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Fourth Of July

Posted by Avishay04, 30 June 2012 · 5,930 views

The birthday of our country is this Wednesday, and I'm always a bit nervous for my horses. We live in a fairly urban area, and though my BO's property is a whopping (by local standards) 5 acres, I still worry that some idiot will try to shoot my horses with airsoft rifles or throw beer bottles at them, or try to set off fireworks in the corrals - both of the former have happened before, though we never were able to track down a culprit as the attacks happened in the wee hours of the morning (sometime between about 1:00 and 6:00 am). The barn owners no longer have a dog, and while the property is fenced, it's mostly fencing to keep horses in, not keep determined humans out. I always worry, and I'm even contemplating sleeping down tat the barn again this year like I did last year. Threatening to shoot trespassers doesn't really work, either - California law is such that the person has to be threatening a human (being a threat to livestock doesn't count), and shooting an intruder doesn't extend to property - only to the actual home. I'm also not licensed for a concealed carry permit (very hard to obtain here), so while I have a few guns and the knowledge to use them, I can't legally carry them at my barn since I don't reside there. I have signs posted to warn people off, and the BO does a bed check around midnight or so, but other than that, I don't know what else to do to protect my animals. Anyone have any thoughts/ideas?

It Takes A Village

Posted by Avishay04, 22 June 2012 · 460 views

There really is some wisdom in saying, "It takes a village to raise a child".

My BO's daughter, son in law, and 3 1/2 year old granddaughter live on the same property as the barn. As a result, my BO ends up watching his granddaughter quite a bit. This evening I was riding Shay while they sat on the patio - just across the narrow driveway from one end of the arena. The preschooler is a bundle of energy, and a dastardly combination of energetic + smart x willful^2. She began misbehaving and when threatened with a time-out (her Kryptonite), tried to run off and find her mom who was gardening in the back (as if that would help her to escape her fate).

Her grandfather has had two knee replacements, has a titanium rod in one femur, and is rather bow-legged from a lifetime in the saddle. In short, he's not quite as quick or as nimble as he used to be, and he doesn't particularly like to discipline her. But she generally listens to me and knows I'm not going to put up with her being naughty (and I have her mom's permission and approval to step in when needed) so I pulled my horse up to the fence, locked eyes with the girl, and said, "Either you mind your grandpa right now and let him put you in the time-out you *earned*, or I'm going to have to get off this horse, and you're going to regret it. Because if I have to get off, *I* am going to go get your mom, and tell her how bad you're being."

She hemmed and hawed, and I made a big show of sighing, "Alright, that's it. I'm going to get off my horse!" And began to swing over.

"Okay! Okay!" she hollered, running back to her grandfather, crying and whining as he led her to the time-out chair. "I don't like you very much!" she shouted at me over her shoulder.

"I don't care if you like me or not," I replied calmly, settling back into the saddle. "You can't throw things and yell and kick at your grandpa like that." And with that I proceeded with my ride.

It wasn't until later this evening that I realized I'd done exactly what I'd promised myself I would never do - I'd spewed "Mom-isms" like they were going out of style. My mom had been full of them when I was a kid:

"Don't *MAKE* me [stop whatever I'm doing] to come over there and deal with you, or you'll regret it."

"Do I *LOOK* stupid to you?"

"Are you listening to me, or are you just watching my mouth move?"
Or, alternatively, "Are you paying attention, or am I just talking to hear my own voice?"

"Am I going to have to call your father at work?"

"What part of "NO" don't you understand?"

And a personal favorite of mine as a child, "Stop whining, or I'll give you a reason to cry."

Now, don't get me wrong - my mom is a SAINT. She's patient, kind, generous, and probably the smartest person I know. And if I had a shred of good sense in my body, I'd accept and follow her advice more quickly than is my habit. But I grew up hearing so many "Mom-sisms" on a daily basis that I once swore on a Bible that I'd never use them with my own kids. And, as I don't have any kids of my own (so far), I've technically yet to break that vow. Moreover, I would certainly NEVER say 90% of what I heard growing up to someone else's kid. But this particular child really does like to test, and she does require something of a small village to keep her in line. But I'm a little mortified at myself for even letting slip a couple of mild and wholly appropriate Mom-isms.

And really, aside from the reality that children need to learn how to behave properly and with good manners, the fact of the matter is we have eight 900+ lb animals and their riders on the property, not to mention cars and other vehicles coming and going on a busy road, rattle snakes, etc. If she doesn't learn that throwing a fit and running off isn't acceptable, she's at risk of getting hurt or even killed (or potentially hurting someone else). This thought (of safety for her and others) was foremost in my mind today, because I had read about Chris Cox's little girl who was kicked in the head yesterday, and was (last I heard) in serious condition. All because she managed to slip unnoticed out of the house and head down to the horses. It's tragic, and it would simply kill me if my BO's granddaughter got bitten or kicked because she got mad, outran him, and ran into one of the corrals. I believe that none of my horses would ever intentionally harm her - in fact, my two younger horses were raised around small children, and are generally very careful with them. But my Hano mare, Belle, is a bit flighty and has really only ever been handled by experienced adults - she could easily spook at a small, fast creature in her pen and run her over by accident.

