Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Heart is Broken - AJ

I just don't have the energy right now to write a tribute post that would be worthy of such an amazing friend, but because so many of you knew and loved AJ, I wanted to let you know that we had to let him go this weekend.

Because of his age, he really didn't have any teeth left, and even though his food was always soaked, he was still having trouble eating lately. Friday afternoon he started choking and of course our normal vet was out of town, so it took quite a while for my parents to find someone that would come out. The vet that did come was unable to get the obstruction dislodged and our only option was to take him to the vet school to be scoped and he would most likely need surgery. My sweet old guy was 31, and there's no way we were going to put him through that, especially knowing there was a good chance we could still lose him, so late Friday night I left North Carolina and made the 12 hour trip home to be with my boy.

We were hoping he might be able to pass the obstruction himself sometime overnight, but when I got there Saturday, he wasn't doing great. He wasn't suffering, we never would have let that happen, but he was uncomfortable. When the vet came back out, she said we could try tubing him one last time, but when she listened to his lungs said he had definitely aspirated saliva or food and would most likely end up with pneumonia. His prognosis was very poor, so we decided to let him go.

Devastated does not begin to describe how I feel about losing him. He was a part of our family for 27 years, and while he had a good run at life at 31, I wasn't ready to let him go. He was so many things to so many people and my heart is completely broken. I am beyond grateful that I was able to be with him and say goodbye, but I will miss him more than anything.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Big 3-0

Today my sweet AJ turns 30. I can't even believe how much time has gone by and all that has happened since the day we brought him home. He was only 4 years old then, and we have been through so much in the 26 years that followed.

The day he came home.
He's a lot less rambunctious these days and quite a bit more cranky. He's missing most of his teeth and he's a little gray in the face, but he is still as handsome as ever. He truly is a member of our family and I love him so much.

My handsome old man.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May JCHSS Show

Lilly and I had a great show on Saturday. The weather was nice this time around too, which always makes it better. It was warm enough that I didn't get cold, but not too hot to where I couldn't get my breeches on. That's a win in my book!

She's the cutest.
I did encounter a couple issues throughout the day, though, which seems to be the case lately. If you're a long time reader (and I mean a LONG time reader), you may remember a horse from Lilly's past named Baby. Lilly and Baby first met back in August of 2010 at one of the many boarding barns I've been to. For some reason, those two formed some kind of crazy bond and have been BBFFs (that's bestest best friends forever) ever since. Baby's owner, M, and I boarded at that barn for several months before moving to a new barn at the end of January in 2011. Lilly and I stayed at that new barn with M and Baby for about three months before I absolutely couldn't take it anymore. The two horses were pastured together because they did mares and geldings in separate pastures at this place, so they spent a lot of time together. M and I tried going to several shows, but our mares were an absolute nightmare. (I remember this one very well, unfortunately.) So I ended up moving out of that barn and into another barn in May of 2011. I needed to get away from Baby. Peace at last...

So it's been like five years since these horses have seen each other... FIVE. Baby has been retired from showing for a couple years now, but M has been bringing Baby to the Johnston County shows this year because her other mare is up for sale. Well wouldn't you know that those two hussies totally remember each other? We didn't let them sniff noses or touch or anything, but they still remember each other, and they're still in love, and they're not sure how they survived all this time without each other. Lilly did ok with her being around at the last show because M decided to park next to me (which I actually didn't like because I knew this was going to happen) but I got to the show later than M this time, so I parked away from her thinking that would help. The two horses could still see each other, and talk to each other, so all day long, when Baby would leave the trailer, Lilly would whinny and cry for her BBFF. She dug a giant hole in the dirt, couldn't bare to eat or drink, and was generally a tool unless Baby was at the trailer or could somehow be seen.

It affected Lilly's performance in the riding classes too because M and I show in mostly the same ones. Lilly always had an ear and an eye tipped in Baby's direction, making sure she wasn't out of sight. When the placings were called, and Baby placed ahead of us and walked out of the arena, Lilly got all fussy and didn't want to stand in line. It's all so very annoying. SO ANNOYING. Why is she so obsessed with this one horse?

Even though the weather was gorgeous, I decided to skip halter again this time around. We just never place well, and I never know how many horses are going to be in the class. I don't mind gimme ribbons in halter strictly from a points perspective, but I don't like going into a class with 12 horses and not placing at all. So, I decided not to sign up again.

