Thursday, April 30, 2015

No Media Thursday

Guys, I have my poneh back!
You know, the one with the brain in his head!
The Ulcergard is working! I was afraid to say it out loud in case I ruined the magic.
I swear I saw a difference after Day 1.
I can't explain it, but he was suddenly there again, the way he used to be. My boy.
There has been no more repeat episodes of kicking out under saddle.
He seems less anxious in general. The other day he was almost sleeping in the cross-ties as I tacked him up.
Tuesday night, I rode after work in the indoor with a friend that I don't usually get to ride with. Her schedule is opposite mine, so she normally rides during the day.
In the past, she has done the A/O Jumpers at Lake Placid, so she is, y'know, GOOD.
Well, she got on Boca Tuesday after our ride.
And, HOT DAMN -- she made the little red horse look fancy!
You could have peeled my jaw off the arena floor.
And where was my cell phone, you may ask??
BACK AT THE BARN. I could have cried.
Anyways, she introduced these novel concepts to me called FORWARD and STRAIGHT.
I guess these are things?  Things to try for when riding?
Who knew???
I for one had certainly forgotten all about them.
I am bemoaning my lack of media for this blog. How do you all manage it?
I can't horse and camera. I just can't even.
No seriously, how do you all do it? Do you have to bribe people? Threaten them?
Do I just have no friends?  How does this work???
Oh, and in other news, my friend suggested a breastplate may be in order for Boca's saddle. She let me borrow her elastic jumper breastplate, which I promptly fell in love with.
And so, after some feverish e-baying, this little beauty is winging its way over to me from England.
Mine, all mine!  The pretty...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Year Ago

It is funny how much changes in a year.
This time last year, I started on the journey that would lead me to owning Boca.
Last April, I made the mature decision to see if I could live life without horses.
I decided if I took the money I spend on horses and riding, and put it towards sensible life things, like my savings and a 401K, I would have all these nice life options, such as early retirement, travel, even a vacation home.
Over the winter, I had already scaled back my riding for financial reasons. I was taking a lesson and did one hack ride per week with a lovely local trainer.
But being an only child, I don't share well. I didn't want to be one of many weekly riders to a kind lesson horse. I wanted more.
I was mentally fried from years of being hard on myself in the ring. I really needed to get out of the sandbox and remember why I loved riding in the first place.
So, metally fried, broke, and with this crazy idea that I could live a life without horses, I told my local trainer that I was taking a break from riding.
As you may have guessed, this did not go as planned.
I wound up one Saturday afternoon, sitting in the parking lot of my local grocery store, bawling my eyes out in my car. 
>> Hey, I never claimed to be emotionally stable, did I? <<
I decided that maybe what I needed was to take a break from riding horses.
I found a local stable that raced Standardbreds and decided to go offer my services.
What resulted from this was the option to free lease a retired Standardbred trotter named Jax.
Although it didn't work out long term, leasing Jax introduced me to the barn where I would meet the girl that went horse shopping with me, and where I would board Boca.
My first year of owning Boca, we spent a lot of time outside the sandbox.
We dressed up in silly costumes...
We went swimming...
We gave pony rides...
We basically did any damn fool thing my pony-club deprived childhood heart wanted to do.
And along the way, I learned that he was trustworthy and kind and stubborn and brave.
I learned to let go of kicking the sh*t out of myself for not being the rider I wanted to be.
I learned there may be days when our communication is not great, when he isn't feeling it, or I'm not feeling it, but that's ok.
Because it's fun again. And I have him. And he's pretty damn great.
We are closing in on the end first year togther. May 28th, 2015 will be the start of my second year with Boca. And I can't wait to see what it brings!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Saturday my Ulcergard arrived and I stared Boca on his treatment yesterday.
28 days of wrestling this down his throat should be entertaining!
 I really need to get a friendly media person to get some new video and photos for me.
Believe it or not, in the last few weeks, our canter has started to improve!
I tried to get a few pics of Boca cantering on the longe, but everytime I took my eye off him, he broke to a trot.

Poor lil red horse

So hard. Much horse.
In other news, fellow gelding owners can appreciate that this Sunday was, ahem, Spring Cleaning... if you know what I mean.

