Last Week On Spanish Walk…

I left you all with a terrible cliffhanger last week and I only marginally apologize for doing that to you. I knew it was a done deal but I didn’t want to say anything until the ink had dried. Something about all your eggs being in one basket, and what not.

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Last week I was offered a position at NCBUniversal, not the theme park but the production studio even though they’re located in the same place. I’ve been trying to get into a studio since I graduated make-up school in 2006. I absolutely couldn’t say no, especially since it wasn’t an IT position (YES). This will be a huge change for me and a brand new career path. I’ll be working in the Consumer Products and Licensing department handling all movie and tv assets (or as I’ve told a few people: getting paid to stare at Chris Pratt all day). I don’t know what I’m allowed to share about this position just yet, but I will when I can.

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Yup. Totally willing to look at that all day. I’ll even work overtime.

 

I’m starting on Wednesday, the background check having only cleared this morning. What this insanely quick turn of events means for me is moving over the next few weekends. Normally I would take a week off to get all that squared away but Universal was pretty insistent that I start ASAP. So now I’m trying to figure out the logistics of moving from San Diego to Burbank. Luckily I can stay with a friend for the time being but I’ll have to go house/apartment shopping eventually.

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I also have to go barn shopping. Something I’ve NEVER done before. I don’t know what I’m looking for and I anticipate it being rather stressful to find a place that will cater to my delicate princess, Aria. I have no clue what is normal barn management. I am pretty excited to have someone else clean poop though! Even though it won’t be for a while. Aria and Co. are probably going to have to cool their heels until after the New Year. Barn shopping will definitely have to be a whole blog post on its own.

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I’ll be traveling to San Diego on the weekends to get in two days of riding a week, so don’t worry, this blog won’t wither away. My parents are kindly offering to care for my horses until I can move them up. They know how much I’ve been chasing this job opportunity. And as much as I hate it, this is definitely fast tracking the sale of two horses no matter how I look at it. I cannot cram Ben into a box stall at his age and Valeria is too young to sit in a stall all day doing nothing. I have to do what’s best by them and I think staying with me is not best.

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I am considering calling up Catalina’s sire’s owner and seeing if they would be willing to pasture board her with all her siblings until she’s grown up and ready for training. I think letting her be a horse for the next few years would be very beneficial for her. But I’m also not sure I want to be away from her for so long. I mean, you saw her face in last week’s post. How do I leave that? Luckily I have time to decide and don’t want to rush it.

All in all it’s been a crazy seven days but it’s also been an exciting seven days.

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Baby’s First ‘Trail’

Even though I don’t have all the time I wish I did, I have been making some progress with our favorite moose. She has finally put the brakes on her growth and it has definitely been a gargantuan task to accomplish. As you may recall Catalina had developed physitis in her knees and rear fetlocks due to the rapid rate she was growing at. At 5 ½ months I weaned her to stop the consumption of whatever super serum Valeria was producing. I mean, seriously, I should have bottled it and sold it to scrawny, weakling children. It probably has the same properties as ambrosia, food of the gods.

Weaning went well and Catalina thrives quite well on the strict diet of bermuda grass. I’m so happy I now have two, count them—TWO—special snowflakes that can only eat bermuda. I guess my wallet is kind of happy since alfalfa prices are constantly on the rise. The nice thing about that though is I can turn the two of them out together and not worry about what kind of hay they might be getting into. I’m so fortunate to have the space for a bermuda only turn out and an alfalfa/misc hay turnout.

Turnout with Aria has been great for Catalina. All the shit she put Valeria through is not flying anymore. Aria is like a drill sergeant. The second Catalina is out of line there’s a well-placed bite to correct the shitty behavior. Aria isn’t a kicker and she’s also not aggressive so it’s a great balance of discipline and reward. Not that Aria doesn’t like to run around and kick up her heels with Catalina, they’re both babies after all.

With Aria’s help I’ve been able to work with Catalina very well. Mouthy baby behavior is almost gone, she’s gotten great at not crowding your personal space, and she has a healthy respect for ‘no’. She leads very well. She’s getting the hang of tying. I’ve gotten her in the trailer several times, not without food bribes but that’s acceptable for now.

Trailer loading practice has now opened us up to fun activities like trail rides and trips to the public arena for crazy galloping turnout. Last week I took Catalina on her first trail ride. Really it was just a spin around the bridle path next to the public arena but the whole area is fenced in and it definitely looks like a proper trail which makes it the perfect testing ground for this whole ponying business.

