Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Equestrian Momma

It's a fact of life, horse crazy girls become horse crazy women and many of those women will also become mothers. Given the time consuming and demanding nature of horses and kids, the thought of juggling both in addition to everyday life can be beyond intimidating. But I am here to let you know that it is possible to do it all and enjoy it too.

There are many things you can do before, during, and after your pregnancy to help you make a smooth transition from Equestrian to Equestrian Momma.

Before Your Pregnancy

Plan Ahead- It takes years to raise and train horses, and kids are like horses it is really hard to have just one. So once you start your family you may find yourself out of the saddle on and off for more than a few years making consistent miles horseback few and far between. If you plan on becoming pregnant take stock in your herd and decide the best plan of action for you, your horses, and your future child. This may mean putting horses in to training to keep them going while you are out of the saddle, leasing, or even selling or re homing depending on your personal situation.

Ground Manners and Respect- The most important thing you can do before or during your pregnancy is to teach all of your horses excellent ground manners. Ideally all your horses should be easy to; feed, catch, handle, and load. Speaking from experience the last trimester you tend to lose all sense of balance in addition to not being able see your feet. Depending on your delivery method and circumstances doctors often restrict strenuous activities for 6 weeks to even a few months after delivery. Either way you will not be 100% for several months and having horses that are respectful and responsive will make things so much easier for you and your possibly less than horsey family and friends. Well mannered horses will also allow you to get your independence back sooner, by allowing you to do basic care activities with your baby.

Hidden Costs- If you do a lot of your own horse care you may find hidden expenses associated with your pregnancy. If you trim or shoe your horses, you may find it too awkward, painful, or dangerous as your pregnancy progresses. You may have complications and be forced to be on bed rest or even in the hospital. Either of which may require you to enlist the help of family and friends for your horse's everyday care needs and in some extreme cases may require you to move,from self care to full care if you board or from home care to a boarding stable.

During Your Pregnancy

Riding While Pregnant- Ultimately whether or not you ride during your pregnancy (or when you choose to stop) is up to you, your doctor, and your spouse. Everyone you know will have a opinion on the matter but in the end it is your choice and your risk. I personally rode lightly the first few months of my pregnancy, only on my most reliable horse, and only in a controlled setting (no public events). If you choose to ride during your pregnancy, consider that the only horse you have reasonable control over is the one your riding so where and when you ride matters. If you choose not ride during your pregnancy use this time to work on your groundwork and in hand training. Maybe school for a future lead line class.

Desensitize- The best way to juggle horses and kids (and create future equestrians) is to combine the two together. Kids are loud, noisy, and unpredictable so it is important that we teach our horses how to handle this stimuli. Groom your horse in a kid like fashion with sporadic and tentative touches everywhere... Screech and randomly jump. Dogs, cats, and chickens add a whole new element to teaching the horse to deal with unexpected commotion. Also consider attending a desensitization clinic hosted by a local professional or hiring a trainer to help your learn the desensitization process. Be sure to expose your horses to; strollers, rolling balls, and toys before you bring the baby down to the barn. Think ahead to how you plan on handling your baby around horses and start finding places were you can safely groom, feed etc, and still keep an eye on them. Of course desensitization is never a substitute for safety and common sense when it comes to kids and horses. But a less reactive horse is a joy for everyone no matter the age.

Get Help- As a whole equestrian women are a strong willed and self reliant bunch, but OBGYN's generally frown upon pregnant women unloading feed and stacking hay. So it is important you have someone close to you to help manage these occasional but necessary tasks. If you don't have someone willing to help consider hiring someone to be there on a as needed basis.

After the Baby

The Right Horse(s) Make It Easier- Kids are hands on creatures who want to do everything they can to be just like Mommy or Daddy. Having a horse or pony that your child can safely interact with from a early age can help foster a love of horses. A good kid's horse is quiet, not reactive/ spooky, all while still being responsive. A horse who won't move and do can kill a child's want ride just as quickly as one who behaves badly.

Don't Feel Guilty About Heading to The Barn-Let's just say your life is going to be turned upside down and will never truly be the same again. Don't let the new title of Mom take over your identity. Remember that you were originally a horsewoman (and probably have been one for years). You deserve to spend time with horses and you should not feel guilty about doing so. In my experience sunshine and horse hair are highly effective in preventing and treating postpartum depression and the grumpy baby blues. Talk with your spouse, family, or friends about babysitting a few hours a week and schedule yourself regular horse time. Taking a little time for yourself will benefit you and your baby big time.

