Thursday, February 25, 2010

Zazzle Dazzle

, I have it up and running! It's been a month since I started this project.

View more personalized gifts from Zazzle.

It's my very own Zazzle shop! It's called Pony Girl Photography Designs and you can check it out here (or via the flash panel above.)

Have you heard of If not, check it out via my flash panel below! You can purchase all kinds of items (or design your own.) I first heard of it around two years ago, the Pony Cousins designed personalized tank tops for our first Horse Camping trip.

I loaded many of my favorite photos into Zazzle, and designed some note cards, mouse pads, and buttons. You can purchase these items as I designed them, or, use my photos to create your own items, from T-shirts to posters to calendars to tote!! Add your own text, words- it's really fun to design.

I loaded photos of horses, of My Boy, of nature......and even Paint Girl's Mustang filly, Chance. In fact, any of the items that sell featuring Chance, 100% of those item's profits will go to benefit Mustangs through Tracey's Mustang U program! Woo-hoo!

Please let me know if there is a photo from either of my blogs that you've seen and would like me to load into Zazzle so that you can use it on a product. I'm completely open to special requests! My email address is on my sidebar. I hope to load new photos and items frequently!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vacation is Over

Thank you to everyone that has offered their advice on treatment for arthritis in horses! I feel that I have some really great information and possible options. I know my horse is just not himself. His bones are snap/crackle/popping, he's resting that left leg more often, he's moving out stiff and slow. I hate to see him that way. Even Paint Girl's OH says he doesn't run and buck and kick at feeding time like he used to. But don't worry- he is eating well! My Boy is a food monger and if he loses his appetite, I'll know something is really wrong!

In addition to the MSM, I put him back on a joint supplement this weekend. It is one he was on before, which is about the best I can get locally. However, it is a 3-in-1 type of supplement (also for coat and hoof) and since My Boy already gets his selenium and other vitamins in his regular supplement (I call it his "grain", but it is not grain-based) I want to put him on a straight joint supplement with a combination of the key ingredients- Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM/Hyaluronic Acid. I am considering two reader-recommendations which I will have to order online.

The weekend was busy. I was on vacation last week, so when I got back into town from visiting family, I spent a lot of time with My Boy! He was walked/trotted on the longe line every day. We did a lot of hand-walking to warm up. On Saturday, Paint Girl's OH and I bought out the local feed store of all their grass hay, so we are stocked up for a couple of months. Helping unload nearly 30 bales of hay will help that upper body bone strength the doctor was telling me about at my physical last week. I also need to "make sure I get my calcium and vitamin D." You see, My Boy isn't the only one getting old and having issues!

Also on Saturday, I also had my fourth saddleseat lesson. SmartAlex from the Bringing up Baby blog in my lesson video post questioned the instructor using the snaffle bit. This time, the instructor changed out Zoe's bridle. Zoe wore both the curb and the snaffle bit but the rein came down from the headstall and went through the snaffle ring, but not directly attached to it. Does that make sense?

There was a lot going on in the arena. Someone was riding another horse in a lesson with another trainer. There was also another student in the lesson with me, a 13 year old girl who has been taking lessons for 2 years. She rode the white Arab, the "Steady Eddie." The instructor warned me that the cold snap in the air had her first two lesson horses pretty wired first thing that morning, but Zoe was fine.

The Steady Eddie

My first two laps around the arena were not pretty. My instructor had me ride over to her. She took each set of Zoe's reins in her hands around 8" from the bit, then pulled them toward her, showing me how much pressure to use when I "play" with her mouth to set her up into the bridle. This was really helpful. We had slower, more collected gaits. We trotted a lot. My legs looked good, in fact, my instructor told me they could come forward a bit! I think my stirrups were a hole shorter than last week, this might have helped.

The canter felt good, too. Much slower and in control. I would say that without the rein on the snaffle, Zoe pulled out of the bridle and tried to avoid holding her neck up more. It had a tendency to pull me forward. My instructor joked at one point that I was looking like a hunt seat rider. But I knew that, because I noticed it in my shadow as we rode along the southern wall of the arena. I needed to sit back in that saddle and pull my ribs up! All in all, it was a better lesson.My instructor reiterated it again, it takes a long time to learn to ride this horse. I feel I made progress. I really want to do well, but I am also not frustrated that the learning curve is slow.

