First Show Done!

Well, the first big show of the year has come to an end, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went.

We hauled in on Thursday, which was one of the wettest, windiest, and downright most miserable days of the year. Of course, all of the indoors at the show facility were not usable, as they were all still filled with portable stalls from the two week jumper show that had taken place the week before. So, everyone was stuck riding outside, in the rain (which really was more like a monsoon). I, and several other people at the show quickly found out that our “waterproof” jackets were in fact not as waterproof as they claimed to be.

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Hope was fairly spunky for our Thursday warm-up ride, I don’t think she liked the rain (the delicate flower). However, after we worked through her bouncing about the ring like a crazy thing, she settled down into some really nice work. She was nice and forward, soft, and listening to what I was asking. I was feeling pretty confident and pleased with her when we were finished, despite the fact that we both resembled very drenched and sodden drowned rats. I spent the remainder of the day resurrecting my saturated tack, and getting everything ready and organized for my ride the next day.

I was somewhat saddened when I discover I had an early ride time. I was the first rider of the day, with my test scheduled for 8:45AM. While I realize that it isn’t super early, it meant that I had to wake up at 4:00AM in order to be at the showgrounds in time (as I live an hour away from it). I got up at the indecent hour of 4 o’clock, and trudged outside in the still black morning to feed and turn out the horses that were still at home. I left the house by 4:45, and got to the showgrounds just before 6:00; just enough time for me to feed Hope, lunge her, clean her stall, hand walk her, braid her, tack up, and then warm-up for our test. After I had gotten about halfway through this list, I decided to double check my ride time, and discovered that my time had been moved to 9:26! While the discovery wasn’t the end of the world, it was slightly annoying to learn that I didn’t need to get to the show quite as early as I did, c’est la vie. However, I suppose it wasn’t the worse thing that could have happened, as Hope actually really liked being one of the first horses to be fed. Normally she gets a little stressy when she sees other horses getting fed and going out for hand walks when she is still in her stall. Because of that, I decided to continue to get to the show at around 6:00AM for the remaining days (and I’ll probably continue to do this for future shows as well). So, I suppose that me not finding out about the change in my ride time until later wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

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An early morning hand walk and graze
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Hope staring at something off in the distance with a mouthful of grass

On Friday, Hope was really good for our warm-up; soft, forward, and listening to me. It had thankfully stopped raining, and was starting to turn out to be a very nice day. I think Hope was so relieved that she wasn’t getting pelted with rain that she was in a fairly good mood. Our actually test, third level test 3, started out really well. Our trot work was great, and she actually walked in our extended walk (not any hint of her wanting to jig)! Our canter departure was a little iffy though. She decided that she didn’t want to do it, and just swung her haunches in, eventually she did crow hop into it (which I take full responsibility for. I held her back a little too much with the curb, and she was just letting me know her opinion of me doing that). Most of the canter work went well. Our half-passes were good, and our flying change off of the left rein was clean, but our change from the right rein was late behind (again, which I’ll take responsibility for. I needed to be quicker with my inside leg). All in all, I was quite happy with the test. As I said, our trot work was great, and the problems in the canter work were simple fixes. With the first day done, I was feeling happy and satisfied.

