Friday, January 27, 2012

Frugal Friday: Farnam Equine Coupons!

At the beginning of each new year, I like to go through my tack box and take an inventory of all the many, sundry things that have collected there from the year before. I like to keep a well-stocked tack box in case of emergencies - I can't tell you how many times I've been able to produce a much-needed item for a friend in a pinch! - so I make note of any items that need to be replaced or repaired.

As almost any horseman can tell you, keeping a variety of grooming and health care products on hand isn't a cheap endeavor at the outset. I promise that it gets easier as time goes by, especially if you're a smart shopper and use coupons for those much-needed products in conjunction with the on-going sales in many tack shops and catalogs.

Today's Frugal Friday post brings you a number of coupons from Farnam, a trusted name in horse care since 1946. Like last week's Absorbine coupon, these are available as PDF files and can be printed and used as often as you like, so long as you follow the guidelines listed on the coupons themselves.

$1.00 of any one Farnam or Horse Health Wound Care Product
Includes any Aloedine, Aloe Heal, Blue Lotion, Clear Eyes drops, Excalibur sheath cleaner, Povidone-Iodine (generic Betadine), Scarlex, TRI-Care, Viodine, Wonder Dust, or Wound Coat product.

$1.00 off any one Farnam Brand Fly Spray, Fly Mask, or Spot-On Fly Control
Excludes ointments, roll-on fly repellent, lotions, and Bronco products.

$1.00 off one Cool Pack Green Jelly Liniment

$3.00 off one 4 lb. tub of Forshner's Hoof Packing

$8.00 off one 14 lb. tub of Forshner's Hoof Packing

$1.25 off one Horse Health 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner

$1.00 off 4 Doses of Horse Health 1.87% Ivermectin Dewormer

$3.00 off one Horseshoer's Secret Deep-Penetrating Hoof Conditioner

$1.25 off one Horseshoer's Secret Hoof Sealant or Trush Treatment

$1.25 off one 7.5 lb. Icetight 24 Hour Poultice

$3.00 off 25 lb. Icetight 24 Hour Poultice

$5.00 off 46 lb. Icetight 24 Hour Poultice

$1.00 off 1 Dose of IverCare 1.87% Ivermectin Dewormer

$1.50 off any one Laser Sheen Product

$1.25 off any one Leather New Product

$1.25 off any one Vetrolin Product

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Whoops! Here, have a coupon!

First off, I apologize for missing this week's installment of Frugal Friday. Please accept this coupon for $2.00 off any Absorbine product while I try to get things settled down a little over here. It's good until 12/31/2012 and can be printed as many times as you need, so feel free to stock up on all your favorite Absorbine grooming products!

Lots of things are happening for me on the horsey scene here in the Alpharetta area, partially driven by financial necessity and partially guided by the fact that I have a very certain perspective on the way a horse should be cared for. More on that when I actually reveal what's going on behind the scenes in February. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Frugal Friday: Save The Velcro!

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I had a clear mission in mind: to help my fellow rider on a "shoestring" budget enjoy horses to the fullest. Now that all of the holiday hustle and bustle is done, I'm pleased to announce my weekly mini-series, "Frugal Friday." Each Friday, I'll bring you a money-saving tip to help you stretch your dollar a little further when it comes to buying feed, tack, and other equestrian supplies. Enjoy!

Maybe it's just me, but I'm driven completely bonkers by the grass, horse hair, and other random junk that gets stuck in the Velcro on my polo wraps, schooling boots, horse blankets, saddle pads... you get the point. What good is a hook and loop closure if it just won't stay closed?

I was doing a little internet window-shopping for tack I really don't need when I found the VelCleaner by N.E.W. I was really excited to see that someone had finally come up with a way to get all the debris out of my Velcro, until I saw the price. $19.95? Are you kidding me? Clean Velcro is great, but not at that price!

Needless to say, I had to find a cheaper alternative. The VelCleaner reminded me of a slicker brush used for dog grooming, right down to the angled metal teeth. I just so happened to have a slicker brush in my doggie care kit at home, so I decided to give it a go.

 After a few minutes of brushing, my fleece-lined dressage boots were finally free of the fleece that inevitably gets stuck on every time I throw them into the washing machine. Yay! Just like new!

The Grreat Choice Soft Slicker Brush for Cats is on sale at PetSmart right now for just $1.99, but I'm sure you can find a similarly priced slicker brush just about anywhere that carries pet supplies. Just remember to look for a brush with plain metal teeth, not the rubber tipped ones, and you're all set!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Baby, it's COLD outside!" Part II: Warm-Up Techniques for the Horse

After riding in last night's windy, 28F weather and carefully dodging frozen areas in the arena, I can't help but laugh at the timeliness of my two-part series on winter warm-up techniques! (And to think, it was unseasonably warm here in the Southeast just last week.) Today, part two addresses warm-up strategies for the horse.

