Monday, December 30, 2013

Memory Monday: Like A Fish Out of Water

Last winter, I had a really enjoyable task set before me: I had the pleasure of helping a friend search for her first horse.  I love horse searching because I like the chase of a good find, but more importantly, if I am helping someone else search, then I am not doing the actual buying.

Very good indeed, especially from the point of view of my pocketbook.

So last winter, the goal was to find an eventer and I dutifully sorted through all kinds of classifieds, memory of random horses I knew, and more.  I had found a couple promising leads in a nearby state so one day, I got off early from work and off we went.

The gelding of interest was a seven or eight year old Thoroughbred.  I don't really remember the details, except he was supposed to be a nice mover, experienced at jumping, and was in the expected price range of an eventer.

As I found out, there were several surprises on this trip. 

The first one was when we pulled into the barn.  We had been to several other barns already and I have been in a plethora of facilities over the years.  However, this one was different.  It looked like a movie set with perfectly groomed paths, plants, and the rare well groomed and blanketed horse standing in a all weather paddock.  Never mind, that it was the middle of winter in the Midwest. 

We were escorted into the barn which was heated to a temperature warm enough that I felt compelled to peel off the five extra winter layers I was wearing.  Then I noticed the custom artwork on the walls of the barn.  This was the first barn I've ever been in with leather furniture and artwork in the barn aisles.  It was absolutely magnificent. 

And I was more than outclassed at that point in my work clothes complete with barn jacket and winter boots. Nevertheless, we continued on as my friend tried out the horse.  I made myself cozy in the enormous indoor arena, settling like a lizard under the heat lamp.  This was also the first heated indoor I've ever been in that had heat lamps available for spectators.  Amazing.

Another spectator made himself comfortable next to me, as he watched a lady school a upper level dressage horse in the indoor.  He kindly told me that the attached lounge had a Keurig and bagels if I was hungry.  Well, I do share an insatiable love of coffee and food, so I wandered in to look at the surroundings.

As expected, the lounge was majestic.  Leather furniture, beautiful artwork, carefully placed magazines made for another picture perfect image.  Were there really horses on this property? 

I carefully stirred my coffee and enjoyed flipping through a few magazines.  I was a little surprised when another person stopped in, introducing herself politely and asking me if I was capable of using a Keurig or if I'd ever seen one before.  I was a little surprised.  I wasn't Keurig class that day.  :) 

I do actually own and use a Keurig at home.

That aside, I made myself back at home under the heat lamp, basking away happily while videoing the bay Thoroughbred.  My lizard like happiness was once again interjected by another visitor asking me if I needed help finding someone and if I had something to do. 

Note to self: dress code is a little more formal than I had expected.

Back to the Thoroughbred.  He ended up being a bit of a strong horse.  Maybe more like a runaway nut.  In such a pristine environment, he was a difficult ride and seemed out of place.

On the positive side, I did happen to see the cutest short stirrup pony.  I was informed by the other spectator that it was one of the top ones in the country.  Good thing I have good taste in coffee and ponies.

My curiosity got the best of me when we were back driving home.  How much for such grandeur? 

$1200 a month, not including extras.  


Back to the semi feral life for me.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Five Ways to Frustrate Barn Staff

1.  Refuse to move horse from cross ties when equipment needs to be moved through the aisle to muck stalls.  Stalls need to get cleaned right?  Horse can go to the other aisle.  It's a thirty second walk.

2.  When heavy equipment is being moved through the aisle, also a cue to move your horse.  Not to lead more in and cross tie them and go in and warm up in the tack room.  Barn staff are cold too and wouldn't mind finishing up work.

3.  During turnout or turn-in times, also a good idea to not hang out in the cross ties or to act surprised that that horse that is always at the end of the row...needs to go to the end of the row right through where your horse is parked.

4.  If you can't follow or don't know how to do follow up care from a horse's injury, it is awesome to ask.  Together it will be figured out.  Barn staff (usually) love caring for your horses and don't want to see them injured from improper bandages or incorrect injections or so forth.  Even though the staff don't pay the bills, there is often a lot of emotional investment.

