lessons from children

This week has been a hectic one, for both pony and non-pony business.  I have to negotiate the process of getting a new passport (more complicated than it should be, but I’ll cover that when it’s all said and done) and we leave for Camelot on Friday, so there’s lots of packing and laundry and tack cleaning to be done.  And I’m moving at the end of the month.  And the WSS Horse Trials are on September 2nd. And I expanded one of my positions at work.

You know. Just a few things going on.

Anyway, my fearless leader had to travel for the first half of this week, leaving me without a trainer for a jump lesson pre-Camelot.  This isn’t a big deal, since our jump lesson last week was super fab, and we also get to school the XC course on Friday prior to showing.  But one of the young riders, and resident kid of our barn manager, set a new stadium course on Tuesday so I asked her to give me a little lesson before Camelot.  This kid, we’ll call her Pie, has been running prelim for the last year and riding naughty ponies as long as I’ve known her.  She also has plenty of experience riding Murray, though mostly early in his career. And she’s fifteen.

screengrabs courtesy of my teenage tutor

During warm up, Pie told me to slow my trot on approach to a crossrail.  I was like “um, do you even Murray, bro?” because a slow trot always leads us to disastrous warm up fences.  I much prefer to over-do it and kick him to them instead.  She insisted at the canter as well, and I didn’t comply and pushed Murray for a long spot instead, which resulted in a really ugly chip + me getting ahead.  So it was going so well so far.

I didn’t want to jump too much, so Pie built up the course in pieces.  We started with a short approach to a white gate, rollback to oxer, shallow bending line to vertical.  I kept my philosophy of squeezing Murray into the contact in my mind, and tried to remember my revelations from earlier in the week (post also coming later) about shaping Murray using both my inside and outside aids before a transition.  The transitions weren’t beautiful, and the canter still wasn’t in my hand, but stadium rounds start whether you’re ready or not, so I tackled the first fence.

Murray, shockingly, did not stop at the gate, which hasn’t been on a course in six months or more.  He did pull a little through the rollback, got a funny spot to the oxer, and somehow what should have been an easy seven turned into an ugly eight for us.  We tried again, and got the same funny spot to the oxer, then I pushed for six strides yet drifted even further out on the bending line for another ugly eight (or seven, I don’t even know).

Murray: oh Nicole, could you stop biffing the turn to this oxer please?

Pie lectured me about the bending line.  I needed to pick a track and ride for that track, instead of not picking a track and riding for nothing.  “And half halt,” she added.  Which, to her credit, she had been saying to me for the entire lesson already.  I just wasn’t really listening.

Half halting my horse is hard. Half halting while jumping results in slowing down and stopping.  Much safer to push.

Anyway, we finally committed to a good distance, then added in a triple bar (!!! for triple the fun) with five strides to another vertical.  I felt Murray hesitate ever so slightly as we first approached the triple bar, so I tapped him lightly on the shoulder (and immediately regretted it because I worried that he would use it as an excuse to lose forward momentum), and we went right over.  I did absolutely climb his neck at the vertical though, because we had too much speed coming in.  Pie told me to half halt, I did nothing, and so we got yet another atrocious spot.

In case you haven’t caught on (I hadn’t), that was the theme of this lesson: Pie told me to half halt, I didn’t (or maybe did, but only a little), chased my horse to the fences, and got shitty spots.  It was the. whole. lesson.

Murray, on the other hand, was a freaking star.  Long spot, short spot, Nicole climbing his neck, Nicole getting behind — he jumped it all.  He is clearly ready for this.  At one point we lost momentum after a sharp turn to the barrels, and when Murray had nearly ever excuse to stop over it, he went anyway.  He was jumping really well, and being so, so, so rideable.  He was a good boy.

