rocky trails, over fallen trees, through underbrush, slide down rock slides and for many miles on paved roads. We jump, we actively show. All of it barefoot. He'd never taken a bad step once. Now he gets hurt in his own driveway? I got off. He gave me a sad look.

A week later, he is still off...
It isn't much. But I can feel something isn't right. I dropped our showing plans for the immediate future.

I let other people's opinions upset me.
Some suggested my horse was "just lazy" or perhaps trying to avoid work. And I suspected they suspected I was imagining things.
I felt like avoiding the barn. But then I feel guilty. This is when Armani needs me the most.

Armani is far from the most compliant horse. But I knew he wasn't "faking it". I could feel that something was wrong. He was willingly going through the motions. But he lacked spring and energy. He didn't respond as quickly to my aids. Every few strides, I could feel a "funny" step.

My instructor got on Armani and showed him to another top rider, while I wasn't there. So no one can argue they weren't objective. They did both agree he looked off. But his pulse was normal in all 4 feet. There was no heat or swelling. In their opinions, it is a mild stone-bruise. If it were an abscess it should have popped already, they said. Ride him at a walk in soft footing for a few weeks and see if time fixes it. She also asked the vet to stop by soon.

But why?
Was it the new farrier? Did he take too much off? Huey seems fine with his work. Was Armani just too overdue? Did Armani stumble because he wasn't used to his new trim?

What now?
I already scratched from a two-phase schooling show. In a week we have a hunter/jumper show. Then after two more shows, our planned season would end. But are we out already? After it finally felt like we were improving?

Will it get better? Happen again?
Many horses I know seem to have frequent, reoccurring bouts of lameness over their lives. For some it effectively ended or limited their career. Others I know never had a single issue. I thought Armani was the latter type. He was always sound, never sick.

But what if he is the former? What if this happens again? What's your opinion based on my story? What is your experience in these matters?

I better get back to the yard work...

Frog does not equal carrot

Last night, Armani did something pretty interesting.

I turned him out in his pasture. He's living in the "pond field" currently. After I latched the gate, I nearly stepped on a large, green frog.

"Oops, I'm sorry frog. I'll put you back." I set him over the fence. "There you are."

Armani is used to me putting his supper in that way. He lowered his head and touched the frog with his nose. It hopped toward the pond. Armani kept his nose to the ground and sniffed after it. He tapped it again. Hop...

He continued to pursue the frog. It started to look like a game. Armani's ears perked up. Touch... Hop... Touch... Hop...

The frog was nearly to the pond. Touch... Hop... Touch... Hop...


The frog jumped into the pond. Armani arched his neck over backwards. He wagged his tongue in the air and curled up his lips. He ran back to me.

"Well what did you expect it'd taste like?" I asked. I handed him a piece of carrot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Horseless Friday: Mount Ascutney

I climbed Mount Ascutney with a friend and my brother. Ascutney is a good day hike. It took us about 3 hours to reach the summit and 1 1/2 to walk down. We took the Weathersfield Trail. The Cascade Falls are halfway to the summit. The second half of the trail is steeper. There are a rocky outcrops along the trail with good views.

Little Cascade Falls form a deep gorge near the trail head.

Lichen grows on an uprooted tree.

Cascade Falls

Looking over the edge of Cascade Falls
Mottled rocks

An impressive boulder 3/4 of the way to the summit

Lichen and moss grow around a cairn near the summit. The trees are mostly stunted evergreens at this elevation.
The view from the West Peak

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Huey gets a shoey

Huey's name is great for rhyming.

Huey, hooey, pooey, phooey. Anyway...

Huey lost a shoe. Our farrier is retiring. So we spent a good 5 days trying to find a replacement farrier. We finally got one who came from 45 minutes away. Huey had never been hot-shod as far as we know. He fell asleep for his trim, looked up when smoke filled the barn, then went back to sleep. What a wild Thoroughbred.

Have you noticed how hard it is to find farriers? Like getting a plumber or an electrician. I could be eating cold Campbell's Soup in the dark, up to my behind in water - and I'd still have to wait.

When I was in high school, they encouraged us all to go into "intellectual" careers. The "safe" jobs of the future were in computers. Funny, I know a lot of computer people who are continually laid off. I know college graduates without jobs lined up. And give me 5 minutes and I can get someone from outside of the country on the phone to fix my Dell. But I have to wait days for a farrier to replace a shoe.

Think we were hoodwinked? Or am I waxing populist?

That lovely photo is from one of my favorite blogs Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog. Visit that link to read about the history behind the photo. It is really amazing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Show Report: Dartmouth hunter/jumper

Armani and I went to our first hunter/jumper show at Dartmouth Riding Center. We'd been there before for a dressage show. I think Armani remembered the place.

It was a very hot day. Between rounds, horses and riders were lining up in the shade of the trees. Armani was very relaxed; a little too relaxed. I had to really keep him motivated. A few people complimented my "quiet" and "seasoned" show horse. My horse is a quiet campaigner? Surely someone had slipped him a few beers.