The 13 year old and I got to ride the horses up to outdoor arena to cool them out. It was around 11 a.m. and getting warmer. In the outdoor arena, which is in the full sun and on top of a slight hill, there was a great view of a large farm field full of swampy water and a flock of Canada geese. Maybe they were taking a break from the Olympics? As we walked around, I felt like I was going on a country "hack."
We walked for about ten minutes, even stopping to watch a coyote stalk the geese. It was the closest thing I've come to a trail ride since last summer!


Paint Girl will be on her way home soon, hopefully arriving on my birthday. What a treat that will be! Not that I'll get to see her until the weekend. She'll be busy sleeping, unpacking, and taking care of all the critters she's missed.

Lastly, I send the warmest thoughts of sympathy to our dear friend Linda over at the 7msn Ranch blog, who unexpectedly had to have her horse Lyle euthanized this weekend. My heart goes out to her as she and her ranch crew adjust to life without their beloved sorrel friend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Boy's Vet Appointment

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that My Boy had been off at the trot the past few weeks. I had a suspicion of what was going on as I could not detect an apparent injury, heat, or swelling. But I am not a vet and I wanted her to check him out and make recommendations for treatment.

After a lameness flex test, she rated My Boy a grade 3/5 on his left hind. A year and a half-ago, I had a chiropractor check him out, which you can read about here. At that time, he was a grade 1/5 on that hind, with stiffness in both hind hocks and in the left fetlock. I opted not to do x-rays at this time. My vet said that typically the x-rays would just confirm what we'd be treating anyway. If the treatments we try are not successful, then I will do x-rays.

The diagnosis is "presumed arthritis," the presumed meaning the best diagnosis based on past exam and current examination. I am going to admit something to you. I am an awful horse mother. I took my horse off his joint supplement this winter, as I was questioning whether it was really effective. It is so confusing, so many different brand names, different price points, different combination of ingredients and amounts....and none of it is regulated. How do you really know what you are putting into your horse? I suppose whether or not you notice an improvement or change in your horse's lameness or movement is one of the best ways to rate a supplement's effectiveness.

Now I am thinking that it had been helping him, since he's noticeably worse off of it. There are other factors too- winter weather affecting the joints, My Boy's poor hock build (very upright), former injuries on the left leg from when he was a yearling, lack of consistent exercise this winter, etc. All of these factors have combined to make a pretty sore horse. So what to do now?

The vet gave me several options. 1) Steroid joint injections. 2) Steroid joint injections plus something else called Hyisc. (I can't remember what this is?) 3) IRAP (click here to read more. It has something to do with removing a blood sample, treating it with a protein, then re-injecting it into the joint, working with the horse's own system. It sounds great, but costs $735 for 1st visit plus $250 for each additional visit. Yikes.) 4) Adequan injections. 5)Surpass (non-systemic) or bute to manage pain.

My Boy enjoying a few minutes of grazing after the very traumatic lameness exam. If you know my horse, you know that being in the presence of anyone with a "DVM" after their name is very, very scary, indeed!

The vet didn't think my horse would be a good candidate for Adequan injections because they need to be done frequently- and he is such a nightmare about shots. And by nightmare I mean, nearly impossible without restraining, and if he even thinks you are restraining him for a needle, he won't let you restrain him. She said that recent studies have shown that a vial of Adequan every 4 days for a total of seven treatments, repeated every 6 months, has been most effective. That would be a nightmare month of needles for me and my horse.

For now, my horse is going back on joint supplement. I am going to try pure MSM. I want to see if that helps. I will also put him on a glucosamine/chondroitin, like he was previously. This spring, I am probably going to have him get steroid injections. The vet said this would probably help him through the spring/summer riding season. She also said that when used properly, I could bute him before long rides. I also have Surpass, a topical pain relief cream that you apply directly to the hock, that she said has good success. I have never tried it because I get nervous applying things to my horse's skin.

