Saturday, March 31, 2012

Conformation crunch

Conformation is one of those things that horse people agonize over, and it's one of the most basic determinations of long term soundness and usability: How the horse is put together.

The problem is, sometimes you have less than perfect conformation on a stellar horse, or seemingly good conformation on an underperformer.

Generally though, good conformation = good horse.

Even a horse with a ton of try will break down without special care and lots of attention when it's in hard work if it has a major fault or two.

Truly serious conformation faults are hardly ever seen in top performing horses.

Here's a comparison of Chev as a 2 year old (I think she was 2 years 2 months), and Sugar (we'll call her), who is 20 months.

I always kind of cringe when I see photos of Chev as a young horse (really, any time before age 4).

She was so awkward looking.

I see, specifically, calf knees (her biggest fault), straight-ish shoulder, and kinda funky looking back legs.  She also had a huge head which you can't see because Keelan is blocking it in this photo.

On the plus side, she has a long neck, relatively short back, and those funky back legs are straight and feature a hugely long gaskin, which gives her a comfortable, sweeping strike in back.  Her hip is a little steep but long.  She tracks up well and straight.  And she has grown up in a pretty nice looking horse.

 Chev at 6 years old

She still has the straight shoulder, although if you look at the length between the point of her shoulder and the point of her elbow, you'll see why she has such a comfortable stride.  Her calf knees straightened a bit but are still a major fault that I think about every ride.  And a lot of the faults that seemed huge when she was a baby turned out to not be such a big deal after all.  It turns out this conformation thing is complicated!

***DISCLAIMER:  the following conformation analysis deals with specifically quarter horses!  Horses are a lot like cars--there's a different style for every need.

I'd like to delve into the nitty-gritty.

A horse is generally considered to be downhill if it's hip (or croup) is higher than it's withers.  Here's a conformation diagram so we're all on the same page with horse terms.

This diagram is supposed to exhibit generalized excellent conformation for the quarter horse.  Both Chev and Sugar are quarter horses, but Chev is of the more modern pleasure type, and Sugar is a reining/cow bred type.

Anyway, see the croup and the withers in the drawing?  Even in this great conformation diagram, most horse people would consider this horse to be "downhill", meaning he's built like he's standing with his rear legs up a hill and his forelegs down in a ditch.

Not so!  I would say.

And do you know why?

Because a horse that actually travels downhill when he moves has a lot more to do with the relationship of the hocks to the knees.

As you can see in the diagram, they are almost level with each other.  This is ideal.

It's also something I really like in Chevy and the little filly.  They both have fairly low set hocks, which allows them to travel in a more sweeping, level way at all the gaits.

I think this horse would feel incredibly downhill to ride.  And it's not just because his bum is about a mile above his withers (which might actually be sort of okay, because based on the length of his tail, he's still a 2 year old)--look at how much higher his hocks are than his knees!  His front cannon bones are nice and short, but unfortunately, his front legs look like they belong to a completely different horse.

Purple line = hip to withers
 Green line = hock to knee

High set hocks are a deal breaker for me.

By contrast, here's an example of a high level reining show horse:

Though she also appears downhill at first glance, her hocks are much lower, almost level with her knees, and her front legs look like they can support her frame without much trouble.  She also looks like she'd be balanced and quick in her turnarounds and maneuvers--and she is.

Here's Chev and Sugar:

Even though a lot of their conformation is very dissimilar, especially overall body type, they both have fairly level toplines and are fairly level from hock to knee, even at 2 years old.  That tells me Sugar is likely to grow up to be fairly balanced, even if she is a little more post legged behind.

This is a pretty good article on Reining-horse specific conformation by Les Vogt, who has really grown on me over the years:

He mentions something in particular that I was pretty worried about.

I come from the English world, where longish pasterns are coveted.  They help give a springy stride, and, I thought, also help with long term soundness.

