Monday, August 22, 2016

CTDS Fall Finale show

I've been super nervous about the show all week, because we've had nothing but rain since sometime last weekend. Trainer's arena is flooded, so I was stuck doing walk work on the road. Then Wednesday I got a bit desperate and called over to a place I know that has a covered and begged to be allowed to haul in. The owner agreed, so I got two "real" rides in on Wednesday and Thursday. They were kind of awful though - Wednesday Taran was sassy after doing nothing but walk work for a week, and Thursday he was clearly tired and sore from being sassy on Wednesday. 

This is how he felt about having to work after a week of walking.

I gave him a gram of bute on Thursday night after our ride, and then took him to the showgrounds Friday after work for a short (but nice) ride. I double-checked the rules and then gave him another gram of bute Friday night, just in case he was still sore.

And then Saturday he was a damn superstar.

This horse, you guys. He gets in the arena and he's all business. Sure, I have to ride, and I get the test I ride, but he's so workmanlike and he just gets the job done. I'm SO lucky to be on a horse with that kind of work ethic. 

He'd probably have an even better work ethic if I let go of my left rein sometimes and didn't bury him in the corners.

For whatever reason, he thought the sand footing, which tends to be deep when dry, was just THE BEST THING EVER after almost 20 inches of rain. He was so light and fluffy and through (and I was trying to ride him lightly off my hands), it was kind of amazing.

Look at me not getting left behind and keeping my hands down and letting him carry himself. For one stride at least. 

Also at the last minute I asked my dear darling husband to call my tests because I was super nervous. I luff him. 

We did 1-3 and Tr-3, which will be the tests we ride at championships. While they weren't stellar, they were steady, relaxed, and consistent. We scored a 67.7 on Tr-3 and a 66.7 on 1-3. I left points on the table with a lack of square halts, trot lengthenings that weren't, iffy canter transitions, and some figures that weren't quiiiiite the right shape (stupid shallow serpentines). But considering what our rides were like earlier in the week, his performance was stellar, and all the faults were 100% mine.

Tr-3. Sorry, did not upload in HD and it's super blurry.

1-3

There were only 2 riders in the AA division for both tests, so we managed first place in both. We also ended up reserve in both the First and Training level divisions, behind two pros. And I'm not going to lie, I LOVE the giant ribbons at this show!!! 

OH MY GOD HIS EARS ARE UP IN A PICTURE. Next time I need to put on a damn hat because hair nets are just not that attractive. It's always something.

FuzzyPony's shirt + my cover-up pants are basically the best combo ever.

Many thanks to FuzzyPony for letting me ride her hoss (oh and also bathing and braiding him), MC for all the pictures, and Hubby for the moral support and test reading. Y'all are the best!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

16th c. dressage trivia: Why we can't talk to our horses during dressage tests

If you're like me, you talk to your horse while you're riding. Lesson videos are often interspersed with "Good Boys!" and clucks, not to mention pats on the neck or wither scratches. But this is nothing new. The voice was considered to be a "help," a "cherishing," and a "correction" by the 16th century riding masters:
“[The voice,] which soundeth sharply and cheerfully, crying via, how, hey, and such like, adding a spirit and liveliness to the horse and lending a great help to all his motions.” Markham, p. 20
“... which being delivered smoothly and lovingly, as crying holla, so boy, there boy there, and such like, gives the Horse both cheerfulness of Spirit and a knowledge that he hath done well.” Markham p. 22 
“[or which] being delivered sharply and roughly, as ha villain, carridro, diablo, and such like threatenings, terrifieth the Horse and maketh him afraid to disobey.” Markham p. 21
Note to self: I shall be calling Taran "diablo" from here on out when he does something naughty, instead of "you little sh!t" or some other colorful modern term.

Also if you're like me, you find it difficult not to talk to your horse during tests. I often tell Taran "good boy!" under my breath down by A, where I'm sure I can't be heard by the judge - because I've gotten that awful -2 for "use of voice" on my test. Grrr.
“… and cherish him, laieng your hand upon his necke, and uttering some courteous voice.” Bedingfield p. 71
But why can't we use our voice in the test? I think that the reason may have actually originated as far back as the mid 1500s, or even earlier. Consider this little gem from Bedingfield's 1584 English translation of an Italian book written in 1560:

“And albeit the helps of the voice and spurre ought to be used at the beginning, when the horse learneth… both the one and the other may afterwards be discontinued. For… it is not seemelie thing in the presence of lookers on, to use so manie artificiall motions and affectatations…” Bedingfield p. 50
 
Cesare Fiaschi riding before an audience, 1564.

