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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hip Bursitis, Rain Rides, and Oops Canter

Well. It's been an interesting past few days, and I finally have a little time to catch up on my blogging. Why? Some years ago (2005, to be exact), I was handwalking an increasingly fresh Metro during his failed rehab at college, and we were all the way down the back driveway by the all-weather paddocks when an interesting thing happened. All of the horses in the field started to buck and play when they saw us, and his head and tail went straight up into the air. We made it to the end of the driveway safely, but when we turned around, he started to prance and act like he was going to do something very silly. The driveway wasn't totally cleared of snow (think partially scraped off down to the icy remnants underneath the soft pack, a common theme at school for plowing), so I moved him over to my left side, pushing him away from me into the snowbank that came up to nearly his elbows. That way, he'd get stuck and couldn't leap around (we did this often). Unfortunately for me, this time it didn't work, and as soon as he hit the snow he leaped and bucked. It was not his intention to kick me, I am sure of that. But when 1400lbs of shod exeuberance kicks out in mid-air, and you don't get out of the way in time, you pay the price. He NAILED me directly over my left hip socket, and I heard an ominous crack. I thought for sure something was broken, as I couldn't move, walk or put weight on the leg, not to mention the tears of pain streaming down my face. Bless his heart, Metro completely tuned out the running and bucking horses and let me cling helplessly to his mane and withers, taking the tiniest baby steps back to the barn with my poor broken self in tow.

As an idiot college student, I never had it looked at. Stupid, stupid me. I regret that now, a lot.

I never did find out what was wrong with it. I compensated for the injured leg for so long that it for sure never properly healed, whatever it was. I've had on and off problems with it over the years, where it seems to partially dislocated and I can't put any weight on it at all until it decides to go back in place. Ouch. I had particular struggle with it while in New Zealand, and even had it looked at while I was there - radiographs showed nothing and the guy had no advice for me. Eventually, with enough hiking and yoga, it seemed to resolve and go away. I figured I had strengthened the muscles around it well enough that it wouldn't bother me much anymore.

Fast forward to this past May. I hadn't really thought about the injury for very a long time, in at least a year and a half, until one day when I was in the City and walking all day long (for those of you not out east, the City = NYC, not to be confused with the other City, San Francisco, which is the superior of the two but unfortunately a bit too far for a day trip from CT). Halfway through the day, I suddenly felt the familiar sharp stab of a hip about to give out, and thought that it couldn't be a good sign. Ever since, it has been threatening to come back. I've ignored it for the most part, going about my business day to day, and so far it hasn't been anywhere near the trouble it used to give me back when I first got it. This past week, as evidenced by my lack of blog posts, I've been an insane level of busy and stressed out, and spent most evenings outside playing hours of catch instead of sitting inside and brooding over my misery. This was amazingly helpful, and I am sitting here right now telling you that all I really want to do right now besides ride is to go outside and play more catch, but alas, instead I can only say that I was exceptionally sore in both hips after my round on Wednesday night. I had Thursday off by default, and spent most of it relaxing and getting errands done. I felt much better by the end of the day, so I went for my customary run. Wouldn't you know it, three quarters of the way through I found myself limping pathetically back to the house, unable to put weight on the limb. I thought maybe I'd be all right, but the following morning, I just couldn't walk without serious pain. Not only did I have to take Friday off, but my boss insisted I take Saturday and Sunday too (although I think she might have regretted that after the fact).

I was not able to get in to see an ortho before the weekend rolled around. I did get in to see my chiropractor, however, and she told me she suspectes hip bursitis. I don't think this tells the whole story, and I am suspicious that there is bony involvement at this point. I am feeling worse than ever, honestly. I've never had pain upon palpation before, but now it HURTS LIKE HELL to touch the injury site. Also new is the fact that it now hurts to sit. I don't know what to make of this, honestly. I have no choice but to go to work tomorrow, and I really need to ride the Wild Woman. She's had three days off now, and we missed starting canterwork. Gahhh why does my body have to fail me at obnoxious times!

Well. Either way, I've had a little bit of down time to get caught up on some of the things I've needed to, and have been able to even play a little bit (pre-injury, that is). I did get up last weekend to Fitch's Corner to spectate a little, and had great fun - what a nice venue! I REALLY want to go up to spectate at Millbrook, but my boss will be in Vermont showing, so I may not get to. You never know though, I might luck out!

And even though I didn't get to 'officially' canter this month as planned, I did kind of sort of get to canter, albeit unintentionally. On Thursday, I got up early to ride on my day off, and got to the barn just in time for a large black cloud to pull up over the barn and start raining. Oh well, too bad for us! I enjoy riding in a warm, humid rain, as it cools me off and makes me feel clean and refreshed. Gogo was feeling fresh as daisies that particular morning, likely for the same reason, and while walking on the buckle, she spooked at something. She scooted off into a beautiful, well-balanced canter, going for a couple of strides before I managed to pull her up. Oops canter! Hey, we sort of did it though! The plan is to get back on tomorrow despite my dumb hip, and bump back up to 15 minutes of trot for two days (since we didn't get to on Friday and Saturday). Depending on how she feels, I plan on adding in one long-side canter on each lead for those two days, then start to build to five minutes of canter on straight lines only over the remainder of the week. We will slowly start to increase the canter over the course of August, although I'm undecided as to how I want to proceed with that. Bulding to 20 minutes of nonstop trot? Easy, no problem. Build to 20 minutes of nonstop canter? I will have a mare who is Seabiscuit fit on my hands going into the colder seasons. Not exactly what I had in mind! We'll see, we'll see.

Other than that, there's not too much to report. I've been playing around with tack a little, and tried a Stubben Golden Wings bit the other day, but Gogo promptly rejected it, showing her displeasure by gnashing her teeth and sucking away from it. Creep. I also bought her a new leather halter, but I hate it, so I intend on sending it back and getting her a nice rolled nose one. I know, I know, I have a weird thing with halters but.... I gotta spoil my mare, what can I say? She's deserving of fancy, flashy halters, so I do my part to deliver. Plus they look soo fabulous on her!

Sunday Success Stories up next!

((EDIT: One final thing to add: Eventing-A-Gogo was recently recognized as one of and Awarding The Web's Top 40 Horse Blogs of 2010! As I didn't even know this award existed, this means it was all readers voting on their own, with no nominating on my part. So a big THANK YOU to my readers!! You guys are THE best!!))

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This is for next year, because now I know about it!:

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....

Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Ontario/Niagara Falls NY.
Yes they're two different cities with the same name. If you had this cash cow in your backyard, wouldn't YOU name your city after it too?? The falls were amazing and we had one of the best long weekends of my entire college career (pictured left to right: Stranger, Me, Nicole), even though the surrounding cities were disgusting and skeezy and everything we did cost us an arm and a leg. But we didn't care, it was amazing anyway.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Violent Femmes

I may not always show it, but I have a side of me that is an aggressive Type A. When I'm matched with a Type B, I become overly-ambitious, highly competitive, exceptionally controlling, and very aggressive. I hate sitting still, I don't like to wait, and I want to do the things I want to do, NOW. This side of me comes in waves, but has been on the upswing over the past year - the more independent I get from other beings, the worse I am. Being financially and emotionally self-sufficient has distanced me from my peers, and I find myself disinterested with what others are thinking, feeling, and doing with themselves. I usually can counter these urges with the fact that I am an insufferable pleaser, and bend myself over backwards at work daily to try and make sure everyone leaves with a smile. But my job is mentally and physically exhausting, my days off are rare, the only time I could take off for a nice long vacation this year just got stripped from me, and I find myself getting increasingly edgy and short-tempered. I am a mean alpha mare waiting for some old pony to give me the wrong look so I can do some kicking and biting and feel better about myself and improve my increasingly bleak look on my existance.

