Sorry honey, it’s good for you

With the sensitive skin of her breed (Andalusian), Star can tend to suffer from skin irritations and fungal infections very easily.

It is important that we keep her and her tack clean and be vigilant about quickly treating anything that gets started.

We’re in the midst of some heat related late summer facial fungal thing that requires constant careful face washing and treatment.

Oh joy.

Star is not enthusiastic about face washing:

“Oh, the indignity! I thought you loved me, mom. Apparently not. This is HORRID. You will have to make this up to me with carrots. Lots of carrots. ICK!!! It’s cold and wet.”

 

After washing daily with a clean washcloth and water, I apply a product with tea tree oil to fight the fungus. This isn’t the exact product, but it is similar: https://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=0d3a67de-c330-43ac-860e-98e0681b63d6

It’s a constant battle and the best cure is prevention: watching to be sure all tack, halters, and blankets are clean and fit properly so that there are no rubs. I’ve learned from experience that fine hair on Andalusians rubs very easily and then you have an entry point for the fungus to start.

Here’s to a beautiful coat and no more fungus!!!

Star just in from turnout with a dusty face and looking like she has mule ears (she doesn’t) …but still so cute!

IMG_9621 2.jpeg

Back in the saddle at last

IMG_9647.jpeg

It has been almost six months since I’ve ridden Star. 

Back in late March, Star decided she did not like her neighbor. Kicking the pipe corral fence separating them seemed like a good plan (to her).

Result: Bad news for us. A significant hematoma (bruise), swelling that would not resolve for many months, a small (fortunately insignificant) lower suspensory branch tear.

Many, many months of icing, walking, wrapping, lasering, ultrasounding the leg to check healing, etc.

The good news is that the prognosis was always excellent (full recovery). The bad news is that it took forever for that swelling to resolve. Horse legs don’t have very good circulation and she really whacked the leg hard (foolish mare). Healing took a long time.

Everything was complicated by us being in the middle of moving from Northern California to San Diego, CA. Star stayed at the rehab center longer than I would have liked, simply because I didn’t want to move her twice and I knew she was safe there.

Two weeks ago, she arrived safe and sound in San Diego. Oh joy! And I rode her two days later. My, she felt much wider than I remembered.

IMG_9652.jpeg

My daughter visited a few days later and took pictures. Star and I are both out of shape, but we’re getting our groove back on and it feels so good to be back together again.

IMG_9651.jpeg

Super Organize for Superior Tack Storage!

It started with this convenient rolling cart so I wouldn’t have to carry my heavy saddle.

IMG_0458.jpg

Load it up with the Saddle, brushes underneath, hang some things on it, and away you go! Everything in one trip, so efficient. All things in their places.IMG_0457.jpg

I love my personalized “Saddle Mattress” protecting the saddle flocking from nasty hard metal racks, by the way. Every saddle should have one.

So it started with the rolling cart.

But things soon got much more complicated when people at the barn said this to me recently…

“Watch out for snakes in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. They sometimes come into the barn and into the tack cubbies. They can get in through the smallest of holes or cracks.

And they climb up and hide in your brush box or hang on the hooks among your bridles and surprise you…”

I shudder even now as I write these words. I have a real and true PHOBIA of snakes. It doesn’t matter that they reassured me that no rattlesnakes had ever been seen, only the “good” kind of snake.

I knew that if I ever found a snake hanging on a hook in my tack cubby, I would never be able to return to the barn.

Seriously. Call me a wimp, but I’ve had mice run out of it and across my feet and I’ve simply yipped a bit and stomped more next time to warn them I’m coming. but snakes?

Snakes are a deal killer for me. I can’t even put a picture of one in this article to illustrate it for you. Nope. I just hate looking at pictures of them. 

Enter my savior, my husband Bill: the Engineer and brilliant Anti-Snake Designer. He prepared to do battle with the warped doors of my tack cubby to seal them against all possible incursions of snakes – and mice, too, while we’re at it.

