Behind the Name: The Balancing Act

Prior to my return to riding after college, my main hobbies included watching HGTV, touring model homes with my husband and planning fully customized multi-thousand-dollar Crate and Barrel couches for our first home. After I started riding again, my priorities started to shift and eventually the thought of buying something more expensive than an IKEA couch became unthinkable, that money could be spent on horses!

I still love all things home-y, but I’m now happy to play the difficult balancing game of horse mom duties versus home duties. I named my blog The Two H – Horse & Home because these are the two main things I love to talk about.

Since I am such an expert (that’s sarcasm), I thought I would write out the most important aspects an equestrian needs to consider to maintain balance before they either win the lottery or convince their husband that stay at home horse and dog mom is indeed a legitimate job title.

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Employment

You will need a job that can both sustain the cost of horses, but also offers what would be advertised as “work-life balance”. I know this as work-barn balance, but you get the picture. After a few years in the professional workforce, I would highly recommend interviewing your potential managers and co-workers about what they like and don’t like about the position.

Flexible hours are a huge plus, and I even participated in an alternative work week schedule for a few years. This specific one is called a “nine eight eighty” (9/8/80) where you work nine hours a day for eight days within a two-week work period, this is what the 80 represents. Then, usually every other Friday, you either work an 8-hour day or have the day off. Those days off are great for having an additional extra day to yourself at the barn, great for lessons during the week when its quieter or spending your whole day doing house chores so your usual weeknight and weekend can be devoted to riding. There is also a 10/4/40, where you work ten hours a day for 4 days and get a three-day weekend every weekend.

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Another important factor to consider for employment is your management. If the organization says they’re supportive of work-life balance, what does that mean? Does your manager have kids? Are they married, do they have hobbies? I cannot stress enough that if your office’s management cannot empathize with having a life outside of work, this relationship will not last. They will not understand you having to be there for your horse’s chiro appointment or your dog’s emergency vet admission when he’s diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Chores

Ideally, you would split chores up with your significant other/roommate/parent/etc. by who enjoys what task most, but I’m coming to realize that negotiating that sort of deal is not my expertise at all so I’m basically in charge of all the chores for my household. On weekends when I am super-motivated I can do a week’s worth of laundry in one day, and meal prep for a few days for the following week. Grocery shopping is usually done Sunday or Monday night. Laundry, if not completed that weekend, is done Monday night. Costco also delivers groceries which you can order online, and you can also order online from Raley’s and have them walked out to you in the parking lot. I use both of those services a lot. Dishes, cleaning and unloading, and cooking are done as soon as I get home so I don’t fall into the “once I sit down…” phase of my night. I generally try to ride two days during the week, so I make sure that my husband isn’t traveling and can get home at a normal time to take the dogs out and feed them. Only one of our dogs gets walked now, so that is usually my husband’s responsibility.

I think the best tactic for planning out my week is just usually a simple notepad and writing what needs to be done each day, maybe not down to unloading the dishwasher, but things like calling in a prescription or pick up a certain good on my way home. Checking things off a list is a huge motivator for me!

Husband

These also need attention. Maybe plan a weekly date night or, their favorite, invite them out to the barn to video your lessons for some extra good quality time!

Family

Oh yeah, your human family! They’re probably the ones that initially gave you the ability to ride horses to start with. Reward them by letting your horse have a day off once in a while and visit long enough to tell them how thankful you are that they started you on this whirlwind of adventure that riding is.

Budgeting

Unpopular opinion here, but there needs to be home vs. horse balance in your budget. I’m not here to tell you what a reasonable dollar figure or percentage of your budget is to spend on horses, because every situation is different.

I’m just here to remind you that there are other things that are relevant in life besides just riding. Maybe like a retirement? Make sure you have a sensible Roth and 401(k) contribution set up before spending that extra thousand dollars on a horse show. Maybe your spouse wants to go on vacation one day? Start a side savings account for that, because after all those long work to ride days, your bones probably need a rest, too. Emergency funds are great, a house where the cost per month doesn’t increase is a huge advantage when board will always go up over time.