Enter Gogo. She is also an alpha Type A. She doesn't put up with my crap.

I KNOW this. I know she doesn't put up with my nonsense. I know that when I get on her, I need to clear my head and let my day go, because my time with her is all about her. But when the stress of my job gets to be too much, it gets to me, and I carry it over to my rides. And with a horse in rehab, I just CAN'T do that. I CAN'T, because I can't stay on for longer, work her differently, change gaits, go on a hack instead. I don't have any of those tools available, so I have to start with a fresh slate every time I get on.

This past week, and this week, I have been slowly gearing her back up to where we were at pre-injections in order to prepare for the canter. She had her hocks done on the 15th, had thee days off, and then had six days of tackwalking where I spent two days walking on a loose rein for 30 minutes with 10 minutes of simple on the bit work, two days of the loose 30 and 15 on the bit, and two days of the loose 30 and 20 on the bit. This week, we have another six days in a row with two days of walking on a loose rein for 30 minutes, walking on the bit for 20, and trotting for 5 minutes, then adding five minutes of trot time every two days (5 minutes of trot the first two, 10 the second two, and 15 the final two). This schedule can't be altered. There is no room for error, and nothing I can do if something goes awry. Unless something is wrong with her, I can't skip a day. Usually, I make sure to arrive at the barn by 7:30AM so I can ride her first thing in the morning, when my head is clearest and I am at my most energized and happy. Tuesday, however, was a different story. I completely failed to get up on time, had a horrible day at work, and didn't get on until almost 5PM. I was in a foul, nit-picky mood, and she picked up on it right away, but ignored me for the most part and went about her business. She did nothing wrong the entire ride. Nothing! Except at the end, the very last thing I wanted to do was halt square. She didn't. I tried to halt again. She didn't halt square again. Not thinking that it really isn't fair to ask her to have the strength and balance to halt perfectly square when she hasn't even cantered in five months, I started to get irritated and insisted she halt faster and better. She threw up her head and gaped her mouth in protest. Ooookkkkay... that isn't a good sign. But you're going to do it, and you're going to do it right, and you're going to do it NOW. And while she perhaps could have done it, at this point she was no longer playing the game. One final attempt at a sharp halt on my part, and she threw her legs in all directions, flung her head sideways, gnashed her teeth, rolled her eyes, and gave me that 'if you get nasty with me one more time so help me god I will stand up and throw you over this fence.'

Two hard-headed mares colliding head on. I know when to back down.

I walked quietly for a few minutes more, letting us both relax for a minute. It's very humbling for me to not be able to do anything except just relax and let go. And after I did that? I asked for one final halt. BOOM! A leg in each corner, perfectly square. How about that.

Lesson learned. Ride before the stress of the day puts me in a bad place. The next day? I was on bright and early, and the sun was shining. After our obligatory walk work, we bumped the schedule up to 10 minutes of trot, and she gave me THE most spectacular 8 or 9-scoring stretchy trot, both directions, bouncing along like she had been doing it all her life. I couldn't help but smile, and the more I smiled, the lower she stretched. I put my leg on, and she stretched further and stepped bigger. I changed directions, she went even lower. Needless to say, even though the rest of the day was even worse than the day before, I clung to my sunrise ride all day, a little ray of light I could keep close to my heart even when all else was chaos around me.

Good mood, good ride. Bad mood, bad ride. That little mare keeps me right on track, and I can't thank her enough for it.

I have lots to write about, and never enough time. More later!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Success Stories

(Sunday Success Stories are a new series here at Eventing-A-Gogo. Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to!)

**NOTE: Put the yellow font back in because some people say they CAN see it in reader?**

This week's Sunday Success Story comes from Sterling, one of our younger readers who blogs over at Going for Gold. Rio is a ten year old palomino Quarter Horse who was one a bucking, kicking maniac that everyone was afraid of. Once he got paired up with Sterling, however, all that changed. I am sad to say I won't get to see them go at the AECs this year, but next year for sure!

Going for Gold - Rio's Story

It was mid June, 2005 and I was 9 years old. I had just switched barns, I was still in the advanced-beginner stage, and I had lots of confidence issues. On my second lesson there, I was put on a scruffy little 5 year old palomino gelding named Rio. I was told that I rode him better than anyone else. As I got to know the barn, however, I heard how many people were scared of Rio: he bucked, reared, kicked, bit, had no manners, etc. So, naturally, I was scared of him, too. As 2006 came around, Rio kind of disappeared. He was put in the pasture for nearly the whole year. I rode other horses, and life went on.
Early in 2007, Rio started getting used again, and was back to his ways. Much to my *joy* he was the horse I was to ride in my first show in April. Of course he was. At the show, he bucked another rider off, but was wonderful for me. I got 3rd, 4th, and 5th, and I was happy. I came away feeling much better toward him, but still was hesitant. So in June, I rode him in a camp, and something changed. I learned everything on Rio that summer. My first gymnastic lines, first oxers, first courses… I was in love with this horse. I volunteered to ride him every day, and he started changing, too. He was TERRIBLE for other riders, but for me he was awesome; and people started noticing.
So I got Rio for Christmas in 2007. Around this time, I had decided I wanted to do Eventing instead of hunters. So I moved to an Eventing barn, and realized that I had a VERY green horse on my hands. He had no Dressage training, he had never seen a XC course, and had never been taught to jump correctly. So, all of early 2008 was spent training. At the same time, he blossomed. No more kicking or biting, he was shiny and happy.
Our first event was a schooling event put on by our pony club. We did the 2’ level, and we WON on a 31.5. So the little yellow horse CAN do dressage! We worked harder and harder and were ready for a beginner novice by the end of 2008. We had setbacks however, mainly financial, and couldn’t do anything but schooling shows in 2009. Even so, we won nearly everything, and Rio turned into a FABULOUS show horse.
This has been our year, though. Our biggest accomplishment is that we won Midsouth Regional Pony Club Rally. We will also be going to the AEC’s this year! I feel so proud to have come this far with the horse I pretty much trained myself. Everywhere we go, someone asks if he is for sale. He has really turned into the best possible horse. People who remember him from his lesson-horse days cannot believe that it is him! I, sadly, am outgrowing him, and he is now packing my 9 year old sister around. We are proof that you don’t need a $100,000 horse to succeed, you just need a great partnership and a dream!

(Send your submissions and stories to! This series is new and can't get underway without YOU! Gogo wants you to!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays - with a twist!

This week's Photo Adventure....

DDDAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. DEATHSTORM. An adventure in running panicked trying to get horses in from turnout as a giant storm literally develops RIGHT over your farm, lightning striking the trees on the property perimeter and thunder cracking so loud it sends all the horses into a terrified galloping frenzy. I think they said there were three tornados in all with these storms, one of which was the one that developed directly overtop where we were - thankfully it passed!! We've had something like six tornados in the state this year alone, which is five more than I remember ever having last year. Connecticut doesn't get tornados like we do in Michigan, but we're giving them a run for their money. Hell, even where I was in Ohio didn't get tornados like we've been getting!

