The holidays are a great break in the routine. They are a time to celebrate, to do something out of the norm and to get a little silly. I love holidays and I especially love it when I get to bring my horse to the party too!
What better way to kick off spring than with a mounted Easter Egg hunt, a spring time bonnet and of course lots of laugher and big smiles.
Bonus! Planning holiday activities with your horse provides a great platform for working on desensitizing, encouraging curiosity and promoting trust with your equine friend.
Some things to consider when planning your party:
1.) All of your festive decorations and costume items, while they look pretty and are just for fun, may be scary to your horse. Introduce your horse to these items slowly and with patience. Give them a chance to look at the decorations and sniff things if they desire. Allow them time to process the new things they are seeing.
2.) If you decide to carry a bucket for collecting eggs on your Easter hunt show it to your horse first. Rattle the eggs inside the bucket and give your horse the opportunity to become familiar with the sound before setting out on your hunt. The sound of plastic eggs rolling around a bucket can be unsettling, especially if it’s coming from above as it will be when you carry it while riding.
3.) If you haven’t put things on your horses head previously, go slowly. Allow them to sniff, nibble, and look at the hat before you go straight to putting it on.
Most of all… have fun and laugh! Fun times with our horses are really what it’s all about!
1.) The horse can do it. When I first started riding on uneven surfaces such as in grass fields and out on the trail my horse would trip and stumble. I would get so frustrated, often complaining ” this is never going to work… we can’t do our “dressage” training with such crappy footing. I can’t ask my horse to be round and collected in the grassy, uneven field. But, we kept riding and it wasn’t long before I started to realize our rides were improving. Athena was tripping and stumbling less and over time hardly ever if at all stumbled. With soft persistent requests and lots of grace Athena started to learn how to find her own balance and to pick up her feet to avoid stumbling. Before long, we were in fact able to find moments of collection, soft contact and roundness in our rides… even on uneven terrain.
2.) My own balance and seat has improved. With the uneven ground I’ve had to really focus on being independent of my mare’s movements. Whether she slowed down, sped up, over jumped a pole, tripped or even stumbled, being able to keep my own flow and not be rattled by the mistakes has made me a far quieter and more balanced rider.
3.) We’ve learned to work through distractions. The leaves on the tree rustled, the pheasant flew up from the tall grass, the dog came running up from down the hill, the giant backhoe in the yard… No problem… we are used to all of that now. Staying focused, or regaining composure quickly after a disruption is a fantastic skill to learn and has tremendous benefits, especially if you have plans to show. Very few environments are void of distraction and scary things for our horses. Teaching them to cope with these moments is one of the best tools we can teach them.
4.) I learned to celebrate the tiniest of improvement. Most rides in imperfect conditions and/or uneven surfaces are a blend of good moments and frustrating moments. Rather than focusing exclusively on what isn’t right or how the horse isn’t moving, find the little victories; The 3 steps in a row where you and your horse are in harmony, the two strides where your horse is “round” with a nice even contact, the moment your horse didn’t spoke at something or recovered quickly when you asked. Reward to try ALWAYS. This becomes especially important when you are out “in the world” doing your training. This build trust and your partnership will grow deeper.
5.) Training in the real world builds trust and I believe a deeper connection with your horse. I’ll be honest, I would love to ride more regularly in freshly groomed white sand arenas. But, that’s not my reality, so I’m making lemonade out of lemons and you know what I’ve learned…. all the imperfectness creates a deeper level of connection and a stronger level of trust between my horse and I. For example riding on a loose rein, for long and low stretchy trot out in a field takes courage and trust. As a rider you are giving your horse the choice to decide to work with you, or take off for the barn. I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised on more than one occasion at my horses desire to really try for me, to work with me and be with me, given all of her choices. Likewise, she is learning to trust me; if I say the path is ok, it’s ok. If I am not phased by the pheasant then she shouldn’t be either. It works both ways.
6.) Training outside can be a lot of fun! The views are spectacular, the sound of the birds chirping is super relaxing and no two days are every the same! A huge bonus for my easily bored mare who often gets sour when we train in an arena for more than two days in a row!
