Sunday, July 17, 2011

What have you been up to? Well….

I admit my life gets pretty crazy, especially this time of year.  This year is particularly crazy. Of course, everyone knows about our move. But underneath that headline news, my mare, Silly, decided to go lame, and then Big Blue Truck was smashed by a rouge Honda. Meanwhile, the normal business of the show season has been rolling along. 

So, put the events in order, a couple of weeks before our move, Silly went lame. Silly, officially known as Anisette, is my big, wonderful black Hanoverian mare that I bought a couple of years ago. I have known Silly since she was 4, and loved her since I met her. I don’t mention her much in the blog, because “Silly is working great, trying hard and making steady progress” is kind of boring reading. Around the barn, she is known as “the good girl.” She is smart, talented and tries too hard. I’ve always said she would go broken, and apparently I was right.

In May, my good girl started feeling a little funky.  She went from funky to oh-my-goodness-she-is-lame so quickly that I thought she was going to abscess in her right front foot. We soaked, but nothing blew. Dr. Crowley did a nerve block, a very-localized anesthetic that numbs specific regions to help find out where exactly the pain is, and pain went away when we numbed the toe/coffin joint region, so she suggested an ultrasound.

While Secret was scaring the warmbloods and Sling was sorting out his show nerves at the Memorial Day show in NJ, Dr. Lewis performed an ultrasound on her right front pastern. Her soft tissue looked great. So Dr. C came back out, and we x-rayed, and nothing of significance showed up. So we blocked again, this time specifically numbing the coffin joint, and Silly jogged off sound.  

Then, while Secret was giving a career-best 3rd level performance and Sling was struggling with his balance from a recent growth spurt and trying to convince me he needed to stop every time he needed to poo ("no, Sling-a-ling, you can't stop in the middle of a dressage test, the judges don't like that") at Ride For Life, Dr. C injected the coffin joint. I came home with high hopes of bringing my super-fun girl back to work as soon as we returned. No such luck. Injecting the coffin joint made no difference at all, so Dr. C recommended an MRI of that foot.

We scheduled it for the following Friday, as Wednesday I was scheduled to don my tail coat for Eclipse’s Prix St. Georges debut at Suddenly Farm. He did a respectable job for blue, despite my major “oops” – I memorized the old PSG test, not the new 2009 version.

The following Monday, I received the results of the MRI, and bingo, we found the problem. In the sagittal plane of her right front foot, the MRI showed a subchondral bone defect in the distal phalanx. In layman’s terms, in the center of her coffin joint, well away from the edges that show in an x-ray, she has a bump where there should be a smooth surface. Most likely, this bump has been there since birth, and being the good girl that she is, she as figured out how to get the job done despite the discomfort. But over time, the bump has smashed into the bone below it, and it has done its damage.

By now it was late June, so I made a few frantic calls to Dr. Crowley to be sure that this sort of issue wasn’t hereditary, followed by another frantic call to Leslie Feakins out at Trevelyan Farm to manage the breeding, and Hilltop Farm to secure my stallion choice (Bugatti), and sent Silly off to see about making her a mommy. Our timing was good—she arrived at Trevelyan with a follicle about ready to breed, and proceeded to produce not one, but two more follicles (did I mention that she is an overachiever?). Hopefully one of them will combine with Bugatti’s offering. Next Thursday we will find out if she is indeed pregnant.

But the fun didn’t stop there.

A week after I took Silly out to Trevalyn, I was driving down 113, minding my own business, when a red Honda CRV decided it needed to cross the road at that exact moment. Honda vs F250? The truck won the battle, breaking the CRV’s axle and protecting me in the same moment.
Between Enterprise Commercial Truck Rental and the insurance companies, I managed to rent a proper pulling vehicle to get Secret, Paradoks, Linda, Aneesa and I to the AHA Region 15 Championships that Friday. The show was tons of fun, and Ted worked his magic -- Aneesa and Paradoks brought home a Top 5 at training level, and Secret earned the title of 3rd level champion. 

Although the battle went to Big Blue, the war went to the insurance company. Last Friday they totaled her out and left me frantically truck shopping, as the insurance company will only pay for the rental for another week. Hopefully, I will find Big Blue’s replacement in time for the Gunnar Ostergaard clinic next weekend. If not, we have back-up plans to get Secret and Sling to the festivities. 