5.  Don't say thank you if there is a major problem or issue.  It's a small thing, but after an hour of walking a colicing horse on a cold night, or fixing fence because a naughty horse destroyed it again or so forth.  Simple thanks is a major thing that is often forgotten. 

Anyone else have some frustrations to share?  I know that I didn't always realize how some small things became major frustrations until I was on the other side of the fence so to speak!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Semi Ferals and myself

And for those thinking of their equine friends on this day as well, here is something to read. 

The Horses Prayer
 (Author Unknown)

Feed me, water and care for me, and when the days work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean dry bed and a stall wide enough for me to lie down in comfort.

Always be kind to me.  Talk to me.  Your voice often means as much to me as the reins.  Pet me sometimes, that I may serve you the more gladly and learn to love you.

Do not jerk the reins, and do not whip me when going uphill.  Never strike, beat or kick me when I do not understand what you want, but give me a chance to understand you.

Watch me; and if I fail to do your bidding, see if something is wrong with my harness or feet.

I cannot tell you when I am thirsty so give me clean, cool water often.  I cannot tell you in words when I am sick, so watch me, that by signs you may know my condition.

Give me all possible shelter from the hot sun, and put a blanket on me, not when I am working, but when standing in the cold.  Never put a frosty bit in my mouth; first warm it by holding it a moment in your hands.

I try to carry you and your burdens without a murmur, and wait patiently for you long hours of the day or night.  Without the power to choose my shoes or path, I sometimes fall on the hard pavements which I have often prayed might be of such a nature as to give me a safe and sure footing.

Remember that I must be ready at any moment to lose my life in your service.

And finally, O Master, when my useful strength is gone, do not turn me out to starve or freeze, or sell me to some cruel owner to be slowly tortured or starved to death; but do thou, my Master, take my life in the kindest way.  And your God will reward you here and hereafter.  You will not consider me irreverent if I ask this in the name of HIM, who was born in a stable.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Memory Monday: Another Good Horse

I tend to write as if I am accident prone.  Or just lucky.

And now that I think about it, that is probably the case.  

It was summer.  The herd was in a far off pasture filled with several steep hills.  I don't remember why I chose the horse I did.  I think it was because he was new to the herd and easy to catch.  The older ones tend to get a little smarter and go hide in the trees instead of waltzing up to you like "Hey, you got a carrot?"

But I do remember scrambling up and down some of those hills.  The horses were being obnoxious and were more like herding cats that day instead of herding cattle.  I could see his bright copper ears perked forward.  He enjoyed this job.  I was happy to see him settling into the herd.  

A few gnats settled down on his ears and he shook his head.  Oh crap.  This gelding just had one of those heads that crownpiece would slide right off.  And off it slid. I froze for a second to see what would happen.  He ambled along, just doing his job.  I waited to see how long he would hold the bit in his mouth.  He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was pretty much free to do the whole Man From Snow River Impersonation without any say from me.

But he didn't.  He was a good boy and quietly stopped.  I managed to reach forward and wrangled the bridle back onto his head and finished the job.

Note to self: different bridle for that horse.

Secondary note to self: How on Earth do I manage to have these experiences?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Streptococcus Equi ssp equi

Streptococci.  Sounds like an impressive word. 

Most people recognize it by it's layman term of the disease of which it is associated in equines: strangles.

But what about it?  Many of us have seen horses with strangles and know the ideas behind quarantining new horses, bastard strangles, the debate on the vaccines...

But let's talk about the bacteria itself.  Why not learn more about the basics and then sound really clever when talking with other horsefolks? 

First, it's a bacteria.  This is cool because it means that it can be susceptible to antibiotics.

I think it's kind of a cool bacteria because it forms chains or these cute little pairs.  It is a gram positive bacteria, so it takes up crystal violet, that purple stain that many people remember from their biology lab days...

