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The Atlantic recently ran a piece on the increasingly dire state of current affairs vis-a-vis recycling. Basically, uh, it ain't really happening right now in a lot of places, since China stopped buying some classes of waste from America, especially plastics.

Apparently, China's manufacturing boom over the last few decades meant they had a near-insatiable appetite for materials, and would pay top-dollar for recyclable plastics and paper from the US and abroad. Paired with the cheap labor to handle sorting the good from the bad, it seemed like a win-win. Except.... the "bad" that got sorted out from what was recyclable had to go somewhere, right? And it ended up getting dumped in communities and contributing to the nasty state of ecological affairs in many areas of China. So, finally, their government decided to end their practice of buying other countries' trash.

in other "green" news, the spring grass is on its way!
So now, much of the carefully sorted and set aside recyclables from US households are being lumped in with the rest of our garbage for incineration. Mostly bc alternative options are straight up cost-prohibitive for many communities, esp those whose resources are already stretched thin. Which makes sense, right? Up until recently, the recyclables had an actual market value and could be sold. Now the tables have turned and communities are paying to handle the waste.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic notes that individual consumption and waste production are actually on the rise in recent years:
In 2015, the most recent year for which national data are available, America generated 262.4 million tons of waste, up 4.5 percent from 2010 and 60 percent from 1985. That amounts to nearly five pounds per person a day.

There's more here from NPR if you're curious about the situation and it's implications. This article in particular points out the pervasiveness and problematic nature of thin plastic wraps and films. Apparently those types of plastic are basically non recyclable plus have a nasty habit of gumming up sorting machines. And, go figure, they're practically everywhere. Like... The 24pk of individually wrapped vet wrap that's sitting in my tack locker right now....

suddenly all the little blooming flowers are waking up!
Anyway tho. Ahem.

The world is so very, very full of problems. And I am just one small being. What possible difference could I make? Like. It's hard to believe that even cutting my own waste by some fraction could make a difference. But I *am* a numbers person. Telling me a metric to beat like "5lbs a day" gives me at least something to work with, right? And telling me that thin plastic wraps and films top the list of "things to avoid" helps me make better choices.

Reading that article reminded me of another story I read years and years ago about this dude who spent a year collecting his own trash. A quick google didn't turn up the story I'm thinking of, bc apparently it's been repeated and copied by many others since then...

But the gist was: this guy decided that for an entire year he would keep ALL his garbage, to see what it actually amounted to over time. When he first started, it was overwhelming and awkward. Especially while he was out and about during the day - he'd have to hang on to all those nasty wrappers and napkins and packets and byproducts all day long until he could get home to squirrel it away in his basement.

Likewise, his poor wife and kids had to put up with all that actual literal trash in their house (tho he did not subject them to keeping their garbage too). Over time, tho, his habits and choices adapted and evolved to where he was producing less and less waste until eventually it was just a fraction of where he started.

He discovered that the mere act of confronting his waste in real time allowed him to understand what produced it, and be realistic about what steps he could take to reduce his "trash footprint."

they won't last long, but they're so pretty!
Now. Right off the bat, I can promise you that I WILL NOT be doing anything even remotely similar to that experiment haha. Not even the temptation of some sort of weird book deal could induce me. But it's interesting to think about, right? And I thought I'd put a little bit of a horsey spin on the whole idea, within reason of course.

Basically, I wanted to think through all the avenues in which my horse habit produces waste. And, in doing so, think of ways that might be a little more environmentally friendly. Or at least, ways of reducing my overall footprint, especially in light of the current recycling crisis.

So. What are the byproducts of my horse habit?

Feed bags. Charlie goes through a bag of grain a week, so that's 50+ feedbags thrown out over the course of the year. Well, maybe slightly fewer than 50 bc my barn uses feedbags as liners for our trash cans. Apparently there are other creative ways to reuse these bags, too, ranging from wildly impractical to more realistic (like using bags to store hay during trips, or for storing blankets during the off season. Oooh and lots of uses in the garden, who knew?).

Supplement containers. I buy most supplements in bulk, and the 5gal buckets are usually easy to rehome haha, esp for watering chores. Smaller tubs can also be useful for storage and organization, tho many are not very durable.

Baggies. My barn requires that I premix and measure Charlie's supplements, and I've been using baggies for this. The baggies are reusable, but generally not indefinitely. At some point they get holes or the seals get gummed up. I've used small tupperwares before too, tho they can often be bulky. This is an area I'm brainstorming for improvements!

related image: my trash hound of a horse LOVES that we use feedbags as liners haha
Bandaging material. This is obvi a big one lately for Charlie, considering he spent the better part of two weeks getting a daily hoof wrap, which included cotton pads, vet wrap, and a not-insignificant amount of duck tape. All of which just got thrown out at the end of the day. Stephanie recently reviewed Woof Wear's reusable medical hoof boot, and ultimately felt like it wasn't durable enough for the price. But now I'm wondering, even if that boot only lasts 2 weeks, would it still be an improvement on the disposable wraps? It's hard to say.

Misc containers. I've reused a fair amount of old bottles and such (esp spray bottles!) from grooming products and what have you. Mostly tho, they go in the trash when they're used up.

Fly spray. I buy mine in concentrate form, and then mix batches throughout the summer. Just googling this subject tho brought up a really important point: Every chemical I use on the farm, stays on the farm for a long, long time. Whether it's processed through manure, or rinsed off the horse in bathing, or whatever. Those chemicals stick around in the ground and ground water. Fly spray in particular is a big contributor (so, apparently, are bathing products), and also a product that can be swapped for DIY home remedies.

Dewormers, it turns out, are kinda a big deal in this regard too. Apparently they're considered hazardous waste, something I've literally never thought about once in my life. And many of those chemicals pass through the horse and end up in manure in the pastures. My habit with Charlie has been to only deworm in response to a positive fecal test. There's a lot I don't know about this subject tho, and had actually planned to attend a lecture on dewormers held by one of my vets at the local Dover, but unfortunately couldn't make it. Anyway, some of my research suggested the following as alternatives to chemical dewormers: medicinal plants (blackberries, periwinkle, pine needles, queen anne’s lace, tarragon, wild ginger, and wild onion) and diatomaceous earth (glass like powder from fossils of aquatic organisms that cuts the parasites).

Packaging from everything else. This includes shipping materials or whatever other packaging that comes with the products I buy. And, god but there's so much of it...

shout out to Amelia who sent me this freakin adorable duck tape!!!
All the above outlines most of the actual physical byproducts of my horse habit. The pieces that are most directly related to the question of "How much trash do I actually produce in a day?"

There's more to it than that, tho. Isn't there always?

In looking further into the subject of eco horse keeping, farm management is one of the biggest factors. Obviously I don't manage a farm. I don't get to make those big choices around water and land resources and management. But I still have a footprint:

Water. When I really sit down to think about it, I use a lot of water at the barn. Bathing my horse or even just hosing him off after a ride. Cleaning tack. Rinsing the dust off stuff. Desperately trying to get the magic cushion off my hands. Etc etc etc.

One idea to reduce my consumption is bathing with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose, or at least making sure the hose has a nozzle on it so it doesn't run when not directly in use. Another is to use "gray" water (like from the barrels that collect rain water and roof runoff) for chores like tack cleaning or giving things a quick rinse.

Hay. Prices around here have skyrocketed over the past months. Our weather last year was so atrociously wet that the hay crops were not only bad quality, but also low quantity. Not a great combo. My farm has had to raise prices bc of this, and also recently instituted a new hay net rule to reduce wastage.

Energy. In the summer we're allowed to put box fans on our stalls while the horses are in during the day time. It's required for safety reasons that the fans be on timers, but this also helps avoid running the fans when they're not needed.

lol charlie would just rather be a dirty dusty piggy anyway
- Transportation. Soooo.... I own three vehicles haha, one of which is a 20 year old pickup that nobody would consider "green." Still tho, there are choices I can make to improve efficiency - like keeping the truck tuned up with air in the tires. Carpooling where possible. Choosing routes that avoid inefficient stop-go traffic in exchange for steady and efficient highway travel.

My buddy who helped me truck shop in the first place has always encouraged me to consider getting a diesel engine, esp for my eventual next tow vehicle. Turns out, apparently diesels are also more efficient than gasoline engines too, so that's worth considering.