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PC: Totem Photographs

On Saturday, I had a long wait until my ride time, which wasn’t until 4:17PM (it was our freestyle). I still chose to get to the show at around 6:00AM to feed Hope though, as she did seem to appreciate being fed early. After a seemingly unending time of waiting, I was finally able to start getting ready for my ride. I was a little nervous to ride my freestyle, as I had only ridden it one time before at a show, and had only practiced it a handful of times (due to not having a correct sized arena readily available). Hope was a little fussy in the start of our warm-up, but my coach soon came over and started working her magic with us and made everything fall back into place. Finally it was our time to enter the ring, and as I raised my hand, and the familiar music of Viva La Vida from Coldplay started to ring through the arena, I felt my nerves fall away. Our trot work was great, and we managed to stay with the music. I was also immensely pleased that Hope actually walked in our extended walk again! Two tests in a row! I was feeling pretty good about myself. Our canter portion started out well, but then I made a stupid mistake. How my floor plan works, is that I pick up the right lead canter in the corner before “C”, and then come across the “M”-“K” diagonal with a flying change, and then come out of the next diagonal, at “F” in halfpass. However, since one of the flying changes in our test from the previous day was late behind, I was quite preoccupied with thinking about them. So, I came across the first diagonal and asked for the change. I really rode it, and it was clean. I was pretty happy about that, and for whatever reason, started thinking about our next flying change, and how I need to ride it so that it would also be clean. Consequently, I went across the “F” diagonal, with a flying change. I was supposed to come out in halfpass! I realized my mistake when I reached the end of the diagonal, and had a minor panic attack. I tried not to show my horror, however, because this was a freestyle and the judge didn’t know my choreograph! I had to make quick decisions to rearrange my floor plan to fit in all of the required movements before the music ended. By some miracle, I managed to do it, and the audience, and the judge, were none the wiser. I was really pleased that, despite me messing up on the which movements were supposed to go where, we had managed a really nice test. Hope was good, and tried her heart out for me. I was also happy with the fact that I had actually enjoyed riding the freestyle. Previously, I had never enjoyed riding freestyles, I found them difficult, and staying with the music was just one more thing to have to think about. However, I actually had fun in this one, so that was the greatest accomplishment of the day for me. Finally being able to enjoy the music, and just ride.

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PC: Totem Photographs

Come Sunday, the last day, everyone was feeling pretty tired.

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A sleepy Hope covered in shavings

I was happy to have an early-ish ride time, 10:46AM, so that I could be finished and head back home before too late in the day (I pity the poor souls who didn’t ride until the very end of the show). Whereas Friday and Saturday had been fairly nice weather-wise, it was a rainy, drizzly morning on Sunday (although nothing like the monsoon we had on Thursday). However, it had more or less cleared up by the time I was ready to mount. Our warm-up went pretty well, Hope was getting a little tired of the show by then, though. Our final test was certainly a good note to end on, for it was the best ride of the weekend. We had no major problems (the only real issue was when Hope drifted off the rail in our left shoulder-in). Other than that though, Hope was superb, and it was a really solid test (if I do say so myself). And with the final salute, our show came to a close.

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Heading back to the barn after our ride.

I am thrilled with how far both Hope and I have come. We are assuredly not perfect, and still make lots of mistakes, but the most exciting part is that there is room for and the ability for improvement (the judge said so, so it must be true!). I’m eagerly looking forward to the journey ahead of us, and with where Hope will take me, and what she will teach me.

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Tbird Dressage
PC: Cara Grimshaw
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Favorite Equestrian Related Quotes

I got to thinking the other day how certain quotes can inspire a person, or how someone may bring a quote to mind in a certain situation, either as motivation or to help better understand a situation. I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite equestrian related or equestrian applicable quotes.


“A horse will never tire of a rider who possesses both tact and sensitivity because he will never be pushed beyond his abilities.”

~Nuno Oliviera


“The best thing you can do for a horse that has a problem in his canter is use exercises within the canter, such as medium canter to smaller circles, which forces the horse to engage. This is how you help the horse achieve the goal you have for him as opposed to getting frustrated and then trying to force him with your strength. It is his strength he lacks, not his will.”

~Robert Dover


“When the contact is strong, the horse will be pulling with his forelimbs but when the contact is light, the horse will push with his hind limbs.”

~Blignault, South African School


“The essential premise for training is the psychological connection between man and creature. When this is lacking, the rider cannot cultivate or ennoble, but only enslave.”

~Col. Hans Handler


“When the horse and I are working together, not only should it look easy, but it should be easy, for both of us. Only in that way can we both feel happy and satisfied.”

~Kyra Kyrklund


“If you are able to take care of the basics, the movement will take care of itself.”

~Janet Foy


“Don’t take your horse’s mistakes personally. Don’t train via emotion. Feel with your heart and ride with your mind.”

~Janet Foy


“An exercise can only be successful when the rider herself finds the solution to her problem! Only then, will she be able to repeat the exercise and make it a habit.”