Supplement Newb


Top: day after body clipping in July 2018 Bottom: day after body clip in June 2019, after 4 weeks of his supplement mix!

Top: day after body clipping in July 2018
Bottom: day after body clip in June 2019, after 4 weeks of his supplement mix!

Disclaimer: dapples are a function of genetics, grooming and nutrition. Some horses you can overload with flax and curry for hours each day and no dapples will ever show.

One of my absolute favorite parts of Leo’s care has been the selection and preparation of SUPPLEMENTS. Nothing says Horse Mom more than lovingly mixin’ up some delicious smelling grains and powders and pellets. And much like the GNC, Juice Plus, Herbalife, human vitamin/protein craze, the equestrian industry has been successful on capitalizing on horse owner’s need to provide the “best care” whether scientifically proven or not. That being said, I happily indulge all of the more legitimate sounding companies, and most of the products I choose ARE scientifically proven, to provide Leo the best of care and if not that, at least provide a delicious daily supplement mash which I happily provide in exchange for nickers.

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Supplement Price in Dollars per Day

*I’ve since switched away from the turmeric and added Cosequin, Redmond crushed salt and HorseGuard Flaxen Flow

*I’ve since switched away from the turmeric and added Cosequin, Redmond crushed salt and HorseGuard Flaxen Flow

 Leo’s Current Supplements

Biotin Plus and Smart & Simple Flax

I heard amazing things about Smartpak’s Smart Dark and Handsome for adding coat shine, darkening coat and bringing out dapples, but thought there must be a cheaper product with similar main ingredients: Flaxseed Meal, Paprika*, Dried Kelp, Fenugreek Seed, Zinc Polysaccharide Complex, Biotin. Well, I can do flax for sure, was also supplying Biotin Plus and planning on Spirulina, which I scientifically determined (I say sarcastically) is similar enough to dried kelp. The Biotin Plus I also purchased for coat quality, but especially for growing out his wrecked hooves after two abscesses. I have to say it’s worked quite well. For one, I’ve known Leo for two summers now and I’ve never seen him have such stunning and I mean STUNNING dapples!

Smart & Simple Spirulina -

I first heard about spirulina on Horse Radio Network’s Healthy Critters Radio (Episode 81 if you’d like to listen!). I mostly chose to start him on it because it supposedly has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, especially concerning lung function. I worry about Leo’s lung health, because he does tend to cough if it’s very cold out, and fire season in California is relentless. It’s not good for them to stand still and not build their cardio stamina during those months, and it’s worse for them to take in all the smoke. I’m hoping one of his more expensive supplements has some positive effect on his lung health.

Cosequin ASU -

After Leo’s lameness issues (abscess > hock injections > another abscess > getting back into work), I knew he needed some Actual Joint Support. I attempted to research some scientifically proven feed through joint supplements, and the only proven one (that came up in Google searches) was Cosequin. I had no issue opting for this as one of my dogs, Milo, has already been on Cosequin for a year or two and there’s a noticeable effect when he goes off of it - as in if we ever forgot to feed it to him for a few days. The stuff is expensive and smells atrocious, super bitter, but mixed in with his other powders and potions, get readily eaten.

Redmond Rock Crushed Rock Salt -

One of the first ‘I’m attempting to assert myself as Leo’s person’ purchases was a Remond Rock Salt Lick, and he loves them! He’s gone through two so far, but realistically, if a horse is getting his entire daily salt intake through a salt lick, it should be finished within 2 months. Well, his haven’t been licked through that quickly, and I’ve noticed he has been slightly dehydrated on warmer days so thought it best to add some mandatory delicious salt to his daily mash. Plus, Redmond Rock is an amazing company based in the USA and mines it’s salt straight from their Utah salt mine.

