Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Good End To A Bad Week

Yes, the clouds have finally parted and let the sun break through (metaphorically -- it's actually rainy and gross right now). I have gradually regained Salem's sanity, thank goodness; and I have had no more tragedies. This was not my week, but the past few days have been brighter.

First and foremost, the Salem Ponykins -- where did I last leave off in our tale? I told you about his sanity "breaking" last weekend and the extraordinary acrobatics that it entailed. Unfortunately, Salem is sharp as a tack and, even though I did not get off right away when Salem misbehaved last Saturday, he still got it into his head that Naughtiness = Less Work. It took several days, lots of leg, and enough growling to intimidate a Rottweiler to show him that his shenanigans will get him nothing but more work. He gradually got less and less resistant and finally threw in the towel on Wednesday.

Friday, Heather rode Salem in the morning. I warned her that he was having a Greenie, Boundaries-Testing Week, so she needed to keep her guard up. Her exact words when I asked her how it went were, "Well, it ended well." Apparently, he had been very good at the trot (which is what I had fought for all week), but when asked to canter he went "leaping around the field." Poor Heather, she got a wild ride! But I know that she is a very determined and capable rider and she worked him through it with a bit of help from Elaine.

Saturday, Heather and I did a one-two tag team ride in the morning and he was a very good boy. He still had to throw in a little bit of naughtiness every now and then, but went very well overall. Since Heather was on first, she actually worked all of his kinks out. I got to just get on and have a nice quiet hack. It's nice to have someone else do all the hard stuff every once in a while!

That afternoon, I had to leave early because I had tickets for Cavalia -- yes, this is the second time that I've gone in the past three weeks, but it's very good! This time, I was in the eight row, as opposed to last time when I was literally in the last row. Needless to say, it was just as breathtaking and mesmerizing as the first time.

My absolute favorite part is the Grand Liberte', where Sylvia Zerbini comes on stage with her eight horses (a mix of white/grey Arab and Andalusion stallions/geldings). Zerbini has nothing but a dressage whip, and all of the horses are completely free and loose -- no halters, no nothing. She holds the attention of those eight horses far better than I can command the attention of one. The Grand Liberte' is indescribably beautiful -- the relationship that Zerbini has with those horses is touching and inspiring. She'll make a little circle with the dressage whip and four horses will spin one way and four will spin the other way. I've never seen anything like it. Zerbini is definitely one of my new horsey idols!

In other good news, Salem's lip is completely healed. In fact, Dr. F could have been a plastic surgeon because you would never know that he ever had any stitches. Yay!

And last but not least, today Heather gave Jennie and me an hour-long flat lesson. For the most part, Salem was a very well-behaved little pony. We had some cantering "issues," where he would leap around like a gazelle, kick, buck, and crowhop. Really, it sounds worse than it was. We worked through it, and he eventually settled down and cantered quietly. He didn't spook once -- not at the horses in the pasture, the growling lawnmower next door, the 4-wheelers tearing down the street, the horses being longed in the arena, or the various sounds created by the brisk wind. We even got the right lead on the first try -- victory! :-) Overall, it was definitely the perfect, bright end to a very dark week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another Sad Day

This has turned into quite a tough week. The cat in the pic above is Zamboni, a feral cat who had been hanging around our barn for months and months. At first he wouldn't let anyone come near him, but I slowly gained his trust through lots of gentle talking and quite a few cat treats. I had gotten within half an inch of him, but hadn't actually pet him.

About two weeks ago, I noticed that his ear was hurt very badly -- there was a large flap and a lot of blood and pus. I knew he needed to get to the vet. Long story short, Heather is a cat whisperer and we got him into a crate last Wednesday night. I took him to the vet, who cut the flap off, thoroughly cleaned the wound, gave him a two-week antibiotic shot, and started him on Revolution for ear mites. He told me to clean the wound and put Neosporin on it every day and I made an appointment for this morning for Zamboni to come back and get shots and a "ball-ectomy."

The first night, I put him in the bathroom,
opened the crate, and stepped out. When I
came back, I couldn't find him anywhere.
He was hiding on the top shelf
of the linen closet!

The week that he spent at my house, Zamboni turned from terrified of people to total love bug. I would sit in the bathroom with him (he stayed in there to keep away from my kitty Phoebe in case he was sick) and pet him and pet him and peeeeet him. If I stopped, he would meow and rub against me and roll over on his back to have his belly rubbed. He was such a little lover and a huge goofball.