I believe that every ride should begin with a good warm-up, regardless of the weather. A warm-up, as the name suggests, is intended to give the horse an opportunity to warm and loosen his muscles before being asked to do more intense work later on in the ride. Like the warmed-up rider, a horse that has been properly warmed up is at a reduced risk of injury due to strain on his muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As an added bonus, the warm-up process gives the rider an opportunity to judge "where the horse's mind is" and determine whether today is the day to learn something new, or just to practice something the horse has already learned.

The length of your warm-up depends on several factors including, but not limited to, the age and breed of your horse, your riding discipline, and the temperature. As a general rule of thumb, the younger or hotter horse will usually warm up more quickly than his older or lazier counterpart, and all horses will warm up more quickly in warmer weather than in the winter cold. Keep in mind that every horse is different, so listening to your horse is essential in determining which techniques work for you as a pair.

Warming Up with Longe Work

Generally speaking, longe work isn't something that most riders do on a daily basis. However, it certainly has its benefits and shouldn't be dismissed as a good warm-up technique. On the longe, a horse can move out more freely and loosen up his back without interference from the rider's weight or aids. This is an especially useful technique for warming up the young or "cold-backed" horse that might be inclined to buck or rear after being saddled.

Mysti, my Polish Arabian mare, spent a lot of time on the longe line in the early stages of her training. I always liked to make sure that her brain was "installed" before I got on so that we could make each ride a pleasant experience.

If I choose to warm up Sam on the longe line before a ride, I typically begin with 3-4 laps of walk in both directions before asking him to pick up the trot. Once he settles into a nice rhythm in the first direction, I ask him to shorten and extend his stride, then transition from walk to trot several times. After 3-5 minutes, I bring Sam back down to a walk, switch sides, and repeat the trot work going in the opposite direction.

Whether I ask Sam to canter on the longe depends on his willingness in the trot work. If he seems unimpressed with his trot work and is hesitant to move out, I'll ask him to canter quietly both directions, then bring him back to a trot and try again. I never ask Sam to canter on the longe if he is rushing through his trot work or feeling more "up" than usual. I don't want him to associate the cue for canter with an excuse to tear around like a mad-man.

When I'm satisfied that Sam is going quietly, I'll mount and do a quick warm-up under saddle.

Warming Up Under Saddle

I like to begin and end every ride with at least 10 minutes of walking. The first 5 minutes or so are done on a loose rein, inviting Sam to stretch his neck and back. For the next 5 minutes, I take up a little on the rein and ask him to march forward into the contact. I also use this time to check my position, finding center in the saddle, stretching down through my legs, and making sure that my elbows are at my sides so that I'm ready to give Sam clear, definite cues.

Asking Sam to bend to the inside and yield away from my leg helps me feel for his responsiveness to my aids, even in a busy warm-up ring the morning of a show.

Walking doesn't have to be boring. During the walking phase of my warm-up, I incorporate several changes of direction, spirals, serpentines, circles of all sizes, lengthening and shortening strides, and a halt or two to get Sam thinking and paying attention to my aids. Although Sam really thrives on an active warm-up routine, some horses would rather be left alone for a few minutes before being asked to engage mentally and physically. Pay attention to the feedback you're getting and adjust your routine accordingly.

Our trot work in the warm-up consists of something I like to call a "stretchy trot," but other riders call "forward, down, and low" or "FDL". The basic premise is that the horse should be allowed to trot forward into a long, low frame so that he can stretch his neck and back forward and down, loosening the muscles along the topline and inviting him to really reach for the contact.

Sam really uses the stretchy trot as an opportunity to release whatever tension he's built up in his body and develop "throughness" from his hindquarters into the bridle. I always post the stretchy trot to give him more freedom to round his back and to help establish a good working rhythm. Usually, the result is a supple, flowing trot that is easy for him to maintain when I take up more contact. As in the walk, I ask Sam for all kinds of movements in the stretchy trot to make sure we're still on the same page.

Sam, ridden by the barn manager at Lakeview Farms, shows the roundness and nice, fluid forward movement that is a product of the stretchy trot. Love it! (Many thanks to Diane for riding Sam so that I could actually see how he goes.)

