Lesson Learned

Last Thursday showcased the true ridiculousness of Central Illinois weather by giving us a major case of whiplash: It warmed up to 60 degrees (F) in the early afternoon and then plummeted to 12 degrees by the evening.

Despite the shock of it, it was a brief but welcome respite from frigid winter temperatures.  Winter just makes everything having to do with horses harder.  Water buckets freeze, turnout is questionable due to snow/ice/slush/mud or any combination of those things, working horses is hard, and even grooming becomes an extra challenge.

Charlie arrived in Illinois with a little bit of New Jersey mud on him.  He was also just grimey… dired-on sweat, dead skin, dust, and manure was stuck in his winter coat.  I brushed him diligently, but what I REALLY wanted to do was give him a bath.

With temps below zero, though, that obviously was not a great idea.  Instead, I concocted a coat conditioning treatment in a spray bottle.  Some witch hazel, white vinegar and water made the base.  A splash of mineral oil and some drops of essential oils finished it off.  I’d spray it on the horses or on my brush, brush vigorously, and the grime would get lifted out of his coat.  Vinegar in particular is good at clarifying hair, while witch hazel soothes skin.

This worked out well for both horses, and their coats really shined.

On Thursday, though, I learned an important lesson.

I was working the horses on their newfound buddy sourness.  Simon has made a REALLY bad choice a night or two previous by paying too much attention to Charlie, not enough attention to me, and shoving past me.  This is actually an offense punishable by death at my barn, but Simon lucked into only having a come-to-Jesus moment about it.

A horse regretting his action which led to him being tied to a tree away from his friend.

To work on the buddy sourness, I knew I needed to make being together more unpleasant than being apart.  This is difficult since they do live in the same barn, so together time includes chilling out, eating, sleeping, etc.  For this day, though, we worked on the idea that being apart was chill-out time, with Charlie tied in the barn (with hay and water) and Simon tied out on a tree (with nothing, since he was lucky enough to escape the death sentence) in our ring-shaped paddock.  I’d take Charlie to the paddock near Simon, but while he was there he had to work.  I lunged him, asking him to trot at a pretty good clip.  Then he got to go back into the barn, away from Simon and eat, drink, and chill out.  We repeated this a few times.

By the time it started to sink in a bit, Charlie was sweaty from his work, and Simon was a little warm from being outside on a 60 degree day with a winter coat.

They smelled like you’d expect a hot horse to smell, but with a distinct stank of VINEGAR.

I am not one to be sensitive to smells in the slightest, but dealing with these giant, hairy, buddy sour pickles made me queasy.  Luckily, it was still near 60 degrees at this point, so each horse got a quick rinse-off bath and then got to spend some time under a cooler.

So I learned my lesson.  As nice as vinegar can be on hair, there’s a reason it’s recommended as a hair rinse and not a leave-in treatment.  Duly noted, I will not be making THAT mistake again.

A Charlie Check-In

Mr. Wild Wasabi himself, aka Charlie, has been with me just about 14 days now!  Overall, I’m immensely impressed with how well he’s adjusting.  His life has been really topsy-turvy since November:

  • sold at auction from what I presume was an Amish home,
  • spent 30 days at a quarantine facility where he got over the nasty cold he’d picked up at the auction,
  • rode in a trailer for a few days to get from New Jersey to Illinois,
  • arrived at his new home with new horses, environment, people, etc.
New blanket and a mouth fulla hay.

His new blanket arrived a couple days ago.  It was on sale at Big Dee’s and it suits him nicely, though I imagine it’ll be much better when he gains some weight and fills out.  I’m so glad he looks so nice in red!  I’ve somehow acquired a freakishly large amount of red equine paraphernalia, especially given that I typically buy everything in green.  I don’t particularly care for the way red looks on chestnuts (though in the grand scheme of things that keep me up at night this ranks fairly low), so I’m glad to have it on a big bay.

Speaking of big, the first thing that struck me about Charlie is that he is BIG.  Freakishly huge!  Ok, ok, I finally measured him and he’s all of 16.1hh, just as advertised.  He wears a size 82 blanket, though!  Simon, in contrast, is right between 15.1 and 15.2hh and wears a 72.

I cant wait until that forelock grows out!