I, on the other hand, was riding like a juggalo.

please, Nicole, please learn how to land from a fence

After a full course at Novice+ height (we measured later and Pie had set it kinda big, which is good because that’s how I like to prep for a show), we discussed my half halting problem.  I had realized throughout the lesson that my problem was that when I heard “half halt” I was hearing “slow down”, and the two aren’t really equivalent.  I also didn’t want to half halt because I have a tendency to be grabby with my hands, and that really does slow us down.  If I instead half halted with my leg on (you know, a real half halt), I could balance Murray’s energy instead of letting it get long and flat.

Pie also said that I needed to stop chasing my horse to fences, and trust more than he was going to do his job.  The phrases “you don’t need to gallop to every fence” and “this is not cross country” may have come up.

But, I whined, I’ve had to kick Murray to fences for so long that I don’t know how to do anything else.

Half halt, Pie told me.

I settled on one more course of a few fences to get the pace and balance right.  I picked up a canter and approached the first set of jumps — the ones that had given me so much trouble throughout the day.  “Is this the canter I want?”

Pie told me to half halt. (She does actually know how to give directions other than this one.)

Magically, we hit the gate perfectly.  Through the rollback, Pie told me to half halt again.  So I did.  I crossed the line we had (literally) drawn in the sand to mark where I should be able to tell how many strides it was to the oxer (yet another problem I was having), so I told Pie that it was three strides from there.  Which it was, perfectly.  I had to half halt again in the bending line to the vertical, but that also worked out perfectly.

The first three fences had gone so well that I decided to just finish out the course.  Coming down to the triple bar I heard Pie tell me to half halt again, so I did, and that one was a perfect spot also.  Every single fence came perfectly, except one that I couldn’t resist chasing Murray to the base of.

this is particularly impressive as it’s the out of a one-stride

So yeah.  I spent my morning getting schooled by a fifteen-year-old, which I am not used to.  I’m sure I would have struggled with the directive to half halt even if it came from B, though I probably would have just done it because it’s ingrained in me to do what I’m told by authority.

I learned a lot from this lesson.  Namely, my horse is being a fantastic boy right now, and I should trust him a little more.  I can’t chase him to the fences, because it messes up his ability to find an appropriate takeoff.  I seem to have no clue what an appropriate canter is for stadium, but I’m sure I’ll learn.  And for god’s sake I need to remember to half halt (when Pie tells me to).

Next step: fix those atrocious hands and awful landings!

pony jump big big

I wanted to take my first jump lesson since Murray’s hock injections easy(ish), but also prep for my Novice debut in ten days.  I told B that we should warm up, then start at Novice height and just build up to the course.  My goal for this was manifold.

  1. Avoid jumping every fence 3-6 times at varying heights
  2. Start out at the New Scary Height (2’11” in case you’re wondering)
  3. Ride “easy” lines to prevent stops before they could happen

Importantly, I wanted to focus on my position and see if I could find that magic “spot” again over fences, as well as keep riding correctly and insisting on correctness from Murray.  Pertinent to the second point, Alli said something to me that has totally revolutionized my rides this week: she realized that when she feels Dino get light in the bridle, she pulls to get the feel back, instead of kicking the pony up to it.  I realized that this is exactly what I do, especially when jumping: I feel Murray duck behind the bridle, and I take up more reins to get a feel of his mouth back, instead of pushing him forward to the contact and the fences.

Um. Duh.

we have walked over this tarp ditch every day for the last two weeks.
murray still stopped when we first cantered it today.
sigh

So for my last two rides I’ve been thinking about squeezing Murray forward into the bridle when I feel him duck behind it.  Not kicking or bullying, and definitely not pulling, but just squeeeezing him with my whole leg until I feel him come back into my hands.  It worked and got us a really fabulous trot toward the end of my (short) ride yesterday, and I thought “if I could trot like this up to a vertical, it would be pretty fucking awesome”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to achieve the beautiful trot up to our warmup fences, but I kept squeezing and pushing and Murray softened to the idea.  It’s not his favourite idea — being told what to do OR being told to move forward into contact — but it’s probably the least offensive way I’ve ever asked him for this, so  he was willing to accept a bit.

