I had one goal today. To remember what it felt like when I was in high school and I had all day long to ride my horse. No rules. No worries. Just riding in the mountains with my best friend.

Something I walked away from the Parelli Ranch with was the idea that horses should be fun. Riding horses should be fun. Being safe is #1 and having fun is #2. I think I forgot that in the mess of figuring out how my horse feels about me, about his environment and about the riding process. Having fun was taking a back seat to everything else.

So today I set out, bareback, in my sneakers. No cell phone. Just myself, my horse and my dog.

I listened to the call of the hawk as he soared above.

I looked at the beauty of the day reflected in the winding waters of the creek.

I watched a little buck bound away through the sage brush.

I spotted the snowshoe hare racing away, wildly bounding and dancing over the sage brush.

I leaned my head back and felt the wind brush across my cheeks.

I breathed deep the warm smell of sagebrush in the air.

Fall is my favorite time of year.

We followed the road until I found a place we could hop off and then we cut our own trail across the sagebrush and rock. We followed a draw and climbed up and up. We stopped when we came to a fence. I was so glad that Billy understands how to maneuver his body so well as we were stuck between a big rock and an old dead tree, with the fence in front of us. I simply asked him to back out of there and he did so, quietly and without running into the either the tree or the rock. Then I asked him to bring his shoulders across and we climbed the other side of the draw up to the top of the rock out cropping. From there I could see all the way to Ennis Lake. We sat up there, catching our breath, breathing deep, feeling the wind brush away the sweat, cooling us. Samson bounded through the grass all around, looking for mice, gophers and bunnies. Luckily he didn’t find any.

Billy looked off, down the side of the steep hill and we watched a little two point buck bounce off down the hill. He didn’t even disturb a single little rock as he lightly made his way down the draw, hopping over sagebrush and disappearing over another hill.

We started down, disturbing many rocks and having a little conversation about which was the best way down. I wanted to avoid the big dead tree and Billy wanted to follow Samson, straight through the dead tree and over the side of the rock cropping. Obviously we went my way.

When we got to the bottom we climbed back out onto the road and Billy had a few minutes of eating some green grass I spotted growing there.

Then we started back down towards our house and the irrigation ditch.

When we made it to the ditch I hopped off and offered Billy the idea to get a drink. He did so and then I suggested he go ahead and walk on into the water. He did. He pawed and splashed and grabbed at the wet grass growing along the edge of the ditch. I walked along the side while he walked in the water, pawing, drinking and snacking on the grass. Samson bounded up and down the ditch, so happy to be sharing it with Billy. He would dash up and splash Billy in his exuberance and then dash back down the ditch. Billy mostly ignored him, splashing himself with all the pawing. I enjoyed giving him this time to get really comfortable in the water, drinking and eating. It made me as happy as Samson was.

After that stop, Billy, Samson and I walked back down the hill to our house. We arrived, tired, with dried sweat and dried mud all over us and so so happy.

SONY DSC

Sometimes things happen and we don’t understand why.  We cry, we rage, we feel frustration and wonder, “Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?”  We try to come up with reasons, we justify.  We cry some more.  However, if we choose to live our lives looking through the rose tinted glasses of The Silver Lining, we will always be able to see the good in everything.  (Well almost everything.)

That is what my mom does.  She taught me to always laugh at yourself, if you do you will never be bored.  She taught me keep on trying even when it feels impossible.  She taught me to keep my chin up and a smile on my face… even when you don’t want to.  Because a smile can be your gift to someone in need of one.  She has taught me about the true gift of giving.  When you look at life through the rose tinted glasses of The Silver Lining, you can always see a way to turn your hardship into someone else’s gift.

Recently I got a call from my step dad that my mom had an accident and was in the ER.  She is fine, but she fractured her back.  Talk about heart stopping!  She had just bought a brand new saddle for her adorable little arab/warmblood cross mare.  She had just started riding her mare on trails.  She had called me a few days before to tell me all about the wonderful hour and half long trail ride she went on, how much fun it was, how empowered she felt being able to get out and ride like that again.  I was heart broken for her.  Because she has always struggled with back issues, she made the difficult choice to not ride anymore.  She just can not take that risk.  So what did she do?

I’ll tell you!

She put on her rose tinted glasses and found The Silver Lining and sent her brand new saddle home with my handsome hubby for me to try out.  I am so excited!!!  As you all know, I don’t have a saddle budget and though I DO have a daydream saddle budget a truly nice, McCall saddle is just not realistic.  So to have this opportunity just blew my socks off!!