Just some food for thought, I guess.

Paradigm Shift

Posted by Avishay04, 25 May 2012 · 328 views

My poor instructor - she may be helping me improve as a rider, but she's also become my therapist. If it weren't for her, I think I may have inadvertently done harm to myself this past month. Things at work have been a nightmare, so much is changing, and most of it isn't for the better. But my instructor also owns and runs a marketing firm, but not long ago she was trapped in the same kind of middle management position I'm in now - and she pointed out to me something I've known in my head, but never quite truly accepted, "Business is business." Sometimes part of being employed, particularly in a management capacity, is giving the people below you bad news. You get handed excrement from above, and you've got to pass it on, while making the people below you think that the **** they're being given isn't as bad as it looks. Sometimes it means giving up worrying about what you can't control, and not wallowing in angst over what other people think. And no matter how loyal I may feel towards my staff, and no matter how much I'd like to make their jobs easier (and protect their employment/hours at work), in the end they're employees just like I am, and they are ultimately responsible for themselves. I can't solve their problems for them, and if my boss makes me cut hours, that's not my fault, and beating myself up and feeling like a jerk for simply being the middle-man who has to deliver the bad news isn't productive.

My life situation has also changed drastically the past week. A friend of mine, who is only 18 (a decade younger than I am) ended up having to leave her house suddenly, and with only what she could carry. So she's now bunking with me. I'm also having to prepare to find a new apartment in October, and trying to save up what it's going to take to put a first and last month's payment down, as well as a security deposit. Luckily, the friend that's staying with me is willing to work together so that we can pool our resources to get a decent apartment in a good neighborhood, and there's a chance that another mutual friend may chose to join us. So that's both exciting and a bit terrifying, because I only have about four months to set aside $3k for moving expenses and such, and I'm still paying off a big vet bill (my gelding colicked a few weeks ago, and that cost me $600 that I'm still paying off), and I've still got some student loan debt and some credit card debt I racked up when my truck's flywheel broke off in spectacular fashion and required me to replace the entire flywheel and clutch (parts and labor came to a little over $900). The financial aspect is keeping me up at night - I'm trying to find extra work wherever I can, and I'm even looking for a third job. I've been saving every penny I can (my one riding lesson a week is my one thing I do for myself each week, to keep my sanity), and I've been working on selling off much of my unused tack, my books, and collectables, as well as selling as much of my artwork as I can. I've even arranged to lease two of my horses for the summer, and I've got a student's horse coming in to board with me when she leaves to go out of state for college in July, so I'll be getting paid $150 a month to ride him for her. So I feel like I'm at least being proactive/doing everything I can to be successful and move forward.

This blog post is mostly a way for me to organize my thoughts, and put my current plan into words. I'm determined to be the person I need to be, the rider and owner my horses deserve, a good friend, a good boss, and continue my weight loss goals (I'm down a pant size!!) I have to keep looking on the bright side, and not let fear, worry, or the odds cripple my enjoyment of life or my ability to keep moving forward. I may have it worse than some, but I have it a lot better than many. And thank God that I have the loving, supportive family and friends that I do, because if it weren't for my Faith and my faith in the people I love, I would have given up long ago.

What's Up With My Slim Down

Posted by Avishay04, 11 May 2012 · 348 views

So it's been two weeks now since I started making a real and concerted effort to loose weight. Things are going well overall. I haven't been able to get on the scale (I have to buy a new one - the batteries corroded on my old one and now it doesn't work), but I'm having to use a belt on my jeans and I look a little better in my breeches. I still make some little mistakes in my eating, but I no longer throw my hands up and say, "Well, I've already messed up for today, guess I'll just eat whatever I want today and start fresh tomorrow," which, in the past, was very self-defeating. Now I find that I feel so much better - I have much more energy, and more sustained energy throughout the day, and that in and of itself is very motivating! So even when I eat something I shouldn't, or a bigger portion than I should, I don't throw away my day, and I just do better with my next food choice.

It's almost become a game to see how close to "Par" I can stay with my daily calorie count. If I "birdie" I can give myself a little pat on the back. If I bogey, that's ok, too. Overall it'll even out so long as I don't end up in the sand-trap of junk food. :D The more I play, the better I'll get, and every day is a new challenge. And now, rather than dreading that challenge, I'm starting to look forward to it!

I don't want to end up the couch potato my cat is, I want to be the one humming "Eye of the Tiger" as I sweat it out!

On The Subject Of Weight

Posted by Avishay04, 29 April 2012 · 478 views

So I've been following a few of the threads on HC about a rider's weight/fitness and how that affects a horse. I couldn't find exactly who suggested it, but someone had made an offhand comment about how she would like to see someone look more towards the positive side of this issue, and share what it is that they are doing to help themselves (and their horses) become more fit. This is something that I've been actively engaged in myself, so I thought that I'd take that person's suggestion and share a little bit of what I've been doing.

