Thursday, December 14, 2017

Horse Keeping Questions (#HALP)

The horses and I have had a pretty good week this week. Bailey and I journeyed out on Tuesday for a) my first loaded haul in the snow - eeek! and b) a ride in a friend/local barn's indoor. She just opened her ring up for open riding hours, and I plan to be make my way over there at least twice a week, as it's only about 15 minutes away if I don't drive like a grandma. Arya stayed home and I'm going to work on lunging her a few days to bring her brain back into training mode after a week plus off from me traveling last week, and hopefully can get her loaded and over to the indoor this weekend. Bailey popped around some little jumps and was a very good girl; manageable (if excited and very social) on the ground and steady under saddle. I'm so excited to have the opportunity to keep training and riding, even if my ring doesn't defrost enough to be ridden in.

Snow, we have it.

I spent all of last week in Salt Lake, came home late on Thursday and woke up with the stomach flu on Saturday, which means I had to beg hubby to take Ginny to her new home. I'm now down to two horses, and am trying really hard to decide... do I need a 3rd? Logistically, it's a lot easier. So I'm full of indecision and WARNING: the rest of this post is basically me melting down about the two main problems in my life, because nothing can ever be easy.

My vet mentioned that another vet at her clinic was looking for boarding (pasture) for two horses, an elderly Arabian who "eats mostly senior feed" and a teenaged paint horse who I think might be a gelding. Obviously, it's very tempting to take on another boarder; the income helps offset the costs of keeping my girls and while it wouldn't be the same as having J around, it might be worth a try. My reservations with a boarder is, of course, the fact that they wouldn't probably come to the farm until the spring, and we'd have two new personalities in the pasture. I am also a bit apprehensive about the elderly Arabian, though the vet said her owner would be out to care for them "daily". My husband only sees the boarders who could offset the costs of keeping my animals, and having a vet around the house means we'd probably get free vet advice. I feel like the latter might end up being quite awkward, so I've been thinking hard about it.

As you can see, I don't have any recent media. My phone has been too dead and it's been too cold to take my gloves off.

Before I heard about the boarder, I was considering adopting an older OTTB who has been with CANTER MN who is described as "laid back" and an easy keeper. Per the CANTER rep, she's currently out in the pasture (so she's hardy) and despite a fat knee, is sound. She's advertised as a trail horse or broodmare type and came out of a "rescue pen" run out of the local shady auction (I believe) and she's been up for adoption for quite some time now; I'm guessing her age and knee are offsetting to a lot of potential adopters, and while she is older (an 04 model) I think it would be nice to have some... more mature influences in my pasture. Having a third horse, even an easy keeper, would increase my feed and bedding costs (though hopefully she's pretty tidy) as well as my vet and farrier fees. I'd also feel like I need to keep her in some semblance of work, which I probably don't have enough time for, at least right now. However, if she does work out, I would always have two horses at home, even if I take Bailey and Arya somewhere together. The herd would be consistent, and I wouldn't be high and dry if a boarder decided not to stay with us. I'd also have a horse that could potentially be appropriate for less experienced riders should they want to go a-toodlin' with me - or something chill to sit on when the two spooky babies get on my nerves.

Arya: Neither good at modeling new bridles, nor at not being a spaz under saddle.

What would you do?

I think I ask that question a lot lately, and I actually want to ask it again, right now. Why? Because the tiny ba-Donk-a-donk, Kahlua, is now going outside for a few hours at a time. She's been wearing her Amigo Foal blanket inside and out this week as it's been quite cold (in the 20's for highs, sometimes single digits in the mornings) and blowing. It's got 200 grams of insulation, which is about on par for what the horses are wearing right now (Medium weight Weatherbeetas with hoods, 220 grams of insulation). I do worry though; she doesn't feel warm under the blanket, especially outside in the wind. I'm thinking she's going to need something warmer, but also... is that crazy? I've been trying hard to not overfeed her and set her up for a life of weight and metabolic problems; she's not fat in any way shape or form. I have started giving her more hard grain (I need to measure, but she gets about 1/2 lb of Triple Crown Lite a day, sometimes a bit more).

