Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Wrap Up

I'm combining my 2019 goal review and 2019 wrap up into one post, because well, we're out of days in 2019 for me to post them! And I almost missed the last day to post this!

Let's see how we did with the goals:

1. Get Penn settled in his new home.

CHECK! I hear from Penn's new owners multiple times a month and he is fat, hairy and happy. He's also sound again! It took until July, but he's back doing low level dressage with the family's youngest daughter and trail riding with everyone else. He lives out 24/7 now and is doing well. I haven't been able to bring myself to visit him, but I will next year I think.

2. Find a new horse.

CHECK. This was a bad year, sorry guys. Finding, then losing, Liam was terrible. I basically horse shopped from January to August with a 3 month break from April to June. That was also terrible. At least I have Eli now! He's such a great boy, and is exactly what I needed.

3. Stay on top of my own health (treat asthma appropriately, de-stress to lower my blood pressure, continue to lose weight or at a minimum don't gain back what I've lost).

Ehhhh... well de-stressing didn't last long, I've been horribly stressed for most of the year and generally unhappy. I've also been plagued with health issues that meant not only did I not ride often, but I also didn't bike. I gained back the 30 pounds I lost last year and spent the last quarter of the year struggling to lose anything. With the weight gain and lack of cardio, my asthma is starting to act up, despite daily medication.

4. Bike from Pittsburgh to DC.

Nope. This got derailed quickly as the group I was going to bike with slowly disbanded and it's not a trek I'm about to make by myself. I also didn't have the vacation time to spend on the trip after Liam's trip to OSU and his death. Hopefully Husband and I will ride the length of the GAP trail next year.

Next is a month by month run down of the year, because a lot did happen that never made it to the blog.


I started horse shopping.

Went to Canada.

Austen came to visit me and took WONDERFUL pictures of me and Penn. Seriously. Love.

Penn went to his new home and settled in beautifully.


Back at the end of 2018, Kate and Megan schemed for me to travel to CA for the Mary Wanless Instructor Workshop. That happened at the end of January/ beginning of February and was seriously a huge turning point in how I rode. For the first time in a long time, I felt secure in the saddle. I've always felt pretty laterally secure in my upper body in the saddle, but I struggled with longitudinal security, and I've always struggled to stay plugged in. Megan drove me around and Kate graciously let me borrow horses to ride, and gave me a lesson before I went home that came with a breakdown of everywhere my position was failing. I went home and worked on it! I spent almost a month at the walk at home, running through my check list!


I spent most of the end of February and all of March horse shopping. Failed vettings occurred and one sale horse dumped me hard. I got back in touch with Event Trainer to go see Liam.


Liam came home and we did all kinds of baby horse stuff like leading, yielding, standing to be groomed.

Husband and I go on a whirlwind Vegas/Phoenix/Grand Canyon adventure for our anniversary.


I took Madonna to two Mary Wanless clinics where Mary helped me get my posting trot more effective and my core engaged. I loved my lessons. Madonna did not, she started acting out under saddle and rearing when I tried to get on, then bolting.


The veterinary disaster month. Liam was eventually diagnosed with Wobblers and was put down June 27.


I started riding a gentle school horse with a good amount of motion in her ocean to get used to riding again, and to canter again for the first time in months. I went to see several more sale horses and then saw Eli. I started biking again.


My new horse trailer arrived!

Health issues abound! I gave myself a concussion and my blood pressure was spiking. I had to stop biking after the concussion.

Eli came home! I had my hand held through our first few weeks of riding as I was afraid to even trot him because my body was not responding like it used to. I had a few lessons with the German Dressage Trainer.


Husband and I took advantage of the long holiday weekend and went to Canada together: Niagara Falls and Toronto.

Eli and I continued to get to know each other.

I went to Dressage at Devon and finally got to meet Jenj!


I spent a lot of October hating my job and extremely stressed about it. I got my crap together and updated my resume and practiced my interview questions. Nothing comes of the brief search and phone interviews, which only added to my stress levels.


