Vet School Adventures Part I

Applying to vet school is stressful.  Let me rephrase that, applying to vet school is F&cking STRESSFUL.  Some schools are on the common VMCAS application, while others are not.  Then most schools have supplemental applications on two-three different sites, and they all require multiple fees to be paid.  The multiple sites you have to log onto to complete one application is incredibly confusing and makes it very difficult to keep track of everything, especially when you are applying to lots of vet schools like I did.

After getting into a little bit of a tiff with UC Davis over GRE scores and the like, the rest of my applications have gone very smoothly.  My list of vet schools goes as follows:

-UPenn

-Texas A&M

-Cornell

-Colorado State University

-Western University of Health Sciences

-UC Davis

-Auburn

-Mississippi State

-Oklahoma

-Tufts

And honestly so many more that I have forgotten where exactly I applied to without looking back into my emails and credit card charges for application fees.  Like I said, everything is kind of a blur while filling out applications because they all went everything sent to different places and have different requirements.

Anyhoo…I got an interview to Western University of Health Sciences!  It’s the only school in California that I have a chance of getting into, so it would be nice to go back home for veterinary school.  This is my very first vet school interview, so I am very excited.  After last year’s swing-and-a-miss style of applying, I am glad to see everything is paying off right now.

Stay tuned for the next part…the Interview!

Quick Guide on How NOT to be a Horse Buyer

Listen, I get horse buying and selling is really hard.  So I created this super handy guide on how not be a total jacka$$ when shopping for horses.

 

  1. If your budget is under $3k, please do not inquire about horses that are priced at $10,000 or higher.  You are wasting the seller’s time and attention.  You know you cannot afford it.  Even if the price is $10k negotiable, please do not expect them to drop their price down to your budget with the promise of a “great home.”
  2. Do NOT think that because you are offering “the best home” that the seller should automatically just give you the horse.  A lot of times, if you cannot afford a horse in the first place, you cannot afford to truly give it the best home.
  3. When trying to negotiate with a seller, do not tell the seller that they should drop their price because you have to consider shipping costs.  Shipping costs are on YOU, NOT the seller unless they offer to haul.  The seller does NOT care about your shipping costs.  That is YOUR problem.
  4. Do not message the seller just to tell them their horse is pretty if you have no intention of purchasing it.  Your sentiment is nice, but it clogs up emails and messages.
  5. Don’t comment on the seller’s posts or videos saying the horse is green, and that you’ll take the horse for several thousand under what they are advertising because they are so green.  No one asked you, and a seller will not be a fan of this, so if you are even thinking about doing something like that, step away from the keyboard.  We all appreciate it.
  6. Please don’t tell sellers your sob story to get the price down.  Most of the time they are bull$hit and you are just wasting words.  Sellers are not your personal therapists.  Your tears don’t automatically make the price go down either.
  7. Don’t ask for millions of videos, pictures, and information, just to ghost the seller or disappear without a word.  It is rude and a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
  8. To follow up #7, if you cannot afford said horse, don’t ask for a huge price reduction while also requesting ridiculous videos.
  9. Don’t offer to trade your unbroken, dangerous horse for a perfectly well trained one that is UTD on everything and then throw a hissy fit when the seller says they are not interested.
  10. Be considerate of everyone’s time, health, and safety.  If you are a beginner, do not go try out an advanced horse.  If you know you are not going to buy the horse, don’t set up a trial ride.  Tire kickers are the absolute worst.  Not only are you wasting the seller’s time, but there is a very real possibility you could get hurt riding a horse you never intended on buying, or that the horse could get hurt while you are riding it.All in all, be considerate and respectful.  Selling is time-consuming, emotional, and beyond stressful.  The best case scenario is the horse finds the best home with a perfect fit for the new owner.

 

If you don’t believe any of this happens, just comment below and I’ll send you some incredible (and I mean incredible, because I did not believe it happened) videos and screenshots of emails and messages.  My particular favorite one was when someone offered me $1500 for a $4500 horse and wanted to see videos of it “jumping bridleless and bareback.”  I’m sorry, did you also want him to $hit golden turds too?!?