Positively adorable

That purple dye is taken up by the thick peptidoglycan layer of the cell wall.  This layer helps hold the cell together, so to speak.  This link has an awesome way of explaining it and its function.

So, awesome.  It's gram positive, likes to hang out in chains, and now what. 

Different antibiotics target different elements of bacteria.  Some antibiotics are bacteriocidal, as in they actively kill targeted bacteria.  Sounds great, but sometimes killing too many bacteria at once is a negative.  Some antibiotics are bacteriostatic, where they just prevent the bacteria from replicated.  A little slower way to go about things, but good to help prevent shock from overwhelming the immune system with dead bacteria.  Some antibiotics work better on gram positive bacteria; other are more successful on gram negative.

So let's say we are looking at this Streptococcus and all it's gram positive glory with its peptidoglycan layer.  Perhaps we should look at a way to interfere with this protective shielding.

This of course is the basis of an antibiotic which is very commonly (and excessively) used: Penicillin.

Penicillin binds to an enzyme used by the bacteria to try and rebuild/regrow their cell wall.  They cannot successfully do so and subsequently, the cell wall is shed and the bacteria will die.  

Not to evolve this into the treatment of Strangles, but typically, healthy horses do fine without jumping the gun and running for antibiotics.

Interestingly, I was reading a study talking about trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (SMZ), where it did not indicate one way or another that it efficiently or effectively worked against S. equi spp equi.  Just food for thought.

But in case someone wanted to know a little more about the bug behind the Strangles name, here you go.  There's obviously a lot of literature and a lifetime could be spent thinking about it, but I think it's worthwhile learning a little bit more about common bacteria, viruses, antibiotics, and vaccines used in the equine world. 

Then again I'm wearing a shirt that says "I heart Nerds" so that pretty much defines my position.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Memory Monday: A Lucky Day

It seemed to be a very unlucky week indeed.  The red filly had choked the day previous and I had the vet out since I get a little paranoid about respiratory inhalation during choke and the subsequent infections.

But fortunately by the time SuperVet came out, the choke had resolved and her breathing was clear.  Good news indeed.  Apparently I just had a super talented horse that was choking on hay/pasture (read: special).

The following day, I went out to feed her the evening grain to watch her chew.  I had her in the barn eating, when I noticed the semi feral mare laying down.  During dinner time.

This was a problem.

My father was out with me, so he went and brought her in and I realized she was colicing.  She had in the past, an occasional gas colic, usually from her skill of consuming food in massive quantities in a very short time.  She is the only horse I've ever seen eat a bale of hay in an hour.  Seriously.  More than once.

So this time, I thought it was probably another gas colic.  She looked like a beached whale or at least a ten month pregnant Arabian mare. 

Another individual at the barn is a vet tech and took a quick listen to her gut and we realized that there were no gut sounds.  Cool.  I had already called the vet, given banamine per orders, and was walking her as she was a little uncomfortable.  At least with banamine on board, she wasn't trying to lay and roll.

Her gums began to pale.  Her head dropped to the levels that would make any western pleasure Quarter Horse proud.  She stopped caring about walking over the nefarious garden hose/snake. 

I don't exactly know when I realized this was something else.  That this was no longer simple.  I called the vet again, who was on her way.  It was late on a Friday evening (of course).  

Verdict: Still hydrated, no organized gut sounds, pale gums, and apparent large colon displacement.  The unfortunate thing is this is usually surgical.  The Semi Feral Mare is nicknamed this for a reason.  Mostly because things like extended stall rest (or even stalling post hock injections) don't go over well.  Staying in one place doesn't necessarily go over well. 

I didn't think she would ever tolerate surgery and the post care, in addition to the obvious finances of it all.  So we decided to go ahead and try the "bumpy trailer ride" route.  Sometimes a jarring trailer ride can displace enough gas or shift enough to cause everything to revert to its proper place.  This of course, required the mare to load onto the trailer.  Despite the fact she was feeling quite dopey, she wasn't particularly interested in loading onto a pitch black trailer at nine thirty at night.

