Hot stuff

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imagehttps://www.thehorse.com/articles/29338/10-hot-weather-horse-care-tips

Here in Ohio, we’ve experienced some interesting weather patterns in the last year or so. Winter was notably more painful than it had been in years (face it folks, we were due), spring took forever to get here, and seemed to pass just as quickly, and summer apparently suffers from some kind of multiple personality disorder. Watching fireworks to celebrate Independence Day on the lake with our family, was done with sweatshirts and blankets wrapped around us. Now, we’re all acting surprised at the very August-like weather we’re having… yeah, it’s still August, I know.

These “dog days” of summer, always remind me of the lengths we went to, in order to keep hydrated and happy horses. I liked the link provided from Horse.com, I’m always a fan of simple lists. Mostly, I think it’s common sense, make sure your horse(s) has plenty of clean water available to them at all times, try to not turn them out during the heat of the day, leave doors and windows open, and use fans whenever you can, because even moving hot air is better than nothing. I did want to share though, some of the tips we developed over the years, which seemed to help. I actually still use some of them now at my boyfriend’s son’s baseball games. Teenage boys are a lot like horses!

If you’re a fan of my blog, you’ve learned by now, that Buddy was just a bit spoiled. My boy only liked the water he knew from home, and often would curl his nose at “funny smelling” water from other sources. One solution was sports drinks. I don’t want to get in the business of endorsing any one in particular, they’re all the same to me anyhow, but I learned to keep a few packets of the dry mix in the trailer, so when we encountered any water that wasn’t up to Buddy’s high standards, a little flavored drink mix was enough to disguise the yucky taste, and get him at least sipping from his bucket, rather than just snorkeling in it. Another quick fix, was the purchase of a 5 gallon tank, like the ones you put on water coolers. That way, we always had water from home, and it really came in handy when you weren’t parked near a water source at shows. I think I found it at Wal-Mart, and it had a screw on cap, so it could be used over and over.

Another issue that seems to go hand in hand with the heat, is bugs. Fly coverings now are made of some light-weight materials, and several have some level of SPF, which is great. A high-neck sheet and mask do wonders for protecting them from annoying pests, and keeping any pink skin from significant sun damage. What do you do though, for the delicate pink noses? In our case, I kept a travel size tube of baby sunblock, for MY baby, in our brush caddy. After a couple times of him enduring uncomfortable peels on his nose from overexposure, I started putting on SPF 50 before any turn-outs or rides in the sun. There’s nothing sadder than a horse with a peeling nose, twitching it, rubbing it on anything that will hold still, then pulling back when it’s too tender. I’m still shaking my head now, poor poor, delicate flower Buddy. He wasn’t the biggest fan of having cold goo slathered on his nose either, but I’m reasonable sure, if he’d been asked, he would agree it was better than a sunburn.

When we showed, the easy-up canopy tents were just coming into the market, so the one we found, was a “not-so-easy-up,” but it did the trick. It was large enough for the family to sit under, and Buddy always found a way to sneak in too. We did our best to find shady places to park when we hauled out anywhere, but in the event it isn’t available, and stalls or other structures aren’t nearby, the portable canopy is a great investment. If finances allow, a canopy mounted on your trailer is even better. I think most larger trailers with living areas have them as a standard feature, but they’re easily installed after market as well. The obvious downside to the free-standing models however, are if you’ve got a horse that won’t stand quietly. A frightened horse, tangled up in tent stakes, or worse, running backwards with a canopy billowing in front of them like a dragster in reverse, does not end well.

Something else we can easily forget, is how quickly layers of fly spray and coat shining products can build up, clogging their pores, and making sweating difficult if not impossible. I suspect we’re not the only ones, who struggled year after year, trying different fly-repellant products, with limited results. When you did find something that seemed to work marginally better than the others, you used it in excess. So you’ve got a horse that isn’t being bothered to death by bugs now, but at the end of the day, you’ve also got a horse that cannot sweat all the toxins out of his body, because of the layers of chemicals on his coat. Think about it. When you’ve worked all day outside, you’re a sweaty, stinky mess. What’s the first thing you do? Hit the showers! Your horse is no exception, they need that time to relax and wash the day away too. You don’t want to get in the habit of full-on bathing them every day, too much soap will dry out their coat and leave you with a list of other problems, but there’s nothing wrong with a nice rinse-n-curry at the end of a ride. Using a soft rubber curry in circles while you’re rinsing their coat helps to break up all the gunk, so they’re left feeling refreshed. Sometimes I’d add a little Vetrolin to the water, on the tougher days, which he seemed to enjoy. If we were at the show location still, sometimes I’d turn the hose on myself after, and rinse out my own mane! It’s amazing what a little cool water can do to your attitude after a long, hot day. To make sure we could always grab a quickie bath when needed, I’d found a nice short length of hose that was the perfect travel-size, and kept it in the trailer.

