Monday, April 25, 2011

The Barn in Bham

The big move is 5 weeks away. Up until very recently I've been nothing but excited. Now I am NERVOUS! It should be an easier move than from Long Island to Louisville since it's less than half as far. Even so, moving myself, my pets and my horse to another state is stressful. I've had Jay at less than ideal barns the entire time we've lived in Lville. Currently, even though our riding facilities are less than ideal and it's a bit far from my aptartment to be doing partial self care, at least I know he's healthy and happy. That's what's important.

Before the Blue Barn, we were at the barn from hell. Didn't realize it was bad when I first saw it and then decided to bring Jay there. That's what scares me... but the barn in Bham has so many things that that one didn't... it's going to be fine. B had a good point tonight at the barn, I picture it being a certain way, it won't likely be exactly as I picture it, but that doesn't mean it will be bad, in fact it can be better!

So.. the barn. My mom and I had narrowed down the apartment search to 2 or 3 options. We had seen one barn the day before... they apologized for the tiny bit of shavings outside a stall in the aisle... I'm surprised my mother held it together until we got into the car. Not my style. I like to groom my own horse thank you very much.

We had an appointment first thing on Saturday morning. The barn is actually located in a gated community/country club. It is not affiliated with them... just located on the property. Got there as they were finishing morning turnout. The nice young man cleaning stalls got the BM as he finished turning a horse out. BM had a folder of paperwork ready for me. In it is a boarding contract, contacts sheet, list of required vaccines, and the list of rules. He showed us around, answering our questions. Seems very down to earth and knowledgable. The horses all looked good and the few that were still inside were friendly.

The barn is a good size. 35 stalls and there were about 5 open when we were there. There is an indoor that has a little covered walkway from the barn, a dressage ring and a jumping ring. The indoor has sand/rubber footing and the jumping ring has sand. The indoor has mirrors. The stalls are matted (although the contract states boarder buys them, not a problem since I know ahead of time) and bedded with shavings. Crept in some and they were quite satisfactory. Horses are out all day or all night depending on the season. They are mostly small groups.. the largest is the big gelding field which had, I believe, 7 or so horses... in a nice big field. The fencing is all that white PVC looking stuff. Fields are nice sizes and grass. Very well maintained. I don't remember if there were run-ins in all the fields, or just the pasture board field. The horses are also turned out with no halters, which I like. Boots and blankets on/off is included.

It was fairly early on a Saturday when we were there and no boarders were there yet. I believe there are boarders from a variety of disciplines. There are definitely other dressage riders there, with a few trainers that already come in to teach/train. I can also bring whoever I want as long as they are insured. There are also a number of farriers who come in. Jay gets shoes a week before he leaves, so there should be plenty of time for researching that. There are also some trails we can ride on throughout the comminity. Just can't ride on the golf course! I feel like I remember the property having a lot of nice shady trees.

The tack room is not huge and there are rules about space. Every boarder gets 2 saddle racks, 2 bridle racks and space for one trunk. Just about what I have going right now, so that's perfect. When I looked in the tack room, it was neat but definitely "lived in" and seemed like everyone was abiding by the rule. There is no cross tie-ing in the aisle way. There are 2 or 3 grooming stalls and 2 wash stalls. The wash stalls have hot and cold water, as well as heat lamps.

The barn was obviously well maintained, but not in that "sorry there are shavings in a horse barn" way. Seems just right. The stalls all have sliding doors, with blanket bars on the front. Also had info sheets on the horse/notes regarding blankets on the stalls. The few horses who were still in had their sliders open with stall guards up. I like that option.

They feed timothy hay, amount depending on the time of year (how much grass). I talked about the feed options already, but one thing that stood out, was when the BM mentioned he carried one feed (forget what) "because a few people were asking for it". I like that. They also feed electrolytes to everyone in the warmer months, which is nice, I can take that out of his SmartPak. Did I mention the feed room was nice and organized? And they even have a barn buddies shipping code for SmartPak!

In the information folder that I got, there are specific requirements in terms of worming, vaccines, protocols when new horses come in. It is also specifically outlined about care of any injuries which may (will?) occur. Initial wound care is free, after that it's a reasonable charge if help is needed. Any medication prescribed by a vet (that would have to be specially given ie not in feed), is given for free. I got a really good feeling from all the information I was given. The seem on top of things and reasonable. I like that it's not a dressage only barn, and I like that there are trails that we can play on without the stress we have now about NEEDING to do it to get to an arena.