7.) I’m a more confident rider. I used to always walk down hills because well, trotting was far too scary, and I felt that I could only do a 20 meter circle if the area was perfectly flat or ask for a canter when coming around the corner. Now, I ride whatever is in front of me. If we are trotting and she gets quick and doesn’t respond to my half halt, we do a circle, it doesn’t matter if there is a small rise in the ground, or a stump we have to go around, we just do it and continue on with our ride. I call it all terrain dressage. After-all the word in it’s self means to train and that’s what we do whether inside, outside on level ground or hilly fields… we train in it all and grow with every ride!
I’m always exploring products that can help my horse perform better. For Athena, this means reducing stress, helping her focus more and soothe her tight and sore muscles from a good ride.
Through my research, I discovered Fenwick Equestrian and in particular, their LT Calming Mask and LT Stable Sheet. Both are amazing and have been a game changer in our training.
The LT Mask as described on the Fenwick website is “ The first and only therapeutic mask which can help your horses relax and focus naturally.” The mask is drug free, has 4 way stretch and is designed using Fenwick’s Liquid Titanium Far Infrared fabric that is both breathable and wicking. This makes it very comfortable for your horse to wear. For more information about the technology, you can check out the Fenwick website here.
As an owner, I’ve seen first hand the positive effects the LT calming mask can have. Athena is easily distracted during our training and is often spooky and nervous in new environments and situations. Over the years, I have tried a variety of supplements and while some may have worked, the results where hard to quantify. Others did nothing. I continued to search for a better product that I could use situationally that I could really see and feel an improvement in her behavior. The LT Mask was it! From the very first time I put it on, I immediately noticed a difference in her behavior. After fastening the Velcro straps, while still standing in the cross ties, she immediately licked and chewed, a sign of relaxation. During our ride, she got right down to business… it was as if the mask had helped her put her “work hat” on or mask as in this case. She was all business, focused and ready for my cues. She was less distracted and the spooky corner wasn’t nearly as scary as it has been. I was thrilled.
I continued to experiment with different situations. I’ve used the mask for trailering, on trail rides, and when riding in new places. While it isn’t a cure all for spookiness, Athena still has her jumpy moments on trail rides and still gets distracted from time to time, overall she has a much calmer demeanor and a much more focused attitude when wearing her mask.
The fabric is super stretchy and cool. We’ve finished some pretty intense rides and other than a little sweat behind her ears, she isn’t any more sweaty under her mask than she would be normally…. And we live in Hawaii!
I’m a huge believer. This mask is now fully integrated into our regular riding. We call it her “Zorro super hero mask”. It gives her that extra edge of confidence and poise to conquer new situations and be her best self, bringing her “home personality” on adventures where ever we go.
Post ride, Athena loves her Fenwick LT Therapy sheet. After her bath or hose down, she nudges me as if to ask for her “blankey”. It’s pretty cute. She always stands still, not a common occurrence for miss busy body, as I drape it over her. Almost immediately I get a sigh of relaxation and usually a yawn too. I often feed her a small snack or let her hand graze for a bit while wearing her sheet. The fabric is light weight. Even if I leave it on overnight or longer during the day, I’ve never found her to get sweaty. As an added bonus in the evenings, post bath the wicking properties of the blanket act as a cooler to help her dry off more quickly, which is fantastic. The stretchy fabric, hugs her body, and broad Friesian shoulders without being restrictive. I’ve even used this sheet before our rides on cooler mornings to help warm her muscles up before we get to work. It’s been another fantastic and multipurpose product in Athena’s wardrobe.
For more information or to purchase check out the Fenwick website:
Nail holes, hoof cracks, white line oh my!
Thankfully, Athena has great hooves. She has been barefoot most of her life and we’ve never had any issues. In January, it became apparent that her barefoot hooves couldn’t take the beating of every day riding, rocky trail rides and gravel around the barn. A groove was starting to form along her white line and I decided it was time to put shoes on her. I’m not going to lie… I really obsessed about whether to move from barefoot to shoes. It turned out to be the right decision.But I did feel sort of like a proud Mom… my Athena is all grown up and wearing big girl shoes! Ahhhh, Sigh.
We had 7 months of everything going great. At our regular farrier appointment in July, our Farrier was trimming away the hoof as usual to prep it for the new shoe and he found a soft spot. As he investigated further, he discovered a white powdery substance. That powder was the hoof wall crumbling from the bacteria/fungus eating the laminae and the hoof wall separating from the laminae and coffin bone. As he continued to dig out the deteriorated hoof, wall the hole just kept getting bigger and going deeper. The bacteria/fungus must have started in a small crack in her hoof along the white line and it just spread up the laminae. It had now progressed to the point where we ended up resecting half of her hoof wall and applying a bar shoe to project the hoof.