Reason number 765 I love my vet.  She stayed and helped me load that mare on the trailer.  I can load a horse, but sometimes, it's just plain helpful to have someone else.

One bumpy trailer ride later, I had a slightly irritated horse, but still no reduction in gas or manure passing.  Damn.

By this time, the superfriend J had arrived.  I was reaching a point when I realized this was going to be very ugly indeed and despite being involved in the veterinary industry for a while, when it's my own animals, emotions are certainly at play!  J was definitely a good rock that night.

The vet tech friend stopped home and brought sleeping bags so we didn't freeze to death and a couple drinks to ease my nerves.  ;)  We settled into a routine of sleeping in the barn aisle and walking, chasing, lunging, and pretty much anything every hour or so to see if anything would make a difference.

I think it was about midnight when I pulled up her gums and I saw they were red.  I tried mentally to prepare for the worst.  I didn't see the end for this, but at least with enough drugs on board, the mare was fairly comfortable.  She wasn't rolling, she wasn't upset.  She just stood there and stared at us.  

J decided to go get the giant horse soccer ball.  A few years previous, I had attended a clinic involving the soccer ball and it became apparent that is the one thing of which this horse was deathly afraid.  She had run backwards so quickly, she actually ended up laying down.  So perhaps, the soccer ball could scare her out of death.

We went ahead and were kicking it around the arena.  One end of the arena was a little wet and slippery from where an individual always dumped her water buckets.  J went ahead and kept kicking the ball and the mare slipped hard on that slick spot.  She slid across part of the arena, acquiring impressive road rash.  She stood up, shook herself off a bit, and literally began to deflate.  

It had happened.  Somehow in that fall, she was replaced the displacement and moved enough gas around.  She brightened up.  I felt a flutter of hope.  Could it be?

The night was still long and cold.  Like clockwork, we woke up and peeked at her in the stall at short intervals during the night.  As dawn broke and she got restless and pacey from being inside, I knew that she was certainly feeling better.

What a lucky day for a mare.  Who knows how long things may have progressed before being spotted if I hadn't been there checking on the filly's choke?  Don't know, but like to think that early intervention and care (and a slick spot) made a difference.  :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What A Sassy Day

Some days are just sassy days.  Things are proving to be a little more difficult than originally expected.

I did barn chores today, which was fine.  The horses were all well behaved, which is always a plus.  Sometimes, as we head into winter, some horses forget manners and start to be dolts in hand: rearing, striking, occasionally pushing, and pulling.  As just a stablehand, I don't really want to be responsible for training said beast and let alone be accused of hurting furface when he is striking and accordingly gets shanked, backed up, or what have you as a consequence, but sometimes it happens.  But at least that didn't happen today!

But what did happen was the water was out of commission.  The spigot that turns the water on and off was shut off/cranked too tightly by someone, crushing the washer and some other apparatus inside that keeps it from leaking.  So this morning, the barn owner tried to fix it.  Unfortunately the repair kit for said spigot didn't include the properly sized replacements.


Usually, I like to have all the chores done in the morning if possible.  Turning out horses, cleaning stalls, filling water troughs, dumping and refilling inside buckets, putting hay/grain in stalls, and so forth.  The whole water detail was sidelined.  Also a major bummer was a different spigot on the property was busted, so when the original spigot was fixed, water was going to have to be bucketed out to fill an outside trough.

Fortunately, spigot was fixed.  Buckets were filled.  It was late in the afternoon and started getting cold again, but all was well. Just an unexpected deviation from what my original plan was, so instead of spending approximately five hours at the barn, I was there about eight.  But that's how it goes.

When I finally finished doing all of the PM type turn-in and so forth, I waffled on whether or not I wanted to ride.  I haven't ridden since the temperatures plummeted, so I think it's been about a week and a half.  Or maybe even two weeks.  I did, however, have another person at the barn, so I figured if I decided to be not so graceful, at least someone else would be there to scrape my human putty off the wall.  A bit of an exaggeration of course, since I don't really plan on unexpected translocating anytime soon.