First, a little background to give some context:

I turned 28 years old this past Friday. I've been riding since I was 4, though not consistently until I was 11. I played basketball from first grade until my junior year of high school, and I spent all of high school and most of college doing shotput, discus, javelin, and hammer, as well as competitive "Olympic" style weight lifting.

I know how to eat right for my body type/energy needs and how to exercise for maximum fitness. However, even when I was doing 300+ crunches and jogging 3-5 miles a day, plus spending time doing sprints, and weight room conditioning, I still had a spare tire. What I didn't know then was that I have a metabolic issue (diabetic, plus some other stuff) that makes weight loss very, very hard for me, and no mater what I do short of surgery, I'm always going to be paunchy around the middle.

To has made my weight struggles worse in recent years is my inability to exercise to the extent I had in the past. Over the last ten years I've had some major injuries - blown tendons in my left ankle, multiple tears in both my rotator cuffs, and permanent nerve damage in my back. As a result, most of my exercise is now less structured. I maintain two small facilities, and about 14-16 horses at any given time. My "home" facility is on five acres and I do most of the maintenance for the property, including mucking (lots, and LOTS of mucking!)

In short - I'm a tall, chunky, physical wreak of a human being. But I'm NOT lazy or inactive, quite the opposite.

But I love my horses, and I love to ride. I want to be the best rider I can be, as well as a good role model for my students. And not insignificantly, I want to look good on a horse and in my show clothes.

The tough part that I struggled with for about two weeks was this: to loose weight one needs to do two things:

1. Move more

2. Eat less

Weight loss isn't rocket science.

What I didn't really know when I started looking into preparing a plan for this new journey to a healthier me was just HOW MUCH LESS I should be eating. I'm not a big eater, and I generally favor the fruits and veggies since I was a vegetarian for 7 years and it just became habit. But I admit a severe weakness for pasta - hey, I'm Italian! - and baked goods (though I've always been careful to limit my sugar intake).

Still, it wasn't until I bought the official Biggest Loser diet book at a discount store and started thumbing through it that I stumbled upon just how few calories I really needed to eat in order to lose weight. According to the book, I should only be taking in about 1,700 calories, which is surprisingly hard to do. So far I've only been moderately successful for the past week, but I know that as I develop new habits, it will become less onerous.

Another shocker: you have to burn 3,500 calories to loose one pound.

For context - an hour walking trail ride only burns 275 calories. An hour of moderate intensity arena work (mostly trot stuff) burns about 700 calories. So for those of us who think that riding is enough to help us actually lose weight - you'd have to ride at a moderate pace for 5 hours to loose one pound. So while riding may help improve muscle tone and keep you active, you probably won't LOSE weight by riding.

What your barn chores burn:
- 1 hour of mucking pens/stalls = 653 calories
- 1 hour of general cleaning at a moderate pace = 378 calories
- 1 hour of gardening/landscaping (such as working on your pasture or fence lines) = 542 calories
-handwalking your horse for an hour at a moderate pace (roughly 3mph) = 378 calories.

(reference: http://www.prohealth.com/weightloss/tools/exercise/calculator1_2.cfm)

I also learned that in order to maximize fat burn, you need to maintain a minimum heart rate, which is 220 - your age. So in my case 220 - 28 = 192. To have a heart rate of 192, I'd have to be really pushing myself, and with my other physical issues, it will be up to my doctor and I just how much of that I can handle without over-stressing my back and ankle.

So with all of this info and a powerful motivation, I'm setting out to lose 40 lbs. Assuming a target of healthy weight loss (about 2 lbs a week) that should take me 5 months. And to keep me on target, I've decided to chronicle my journey towards a me that is going to look better in the saddle, feel better, and be the truly fit rider my horses deserve. Won't you join me?

Products For Horses And Riders - Are We Missing Something?

Posted by Avishay04, 16 April 2012 · 169 views

Recently, an acquaintance of mine who works at a tack store gave me several calendars containing a number of coupons that the store had leftover from a major manufacturer's promotion early this year. Also included was a reply card with the typical request for personal information. But at the bottom of the card was the question: "Do you or your horse have any unmet needs that you would like to see in your horse care products?"

First off, that's good business. Finding out what your customers really want or need not only shows you care about your customers and thus helps to increase brand loyalty, but it also shows that when it comes to product development, the manufacturer knows how to get out in front of consumer trends.

There are a LOT of products on the market for horses and riders. Open any catalog or magazine, or visit any one of the big online retailers specializing in equestrian products, and chances are you'll be nearly overwhelmed by the selection - which is where those reviews often available on retailer's websites can come in handy. Whether you prefer to shop according to price, or brand name/perception of quality, those reviews can help you decide if the product you're looking at is as good a deal as it seems. Though ometimes, even with all the selection, you just can't seem to find the one thing you're looking for that has all the right features, ingredients, sizes, etc. your horse needs.