We started with a simple, long bending line of vertical to oxer.  When B was setting the oxer I remember thinking “gee that’s big! Murray doesn’t even barely have to put his nose down to touch it.”  That’s what you get when you don’t jump  height for a while.  I felt Murray hesitate as we approached the green oxer, that kind of shrinking-stride check in he sometimes does.  I knew it was an opportunity for him to sit down and stop if he chose, so I squeezed him into the bridle — not too aggressively — and he went right over.  I was very, very proud.

good pony

Next up, we built up the combination. The kids had put together a barrels-two strides-quarter round skinny-one stride-quarter round skinny combo across the long diagonal.  I didn’t want to fight with Murray about it, so B had me come in to the barrels like I was on a big circle and just turn left before we got to the skinny.  Murray actually locked on to the skinnies in the combination and I felt him pull me to the right.  But I was committed to going left, so I made the turn happen.  Our next go through he eagerly jumped through the whole combo, though we did jam three in the two stride.


we got the striding later though!

Our attempts at the barrel line were not without fuckups, however.  After one successful go through, I leaned as we approached the barrels in a backward attempt to push Murray toward the fence and encourage him to get the striding.  Murray was like “girl, you cannot lay on my neck like that” and stopped.  I, of course, lay all over his neck.  Like, straight lesson kid laying on the neck posture.  (I would have a picture, but google photos won’t give me the high resolution version of my video!!!!)

shenanigans

Next we came in to the oxer to liverpool.  Murray and I have walked over the liverpool every. single. day. and yet we still had trouble with it during the lesson.  The first time I was coming off of some shenanigans so Murray was flustered and disorganized and I tried to commit to the oxer anyway.  It was the wrong choice.  The next go through Murray went over the oxer and then spooked hard at the liverpool.  I was like “Nope! Nope! You have to do it, Murray!” and pointed him back at the liverpool.  After a moment’s thought he jumped over.  Subsequent attempts were slightly less awkward.

The last few fences on course included a series of rollbacks that were a little more challenging upon execution than I expected!  We overshot the turn both times we took it, but Murray was game to take the second fence at an angle, which made up for my poor navigation.

In our last course, Murray arrived at the big green oxer on a fantastic open stride and at just a hint of a long spot.  I squeezed him a few strides out as encouragement, and he launched himself over — I mean, really launched himself.  Sadly B was very far from the oxer at the time, but we FLEW!

The last course was really fantastic — we made all the strides, didn’t get any awkward spots because we had such a good quality canter, and Murray was on fire!  Seriously, I could not have asked for a better jump lesson before Camelot.  Murray is clearly feeling… something, since his hock injections.  (Though honestly, if shenanigans is what I’m going to get when my pony feels good, I’m willing to take it.)  None of the stops were unreasonable.  All basic rider error, things that I ought to know better than to do/try/flub.

Oh, AND I didn’t crumble because of the height!  Murray and I jump 2’11” not infrequently, but we usually work up to it.  We don’t usually just start at that height.  And I didn’t let it get to me in the first few fences, so after that it immediately felt fine.

it felt so, so, so cool to have Murray pulling to these skinnies in the combo!

We will probably jump once more before Camelot, to keep the confidence up.  But now, I really, really, really need to figure out how to ride Novice B dressage test.

the spot

The first week I moved into the dorms my freshman year of college, a new friend recommended a book to me.  I can’t remember the name of book or author any more, but it was a kindof philosophical exploration into taking mind-altering drugs in ceremonies reminiscent of Native American rituals and the mental, physical, and spiritual results of these endeavours.  I only got partway through the book, so I don’t know the extent of what the author discovered or wrote about.  But one thing that did stand out to me in the first third of the text was the idea that (even while not high on peyote) one could sense the energy of an empty space and find places in that space that were more or less “welcoming” to the spirit.  The author described slowly crawling around a mostly empty room in the dark, and finding that he was constantly repelled from a certain area of the room by feelings of cold and hostility that crept over him while he was there.  In one specific place, he was overcome with warmth and tranquility whenever he sat there.