I went and fetched the Semi Feral and turned her loose in the indoor.

Oh dear.

A little sassy indeed.  No shaking, whip, or prodding involved to get a whole lot of snort and blow.
(If you have no volume or can't hear, she ended up being a doofus and snorting and blowing for probably ten minutes while I had her in the arena.  She will, occasionally, but this was consuming her whole years supply in those ten minutes, I think!)

I went ahead and rode anyway.  She did pretty well for having been out of work for a short while.  A little tense at first, but then settled in.  I had on her new back on track dressage pad and not sure if it was the pad or what, but her trot was really quite soft and nice.  I can't wait to try riding her again for a longer period of time when she's feeling a little more connected and I have time to work her harder.  our ride was a little short as I didn't want her to get sweaty since I was running out of time to go from the farm to the veterinary clinic where I needed to check in.

But even short rides have their merits.  I am glad I went ahead, despite all signs on a "sassy" day to just take the easy way out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Say "Ah"

Pretty drive down the barn driveway

It was a lucky day in the life of the semi ferals.  They got to see the vet.

OK, maybe they didn't feel so lucky, seeing as how they were sedated and had dental work done.  But hey, at least they get to have a goofy "trip" while having dental work done!  There are times when I'd like a little "pain free" dentistry too.

I am quite fortunate in the fact I have access to some wonderful veterinarians, including one that has advanced work and interest in dentistry.  I am also grateful that she maintains an open mind and a keen eye towards current literature.

The semi feral mare has a few dark colored spots on her gumlines above her incisor teeth.  This can be indicative of "Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis" which is quite the mouthful, but essentially, the front incisors "rot" out.  I have kept a careful eye as well as my veterinarian.  We are checking for signs of dental pain, loosening of the incisors, or a swelling on the top of the gums.  Fortunately, the Semi Feral Mare received an A+ in this category today with no major issues.

Next, were the cheek teeth.  The mare is getting a little older and has the beginning of a wave mouth, but the vet and I decided on a conservative path to balance her mouth, without smoothing down any excess.  In late teens, there isn't much more dental surface that will be "erupted" so aggressive floating can prematurely remove dental surfaces needed to chew food later in life. 

A small pocket/gap was noted in one area, but no real inflammation.  Good thing to check and note.

One thing we tried a little differently today was that she wasn't "hung" in the typical dental halter.  She was put up on the padded dental stand and did quite well.  Usually she is very heavily sedated and fights the dental halter, even when she is so drunk she could belong on a college bar on Friday evening.  So just getting the evil eye was a major improvement in my book.

This came about from an observation that she tends to be "sticky" and stiff in her poll.  We chatted a bit about possible cervical/neck arthritis causing her to be uncomfortable while hung.  The vet seemed please on the semi feral mare's much more civilized behavior and was optimistic about trying the stand on some other tricky horses that also were difficult to hang in the dental halter.

Then we did the little red filly.  Really, I made the appointment for her.  She quietly waited while we heckled and harassed her mother, chewing on the crossties the whole while.  Little turkey.

She was a cheap date.  So far her mouth looks pretty good for a young horse's mouth.  The filly had to be a little goofy and decide to shed premolar caps before the front incisor caps because well..she doesn't do anything on anyone's schedule.  Including being born.  But she is a redhead after all.  ;)

Wolf teeth pulled, teeth floated a little bit to adjust some pretty sharp points that were causing a bit of discomfort in her mouth and we called it a day.

I'm not sure the filly was pleased about the day's adventure.  Usually going into the barn is cool things like grooming and running around like a spunky loon.  Not being drugged and having cold metal gear placed in places when it's arctic temperatures outside.

What the heck happened today???
Good day.  Mostly because it was the horses having the dental work and not myself.  ;)

How often do your horses get dental work done?  Vet or equine dentist? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013


It seems there are quite a few topics hitting across my newsfeed on Facebook.  One is that blanketing horses is inherently evil.