Catalina might lead great on the ground but she does not like to be lead from the saddle. I’ve tried several times and she’s always a bit of a mule about it. Sure, I can anchor the hand holding the lead rope to my hip and with Aria’s weight drag Catalina around but it sucks. As you might be able to tell, I’ve done is several times in the arena. It’s not my favorite.

Initially when I loaded Aria and Catalina up to head to the public arena I had planned to just let them run around and stretch their legs. Catalina is getting a hay belly and she need exercise. My neighbor decided to join me there with her two horses and after a few laps around we decided to get in a quick bareback ride. Why not? Bareback on a sweaty horse, ponying a filly who doesn’t like to pony on her first ‘trail’ ride…what could go wrong?

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle I’m alive.

I dealt with Catalina’s mule bullshit for about 2 minutes before I was done almost getting pulled off Aria. I unclipped my moose-cum-mule and said ‘bye Felicia’ as Aria and I moseyed on down the bridle path. The area is totally fenced in so the worst thing that could happen is I’d have to chase a baby horse all over 20 acres.

She’s incredibly independent which caused a little concern but I shouldn’t have worried because she’s smart and a good egg. Catalina grazed for a few seconds and as we pulled far enough away she raced to catch up. After a while she chilled in the middle of the ‘herd’ but towards the end she got comfortable enough that she did her own thing at her own speed. I think more of these loose baby moose trail rides will be in our future. I just hope we don’t run over hikers in the process. Ha!

Back to Business

I had a lesson over the weekend which was nice because it’s been a long time since Aria and I saw the inside of an arena. While I felt great in the saddle, it didn’t go so well for Aria. She was bracing for a lot of the lesson making it difficult to get proper turn on the forehands and any kind of lateral work. We struggled for a while before it became clear that getting someone with more experience in the saddle would fix the problem quicker.

P ended up schooling Aria about 75% of the ride. Totally fine by me since it was clear a tune up was needed. Especially if I considered how long it might have taken me to get the same results. Aria ended up pulling off some pretty nice work towards the end but she didn’t make it easy.

Now I’m planning to hit the arena again for some serious flat work this week. We need to get back to business. More flexion, more stretching, more circle work, more walk/trot work. We’re definelty going to be doing way more walk/trot work that I would like but sticking it in low gear really is the best way to perfect the basics.

I don’t think a lesson will happen this following weekend since P is one of the clinicians at the Norco Horse Affair but I might pop over to check out her session on Saturday. A bit unfortunate that I won’t be able to get a set of professional eyes on me again for a couple weeks but Aria and I will work something out, I’m sure. Hot Mess is certainly a style we could shoot for. Haha.

Sunday was super chill because I ended up busy all day and only had a small window of light to work with. I saddled up to ride with my neighbor but some unfortunately placed new geese caused Aria and my neighbor’s horse to lose their ever loving minds. Aria held it together for me pretty well but was definietly feeding off the panicked energy of my neighbor’s horse. He’s HUGE. I think Aria bascially said ‘if he’s afraid, I should be afraid too!’

We decided to let them blow off steam and run around like the fools they were being. Aria worked up a sweat but still had energy to burn, unfortunately the big jousting horse only lasted about 2 minutes before he called it quits so we went for a nice bareback ride until it got dark. Looks like we’ll be tackling some scary geese this week. Pray for us.

A Strange Ride With Strange Horses

It’s been a while since I posted. Life got crazy and blogging took the furthest, most back seat in existence. I’m just putting trail miles on Aria and taking a mental break for now. I’ve been using the time for decompressing and stress management. Bless Aria’s baby heart for being that level headed youngster (for the most part) that allows me to mentally check out when we ride. I really don’t know how I’d be coping with it all otherwise. Probably with a lot of Xanax. Lol.

The only picture of the poker ride. It was too crazy.

I do have one event that I went to on September 17th that was very enlightening: The Poway Rodeo Poker Ride. I was really hoping to have fun at this event even though I had some reservations about how Aria would handle a large group of new horses. I’ve been pretty categorically throwing us at challenges that could and possibly should cause us some issues. So far the only problem I haven’t been able to tackle is water. I can’t sing high enough praises for her foundation training with R.

