Friday, December 21, 2012


Who doesn't like to feed their horse his favorite treats? Kwik would probably do just about anything for a peppermint. He can hear the crinkle of a peppermint wrapper from a mile away, and once he sees you with one, his eyes light up like Christmas, his ears perk straight up, and he makes what I like to call the "GIMME!" face. It's adorable. But the minute I give him a treat, he proceeds to nose and nip around my hands and pockets for the duration of my time with him. He's never outright tried to bite me, but I certainly don't want him to learn how. I know owners who don't allow hand feeding for this very reason. Placing treats in his feed tub after our ride seems to help, but where's the fun in that? Is there a right and wrong way to treat your horse? Is there a way to treat your horse and discourage nippy behavior at the same time? Help! :-)

On another note, we are all set to move to the new barn on the 29th. I can't wait to get Kwik settled into his new home and back to work. I feel like we're just on pause until then, but forget the visions of sugar plum fairies. I've got the promise of trail rides, dressage lessons, and jumping sweet jumps dancing in my head!

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012


"Why?" is the question we are all asking. Why would someone commit such a tragic, senseless act of violence? Even answers will not bring back the precious lives lost on Friday. All we can do now is hug our loved ones a little tighter as we say a prayer for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and their families. Now, more than ever, it is important to remember that there are good things and good people left in this world. I was reminded when a certain bay horse greeted me at the gate on Saturday, and it felt good to smile during this time of incredible sadness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I never win anything. Well, that's not entirely true. One time NASCAR was doing a promotion at a hockey game (RIP Atlanta Thrashers), and you could enter to win a pair of tickets. NASCAR isn't really my cup of tea, but we were killing time before the game so I entered. A couple of weeks later, two tickets arrived in the mail. I put them up for sale on Craigslist, and two hours later Adam and I met a nice guy at a Publix and swapped the tix for 100 big ones!

Maybe my luck is changing! I entered a contest over at Behind the Bit for a chance to win a pair of horseshoe earrings from an online boutique called Pinklette and...... I WON!! I received the earrings in the mail the other day, and they are light, super sparkly, and just lovely! I'm definitley Pinklette's new biggest fan. The Equestrian, Nautical, Preppy, Palm Beach, Monogram, and Park Avenue collections include jewelry, handbags, scarves, and many other fun accessories. Basically I want one of everything! Here are some of my favorites:

Horseshoe earrings
Enamel Starfish earrings

Monogrammed Shoe Clips

The Julie handbag

Paris Studs

Belmont Bracelet

A big huge 'Thank You!' to Behind the Bit and Pinklette!

Monday, December 10, 2012

All I Want for Christmas

I love Christmas! I finally got my tree up on Friday, and that really got me into the spirit, so much so that I knocked out all of my shopping on Sunday (poor Kwik)! Then I spent an hour on the phone with my sister, and she asked me what I want for Christmas. Well Santa's Little Helper, since you're asking...

All I want for Christmas is a Danzig Brothers leather halter! For some reason I could never bring myself to spend the money to buy Finn a nice leather halter with a nameplate. To me, this is a special gift you give to your horse, and it is given when the horse becomes a part of the family (the horse probably doesn't care one way or another, but I like to think they do!). Something just didn't feel quite right with Finn, and now I know why. Kwik has earned this gift, and I can't wait to give him one! Plus, with the move coming up, he needs to make a good first impression! These halters come highly recommended via the horsey blogoshpere, and the price is amazing considering the quality. They are all so lovely though, and I'm having some difficulty figuring out which halter I like best. I love Kwik in black tack. He's a darker bay and black makes him look SHARP, but I'm leaning towards a Havana halter with black padding. Oh, I hope Santa gets the message! :)

These halters also come with a brass nameplate. I've been racking my brain for three months now trying to figure out a good show name for Kwik. I got nothing. He's just Kwik. My Kwik Bullet. So that's what he will be, and that's what I'll put on the nameplate!

What are you wishing for this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Back in the Swing of Things

It has been hard getting back into the swing of things after Thanksgiving, but I finally made it out to the barn on Saturday. I wanted to free lunge Kwik for a bit in the round pen since he hadn't been ridden in almost two weeks, but when I got out to the arena the round pen was gone (already moved to the new farm). I went ahead and got on, and that ride was definitely not our best. Kwik was looky and full of energy, and I couldn't get my body to do what I wanted it to do at all. We've also hit a point where I *think* Kwik is wanting to stretch down and out, but I really can't tell if its true stretch (and I'm not strong enough to sit back and ride him forward) or he's figured out he can yank the reins out of my hands. This month may be a bust for regular lessons, but I'll get that going again as soon as we make the move in January. Weekly lessons will help up both trememdously.

Our Sunday ride was wonderful! Kwik was much more focused and felt great. Our routine of late has been direction changes- big loopy serpentines and changes of direction across the diagonal. Kwik loves to be crooked, and this type of work really gets him loosy goosy. I definitely rode better than the previous day, and we even got some nice canter work in. As we were finishing up, H and A came out to ride with us, so I took the saddle off and hopped on bareback. We just walked around to cool out, but it was a great first bareback ride!

