Tuesday, June 14, 2022

All the Things : Update part 2


By far the thing that's made me most emotional about her
recovery was seeing her co-groom with her neighbors

With just under a month until starting Niall under saddle can happen I'm getting a bunch of stuff checked off the list. I also haven't posted yet about what's in her feed bucket so I thought I'd update both of those things here.

Maintenance wise Niall got her teeth done this spring (April I think) and spring shots. Her teeth were, not surprisingly, quite bad so I'm glad we got that out of the way. I also had the vet pull her wolf teeth to make sure she was in good shape for working with the bit. 

Story on the way about why she's wearing the
other cuff on her left front...

She's been wearing the Bemer blanket and cuff pretty much every day. I can tell she's less stiff when she's worn it. I know there is scientific research that shows that it can be helpful with healing tendons and ligaments so since I'm able to have access to it as an add on to my board I feel like it makes sense to take advantage of that.

She's also, of course, been getting her feet trimmed on a regular basis and her angles are slowly but surely improving. Ranging mustangs sometimes have better feet but Niall was in holding for almost two years so she's got a long toe, low heal, and thrushy feet with weak caudal structure. Of course stall rest isn't helping that much but at least she's not had to deal with spring mud. I'm looking forward to continuing to increase her movement to build up those structures. Overall she does have very nice feet, they just need regular care and continued good diet. Movement will be the biggest missing piece of the puzzle.


This month we had the farrier again on the 9th. Then on the 17th she's getting a massage. With the Bemer being a regular thing I likely won't get her massages as much as I did for Katai, however, before she goes undersaddle for the first time I'd like to have the bodywork person's hands on her to see where she might be tight. I can tell she's a bit restricted through her left shoulder and I suspect it's because of stall rest and/or compensating for her injured right hind so we'll see what the bodyworker thinks. Then, finally, she has a Chiro appointment on the 22nd with a new-to-me chiropractor. Same as the massage, I don't know that she's out anywhere but would like to make sure she's good to go before I swing my leg over for the first time. 

This schedule should give her time to work through any stiffness following the appointments and potentially if anything is super off I can have her seen 1-2 more times before I proceed with any under saddle work.

Positive report photo from the barn owner :)

For diet I've been slowly adjusting my plan and I think I'm pretty happy with her current diet. I started by trying to put her on what Katai had been on which was;

- Mad Barn Amino Trace+ pellets (Vitamin and mineral balancer)

- Horseshine Omega

- U-Gard pellets - ulcer

-Kentucky Performance Products Vitamin E Powder

At first Niall would only eat pellets so I switched things up a bit and then re-subscribed to FeedXL and started listening to the Feed Room Chemist podcast.

After some iteration Niall is currently getting the following;

- Triple Crown Balancer Gold

- Stride Animal Health Lifeline+

- Stride Animal Health Fish Oil Factor

-Smartpak Rehab


I also put her through the Stride Animal Health hind gut program which wrapped up in May. She'll be switching to a less intensive joint supplement, that also doesn't test, around the 12 month mark but she's been doing super well on the SP rehab so I don't want to change that up yet. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Adjusting to the New Normal : Update part 1

The best bean

As of today we are on day 202 of stallrest/rehab. So tough to believe that we're well over half a year into this thing at this point. Honestly, the last few weeks have been the toughest so far mentally, probably for both of us. Niall is understandably very over stall rest and I'm super extra bored at this point of going out and walking around in the same circle. Add to that the chaos of trying to get her outside safely and it's felt like a rough rollercoaster ride recently. 

Super happy with her condition especially at this
point in her stall rest

I keep reminding myself that we're getting close to the end of this particular season of our lives and soon the fun stuff will start. I'll also start to have more flexibility for personal life things. Poor James is getting the short end of the stick at this point and I'm really tired of having to turn down pretty much every social invitation I get. I know he's tired of going to see friends by himself. I'm super exhausted and my sleep schedule is all over the place since I routinely don't get home from the barn until close to midnight. Truly though, that's it for venting because overall it's been worth it and things are going pretty well.

The last time I did a real update on here was at Niall's ultrasound appointment. I've had one more interaction with the vet since then where we talked over the phone about rehab plans. We ended up changing things up a bit from what we were thinking at the ultrasound appointment because both of us were concerned about her ability to longe appropriately with so little experience and training. Because of that though we ended up with her being able to be turned out at 6 months without being in full work because there really wasn't another option. 

Little (sound) trotsies

I've ended up somewhere in the middle and we're up to 10 minutes of trot as of this week with me jogging her in hand. We started with straight lines and I built up to 5 minutes from about 1 minute. Then I added in curved lines slowly but stayed at 5 minutes. This week we'll be doing 10 minutes including curved lines. During all of this she has stayed sound so that's been awesome. 

Such a good girl <3

I've also continued to practice with the long lines and we're up to the point where I can get several steps of calm and decently steerable trot. I'm still using the rope halter but she's been wearing the bit over the halter quite a bit and I've started to work with her on steering with the bit. That's going to take some time for her because she's still really messing with it. I switched up which bit I'm using on Sunday so we'll see if that helps at all.

We got her outside for a couple of hours for the first time on Saturday in a (basically) 12x24' space. She did well but there were definitely some moments of bouncing. She was still sound after though so fingers crossed she's at a point in her rehab where the ligament can take some of that. 

The calm before the storm
(really though she was good, just happy and bouncy)

The best news from that vet call was that I can start her under saddle at 8 months. We have all the pieces in place so I'm pretty much ready to swing my leg over at this point. I'll continue to take it slow and not move forward until she's completely ready but I'm super excited that a slow start under saddle can happen in just over a month. With slow progress and lots of walking I'm hoping we can get her through the 12 months it can take for ligament healing safe and sound and be ready to take on the world after that :)

I can't wait to give this girl a real job

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Niall's Ultrasound Appointment

Such a cutie and thank goodness for the Bemer!