Arthritis is a pain. Literally. It is degenerative. At around age 15, horses stop producing synovial fluid, the lubricant inside their joints. When the fluid begins to lose its viscosity, joint friction and inflammation can occur (I just got this from the recent issue of Horse & Rider magazine, in an article on reining horses.)

However, arthritis is also manageable, and I will have to find a course of treatment that works for My Boy. He is a pleasure horse, we mostly trail ride, and I feel that I can manage his pain and help him enjoy out his years until retirement. I think he has many good years left in him, but I don't want him to be sore and hurting. That can cause a whole host of other problems, from compensating on other joints resulting in more soreness, irritability and behavior problems, etc.

On a bit of a positive note, we've been getting some beautiful February sunshine! It's been so warm in the sun....all the horses have been relaxing and soaking it up. Paint Girl's mares have their sunny spot by the cedar stumps, and even the goats wandered out of their barn to chew their cuds.

I tried to get My Boy to prick his ears toward me (I was back at the Mustang filly's pasture and zoomed in to get this shot) but he would have nothing to do with posing for me. Obviously, sun-drunk.

Do you have a horse with arthritis? What has worked for your horse? Any insight or recommendations you've gained, positive or negative, from your experience? As I am still weighing all of my different options, I would appreciate any advice you may have!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Big Itch

The farm next to the stable my mom boards her gelding at has cows and calves in the field. They are shy, and have ran away from me and my camera in the past.

This time, I slowly sneaked up to the fence. I'm sure I looked like a cougar stalking it's prey, it was probably not the best approach. But the young calves didn't bolt and stood transfixed, watching me with focused, cautious interest.

Stare at these faces long enough and these youngsters morph from cute calves into cranky old men, reminiscent of puppets from the Muppet Show.

As I snapped photos, I noticed a common theme on the agenda that day.




Moo-ve in to the right.

Moo-ve in to the left.

Early morning yoga.

Coming soon to a pasture near you!

Oh, and since it was Valentine's Day, there was a little lovin' going on, too!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saddleseat Lesson Video

Before I left town for the weekend, I had another lesson.
This time I rode this horse.

Zoe is an 11 year old Saddlebred mare. She is a lot more horse than the one I rode in my last two lessons. Saddlebreds even look different in stalls. They are so upright- their heads and necks are up, and they move quick and watch you with expectant, bright eyes. They just look a little more intimidating and exiting than your average stock horse.

I heard that Zoe could be a pill on the ground. While waiting for my instructor to finish another lesson, I scratched her neck and softly stroked her face through her stall, pleading please don't buck me off when I ride you, please don't buck me off when I ride you. She was very sweet, shifting sideways to the stall bars so that I could reach her, her eye starting to close sleepily. Okay, she seemed to like me.

I wasn't actually nervous to ride her. But oh goodness, I felt a little out of my element! This isn't a push-button horse. She doesn't just trot while you sit up there and look pretty. Which is okay-dokay with me. I want to learn to ride her. And this mare makes you learn how to ride. How to get her head where it needs to be. How to get her set back under herself and use her body correctly.

I'm still working on my leg position. Now I've added an additional set of reins, as Zoe is ridden in a full-bridle (curb and snaffle.) And I'm on a horse I've never ridden, with a completely different form of movement than the Arabian I rode the last two times.

I was fairly happy with the lesson. We had some moments, me using my hands and the reins wrong, confusing her or upsetting her mouth. I had her trotting and cantering a little too fast at times. My downshift transitions from trot to walk or canter to trot were pretty ugly. And I kept losing a stirrup now and then (I am getting better about getting them back while in motion though, thank goodness!)

When you don't ride Zoe right, she stops and parks out, refusing to work for you. She did this once during the lesson, but I was able to get her going again. I felt good being able to get her working again, it shows I had some confidence and she sensed it.

I am at that point though- where I'm like wow, this is hard work. I mean, I never expected it to be easy, and I don't want to ride something push button- I have my own horse for that. My goal was to broaden my skills and learn something new. It will be frustrating at times. I joked with my instructor- can you just duct tape my legs where they are supposed to be? I don't understand them, they won't stay where I tell them! And who invented these tiny narrow wobbly stirrup leathers, anyway? I think I will probably hit a major moment of frustration at some point. But don't they say that is usually the case before a major breakthrough?