Honestly though, this year's weather has all been so ridiculously stereotypical month by month. January it was FREAKING FREEZING with many random blizzards, February was cold and dreary, March was GORGEOUS and warm and spring-y, April was very warm and fresh and green, May was bright and beautiful with a rainstorm every day and massive plant growth and sunshine all around, June was HOT and very, very dry for three weeks, and July has been utterly terrifying with amazingly HUGE thunderstorms every few days and soaring humiditiy levels and temperatures in the 90's every single day. You can NOT get more predictable than that for this area. I'm enjoying being terrified every day of my life, but honestly, there is a limit to it somewhere. And I'm also starting to get a little sad because it's now 5:15 and it isn't totally light out anymore. We may be in the thick of summer, but it's still kind of sad to know that it won't be here forever.

Another reason I'm a little sad about losing my daylight hours is that I've been using the precious hour between five and six AM to go running in the Avatar shoes. I LOVE THOSE AMAZING THINGS. Because of them, my entire running form has changed. No longer able to land on my heel (because of the extreme pain involved if you run incorrectly in a shoe with NO padding), I've completely changed my stride, and find that by landing midfoot, I save my entire system from a painful shockwave. I'm running extra efficiently, and find that my recovery rates are far better and my body hurts far less. Where is that hip pain, those eternal aching knees and burning shin splints I used to live with every day of my life? Gone, unless I don't stretch properly. I spend most of my morning runs on one giant eternal hill, and find I can do it without getting utterly exhausted and winded like I used to. In fact, I still feel fresh as a daisy at the top.
The most exciting thing for me is that I plan on running my first every competitive road race on August 19th, a 5k. I've never run competitively before! I ain't no Stacey triathalon-ing her way across the universe but hey, everybody's gotta start somewhere! I was supposed to go to California that week, but that vacation plan got blown out of the water. Oh well... maybe in like.... December I can go. Sigh.
I also have plans to try eating more Primal like Tamara and more recently Funder. I am in no way going to be severely hardcore about this - damnit, if I want some ice cream that badly then I'm going to have some - but there is a lot to be learned here. There are things about the Primal diet that don't mesh perfectly with me, like the fact that I think coconut is the devil's food of death and I won't touch it, but there are plenty of other ways I can make simple changes for the better. Stay tuned for a little more on that.

I was just treated to the most magnificent pink sunrise rainbow out my window. I ran around the house trying to find my camera, but my honey appears to be sleeping on it in the bed. By the time I came back out to take a picture with my phone, it had gone. Sigh....

More on Gogo's week of boring-ness coming soon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


One of the great benefits of being where I am today with Gogo is the fact that our barn has an Horsegym walking treadmill. In terms of proving a safe and structured work environment for a horse in rehab, providing light exercise for a fresh or creaky horse, warming up or cooling down a horse in work, and offering a visual assessment of a horse's specific movements up close, you can't get any better than a walking treadmill. It's our personal horse pacifier, is safer and more structured than handwalking an injured horse, and saves my staff endless hours of extra work. The horses all LOVE their treadmill time! It's exceedingly simple to operate, easy to maintain, and makes some extra money for the business by offering a service to clients. Plus it's damn sexy!

The particular model we have here is the S3 Automatic, made specifically for walking only. It has a shock absorbent belt, nine computer-controlled incline programs to choose from (from 0-10 degrees), and has adjustable speeds up to eight miles an hour. It is fully weather and water-proof - ours in installed outside with a custom roof over it, but it can also be used indoors. Even in a snowstorm when we can't turn out, as demonstrated by the gracious Rahlo, we can still safely exercise horses. It is exceptionally safe - there is a shock sensor that picks up abnormal movement and shuts the treadmill off, and a photo cell that stops the machine if the horse dissapears from the sensor's view (if it fell, escaped, etc). I've only ever seen it engage once, and it was my fault that it happened.

It's exceptionally simple to use:

As demonstrated by the Princess, all you have to do is lead the animal up to it, release the butt bar if you haven't already, walk up onto it, and attach the chest strap. All of our horses are quiet and don't step backwards, so we also attach the crossties before continueing on to the butt bar, but if you have any concern about the horse backing up, you can use a second handler to keep the horse in place while you secure the back end of things. Once both ends are in place (never forget that butt bar!!), you return to control center where you can adjust the program, speed and incline as you like. If everything is all set the way you like it, you just have to push the big green "Start" button. If you need to stop it, push the big red "Stop" button. Anyone can do it! All of our horses are currently on Program 1, the flat setting, but it changes. The treadmill's nine programs all give different levels of incline for different levels of time, ranging over a span of 10 degrees.

Training a horse to the treadmill is seriously easy. Since it is next to several of the turnouts, all of the horses are used to seeing and hearing it before they ever get on. It's airy and see-through, much less scary than a trailer, so if a horse gets on the trailer it generally gets on the treadmill. I've not yet had one that wouldn't. With a handler, you generally lead the horse up onto it and off of it a few times, then let it stand quietly while you fasten everything up. With one person at the head with a handful of cookies and one at control center, you start the speed out exceptionally slow, which is the hardest part for the horses. Most of the horses stare at the moving belt in confusion, and take awkward steps. They all need to bump the butt bar a few times in order to understand that it is there, but I've had a few get their butts lifted right off the ground when they were too slow to pick it up. Usually though, with one person offering cookies at their head and the other with their finger over the stop button, the horse figures out that it needs to walk forward, and gets rewarded with snacks when it does and a bump in the hiney when it doesn't. Every horse I've put on there usually is pretty darn confused the first time, but has a lightbulb moment the second, and never looks back. I've never had one that wouldn't get on it and walk on it normally, but I have had a few clients I had to say no to, horses I knew wouldn't deal with it. I don't have a single one on the property right now that has a problem with it though. It really is that easy, and once horses get going on it, they look forward to it. The surgical colic we had earlier in the year loves it so much we call it his pacifier.

Interestingly, the dressage riders claim the treadmill doesn't do anything unless it's on an incline program, and is therefore useless to them. Depending on the horse, I've found this not to be true - if the horse is forward-thinking, it will walk right up against the chest strap and use the crossties as sidereins if you will, stretching and working the back. When Gogo was first out of commission when she arrived on the farm, I started to treadmill her and noticed that she was maintaining something resembling a topline. In fact, she put on muscle right behind her withers, something I never expected to happen while being stuck on stall rest. I was pretty thrilled, to say the least!!

Maintenance of the treadmill is easy. Occasionally our maintenance guy comes over and greases some of the machinery to keep it going. There is a special treadmill oil we very occasionally have to refill, which is housed in a clear container with a red line so you know when it is low. The treadmill shuts off by itself if the oil gets too low anyway, so you have no chance of burning out the machinery. Once in awhile, you have to scrub the whole thing down, just like you do the tractor or any other machinery. You also have to pick up all the poop that, of course, gets sent down the belt and into a big pile on the back ramp. Beyond that, there isn't much. Our treadmill has been in place for about two years and has yet to break down or have an issue, and we have at least ten horses on it every day.

