Friday, July 18, 2014

Blissed Out By Botanicals...

The yummy new Absorbine Botanicals line.
photo by Malin Fredriksen
You know when you find a product that you really love?  You wanna tell everyone how cool it is, spread the word and evangelize a bit.  You know what I mean?  

So I found this new favorite product that has been making the summer heat more bearable - the new Absorbine Botanicals line.  I've tried both the Body Rinse and the Massage Foam, and I LOOOOOVVVVVE them.  I have to be honest and admit that while I was immediately on board with the idea of the Body Rinse, I was not quite as sure if I’d like the Massage Foam.  My first thought was, "Massage Foam?  For horses??"  It just didn't compute.  For people, sure.  For horses?? Couldn't see it.  Well, consider me converted.

Product #1 - Massage Foam 
I love to massage Sug and James, and I also have a certified massage therapist do them once or twice a month.  I've never used any product when massaging, nor have I seen the massage therapist use anything either.  I was confused, so I read the label for a little more direction.  Aaaa-hah!  The light dawned.  While it could be used for sore muscles, it could also be used on legs, much like any other liniment brace.  So I used it on Sug after a couple of hard workouts, and when we went to our away show in Pennsylvania I used it every day before I wrapped James' legs for the night. The best thing about the Massage Foam (other than the heavenly aroma) was the fact that the foam made it easier to get the product where it belonged - on James.  The biggest frustration I have with liquid liniment is that it seems like 80% goes on the floor and only 20% gets on the horse's legs.  Which is pretty expensive when you think about it.

I decided to give it a go while massaging Sug after two consecutive rides; One day I applied the foam while her coat was dry, the next day I used the foam while she was wet after I'd used the Body Rinse on her.  Sug carries a lot of tension in her brachiocephalicus muscle, the muscle which attaches at one end at the base of the skull and at the other end to the humerus.  I found that using the foam while she was wet allowed my fingers or the heel of my hand to slide down the muscle more smoothly, which seemed to result in more blinking, chewing, sighs and yawns (all signs of muscle release) than I normally see.  
She also gets sore at the base of the neck and by the shoulder. There's a kind of groove that runs right in front of the scapula where it joins the neck, and any time I massage in there she is ecstatic. (I think these may be the trapezius and deep pectorals, maybe?  I'm not sure.I found that while using the foam when she was wet my hands felt like they were gliding through that groove better, which again resulted in more yawning, chewing, blinking and sighing from Sug.  Using the foam while she was dry worked well, too.  I just really thought in our experience it seemed to work better when she was wet,
Product #2 - Body Rinse
I adore this product.  Again, it smells divine!  Not that it's important that your horse smell nice, but hey, it doesn't hurt.  It's refreshing and cooling. You mix the rinse with a bucket of water (check the label for the proper ratio) and sponge away! My hand and forearm felt wonderfully cool and tingly (in a good, refreshed kind of way) when I was sponging it on Sug, so I could only imagine it was having the same effect on her.  There's a wonderful additional benefit to the product that Absorbine doesn't mention on the product's label -  the peppermint and rosemary oils also act as an insect repellent.  When I took Sug out to graze while drying she was barely even bothered by the bugs, and normally she's notoriously annoyed by them. 

Feeling cool and refreshed with no bugs = happy Sug.

The Rinse can also be diluted and used as a cooling spray.  A blogger buddy mentioned she did this for her horse,  and loves using it this way.  I was speaking to my friend, who happens to be an associate at my local Dover Saddlery store, and she was raving about the Botanicals line and how it's been flying off the shelves and how people were also loving it as a spray.  I haven't tried making it into a spray yet, but only because I've been so in love with using it as a rinse after a workout.  
So you might be thinking that the whole "botanicals" thing is a way to go all green and sustainable and hippy and to separate horse owners from their money by making them feel all earth-friendly, but you'd be wrong.  There's a lot of science and experiential knowledge behind the choosing of the ingredients in these products.  In my younger days I worked at a wilderness survival school, as well as for a company that made naturally, organically and ethically-based beauty products, so I'm familiar with many of the ingredients and have used them on myself.  Here's a brief summary of some of the key ingredients and what they do:

Arnica ExtractArnica is commonly used to clean, heal, and relieve pain from minor cuts and abrasions.  I've used it on bruises and sore muscles for ages.