The foal blanket fits her a bit awkwardly; it doesn't really want to stay back where it belongs so it rides up her butt and poofs out in front of her little chest, as her neck is set differently from a horse. It's set out to about the 38" measurement, but she's still basically tiny and doesn't seem to be that much bigger than she was. Do I add a fleece when it gets colder? Do I leave her be? Does she need more insulation?

As of right now, when she's out she's usually in my "barn shelter" - aka under the overhang on the far side of the barn, which has a wind break. She hasn't tried out the upper shelter, which the horses seem to favor when it's very windy. I just worry that she's not going to be warm enough, especially when we get into the  - she's got fluffy, long hair, but it doesn't seem to do much for her when it's windy, and definitely isn't a waterproof hair coat.

What would you do?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Farm Talk: Hay Feeders

Hi, Friends! I've been traveling all last week for work and haven't yet gotten to play with or even open the boxes containing many of my new fun toys, so I'll save that post for another tackho-ing day. Getting the stomach death flu over the weekend did not help. AT. ALL.

Inspired by instagram, let's talk about hay feeding!

Dis is how I feed my hay.

I had lots of opinions on hay feeding when we bought the farm. I spent the year before moving at a large boarding barn (which I really liked otherwise) who did several things that drove me utterly insane; one was not feeding enough hay, and not only did they never feed enough, but they also fed it in a very stupid way. I understand at a commercial barn that the staff may not have time for hay nets or other things, but most of my horse's stall hay ended up in the middle, or in the doorway of their stall. When you own a stallwalker like Bailey, this means that she'd waste a portion of her meager hay ration stall walking it into her bedding. Foxie had similar problems, because she would only eat "clean" hay, and hay that was walked on to enter the stall was "dirty". The outside hay was thrown in piles on the ground, and it drove me nuts to see it pooped on, walked into the mud or otherwise wasted.

So, opinions in hand, I outfitted the farm with two items off the bat; full bale slow feed nets (in troughs) and hay hoops. Both are still in use, though I've evolved the outside hay feeders over time.

Summer Arya modelling a hay hoop. 

The hay hoops are in the stalls; they're easy enough to open, fill and close/latch and have 100% prevented hay being stall walked into bedding or wasted because it was peed or pooped on. We only have one that has been damaged, and I am 99% sure that the horse in question (Ginny) kicked her hay hoop in the progress of kicking the walls and got caught up in it, resulting in one of the loops that hold the hay net to be broken, and a hole to appear in the net. As she's leaving, I'll probably replace it and call it a day. I did experiment with softer hay nets, but replaced them with the poly nets with smaller holes they came with after Arya arrived and showed off her amazing skills at throwing hay. With the original net on her hoop, Arya doesn't waste hardly any hay. The only caution I would give someone is that if, like me, you have some hay that breaks, or leafy alfalfa, there will be some leavings on the ground around and under the hay hoop. I bought, say, 70 bales of leafy grass hay that seems to shatter into 2" pieces in the process of the horses eating it from the nets, and this leaves a decent amount of said 2" pieces of hay around. I pick this up and feed it outside of a net outside about once a week to try and battle my compulsion to pile it up in the stalls like the horses will eat it in there (they don't).

Outside feeder wise, I started with some Tough-1 bale nets and some Rubbermaid 110 gallon (I think) water troughs. Arya and her hay throwing talents inspired me to replace my nets, and I did. I purchased some locally made Hay Chix hay nets (link will get you 20% off, and gives me credit for referring you, full disclosure).

These nets aren't as spacious and easy to load as the tough one nets (which could easily hold 2 bales), they are better materials and cut the waste substantially compared to feeding naked bales in the troughs. Hay always ends up getting flipped out and wasted when I don't use the nets, so I have resolved to use them 100% of the time now. When we got the nicer nets, Arya moved from throwing hay (because she #partieshard when eating, or something) to throwing  the hay nets when they got towards empty.

A few instances of finding hay nets tossed out in the rain with 3 flakes left in them and other similar crabby faced moments lead me to have my husband install some hook eyes for me; the first two troughs we had we drilled holes into the bottom for the hook eyes, one on each side. I used heavy duty carabiners at first, but discovered that they can be bounced open when the nets are vigorously shook, so I have moved to real climbing type beaners or other hooks that screw closed. This has completely eradicated the hay net throwing problem.