SONY DSC

It’s a bittersweet feeling because I know how hard she worked for this beautiful saddle.  I know how excited she was when she got it.  I know how excited she was to go trail riding.  But she knows how nervous I am to ride Billy, it’s been so long since I’ve ridden!  She knows how having a nice, well fitting saddle will help boost my confidence, and Billy’s!  She knows that she can help me, even when her dreams have faded to daydreams.

So THANK YOU mom!  Thank you thank you thank you!!  I just don’t think words can express how grateful I am.

 

I do not have a big budget for a saddle. Actually I don’t have a saddle budget at all, so when I went out shopping I knew I was going to have to pinch my pennies. Luckily my mom gave me her old saddle to sell and that started my saddle fund!

The first saddle I purchased, back when Billy was just a two year old, was a Wintec Wide Dressage Saddle. I thought it would be the perfect fit because it has the adjustable gullets, allowing you to change out the gullet as your horse grows and changes. The problem? When Billy was two the widest gullet was the one that fit. Also, because Billy started out with such a dip in his back, the saddle bridged terribly. The more I padded to help with the bridging the taller and more unstable the saddle became!

I had been sitting on Billy bareback and in the bareback pad and he took to it like a fish to water. (He has a very small bubble and loves to invade my space, so having me on his back was the perfect solution! I can’t get any closer to him than that!) When I sat on him with the saddle on he was stamping his feet, swishing his tail, his ears were back and he humped his back up, giving a little crow hop.

I decided that he didn’t like that saddle and it was time to go shopping.  Now some will say that I am spoiling him because I listened to this feedback and didn’t make him adjust to the saddle. I say, why fight it? If he doesn’t like it then neither do i! I’m not the one that has to cart me around the mountains. His comfort is my top priority. If he is comfortable then I will be too.

So off I went to do some research and find the perfect starter saddle for Billy and I. This took me many months because many of the treeless saddles that I truly loved are way out of my price range.

The Freeform Ultimate Trail saddle is my dream saddle. It’s on my wish list for when I win the lottery…

The Freeform Ultimate Trail Saddle:  $1979.00
FF-ultimate-2TEXCITING NEWS!  A great new saddle for trail and endurance!!  Woohoo!  After many years of riding I wanted to design a comfy saddle for my older body.  I worked for a few years on prototypes of different seat styles.  Finally I’ve come up with what I think is the perfect seat!  A wonderful gel seat that fits a woman’s pelvic bones.  It’s wide in the seat, narrow in the twist and high in the cantle with soft gel poleys.  The seat will keep you in the saddle for many hours of riding.  I’m in love with the comfort and security of it.

I like the Barefoot treeless saddles as well, though they are not on the top of my list.

“The Barefoot Barrydale VSD Treeless Saddle: $995.00

BD-2The anatomically shaped knee rolls and seat on the new Barefoot Barrydale frame the rider thus affording the ride a low and secure ride.

The new Barefoot V-belting allows the girthing to self-adjust and distributes the pressure of the girth over the entire saddle.  The position of the v-belting also positions the saddle directly over the horse’s center of gravity, the perfect position for the horse to support the rider’s weight.

Each Barefoot Barrydale incorporates Barefoot’s VPS (vertebrae protection system).  The Barefoot VPS system’s components are totally flexible and therefore the saddle adjusts immediately to the movements of the horse.  The Barefoot VPS system is not bulky and allows for a very close contact and connection between horse and rider.

** I have a friend that got the Barefoot Tahoe and did NOT like it.  She said it was very uncomfortable as there was something under the seat that was hurting her as she rode.  She rode in it only a few times and then had HORRIBLE customer service when she tried to return it. They pulled a few unethical moves, however Emily was able to return it in the end. After hearing her story I would be very hesitant to purchase a saddle from Barefoot.

The Startrekk saddles are very interesting to me! I like the look of the Iberian saddle. I feel this would be an excellent trail saddle.

The Startrekk Iberian Portuguese Treeless Saddle: $1875.00

ST-Esp1The Startrekk Espaniola is an Iberian/Portuguese style treeless saddle modeled after those used in classical riding.  It has moveable panels secured with Velcro and a changeable pommel configuration.  The seat is built up to provide a twist for the rider.  The Espaniola works well for wide, short-backed horses such as Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Icelandics and other gaited horses.