One more tip we came up with, was cold towels. Something hand-towel size was perfect, soaked in water, and kept in the cooler. If you or your horse started to feel over-heated, wrapping that towel around your, or their neck was an easy way to bring your body temperature down. Cool air or water on any pulse points works in a pinch, but those towels felt amazing when you’re sweating through your show clothes, or your horse is looking a little dull. Holding an ice-cold towel with ice wrapped inside, around his throat always perked Buddy back up. This works for all manner of animals, including 13 year old baseball players!

A good rule of thumb, is your own personal reactions to climate. If it’s 90 degrees out, with 90% humidity, would you go out and run a 5K? If you’re acclimated to it, maybe you would, but I bet you’d plan for it with selecting a time when the sun isn’t at full blast, or taking packable water or those gel things. The same in winter, if it’s below freezing, your horse probably feels about the same way you do about it, so use some rationale when planning your barn time. The heat doesn’t have to put the kibosh on your riding time, you just have to plan accordingly, so you and your horse can both still enjoy your time together.

the Buddy chronicles

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In the nearly 16 years we spent together, my often silly boy left me in hysterics. Here are just a few of the funnier moments I still love to remember…

“The Hose Monster”

While watering the indoor arena to control the dust, I’d let Buddy loose in the arena with me, to stretch his legs. Mostly, he wandered a few steps behind me, my large, furry shadow. The barn phone rang, so I shut off the hose, set it down, and ran to answer it. I was only away from the arena for a minute or so, but in that time, Buddy had rescued me from the terrible Hose Monster! I guess I hadn’t shut the hose completely off, and it was still spraying a little. Buddy fought the hose, and killed it, by stepping on it, and stopping the spray. When I approached him, he was wearing a victorious expression, and was covered from face to feet in water spots.

“Hide and seek”

Upon returning home from a week long horse show, I had a very tired horse, and a whole trailer to unload. I let Buddy loose in the indoor arena of the barn, while I started to unpack. He meandered around, probably saying hello to all his other barn mates, not paying much attention to me. The front of the barn had large doors with a wooden bar you could slide across, to leave the doors open, without horses being able to escape. It was a nice day outside, so the doors were open wide enough for a horse to stand between them. I made another trip outside to the trailer, when Buddy finally noticed I wasn’t within eyesight. He nickered and trotted around looking for me, then popped his head out the open doors, saw me, and gave a huge whinny, as if to say “I found you!”

“Celebrity treatment”

After a long day at a horse show, we often stopped for a meal on the way home. Buddy had a full hay net, and would stand contentedly in the trailer while we ate. He preferred Bob Evans though, because they have a yummy fruit plate, and if we’d had a good day, I’d get one to go for him. He wasn’t sure what to think of the big decorative bib of lettuce it sat on, and the yogurt smelly funny, but he loved the fruit! I’d cut it into smaller pieces for him, which he would devour, sending sticky fruit juice flying in all directions, and delighting anyone in the parking lot who happened to see it.

“The leg wrap dance”

Whenever we took Buddy for a ride in the trailer, we wrapped his legs for safety. We used a pillowy quilt rectangle underneath a long wool bandage. This protected his legs from getting banged up or cut, and offered support for long trips. Buddy though, thought we were trying to torture him, every single time. He would start with one leg, holding it up at an odd angle, and shake it, trying to free himself from the wraps, then the next leg, and the next, until he was finally willing to admit defeat, standing awkwardly and looking frustrated.