Fear no more, he said, this would be a SNAKE FREE ZONE. Weatherstripping was applied to every door surface, and a bolt to the outside so that the doors are securely fastened shut. No more holes or cracks for things to slither or crawl (shudder) through.IMG_0464.jpg

Regard the mini tackroom: A door for hanging things (note that beautiful snake proof weather-stripping!), hooks on the wall, and plastic storage boxes keep things dust free, organized, and mouse proof just in case a mouse does chew its way in somehow. The rolling saddle cart fits in the other side, although you have to take the handle off to fit it in. Well, we had certain constraints we had to work around.IMG_0460.jpg

A place for everything, and everything in its place. As you can imagine…I have a lot of other tack that lives in the garage at home. This has room for the daily essentials.

It may be tiny, but it’s my little (tack room) kingdom.

AND NO SNAKES. Not now, not ever.

IMG_0461.jpg

Forward into the contact: a continuing journey

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 5.07.58 PM.png

Horses are right or left handed, just as we are. They tend to lean on one rein (usually the left) and to be harder to bend in that direction.  

Starlight and I recently attended a Jane Weatherwax clinic where we worked on riding forward into both reins evenly. While it sounds like a simple concept, it’s one that we’re still working on as we train to show Third Level this year.

How hard could it be to keep the contact even? HA!

Looking at the “bad illustration” below, you can see Star is over bent in her neck (too much inside hand), resistant in her jaw (can you blame her?), a bit braced and hollow in her back and hence her neck is a bit high and braced as well.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 5.13.46 PM.png

This is not a pretty picture.

Solution? Lower the neck, give with the inside hand, straighten the outside shoulder (don’t let it drift), make sure that inside leg stays at the girth if you are circling right (as I think I might be about to) and use your body to turn, NOT your reins. So simple, right? Oh, if only it were that easy. And ride forward to engage the haunches (engine)!

Star’s desire to lean on the left rein is made worse by my own decades long tendency to be rigid with my left wrist. My whole left side tends to have problems: left leg wants to creep up, hip collapses on that side, head tilts that way sometimes. Oh dear.

Star and I have worked out a co-dependent relationship: she will lean on the left rein and I will carry it for her with my stiff left hand.

Only I really don’t want to do that any more so it’s time to change the rules of this game.

Horses, God bless ’em, have long memories but also plenty of forgiveness (most of them). You can change the rules and stop hanging on that rein and pretty soon, the horse will start to carry himself as he figures out a new balance. Yes, this does actually work, I have felt it!

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 7.35.42 PM.png

Star demonstrates haunches-in. Note the mud-coated left foreleg (from kneeling to reach for tender spring grass under fence). My inside (left) leg should be further forward, on the girth, and my left shoulder could be a tad further back to be perpendicular to the fence.

Use suppling exercises such as:

  • shoulder-in
  • haunches-in
  • 10 or 15 meter circles
  • leg yield to shoulder in
  • shoulder in to half-pass

These are useful exercises for strengthening the horse and teaching balance.

Important: don’t hang on that inside rein!

Giving periodically with the inside rein checks that the horse is not depending on it for balance and remains on the aids.

The problem is remembering to keep the inside rein light along with all the other 2000 things we have to remember. And encourage the horse to move FORWARD (but don’t rush!) into the connection…

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 5.08.44 PM.png

Forward into connection with a nice outside rein connection

And after the rains…

The seemingly endless rains of January and February brought lots of green grass to the hills of Northern California.

The trails beckon enticingly, but the hilly terrain means that they are still treacherously slippery in places.

IMG_0450.jpg

The view from the top of Starlight’s hill. Makes you want to go explore those trails, doesn’t it? There are COWS in them thar hills, pardner!

We need a few weeks of warm, dry weather before Star and I brave the herds of cows and head out on the trails.

If you look very closely at the picture below, you will see a flock of geese is checking out one of our outdoor arenas. There is a small lake in it from the latest downpour.