So of course my new friend and I took it upon ourselves to find “our spots” in her dorm room.  We asked her roommate if she could please give us an hour of privacy, as we were going to be exploring spiritually and finding “our spots”.  Peyote-less, we turned out the lights, crawled around in the dark, bumped in to things, and proclaimed that we felt positive or negative energy in certain areas.  I don’t remember if I really did ever find a space in the room that felt peaceful and welcoming — probably not, we do have a raging skepticorn over here — but I do know that it never amounted to much, since it wasn’t my room anyway.  Upon emerging with dirty hands and knees, when asked by other people on the floor what we were doing, we exuberantly exclaimed “finding our spots!”

They were thinking of totally different spots.

Not unlike this mystical experience, though, I found a pretty magical spot in my saddle earlier this week.  Murray and I were working on walk-trot transitions while I listened to the Dressage Radio Show.  The guest on at the time was talking about being able t control the placement of the hind feet, and really being able to sense the placement of the hind feet as they move through space.  The idea  being that you can only influence the foot if you know where it is in space, so you can time the correction appropriately, and exactly where it is and where you need to move it.

While thinking about hind feet in the transitions, I also started to think about the transitions themselves.  I always want Murray to move up into a more forward trot, but what that sometimes results in is him pulling himself into a messy, downhill trot that I then have to work to correct.  Instead of letting him dump forward in the transition, I kept the contact there and asked Murray to come up right after each transition if he ran down through them (um, I think? I don’t totally remember).

equitatin’ so gud

I was also focusing on my leg position throughout the ride.  My left leg has been hurting after riding lately, and I noticed that I weight it differently in the stirrup, putting more weight on the toe of my left foot.  This stretches out the tendon (or whatever) on the outside of my leg, and makes it difficult in general to use my lower leg.  So I was working hard to keep the weight even on the ball of my foot and bring my toes in.

At some point in all of this I brought both of my legs back a touch to help turn my toes in, and suddenly my position felt perfect.  My whole leg could be on Murray without gripping or squeezing or flailing, but if I needed to, I could pressure my calf or my thigh independently or together.  I was balanced through my thigh and knee, but I still felt like my heel was sinking down.  I felt like I was sitting in the deepest possible place in the saddle, and felt connected to Murray’s back more thoroughly than I ever have before.

IT WAS SO. FREAKING. COOL.


throwback to feeling cool on my horse for like the first time ever

Murray maybe liked it too, or at least had gotten to the point of the ride where he was willing to just acquiesce to my requests, because we had some fantastic trot transitions in both directions.  Toward the end I decided to throw in a canter transition too, and he just rose up under my seat like Poseidon out of the sea and stepped right into a killer, uphill canter.  I wasn’t even thinking about keeping him ahead of my leg, and there he was — right on the aids.

only, think of him as a benevolent poseidon

I’m not exactly sure how I did it, or how to make it happen again.  I tried a bit in my jump saddle and couldn’t quite achieve the same level of zen.  But now I have a new feeling to chase!

hard walk week

Poor Murray has had a hell of a week.

First, I made him lose all of the skin on his cannons with my over-liberal application of Equiderma lotion.  Then I forced him to do so much walking it’s absurd.  Walking is the worst.

On Monday, when I went to wrap up Murray’s cruddy/scabby right hind, he said “no thank you”.  He kept picking the leg up and scampering away from me when I went to wrap it, so I asked my barn manager to give me a hand.  She has a special relationship with Murray — i.e. he behaves for her, because he knows he has to.  He wouldn’t even let her touch his leg, so she had a conversation with him, and then wrapped his leg while he was standing ground tied in the barn aisle.

https://giphy.com/embed/11BAxHG7paxJcI

via GIPHY

On Tuesday, I figured I’d skip the wrapping drama and twitch Murray before I attempted to clean out the goop on his leg.  I asked barn manager for help with a handy-twitch.  When barn manager went to put on the twitch, Murray said “no thank you”.  Then they had a discussion about accepting a twitch and not being a butt when someone touches your face.  She got him twitched, and I wrapped his leg in the parking lot (where he had ended  up over the course of the discussion).