“Ladies man”

Buddy was always fond of women, and never had trouble wooing them. One day he did encounter a new lady friend, who was a little harder nut to crack. In a showmanship class with our friend Jared, was where Buddy first laid eyes on “Blue,” Jared’s dapple grey mare. I suspect it was largely due to his not having seen a light colored horse in a while, but the moment Jared turned her to trot her back into the lineup, Buddy snapped to attention, gazed, and nickered a clear, “hubba hubba” in her direction. Blue hardly gave him the time of day, but after we completed our pattern and returned to the lineup, he only had eyes for her, and nearly tripped over me in the process! Any time after that class, when he’d see her, he’d stop, stare, and whisper more sweet nickers in her direction… which she turned her nose up at. Poor Buddy, all that flirting for nothing!

I think we’ve all had horses that have colored our lives in one way or another. There will never be another Buddy, he was one in a million. Some swear he was part human, sometimes I think he thought he was a lap pony, but he was all heart. Everyone who met him, loved him, and he loved them right back, except that one time I let Gary Trubee ride him, yeah, he wasn’t a fan of Gary’s… he cried like a little girl that day, but generally speaking, he was a lover. I miss him every day, and I’m so thankful he was a (huge) part of my life, even if it did feel like it wasn’t for long enough ❤

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rewriting the unwritten rules

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http://www.gohorseshow.com/article/General_News/General_News/We_Ask_the_Judges_Show_Trends_They_Wish_Would_Go_Away/39650

In this article, AQHA judges share their opinions on recently updated rules, and how it’s affecting, or in some cases, not, the current show pen trends. I posted this as a discussion in a group I belong to on LinkedIn as well, and was pleased to find that most people agree with the judges comments.

Overall, and maybe simply because I’ve never had the finances to support an extravagant turn out when it came to showing, I’ve always been an advocate of “less is more.” Do you put a custom Harris saddle on a field pony? Of course not! But, you can still dress simply, in clean but unornamented tack, and take a really nice show horse into the winners circle. That tells me all I need to know.

In the years that we showed 4-H, then Open, and eventually the Quarter Horse Circuit, we became students of the “trial by fire” method. We never had trainers to guide us, we just learned as we went, and did our best to look like we belonged. Contrary to popular belief, you can show horses on a budget. Yes, it’s true! You can afford sparkly outfits (compliments of bargain department stores and a hot glue gun, as discussed in my earlier entry on dressing for success), you can even go to big shows like the Quarter Horse Congress, without having to take out a second mortgage on your house. If you’re smart, and stay realistic about needs and wants, you can absolutely run with the big dogs, and we were walking, jogging, and loping proof of that.

One remark that stood out in this article, was regarding the “blinging out” of english blouses. First and most importantly, if I never hear the word “bling” again, it will be too soon. I’m not sure when this became one of the most overused words in our vernacular, but enough is enough already! Anyway, I’m in agreement with the judge who preferred the more traditional look. Hunt Seat, is built on a foundation of tradition, and while some may find a jacket not covered in crystals boring, I rather enjoy the feeling of continuity. Isn’t it nice to know, if you buy some good quality basics, they’ll fit in today, and 30 years from now? Imagine, something that doesn’t go out of style, before you get home from the tack store!

I’ve been in agreement with the judges who have spearheaded the changes in correct movement of pleasure horses. Hooray! Maybe we can save a little money on equine chiropractors now, since they’re no longer encouraged to travel down the rail with their lovely faces at their teeny-tiny geisha feet, and/or sideways. Thank you to whoever finally said out loud, “why on earth don’t we want them to travel like HORSES?”

Finally, and I should preface this with the fact that I’m not a Judge Judy fan in general, but I am a fan of her “KISS” attitude in particular. Keep it simple, Stupid. Give me two horse and rider pairs, equal in talent. Dress one in head to hoof sequins, crystals, and sterling. Dress the second in a simple blouse and chaps, and clean, functional tack. Guess who I’ll pick? The second horse all day long, and twice on Sunday. I’m all for adding your own unique touch to help you stand out, but at what point does it distract the eye from what’s really important, that beautiful horse, under all the dazzle. Let him do the sparkling, and the rest will take care of itself.

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fair enough

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Hopefully, everyone who’s owned and shown horses, has had the opportunity, at least once, to show at the fair. It’s fair season here in Ohio, the state fair just closed, but the local and county fairs, will continue into the fall. For some, the fair marks the end of their 4-H showing season, for others, it’s a yearly mini-vacation, and it’s something I have many fond memories of.