So to take a cue from the information card - what products do you wish someone would make? What need do you or your horse have that isn't being met?

A True Tale Of Easter In The Er

Posted by Avishay04, 02 April 2012 · 718 views

On the day before Easter, 2008, I headed down to the barn. It was a warm and bright Southern California spring afternoon, and I was looking forward to putting the 11th ride on my rising 4 y/o gelding, Avishay. He was one of the easiest horses I'd ever started, partly because of his sweet nature, and partly because I'd had him since he was only 4 months old, and I'd been able to take my time with his early training and ground work.

Everything was going well, until about 15 minutes into the ride, two ground squirrels rolled into the arena, engaged in an epic squirrelly battle to the death. Blinded to the outside world by the ferocity of their fight, the squirrels tumbled, screeching and scratching into Shay's legs. Terrified, Shay launched forward and bucked like a rodeo bronc the 120 feet to the opposite end of the arena, with me just doing my best to stay on. By the time the bucking stopped I was able to execute a one-rein stop. Unfortunately, when I did so, I didn't realize that I'd torn my right groin muscle during the bucking, and turned him to the left, I simply didn't have enough grip in my right leg to stay on through the initial quick turn into the stop. I flew off, skidding through the dirt like a skipped stone skids along a lake surface.

It took me several long moments to sort myself out, and by the time I made it into a sitting position, my barn owner had come running over to check on me. I made it to my feet, and took off my helmet - it was trashed, and it looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to my forearm. My lower right back and right groin were all one big throbbing pain. But I brushed myself off, put my ruined helmet back on my head, and begged my barn owner to help me remount and lead me around a bit so that I wouldn't loose my nerve. He was against it, but finally relented, and I climbed awkwardly back on from the fence (there was no way I could make it from the mounting block) and walked around for about five minutes before my body was just screaming for me to get off. By that time a few other people had come over to see what had happened, and I waived off a few offers to drive me home or drive me to the hospital. My barn owner offered to put Shay away for me, and I somehow managed to drive home.

My barn owner had called ahead to my house, letting my mom know what had happened. She tried several times to convince me to go to the ER, but as anyone who has ever had a head injury can attest - you become unreasonably stubborn, and I kept refusing, insisting that with some painkillers and a few days' rest, I'd be fine. But after a very uncomfortable night, I woke up bright and early that Easter Morning, not for church, but for a trip to the ER.

The staff at a hospital on a major holiday is decidedly the "B-Team". I arrived around 8 AM, hobbled up to the counter, and handed over my insurance information, before limping my way over to the nearest chair. My mom hovered at my elbow, waiting for me to fall over so she could catch me (and probably squish her, seeing as she's a good 8" shorter than I am)As soon as I levered my aching body into the chair, the lady at the counter called my name. Thinking that it was going to be the shortest wait in my inglorious history of ER visits, I promptly began the struggle back to my feet. Back at the counter, the lady looked at my 23 year old self and asked, "Our database says that the only person with your name is 84. There must be some mistake. Have you ever been treated here before?" When I answered in the negative, the petite gal in scrubs on the other side of the counter giggled, "Good, 'cause you sure don't look like an octogenarian!" as she ran though my information, adding me to the system while my mom filled out paperwork (my writing hand was too swollen for my already horrible handwriting to be even remotely legible, even to people used to reading doctor's notes). Then the receptionist said that I only had a few people ahead of me, and that the wait should only be about 30 min long. Relieved, I went back to my seat and watched Goonies on the TV - a favorite movie of mine, which I remember finding oddly comforting at the time.

By the time my dad had found a parking spot he liked and joined us in the lobby, I couldn't take it anymore. "Please," I told him, "Find someone to give me some drugs." He tried, but was unsuccessful, "They want to see you first," he informed me.

Nearly 45 min later I was ushered into a small room with a jaded nurse. She asked me for all the same information that the receptionist had already been given, took my blood pressure, and directed me to walk down the Hallway Of Pain(TM). This was, at least as I remember it (you'll recall I had a head injury) - the single longest hallway in America. Using the wall for support, I shuffled and moaned down the HOP like a zombie from Shawn of the Dead, comical in my brightly patterned pajamas. My mom asked me if I wanted a wheel chair - hoping I'd say yes and give her the opportunity to inflict payback on me for the time she sprained her ankle and wasn't coordinated enough to manage crutches (My dad and I pushed her, popped wheelies, spun her, and generally did our best to make her motion sick). Of course I declined her generous offer. Still determined to get retribution, my mom walked after me, practically singing, "C'mon! Hop, skip, jump! Dance! You can make it!"