~von Dietze


“When you have a problem with your horse, you should solve that problem in such a way that your horse scarcely knows there is a problem.”

~Dr. Reiner Klimke


“If there is no energy, there is nothing to collect.”

~Kottas


“Every horse who is in front of the hands in behind the legs, and consequently escapes control at both ends.”

~Baucher


“Trust in the horse’s intelligence; generosity and ability bring rich rewards. Unbelief and distrust beget precisely what they anticipate: noncompliance and untrustworthiness.”

~Herbermann


“The first and last lessons are always shoulder-in.”

~de la Gueriniere


“The matter of contact affects not only the mouth, the neck and the back, but the functioning of the hind legs.”

~Froissard


“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

~Charles Dickens


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

~Winston Chruchill


“Success is found in striving for victory.”

~Kathleen Haywood


These are some of my favorite quotes, and are ones that I often bring to mind when I find myself needing a little extra oomph, motivation, or to help solve a problem with my riding.

What are your favorite quotes? Do you have any special quote that you’ll think of when you are having an issue with your horse, or at any other time?

Touch of Class ~ Show Goals

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A couple of days ago I sent in my entries for the big gold dressage show on June 16th-18th, Touch of Class. I’ve always wanted to go to this show, but I’ve never had the guts to enter it. Even though it technically isn’t any bigger or more important than other gold shows I’ve been to, this show does seem bigger and fancier. For the past several years I’ve always gone to watch the show, but I have never actually been in it. This show is always well attended, and it usually attracts the bigger name trainers and fancier horses, hence why I’ve always been scared off of it before.

However, this year I decided to give it a shot. I thought that it would be interesting to get the comments from FEI 4* and 5* judges, and to start to get used to competing at the larger shows.

I didn’t enter many classes, because Hope typically prefers to only do one test per day. I’ll be doing third level test 3 on the first day, our third level freestyle on the second day (our first time doing it at a gold show), and third level test 3 again on the final day. I’m excited for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been thinking what my goals are for this show, and I’ve decided that there isn’t really one specific movement that I want to improve. We are getting a lot more consistent in our tests now, and I think that my goal now is to increase the overall quality of the entire test. I want to give all of my effort on these tests, and do the best that I possibly can. I want to give 100% of what I have to offer, that way, even if we don’t do all that well in comparison to the other competitors, I’ll know that we did our best, and gave it our best effort. I want to have fun at this show, and to be happy with the effort I put into it, and if I give it my utmost effort, I know I will be.

Epic results come from persistence and from a long haul approach. In other words, you must develop patience. Having a strategic plan gives you certainty that you will achieve your targets in the long run.

 One (maybe THE biggest) factor for epic results is actually effort.

 Putting maximum effort into what ever you do will give you the best results and highest satisfaction.

 Use every challenge as an opportunity for you to show maximum effort and your innate talent.

~Dirk Stroda

 

Blog Hop~ My Favorite Exercises

Inspired by the900facebookpony’s post on her favorite riding exercises, I decided to follow suit and write about what my favorite exercises are.

For starters, I really enjoy incorporating going forward and back on a circle, in either trot or canter (although it also works in the walk). I integrate collected, working, and extended gaits in this exercise. Typically, I start in a working gait, and then ask Hope to collect for just a  few strides, I then immediately send her forward again into either a working or extended gait. Then, I ask her to collect again, and repeat. I find this exercise really useful for getting Hope to rock back on her haunches and to really start using and swinging through her back. I like to do it on a circle because it tends to keep the exercise more controlled, plus, I can then really engage her inside hind leg. Although, I have also done this exercise going along the rail of the arena, but I don’t find it quite as effective.

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Sorry for the low quality screenshots, but they’re the only new pictures I have

Another exercise that I enjoy, is a 3 loop serpentine in canter without flying changes (so the center loop is in counter canter). As a former jumper, Hope has a strong dislike for counter canter. For the longest time, counter canter was practically impossible for us to do, but after almost two years of training and experimenting with different exercises, we can finally counter canter. This exercise was one of the most helpful for us in developing the counter canter. Since Hope has a long and somewhat weaker back, I like using counter canter to build her strength, balance, and suppleness.

