Ah, lameness. Something that has plagued every horseperson at some point in their career, causing them to spend thousands of dollars and lose all patience. Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint due to a laceration or kick mark and other time it is a complete mystery. Maybe it is the saddle, maybe the weather, maybe thrush, maybe a million things…and you have to get down to the bottom of it.
Nobody likes seeing their horse in pain, so what do you do if your horse comes up lame? Have a checklist of things to look at:
-swelling in the joints
-heat in the joints
-obvious cuts or lacerations
The list goes on, but identifying obvious problems is usually a great first step towards getting your horse on the road to recovery. The next step is to call in the big guns, including your trainer, the farrier, and the vet. If you are lucky, the farrier finds an abscess and that is all you need to worry about. Otherwise you may need to do flexions, X-Rays, radiographs, etc. Occasionally another (or additional–yes your wallet is crying by now!) expert like a chiropractor or body worker is a good person to call after isolating an issue or having clean flexions and X-Rays.
In the long run, it can be a frustrating, long, and expensive process. The biggest things you will probably need for dealing with lameness are 3 jobs to pay for all the vet/farrier/chiropractor visits and lots and lots of wine.
All jokes aside, patience is a virtue. Use this time to bond with your horse a little more and groom the heck out of him or her. Teach them some groundwork or new tricks (see the follow up blog post for this!) and you will end up reaping the rewards by the time they are sound and ready to roll again. Having a lame horse is a frustrating process, but if we remember the basis of our sport lies within the horse itself, we can appreciate that our horse’s health comes first and foremost and that they do not care about timelines or training plans more than they care about feeling secure with the people around them.
As much as I would like to not join in on the stereotypical “New Year, New Me!” posts, I do think it is really important to talk about goals and what you expect out of your riding. Without setting goals, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with your training. After a while, you just start entering the arena and messing around instead of training with purpose.
Start small…then medium and large.
Not all of your goals have to be big and scary. In fact, DO NOT make all of them big. That makes goal setting and chasing really stressful and does not recognize all the steps that you made along the way towards your “big goal”. It is easy to get discouraged when your goals seem so far away and unattainable. Celebrate the little things.
One of my favorite quotes by Olympic runner, Alexi Pappas is
“remember where you came from
remember where you’re going
vision comes before growing”
So when setting goals, keep in mind the building blocks of how you are getting to the big scary goal, and use those as little road markers to celebrate and focus on instead of just one giant journey. For instance, if you are looking to get to first level, start focusing on your transitions from trot to canter and keeping those round. And then work on getting more bend and suppleness before finally hitting that level. Breaking down each goal piece by piece and using them for training is really helpful.
Now that I have done my preaching(!), here are my tiny and big goals for the year for each horse:
Get Bronson consistently seeking contact and more supple through the body
Get the last hundred pounds on
Get him jumping more
It is time for Bronson to move on to his next home now that he has a solid base and is what I deem “a good citizen,” meaning that he has good ground manner and basic dressage and jump training.
Get him 100% sound again. No training for lame ponies makes everyone aggravated!
Bring him back into work mostly on the lunge at first, incorporating cavalettis from some of my new books by Ingrid Klimke and Reiner Klimke that I got for Christmas.
Build up his conditioning under saddle–including more cavaletti and trot piles (please tell me you were not suprised!).
Work on the contact and getting him holding himself up.
Show at training level.
Take him to the National Dressage Pony Cup
Take him to First Level to start earning my USDF Bronze Medal Scores
A lot of work for a little pony, but he is up for it! I cannot wait to start this new year!
Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I am not going to lie, I am pretty materialistic, but Christmas is always about the food and getting together with family–especially if you only see them once or twice a year. BUUUUTTTT as a horse girl, I usually spend all year thinking of horsey Christmas gifts I can ask for. The list ranges from essentials to downright absurdly expensive and gorgeous presents. Enjoy my list below and let me know what you are asking Santa for for Christmas!
Sterling Essentials Eucalyptus Leather Cleaner:
I am in love with the mini starter kit I received, and if you read my review post, you know that I am dying to get my hands on the full size cleaner. Plus, Eucalyptus is so soothing and naturally purifies the air, so buying this product is essential to my health…so I should definitely get it.
Redmond Rock Salt Block:
This salt block is the creme de la creme of salt blocks. It has way more minerals and nutrients than traditional Himalayan salt blocks, AND it is mined and processed in the United States, so you are supporting your horse’s health and the U.S. economy. Win-win
Horse Guard Flaxen Flow and Flix
If you haven’t read in my other blog post about what I feed Bronson, 1) go check it out, and 2) go get yourself some Horse Guard products.
