Sunday, August 31, 2014


Doing another bummer of a post. This is probably going to be more a venting/pity party type post, but bear with me.

It's weird how your life can revolve around one or two things, and then when those things are gone, there's suddenly this void that you don't know how to fill. That's really what Candy's semi-retirement is right now, a big void. I'm finding myself stuck with free time (I'm in vet school, so it's not quite "free time" but my schedule is more flexible), and I'm finding my bank account a little bit fuller (no tack sprees when there's no horse to tack up).

Candy is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime horse; not in the beautiful or athletic aspect, but I have never ridden a horse that I have clicked so well with. My trainer back home calls him "my first love", and he really is. He has done nothing but give me 110% since the day he became mine. I truly believe that horse would do anything I asked of him, and he still does. Every time I go to the barn, I am in breeches, half chaps, and boots, and before I do anything, I pick his hooves and lunge him, hoping he will be sound. He doesn't have a floaty trot, or a particularly fantastic canter, but he is Candy, and Candy will leg yield at the trot to the left onto his bad hock, because that is what I ask of him. There's no drama, just a slight pinning of his ears to say "Yes, there is pain here.", but those stubby ears are flicked forward almost as quickly as if to say "But let's jump. Let's do what we love." and that is what breaks my heart.

Candy and I got off to a very, very rocky start. I was a gangly fourteen year old and had run out of lesson horses in my lesson program that were big enough for all of my leg. I had just started riding 2 years prior, and my parents were still convinced I would quit at any second, so there was never a discussion of me getting my own horse at this point in time.

One crisp autumn Wednesday, I went out for my weekly lesson and was told to get Candy, the "fat bay with a star" in the gelding field. Grooming and tacking up was uneventful. I got on him, and was told, "He's a head flipper, so don't worry about where his head is, and be prepared to grab mane when you jump." Well, these were the understatements of the YEAR. Any gait faster than a walk, Candy would methodically flip his head violently up and down, sometimes sideways or in a circle. Jumping was not much better; he would LAUNCH himself a good 3' over cross-rails; all four feet left the ground at the same time, and all four would land on the ground at the same time. The concussion of all four feet on this 2000 lb. horse hitting the ground would startle him (or in retrospect, probably hurt...), so Candy would then violently buck into the corner, settle, and the process would repeat for the next line. I HATED this horse; I hated him. I was riding hunters at the time, and just wanted to win, but here I was on this useless green horse who barely knew what any of his extremities were doing at any given time.

Showing was not better; he was spooky and stubborn. At our first show, he refused to pick up the canter portion of our opening courtesy circle, crowhopped to the first jump, and jumped from a standstill. On the other side of the vertical, he planted his feet and refused to move forward any further. I asked to be excused from the ring, and my trainer grabbed a stick and got on him. He was not much better, jumping jumps sideways, at a standstill, even crashing through one. He was frustrating, hard-headed, an ugly mover, and an ugly horse, but somewhere along the way, I fell in love.

We've had our ups and downs. We've gotten into fights I'm not proud (in and out of the show ring), I've gotten so angry with him I've had to leave him in the field for weeks at a time and ridden other horses, but somewhere along the way, he claimed me as his.

He's not the horse I would have chosen for myself when I was 15, but he chose me. He chose me rather aggressively- biting other people in the field who tried to catch him, dumping other riders, and even threatening to kick me when I brought in other horses. I once left on vacation for a week while leasing him, and he refused to turn around and be caught the next time I went out to see him.

But once I realized this obese, cranky gelding had decided he liked me, we were inseparable. I worked in at the barn doing evening turnouts and feedings to ride Candy on the weekends. We started placing in equitation rounds at local shows. He stopped refusing jumps (although to this day, I still carry a stick, just in case), and began to jump across them, rather than up and over. We still were never a flashy pair, never particularly noticeable, and never placed well in hunters, but I loved him and he loved me.

Before college, I leased another horse with the hopes of showing 3' in the hunter ring; it didn't happen simply because I wasn't ready, and the timing just wasn't right. I left for school, and left Candy behind. Then in April of 2010, I received a Facebook message from the woman who had bought the lesson facility asking me if I wanted Candy for free- I had one week to decide before he went up for sale. My parents reluctantly said I could have him (my dad even said he would buy me a "nice horse" instead).

I went out to see him the first day of spring break my freshman year. I walked up to the fence and called his name, and I saw him in the back of the field lift his head, and gallop towards me whinnying.

Since I've owned him, he's become a different horse. He's now a loving, cuddly, always-in-your-pocket horse. He's still pushy, and still demands to be ridden a certain way, but he is much more forgiving. He's honest, and will jump anything I put in front of him. He will never be a beautiful horse, but he is handsome with his shiny bright bay coat, his sturdy build, his Roman nose (which has grown on me), his too-short-for-his-head ears, and his soft, kind eye. He will never be a beautiful mover, but he loves lateral work, has automatic changes, a balanced canter, and can turn on a dime.