On Wednesday, I wrapped his leg in his stall and it was relatively drama free. I think I had to use some stern words to remind him to keep his manners about him, but other than that, no big.

On Thursday, as I was booting up to ride (I’m riding in diagonal-opposite boots on the good legs right now), Murray LEAPT away from me and right into our barn manager.  And not just a little bit, he leapt into her and kept on going through her as if she didn’t even exist.  Then they had a discussion about respecting peoples’ space.

On Friday, Murray  let me do his girth up to the third hole on each side (one higher than usual), while he was tied, and he didn’t move a muscle, except to remind me to please put one more carrot in the machine.  [I was actually floored by this, and NOBODY who knows us was around to appreciate it. DEVASTATING. He got a huge pile of carrots as a reward though.]

He’s got the weekend off, and we’ll get back to torture next week!

doctor, doctor

Murray has some wild cannon keratosis this year.  He’s gotten it to some degree or another every summer.  Usually I curry some off, piss off the horse a bit, and then give up and leave them alone.  The clods always seemed to fall off by fall (tried to pun that but couldn’t make it work, gah), and then I could gently curry his legs back into shape.

This year it was not to be.  The scurf started early and got very irritated on cross country at Twin, when his boots ripped off the bits of crud and hair while we were running really, really fast.  I have been using Equiderma fly spray since April, and bought some of their skin lotion to get the crud off.  The protocol seemed amazingly straight forward: apply lotion, wipe crud off in 24 hours, apply in future as needed.

So I did it for the first time about a month ago and it kinda did… nothing.  Some of the cruddy bits came off and some didn’t, so I put the lotion aside for a while.  Until Sunday, when I took a look at Murray’s cannons after hand walking him and realized that I really needed to do something about the scurf.  It had built up to the point where the accumulated crud was actually 2-3mm out from his skin, making his legs look funny.  So I put on a thick layer of the Equiderma lotion and waited.  (Like… a really, really thick layer.)

the results were disgusting

On Monday, I was picking Murray’s feet out and bumped his right hind and a HUGE chunk of skin fell off of the cannon revealing sad, weepy, slightly bloody skin beneath it.

Um… wut.

I gently picked at the flappy scabby bit a little, but a lot of it was still adhered.  On the advice of one of the many lovely vets who I ride with, I applied some triple antibiotic lotion and wrapped the site.

The next day the wrap was intact, but all of the hair and some of the skin on his LF had come off (see above).  All on its own.  It just… fell off.

not the grosses view of the RH, but you can kinda get the idea

It’s really weird that the keratosis is only hitting hard on the LF and RH. It’s pretty unpleasant though, even the little spots are pulling off skin with them. And poor Murray is getting them beyond just his cannons — the cruddy bits have spread in small sections to the tendon side of his LF.

As one would expect, Murray takes the doctoring so well.  As in, barn manager had to have discussions with him on two consecutive days re: leg wrapping, then re: accepting a twitch for leg wrapping.  But when you leave him loose in the barn aisle to slather lotion on and then dry and ointment and wrap the leg?  Perfect (after a bit of a reminder). [Resemblance to Bobby grows, including fungus leg!!! Oh no.]

you can kinda see the lumpy crud accumulations on the front of this leg

I’m wondering if the huge number of bugs around this year have something to do with the irritated bits.  Murray is pretty cranky and stompy about flies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually gets bitten by them or reacts to the bites.