So what makes the treadmill so awesome for my boss and boarders? Horses in training can be popped on the treadmill for warmup, and can alternatively be tossed on for cool-out if my boss is running behind and needs to scoot to teach a lesson. Wet horses dry out in the nice shady breeze, cold horses warm up, and hot horses cool down. In terms of training, the treadmill offers a shock absorbent surface which strengthens tendons and ligaments without causing excessive concussion elsewhere in the body. It provides a controlled environment so that the horse must develop correct muscling - it can't walk crooked so it must use its body equally on both sides. Especially with the incline program, horses muscle up over their topline and hindquarters. It also increases a horse's aerobic capabilities. There is something to be said about 'walking for fitness' - it really DOES work and is why I spent so many hours just hacking around at a warm last year. When Gogo hacks out, she tends to meander, wander, slow down, speed up, etc. On the treadmill, the horse has to walk at the same speed in a straght line. You can't dawdle and wander.

What makes the treadmill so awesome for my tendon rehab? Some of the same qualities still apply. When it comes to tendons, consistency is key. A firm surface is necessary to stimulate the new fibers of scar tissue to align properly (up and down versus in a jumbly knot), and staying in straight line is of vital importance - circles, lateral work, and general crookedness are exceptionally stressful on a compromised limb. The treadmill also offers consistency in speed, and keeps the horse moving forward with a plan versus dawdling and losing manners on long handwalks. It also offers me a flat surface to work with - this part of CT is very hilly, and hills are also trouble when it comes to a tendon rehab. (In short, anything other than flat straight lines is a big no-no.) When she is forward, she uses her back and butt efficiently and correctly, helping keep her fit during her down time. (When she's lazy, she is still working hard, but tends to sit on the bar and let it carry her along.) It also offers me safety - you know when she's bad, she's BAD, and the treadmill provides a quiet and completely controlled environment where one can't spook at the various things you might find on handwalks or go leaping around, protentially damaging tender tissue. It's also located right outside the barn next to the all-weather turnouts, so horses feel safe and close. I've also spent a lot of time analysing her movement while on the treadmill - you can stand a foot away from her at all angles and see exactly how she is moving, even checking to see if she is presenting a nice heel-first landing. Before her hock injections, I was noticing she perpetually walked with her haunches left just a hair. (That explains a lot!) Now, she's walking straighter. NEVER would have seen that if I hadn't had the treadmill.

Downfalls to the treadmill? Not many. It's MAD expensive, so unless you have about $35k to drop on something random and probably uneccesary for your farm, you're out of luck. If you are like me and eventing, you obviously can't substitute treadmill time for hack time out in a field. Like a cross-country runner, you're going to get nowhere if you spend all your time on an indoor treadmill and then go try to run a marathon outside on the street. So long as that is clear from the get go, however, it's not a problem, and the straightness and muscle your horse can develop on the treadmill is certainly an asset for when you get out to work in the field. The biggest thing is that lazy horses tend to sit on the butt bar and let it push them along. Know what happens then? Yep, they rub out huge pieces of their tail! The simple solution to this is to wrap their tails with a polo, but we have some sneaky suckers who still lift their tails high enough to keep rubbing out the hair below the tail wrap. In this case, we have to braid tails up and do a full broodmare tail wrap. It's a slight pain in the butt, but worth it if it keeps the hair in!

If you want to condition a horse, get a young horse fitted for the sales, improve topline and aerobic capabilities, rehab a horse from an injury or surgery, make some money for your farm, save your staff endless hours of work, cool horses out, warm horses up, or analyze gait for vet and farrier purposes, you've got a friend in this machine.

In short, the treadmill is pretty freaking awesome.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure......

Tarrywile Park, Danbury, CT.
Not a far away destination but an adventure nonetheless - where we got hopelessly lost for four hours without water last Sunday in the 90+ degree heat, eventually getting rescued by two backwoods Bubbas in a tow truck who took pity on us and drove us several miles back to our car. Dangerous and stupid? Yes. An adventure I won't be forgetting anytime soon? Definitely.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All Systems Go

YES! Good news, little maresters! The BEST news!

Early this morning, I shuttled Gogo up to see Dr. C for our two-month ultrasound, which I suppose was technically a one-month ultrasound seeing as we also went back last month to get cleared for trotwork. The ultrasounds looked great then, but I was obviously worried about this past week's edema and wasn't sure what we were going to find. Just like the last recheck, the edema was magically gone when we got to the vet. How about that. We jogged her out in a straight line on pavement, and she was very sound - exactly the way she has been, a little uniformly stabby on both hinds if you were looking to fault something. Dr. C wanted to see her on the lunge, and I reminded her that Gogo hadn't been lunged in 10 months and I couldn't guarantee she wouldn't be ridiculously wild and stupid. Bless her lil' heart, she somehow managed to hold it together and behave herself perfectly, even though she did get that wild head shake a few times. She clearly wanted to be fresh, and I was very proud of her for keeping it sensible!

Back in the clinic, Dr. C didn't think we even needed to look at the tendon on ultrasound, but I asked if we could anyway just for my peace of mind. Lo and behold, it was gorgeous! Not a question in sight. The excess edema was just, well, edema. As we've always known all along, the legs are never going to be normal by any means, and sometimes they'll do weird things, like fill unexpectedly. As long as the fill goes away with movement and she's sound, it's all right. Phewwww.

We did choose to go ahead and medicate the hocks. There has been interesting dicussion on all ends concerning the original injections last August and their possible (probable) link to the original injuries, and I was asked if I would ever consider doing them again if need be. The clear answer in this situation was yes, but more wisely than before. I didn't appreciate how much better they made her feel before, and even though she had her few days of downtime as prescribed by the vet, we went right back into hard training and showing. Given her newfound comfort and freedom, she was using those limbs harder than ever, and with that increase in stride length and suspension came a subsequent increase in tendon load. What I suspect possibly happened was that the tendons had minor microdamage happen to them, just because we went on with our heavy training load as planned with only about a week of rest and light work - in normal situations, this was enough, and the tendons would have strengthened and rebounded in a normal fashion. Studies have shown that the way tendons strengthen is through microdamage on a cellular level, often stimulated by work on hard surfaces, such as pavement. This is why eventers tend to spend a lot of time hacking on paved roads at low speeds for long distances - it turns tendons into iron over time. However, in my case, while she may have had iron tendons given the tons of very careful conditioning I had done over the course of the previous year, she then had a new level of motion in her limbs to deal with, and wasn't through with compensating yet by the time we got to the AECs given all the hard stresses placed upon her in the three weeks prior. In her rather extreme case, this potential microdamage had to go to a show and cope with some wet and very slippery footing, then had to endure bouncing in a trailer for two days on the way to the AECs, and then during a very minor slip on XC had no strength left to rebound. If you've not seen the video of XC where we actually caught the slip on tape, see if you can spot it:

There is no reason a carefully fitted up horse should have had serious damage from a tiny slip like that. Which is honestly why we think it all tied back into the hock injections, done less than a month out from the AECs. I think it was a horrible time to do them, in retrospect. But not one single person pointed this out to me beforehand, and not one single person said 'told you so' afterwards. Everyone looked at me blankly when I explained, and then agreed that I was right, and they hadn't thought of that before. Thank you Daun for being the only one who had sense enough in your head to be like, "well duh." Had she not slipped at the AECs last year, we wouldn't be having this discussion. She more than likely would have just gone on with her bad self, and nobody would have thought twice about it.