Ever since the CT I've had scheduling an Ultrasound on my to-do list but we needed the weather to warm up and since even if we were able to confirm Collateral Ligament damage we were already stall resting and following the right treatment plan for that I wasn't in a hurry. I did want answers though so as soon as the weather was more consistently in the 20s and 30s I got it scheduled.

Incidentally the appointment ended up exactly four months out from when she was originally injured. Since the initial recommendation was 4-6 months I was curious what the recommendation would be for turnout/stall rest as well as curious about potential ligament damage. Based on the fact that that hock joint is still fairly swollen I expected we would find some ligament damage but had my fingers crossed that I would get some good news.

When the vet got there he asked if we were doing more x-rays or just an ultrasound. I said that I would do whatever he recommended and our initial thoughts were that it likely wasn't needed. Then the scary/exciting part we decided to try trotting her to see how she was looking. We went into the arena and I jogged her away from the vet. She only took a few trot steps because I think she was so surprised that I wanted her to go faster than a walk but when I turned around to look at the vet and he said "well she's sound" I was so so relieved and happy. 

At that point he mentioned that he would actually like to get x-rays to make sure that the bone had healed/was healing appropriately to rule out a cyst. I didn't ask specifically but I'm guessing the decision was mainly made based on the amount of swelling still present. 

Making really good progress on her feet! She needs more caudal foot and is landing mid foot instead of toe first so improved but not where she needs to be. I'm happy with the improvement for 4.5ish months though!
(ignore the naughty goats in the background)

We started with x-rays and again, Niall was perfect. She's a practiced patient at this point and stood nice and still. The good news is that we still couldn't see any issues with the Talus on the x-rays and the vet didn't have any concerns about a cyst. The bad news and the biggest gut punch of the appointment was that she has the start of arthritis and not just in the lower joints but in the upper. Again, we knew this was a possibility and with the inflammation still present I would have been shocked if we didn't have some arthritis at some point but it still really sucked to see it on the x-rays.

Then we moved on to the ultrasound. I knew we'd need to clip her again but wasn't sure if they'd need to sedate her or not. I had previously clipped her more to make sure she wasn't going to freak out and to get her used to it with me than to actually get the hair clipped since I don't have any blades close enough for an ultrasound. It had been a few months since I clipped her and this time the vet pulled out the clippers so I crossed my fingers and she was actually super good. She also stood still enough for the ultrasound that we didn't need to sedate. I'm honestly not sure how I got so lucky with her amazing brain.

The only part she really didn't like was when he cleaned her hock and then put the jelly on but I think that was partially because it was just really cold. She even stood still while grain buckets were being carried past since it was during evening barn chore time. She deserves all the cookies, seriously.

So many pictures like this <3

The vet started by ultra sounding the non-injured side of her hock joint just to make sure. It also gave me a chance to see what a ligament looked like on an ultrasound that was in good shape. Then he moved to the inside of the joint where the trauma occurred and he described her ligament as "gnarly". To me it looked like hamburger. We were also able to see 2-3 small bone chips on the ultrasound. At this point he doesn't feel that arthroscopic surgery is needed but we'll continue to assess as she heals. 

Based on everything we saw the vet wants her on the full 6 months of stall rest with as much hand walking as we can do. He also wants her back in "full work" before she gets turned out at all. We talked a bit about what that might look like since she isn't started under saddle yet and likely it will be careful lunging on as large of circle as I can manage. I'm also putting the pieces together for long lining as I'm hoping that might be a slightly more controlled way to introduce more movement especially since she was still figuring out lunging when this happened.

The prognosis from the vet is that she will still likely be able to do what I want to do with her which is trail riding and lower level dressage. Anything beyond that is a question mark as is how long she will be sound.

Bad angle but Katai's saddle fits her WAY better than I expected.
Well enough in fact that I'll be comfortable starting her in this which is awesome.
After she's riding she'll get her own saddle fit appointment and we'll go from there.

As mentioned, the biggest gut punch was the arthritis and the ugliness of the collateral ligament was yucky too. I actually ended up walking away from the appointment feeling pretty good. It was good to have answers on why there was still inflammation. It was also such a big relief that she trotted sound even if for only a few steps. As the vet said, she has three things going for her, her temperament, her size, and her age. It also felt so good to be talking about getting her in full work and for him to still feel that she can do what I want to do with her. 

After the appointment I've definitely been spinning more on the arthritis diagnosis. I love this horse so much and she's so perfect that it really really hurts that she's got a diagnosis of something that is progressive like that and could so radically limit her soundness and/or life span. 

She's grown just over an inch since I got her and is securely 14 hands at this point !

For now we're just walking as much as possible, having fun together (as much as you can while walking in a circle for hours), and continuing training as appropriate so that we're that much closer to being able to get her started under saddle.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Niall's Injury Update

I’ve struggled with how to start this update so I think I’ll just start from where I left off in my previous post. Buckle up because this is long. 

 Niall arrived on October 23rd late in the evening. She settled in immediately that night drinking, eating, and calmly looking around. Just to make sure everything was smooth I was out at the barn the following morning for her first turnout in a solo paddock and again she was foot perfect. We allowed her a couple of weeks to settle in, figure out the routine, and meet the small herd that she would be integrated into over the fence before doing any introductions. 

Then on, or around, 1/8 we turned her out with one member of the new herd to allow her to slowly acclimate vs. just throwing her into the deep end. On that first day there were no fireworks, both mares were quiet, didn’t kick, didn’t squeal and seemed entirely disinterested in each other. The second day was the same and then the third day (Wednesday) the barn owner texted me that she had caught both mares butt to butt kicking at each other and when she broke them up Niall walked off slightly ouchy. She kept an eye on things that day but nothing seemed overly concerning so when I got a concerned text from her that evening with a video of Niall trotting out lame my heart sank. 