I am almost out of Flaxen Flow for Bronson, so time to add some to the cart, but I cannot rave more about how great this product is. It has helped add healthy fats, not to mention healthy fats that are actually balanced unlike most other feeds out there.
The Flix are Horse Guard’s flax seed treets, and I have been dying to try them. They are made with 100% flax, and are one of the few treats out there that are good for horses without being wildly sugary (a blessing when you have a pony, as ponies can be predisposed to Cushings, laminitis, etc.)
Purvida Healthy Horse Original Leave-In Conditioning Spray
This spray contains all natural coconut oil, witch hazel spray, and vegetable glycerin to condition hair and moisturize your horse’s skin (especially important during the winter when their skin can get dry and they are in blankets).
I have been using Sporthorse Essentials Coat Conditioning Spray, but I really want to try this brand. I am a huge fan of the fact that they offer giant refill bottles so you can use the original spray bottle multiple times (say hello to reducing your waste!).
Kentucky Horsewear Rug
I DO NOT NEED ANOTHER RUG, but I totally do, and this is at the top of my list. I hate the way the pony’s Rider’s International Blanket sits on his shoulders (it hangs down and doesn’t cover his chest), and I feel bad he has to wear ill-fitting rugs when it gets so cold out.
This brand has artificial rabbit fur lining the inside, making it super soft and warm while preventing rubs, and has a wooly kind of collar that looks super cozy and snugs up the rug so it won’t fall down the shoulders. It has artificial brown leather detailing to top off the posh look. Basically, I am in love with this rug.
Romfh Sarafina Full Seat White Breeches:
Since I am hopefully getting ready to begin a year full of showing, I need some high quality breeches. Romfh breeches are already my favorite and I have heard rave reviews about the Sarafina breeches.
My favorite part about these are the darker great full seats. Let’s be totally honest: the person who said we had to wear white anything around horses was a total jacka$$. I come home everyday from the barn covered in dirt, so I cannot imagine what I am going to do to white breeches. The grey seat takes a little bit of stress of me.
I already have a fully functioning pair of boots and half chaps, as well as a brand new pair of show boots (that I need to break in, I may add). But this is a Christmas wishlist, and I have been in love with these boots ever since I saw them on Instagram (as well as Secchiari’s shiny patent blue boots, but I digress!).
These boots come in all styles and patterns, and I cannot pick just one. I’m in love with a couple different styles, and I have at least two pairs that come in suede in mind. Take a look at their Instagram and see why I am in love.
8. Equine Designs Rigitali Bridle
After my horrible disappointment over the SD Design Bridle not fitting, I found a second love and discovered this bridle. It is gorgeous, with a patent noseband and anatomical crownpiece and noseband. I am also a huge fan of the fact that it has a white lining instead of a straight black one. Wally’s current bridle has white piping, and I think it looks best on him. So many brands are doing away with the white lining, but I love the way it looks.
*Please note that I am an ambassador for the brand.
What that means: I get a discount on their products, and if certain numbers of people buy Sterling Essentials products with my free shipping code (Jackie4Sterling), I get things like a logo hat or an EIS sunshirt.
What that does not mean: I do not get paid to endorse their products in any way, so you are getting the real take on what I think of the product.
One, I have no idea how the heck I landed an ambassador position for Sterling Essentials, but I am not going to question it too much! Two, I have been following their Instagram for a long time and was obsessed with their before-and-after videos/pictures. I am a sucker for a good transformation, so I may or may not have gone down the rabbit hole looking at their Instagram for a looooooong time.
Part of my ambassadorship means that I got a free Leather Care Starter Set and some stickers. Each starter kit comes in Lavender set, so it really makes cleaning your tack feel like you are at a spa. There is something about the glycerin smell of other cleaners that makes me kind of cringe, and let’s be real, those soaps stay on your skin and you smell like that for the rest of the day. It was nice to clean my tack and have it smell like I put on an expensive lotion, AND this cleaner and conditioner did NOT make my hands feel tacky or sticky afterwords.
At first, I was unsure of how well this actually worked. Then I actually looked at my dirty halfchap/boot versus my cleaned one and realized I was being an idiot.
The starter kit does not have a sprayer like the full size bottle, so you kind of had to squirt it on and then work quickly so it would not soak in in that one particular spot. The full size one is definitely going on my Christmas list, because I feel like the sprayer would be a game changer.
The cleaner feels great and is NOT tacky like every other tack cleaner I know.
I was really amazed with how well this removed horse sweat/”lime” from my half-chaps. Normally I need to scrub to get it off and still have residue left behind that never gets all the way clean. This knocked it off in 2 seconds!