Once in the room, I was told the doctor would be in to see me soon, but first they would have to determine where I was hurt, and to what extent, and take some x-rays. A rather rotund nurse came in shortly after, and when she looked on her clipboard and saw that my accident was horse related, she proceeded to tell me stories about the devil pony she'd had as a child. When she showed me the "pain scale" I quickly pointed to the one right before "DEAD". "Please ma'm," I said, feeling like Oliver Twist, "Can I have some pain meds?"

She nodded and bobbed out of the room, never to return. On her heels came the doctor. He looked me over while I showed him where I was hurt and described the extent of my injuries. When I asked the doctor for pain meds, he only smiled and said, "I need x-rays first." It was then that I decided that this particular hospital was filled with people who seemed to enjoy watching me suffer. I whimpered, and at the evil doctor's prompting, I began the epic trek back down the Hallway of Pain, while my mom wandered off to get a cup of coffee.

Once there, I was greeted by rather plucky guy who looked like a Korean Harry Potter (seriously, he had the exact same hairstyle as Daniel Radcliff did in the movies, and I kept wondering if it was intentionally so). He helped me get on the table, which was ice cold and strongly resembled a morgue slab, and gently tortured me into several excruciating positions as he darted back and forth to the control room, taking at least a dozen x-rays. I've absorbed enough radiation over the years that I'm fairly certain I'm now sterile. That wouldn't have been much in the way of a noteworthy event if it weren't for the fact that Harry, er, the tech, flirted with me the entire time. I tried to be nice and flirt back, but it's very difficult to come up with witty things to say to a guy when you're doubled over in pain and lying in your pajamas on a steel table. Once I was released from the x-ray morgue and the flirty tech, I began my third trip down the H.O.P. to the room I'd been assigned.

By the time I'd arrived, my mom was sipping coffee and talking to a robust, dark skinned man in a suit. He immediately began attacking me with questions - the same questions I'd already answered multiple times already. "I'm not lying!" I bust out. "The answers haven't changed. And doesn't anyone in this hospital TALK to each other? And why won't anyone give me some freaking pain meds?!" I was still standing, because it was too daunting to try and climb back up onto the table.

The suited man smiled, "I'm sorry, this should be the last time. Your doctor is already looking at your x-rays. I'm just here to deal with your insurance. I'm sure they'll give you something for the pain soon."

I felt like strangling someone. Fighting my urge to commit homicide (I'd only fall over trying and end up on a 72 hour hold in the psych ward, anyway), I finished this latest interview, and the suit left. After a few minutes the doctor came in - it was beginning to look like a soap opera set with all of the people coming and going. I think I may have said as much at the time. The doctor informed me that luckily, nothing was broken, and then proceeded to poke, prod, and pull on me, stoutly ignoring my less than ladylike language. I had some good sided lacerations that thankfully didn't require stitches, some nerve damage to my back (which, unfortunately ended up being permanent), a torn right groin muscle (I still can't canter without stirrups because of that one), and a mild concussion (my 7th - don't worry, only 3 of them were horse related, and I was wearing a helmet for two of them).

"Great," I said. "Now how about something stronger than the couple of Advil I took at 6 AM? Or some kind of treatment in general?"

"I can write you a prescription for some Vicodin," devil doctor said. "But we can't fill it here. You'll need to go to CVS or Wallgreens or wherever you usually fill your prescriptions."

If I could have found the strength, I would have pummeled him, the good for nothing *******. My mom thanked him and he made some stupid comment about how it was his pleasure, and I began retracing my steps down the Hallway of Pain once more. As I dragged my living-dead carcass down the corridor, my mom once again asked me if I wanted a wheelchair. Irritated, hurting, and cussing under my breath, I glared daggers at her and simply limped onward. My dearest mother only chirped up, "You know, the only reason I'm torturing you is because you made me spend my Easter holiday in the emergency room, you're more stubborn than that spotted mule you trained, and you're ego is too big to accept help. So go ahead, run! Frolic! Gambol like the nimble nymph you are!" I nearly sighed in defeat, but by that time I was nearly at the door. My dad saw me coming and went to get the car, while I navigated the stairs down to the loading zone. I could have taken the ramp, but it was twice the distance.

With a lot of swearing and moaning like I'd been stabbed (which it felt like I had), I managed to pull myself into the car and handed my dad my prescription. "Drugs. Now," I demanded, reduced to monosyllabic speech. "You got it, kitten. And then, we need milkshakes!" my dad declared. "Milkshakes will make you feel better. Like a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down!"

Exhausted, I could only nod.

And that's the true tale of my Easter in the ER. A story of a girl, her horse, and the sadistic staff of a major hospital on a holiday weekend. But as I look out the window at my lovely Shay, and think back on the great rides he's given me over the years (including the one I just enjoyed before coming in to edit this post) I realize....there's no way in hades that I'm getting on him the day before Easter!

Opinions Are Like Butts...

Posted by Avishay04, 29 March 2012 · 270 views

...Everybody has one.

Care to share yours?