Turns out you don't want longish pasterns in a reining horse or a horse that has to do a lot of quick, difficult maneuvers.  I thought Chev had pretty short pasterns, but as you can see, Sugar's are shorter still.

The last thing I want to talk about is shoulder slope.

It's another area of horse conformation that isn't well understood.

Different sloped shoulders are good for different things.  Generally, the more upright the shoulder, the more "torque", and the less "reach".

For example, pulling horses have very upright shoulders:  Clydesdales, Percherons, Draft breeds.

Here's a Clydesdale stallion:

Red line = shoulder slope
Yellow line = humerus length
Angle between lines = ~ 90 degrees

Even though his shoulder is steep (about 55 degrees), which is as expected with his breed standard, the length of his humerus (arm bone) is just about ideal at around 60% of his shoulder length.  The angle is also good between shoulder and humerus at 90 degrees.  This means despite the upright shoulder, he can reach out a bit and get a lot of power out of his strides.  The steep angles also lend themselves to a lot of knee action.*

*Side note:  This is why, interestingly, a lot of draft crosses (particularly when crossed on sloped shoulder breeds like the Thoroughbred) can, ironically, turn out to be good jumpers, because the combination of steep shoulder angle (which gives good knee action and "push") and long humerus (which allows for reach and length of stride) lends itself well to jumping!  Most warmblood breeds that excel in jumping have the straight shoulder/long humerus combination.  If you've seen a horse jump in slow motion, you'll be shocked to see almost all of the push to get over the jump comes from the front end, not the rear.

Let's try Chev, since she has an apparently terrible shoulder angle at first glance:

Shoulder slope = ~50-55 degrees
Shoulder angle = ~90 degrees
Humerus length = ~65%

She has a somewhat steep shoulder slope (between 50-55 degrees) but a long humerus that is very good at 65% length of her shoulder.  This helps to explain some of her sweeping action at the trot, and is the reason she can push out for English classes.  The slightly steeper shoulder is still open enough, with about a 90 degree angle between shoulder slope and humerus.  If the humerus is too long or too short, reach can be limited.  But her humerus is long enough and sloped enough to give her pretty good reach.  She still prefers to jog, though.

Here's Sugar, who's still young and will likely change a bit:

Shoulder slope = 45 degrees
Shoulder angle = 85 degrees
Humerus length = 65%

Because of her mane, it was hard for me to really see the slope of her shoulder, but I know she has a much more sloped shoulder than Chev does.  Her shoulder slope is about 45 degrees, or "laid back".  The angle between her shoulder slope and her humerus is about 85 degrees (adequate), and her humerus length (at 20 months) is about 65% the length of her shoulder.  I think it's likely that her shoulder slope will become a little steeper as she grows, which should give her angles similar to Chev's.

Finally, the professional reining horse:

Shoulder slope = 50 degrees
Shoulder angle = 85 degrees
Humerus length = 80%

Her angles are similar to Sugar's (which isn't surprising, since they're both reining bred): Shoulder slope is about 50 degrees, shoulder angle between shoulder and humerus is about 85 degrees, and the humerus is long at 80% the shoulder's total length.  Historically a long humerus causes the horse to stand more under itself, which is exactly what this horse is doing--but it's also important to consider that photo angles can drastically change the appearance of lengths and angles, and this photo would be much more ideal if the horse was standing more square up front.

Anyway, I'm too tired to know if any of this makes sense anymore--G'nite!

So, I saw the filly today

And I just KNOW my mom is going to kill me when she reads this post.

Don't worry Ma, I didn't buy her.