B, who does night check, sent me this Kwik pic. Apparently he sleeps like this with his head propped up every night, and he grunts and nickers in his sleep <3

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Just In

I absolutely love the folks at my current barn. They are friendly, helpful, excellent horsemen and women who truly enjoy their horses and riding. I have had an awesome time with them over the past several months. The only downside is that the barn is located about 45 minutes mileage wise from my house and workplace. I usually encounter heavy traffic on the routes I take to the barn making it a 1.5 hour trip (sometimes longer), 3 hours round-trip. This is usually okay on the weekends, but it really does make it difficult to ride during the week, and I find myself having to psyche myself up to go to the barn. I always enjoy my time when I finally get there, but the trip makes me want to pull my hair out. I've been considering a move for a while now, but I've been reluctant because Kwik and I are doing so well under the instruction and management at my current barn.

An instructor I worked with briefly while I had Finn suggested one farm out my way where one of her students boards, so I took a look at their website. I was absolutely blown away! Never ever in my wildest dreams could I imagine boarding at a place like this! This farm has 400 acres of trails (fields, wooded trails, 3 lakes), grows their own hay, a beautiful barn for the boarders, a large, lit sand arena for the boarders, a grass dressage arena for the boarders, a round pen, a laundry facility, a guest barn, a schooling show facility with 2 dressage arenas, a show jumping arena, and a cross country course designed by Roger Haller (designed the 1996 Olympic XC course!)!! Um, I called to schedule a tour.

The guilt was already starting to eat away at me. Not even an hour after I scheduled the tour, H called to explain that she is planning to relocate the horses to a smaller barn down the street with more grass and wanted to know if Kwik and I wanted to join. The new barn will not have a lit sand footing arena but does have a nice grass area for schooling/jumping.

I toured the new barn today, and it was everything the website promised and more! The barn owner is very nice and knowledgeable, and she took an entire hour giving me a tour of the barn, paddocks and pastures, and driving me around the farm to show me the schooling facilities and trails. I also met several friendly boarders, a farrier, and the farm's vet. The horses were turned out when I arrived, but the two waiting for shoes looked healthy, happy, and well cared-for. The stalls were roomy and clean, the tack room was secure and tidy, the bathroom was nice and clean, and a handful of good instructors come out weekly to teach. I was even invited to their upcoming Christmas party!

I owe so much to my friends at my current barn. I will miss them dearly, but I feel like this new farm offers a lot of great opportunities for Kwik and I. I don't own a trailer so the opportunity to show, school xc, and trail ride onsite is huge. My board will be the same/possibly slightly less, and it took me 45 minutes. The drive was pleasant, and there was NO TRAFFIC. Spending more time caring for and riding my horse is my ultimate concern, so I've all but made up my mind. Come Jan. 1st we will have a new home. I sure hope I'm making the right decision!

Water complex on the xc course.
This could be us someday!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Still Thankful

I can't believe Thanksgiving has come and gone! I drove up to TN to spend some time with my family, and Adam made the trip with me. It was a full house with my mom, dad, sister, Adam, me, and three dogs, but I wouldn't have it any other way (unless I could have figured out how to bring Kwik along too). We did a lot of relaxing and eating, a bit of shopping, and of course, watched the Georgia Bulldogs wreck Tech on Saturday. It was the perfect celebration for a year full of things to be thankful for!

  • I am extremely thankful for my family. Mom and Dad are the reason I have had so many incredible opportunities in both my personal and professional lives. I am eternally grateful for their support!
  • I am so thankful to have a boyfriend like Adam. No one can make me laugh quite like he can. He doesn't understand why I love spending all of my time and money on this "horse thing," but he knows it makes me happy so he's jumping on the bandwagon.
  • My sister Emily is my best friend. I can always count on her to be in my corner, and she is my constant reminder that life is beautiful.
  • Kwik. This horse came into my life when I needed him the most. I was terrified of my current horse, and I was starting to question if I really liked doing any of this at all. He's still green and has naughty moments from time to time, but he's my Huckleberry Friend. I'm so excited to see where 2013 takes us.
  • My amazing friends. There is nothing like sitting around the table with some beers and laughing about old times.
  • My pups. Yoshi and Harpo always put a smile on my face.

It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but this list is my reminder of the reason for the season. I hope everyone had a happy happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Best. Week. Ever.

Last weekend I took a semi spur-of-the-moment trip down to Jacksonville to meet Adam for the weekend while he was on a business trip. We had a very nice, relaxing getaway, which means Kwik also had a nice, relaxing weekend. I was really excited about getting out to the barn this week, and I had three great rides!

Friday I had a mini jump lesson with A. We hopped over our warm-up crossrail a few times, and then moved on to a small vertical. We ended trotting in and cantering out and over a cross rail-small vertical line! He felt confident, balanced, and never once tried to charge through. I couldn't have been more pleased!