I was grooming Boca's belly on Saturday and decided I should probably check the state of affairs up there.  WHOO BOY. Crusty critter!

My new plans for Sunday suddenly included everyone's favorite task - sheath cleaning. Luckily for me, Boca is pretty good about the process. I have heard stories that some geldings will try to kick your head off your shoulders.

Lastly, I will leave you with this cuteness:

A family of foxes has made a den in a woodpile at the back of our farm. This little guy was the boldest of his 5 or 6 sisters and brothers and came out of the den to have his picture snapped!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Endoscopy Wrap Up

I didn't really go into detail, but I got to play veterinary assistant yesterday for Boca's endoscopy. The vet's normal assistant wasn't available, so she asked me if I would mind stepping in to help her.
Me assisting in a veterinary proceedure, 2008
Equine medicine was almost a career path for me 7 years ago.
I find the medical stuff facinating, so I was happy to help.
I have to say, of the many, many horses I have assisted medically, Boca was one of the more uncooperative patients. Because of his equine hysterics, the vet opted to give him a healthy dose of sedative. He was literally stumbling drunk, but he was fighting mad and still alert. Getting the scope up his nose was a bit of a struggle. Turns out Mr. Boca is a belligerant drunk.
This calls to mind a story his breeder told me about his name. Boca's registered name is Hancock's Tuff. As a foal, there was some medical complications with his dam; I forget exactly what they were. In any case, baby Boca must not have been a model patient then either, earning him the name Tuff.
Don't mess with me, man.
After the endoscopy was over, and I was rooting through my purse for my checkbook, the vet was bent over in the aisle, cleaning up her equipment. I heard a yelp and an "Ouch".
Someone (not naming any names) apparently reached over their stall gate and bit the vet in the head to express their displeasure over the whole proceedure!
I was framed!

The Ulcergard is on order. I bought 24 tubes, so I will be doing the max dose as long as possible, then tapering off.

Thank you all for your suggestions and comments!  They were super helpful and very much appreciated!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Endoscopy Results

First off, the prep for the scope was pretty tough for a little red horse.

Umm, excuse me lady. Where's the food?

The prep included no food after 8 PM. No grain, no hay, no treats, no nuthin'.
I had to strip his stall to make sure all little scraps of hay were removed.

Thug Life

He was allowed to have water until 7 AM this morning, and then I had to pull his water buckets out too. His stomach had to be completely empty of food stuffs and liquids in order for the vet to see with the scope.

Ok... I'll just eat this stupid sign.

He was not at all impressed with being locked up alone, with no food, while all his buddies got to get breakfast and turnout. There were definitely some horsey hysterics involved.

The scoping process itself was not easy. Boca was not the most cooperative patient.
Even tranqu'ed to the hilt, he objected to the hose up the nose, trying to flip his head, sneeze it out, and 'run away' in his stall.

I got to play vet assistant and hold the scope in his nose while the vet "drove" the scope.
The result was that, while there was no actual ulcers, the tissue of his stomach and the opening of his small intestine was reddened and irritated, with edema present. The vet gave it an assessment of Grade 1.

The interesting thing my vet told me is that there is no known correlation between the severity of the ulcers and the symptoms shown by the horse. So a horse with lower grade ulcers can still show as much or more discomfort than a horse diagnosed with a higher grade.

The treatment we agreed to proceed with is 2+ weeks of Gastrogard (Ulcergard), and hopefully I will have a much happier horse in two weeks.

Just for fun, my dog made friends with this little guy on the farm today:

I was so shocked, I didn't catch it on camera. Jersey is normally very afraid of horses.
He does his best to ignore them and hopes if he pretends he can't see them, then they'll go away. But he marched right up to the donkey and gave him a big ole' sniff.
It was very cute. I think the donkey liked him too!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Next Steps

The vet came out yesterday for Boca. We went over all the issues he has been having.
She pulled bloodwork to test for Lyme Disease, but agreed that the most likely culprit is gastric ulcers.

The tricky part of the equation is that he looks fantastic - 
I received the ultimate compliment when the vet said Boca looks better every time she sees him, so I must be doing something right.