Let me make this perfectly clear. I am ANTI-injection. Absolutely, without a doubt. BUT, I am not above refusing a needed treatment for my horse just because I don't like it. I might hem and haw over it, but at the end of the day, it's been almost a year since the last injection. She was starting to get uncomfortable in the right hock, and aside from turnout (which we can't do), there wasn't any other base I could cover. You name it, I'm currently doing it. It sucks that she had changes in her hocks. It sucks! But I can't ignore it and just hope it doesn't bother her too much, just because I don't like injections. A horse in pain will compensate for it. A compensating horse is putting stress on other places it shouldn't. A stressed limb will eventually fail. There is no way to expect her to have a proper rehab if she's not completely comfortable during it. How would you like to be doing PT for your Achilles tendon if your knees were sore? Woudn't get too far would you?

Unlike last year, there was no excess fluid in the joints. There was also not the same morality issue at hand. I've come to terms with what I need to do for this mare in order to keep her comfortable, and that's how it is. She needs to be comfortable in order to complete this rehab. I'm not trying to make her jump higher, run faster, or score better in dressage. I'm just trying to make sure she's where she needs to be, and that she's happy, and that she feels good. At the end of the day, that's what it all comes down to. Injections might be an American sickness and a seriously damaging crutch, but in a case like Gogo's, when there is actually a medical need, they have a place. Trust me, though, I have PLENTY of ugly things to say about them and their rampant abuse that I see every day.

Three days of treadmilling and coldhosing are in Gogo's forecast for the week. Then we go back to slowly building her under saddle work back to where it was. And then.... WE CANTER. YES!

Gogo says, man this coldhosing thing is crap...

.... I'd rather be doing some of this please!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful....

Quick question to those who are more technologically inclined than I am concerning the yellow font in the Stories section of this blog. My technology IQ is slightly above the handicapped area, and my ability to seek out and correct weird HTML mistakes is, well... nonexistent. I admit to never even having seen Google reader before (much less know what it actually is), nor do I have or use the internet on my phone (small electronic items have about a three to six month lifespan with me. My current phone is pushing seven months, and after much abuse, now not only doesn't charge when it's not in the mood, but shuts off at random intervals by itself, usually only during important vet related phone calls.) I added in the yellow text color for the Sunday Success Stories via the "compose" section of the blog... just picked it out of the group of font colors offered. I do like the way the yellow looks against the backdrop - black is not enjoyable in the slightest to my eyes - but I don't know why Google doesn't figure out how to translate this into Reader. Any suggestions?

I am happy to say that the horrible two weeks of 100-degree drought that all of New England was experiencing has finally broken. I was on the brink of breaking down and choreographing a rain dance routine with my roommate, who runs another barn in the area, but all my unspoken prayers to the gods of rain were answered yesterday in one giant torrential downpour that continued on into today. I have never been so happy to see precipitation past my years of high school and college, since snow days no longer apply to me now. Our grass pastures were all looking a bit crispy around the edges, and one little hanging basket of flowers that I forgot about now dangles charred from its final resting place, a sad memorial to all things once green and living. I might be able to keep a barn full of show horses healthy and happy, but remember to water a hanging pot of flowers, I cannot. (That is what working students are for.)
With all this unpleasant heat and humidity, Gogo's legs took a surprising turn last Thursday. I had been able to leave her wraps off for the two weeks leading up to it without so much as a question, the legs staying as cool and tight as I expected they ever would be. For some reason, I felt it necessary to wraps her legs after last Wednesday's ride - perhaps I sensed a change in the weather? Either way, the next day I removed her wraps and was surprised to find both legs were BIG. BIG! Very big. They went down somewhat with movement, but no amount of coldhosing or wrapping changed anything. She looked great during her jog out though, which was a relief. It was very odd. The following two days, the legs were improved but not amazing. I did get on her and ride, and we did some of our trotwork, seeing as she still felt exactly the same (and looked good to the people on the ground). Saturday night, however, I decided to throw in the towel and just try to get the excess edema out of her legs and stay off of her until our next ultrasound, which is scheduled for tomorrow at 8:30am. Saturday night, I poulticed and buted her, and Sunday AM found that it had none nothing. Cold tubbed... nothing. Treadmilled... nothing. Later that evening, I poulticed again, and found that Monday it was the same story. I wrapped her plain on Monday evening, stopped the bute, and just went back to ice booting her instead of cold tubbing - nothing was making a difference. Tuesday, same story, only the wraps didn't seem to be helping much, so I left them off last night. This morning, her legs were HUGE! Absolutely enormous. I took her out to jog again, and voila! The edema was much improved. Sigh. She jogged out well, although it's a little hard to tell because of the angle in this video:

Tell me this: can YOUR barefoot horse trot across gravel like that? (And this is after four months of complete stall rest, and no real turnout in nearly ten months! Lord that makes me ill to say outloud though. Or well, type outloud. Or maybe just type.)

Trotting made the legs vastly improve. Later in the day, she got clipped and bathed, and after her bath, the legs looked as good as they had last week. Ugh. Gogo, what is wrong with you!?

We go back to the vet tomorrow morning for our regularly scheduled two month checkup, and unfortunately it looks like her hocks are also on the list. She does flex hock positive on the RH, and trimming her is a little bit of a struggle - it's hard for her to stand with her leg up on the stand for any length of time. I don't want to have to do it, but she needs to be comfortable in order to properly recover from her other acute injuries. That being said, it scares me more than a little to add a new range of motion to an already tender tendon, so I will be discussing it fully with Dr. C tomorrow. It just... sucks. All around, it sucks. I'm worried about the edema, and I'm worried about the hocks. In general, it feels like the greatness of June just all came crashing down. Except... she's still sound.

Kinda don't know what to think about that. We'll find out tomorrow.

I spent some time last week (before the legs filled) prepping all of Gogo's paperwork for the AHHA (American Holsteiner Horse Association). There was a lot of paperwork to do, but I think I have everything in order. It was a little complicated to get the registration numbers of her parents, take photos of her and have them developed, and make sure every last little piece of the forms were all filled out, but I did it! She, however, was not cooperative about taking identification pictures for the registry:


Although, honestly, it's all dependent on the ultrasound tomorrow. I'm not sending those papers in until we're cantering. Let's just see what we find.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Success Stories

(Sunday Success Stories are a new series here at Eventing-A-Gogo. Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to!)

**NOTE: I hear my Stories are not showing up in Google reader because of the color. Anyone else having this issue?**

This week's Sunday Success Story comes from Tatiana, who blogs over at Bijou's Adventures. Bijou is a TB mare rescued from a starvation situation, a farm that could no longer afford to feed their mares (so they apparently didn't). Bijou came from her old home as a skinny, wild, hotheaded mess, and has transformed under the care of her new mother. Their story is ongoing, and we hope to hear of new updates as they come - perhaps even an upcoming late summer show! Head over to their blog and follow their journey!

Bijou's Adventures

I was heartbroken after I gave Griffin, the huge dark liver chestnut manly man, away to a walking/trail only home. He and I had some true bonding moments, like the first day I brought him home and walked around the track and into the woods with nothing but a halter. He was such a special guy, but just couldn't stand up to the jumping. His knees weren't cut out for that kind of impact.

So began my search. I had been working OTTB's and loving it, so I decided to start there. My problems were many. I didn't have a truck or trailer, I couldn't travel very far because I only had a few days off during the school year, and I wanted to be sure this horse was THE ONE and also 100% sound. I came across a local ad for a group of Thoroughbred mares just about 40 minutes from me. This was an opportunity for sure, not only could I try a few, but I could try them multiple times if needed, and I could use a local vet that I trusted.