Another transportation related idea: keep the trailer stocked with reusable supplies like cups, refillable water bottles, thermoses, etc. In the past I've always just grabbed a case of water bottles or what have you for horse shows, but considering the current plight of recycling, I want to rethink this.

- General equipment. My final thought on my horse-related environmental footprint relates to all the various gear, equipment, tack, accessories, etc., that I use every single day for riding and horse keeping. I'm already a big fan of buying used bc generally my dollars can go farther in the second hand market when it comes to quality. Plus, I'm lucky in my area to have robust consignment shops.

But obviously some things I buy new, too. Which means packaging and often shipping. My own frugal habits tend to lead me toward buying cheaper stuff. But then maybe those items don't last as well, or aren't in good enough shape to donate when I'm finished with them. So I'm going to try to make better choices about shopping for durability and quality too.

just trying to enjoy this view responsibly haha
So, to sorta summarize my ideas after this little thought exercise, there are a few things I can personally do to reduce my waste. Just small tweaks or adjustments to my normal day to day horse habit:

- Find alternative ways to store Charlie's pre-measured supplements for barn staff. Ideas or suggestions welcome!! (For reference, whatever I use needs to accommodate a volume of ~1 cup, and I usually mix out ~30 servings at a time).

- Use a bucket and sponge instead of the hose for rinsing the sweat off Charlie after our rides. He's a sweaty foamy lathery dude tho, so I anticipate that we won't exactly go cold turkey on the hose haha. But the key word is "reduce," right?

- Plan ahead for show day needs - esp re: water and snacks. I'm imagining getting some sort of larger water cooler for the trailer, but even a plastic gallon jug of water is better than individual plastic bottles.

- Generally, make more conscientious choices at the point of sale. Is what I want available second hand? Or, if not, is what I'm buying going to last and be durable? Or, if it's a disposable or consumable product (like duck tape or mane detangler or electrolytes), try to make choices with packaging, chemical content, and volume in mind. Like buying in bulk when it makes sense.

What about you? Do you think about stuff like this? Do you have any tips or tricks for more environmentally friendly horse keeping? Like maybe you have a killer homemade fly spray recipe, or have some inspired approach to dealing with all those feed sacks?

I know a lot of you have your own farms too - have you had to make choices about farm management with the environment in mind? Or perhaps you've had to walk that fine line between cost-effective vs eco-friendly?

Or maybe you're sorta like me, and never really thought deeply on this subject before? If that's the case, do you likewise see any wiggle room in your current normal routine for making adjustments to reduce waste?

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Alright so I'm pretty bored, yes? Here I was patting myself on the back for scheduling a week vacation for my horse... Only to sit idly by watching the calendar turn day to day, after said horse earned an indefinite continuance to said vacay by stepping on a nail....

"I AM TALLER THAN THIS BUILDING." - charlie, probably
The horse is still pretty sore too. And actually he returned to stall rest to wait out the mud, since the hole in his foot is still open. But he's also bored too, ya know?

"I AM TALLER THAN THIS TREE!" - charlie, definitely
Part of me wishes I could just ask the BM to check in on him and take a night off of the ~50mi round trip. But.... Idk. As much of a pain as it is to get out there for a bandage change and treats and grooming and not much else... Well, tbh I <3 my Charlie time.

feeling antagonized by my laughter lol....
Plus, I feel like homeboy needs some enrichment after being in his stall all day. Like, yes he's still sore on the hoof. But not like, abscess lame. Probably the soreness will recede once that friggin hole closes up.

can't tell if rolling or digging holes literally everywhere
And while yes, he's a good boy, I feel kinda guilty subjecting anybody else to deal with his.... special blends of Charlesass. Case in point: the freezing dramatically every three steps up to the indoor to tower majestically as fuck.

Or. Ahem. Whatever shenanigans he pulled with the farrier to end up with that class-ass broken halter (repaired with a hay string braid by yours truly - it's spring's hottest fashion statement!).

haha too slow with the camera. roll over!! (puns)
But ya know. Maybe at this rate he'll be just coming sound in time for the time change?!? Silver linings, maybe??? We'll see lol.

In the meantime, I'm finding other channels for entertainment. Like, ya know, my fave Youtube channels.

Youtube has a funny way of recommending like 8,000 videos that I have exactly zero interest in watching, ever, but then all of the sudden there's this one like, "ooh but what is that?"

Boyd Martin, Ryan Wood riding in a clinic with Joe Fargis November 2009 - YouTube

Like this random nearly-decade old video of Joe Fargis just teaching another run of the mill lesson. Ya know. Reminding his students to fix their leads, and to sit up straight. Etc. EXCEPT. Uh, the students are Boyd Martin, Lillian Heard, Ryan Wood, and Caitlin Silliman, among others.

I can't really say what it is about this video that speaks to me. Probably just how like.... normal it is??? My inner lesson junkie just really appreciates that this video exists haha. Tho obvi it's still pretty clear that even at that time, each and every one of these riders are absolute pros...

sometimes i dig watching old helmet cam vids, know what i mean?
And anyway, since I was already falling down the Youtube video rabbit hole, what best channel to tune into other than Doug Payne's? He's been wearing a helmet cam forever, and actually back in the day used to do way more voice over analyses than he does now (tho he's got a new vlog series following his young horse Hannah that's pretty fun).

2011 - High Society III - Fair Hill CCI*** Helmet Cam with Analysis - YouTube

And they're all just such fun videos to watch. Actually one of his earliest videos was part of what made me really hungry to try eventing as an adult, but I haven't been able to find the video since. I feel like he was somewhere abroad, but it was his second time at that track and he has a moment where he describes "coming to grief" at one combination the year prior..... So uh. If that rings any bells lmk haha.

In the meantime, tho, this Fair Hill 3* video is prettty fun, esp considering he basically was catch riding the horse for his girlfriend at the time, now wife, Jessica. And while watching it, I noticed something kinda familiar.

ah yes. said aqueduct. suuuuuure. looks great haha
Like, ok realistically it's all familiar since I go to the 3* at Fair Hill every year. But this particular jump hasn't been on course since I've been going, and the only time I ever remember seeing it was during that legendary trail ride with my friend's old campaigner Freebee right after Charlie had surgery.

Oh memories... I gotta say tho. It looks WAY DIFFERENT in real life, esp all overgrown and weedy, than it does all nicely manicured and flagged in that helmet cam. It looked.... straight up unreal haha.

Anyway. Yea. That's what I'm up to right now. Watching old videos, reliving old memories, and watching my horse act like a sassy spooky youngster bronto on his short little daily excursions from stall rest. Good times!
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A local professional horse woman in my area is looking to grow her Magna Wave PEMF business, and offered a Valentine's Day special for new clients at my barn. I've been pretty fascinated by this particular variation of equestrian body work therapy for a long time, so was eager to get on the list.

starting today's post with a pic of a shetland in the snow. bc obvi haha
Unfortunately, I was a little too slow to sign up at that time, and all her spots filled. I showed up anyway tho to observe one of the treatment sessions. Listening to her describe how the therapy works while simultaneously watching the horse react sealed the deal for me: I definitely wanted to get Charlie in on this!

i legitimately never get tired of these ponies
Originally the plan was to have Charlie's appointment the weekend after he got his hocks done. Ya know, part of that whole "pre season retreat" shebang. The appointment had to be rescheduled tho, and then as you know Charlie stepped on a nail anyway.

So my big beautiful plan of making Charlie feel like $8 million dollars as he came back into work was for naught. Oh well.

meanwhile charlie got to spend some quality time in the aisle letting his feet dry
But I was still eager to get on the list for the rescheduled appointment anyway. And I'm glad I did!

Obvi I'm pretty far from being an expert on this particular therapeutic technology, so if you're interested in more specific details you should check out the website (or ask other folks in your network who have tried it).

a special hat for charlie!
From what I understand, this type of treatment is sorta like massage or acupuncture or stretching or chiro or other physical manipulation type approaches, in that you get the most benefits from doing it regularly. In other words, unless you're treating a specific injury or ailment, it's generally not something to be considered "one and done."

he was low key obsessed with the practitioner's kiddos lol <3
The website tells me that the pulsating magnetic field (or PEMF, with the pulses making the clicking sound on the video) is said to produce one main result: stimulating cell metabolism. This leads to three main effects: increased blood circulation, increased blood oxygen content, and calcium influx in the cells.