I signed up for a program to get over my irrational riding fear. Immediately, I was able to stop lunging Eli before riding and able to redirect my anxiety so I could cope long enough to get going under saddle. Still lots to work on, but I was excited to ride again.

The month of lessons! I had a lesson I hated with German Dressage Trainer. My barn hosted a clinic and I had two good rides with that trainer, and even cantered a little.

With some of my nervousness and anxiety handled, I took Eli to see GP Trainer finally. She had freshly broken her hand so she couldn't ride him herself, but her staff gave Eli two very badly needed schools that really set the tone in a way I couldn't because of my fear. I rode too! We worked on small goals that were quite reminiscent of GP Trainer's small goal confidence building methodology for green horses (achieve a small task and send then back to the barn glowing with pride in themselves).

I went home from that weekend with GP Trainer with my hair on fire and SO MUCH more confidence than before.


I kept working Eli and became increasingly frustrated that my half halt didn't work and I couldn't seem to get him off the left rein. He constantly looked right (both directions) and I'm aware of my pulling left hand, so I had no idea what to do to fix it that didn't involve pulling my left rein. He'd look left and pull/run through my half halts.

I went to see Cob Jockey's GP Trainer (who I'll call JT), who we met in May when she hosted Mary Wanless. She rode Eli and went over a ton that I want to write another post about. Hopefully I can get that out first thing in the new year! We did two lessons that started with her riding and then a short lesson for me. She helped me feel like I was in more control as I gained more influence over Eli. At the end of my second lesson, I cantered a full 20m circle in some semblance of control and structure, something I haven't done since I tried him in July (and that was like cantering a freight train).

I've had very good rides since I've been home and I'm slowly using the entire indoor at home (even the scary area by the back door). And we've ventured to the outdoor on the handful of warm December days!

And lastly, I want to thank everyone for sticking around and coming by to read and comment on my ramblings. It means a lot that you're coming back to read my sporadic posts this year. I started this blog in May 2014 and it certainly chronicled an exciting part of my life. For the longest time, I wrote to myself, but slowly picked up the greatest friends I have now. The people I've met and talked to through the blogosphere have greatly influenced my life.

Remember when we were kids and our parents told us "Don't talk to strangers on the internet?" I'm so glad to have ignored that.

Here's to a healthy and happy 2020 for all!

Monday, December 30, 2019

2010s In Photos

I'm jumping on the bandwagon for this challenge! Thank goodness for Facebook and this blog to find the old photos. I know I'm supposed to keep to one picture a year... but for a couple of the years I just couldn't help it.

I started eventing again after a 6 year break.

Mikey and I did a lot of hunters and jumpers in prep for our first recognized horse trials. While there are other pictures that more adequately show what we did, this is my favorite picture from 2011. My in laws had a drawing of this picture commissioned after Mikey's death, and I still tear up looking at it.

The highlight of the year was doing the long format beginner novice at Full Moon Farm. A great place with incredible people and I had an incredible time.

2012 (again)
Couldn't help adding a second picture. This is from my first novice, that I rode with a sprained ankle (visible side).

This was the year I started showing dressage only. That's not the highlight from the year though. Husband took a series of silhouettes one evening, and they're still among my favorite pictures.

Mikey and I kept showing dressage, riding 2nd and 3rd level as I tried to clean up his changes enough to finish my bronze.

Mikey had surgery for a fracture bed in his hock. He recovered, we showed 3rd level again, and a month later he died. Our 11 year relationship ended in a flash.

2015 (again)
Penn entered my life shortly after Mikey's death and provided a healing balm.

A year showing at recognized first level. And a hug for Penn at the end of our championship test.

Penn helped me finish my bronze medal!

A tragic year for Penn's soundness, we did one major fun thing and checked off an item off my bucket list... sorting cows!

PC Austen
I realized I couldn't manage Penn's rehab and gave him to a friend who could. Austen was so generous in coming to take beautiful winter photos of us.