I walked onto the property to a whole barn full of emaciated mares. Hip bones, full scapulas, and all the ribs were showing on most of these mares. Turns out this woman had been having trouble paying her bills and just couldn't afford to keep or even feed her broodmare band any more. She was liquidating them before she'd have to pay for more feed. They were all started under saddle, but that was about it. After we had ridden them I'll be honest, there wasn't much of a love at first sight for any of them. They all needed so much help, but who would shine most after some well deserved polishing? I went back later that week to try the bigger of the two again, a bay Thoroughbred with an adorable snip and a name that suited her stereotype, Jane. The mare was so not into it that when my friend reached in to pet her she got ears pinned and a nip!

I took her home a week later on the 14th of November, 2009. She got a new name, one that I hoped she would grow into. Bijou is french for trinket, or be-jewelled treasure. I knew I was asking a lot, but anything was better than Jane.We started having communication problems. She would blow up at what seemed to be nothing. I would walk up to her with a saddle pad that she'd seen eight times before and she'd rear and break away from where she was tied. She would not be caught. Lunging consisted of every shape imaginable (with many about-faces) except for circles. Walking away from the other horses was not ok! I found that her calm demeanor had actually just been a severe lack of calories, and when calories were close at hand, the calm demeanor disappeared and in its place I found exactly what I had not wanted. A plain, hot, spooky, herd-bound, skinny, bay, Thoroughbred mare. There were some second thoughts running through my head, but I didn't want to quit.

We moved to a barn with much better facilities, which gave me more motivation to be a real rider, and not one who just lunges their horse in triangles/parallelograms/serpentines all day. Bijou went out on pasture all day, which made the weight that she desperately needed to gain appear out of nowhere! It also meant that I could stop feeding her grain, which I know now was a huge contributor to her hot-ness. Things were looking up, summer was on the way, and I'd be riding every day until then so I could begin showing. Until I broke my ankle. I tripped and twisted it just bad enough to break it.

I had mostly ignored the groundwork up until this point. I had hoped that just by doing the prep to ride stuff she would get enough of that. When I broke my ankle I had to take 6 weeks off. I came back humbled, weakened, and slightly more timid. I didn't want to get hurt again, so I became hyper-aware of Bijou's body language. It worked. Turns out all the miscommunications were because I wasn't paying enough attention. I could tell when she was tensing up before a blow up, and back off before it happened. We spent hours in the roundpen. Tarps, balloons, feed bags, jackets, saddle pads, whips, astro-turf, and many other spooky items later, I think she finally learned to trust me just as it was time for me to get back in the saddle again.

We're now working calmly under saddle at walk/trot/canter (and even going over bright freshly painted poles!), leaving the herd behind, lunging in round circles, in good muscle tone and weight, and have a shiny coat to boot! I am currently keeping her barefoot, but we might end up wearing some plastic shoes at some point because the ground gets so brittle. I'm still trying to learn all I can about barefoot horses and I have plans to buy or try a bitless bridle. I think we'll even be able to show W/T in August!

(Send your submissions and stories to! This series is new and can't get underway without YOU! Gogo wants you to!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How A Helmet Saved My Brains.

Happy National Helmet Awareness Day! In order to stress the serious important of the 'every time, every ride' principle, I want to share with you all the story of how a helmet saved my brains. Especially after what happened, I will never get on a horse without a helmet, nor will I ever handle a dangerous or amped up animal without one either. (One of my favorite teachers at school was in the breeding shed and was knocked senseless when a well-meaning but insufferably klutzy stallion mounted the phantom and clocked her in the head with a hoof. Another place I'll always wear one!) Helmets are like seatbelts. Is there really a good and logical reason NOT to wear them? No. Unless you want to die a horrible, bloody painful death, which is pretty much the only perk I see. I would literally not be here today to tell you this story if it hadn't been for my helmet. It for sure saved my life.

I was fortunate as a kid to have ridden at a barn where it was a set in stone rule that you always wore your helmet, no exceptions, no matter what was going on. I distinctly remember riding off property once with a friend, neither of us with proper headgear, and getting SCREAMED at by my trainer when we returned home some hours later. I never did that again, that's for sure! Time went on and I grew up, had and lost two geldings, and found myself with a little crazy mare named Gogo, rehabbing her brain from her time with the woman who screwed her up so royally. She was very, very claustrophobic of contact, and would rear, panic or bolt whenever the reins got just a hair too tight. I got her back from the Crazy Trainer in late June of 2007 as a manic, frightened mess; by August, I felt as though we might probably be okay at a horse trial (we had done one in early July just for experience, and it wasn't a total disaster. Only partly!). The show was in Pennsylvania, about an hour from where I lived in Ohio, and I planned on trailering in the night before to school at the grounds and stable there. It was my parents' anniversary the day before the show, but they still wanted to come with me and spectate, so they drove the four hours down from Michigan, hopped in the rig with Gogo and I, and continued on with me for another hour to the venue. I had never schooled any of my horses the day before the show at the actual grounds before, and actually never have since, mostly because of my own nerves; I normally give them a day of rest and acclimation instead. For some reason, this particular time I decided to do things differently. We arrived, unloaded our hay, shavings, and buckets, and went back for Gogo. I should have known something was up when I went to unload my horse in the same exact manor as I always had when trailering alone - drop butt bar because she refused to move unless I was at her head, go up front, unhook her from the tie, and unload - and not two seconds after dropping the butt bar, she exploded in the trailer, broke her halter, shot backwards, and rolled over off of the ramp practically into my parents' laps. (For the record, this is the perfect example of how NOT to ever unload your horse! I have since learned my lesson and untie FIRST, ALWAYS. And thankfully, she now backs off quietly if you just tug on her tail.) Hmmm, I thought. That was interesting. But then again, ever since Crazy Trainer, my horse had certainly been freakishly quirky, so I went about my business and started tacking up. My parents left the showgrounds to go find the hotel, promising to return and pick me up whenever I called to say I was done for the evening. I finished tacking, mounted, and headed out to the big field where everyone was riding and warming up in preparation for an early start the next day.

Right from the get go, she was just bad. Just... BAD. She was tense, rushing, gnashing at the bit, spooking at everything, and in general being a holy terror. I don't think she hurt herself in any way after she fell out of the trailer, but I do think it seriously stressed her out, and she wasn't letting go of her anxiety for all the oats in the Quaker factory. I had stayed almost exclusively on one 20 meter circle for the first part of the ride, but became increasingly frustrated with her spookiness and decided to trot to the other end of the field and just let her relax. To my left, I caught out of the corner of my eye a big bay putting on his best National Finals Rodeo impression, launching his rider into the stratosphere before galloping back to the stabling, which was conveniently located right next to the warmup field. I could see the sparks starting to fly from Gogo's rapidly short-circuiting brain, and did my best to steer clear of the rest of the bucking, plunging crowd of horses. I was attempting to trot up a small incline towards one of the dressage arenas, but couldn't quite convince her to steer properly and found myself heading perpendicular to the crest of the hill, travelling horizontally on the incline. Not really a good place to be. There was a pile of something scary at the top of the hill on our right, and she spooked at it. And when I say spooked, I mean completely lost her ever-loving mind. The combination of a highly electric, brand new atmosphere, twenty bucking broncs around her, and the memories of the Crazy Trainer fresh at hand all sent her into a panic, and she bolted. Unfortunately, when she took off, she went shooting and flailing sideways, completely losing her balance as the hill fell away from us and she had nowhere to put her feet. The last thing I remember was watching the saddle coming towards me as she fell, and then nothing.