We got more nets and troughs once the fighting began to try to keep the horses fed and separated from each other so they wouldn't fight. These troughs I had Hubby put holes in about 3/4 of the way up in the sides, as my bales are big and it's hard to re-snap them in to the troughs with the hooks under the hay. This definitely makes the work easier for filling, but Arya  not to be outdone, found the weakness in this: the higher connection makes the troughs easier to flip or tip over, and she does this from time to time when they get empty. We plan to battle this by weighting the troughs and I think we'll finally have out-thought the baby thoroughbred.

So that's how I do hay daily: I'd suggest buying the climbing type carabiners (amazon has a lovely variety, but get the strong ones not the light duty ones that sell for 95 cents) for securing as they are easier to open and close than the oval links Hay Chix sells. The best way to fill them so far is to set a bale on end, undo the net and shimmy it over the whole bale, flip, tie it shut, plop it back in the trough and clip it in and then carefully slice the hay bale strings through the net and pull them out. This keeps the bale easy to handle and allows you to fit the maximum amount of hay into the net vs stuffing in flakes. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holiday Weekends (equal) Love

There's nothing like a long weekend to make going back to work today totally suck help you recharge and get things done. Of course, my intentions were far more ambitious than I actually was, but that's pretty much the story of my life. I did a lot of dog cuddling and couch laying...

But I did get some riding in:

Thanksgiving AM on Bailey: we spooked and balked our way through like 35 minutes tops on the road, as the arena was still frozen from a cold overnight. Mostly W/T as it's apparently too hard to canter.

Black Friday on Arya: Arya came out of the pasture sweaty as the temps had climbed way higher than I expected. She then got rained on as she zoomed around on the lunge, and put in a sassy, bucky ride, which resulted in her being totally covered in sweat. Why was she bucking? Who actually knows. She did, however, trot over a pole without panic-cantering after it and immediately was allowed to be done, because GOOD PONY.

Saturday PM: I levered my butt out of bed in the evening (because yay, randomly feeling super sick and weak!) and rode a horse, because that's what you do when you feel icky. I used the lights for the first time and had a good but short walk-trot-canter ride. Bailey was SO good and I was super impressed that she wasn't spooking her pants off because lights and shadows and omg it's dark outside the arena, etc. More info on the lights is coming soon, because seriously... they change lives.

Sunday PM: Again, more lights because we must always play with the lights! Arya got brought out to do ground work and got a lot of treats to encourage her compliance.

I'm hoping to get out and ride tonight - probably Arya, but maybe both if I am feeling ambitious. This weekend was marked by lots of being super lazy, and I feel like I need to nix that immediately. I managed to throw off my sleep schedule with a few days of going to bed late and being allowed to sleep in, and this morning 5 am was disgusting. Ugh.

I'm trying to not let my brain go into total Squirrel mode over Arya's bucking, and will go back to the dressage saddle tonight and see if it continues. My first thoughts were saddle fit and chiropractic, and I really don't want to get into either until she's working more so I can actually benefit from that.

I did spend a lot of time spending money this weekend; our washer is leaking, which led to a late night trip to the nearest Best Buy so I could manhandle washer-dryer pairs. Appliances are too expensive, and I'd like to turn in my adult card now and go back to simpler and cheaper days, please! The only pro is that we're going to keep said leaky washer and put it on casters in the garage for horse use. It won't be totally sophisticated, but I'll be able to wash pads and wraps and maybe even sheets (if I am feeling brave - it's a center agitator...) in a washer, leaving me only blankets to do with my hose and trailer set up from the summer. Not complaining!

To counteract all of the adulting, I also hit Riding Warehouse's sale, a Back on Track sale and am excitedly pestering Amelia from Dark Jewel Designs with ideas for my new browband and strands. I haven't pulled the trigger on an Eponia Bridle yet - which is silly, because that is my birthday present and everything else is technically Christmas presents, but I probably will just... do it. Today. Maybe when I'm done writing this post. The horse kids are making out like bandits this year thanks to my Hubby, who said "spoil yourself a little bit because I'm spoiled (he got a new truck) and just buy what you want. I don't really need details." which is an entirely daring thing to say when you're married to a horse person. I'm scheming up presents for my horse friends as well, though recent developments with my friend and boarder, J's horse, Ginny, have put a bit of a damper on the excitement there.