Two is vaccinating horses is inherently evil.

And I will tell you why I am "evil" and vaccinate my horses.  I'd love to sit down when I have a bit more time and expand on various vaccines and their mechanisms of actions if people would like to know.  I personally geek out on things like this, but I am a bit of an odd nut I know.

1.  The vaccines are more cost effective than trying to give supportive therapy for the majority of acquired diseases, i.e., West Nile Virus.  Ever try to deal with an ataxic horse?  Not cool.

2.  I try and eliminate stress and suffering on my horses.  Subjecting a horse to a Clostridial infection (i.e., Tetanus!) is just plain unpleasant.

3.  When my vets come and vaccinate, it is a good time for them to give solid, physical exams on my animals and to build a solid, reliable patient-client-veterinary history.  It makes my awesome veterinarians more likely to crawl out of bed on these cold subzero nights and come out when I have a crisis, compared to a client they say once five years ago for a different crisis.

Vaccines aren't a miracle thing.  The immune system is fickle, in horses and humans.  Vaccines vary quite a bit in effectiveness.  But for the core vaccines recommended by the AAEP, they are safe and generally quite reliable. 

Why do horses react when vaccines are given?  It depends.  

Some vaccines are modified live vaccines (like the intranasal strangles) so they do actively infect the horse.  The goal is just to give the horse a more mild form of the disease so it can stimulate the immune system into making sufficient antibodies and so forth, next time it encounters the disease.

Some horses react to the particulates in the vaccines themselves.  Vaccines carry "adjuvants".  This is what I usually see people saying is evil on Facebook.  One type of adjuvant has a minute amount of a mercury compound.  But truth is, people contact much higher levels of mercury in their life than used as an adjuvant.  Sorry.  But for some horses, humans, and so forth, there is just a stronger reaction than typical.  Just the same as most people in the world eat chocolate.  But I don't, I have an unpleasant reaction.

Most horses will have some residual stiffness, soreness, maybe a bit of fever, or so forth.  In my mind, this isn't a bad thing.  The goal of a vaccine is to stimulate the immune system.  If not stimulated, the vaccine isn't going to be successful.  Fever, stiffness, swelling are signs of an immune reaction, so not in themselves a bad thing in moderation.  

So there you go.  Plenty of people don't vaccinate and maintain horses just fine in that fashion.

However, I only have a small herd (two) of horses and I love both very much.  I would much rather do what I can to prevent illness, pain, and suffering, and in doing so, I carefully weight the pros and cons.  One pro in my mindset is core vaccinations.

So how about you guys?  Vaccinate?  Or not?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Memory Monday: In the Presence of Masters

A year and some months ago, I was a lucky person.  It came about by being friend with an even luckier person that wins a lot of things.  Seriously.  I have never won a raffle or drawing to save my soul, but J does.  But as it comes about, it has its perks.

See, J and I had attended the horse fair together and entered every drawing we could pretty come come across.  My husband came along too with the sole purpose of trying to win things (and I'm pretty sure, to make sure I wasn't whipping out the credit card).  Husband went and had labels all printed up with the information for the three of us so we could go entering contests in record style.

But as it turned out, only J won that year.  As I recall, won two drawings.  One, however, was a breeding to a stallion that she didn't use.  But the other drawing was for attending a symposium.

I am not sure I had ever been to an official "symposium".  Clinics, sure, but I had no idea what was in store for us.  It was supposed to be similar to a clinic with live horses working in various disciplines with "masters" interacting and teaching the riders, but more importantly interacting with the audience and showing us cause and effect on these horses and what we could do at home with our own horses, our own habits, our own lifestyles to improve whatever the scenario was.

I also didn't really know most of the people presenting.  OK, so I had heard of Richard Shrake and Lynn Palm.  I had vaguely heard the name Gayle Lampe referred to by the saddleseat folkst of the world.  But sadly, I had to google who Denny Emerson was. 