Bits of memories still stick with me from the following hours. Witnesses said that my horse did in fact land directly on my head with her torso, and immediately sprang up, standing splay-legged over me, staring down at my lifeless body. Unlike the other horse who had bucked his rider off and then galloped away to the stabling, she stayed glued to me, not moving a muscle or even taking a bite of grass the entire time I was laying on the ground. Bless her heart, she probably thought she killed me. As people ran to my aid, I had a big seizure, and then stayed unconscious for probably ten or more minutes. The TD had a very difficult situation on her hands; when I came to I reportedly refused treatment, even though I very clearly had a serious head injury. While I'm pretty sure you can call an ambulance for someone who might be hemorrhaging from the brain, you can also get all kinds of sued for kidnapping if she person really is okay and is refusing treatment. It was pretty apparent that I had a major head injury. Still, no ambulance was ever called.

I remember opening my eyes and being on my back, seeing through tunnel vision a few concerned faces floating around me, talking in far away tones that didn't make sense. The next thing I remember was sitting upright in a golf cart, looking around in confusion. I wasn't worried about it, but I had absolutely no idea where I was, or why I was there. I remember them asking me that very question, and responding calmly that I didn't know. Apparently, I asked to go see my horse, and they took me there, where I then gave her a flake of hay, but I have no memory of this. I don't know who took her back and untacked her. I actually have no idea how all my stuff got back in my trailer without anything getting left behind either. I was then shuttled to the show office, where I apparently asked again if I could go see my horse and give her hay. They told me repeatedly that she was okay and that I had already given her some hay, but I must have asked that question ten times or more. They asked me where my parents were, and not remembering that they were in fact only a few miles away, I told them that my parents were in Michigan, but couldn't remember their phone numbers. Someone in the office put two and two together, and found the horse trailer with the Michigan plates, digging around in my tackroom until they found my phone. They called "Mom cell" or whatever it was that they got to first, and managed to locate them. I guess once my parents arrived I went to see Gogo again and asked my neighbors to feed her for me, but don't remember any of his. I do remember being in the car going to the hospital, being in a room with South Park on TV, and being wheeled down in a rolling bed to get a CAT scan. My poor parents spent their wedding anniversary with their damaged kid in a hospital room until all hours of the night, begging the nurses to let them have some sort of icky hospital food for dinner since they had had nothing to eat all day. That is so crappy! But think of this, at least they didn't spent their wedding anniversary identifying my bloody, lifeless body in a field at a horseshow. That's what would have happened if I hadn't been wearing my helmet.

The next two weeks are pretty much nonexistent in my memory. Bits and pieces float around, but for the most parts, those are two weeks I'll never really get back. I have no idea how we got my horse home, how I took care of myself (thank you roommates), or how I managed to do anything at all in all honesty. Luckily, while I did have a major concussion, I had no lasting damage beyond my already-ingrained quirkiness which I now have an excuse for. The helmet was structurally intact on the outside, but clearly had served its purpose, so IRH graciously sent me a new one free of charge. I still have and wear that helmet today even though it never quite suited me as perfectly at my original IRH. I would never even think about going without a helmet while riding, even if I was sitting on my horse bareback for a minute and a half. You just never know. Look at Courtney King. And Gogo might have come a million lightyears from the mental trainwreck she was on the day of the accident, but she's still that quirky little nutjob somewhere deep inside. Why would I ever take a chance?

My helmet saved my life and brains. What's your excuse for not protecting yours?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....

Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina, USA.
We took a roadtrip in January of '08 from Ohio to Florida during winter break, and this was one of our stops, complete with getting lost on the Blue Ridge Parkway and needing to pull over and pee on the side of the road because there wasn't anywhere you could do that in January on the entire thing. It was awesome.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


She looks so good. Even though the humidity made her have big fat legs today for the first time in awhile. Hopefully tomorrow will all be well again.

Product Review: De-Lyte Bites

A little while ago I was contacted by Heather, one of our readers, about her product De-Lyte Bites, an electrolyte cookie designed to replenish minerals in the hardworking equine athlete. Because Gogo isn't exactly in ridiculous, desperately=-needing-electrolytes hard work, I agreed to take on some samples for a taste test instead. I received several packages of cookies, and distributed them amongst my pickiest eaters. I of course gave Gogo her fair share too, even though she is the equine equivalent to a garbage disposal. I have some fussy eaters in my barn, and was interested to see what I would find!

The cookies come in an easy to open package, four cookies to a single serving. This makes it easier to space out distribution over the course of a horse's workload - good if you are off to Tevis!:

De-lyte Bites are marketed as a complete and balanced electrolyte supplement. I can't speak for the nutritional information as it isn't clear on the website whether or not these minerals are sodium chloride and potassium chloride (and calcium chloride) or just sodium and potassium (I assume not but it just says 'sodium and potassium' on the website), but I will give one disclaimer: these are not treats for horses with metabolic issues! They have less than half of a teaspoon of molasses in each cookie but that is still too much for a horse with any sort of metabolic problem. There are a lot of sugar-free electrolytes on the market that are more suitable for IR horses and the like... although come to think of it, I'm not sure I know any metabolic horse who is capable of hard enough work to warrent electrolyte supplementation. So maybe this doesn't apply! (Acute laminitis being the exception. Then again.... if your horse is acutely laminitic you probably ain't goin' to the show today!)

My role in this review was to taste test. A product is no good if your horse won't eat it! The cookies are firm with a slight give to them - hard but chewy. Great for storage in your saddle bags on an endurance ride as they won't crumble or break! I even bounced one off the floor, and it sprang off and was fine! Our test subjects for the day were Bella, Pollux, Max the pony, and of course Gogo. Maybe Heather can clarify, but Max is a small/medium, and his requirements are different from a horse like Pollux who is about 1300lbs. Are there different doses for different sized horses and ponies? Different workloads? Something to consider!

Onto the taste testing.... Gogo of course thought they were deeeeelish:

She made 'hey this is very chewy!' faces, but wanted more right away. So she got two ;) Mmmmm!

Pollux, one of our pickier eaters who we suspect had ulcers when he came over from Europe last fall, also thought they were very chewy but definitely tasty (he had dinner on his nosey already):

I think I gave Max a heartattack when I showed up at his stall with a cookie, but I quickly bribed him over and he snarfed it right up:

And last but not least was Bella, another picky eater who also thought they were chewy but tasty:

For more information about supplementing your horse with electrolytes, visit's great article. Electrolyte supplementation is a very tricky business and potentially hazardous if done wrong. Aside from hard working distance horses, the vast majority of riding horses out there don't need anything beyond a little NaCL and KCl for hot days in work. Seek a veterinarian's advice for help determining if your horse is a candidate for extra electrolyte supplementation.