I've written five posts in two weeks, and the ticker on the blog's "dashboard" shows over 1,100 views. While I follow a number of blogs all over the internet, I'm still pretty new to writing them. I'm really enjoying doing it, and I'm considering eventually writing a book about my (mis)adventures with horses, friends, and family over the past 20-something years. And seeing as how those of us with horses are always on the lookout for how to make a few extra dollars to set aside for the inevitable vet bill (or that new piece of tack we've had our eye on), I'm playing with the idea of looking for a paid blogging gig somewhere. Blogging here is kind of my warmup to see if I can dedicate myself to sitting down and writing with a purpose on a regular basis.

Should I keep going? Any thoughts or criticisms of my writing style? Anyone interested in doing any editing/proofreading? I'm also open to suggestions for topics. And if you simply think I suck, feel free to let me know that, too.

Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners

Posted by Avishay04, 27 March 2012 · 470 views

I have three horses, and like most of the horse-owning population, I'm not exactly swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck. I happily forgo fancy meals, vacations, and sleeping past 6:00 AM so my dear ponies can live like the king and queens they think they are. And while every horse owner has little tips and tricks to keep their horses from breaking the bank, I'm always thinking about what I can do to get more bang for my hard-earned buck.

So may I present to you my tried-and-true top ten ways to cut costs without cutting corners:

10. Buy items out of season.
In the winter, tack stores, catalogs, and online retailers dump excess inventory of summer and fall items. November-February is the best time to purchase non-perishable items like fly sheets and masks, fly spray concentrate, and even show attire. In the summer, you can get winter blankets, cold-weather breeches, muck boots, and wet-weather gear at a hefty discount. Most of the time you'll find odd sizes or garish color combinations are the majority of what's left when you buy out of season, but if you're willing to dig to the bottom of the bargain bins or click through pages of items online, you may find just the little gem you're looking for, at a price that won't make you cringe.

9. Buy in bulk.
While you may not do a lot of barn supply shopping at Costco or Sam's Club (though I have), buying the right things in bulk is the way to go. Many catalogs and online stores offer bulk discounts. Items like deworming paste, shampoo, and vet wrap have a very long shelf life, and you'll often see multiples available when you buy a minimum number of units. If you have more than one horse, daily or regular-use items are worth buying in bulk. However, if you board or have neighbors with horses, consider going in together to get better deals on things you all need. For example: if you're okay with administering your own vaccinations, consider buying a 10-dose vial from a vet supply catalog and splitting it with friends. I do that and save about $2-$5 per vaccine.

8. Keep records
Keeping detailed records of what you buy and when, and what you give your horse(s) and when can save you more than you realize. Write down what you do and keep the information in an easy-access place.If you have an iPhone or Android phone, there are several inexpensive apps that can keep track of your horse's info and your barn activities so that you don't make a potentially expensive mistake. I have dry erase boards everywhere because other people also handle my horses and I handle a lot of horses that aren't mine. Just being able to check off if a horse got his meds, supplements, or whatever else can prevent waste from unused/expired products and overdosing.

7. Recycle
There are lots of ways to recycle. I use Smartpaks for all my horses, so I don't have a ton of supplement buckets lying around, but I do collect other people's empty buckets. Turning them into wash buckets, feed buckets, or giving them to non-horsey family and friends is a great way to keep them out of the trash and out of the barn. Why pay $7 for a bucket when I can get one for free? Yes they may not last as long as a bucket designed for use around the barn, but they didn't cost me a dime and I don't feel bad when my 1400 lb lummox squashes them. Other ways to recycle and save your green? Have a muck bucket or trash can labeled for beverage bottles in your tack room. I collect my own bottles and cans, as well as those of my students and by the end of the month, I've got an extra $20 in my pocket. Heck, keep your old horse shoes and "recycle" them on ebay or Craigslist - you'd be surprised how many people want used horseshoes for their arts & crafts or home improvement projects and are willing to pay to get them!

6. Compost
If you keep your horses at home, composting is a great way to save money. Even if you usually spread your manure as part of your rotational grazing program, hold on to some of that poop - it's actually pretty valuable! Research good composting practices (or PM me), and turn your horse's road apples into cash. Lots of stables and horse owners give away their manure, but aged compost that the average home owner can pick up and use directly is much more desirable. So long as you have enough space and a few hours a month to dedicate to it, composting could be for you. If you have landscaping that could benefit from a little compost, like fruit trees or flower beds, composting your own manure properly is just as good, if not better, than most commercially prepared fertilizers.

5. An ounce of prevention...
It's really true - being preemptive and prepared will always save you money down the road. Don't wait for a little project to become a big one requiring more time or cash to complete. This is especially true for horse care. If you suspect something is wrong with your horse, it usually isn't in your horse's (or your wallet's) best interest to play the 'wait and see' game. Vets and farriers don't charge for a phone call, and getting the right person out in a timely fashion may keep you from writing a bigger check hours or days later. But prevention goes even further, using good barn and horse maintenance practices goes a long way to reduce the risk of injury or illness for horses and humans alike. This principle also includes buying for quality. A few cents or a few dollars more up front will pay dividends later in most cases. Tack is a perfect example of this. Buying quality tack and taking good care of it can prevent injury to you and your horse, which will ultimately save you money for years to come.