Anyway, back to this poker ride. I had a friend and Alex join us for the ride. I figured it would be a great way to spend time with a fellow blogger on our horses. Even though Scarlet isn’t a trail veteran, Aria is a cool cucumber most of the time and I felt that would be a good influence. However I forgot to account for other riders’ and their horses. There was something like 50 horses on this ride.

The cow herd now has 7 babies. Aria needs them all.

Other than a handful of good horses there were times, especially towards the second half of the ride when we split into two groups, that I felt like Aria was the only behaved and chill horse in the group. I was extremely proud of her behavior. We followed a big calm appaloosa for the first half which was great because it let me put Aria’s head in his butt while we descended some of the steepest hills I’ve ever done.

She dealt with A LOT of ruts and uneven footing that normally would have caused a scene but perhaps because of the large group, she simply following the tail in front of her. That made me especially happy because I was expecting a battle and possibly ending up as ‘that rider’ even though I warned the people around me I was on a baby. She did act up when we stopped to let the whole group catch up. She’s not used to standing around and I was forcing her to, which she had opinions about.

How can you not relax when this is your view at the end of your ride?

On the way back I was following a nasty little mustang that I don’t think the rider could handle. It was small and slow compared to the size and speed Aria wanted to go. We kept a good distance because I know Aria has the inclination to goose other horses with her nose. It’s a good thing I’m considerate because this mustang stopped dead in its tracks several times causing us to run up on it, partly from the faster walking pace and partly because several other horses were crowding us from behind.

Apparently the mustang didn’t like that and the first time it happened she kicked out and missed us. The second time I was quick enough to halt Aria well in advance but my friend’s horse ended up passing us and it got kicked by the mustang. I don’t know about you guys but I thought it was known and practiced in large groups of unfamiliar horses that any bitchy horses were supposed to wear a ribbon in their tail for whatever their shitty attitude issue is?

It was so quiet, it was almost too quiet.

I guess I’m still a little miffed about this ride. I wouldn’t have called it fun. Scarlet and my friend’s horse didn’t seem to enjoy themselves and riding Aria was all about managing everyone else’s naughty horses. On top of that the trail was really advanced with lots of steep and questionable terrain. Thankfully Aria is level headed or I would have quit early on. It also clock in at only like…2 miles? We were done in about an hour. Kind of a lackluster event for a $25 ticket.

I think a few small organizational changes could be made and the ride would be a lot of fun. Perhaps a beginner and advanced group that leave at separate times. Having trail guides with horses that are calm and can actually handle the ride would be excellent (there were 2 and one had to turn back because their horse could not cope with the group size). I would personally change the trail location so it’s more friendly to the less athletic horses (some horses were really blowing after the crazy hills. Aria, I’m proud to report, didn’t even break a sweat).

New shirt. It totally embodies the essence of my Iberian mares.

I think in the future I will stick to my group of friends for trail rides. But it was an excellent experience for Aria and I. I think when we do show, this will be evidence that she will be able to focus on our work and not care about what other horses may be doing. She remained calm and cool once I was in the saddle and was only a little anxious when we first arrived because it was a new place with lots of new horses. I couldn’t ask for better than that!

No Stirrups

At my last lesson I told P that I intended to start prepping for No Stirrup November and wanted to do my whole lesson sans stirrups. I hadn’t lessoned in about a month and Aria has grown rather potato-y in that time (as Spanish horses are prone to do when they start packing on fat). I thought a stirrup-less lesson would be easier for us both. HA!

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No lesson media so a random ride on my pretty girl will have to do!

First off, never let it be said that Aria doesn’t rise to meet a physical challenge. She might be tired and ready to collapse after a ride but if you ask her for more she will give it. P definitely asked. We spent a good 30 minutes just warming Aria up on the lunge line. With the extra weight and all the trail riding we’ve been doing lately, she’s a lot stiffer than she was when I first got her. That’s fine. We can work on her flexibility through autumn and winter. It’s too hot for me to want to really work all that hard at our show goals for next year.

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She’s pretending she doesn’t have any energy.

I had to mount using a stirrup because saddles aren’t designed to fit round potatoes and I didn’t want to fall off the horse before I had even gotten on it. That’s a fear that was sitting in my mind. I’m always concerned that I rely too much on my stirrups to keep me in the saddle. I definitely feel this way because the balls of my feet go numb when I ride suggesting I put too much weight into my stirrups. My knees and butt hurt after a good ride, so my stirrup length, in theory anyway, is good. Of course if anyone has some suggestions, throw them my way.