Here are some of the photos I got today:

These are my first impressions:
- Small!  (I'm used to my 16 hand, 1300# monster)  I'd say she's around 13.1, 13.2 right now as a coming 2 year old
- Very friendly
- Pretty filly

These are the things I like:
- big hip, overall fairly balanced for a coming 2 year old
- pretty face
- decent shoulder
- low set hocks
- appears to be fairly straight through the front legs
- wide chest
- very friendly and curious
- pleasant, large, kind eye
- not over handled, not started
- should mature to around 15 hands, the height I'm looking for
- moves level

Things I don't like as much:
- a little too straight through the back legs, somewhat post legged (like to hear opinions on this as it's not a fault I have much experience with), possibly a little sickle-hocked
- short pasterns
- neck is a little thick (but looks more elegant when she carries her head down, which seems natural for her), hard to tell with thick hair coat
- light color (but of course, a good horse can't be a bad color in my book--so that's less of a problem)
- not a super impressive pedigree, but would probably do okay at lower level reining, etc

I also got a couple (bad, unfortunately) pictures of the stud, who is sweet, sweet sweet.  He obviously has had some super handling and the breeder has had him since he was a yearling.  Not at all nosy or lippy, but is curious and friendly.  I was very impressed with him and never would have known he was a stallion from his behavior.  My SO is 6' in the photos, I think Hollywood Dunit Good is probably right around 14.2.

[As whisper_the_wind had mentioned in my last post, No, he doesn't look as photoshopped (or as post legged) in real life.  Yes, that is his real tail.  And the breeder's daughter is really into graphic design--she for sure did the photo editing on their website.]

So what do y'all think?  First impressions?  Concerns?  Loves?  This is also all posted on the Equine Mind Meld forum if you'd rather comment there!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HeART of the horse, & other news

Hi all, I wanted to plug for a wonderful rescue today!

Save a Forgotten Equine (SAFE) is everything I think of when I imagine the perfect rescue.  They only take in the number of animals they can afford, they provide cutting edge veterinary treatment for all the horses they rescue, and they make sure all SAFE horses are safe for life--if they don't work out with their adopters, they come right back to the rescue until the right match can be found.  This means they have many of their horses for years on end, and they never slack on feed, farrier or veterinary care.  They also put training on horses whenever they can, and use professional trainers to do this.

It may come as no surprise to you all that I am a very poor person--I think the correct descriptory phrase is "horse poor".  I am rich in many areas of my life.  Just not in a money area.

I've always wanted to support SAFE, but all my extra money goes toward my horse, and I'm 2 states away so volunteer work isn't an option.  But they're having this incredible fund raiser this year called HeART of the Horse--and I'm finally getting to make a contribution!

Here's the website for the HeART of the Horse auction that will be taking place May 12th, 2012 at the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodenville, WA:

It's sure to be a great time and it's for a wonderful cause!

There are some national-caliber artists contributing to this auction benefit.  You can read about some of the artists here:

I will be contributing my first print from my very limited first edition 18" x 24" giclee of Sparkafide, a print that I had been holding onto as part of my personal collection.  I feel honored to be able to contribute to this wonderful event!  The print is signed, dated and numbered, and printed on heavyweight archival matte paper.

 He could be yours!

I also wanted to include the website for SAFE, so you can meet them & see what a truly awesome organization they are.  Please take a peek:

In other news, I rode my horse today!

I did have to lay into her a little about getting off my inside leg.

She's got a really bad habit when she's out of shape of drifting in on your right leg when you're circling to the right.  She does not respect the inside leg and would much rather dump her shoulder and bulldoze along.  So I think we made some progress on that front.

We also worked a lot on cues for shoulder, sidepassing, and moving the hip, and turnarounds, and she's really starting to get some consistency there.

I also had a brief washrack session with her today.  I remembered that I had bought a super long dressage whip a few months ago thinking it would come in handy.  And today, it did!  I just led her up to the mats, rein in my left hand, whip in my right, and whenever she went backwards, she got a few sharp taps until she went forwards again.  She was standing on the washrack nicely after a few minutes of this.  I didn't try to tie her, but I think a few more sessions of that and she'll be back to normal.

It was even warm enough to rinse some of the entire winter's layer of sweat off of her!  I also can't believe how long her mane is getting.  I'm letting her try the au natural look this year.

She looks less fat in that photo for some reason, but she's not.  Look at this one:

And finally--Chevy and Speedy love:


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Horse envy

So there's this filly I've had my eye on.