4. Let's make a deal!
Learn how to negotiate, haggle, and trade. Don't be afraid to make offers! Chances are if you are knowledgeable about what you want and what you have to spend or trade, you can find someone who is willing to make a deal with you. Be honest, and if you're not sure, take someone whose judgement you trust along with you. The horse industry is still very much open to wheeling and dealing, and it doesn't always take cash in hand to get what you want. Goods, services, and old-fashioned labor are all valuable commodities. Even so, while a handshake and a person's word used to be good enough to seal the deal, in today's litigious society - the "CYA" rule applies. Get it in writing if you even THINK that the situation may warrant some documentation, even if that documentation is just a confirming email or a quick IOU scribbled on the back of a feed label.

3. Coupons and Promotions
Just like toothpaste and cereal manufacturers, companies that make products for horses issue all sorts of coupons that mostly go unnoticed. You don't have to be an "Extreme Couponer" to take advantage of the discounts and rebates companies offer. Farnam, Select The Best, and Smartpak (just to name a few) issue coupons in print and on their websites. Go on the website for the manufacturer of just about any equine product you buy (but especially those for feed and supplement companies), and you'll be surprised at how many money-saving codes you'll find. And if you can't find a coupon or discount code for a favorite product, or one you'd like to try - run a Google search or email the company directly. Other ways to find great coupons and rebate deals include: national and local equine print media, equine fairs, horse shows, and special events where company reps set up info booths or give demos. Promos are great as well. Promotions include BOGO offers, limited-time or limited-inventory deals, or special-event pricing, as well as samples. Many companies will send you free samples of their products upon request. That's especially helpful if you have a picky eater like I do! I regularly Google my favorite product names along with keywords like "promotion" "discount" "coupon" and "sample" just to see what I turn op. Most companies have limits on how much/how often you can request freebies or use coupons, so respect their limits and don't try to cheat the system, but do take advantage of what they have available.

2. Share
We all learned how to do it in kindergarten, so set a good example for any preschoolers in your life and find ways save money though sharing. That may mean getting together with a couple of barn buddies or neighbors to share a vet's call fee for routine care, or sharing your trailer with a trusted friend (with a contract, of course) so that neither of you have to bear the full expense of it's upkeep or storage fees. Share big purchases like a truckload of hay or bedding - if you buy good quality at a reasonable price, you can almost always find someone to split the cost with you. Carpool with a friend to the barn or tack store, if possible (I don't know about you, but gas where I am is about $4.40 a gallon, and picking up a friend or student on my way and splitting the gas even 2x a week can make a difference). Finding ways to share can also save you time and hassle, leaving you more time to spend with your horse - which is worth it's weight in gold.

1. Don't feed or supplement wastefully.
This is by far the biggest way I see horse people just bleed money. If you have pasture, you may only have to feed hay in the winter. If your horse is stalled, or kept in a dirt lot, you might feed hay several times a day or free-feed. Even if you board and your hay or pasture is provided, there are numerous ways to avoid feeding wastefully. If you feed hay, use a slow-feeder, hay nets, or rubber mats to reduce waste and to make hay last longer. Buy the best quality hay you can, and test it if you can store enough hay to make testing worth your while. Knowing what's in your hay (even if it means asking your barn owner/manager for the analysis results) will let you know what you may need to supplement for in order to keep your horse(s) at optimum health. Knowing the protein, NSC, and mineral content of your hay can also help prevent dangerous over-supplementation, as unbalanced calcium to phosphorous ratios, selenium levels, and in the case of HYPP horses the potassium levels, can impact your horse's health. Also, avoid over-feeding hay. Because of the way hay is grown and cured, 1 lb of hay will often provide more calories than 1 lb of pasture. That is, because pasture grass is mostly water, a horse needs to eat more pasture (by weight) than hay to meet his nutritional requirements. When feeding hay, be sure to weigh your bales/flakes (unless you're using round bales, of course). Generally speaking a horse should eat no less than 1% of his body weight in hay per day, with hard keepers and horses in more work eating up to 3.5% of their body weight in forage per day. Weigh your horse regularly and adjust the amount of hay he gets accordingly to help keep him at an optimal body condition. Guessing how much your flakes weigh can result in a lot of waste, so stationing an old bathroom scale in your hay shed can be a real money saver.

If you have pasture, use good maintenance techniques to get the best quality pasture you can, and contact your local Ag extension office or talk to hay growers in your area so that you're getting the most nutrition out of your pasture without wasting water or needlessly amending your soil. Use cheap fencing options like t-posts and electric braid or tape to create "sacrifice" areas to feed hay and save your pasture from being torn up in wet weather. If you have more pasture than you need, consider renting it out or growing your own hay on any unused acreage.