Charlie appears to be gaining weight!  Besides it being just really freakin’ cold around here, I keep him blanketed because I want as little energy going to keeping warm and as much energy going to regrowing that forelock gaining weight as possible.  I’d kind of neglected to realize that Simon is an air fern, able to sustain himself each day on a nibble of hay and a sip of water and the sweet anguish of his potentially unrequited love for Silly the Filly next door.

Charlie needs a whole helluva lot of hay and multiple buckets of water, along with his grain and supplement and oil.  And is that straw on the stall floor?  He’ll be eating that, too, thanks.  It turns out that Charlie’s voracious appetite inspires Simon to eat more (he’s probably worried that Charlie will climb the stall wall to get at any leftovers, which is a fear not without basis), so we’re going through a bale of (really nice alfalfa/grass mix) hay every day.

Lunging seemed to be a foreign concept to Charlie, but he’s picking it up quickly!  One of his biggest challenges is stopping when I say “whoa,” which I find… suspicious.  You’re telling me a 13 year old horse that was a race horse and an Amish horse somehow doesn’t know how to whoa?!  Sounds fishy.  But regardless, he is learning it!  Along with the idea of staying out on the circle, stepping over a ground pole, walking, trotting, and reversing.

While I work either horse, the other horse gets to stand tied in their stall.  Charlie struggles with this, as he’s certain that Simon will walk out one door of the barn and the angel of death will walk in the other.  There’s some screaming, some nervous pooping, and lots of general anxiety surrounding Simon’s departure.  The good part is that Charlie is quiet and focused while being worked.  He picked up pretty quickly that I have a zero tolerance policy for any bad ground manners.

All-in-all, it’s been an eventful 2 weeks for Charles!  He’s adapting well, and will hopefully begin to thrive in his new home!

A Horsey 2018!

Simon the Tennessee Walker

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and the coming year and what I want to accomplish.  2017 was the first year in a LONG time that I didn’t set any resolutions.  I used to do a fantastic job of setting them and checking in on them every month to see how I was progressing.  But I reached a time where I was growing quickly, and my life was changing in ways that I couldn’t foresee; resolutions set in January weren’t really applicable by June, let alone December.

For example, at the beginning of 2017 I had Simon boarded and ZERO intentions of ever moving him out to the farm.  By the end of 2017, not only was Simon out at the farm, but I’d adopted Charlie and had him out there, too!

For 2018, I think I’m going to keep focusing on themes (long-term intentions) and micro goals (goals set for anywhere from a week to a month at a time).

Horse Themes

I want the horses to be healthy and happy in 2018, and I want to enjoy my time with them.  Right now, I’m imagining some pleasure riding with Simon and retraining Charlie to be a pleasure horse as well.  I want to expand my experimentation, re: movement rehab, on them.  I want to invest in their health with regular chiropractic visits, dental work, etc.

I want to progress my riding skills.  I started taking western lessons in the Fall of 2017, and I plan to continue those.  I would love to get back into saddleseat riding and maybe try more huntseat as well.  But most importantly, I want to feel confident and competent in the saddle.

Horse Goals

My goals for this week are just for all of us to stay alive.  It’s cold and snowy and icy out.

10AM on January 1, 2018. Brrrrrrrr!!

This means keeping the horses in their stalls when it’s bitterly cold, keeping hay in front of them to help warm them up and entertain them, and hauling hot water out to the barn.

I’ve been working them lightly — just enough to establish a routine (and nip Charlie’s wannabe-buddy-sour attitude right in the bud) and make their brains work.  Charlie’s learning how to lunge and getting acquainted with the various verbal cues I use.  Simon’s getting the extra challenge of staying focused whilst Charlie screams from the barn.  We’ve worked lunging at a walk (including over our “ground pole” aka a large branch), ground manners, parking out, and yielding the shoulders or the hips.  All-in-all, it gets them moving and thinking and reminds them that they DO occasionally have a job besides standing around and stuffing their faces.

“What is this ‘whoa‘ you speak of, and does it mean ‘belligerently trot really fast?'”

This week I’ll also be laying in supplies.  Charlie’s new blanket and supplement (Uckele Tri Amino) arrived today, and I reordered more of the Uckele G.U.T to start him on that, too.  I’m picking up a load of hay on Saturday since we’re going through it so quickly between it being cold and Charlie being, y’know, starved.  I’ll also be stocking up on grain and buying a couple different brands of pine bedding to see if they’re better than what I’m currently getting.

Looking Forward

Overall, I’m really excited about 2018.  I have no idea what’s in store, but I’m sure it’s gonna be fun!