I was previously using the Effol Effax Combi cleaner, which I loved. And then I realized it contained alcohol and was stripping the brown dye off my boots and half-chaps (you can see the dye-free spots in the pictures below). Plus, I am learning that you should really do a cleaner and then a conditioner instead of a combined product if you have the time, because it really makes a difference. The cleaner removes all the dirt and gives your conditioner unimpeded access to the pores of the leather, kind of like washing your face before putting moisturizer on.
Additionally, the cleaner comes in three different scents: lavender, eucalyptus, and floral citrus. I have not tried the other scents, but I really like the lavender. Unlike other natural products, the scent is not super heavy or cloying, and is in there just the right amount! The cleaner is also pH balanced to match the pH of leather, so it does not strip the leather, nor degrade the integrity of the leather (unlike a surprising amount of cleansers and conditioners on the market).
This is where I really fell in LOVE with this brand. The conditioner comes in a little lip balm-like tub, and has the same consistency, WHICH IS A GAMECHANGER. I have been known to spill a tub of neatsfoot oil or Lexol a time or too. And that $hit is horribly hard to get up, and it stains everything. If you have never done it, avoid it all costs. Or just be smart and get this conditioner. This impossible-to-spill conditioner is absolutely perfect if you do not want to stain anything or ruin flooring.
The conditioner is super moisturizing. I kept applying more and more to see how much my boots and half-chaps would soak up. The leather takes it in quickly, which may be due to the cleaner used before that prepares the leather for the conditioner, or it may be that this stuff just sinks in and works quickly. I have no clue, but again, I am not going to question a good thing.
It is made with food-grade natural oils, therapeutic grade essential oils, and beeswax, so I am not too worried if my pony or dog breaks into it. My sister also smeared this stuff all over her lips (bold), which I don’t think is recommended, but I knew this product was high quality, so I was not too worried. Plus, my sister could not stop talking about how soft it made her lips.
This product also comes in three scents: lavender, eucalyptus, and floral citrus. This product does not leave you or your tack sticky, so you and your not tack will not become dust magnets. This conditioner just leaves a soft shine, smooth finish, and a trace of lavender behind. I honestly could not find any flaws with this product. I, personally, would like to soak in a tub of this stuff in the winter when my skin becomes super dry, based on what I have seen it do to my leather goods.
Here are the before and after pictures of my boots and half-chaps. Please note that I have NOT taken care of these like I should. I tromp through mud, wash horses, and then throw these puppies in my car and let them sit. I had not cleaned either my boots or half-chaps for at least 3 months before cleaning them with Sterling Essentials products.
You can see that the dark rich color of my leather is restored, WITHOUT stripping any of the dye off. Any dirt or horse sweat is gone (minus the mud I left on my boot heel–sorry!), but the leather is much more supple and moisturized. It was honestly like looking at before and after pictures of people getting Botox. All the wrinkles and lines disappeared, and my half-chaps looked better than they have in months.
The change in color is not just bad lighting (although I AM the Queen of taking terrible pictures with awful lighting), but is really the difference this product makes. It was like using an anti-ager and super powered moisturizer on my half-chaps. I mean, really. Look at the half-chap on the left: lined, wrinkled and rumpled looking, dirty and really used looking versus the half-chap on the right: richer and darker looking, all lines gone, no visible signs of wear. If this picture does not change your mind, I do not think anything will.
Simply put, this stuff is amazing and I have found myself using it to clean my tack way more often. It is nice to use items that not only smell and feel good on your skin, but that also do a kick-A$$ job. I will be ordering more of these products (and in different scents!) for myself, and I plan on ordering a bunch of the starter care kits as cute stocking stuffers for my barn friends/family!
Bronson has been doing fabulously. Beyond fabulously. He is finally relaxing and learning to use his body correctly (which is no easy feat, trust me). He has put on enough weight to become stronger and start putting muscle on, rather than just mass. It is incredibly what doing a horse’s teeth and feeding them properly does in such a short amount of time. He has put on almost 300 pounds so far, and looks more like a horse and less like a walking skeleton. See pictures below for a pretty good glo-up.
What he’s eating:
Quiessence (Making a switch to Mare Magic this month, so we will see if there is a big change in attitude or not)
Tract Guard: He came in super thin, and while he has never exhibited any signs of ulcers, it is clear that he was not getting enough food at one point, which means there was more acid in his stomach than forage. Putting him on TractGuard helps his body absorb more nutrients and prevents ulcers from forming due to a change in diet, traveling, stress, etc. We put him on it to help him gain weight and clear up potential ulcers
Quiessence: While Bronson is not particularly nervous, he was in a new place, and we wanted to help him stay calm, which would also help him put on weight better. (If you haven’t noticed, helping him put on weight has been the theme of things around the barn.) He is also incredibly tight in his topline, and we were hoping this would help relax his back muscles a little.
