Don’t flip-flop about it…..

Four ibuprofen down the hatch as my right foot throbs!  Another job related injury!  The names of the parties involved have been changed to protect the victims, wait a minute, I am the victim!

I teach a lovely lady we’ll call “Bonnie” that owns a small riding facility at her home several miles from the barn in which I board my horses.  With a show a couple of weeks away it’s time to trailer the horses over to ride some tests while also getting them used to traveling off of the property.  Horses arrive, check out the place, walk into washracks, everything is fine.  Here’s where things take a turn.

The horse Bonnie is going to ride tacks up without incident.  My process does not go quite as smoothly.  My ride, we’ll call “Bernie” has a girthing issue, that I should have remembered, as I have tacked him up at his own house many times.  This is where I erred, as Bernie is one of several horses I have known over the years that if girthed too quickly will buckle at the knees.  This is exactly what happened.  I didn’t ratchet it up, however, there are certain horses that must be girthed very slowly to prevent such a reaction and care must be given every time.

I confidently put on the saddle, buckled the girth and walked out of the washrack to grab the bridle.  When I turned around with bridle in hand  Bernie’s legs buckled and he collapsed on to the mats of the washrack.  The fall frightened him, causing him to flip and thrash around in the crossties.  Luckily the crossties have quick release connections and one of them gave way.  After a couple of seconds that felt like hours, Bernie settled down and laid (lay, laid) down in the washrack, confused.  He was still enough that I approached his head and unclipped the crossties on each side of his halter and backed up so he could get back up on his feet.

I got two steps back when he launched himself up off the ground with his hoof pointed like a ballerina’s toe slamming straight down on top of my foot!  Wham!!!  My entire body got hot with adrenaline, followed by a cold, clammy sweat!  Yes, Yes, Bernie was fine!  However,  my foot felt shattered.  I was lucky to be wearing my riding boots at the time.  I know this incident is not uncommon.  We have all had hundreds of foot smashing, toe stepping incidents but it brings up a conversation I have every summer with students concerning barn footwear.

Invariably , every summer I will have a conversation with at least two or three different students who will show up at the barn for the day with flip-flops or sandals on.  I always say “you probably need to wear something more substantial, you might get your toes cut off”.   The reply that follows usually sounds something like “I’m not going to get my horse out of the stall, I’m not even going to lead a horse”.

This sounds fine, in theory.  However, you never know what might happen that you may have to become involved in.  If a horse gets loose and you have to help catch him, you are suddenly leading a horse.  If a horse gets tangled in a wire and needs immediate help, or falls in a crosstie, or a hundred other emergency scenarios and you are needed to jump in and help out, it is not practical to be wearing footwear that will compromise your feet.

Even here in the hot and humid South, and even as cute as your sandals are, and even if you are wearing shorts, sturdy boots or shoes are your best choice if you are at the barn for any period of time.  Dont fret, your Facebook pictures will look cuter with you with boots on than with you on crutches anyday!

And the Winner is…..

It’s always exciting when I receive feedback from readers of the blog.  Today’s comments brought an extra-special surprise….. An Award!!!!  Yes, a fellow blogger, The Literary Horse, has bestowed upon me the coveted “Beautiful Blogger Award”!!  I’m very flattered as her blog is brilliant!  If you haven’t already started following her blog it is linked under my blogroll on every post.  Why she is doing her blog for free when I would gladly buy her writings if they were published is beyond me, but I’ll take it while I can!   There are fifteen other recipients of the award listed on her site, some of them I have read previously and some I have just found today but will be following from now on.

The award comes with two stipulations.  I must list seven things my readers may not know about me (hmmm..scary!)  and I must choose fifteen blogs in which to bestow the award.  The seven things I can manage.  The fifteen blogs will be a little trickier, as I have only been blogging a couple of months and haven’t had time to build a large base of other blogs to follow.  In order to provide the links I will post the links of the other recipients, as I have previewed them all tonight and they are all great.  As a matter of fact they are so good I am afraid I will lose my readers to them, but I greedily want to post my award so I will do it, and add one that I like as well!

OK.  Seven things nobody knows (or not many people anyway!)

1.  I have a tattoo of my late Malamute, Samson’s, paw print and name on my leg.

2.  I went to bartending school, but never tended bar.

3.  My Mom washes my show clothes and mails them back to me because she gets them the whitest.

4.  I don’t own a television- hence the blog!

5.  I still think I’m a teenager, but my license says I’m 42.

6.  I once hiked 300 miles on the Appalachian Trail.

7.  I tilt my head at a ridiculous angle when I teach and can’t stop no matter how hard I try!  (What’s the deal with trainers and head tilting?)