Oil:  This stuff is fantastic for the horse's coat (or hair in general).  It is believed to stimulate follicles to promote hair growth, and is also helpful with dry, flaky skin.  Rosemary oil has also been used to relieve muscle pain.

Lavender OilThis essential oil is known to assist with pain relief, improve the skin, and enhance blood circulation.

Peppermint Oil: Peppermint Oil is known for it's ability to provide pain relief, as well as help the respiratory and digestive systems.

So there you have it, my two cents on tow great new products to help keep our horses feeling good. Sorry about blathering on forever, I just assume folks are like me and like to know every little detail before spending money on something. (And, quite honestly, we know I just tend to over-communicate. LOL.)  I hope that if you were considering either of these products that my review helped you.   If you try them, let me know what you think!  I’d love to hear what worked for you and your horse.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Horse Showing in Happy Valley: Part Two

Couldn't help thinking of that movie Children of the Corn...
Hello again.  I thought I'd give an update on the rest of our away show adventures at the Lion Country Horse Show.

On the second day of showing Noah was slated to do a derby class, which he'd never done before.  Our trainer knew we were trying to make the most of our show experience, so after Noah did well on the first day she asked if we wanted to give the derby on the following day a try.  What the heck, we figured.  Pfffffftttt.  Had I known what it cost to enter the class, I would have given it a pass.  This is where our lack of show experience came in -- I had no idea the class fee for a derby was waaaaaayyyyyy more than for a normal hunter division.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

Because this was his first attempt, we had no expectations whatsoever, which translated to absolutely no nerves.  We got to the show early and took James out for a good graze, then a nice long hack around the grounds and some neighboring fields.  When it got close to class time they did a relaxed warm up and then headed off to the in-gate to memorize their courses.  As it was the Fourth of July and Crazy Hat Day, the girls from our barn had decorated each other's and Noah's helmets, so as he headed up to the ring Noah looked like a bedazzled General Patton.  (I was really surprised he let the girls do that because he's kind of a keep-it-under-the-radar kind of dude, but I could tell he felt very happy to be included.)

The new Captain America model riding helmet...
Noah and James went in to the ring and proceeded to lay down the best round I've ever seen them do. (I'm actually lucky I saw it.  I had every intention of taking pictures but then realized I couldn't see a damn thing so ditched the camera and just took memory pictures with my eyes.) Their rhythm was relaxed, their distances spot on, and they nailed all the high options to score some bonus points.  Noah was light and following with his hands (something he's been working on) and this translated into a very happy, relaxed James.  Noah left the ring absolutely beaming and patting James profusely. His smile got even bigger when their score was announced as an 82, putting them in second place.

We had a moment or two of anxiety over the handy round, as it required them to do a trot fence, which they'd not practiced that much at home.  Their handy round was not quite as smooth as the previous round (dang trot jump!) but they still scored well enough to remain in second.  Holy crap!!  The kid had just completed his first derby (admittedly a baby one - not the height of the national or international derbies) and had gotten a second place!  He actually got to be in a victory lap, which was way cool.  Needless to say there was much rejoicing, and James was given many treats and pats, another long graze and an extra long massage from Mom.  What made the day extra special is that our barn-mate Carly and her wonder-mare Kalifornia Dreamin' won the National Derby later that afternoon - it was an abundance of awesomeness!

So proud of my boys!!
Carly, her mom Kathy, and Kalifornia Dreamin'
The rest of our week was wonderful.  Noah went to the lake with the rest of the kids, we spent a night making s'mores around the hotel's fire pit.  We did dinner with our barn family almost every night.  Noah did a couple classes Saturday and Sunday, and he did well.  He didn't have another round like he did in the derby, but there was a good mix of good moments and teaching moments.  Most importantly, he was spending a ton of bonding time with his horse, and learning all kinds of things about grooming and horse management.