2019 (again)
Beefcake Liam came and went from my life in the blink of an eye.

2019 (again again)
Eli came into my life and reminded me that horses are fun, and riding is fun too.

May the 2020s have as much fun and joy as the 2010s, but please, with a lot more soundness and good health for all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hoof Update

Since Eli has come home, we've had 4 trims at some odd intervals because he's lost a front shoe (or both) before his next appointment. Despite how bad that sounds, he is keeping his shoes on much better than the original set he came with. All of his list shoes revolved around him doing something dumb outside at the 4ish week mark in the cycle. We're aiming to do his fronts on 4 week cycles to keep the shoes on, and his hinds on 5 to 6 week cycles because they seem to be in better condition.

Dirty because these pics were actually taken 2 days after his trim. 

The visible changes aren't as drastic anymore, but we still have plenty to do. We're still dealing with the shape of his hooves at the very bottom, which is from when his toes were allowed to grow way too long so the angle is messed up.

Hooves are a long road, but we're getting there. It'll be interesting to look at these with a year's worth of pictures!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Farrier Friday (Weekend) Clinic/First Dental

Eli did get to partake in the farrier clinic back on October 12!

Eli ended up being the only horse shod on day one of the clinic. Day 1 was supposed to be theory, cadaver investigations, and gait analysis. After a bunch of theory in the morning, the farriers moved on to gait analysis and ended up shoeing Eli because he came in with a lost shoe.

He was at 5.5 weeks in his cycle at the time of the clinic and he really needed reshod at 4 or 4.5 weeks because I could hear him clinking. I jokingly told him "You need to keep your shoes on until the farrier clinic!" Well he did EXACTLY that. He had the shoe on when he went out that morning and it was off an hour later.

The farriers spent ALL DAY on him. They discussed his diet, supplements, hoof quality, movement. They were appalled at his hoof quality and it took them a hot second to understand what they were seeing is BETTER. They all immediately agreed that the packing we did the first time around was insufficient due to how thin his soles are (yay xrays), and recommended leather pads.

The master farrier (MF) himself shod him with a different type of shoe with hand forged customs:
  • Eli was hot shod for the first time.
  • MF hand pulled the clips on the front shoes to be bigger and take pressure off the nails since Eli's hoof quality is so poor.
  • Leather pads with poured packing underneath (holes were drilled in the leather pad to squirt packing in once the shoe and pad were nailed on).
  • Glue at the rear of the front shoes.
  • He recommended leather pads on the hinds for at least 6 months or more, but didn't put them on this round.
  • The lateral aspects of both hind shoes were made to be a little taller to better support his hoof and encourage correct hoof landing.
  • He recommended putting hoof heal on his hooves between farrier visits.
  • All of the farriers also recommended farrier's formula double strength, but I know he was on that before and it didn't seem to be doing much... so I'm going to continue with the balanced diet I created on FeedXL with my barn owner (we're changing barn feeds and we had a long chat about what to change to) that also uses a human biotin/keratin supplement.

Getting his pads filled.

Best part is my farrier was there and took copious notes so he can continue the plan. We're at 3.5 weeks now, and his shoes look much better than they did last time at 3.5 weeks. I'm sure part of that is just two better shoeing jobs and better nutrition since he came home, but it's nice to see his shoes are still firmly attached to his feet.

Left front on top, right front on bottom.
I took my own reset pics a few days after the farrier clinic... I asked for these pics from that day... and well, I always know who is a blogger and who isn't based on how they take this kind of picture!

After we added hind shoes the first time he was shod here at home, his stifles started to stick a bit. The amount of sticking dropped to none after this shoeing, but has slowly been getting worse again. I think this might be tied more to him using himself better and simply being tired and sore.

The other thing that happened in October is I had the dentist out to see Eli. I missed the appointment (it was a choice of an appointment during my working hours in October or wait until December), but another barn mate did a live play by play for me via text.