And last but definitely not least, I can bring my pup! She has to stay on a leash, so we have been working on behaving while tied and I'll get her a harness to tie her, which I think will be comfier for her. She's so good and just lies there and watches when I ride in the paddock.

Now I remember why I picked it... and I'm excited again!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

After the Storm

We had some severe storms pass through late last night. Was pretty scary, especially during the tornado warning, but everyone is ok. The area of town where my apartment is didn't get hit as bad as where the barn is. B fed all the horses on the fenceline this morning, instead of bringing some in. She said they were still a bit weird, and there was a lot of work going on in terms of cleaning up all the trees and branches that were down. It was better to leave them out, and they are luckily all able to be fed on the fence with no drama. Even with all the clean-up going on today, this is what it looked like when I got to the barn this evening.

It's cold out tonight, and Jay has shed quite a bit so far, so he got his sheet on at dinner. He seemed unconcerned about the storms last night. Too scary for me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I love my farrier

I consider myself to have have been very lucky thus far in terms of having a good team of horse professionals. Back on Long Island, I had a great trainer, great vets and great farriers. When I moved to Kentucky, I found a great vet and after one so-so farrier I found K. My favorite farrier so far! Not only is he good at what he does, I'm not intimidated to call him, he either answers or calls back immediately (!!), and is generally on time. Previous farriers had been great at what they did, but not so great on the people skills, calling back, being on time (or the right day). I think K does it by scheduling the next visit at the current visit (what a concept!) among other things. He's easy to talk to and I like his horss philosophy. I find while talking to him that we think alike in a lot of horsey ways... which can make for some good laughs. He treats my horse the same way I try to; patient, kind but firm.

So today I got to the barn and went to bring Jay in for a ride. His left front shoe was clanging the whole way to the gate. Great. Called K on the way into the barn and left a message... Jay's shoe was loose, only held on by 2 nails and those 2 nails were too tight for me to get it off myself without messing his foot up. Got a call back within 20 minutes. Luckily, he was at a barn that could put him past us on his way home. Less than 2 hours after I had called him, Jay's shoe was back on nice and tight, no charge. K told Jay to keep his shoes on this time. Certainly wouldn't have gotten it fixed this quickly if he hadn't been close, but REALLY appreciated the effort to stop by on his way home to fix my pony. Now I don't have to worry about the bootie I was going to rig up staying on tonight!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Late Night Googling and a Pampered Pony

On Wednesday night I had the grand idea that I should google Strategy before going to bed. Of course I found out all sorts of "terrible" things by the all knowing masses on public message boards. Like it's low quality, makes horses hot, is no good because Purina uses unfixed formulas, people would never in a million years feed it to their horses. etc. I couldn't fall asleep because I was all worried that I put my poor boy on some crappy no good feed. It also translated to "the new barn in Birmingham must be no good if they are feeding it, omg what am I going to do!". Late at night it didn't matter that these posts were from 2 or 3 years ago, by people who had who-knows-what kind of horse experience. For all I know they were feeding tons of it to their pasture puff/weekend trail horses and wondering why they had extra energy. It also didn't matter that I know my horse and will be sure to switch him the minute he shows signs of not doing well on it. So I will no longer be looking it up. As of tomorrow morning he is completely switched over. I will be paying close attention to Jay and making sure he continues to look and act and perform as usual.

I also have recently realized that my horse is terrible at being a pasture horse in inclement weather. He loves his turnout, but has been a pampered racehorse then showhorse his whole life. He never had to figure out what to do in bad weather I guess. A few weeks ago, I got to the barn on a windy, rainy, stormy day. My doofus horse was not in his nice, big, dry shed, he was standing at the gate waiting to be brought in. When I got him in he was so cold that his entire body was shaking and he was so soaked to the skin that he was trying his best to itch the water off his body by throwing himself into the walls in his stall. Threw his anti-sweat sheet and his turnout sheet on and he eventually warmed up and calmed down. I'd like to say I realized that he was just wet and cold and was calm and efficient in getting him taken care of. In reality, I had a call in to the vet and was texting and calling B like nobodies business. Felt pretty dumb when the vet called and I told him I had just over reacted.

Tonight, it's chilly and rainy and windy again, and, on my way to Starbucks to get some of the last schoolwork of my career (yay!!) done, G calls. I had already fed Jay earlier in the evening. She tells me that as she was putting one of the other horses back out in the field, Jay was at the gate wanting in and had his tail and haunches all hunkered down. Now Jay will rarely do that once he's been fed, especially since the grass is coming in. Luckily, G remembered my story from a few weeks ago and is very good at noticing when the horses act differently than usual. She called and was nice enough to offer to put his sheet on him for me. So of course I'm sitting in Starbucks hoping he is ok and blogging instead of working on this presentation!