These effects are said to be as useful in treating specific injuries as they are in promoting general health and wellness in the horse's muscles and joints.

the whole set up, even with all the tubing, is pretty mobile!
The hyperoxygenation and increased circulation of the blood supposedly lasts for a couple hours. Actually, Charlie got his IV shot of Gent right when we began the treatment and we joked that maybe that was an optimal way to get those antibiotics pumping through his system lol.

apparently the different configurations of the magnetic tubes creates different shapes or directions to the pulses
The practitioner said that it's totally safe to ride the horse immediately after treatment - you could go right on out and run cross country if you were so inclined. In her experience, however, treated horses are generally feeling their absolute best about 3-4 days after the session. So most of her clients plan accordingly when using this treatment as part of their competition prep.

like when she crossed the loops over themselves underneath charlie's neck. like a big magnetic hug haha
She also likes to start introducing various stretches and flexions to her client horses over a period of sessions. I guess as you stimulate certain joints (like, for instance, the SI) during treatment, it becomes easier to remind the horses that they can be flexible in those areas?

So in this way, she really likes using it as a holistic approach for the horses. She also claims that regular and repeated use can help reduce the need for more invasive medical interventions, like injections.

over a period of multiple sessions, this practitioner likes to integrate stretches and flexions into the treatment
So lots of big magical claims about this technology. Depending on who you ask, it's an absolute miracle worker. Personally I'm inclined to buy in to some of the hype (obvi haha, since I bought a session). Partly bc a lot of professional riders that I respect have integrated this treatment into their horse care regimens.

Mostly tho? I bought in bc the first horse I observed very clearly fucking loved every single second of the treatment. Like, the machine is on an automatic timer for safety reasons, and when it clicked off he practically stomped his hoof and nearly grabbed the tube with his teeth to be like, "Moar Please!" lol...

there was even this "zoom" attachment that's apparently perfect for hooves
And to be perfectly honest with y'all, I'm 100% the type of owner who will buy a thing for my horse if it makes *me* feel better. So even if all this does for Charlie is give him a 45 minute spa session, the effects of which are completely gone after a couple days..... Well. Idk. I like it when he's happy haha.

If that ends up being the case tho I'm probably not likely to repeat it as regularly as is recommended tho. Bc money haha.

Magna Wave PEMF Treatment for an OTTB Event Horse - YouTube
video of charlie's treatment here, complete with some explanations

But if I see improvements in Charlie's overall muscle health, flexibility, and suppleness? Ideally this therapy could be integrated into Charlie's overall wellness plan for the year as a means of hopefully proactively keeping him feeling his best.

All in good time tho, haha, considering homeboy is still lame from the latest nail episode, womp. You'll see in the video tho, we could actually target that hoof with the treatment using a special attachment. Plus apparently this thing is pretty good at zapping abscesses. So fingers crossed there!

Obvi I'll let you know my thoughts more long term, so more to come later. Have any of you tried Magna Wave? I know a lot of you are believers in regular body work like massage and chiro too. Are there other therapies you're dying to try? Or are you kinda skeptical of them, or maybe think they're a mixed bag?
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This whole equestrian blogging community never ceases to amaze me - bloggers, readers, commenters, all of you. Really truly. Y'all are a special bunch.

charlie practicing his #goatskills during evening enrichment from stall rest
Sharing bits and pieces of my own life so publicly on the internet can be scary sometimes.

Like it's one thing to just post the glamour shots - those special glossy moments where everything knits together into a glittery rose-tinted moment of utter perfection. Or, ahem, well. You know what I mean. Those moments that to *us* are close enough to perfection.

loookie!! only a few holes through the toe of this wrap!! gettin better!
Those good moments are always the easiest to share, right?

The struggles tho? The low moments? The self doubt or mistakes or sadness or uncertainty or fear? It's a lot harder to form those feelings into words and release them out into the wild, into the notoriously cold judgement of the anonymous web.

so much stuff tho. we switched to packing with sugardine and i made wayyyyyy too much. kinda looks like blood, no?
But somehow, for some reason, so many of us are driven to do it. Superficially, I blog for myself and nobody else. I love having this little corner of the web as an archive of my horsey life. It's my encyclopedia, my diary, my book of record, and my photo album. And as such, I try to keep it as honest as possible. For better or worse.

more outdoor enrichment while waiting for the vet!! warm and sunny enough to be out without a blanket too!
Realistically, there's no reason why any "book of record" needs to be public in this way tho. Except, in sharing my story, it's taken on a life of it's own. Participating in this community has given me this whole new channel into the equestrian lifestyle. It's opened my world to trading horsey stories and experiences, and sharing in all the joys and sorrows with everyone else here.

apparently not too lame to keep climbing up that little hill
I'm amazed and inspired and filled with gratitude almost every day of writing this blog and sharing this small little story with you all. And equally amazed and inspired by the stories you all tell too.

I'm not sure what it is - whether it's about horses or whatever - that makes this community so special and unusual among the rest of the social media channels. But your genuine support and encouragement and engagement are like stabilizing forces in my world, especially in those most challenging times. I know that in the most difficult moments, you all will be there. And that means so much.

we interrupt this lame horse update with a pic of playing pups. bc obvi
So I probably don't say it often enough - but I remain extremely grateful for this community. Thank you. Just. For everything.

and uh. wait a sec. about that lame horse. ya know. the one who was waiting for the vet for rads on that RF to see if he chipped off some of the coffin bone?? uh. yea. THIS was how he chose to stand while waiting for the vet. needless to say, the radiograph machine did *not* need to come off the truck haha
I think my favorite thing about reading so many other blogs is just how relatable all your experiences are. We don't all have the same interests or goals or backgrounds or hopes and dreams or resources or whatever. We're not all in the same place or on the same trajectories... But it doesn't really seem to matter, right?

"oops, guess i was actually fine all along. shrug??" - charlie, probably
Bc the horses are still gonna be horses -- still gonna give us that thrilling ride of a lifetime or that unexpected serving of humble pie. Still gonna spook at that thing they've already walked past 8,000 times, or injure themselves in some moment of reckless abandon. And still gonna be exactly what we need after a long day of dealing with all of life's other obligations.

when you are a #bigboy it's easy to steal food over the fence
And in some small but important way, it's reassuring and reaffirming to share in those experiences with you all. Any sort of social media is hard, I think. It's hard not to want to compare myself or cast judgment or whatever, and I think we all deal with that to a certain degree. And I'm sure as shit not claiming perfection in any way over here.

But again. Something about this community makes me want to keep participating.

dis one might not be "big" but he's for sure the most macho resident on farm
And hopefully that will continue to be the case for all of the foreseeable future. Luckily, despite Charlie's latest ding, he seems fully on board with that idea too.

charlie loves the shetlands, even the fabio-esque stallions haha
We did end up getting the vet out bc that persistent lameness really wasn't sitting well. The vet agreed and we talked through options like rads and a distal limb perfusion.

If you're not familiar with that procedure, it's actually really cool: essentially you put a tourniquet on the leg, then pump it full of antibiotics below the tourniquet, leaving it in place for something like 30min. This forces a concentrated dose of antibiotics directly into the injured extremity, vs relying on some systemic treatment in a 1,400lb animal.

he just wants to be friends with everybody
The vet's thought was that: if we were still dealing with acute and extreme lameness this far out from the injury, there was maybe a not insignificant chance that Charlie had either chipped off a fragment at the edge of his coffin bone, or was brewing a bone infection, or both. Infection in particular would only make things worse the longer we waited, so she wanted to get in front of it.

of course, with that kind of hair, who wouldn't want to be friends with this guy??
As is Charlie's way, tho, he appears to have only tiptoed jussssst up to the edge of catastrophe, but not actually gone all the way. After we made the appointment, he came basically sound. And the morning of, as you see in the picture above, he was standing heavily on that hoof while grazing without a care in the world. Phew! Bullet dodged, again.

anyway. back to the vet visit. better living through chemistry. and a whole fuck ton of antibiotics.
Still tho. We opted to go guns blazing with the antibiotics, minus the limb perfusion. He got his tetanus booster plus shots of Gent and Excede, and will have more of each over the coming week. Bc bone infections are not cool, yo.