The dentist wasn't outright appalled by Eli's teeth... but he said they were bad. More than standard wear since whenever his last appointment was. I told him that Eli is heavy on the bit when he's not hiding behind it, heavy on the forehand, and can be difficult to bridle so I'd appreciate anything notable about his mouth to maybe find a different bit if needed.

The dentist report if you're interested.

He said that the way Eli's teeth were worn (ramps) would encourage him to be on the forehand. He corrected Eli's teeth and then checked my bit and bridle. He bridled him and unbridled and bridled and checked the shape of the bit against Eli's mouth and found no reason to worry. He really loved the bit I had picked (Herm Sprenger RS Dynamic Bradoon with lozenge), because the shape matched Eli's mouth and fit well, and should be gentle for him.

The difference in this horse guys. WOW. I was never so thrilled to have a horse be off the bit and a giraffe. We've changed from working on not being behind the bit and down, to not rooting and pulling the rider out of the saddle or off balance. He's learned he can knock me off balance a bit. When I remember to open my hip flexors (or lead with them if you will), keep my core pressure up, and then keep my right knee up and right back butt area down, he can't ruffle me at all.

From 10/21/2019, I buckled down and rode, paying attention to my dropped right knee that Mary Wanless pointed out. Eli is still a little stabby, but so much better and not plowing into a hole to China.

The next two are my barn mate T riding Eli. Normally I'd never share video of someone else, but I'm sharing because of how she's able to ride him uphill like he is built to move, and she gets a bit more reach out of his fronts than I do. She really did a great job schooling him for me.

Really big improvements for Eli! Feet and teeth are very important!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


On today's episode of "what can I damage next", I went and did something nasty to my back at the end of October, right between the shoulder blades. It had me popping painkillers and trying to find old robaxin tabs. Husband was enlisted to rub BOT's Limber Up Liniment on it... and he HATED how it smelled and felt. But he's a good guy and did it anyway. Btw, that liniment seems to work!

Eli's Insecurities:

I started Eli on Total Calm and Focus after my last post. He's a pretty chill dude, but he seemed to be struggling to adjust to life where he wasn't on 24/7 turnout and being "alone". The distraction started flooding over to our rides, where I am more than capable of riding out whatever he gives, but I'm also trying to mend my broken confidence. Me being hypersensitive to what can possibly spook Eli so I know it's coming really discourages Eli from having confidence in me. I'm trying to set us up for success: I need to feel good about him so I can relax, so he feels good about me and relaxes, and then we spiral upwards. So, Total Calm it is.

So far so good. He doesn't panic when I leave him in cross ties. He still watches me move around the barn, but he watches with mild interest, not intense focus. He is still upset if he's actually alone in the barn (valid I think), but he's not too upset when he's "alone" in the barn. We ended up swapping his field again because he was playing too hard with his new friends, and he made the swap easily with no drama.

I do try to ride with a friend. I think we both feel better with company- I have moral support and Eli has an equine shield. One of my barn mates has a very sensitive mare that has the same tendencies as Eli, albeit much more dramatic. Since I went to see Mary Wanless back in Jan/Feb, and have ridden with Mary twice now, I've brought a lot home that has helped her manage her mare's tendencies. When I hurt my back, I asked this barn mate if she'd like to take Eli for a spin since I knew he wouldn't scare her... she did a FABULOUS job riding him and it gave me a ton of confidence in riding him myself. She can articulate back at me a mix of Mary sayings and first hand riding experience that really help me feel more secure and effective.


I've been struggling with my confidence ever since I started horse shopping. The fall I took off one young horse really rattled me. I don't think the fall itself rattled me, because the very first horse I looked at dumped me too. I was able to rationalize the first fall into a cause and effect. I have no idea what caused the second fall, I have it on video and I didn't see or feel the naughty behavior coming... aside from a general lack of forward and tension. The horse actually felt like he relaxed and then had a meltdown. It doesn't matter, because something in me snapped and "fake it til you make it" isn't working for me like it did when Penn came home. Eli is getting more and more spooky, and I'm 99% sure it's my fault. Today, I signed up for an online course series to help myself get over it. The course focuses on NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to overcome fear by getting to the root of it and then moving forward. I know brain rewiring works, so I just need some help to get mine fixed up. I'll review later on if I think the program has been worth it.