Lilly did great in the showmanship class. The pattern was fairly difficult, with lots of pivots and a fairly long back, so I knew if we could manage to back up straight (something I've been making sure to work on), we'd do well. There were supposed to be four exhibitors in the class, but the fourth one never showed, so there ended up being only three of us. Baby was in the class with us, but she went first, so Lilly was content having her long lost love in the arena with her. We ended up placing first, which snags us another showmanship PAC point.

Showmanship pattern.
Loved this showmanship pattern!
The main arena at this shows has always been really bad... it's North Carolina red clay, and it has been impossible for me to show Lilly here without her boots. The footing is just too hard and there were too many stones. At the show last month, though, I noticed the footing seemed different and I asked around to see if anyone knew what they had done. I was told they added a bunch of sand and picked out a bunch of rocks. I took my Renegades with me, but figured I'd try her in the arena without boots. She did amazingly well, and I'm thrilled to not have to use her boots. Aside from the whispers and funny looks (and even questions from the judge sometimes), I love not having to maintain them all day. So you'll notice she has bare tootsies in all her pictures. :)

She did really well in the english classes. We entered the stock type class (walk/trot), the adult class (walk/trot), and the pleasure class. I'll have to wait until the results are posted on the show website because I can't remember how many horses were in the stock class, but we'll just say there were five for now. There were five horses in the adult class, and eight in the pleasure class. We had a really good ride in the stock class and ended up placing third, but I had what I thought was a SUPER good ride in the adult class. Like, it was so good I thought for sure I won the class. Turns out, we placed dead last, so either the judge forgot I entered, or everyone else had a much better ride than I did. We placed third in the pleasure class, which I was also very pleased about.

The pleasure class.
I also decided not to do either the equitation or the horsemanship class. It's a long and confusing story, but essentially they said they were not taking a break between english equitation and western horsemanship. The problem is, equitation is class 39 and horsemanship is class 40. How exactly is one supposed to change from english to western without a break? Even a 10 minute break is pushing it for me, but at least I could try! They've decided to change the class order around now, and there will be minis driving in the arena between class 39 and 40, so we'll have plenty of time to change over and make sure we know the pattern. So perhaps next time, I'll enter.

I did, however, decide to do trail this time. The pattern looked pretty easy and I knew I could squeeze it in between my two walk/trot classes and my pleasure class, thus being able to do it in my english attire. Two handed trail for the win!! Which is actually what happened... we won trail. First out of three, but it gets us a PAC point in trail!

Trail pattern.
Trying to memorize the trail pattern.

Slightly distracted by the driving minis heading to the main arena.
I changed into my western stuff and had plenty of time to practice going nice and slow. I took my western work pad with me this time and we didn't have any issues with her tack. Well, at least not her saddle. As I was working her in the warm up area, and also in our western classes, she started getting fussy about her right ear. I couldn't figure out what her issue was, but she was holding it out sideways and shook her head several times. I got off and checked to see if a bug flew in there, or if something was weird with her headstall, but I didn't see anything. It got so bad that I swapped the ear keeper from her right ear to her left ear, but it didn't seem to help.

I love how she looks in the blue.
We entered only two western classes, the stock type walk/jog and the adult walk/jog. Lilly was excellent in the stock type class and we placed third out of 9 (a walk/trot PAC point!). Even though she was still keeping an eye on Baby, I think she was pretty tired and jogged around the arena just like I asked her to. In the adult class, her ear issue had come to a head and she was NOT happy about whatever was happening there. It was a struggle for me to keep her going and keep her focused on me, and at one point, we even had to stop so she could do one of those whole body shakes where they try their best to fling you right out of the saddle. There were only three of us in the class, but I wasn't expecting to hear my name called for first. Granted, I was super excited, but very surprised!! Another walk/trot point for PAC!

M and Baby were in that class and I could tell she was pretty stunned that we placed above her. She said the judge told her Baby "looked tired, and was having a tough time holding herself together." Speaking of the judge, she was amazing. I can't remember the last time we had a judge actually in the arena for the classes. They've always stayed up in the announcer's booth, but this lady was giving pointers and talking to the exhibitors. She was great, and I hope to show under her again.