Most recreational use horses don't need grains or extra feed. If your horse needs more calories than hay or pasture can provide in order to maintain his weight, or if he's in moderate to hard work and needs extra feed to keep up his condition and stamina, talk to your vet, the feed rep of your favorite feed manufacturer, or an equine nutritionist. Read labels and weigh your feed ("a scoop" or "a coffee can" or "a cup/a quart/a gallon" are NOT units of measurement!). If your horse is getting more than he needs, you're wasting money. If he's not getting enough, you may have to try to fill in gaps piecemeal, by using expensive supplements. If you want to feed something, "just so he gets something/doesn't feel left out at grain time" or to put needed medications or supplements in, consider using locally milled products to reduce cost, and only feed what you need. For medications or supplements, a 1/2 lb of hay pellets or rice bran is usually sufficient.

If your horse needs supplements, read ingredient labels carefully. There is a lot of research available that can tell you what ingredients are needed in what amounts or combinations in order for your horse to benefit. Read up on what you're supplementing with - look into scholarly articles in reliable publications and on reputable websites, check out independent customer reviews, and talk to your vet. If you think your horse needs more of/a stronger supplement, make changes gradually or one at a time to avoid wasting money on supplements that he won't eat or that have ingredients he doesn't need or that aren't in the right amounts for him. Don't just select the cheapest or most expensive or most trendy supplement, either. Do your research to avoid spending money on the wrong supplement, as they're often non-returnable.

In short, be a savvy consumer; educate yourself and take the time to periodically review what's working for you and your horse(s) and what isn't. Trim the fat where you can, but don't skimp on quality just to save a buck.


Posted by Avishay04, 25 March 2012 · 214 views

Just about anyone who has been involved with horses for any length of time has had a mentor. And some of us have been blessed enough to become a mentor to someone else. I recently had one of my students write an essay about me as part of a college application, where she was prompted to write about someone who had had a big impact on her life. Aside from being deeply touched that such an amazing young woman had chosen me as the subject of her essay, it got me thinking about all the people who have mentored me over the years.

My first mentor was an older lady at the stable I rode at as a young teen. Her name was Arly, and she was in her early 70s when I knew her. Arly had ridden her entire life. She owned an adorable buckskin BLM Mustang gelding she had rescued from a neglect situation, and at the time I knew her, she was showing him at 2nd level dressage. Arly was a real stickler to detail, nothing got past her keen eyes. She worked with me every weekend, bequeathing to me her lifetime of knowledge and experience. She would take the time to explain things, patiently coaching me as I tried my hand at a new skill, critiquing my technique and the end result, only offering sincere praise when it was earned. I don't ever think I heard a casual, "Good job!" out of her. Rather, there were many times when she'd say, "That was a good effort, Now, start again from the beginning, and pay a bit more attention to ..." or "I know you can do better. You got a bit sloppy partway though. Don't be in a rush; you can't hurry something along if you want it to be correct. Later on it will become second nature, but for now, you need to do it again." And when I earned praise for something well done, it was often the highlight of my week.

Arly had been a school teacher, a business woman, a riding instructor, and a mother. She was as patient, kind, and generous as she was strict. While the other girls came to the barn each week to take their lessons and go home, I joyfully spent as much time as I could, working for various borders, gleaning rides on whatever horse someone would let me get on, and sitting at the feet of my mentor (figuratively speaking), while she told me stories of her life, many of which revolved around the horses she'd known. My horse-crazy brain soaked up her knowledge like a sponge, and much of what she taught me is still a big part of my riding and horse-keeping today.

Sadly, I lost my favorite horse when I was 15 years old. He had been put down due to an outbreak of a bad flu that wiped out about a dozen horses of all ages at the barn. Arly's horse survived, but the morning she called me to let me know that Rocky had been euthanized was devastating. It was weeks before I could bring myself to go back to the barn, and even then I gave his empty stall a wide berth. I started riding at my high school when I got a job caring for the horses there, and I became attached to the second great horsey love of my life, Woodrow. As is often the way of things, I gradually lost contact with the people I'd known at my old barn. I went back several times to visit over the next two years, and though I spoke to Arly several more times over the phone, by the time I had healed enough from the loss to spend any significant time at that barn, she had stopped riding due to age-related health problems and moved out of the area, and I didn't hear from her again.

Arly's obituary ran in the Eugene Register in 2006, which you can see here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=20060409&id=915WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dPADAAAAIBAJ&pg=3833,2115310

She was an amazing woman, and I often think of her when I'm teaching my own students the same lessons she passed on to me. She was the first person to take a personal interest in my equestrian education, and the years I spent under her tutelage taught me not just about the horses we both loved so much, but also about how important it is to give freely of oneself. The time and energy she put into me was fun for her, I'm sure, but it wasn't *about* her. It was about sharing what she had with a younger generation; her knowledge and experience, her beloved horse, and her spirit. THAT is what being a mentor is all about.

October 2016

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