One night on our Jax trip, Adam had a few too many beers, and I got him to agree to come out to the barn with me on the weekend for a lesson. The plan was to put him on Pecker in a western saddle and then let him hop on Kwik when he felt comfortable. We were running short on time, so A and I just threw him up on Kwik in an English saddle. A put him on the lunge line for 5 minutes or so while she explained how to sit and steer, and after that he was on his own! I was so proud of Kwik- he took such good care of Adam! How many green OTTBs can you just throw a beginner on and have absolute confidence that he/she will be a saint!?! Actually probably quite a few since OTTBs rock!!! Adam was a little nervous at first, but he really got the hang of things in no time. I'm guessing he had a pretty good time becuase when he got off, he said, "Next time I want to go fast!" Whoa there, John Wayne, baby steps!

"Don't look down unless you want to hit the ground!" says A

All by himself!
Then I got on to finish my jump lesson with A from the previous night. After our warm up cross rail and vertical, A asked us to canter the line from last night. It was amazing! I know the jumps are small and cantering a small line shouldn't really be a big deal, but after everything that happened with Finn, it just seems wild that I'm cantering a line on Kwik two months after purchasing him. I need to work on my position- my leg has a tendancy to come back over the jumps and my form is just bad, but I can't even imagine where we will be in another two months- maybe jumping small courses!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Finn Finds The Perfect Home

Sometimes the stars align and things actually do work out for the best. I was really starting to worry how I was going to keep paying full board for two horses- things were definitely tight. Finn had three test rides from the same girl, but we couldn't tell if she was seriously interested. H had a couple of other interested callers, but she was very upfront about his training issues and flat out told them he wouldn't be a match.

A couple of Saturdays ago, H and I went to lunch with a hunter/jumper trainer that operates out of our farm, and we ended up talking about Finn's issues. S said he'd hop on him when we got back, and Finn was fantastic for him. At the end of the ride, S said he loved him. After the ride, I jokingly asked if he wanted Finn. He looked at me and said that would definitely be something he would be interested in. I didn't even think for a minute before telling S that I would gift Finn to him if he thought he had the time to work consistently with him. After a couple more rides, S told me he definitely wanted him, and just like that, I found the perfect situation for my chestnut boy. S is an extremely capable rider, and he doesn't get rattled when Finn pulls out his bag-o-tricks. Finn gets to stay at my farm, and I get text message and video updates with his progress almost daily!

I had originally hoped to get enough for Finn to cover what I paid for Kwik, but as the months went by, I realized I had paid enough in board to equal his purchase price so it really wasn't worth passing up such a great opportunity. I'm so excited that this whole ordeal is coming to an end, and I don't have to feel guilty about riding Kwik and not having enough time to play around with Finn.

Clearly Finn wasn't the right horse for me, but I don't regret adopting him for one second. Looking back, I learned a lot from this horse. I learned to teach a horse to lunge and to respond to voice cues. I accomplished my first join-up, and I learned a ton about OTTBs in my quest to research as much about my horse's past as I could. I'm so happy Finn has found a home with someone who sees what I saw in him: a beautiful horse with oodles of talent. I can't wait to see what this pair accomplishes in the near future!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I had every intention of riding yesterday, but it took me 2 HOURS to get out to the barn last night. I didn't know how to turn the lights on in the arena, so Kwik (who is now a soft wooly teddy bear) and I had a snuggle session instead! Then I went home to carve pumpkins with my honey. Happy Halloween!

Guess which one I did!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kwik and the Baby Jumps

I had a lesson Saturday with A, and we ended with a bit of jumping. This was only Kwik's second jump session, so we're taking things slowly to build good habits and confidence from the get go. We began just walking over a small cavaletti. Once he was comfortable walking over it we picked up a trot a few strides away. He ducked out and gave me a couple of small bucks as he cantered away. I regrouped and sent him around again. He jumped it like it was 5', and I was completely thrown off balance. He threw a couple small bucks when we landed as I tried to regroup. Once I got myself back together, my first instinct was to hop off and let A deal with his shenanigans, but my new-found confidence kicked in! I know this horse gets rattled when I get discombobulated, and he is extremely correct when I am correct. So, my job is to sit correctly and give him the confidence he lacks at this stage in the game. So, I picked up a trot, pointed him at the cavaletti again, sat a bit deeper, and encouraged him forward. Kwik popped right over, trotted politely out, and came right back to a walk when I asked!

After he was comfortably jumping the small cavaletti, we moved on to a very small vertical with some trot poles in front. I could feel him hesitate, and I thought he might try and duck out. I gave him a little more leg, and he jumped right over. After a few more trips through, he figured out how to pick up his front feet, and we moved on to another teeny vertical. Kwik was definitely more confident heading into this vertical (complete with fall wreaths!), and he threw a little party for himself as he cantered out! We ended there and recapped the lesson:

- Kwik is learning to stretch and bend (yay!), but he has figured out that he can overbend to the inside and pop his rear end to the outside rather than traveling straight. My first instinct is to use my inside rein to move him over, which is exactly what he wants me to do. It took a while for the idea to click, but A explained that I need to open my outside rein, bend him slightly to the outside, push his rear over with my outside leg, and use my inside leg as a post. That's a lot to think about and do all at once! It definitely got better, but we will be drilling this all week.