I asked my instructor to take some video of me riding. At the end of the ride, I asked her if she'd gotten any and she said oh, no, I forgot! So I went a few more rounds but Zoe was done. When she is near the end of a lesson, she tries to drop her head down (you'll see her do it in the video) in an attempt to get away from the bit and me in general. Regardless, hopefully this video gives you a taste of where I'm at. You can see when she tosses her head a bit (nose up) she is trying to get away from the bit, which means I am being too hard on her mouth.

It's all in the feel and I know that next weekend, I will ride her a little bit better. It was helpful for me to see a video of what I looked like up there on her back, and that even though my legs are too far forward and I'm using my back too much when posting, I don't look quite like the train wreck I
felt like! I hope to have Paint Girl take some more video when she returns from her trip.

Saddleseat Lesson from Pony Girl on Vimeo.

All in all, I think Zoe was pretty forgiving of me and was really trying for me. I really enjoyed riding her and hope that in the next few lessons, I can start to figure out this style of riding. I am really enjoying it! It's hard to believe that I have cantered two new horses in the last three weeks, and been fairly comfortable doing it. I do believe I am getting over my cantering issue!

I am out of town visiting family. For Valentine's day I got to ride my mom and aunt's horses, then watching some of the Daytona 500 and the Olympics, going on a walk with my cousins, and eat homemade lasagna and apple pie at my Nana's. I'm hoping to use the Nikon a lot this trip, I feel like it's been a few weeks since I've really taken any pictures! I hope you all had wonderful Valentine's and if you have President's Day off, enjoy the extended weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Stallion Issue

I recently subscribed to
The Morgan Horse magazine.

It's been several years since I've subscribed to a horse "breed" magazine. When I first got My Boy, I got the Appaloosa Journal for a year.

I learned to ride on a Morgan mare and her owner had issues of The Morgan Horse magazine, which I borrowed and read. I poured over each issue from cover to cover and back again. This was in the early 1980's, but I think she had issues from the late 70's as well.

The "stallion issue" was always my favorite. It was as thick as a phone book, nearly 200-300 pages- filled with colorful advertisements and pictures of beautiful Morgans. I can remember particular farm and stallion ads, and the way each issue smelled. Yes they had a smell, strange but true. I would love to get my hands on some of those old issues.

I was excited that my first issue of TMH, the January stallion issue, would be distributed on February 5th. When it arrived in my mailbox on Wednesday, I was rather surprised.

The issue was not thick. In fact, I have a random (non-stallion) issue from 1988 that was still 232 pages, double that of this issue.

This 2010 issue was 112 pages. There are a fair amount of stallion ads, but not nearly as much as I expected.

I wonder what is going on here? Is it the economy, preventing breeders from the high costs of advertising? Is this a reflection of a cut-back breeding program? Or is the Morgan breed struggling in general with registrations and membership?

I've noticed other magazine markets changing, too. The home decor magazines "Country Home", "Cottage Living", and "Metropolitan Home" went under last year. So did "National Geographic's Adventure", "Hallmark Magazine", "Gourmet", and "Golf For Woman." And those are just a few of the many that ceased existence.

Even the all-breed/discipline publications such as "Equus" and "Horse Illustrated" seem to be less bulky. Maybe they are cutting costs by using thinner, less expensive paper. Or maybe they have less advertisers. Or possibly, they are featuring less editorial content, to try to keep issue size to a minimum as a cost-effective measure.

Or maybe, digital media is keeping us more focused. Instead paying for subscriptions or buying magazines from newsstands, we are reading them online. Perhaps all the wonderful blogs out there are even taking the place of magazines. Who wants to wait for a magazine once a month when you can get new stories, photos, information, and updates every day?

Me? I know I still love the excitement of getting a magazine in the mail. I'm a tactile person. I like a real publication in my hands. It seems more real and permanent. Besides, it has a smell.

I know. I'm weird.

Do you think the age of magazines are about to become nothing but vintage collections in museums and antique stores? Do you subscribe to any horse breed-specific magazines? If not, which one would you like to?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Triple Play Saturday!

