show season hacks

Show season has arrived for many of my blogging friends!!! ¬†Hooray you! ¬†While I’m not showing until after graduation (grumble grumble)¬†I did gather a few horse show hacks last year that I feel are worth sharing. ¬†My life philosophy is “cheap is good, free is better!” and if there was a way I could bring this to already-expensive showing, you can bet your ass I was going to do it. ¬†So here are a couple of things I’ve done in the last year or so that helped me out with my showing. ¬†They are all cheap or, better yet, free!!

Bathe your horse with baby shampoo

What has super sensitive skin yet still needs to be bathed and get clean almost every day? BABIES!! ¬†I actually got this one from the Groom Secrets account on Twitter, but it makes a lot of sense. ¬†Baby shampoo is gentle yet effective, and has left Murray’s hair very¬†soft when I have used it on him. ¬†Better yet, it’s cheap! ¬†I got a bottle last year at Target for around $4 (I honestly don’t even know what I paid, but it can’t have been significant if I’ve forgotten!) and it has lasted well into this year. ¬†Now, I’m not a prolific bather, or anything, but I’m willing to bed you’d get 20 baths out of that bottle — and that’s on my fussy, squirmy, irritating 16 hand noodle. ¬†You could definitely get more on a more reasonable (or pony-sized) bath-time citizen.

Apple cider vinegar + mineral oil body rinse

This tip I picked up from a USEA podcast interview, and is actually supposed to help get rid of “Florida Funk” (whatever that is?), but I use it as a general body rinse/conditioner, especially in Murray’s prone-to-dandruff mane. ¬†Basically, in a gallon of water you add a couple of good glugs of apple cider vinegar (they recommend organic, and I happened to have Bragg’s on hand at home so that’s what I used, but I reckon you could go el-cheapo and still get good results) and a tablespoon of mineral oil to a bucket, and use it as an after-shampooing rinse for your horse (I make this up in a mason jar with 1 cup apple cider vinegar to 1 tbs mineral oil, and dispense into a 3-gallon bucket as needed). ¬†The slight acidity of the apple cider vinegar will help strip mineral deposits from your horse’s hair, which is especially useful if, like me, you live in a region with hard water. ¬†In addition, apple cider vinegar is purported to have all kinds of mystical properties, including suppressing fungal infections and other miscellanea. ¬†I personally like the way the mineral oil makes Murray’s skin less dandruffy, and it’s easier for me to put on his dock and base of his mane than conditioner (because he is bad at baths). ¬†The podcast I listened to said they use this daily in Florida, I use it once every three months or so when I bathe because I’m a filth monster.

(PS Mineral oil is just unscented baby oil, in case you’re wondering. It’s not organic, but it is effective!! ¬†It will also moisturize the crap out of your hands if you have dry barn-hands like I do.)

Use a yarn sewing needle to sew your braids in

2014-07-10 12.17.26

I will not claim to be a braiding expert by any means, but I’ve braided a few horses for shows now, and Murray always looks like his life isn’t worth living afterwards. ¬†What can I say — he hates being beautiful. ¬†More to the point, after pondering various methods (rubber bands, yarn, string), I decided to¬†take our assistant trainer’s advice and do a combo approach. ¬†I braid yarn into the braid, and then sew it in like one would do with thread. ¬†Because of this hybrid approach, I have to get the yarn to go¬†through the knot I’ve created, and that is just not possible to do (neatly) with a pull through. ¬†I’m also absolutely terrified that if I use a braiding needle I will stab Murray’s neck causing him to throw his head up and whip it around, and the needle — now thoroughly stabbed into the meat of his neck, of course — will stab me in the eye. ¬†Not only will we careen around the show grounds joined like some kind of Frankenmonster, but I will be blinded and Murray will¬†never accept braiding again.

Irrational fear, meet child-safe yarn needle! ¬†The price is right on these puppies, ringing up at something like $2.80 at Jo-Ann fabrics, they are essentially disposable. ¬†They aren’t going to hurt my precious pumpkin if I accidentally hit his neck with one, and they go through even a tight braid quite smoothly. ¬†The large eye makes them super easy to thread, and you can use a variety of products with them — I imagine they would sew dental floss just as well as they do yarn.