Luckily I already had a vet appointment scheduled for that Friday (they were going to look at her teeth so she'd be ready for a bit) and the BO told me I should ask the vet to bring x-ray equipment. Ugh. When I was able to make it out the following day Niall was uncomfortable at the walk and her hock was swollen but she was weight bearing. The BO had kept her in her stall that day and we left her in the stall until the vet got there on Friday morning. He hadn’t initially seemed overly concerned but as I walked her out of her stall to go trot her up for him he said there was no need, she was clearly off so he said we should go straight to x-rays. My heart sank again. 

We did a full series of X-rays on that hock and from that we didn’t see anything. Me and the BO were feeling hopeful that it was something more minor but as the vet was packing up to leave he told us both that he was seriously concerned. He was thinking there could be a fracture and that because the injury had just occurred, they weren’t seeing anything on the x-ray. He gave me a treatment plan of stall rest with 10 minutes per day of hand walking and 1 gram of bute per day. If things didn’t substantially improve he wanted to do another series of x-rays about 2 weeks later. 

I hand walked, buted, and monitored her with a significant amount of help from my amazing BO who has much more experience with this type of thing than I do. I’ve never even had a horse on stall rest because Katai was freakishly good at avoiding any sort of injury for the 9 years I owned her so this was all new to me. Unfortunately by the end of the first week it was clear that we were going to need to get additional imaging. The swelling would get better after we sweat wrapped it but immediately return and she was not improving enough in soundness at the walk. 

Of course two weeks out from the initial injury was also the week of Thanksgiving so we ended up doing additional x-rays at 3 weeks. During those x-rays the vet still couldn’t find anything conclusive but his recommendation was to bring her to the University of Minnesota vet clinic for a standing CT since that would give us more information. Alternative options were offered based on how much I wanted to invest in a horse that doesn’t have really any intrinsic value and who was brand new to me. I discussed it with James and we agreed that having an answer would be worth the cost so I started working to get the CT scheduled. 

Not surprisingly it is extremely tough to schedule a last minute procedure with a lameness expert that is in high demand during the holidays. After several false starts I was able to get a last minute appointment on the Monday after Christmas purely because the vet was extremely kind and willing to fit us into his schedule. This worked because we were just looking for the CT and not a full lameness workup. Because of that though we needed to be at the clinic by 7 which, with some quick math, meant that I needed to get up by 4am to be at the barn with enough time to load up and ride with her to the U. I also needed to coordinate this with my BO who was hauling. Thank goodness for kind people. 

Technically this was from before stall rest but
I'm seeing a lot of this right now when I walk into the barn.

We had everything ready to go and then the forecast for Monday started looking bleak. After consulting with the BO late on Sunday evening we decided it wasn’t the right choice to try to drive with a snow storm on the way and ice in the forecast. It ended up being the right call because everything was glare ice on Monday. Luckily, with a bit of a scramble I was able to get an appointment rescheduled for that Wednesday, two days later. 

Of course, Tuesday evening saw more snow and another weather warning but with no ice, a brave (and extremely kind) BO who is an experienced Midwest driver/hauler and an amazingly kind finance who was willing to get up with me at 4 and drive me to the barn in the morning so that I didn’t need to drive in the snow we were ready to go. 

We showed up at the barn on Wednesday morning around 5am and the temps were in the minus double digits. Because of the cold impacting equipment, we ended up needing to haul with a back-up trailer (thanks to another amazingly kind boarder at this barn) that had open slats on one side so we layered Niall up like a marshmallow. I’m not sure if she had ever worn a neck on a blanket before but she put up with me bundling her and then proceed to walk calmly to the trailer over slippery snow, hopped right in after just a brief hesitation, and was absolutely perfect other than not wanting to step forward enough for us to get the slant closed. All of that despite the fact that she was going on 7 weeks of strict stall rest at that point. We eventually got the slant closed, closed up the trailer and were on our way. 

I’m extremely glad that we had someone that was experienced with winter hauling pulling the trailer that morning but we made it safe and sound with our little convoy of me in the truck with the BO, Niall in the trailer, and James following us in his car so that we could go straight home from the U. We got checked in and then unloaded Niall. She was a superstar climbing slowly and carefully out of the trailer and then walking calmly into a large, state of the art vet hospital. We pulled her blankets off and then stood her on a scale and she stood still calmly while we got her weight. Other than a bit of concern that one of the door sills was a horse trap she was calm and easy to lead to her stall and she started eating her hay as soon as we pulled her halter off. On the way out I got to talk to the lameness vet that was going to be overseeing the CT and he let me know that we might not have results for a day or so based on timing. 

The BO headed home in the truck and James and I made the shorter drive home to wait for the call to come pick her up. They were able to get her in pretty quickly because of a cancelation so we met back up at the U at around 2 to pick her up. Again, she was easy to handle and loaded right back up with still just a bit of stickiness with walking far enough forward that we could close the slant. Not a big deal though, we got it closed eventually with some gentle encouragement and made the easier drive back to the barn where again she unloaded like a princes and seemed happy to see her stall. Then it was just a wait to find out the results. 

Unbeknownst to me what I thought was an email with a receipt was actually the report with the findings from the CT but I didn’t notice that until the next morning when my vet called me to talk through the results. It was then that we learned that my vet was correct all along and we have been dealing with a fracture, specifically of the talus bone. There is also potential damage to the collateral ligament but we will need an ultrasound and potentially arthroscopic surgery to look more closely at that. At that point my vet wanted to do some additional consult with the lameness expert vet and in the interim just wanted me to continue stall rest and hand walking. Back to the waiting game. 

Proof that Niall appreciated her sticky ball treat

Again because of the holidays we didn’t find out more until the following Tuesday (1/4) when my vet called me again. He had been at my barn and I knew that my BO was going to ask him what was going on. Because he had been at my barn that morning he had actually been able to see Niall walk and based on that and the consultation with the lameness expert on the results the conversation was actually incredibly hopeful. The current prognosis is that if she heals ok she could potentially still be a riding horse which was honestly better news than I was expecting to hear at this point. 