The Literary Horse’s Beautiful Blogger Award Recipients:

In addition to Jane’s blog I would add Retired Racehorse as a recipient.  Natalie is a frequent blogger with a great site heralding the Thoroughbred.  Her posts and her comments on other’s posts are always insightful and funny.  I will post more recipients as I commit to reading more blogs.

Sincere thanks to Jane at The Literary Horse for reading and acknowledging my blog and congratulations to the other award recipients!  I consider myself in fine company.   I encourage everyone to check out the links to the other award winners that Jane honored.  There is a lot of pertinent information and positive energy being exchanged on these forums.  If you are so inclined you may want to start a blog of your own.  Everyone’s point of view is important and you never know, you might even win an award!!!

Don’t forget your Wellies….

Even in the temperate South, this winter has been the most frustrating riding season I can remember.   All of the paddocks are knee-deep in mud.  The arenas are almost always closed to protect them for future riding.  The perpetual rain makes turnout, for many horses, rare.   On top of the weather, the economy is putting the pinch on everyone.  If we are to make it, as a unified equine community, we must put our complaints aside, and hold out a little while longer for the sun to appear.   These conditions call for optimism on a unprecedented level.

On days that inclement weather prevents your horse’s turnout, it is a good idea to get to the barn and lunge or ride him anyway.  If the arena is unavailable, because of same inclement weather, hand walking will suffice to get your horse out of his stall for a while.  Horse’s digestive systems were not made for them to stand around for long periods of time.  This is not a reason for  you to call the barn and ask someone to do this for you.  When the horses are in, stalls must be cleaned more often and the workload is heavier.  Go to the barn with your raincoat!  It will not hurt you and your horse will be glad for the outing!

If you decide to ride, don’t be too proud to lunge your horse for a few minutes before mounting.  Even a generally quiet horse can be feisty when he has been stalled for long periods of time, or when the wind is whipping or howling.  It is not a sign of bravery when someone refuses to lunge a horse that has not been ridden for some time.  It is a better training decision to get the horse settled in to a working attitude on the lungeline  than to risk an adversarial confrontation.   

After you’ve seen to your horse’s exercise there are plenty of rainy weather chores that can be caught up on.  Tack cleaning can be fun if you do it in a group, maybe watching some horsey videos.  I’m sure your tack trunk or closet could stand to be cleaned and organized, as could the horse trailer you keep putting off.  Rainy days are a good day to wash and sanitize your horse’s brushes, as the muddy season brings with it lots of fungus that is hard to get rid of later.  If you are feeling particularly benevolent, you could clean out the barn’s break room or bathroom.  Someone will love you for it.   

Remember that the weather and economy have made the job of caring for horses harder on everyone this year.  Barn Owners, Barn Staff, Trainers, Boarders, Farriers, everyone has faced challenges this winter.  Hang in there and try to stay optimistic for the final stretch.  Pitch in and help to get through the last of this inconvenient weather.  It’s been a tough winter, but the end is in sight, and soon the same people who muddled through the cold, wet, muddy winter will be the ones riding alongside you while the sun shines warmly on your backs.

Horsey Lessons from The Birdhouse Chick…..

Life as a horse trainer, at least the kind that works out of many barns, is a particularly transient one.  Either because of the nature of my business, or that I grew up a military brat (I haven’t figured out which) I move every few years.  Because I meet most of my roommates at the barns or stables where I work, I tend to live with dedicated animal lovers.  As anyone who knows her can tell you, Animal lover, in respect to my roommate, Beth Wheeler, is an understatement!

Beth, the proprietor and namesake of  the unique bird house boutique, The Birdhouse Chick, is one of the most dedicated stewards of the environment that I know.  An entire blog could be written on her selfless acts of caring for stray dogs and cats, and her yard is a testament to her love for birds and other wildlife.  Check out her website and daily blog, she is the one that started me blogging.

Beth also has a horse, Sweets, that she keeps at Moonlight Equestrian Center.  While I was racking my brain for a blog topic, Beth was washing some blankets for an older horse at the barn.  She suggested I relay what she does with the dryer lint and horsehair cleaned from the washer after we wash our blankets, saddlepads, etc. 

Brilliant…Take a mesh produce bag- the kind you buy your horse’s apples in- and begin filling it with the hair, (body and tail),  from the lint trap of your dryer, and from the inside of the washer and dryer after washing dirty horse items.  You can also supplement the bag with mane and tail hair from your tail brush or from pulling your horse’s mane.  When the bag is full, tie it off and hang it from a branch in a nearby tree.  The birds love to use the hair to build their nests!  I have picked up  used nests at barns that were made entirely of horse hair! 

I have attached a picture of a horsehair nesting ball that Beth made for our yard.  We have the happiest birds around, and it is a joy to watch them in the morning before I set off to see the horses.  Take some time to check out her website- the birds will love you for it!