- Kwik is correct when I am correct. That's all there is to it. If he's doing something naughty, its because I am not riding effectively or I'm all nerved up. I have so many little things to check off in my head to make sure I am sitting correctly, and I'm constantly reminding myself when I ride. I'm hoping if I can fix my lower half, my upper half will be easier to adjust.

- A explained that when teaching green horses to jump, she likes to sit a bit deeper rather than assume half seat/jump position. That way, she has her leg and seat aids and can use them to encourage the horse forward and over the jump. When the horse is more confident, the half seat can be incorporated.

I was really proud of myself for this ride. A lot of it was ugly as I tried to fix myself, and I almost lost my brain when Kwik lost his. But I regrouped, rode through it, and ended with a good thing going.

I am handsome in my blue boots

So proud of himself!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Weekend Recap

AH was in town again this past week, and she offered to work with Kwik and I on Friday after work. Boy was I a HOT MESS! Since my riding history is pretty much all over the place (hunter land for a few years, dressage/combined training for a few years, no riding for 2 years, hunter land for a bit, no riding for 2 years, back to hunter land) I knew I had probably picked up some bad habits.

As it stands:
- I ride with my leg way too far backward with minimal constant contact
- I have a tendency to shove the horse forward with my seat
- My wrists tend to be broken and twist in awkard, extremely incorrect positions
-My arms tend to be more on the straight side rather than having a nice bend in my elbows
- I don't ride with nearly enough rein contact

So... we spent the entire lesson working to correct some of these things. As usual, Kwik was a great sport as I flopped around on top trying to figure this out. <3 that horse!

Saturday was spent with my honey, Adam, at the Decatur Beer Festival, so Kwikster got the day off.

Sunday AH, H, K, and I loaded up the ponies and went trail riding at Kennesaw Mountain again. It was another beautiful day, and we came across lots of other riders, walkers, and joggers enjoying the nice weather. I really tried to focus on sitting down in my saddle and keeping a constant contact in my lower leg. The last time we rode at Kennesaw Mountain my knees were killing me halfway through our ride, and it was extremely difficult to dismount when we got back to the trailer. Opening my knee and redirecting the contact to my lower leg completely eliminated that pain, and I felt much more secure when cantering/galloping. What do you know?!?

I had another lesson with AH last night, and everything finally started to click. I'm a visual learner, so AH hopped on Kwik to show me how I should be sitting. Having that mental picture made it possible for me to recreate her position, and Kwik immeditely responded. As soon as I began to sit correctly, I had a horse that was reaching for the contact and moving forward with energy and rhythm. She gave me some excercises to work on in the next couple of weeks, and I'm so excited we (mostly me- Kwik's got this all down pat) made some progress. AH will be back in a cuple of weeks so I'm hoping we can show her some good stuff in our next lesson.

I'd say it was a pretty great weekend!

Friday, October 19, 2012

In Unison Farm Hunter Pace

A bunch of us from the farm packed up the ponies and traveled to Rome, GA for In Unison Farm's annual hunter pace two weekends ago. I'm not going to lie- I had never been to a hunter pace before, and at this point I hadn't ridden Kwik off-site yet. A offered up her  gelding Pecker since she wouldn't be in town for the ride. I was still a little nervous about cantering/galloping an unfamiliar horse out in the open (why am I such a chicken?!?!?!!?), but I went anyway. I'm so glad I did! The course was absolutely beautiful, it was a lovely sunny fall day, Pecker took super good care of me, and I had a great time! AP and I rode together in the Bluebird hilltopping division. We had some great trot and canter stretches, did a bit of up-hill galloping, and just enjoyed each other's company. Bonus! We even managed to win our division! Thanks to all of the In Unison Farm staff and volunteers who made such a great ride possible!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Kwik!

Well, I've finally consented that Finn and I just aren't a good match. He is a beautiful horse with loads of potential, but he requires an experienced, confident rider- waaay more experienced and confident than me. I've thought this through over and over, cried quite a bit, and have finally made peace with this decision. I think I've found an excellent opportunity (cross fingers!) for him- so more details on that soon if all goes well.


 I have a NEW HORSE! Kwik is the 9-year old OTTB I have been riding out at the farm. It definitely was not my intention to buy another horse while still trying to figure out what to do with Finn, but sometimes opportunities like this just don't care about your best laid plans. I've spent a lot of time feeling guilty about this as well, but I've decided it's just time to be happy and excited.

The Treat Lady's Here!