Plan to Start Back Slowly- While pregnant I imagined getting right back to my normal horse life just a few weeks after delivery. Nearly 10 months after having my daughter I now realize that I will never have the same horse life again (thou I do look forward to an even more rewarding time in the future with my baby girl). While it is possible to still go and do great things; long hauls and overnight trips may be out of the question for several years. Schedule your events wisely, and cut yourself some slack (you just had a baby remember) when getting back in the saddle. If you use to compete or trail ride start small and stay local your first few events post baby so you can easily get back for baby's sake or your own.

While the trail through pregnancy and early childhood while having horses may seem daunting in the very beginning the good news is that kids only grow up and things only get easier. While you may be sacrificing parts of your horse life now, you hopefully will be rewarded with a life long riding partner for many years to come.....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rescuing Responsibly

It only takes a quick scan of facebook, craiglist, or other numerous sites to find the same sob story over and over.

"I rescued him but I can no longer afford to continue his care/rehab."

These posts are a dime a dozen and it is easy to get caught up in the moment and head out to hitch up the trailer.

But are you really prepared for what rehabbing a rescue horse may actually involve?

Here are a few things to consider:

Can you reasonably isolate the rescue horse from the rest of the herd (no nose to nose contact) for several weeks to prevent the spread of infectious diseases to your own herd.

If the horse is a stallion are you able to afford to geld, and have the space to keep him completely separate from any mares for 1-2 months there after.

Are you financially able to fully vet out a rescue horse and do so for several months or even years?  What if they have a expensive condition to treat such as EPM?  Are you prepared to pay for treatment or euthanasia?  Expensive farrier care or other specialized treatment?

Are you financially prepared for if the rescue horse hurts himself under your care or causes severe injury to another member of your herd?

Can you commit to training (DIY or with a professional) said rescue horse for yourself or for potential adopters once they are rehabbed?

Do you have the knowledge and skill set to properly and safely handle a horse with a questionable background?

Do you have the space (at home, money for board, etc) to care for rescue long term?

Are you in a position in your life where you have the time (energy and ability) to handle the added work of a rescue animal?

Please note I am not against individuals rescuing and rehabbing horses.  I am against individuals getting in over their heads, endangering themselves and other animals, and rescued horses not receiving the proper care, treatment, and training to truly overcome their neglect.

If you would like to rescue but are not prepared to go at it alone consider supporting a legitimate rescue.

Horse lovers can support reputable rescue organizations with monetary donations, sponsoring specific animals, fostering, adopting, volunteering, to even helping with office work and the running of rescue, raising awareness for the group, etc. All you need to do is contact a organization offer what what you can.

Remember that rescuing responsibly means realistically only taking on what you can do alone, and supporting existing reputable rescue organizations with the stuff that you can't.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Well Broke Horses Are Usually Not Cheap

While the above isn't exactly about horses, there is a whole lot of truth in the above statement.

It takes years, hundreds of hours, and a good bit of skill to create a all around truly broke horse.

So when searching for your next best friend remember that every great horse at some point in their lives had someone willing to go the distance and ride through it all to uncover the gem of a horse you now see before you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When Your Horse Gets In The Way Of You Horse LIfe

When Your Horse Gets In The Way Of Your Horse Life

Equestrians as a whole are a super tough bunch.

Our sport is more consuming (time, energy, money, space, etc) and dangerous than just about every other sport you could choose.

It takes extreme dedication to be an equestrian but unlike most other sports enthusiasts it seems that few equestrians are willing to step out and find the help needed when the going gets tough.

Think about it.  In most sports you start and proceed under the supervision of a professional and yet many equestrians choose to go at it completely alone.

And while the lone wolf approach may be more cost effective (given the high cost of proper horse care and management) many equestrians are missing out on the true joys of the horse as a result.

Signs You Horse Is Getting In The Way Of Your Horse Life

1.  Your horse has way more "quirks" than your friend's horses.

2.  You dread what most people consider to be simple tasks (fly spray, bathing, trailering, etc)

3.  You are unable to fulfill simple goals such as going on a trail ride, months and years after setting them.

4.  You find yourself afraid of what your horse may or may not do.

5.  You find yourself avoiding more things horseback than you actually do.

6.  You find yourself at a roadblock in training/ability and have been unable to break through after several weeks, months, or years of trying.

7.  Your horse seems to add new "quirks" on a regular basis.

8.  You've been doing it such and such way without any sustained/real improvement for weeks, months, or years.

The Solution

Remember that if you are not having fun you might as well not do it at all so seek out help, and stop being complainant in your horse life.

Consult a professional, or attend a clinic.

The relatively small amount of money you spend getting help will be worth it when you are finally able to enjoy your horse and your horse life.

So with the new year soon upon us I challenge you to make the resolution to take back your horse life and see just where the trails may take you.