Redmond Daily Gold Stress Relief -

Also from Redmond Rock is a really cool, clay supplement. Clay as a supplement, which I also originally heard about on Horse Radio Network, is supposed to be a great toxin absorber and neutralizes excess stomach acid. The associated pain relief is supposed to reduce spookiness and reactiveness, and I added an extra scoop each day during his stall rest to combat the negative effects of being stuck in his stall. This is one of those supplements where I can’t really tell if it’s working or not, but Leo has been incredibly confident and even tempered since coming back into work and it’s cheap enough that I’d rather not find out how he does without it.

HorseGuard Flaxen Flow -

On top of everything else, obviously Leo needs a yummy oil dressing. So horses need Omega 3s, right? Of course, there’s fish oil but that tends to be frowned upon because horses don’t eat fish so it doesn’t really make sense to feed them oil derived from fish. There are tons of oil supplements for horses like, Equine Omega Complete, Kentucky Performance Products Contribute, EO-3 by Kentucky Equine Research and many more options, all of which seemed super expensive! I opted for HorseGuard’s Flaxen Flow because it was cheap, 100% flaxseed oil and completely sealed. Omega 3s and Omega 6s can spoil or oxidize when exposed to air so many of the oils that are sold with pumps are less effective or less palatable the longer you have them.

 


Blogger's Hiaitus

If you’re curious how life has been since… probably about last November, see below. I am the rider. Life is the horse.


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Not to say I’m ungrateful for any of the absolutely amazing things that have happened, there ARE dreams coming true. But that’s not to say they didn’t come with stressful strings attached, unfortunately life is not a bank account where the positives can cancel out the negatives.

I was planning on writing a huge post about how I overcame x, y, and z, listing each struggle for some sort of validation or attempt to show how strong I was to overcome, but that got a little self congratulatory. I do have to say, I would not have fared so well were it not for Leo and my husband and… stoicism. Which most people think is lack of emotion or the endurance of pain, but that’s not how I view it. See above. Also read THIS. It was really, really helpful especially with recent issues at my job and feeling like life was happening to me, rather than me affecting my life.

Anyway, look forward to more blogging on my end!

Mini Vacation

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For the past 31 years (yep, before I was born), my family has made the same brief trek to the coast for a week-long vacation to Aptos, California. With recent work stress, dog stress, horse stress, all the STRESS, I was ready to decompress. Brett stayed home, as usual, to take care of the dogs since James’s heart couldn’t handle being left with a stranger, plus Brett had a job interview rescheduled Monday anyway!

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What I gained from this trip: quality time with family, about 5 extra pounds, a hangover, confidence for my own interview, motivation to make a change in employment, and perspective on what matters in life, like family and not whatever goes on at work!

ONE DAY I’ll find a way to make this trip for the entire week with my husband in tow, until then, I’ll take what I can get!

Shout out to my amazing grandparents for starting this tradition, keeping it going, and building such an amazing family that can stand being in one house for the entire week!

My Best Date Ever

I met my husband on the first day of winter break my senior year of high school. I basically told my friend that’s the one and she somehow got me an invite to his New Year’s Eve party. We hung out every day following that night, eventually deciding we were a couple six days later. I wan’t that into riding at the time, I worked a few hours every weekend in exchange for a lesson so sacrificing my one ride a week to spend endless hours with my new beau was a no-brainer.

Anyway, a year goes by and Brett is trying to think up what this supposed horse girl would like to do for our first anniversary in early January.

CAN YOU SAY SLEIGH RIDE IN THE SNOW?

He told me we were driving up to Lake Tahoe for a surprise date. He gave me a little camera, we stopped at Bridal falls to take pictures and made our way to the surprise-to-me destination. It was bright and crisp winter day, and we pulled into this snow-filled parking lot and THERE WERE HORSES. Two giant drafts hooked up to sleighs complete with bells and leftover Christmas decorations. Probably one of the most thoughtful things he’s done for me, and probably why he doesn’t do anything like that anymore…

Welcome to the Family, Leo!