Our county didn’t have it’s own fair, so every August, we packed up the horse and trailer, to move to Croton, OH for the week of the Hartford Independent Fair. Croton, if you’ve never been, is easy to miss on a map, but not so easy to miss with your nose, given the number of egg farms that call Croton, home. Being in August, the weather almost always includes oppressive heat, and torrential downpours, at any given time. Tank tops and mud boots were a basic staple, as well as Chee-zits and Mt. Dew. A tab at one of the restaurant tents kept you from starving, but the packed snacks got you through long days.

Our fairgrounds, at least at the time, had dorms for boys and girls, both were in desperate need of condemning. The showers were always cold, and you never even considered going into the bathroom without some kind of shoes on. The bunks were squeaky and rusty, justifying packing an extra towel or blanket to tuck into the bottom of the top bunk, to act as a “crusty catcher.” Painting a delightful picture, aren’t I? Despite all that, we looked forward to it with the same reverence as Christmas every year. A whole week of noting but horses and fun, and for many of us, away from our parents! Don’t get me wrong, as we got older, the crusty dorms lost some appeal, and we’d find ways to bunk with friends who had campers and trailers with living quarters, but it was still heaven to us.

I have a million memories, mostly good, some not so good, like the time I stopped in the race horse barn to say hello to a friend, and got a nice chunk bitten out of my arm. Or, the year Buddy got his nose caught on a lead rope chain in his stall, and needed stitches, during the big, evening open show, while I was wearing my favorite winter white chaps! I had to have someone else hold him for the vet, so I would stay clean, I felt so bad!

The Hartford Fair was where the County Horse Royalty were crowned each year. A feat that took me three years to accomplish, but I finally earned the title, the summer after my senior year in high school. I’d always received high scores for interviews, testing, and essays, but that was the year Buddy and I finally pulled the whole package together. It was glorious! I prided myself on changing the “image” of the horse queen. After studying the Quarter Horse Congress Queen pageants year after year, I knew it was time for a change. Whenever I was out in public, I wore nice outfits with my crown and sash. I talked to everyone, I posed for pictures, even on the rainy days, with my mud boots, I still put myself together for appearances. I took my role very seriously, and I wanted the rest of the world to take me seriously too.

Mostly, it was a week to bond with my friends. Crystal, Courtney, Ronda, Becky, we had the most amazing times in those weeks! I miss those days! We got in trouble, we got each other out of it, we danced and sang, and worked hard and showed all week long. I wouldn’t trade a moment. We made friends there too, like the younger girls in the dorm, who called Crystal and I, “Pretty Girl.” They would wake us every morning, with their singsong voices, as the dorm moms made the rounds to get everybody up and moving. Then towards the end of the week, with their little shoulders sagging, after the livestock sales. I remember walking across the fairgrounds, hearing running footsteps approach me from behind. Before I could turn, a sobbing little person threw herself at my leg, and held on for dear life. I was stunned, I just looked at her and asked “what’s wrong?” Her behavior made it seem like something horrible had happened. To her, it had. In between sniffs and sobs, she choked out, “Pretty Girl? Do you have to sell your horse at the end of the fair?” The weight of her question started to sink in, as I explained that no, we took them home when we were done. She hiccuped and burst into fresh sobbing, then stammered, “I just sold my pig-geeeeeeeee!” Poor baby, I felt so bad. I didn’t know where her parents were, they should have been there to explain and comfort her. I hugged her and assured her her piggy would surely have a nice life elsewhere (what’s one little lie?), then walked her back to her barn, before continuing on to mine.

I guess it’s safe to say, not everyone will leave the fair with good memories. Those who left every year with empty trailers, would have at least had a check in their pocket for the effort. But that must not have been much of a consolation to her. Maybe we don’t consider other livestock, like pigs, cows, and chickens to be members of the family, like we tend to do with our horses, but to that little girl, maybe that pig was her best friend.

To all showmen and women at the Hartford Fair, staying up late, getting up early… washing your hair at the barn wash rack so there’s enough pressure to get all the shampoo out, doing quick laundry in the sink, taking a week out of your lives to spend with your animals and friends, a week that you’ve spent the entire summer preparing for… I salute you. You’re squares in a beautiful quilt, of a slice of life that not everyone is lucky enough to be a part of. Make the most of every moment in every day, and treasure the memories for the rest of your lives!