I think I first noticed her back in December.

Every once in a while I like to torture myself by looking at horses I can't afford.

She's a 2010 daughter of Hollywood Dunit Good (Hollywood Dun It x Miss Michelob Dry), out of WB Comanches Zanparr (a Smart and Trouble/Zan Parr Bar mare).  Just what I'm looking for in breeding...

And ooooh boy, has she got it going on.

 Hollywoods Lil Sugar

She's got the breeding I'm looking for in a prospect, and she's flashy and lovely to boot.  I like palominos to be a little darker in color, but she's only a yearling in this photo so likely she'll darken up a little bit.  I love the Hollywoods--I'd absolutely love to own one someday, but because Hollywood Dun It passed away in 2005, it's getting harder to find his breeding up close where I like to see it without spending a fortune.

She's priced at $2500, which I feel is a little steep for a coming 2 year old--but then again, this breeder respects her breeding program and the few horses she produces a year look fantastic.

So, what can I sell to make $2500 real quick?  When I see a horse like this, I stop thinking rationally.

Look at the mane on that gal!

Ha ha, I wish!

UPDATE:  Well, I just applied for a job.

ETA:  Here's her daddy, Hollywood Dunit Good:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chev and the English saddle

I'm not going to lie, I was kind of sweating it getting back into the english saddle.

As y'all know, I was finally able to get my hands on an affordable, nice, WIDE close contact, an HDR Rivella, which far exceeded my expectations for quality (which are ridiculously high!).

Sadly for us, Chev has gotten so fat over the winter that none of her girths fit her anymore.  We had one shaky, wobbly ride in the saddle, since I was only able to get the darn thing up 1 hole on each side.

It was pretty discouraging.

I should also mention that I've become very comfortable in the El Dorado training saddle.  I feel a little over-confident, like I can't come off--which of course isn't true--but it's solid enough that I don't feel nervous at all about climbing up there.

The english saddle is another story.

What's that, nothing around me?  Nothing to wrap the leadrope around?  No swells?  No slouching? Nothing??

It all made for a pretty nervous me.  I am comfortable in that western saddle.  I feel safe there.

My nervousness was combined with the stress of a horse that doesn't tie on the washrack anymore for tacking up (for now).

So I tried to wear my thick cotton breeches from highschool--nope!  Not gonna work anymore--well, that was 10 years ago--found my stretchy lightweight riding tights instead, yanked on my boots, which, I might add, are getting awfully tight in the calf, grabbed my saddle and my new girth extender (Yay Chev!  We both got chubby this winter), and drove on out there.

Tied pony up, brushed pony out, led pony to car where saddle was, tacked up, booted up, and headed to the arena for a quick lunge session.

Chev hates switching between saddles.  She's always been like this.  I think she gets annoyed when her routine changes, and part of that is that her routine really hasn't changed much over the last few years.  So I wanted to make sure she figured out the different feel of the english saddle on the lunge line before I climbed my wimpy self up there.

She was fine lunging, so I bridled her (with her western snaffle bridle--ugh, I hate mix-and-match tack, but I wasn't going to take the time to untie the bit from all the goofy western ties and pop it on her english bridle), and climbed on up there.

My goodness, did that saddle feel small.

It has literally been a year since I've really ridden in a close contact saddle.

I really forgot how much work it was.

But Chevy settled right down and I remembered how much easier it is to give cues, re-balance the horse, and feel everything that's going on.

And I daresay I settled right in, too!

I've always thought there was something sort of glamorous about a well-turned out hunter hack.

A polished, solid, pleasant horse, a lovely saddle, and a well turned out rider with gloves and hat.

We definitely did not look like that.

But, I got some of the best trot out of her that I've had in a while.

And we did some gymnastics with poles and a little pile of logs in the arena that's used as a trail prop.