I am hyper aware of her feet and always treat any cracks, chips, etc I pick her hooves daily and she is on a great diet and in all other ways is very healthy. This just happened to be a fluke incident and with our warm tropical climate it’s the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to flourish in a closed hoof environment. I was shocked, and devastated but my Farrier assured me this is the best way to get ahead of the problem and insure I can treat the entire area.
I’m grateful Athena has remained sound even while missing half her hoof. It looks terrible! With her hoof wall resected, the majority of the problem had been exposed and cut away. However, I still needed to come up with a treatment protocol that would insure all the bacteria and fungus was truly eliminated. I needed a plan that was easy to do everyday, and manageable without the full structure of a barn environment and the treatments needed to actually work.
Through my research, I found Therazone. This stuff is amazing!!!! It’s a clay mixed with copper sulfate, and vinegar. I store it in the fridge at home and bring it to the pasture with me in a cooler. Pretty easy so far. After I ride and hose Athena down, I take my fingers and scoop out a clump of the semi hardened clay and pack it into the resected part of her hoof. I squish the clay into any crack or hole and smear it around to cover her exposed coffin bone. Because she is in a pasture, I take Equi-tape which is a Kinesiology tape and place a strip of tape over her hoof so that the clay doesn’t get scuffed off by the grass. Equi tape is both breathable and durable so it doesn’t block air flow to the hoof and it stays on.Tada! All done. It stays in place, treating the area all day and night, until I return the next day to treat again.
In just two weeks, I could already see a marked improvement her hoof. The coffin bone looks less dry and more nourished and the hoof wall is growing down quite quickly. It’s been 8 weeks now and the hoof is regrowing nicely. I also apply the clay to the old nail holes and any other cracks, or groves that I find, just as a precaution to keep any potential bacteria from getting into her hoof.
Therazone has been amazing. Easy to use, stays put and works! I’m so glad I found it!
On the Hunt! Hunting for the perfect fly sheet! Living in Hawaii, and owning a baroque build Friesian sport horse has created quite the conundrum for finding the perfect fly sheet. With hot and humid weather year round, the fly sheet must be light weight and highly breathable. But, it still needs to provide good protection from those pesky flies and annoying “no seeums” and mosquitos. Since my mare will be wearing her sheet ALOT, it must also offer plenty of shoulder room so it doesn’t rub or become restrictive with daily wear. So many fly sheets look great when you first put them on, but after a full day of grazing, rolling and just being a horse, you return to find the fly sheet slid to one side, or so far back off the wither and neck, their shoulders are restricted and the blank is rubbing the shiny fur off your beautiful horse.
I’ve tried so many different fly sheets, I’ve started to feel like Goldilocks and the 3 little bears…. This one is too heavy, this one is too narrow, this one won’t stay in place and the list goes on…. But, I can say with satisfaction that the Hug Fly Sheet is fantastic and fits juuuuusst right.
When I first unfolded the fly sheet from its packaging, I was slightly concerned as it felt heavy and the fabric didn’t look like it had enough of an open weave to allow airflow. But, I was willing to give it a try.
It took a few moments to get all the straps on, adjusted correctly and the sheet positioned appropriately. With everything now fastened, the sheet draped perfectly.
I stood back to analyze the fit. It sure looked good. The hug closure neck opening is cut higher and rides above her shoulder allowing more freedom to move. With the clasp up around the wither, there is nothing to restrict the shoulder movement, which is fantastic. The neck also has elastic so it stretches with the horses up and down grazing movement. What a great idea!
Now, for the best part, the fabric. It’s like magic. Just looking at the fabric and holding it, I thought it would be too heavy for our Hawaii climate. It’s a tight weave, and a durable fabric. But, it’s not too heavy. Even on the hottest days she has only had a little sweat along the seam that is double overlapped and most days no sweat at all. The slightly shiny grey fabric must be reflective some how. As I said, it’s like magic!
Now for the true test… all day pasture turnout. I turned Athena out and watched her happily graze, uninhibited by her new Hug Fly sheet. Satisfied with how it seemed to be fitting, I left for the day. Returning the next day I was pleased to see the Hug Fly Sheet hadn’t moved at all.. not one inch. Success! I think Athena and I may have found the fly sheet for us!
Happy Horse, Happy Owner!