Other than that, tho? Well? The puncture isn't draining any more - another good sign. So the vet wrapped him up with some sugardine (sugar + betadine, a cool, inexpensive, effective vet-recommended DIY solution!), and we'll continue that until the sugardine I mixed is gone. Then just a dry wrap for another little bit. And meanwhile the big guy is back to normal turnout.

but hey, happy charlie = happy emma!
Not-so-secretly, I'm hoping that this veritable antibiotic-assault on Charlie's system will mean no abscess this time. Maybe? Pretty please??? But I guess we'll see. In the meantime, he gets another week or so of rest. A small price to pay, right?
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Series #3: Fun with Hoof Punctures!!

Episode #2: Nail Impalement Edition....

Subsection #1: Hoo Boy, but He Really Did It This Time.

changin it up with a front hoof this time. at least that poor beleaguered RH finally caught a break!
Ahem. Cough cough. So. Charlie appears to have stepped on another nail.

you may feel like you've already seen enough shitty 'Fraidy Cat Eventing wrap jobs to last a life time
The story, as I understand it, was that the evening feeder on Sunday observed Charlie to be quite fucking lame while casually chillin at the round bale with his best bud Iggy.

Said feeder fully expected to find a rock or something after investigating further, but instead was greeted by a farrier's shoe nail stuck inside Charlie's hoof. Presumably from some other poor horse's lost shoe, considering all of Charlie's nails are accounted for.

too bad, so sad, bc this wrap actually stayed on for a full 24hrs! so obvi it gets its 15min of fame haha
Up to this point, the story doesn't seem so very different from the previous two instances in which Charlie has punctured his hoof (first with a roofing nail during a lesson, and second with a piece of god forsaken mulch during a hack through the pasture lines).

"excuse me i was told there would be cookies" - charlie, probably
Those last two times, Charlie went from being 3-legged lame to more or less normal after the foreign object was removed from his hoof. Sure, he was sore both times. But generally speaking, his degree of soundness post-object-removal was considered a strong sign that any important structures had been missed.

proof!! finally, a wrap i actually had to cut off!! on purpose!!!!
This time we've gotten no such reassurances: The horse remains, as of this writing some days later, very lame. Tho of course just because he's lame doesn't mean that there *is* some degree of damage to some critical structure or whatever. Ya know. It could just mean that his hoof really fucking hurts bc he was hangin out with a nail in it for god knows how long.

tho yea the toe was a bit busted. oh well.
Still, tho. His persistent lameness makes me a little worried. And has changed how we've approached treatment this time around. In past instances he's returned to relatively normal turnout schedules quickly. Not this time, tho. Not until he either comes sound on his own or we can medically rule out something more serious like an injury to the coffin bone.

some seepage thru the toe into the poultice pad
Realistically speaking, the likelihood is that Charlie will be fine. If history is any guide, we can expect an abscess after some indefinite period, but eventually not much else.

arrow is approximately where the puncture would be under this pad. you can see what seems to be drainage
And obviously a small puncture to a horse's hoof pales in comparison to something as gruesome and catastrophic as KC's Pilgrim's recent injury, as one example. Ugh. Talk about horrifying :(

and there it be. the big bad puncture itself.... ugh. 
Still tho. The lameness. It concerns me a little bit. Based on the location of the injury, the vet doesn't think the joint would be involved, and also thinks it unlikely that the nail reached the bursa. If it did injure the coffin bone, there isn't much risk in continuing with stall rest for another day or two before pursuing further diagnostics.

mad pony is foot-stompin mad.
Basically the vet thinks that either the horse's soreness will diminish and the drainage from the puncture will abate shortly. Unless it doesn't, in which case we'll schedule an appointment and probably do x-rays.

gosh his injuries and my tack locker pharmacy take up a lot of space tho....
Charlie, for his part, is not behaving like a sick or critically injured horse. He's annoyed at the stall rest and has been just a touch feisty with the barn staff...

base layer of the new wrap: wet animalintex pad roughly cut to size
He's also impatient with my slow, clumsy and ham-fisted attempts at wrangling his hoof into something resembling a semi-respectable wrap.

vet wrap layer. must remember that it doesn't need to be stretched to 100% tension, emma! 
Since we've got active drainage (vs the last two punctures that sealed up almost immediately), I'm following the same soaking protocol as before (epsom salts + betadine). But now am wrapping with animalintex poultice pads instead of an epsom salt + betadine drawing pack.

probably unnecessary but i still have oodles of elastikon from his surgery, so i did a little layer around the shoe to hold the vet wrap in place
The idea here being: We want to be able to tell at least in some small way whether there continues to be drainage. Since again, at this stage the drainage isn't exactly abnormal. But if it continues for very long it could be indicating something more serious.

lol @ charlie's twinkle toes.... plus one little snip to relieve any excess pressure over the coronet band
We're also keeping an eye out for any spiking temperatures or fevers. In the past it's taken something like ~8 days for an abscess to brew. And probably by this point we would have already seen indications of any sort of acute infection to the injury. But ya know. Gotta stay vigilant, just in case.

then all wrapped up in duck tape, avoiding taping above the vet wrap, and extra coverage at the toe
Charlie, again, certainly isn't acting like a feverish or lethargic horse. He's still a good boy tho. And while I bet he wishes my 3hrs with him involved burning off some of his energy.... Well. He'll take what he can get haha.

i'm always nervous about going over the heel bulbs but am hopefully finding the right balance of coverage vs tension
So idk. I guess we'll see what happens. It's crazy to me that I'm writing this post again. I don't understand why this keeps happening to Charlie. Like. I guess it's not the most uncommon thing in the world to step on a nail from a shoe in turnout. Horses lose shoes all the time, after all. But still... Three times in one year feels ridiculously excessive.

dis how charlie feels about the fact that i'm still a crappy wrapper all these years later....
We've been lucky so far, tho. so here's hoping that lucky streak lasts...
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This is my third winter with Charlie now, which feels kinda crazy to say. Our first winter was just after I brought him home from the thoroughbred adoption facility. At that point, we were basically focused entirely on Charlie's transition from race horse into riding horse, including the under-saddle restarting process, and his own physical let down transformation.

goose is our resident farm pig
Our second winter together was in some ways obviously very different after having had a full year together. But in other ways, it was kinda similar. For instance: we went into winter slowly, just rehabbing following Charlie's splint surgery. Then almost exactly one year ago from this point, Charlie stepped on that god forsaken roofing nail...

he's a big piggo haha. charlie's always mildly interested, but not bugged out
So ya know. Maybe we don't exactly have a great winter track record! But generally I think that's an ok thing, ya know? It's good to have some down time throughout the year, scheduled or otherwise.

Like late this past fall when Charlie aggravated another splint injury and earned roughly 6 weeks of downtime. I had planned to give him time off anyway, so it worked well enough for my purposes (except for, uh, that whole ordeal with forfeiting yet another clinic entry... le sigh).

it's funny to me that you almost can't tell a difference in charlie's expression when he's totally drugged out vs sober haha
That's always the way with horses, tho, right? Like we can do our best in planning everything out sensibly on ye olde calendar, but things are still gonna happen when they happen.

At least there's one aspect I *can* control: Charlie's routine maintenance. Specifically, I wrote last year about hock injections being a part of his annual care plan.

sad charlie can't believe he has to deal with this weather tho!
For pretty banal reasons too: Charlie's 6 year track career included injections, I have x-rays from his PPE that show very mild arthritic changes in one hock in particular, the horse will flex positively on them, and considering he has a well documented history of resisting pressure when even the least bit uncomfortable...

Well. All these considerations are sufficient for me to feel comfortable with this degree of maintenance.

me too, charlie. me too. these little flash blizzards stink!
The timing worked out well too. Realistically speaking, Charlie's been keeping pretty busy this winter so far! After recovering from the splint injury, we've basically been full speed ahead.