This morning when I took him in, I had this nagging feeling that Z-man's feline leukemia or feline AIDS test would come back positive and he would have to be put to sleep. I told myself I was just being paranoid. When I took him in to the office everyone made a huge fuss over him and commented on what a striking and handsome kitty he was. I said goodbye to him and headed home.

A few hours passed and I didn't get that phone call. I figured everything was good and I would be able to pick up Zamboni and take him home, for good this time. That's when the phone rang. It was my vet and he said that Zamboni had done great during surgery and had been recovering well. Then he suddenly had a seizure and died.

Of course, I went in to say goodbye to Z. I told him I'm sorry that this happened but I'm so glad that I got the chance to spend time with him. I told him I was sorry that I wasn't with him 'til the end. Even though I only spent a solid week with him, losing him was heartbreaking. It's just never easy -- animals find their way so deeply into our hearts so quickly. It's both the greatest joy and the heaviest weight.

Unfortunately, I only have crappy cell phone pics of him. I know this has nothing to do with Salem, but I felt that Zamboni deserved to have his story told. He was the most gorgeous, wild-looking snow-leopard kitty I've ever seen, a big tough tom cat that was the sweetest little guy once he trusted me. Z-man, I'm sure you'll have lots of good company over there on the other side. I'll miss you.

Lounging on his little bed in the linen closet. The first
few days, he had to be up high
(since he was a wild kitty and height = safety).
Eventually, he started coming down more
often and I made him a little bed on the floor, as well.

*Thanks to Ruby for helping me with the pics!*

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Always With Me

One year ago today, I lost my sweet boy Mac. Miss ya, buddy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Need A Young Priest and An Old Priest...

...because Salem has clearly been possessed by demonic spirits and is in need of an immediate exorcism. Anybody have some holy water? Sage? A protective crystal amulet? I'll take anything.

To be honest, I knew yesterday that Salem would be high as a kite; he had Thursday off because I had to take an injured barn cat to the vet, and then Friday off because we had The Thunderstorm of The Century. Add to the mix the fact that it was very brisk and chilly, and you've got the perfect recipe for a Very Naughty Pony.

We started off pretty well -- we did about 15 minutes of fairly calm walking to warm up. Salem was a bit of a lookie-loo, but that's not unusual as of late. He's going through a bit of a "testing" phase, where he tries reeeaally hard to find something to spook at. It's just your typical greenie behavior and nothing major. We did lots of circles and serpentines and ground rails to keep Salem occupied and focused.

After the walk, I took him into the arena and picked up a trot tracking left. I could feel a bit of a hump in his back and he was doing the up-and-down bouncey trot as opposed to a forward trot but, again, I was not surprised given the circumstances. We probably trotted about ten minutes and I could feel Salem starting to loosen up.

We reversed and did a few walk/halt transitions, and Salem was listening well. Unfortunately, Luis then decided to turn out the evening-shift horses, even though it was still early. He started with Lafitte, who took off bucking and galloping like a bat out of hell. Salem grew about two feet and started snorting like a velocaraptor. Awesome.

I figured I needed to get Salem occupied, so I asked for a trot. Apparently, there is a new definition for trot, because Salem started flinging his head around, crow-hopping, and bouncing around in a jarring, pogo-stick trot. He wanted to go up instead of forward and he was throwing his head around like crazy. So, I sat deeper, squeezed with my calves, and touched the spur to his sides in order to get him forward. It just was not happening. I tried a few more times, but by then all of the evening horses were turned out and running around like idiots. I decided to simplify the equation and ask for a quiet walk. I got a somewhat-quiet walk twice around the arena and then decided to jump off.

Now, I am usually all for riding through stupidity, and 99% of the time I do. But I know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em and, given all of the factors, this was definitely a time to fold. I got out the longe line and worked Salem for about 45 minutes, and I'm glad I did because he was full of spit and vinegar.

So today -- I figured, okay, we got all that extra energy out of his system. He'll be fine. Again, we started off well. I asked for the trot. He side-passed, bucked, kicked out, pogo-sticked, and started throwing his head up and back. I actually thought he might rear. Again, I figured, it was stupid to keep fighting, so I got off and decided to longe the tar out of him.