Flaxen Flow: Straight from the Horse Guard website:
“Flaxen Flow is 100% flaxseed oil. This flaxseed oil is stabilized, unfiltered, cold-pressed, and nitrogen protected to benefit your horse the most of any flaxseed oil product in the horse feed market. Simply top-dress 1-2 ounces to your horse’s feed per day to unlock the amazing benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Help mitigate arthritis, skin conditions, and allergies
Aid in glucose metabolism and reduce blood sugar spikes in metabolic horses
Boost immunity to help achieve optimal immune health”
I had won a $20 certificate to the Horse Guard website, and I got interested in their Flaxen Flow. It has given him the softest coat, helped prevent skin fungi likely to arise from his poor condition, and has provided a fat source to increase his weight WITHOUT making him hot. In short, I am a huge fan and fully intend to buy another bag once my current one runs out.
And in short, the results speak for themselves. I am getting a confident, happier, and more relaxed horse, which is the best end result you could possibly want.
*I wanted to note this before I started this post. I am not in any way sponsored by, nor endorsed for these posts. All of these posts are true reviews and are not influenced by monetary compensation. The only brand I am currently partnered with is Sterling Essentials (for which I will have a blog post and review very soon!). As a graduate student, I understand the importance of money and how to spend it on truly extraordinary long-term items. If I do not think something is worth the value, TRUST ME, you will find out. I want to write real reviews so everybody can see what they are getting, particularly from a person’s perspective who knows that every dollar counts.
Based on my last two clinic posts, I wrote about having to switch out bits. I was thrilled to put Wally back in a softer bit (especially one that fits him!). However, for those that do not own a pony, let me tell you that it is pretty difficult to find equipment that properly fits. There is nothing like finding what you need, especially if it is on sale, just to find out that it does not come in the size you need. (Blanket shopping is one of my least favorite things to do, thanks to weird and impossible to find sizes.) There are a couple specialized pony sites, but I did not find what I needed there. Luckily, Farmhouse Tack had just what I needed.
To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Farmhouse Tack before. However, unlike some of the other sites that I was looking on, Farmhouse Tack has free domestic shipping. And I am talking about ALL THE TIME. Not just when you have a code or if you spend a certain dollar amount. That really won my heart. One of the sites I had been looking on had exactly what I needed, but then was going to charge an extra $7+ for shipping, which on a $24 bit, I thought was ridiculous.
My order arrived super quickly (within 3 days), and came with a nice handwritten note. The bit was wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a Farmhouse Tack logo sticker. While it was just a bit, the presentation and thought that went into packaging made me an even bigger fan of them than their free shipping did!
I have yet to try it out, but since it is just a newer version of what is already in his mouth, it should be a hit. Farmhouse Tack carries this bit in sizes 4, 4.5, 4.75, 5, 5.25, and 5.5.
10% off code for Farmhouse Tack: PLEASEDONTGO
The next amazing thing I snagged was from The Bossy Bridle. Now, their stuff is gorgeous, but expensive. They carry more of the higher end brands, so it is one of the websites I go to religiously to drool over things and add them to my wishlist for when I finally get out of school and start making money. So imagine how pumped I was when I discovered their sales page. And then imagine how much more I got pumped when I found a pony bridle by SD Design on sale for 49% off. (If you’re guessing that my Apple Watch suggested I was doing an outdoor run based on heart rate, you would be right).
First things first, my pony ABSOLUTELY DOES NOTNEED a new bridle. He has some weird sort of Frankenstein one that we put together when he first came. It is a mish-mosh of about three different bridles, where the browband is too big for him, one of the straps has been cut (Lord knows why), BUT it works. It is absolutely functional. As a graduate student, I did not need to spend money on replacing something that works just fine. HOWEVER, all of the Instagram craze of those gorgeous anatomical bridles (looking at you, PS of Sweden) made me start to wonder and yearn.
Wally can be a little sensitive sometimes, but overall, is a super trooper. He complains about little, and just looks grumpy instead. I figured that this was my time to treat him (and myself, if we are going to be real). This bridle has an anatomic crown and noseband, padded with memory foam. To me, this sounds like a dreamboat of a bridle. I was really excited to finally treat him to a bridle that gave him relief behind the ears and was a little more sensitive around the noseband area.