Chev did have about 3 "hind end failures" (as my old trainer used to call them) where her back end gave out mid-stride--I'm noticing this a little bit lately and I think it's a lack of strength back there.  We really interrupted her whole training routine this winter, and it's meant a big loss of strength for both of us.  To her immense credit, she recovered from every stumble gracefully with nary a squeal, which is a long way from how she was a year ago!  She hates to take a mis-step.  I need to work more on spiraling in and out, hip-in, two tracking, etc to help strengthen up that stifle area.  We did a fair amount of that too today--working on refining the cues for shoulder, side pass, and hip.

She seemed to really enjoy cantering over the logs, and I felt secure by that point in the saddle, remembering my "hunt seat legs" and my center of gravity, could count her canter strides well, adjust them as necessary to get her up and over the little log jump.

So, maybe there are some jumps in our future after all!

I would be thrilled if my little western pony wanted to get into some little hunter jumps.

So it was a great day today.  I brought my camera, but of course I forgot to take any photos.  Suffice to say she still resembles a hairy moose...but she is slowly shedding a bit and I hope to be back to her dark, lustrous liver-chestnut coat soon!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Better and better

Okay, so things pretty much went as-planned today.

I tied her up in her paddock, brushed her out, booted her up and straight to the roundpen we went.


She refused to go in said roundpen, because as I mentioned before, shooting backwards is her new answer to everything.

My immediate response was to make her work.  Disclaimer:  I never like to work a horse before they've had a warm-up.  Just like an athlete, it's always best to start slow and then build up the workout.  But in this case, she just needed to move, NOW.  So when she shot backwards, I pushed her into a circle with the leadrope and the lunge whip and around she went.  Still no go.  So I "lunged" her again, and after two tries of that, she walked right in with me.


I had her work hard enough in the roundpen to get all her attention back to me, and then I spent 10 minutes just doing stretching exercises with her until she was giving to pressure easily.

The ride was good.  She feels unbalanced, of course, since I've been really inconsistent with my riding lately, but we did a lot of shoulder-ins and moving the hip in one step at the walk.  I really avoid lateral work--I used to think that I just hated doing it, but lately I've realized that I really avoid it because it hurts my hip.

Oh, the hip.  I managed to tear a ligament in my hip while jogging when I was in highschool.  I am always really aware when I'm riding of how much more stiff and closed my right hip is compared to my left.  This is really unfortunate for a lot of reasons.

When riding, one of the major goals is to be as straight and balanced as possible.  Good communication is much easier when the cues are even on both sides of the horse.

Unfortunately for me (and my horse), I'm crooked all the time.  Because my right hip flexor doesn't work as well, I don't sit as deeply or move as flexibly in the saddle on the right side.


I think I'll write more about imbalance later.

Anyway, we did a lot of lateral work (all I could handle) and I spent the whole last 20 minutes of cool-out riding with one hand and trying to give her all the signals with my legs and seat.  What an exercise!  It really shows you how much (or little--in my case much!) you rely on the reins to get your directions and movements.

Man are my legs sore now.

I did hose her off after the ride with hardly a look from her at the hose (which was the source of this whole pulling back problem we're having, ironically!).  It's been 70 and HOT in Wyo lately, and she seemed to appreciate the hose down.  I brushed her out and put her up, and both she and Speedy got quite a few carrots.

I also bought a girth extender for my English saddle, because Ms. Chubby outgrew all of my girths.

I'm hoping to get out there tomorrow too...stay tuned for how well that plan turns out!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday: the day where nothing goes as planned

Well, high wind warning + cramps = I didn't get out to the barn today.  Bummer.

On the upside, I finally have a plan.

Whenever the weather permits, here is what I am going to do.