Aside from regular riding and lessons, we had an epic xc school in November, a Phillip Dutton clinic in December, another xc clinic with Dan Clasing in January, and the combined dressage + cavaletti clinic with trainers C & K plus the Sally Cousins lesson in February.

meanwhile, i watched a magna wave appt and am now eager to try it for charlie!
Plus, with the saddle shopping extravaganza I was very eager to log as much trial saddle time as possible. Just to really be totally sure that I was getting what we both wanted with this new piece of tack. Ya know? So the hours were logged haha.

bc clearly this horse leads a difficult life
Making right now feel like a good time to switch gears and focus on Charlie's wellness ahead of the upcoming season. A nice byproduct of spending so much time in the last year reworking my budget is that now I have a fairly futuristic sense of what my upcoming expenses will be. In other words: entry season is nearly upon us haha!

it's so hard being charlie! look at those smooshed nostrils!!
So hopefully taking care of the veterinary expenses now will help spread out all the other costs? In any case, from a financial perspective and in light of the upcoming calendar, now felt like the best time to get this particular portion of Charlie's annual wellness plan taken care of.

my spidey senses were tingling lol - incoming!!
The injections themselves were fairly routine. I ended up using yet another new vet for this go round, since the vet who has handled Charlie's injections in the past (and also did his PPE) is unfortunately not practicing at the moment due to family reasons.

Charlie's Nap Attack 02232019 - YouTube

So this new vet was recommended to me by my dressage trainer. And we happened to schedule our appointment right smack on top of a random blizzard in Baltimore, ugh.

Like, seriously tho, we got about 3-5" of slushy icy snow over the course of a single morning. That morning happening to be the day of the appt. Driving out and home from the barn probably took literal years off my life, ugh, and naturally everything was melted by the following day. But whatever, we got it done.

meanwhile: i picked up a new fuzzy girth that has more coverage around the buckles!
And Charlie proceeded to enjoy a nice chunk of downtime. Which was good for both of us, considering the round-trip haul to the barn every day can honestly be exhausting for me too.

Spring time is around the corner tho, and our first entries of the year are due soon. So hopefully after this little breather we'll both be feeling refreshed and ready to go!

and a sheepskin bc i <3 sheepskins and am eager to see if it'll work with my new saddle! 
At least, that's the plan haha. Bc everything with horses is always in pencil anyway, right? But I try to be a boy scout about these things: Always prepared!

There are still so many things left to accomplish before we're actually realistically ready for the competition season (like, uh, probably xc schooling again haha). But at least the horse is physically as prepped as he's ever gonna get after a nice little chunk of time off!
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The following was first published April 4, 2017. It's a fun throwback to when Charlie was first really learning to put course work together over fences. Meaning: I finally had to come to grips with actually properly jumping again! This is roughly 6 months into his training after coming off the track. 

Ok. Jump lesson media dump time. And a brief update on Charlie's jumping:

a) He knows how to jump now
b) He kinda likes it!
c) He thinks he's obvi the best at it
d) (He's not.... yet)
e) I'm still basically just clinging along for the ride

like so.
Also can we take a quick moment to celebrate Charlie's first jumping lesson EVER with no knocked down rails?? BOOM. Achievement unlocked!!

charlie y u so go downhill tho bro?
Nevermind that "no knocked rails" /= successful jumping haha. At least not in schooling.

It's cool tho. Developmentally speaking, Charlie continues to chug right on along. He just happens to be doing so now at a higher rate of speed than previously. Ya know. Like a race horse might reasonably do.

i don't ever care tho. <3 this canter forever.
As a rider, I'm still very much struggling with finding that balance between "letting him figure it out" and "doing my goddamn job."

believe it or not, this picture is a SOLID WIN. fugly? yes. winning? absolutely. that stride needed to fit. and? he made it fit. two weeks ago this would have been a crash. this week? #clearedit. next time tho... maybe i should plan a little further ahead, m'kay emma?
Because since he's not particularly schooled yet to niceties like contact or half halts or, idk, just general balance, the whole "doing my job" thing is actually typically a full body effort. As in, put my butt in the saddle, engage my core, lift and open my shoulders, sink into my heels... Ya know. The hallmarks of balanced riding? 

zomg go fast. or... ya know, sit up and put your ass in the saddle and try riding. just a thought!
But that's a pretty major seismic shift from my typical "just cruisin around in half seat!" mentality. And it means that when I should be engaging a full body half halt, I'm actually just standing up in the stirrups trying to make a pulley rein happen.

also pictured: a strong left drift, a left-behind rider, and an honest horse. and. some kneeeeees!!
The cool thing about this horse tho - and the reason I keep calling him "easy" even when he's generally quite a physical ride - is that when I actually do what I'm supposed to do? When I actually put myself in the right place to communicate clearly to him? He responds in kind. Every time.

aaaaand made it out alive
It's honestly pretty nice. Because as you'll see in the video - I'm basically getting tossed all over the goddamn place while we're jumping around. Most of the time, tho, I can recover in the first stride or so upon landing and ask him to go straight again (since.... well. we drift left always). And he just does.

Mostly tho our biggest issue right now is finding a balance. Which I must repeat to myself again and again does NOT mean just pull on the horse constantly (bc that's my undying habit, apparently).

ditto the above
It does mean keeping him from getting so strung out, tho. This horse... again, you'll see in the video - he really doesn't look fast. He doesn't even necessarily look strong (the key there is to look for the gaping mouth - I promise that's him pulling on me and not me pulling on him, pinkie swear!).

But he is seriously covering ground.

e for effort. also just in case you thought maybe i fixed my winging toes problem, nope!
I edited it out of the video bc ain't nobody got time for that, but there was MUCH circling in this lesson in between jumps. Again - mostly bc my own reaction time was a bit too slow. It was taking me too long to do something about his building pace.

not coincidentally, my position is maybe the best over his most boring jumps
I need to channel my erstwhile hunter princess and use my corners to balance, instead of bombing around the turns and obliviously thinking, "Hm wow I guess we're going kinda fast!"

as in.... not the above lol
Altho there's a weird sick twist to our crazy unbalanced motorcycle turns: last week Charlie did a fully auto (tho definitely late behind) L to R change. And this week did the same, but this time R to L. Booooom.

we'll take it tho!
I've never had a horse with auto changes before ever (Izzy had changes but not auto and I fail at coordination so I never even bothered trying). My inner nascent dressage rider is very wary of 'auto changes,' but dammit they are useful in jumping haha.

Charlie jump lesson 04012017 - YouTube

Anyway - whatever the case, watch the video above. It's a good one. I mean, it's not a demonstration of excellent technique by either horse or rider, but it's entertaining. And honestly I'm pretty freaking happy with how the horse is going.

There are things to fix in my own ride but I continue to be thrilled that he's progressing so quickly despite me - and still fully believe that he's going to be ready for bigger and badder jumps WAY before me lol (considering the 2'3 of some of these jumps absolutely met my current mental capacity, le sigh).

Do you ever get relieved when the horse can succeed despite your errors? Or when the horse feels more confident than you? I know many of you out there ride green horses and have been very responsible for instilling confidence in your mounts - but maybe there are some of you who also have your own confidence built up by the horse instead of vice versa? Or maybe it's a constant back and forth of building each other up?
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When it comes to eventing, Maryland and the surrounding area has an embarrassment of riches in that it's crawling with world class professionals. Especially if you go up the Route 1 corridor from Fair Hill and north into Pennsylvania, virtually every highway exit leads to some other 4* 5* or Olympic rider's farm.

sweet charlie
One such pro is Sally Cousins, an extremely popular and sought-after trainer. That name might sound familiar bc tons of bloggers have ridden with her regularly over the years.

Actually it feels like almost every local eventer I know has ridden with her - at least half of my barn mates, most of my regular coaches, and even the person who first recommended OF to me back in 2014 when I wanted to start eventing.

the indoor was very bright, with two walls of windows and two walls of mirros
Lessons with her have been on my bucket list basically since day 1, but while there have been a number of "almosts," nothing ever quite materialized. Until this past weekend, that is.