He is not ill, does not have any loss of appetite, no colic-like episodes.
In fact, the only indicator is his under saddle behavior, and his change in personality.

Because the symptoms are mild-ish, we decided the best course of action would be to scope him (i.e. perform an endoscopy).

Not everyone chooses to go this route. Many people decide to treat for ulcers without a confirmed diagnosis, and if their horse improves, assume their educated guess was correct. This is a more cost effective way of addressing the issue, especially if your horse is not insured, which Boca is not.

This brings up an interesting side note. I have never looked into insurance for Boca. I assumed, cheap horse don't need no insurance. But this situation may be changing my mind.

Not only is the process of paying out of pocket for an endoscopy expensive, but the actual treatment itself (Gastroguard/Ulcerguard) is astronomically expensive. All told, I am probably looking at $1,500 - $2,000 bill, should this in fact turn out to be Boca's issue.

I'm not going to lie, this week has been tough. I mentioned in an earlier post about some family issues I have been having. The long and short of it is that my dad, who has struggled with alcoholism, has been drinking again. This is a heartbreaking blow to my family. All I can say is that, if you have ever dealt with alcoholism and addiction with a family member or loved one, it is a special kind of hell.

Also, I have had some spectacularly shitty rides on Boca this week. It is no fun riding a horse that is miserable, and I don't want him to associate being ridden with pain or frustration. My plan is to cut back on all riding (maybe just a walk on the trails) until after the endoscopy results.

Lastly, my husband was not exactly "whatever you need for Boca, hon" about this upcoming vet bill, which really bummed me out. It is hard for a non-horse person to wrap their head around the amount we spend on horses. He is supportive, to a point. After which, it just comes across to him as insanity.

I have dwelt this week in anger, frustration and depression, but I am moving on. Boca will be ok, my marriage will be ok. What happens with my dad is out of my hands. 

Boca's endoscopy is scheduled for Wed, April 22nd.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Next Stop... PBR

After Monday's ride, I think I may have a new calling.
The PBR.
After 3 days off, I decided Boca did not need to be longed before riding.
It was a balmy 68 degrees. He had been standing in the sunshine all day -
no reason to be cold-backed.
I saddled up and took him to a new outdoor ring, which I haven't ridden him in before, and proceeded to have a pretty impressive imitation of a qualifying rodeo ride.

He started out extremely agitated about my leg. SO OFFENDED.
Much swishing of tail, kicking out, and half-rears ensued.
Then, he decided he wanted to canter. So l let him.
What followed was about 10 minutes of bucking and dolphin-leaping, interspersed with occasionally decent strides of canter.
My abs are really sore from riding.
My vet appointment is scheduled for tomorrow. I feel like I have been waiting for it forever.
I really hope we can figure out what hell-demon has stolen my horse and replaced it with the miserable animal I currently own.
I want my horse back.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Horses Aren't Everything

This weekend, I had a lovely non-horsey weekend with my very dear friend from New York City. It was refreshing to have riding take a back seat for a weekend. 

Cape Cod
Of course, I still got some barn time in; the chores still needed to be done.
Sunday was a beautiful day and Boca got to be naked for the first time this spring.
I'm really happy with how he looks right now:

It was a great day to give my paddock a thorough cleaning.
Boca decided to be super helpful.
 Mmm... Muck Bucket
I've got some family problems going on right now that put riding and horses in perspective.
Not having a great canter suddenly doesn't seem like that big a deal.
The horse world can get a little skewed sometimes.
It is easy to get obsessive over minutia and details.
We can get hung up on our horses, our riding, our goals.
Sometimes, its is good to have a reminder that horses aren't everything.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Princess and The Pea