Recently, in the middle counter canter loop, I have started asking for a bit of travers on the suggestion of my coach (for example, on the right lead, I would ask for right travers). This has really helped with our canter pirouettes. This exercise seems to help strengthen Hope’s hind-end and rock her onto her hocks to improve her balance. We’ll start out with the 3 loop serpentine without flying changes, and then come across the diagonal into a pirouette. This exercise has really helped Hope get the understanding of coming around her haunches in the pirouettes, and to not just leave her haunches trailing behind her.

I also find riding canter pirouettes on a square to be a useful exercise. Basically, it’s exactly how it sounds. I ride a square in the canter, and in each corner I ask for a 1/4 turn of a pirouette. Right before the corner, I collect Hope for a couple of strides, and then ask for the pirouette. After that, I send her forward, and then repeat the exercise in the next corner. Sometimes, if we aren’t organized enough to do a pirouette by the time we’ve reached the next corner, I just skip that one and move onto the following corner.

One of my most favorite exercises, my crown jewel, is doing shoulder-in to halfpass to shoulder-in. I start the exercise in shoulder-in for a few strides, and then move into halfpass for a few strides, and then finish on shoulder-in. I like to experiment with asking for Hope to really collect in the shoulder-in, maintain her current pace and rhythm, or to also have more of a medium pace in the shoulder-in. This exercise really helps to prepare for the halfpass. The shoulder-in aids in establishing the correct bend, and it also helps me to maintain enough impulsion in the halfpass. This exercise works in all of the gaits, walk, trot, and canter. Of course, when first starting out it is immensely easier to start at the walk, and slowly move up from there.

These are my main exercises that I like to do. What are your favorite riding exercises?

Review – Ecolicious Equestrian

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Ecolicious Equestrian is my favorite brand of horse grooming products. This company makes an assortment of completely natural, chemical free grooming products (from hoof oil to shampoo, and everything in between!). The fact that Ecolicious uses only natural and organic ingredients was the biggest reason why I started using their products. I am a big fan of chemical and silicone free products, especially when it comes to my horse. I always cringe when people put products on their horses with warning labels that say “wash immediately with soap and water if contact with skin occurs”. If the company feels it necessary to put a warning about the product being potentially dangerous if contact with human skin is made, why on earth would you want to put that product on your horse? Especially considering that horses will scratch and chew on themselves (or groom other horses) and might end up ingesting some of that product with a warning that takes up 1/3 of the label. My motto is that if I can’t use it on myself, then I don’t want to put it on my horse!

It is true, that a lot of people do not like to use the natural grooming products because they typically do not work as well as the chemical and silicone laden ones, but I am pleased to say that Ecolicious is not one of them. After trying numerous of other natural products, and having disappointing results, Ecolicious was practically my final hope. With all of their products that I have used, I have gotten wonderful results. My horses have never been shinier or softer.

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#ecoliciousgroomed

An added bonus with the Ecolicious Equestrian products is that they smell divine. They all have either a deliciously citricy (is that even a word?) or coconut scent. They smell so good in fact, that my farrier even commented on how nice my horse smelled, and asked what products I used; and this was over the smell of burning hoof as he placed a heated shoe on my mare’s hoof. Now there’s a testament to how strong (yet not overpowering) their fragrance is!

I have tried practically all of their equine products, and a great thing about all of them is that a little goes a long way. These products last me a surprisingly long time, because I only need to use a small amount of them. Ecolicious also offers a line of human products, but I have not yet tried any of them.

For a more detailed review of their individual products, I have listed and described my experiences with the products that I have used below:

Squeaky Green & Clean Shampoo~

This shampoo both conditions and cleans the horse’s coat, and as an added bonus it has tea tree oil in it, so it also has antibacterial properties. I love this shampoo, after using it my horses are silky soft and super shiny. I’m very sensitive to drying agents in shampoos, so much so that there only a handful of shampoos that I can use on myself. Ecolicious’ Squeaky Green & Clean Shampoo is one of the few shampoos that doesn’t dry out my hands after I use it. Also, this shampoo suds up and foams a wonderful amount (which for some reason, is oddly satisfying). Additionally, it is also biodegradable, so you don’t need to worry about it getting into your waterways or killing off your grass.