Grab a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of wine.... this is going to be a lengthy post! It will be long because that is how my Saturday was. In fact, I think I overdid it! It was a back-to-back event packed day. As a result, I woke up Sunday morning with a bad headache that left me on the couch all day. I suppose our bodies let us know we need to rest up when we've pushed them to their limits.

First off Saturday morning, I had my second lesson. No pictures again, I'm sorry. I rode the Steady Eddie. This time, he showed some spunk for a 25 year old! I'm still working on leg positioning. I lose a stirrup from time to time. My instructor had me do an exercise where she put me on the longe line, had me drop the reins, and post with my hands on my hips.

I still need to build leg strength and that will just take time in the saddle. I also need to relax at the lope. The good thing is I know when everything feels right and is the way it is supposed to be, I just can't hold it there very long. My instructor said that when my legs go haywire, I correct them on my own. She said I am doing really well.

Next week, she's probably putting me on Zoe. Zoe is a Saddlebred mare. My first Saddlebred! I'm shakin' in my paddock boots!

I left my lesson and headed up to meet a friend and her daughter at a different stable. My friend is looking for a horse for her high school aged daughter. Her daughter has been riding and taking lessons for 10 years, showing in 4-H, pony club, and wants a hunter to finish out her 4-H years with and then take to college.

They had looked at a mare last weekend but she was acting "sketchy." She hadn't been turned out or worked much and the owner was struggling with her behavior starting from the grooming session to the ride. In fact, my friend's daughter didn't even want to ride her. But they wanted to go back and try her again. I learned all this via Facebook and offered to tag along and give my opinion.

I looked up the mare's ad. For once, a for sale ad that was nice. Great pictures and video of the horse. She was priced well and looked really nice. She is a young off-the-track Thoroughbred. She's been in training and has done some jumping.

When we got to the stable, my friend's daughter brought the mare out of her stall and took her to the grooming area. When walking behind the mare, I noticed she seemed to be stepping different on her left hind. In fact, it even made a different sound (she's barefoot) on the concrete. I second guess myself though, and always think I am imagining these things. The mare was really fussy in the cross ties. She was very sensitive about her flank and her skin being groomed in general, and often pinned her ears and turned her head in an attempt to nip. I am not used to seeing a horse act like this. Then again, I think I'm biased because My Boy stands like a marble statue for grooming! The comment was that this grooming and tacking up session was much better than last weekend's!

My friend's daughter longed the mare a bit. I noticed the mare still seemed to be off a bit on that left hind. I mentioned it to my friend and she said something to the owner, who said it was because she was going in such small circles.

The owner could not ride because she'd injured her foot. I think my friend's daughter was a bit nervous to ride, but she did. She walked and trotted. The major issue was the mare's head. She constantly chomped her bit, lifted and tilted her head to the side. She seemed really uncomfortable. I had noticed this a little in the sale video, although it was not this bad.

The owner said she needed her teeth done. It seemed like that could be part of the issue, but it also seemed the mare just hadn't learned to give to the bit fully, which could be worked on.

After my friend's daughter rode, I bravely offered to ride her as well, so she could watch someone else ride her. I donned the daughter's helmet and climbed aboard. Goodness, where am I finding this bravery? I think it's my lessons!

That head tossing and bit chomping was not pleasant. I was able to push her into a trot and she'd start up with the raised sideways head. At her owner's suggestion, I'd put pressure on her reins until she'd drop it, and at some point she would. I'd immediately give her release. My friend and daughter said that when she dropped her head, she looked amazing. Unfortunately, the head did not stay down very long. Please ignore my form in this camera phone photo, I have no idea why my arm position is so awful.

I walked and trotted her, and tried some side passing along the arena wall. Other than the head issue, I felt like she was a nice mover and fairly level-headed. There was a lot of activity around the barn and arena and it didn't seem to phase her. She was a very likeable, smart horse.

This mare is so beautiful, it's hard to see past it. Her eye is big and kind, her face distinctly Thoroughbred. She's petite and elegant at 15.3 hh. I think she needs to mature a bit, and is definitely green, but has potential. I think my friend's daughter could go far with her once the mare was finished in her training.