H likes to call Kwik "The Most Wonderful Horse in the World," and I agree.  He raced fairly successfully from 2005-2010 with 62 starts, earning $72,603. All of these races, save for 3, were claiming races, and he changed owners quite often. After he retired in 2010, he came to the farm and found a home as a yearling babysitter. Afterwards he went to live with a family. Unfortunately the family was no longer able to keep him due to financial reasons, and he wound up back at the farm a few weeks before Finn and I arrived. He is still a greenie, but this horse has the best attitude!

I had a lesson with A two weeks ago on him, and we started him over some little crossrails. He was a bit confused, but he just popped over anyway. After a couple of goes, he figured out how to jump like a big boy and you could tell he was proud of himself. We've also done some off-site riding as well, and he didn't bat an eye at the deer, dogs, strollers, and cars we encountered along the trails. Riding a horse with this kind of attitude is such a big change for me, and it is so much FUN!! I'm really starting to enjoy riding again, and I'm feeling much more confident. Isn't that what this is all about?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Home Again

I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon cleaning out my tack trunk, soaking my brushes, cleaning my tack, measuring out feed, packing my car, and bathing Finn. I wanted to be ready to go first thing in the morning since Mr. Man's ride was scheduled to arrive at 7:30. I had no clue how Finn would load so I was ready for anything. Much to my surprise, Finn stood on the ramp, stared into the trailer for a few minutes, and walked right in. Stinker :-)

Everyone was so happy to see him and remarked over and over about how good he looks. I was so proud! We got him settled into his new (huge!!!) stall and had a nice long chat about our plan for him. A is planning to ride him on Friday, and Dr. Bob is slated to come take a looksie next Wednesday. After all this was said and done, A asked if I wanted to ride. Um, HECK YEAH! She put me up on one of the kids (H's name for all of the OTTB adoption hopefuls) named Kwik. I'll be honest- my fall off Finn the other day really shook my confidence so I was a bit nervous hopping on another BIG OTTB. Kwik was an absolute SAINT! He has a sweet face, was a perfect gentleman on the ground, and was super fun to ride. He got a little forward when I asked for the canter, but all I had to do was sit back and ask him to settle in. See! I'm not crazy- there are sane, uncomplicated, fun OTTBs out there!

The crew asked me if I wanted to come along for lunch, and I hung around a bit afterwards to help with evening feeding and turnout. I'm so happy at this barn already! Finn just fits in here, and I feel like everyone is truly invested in our cause and wants us to succeed. This barn also reminds me of my barn growing up. People would just come and hang out for the day, everyone helped out with the chores, and people just enjoyed being with their horses. This barn is much farther and I may not be able to go out as much during the week, but I think I will enjoy my horse and my sport to the max here. I'm headed out there this afternoon to play with Finn- hopefully I'll get to ride one of the kids too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

Sometimes you need to stand back, take a deep breath, and consider a problem from a new angle.

Finn definitely seems physically better. He hasn't locked up since the blistering procedure, but his attitude still, frankly, sucks. He's still balky in the arena and has turned into an absolute nightmare on the trails. Our last trailventure ended in him throwing a massive temper tantrum which ended in him rearing straight up, tripping over himself, and falling onto his side. Thank goodness I was able to abandon ship off the other side or I would probably not be sitting here writing this. I was too shaken up to get back on, but we walked back to the farm, and I longed the snot out of him.

I have never had a horse who thought rearing was a possible/accepable way of protestation. That particular behavior is extremely dangerous, and it's just not something I'm willing (or experienced enough)to "work" through. I had a long talk with JK the next evening, and we decided Finn man just might not be a good match for me. I left the barn that night frustrated, slighly hopeful, and sad. I love my guy. I do. But this is not fun at all.

The next day I plucked up the courage to call Finn's adoption agency. Honestly, I was scared she would think I completely screwed up this horse and would think I have no business owning another OTTB, but our chat went in the completely opposite direction. She listened to my update, gave me a few suggestions/things to check, and then offered to take him on as a boarding/training project at the adoption agency. She also told me that sometimes these things just don't work out, and if I am at the point of no return, the organization can help me rehome him and find a new boy/girl. She emphasized that this does not make me a bad person (which I REALLY needed to hear) and assured me there is an OTTB out there that is my perfect match.

I can't tell you how much better I felt after this conversation. I finally have a plan in place that will lead to a happy ending, one way or another. I will be sad if we don't work out, but I know he will go to a great home with this organization. Plus, I will be in an excellent position to try as many new guys/gals as I want, and I am sure to find my new partner in crime. So, Finn man will (tenatively) make the move on Sunday. I'm so excited (and relieved!) to get this ball rolling!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cooking With Crisco!