1.  Drive to barn.  Or, get gas first.  Whatever.  Drive to barn.

2.  Take brush out of front seat, tie Chev in her pen, brush her out.  Put boots on.

3.  Straight to roundpen for some much need groundwork (see last post).

4. Straight to tack shed.  Saddle.

5.  Ride the ever loving bajesus out of her.  It's time to stop treating her like a 3 year old.

6.  Nice long cool out, maybe hit the trail.

7.  Put horse up.

8.  Drive home.

For now I'm just going to completely avoid the wash rack.  I'm not going to make a big bloody deal of it, and just move forward.  I think if I can fix some of the other little things it will cease to be an issue.  What I don't want is a big fight every time I come out, so I'm just going to ignore it for now.

Plus, when something like this crops up I tend to forget all about the many awesome things she does.  Like for example:  She has had 2 rides in the last three weeks, due to my vacation and other things.  When I rode her the other day she was wonderful, despite a loud and very near tractor dragging a pen right on the other side of the low arena fence, a squealing, crazy Arabian flipping out on the lunge in the arena next door, wind, and all kinds of other distractions.  She was calm, focused, and didn't flick an ear as we loped by just a couple of feet from the tractor.  She picked up both leads without a hitch, and she was so balanced I even forgot we were on her "bad" lead several times.  So I have a lot to be thankful for.  I think I'm just a lot better at fixing problems in the saddle than on the ground.

So, here's hoping.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good day/Bad day

I definitely lost my temper with Chev today.


She has very rapidly developed one of my most-hated vices.  After a terrifying incident with a hose the other day (ie, I turned it on and she lost her marbles), she has decided that pulling back is the answer to everything while tied.

I was really hoping that when this cropped up for the first time a few days ago that would be the end of it.  She pulled back, she pulled back harder, she pulled back as hard she she could until the halter dug into her little ears and then she stopped.  And she was fine.  She did not try it again that day.

So that was four days ago.  I haven't been out to see her since then because my SO had surgery and I've been stuck at home doing the nurse thing.

Today, I get her out, tie her at the wash rack (which is actually just a hitching post outside with rubber mats because I don't trust her in cross ties), which is where she has been tied every time since I moved her here EIGHT MONTHS AGO, and she starts getting all fidgety and starts to pull back again.  I talk her through it, and re-tie her with one of those ties that's just a wrap around the pole so if she pulls back again no knots will get stuck.  She doesn't.  But I can tell she really wants to.  I figure some work will get her mind back.

We actually have a really stellar ride.  She is balanced, I really work on being straight in the saddle.  It was great.  I take her back to the wash rack.

She starts getting all squirrely, doesn't want to go in the corner, pushes her shoulder all over me, it's a nightmare.

She pulls back as hard as she can.

Long story short, it ends with my hands bleeding, her being hit quite a few times with the lead rope as she tries to freight-train over me, and her deciding that she's just going to shoot backwards whenever I try to lead her anywhere.  Making her back up more when she goes backwards does nothing.  She likes going backwards.  I am swearing, bleeding, huffing and puffing.  I've made it all worse.

I really hate her at this point.

Then an idea comes to me.  A much better idea.  An idea that doesn't involve me yelling, slapping, getting run over, or further tearing up my hands.

So I hustle her over to the round pen, which is about  8 horselengths from the wash rack.

And I make her work.  HARD.  She runs and runs until she has sweat dripping off her neck.

Then I snap on her lead rope and take her back to the wash rack.  I am completely calm and neutral.  She slams on the breaks before we get there, so I about face her and back in the round pen she goes.

I make sure she does at least 10 laps at the canter both directions before we try again.

Basically just repeat this about 15 times.  I didn't know my horse had that much stamina.  I also felt a lot more calm by this point, since watching your horse go around and around you in circles has sort of a therapeutic effect somehow.  Plus I was thinking, Ha ha, sucker, who's huffing and puffing NOW?

Finally we get to the point where she realizes that if she just steps up to the wash rack, she gets a good long rest.  Wash rack = happy place, rest.  Pulling back = roundpen, hard work.

I did try tying her when I got her on the rack--big mistake, she pulled backwards before I even had it tied and it was right back in the round pen for her.  And 10 laps each way.  I figured I had to make it really clear that it was the pulling back I was punishing, not anything else.