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Starting off a little stiff. No cherry picked pictures today. I’m dumping whatever I have.

Where was I going with this? Oh right, falling off. It’s amazing how you can sit a spook/buck/rear/spin/blot/shenanigans and still believe you don’t have a seat without stirrups. That’s some pretty jacked up logic, brain. But it’s still real. So much so that P just straight up asked if I wanted to work on a lunge line so I could focus on my seat and not so much guiding Aria.

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Very wide hands. This will be a problem the whole ride. Let’s blame…boobs?

I probably shouldn’t have hesitated to accept her offer even though I wanted to decline. Aria was pretty fresh and I know P probably became the new owner of a few gray hairs when she saw my FB post from the previous day of me on Aria bareback with only a halter. Not that I think P questions my riding abilities. I think she just questions my ability to make rational decisions since Aria is still a baby, even if she’s a very good baby (guess who’s going to hit up trails bareback this week anyway?).

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Leaning forward. Makes it hard for Aria to engage her back end.

I do appreciate the dance P and I do. She knows when to push me out of my comfort zone but also knows when to reel me back in because I’m flying too close to the sun. I mean, I had already started my lesson before she suddenly exclaimed ‘oh my god, Karen! You aren’t wearing a helmet!’. Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed because that’s how I always ride. What’s more rational than riding a baby horse without a helmet? The arena is soft and I’m sure with all my extra ‘cushion’ I’ll bounce.

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We’re still so pretty…

FYI, to harken back to an old post I’m actually down 47lbs from the weight I was when I purchased Aria almost 2 years ago. I’m ounces away from my first short term goal weight. So the cushion I’m relying on to save my life is considerably less and probably not as effective anymore because my butt hurts a lot when I sit for too long. My butt bones really miss all that extra padding. Frowny face.

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Doesn’t Aria look like she’s having fun??

Back to the lesson, I started off quite wobbly because of that silly thing called centrifugal force but once I remembered to sit in my saddle things turned out rather well. It is amazing to me how I can sit on a horse and not be sitting in the saddle. I dropped my inside seat bone and it did wonders. I made that my main focus of the ride but I still had to multitask because P was not going to put up with the shit show ride I was giving her.

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Over bending and diving in on the shoulder.

By shit show I mean that Aria was strung out and charging along with no rhythm or structure to her movements. She was going in a circle but only because P had a line on her. We could have been heading to West Virginia and I wouldn’t have known it because I kept focusing on what my seat wasn’t was doing. First I worked on checking her speed and getting her to slow down (which, gasp, helped my seat!). Once she was moving along at mach 1 instead of mach 10 I asked her to round and work off her hind end. She was a little over flexed but I think that might have been because of the lead line.

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Looking supple. Now if I would only look up!

We did some lateral work and counter bending to help straighten her out. Her chest is so wide and her reach in the front is so large on top of being so wide that her lateral work at the trot in a circle is just…insanity. I felt like we were going so fast and the cadence to that step was so big that it took me a while to get used to it. When we work on a true extended trot, I’m going to have the hardest time posting and sitting it.

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Gettin’ there. Workin’ on it. Workin’ on it.

Aria was working in a frame and powering through the lateral work so nicely that I really wished I had media from the lesson. When I feel that kind of movement and know that the movement is working at a level we’ve never worked before I get really excited. I’m very, very eager to unlock Aria’s full potential. It gives me a little thrill when I feel her moving like that, even if I’m a sack of potatoes on a potato. Haha.

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Now we’re getting somewhere.

At this point we came off the leash and started working the full arena with P giving instructions. We did the normal shoulder in/shoulder out for a few laps then worked on lateral zigzagging from the centerline to the quarterline. Towards the end of the lesson I think I was either getting lazy or starting to flag in energy because P barked at me when I was at C to get it together. Perfect practice makes perfect and P and R are not going to let me forget it!

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And we look nice but we’ve lost some of our hind-end engagement. She was probably rooting. 😡

Just as I pulled us back together our lesson wrapped up. P said it was the best work she’s ever seen out of us. I’m going to say it’s because I spend 4-5 days a week on Aria now and we’ve gotten to know each other really well, but I also wonder if the lack of stirrups may have helped. It makes me look forward to our show season next year. It also makes me look forward to getting back in the arena this autumn and really putting our noses to the grindstone.