Mom! Please! Put the camera away.
S'mores! (The dog in the pic is actually named S'mores!)
Inspecting the course

I was loving life too.  You know what it's like when you spend most of your day working and running around with the kids and then running to spend what precious free time you can steal with your horse.   It was so wonderful to have my whole entire day be about spending time with our horse, and with people who felt the same way as we do about horses.  It's kinda like wandering around lost and then finally finding your tribe.  OK, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but you know what I mean.

So there you have it.  Noah's first big away show.  We had a blast, a lot of laughs, and a ton of mother/son bonding time.  Who knows, it may be another 3 years before we can do something like this again.  Heck, we may never get to do another away show again, so I'm glad that both the kids and I have had the experience once. I'm most proud of the fact that we spent each moment of the experience taking it in and enjoying every moment of it, and thanking James profusely for his part in making it happen.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Horse Showing in Happy Valley

This is a very exciting week for Noah and I.  We are out at Kocher Farm in Pennsylvania Furnace,  Pennsylvania, at the Lion Country Horse Show. The show is held just a stone's throw from State College, the home of Penn State University. The bucolic valley the college is situated in has been called Happy Valley since a study in the late 1980's listed the area as one of the least stressful places in the US to live.

This could be why:
Blue skies, farms and cornfields. Bye-bye stress.
A few years ago Sophie and I went to HITS Saugerties together, which the very first away show for us both.  Now it's Noah's turn. (I was supposed to show too, but Sug decided she'd rather have her coffin joints injected.) So this week all the focus is on Noah and James. 

We've been having a blast together.  We had loads of good conversations and laughs on the 4 hour drive out.  I love hanging with the Boy - our senses of humor are very similar and we are both okay either spending time together or giving each other space when necessary.

One of the highlights of the drive out?  Electric Avenue!!  Now I know where it is!  Pennsylvania!

We're gonna rock down to....
We've been having a blast spending the last two days with James and the gang from the barn. James is not used to so much stall time, so we've taken him out for hacks around the show grounds and fields and for lots of grazing time.  Some of the others have done lots of these away shows and are used to them; Noah and I are new to the whole thing and we're like kids in a candy store.  Time to pick out stalls?  Great!! Time to hay?  We're in!  Night check? Yay!  Torrential downpour and we have to lower the tent flaps in sideways rain? Good times!

James rocking the braided look

Does Charles Owen offer this model?

The first day we got organized and Noah had a lesson, then we hung out and watched some of the others show. Today (Day 2) was Noah's first actual show day. It was sunny and gorgeous when Noah took James out for his morning hack, but as we got closer to his class, things got ominous.  Just as we were ready to go to the ring all hell broke loose.  The show organizers got on the loudspeaker and order everyone back to the barns and told us to lower the tent flaps.  Thunder and lightning shook the tents, making James uneasy, so we stayed with him.  Luckily the storm lasted only about 35 minutes, but they were pretty intense minutes.  When the storm front petered out a bit, we hurried to the ring so the class could be run before the skies opened up again.


Batten down the hatches

Noah and James did well.  Noah had a GPS issue in the first class, which was a shame as they were doing so well.  It began to rain in the second round, so that was not quite as smooth but they wound up pinning third.  By the time they did the hack it was raining a bit stronger and James was not pleased.  He held himself together, but his handsome face showed he was not happy about the situation.  Despite that they got fifth.  Noah was not thrilled with his riding, but he was happy to have spent so much of the day with his horse.

And now I'm ready to crash face-first into my bed.  This horse-showing stuff ain't easy.  ;)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Video Cuteness Alert: Sugar Says Hello

I travel for business a lot, and while of course I miss my family (I do, I swear it!) I reeeaallllly miss Sugar.  You know how that is. Not only are our horses our dear friends, but let's face it, they're also our sanity.

I've been away on business trips a lot this year, and my husband has taken to texting me pics of Sug with little messages saying "hello" or that she misses me.  This week he outdid himself.  Check it out:

OK, I know darn well she's not nickering to say hello to me. She's happy to see "Daddy" because he gives her treats and takes her grazing and never makes her work. I don't care, though, because when I'm away I can watch this video and see those beautiful eyes and hear that throaty rumble of a nicker and all will be right in my world.