 

Equilibrium Stretch and Flex Flatwork Wraps Review

**DISCLAIMER** I am not paid for this review, nor was I given any type of compensation to write the following.

 

I am not a big believer in wrapping horses.  The Matchy-Matchy trend has caused a lot more owners to start booting and bandaging their horses, and unnecessarily so.  Most boots and wraps do very little in terms of support to the tendons and ligaments, and can actually CAUSE damage due to trapping heat.  (Link to the study here.)  Wrapping bandages incorrectly can further cause tendon issues, due to uneven pressure across ligaments or tendons.

However, wraps and boots are good if your horse interferes or if he/she will knock themself during work (i.e. cavalettis, jumping, cross-country, etc.).  The pony does not typically interfere with himself, but since he got shoes, he is still figuring out where all of his limbs are, particularly if he is excited.  Thus why he gets cute little rubber bell boots from Saxon.  They have fleece lining around the top so he does not get rubs, especially if his legs get wet from dew, puddles, rain, etc.  The fleece rinses clean too if you power spray it, so that is another huge bonus!

Rubber bell boots

He also popped a splint a while back, seemingly out of nowhere.  It’s cold to the touch, he has not come up lame on it, and he is non-reactive on it, so nothing to do there.  But because he is so toed out and has the splint, I like a little support on the tendons.  Obviously no fabric is going to support all 800 pounds of pony, but a little support and a little compression at the same time is definitely not something I am going to thumb my nose at.

I came across the Stretch and Flex Flatwork Wraps from Equilibrium.  As per the description below, they matched exactly what I was looking for.  They are breathable, keep the legs cool, and give compression and support.  They provide just enough protection for Wally’s little wild moments, especially at shows, and I like that they help keep his little splint cold and tight.

Manufacturers Description

Stretch and Flex training wraps are breathable support boots for protection and support during intensive training. Soft and comfortable, versatile horse boots that are not only ideal for dressage and schooling but can also be used for hacking, lunging, showing, endurance, carriage driving, as well as low level jumping. Made from unique and breathable Stomatex®, which regulates the skin temperature during work. They are shaped to fit comfortably around the contours of the horse’s leg and have a wrap around strap that supports the fetlock joint and prevent sand and grit from getting up inside the boot. These boots are ideal for horses with knocks, scars or splints, for young or big moving horses or simply to provide extra protection when needed.
Price-wise, they’re a little more expensive than super basic wraps and cheapy boots, but very comparable to other wraps.  I recommend looking them up, rather than just at one store, since the price varies greatly.  I highly suggest taking a look at Ride-away Equestrian.  They have them at great prices and in navy(!!!), plus more sizes.  Wally is currently in a small, but I feel like he might fit into XS better, so that is going on my Christmas List.
They 100% keep the legs very cool.  Even after taking them off right after a ride, they are cool to the touch and the legs look tighter and better than riding without them on.  Sand does still get up in them, but they may be because Wally needs an XS versus a small.  They fit pretty true to size, so I found that sizing is not tricky if you follow their sizing chart.  I just found mine for sale on Facebook, so I got whatever I could.
Plus, while wraps are not necessary, I think they really do create a more polished looking horse.  And if you are Wally-sized, they make your pony look extra cute!  See below for evidence.
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Carousel Tack Shoppe Review

One of the worst things about living in Tuscaloosa (besides the immense heat and massive bugs in the summer) is the fact that there are NO tack shops in town, unless you count Tractor Supply, which I don’t.  It is basically an hour long drive to the nearest one, and there are pretty much only two options, Carousel Tack Shoppe and Alabama Blue Ribbon Tack.

Side note: I have yet to go to Alabama Blue Ribbon Tack, but that will eventually happen, so stay tuned for that review.

 

Carousel Tack Shoppe: 

5090 Cahaba Valley Rd, Birmingham, AL 35242

4.6/5 stars on Google Reviews

Hours:

Mon-Sat: 11am-5pm

 

Going through the reviews prior to picking which tack store to go to, I noted that there were only about three negative one star reviews.  The rest were all 5 stars.  One of the negative reviews was mostly peeved about the store only selling  non-Western apparel:

“The store was nothing but English tack. Nothing western related at all. Over priced stuf. The owner was very disrespectful. She used vulgar language, talking on the phone with someone, and didn’t even close the door. Whether it’s her shop or not, she showed my boyfriend and I that she was NOT business material.
The shop is too small, my boyfriend is tall, and stock, had a hard time getting around amongst the stuff the was practically thrown on the floors.