That's all I'm sharing in this post. I have a bunch of stuff I want to share though, so stay subscribed friends, I actually sat down and wrote some posts! Next up will be the farrier clinic and the dentist!

Thursday, October 3, 2019


I need some hive mind thinking blogosphere.

Eli has been doing well in his new turnout group, not bonding overly strongly to any one horse... he's bonded about equally to all of them. 🤦‍♀️

I'm not sure what to do here. We can't keep shuffling his turnout because we're going to run out of fields and it's bad to keep disrupting the herds. He's fine when he's out with them. I can go get him from the field (he's starting to walk towards me when I'm close enough), and he's well behaved in the barn as long as I'm with him. I check his leading manners sporadically when I'm bringing him in/ turning him out/ walking to the indoor/ walking around the indoor in hand, making sure he's actually paying attention to me and not searching for his  friends. 

In the cross ties, I've taught him he is to stand without fidgeting or pawing, and for the most part he's pretty good and listens to the word "stand" when I walk away. It's been pretty effective for personal space when the cookies are out too.

Not intensely watching as I disappear around a corner, which is good.

Problem: He screams and worries, a lot, when he thinks he's "alone." I put alone in quotes because very rarely has he actually been alone. When I go out of sight, whether he's alone or not, he'll call for me. I had him call for me when I walked away to get his fly sheet and there were two people and a horse standing right in front of him. One tried to give him attention but he had a head tossing tantrum instead. He also screams for several hours when the horses come in. He'll look out his window or scream to herd mates who are in the barn (thankfully none of them answer). He is in a barn full of horses, yet he feels alone. He's starting to stall walk. Every few days, he's a spooky shit coming in from the field and at 17.1, a handful of the staff won't handle him (mostly the ones who don't have a ton of horse experience).

Eli is pretty insecure. He's happiest turned out with his herd or with me. I'm not sure what to do here, aside from keep going with his schedule and hope with time, he'll figure it out. Putting him on field board isn't an option- he'd spend half the day 1:1 with a single horse and become super attached to that horse. It's having a minor effect when riding him. He's become spooky and nervous, however when I remember that I can in fact ride properly (thank you Mary Wanless), he settles right down and relaxes and swings through his back. I've been riding him alone and long lining him so he continues to build confidence being alone. Food doesn't seem to prevent it- he comes into a stall with grain and hay and screams anyway. He's happy one on one with me.

Maybe he needs his own critter. Like a cat. Not these cats though, they're my confir creatures. Maybe a goat.

Ideas? Has anyone had this kind of attachment issue?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

First Farrier Trim (plus video)

I opted to use Liam's farrier for Eli as well. He's not as experienced a farrier as some (he got into shoeing post-army), but he's very into continuing education, corrective shoeing, and forging. He's very into showing owners where imbalances are, the good and the bad, and can read hoof xrays and work with a vet to solve issues. He has developed his eye and takes his time to make sure corrections are right. He also happens to own the farm I board at, which is also good!

So... here's the before pics.

Top row is the front left, bottom front right. 

They're super rough and I cringe looking at them. The angles on all 4 of his feet are different. On his hinds, the medial aspects have shorter walls than the lateral aspects.

I REALLY loved riding Eli when I tried him out, which made me want to overlook his feet (and after all this shopping, I would have bought Penn all over again too knowing what I do now). I absolutely xrayed the shit out of those fronts (hoof to fetlock, all the angles) to make sure the insides were ok. The insides are pretty good for being toed in. The hoof wall, albeit very poor quality, is very thick. There's a ton of excess toe. He has a neutral palmer angle and very thin soles. The bony structures seem ok, joint spaces clean, and no side bone. The vet who did the PPE thought he went through a period of very poor farrier care based on the hoof wall and excess toe.