IMG_0449.jpg

To my surprise today, a large flock of enormous Turkeys blocked the road out of the Ranch today. They went up on the hill as I grabbed my phone. Can you imagine what a horse might make of them? They look small in the picture but they were about three feet tall.

These were huge turkeys (no really!), exclaiming “gobble, gobble, gobble“, just as turkeys should! Wish I could have caught one with the tail fanned.

IMG_0456.jpg

Poppies! California poppies. Of course, whenever my husband and I see them, we hark back to the Wizard of Oz and the witch saying, “Poppies…poppies will make them sleep…”

IMG_0455.jpg

Meanwhile, Star is happy as a pig in mud – emphasis on “in mud – to bask in the sun. She seems to enjoy applying a light coating of mud.

Right now she is the oddest color I call “Hyena” since she is dappled brown/black/dun. 

IMG_0448.jpg

Yes, this used to be a clean blanket…and the horse was clean yesterday when I last saw her.

Soon she will be a gorgeous shiny black…for a few weeks, until her dedication to sunbathing bleaches her to a nice shiny dark bay for the summer.

Awww…look at that sweet, mud caked face.IMG_0447.jpg

Starlight moves to Arriba Vista Ranch

Starlight has moved to a beautiful place of rolling green hills, trails, nice arenas, and she even gets to live next door to her half-brother. How fun is that? Yes, they get along well, no sibling rivalry (yet).

IMG_0418.jpg

The view from Starlight’s stall. You can ride those hills, and we will…

There are a lot of PREs (Pura Raza Espanol) horses here and some of them are half-siblings or cousins of Star’s.

IMG_0415.jpg

“Could we have lunch now? Or a carrot?”

Wouldn’t you know, we had a major cold snap the day I moved, with rain coming in the day after. Oh joy. Star was very full of herself and more of a handful than usual, but we managed. That chilly air on her freshly clipped skin felt so shivery, it was hard to be well behaved as she usually is…Here she is, wearing her new Rambo blanket.

IMG_0411.jpg

Above is the first arena I attempted to ride in today. It was a bit too open and breezy for a horse who was overly frisky today…so we went into the indoor arena. We’ll try outdoors again another day and it will be fine. Below is another arena for another day…So many nice places to ride, and I can’t wait to get out on the trail. Oh what joy! Trails restore my soul and Star likes them, too.

IMG_0413.jpg

New sand was going into the smaller covered arena today (yes, there are TWO covered arenas here), and I thought these birds wheeling in the sky looked lovely. IMG_0414.jpg

 

I think we will be happy here.

 

The miraculously relaxing blanket

Back on Track products have been a favorite of mine for a couple of years, ever since a trainer recommended the back brace after I hurt my back. My husband and I both use the back brace whenever we have some back pain and it works like a champ to sooth, ease pain, and provide mild support.

IMG_0401 (1).jpg

Starlight trying on her new Back on Track mesh sheet before being tacked up. “Hmm,” she says. “Seems to fit well. Nice and snuggly.”

I put the blanket on her to try it for size, and WOW, instant transformation from suspicious – “what are you dressing me in now?” to “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s kinda nice…”

Back on Track products are woven with ceramic particles which reflect the body’s own heat, providing soothing and therapeutic benefits of long wave infrared radiation. http://www.backontrackproducts.com/How-Back-on-Track-Products-Work-22.html

IMG_0403.jpgHere are the results of a study done: http://www.backontrackproducts.com//Clinical-Studies-14.html#horses

The products are machine washable (line dry) and the therapeutic properties do not wash or wear out. This product is not only relaxing, but it will actually help her back, shoulder, and hind quarter muscles have better blood flow and thus recover more quickly from exercise

But back to Starlight. Within seconds of putting on the blanket, her eyes half closed, her neck dropped, and she got a far away look…it was the same look I get as I sink into the perfect temperature bubble bath with a pile of favorite magazines at my elbow to flip through desultorily. BLISS.

IMG_0399.jpg

“You may leave me now, while I commune with my blanket. I think I’ll just catch 40 winks.”