I’d never go back, especially since the shop is only focused in ONE thing. Dressage, racing, and English tack.”

Now that I have been in the store, I would like to set the record straight.  The store is definitely not too small.  It’s packed to the brim with tack and riding clothes, and that is just the way it should be in order for non-online tack stores to operate.  It DOES only have English tack, but I was not surprised since that was included in the website description.  (It pays wonders to read about the description of stores before complaining about them).  Additionally, the owner was INCREDIBLY NICE and answered approximately 25 questions from me.  However, that being said, everyone has good days and bad, so we will leave that alone.  Mostly I wanted to point out that they seemed mad about the fact that only English tack was sold.  A little ridiculous on that point, but oh well.

Most of the reviews ranged from:

Carousel is my all time favorite tack shop in Alabama! I never go anywhere else. EXCEPTIONAL customer service, time and attention. Rita, Molly, Martha, and Linda are always so helpful and friendly. If they do not have your size or color in stock of what you need, they will be happy to order it for you! I can’t wait to go back. They make me want to pull up a chair and just hang out!

to

Carousel is my go to tack shop when I need something for me or my horses. Rita is always so helpful. They have a good selection and at reasonable prices.

 

I can attest to how nice the owner was.  I explained that I had finally made the trek out to her store and how much I had missed being in a physical tack room instead of scouring Smartpak or Dover’s site.  The owner was incredibly nice and told me to take as much time as I wanted and helped me locate things I needed.  I am pretty sure I asked about 24 questions and kept bothering her every time she went back to her office.  She did not seem to mind a bit!

Price:

The prices seemed to be pretty consistent with items I found online with the added bonus of not having to pay any shipping.  You might not find blockbuster deals like the massive 50% off sales some sites have, but I did notice BOGO 50% off on show shirts and additional 20% off select breeches, so there are sales!

Selection:

The store has a really good variety of items in different sizes, colors, and brands.  After reading reviews, it also appears that if they do not have something you need, they can order it for you.  The owner took a phone call while I was browsing around and I heard her discussing the best brand and sizing of boots since she was having a difficult time finding boots to fit a customer.  I was pretty impressed with how accurately she knew the sizing of the customer and the amount of time she spent with a representative trying to find something that would fit!

The store had everything from bits, to horsey knick knacks, to breeches, so they encompassed a pretty wide range of items.  Notable brands were Ariat, Tailored Sportsman, Ovation, Fleck, Trainers Choice, One K, etc.  They did NOT have Romfh breeches (which I always look for because I love them), but I do not really have the budget for a brand new pair, so I was a little relieved.  The only thing I wish they had more of were treats.  They had three different treats: Mrs. Pastures, the German Horse Muffins, and the Manna Pro Peppermint treats, but I was hoping that they had a couple of more options.

Items Needed:

Stock ties

Items Purchased:

2 stock ties:

-Ovation Stock Tie in white, untied: $15.99

-Ovation Dry Tex Stock Tie in white, untied: $21.99

A quick google search showed that I got these both a couple of dollars cheaper than most retailers carried them for. 

A hoof oil brush for a barnmate: $2.99

2 packs of Hawthorne’s Hoof Pack: $2.99/ea

-I got this for emergency purposes and to bring on the road in case anything happens at a show, clinic, etc.

1 bottle Hawthorne’s Pine Tar: $7.99

-The pony has on shoes!  A new development, but I want to make sure his hooves stay nice and hard, and I am still trying to get rid of an annoyingly persistent thrush, so we will see how this works.  It gets great reviews, so I’m pretty optimistic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trials and Tribulations of Riding Horses

The National Dressage Pony Cup is in T-9 days.  Which would normally mean last minute packing, tightening up on the tests, making sure all of my white show clothes are white and making several sacrifices to the pony gods.  However, much like with nearly all horse experiences, the Pony Cup is not happening after the year-long preparation.

A barn member’s pony who was going with us (and really started this whole thing after going and winning the whole darn Training Division!) passed away at the age of 26.  Since the other person that was initially going with us backed out about a month prior, I was the last person going from our barn.