This shampoo is also great at combating dandruff, and from keeping your horse from getting dandruffy. Most shampoos I have used will remove dandruff after a bit of scrubbing, but the scaly skin is usually back within a couple of days,but with this shampoo it actually gets rid of the dandruff for good (or, for at least several weeks).

This product is also great at getting out stubborn stains. Green stains and random poo spots on my tobiano miniature wash out easily and quickly with this shampoo. It brightens white socks and stockings really well, and gives them a glorious sheen. This shampoo also seems to deter stains from setting in after I have used it, which is of course every horse person’s dream (a clean horse for a longer period of time!).

Silky Rinse out Moisturizing Conditioner~

This is by far my favorite conditioner that I have ever used. Oils and fatty acids contained in it help to moisturize and condition the coat, and I can attest that it certainly does. I have found that it really restores damaged and sun bleached hair. My black mini, Max, has a horrible issue with his mane being frizzed and frazzled from sun damage. This is the only conditioner that I have found that makes any significant, noticeable, and long lasting difference on his mane. His mane goes from being a dull, fuzzy mess, to a silky and shiny mass of tangle free hair.

For already healthy and non-damaged coats, this conditioner creates a gorgeous shine, and makes them incredibly soft and smooth. However, despite their reflective appearance and polished coat, this conditioner doesn’t make the hair slippery, nor cause the saddle to slide.

Like the shampoo, the conditioner also has tea tree oil for added antibacterial properties. Also, silk powder contained in this conditioner acts as a natural sunscreen, helping to ward off the damaging effect of the sun’s UV rays.

Blinded by the White, Total Body Whitening Treatment~

This is a great whitening product, and it creates the most lustrous coat. I much prefer using this product over the traditional whitening shampoos (you know the ones, the blue ones that have a risk of giving your horse a purple hue if you leave it on too long). Asides from no longer having heart failure from applying a bright blue goo all over my white horse, I do find that it works better than the other ones that I’ve tried.

The only downfall that I can say about this product is that it does need to be left in for a long time, at least 30 minutes. However, I think that the wait is definitely worth while, especially considering that I no longer have to fear about having a purple horse the day before a show.

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Pearly white mini after his whitening treatment

Squeaky Green & Clean Waterless Shampoo~

Living in the dreary and wet west coast of Canada, bathing my horses with water isn’t always an option (especially if one does not have access to hot water). In situations when it is just too cold to bathe, or for when I don’t have enough time, Ecolicious’ waterless shampoo has been a life saver.

It’s super easy to use, simply spray on, let sit for a few minutes, and then towel off. It’s great for getting that stubborn dust out that gets trapped under a winter coat, and for that last minute clean before a show. It leaves my horse’s coat shiny and smooth, plus it smells great!

Gloss Enhancing Coat Tonic~

This is the all natural and silicone free version of ShowSheen (the biggest difference is that I can spray it on my horse’s back and not worry about the saddle slipping and sending me plummeting towards the earth). The ingredients in this product have reflective properties, causing it to catch the light and create a shimmering mirror on your horse’s coat.

It also contains essential fatty acids that help to condition the coat, and the incorporated silk powder acts as a natural sunscreen. My mind is at ease when I use this product because it doesn’t have any chemicals or silicones in it, substances that will ultimately dry out your horse’s hair and cause more harm than good. I absolutely love this product, it really does create the ultimate show ring shine, and I make sure that my grooming tote is never without it.

De-Stress Intense Restructuring & Detangling Treatment~

In a base of coconut oil, and filled with vitamins, fatty acids, and other oils, this is a great detangler. Since it is very oily, a little goes a long way. I just squirt a small amount (less than the circumference of the tip of my pinky finger) into my hand, and smooth it over my horse’s tail. I can then easily brush out any tangles.

It has added sunflower extract to help prevent damage from UV rays, and it also contains tea tree oil to improve scalp health and prevent itching. Additionally, the coconut oil and other fatty acids condition and nourish the hair.