This is why my heart breaks to think of retiring him. We have come so far in the past 10 years, and neither of us are ready to quit. I will probably be exploring a few more options, and praying the hock fairy comes and fuses his hocks so we can have a few more years in the low jumper ring. But if not, I will continue to hack him, laugh when he spooks at a butterfly on trail rides, curry him for 30 minutes and massage his tense muscles, and pop him over small jumps as much as his hock will allow.

I will do all of this because he's my Candy Man, and he chose me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Ariat Quantum Crowne Pro Field Boots

I have been on the search for my "Cinderella" boot, and thought I found my Holy Grail with the Ariat Quantum Crowne Pros after trying them on in a Dover Saddlery. I went online to SmartPak and ordered a pair, since they have a free shipping, free return policy. I ordered a size 8.5, slim calf, tall height. Here are my thoughts!

Retail is roughly $600

First Impression: Really shiny, almost fake looking leather, but the leather is thick and feels sturdy. The zipper is AMAZING. This is a zipper with heft; it feels like it wouldn't burst at all, even once I managed to zip the boots all the way up. The zipper was the only reason I stayed away from Ariat, because both my zippers broke, but this one is the boot zipper I have dreamed of. Once zipped up, the boots came up to the back of my knee. I have a 19" femur, which means that once these boots dropped, they may not be tall enough. The slim calf was the perfect fit for my 14" calf, and once the boots stretched, they would fit like a glove.

Toe is a lot rounder in person than in photos.

  • Love love love the zipper
  • Really nice slimming silhouette through the calf (a little baggy and "ripple-y" at the ankle, but they're not customs, so not a huge deal)
  • Stiff, fake looking leather
  • Round toe caps (may be my bias, but I loathe round toes on boots; oval and square for me!)
  • Would drop to be too short- in my experiences with Ariat boots, they usually drop about 1.5- 2 inches
  • Enamel swagger tab decoration looks cheap
  • No boot bags included- my last two pairs of Ariats came with boot bags, and I was surprised this pair did not.

The "tacky" enamel swagger tag.

Really nice fit, but that rounded toe. 
(excuse the mess, just got home from work at 10 pm after a long day at school!)

Overall, for the price point, I will not be keeping these boots. I just was not impressed with the overall quality of the boot for the price of the boot. It looked, and felt, much like my old Ariat Heritage boots I had through 2003-2010. I loved my old Crowne Pros, but I really was not impressed by these boots. Since the DeNiros I wanted are on backorder, I will just have to be patient, and wait for them to arrive. I may be picky, but it's only because I am trying to find my off-the-rack dream boot.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Broken Heart

Just received word from my consult with Dr. Ruggles- because the hock injections in Candy were unsuccessful and he can't be managed on Previcox, surgical fusion of the joint is really the only option left. Having seen a couple surgeries on senior horses go wrong at my old job and my current financial situation, I will not be pursuing the surgery.

I'm not really sure if I will keep blogging. I'm going to try the Cosequin ASU and the BoT hock boots, but right now, the future looks pretty grim for Candy.

It's frustrating to be in vet school and watch two of your animals crash and burn before your eyes and be powerless to help it.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Keep Looking Up

For those of you who know me, you know I can be really negative. It takes a lot of work for me to look on the bright side or think positively, and when a lot of negative things happen to me, I tend to walk around with a thundercloud over my head.

So when I went out to the barn Sunday to trot my horse for the first time after his hock injections, and he came up lame, I did the only thing a pre-professional 23 year old woman wouldn't do. I cried like a baby.

The vet had warned me that if hock injections didn't work, Candy would probably never be working sound again. When Candy was lame, I was frustrated; my gut was telling me Candy wasn't done, and by the way Candy was trotting, he was telling me he wasn't done- just a little stiff and achey.

I've spent a couple hours trolling through veterinary websites looking for research on hock arthritis, scoured through COTH forums, and consulted a couple of friends. And now I'm going "balls-to-the-wall" with solutions hoping one will work:

  • Consulting Dr. Ruggles at Rood and Riddle for alternative therapies/joint approaches
  • Back on Track hock boots
  • Hind shoes (he's got twinkly feet now, the fancy pants)
  • Adding Cosequin ASU
  • Changing our warm-up and flatting routine
Being proactive and positive ("One of these has to work!") is all I can do right now; doing things helps me from going crazy when the going gets tough. It means if it all goes south, I will have tried every option offered to me (within financial reason), and that's enough to comfort me.

This first year in Alabama has been a rough one: ulcers, 2 bouts of colic, and now joint disease, but through it all, I keep telling myself Candy and I will get back into the show ring, and doing what we love. It's an uphill battle right now, and sometimes (a lot of the time) I would love to hitch a ton of balloons to my apartment and float away to Kentucky. 