For now, I’m avoiding the Equiderma lotion and sticking with the triple antibiotic my vet gave me.  We’ll see how this goes in the next few weeks.  On the up side, wherever Murray’s hair falls out from this it grows back white — so at this rate, we’re in for at least two new white socks.  I’ve always wanted my pony to dapple and have a little more chrome — and since he figured out dapples this year, maybe this is just my wish coming true?!

its important to match your fly mask to your vetwrap

PS Advice always welcome — this is my first gross horsey health issue, so if you’ve got ideas on skin soothing, skin healing, loosening that disgusting accumulation of dead skin and sebum, I’m all ears!

new baby horses, new lessons

Murray has been on post-injection stall rest for a few days, so I’ve been riding some of trainer B’s sales/training/baby horses for fun.  I mean, it was also one of my summer “plans“.  So ya know.

Ponyboy was actually real cute this weekend when I took him out for a handwalk. We walked all over the arena and back and forth over the scary, terrifying, horse-eating tarp. I unhooked the leadrope to let him roll, but Murray continued to just follow me around, including back and forth over the tarp!  Totally at liberty.  Like, please, horse: tug on my heart strings some more.

And man.  It’s been a while since I’ve had really prolonged contact with really green/baby horses.  I forgot about all the baby horse things.  Like, walking literally on top of me when I ask them to step up toward the tacking up area.  Or walking at a snail’s pace and literally making me drag them in from the pasture.  (WHY baby horse, WHY? I give you carrots in the barn?!)

But they are good teachers — almost always.  You just have to listen.  Here are some of my recent lessons.

awwwwh look at da baby murray!

you catch more flies with honey

Baby horses don’t know things. Like, sometimes they don’t know any of the things. And there’s only so much beating dragging one can do of a horse who just doesn’t know what the hell is expected of him.  I have some pretty strict expectations when it comes to ground manners in the horses I’m working with.  I realized that this is SUPER LAUGHABLE, since my horse has something like the second worst ground manners on Earth.  But in all honesty, when he’s in a non-stressful situation he knows how to behave around a human — even if he doesn’t want to do it.  The really green horses I’ve worked with have conveniently forgotten all of their racetrack manners — and I know they had them.  I try my hardest not to let them get away with bad behavior (easy, because I seem to use up all of my patience and tolerance on my own horse), and frequently praise the good behavior verbally, as well as with pats and carrots.

auto-narration of my exploits

Because I’m nearly constantly praising or scolding the young horses, I find that I’m nearly constantly talking to them. I kinda like this auto-narration of my rides and ground work.  Not only does it make me feel super important (hah), but it also keeps me thinking about what we’re doing, instead of letting me mindlessly slip into bad habits.

this track pic is so murray
photog: murray/ricothefreako, look at the camera, these are your sale pics!
murray/recothefreako: there’s a thing over there!!

my expecations are way higher now

I used to get on baby horses or other peoples’ horses and let them flop around on a loose rein and be like “wow, they are so cute!”  And I still do that now… kinda.  But then I pick up the reins and ask them for a little bit more.  I don’t need alot, I just need them to put themselves together a little bit.  This seems to be the part where most of the baby horses are like WOAH WHAT.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a horse to learn to start stretching laterally and longitudinally, using their back, and not falling through their shoulders.  I mean, obviously not all at once.  And not for long periods of time.  But these are things that sport horses need to learn.  And we can chip away at them one step at a time.

These days it drives me nuts when a horse responds to what I consider a relatively simple aid by doing the exact opposite (yield to the inside rein =/= stick out your jaw and lean on my hand).  Or even not doing it at all.  DON’T YOU KNOW I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU, BABY HORSES?!