It's been quite some time since my last post, and a lot has happened since then! Dr. B came out to assess Finn's locking stifle situation. After taking some X-rays (which didn't show anything concerning!), it was determined that he is probably suffering from luxation of the patella. From what I can gather and now understand from tons of online research, that basically means his knee cap doesn't work correctly. Dr. B decided to perform a procedure called blistering. She injected a solution of 2% iodine in an almond oil base within and around the middle patellar ligament to create an inflammatory reaction. Normally we horse owners never EVER want inflammation, but in this case, the inflammation creates scarring of the ligaments which in turn shortens them and helps pull the patella back into its normal position. Which mostly means his knee cap will hopefully work properly and his stifles won't lock. I wasn't too excited to have this procedure done because I didn't love the idea of creating scar tissue in his stifle and causing soreness/pain, but I was running low on options at this point. So Dr. B drugged up the Finn man (which was horrific and hilarious at the same time) and the procedure took all of 10 minutes.

I gave him the rest of the day off, and as per Dr. B's instructions, started him back in work the next day. Finn's been in training with JK 5 days/week, and I ride on Saturday and Sunday, and let me tell you, HE IS DOING SO MUCH BETTER! We are cookin with Crisco now, baby!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

Long time, no post!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Friend keep getting more and more interesting. Finn's little attitude problem just kept getting worse. He would completely refuse to move forward at the trot in the arena without pinning his ears, kicking out, and sometimes throwing in a mini-rear from time to time. I don't do rearing horses. Period. Finn was completely fine hacking in the field and out on the trails so I figured it was time for Dr. B to come take a looksie.

Sure enough, Dr. B found a whole slew of things making Finn uncomfortable: beginning stages of osteoarthiritis in his right rear fetlock, some right SI joint pain, some left fore heel pain, and weak stifles. SHEESH! She recommended giving him 30 days turn-out, put him on Previcox, and suggested shoeing him with a 2 degree wedge pad.

I followed through with all of the above plus had the chiro pay a visit, and now Finn man is back to light work under saddle. JK is riding him a couple of times a week and I am riding him the remainder of the time, and I am happy to report that Finn seems to be feeling better. The nasty attitude has definitely improved, but he's still having some problems with his stifles locking up. The locking up happened occasionally coming out of his stall in the morning, but now he is locking up consistently under saddle. JK suggested we do quite a bit of walking and some trot work up and down hills to get him into shape and hopefully strengthen those weak areas. JK also seems to think his case is a bit more severe and suggested talking with Dr. B about having his stifles blistered. I've made an appointment to discuss treatment options with Dr. B, so hopefully I can get Finn man feeling much better here very soon.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Tick!

 I love summer! But I HATE the bugs. Every creepy crawly biting stinging annoying thing known to man comes out this time of the year. Here's how my past few days went:

Friday: Hmmmm, Finn man, I think you might have a tick (as I examine the lump on Mr. Man's chest). I then proceed to use my t-shirt to remove said tick. But some of said tick remains in Finn's skin. Uh-oh. So I hose the wound, and glop some antibiotic ointment on it. Hopefully it will look better tomorrow.

Saturday: The lump is still there, but it looks a bit better. More ointment.

Sunday: The lump is crusted over with dried blood and (warning! this gets pretty gross) pus and looks much worse. Great, it's definitely infected. I wash the wound again, apply more ointment, and decide to call Dr. S tomorrow morning. I pull ANOTHER tick off Finn's neck (properly, with tweezers).

Monday: Dr. S calls me back and explains that Finn needs a topical antibiotic and should probably take a 7-day course of oral antibiotics as an added precaution. I drive 45 minutes to the clinic to pick up the meds and drive another 30 minutes to the farm to doctor my poor boy. I immediately clean the wound with warm water and a mild soap, allow it to dry, and apply the topical antibiotic. Finn just stood there- what a trooper! As a reward, he got a second small dinner (laced with antibiotic power ;-) .

Cross your fingers- hopefully it will be better when I go out to check on him tonight!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breakthrough #1

I think I may have stumbled upon the secret to conquering the right canter lead from hell on the longe line today!

We worked on walk-trot and trot-walk transitions tracking left, and Finn picked up the canter right away. He kept the canter for two laps, and then we practiced trot-canter and canter-trot transitions for a minute or so. Then we switched sides. Same deal with walk-trot transitions, and then I asked for the canter. He quickened his pace at the trot, took a few canter strides and broke back into the trot. Not exactly what I wanted, but at least he didn't pitch a fit.

The next time I asked, I positioned myself slightly behind his shoulder and drove him forward as I asked for the canter. To my surprise, he picked up a nice canter and kept it for an entire lap around the round pen.

I praised him and asked him to come back to the trot. I asked once more in the same way, and whaddaya know? I let him walk, made a big fuss over him, and we headed back to the barn.

Who would have thought - doing what you're supposed to do actually works ;-)

On another note, how the heck do you spell the word "longe?" I've seen both "longe" and "lunge." I think"longe" looks more sophisticated, so that's what I'm sticking with until otherwise corrected ;-)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's in a Name?

Frosty (as he was called back then) and I spent the next couple of weeks hand walking, grazing, grooming, and experimenting with treats. Apples, carrots, peppermints, and sugar cubes were a no go. I  found some peppermint flavored treats he gobbled up eagerly so we finally had a winner!