I just need to keep thinking positive and everything will turn out fine.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Broken and Babies

I finally managed to get the vet out to do a soundness exam on Candy two days before school started. Eek! After doing nerve blocks, Dr. R determined that Candy is probably hurting most through his hock. It's really cool to watch all these nerve blocks and actually apply what I've learned in class to the real world, but at the same time, why do all the "educational" experiences have to happen on my pets?

But wait. It gets better.

Dr. R came out and X-rayed yesterday; he called me with the results (which I may or may not have ducked out of class for...). And brace yourselves, folks...

To quote Dr. R: I can't wait for you to see these radiographs!
Me: Oh, really?
Dr. R: It's some of the most severe degenerative joint disease I've ever seen, so the X-rays will be really educational.

Luckily though, the joint disease was localized to the lower two hock joints (the tarsometatarsal joint and distal intertarsal joint, folks), which is more promising than if it had reached the top joint. So, since Candy is the love of my life, I told the Dr. R to go ahead and inject Candy's hock. In 4 days, we'll see if it worked!! It's like waiting for Christmas... if your Christmas had a guarded to fair prognosis you might get presents. Fingers crossed!!
"Durrduhdurr, I'm Candy."

I was supposed to have a lesson on Candy last night, but since he's on stall rest until Friday evening, so instead a hopped on a fancy 5 year old mare named Bug. So not only was I conquering my fear of jumping, I was doing it on a baby. I actually love riding green horses because they really show you exactly where you're not riding effectively. On Bug, I learned that I:
  • Jump ahead
  • Cannot use draw reins to save my life
  • Cannot keep stirrups on my feet without my big black wrap-around pads
  • Am not impressed by jointed stirrups
  • Don't need knee rolls to keep my leg in place!!!
  • Can sit a change and jump a course on a baby with no stirrups
  • Have 0 weight in my heels
It's a lot to work on really. Jumping ahead will get dangerous; Bug is pretty scopey, but we stayed around 2' for my lesson last night. If I want to get back to jumping big fences in any time soon, I really need to focus on keeping my weight in my heels and not jumping ahead. I think because I'm still out of shape and haven't found my groove I oscillate between jumping ahead and getting really really left behind. All it takes is practice. Who knew that a year off from jumping and riding would do this much damage?

Anyway, that's really it for now. School has started and so I may not be able to ride as much as I would want, I am still making it a priority to get to the barn 4 days a week. We'll see!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Highs and Lows

Sorry for such a hiatus between my first post and my second post. It has been a couple weeks of very deep lows and a couple of highs.

Some of the lows:

My 6 year old guinea pig, Doodle, passed away two weeks ago. He had had heart failure that went unnoticed until it was too late. It broke my heart when he passed, but I felt very at peace about the whole thing: he had received the best veterinary care and husbandry I could provide. He was a spoiled, rotten little pig. Wilbur has some big paw prints to fill.
The very sweet, always sassy Doodle McGoo. RIP little dude.

Candy choked for the second time in 3 months. Then after finishing his round of antibiotics to prevent choked-related pneumonia, developed a lovely set of conjunctivitis in both eyes requiring eye meds twice a day (because I have soooo much free time).

School starts in 3 days. THREE.

The highs:

Wilbur and I have been spending quality time together, He loves his new cuddle sack from Ruby and Ethel. Seriously, it's the greatest; he loves it and will crawl into it when I put it in the cage so no more grabbing and chasing an upset Wilbur around. 

"I feel so safe and cozy. And I can't pee on Mom or rub my butt on her."

Candy and I JUMPED 2'6!! Which is a huge deal for me. I had an accident almost 2 years ago (eep!) that made me afraid to jump. I had worked my way back up to 2'9-3'0 when I moved down to Alabama. Then ulcers hit and Candy and I kind of stopped being able to communicate. We're slowly rebuilding our trust and partnership, and I can feel my old horse coming back bit by bit. It's so good to see the old man bouncing back like a pro.

We are freaking majestic... As are my boyfriend's photography skills.

The boyfriend went to Kentucky with me and met the family. Took him to KHP where he rode a horse for the first time. And he unwittingly took me tack shopping on his dime. I was a good girlfriend and only walked out with one pair of Tailored Sportsmans.

I FOUND A PAIR OF TALL BOOTS. I swear, it has been like Cinderella and the glass slipper. I have tried on everything from Tredstep Donatellos to Parlanti Miamis (swoon). The pair I had my heart set on were backordered until forever (October), and I start showing again in a month, so I bought a different pair. Definitely will be posting a review of the boots when they arrive.

That's life right now. Candy is getting a lameness exam done today; he's been off in his left hind pretty frequently. Once I get into the swing of school, I'll probably post reviews of some new tack I've bought recently (and not so recently) and update you guys on showing and the ins and outs of partial leasing out a horse.