Thanks for reading!  Hope all is well in your world with your family - both two-legged and four-legged.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

James and the Evil SuckMonster

So the umbrella isn't an issue, but the vacuum is. Go figure.
My kids' OTTB James is the equine version of the Peanuts character "Pig-Pen."  He lives for a good roll that will grind and cake mud into every nook and cranny he possesses.  James loooooooves looking like a four-legged Swamp Thing; although his riders are less enthusiastic about his hygienic practices.

It's rained for the past couple of days, which means James has been in high heaven, no doubt finding every patch of dirt in his field.  My son and I knew what we were going to find when we got to the barn, and James didn't disappoint.  He was covered stem to stern, his forelock sticking up like a Mohawk and the only things not covered in dried mud were the eyes that were gazing gleefully out at us.  James looked like a kid who'd gotten into the cookie jar and ate every last one, clearly very pleased with himself.

Sadly for James, his pleasure was not to last long.  Noah curried, curried some more, and yet even more.  Currying and a couple passes with the stiff brush didn't do much against the muck - if you tapped his croup a mushroom cloud of dust came up - so it was decided it was time to break out the vacuum.  Have I ever mentioned that James does not like the vacuum?  Nope, not even a little bit.  To James, the vacuum is the source of all evil in this world.

Noah dragged the vacuum over to James, who had pulled his head back and was eyeing Noah with obvious misgivings.  "You brought this on yourself," Noah told his horse.  He then walked up to James and held the vacuum cleaner head under his nose, saying "You know what this is.  You know how this works. I turn it on and it makes a  WHHHOOOOOOOSSSSSSHHHH noise and I put it on and it sucks all the dirt out."  James sniffed the end of the vacuum, his eyes going from machine to boy and back again.  Noah then rubbed the head along James' neck and shoulders, talking to him the whole time.

He cleans up quite nicely!

Sugar and I watched this whole exchange with great interest and many giggles from our vantage point across the aisle.  Sug loves the vacuum, and clearly had no idea why James was apprehensive.  As we watched, Noah turned the vacuum on and poor James' eyes damn near goggled out of his head!  He startled, braced his legs out like he was Bambi on the ice, snorted, and whipped his head over to look at me as if to say, "I want to speak with Management! I'd like to file a formal protest!"  He then swiveled his head to give Noah the hairy eyeball and snorted emphatically.

Noah kept talking to James, praising his bravery (???) and making glacially slow, sweeping movements with the vacuum.  This eventually relaxed James, and he reduced his Terror Alert Status from High to Guarded, his ears tracking back and forth in case anybody decided to try any more funny business.

When Noah finished, James let out a HUUUUUUGE sigh and hung his head on the cross-ties, his demeanor indicating he felt highly put-upon by the indignities of being subjected to such a traumatic experience. Noah went over and grabbed a carrot for James, who brightened and scarfed it down,  immediately forgetting his encounter with the Evil SuckMonster.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The 2014 George H. Morris Gladstone Program Final Day Post

In case ya'll are interested, I finally got my act together and put together a post for Horse Junkies United on the final day of the George H. Morris Gladstone program.

There's lots of video, so you don't just get my interpretation, you get pearls of wisdom from the Master himself.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Recaps of the 2014 George H. Morris Gladstone Program

The past week was pretty darn awesome, as I spent the mornings auditing the George H. Morris Gladstone Program at the USEF Headquarters in Gladstone, NJ.  I mean, that place is pretty much the church of the equestrian, with tangible memories of the the United State's equestrian greats echoing throughout.

The program is an intense 6 days of training for up-and-coming stars in show jumping.  The applicants are hand-chosen by Morris, and they convene upon Gladstone to learn from a team of experts in physiotherapy, stable management, veterinary care and aspects of running an equine business.

Here are my recaps from Days 1-5:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

The Memorial Day weekend happened so family time interfered with writing time, so I'll put a link to that up as soon as it's written and posted.