Multiple vets looked at his xrays and thought since he's sound now, these feet are entirely fixable.

We already overhauled his diet to a 19% NSC feed, but I'm working with BO to put him on a 13% NSC beet pulp based feed since he seems particularly sensitive to environmental changes. His original feed did not have controlled sugars and starches, and was much higher NSC than what we switched him to. I'm also giving him 40mg of biotin and 400mg of keratin twice a day. Human pills worked on Penn, (I take one a day too, my hair stopped falling out and my nails stopped breaking), so I'm hoping it'll work on Eli too.

I get human pills from Sam's Club and spend around fifty cents a day feeding 8 pills. Overkill? Gosh I hope so. But for that price, I'll throw 80mg of biotin at him every day and not lose a bit of sleep over if he's peeing some of it out.

Anyway, back to his feet. Farrier thought there was enough hoof wall to get nails in, which would allow him to put pour pads in.

His goal, realistically over the next year, is to keep bringing the toes back while (fingers crossed) good quality hoof grows out, ideally bringing some more heel with it. He's encouraging the sole to be concave instead of flat. He's also trying to coax the hinds to grow bigger.

Eli's breeder said he was good for the farrier... and well, he was... not great. Still manageable, but threw head tossing tantrums and ripped his feet out of Farrier's hands. I think his feet hurt somewhat, and standing barefoot on concrete was a bit too much for him. He was also itching for Julius, had a few days off beforehand, and was testing us a bit.

Farrier got his fronts trimmed and reset, and the hinds trimmed before calling it a day. Eli was so over it. We reconvened the next day for hind shoes to go on, which went quite quickly because Eli was quiet and behaved himself.

Eli wants to land toe first, and his front end can be quite stabby. The leg will reach from the shoulder, and the reach stops at the knee and he jams it back down. He also paddled quite a bit up front. He's built nicer than he moves. Just one round of shoeing mitigated a lot of that and he's already moving better under saddle.

The corrections Farrier made behind have Eli struggling a bit. He wants to land on the outside of his hoof and the trims are now encouraging him to land in the middle, so he has to learn to move again. Every so often he takes a misstep behind where he catches the toe or loses the stifle. I'm just taking everything super slow and easy with him and I'm being super careful not to overdo any of the work we do. His musculature has to change, which will take time.

There's a ton of training issues in that video that need to be addressed, but I'm super pleased with his progress. My big concern was to keep him forward thinking with no curling. Above the bit was a ok. I want to start to develop some thrust, so he'll develop push, so he'll find real connection and come up off his forehand. He thinks that's a bit silly and would rather root the reins out of my hand or lean... because guess what? I put him back in a snaffle! I used a GP Trainer trick to help him not find purchase on my hands, and a Mary Wanless trick to keep me out of his mantrap (the hole at his whithers), and keep his rooting from dragging me forward.

We walked outside after schooling in the indoor.
It's a small thing I know, but a huge victory for my confidence to be comfortable leaving an enclosed area for the not fenced in outdoor. #smallsteps #smallvictories

As I said above, Farrier is very into continuing education. As such, he participates in "Farrier Fridays" where more experienced farriers meet with newer ones and with vets, and they tackle a topic or two. One of the events they're doing in a few weekends is a weekend long clinic with British Master Farriers (sorry, can't remember any of the group names) and local vets, at our barn. Farrier asked if they could use Eli as a demo horse. Eli will have a ton of farrier eyes analyze his movement, conformation, and hooves. If the farriers want, the vets will take xrays (free of charge to me), and the group will discuss. They'll make a plan, and do the first shoeing cycle of that plan (also free-ish of charge, I'll probably have to pay for materials, which is cool). So duh, I said yes. Eli is a solid guy, a crowd won't bother him, and he's got some issues that I'm thrilled to have those eyes on! Best part is, Farrier will be very involved in the case and will easily continue after the clinic!