After months of agonizing over what to do about my sweet Leo, changing my mind every other hour about whether to buy or move on, I finally admitted that there’s no way I could ever say goodbye to him. I didn’t quite convince my husband of the same, it was more of a solemn acceptance but I’m just lucky he loves to see me happy. At least I waited for him to pass the bar, right?

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Leo is an 18-year-old, 17.1 Rhinelander warmblood.

Buying an older horse is rarely a financially sound decision (blog post on that later), but if any horse deserves a safe landing spot, it’s Leo and he’s found it with me. Thanks and apologies to everyone for letting me pretend he was mine for the past two years. Welcome to the family sweet boy!

Brief Introduction / Reasons He’s A Unicorn / Cutest Quirks:

  • Loves all animals and is always interested in befriending any horse, human, dog or cat

  • Becomes braver and braver on trails every time we go out

  • Basically reads my mind if I think even think “chip”

  • Always, always, always saves my amateur af butt

  • Tall, dark and decisively handsome

  • Has taken me from crossrails to 3’ (okay, we’re working on getting back up there)

  • He doesn’t destroy blankets

  • Not allowed to talk + ride

  • Has the best flaxen tail

  • Has the cutest jump

  • Loves bananas

  • Ex big eq boy

  • Is mine

Loved him from the first day. 8/8/17.

Loved him from the first day. 8/8/17.

My Experience with an Animal Communicator Pt II

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with an animal communicator, Anise Silvernail, see Part I. At the time of the call, I was just beginning the process of purchasing Leo, a horse I’d been riding for a year and half, and wanted to tread lightly around the purchase process so saved this post until it was official!

I listed a few of the questions I asked below, but our conversation flowed a bit more than a question and answer session would, regardless I still included the basic idea of the question, her (Anise’s)/his (Leo’s) response and my reaction to what was communicated.


Q: What makes him happiest?

A: Leo says he needs regular work and interaction and brain stimulation. Not just going around and bopping around doing the same thing every day. He wants to work and think and he says he’s very smart and if he’s taught something he GETS IT. He needs little obstacle courses and work with poles and cones and he can be a little obstinate, but he really just likes to learn new things.

He says you need to relax more in your upper body. He likes being someone’s somebody. He felt like a waste of space before. He’s not aloof, but he’s nervous to displease or dissatisfy. He has a fear of rejection.

If you buy him and stop coming out, he would be so sad. He hates having to worry if you’re going to show up. Assure him you'll be coming back, like tell him out loud when you’ll see him next.

He’s kind of like a hound dog, very go along to get along as is happy to do whatever you want to.

R: This is pretty spot on. Leo is not a grumpy horse in his stall, but you can tell when he gets bored! Like dude has annihilated stall doors in his past. Not angrily, not looking to wreak havoc, but he has just taken out a stall door because he felt like going for a graze. He is also very smart, is always looking for patterns in our riding, hoping he can be one step ahead of my instruction. I know he bonds to people easily and has been passed over for a permanent home a few times and it definitely took him some time to accept me as someone who would keep showing up. I also do struggle a lot with not following with my hands.


Q: [On on the topic of not seeing him as much] There are days he has other lessons, so I don’t go out because I don’t want to overwork him.

A: He doesn’t mind if he has another lesson, he still wants to see me. Just go out and groom him, spend time in his stall. He feels like you’re always on the clock. He says that you’re a little intense, very high anxiety and stressed and hurrying through, but he can tell that you naturally fall into a groove with him and just being at the barn and once you start riding, like all is right in the world. He can tell the barn is your happy place.

R: I do hate to go out when I feel like I’ll be rushed or trying to hurry and get ready and hurry and go home. And it’s so true that when I arrive at the barn most days, especially after work, I feel like the embodiment of nervous energy but feel completely at peace once I’m a few minutes into my ride.


Q: Would he like to be in a pasture? Would he want to move barns?