Take a leaf out of a bedazzler’s book and use a bead organizer to sort little show items

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate when I get to a show and I don’t have enough safety pins to properly affix my number to my self or saddle pad. ¬†Then I lose some during the show and I end up with only one safety pin attaching my number to my pad during stadium and that is just not okay.¬† I also keep all the safety pins from every show ever, if I can, (why, no, I’ve never found two rusted, old safety pins attached to a show pad from prior to my trip to Africa before… never), as well as bobby pins, hair nets, and other little items. ¬†I used to keep them all in a little toiletries-bag like thing, but then I discovered these handy-dandy little crafting storage containers!

They usually lock quite tight to keep everything you need inside the containers (if I were a crafter I would lose my shit over beads going everywhere), and have neat little compartments for you to keep your safety pins, pre-dressage-test tums (some for you, some for pony), sugar cubes, bobby pins, spare hair nets, spare yarn strands, bridle charms, and probably everything else you could ever need in one place.

Tums before your dressage test

One for you, two for pony. Who needs to deal with extra acid sloshing around in their stomach?!

(Some people swear by this, some don’t. If your horse will eat them, I’m sure it can’t hurt.)

Pre-made faux baby wipes

Baby wipes are incredibly useful little bastards, but I just can’t get over the waste associated with them. ¬†So instead of using baby wipes, I use wash cloths (older are often better, because the new ones can be a little too fluffy and sometimes leave lint) that I’ve pre-moistened and put in a ziplock bag to maintain their dampness. ¬†To avoid them molding and becoming gross, I usually just do this the morning of or the night before a show. ¬†I fold up 2-4 wash clothes and get them appropriately damp, then seal them in a gallon ziplock. ¬†When I need to wipe out Murray’s boogers, clean up my bridle at the last minute, or wipe down my own fevered brow, one of those damp wash cloths usually does the trick. ¬†If I can’t fix it with that, there’s probably not time anyway.

Damp cloth, then show sheen, to remove dirt

When I was a kid I would always read in fantasy novels that people were rubbing their horses down until they shined or stopped sweating or majikally sprouted wings and took flight. ¬†I always kinda wondered what this rubbing down was for because I never rubbed anything down at riding camp… Anyway, sometimes I’ll be grooming my horse with my impeccably clean brushes and somehow —¬†somehow — overnight he became so deeply filth-rodden that the dirt is evading all of my best attempts. ¬†It turns out that if, after you’ve gone over and over and over and over the hair with your best brush and the dust is still clinging to the hairs, you run a damp cloth over the hair it will pick up the little dust particles that are just clinging to the surface there. ¬†I apply show sheen the same way, actually — spritz on a cloth and then rub the cloth over the hair.

Are there any show season hacks you reliably use? ¬†I’m into anything that will simplify my routine or get things cleaner, quicker, faster! ¬†Especially if they have a basis in fantasy novels — those are the best tips.

good in a crisis

Last week, fortunately while every authority figure of the barn was present and in the barn aisle, one of the horses got his head stuck under the pipe panel in his paddock. ¬†We were alerted to the situation by the cacophonous crashing and banging, and I ran outside. ¬†Poor D was thrashing and thrashing, and at first I thought he was simply cast. ¬†Once I realised he was more than just cast — well and truly stuck — I was paralysed for a few moments because I thought I was watching him die. ¬†It was pretty terrifying¬†— his whole head and neck were under the panel and he was moving so violently I thought he would break a leg or his own neck, if he wasn’t already impaled somehow. ¬†Trainer and BM yelled out at the girls and I who were stuck staring at the situation and¬†I unfroze, ran over talking to D,¬†and Trainer and BM came running out as well.

D settled once we got to him, and Trainer told me to sit on his head while she started undoing the panel D was stuck under. I was like “errr okay” but I will admit to being a little panicked by the idea of sitting on that head and going flying when he thrashed again. ¬†I knelt next to him instead, and covered his eyes at the instructions of Trainer.¬†BM and our assistant trainer were there next, and we worked on getting the panel undone, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t come up enough to let D out and the little amount of freedom he felt when we lifted the panel just restarted the thrashing. ¬†We ran to get a wrench and undo the center part of the panel, interrupted a few times by D’s thrashing. ¬†We needed a halter, and yelled at the teenagers standing around for one (unfortunately had to yell twice), and once someone else was helping keep D calm and by his head, I helped undo the panel. ¬†We eventually lifted the entire panel out, the halter helped keep D¬†lying down until all pointy bits were away, and the pony stood up as soon as he was properly free, groaning the whole way.