Using the voice and the spur was not seemly in the presence of onlookers. But even more important, if you were riding before an esteemed audience:
“…this help of the voice may not be used much, if you ride in presence of the Prince, or other great persons; chieflie when the horse is redie: for at such times and in such places it were unseemelie to open your mouth, and utter voices of diverse sounds and meaning.” Bedingfield p. 61
Obviously a dressage judge is not a prince, but the purpose of riding before each is the same - to show off your horse to the best of his ability. So if riders were not supposed to use their voice while riding for an audience almost 500 years ago, it is not surprising that we have this tradition in modern sport dressage.

Kinda cool, huh?

Bedingfield, Thomas. The Art of Riding. London, 1584.
Markham, Gervase. The Compleat Horseman. London, 1593.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Platinum Performance supplement review

Normally I don't do supplements, but earlier this summer I was getting a little desperate to bring Taran to the next level strength-wise. He's not a hot, energetic horse by any stretch of the imagination, and his increased workload often left me feel like we were out of gas pretty early in our ride. I tried switching his feed from TC Lite to TC Senior, but he didn't gain any weight on that, nor did he eat it particularly well (he's weird?). So we went back to Lite, and I did a little research on supplements, and decided to give Platinum Performance a go.

Handy storage bin.

One of the things I really don't like about the vast majority of supplements is the amount of fillers they have in them. After dealing with a horse that was super sensitive to changes in feed, you start reading labels and steering away from anything that's got "extras" in it, like wheat middlings or soy (yes, I know TC Lite has these things in it, and we're considering cutting that out entirely). Platinum Performance doesn't contain any of the things that get my antennae up, so that was a huge plus for me.

After chatting online with the PP folks (who provide FANTASTIC customer service, btw), I decided to go with the standard Platinum Performance Equine supplement, with Healthy Weight (Flax oil) to add more calories. I opted to get it in the little packs for ease of feeding.

I feel like I'm wasting packaging, but DAMN these things are handy.

And this little cutout thing makes them so easy to open, even with gloves on.

Shortly after I started feeding PP to Taran, we realized that Brego would need to have a hoof wall resection. My vet recommended loading him up on a good hoof supplement, and I decided to go with PP again, and add their hoof supplement to the basic supplement. Brego's been on that for about 70 days so far. While I was at it, I decided to put Paddy on the basic supplement too. Because fair's fair, right?

All three horses LOVE the supplement. It's a dry powder, and there's a lot of it, which I was a little worried about. However, they all lick their bowls clean. A+ for palatability. Taran isn't fond of the oil, and it's a little messy to feed - but then, so is any oil.

It really is a lot of powder.

Here's what I've noticed about each:

Paddy has not shown any noticeable change while on PP. He's always had great feet, a slick coat, and tons of dapples, and he still does. He's slimmer, but that's because he's getting more work. I don't feel like the supplement is doing anything visible for him. However, the ingredients list is better than TC Lite, and it costs about the same to feed per day. I may end up discontinuing the TC Lite entirely and instead giving a handful of alfalfa pellets to go with the supplement - which is actually what PP recommends.

For Brego, I have not seen a marked change in his hoof growth or quality of hoof, which is what we were hoping for. However, although he's always had a great coat, the dude is now like a piece of satin, despite my best attempts at neglect. Seriously, he is so damn shiny, he just GLEAMS. He hasn't had a bath in FOREVER and no coat care products are ever used on him, but this is how shiny he is after a little curry and brushing:

Seriously. And he's super soft too. 

Unfortunately, we're not going for a gorgeous satiny coat here, we're going for better feet. However, I realized that I made a mistake when ordering and didn't get enough of the hoof supplement added, based on his ginormous size. I've ordered more though, and hopefully in higher doses we'll see a bigger difference. So the jury is still out on this one.

For Taran... well, greys generally aren't shiny, so I wasn't expecting much of a change there. However, he definitely has a lot more gas in the tank, and he's filled out quite a lot more, despite the only other change in his feed being the addition of one flake of alfalfa per day. Granted, he's also been getting quite a few trainer rides, so that probably helps a lot with the muscling, but I still feel like the Platinum Performance has helped him bulk up significantly without pouring a lot of processed grain in him. That's definitely a win in my book!