We did a half hour on the longe, just enough to get out all of his extra energy. I made him do a lot of cantering and he was sweaty when I finally let him stop. Problem solved, right? I got back on and asked for the trot. Salem started up his antics again, at which point I started to get a bit ticked. He was certainly not just full of energy -- he thought he had my number.

HA! Little does Salem know that I have ridden more than my fair share of super bratty horses. I can growl with the best of them! And, since I knew that Salem was really testing me, I needed to show him that I am The One Who Wears The Pants In This Relationship and he must do what I ask of him. I certainly didn't beat him into submission or anything -- I just kept my leg ON, with a bit of spur, and yelled and growled at him like a rabid mountain lion. He kept testing and testing and then finally gave up. We got about five minutes of nice trotting in each direction and I decided to call it a day. I had made my point -- being a Head-Flinging Demonic Pogo-Stick Pony does not get you out of work. In fact, it gets you way more work and NO peppermints.

Now, I just want to point out that Salem is usually a very good boy. He has a great attitude and I think he actually enjoys working. But he's a young, athletic, green-as-grass Thoroughbred, so of course he's going to have some "moments." Thankfully, these are few and far between -- although, I realize that it might seem like he's always naughty because I always write about his bratty episodes. There aren't a whole lot of "we had a good, boring ride today" because, let's face it, that's not as exciting to read! Sprinklerbandit made that same point recently, and it's true -- the antics always make for a more entertaining blog!

So, we'll see if he remembers this lesson tomorrow. Fingers crossed, I will have the regular old Sane Salem back. For now, I am off in search of some much-needed medicinal chocolate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No Rollkur!!

I'm showing my solidarity for the anti-rollkur movement. If you agree, please copy/past this graphic and the underlying text to your blog. We need to end this cruel practice once and for all!

The FEI is holding a closed-door round table meeting on Feb. 9th to discuss the training method known as rollkur, or hyperflexion, which involves pulling and holding the horse's muzzle to his chest. This practice is known to have many negative effects on the horse, both physically and psychologically. Gerd Heuschmann, the lone voice for the horse at this meeting, has my support and appreciation as he presents his case "for the good of the horse" along with petitions and letters saying NO TO ROLLKUR.

FEI PRESS RELEASELausanne (SUI), 9 February 2010FEI ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE RESOLVES ROLLKUR CONTROVERSY Following constructive debate at the FEI round-table conference at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne today (9 February), the consensus of the group was that any head and neck position achieved through aggressive force is not acceptable. The group redefined hyperflexion/Rollkur as flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force, which is therefore unacceptable. The technique known as Low, Deep and Round (LDR), which achieves flexion without undue force, is acceptable.The group unanimously agreed that any form of aggressive riding must be sanctioned. The FEI will establish a working group, headed by Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman, to expand the current guidelines for stewards to facilitate the implementation of this policy. The group agreed that no changes are required to the current FEI Rules. The FEI Management is currently studying a range of additional measures, including the use of closed circuit television for warm-up arenas at selected shows.The group also emphasised that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider. The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman.The participants in the FEI round-table conference were: HRH Princess Haya, FEI PresidentAlex McLin, FEI Secretary GeneralMargit Otto-Crépin, International Dressage Riders Club RepresentativeLinda Keenan, International Dressage Trainers Club RepresentativeSjef Janssen, Dressage RepresentativeFrank Kemperman, Chairman, FEI Dressage Committee (by conference call)François Mathy, International Jumping Riders Club RepresentativeDavid Broome, Jumping RepresentativeJonathan Chapman, Eventing Representative Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare RepresentativeTony Tyler, World Horse Welfare RepresentativeUlf Helgstrand, President, Danish Equestrian FederationJohn McEwen, Chairman, FEI Veterinary CommitteeDr Sue Dyson, Veterinary RepresentativeDr Gerd Heuschman, Veterinary RepresentativeProf. René van Weeren, Veterinary RepresentativeJacques van Daele, FEI Honorary Steward General DressageGraeme Cooke, FEI Veterinary DirectorTrond Asmyr, FEI Director Dressage and Para-Equestrian DressageJohn Roche, FEI Director Jumping and StewardingCatrin Norinder, FEI Director EventingCarsten Couchouron, FEI Executive Director CommercialRichard Johnson, FEI Communications Director

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Prancing Ponies

Check out Salem and me in our freestyle debut! HA -- I wish! That's actually Tina Konyot and Calecto V gettin' their freestyle on last night at the Exquis World Dressage Masters freestyle at PBIEC. This pair came in seventh, but they would have won Best Groomed if that was a category -- Calecto V was shiny as glass and, though his mane was braided in rosettes, his huge, fluffy forelock was left unbraided and it flopped around in time with the music. Love that!