Around the third week, I decided to go for our first ride. He was a bit nervous initially but settled right in - we had a nice little ride! The next day I decided to start work in the round pen on the lunge line. JK agreed to work with us both since Frosty had never been lunged before. The poor guy thought she was trying to kill him for the first five minutes or so, but he eventually figured out what we wanted him to do. After that initial lesson, I worked with him about five times a week on the lunge. He picked up the commands for walk, trot, and whoa in the first week of training, and by the second week was working very well at the walk and trot. I decided to incorporate some canter work into our routine in the third week, and Mr. Frosty Man once again thought I was trying to kill him. Eventually he managed a complete canter circle tracking left. I was ecstatic and figured we ought to quit while we were ahead.

We practiced the canter tracking left for the next couple of sessions, and then I asked him to canter tracking right. I figured he would be a bit stiff in this direction since racehorses are typically worked tracking left, but I definitely was not prepared for what happened next. Frosty spun around, reared, and stopped dead in his tracks, shaking. After a few more lessons with JK, the rearing and honest-to-goodness fear was put to rest, but we still continue to struggle with that direction. We'll keep working on that.

Next came more consistent work under saddle. I had ridden Frosty a few times before, and our last ride was a bit more eventful than the previous rides. All of a sudden if I asked him to trot, he would pin his ears in distaste and move forward with reluctance. If I insisted he move forward, he would kick out, and he would even throw in a mini-rear from time to time. TOTES WHATEVEN!?!?! Confused and unsure if I had an ill-fitting saddle/bridle problem, a physical problem, or a nasty attitude problem, I turned, once again to JK for help. After our lesson, I decided to put Frosty into a month of training with JK.

At this point, our month is almost up, and I have definitely seen some improvement. Frosty is moving forward (most of the time) with ears pointed forward, moving away from leg pressure, and stretching into contact. When I ride, he still throws little fits every now and again, but with some encouragement from JK, we are able to ride through them. I'm still planning to have his teeth checked again and an appointment with a saddle fitter is definitely on the horizon, but it's an improvement. I try to remind myself every time we have a hiccup that I've only had Mr. Man for about 3 months, and all of this is new to him.

And that about brings us up to date. Except for one last thing. The name Frosty definitely wasn't doing anything for me, so I decided to change it. Anyone who knows me at all knows my obsession with Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Henry Mancini's "Moon River," hence new show name "Huckleberry Friend" and new barn name "Finn." How did you decide on a name for your new horse?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

This is the start of something good!

I've always loved horses, and it's weird because I'm the only person in my entire family tree with horsey inclinations. Mom loves to tell the story about the time she and Dad took me to a farm for my first ride. I guess it was one of those places that you just rent a horse for an hour or whatever. So Dad ends up leading me around on this black horse and ends up getting his foot stepped on. Mom also likes to talk about the time I ended up in the hospital from a bout of food poisoning. Apparently the first thing I wanted to do when I got out was to go ride the horsey (which meant the merry-go-round at K-mart). I've seen the video footage from the pony ride and petting zoo birthday party I had in our backyard when I was 3, and I refused to go to Girl Scout Camp unless it involved horses and riding. Mom signed me up for riding lessons when I was in fifth grade, and I was hooked!

After my first year of lessons I started cleaning water buckets in exchange for an additional lesson each week. Man that was hard work- that barn had like 50 stalls! It was totally worth it :-) When my favorite instructor left, my two barn buddies and I switched barns. I met Mary while volunteering at a summer camp at the farm, and she invited us out to her Aunt Fran's farm. This little farm became my home away from home. Fran let us take our pick of her 4 horses, and it was here that I really learned the joys of galloping in a field, splashing around in a creek on trail rides, and JUMPING! Now I had taken hunter jumper lessons for about 4 years at this point, but the farm's fields still had some cross country jumps set up from Fran's son's riding days, and boy did I have a blast! Fran and her husband even surprised us one day with an awesome wishing well jump they built and painted one weekend. Don't you just love (the good kind of) horse people? I think Fran and her husband really enjoyed watching two middle schoolers fall in love with horses and riding, and they were always willing and eager to teach us everything they knew.

A family friend of Fran's agreed to give me and my little crew dressage lessons. When it became clear I wasn't going to learn much on the little Appaloosa mare I typically rode, my parents said those magic words that every little girl longs to hear, "I think it's time you had a horse of your own." WHAT?!?!?! My dressage instructor pointed us in the direction of another student with a horse for sale, and the next week Jasper was waiting in the paddock for me to try on for size. All it took was one jump over that wishing well, and that horse was MINE. ALL MINE. Jasper was an 11 year-old OTTB. He was super thin and had absolutely no dressage training. But man could that horse jump!

Over the next couple of years, Jasper and I struggled to grasp dressage, and thanks to the endless patience of Jessica and another instructor, we finally managed some decent scores at local dressage shows, combined tests, and HTs.

We didn't show a lot, but I really enjoyed competing.