I'm going to talk about everyone's favorite topic... the quest for the perfect saddle.
Finding the perfect saddle that fits your horse and puts you in the perfect place is like trying to find the perfect man -- in my experience, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.
Please let this fit his withers and keep me out of a chair seat...
Saddle shopping for me has always been fraught with frustration and disappointment.
I have always started with a budget that has been promptly blown out of the water by some improbably odd combination of mine and my horse's conformation.
I am within driving distance of 3 Dover Saddlery-s, a Smartpak and Pelham Saddlery. They are just close enough to be drivable, but far enough away to be a huge waste of time and gas money. I can't tell you the number of saddles I have had on trial and returned, at great expense and inconvenience.
With my last two horses, I have been through no less than 4 different saddle fitters, countless trial saddles and one defective saddle that was at least refunded in the end by the seller.
The most frustrating aspect is that I usually have nothing to ride in during the great saddle-search process. I have no back-up saddle on hand and usually have to borrow from some gracious friend / fellow boarder.
The saddle I have now I feel like is just okay - it has been professionally fitted to Boca and has been re-checked 2 or 3 times in less than a year. So I can safely say at least I know it fits my horse.
But I often find myself struggling for position, and wondering if there isn't something better out there for me. On my trail ride on Sunday, I found myself wiggling around, trying to get into and hold a better position, and once again questioned if this is the best I can do.
I'm sort of just philosophizing here, as there is really no way in hell I can even consider saddle shopping until I know what I am in for in the way of vet bills. Plus, I think my husband just might kill me if I tell him I am going to sell the saddle I have paid to adjust 2, 3, 4 times now.
I guess I am just daydreaming about one day finding my perfect match.
I know it's out there... My one true saddle love.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 First Off-Property Adventure

I made plans to trailer to our favorite park with Boca's best friend Ace & his mom for our inaugural trail ride. Ace is Boca's horsey best friend, so I thought it might do him good to see his buddy.
The best at standing.
Boca was pretty good. He did fire off a few kicks when I first got on, but settled in after a few minutes and seemed happy to be out walking in the park. His ears were up the whole time and he was happy to march right along.
We did the largest trail loop available for equestrian access.
I think it is about 5 miles long.
Overall it was, good, but for what it is worth, April 16th just can't get here fast enough.
I can't wait to treat Boca for whatever the heck is bothering him.
I want my boy back.

Monday, April 6, 2015

He's a Trainwreck, But He's My Trainwreck

I have to admit, I am not much of a confirmation guru.

But I know a fine looking Ass when I see one!

I can usually get a general sense of when a horse is well-put together and pleasing to the eye, but I can't break down their individual parts and explain positive or negative attributes, depending on their intended career.

That being said, I am pretty sure my horse is a trainwreck.
A conformational trainwreck.

Let's start with the head:

Ah, what a noble steed!  With the 'look of eagles' in his eyes. Really, quite majestic.
It's breathtaking, actually.

From there we move on to the dip in front of the withers.
I'm not actually even sure what this is. Does he have a ewe-neck? Is it from not working correctly? All I know is, I'm pretty sure it's not desirable.

Believe it or not, it used to be worse,
so maybe I'm doing something right? Maybe?

And then there's that shoulder. Wooo-Wee!
Who put that giant shoulder on them short little legs?
No wonder he can't sit down on his ass. His shoulders are dragging him down, man.

What a drag.

And of course, doesn't everyone want a cow-hocked horse? Instead of more cowbell, I picture legions of middle-aged riders screaming "More Cowhock" at Christopher Walken.

"More Cowhock!"

And while we're on the subject of legs, let's take a look at this little beauty: 

 I mean, I've seen some horses that paddle before, but I didn't even know horses' legs could move like that. That is something special right there.

But no matter how f'ed up his conformation, no matter how *special* his movement,
he may be a crooked mess, but he's mine.

And I love him.

Hi Mom!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Hunt for Red October (Or lyme, Or ulcers.)