Beefcake

So, bottom line? It's an expensive supplement no doubt, and for some horses that are easy keepers with great feet and Naturally Gorgeous Haffie Hair (TM), it might not be worth it - or it might be, if you can discontinue using any other hard feeds. However, if you want horse horse to look like you've been grooming him for days when you haven't, or if you're looking to help a horse with energy and fitness without lots of hard feed, I would definitely give it a try.

Monday, August 15, 2016

10 Things About Living in Germany

Surprise - hubby and I were in Germany for the month of July. He's got a fellowship at a consortium near Bremen, in northern Germany, and my job was kind enough to let me tag along for the month and work "from home".

Other than being horribly, HORRIBLY allergic to something (seriously, I got an eye infection it was so bad), our time in Germany was amazing. We had a beautiful apartment in a small-ish town, got to do some traveling and sight-seeing, and even managed to squeeze some pretty incredible riding in. But here were a few of the highlight about living in Germany:

1. The weather there is AWESOME. Highs in the low 70s every day, with low humidity. It's usually near 100 back home in Austin, so was paradise. I only wish we could have brought the horses!

2. We brought too much luggage. Because when you bring jousting armor (yes, seriously), it's always too much luggage.

I swear we left most of our house back in Austin.

3. Beer and wine more important than water. Note the contents of our cabinet in our apartment. Red wine glasses, white wine glasses, champagne/sparkling wine glasses, beer glasses... and two water glasses.

Priorities are clear.

4. The trains are super fast. And ALWAYS on time.

That's 125 mph for the rest of us.

5. Public restrooms are a serious business. You often have to pay for them, or get a key. Or in the case of Starbucks in Bremen (I was desperate for a chai, no shame), you needed the key code that was on your receipt:

Door to the ladies'.

6. There Are Slugs Everywhere. Like, huge, giant, slime-trail slugs. I don't even know why I'm telling you this, but there are slugs.

This dude was like 6 inches long and an inch thick. Gah.

7. You must ONLY cross in a crosswalk, and ONLY when the light says you can. They are very serious about this and you can apparently be arrested if you do not follow the crossing laws. You must also walk on the red brick sidewalk, and never on the grey brick sidewalk, because the grey brick sidewalk is for bikes and you will be run over if you walk there.

Don't mess it up or you will get yelled at or squashed.

8. Everyone buys their bread fresh daily. Which means I needed to walk down the hill to the bakery to get rolls for lunch sammies. And possibly something delicious for dessert.

I really tried to save some for my husband, I swear I did.

9. Buying boots is an Experience. When we went to the boot seller, the guy measured my husband 9 ways to Sunday. He then ordered the style of Cavallos hubby prefers, but because we have his measurements, the boots will be custom made to those specifications. Once they arrive, the cobbler will make additional adjustments as needed. 

Hubby is basically getting custom boots. And while I LOVE my Cavallos, I am jealous.

10. Audis and Mercedes pulling horse trailers. I find it kind of hilarious considering the size of the rigs we have here in the US, but when you factor in the cost of gas and the fact that one generally doesn't haul more than an hour or two, it makes sense to have a more efficient setup.

Maybe I should trade in my F-350?

We're back now, and although it was a great experience (more on that soon), I'm glad to be home. We both missed all our critters, although we definitely did not miss the Texas summer!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Brego Wrestling

Today is 17 days post-surgery, and Brego's doing great. Earlier this week, we took him off bute and let him have a bigger turnout area (haha, it's like 12x12 plus his stall). Unfortunately, the additional movement caused some soreness, so he's back in his stall with bute on board. It's frustrating because the best way to get a hoof to grow quickly is movement, but keeping him comfortable and ensuring the hoof grows correctly (if really really slowly) is the most important thing.

Right now the biggest challenge I have (other than keeping Mr. SassyMcGiantPants from running me over - stud chains make for such POLITE Bregos!) is wrapping his foot every few days. He's a good boy for it, but goodness that is one big foot and there are a lot of steps! Plus, if he wants to put his foot down at a really inopportune time, I have to really hang on and do my best not to let him. Thusfar I've won all the wrestling matches, but we both know he's only humoring me.