Sally teaches regularly at various farms around the area - including the beautiful Kealani Farm up in PA, where Michele always used to go. Considering my goals this year focus on pushing myself and investing in my education, it was finally time to make the lesson happen haha.

it made for a very visually stimulating (and possibly overwhelming) atmosphere
And it was a really interesting experience, actually. Not just bc of the riding, but bc of my own sort of emotional or mental state. Turns out, I found myself way more nervous than I expected. I don't even know why. Maybe just jumping at a new place, for a new trainer? Idk, but I don't remember being that nervous for the Phillip Dutton clinic so who knows.

strip away the new location tho, and the exercises were all very familiar
In any case, Charlie agreed with me about feeling a little.... uncertain about the situation. He's always been a horse to be very transfixed by moving objects in the distances (other horses, cars or trucks, for example) and I think the two walls of windows combined with the two walls of mirrors where a lot to absorb upon walking into the arena.

charlie had #feelings about that blue and white diagonal jump. i blame the whales tho
Which is kinda funny, bc it's not all that different from the arena at our normal dressage lesson barn. Go figure tho, it felt different and both of us were a bit on edge. Charlie walked into that arena wide-eyed, stopped immediately and took a giant liquid poo haha.

He warmed up fine tho, although I was very slow about it. Being realistic here, I get my bravery from Charlie. Sure, in some situations where I feel really confident (like at home or in our normal settings or familiar venues) I can be there for him if he needs it. But in this situation, feeling him be a little nervous definitely contributed to the pit in my own stomach.

"oh no" - charlie, probably
It's all just so interesting to me, these visceral responses. Ya know? Like that anxious feeling is completely detached from reality. Had nothing to do with the farm, the lesson, the jumps, the exercises. It's just like this intangible vague insidious feeling of impending doom. But then nothing ever actually happens....

In any case, the lesson itself was actually pretty great. All the jumping exercises were similar to what we work on regularly, and were built up in a progressive and inviting manner. Also almost all of Sally's feedback was like a fresh take on what Trainer P always says haha. Which, ya know, makes sense since Trainer P has ridden with Sally plenty too!

"oh kay"
The lesson started with a couple trips up a center line grid - starting as just a vertical and systematically building up each repetition until it finished with a large oxer + fill. During this point, Sally quickly observed a big weak point in Charlie's training: keeping him straight through his shoulders while turning.

You'll hear it in the video, but she repeated often (almost every turn haha) that I needed Charlie more on my outside aids when approaching the fences. Almost in some cases thinking a little about counter bend. Essentially: his inside shoulder needs to be lighter in our turns, and he needs to be straighter on the outside.

sally didn't like that the whales clashed with the yellow so she moved them to our sticky jump. it remained sticky haha
She also echoed Trainer P in talking me through the differences between getting to a good takeoff spot in a bad balance, and getting to a bad takeoff spot from a good balance. To help Charlie with his balance, I need tons more core and a 3pt seat instead of 2pt or half seat. Aka, "Sit!!" haha.

While I love the feel this new saddle gives me through my seat and lower legs, it can't exactly fix me from the hips up. It won't miraculously make me sit up or grow some abs, ya know? And even tho I *can* sit the canter in it, I've gotta reprogram years and years of perching.

didn't care about the yellow jump at all tho
Which like, honestly that was kinda my response to everything Sally said. Whether it was about not keeping Charlie straight through the turns, or not using my core effectively.... honestly my answer was more or less, "Sometimes I just don't ride?" lol. Not altogether satisfying. But true.

simple progressive exercises - just looping around to the diagonals
Like, Charlie will stay straight and jump the dead center of the fence if I ride him to it. Comparatively, Isabel and I also had a drift but I swear, I could be thinking about literally nothing else except straightness and she'd still drift at the last moment. Charlie tho? If I actually do something about it, he will comply.

One area this drift issue showed up the most was in rolling back on the left lead to a bending right line in a measured 4 strides. Especially bc it was simultaneously a tighter distance, but also needed you to keep riding forward bc of the sharpness of the turn.

the outside lines were set at about 56' i think, and we had some trouble fitting in the 4 every time
Sally pointed out that Charlie gets the most crooked when I have him on a shorter stride -- this was kinda part of the whole "right takeoff, wrong balance" situation too. Luckily tho, esp since Charlie was being a little spooky, I was at least remembering to keep my leg on, and keep him in front of my leg.

we were a little careless and probably knocked the most rails of any other horse in the lesson
Bc again, it was weird to see how spooky Chuck was! And how antsy I was haha. And yet the jumping was honestly fine. Not perfect, but representative of our combined levels of training.

If anything, Charlie's spookiness made him way sharper off my aids than normal. All fully automatic lead changes. Turning on a dime (actually in some cases he turned faster than I did, which like... never happens haha bc he normally handles like a cruise liner...). He had two moments (both in the video) of briefly contemplating a run out at that blue and white diagonal, but then jumped it fine both times.

this bending line in particular was challenging
All in all, even tho Charlie didn't start out feeling 100% thrilled about the atmosphere, he was totally fine and confident about the exercises themselves. And actually seemed to settle in and relax quickly as he realized that it was all gonna be kinda easy - that it wasn't a trap.

Which obviously reassured me too, and I was able to go from riding a little tight and conservative for the first few efforts to finding a more open stride (sometimes to ill effect) as we went. Which actually, Sally liked the jumps from the open stride a bit more, I think.

you might say that maybe it'd be easier if i sat up. you'd probably be right.
Like there's one example in the video where we jump down over the white/pink oxer and are supposed to do 4 strides to the yellow. But instead we did a heinous skipping 3.5 and Sally marveled that Charlie managed to even clear it haha.

I repeated the exercise and came in on a collected canter instead, which Sally called "cheating" -- bc she wanted me to be able to jump in on that more open stride but then land and "Whoa!" to make the striding. Which, ya know, sounds familiar haha.

out jump of the bending line, can sorta tell that the rail is falling
For our final course I was able to make that happen down the same line, and while it wasn't pretty it did actually work and Charlie listened well. So all in all, a lot of familiar feedback from this lesson -- and in such a way as the instruction felt very effective.

one stride got stretched to 21' for cantering in to start our final course
We don't look smooth and flawless in the video (which is almost everything from the lesson), but we're not supposed to, right? Instead the exercises were good for isolating our weaknesses and allowing us to work on them. I liked it! And will hopefully get a chance to repeat somewhat regularly moving forward.

no touchy the pineapples!
Especially considering how surprised I was by the nerves and anxiety the lesson produced.... Which, again, were way more than I expected. But it feels like something I should keep in mind looking toward the upcoming season. Like a reality check of sorts.

damn those spooky ass whales tho haha
Bc I have all these plans, right? All these ambitious thoughts and ideas about competing and moving up and getting qualifications and the whole nine yards. But those plans are so easy to make from the safety of the off season, while we're comfortably ensconced in our quiet little winter routine.

Turns out, tho.... it's possible that I'm going to be in for a rude awakening once the new year actually starts heating up haha. Shit is gonna get real. And probably I'm going to be way more nervous than I expect. And it's hard to say what sort of impact that could have, ya know?

For now, tho, it's at least reassuring to do a lesson like this and experience all those nerves and have my horse feeling worried too, but then have the actual riding be fine. Better than fine, really. It was a good lesson.

Show Jumping Lesson @ Kealani Farm - Charlie 02162019 - YouTube

In an ideal world, I want Charlie's training to be the bedrock foundation that we can both fall back on in moments of need. Bc... uh, yea haha, sometimes I'm gonna need it! But we all know tho that the margin of error - aka the horse's ability to bail the rider out of shitty situations - shrinks as you go up the levels.

So it'll be interesting to see whether these butterflies settle down once we get back into the groove. If not.... I might have to rethink some of my plans for the year haha! We'll see tho. The answer to my anxiety has always been to get out moar. To make the "big" things feel mundane and routine.

Considering the first events of the season are imminently approaching, we won't have to wait too long to start figuring out where we actually are haha. In the meantime tho, thank god for lessons!
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Anyone who has been reading since the beginning will know that my foray into eventing was made possible by the acquisition of a truck and trailer.

the truck and trailer are hands down some of my absolute favorite material possessions 
Deciding that my lease horse Isabel and I wanted to learn to event meant getting into a lesson program. But we didn't have any trainers at our farm at that point and I kept striking out at getting anyone to come to us, so this dream necessitated travel. And so it began.

charlie dressed up for travel from this weekend's adventure to Kealani Farm (spoiler! more to come soon!)
The idea of owning my own rig had literally never even occurred to me before being inspired by this amazing blogging community, where dozens of you routinely ship out to lessons. Prior to that point, I'd only ever just lessoned with the resident trainers at my various barns. Picking a training program was synonymous with choosing my home-base barn.