And you know what? I tried it on (which was a process Wally did NOT appreciate), and the whole damn beautiful thing was TOO SMALL. I $h*t you not. It is PONY-SIZED, and it DID NOT FIT MY PONY. So this is where I would like to take the time to thank my pony for having a giant a$$ pony head that is not pony-sized. I am having my trainer check it one more time, but I think I am going to have to sell it.
If anyone has pony bridle recommendations for giant-headed ponies, please feel free to let me know while I sad-eat the rest of my sister’s ice cream in the freezer.
Day 2 was 10,000x better than day one. I did not ride until 12:30, so the pony got grazed for three hours (in which he tried to roll twice and start about three fights with horses in the neighboring paddocks, but I digress). Then I got to hack out around the property with another rider after she finished her ride, so the pony got to explore and get his “dingbat” moves out of the way.
I also started tacking up over an hour before my ride time just in case he decided to be like the day before and act like he had never seen a mounting block before. However, he was perfect and lovely since I decided to mount him by the outdoor arena where nobody was watching. We had a nice warmup, and he got to check himself out in the mirror a bit, which was the cutest thing I had ever seen!
Wally’s warmup went so well…until it didn’t. His little butt cheek injury (check Recap of Day 1 for injury details) started making an appearance once we started working the trot to the right. At this point, I did not know what was wrong with him, and the clinician suggested it was his right front, so I stopped warming up and let him graze for about five minutes before my ride. Mind you, the night before, he got Bute, Mineral Ice, and I checked his leg obsessively for heat, swelling, a reaction to being touched, etc. Zip, nada, no response. Wally could have given two shits about what I was doing, and was in fact more concerned about the fact that I wasn’t stuffing his mouth with some ~Organic~ Baby Carrots that I had purchased that morning from Walmart.
We went in, I told the clinician about his leg, and we just worked him mostly on the left. And while some would be upset that we weren’t working on crazy wild things like flying lead changes (and I won’t lie, I initially was), working at the walk and trot was very helpful and enlightening.
What We Worked On:
Turns on the Forehand:
I guess this is a basic in dressage, but I have never learned it, and I sure as heck can tell you the pony hasn’t either. He fought me HARD on this way. Turns on the forehand really make your horse/pony hold themselves up and step under themselves, aka meaning they have to balance on their own AND move at the same time. So basically, pretty hard stuff.
We learned to do these parallel to the wall, which helped block the front feet from moving and therefore eliminating the “turn on the forehand.” I needed a lot of help blocking the front feet, as Wally really thought he would make this whole turn thing easier on both of us by bending his neck and shuffling forward with his front feet. Eventually we graduated to doing this on a square, which went a little something like this:
Do 1-2 steps of turn on the forehand, negotiate with the outside rein to stop him from walking off
Stop him to keep him from walking off
Repeat Steps 1-2 until full turn was made
Repeat Steps 1-3 until Full Square was formed. Do both directions
2. Walk/Trot Transitions:
What we really worked on here was adjustability of the gaits, making them bigger or smaller without changing the horse’s frame. Debbie, the clinician, would ask how big our trot (or whatever gait we were in) was out of 10. Then she would have us adjust it down from wherever we were–say a “6,” and bring it down to a 5, then 4, then walk a stride, and back up to a 6 trot. As for the walk, we would work on making it quicker within the same frame, before going up to a trot.
This exercise really helped me learn to build up and remove power, while getting a better and more forward upwards and downwards transition. The pony and I are masters of slamming on the brakes completely and then losing all forward momentum we had, making the rest of transitions from there a hot mess. The biggest challenge here is keeping the pony soft in the poll and not throw his head up between transitions. I have a feeling that will be our biggest issue for quite a while, but at least I think it will decrease as he gets stronger, gets used to the new bit, and once his pulled booty muscle goes away.
I let him go and explore after our mildly disastrous photo op (see picture caption above). We were supposed to be cooling down since he is pretty hairy now and sweated up a storm from working for more than 10 minutes straight (someone call PETA for pony abuse!). Instead, he stayed somewhere between a jogging walk and trot as we went up and down a couple hills. I called it a useless cool down, let him bomb a hill at a gallop, stripped his tack, threw his cooler on, and let him graze for about an hour and a half (which meant he got to ensure his grass belly grew while I skipped lunch). I made sure he was well and dry, grazed him about 30 min more, and then switched his cooler for his Back on Track Rug while stuffing him full of more baby carrots.
Our shipper showed up about 2 hours late due to pouring rain, which meant Wally did not arrive at the barn until 9:30 at night, which I was not thrilled about. However, these shippers were great and made sure he arrived safely in the rain on our *ahem* wonderful Alabama freeways. Plus, they charged lower prices and were incredibly nice and sent updates. R and W transport is highly recommended, and I will definitely be using them again for future trips.