Financially, there is absolutely no way I could afford to go.  Trailering alone would have wiped out my budget, plus the hotel, show fees, etc.  Despite what most would be devastating news, I found I was just fine.  Seeing a partnership of 9 years come to a sad end made me realize what an incredible gift it is to simply ride and have a phenomenal pony.  The stress level has been taken way down.

Now, not every session has to be intensely focused.  If I want to dick around and let my pony graze for an hour (much to the chagrin of my instructor), I can without worrying that we will be unprepared for the show.  We can also focus on moving up to First Level without dwelling in Training for a while (although I absolutely do not mind since I find some of the transitions at First Level absolutely nasty!).  I would love to start earning my scores for my Bronze Medal and make a successful jump up to First Level.

Additionally, I would love to get more show miles under both mine and Wally’s belt.  We have been offsite a grand total of 3 times:

  1. Clinic in Hunstville with Debbie Rodriguez (which was actually a boneified disaster now that I look back on it).
  2. Clinic with Lellie Ward about 45 min from the barn (incredibly fun; check the last post to read more about it!)
  3. Schooling show that the Alabama Eventing Team put on!  Despite picking up the wrong lead, we got a massive score of 75.4%!

So I would love to take him more places and look at a couple of rated shows in the fall.  And if those do not happen, my pony won’t complain.  He will be much happier munching grass instead of working out!

Lellie Ward Clinic Breakdown

Lellie Ward is amazing.  Point blank.  Period.  If you ever have the chance to clinic with her, 100% jump on that opportunity.  She is funny, straight to the point, and about permanent fixes, not the quick fixes a lot of clinicians liked to give.  She was equally hard on both the rider and horse, but every single pair walked away with the horse and rider going much better and wildly happy.

Hauling, loading, and packing:  The pony was an absolute saint.  I am lucky to have had some awesome teammates who hauled the pony for free (although I did Venmo them money, because that is the polite thing to do and ensures that people are usually pretty happy to haul you the next time around).  Packing is wildly easy for me when it comes to horses, but wildly difficult when I have to pack for anything non-horse related.  Luckily, this clinic was 20 minutes from my barn, so even if I had forgotten something, I could quickly run and grab it without being SOL.

The pony settled into his stall and was (dare I say it?!?!) one of the best behaved horses there.  He loaded and unloaded like a champ, was not calling for anybody, and besides spooking at the sound of me biting into a carrot, was rock solid the entire weekend.  It made me extremely proud that he is figuring out how to settle in and not act like a nutcase.  The previous clinic we went to was about $125/hour lesson, and Wally spent the first ten minutes of our very expensive lesson dragging the clinician around while she held onto his bridle.  It was the world’s most expensive pony ride ever.

 

Day 1:

I was mildly nervous, because if you have been following along, you know that Wally was lame since November, with no seeming cause.  He got 2+ months off, got chiropractic work, acupressure, and a saddle change and is back in action–albeit slowly.  And by slowly I mean taking it back to 20 minute rides of just walking for two weeks before adding in 3-4 minutes of trot work.  So this means the pony is good and chunky, and thanks to the weather, I had not had a lesson on him since he went lame.  Basically, we were desperately unprepared.

I started off explaining how long Wally had been off and some of the issues we had been having.  Right away, Lellie guessed exactly how Wally would respond to certain things and what his go-to habits are, like charging off and dropping down on the bit.  She was absolutely spot on and I immediately felt more comfortable.

I was told to carry my hands higher and demand more of a higher level frame, say a second or third level frame versus a training level or first level frame.  The main goal was to think of lifting the horse with every up bit and keeping him up with every step instead of allowing him to plunge down into the bridle or go behind the bit.  One of my main issues is that I have a slight tendency to tip forward when on Wally, which is a big no-no when you are a tall person on a small pony.  He takes advantage of it every time and dives onto the forehand.

Lellie had me sitting up straighter and lifting with my seat while also carrying my hands higher to show Wally where he should be carrying himself.  Anytime he tried to charge forward, I’d ask him to halt (without looking down–another bad habit!), then reinback.  Halting and doing a reinback is a great way to stop a horse from plunging through the bridle and blowing off your aids.  I really needed to sit back, use my butt cheeks to tell him to half-halt, and loosen my thighs and let them swing so he would have a freer shoulder.  Despite sounding counter intuitive, loosening the pressure of my thighs helped Wally step up and take softer steps, bending more at the joint rather than running forward through my aids.