The owner said that they can come back and ride the mare anytime, and take lessons on her, to determine it is a good fit. I suggested that they also go see as many other horses as they can. This will help them eliminate their must-haves and can't-stands. They aren't in a huge rush to find a horse, they have until this spring to claim what horse the daughter is taking to the fair in 4-H.

Next on my list, I needed to see my own horse! I decided riding was out of the question since I'd already ridden two horses and pushed my poor leg muscles to the limit!

It was an unseasonable warm afternoon. And it was sunny! Everyone on the farm was dozing and lazy in their fuzzy winter coats, including My Boy. That apple molasses treat ball I got him for his birthday? Um, yea. He is now wearing it on his face.

And it won't come off. Note to self- treat balls in the winter are not a good idea. Unless I shave down his muzzle hair first. Oh well, it will wear off or I'll have to wash it or shave it.

On the longe line, My Boy seemed a little off when trotting to the right. I found nothing visibly wrong. He is often "off" in the hind, due to the beginning stages of arthritis in his hocks (I had a chiropractor evaluate him a couple of years ago when I noticed this. She called him a grade 1/5 lameness.) In the past, it is typically his left that was worse, which you see him resting in the photo here.

The chiropractor that evaluated him a said that he compensates on the right for that left, which means the right will also have problems at some point. Or, it's possible he tweaked himself in the pasture somehow. I'll keep an eye on it and have the vet or chiropractor out if he continues to favor it or it gets worse. He hasn't been longed out in two weeks. I didn't give him any bute as I didn't want him to feel better and go on a bucking spree in the mud and injure himself. Also, if he suddenly got worse, I didn't want him to have anything in his system if I had to have the vet out.

My day wasn't over. After tucking My Boy in with his dinner, I rushed home and got ready to meet a friend for the movie "Dear John." Dang that Nicholas Sparks! You think I'd have learned my lesson from "The Notebook," which took me two days to recover from. This one was good too, I think the relationship between the main character and his father was what particularly got me. Horses do crop up in a few teeny tiny parts of the movie, too. The other main character, Savannah, has a dream to have a program for autistic children to work with horses.

I talked to Paint Girl this evening and she gave me some scoop on the beginning of her Scottsdale Arabian adventure, so I will be posting over there for her tomorrow night.

I hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cakes, Cats, and Cool Cars

My boy isn't the only one that had a birthday on Tuesday. Paint Girl's OH turned 40. I'm letting him break that year in for me.

The OH helps me out a lot. Like drives me to the feed store to get hay for my horse. He loves brownies and chocolate. So I bought him a piece of chocolate cake. Then I thought it'd be fun to decorate it to look like his black and white Paint mare, Fritzy.

That was an adventure.

But it turned out pretty cute.

I got My Boy some birthday snacks, too. Not only did he get hay and supplement, but he got a ham and a hanging apple treat ball.

I kid, I kid. It's not a ham. Although that is what they looked like when wrapped in plastic and stacked in the box. I thought they were giant ham bones for dogs. Then I noticed they were equine mineral blocks. I don't know if MB will like it.

He will like the hanging treat ball. I haven't had one for him since last summer. He does not eat them in two days like Paint Girl's mares do. He works on them slowly. Maybe he is still perfecting his technique.

Morgan the cat likes to visit us when we are with the horses. Sometimes it scares me, how she runs under their bellies or behind their legs.

She is such a tiny cat. The horses don't seem to mind her and she never startles them. I think that one day, she might leap onto one of their backs. Now that might startle them!

After the trip to the feed store, my hay chauffeur's friend stopped by to show us his new horse. A black mare.

Well, not really. You see, the friend and his wife actually have 5 horses, but this was his new toy. This is horsepower of a different kind. It's a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport.

He is also turning 40.

Hee hee.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

Somebody is turning sixteen today!

Somebody who is 15.2 hands high.

Somebody who loves apples.

Somebody who loves living the "life of Riley."

Somebody who loves carrots.

Somebody who is my best friend.

Happy 16th Birthday, My Boy!

You old pill.

p.s. This year, you are going to be in the best shape of your life.

Don't think I'm goin' easy on ya.
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