Based on the location of the fracture it does not make sense/is impossible to fixate it with hardware so we need her to be quiet enough for long enough to heal it on her own. Based on that we’re looking at 4-6 months of stall rest from the initial date of injury which means stall rest until early March to early May. We are currently up to 30 minutes of hand walking twice per day and while I’m not able to get her out for 30 minutes twice every day, thanks again to an amazing BO, she’s getting out twice when possible and I’ve been out at least daily to do the evening hand walk during the week and twice daily to hand walk when I can on the weekend. 

Throughout all of this I’ve been amazed and touched to realize how many incredible people I have in my life. Everyone in my community has pulled through for me in such big ways while also dealing with their own things. It’s been incredibly humbling. 

In addition, Niall is exactly the horse I was looking for when I started down this path. Her brain is so good, she’s so intelligent, calm, and willing and that has also helped me get through this. Everything from her standing perfectly for x-rays to the whole adventure of trailering her to the U all with a horse that was wild only about 6 months ago and without any sort of pharmaceutical support. With that my overwhelming feeling at the start of this year is hope. Hope that Niall will heal well and that we’ll be able to have adventures together and hope that overall things will be a bit smoother for me this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Starting 2022 out with a Bang

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged formally. While I have tried to keep up with updates on Instagram sometimes it’s tough to share the amount of detail that I would have previously on this blog. Without belaboring this, and to move quickly to the topic that I know everyone is interested in, I was working through a great deal of internal conflict about whether to blog again. While I enjoy writing, it seems like this community has substantially reduced in size and I’ve enjoyed the more active dialog on Instagram. However, as mentioned there are some details that require a longer format and so I’ve decided to blog on a more reduced basis and only when I feel like it rather than trying to achieve a greater number of blog posts like I did previously. With that out of the way let’s move on to the more interesting updates. 

The last time I posted a blog was in March of 2021. I had ended 2020 on a high with Katai’s training as we were working on third level, high quality (at least to me) trot work. I had never imagined that I could get to that point with the lama like pony with the sewing machine trot that Katai embodied when I first brought her home. We had a ways to go with the canter work but even that wasn’t looking too shabby. However, while we had made such significant gains in our home arena I had my doubts about my ability to be comfortable showing Katai.

 In the horse/owner relationships there are obviously two beings each with their own needs. While I have always wanted to show and have adventures, any sort of change stressed Katai out in a big way. Trailering was something that caused her be soaked in sweat and she would climb off the trailer shaking. I have no doubt that there are people out there that could work with her to a point where she would be more comfortable with those things but it was becoming apparent to me, after 8 years of ownership at that point, that the person who could do that was probably not me. Still, I wanted to give it one more good try. 

 Here we need to go back a bit. 2018 and 2019 were tough years for me and Katai. It felt like there wasn’t progress and I didn’t have the time to work with her as other things in my personal life were pulling my attention. There was also a lot of strain between the two of us with me trying to come to terms with what I wanted in an equine partner vs. what Katai wanted to give. During the end of 2019 I significantly changed how I approached training with her and started to see a bit more progress. Based on that I set myself a goal, or mission, to spend one full year working with Katai in that way and if at the end of it I still couldn’t see enough progress in our partnership I would find her a new home. 

Of course, 2020 ended up being the year of a pandemic but in some ways that meant I had more dedicated time at the barn which helped a lot. Overall 2020 was actually an awesome year for us. I started working with Megan from A Enter Spooking and had several remote lessons. I tackled getting Katai out of just the indoor ring and saw a ton of success with riding outdoors, and with Megan's help we made tons of progress in dressage. As mentioned, we ended the year on a high and I had decided to keep going with the work and not rehome her. 

Then 2021 hit and everything horse related for me went to hell in a handbasket starting with an extreme cold snap, off and on unsoundness for Katai (vets have believed it to be muscle related), then the decision to move based on not getting any ride time with how busy the arenas were. From January on nothing went the way I’d hope and it felt like 2 steps forward and 5 big steps back for the whole year. After a few barn moves I ended up at an amazing barn where I still am today. The community was supportive, I had the opportunity to trailer with a group to shows, and I had access to a lovely outdoor arena and trails. While I was pumped and loved the barn community Katai did not handle the transition well. Despite everyone being lovely and treating her like a princess and not having any real change to amount of turnout or diet she was spooky, herd bound, and anxious. She was also starting to act up a bit when riding in the arena. Nothing big, but it just didn’t feel like her heart was in it. Vets had been consulted earlier in the year, she was getting monthly massage, her feet were looking better than they ever had, her diet was the same and I couldn’t find anything physical. 

In September I was watching a video on youtube that randomly helped clarify everything in my head that I’d been fighting for so long and right then and there I made the decision to rehome Katai. I’m someone that acts immediately once my mind is made up so that weekend I reached out to a contact who I know and trust that I thought might be interested. Within the next few days it was official, Katai was going to go to a new home. 

It’s absolutely the perfect situation for her. She’s been stepped back in workload and her new person is much more zen and doesn’t have any intent to show. She is hoping to trailer Katai off property to trail rides at some point but I was very blunt with her that it may not ever be something that Katai is comfortable with and she’s fine with that and taking it slow. 

 To some, it may look like this was easy or casual and that may lead people to think that I didn’t love or care for Katai and that couldn’t be further from the truth. She and I had an amazing 9 years together (I rode with her to her new home just one week prior to our 9 year anniversary) and I love her dearly. While we didn’t always see eye to eye and we definitely antagonized each other sometimes, we had a long and complex relationship. She was with me through so many changes in my life and she was always my primary focus through all of that. It still hurts to not be riding her and I miss our routines and how I knew her like the back of my hand. What I can say is that I’m happy, content and haven’t looked back because I made this decision not just for me but for her and she is thriving in her new environment. 