But that all changed with the truck and trailer. Have trailer, will travel, right? And it was like a whole new world opened up to me! Suddenly I could lesson and train and school all on my own terms!! I could go wherever I wanted, to do whatever looked fun, whenever I felt like it!

pictured: poor charlie stuffed into my Calico stock trailer. homeboy .... did not fit haha
I bought my truck (a 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500 4wd with 200K miles) and first trailer (2013 Calico 2Horse bumper pull stock trailer) in the spring of 2014. Charlie didn't exactly fit in that trailer, tho, so in late 2016 I upgraded to my current Cotner 2Horse bumper pull. And over the years I've logged well over 10K miles of hauling horses.

this is my ideal trailer layout: two extra wide escape doors and extra nose space with no dressing room. ymmv obvi, but for my typical shipping outings this is absolutely perfect
That may not seem like very high mileage, esp for some of you who live in remote areas with long hauls to any of the "local" events. Maryland is densely populated horse country tho, and virtually all of my outings are < 3hrs round trip. Probably more than half are < 1.5 hrs round trip. So lots and lots of short hauls over the years haha.

the wooden bench is so key. as are the extra hanging hooks in front of those ribbons. and the drinks and snacks -- so so so key to have snacks!
In the spring of 2014 I started hauling out for weekly lessons, a routine that persisted until Charlie moved to his current barn in the summer of 2017. During the winters with Isabel, we often shipped out 2+ times a week to local indoors, since our own outdoor arena would freeze solid for a couple months each year. Plus, obviously, we ship out to almost all our shows.

Moving Charlie to OF reduced our hauling frequency substantially, since we no longer have to ship out for weekly lessons. Still tho, I probably average 1-3 outings a month for most of the year.

we've since added another set of extra hooks over the right side window. the two saddle racks allow for stacking so four saddles fit easily.
I'd never towed a trailer before buying mine - let alone even really thought very deeply about it. Since then, tho, I feel like I've learned a few things. Especially relating to setting up a stress free, efficient process to make hauling less of a hassle.

So when Katherine from Virtual Brush Box reached out asking me to write about my process and thoughts, I was more than happy to oblige! See, Katherine is in a similar situation as my Isabel days: Especially in the winter season, there isn't a whole lot of riding that can be done at home. So any meaningful riding requires travel. And travel is exhausting and time consuming and occasionally stressful.

have trailer, will travel!! adventures await wherever we go!!
While nothing I say can erase the reality of how much time gets spent on the road, maybe some of these thoughts can help make the process go a little more smoothly, or at least feel a little easier?

So. With that in mind, here are some things I keep top-of-mind when it comes to hauling out for the average lesson, horse show, or other elective activity:

1. Getting Comfortable with the Rig

For starters, it's key to actually be comfortable doing the driving. I'd only ever driven small little sedans growing up in urban environments with on-street parallel parking. So the truck was a big adjustment in spatial awareness for me.

don't be like me and let your truck sit neglected for so long that even a tractor can't jump start the battery....
The first two weeks I owned the truck, I decided to use it exclusively as my daily driver just to get a feel for it. This meant parking it everywhere and anywhere (on the street, in tight garages, or labyrinthine lots...), driving it on narrow city streets, winding country roads, and major highways, and generally just getting a feel for how it handles. Once I finally bought the trailer and hooked up for the first time, at least the truck part of the equation felt familiar and easy.

bright interior lights inside the trailer are also key, esp for early mornings or late nights!
These days both the truck and trailer live on the farm full-time. Trucks that just sit require a bit of thoughtful attention to stay healthy. Running an engine regularly serves important functions like resisting rust on the moving parts and keeping the battery charged. So at least once a week I'll at least turn it on to run for long enough to warm up.

this stuff has been helpful in keeping the connection between my truck and trailer working properly, since this Cotner turned out to be a bit fussier than the Calico ever was....
Likewise, to avoid letting either the truck or trailer brakes get too stiff or locked up, I'll generally roll the whole rig back and forth a couple feet once a week. And if it's been a while since the truck has done anything, I might take it for a solo jaunt down the road to gas up and put air in the tires.

And as always, it's important to check the trailer hitch every single time, no matter what. Maybe double- or triple-check it. And if parking the trailer stresses you out? Only answer there is practice!

2. But Will the Horse Load?

On the subject of practice, another thing I take fairly seriously is my horse's trailer loading behavior. Personally, my own taste is to have a horse that will self load on the first try with no fuss or drama.

Like so:

Synchronized Horse Trailer Loading! - YouTube

And so:
Charlie trailer loading 03042017 - YouTube

I've written at great length about the methods I use for achieving the calm self loading behaviors demonstrated above. Mostly? It started with investing in training with a professional. All three horses in the videos above had sessions with a local pro who taught the horses the process, and then taught me how to do the same.

Honestly tho, I'm pretty convinced that virtually any sort of trailer training method will work, so long as you're consistent and the horse understands. It's critical that the horse understands, and that it's a calm and safe process.

relaxed + calm behavior at the trailer is a must. extra sets of hands are key too for keeping everything easy! thanks Austen and Brita for always being so helpful!
Because again, the whole point here is to reduce the stress of travel, right? Feeling confident that loading and unloading will be non-issues can go a long way toward making hauling out less of a hassle. And again, like with anything else, it's never a bad idea to do some practice sessions - esp if it's been a while since your last trip or if you've had some hiccups recently and want to reset the parameters.

Waiting until the last moment when you're already feeling under pressure is a recipe for disaster.

3. General Strategies to De-Stress

So with that in mind, another major component to my hauling strategy is being realistic about planning how long everything will take. If I am rushing, I am stressing. Full stop. Maybe you operate differently on tight time schedules, but it stresses me out. Thus the #1 way I stay relaxed is to plain old give myself enough time.

horses are happier with friends too!! the more, the merrier!! esp with there's a DINO pony involved!!!!
Considering my horse can basically read my own heart rate better than I can, it's generally worth it for me to stay relaxed so I don't subconsciously transmit my worry to him.

Other than timing, honestly my favorite way to turn hauling into a fully enjoyable endeavor is to do it with a buddy. My horse especially is much happier with company. And since I'm happy when he's happy, I always try to fill that second trailer spot - esp for longer hauls.

dramatic reenactment of me falling out of said trailer and breaking my leg. mounting block and shipping boots are there to protect against repeating history haha.
This is made relatively easy by boarding at a big bustling barn full of other riders who want to go on adventures haha. And it's also proved to be a good way to get to know people better and make more friends. Plus extra hands are always useful in case there *is* a problem with loading or unloading a horse, or just for normal packing and clean up, or, uh, in case you fall out of your trailer and break a leg by accident. Whoops....

Ahem. Cough cough. Moving on haha.

Life on the road is also generally better when everything I need is within reach: snacks, drinks, phone charger (and blue tooth adapter if needed), a reliable GPS.... Good music or an audio book are key too, esp if I'm traveling solo.

so so so much gear pictured here. all those buckets and jugs of water, and folding chairs and saddle racks and hanging hooks and bungee cords and muck buckets and drinks and snacks and hay nets and and and and... a happy horse and rider <3
Regarding directions - especially if I'm going somewhere new, I'll often look up the address in advance on satellite images. This way I can kinda get an idea of what the driveway might look like, and what the trailer parking situation will be.

4. Equipment to Make Life Easier

Finally, tho, if all has gone according to plan, we've arrived wherever we're going with plenty of time to unload and get set up. So this is where we get into all the accouterments of trailer travel.

absolute must-have piece of equipment right here. plus charlie nose <3
You probably already know that routine and convenience are my personal favorite antidotes to stress. So I like having a clear plan (or a LIST) for what needs to get packed for any given trip. And aside from whatever specific tack I'll need for that particular adventure (dressage lesson? xc clinic? trail ride with friends? full 3-phase event?), there's an entire independent set of gear specifically devoted to the trailering process itself..

ditto the above. also : always remember that directions for literally any how-to or trouble-shooting situation are only a google and youtube video away!
For virtually any trailer trip, I'll want plenty of hay spread across multiple nets, about 10-15 gal of water plus separate buckets for drinking and bathing, and usually a little grain (or even a full meal, in case my travel schedule interferes with Charlie's normal meal times). I also have mucking equipment for the trailer - a tub, muck cart, pitch fork, and broom.