So, what does it take to wrap a Brego? (warning, one somewhat squicky pic at step 4, but really, it looks so much better!)

Step 1: Acquire one Brego. Try to resist when he begs for treats. Give him a handful anyway because he's so cute and you feel sorry for him.

Step 2. Collect all your supplies (vetwrap, abdominal pad, gauze, ela$ticon) and make a duct-tape boot. This requires about half a roll of Gorilla Tape, because obviously Bregos can't use normal duct tape.

Step 3. Clean the floor as best as you can, then remove all the old wrappings. I bought bandage scissors to do this and seriously, you need some if you don't have any. Here I've removed everything except the gauze.

Step 4: Gently clean the area with saline-soaked gauze. Take pics and send to your vet. According to the vet, this looks "awesome"! And it no longer totally grosses me out either.

Step 5. Pack about 40 gauze pads in the resection site, slap a 5x9 abdominal pad over that, then use an entire roll of vetwrap to hold it all on. His foot is so big, I take the first two wraps of vetwrap while it's on the ground, and then pick it up and wrap it the rest of the way. You have to do this all at once so sorry, no pics of the gauze and stuff. 

Step 6: Pick up his foot and apply the duct-tape boot to the bottom, then fold the sides up and stick them down. Neatness doesn't count much here.


Step 7: Wrap that entire sucker with ela$ticon, being sure to get it well up on his pastern so that no shavings can get in. This is usually the part where he's done with me messing with his foot and we have our little wrestling match. I won this time. 

Step 8: Give the Brego all the cookies!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

16th c. dressage trivia: riding with uneven stirrups


One of the more odd references I've found while reading 16th century riding manuals is riding with the left stirrup longer than the right:
“...it is the opinion of some, that to breake lances it behooveth a man at armes to have his right stirrop shorter than the other by two fingers..." Bedingfield p. 77
“It is not also to be disallowed, though to fight in combate or turnie, the left stirrop be made longer somewhat than the other: Bicause the rider is to emploie his right arme, and turne on the right side, in respect whereof the left stirrop would be longer.” Bedingfield p. 78

You can see why you might want a longer left stirrup - jousters tend to lean a bit left into the hit, and then get rocked to the right (as my husband shows here) on a really solid hit. A longer left stirrup might allow you to keep your weight more to the left and possibly avoid getting rocked - or even unhorsed!

Having mentioned that he has heard that some people recommend riding uneven, Bedingfield then points out why he thinks one should not ride with uneven stirrups. He reasons that it is contrary to nature, and that it is not  "comelie or justlie" - that is to say, it does not look good nor is it correct [just]. 
“Who so ever rideth with one stirrop longer than the other, doth seeme therein to proceed contrarie to nature, having made man two legs of one just length. Therefore if you make one stirrop shorter than the other, it is not possible you can sit so comelie or justlie on horsebacke, as if they were of equall length: or how can you use your spurs commodiouslie or evenlie? … Besides that, how can you with your bodie so conveniently help your horse in his doings? [If] you do not sit with your bodie just in the saddle, or rest your selfe equallie upon the stirrops, justlie counterpeised?” Bedingfield p. 76
He even tries to reason why one might think that riding with one stirrup longer than the other might be useful, but quickly points out that sitting unevenly causes the rider to commit all sorts of faults. He concludes that keeping one's weight evenly in both stirrups is the best option:
“… although it seemeth that leaning more on the one than the other stirrop, and that thrusting forward of the one shoulder, doth make the man stronger… yet it is certeine, that thereby he is the more apt to commit the errors beforesaid, by sitting loose in and uneven in his stirrops… [and] staieng his body upon both stirrops equally, [he] shall be better prepared both to assile and receive the incounter of his adversaire.” Bedingfield p. 77-78
Obviously the guy on the left was not prepared to "assile and receive" his opponent, but we'll never know if it was because his stirrups were uneven. Also, note that the guy on the right is wearing a flower on his head.

So the next time someone mentions to you that your stirrups are uneven, you can tell them you're practicing for fighting in combat or a tournament. Just make sure it's your left one that's lower!

References:

Bedingfield, Thomas. The Art of Riding. London, 1584. Bedingfield was a Gentleman Pensioner to Queen Elizabeth I of England. He translated this book from the original Italian version (by Claudio Corte) at the behest of Henry Mackwilliams, another Gentleman Pensioner.