So, in short, expect a naming-party for the new truck, and a clinic report in the near future. Assuming things don’t go any more crazy than they already are….

And Now, a Word About our Sponsors

In late 2009, when I sat down to work out plans for 2010, one item on the list was to try to sort out this whole “sponsorship” thing.  Then, as followers of the blog know, thanks to the passing of my landlord in late December 2009, 2010 was a flurry of relocation stress, that concluded with our recent move to our new home.  But somehow, even with this chaos going on, I managed to find two really super sponsors.

As I was wrapping my head around what being sponsored meant, I couldn’t help but think about the sponsor/athlete relationship.  I wanted sponsors that I would be really proud to ride for. Sponsors whose products and services were as high-quality and well-thought-out as the care and training I give my horses.  In short I wanted sponsors I believe in.

Which lead me to my two sponsors.  I am really proud to represent both Custom Saddlery and Zephyr’s Garden products.

Custom Saddlery became my sponsor in late 2010.  I will freely admit I feel like I've hit the big time when I see my name on their rather-prestigious list of "Custom Saddlery Sponsored Riders.

I have been working with Fred That, VP of Custom Saddlery, for a while now. Whenever I have a student ready to purchase a saddle, I try very hard to be as cost-conscious as possible. We scour the internet and the tack stores, looking for something that both horse and rider can live with, until we are totally frustrated. Then we call Fred, there, tucked in the depths of his trailer, lies the perfect saddle. With only one exception, Fred has been able to make every horse’s back happy and the rider balanced. Which, in my barn, with everything from 13.2 ponies to 18.1 warmbloods, is pretty impressive.

Even more impressive is how Fred approached the one horse, Eclipse, who put his nose up at Custom Saddles. Eclipse likes this old, beat-up, patched, too-big-for-me brown Albion HR. Fred has put my antique piece of tack back together twice now. Last month, when he had it in to restitch the underside and patch the newest hole, he took a good look at how the underside was built to figure out why Eclipse goes so well in that old saddle, and he figured it out – in Eclipse’s case, it has to do with how the billets attach to the tree. I suspect Eclipse’s billet preferences will show up in a future Custom Saddlery model.

Taking the time to figure out “why” showed Fred’s dedication to excellence and his problem-solving mind that will find the solution, even if it means thinking outside of the box. That kind of thinking shows in all of the Custom Saddle designs, and makes me feel honored to hang their banner at our tack stall.

I really didn’t pick Zephyr’s Garden to approach for a sponsorship, Venus did. Which is only fitting, since Zephyr’s Garden is named after the horse, Zephyr, who is lovingly plastered all over their advertising. 

Venus, my red mare, has her opinions about everything. She is sweet, wonderful, hardheaded, talented, temperamental, affectionate, and opinionated- - in short, a chestnut mare. I have worked with her naturally-distrustful nature since she was a baby, and have almost made her into a “normal” horse. She will stand politely in crossties, self load in a trailer, and even go into a strange wash rack with minimal delays. But we never have conquered fly spray.

I spent weeks desensitizing her to a spray bottle filled with water, but the minute I switched it to actual flyspray, she began to dance, tremble, then exit. I concluded that it must be some chemical in the fly spray. I tried several brands, and the only one she would stand for was a super-watered-down herbal mix that seemed to attract flies, not repel them. So she turns out wrapped in every available fly barrier garment, but hacking out in the summer is just no fun.

A friend suggested I try Zephyr’s Garden. She went as far as contacting the company to get a free trial for me.  As I’m sure you can figure out, Venus will tolerate it. As of now, we wipe it on instead of spray, but I see a future day where she is letting me spray her like a normal horse. I switched all of my horses to it--I really like that Amy and I are not inhaling all of those chemicals every time we try to give them some fly relief.

Then Linda saw the bottle floating around the barn, and started in investigate other Zephyr’s Garden products. Secret gives Linda and I fits every year with her itchy reaction to every fly that touches her. She rubs her tail to frazzled baldness every summer. Linda has tried just about every product on the market, and when she saw that Zephyr’s Garden has anti-itch products, she couldn’t get her order in fast enough. Secret also approves of Zephyr’s products, and proudly sported a smooth tail in her victory gallop at the Region 15 Championship last weekend. In short, this stuff works.

Thank you, Custom Saddlery and Zephyr’s Garden. Your products are truly excellent.