We did a lot of work on bend and counter-bend, shifting the bend of the spine to create flexibility.  Wally is really good at blocking me with his shoulder or straightening his spine to avoid bending to the left.  By tapping or holding a whip on the body part he was blocking me with (usually his shoulder or left haunch), Wally learned to loosen the body part and swing through the back instead of stiffening and charging.

Once I got him softening at the walk, we did it at the trot.  He got quite a bit more “chargy” here, so there was a huge emphasis on getting him to unblock the body and maintain the softer balanced steps like we had in the walk.  By the end, we were both covered in sweat.

Day 2:

I could tell Wally was tired from the day before, and a little grumpy in his stall.  I was worried it would translate over into our ride, but Wally was a little pro once we entered the arena.  He was already more receptive to staying soft in the walk and trot, but had a little more resistance to the rein back.  I felt this was mildly fair, since he was probably a little muscle-sore in his back from the day prior.

We split the arena up and only used the bottom 1/4, turning the traditional short sides into the long sides and vice versa, so I was in essence working in a very small space.  As I went around, I was instructed to bend and counter bend his spine, flexing him both ways and managing every step.  When Lellie said to halt, you had to halt immediately within the next step, no stumbling or dumping down into the halt.

One of the neat exercises was to go across the mini diagonal, starting at a trot, walk at the first quarter line, trot at x, changing the bend, walk at the 3rd quarter line, and finally trotting when I reached the long side.  Each transition had to be up, up, up! and without any charging steps.  Definitely still a work in progress, but very useful for learning how to manage each step, even as the bend and balance changes.

We got to canter a little bit, and Wally offered one of the softest and best canters he could to date.  I felt like I was really sitting in the saddle with my back moving with his.  It was one of those moments that you cling to when everything else goes badly.

 

Key Takeways:

  • Honestly a wildly positive, fun, and informative clinic.  It helped wash the bad taste of the last one I had away and gave me a good base to build from.
  • Wally is ready to start going to more shows and ramp up his training.
  • I can take a lot more contact up with the reins and really control the tempo, size of step, and flexibility in his body.

General Takeaways from the Clinic:

  • Everybody should be sitting up and riding like they are going around in a higher level frame.
  • Demand more of your horse and ask for each step to be lighter and more uphill.
  • Flexibility of the spine is extremely important and should be focused on every day.
  • Sessions should challenge you and the horse, but you should both walk away feeling like you accomplished something and that your horse can reach the next level.

 

What’s Going On Under The Hood

Saddle Placement
Seeing how the muscles and bones are connected allows riders to better see how different frames affect the entire body. 

Everything we do affects the horse, both negatively and positively.  If you look at the development of a horse’s muscles, you can see exactly how they have been ridden.  For instance, in the ever controversial (and for good reason) rollkur position, the horse is being pulled into a low and deep frame, rather than the horse coming into the correct frame by using driving aids.  In the picture below, not only is the horse over flexed, but there is also a dip right in front of his/her withers.

Image result for horse pulled into frame dressage
Notice the dip right below where her hands are.  There should be a smooth continuation of the line of the neck, rather than this dip if the horse is in the correct frame. Also note the overdevelopment of the neck muscles by the poll.  This can also be found in horses who are frequently put in draw reins.

So what is happening muscularly when a horse is pulled into a rollkur or overflexed frame?  There is an overdevelopment of the muscles near the poll.  So instead of a proportionately muscled neck, this horse often lacks muscles near the withers and base of the neck, and is overmuscled near the poll.

Muscling Picutres

When I look at Bronson, I see exactly how he has been ridden and trained (with draw reins and on the forehand).  He does not stretch through the back and takes little “stutter steps” with the hind.  So the trick is to first get his head up and have him work through his back, and then begin working him into the correct frame.  He currently runs through the bridle and down onto the forehand, so I switch up the directions we go, trot and walk him over poles, and basically anything else that makes him rebalance and engage his back.

By looking at how our horses are built and how they are muscling up, we can see the conformational difficulties they will have to overcome and how our training is effecting them.