I’ve been in lots of crises or potential crises in my time, probably more than the average human my age due to my time in Africa and my extended¬†proximity to giant, suicidal ungulates. ¬†And while I might not always know exactly what to do in these situations, I feel like I’m pretty good in a crisis because I’m good at following direction and know how to keep myself out of the way. ¬†For those who find themselves unsure of what to do, or concerned that they are bad in a crisis, here are my top tips for¬†being helpful when disaster strikes.

Transporting an elephant — not a crisis, but a time when follow directions was crucial.

1. If you can’t help, stay out of the way

One of the most ridiculous things when an accident has happened is the number of useless¬†bystanders that somehow gather around the scene and ultimately clutter things up. ¬†If you can’t actively help¬†get out of the way of first responders. ¬†Whether those responders are paramedics or simply knowledgeable individuals helping the situation, they can’t do their jobs without space to work or with people blocking their way. ¬†(Definitely get out of the way of paramedics, they know what they are doing.)¬† In certain situations, bystanders can also get themselves hurt or make the situation much worse, and that’s the absolute last thing anyone needs — more injured people to worry about!

elephant3This is what an elephant looks like as he’s going under anaesthesia! You can see the dart in his thigh. ¬†This was prior to the truck image above, obviously.

2. If you are helping, make sure you are safe yourself

This follows from the end of #1 — you need to make sure that if you are helping, you are not going to make the situation worse by becoming injured. ¬†This is one of the first tenets of SCUBA rescue — you can’t help anyone if you’re also drowning. ¬†In the example above, before I approached D’s head I made sure to keep well clear of his flailing hooves (front shoes + human tibia = insta-breakage). ¬†If you’re working with any animal that’s down, you need to keep flailing feet and possible teeth in mind — panicked animals often¬†forget¬†to mind their manners.

3. If you have expertise in the area, step in to help

Especially if there are no paramedics on the scene, or you have knowledge that can help the situation (think engineering or architecture for something like D’s situation, veterinary techs, nurses, and obviously doctors in a human/animal emergency), or even if you’re just handy, offer your assistance — and speak up (though try not to be obnoxious). ¬†If you can see an opening to step in and help where someone hasn’t done a task required of them, step in and do that task quickly and quietly. ¬†And if you notice something going on that’s important, speak up, even though it’s hard to do so when older, more experienced people than you are running the show. ¬† A few years ago, when I was helping with chimpanzee health checks, one of the chimps didn’t go all the way under anaesthesia, which I was monitoring. ¬†The techs were so busy focusing on their job that they didn’t notice that every prick and prod they made woke the little chimp up more and she was on the verge of getting up and walking away. ¬†I had to step up and tell people superior to myself to stop what they were doing to re-evaluate the anaesthesia. ¬†This is important in any situation — i f you see something going on that needs addressing, address it.

Keeping the¬†airway open and monitoring air flow — seemingly minor, but crucial.

4. If you don’t know what to do, you can still help by quickly doing exactly what you are told.

Even if you’re not sure what to do in a situation, don’t underestimate the usefulness of someone who promptly does exactly what they are told. ¬†So if you’re a bystander and you see something that’s been asked for going untouched, get on it. ¬†If you hear someone looking for a bandage and you have a sweet first aid kit in your car, run and get it. ¬†If there is a crowd forming and the responders need space, work some crowd control. ¬†Especially in a situation with children (sometimes the person in need has kids, or the responders have kids they have to ignore a bit to get things done), crowd control is necessary — and sometimes crucial. ¬†Nobody wants their seven year old seeing a horse euthanized on course, so help everybody out by ushering children away from emergencies.

5. Think about the other responders

When a crisis situation goes on for a while, first responders can get tired, fatigued, and have their own needs. ¬†Offering water, relief (if someone is bracing something heavy, for example, they will need relief), or just checking in on people with their hands on the scene can be very helpful. ¬†Especially in hot or inclement weather, it’s important to think about the people working as much as the individual being helped.