It’s no longer acceptable to me to take no for an answer to these requests.  I do my level best not to be mean about it, and to praise mightily (see above) when I get what I want.  I even back off if the question I’m asking is too hard or incomprehensible.  Every ride I’m putting on these horses is training them one way or the other, and I don’t want to train them that “no” is an okay response to a reasonable request.

the training scale

This thing is golden and was has lasted forever for a reason.  If we’ve got nothing, I know where I need to start: rhythm.  On the flip side, it makes me wonder how some of the older horses I’ve ridden have gotten away so long without this crucial skill…


baby horse goes jump jump

distance makes the heart grow fonder

Riding babies makes me think of nothing so much as how badly I just want my own horse back.  Murray know how to do all the things I want, just the way I want them, pretty much when I want them.  I love you and miss you Murray.  Feel 100% REAL QUICK plz.

 

five things friday

Phew. What a week. I was weirdly emotional about getting Murray’s hocks done, which is strange because that’s exactly what I called the vet to ask about in the first place… but some small, irrational, part of my brain still hoped that by magic my horse would be fine and proclaimed hale and hearty well into his seventies.  Murray, on the other hand, is super sad about being asked to rest again.

Just the saddest.

But as always, you guys were there to add excellent evidence and kind words of support, so I’m feeling much perkier about Murray’s prognosis.

1. Sweat equity

When my boyfriend moved in with me a couple of months ago he brought along his scale and a serious determination to get into a healthier lifestyle.  (Couch surfing and living with his parents for a year took a toll.)  I don’t worry too much about my weight unless something weird is going on, like I don’t fit in to my breeches or something, but I do hop on the scale every now and again.  On Monday, around noon, I jumped on the scale before going to ride, then headed out and rode two horses, worked 3 yearlings (oh man did they get on my bad side that afternoon), ran an errand at the feed store, and came home around six.  I’d polished off my 1 L water bottle and another 500 mL of water after getting home.  I jumped back on the scale out of curiosity before stripping to get in the shower.

Despite consuming 1.5L of water, I’d still somehow lost a pound of weight while I was out of the house.  The water weighed 3.3 lb (1.5 kg), and I didn’t eliminate in other ways while out of the house, so that means I lost a total of 4.3 lbs in sweat + CO2 + water vapor over the course of the afternoon.  That’s a lot of moisture.

2. Electrolytes

In addition to drinking enough water to make up for the sweat I lose while riding and playing outdoors in general, I’ve taken to drinking some electrolytes as well.  A friend gave me a box of Osmo for Women and I actually like the powdered mix a fair bit.  It’s a bit gritty/grainy at the end, but it’s not hard to just swirl it up and down the whole thing.  I used to drink watered down gatorade while at horse shows, but I’ll definitely be replacing it with proper electrolytes in the future.  Eventually I’ll run out of my free Osmo — what do you use?  I’ve heard great things about Smart Water.  Thoughts?

3. Sore muscles

I’m kinda over paying an arm and a leg for liniment and muscle rubs that I feel like actually work.  I like Sore No More Gelotion a lot, but $18 for a little bottle, when I’m pretty sure I can get the ingredients for less.  I’m going to take a whack at making my own liniment. I’m pretty sure I have the basics sorted out (witch hazel base, arnica and comfrey for sure, maybe including camphor, lavender, rosemary, and ginger, emulsify with xantham gum).  What’s important to you in a liniment?  One of my friends loves the cooling feeling of menthol, which you can kinda replicate with peppermint oil (if you don’t want to add straight menthol crystals).  Another online source swears by magnesium salts as a body brace, and it wouldn’t be terribly hard to dissolve some of them in there.

4. International Blogger Contest

Horse Junkies United is running an International Blogger Contest with a bomb prize package.  I write for them occasionally and really enjoy the community on there.  I might enter (I don’t think I’m excluded, but I probably won’t win anything either) — and you should enter too!

5. Tweezerman nail clippers

I actually got these off of someone else’s Friday Five.  Have you ever owned really nice nail clippers?  Me neither, until I got these guys.  I LOVE them.  It’s so nice to trim my nails and not feel the jaggedy sharp edges that you usually get with the $1.99 drug store nail clippers.  10/10 will recommend again.