First place in western... what?!?!
You can see how she's holding her ear in this picture. That's pretty much how she went around the whole time we were western. Once we got back to the trailer and she had some time there, though, her ear issue magically went away. Maybe it was something with her tack? Or maybe the bug finally flew out? I have no idea, but it would be nice to have a NORMAL show next time where I'm not dealing with weird issues.

We win!
Here's recap of our placings for the day:
Showmanship Adult = 1/3
Trail Adult = 1/3
English Stock = 3/5
English Adult = 5/5
English Pleasure = 3/8
Western Stock = 3/9
Western Adult = 1/3

Our reserve champion ribbon was for the adult division. So even though we placed first in three out of four adult classes, we ended up with a reserve champion ribbon and a $4 voucher for the next show. That last place in the english adult class just killed my points. It was a great show, though, and I couldn't be happier with Lilly's performance. The PAC points are great too!

Friday, May 6, 2016

April JCHSS Show - A Doozy!

I missed the very first show of the season due to crappy weather and I wasn't letting the weather screw me out of another show... but I should have. The show in April was absolutely awful. Despite the deceivingly sunny skies, it was COLD and WINDY. And when I say windy, I mean WINDY. Like, 30 MPH winds, steady, all day, with gusts of what felt like 150 MPH. It was probably the worst show I've been to in my life. Ever. I learned my lesson, and I will never show in winds like that again, for several reasons.

One of those reasons is because in nearly every picture taken of me, my face looks like this:

Lovely face!
It makes for such a pretty picture, amiright?! It was so windy, that hats were flying everywhere and the judges decided hats were optional. I opted not to wear mine, which also doesn't make for a very pretty picture. Not to mention the fact that my hair was constantly in my face, along with monumental amounts of dirt, blown in from the arena. Like this:

Because the weather was so awful, I only entered the most necessary of classes. Showmanship, english classes for the adult division and the stock type division, and the western classes for the adult division and the stock type division. No equitation, no trail, and no halter.

I don't have the showmanship pattern to post because the show is under new management and apparently the patterns are replaced on the website for each new show. I didn't save a copy for April, but I will for May, and that way I can post them here.

The showmanship pattern was quite fun. I think it went like this:
  • Trot from cone A to cone B.
  • At cone B, perform a 180 degree pivot.
  • Back from cone B to cone C.
  • At cone C, perform a 180 degree pivot.
  • Walk to the judge and set up for inspection.
  • When dismissed, perform a  270 degree pivot, and trot to lineup.

Lilly did a great job, and we placed first out of five horses. Even with all the crazy wind, she stayed very focused and I had no issues with her at all. We earned one PAC point with that win!

As you may remember, I bought a bunch of new show clothes over the winter, and I was so excited to wear them all, get cool pictures, and just feel amazing in them. (Thanks to the wind, none of that happened, but there's always next time, right?) Since I had new field boots and breeches for my english outfit, I was going to try and use my old fleece number pad so I could look extra fancy. I stopped using it when I had all those saddle fitting issues, then I went "casual" with my attire (polo shirt, half chaps, etc) and it was too showy. So I haven't used it in quite some time. Long story short, after getting it all set up, and using it in the warm up area, Lilly was having none of it. She started doing her signature "I don't like what's on my back right now" dance and I had to retreat back to the trailer for a very fast tack change.

It's so very puzzling (and frustrating) that a simple saddle pad can cause her to go from happy as a clam to refusing to move forward. She just does not like that fuzzy saddle pad one bit. I don't know if it's the thickness, the material it's made out of, or the way it sits across her withers... once I switched her back to the plain old quilted pad, she went along like nothing happened.

She was pretty crazy in the warm up area before our class went in, and by crazy I mean chomping on the bit and just acting very full of herself, but it was expected considering the wind. She was much better than most of the horses there, and I kept reminding myself that I was also pissed about the wind and the cold, so I just worked her through it. She calmed down for our actual class and we ended up with two fourth place ribbons. The classes had five horses in each.

Looking quite snazzy!
When it was time to change into our western attire, it was still cold and windy. There was no way I was wearing my western hat, so I decided I'd just wear my helmet instead. I also planned to take off the coat I was wearing before I went in my class (mostly so I could get pictures with my new shirt), but I remembered how much I was shivering in the showmanship class and I decided not to. At least you can see my chaps!