That makes my heart happy. 

That decision, putting her first and finding her a different home, meant that I was in a tough place horse-wise. I had not expected to be at the point of looking for a new horse so didn’t have anything saved for a horse purchase. Of course I have emergency money but didn’t want to spend that money on something that, while it may have felt that way to me at the time, wasn’t an emergency. While I hadn't taken any budgetary action, because I had longer term concerns about me and Katai’s ability to be successful at fulfilling my goals I had considered a lot of options over the past 3-4 years. So, while I was suddenly at the point of being in the market for a new equine partner, I wasn't starting my search from scratch.

I'll always have a soft spot for the underdog, in this case off breeds. I'm also a passionate fan of the smaller horse or pony and I was prioritizing a good brain over everything else. While GRPs are amazing, I'm not confident that I would enjoy riding an extremely athletic pony on a day to day basis and to me it seemed that going with anything more purpose bred, and therefore likely more spicy, would end up similarly to how things went with Katai. While I always enjoyed riding "my little sports car" as I liked to call her, I was hoping for something that was easier, less anxious, and that could take more "mistakes" on my part. 

I had a few breeds on my short list which included stock horses such as a Quarter horse or Paint horse, quiet, native pony breeds such as Fjords, Gypsy Vanners, Fells, and potentially a Welsh or Welsh cross, and also Mustangs which I had fallen in love with based on Elisa Wallace's journey with her horses. Ideally I was looking for something that was of riding age (4-5+), that hadn't been started as a 2-3 year old (or was very lightly started), was between 13.2-15 hands, preferably a mare, with at least decent confirmation, clear gaits, and mostly with a good brain. Ideally I would have taken something a bit older (8-12) that was closer in training to Katai but I knew my budget wasn't big enough for that so I was happy to settle for something unstarted or green.

My budget pretty much meant that unless I found a needle in a haystack, the purebred pony breeds I was interested in wouldn't work at this point so I started with stock horses and mustangs. There were plenty of stock horses on the market but it was tough to find candidates that had decent dressage confirmation that hadn't been ridden into the ground from 2 on. I'm all about doing what's best for each individual horse and, for me personally, don't have anything wrong with lightly starting horses at 3 but I prefer to start them closer to 4-5 and was definitely not looking for a horse that's been working on a sliding stop as a 2 year old.

My search for mustangs was more fruitful. I knew I wasn't in a place to gentle a wild one so I looked at TIP trained mustangs. TIP or the Trainer Incentive Program pays trainers $1000 to get a wild horse trained in typical, domestic handling skills including catching, leading, tying, getting their feet handled, and trailer loading. Most mustangs were in my height range and it was easy to find them in my age range, both for the budget I had. I put my energy into finding a mustang with a solid brain and temperament which is, perhaps, easier than you'd think. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and ended up reaching out to a trainer about a mustang she had available. She was incredible and honestly told me that the horse she had probably wasn't a good fit for what I wanted but she gave me some leads on where to look. 

Based on her suggestion I joined the Georgia TIP Challenge Facebook group which, in a kismet like turn of events, had just wrapped up that weekend. The horses were all listed on the Facebook page and I was absolutely smitten with a photo of this gorgeous chestnut mare with a wide blaze and two tall hind socks. She had absolutely lovely confirmation and was within, if towards the bottom end, of my height range (13.3ish). The description of her seemed to match what I was looking for so I messaged her trainer that I doubted it but was this horse available, and magically she still was.  We ended up calling each other right then and there. 

The trainer's description of Niall, as this mare was named, was spot on perfect for what I was looking for. She said she was sweet, intelligent, and quiet but with a sensitive side. She had also won the youth portion of that Georgia TIP challenge with a perfect score in handling/horsemanship. Again, it felt like the universe was opening doors for this to happen when the trainer let me know that she was originally from WI, where my current boarding barn is, and that she was home frequently and could trailer the mare at least most of the way to me from TN where she was currently located. The price was right, I did some additional digging into the trainer's background and with that confidence I filled out the paperwork with the Bureau of Land Management to make this official. Then it was time to cross my fingers and wait. 

The Bureau of Land Management, for all that some people don't like the way they manage the mustangs, has lots of protections in place for these horses. Technically, new mustang "owners" are just caring for them for the first year, if they get approved, and don't take ownership until a vet signs off on the animal's care at the conclusion of that year. There are requirements for fencing, paddock size, and housing and I needed to fill out two separate forms with all sorts of information about where she would be kept and how I would feed her etc. Government paperwork is always stressful and slow and it felt way worse while waiting for approval to bring my new horse home but eventually I got the official approval and we made the final plans to transport Niall (yes, I decided to keep her name) up here to my barn. 

Everything was finalized just over a month after Katai went to her new home and then came the long wait for Niall to get here. It was a stressful time as I worried about whether I had made the right decision buying a horse sight unseen off of the word of a trainer, photos, and a short video clip and whether it would work to have a new mustang at a boarding facility. Then there was a one day delay in trailering which added to my stress but eventually they were on the way with a good report that Niall had loaded in the trailer perfectly in the dark at 4am (which feels like a foretelling but that's a story for another day). 

After an 18 hour trailer ride Niall climbed off quickly but nicely at my barn, again in the dark, and walked quietly and calmly, if tiredly, into her new stall. I was thrilled and still am with my decision. She is exactly as her trainer described and exactly what I was looking for in every way. While she is still on the smaller side of what I was looking for, she sticked right at 13.3, she is still perfect for me. Mostly though, I love her brain and her personality. She has this larger than life, goofy personality that I never sought out but absolutely love with her. She's also more on the masculine side of the spectrum in some ways and is mouthy and kind of a punk in a way that I just love. She's also absolutely brilliant and has picked up the routine and expectations at the barn incredibly quickly. 