A couple more goes and I had her standing quietly on the wash rack again.  I didn't tie her, just let her sit there and air up some.   She seemed calm and actually, pretty relaxed.

It's been really warm here--T-shirt weather--and very breezy, so she wasn't super wet but she was hot.  I threw my bareback pad and a bridle on her and we went to walk around the arena for half an hour until her chest was cool and her nostrils were no longer flared.

After that I took her straight back to her pen and brushed all the salt off of her coat out there.  We bypassed the wash rack completely for now.  I felt like I had made my point, and the last thing I wanted to do was start that whole cycle over again.

ARGH, I am just so frustrated!  I was hoping this was a habit she'd NEVER pick up.  I think from here on out I'll try to stick with my plan though.  The second she tries any pulling back she'll go into the round pen.  That way I don't lose my temper and she gets to associate the wash rack with a good place to be again.

On a related note, I have not been pushing her hard enough.  I think this latest problem stems from me not being assertive enough.  She is still a dream to ride (because I don't allow her to get the better of me in the saddle--EVER), but she's getting to be a nightmare on the ground--she's lost a lot of her respect for my position, and I think it's because I do the same thing every time:  Snap her on the lunge line, she goes around for a few minutes, I ask her to walk, trot, canter, halt, both directions, that's it.  No groundwork (which I sort of hate, so no real huge surprise there), no real insistence that she obey what I'm asking her to do or that she do anything complicated.  She's learned to sort of ignore me.  So it's time to step that up a notch.

Now that the weather's getting better, maybe I can make up for these things I've let slide or lost over the winter.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shameless plug

For my new Etsy page!

I know it's not horse related, but it kind of is, indirectly, because if I sell work than both the horse AND I get to eat.

Please check it out!

clicky --->  M Andrews Gallery on Etsy

There's not a lot of content yet, but I should be adding more soon!

Big bad life woes!

I think there may be some big changes on the horizon.

I am struggling with a desire to move back to my homeland.  I deeply miss my family and my close friends, my art connections, my equine connections and the availability of good jobs.

I know this is going to come as a shock to many of you--but I am really, truly, a very poor artist.  While it's great to not have a day job (haven't had much luck in finding one, actually, in this bustling metropolis of 6,000), it's not great having no money.

Plus, I miss my farrier.

I know that last thing is something only horse owners will understand.


All this has combined to make me feel sort of down in the dumps lately.  As I mentioned last time, I just returned from a lovely visit back home, where I remembered all the reasons I love Oregon.  I can deal with the rain.  Seriously.

But there are bills bills bills, student loans to be paid, etc, etc, etc.  Sometimes I feel like there isn't any way out of it all.  And then I think I'm being ridiculous.  Because of course there is.  I just need to find a job.

My work experience so far has been eclectic.  I am highly skilled in high pressure and customer service type positions.  I worked for 3 years in a high profile, high stress medical testing laboratory, where I climbed quickly through the ranks of temp-hire to workflow coordinator.  Did I like it?  Heck no.  I was exhausted every day.  But I had a lot of money in the bank.  And there were a few things I did enjoy.  I loved helping people.  I loved working hard.  And I loved making sure everything was done RIGHT.

I decided in the end that the stress was getting to be too much though, and transitioned into a veterinary receptionist position at (probably) the most expensive clinic in town.  I learned that people pretty much trample you when you're a receptionist.  Most of our clients were great, but there were some who thought anyone who was wearing a receptionist tag was a doormat.  I learned the finer points of client services finesse while at that job.

Plus, you have to have a little finesse when you're delivering a $6000 bill.

And darn it, I was great at my job.  If you'd been in the hospital in the last few weeks, I knew who you and your pet were, what you wanted and how I could help you before you even opened the door to come in.  I was that good.  And we had hundreds of clients.

But after about 3 years of some great times, some terrible times, and a whole lot of heartbreak, since it turns out I'm just not able to deal with euths on a daily basis, I moved to Wyoming.