The great news? I was able to snag a last-minute appointment with my saddle-fitter yesterday. I had heard, through my trainer, that she would be passing through the area this week.
January 2015 appt.
I sent her an SOS, and she was able to squeeze me in for a quick half-hour before she headed up to New Hampshire for her regularly scheduled appointments.
K met me at the indoor yesterday morning at 9:00 AM. She had requested that I be on and riding for at least 20 minutes prior to the appointment.
The great news was that she thought the saddle looked awesome. She requested that I add a half pad for the time being, while we build Boca's topline back up.
So now, at K's recommendation, I am the proud owner of an EquineLUX half pad.
We thermal imaged Boca's back, and it looks great. K was very happy with what she saw and said there are no issues or problems there.
What she did note was that, personality wise, he is a completely different horse than the one she knows. K has fitted Boca 2 or 3 times now, and said he is 100% different than the horse she remembers.
She said he seems very anxious and jumpy. The whites of his eyes were flashing. His eyebrows were wrinkled. He just seemed very worried in general. She said something is definitely bothering him and noted he is much more reactive than usual.
I actually felt a lot better. I'm NOT going crazy. Even my farrier remarked on Monday that he was much more wiggly than usual. He is usually a pretty chill customer.
Guys, this is the horse that flat-walked, on the buckle, through a PARADE.
With firetrucks and police lights, floats, a marching band, people waving flags, minis, dogs, horses pulling carts.

On the buckle
K said it was not normal for him to still be so worried 3 weeks after moving to a new barn.
She even questioned if he was being handled correctly by the new barn folks.
And so, the hunt begins. I put in a call to my vet.
We are going down the rabbit-hole of chasing a medical diagnoses.
The first non-emergency appointment I could get is Thursday, April 16th.

 The crossties... now a reason to be alarmed.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How I Afford Horse Ownership - The Real Deal

I think we can all agree that horse ownership is very, very expensive. There is a reason why horse racing is called 'The Sport of Kings' -- because only the very wealthy can afford it.

Depending on your circumstances, horse ownership can look very different.
Here is how, given my particular set of circumstances, I make it work.
First, it is important to note where I live:
In my little corner of the world, aka The Northeast, the cost of living is among the highest in the country. This means, with or without a horse, simple day-to-day life costs more. Which leads me to point numero uno.
#1) I am Married. Hubby and I both work full time jobs.
Sadly, if I were still single, even with a full time job I would not be able to afford horse ownership. Having a partner to help share the bills means part of my salary is freed up to put towards owning a horse.
#2) No Children.
 It should come as no suprise that the two biggest resources in life are Time and Money.
I know there are some people out there that can balance a job, a marriage, kids and horses, but dang if I know how they do it. My hat is off to them. For me, personally, it would have to be one or the other. And I choose horses.
#3) Condo, not house.
Hubs and I live in a condo, not a single family home. Our condo is perfect for the two of us, and is roughly half the cost of the starting price for a decent single family home in this area.
#4) Reliable, single-previous-owner vehicles.
Reliable, dependable, mid-2000's, one-previous-owner vehicles.
Low maintenance, no car payments. I will NEVER drive something brand new off the lot.
Unless I win the lottery.
#5 Frozen Lunchies.
Before horse ownership, I used to buy my lunch everyday. Then I discovered frozen lunchies. $2.50 for lunch versus $10?  I'll take it! I bring all my food for work from home. Breakfast, snacks, and lunches.
 #6 No Novelty Coffee.
If you live in the Northeast, or even if you just come to visit, you will quickly notice that there is a Dunkin Donuts every 1.5 miles. Their donuts suck. But what doesn't suck is their coffee. I'm not sure it is even good, but it is ubiquitous. Everyone walks around with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. Everyone except me.  I brew my coffee at home. $2.75 for a medium ice coffee? If you have one every day, that is 2 lessons a month. And God knows, I need lessons more than I need coffee!!!
#7 Rough Board / Co-op Board
In my area of New England, board is not cheap. Full board without an indoor is $550-$700/mo. Say goodbye to at least 2 months of regular riding, unless we have a mild winter. Full board with an indoor is $750 - $1200+. My solution? Rough board / Co-op board.
Rough board is $250-$300/mo. I supply my own hay, shavings and grain. I pay someone to clean Boca's stall Monday-Friday. In exchange, I clean that person's stall, plus my own, on Saturdays & Sundays. My new barn is a co-op barn, which means I have 1 turn-in shift per week. I bring in and feed 10 horses on Sunday nights. For use of the awesome facilities? Totally worth it!
So that, my friends, is how this floppy ammy makes it work.
What are some of your life hacks for horse ownership?