I ended up finding Rocky Creek Hill Treeless Saddles located in Canada. They are able to keep the prices of their saddles down because the don’t have a middle man. They get them straight from the manufacturer and don’t have a retail store, so can keep the overhead costs to a minimum. This is something I appreciate.  not only that, they are always available and the customer service is wonderful! Also they look very much like the Barefoot brand of treeless, but cost much less.

My favorite saddle of theirs is:

The Diva: $499.00 (this includes leathers & irons and 2 sets of velcro spine clearance pads!)

thedivaThis is our Dressage/Trail treeless saddle with long leg flaps- extremely comfortable for any type of riding.  We even have clients using The Diva in endurance; these saddles are THAT comfortable!

The flaps lift up like a traditional saddle and are padded, and smooth (not stitched).  Built in knee blocks.

I bought this cute little treeless saddle (pictured below) this past spring. It was one of the sale saddles and though it wasn’t the exact saddle I wanted I figured it was a great place to start!

The Rocky Trail Blazer:  *ON SALE for $399 + shipping

SONY DSCSONY DSCAll purpose/ Trail treeless saddle with designer stitching.  A join-up of western styling meets all-purpose everyday flexibility.  All in a compact, lightweight, treeless saddle.  Flaps are one-piece padded and stitched, with NO knee blocks.

** note the leathers and stirrups pictured here are ones i already owned.  they did not come with this saddle.

I actually really love this saddle. It feels like sitting on a cloud, doesn’t weigh much (maybe 4 or 5 pounds?) and the most important part… Billy LOVES it!

Over the course of a few months I have figured out a few very important things about fitting this saddle to both Billy and myself… but that is information for another post. Stay tuned!

SONY DSC SONY DSC

I mentioned the fact that I have been building Billy’s topline with a few simple exercises in my before and after post. I thought I would share them!

These are the simple things I started with.

Really.

This is ALL I did to start changing his topline.

Backing:

One thing I did was set up a blue barrel with a cookie on top. Then I would back him to the barrel and he could eat the cookie!

To help him with lowering his head while backing, I put a cooking on a cone and backed him to the cone, where he could just pick the cookie up without having to lift his head.

Point-to-Point:

Later I added in hill therapy. But not until he was stronger from these simple exercises.

It’s completely amazing how the simple, little things can make such a big difference, when done on a regular basis.

Please do use your common sense. I NEVER used backing as a punishment and I never backed him very far at one time. This could be very damaging to a horse, so please be careful.

Remember to keep it light and fun!

Not too long ago I was turned onto the powerful natural medicine, Turmeric.  As some of you know, Billy has struggled with itchy skin for as long as I’ve had him. I reached out to other curly horse owners and breeders asking if this was a normal plight of the curly horse, only to be told that they do indeed tend to have a more itchy skin type and this was in fact normal for them.

It was suggested that I stay away from man-made, synthetic material when shopping for saddle pads and girths. Use wool or sheepskin, leather or mohair.

So I went about my business with Billy, using his itchiness to my advantage in teaching him to lay down (he loves to roll and scratch his itches), the Friendly game (EVERYTHING itches so Billy doesn’t object to me touching him anywhere… literally I can touch him everywhere on his body and he is like, “ooooh!  yes!  scratch THAT!”),  using scratches instead of treats (because EVERYTHING itches he is just as happy to get a good scratch as he is to get a cookie).

However…

His itchiness led different instructors to tell me that he was “dangerous” and that I shouldn’t ride him. I had one instructor tell me that Billy was most definitely going to hurt me, for certain, unless I turned him out with other, more aggressive horses that would put him in his place. I was appalled that someone would suggest having other horses hurt Billy in order to make him more manageable for me. For 3 years I had a lesson now and then with different instructors and asked for help with others only to have them say that Billy didn’t pay enough attention to me, was easily distracted and/or ignoring me, and would be a danger to himself and me if I rode. When I brought up the question of his itchiness I had instructors say that it wasn’t an excuse for his behavior or that he was faking it and using that against me so he didn’t have to do what i was asking.

Okay. What??

Finally, last summer, in august, I had a lesson with an instructor that took one look at Billy and said, “This horse has the worst case of sweet itch I have ever seen!”

I was like, THANK YOU!!!

Finally someone else saw it for what it was. Billy was doing everything I asked of him, he was so willing and sweet tempered. However, he was ITCHY. So itchy that sometimes we would have to stop what we were doing so i could take care of his overwhelming urge to itch.