As anyone that's followed me on Instagram knows there is a lot more to our story together already but this is already long enough so I'll post about that at some point in the future. For now, I'll leave this with a happy heart with Katai in the right place for her and with my heart horse in her stall waiting for me to hand walk her tonight.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Where We Are Now

This past weekend I spent some time hanging
out in Katai's stall with her and cleaned her leather halter

I’ve been writing some blog posts but not posting them because it seems weird to post some pieces of what’s been going on without a full update but by the time I get the full update written the other stuff I wrote is no longer relevant. I do want to post something though because I truly enjoy looking back through the blog and I use it to remind myself of important dates. I’m going to rapid fire some updates but there is a lot more I won’t be able to post. Also, I’m going to try to get back to posting on Instagram more, it’s just been a rough couple of months and the dead of winter in MN is never good for mental health things.

Riding Things:

Last I posted was in July of 2020 and things were going well. I’d been at the “new at the time” barn for a couple of months and was making a ton of progress with riding consistently, riding outside, and gaining back strength after a couple of quiet, less consistent years. Katai was going as well as she ever had thanks to the work I was doing on my own anxiety and the vitamin E that I’d started her on.

Since then, we’ve continued to build strength and through December I was riding super regularly, around 5 times per week on average which is awesome for me. We were schooling second level movements (other than some of the canter stuff) and even had a start on the third level trot work. I was taking remote lessons with Megan from A Enter Spooking around 1-2 times per month and that was SUPER helpful. In December I had two fantastic lessons back to back where we did some half pass and then started picking apart the trot/canter transitions. That work completely broke Katai’s brain but it’s just one of those training things and I suspect we’ll get a similar reaction when we introduce the changes. As of this past week I’ve gotten some truly spectacular trot/canter transitions, they just aren’t that consistent yet but I can tell we’re doing the correct work.

Soundness Things:

I was working through it and we were making progress but at the end of January/early February she started having some body soreness that came out as behavioral stuff in the work. I gave her a bit of time off and got chiro and massage done and switched farriers. This was right around when we had that incredibly long cold front with negative and single digit highs for over 10 days straight though so some of the appointments were delayed and I couldn’t ride for a while. When I went back to it as it warmed up she was off her rocker with energy and, while she was feeling better, she still seemed a little sore. I’d guess that if we’d been able to keep working it would have resolved but all that time spent standing around (even though I was handwalking as often as I could) wasn’t great.

We’ve got her on a four week schedule for massage, I’m treating for ulcers, we’re trying some equipment changes at the suggestion of the body worker (who has a pony mare and rides 4th level), and her feet are looking better so I’m hopeful that she’ll continue to feel better.

Yep, that barn driveway was glare ice

Mental Health Things:

This definitely took a dip over the early part of the year. Not being able to spend regular time at the barn with Katai and missing out on that physical activity was super difficult especially in the dead of winter. Add to that a significant, horrific, traumatic event that occurred at one of the locations I support for work and I really struggled. I’m feeling a bit better but still pretty flat emotionally which has definitely made getting back to the barn regularly a bit tough. I was out 6 days this past week though and rode four which is awesome and this week should be similar. I’m also super proud of myself that I rode outside on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. That’s a huge stretch for me since up until this last summer Katai was truly awful to ride outside (I completely take ownership for this but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with) and both days were cool and very windy. We both did well and she really held it together for me.

Upcoming Changes:

I’m moving again. Yep, I know I move a lot and that’s everyone’s first reaction. I’m not going to justify it because I have clear, well thought out reasons but it also sucks. I’ve never wanted to move around this much and would really love to “find my barn” and just stay there forever. In the past, I’ve made some pretty big sacrifices to stay in my budget and distance including less care or missing some amenities I want. With COVID and being reclassified as a remote employee I’m changing it up and trying something new. This time the drive time is what I’m going to sacrifice on. The new barn is about an hour and a half away but since I’m no longer driving for work I’m hoping it will be doable. This has allowed me to find the type of barn I’ve been looking for with the right amenities, care, etc. while still staying within my budget. At some point I’ll have all my debt paid off (being a millennial sucks) and my budget for barns will open up significantly but for now, that’s the most important thing for me to do with my money and thus, my barn budget is much lower than it could be. 

Katai is being moved right on the 1st of April (no this isn’t an April Fools joke) so that’s coming up quickly and soon you’ll start seeing a different barn in the background in my Instagram pictures. Now I just need to continue with the progress I’ve made over the past year with riding outside and riding regularly.

Monday, July 27, 2020


I'm back for a post or two! I have truly loved moving to Instagram and find it has been so much easier with my general lack of motivation recently to still journal and interact with my internet friends without having to write long posts. Some things though just need a little more space.

Handgrazing is one of our new, favorite, pastimes 

This year, other those truly awful things we're all aware of, has honestly been awesome for me. Those couple of years where I wasn't riding much have paid off in that I have an amazing and strong relationship with an amazing partner, own a home, and have a job that I adore. Without taking a step back from riding and horse things I don't know that I would have been able to accomplish all of that. Now, I'm able to enjoy the effort that I put into those things but also have time and energy to go to the barn and the motivation to go. 

So far, since I've moved to the new barn, I've made it out there 6 days a week and have been riding 5 days a week pretty regularly. When that doesn't happen, like last week, I get right back on track the following week. It feels so amazing to be going regularly and making progress again. I wasn't riding that regularly even when I was working with Jane. What doesn't always feel great is the slow, steady work of getting both of our strength back but I also have confidence that we'll get there and that doing it the right way will take time.

We've also done a lot of hand walking down the sand track to build confidence.
The cross country course is in the center.

What also feels great is that all the slow work I've done over the past two years has led to better work that I was getting when I was working regularly with Jane. Even though I haven't had regular lessons in the meantime I have been slowly chipping away at things like increasing relaxation and improving me and Katai's partnership as well as managing my anxiety. These things have been working and are now paying off in a big way.