My long suffering husband accompanied us. He took photos. Afterwards, I reviewed them. My butt... my butt over a jump... my butt leaning into the trailer... my butt over another jump...

"It was boring." he said. I'll spare you those photos. Here is one of the front of us.

We got one 2nd, two 4ths, and two 6ths. There were a good number of riders in our cross-rail division on good horses. So I was pretty proud. I like the farm and the friendly atmosphere. We plan to go back.

Riding on the beach?

The sun, the surf..

The mud...?
I have always wanted to ride on the beach. A remnant of Hurricane Bill swept over Vermont the other day. It made a little "ocean" right here in the outdoor dressage arena. But it was a good opportunity to practice riding in water with Armani. I tried to hear the sea gulls and imagined margaritas were awaiting us.

The "deep end" of the pool was about 6 inches. Surprisingly, Armani didn't fuss as much as I thought he would. After our workout, we made a detour through a swollen stream. That washed some of the mud off of his legs. But his belly and my face were still covered. We both required showers. Don't people flock to spas for this treatment?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Record Number of Horses Surrendered to MSPCA; Assistance Needed

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at Nevins Farm is receiving a record number of surrendered equines and is seeking adopters as well as donations for the horses' continued rehabilitation and medical care.

Go to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm Website


Monday, August 17, 2009

What happens when I walk one way

...and my horse walks the other way.

I was leading Armani. He saw an irresistible patch of grass. I wasn't paying attention and got the rope around my hands. This is what happened: little rope-burns all over both hands.

They aren't too bad. But at the time it hurt badly enough that I thrust both hands into his slobbery water bucket to cool them. The little burns on my finger tips making typing challenging. Not to mention the embarrassment of making a "beginner" mistake. Now I know why they told me to always be careful with the lead rope in 4-H.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fair Report: Windsor County Agricultural Fair

Alternate titles:
"Dressage Divas gone wild"
"And now for something completely different"
"Ladies laissez-faire a la fair"
"Show horses shown-up"
"Flags???! We didn't practice this!"

We went to the Windsor County Agricultural Fair's horse show. A friend has been borrowing Huey on occasion. So Armani and I invited them. It was Huey's first time away from home since we bought him last year.

I thought it would be a fun, casual experience. We didn't have a clue what we were in for. We got the program when we arrived. Apparently we were competing in a gymkhana! Hmm - I wonder if we could pirouette through the key-hole?

Throw caution to the wind! We signed up for every event offered! We arrived just barely too late for "Egg & Spoon". Dang! We did Key Hole, Barrels, Flag Race, Pony Express etc. It was a very warm day. So after the first few minutes of nervous excitement, both horses snoozed between games.

We saw many quiet horses. We stood out a bit. The other horses were in western tack.

We met a few interesting people. We chatted with my barn-owner's neighbor whom we'd met before. We met a nice couple with a mother-and-son pair of Peruvian Pasos. We met another nice couple who were just there to watch. They said they watch many horse shows in the area. So perhaps we'll see them again. Armani liked getting his nose scratched by the lady. She had a dog brush with metal bristles. Guess what's on his Christmas list?

Both boys behaved very well. But boy were we shown up! We traded back and forth between second-to-last and last place in every event. But we had fun! Guess we'll need to practice before next year.

Armani runs around the barrels. At first he thought we run away from them.

Chugging to the finish line. Can't seem to find 3rd gear.

Huey hustles to the finish. He earned some praise for OTTBs from the crowd.
"What the heck is that?" 3.5 minutes on the flag race might be the new "World's Worst" record...
Huey shows Armani how we do flags.Happy losers

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Show Report: Xenophon Farm Dressage and Combined Tests

In this post, you have the opportunity to play "Judge for the Day"!...

We visited Xenophon Farm in Mass for their June 28 show. It was our first time there. It was also significant for two reasons:

1. It was our first show over fences.
2. It was my first time driving the trailer to a show.

We left in the early morning. We followed my instructor's rig down the interstate. She had three horses. Armani rode in my new trailer with his half-brother, whom she owns. Imagine, my first long distance haul and I was entrusted with a horse I don't even own! My husband kindly offered to ride down with me, so that I'd have another person in the truck just in case. The ride was relatively uneventful except that the young half-brother kicked at stop lights. Ugh.

It is a medium-small farm. The facilities are nice. But it was a bit crowded. They had 2 dressage rings in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, plus 1 jump field. In the morning there was no warm-up ring. Armani and I tried to warm-up in a 20-meter paddock they had open. The classes started at 8am and ran well into the afternoon - which made a long day for out of state travelers like us. But it was otherwise a nice place with friendly competitors.

Armani and I signed up for Training Test 2 and 2 foot jumpers.

First dressage...

Armani was very keyed-up for dressage. I got him under control but he was very distracted and his brother was whinnying. I was really disappointed by our score: an even 50% and last in the class of 10 or so - our worst score all season. But I knew we didn't do very well. Would you like to play judge?