I was really missing out there.

The symposium was wonderful.  The hosting facility was beautiful and it was neat to see a mixture of saddleseat horses, dressage horses, eventing horses, hunters all being critiqued and educated by four people across disciplines.  Multiple forms of input and even Gayle with her masterful saddleseat knowledge could look at the hunter and offer some suggestions in fixing a little of this.  Lynn Palm was pretty insightful showing how correct saddle fit affected the movement of a pretty little gelding, and so forth.

But by far, my favorite part was talking to the "masters" during dinner.  J & I were a little shy.  It was just the riders, the hosts at the farm, the masters, and ourselves at this dinner and I pretty much wanted to be a fly on the wall.  I am not usually outgoing in a lot of situations and this was a good example of one where I didn't know how to go about and say anything. 

But the farm host was very sweet and gracious.  She tracked down Richard Shrake, sat J & I down and told us to go ahead and talk.  OK, that's cool.  Now what.

But he was a very nice guy.  I don't know a lot about his industry since I don't really participate in the stock horse side of things, but I could appreciate the candid conversations we had about the state of the horse industry, past trainers, our current horses, where the horse industry was going and so forth.

We ended up talking to Denny Emerson at some point as well and he was great.  I have to say, I think he is my absolute favorite of the crew to talk to.  Anyone that can break his neck and then be back on a horse in their 70s is my hero.  There are some days that I have to think about crawling up on a horse in my mid twenties.  Talk about an absolute idol.

But he was very candid and humorous as well.  We talked about how he did the Tevis cup.  He really likes referencing how doing endurance on an Arabian is like pole bending without the poles.  Probably true some days!

He was pretty insightful about offering his opinions on the increase in falls in cross country.  The decline of riders overall.  The lack of horsemanship seen in different situations.

I came away with a whole new respect for someone I had just briefly met!  I then discovered his book "How Good Riders Get Great" and enjoy reading that as well.  Almost as good is subscribing to his updates on Facebook.  He is certainly is a person with opinions, but a lifetime of experience to back it up.

Plus, how often can I say I met a Gold Medal Olympian?  Ok, not too many.  However, an algebra teacher in my old school was a bronze medal wrestler if that counts.

Back to the subject.

Lynn Palm was also very passionate during dinner which was interesting.  She could seem a little more distant during parts of the symposium, but during dinner she was very involved in all the conversations.  The Rita Crundwell/Dixon embezzlement case had just broken, so we were all discussing that for a while.  Some interesting insights on that.

But what was sad to me was how candidly abuse in the show ring was being discussed at the dinner table.  I mostly follow one breed circuit and there is a very bad rap for aspects of it, but just listening from multiple stock horse judge's perspectives (Shrake and Palm) about finding people just causing bloody marks on horses and so forth in warmups and stewards or new judges looking past it due to intidimation.  How much "credit" do you have to have in an industry before you can be like Lynn who stepped in (while on a judging assignment) and told a person that it wasn't appropriate, while the other newer judge with her was clearly uncomfortable and didn't want to exist.

Gayle Lampe was also adorable.  I don't know how else to describe her.  Her absolute zest for all things saddleseat and educating the majority was easy to see.  She brought some beautiful footage of Saddlebreds and was more than happy to talk to all of us about them.  Plus, she has such colorful phrases.  I wish I could remember them all, but my favorite was talking about a lower intro type show horse as being a "nickle pickle" type of horse.

A "nickle pickle" horse

Love it.

I also had some insight on J's mare's pedigree.  She is a half Arabian/half Saddlebred and while I know the Arabian side, the Saddlebred side was news to me.  Good news is that that side had a very famous, very athletic stallion.  Bad news is that he was a bit of a handful.  I say that lightly.  Apparently he required multiple people to handle at any point on the ground.  Egads.  Good thing J's mare is a very sweet, former youth show mare.  :)

So, quite the memory from a happenstance.  It was a great weekend adventure and good thing I have a lucky friend to take me along on such adventures!