In conclusion, all of the horses that sampled the De-Lyte Bite cookies thought they were chewy but yummy, even the finicky eaters. In terms of helping replenish vital minerals in a hard working endurance/distance athlete, a portable, durable cookie is an excellent choice over annoying and messy pre-dosed syringes. They don't crumble or break, taste great, and are a good value for your money if you need electrolytes on the go. Mmmmm tasty!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hooves of Steel: The Barefoot Journey, Part II (Gogo's Barefoot Beginnings)

When I first found Gogo, it was very much so a lucky accident. I had spent seven months searching tirelessly for a new horse after I had put Metro down, and had sent out inquiries on over 70 horses, viewed almost 30 videos, and had been to four different states to look at horses, all of which did not work out for one reason or another (yes, failed vettings included). While I was in Pennsylvania at an internship between my sophomore and junior years of college, I just so happened to stumble upon an ad for a mare that was only three miles down the road from where I was. Three miles!! I had just flown to freaking Nebraska to look at a horse for Pete's sake!! She definitely looked promising, and I decided to skip over there and take a look. I liked what I saw - lovely mover, scopey from what I could tell, had the right background, was just the right age. She wasn't exactly a pleasure to ride at that point, and I was pretty sure I was only an afterthought to her, but after trying her a second time, I made my decision. The owner suggested after that ride that I take her on a hack, even though she had a) never been out of a ring before, b) never been alone before, c) I was a totally new rider to her, d) she was totally green, e) it was a hack through a giant cornfield, f) there were ATVs roaring around everywhere, and g) it was REALLY REALLY windy that day. True to her form, the little mare hacked out on the buckle, sighing and stretching down, completely unconcerned that she was alone with a total stranger on her back in a place she'd never been with screaming machinery popping out at her on all sides. That last little bit of the ride sold her for me. She was the one. I hadn't planned on a mare, and I had promised myself I'd never own another bay (boring!), but in my heart I knew. We vetted her out through the insufferably cranky but secretly kind Dr. L, the vet who worked with the farm I was interning at, and I was lucky enough to be present for it at the clinic. I got to further witness her excellent brain at work as she walked calmly into the scary garage-doored clinic entrance and stood without tranq as Dr. L palpated her and did a repro exam (wanted to check for granulosa tumors, a not too uncommon problem that shows up around age 5 or so). We did several hours worth of vetting (and spent almost $1500!!!) but it was worth it. We took radiographs of her front feet and hocks, and the single thing Dr. L pointed out to me as a potential concern was her front feet. "See this?" he said to me, pointing at the digital picture of her left front. "Look at the angle of her coffin bone. It doesn't match her hoof wall. This foot is going to need real support. She might not last because of this, she could go lame at any time. She'll need special shoeing all her life." The little mare was shod in front with pads, and while the farrier that had done her did do a very good job, I could still see something was odd about the foot. Why did the coffin bone angle not match the exterior of the foot? Why did she have pads? The owner told me that her feet had gotten 'out of balance,' and had needed to be worked on by a special guru farrier, but I was never given any details beyond that. After what I had learned about natural hoofcare, and seeing that everything else was sparkling clean on exam, working with the awkward foot was a risk I was willing to take, and a few days later, we purchased her. To my slight dismay, when I arrived at the farm to hand over the check, I saw her shoes had been put back on, but in the few days she hadn't had them on, both front feet had cracked all the way up the toe to the coronet band. "She's always had that," I was told. It was VERY well hidden under the the previous shoeing job. Hmm... this can't be good, I thought. A questionable left front AND two toe cracks to the hairline? Great. Can this mare really go barefoot? Everything I had read said yes, and that these problems could heal themselves, but I was still unsure.

(Left: First day in MI. Below: Unloading off the trailer from PA.) She was by no means a joy at first. She was difficult, headstrong, opinionated, and the complete alpha. But it was clear she'd be an event horse through and through. Within two weeks of her arrival at my home barn in Michigan, I had her hopping up and down off the banks in the jump field like she'd
been doing it all her life. Of course, in doing so, she pulled a shoe coming down off the bank. Hm! Well, I was heading off to school anyway, so we'd see what happened when I got there. I had been in contact with Sherry the Amazing, my soon-to-be barefoot trimmer, for quite some time at that point, asking her a thousand obnoxious questions and telling her that I was interested (although still skeptical) about giving this barefoot hoodoo a try. I contacted her again after Gogo threw the first shoe, letting her know I'd need her a bit sooner! Gogo being who she is, less than a week after she tossed the first shoe, and probably only her second day in the turnouts at college once we returned for the fall semester, she tossed the other one, this time leaving it torqued with pad still intact somewhere on the other side of the paddock.(For the record, I still have these two shoes. One is decorated and hanging in the office at my last job, which I still consider a part of home. The other is in my room, too twisted to do anything with, but still a good desk ornament!)

Sherry came out to meet the both of us for the first time that week, and trimmed Gogo for the first time. I was exceptionally lucky in that she was only slightly tender over gravel for about two days. After that, she marched over any footing I took her over, and I was thrilled. Had it been a harder transition, I might not even be writing all this out. I was so skeptical at that point that I might have gone back to shoes. I was not sold enough on the majik to blindly believe anything. (I have to say, though, over the past three years I've seen some amazing hoof transformations with my own eyes, and I'm now a total believer.) Thankfully, and luckily for everyone involved, the transition was easy and fun. Gogo was almost well-behaved for those first few vital trims, only pulling back and breaking her halter into a thousand pieces once (and then leaving), and throwing Sherry's hoofstand all over the place every five minutes. I spent that first half-year of ownership with Gogo just starting her over and taking my time getting her flatwork and over fences work solid. She went from only having really trotted obstacles to jumping small courses, complete with skinnies, rollbacks, combinations, and gymnastics. She lost her pudginess, and started to gain some muscle. All was going smoothly, Gogo's new barefooted-ness included. She was sound, surefooted, and happy to crunch over gravel. The 'risk foot', you ask? Turns out it was a disguised club foot. As soon as the shoe came off, the foot clubbed right up, right to the angle it wanted to be at. On radiographs now, the hoof wall and coffin bone match each other again. All along, the foot had been forced into a more 'normal' look, when in reality it needed to be a little different in order to be comfortable for her. She has the typical warmblood high-low syndrom, standing perpetually with the club foot back and the other forward. It is a constant uphill battle to keep the heels down on the clubbier foot, and the toe from running forward on the other foot, and in those early days, it wasn't easy. The toe cracks gradually started to come down a little, but never really went away. I wondered if I'd have to fight them forever, or if they'd eventually grow out.

(Gogo's newly deshod feets during a mock foxhunt at college. You can't see it in this picture, but fellow blogger Patricia is riding with me. She also just recently decided to go barefoot with her ex-racehorse Shorty!)

Gogo even went to her first little event, a green beans division at South Farm where the dressage test was walk-trot, the stadium fences were tiny crossrails, and the XC was 6"-12" high, all tiny sticks on the ground. We trotted the entire course, and actually had to walk most of the second half of it because we were too fast! She finished on her dressage score of 39.0 to earn her first ribbon, a 3rd place. Her beautiful bare feet performed fabulously, and I was delighted with how she did. Well, mostly:

(Gogo NOT behaving in the warmup.)

(Right: Gogo learns some dressagin' in the fall of 2006. Below: Gogo learns her changes.) And then came New Zealand. I had been planning my amazing endeavor with Nicole for nearly a year, long before I ever got Gogo, and suddenly found that the time had come to leave my mare in training and head halfway across the world for a five-month stint. I was a complete mess, half excited nerves and half severe nausea, completely worried about my horse and not wanting to leave her for such a long time. The trainer I had picked for her was one I liked and thought would be a good match, a woman who specialized in OTTBs and hotter beasts. She was quiet and correct with her animals. Perfect, I thought. Though I was nervous, I shipped her over a few days before my depature and said a tearful goodbye, kissing her sweet nosey and bidding her a fond five-month farewell.

This is what I returned to....

A skinny, dirty, frightened, claustrophobic, damaged, rearing mess.

To be continued!!