So what do you think? Here's what I thought... The score was close to my guess. After the class I thought we'd get like a 55%. Armani is a naturally up-headed horse. You can see him bob his head a few times. He does that when he's nervous and distracted. More of a warm-up would have helped. I did have my rein shorter than normal. If he'd responded to my aids then I could have allowed him to take the rein contact forward and down. But I never had more than a half-pound of pressure in my hands. The judge's comments seemed to suggest I had hard hands - something of a pet-peeve of mine - so I was really bothered by that.

Oh and did you see him fart near the beginning?

But now on to jumping...
I was already bummed out from dressage. My husband pushed me, "I came here to see you jump." Oh no. Am I becoming a ribbon junky? Just looking for my next fix....?

...I felt better perched on my little jumping saddle with the other riders. I remembered my jumping days in 4H fondly. Armani popped over the fences well. He over jumped most of them. He didn't want to slow up. We just did the group "warm up", which was a bit like a demolition derby. It was exhilarating. I had "ears" in the crowd. Afterward they told me a few people commented favorably on my equitation. Well so much for dressage for that day at least. I happily concluded that we should do some more jumping.

Anyway, it was just a schooling show and we were there for fun and experience. The rest of the day I helped my instructor. Armani and my husband fell asleep at the trailer. I was happy to see them relaxed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Horseless Friday: Hot Dog!

On Fridays I do a "Horseless" post. This Friday is a tasty review. I follow the blog of fellow Vermonters at Sugar Mountain Farm. They raise pigs and package family piggy products. I love to eat anything piggy. So I had to try their hot dogs.

I selected a package. I also purchased Vermont made potato bread buns. My husband and I shared our hot dogs with my mother and brother.

We cooked them in an iron frying pan. The casing is natural. It browned pleasantly and had good "snap". The dogs had an even texture. They were easy to chew but also had enough toothiness. The flavor of the pork was mild, slightly sweet and lightly spiced. The spices were a bit like mild sausage spice. My mother said they tasted "Christmasy". We tasted the maple and also thought we tasted clove or mace.

Toppings varied by individual preference. Being a good half German, I had mine with "the works": sauerkraut, pickles, onions, mustard - but please - no ketchup!

Everybody liked them. My brother who is notoriously hard to please, ate two. They were gone before I could take pictures. So I borrowed pics from the original blog.

Since we enjoyed them so much, I'm very happy to give them a "plug"! I bet they'd be even nicer on the grill or over a campfire. Next time! You can find out where to buy them if you click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New saddle?

I got Armani when he was coming 5. He was 14.3hh. Last week he turned 7. I remeasured him. He is convinced the stick will bite, so it's hard to get him to stand straight. But he is nearly 15.1hh barefoot. He's also gotten a good deal broader and stronger.

Before and after pics from last year. He's even grown since then, so compare to these pics from this year.

His saddle is the Windsor "Greenline" I bought for him originally. We've had it reflocked twice too. But over time it hasn't been sitting as well. At this point, I think the tree no longer fits. My instructor has been pressuring me to buy a new saddle. She says it is tipping me. Yes, I could have the tree tinkered with some. Or...

She owns a Windsor "Olympian". I've tried it a few times now. (After I practically had to pry it off of her! She loves this saddle so much you'd think it were George Clooney she was riding.) I love how I sit in the saddle. The seat is softer than mine. It has more substance in the pommel area, in front of my seat. Hartmeyer Saddlery is the only place that imports the "Olympian".

Armani's opinion

Armani loves air flocking. BUT - neither of these saddles come with air. The only companies I've been able to find with air flocking are Wintec/Bates ("Cair" is standard) and Schleese ("Flair" is an option).

I tried every dressage saddle in the Wintec/Bates brand. I did not like a single one. Though I do own one for jumping. I'd like to try a Schleese "Link", but no one sells Schleese near me. And I cannot find a used one with air flocking in my area.

What I'm thinking

I'm going to make some phone calls. I want to order a Windsor "Olympian". Then I'm hoping Anthony Cooper can install Flair in it. He installed Flair in a Windsor "Elite" for a friend. Afterward my old "Greenline" will go up for sale. More or less both saddles cost the same new. So if I can sell my "Greenline" for a fair used price, I won't have lost too much money on the deal.

Good idea? Sound crazy? I'll post more once I make some calls and see what the various sales people say.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Show Report: GMHA June Show - Sunday and picture wrap up

Continued from Saturday...

Sunday I arrived early hoping to fill a scratch in any Training Level class. Unfortunately, no such luck. So Armani and I rode around the grounds and warm-up ring. My visiting friend, was our personal photographer. She captured a lot of great pics. I have plenty of nice pics of us. But somehow I find myself drawn to the "bloopers". And so I'll wrap up my journal of the weekend with a picture mash-up.

Sunday in the warm-up ring


Armani has spotted a Fjord. He loves blondes.

Armani is heartbroken. The Fjord turns out to be a gelding.

My brother pats a dog in the audience.


On Saturday, Mom pats Armani, who mugs for the camera.

Just to prove we don't always look silly.
Is Armani planning to eat those flowers?

Halt at X.


White spot on his flank



Armani's bare feet

Looking over to the FEI ring

Talk to the hand

Watching the freestyles, my brother tries to not look bored

Armani lets me know what he really thinks of horse shows!