In less stressful news, we had really nice rides on Thursday and Friday which I will write about tomorrow after the morning feeding and hopefully another ride.

Monday, April 11, 2011


What keeps happening to my paragraphs??? Got to the barn to feed Sunday morning after being out of town for about 5 days. It was about 80 and sunny, a great change from the chilly, overcast Chicago weather I'd been in the past few days. Took my time with the feeding and just enjoyed being with the horses. Once everyone was fed, B and I headed to Metzger's. They carry Purina feeds which is what they feed at the new barn in Birmingham. I am switching him over now since his current feed is a bit of a hassle and it's easier for me to switch him myself. My choices are Ultium, Strategy or Omelene. Omelene was out since I don't want him on a sweet feed. I was thinking Ultium would be the winner, since I have heard great things about it. When I told the lady who worked there that Jay is an easy keeper though, she adivsed that he likely wouldn't need the Ultium and would do fine on Strategy. She was super helpful and we also talked about his workload. There were 2 different types of Strategy: the "regular" one and another that I forget the name of, but it had amplify and rice bran in it. I chose the "regular" one since that is what's available at the new barn. If I feel he needs something extra I can always add a supplement to his SmartPak since the electrolytes will be provided by the barn. I don't think that will happen since he has always been an easy keeper. Started the switch at his PM feeding yesterday and he'll be completely on Strategy before next week. I am just a bit worried, but I think that's just because I've never been in a situation where I had complete control over his feed. He looked a bit too skinny when I brought him in this evening. I just have to remind myself that I can esaily up the amount he's getting, or switch over to the Ultium if need be. Grass is also coming up and the pasture he's on puts weight on him fast. Would have liked to ride today, but it was pouring rain. 7 weeks until I have an indoor with a covered walkway from the barn. But for now I'll just keep riding every time it's possible!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A forward walk and longs legs...

... neither of which come naturally for us. Had a great ride on Jay yesterday. The wind was crazy but it didn't bother him one bit. It was also sunny and in the 60s!! He was very lazy to start off... I think he would have rather been lazing in the sun, but as usual he worked right through it and in about 10 minutes of posting trot and some cantering in 2-point he was ready to go. Once we were warmed up, we worked on being through in the trot and canter. As long as I keep him forward and am quiet and steady with my hands, he moves into the contact so nicely. He knows his job still, proof that time off takes away fitness, not training. The hard part is not pushing it. When we are really on, I feel like I could ride all day. But the key at this point is to be correct in our work while increasing fitness (for both of us!). Good quality work is what's important... rides can increase in intensity to what we are used to as we go along. We worked on some baby leg yields at the posting trot, some sitting trot, and some sitting trot/canter transitions on a circle. Then came the walk... Now, I hate the walk. Because it's hard. Once Jay gets going, his trot and canter are lovely and forward. Walk, not so much. And it is certainly my fault, because I hate it and it's hard, so I don't work on it as much. Well if I think we are showing in Birmingham, that has to change. So our main problem is that the walk is not forward and therefore not through. I understand and know that the way to fix this is to work on forward, but for some reason my body doesn't listen to my brain and my hands end up doing all sorts of weird things, I hunch and my leg creeps up. It's lovely. So towards the end of our ride I concentrated on a nice forward, round walk. I thought about keeping my legs long and my hands steady. Sit up straight, shoulders back! hhmmm.. success! We had some nice moments as long as I was correct. My trainer (who I haven't ridden with since LI, but is in my head still everytime I ride), always told me that to know if your horse is on the aids, ask for some sort of transition, if you get it good, if not something was missing. Well after some shoulder in work at the walk, I asked for a trot. Apparently I asked to strong and he was ready to go, because we got a nice walk/canter transition. I realized immediately that I was uneven and giving him a strong outside leg, but I called it an overall success. It was my mistake, not his and by getting such a nice transition and forward energy, that tells me we were at least on the right track with our walk. After that we did a bit of walk/sitting trot transitions before calling it a day. Probably won't be able to ride today, we have a wind advisory with gusts up to 50 mph. Not my favorite riding weather. In other news, I found a barn in Birmingham a few weeks ago! It seems perfect and I will blog about it soon!