Taking pics is a bit difficult under the stadium lights, so I apologize for the lack of quality. And, since I somehow only brought a 16 mb memory card with me, I was only able to take a few pics. Of course, I saved most of the memory for Steffen Peters and his amazing partner, Ravel. *sigh* They are truly phenomenal.

Steffen Peters is such a soft, quiet, kind rider. Ravel looked perfectly relaxed and content as he danced around the ring. I know it might sound a bit cheesey, but it was so beautiful it almost brought tears to my eyes. You can tell that this pair is really a team. The fluidity and grace of their round was breathtaking.

Sorry the video clip is so short -- my memory ran out! This freestyle is the same routine that they did in Aachen last year, where they won. If you've never seen the whole routine, you simply must watch it (which you can do by clicking here. You can also watch his warm-up here -- which proves you don't need to use rollkur in the warm-up in order to get an amzing round).

So, you would think that Peters and Ravel would have won, right? Nope. They were robbed. They were beat by Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, which just blows my mind. I am not a fan of Anky (partly because of her use of rollkur), but I truly don't understand how her round beat Peters'. Salinero was so uneven up front, it was ridiculous -- his right front was always very high and snappy and expressive, while his left front was low and lackluster. He also looked pissed off, tense and unhappy the whole round. The only thing that was impressive was his extended trot, which was very floaty and pretty. But, in my mind, a single move should not win the competition!

Of course, Peters was a good sport about the whole thing. Here's what he had to say -- "[I] was feeling pretty solid in the changes, so I did it with one hand. I didn't have quite the guts to do it in the one tempis. I should have, now looking back, but I was happy. I had a lot of horse underneath me, a little bit more than in the Grand Prix. I was careful into the piaffe because I thought he would overreact, but he didn't. That's why I think the first piaffe wasn't that good. The rest of the test was great; I was very, very happy with it. Congratulations to both ladies. I usually never get to see them when we compete. I thought Isabell did a hell of a job. I thought Anky's was one of the best freestyles I've seen with Salinero. To be second behind them is fantastic. Even if we had done the one tempis tonight, we would not have won. At the end of the day, it's a big mistake if you start riding the scoreboard. You have to ride your horse and I asked from Ravel as much as he could offer tonight." (Taken from an interview with Equestrian Sport Productions News)

He and Ravel actually won the Grand Prix the night before, so at least the world hasn't gone completely mad. And if there had been an award for Calmest, Most Well-Behaved Horse During The Awards Ceremony, they would have won it hands-down. Salinero was a complete nutcase, pawing and spooking and leaping around like a half-crazed gazelle. He and Satchmo 78 (Isabell Worth's horse) fed off eachother's nervous energy, while Ravel stood there quietly like a big puppy dog (well, a puppy dog with floppy donkey ears!) .

Oh, and I found out that Steffen and Ravel schooled over at my friend (well, I've met her about six times and she's the close friend of a friend, so that counts, right?) Karen's barn earlier in the week. I would have given my right arm to be there! :-) Oh, well...there's always next year!

Edited to add: Here's an excerpt from Nancy Jaffer's Postcard -- Last to go, Anky went for it with the energetic Salinero. Her "Dance of Devotion" music, composed for her horse, suits him well, but I was surprised that she was marked first by four of the five judges and scored so far ahead of Steffen's mark, at 84.450. A number of the people I chatted with afterward also were surprised; several of them (who did not have their judges' cards) thought Steffen should have won.
I tracked down U.S. judge Axel Steiner, the only official who had placed Steffen first, to ask for his analysis.
"Anky did a lot of things with a high degree of difficulty, and she did them very easily at times. But for me, there was still a fair amount of tension in the horse, compared to Steffen," he said.
"I really appreciate how solid and loose through the back the horse [Ravel] moved, more the way we would really like to see a well-trained dressage horse move. That's not taking anything away from Salinero," Axel added, but noted that horse "sometimes gets ahead of himself."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Last night, as I obsessively cleaned and scrubbed my tack, I noticed something quite disturbing -- the bottle of my beloved tack cleaner was almost empty! Now, as I am a bit of a clean freak, the thought of being tack-cleaner-less caused me to break out in a cold sweat. There might have even been some heart palpitations involved. But it made me think -- what can I absolutely not live without? Now, of course we all know we need thermometers and Vetrap and duct tape. But, besides the obvious choices, here's my list of Must Haves (in no particular order):