After just about two months at the new barn I'm doing things that I could only dream of before. That includes having productive rides in the outdoor arena(s) where I'm doing about 90% of my rides at this point. No only is she just as engaged and ridable (and relaxed) outdoors now as she was indoors during good rides last year but we can switch which outdoor arena we're in and still get really good work. We're also hacking out by ourselves and even if it's just a short ride down the sand gallop track (at a walk of course) it's HUGE for us.

Hopefully a new phone will mean less blurry screen grabs!

I credit this to me having a better handle on my anxiety and also on all of the relaxation work and team building. That work has helped me but has also helped Katai to have a better sense of humor about things. This barn is BUSY. There are people, trailers, farm equipment, screaming kids, dogs, bikes, you name it all over the place all the time. Katai has done so well that she's one of the favorites of the girls that work at the barn and resident barn rats and they've even told me that "she's pretty near bomb proof" which were not words I EVER expected to hear about Katai.

I'd say I couldn't believe the change but I've truly put blood, sweat, and tears into this especially over the past year so this is really just a lot of hard work paying off. 

Gotta make sure the Pivo is tracking

One of the main shifts for me in how my mindset has shifted is that I feel really planted. In the past I always knew I was moving to a different state and/or moving onto my own farm. It was something I had wanted so badly for so long that I always felt like I had one foot out the door. It didn't feel like it made sense to build a solid team of body workers, vets, saddle fitters, farrier, etc. because I felt like I was "just moving away anyway". It also meant that I was especially picky about board because it felt like I was just managing it until I could move to my own place. In addition, it kept me from really figuring out ways to deal with inconveniences like our weather, boarding things, or bugs. 

With meeting my boyfriend I needed to change that mindset because he loves this place and has never wanted to move. Within the first few months of meeting each other we had a lot of conversations about city vs. farm life and if I could be happy here. It was a decision I took very seriously and put a lot of thought into because I never wanted to feel negatively about him or the relationship because of a decision that was mine to make. In the end, I decided I could be truly happy living in Minneapolis for the rest of my life and honestly it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. 

That planted feeling has led me to finding solutions for things instead of just whining about them. It's led me to working on my anxiety vs. feeling like I could just run away from it. It's also led me to just bucking up and dealing with things like heat or humidity since I can't just move away from it and I don't want the middle of summer and the middle of winter to be excuses to stop riding or making progress.

I've also really dialed in Katai's diet and the Vitamin E is part of
what I credit to her current ability to relax.

Those solutions have led to new tools like cooling towels for the summer and a great water bottle as well as warmer layers and the realization that personally I need to board at a heated barn for winter. They've also led to a strong team of horse professionals around us to help make sure Katai is feeling her best and that I've got the support I need to keep making progress. Finally, one good thing that came out of COVID is the ability to do remote video lessons. For the first time, while I have the money this fall for a truck and was planning to move forward with that and get a trailer next spring/summer I'm actually taking that off my list. Instead I'm going to upgrade my phone for a better camera and processor and figure out how to get the Pivo working for remote lessons or upgrade to something like a Pixio. 

Next year the plan is to find opportunities to ride with people to just a couple of dressage shows. It's not going to be quite as easy to figure out trailer loading stuff without my own but I figure that if I can make it work for a few years and pay off some more debt I'll be in a more comfortable place to get my own in the near future. I'm also just feeling confident enough that Katai will be better at shows with the very show like atmosphere at our barn every day. That helps me feel like I'm not going to need to trailer her out every weekend to get used to it and can instead maybe have a handful of productive shows next year. 

The new dressage arena with fiber footing is <3

Fingers crossed we're in a better place pandemic wise next year and shows are easier and more available than this year!

Saturday, April 18, 2020


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm moving to is one that I've been at before and as soon as I saw their response to COVID I started thinking about what moving might look like. That was back at the very beginning of April and while it still took me about three weeks to get to this point, I didn't shop around for other barns.

However, seeing Viva Carlos' post about barns and barn prices actually surprised me a bit as far as how similar our prices are in MN to those in CA. My budget is around $600 max per month and I've been paying between $375-$570 for the past few years. With lessons I was paying as high as $760 per month at one point. With that being said, we have multiple places over $1000 and at least a couple of places around $2000

For that my list of must haves is:

  • No pasture - laminitis stuff with Katai and our pastures around here are SUPER rich. Plus, most barns won't deal with grazing muzzles unfortunately.
  • Heated barn
  • Trailer parking - because this IS happening sooner or later and I'd rather not need to move in order to park a trailer
  • Daily supplement feeding - your girl seriously needs her magnesium
  • Within budget
  • Daily turnout of at least 8 hours
  • Indoor arena
  • Outdoor arena - no longer a nice to have since I need to get Katai acclimated to riding outside
  • access to other outdoor riding space - even if it's a small trail around the pastures
  • Good footing in the arenas
  • No road riding to get to trails - it's just too easy for something to go wrong and my anxiety won't deal with it. If it's a quiet gravel road I'd consider but nothing fast and paved
  • Ample barn hours
  • Within a 40 minute drive
  • Uses my favorite vet
Nice to haves:
  • Access to some sort of lessons on site
  • Great barn community, even better if I could show with a group of other riders
  • Heated arena
  • Have regular visits by someone that does body work, a saddle fitter, etc.
  • Ability to use my tack locker
  • Horses are led in and out - this wouldn't be optional except Katai is sensible and slowly walks in like a lady
  • More than 8 hours of turnout
  • Indoor wash stall, solarium, other nice grooming amenities
With that, let's get into the list! This is a random list of barns that I'm aware of and have considered. These are either primarily dressage or eventing for the most part although at least one or two of these have more western riders than english. 