Once the trot is nice and fluid and I have successfully taken up contact for a few minutes without having Sam get fussy and behind the bit (which he has a tendency to do if he feels that I've shortened the reins too soon), I'll ask him to canter. Cantering Sam requires a bit of finesse, as he's learned to anticipate the cue somewhere down the line and can get pretty fidgety coming into it. To keep him quiet and prevent anticipation, I keep a fairly long rein through the entire warm-up at the canter and allow him to find his own balance while staying out of his way as much as possible.

The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how "together" Sam and I are feeling on any particular day. Depending on how Sam feels, I might make a few minor adjustments to the routine such as asking for a few strides of canter if he's being particularly sluggish or behind the aids in the trot. When I ask him to trot again, he's usually more willing to cooperate. (I have found that warming up at the canter before working at the trot is also beneficial to horses with stiffness in the back or arthritis in the joints.) That aside, my basic warm-up routine is a pretty solid "go-to" program that sets both of us up for a good ride later on, whether we're just lessoning at home or away at the show.

Remember, the warm-up is designed to engage your horse's mind and body, no matter what your discipline. Don't be discouraged if a warm-up turns into an entire ride; it's better to take the time to work through any issues your horse may have - stiffness, unwillingness to bend, etc. -  when they first develop, rather than waiting to address things until they've become a full-blown problem. Even if you have to set aside your training goals for the day and focus on warm-up exercises, you'll eventually have a horse with a solid foundation that will be a major building block for all future work.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Baby, it's COLD outside!" Part I: Warm Up Techniques for the Rider

Winter is officially upon us! The onset of colder temperatures means that the warm-up phase of each ride becomes ever more important for both horse and rider. A solid warm-up routine prepares the horse and rider for physical exertion and can help prevent soreness and muscle fatigue later on, especially in the colder months when joint lubrication and tight muscles can be a real issue.

If you're like me, your usual riding warm-up routine consists of giving your horse a good grooming, tacking up, and swinging into the saddle. While there's no doubt that a vigorous currying session with a mud-caked horse will get the blood flowing, grooming fails to address the major muscle groups that are essential to performance in the saddle. 

When I began putting together a real warm-up routine for myself, I found the "Equilates" videos by Jigsaw Equine to be very helpful. The Equilates program was designed to teach riders body awareness techniques to help riders realign their bodies and find a better seat, both on and off the horse. As part of that program, Olympic dressage rider and Equilates instructor Rachael Faulkner teaches riders the benefits of stretches in the stable.

I like to incorporate the Equilates stable stretches after I've warmed up a little by jogging in place or taking a brisk walk to catch my horse and giving him a good grooming so that my heart rate is already elevated and my muscles are already beginning to feel a little loose. That way, I am at a reduced risk of straining a muscle or otherwise tweaking something and causing more harm than good.

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 1: The Dumb Waiter

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 2: The Roll Down

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 3: The Corkscrew

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 4: The Hamstring Stretch

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 5: The Hip Flexor Stretch

"Stretches in the Stable" Exercise 6: The Spine Twist

I hope you find these videos useful and can incorporate at least some of them into your personal warm-up routine. If you already have a warm-up routine that works for you, feel free to share it in the comments below!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2012!

I confess, I haven't made any New Year's resolutions, but I HAVE worked at setting new goals for myself and committing to lifestyle changes. It's sort of like comparing the equestrian who commits herself to give her horse a solid foundation through correct training to the one who is satisfied with taking short-cuts and leaving out steps. The rider who uses training gadgets and gizmos may see results faster, but at what price? When the gadgets are removed, will the results remain? Are there holes in the horse's training that will need to be addressed later on? For me, the answer is clear: do things right the first time, even if it takes a little longer.

Last September, I signed up with Weight Watchers and committed to changing my eating and exercise habits. It's not that I feel like I need to fit into a socially-prescribed mold -- I know that I'll probably never be a size 2 -- but the acknowledgement that a lighter, fitter me is more capable of becoming the rider that Sam deserves. I had to own the fact that, in all fairness, I should be just as fit as I'm asking him to be. So far, I've lost 12lbs, or 5% of my total weight loss goal, but I know I've still got a long way to go yet.

I also signed up with Dressage Today's New Year, New You challenge in December. Starting today, Dressage Today and SmartPak have teamed up to give riders a 31 day program to "wellness with your horse." When I first saw the challenge, I thought "This is exactly what I need when I'd really rather stay on the couch in sweatpants, wrapped up in a blanket!" If you haven't signed up already, there's still time to get on board with the program.

Today's New Year, New You e-mail contains a video from Outfoxed Farm that reminds us that the first step is as simple as getting out of the house and into the barn. What are you waiting for? GO RIDE!