Ginny and Arya got into a big old knock-down drag out fight about a month ago; Ginny got the short end of the stick and had wounds along her back that still aren't covered by hair at this point. And then Wednesday last week, they got in another fight. And again, Ginny got the short end of the stick, with a lovely blood-icicle hanging off her fetlock from a nice juicy cut on her leg. And in between all of this, Ginny has  been, sometimes like a madwoman, kicking her stall wall. Watching a horse stand there and double barrel a wall over... and over... and over again isn't a very positive way to spend one's time. We've tried creating a wall, wondering if she was jealous of Bailey's food, or worried about her own food. She was annoyed by this, and seemed concerned she couldn't see her friend. So we've got a half-wall up (aka half the bars by Bailey's feed tub are covered) right now, but between the fighting and the distinct unhappiness at being in the barn, we've had to have that awkward "you're my friend but maybe your horse should live somewhere else" talk. And I'm going to miss having a friend to ride with, deeply. It's been hard to get out and have a social life when my whole life (animal wise) is at home, and I feel that I am responsible for their comfort and care. It's been nice to be able to be social while still feeling like I'm giving them 100%. Alas, if the horse is not happy, it's not good for anyone, and it's especially scary because I didn't witness this last fight - the first one happened at the gate around feeding time, so I've been adjusting my routine to prevent Arya getting too food-protective, but it's clearly not the only factor. And it's uncomfortable to know I could come home to.... anything at this point.

And because that's depressing, here's the donkey's face after she put her tiny piggy hoof in her slow feed net and needed to be rescued (don't worry, the net has now been picked up so it's no longer at pawing height):

She will probably go out relatively soon, though the thought of her getting caught in the crossfire of a kicking fight is not a particularly nice one. Soon, Donkey, soon!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Knowing that I am planning to spend most of tomorrow either eating or riding my horses, I want to take a minute to post the quintessential thanksgiving post.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year:

Fox Point Farm, in all of it's glory:

The farm has challenged me and changed me; I don't know if I can ever happily go back to boarding. There is something so satisfying about having my horses home to micromanage and laugh at and enjoy. As much as I miss sleeping in or coming home from work and becoming one with the couch, I am learning to live more actively and accountably because I have so many more things depending on me, alone, than ever before.

I am also thankful I have a spouse who (sometimes grumpily) enables me to live my childhood dream, and who embarked on a summer of hellish projects and didn't divorce me from stress. He may not love it like I do, but I appreciate him understanding what it means to me.

Favorite wedding photo is always appropriate

I am thankful for Arya, who is a challenge and a joy. It's fun to have so much young, spirited energy in my horse life again, and it's fun to realize that my #feralredhorse is finally my rock, and much less feral than she used to be. I'm thankful for both of them, for their mooching silly faces and their hay feeder throwing. For their squinty blinks when I flip on the lights at 5 am and for the way they peek around the corner of the barn when they hear me out with the dogs. I'm thankful for BB's love of the jumps, and Arya's love of running, and the joy they share with me when we do the things they were born to do.

I am thankful, and still dreadfully miss my Foxie. I am thankful I got to bury her at home, and thankful I got so many amazing years with her kind, forgiving soul. I am thankful for the years of media that let me remember her as she should be remembered, and not how it ended. I am thankful for the blue ribbons we won, the tears she let me cry into her mane and for teaching me so many important lessons.

Miss you, Foxmare. Love you. 

I am also thankful for my other kids, who are ridiculous and a source of humor and love every single day:

They're going to form a boyband, based on this picture.
Cheesily enough, I am so thankful for you guys. Knowing someone was listening when I was falling apart or losing my mind has value that I cannot express. 

And thankful for that bracelet, that reminds me of an amazing horse and amazing kind people every day

So, thanks, you guys. It's been a hell of a year, and I'm happy I had a place to write it all down to remember it all. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled insanity (and probably a lot of Black Friday shopping) soon. 