Have you ever had an itch you can not scratch? It sits right between your shoulder blades and just itches and itches. Pretty soon it’s burning and you will literally rip your clothes from your body and scream to the nearest person “WILL YOU PLEASE SCRATCH THIS ITCH FOR ME!!!!!!”

That was what Billy felt like.  All. The. Time.

So began my search for that magic ingredient. The magic itch tamer.

I have worked so hard for so long to be sure that Billy’s diet is balanced. That he is getting everything he needs in the most natural of ways. Herbs, salt, minerals, omega 3’s, healthy fats, green grass, essential oils. But clearly there was something missing. Managing his diet is difficult as he shows sensitivities to flax seed, corn, barley, algae, kelp, man-made binders, pellets (I’m guessing that’s because they usually have flax seed and corn in them!) and most supplemental powders. It’s amazing how many horse supplements have algae in them!

The first order of business was to get him a fly sheet. If I could stop the flies biting him all over his body, I could stop the fly saliva from entering his blood stream. This was a tricky thing because Billy is so hard on everything. I have a winter blanket that my Andalusian stallion used to wear on very cold days that was in like new condition. I introduced it to Billy and in the first 5 minutes he ripped a hole in it. I figured I was going to be buying a new fly sheet every few days! But he seemed to understand the importance of it, begging me to put it on him. I have bought one so far and there is only a tiny rip in the front from the barbed wire fence that is the perimeter fencing of this house we rent. So far so good!

Then I went searching for that magical ingredient that I was clearly missing in his diet. I had been doing all kinds of natural topical things, but they don’t last long in the hot sun or when it’s raining. Also allergies are a sign that his body is not balanced so I needed to work on this from the inside out. Topical applications of anything weren’t going to have lasting effects unless I could help him internally.

SONY DSC
Billy loving his Turmeric.

Enter… Turmeric.

“Turmeric is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of condition, including flatulence, menstrual difficulties, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain and colic,” reports WHFoods.org.  “In numerous studies, the anti-inflammatory effects of Curcumin (the yellow pigment of turmeric) have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs Hydrocortisone and Phenylbutazone, as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.  Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects, Curcumin produces no toxicity.”

What is important to realize about Turmeric is that when bought off the grocery store shelf you may be getting something that has very low to no Curcumin. If you are using it as a healing agent (and not just to flavor food), then it’s important to purchase from a highly qualified source. I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. This where I get all my herbs for my family both human and horse. Your Turmeric must have between 3%-5% Curcumin to have the anti-inflammatory effects. It is not recommended to go over 5%.

The bioavailability of the Curcumin is up to 2,000% when you mix the turmeric powder with a couple of teaspoons of black pepper. (1/4 cup turmeric powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper)

When turmeric is also mixed with a fat of some kind, flax seed, olive oil or coconut oil the curcumin can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system.

I make up a paste, called “The Golden Paste” and add it to my carrier, oats, for Billy and Chloe to eat. I had Chloe on Smart Pak’s Healthy Coat and Hoof supplement as well as their flax seed blend, but she would leave her grain to go eat Billy’s unless I stood there to be sure she ate her own. After observing her doing this a few times I decided to give her some Turmeric. She happily stood and ate her own grain. So they both get it now. Who am I to argue with a horse that knows what’s best for it?

Something to keep in mind when feeding your horse supplements… the body can only absorb so much. If you break the supplements into several feedings throughout the day, your horse’s body will utilize it much more efficiently. I feed the Turmeric twice a day. The horse will use it within 8 hours of digesting it, so in order to keep it in the bloodstream, doing it’s anti-inflammatory work, it’s important to feed it twice a day, morning and night. I also do not mix other supplements with the turmeric. If I am feeding something else I will feed it in the middle of the day.

Here are some articles about Turmeric found out in the big wide web world:

* Turmeric, The World’s Healthiest Foods

* Authority Nutrition

* Live Science

Golden Paste Recipe
Golden Paste Recipe

while i am busy finishing up some photo editing and preparing for thanksgiving this week i would like to leave you with these thoughts, blogs and articles.

billyandpartnershipi have certainly found this to be true for billy and his transformation over the years.

how do horses show affection?

hope.

this photographer shoots pure magic with her camera.

what is your horse thinking?  by temple grandin

some interesting stuff to ruminate over for sure.

we’ll be back after thanksgiving!