Before finding this product, I had liked to use straight coconut oil on my horse’s tail, but I found that a little annoying and not as easy to use as I’d hoped. This product however is super easy and convenient to use, and combines all of the beneficial properties of using straight coconut oil.

Moisture Maniac Mane & Tail Detangling Infusion~

This detangling product isn’t as heavy duty as the De-Stress coconut oil one, but it works marvelously well for everyday use on tails that are regularly cleaned and brushed out. As the name suggests, this product moisturizes the hair, while providing a light detangling effect. For heavily tangled manes and tails, or for manes and tails that just haven’t had regular care, then I would use the De-Stress treatment first, and then switch to this product.

When used on a regular basis, it creates shiny and tangle-free tails. Unlike chemical detanglers, that tend to build up on the hair and actually end up causing more tangles in the long run, this product creates a long lasting, tangle-free tail. This product also gives the hair a very healthy appearance, whereas some chemical detanglers can end up creating the tail to look dull after a couple of hours after application of said product.

In Control Conditioning Mane Setting Cream~

This is by far my favorite product to use when braiding to give that extra hold and grip on the hair. Being a dressage rider, I of course braid for every show (well, almost every show. Sometimes I have been known to neglect the smaller, one day schooling shows), so I have tried numerous different products to provide grip on the mane. Ecolicious’ Mane Setting Cream is the only one that I really like. It provides just the right amount of grip, but not so much that it makes the mane sticky and tacky feeling.

I love that it is in a cream format, rather than a spray. I can get exactly the right amount in the exact spot I need. I also find that the cream is better at taming those random flyaway hairs. As an added bonus, it is filled with different vitamins that help to condition and to restore elasticity to damaged hair. This is now the only product that I’ll use when I’m braiding.

Glamorous all Natural Face Highlighter~

I used this product when I was involved in the world of in-hand miniature horse showing. This products gives a lovely, subtle shimmer, a much better look than the gross, greasy appearance that baby oil gives. Filled with conditioning and moisturizing ingredients, it also soothes the skin and protects it from UV rays.

I really appreciated the look that this product gave my horse, it was enough of a shine to highlight my mini’s delicate muzzle, but not so much that it looked like I just dunked his head in a bucket of olive oil.

I no longer have a need for this product, because I am no longer competing my minis in the in-hand shows, but if I ever returned to that world, then I would use this product again without hesitation.

So Fresh & So Green Equine Body Spray~

I love to use this product after I ride to help remove sweat marks and to condition the coat. Chock full of gentle essential oils and plant extracts, this product is great for it’s antibacterial and soothing properties. It also contains sunflower seed extract, so it also acts as a natural sunscreen to help prevent sun bleaching.

I have also found that this products works quite well as a fly spray. I have found that flies and other flying insects don’t like the smell of it, and stay clear of my horse for a couple of hours after I have applied it. So it is definitely a wining concoction of ingredients.

Hoof Therapy, Restorative & Protective Serum~

This is so far the only hoof oil that I have found that actually works. It is designed as a moisturizer to help prevent cracks and chipping, and I have found that it does live up to it’s claims. When I apply this on a regular basis, my mare has immaculate hooves, but if I run out of it, then she soon develops a couple of chips in her feet. Asides from being a good moisturizer, it also contains ingredients that enhance hoof colour, eliminating the need of the chemical laden hoof polishes for shows.

It also has antibacterial properties, containing tea tree oil, burdock root extract, and lavender oil.


I have been extremely happy with all of the Ecolicious Equestrian grooming products that I have used, and I plan to continue to use them on a regular basis. Overall, I would give Ecolicious Equestrian a solid 5 stars.

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#ecoliciousgroomed

The term “Success”

A conversation came up at the barn the other day, “what does success mean to you?”. People’s responses were varied, and hugely individual. Some connected the word to being financially stable, or having a happy life. While others thought of the word as achieving a goal. In general, the end conclusion was that success is the objective of life. Everyone wants success in their life, and everyone strives for it.