Monday, November 20, 2017

A Week of Rides

I've officially fallen off the blogging every day train... sorry guys. I suck. Between work and daylight savings, I haven't had a ton of energy or time to blog, though I did totally waste some time yesterday making flow charts about my day. I do want to keep writing about my riding, so let's do some looking back, and I'll probably wait to publish this until I have another ride under my belt, too.

As of my last post, I was going to ride (last) Wednesday after work, so help me god. And I did. Arya got a a school in my dressage saddle, and BB got to wear jump tack and went for a hack afterwards.

Arya's rides are so boringly basic that they're hard to write about, but we do have a lot of important things going on during them. We still lunge every ride, but haven't had nearly as many issues with her getting up / feeling like the steering and brakes have gone out, so it's been really positive. I really enjoy riding her - she's a bit easier physically than Bailey (less bouncy) and it's nice to have the tool box to recognize and address her issues. We do basic walk/trot/canter every ride. Her canter has lately become super lovely - rhythmic and SLOW with no input from me, gloriously uphill and I can just hang out and ride that allllllll day if I am allowed to. Her strike offs are still a bit iffy going right, but she is slowly learning to not get frazzled and tries again without too many theatrics. We are still working on relaxation, bend and (all related to bending) swinging her barrel out when bending in. Her trot, especially, has remained tight and she takes quick, short steps. I think if I can convince her to stretch more and take longer, slower steps, we will really have a great mover on our hands.

Kids got mediums on for some colder weather, and Arya got to experience #neckcoverissues for the first time ever

Bailey has been going relatively well, but still feels weak and behind my leg, especially on the flat. I think, where the OTTBs learn to dig in and "sit" with wide back feet, Bailey wants to trail along at the canter on her forehand, which makes her canter in particular much less fun to sit on after Arya's. We continue to do a bit of lateral work, and a bit of work with me trying to push her up into my aids more completely. We also hacked around the outside perimeter of the pastures; I want her to get used to riding out into the area that will be our pasture and XC course next year, and while our first jaunt wasn't bad, it wasn't wonderful either. She's got a ways to go, but she's a good girl nevertheless.

The reason I skipped my Friday ride: it was snowing INSIDE my barn. And outside, too.

Friday I skipped my ride, but got out to do work on Saturday with a vengeance. I did a bad thing, though; I tried to do my chores before riding, and skipped lunch in the process. Not a good combo! I had a great ride on Arya (more on it in a second) but totally started to get dizzy and felt sapped of all energy by the time I got on Bailey. I cut her ride short and called it a day. Arya did more work and we covered a lot of the items above, with some added walking over poles. We haven't done that for a few weeks, so the first time I asked her to walk over the pole she stopped, but allowed herself to be booted over it without any issue. We took walk breaks throughout our ride and walked over poles, single pole, then over a pole contraption of 3 poles made into an open sided square. She even walked over the corner of two of them and gave some good snorts and dropped her head down several times and got more and more relaxed as we went on. Just 5,000 more repetitions before I'll try them at the trot again!

I don't have media for these last few rides (maybe I'll get some updated video from the Hubby of Wednesday's rides) but I do have some cute pictures of the girls from the last week (mostly staring at the donkey when we took her for a walk) so enjoy those scattered through this post!
Arya loves the donkey lately

Why donkey out of it's box

Wednesday update: 
I only got on Arya yesterday as I've really been struggling with a lack of body heat and feeling unwell for no legitimate reason. It was blustery and cool, with a good whipping wind, which definitely didn't help my motivation. Arya got to wear the Horze fleece quarter sheet and has similar views about it as a greener Bailey did; it's basically a giant black plastic bag that is chasing her. She ran pretty hard on the lunge line trying to get away from it, and bucked one of her back cracking bucks before settling down enough for me to get on her. We did lots of walk and trot, and while she was a looney tune for her right lead canter the first time, she cantered her lovelyperfectuphillhearteyesemoji canter going left and was better going right after that. We also walked over poles and did not put up any fuss there. Overall she was a very good girl for a day that challenged her with wind, and I was able to keep her brain in her head under saddle with few issues.