Additionally, it's good to have emergency tools and kits on hand for the horse, truck, and trailer. Including a basic first aid kit (bandages, bute, wraps, wound cleansers and dressings, etc), equipment to change a truck or trailer tire, heavy duty rope or tow straps, di-electric grease for fussy electrical hook-ups, and probably a roadside assistance membership too. I'm covered through my insurance company, but have also heard great things about US Rider.

two main water containers, plus that water cooler jug visible in the background. tons of buckets - normal drinking buckets, the cosequin bathing bucket, and that purple muck bucket. and like. ya know. whatever other junk you wanna throw in the back of your grandfatherly truck cap, which i adore btw
Finally, depending on my trailer set up, there's all manner of equipment to set up my "tack-room-to-go," including tons of extra hooks, saddle racks, and grooming totes. I also have my own mounting block, tho it's only a two step and a bit too short for Charlie unfortunately....

It's never a bad idea to have a number of spares too: spare halter, spare leads, spare girth or bridle, spare hoof pick, spare protective boots for the horse.... You get my drift.

gotta save the best for last tho: the saintly holy muck bucket, muck cart and pitch fork!

In Summary

So all in all, my trailer experiences have remained overwhelmingly positive despite some bumps along the road. I've had a few break downs, a few repair jobs, a few navigational catastrophes, one broken leg, and god knows how many other smaller forgettable headaches.

But by and large, hauling horses out to various adventures has gone the best for me when I prepare in advance, my rig is in good shape, the horse is practiced at trailer loading, I've given myself enough time, and I have all the necessary equipment for safety and efficiency.

Sure, sometimes the hours on the road are long. And tiring. Usually tho? Usually it's worth it. And at the end of the day, all the hiccups and snags and small snafus are generally forgotten, with just the lasting memories of the riding experience itself.

What about you? Do you have a truck and trailer, or plans to acquire them eventually? Does your process look similar to mine? Or maybe different in some key ways? What am I forgetting on my list of essential trailer equipment? With the competition season on the horizon, will you be going through a checklist and inventory to make sure everything is in order?

Or, coming at it from a different perspective, how do you deal with the stress of the travel? How do you keep yourself motivated to keep packing up again and again for those longer hauls? Or does there come a point where you figure it's not really worth it except for special circumstances?
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The second part of our clinic ride was in some ways kinda the polar opposite of the first. Instead of focusing intently on the nittiest of grittiest bio-mechanical details in my position (and, uh, still kinda failing at them lol), we switched gears to more application-based exercises: cavaletti.

elegant charlie <3 pc Austen Gage
The beauty of cavaletti is that they are generally self-evident to the horse. A well set gymnastic exercise shouldn't require step-by-step input from the rider. Rather, you kinda set the horse up, prepare the horse, and then let them at it.

The exercise itself is sufficiently instructive to the horse, if that makes sense. They understand the reality of whacking a pole with their hooves haha, and will often therefore adjust their carriage to accommodate.

i love that he thinks this is easy now haha. pc Austen Gage
It was a nice change of pace bc basically I kinda felt like dressage trainer C took me apart then put me back together again in a new alignment. Then sent me on my way across to the other side of the arena to see if I could hang on to that new feeling in action.

Which, like. Ha. We've already established that I can't really walk and chew gum at the same time. So obviously this was fairly challenging.

charlie's face says "Oh Yea, Let's Go!" while i silently contemplate whether we'll make the turn or accidentally mow down Austen instead... pc Austen Gage, who did in fact survive the imminent close encounter!
It was a nice format tho, bc cavalatti are by design generally physical exercises vs mental or cerebral. Still tho, I actually ended up feeling a little disappointed with myself in how I prepared Charlie for this portion of the ride and the change of pace it entailed.

Obviously I signed up for the clinic, right? Like, the format was interesting to me and I knew all along that we'd go from a Trainer C lesson to cavaletti work. I, personally, knew what to expect and was mentally prepared.

moar trot poles!!!!! pc Austen Gage
Charlie, on the other hand, was kinda like, "Wow, shit, really tho??"

In other words, he was actually a little more tired - both physically and emotionally - than I quite realized at the time. Whereas I was kinda like, "Ok bro, snap snap, let's go!"

i promise we did in fact go in both directions. but these are the pictures i like, so there. pc Austen Gage
But. He continues to be a very good boy. So he did in fact Go. In retrospect I wish I had ridden slightly differently at some points during the ride, like when he was sluggish into canter and not as sharp as I wanted/expected.

see?? going both ways haha. and doesn't charlie look bored tho... pc Austen Gage
But when I kept pushing for that sharpness, Charlie did in fact answer affirmatively. So, even tho probably I could've taken it a little easier toward the end of the ride, it was in some ways really reassuring knowing that he would answer to that pressure even when he was tired.

Considering training for pressure was basically all we did after the fiasco that was Plantation, it's good to see some fruits from that labor!!

trying to transition to canter and turn at the same time is above my pay grade, apparently. i believe this is what Nicole refers to as a "gangsta lean" lol.... pc Austen Gage
ANYWAY tho haha. The lesson itself.

The exercise would be very easy to set up for anyone interested in doing so: 4 trot poles down the quarter line, and then 2 poles aligned with the center line, set so that looping over them achieves a slightly-less-than-20m circle.

obviously my favorite picture of the whole bunch <3 just look at that fanceh arab!!! hahaha.... pc Austen Gage
When the whole exercise is done at trot (such as in the video clip), it's easy enough to bake in serpentine-esque changes of direction to just keep infinitely looping through the whole thing.

At canter you have to be a little more purposeful in specific locations for your trot-canter and canter-trot to hit the trot poles and change directions. Mostly tho it all ran pretty smoothly, and allowed the rider to repeat until the desired results are achieved.

loving how uphill he is! not loving the wrong lead we picked up after breaking gait. tho i guess points for counter canter?? pc Austen Gage
Charlie for his part made very easy work of the exercise. Probably bc.... uh, it was WAY EASIER than what he faced in our cavaletti lesson the week prior haha. Homeboy was like, "Oh, this again? Yea I totes got this!!" And he totes did, good boy.

he's a good egg tho. and looking nicely stout in this pic too! pc Austen Gage
Actually, come to think of it, I don't think he knocked any of the trot poles hard enough to displace them. Not even once. That's some serious progress for this brontosaurus!!

The canter poles?? Eh... not quite so lucky. But again, see above comment re: sluggishness.

"wow, this again tho??" - charlie, probably. pc Austen Gage
And again, I was honestly a little distracted from some of my riderly duties bc of trying so hard to focus on my position. Considering Charlie's used to me doing a little more work to carry him, this definitely contributed to his frequent breaks from canter when we hit the poles a little funny.

Cavaletti Clinic Lesson Clip - Charlie 02092019 - YouTube

Which naturally caused me to end up regressing a bit, reverting back to my "safe place" position of pitching forward and gripping with my legs. It's just going to take time, as always haha.

"are we done yet?" - charlie, definitely. pc Austen Gage
So honestly there weren't any really big "Aha!" moments from this portion of the lesson, other than reaffirming that changing my position is going to be hard. Oh and that sometimes turning Charlie sharply (esp if I'm trying to turn him away from the in gate) is still a bit iffy haha. Look no further than the look of panic in my eye in the video below where I briefly wonder if we're actually going to make the turn, or end up mowing down Austen instead....

forever stuffing this good boy full of treats. bc he is the best. pc Austen Gage
All in all, tho, a very fun ride and useful set of exercises. This is definitely something that's easy enough to set up on my own too, even without a ground person. So possibly it's something we'll repeat on some other dark wintry night in the indoor lol.

In the meantime tho, we both definitely needed a few days off after all that haha! Whew! It was worth it tho, esp as a way to break up the otherwise monotonous winter. C'mon, spring, we're ready for ya!
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