A: He say he wouldn’t mind moving barns, but doesn’t want to bounce all over. He doesn’t like constantly having new people taking care of him or wondering if he’ll be fed on time. He would not like being in a pasture with other horses, he does like having let down time to himself in a stall. He’s sort of like the outgoing person at a dinner party who feels pressure to entertain and always have an exciting story to tell but is exhausted by the effort and needs time to decompress.

R: This really surprised me. Leo has always struck me as the friendliest horse, he’s always curious with his neighbors in his stall and in the cross ties, but I can see how he would like his decompression time. He isn’t the most patient soul and has recently stopped chilling in his walk out since getting new neighbors he doesn’t quite like as much, kinda sad. But I am glad he enjoys his stall and isn’t like dyyyying to be in a pasture, though I do think he’ll end up in one as it should improve his creakiness.


Q: Does his tummy ever hurt? Ulcers, etc.?

A: His stomach doesn’t hurt, its more his lower back and into his ribcage is tight. He needs to strengthen his back. He drops his belly going around, and that’s why he has that tenderness.

R: He loves to bee bop around lazily, just super inverted and ugly. We’ve recently been working on belly lifts and hopefully that along with attentive riding will improve things. He’s already improved with the touchiness surrounding his flank/loin.


Q: Is he sore in his neck or legs? Or anywhere? How’s my saddle fit?

A: His legs are okay, normal. I would recommend neck stretches, like a carrot stretch. His neck feels very tight, tight down into his withers. Your saddle fit is okay, the half pad needs work. Its sort of interfering and feels like it moves too much as one piece if that makes sense.

R: This is not surprising AT ALL. His neck has become super stiff in the past two months, especially to the left! A chiro adjustment is at the top of my wishlist for him, but we have been working on the carrot stretches as well.


Q: What’s his favorite thing to do? Trail ride? Jump? Show? Graze?

A: He loves to just have fun times, run around and play tag with him. I know they say it creates nippy horses but he loves when you hide treats in your pockets and have him find them. Says if you play with him in a field he won’t kick you or hurt you, just likes to play.

R: This was so sweet to hear! Maybe it’s all horses, but Leo seems to especially love searching my pocket for treats. Pretty cute, it’s a very common activity for us.


Q: Favorite treat?

A: Favorite treat is apples, like the yellow golden apples. The red ones can taste like nothing and the green ones are too sharp.

R: Can confirm, he looooves these apples. Maybe he’s reacting the way any horse would react to a delicious apple, but definitely one of his favorite treats!


Q: What do I do that he doesn’t like?

A: He said he doesn’t like: everyyyything you do, said jokingly. He says he’s very grateful that he has you in his life.

But sometimes when we are trying something, you assume he knows something and he needs to work up to it. Just because he’s done something before with another rider, doesn’t mean he’ll understand when you ask him. He doesn’t understand how far we are scooping.

You need to be clear with your outside aids, because he doesn’t understand what you’re asking.

You need to work on going slow and really praise when he does it well so he knows if he’s done it right.

R: He gave an example of a circle exercise we did the week before - spiraling in and out. I was so confused by what Anise was describing I couldn’t take notes. I was just like what the hell am I scooping? I don’t feed him?? I eventually understood. So true that I needed to be clear with my outside aids, to spiral out I was removing my outside leg pretty much completely and his should was just completely falling out of the circle!


Q: Can you tell me about his past? Where did he grow up? Has he had a happy life?

A: He does not want to talk about his old life at all. He’s done with it, it’s in the past, his old owner does not need to visit him. He went through some traumatic things and is very future focused. Animals are very much like children in that once they experience trauma, they choose to ignore it and not think about it. He’s happy today and that’s all he cares about.

R: Wasn’t expecting quite this response, but it somewhat fits what I’ve heard about his past. He was basically a Big Eq horse but couldn’t mentally keep up with the intense show schedule. After an accident with his owner, he lost a ton of trust and was put up for sale and [fortunately for me] never sold. His story is so sad, but I’d never have the chance to have such an incredible animal in my life otherwise.