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Good ride overall. We were both happy.

Growing Pains

I had plans to ride yesterday but I was feeling really drained for some reason. I didn’t even clean stalls (sorry horses, you’re going to be a little stinky until tonight). It was a beautiful day, so I should have taken advantage of it. Especially since the farrier came and everyone had brand new footsies.

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Be lured in by the cute of my dark, soulless eyes.

I like my farrier a lot. He’s very eager to share information and educate owners. Catalina has been dealing with physitis because she refuses to stop growing. We’ve moved her to a 4 week program in order to keep her feet level to help with some of the inflammation. My farrier said she’s dealing with the same issue that many OTTBs deal with. Because she’s currently narrow chested she’s putting a lot of pressure on the insides of her front hooves which makes her uneven. This will eventually lead to abscesses in the front if not managed.

To counter that and keep her feet and angles healthy my farrier removed hoof only from the outside, allowing her to evenly distribute her weight. It was the cutest little slice of hoof ever. I should be expected to see some improvement in her physitis in the next few weeks. He also recommended exercise, so Catalina is going to start going on trail rides with Aria and I to make sure her chest develops really well as she grows and help rotate those baby legs into their proper position.

I don’t know what’s going on here but there are way too many horses are involved. It reminds me of my job. A whole lot of people who think they know what they’re doing working on the wrong equipment.

I promise to get media of the shit show that will be ponying a baby with a baby. Haha! I also asked him if Catalina might need shoes/padding to help the situation. I don’t know anything about the voodoo of hoof trimming but I want to give Catalina every possible chance to improve her inflamed growth plates but alas, he said she would only pull any shoe put on her until her hooves were staying level between trims.

I got up on Aria last week in the heat, hoping that it would help mitigate any desire to be mischievous–uhhhhhh–, and worked with leading Catalina. She wasn’t too thrilled about getting close to Aria while I was in the saddle. They’ve been turned out together quite a bit and get along very well because Aria will discipline when needed but Aria has become very possessive of me and when I’m around them she likes to chase poor Catalina off. That was definitely the vibe Aria was giving any time Catalina tried to walk at our side. Sometimes when my mares are all bitchy I wonder if I own horses or fire breathing dragons…

Aria was determined to steal this baby cow.

Aria also has a monster stride which Catalina couldn’t keep up with. It made releasing as a reward when Catalina stepped forward almost impossible. Luckily she leads pretty well even with 12 feet of rope between her and I. Good baby that she is. I’m tempted to let her run loose during the trail ride, hoping she’ll just stay close to the horses she knows. That sounds like a good idea, right? What could possibly go wrong with a terrorist moose on the loose?

I would love to take Valeria but I’m not sure I can keep Catalina from nursing 100% of the time. I guess it will be an adventure that I’ll have to report about after it happens (unless I die because with all these opinionated Spanish mare that is a real possibility). Either way it sounds like fun. I just hope Catalina doesn’t run a pedestrian over when we’re out there

Have Trailer; Will Travel

Wow, it’s been crazy. We got to 111 degrees last week breaking a high record for the month of August. I read an article that said it was a record high for the area period, but I recall a few Thanksgivings ago when we were 113. So I think their information was wrong.

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104 was our low for the week.

Anyway, the heat really put a damper on any kind of riding or outdoor activities although I did breakdown and suffer a short twilight ride last Wednesday because Aria was begging to get out. I do love that about her. She has a lot of different friendly behaviors but I can tell when she’s asking to go out versus asking for attention (plus she gets very excited if I enter the tack room and it’s not because of grain since we don’t store any in there).

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Karen. Karen. Karen. Karen. Karen…let’s go riding. Please? Please? Please?

Unfortunately even without the heat to kill my riding ability I was also dealing with a sudden lack of horse trailer. The ground on my property is hard as a rock right now and there aren’t any trails nearby. Hauling out is the only way any of my horses get exercised. While it wasn’t money I wanted to spend, it was an unavoidable expense because: have horse, must ride.

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I mean, I guess I don’t need a trailer. I could always be this guy.

I began furiously searching Craigslist and Google. Despite Southern California having the second largest horse population in the country there aren’t a lot of horse trailers out there. I cast my search net as far as Tucson and Las Vegas before I eventually found a few trailers I would consider driving up to 8 hours one way to purchase. Luckily I found a 3 horse slant at a good price in Ridgecrest, California.