Denny Emerson and Richard Shrake center

Friday, December 6, 2013


The things we do for our horses.  It was another very long work week, but that was OK. 

However, the weather swung from a warm, wet, rainy fifties type thing to now plunging into sub zero temperatures.  I am one of those people that chooses to blanket my horses.  However, it means paying attention in these weather shifts.

It also means that with my current schedule, that I sometimes have to crawl out to the barn at 10pm at night.  In my work clothes.

Which usually is OK, except for last night.  I thought just for a quick run in the indoor arena and blanket changing, I would be fine in my light winter jacket, thin winter gloves, and jeans.  I was wrong. 

The horses, however, had a great and brief time in the arena.  The Semi Feral mare, despite her name, is pretty reserved in the arena.  She loves to do a few laps and then gets her roll on.  The filly, on the other hand, thinks it is an absolute free for fall.  She bucked, she reared, she made me wonder why I want to ride her. 

I decided to then run around the arena too in a futile attempt to stay warm.  I then realized that I had a horse stalking me.  Danged red stalker filly.

I decided to go hang out on the (very tall) mounting block to see if the filly would come over and say hi.  She impressed me and decided to line herself up right next to the mounting block.  I had been working with her in hand on lining up to the mounting block, so she would be ready and comfortable for actual riding, but the fact she did this loose at liberty was pretty cool.

I decided to cut this a little bit shorter and brought the heavier blankets out.  The filly saw hers and galloped over across the arena and dove into them.  Good progress, I think, as she used to be uncertain about the crinkling noises of windbreakers and horse blanket turnouts for the first year or so of her life.  Glad to see her just growing up so well.  Plenty of things to work on, but plenty to be pleased about.

The semi feral mare was pretty polite and happy about having her clothes back on too.

Today was supposed to be the big dental day for both horses, but I received a call this morning asking if I would reschedule. 

Absolutely a bright idea as I wouldn't even want to think about floating a horse's teeth when the water would be freezing on the float.  We'll see if we can keep this appointment next week instead.

So while it is pretty cold, I'll see if I get out to ride or work with them.  I still like to brush them and check on them, but I don't feel it's fair to exercise them in subzero temperatures.  Even though I have an indoor arena, it's still quite cold in there.  

How about you?  How does your winter riding regime change? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's the Deal with Biotin?

In a world filled with glossy magazines and internet ads promising miracle solutions to all the problems in our lives...and our horses, biotin is often an additive touted to "fix" things.

But what exactly is biotin?

Biotin is a water soluble B vitamin (specificially it is B7).  Other B vitamins which may be familiar include B9 (folic acid) and B1 (thiamine).  There are several more as well.  Vitamins are organic materials required in small amounts. 

So, what exactly is the deal with biotin?  

In horses, it is touted to help with hooves specifically.  Out of curiosity, I decided to go crawl PubMed to check it out.  So many supplements suggest they do something useful without purported research, so off I went.

One interesting study I found was "Hoof horn abnormalities in Lipizzaner horses and the effect of dietary biotin on macroscopic aspects of hoof horn quality" which was published in 1995 in the Equine Vet Journal.  It basically is a study where they visually inspected hooves of 152 Lippizanners where they discovered that the majority had soft white lines and crumbling fissures.  Sounds a little troubling indeed.  The researchers then went to the Spanish Riding School and created a double blind study (where neither researcher nor person feeding the horse exactly knew if they had biotin or the placebo) and created a regime where some of the horses received 20mg of biotin daily and some did not.

Cool to find that the stallions receiving the biotin had "significant improvement".  However, this was nine months later.  Positively though, the good effects were seen after the study was ceased as the positive hoof growth continued down the hoof wall.

Cool, I think!

There are a plethora of other studies out there regarding the positive effects of biotin.  It seems that most suggest between 10-30mg a day to be effective with a longer period of time before the positive hoof growth can be seen. 

So if anyone is on the fence about adding biotin to the diet for a horse with slightly troubling feet, then why not?