This conversation got my thinking what exactly success is, and what it means to me personally. Merriam-Webster simply defines success as a “favorable or desired outcome, or the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. For me, I suppose that I think of success as accomplishing a goal that I had set out, and through living each day to its fullest potential. Success, for me, isn’t a once in a blue moon occurrence, it’s everyday. It’s feeling the softening over Hope’s back during collected work, it’s that one extra stride in our canter pirouettes, it’s pushing myself just a little bit harder, it’s finishing that project, it’s smiling and finding a lesson when the day didn’t turn out how I expected it would. Success is a day by day attainment, and it means that I accomplished what I set out to do, that I am a little bit better than I was the day before.

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Perhaps what I love most about success, is that I am able to control it. I can choose to work harder everyday, to try and achieve my goals, to push myself, to learn. If I am not successful in the conventional sense of achieving a goal or improving, then I still try to find a lesson in the day’s events and learn from it, so I am better prepared for the next time something stands in my way.

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If I could have one wish fulfilled, I decided long ago that I would ask to have success with horses. That was, and is, my one wish. Everyday I strive to make that a reality, and I work just a little bit harder to make that wish come true.

What does success mean to you?

Ulcers – what they are, what to do about them, & why I know so much about them

Most people in the horse world have, at the very least, heard of ulcers. Perhaps, you have even had a horse with one, or even experienced one yourself. What are they? Well, in essence, ulcers are lesions in the protective mucosal lining of either the foregut or the hindgut. This lining gets irritated, and is then eroded, leaving the intestinal wall exposed to the acidic environment, which ultimately turns into a painful wound.

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Retrieved from The Atlanta Equine Clinic

There are two major categories of ulcers, gastric or foregut ulcers which primarily occur in the stomach, and colonic or hindgut ulcers which mainly occur in the colon. Gastric ulcers can be further broken down into two categories, glandular and non-glandular ulcers. The glandular portion of the stomach is the lower section, and it is protected by a thick layer of mucosal lining. This section is constantly producing hydrochloric acid (HCI) through millions of pumps, designed for the horse to be constantly grazing. This region also secretes mucus to prevent the stomach from digesting itself. The non-glandular portion of the stomach is the top section, and it is not as well protected, being covered with a thinner lining of squamous epithelium that does not secrete as much mucus to protect the stomach. As a consequence, the non-glandular region is most commonly afflicted with ulcers.

Non glandular region
Retrieved from McKee Pownall

There are many different factors that can cause gastric ulcers, but essentially, anything that causes the HCI from the glandular region to splash excessively onto the non-glandular area, either from an overproduction of HCI, or an empty stomach, will cause them. The stomach will produce more HCI during times of stress, or if the horse is being fed a diet high in grain and starchy foods. Diets that are low in forage, intense training, an overuse of NSAIDS, or horses being fed large meals a couple of times a day, rather than being allowed to eat food constantly throughout the day, are the most common reasons why ulcers develop. Since most of these reasons are typical of a performance horse, it is no surprise that ulcers are very common among these horses. Hay and other types of forage act as a buffer to prevent the HCI from “attacking” the non-glandular portion of the stomach, but when horses are denied free access to forage, the HCI is then able to erode the non-glandular region.

horse
Retrieved from Dr. Jess

Ulcers usually manifest themselves by the horse developing a loss of appetite, loss of weight and condition, becoming colicy, having a decrease in performance, being girthy, and a general change in attitude.

Gastric ulcers are diagnosed through endoscopy, which is a camera attached on the end of a long tube that is inserted into the horse’s nostril and down into their stomach. The vet is then able to take a look at the inside of the horse’s stomach and determine whether there is ulceration or not. More often, however, ulcers are “diagnosed” through the symptoms that the horse is presenting.

Gastric ulcers are treated with omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor, which blocks some of the pumps that produce HCI. The stomach is still able to secrete enough HCI to digest food, but not so much as to cause it to splash onto the non-glandular region and continue to irritate the ulcer, allowing it to heal.