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Boron, CA. Home of the 20 Mule Borax team.

A four hour drive wasn’t so bad and I was kind of a beggar, so I couldn’t be a chooser. It took some planning because I had to be in Los Angeles for a couple events at the same time but I love a logistical challenge. My dad met me an hour northeast of Los Angeles and we drove the rest of the way together (there is some cool places like Boron but there’s also some WEIRD ASS SHIT along the 395 and I never want to break down on that stretch of highway. Ever.). The purchase was quick and easy and I returned to LA with time to spare.

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl. This was during the Star Wars set.

Though I did have to return home that same evening because there was a fire in my friend’s backyard and the smoke was flaring up my asthma like crazy. So. Much. Driving. 472 miles in one day.

Largest fire in Los Angeles history. The San Diegian in me finds it puny.

It was worth it because now I’m the owner of a new—to me—trailer and definitely in the mind set of: have trailer, will travel. It needs the electrical plug checked and the bearings packed but that’s normal maintenance. The worst part of it all will be the trip to the DMV. Ugh. Haha.

Can you tell it’s “raining”? Massive heat spike, then rain. Yup.

I actually have some rides to blog about this week! Expect those in the next couple days.

The Ugly Truth

It’s been pretty quiet here for the past couple weeks. Other than joining in on the evening activities when Emma came to San Diego, I haven’t done much worth reporting horse-wise. Emma was awesome and great to meet; I hope it’s not a singular event. It was also nice to see the local girls again. I’m really glad they included me in their plans and hopefully we get together more often!

I’ve been spending a lot of time doctoring horses which is nothing to write home about. Ben with his weird bed sore, Aria with these awful hock sores that are on top of her hocks (not even sure how that happens), and Catalina with physitis. I’ve weaned Catalina, which should help reduce the inflammation in her knees but baby moose is just so big that there’s no way to avoid the growing pains she’s going through other than to slow her progress as much as possible.

Valeria seems to be pretty happy about not having a parasitic terrorist at her side anymore. She’s dried up a lot quicker than I thought she would but I guess it’s to be expected since she never had a large udder anyway. That does mean that work will be starting very soon for her. Especially since my end goal is to sell her.

As I’ve spent a lot of time on trail rides rather than arena work, because that’s where my head space is, I’ve been contemplating my horsey goals. I only have so much spare time in a day to focus on my horses and with four, inevitably someone gets the short stick. I’ve mentioned many times, though perhaps not on this blog, that I need to get down to two horses. While it’s very easy for me to put Valeria on the chopping block because I purchased her with the intent of not keeping her the second selection has been difficult.

Not because I don’t know which horse to rehome but because I feel like the decision is a failure in some way. I haven’t ridden Ben but a handful of times in a decade out of fear. Once when I was chatting with L she said “green + green = black & blue”. That pretty much sums up my history with Ben. While I’m a much better rider now and I have successfully ridden him a few times in the last year, to include tackling my fear of cantering on him, I don’t enjoy riding him. I don’t relax when I’m on him.

Additionally, he’s an older boy. Twenty-one isn’t a death sentence to a horse and he hasn’t slowed down by any means (possibly part of the reason I still don’t feel comfortable on him). I feel confident, barring any serious injury or health issues, he should have several more years of quality riding in him. I’m not going to give that to him, but he deserves it. Much more than he deserves to sit in a stall day after day.

There is associated guilt with the idea of rehoming an older horse though. Even though in my current horse ‘career’ I know that I want to show and I want a very specific type of horse that Ben will never be, that doesn’t remove the sting or concern that I have for where his path may lead once he leaves my hands. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ dumping an older horse because he no longer serves a purpose.

I did a disservice to him when I didn’t sell him ten years ago. I held on to him for sentimental reasons. The more time I spend riding, the more I realize and come to terms with the unescapable truth that Ben and I were never a good fit and never will be a good fit. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

I will come to terms with my decision in time but I have to be decisive in my actions or the chance of another decade passing is very real. What’s your opinion on this? Should a horse be a lifetime commitment ‘till death do we part’ or is it kinder to move along and let them have a shot with someone else?

Scratch That Itch

Allergies. Not mine, which I’m lucky enough to not have, but Aria’s. I’ve mentioned it before on my blog but I’ve never really elaborated on what a pain in the ass it really is. I will even go on record saying that I will never own another horse as high maintenance as her. She is one in a million, truly.