1.) Effax Ledercombi - Best leather cleaner ever! As you might have guessed, I do quite a bit of tack cleaning; and, as I also love to try new products, I have used pretty much every leather cleaner under the sun. There are a lot of good cleaners, but this is the only great one. It cleans and conditions in one step, requires no buffing or rubbing, and leaves leather soft, squeeky-clean and glowing. Those Germans sure are innovative (plus, they make products whose names are super fun to say)! I will never be without my beloved Ledercombi. Unfortunately, this means either ordering it online or waiting for a Wellington trip -- but it's well worth it!

2.) Calm Coat (or Cut Heal's DermaCalm, which is the exact same thing but cheaper!) -- Back in November, Salem developed a body-wide case of fungus. I used a lot of different products and concoctions to clear it up, one of which was Calm Coat. Then I started noticing that it had all kinds of different uses -- the best in my mind was the re-growing hair claim that the label made. As Salem always looks like he's been in a gang war (he has lots of fun playing with his neighbors), I decided to start using the Calm Coat on all of his nicks and scrapes that were healed but needed to re-grow hair. This stuff really works! Plus, Salem loves it -- his eyes get all sleepy and droopy when I rub it on his face (maybe from the lavender oil). It smells sooooo good and works well, so it's become a tackbox staple.

3.) Hoof Rasp -- Everyone who has a barefoot horse under her care should have one and know how to use it! This is what kept Salem's feet in check while I searched frantically for a natural barefoot trimmer. And, yes, I was a bit intimidated by it at first -- but, after the first few tries, I realized that it would be pretty difficult to do harm to a horse using only a rasp. (Oh, and an essential that goes along with this is a good pair of gloves -- rasping your hands is not fun!)

4.) White Lightning aka "Gas Chamber Hoof" -- I feel like a bit of a broken record here (or a White Lightning saleswoman!), but I can not say enough good things about this product. It cleared up Salem's abscess in a single treatment and is now battling his White Line Disease. It kills everything (thrush included) except hoof material, so it now has a permanent home in my tackbox. (Plus, Jennie and I made up a really fun death metal song that you sing while doing Gas Chamber Hoof -- actually the whole GCH process, while complex, is a hoot!)

5.) Simple Saline Solution and Triple Antibiotic -- Is it weird that I love wound products? Maybe it's because horses are so amazingly talented at injuring themselves, but I have a bit of a wound-treatment fetish. I have Derma Gel and Aluspray and Wonder Dust and about a zillion other products. Whenever a new horse catalog arrives, I spend an inordinate amount of time reading about Agwraps and collagen gels and creating my "dream first aid kit" in my head. But, when it comes down to it, the two products that I use most are simple saline solution (I actually make my own from a recipe in my vet book) and plain old generic triple antibiotic cream plus pain relief. You just can't beat 'em for effectiveness and affordability. They are definite must-haves.

6.) Rubber Curry Mitt -- At last count, I had six different curry combs. During a long grooming session, I will probably use three. You see, I was raised right -- you always curried the horse after every ride. I believe that some of the younger generation just don't get how essential these little tools are. (Aack! I am getting old! I am starting the "these darn kids these days" statements!) Anyways, if someone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me that I must choose just one curry, it would be the rubber mitt. You can use it effectively and gently on (almost) every part of the horse's body. *glares at snotty teenagers* They even work on all that funky gook that builds up on the fronts of your horse's back cannon bones!

7.) Carrots and Peppermints -- I think Salem would trample me with his rock-hard little hooves if I left these off the list. According to him, they are the most essential items!

So, that's my list of must-haves (at least, what I can think of at this late hour). What are your essential items? What can you simply not bear to live without?