Barn #1

  • Pros: 
    • Dressage focused barn
    • On site trainer
    • Nicely heated grooming space with easy access to a wash stall
    • Fantastic footing
    • Nicely priced
    • Active, showing, dressage barn community
  • Cons
    • I wouldn't ever ride with this trainer again
    • Only pasture turn out and no supplement feeding
    • Outside of my ideal drive distance
Price: $500

Barn #2 (wait list barn)

  • Pros:
    • Onsite gold medalist dressage instructor
    • Huge indoor arena with fantastic footing
    • Fantastic barn community
    • Tons of outdoor riding spaces including a pond
    • Active, showing, dressage community
  • Cons:
    • Right at the top of my current budget for stall board
    • I've been on the waitlist for over a year with no movement (both a pro and a con really since no one wants to leave)
Price: $610-$750

Barn #3

  • Pros:
    • Nice indoor footing
    • Everything is under one roof and is well heated
    • Great, active boarders, mainly dressage
    • Lots of access to onsite trainers
  • Cons:
    • The outdoor arena footing is terrifying and is plagued with horse flies during the summer
    • No trainer I'd want to work with
    • It's in the process of changing hands barn manager wise
    • No real outdoor riding spaces
Price: $600

Barn #4

It doesn't really show the facility, but how could I not post this arena picture
  • Pros:
    • Dressage focused facility with onsite trainer
    • Fantastic footing
    • Gorgeous facilities
    • Active, showing, dressage community
    • They even do stuff like yoga at the barn
    • Top trainers in for clinics
  • Cons:
    • Out of my budget, clearly
    • Requires full training
    • Not sure we'd fit in
Price: $1200+ with full training

Barn #5

Yes, those are Moshy ears. This place also holds a summer
show series including the show that I took Moshy to a couple of years ago.
  • Pros:
    • Clearly this place is gorgeous
    • Great footing
    • The, or one of the, largest indoor arenas in our area
    • I think this is the closest barn to our house at just over 20 minutes away
    • Access to onsite dressage instruction
  • Cons:
    • Clearly out of my budget
    • I'm not sure if I'd want to train with the resident dressage trainer
    • Not much turnout, maybe half day?
    • Not sure that we'd fit in
Price: $1200+ (a lot more) with full training. I'm not certain if they require full training or not. You also must purchase a very premium tack trunk so that they all match.

Barn #6 (Current Barn)

  • Pros:
    • Easy drive from home
    • Major shopping center just across the road for easy errand runs
    • Nicely heated barn and connected arena
    • Wonderful barn community
    • Tons of turnout with almost no stall time other than feeding time during the summer
    • Indoor wash stall
    • Huge park with horse trails just across the road
  • Cons:
    • Pasture turnout
    • Deep and slippery arena footing
    • Very busy small arena
    • Not very peaceful since directly across the road is a shooting range
    • Lack of communication during COVID stuff
    • You have to cross a fast, busy road to get to the trails
    • Barn hours of 10am-9pm mean that some days it's tough to get to the barn unless I plan carefully
    • Can't use the indoor wash stall except for small things since it doesn't drain well
    • Outdoor wash washstall doesn't have heated water
Price: $500-$570

Barn #7 (Where I'm moving)

  • Pros:
    • Three outdoor riding arenas with an outdoor dressage arena going in this year
    • A sand gallop track that can be used for trail riding plus just lots of space to ride around the property
    • Access to additional trails
    • My favorite vet and massage person go here and they have a saddle fitter in regularly 
    • Active barn community with lots of eventers and at least some dressage focused riders
    • Access to onsite trainers
    • Two indoor arenas, one small heated and a larger unheated
    • Good footing. It was good when I was there before, recently they've began the process redoing all their footing and adding some fiber footing to all the arenas. It was in process when I toured but I'm guessing they will be finished with that process by the time I move in.
    • Barn has been in business since 1977 with the same owners/managers so lots of stability
    • Solarium and fancy grooming area
    • I can use my own tack locker
  • Cons:
    • With ala carte boarding options I'd be over budget if I chose everything I wanted
    • Very busy barn with lots of kids and group lessons
    • The paddocks are small
    • No indoor wash stall
    • No dressage focused trainers on site
Price: $475-$710 

Barn #8

No real facility photos so here is the arena
  • Pros:
    • Dressage focused facility
    • Great footing
    • Large stalls
    • Heated arena
    • Onsite dressage instruction
    • Fairly close to our house
  • Cons: 
    • Must be in full training
    • Over my budget
Price: $935-$1,150

Barn #9

Yes, this is an actual picture of the facility and not something I pulled off Pintrest lol
  • Pros:
    • Clearly a gorgeous facility
    • Dressage focused
    • Multiple dressage instructors
    • Premium horse care
    • FANTASTIC footing. I've actually been told to attend a schooling show there just to experience their footing lol
    • Massive indoor
    • Clearly it's fully heated
    • Onsite laundry
    • They feed three times per day and do night checks for all their horses every night 
    • They have packages that include up to a number of sessions (either trainer rides or lessons) that's flexible enough to be palatable to me.
    • Who wouldn't want to board someplace like this, I mean seriously?
    • Stalls are cleaned multiple times per day and are all 12x14
  • Cons:
    • Well, clearly it's out of my budget
    • Not sure if I can think of any other cons
Price: all of it, everything and your soul. 

Just kidding, it's actually a fairly reasonable $1600-$2000 per month. For $1,600 per month (and let's face it that's still exceptionally expensive and around 3x what I'm paying now) you get up to 10 training sessions per month plus access to all the boarding amenities. For the premium $2000 per month package it includes full grooming (not sure I'd want that) but also has things like braiding for shows, body clipping, up to 20 training sessions per month (that's 5 times per week 0-0) and hand walking. If I were ever to aspire to board someplace over my budget it would be this barn. 

Just because, a few more pictures of that facility.

and then, to close out the post, a few more pictures of the facility I'm moving into.
On site cross country course

From their trail class schooling day

One of the outdoor arenas

The smallest outdoor arena

Dom Schramm teaches at this facility a few times a year. This was from one of the recent clinics.

All the Things : Update part 2

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