The general rule of thumb is that allergies never come in singles. I learned this from a doctor and when Aria started to rub herself raw and look like a plague victim because of the flies, I knew I needed to call my vet. At the time I was browsing several Facebook equine groups daily and had read many posts asking for fly solutions that often had someone mention allergy testing. When I asked my vet about doing an allergy test, she said she hadn’t done one before but thought it was a good idea and would be more than happy to find a facility to ship the blood sample to.

Red weeping eyes from flies and dust.

The allergy test is fairly simple and there are two methods now for testing. The one I did was to draw blood and send it off to lab to be tested. The other method is, like humans, to test potential allergens directly on the skin. There is some discussion on the accuracy of testing blood and I tend to agree that the second method will produce better results but shaving a huge portion of my horse and having drops of allergens pricked (scraping the surface of the skin) onto them seems like a special kind of hell for an already itchy and sensitive horse.

Chewed up legs from flies and scratching teeth.

It’s also a very cheap test comparatively. My vet used Spectrum Labs. Two weeks later I had a packet with information about Aria and her allergy therapy program. I also received three color coded vials that were meant to last me a year as I went through the various stages of the program. Initially it was a lot of shots. It started 0.01cc every 3 days, then 0.03cc every 5 days, on to 0.05cc every 10 days. So on and so forth until I was giving 1cc every 30 days which is the maintenance mode.

sarin-resample

Sorry, not going to share my vials because it has all my info on it! 😀

On top of the shots you also get a print out with all the allergens they tested and which will be in the vial of serum, minus the food allergens of course. It gives a great overview of what to keep away from your sensitive snowflake. I found out that Aria was allergic to everything I was feeding her.

To begin with I moved Aria to timothy hay because she scored lowest in Pasture (mix). I had her on it for about 10 months and during training to make sure she was getting a good quality hay all year round. Recently though I’ve moved her to bermuda because she wastes less and eats more (she’s got a layer of fat to prove it), leading me to believe she didn’t really like timothy all that much. Fine by me baby horse, my wallet thanks you!

Flies and rubbing making her look moth eaten.

In some cases there isn’t much I can do to keep her away for her allergens. Barn dust will always be around. Certain weeds and trees are out of my control. Luckily shavings out here are all pine but I am a little sad that I can’t use Cedar Rest anywhere on the property. Even though her test says she can tolerate cedar shavings she scored a very high 375 for Juniper/Cedar. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I have a hell of a time finding grain she can eat when 98% of feeds are based on alfalfa or wheat. Nutrena Empower Boost is a rice bran based feed that has been working really well for her so far. Bonus: it smells amazing. I do enjoy breaking feed rep’s brains when I I ask if they have a feed that accommodates Aria’s allergies. Acceptable horse treats are a bit easier to find. Beet Treats are wonderful and the local feed store chain, Kahoot’s, has a horse cookie made of smelt flour which she doesn’t appear to be allergic to. They double as a good human cookie too.

Her shoulders and chest used to look much worse than this.

Nothing is better than going into the feed store and asking for feeds that exclude XYZ and then following up with ‘my horse has allergies’ and getting That Look from people. I’ve pretty much come to embrace how ridiculous it sounds and actually try to use as many millennial buzzwords as I can now. Aria is gluten intolerant and bermudaterian. We all get a laugh.

The one responsible thing I did after receiving the allergy test results was to ask the feed store if they had any medical alert dog tags. The associate was very excited because they did but had never made them before. Aria has a dog tag with the medical alert symbol on her halter that says “I HAVE ALLERGIES. NO ALFALFA. BERMUDA ONLY.” and my contact info. With all the fires we get every year, I think taking a couple precautionary steps is a good idea in the event she is evacuated when I am not available.

The final downfall of allergies is all the scratching can cause injury and leave scars.

I do think the allergy therapy has helped immensely. The pictures here are not even half as bad as she used to look. I can tell when the 30 day mark is rolling around though because Aria will flare up to fly bites (these were taken on shot day). They recommend getting retested to improve results and I think I will because now we have a new baseline. I just have to figure out when is the best time seasonally. Overall the cost for her comfort is relatively low, a couple hundred bucks for the year. I still have to practice good manure and fly management (I should buy stock in Cashel and Pyranha) but now I only have to load her up with Benadryl a couple times a year when the flies are at their worst.