Well, to clarify, I'm able to deal with the heartbreak as it's happening, but not when I'd come home to my kitties and stare at the wall for hours.  That stuff just isn't healthy.  Plus, I kinda had to stop at 3 cats, and it's pretty impossible to not accumulate animals when you work at a clinic.

I wanted to simplify my life.  And boy howdy, I got simple.

So now that I've had simple, I kind of want a little more complicated.  Like maybe a town that has more than 5 restaurants. 

But MOVING is complicated.

I have 2 kitties who are mine--err, I'm theirs--err whatever--Chat and Muffin--and one big, expensive horse.  Naturally there's no question about them coming with me.  I will drag them all over this darn nation if I have to.

 Here's Chaton

Here's the Fluff Man

Of course you already know the Queen Bee

It will be about $800 to ship Chevy back to Oregon.

Somewhere around $700 to rent a moving truck that will fit my stuff and is capable of pulling my little car.

Another $600 in fuel for said moving truck.

So what're we at now?  'Bout $2100 to start?

I need to sell some paintings.  Seriously people, I'm kind of desperate here.

Take a gander over at my webby:

 Bolt, an APHA--an example of a $150 drawing.

I do custom work as well, and I'm very flexible on prices.  I have clients all over the US, but times are tough and it's hard to make connections in my little town.  If you've ever thought about having a drawing of your pony, now's a great time!  I'm just finishing up a logo project this weekend and then I'm wide open.

 Plains Storm #2

Wyoming Painting

Help me feel like my advanced degree in art was worth it :)

Speaking of money drains, here are a couple pics of Chev from today.

At least I'm not the only one who's getting a little tubby this winter.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Back in the saddle, and some thoughts on (de)worming

Well, I'm back.  Finally.  After a lengthy hiatus.  I successfully orchestrated (with a little help from my brother) a surprise trip back to Oregon for my mom's birthday, and just got back yesterday.  Lord, do I miss the Pacific Northwest.  I visited Whole Foods.  I ate tons of sushi.  I went to bars that were non-smoking. It was amazing.

It is getting harder and harder for me to leave and come back again.  But that's a story for another blog.

So I was able to ride for the first time in about two weeks today.  The weird thing about being gone is how quickly I slip back into what a life without horses could be.  But she is always in my mind, and it was wonderful to see her again.

It always amazes me how quickly Chev gets completely out of shape.  It isn't that she forgets things (necessarily), she just loses some of her strength that makes her canter nice and even, and her other gaits cadenced.  So.  I noticed that right off the bat.

We had a large herd of antelope cross the road and jump some fences, and that was more than enough excitement to get her tail flagged.

Afterwards, it was time for her bi-monthly deworming.  I'm from a wet area, so I believe in and grew up with rotational or feed-thru worming.  I grumbled something about my dewormer only going up to 1,100 pounds, and the barn owner responded with:

"How often do you do that?"

"Every two months," I said.

"Well I only worm once a year.  They don't really need more than that."  She then proceeded (as per usual) to make me feel like my way was wrong, stating that it's a waste of money, that you can tell by looking at poop and hair coat, etc, etc, etc.

I said I'd keep to my schedule.

Having known horses who succumbed to dangers of lackluster or non-existent deworming programs, I believe in sticking to it.  In fact, I'd wager that good deworming programs are largely to thank for the greatly increased average equine lifespan over the last 20 years.

I also worked in a vet clinic, and saw plenty of nasty parasites--and I know enough to know that most aren't visible to the naked eye.  And if they are, boy howdy do you have a BIG problem!

I order my deworming packs ahead of time through and write the month on them in sharpie to help me remember.  And with my old guy, I had fecal tests done to make sure my deworming schedule was working.  The vet was surprised to find not a single ova in his sample the last time I had one run, but I have yet to do one on Chevy.

So how do you feel about deworming schedules?  Do you stick to an every-two-monther, or do you just deworm when you remember?