And then the unthinkable happened. I answered the phone one day after school, and the girl who was in charge of evening feeding said Jasper wasn't moving in his stall. Mom rushed her sobbing, hysterical daughter to the farm. My beautiful boy, my first horse, was gone. I was devastated. High school got hard, I got really good at playing the french horn, college applications were due, and I just didn't ride anymore.

I think perhaps most of us horse people lose our horsey way at some point, but we're never lost for too long. I was in the student rec center one day (I don't do gyms, so this really was fate), and I noticed a flyer advertising tryouts for our IHSA team. I hadn't ridden in two years, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to go to the meeting. Apparently I lost my mind because I ended up at the tryouts that Saturday. I remember standing at the arena rail waiting for the coach to call my tryout group. My heart jumped into my throat as I tried to remember how to check my diagonal, how to make sure I was on the correct canter lead, etc. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I remember ANYTHING? This was a REALLY bad idea. She put me on a big grey horse, and I honestly don't remember much of anything else past that point about that ride. I guess it wasn't too terrible because, to my surprise, I got a call from the coach a couple days later inviting me to join the team. AWESOME! I'm BAAACCCK!

My first team lesson was a nightmare. I hadn't ridden hunt seat since I was in middle school, my stirrups felt like they were up to my armpits, and my legs felt like Jell-o ten minutes into the lesson. I definitely improved over the next couple of lessons. One day the coach said she wanted to see me in her office after my lesson. Oh crap- well I guess she's kicking me off the team. It was fun while it lasted. Apparently there is only space for about 10 girls to compete, and she wanted me to ride! WOW! But there was a catch. I was on a music scholarship (I wasn't kidding about getting good at playing the french horn), and I was required to play at every football game (which, if you're not a college football fan, are on Saturdays). I wrote an email to the band director as soon as I got home to see if there was any way for me to be excused on show days. I was able to finagle my way out of a couple of games, but in the end, money or the lack-there-of forced me to quit the team.

I refused to get lost again, and I began looking for alternatives. I stumbled upon a therapeutic riding program nearby. I began volunteering with the program, and the director, bless her heart, let me ride all of the little problem ponies. I just love ponies. Graduation came, and thankfully, I landed a job. I found a similar therapeutic riding program and volunteered for a while, but I decided I wanted to ride. I mean really ride. So I Googled and a week later ended up atop one of the farm's thoroughbred school horses. By the end of the lesson, we were jumping a small course. That's what I'm TALKING about!

This went on for about 5 months and was all fine and well, but I wanted to ride all the time. I thought about riding when I wasn't riding, and I had this insane urge to pull a mane on rainy days. I decided I would look into leasing a horse at my lesson barn. After a horrific near-lease experience, I decided it was high time I had a horse of my own. HAH! That was funny. Or was it? After looking at farm websites in my area to figure out how much it would cost to board a horse in a pretty big city, I broke out my Excel spreadsheet budget and moved things around. Over. And over. And over again. Well, technically I could afford it. I kept playing around with the idea in my head, and I finally decided to allow myself to look at Craigslist and some Thoroughbred adoption websites. I knew I wanted another Thoroughbred, particularly an OTTB. Of course I didn't have the experience to retrain an OTTB myself, but I certainly wasn't in any hurry to be in the show ring any time soon, and I definitely wasn't too proud to enlist the help of a professional. Good, so that was settled. I looked, and I looked. I came across a thoroughbred adoption group in my area. I called and explained that I was an amateur rider looking for a SANE event prospect. Oh, and the horse must enjoying grooming and oodles and oodles of attention. She gave me the rundown of the guys and gals, but no one really caught my eye. One day I came across a sweet looking chesnut on her site. I immediately called to inquire, and he had glowing ride reviews. And he likes attention. This guy could definitely be a possibility. I scheduled an appointment to visit him the following week.

I loved him. Frosty was a little thin, but he had a nice animated trot and an awesome rocking chair canter. He was a dream to ride, and I'm sure I had a big dumb smile on my face when I hopped off. The staff let me mess around with him after our ride, and when I turned him out for the night he walked away, turned around, and walked right back over to me. I knew I wanted this guy to come home with me. And so he did. A week later Frosty (or Finn as I had decided to call him) rolled up to my new farm. I was waiting to greet him with my shiny new halter and lead rope (I went a little nuts on

As I drove home that night, I couldn't help thinking, "what did I just do?" Fran and crew had always been there helping me along the way with Jasper. I was new to the horse scene in my new town and hadn't developed one of those relationships yet. I didn't know what I should be feeding him, if and what kind of supplements he needed, how he should be shod. Oh dear. Maybe I was in over my head. Time to panic. WAIT wait wait a minute. I'm a scientist. I didn't jump into this without ironing out every detail. I had searched high and low to find this farm- the farm with no drama and an owner/trainer willing to work with me and my new boy on everything from training to nutrition. I already had a dressage/jumping instructor lined up for when the time came. I crunched my numbers over and over again. Here goes nothing, so time to be excited! Stay tuned, share your thoughts, advice, stories- Finn and I need all the help we can get!