Hope was diagnosed with gastric ulcers through the symptoms she was presenting when I first got her. She was girthy, had a poor appetite, and needed to gain more weight. I put her on omeprazole (some people use the FDA approved product Gastrogard, but I just used the generic stuff from my vet), and her appetite increased and she finally started to gain weight. I am also careful with her diet, and ensure that she has 24/7 access to hay and also give her a probiotic, I use Biotic 8 from Omega Alpha (best stuff ever!). I had noticed that she has a tendency to start acting like she possibly had ulcers after shows, so I now put her on a preventative dose of omeprazole a couple of days before, during, and for a couple of days after shows. This seems to do the trick, and I haven’t had any issues with gastric ulcers since I’ve started this regimen.

Hindgut ulcers are a whole nother kettle of fish entirely.  They are typically caused by stress and an overuse of NSAIDS, although parasites can also cause them. Hindgut acidosis is caused when the acidity of the hindgut is too high, usually caused by feeding too many starchy and sugary foods (such as grains and processed feed). This increased acidity can then have the potential to create an ulcer.

The symptoms of hindgut ulcers are very similar to those of gastric ulcers. Horses will typically have a loss of appetite, experience weight loss, have poor performance and resistance under saddle, become girthy and grumpy when their abdomen is touched or brushed, and have a change in their attitude. The only addition is that horses with hindgut ulcers will be particularly sensitive on the right side of their abdomen, some going so far as to even kick out undersaddle when any right leg is applied. Hindgut ulcers are frequently called Right Dorsal Colitis, as the ulcers tend to develop on the right side of the colon (which is why horses afflicted with them are more sensitive on their right side).

Hope started to display this behavior, becoming very grumpy whenever I brushed her abdomen, especially her right side, and started to kick out her right hind leg undersaddle whenever I put my right leg back (for certain lateral movements, or when asking for the left lead canter). Because her kicking out was only with her right leg, and only when I used my right leg further back, I assumed that she might have hindgut ulcers.

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Hope wasn’t a happy camper, and was plainly letting me know

Hindgut ulcers can be clinically diagnosed through ultrasound of the colon. In ulcerated areas, the colon will appear thicker. I chose to not get Hope ultrasounded, because this can sometimes be inaccurate and finicky. I decided to just go ahead with the treatment instead. Depending on the severity of the ulceration, some veterinarians recommend taking your horse off of all long stem forage, to allow the colon to rest and heal itself. We decided to not follow this route however.

I put Hope on Sucralfate, a complex of aluminum that coats any ulcers present in the hindgut with a protective lining. This medication is a little annoying, because it has to be given three times a day, 1-2 hours before or after meals. Sucralfate comes in pills that need to be crushed up, have water added to, and then syringed to your horse. Asides from the administration being a little tedious, it seems to work quite well. I noticed a difference in Hope after a couple of days.

I suspected that her hindgut ulcers were caused by hindgut acidosis, because she had been on a high starch grain (she is an extremely picky eater, and it was the only grain she would eat). When she started displaying symptoms of hindgut ulcers, I immediately stopped feeding the high starch grain, and put her on a low starch, low sugar feed instead (much to her disappointment, but after about a week of refusing to eat it, she finally gave in, and has been eating it ever since). I also had to find a product to decrease the overly acidic environment of her hindgut. Equishure by Kentucky Equine Research was the most well recommended, so I decided to go with it. Equishure is a time-released hindgut buffer, essentially, it is encapsulated baking soda. The encapsulation ensures that the product gets to the hindgut (normal baking soda would be destroyed in the stomach, it would never reach the hindgut), which allows it to change the pH and lower the acidity.

I’m pleased to say, that the combination of Sucralfate and Equishure healed Hope’s ulcer in a couple of weeks, and she went back to her normal self. I can now use my right leg without her having any objection, and can brush her entire abdomen without her caring.

I’ve decided to keep Hope on a preventative dose of Equishure, just to help ensure that she doesn’t redevelop hindgut ulcers again. So far, she has been totally fine, and now enjoys her low-starch grain sprinkled with her Equishure, a brilliant product tasting faintly of baking soda.

Have you ever had a horse with ulcers? How did you treat them, and do you do anything to prevent them?