At least I was warmer with my coat.
I had the same saddle pad issue with my western stuff as I did with my English stuff. I bought a pretty new indigo saddle pad, and got a new felt liner to go with it. I got one that is contoured because I thought she'd like it better, and I made sure to get a really thin one to eliminate bulk. She didn't like the setup nearly as much as I did, and shortly after heading to the ring, the "I don't like what's on my back right now" dance made an appearance for a second time. I hadn't packed my work pad because I didn't think I would need it (should have known better), so I ended up putting her quilted english pad underneath the indigo pad.

So tell me how much sense that makes... she loves her western work pad, which is felt and about an inch thick, but doesn't like the thin felt pad I bought, yet is ok with the quilted english pad, but not the thicker fleece pad. I DON'T UNDERSTAND! At least I know how I need to pair my pads and saddles now, though. I guess I'll be selling my number pad and the brand new felt liner I bought.

Our western classes went fairly well. They were actually a little larger than the english classes, and we ended up with a fourth in the stock type class and a second in the adult class. I was very happy with her, considering how windy it was. I basically couldn't wait to get the hell out of there and I think she felt the same way.

Here's recap of our placings for the day:
Showmanship Adult = 1/5
English Stock = 4/5
English Adult = 4/5
Western Stock = 4/8
Western Adult = 2/5

Our ribbons!
We got enough points in the adult division to win Grand Champion, so we're starting out 2016 with a bang! It came with a not so fancy ribbon, but I got a $12 voucher to use on my classes for the next show. So we actually won money! I miss the bigger ribbons, but the voucher is so much more practical, and a great idea. I'm very much looking forward to the next show (which is this Saturday), and the rest of the year. Here's to windless show days!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spring Vet Visit

I'm still working on the show post from early April (such a busy month!), but maybe one day I'll be able to get that posted. Lilly and I have another show this Saturday, so I'll soon be extra behind!

So because of what my friend said at the show about Lilly being too skinny, I held off on using the muzzle. I wanted to wait until my vet came out so I could ask her opinion and see if she wanted to go ahead and muzzle anyway. Lilly is being worked more than usual and she is 16 now, so I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.

My vet said that she thinks Lilly looks perfect. I inquired about being able to see her ribs a bit, and she said she'd scale her at about a 4.5, and it's the thinnest she thinks she's ever seen her, but because of her history and the fact that she's borderline metabolic, she'd rather see her on the lighter side of the scale anyway. It's better for her body and better for her hooves. She told me to tell my friend that unless she wants to pay for my vet and farrier bills when Lilly gets laminitis or founder, she should shush. (Well, she didn't say "shush", but you get the gist) She did inquire about her "shaggy" coat, but Lilly has always been a late shedder. The white hair sections shed out first, and then the palomino colored parts of her hang on for a bit longer.

She mentioned that I could supplement her feed with corn oil if I wanted to add a little bit of weight without having to worry, but I told her that wouldn't work because I have to pre-bag all of her food. She next suggested adding flax seed to her diet, but after doing some research, I think I'm going to pass on that as well. I checked into supplements, but they're all powder, and there's no way Lilly will eat them.

Teeth floating!
She received her regular vaccinations and needed her teeth floated, so we took care of all that. I also had a fecal done, which came back with zero eggs. I've become a huge proponent of fecal tests. It's so much better than giving dewormer just because, and you know exactly what kind of worms your horse has, so you can deworm appropriately. Now I can give her an ivermectin paste and know that she's good to go until the fall. The test is only $17, so it actually saves me money. I love it.

My trimmer was out yesterday too, and I told her what was said at the show and what my vet said about Lilly's weight, and she totally agrees with my vet. She was actually very upset that someone would say something like that to me, and she feels most horses today are obese and unhealthy. She's very happy with Lilly's weight, condition, coat, and hooves. She feels like we've finally "made it", and all my hard work has paid off. I tend to agree. FINALLY.

So it seems that everyone is on the same page, and Lilly will have to start wearing her muzzle. I've been putting in on her for a bit here and there, and she seems to be ok with it. I hope I don't have too many issues with it.