We did the same thing on Saturday, sans quarter sheet and Arya remained a bit... tail swishy and silly. Brain stayed in her head and other than more than a few moments of "I'm going to try to have a tantrum by refusing to bend or steer" was pretty good. I'm a bit suspicious that her back hurts, or that she's not relaxing or something, so she's spending a few days in a warmer blanket with her back on track sheet on, and I'm going to try to get her out and stretching more often. Bailey got skipped due to time, and I'm upset about this. I really need to deal with this fatigue issue; I ordered more solar lights this morning, and will post about them soon, so I need to stop giving up my opportunities to ride!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An Indecisive Tuesday Poll

Friends, I am completely indecisive and Black Friday is slowly but surely marching it's way here. I'm still caught up on this bridle kick; like inception, the idea of a wide noseband bridle on Arya (who is currently the favorite child, so she gets nice things again) has been gnawing away at my mind (and Bailey can use it, too).  My horsey wishlist has expanded and changed a whole lot over the last few weeks. My inner control freak loves to tell people exactly what I want for christmas, and then get it. It feels a lot nicer than, say, bath and body type products that I am allergic to and cannot use...

I have my eye on several items, including more Dark Jewel bling (because who can resist?!), a Back on Track quarter sheet - though I can't decide between fleece and nylon and boring stuff like boots and reins and breeches that I suck at buying for myself but want / will need. I have some normal stuff on my list, too, but dishes and slippers and sunglasses have nothing on horse stuff ;)

Because my husband is not helpful when it comes to picking out things "he doesn't care about" (his words, not mine)... I need some blogger assistance. Help me spend my husband's money, people! For bloggerdom, and for the relatively satisfying knowledge that you will be adding something traditional into my collection of weird looking bridles. Or because I'm annoying. Or whatever reason I need to give you to actually submit an opinion on this blog.

Moose-kind  thanks you.

Which Eponia bridle should Arya get?

The Cookie (black w/ brown padding, black/gold crystal browband)
The Gatsby with Cookie details (black w/ brown padding, "whiskey"/"Champagne" crystal browband)
Why are you so obsessed with black and brown bridles, seriously?
made here

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Day in the Life

I've really been enjoying the flowcharts I've been seeing pop up about people's days and routines, so I thought I would share mine. It's not terribly exciting, but I did actually find it interesting that, other than giving and taking about 3 hours in commute time, my days are very much the same. It helps that barn work has to be done daily, whether or not I have time to ride, so my day is started and basically ended with horse related activities. I don't really have a social life (and really didn't before we moved) so it's not life-ending that I have to go home and pick  stalls every day. I work from home on Fridays, and have flexibility during the week to work from home as needed, though I am very self conscious of my want to abuse this right and try to avoid working from home as much as possible, if that makes sense. I'd love a fully remote job, but in the mean time, I will be working with lights and trying that friend with the indoor to see if I can visit so I can keep my horses worked. I sleep in a bit on the weekends (sometimes unintentionally) but otherwise keep to an early schedule just to not mess with my body too much. Knox, the puppy, is growing up fast but I still prefer to not punish dog bladders by putting them to bed early and not getting them out to pee at a decent hour.

My chores are done at night, and include:

- Stalls, picking and re-bedding as needed. Owning two stall walkers means that this is not a light job.
- Refilling water buckets (currently done by hand, as heated buckets are plugged in and hose is frozen)
- Laying in feed
- Pulling down "inside" hay, filling hay hoops
- Once the horses are in, I refill the slow feed bale nets outside with the "busy quality" hay. We are expanding my tub and net system so soon I'll only have to do this every other day or so, yay!

I only feed once a day right now, which I may just continue to do. My horses don't get a ton of food, and have all night to finish their meals, and it allows me to actually leave on time in the morning. The only reason I think I'd go back to doing morning feed is if I can't get weight back on Arya without adding more food than she can eat in one sitting. Other than the mares conspiring to pee in weird spots in their stalls the moment I come in and flip on the lights, the stalls stay a bit cleaner and I can just throw on a coat and some boots and get back inside quickly.

I also need to get better about doing some productive work with the donkey every night. She's weirdly decided that I am going to murder her the last couple of days, so we need to rebuild the trust while I figure out why she randomly decided I'm an axe murderer.

So that's my day. It's not as wonderful and glamorous as perhaps I once daydreamed, but I do love having my horses at home.