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What Exactly is Cushing’s Disease in Horses?

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A VETERINARIAN.  I am just a Cushing’s horse owner doing research and writing a blog with the information I’ve read. Do not take any information in this blog post as veterinary advice. The content in this post is not intended to diagnose or treat any animal. Please consult with a trusted vet about your horse’s health. Your vet is the only one who can diagnose your horse with Cushing’s Disease.

What causes Cushing’s?

Equine Cushing’s disease is also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). Horses with PPID have an overproduction of hormones by the pars intermedia, an anatomic region of the pituitary gland. In normal horses, the cells in this portion have very little activity because they are inhibited by dopamine. As the horse ages, the level of dopamine decreases. This means the pars intermedia is no longer inhibited, and the cells there start secreting high levels of hormones. 

Unregulated, these hormones cause excess production of glucocorticoids, which are involved in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism as well as are anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive. 

 One of the hormones that overproduce in Cushing’s horses is important for stimulating the skin cells to be the proper color, but in excess, it can cause darkened skin and cause the hair to grow at inappropriate times. Another hormone stimulates the production of cortisol, which is important for proper metabolism, resisting stress, and fighting off minor illnesses. Too much cortisol results in a decreased immune response that leaves the horse prone to pneumonia and sinus, tooth, and hoof infections. 

Excess hormones also cause muscle weakness, new fat tissue on the neck, head, rump, and abdomen, and increased fat pads – the combination of which can lead to saggy abdominal muscles and a pot-belly appearance. Increased thirst, resulting in increased urine output, is another common side effect. Laminitis is also common as well. 

Cushing’s primarily is found in horses over the age of 10, though the average age of diagnosis is 19. A study at an equine retirement center found that 14% of the horses there had PPID. Ponies are more likely to be affected than horses, but mares and geldings are equally susceptible. The Morgan horse breed also seems to more commonly get Cushing’s. Some studies theorize that as many as half the population of horses aged 14 and older have Cushing’s.

A long, shaggy winter coat is the most recognizable sign of Cushings in horses.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s?

Signs of Cushing’s include increased coat length (which was the first sign that my horse, Glory, had), failure to shed out the winter coat in summer, weight loss, increased drinking and urination, lethargy, increased sweating, and laminitis. Horses with PPID are also more susceptible to infections such as sinusitis, skin infections, and parasites. All Cushing’s horses do not show all of these symptoms. Glory, for example, barely drinks or urinates, to the point where we’ve started feeding electrolytes to encourage her to drink more!

How is Cushing’s treated?

Cushing’s has no cure, but medication and management can relieve the clinical signs and side effects. The most commonly prescribed drug approach is a low-dose Pergolide treatment. Pergolide is given daily for the remainder of the PPID-affected animal’s life and is a dopamine replacement agent that is also used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. Studies of Pergolide show improvement in most areas for the majority of treated horses, but the long term efficacy is unknown.

Another drug recommended for PPID horses is cyproheptadine, which seems to be less effective than Pergolide. Cyproheptadine is an antihistamine used to inhibit the serotonin hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland. It is often used to supplement Pergolide. Studies show that only 25% of horses show a reduction of clinical signs, though cyproheptadine is more likely to show improvement in horses with laminitis than Pergolide.

A third drug is also being used to treat PPID but is currently only being used in Europe and Canada. Trilostane inhibits the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland, working further down the line after the hormones have already been released. This drug has been used in dogs with Cushing’s effectively and found to be fairly effective in horses. A study following horses on Trilostane for one to two years found that 81% of treated horses showed improvement in laminitis, and all horses had reductions in excess thirst, excess urination, and lethargy.

In addition to drug therapies, management changes also are important to keep the PPID horse healthy. Owners should maintain a regular vaccination and deworming program because of the reduced immune response. Sugar and starch can increase the risk of laminitis, so avoiding sugary treats is a must. Pasture grazing should be limited, especially early in the growing season when the pastures have high sugar content, and on fall mornings after an overnight freeze. 

A grazing muzzle can limit your horses ingestion of grass. Glory is modeling a Greenguard Grazing Muzzle in this photo.

 

Whether the PPID horse can or cannot have alfalfa hay is disputed. At one time it was thought that Cushing’s horses should absolutely not have alfalfa. I had a discussion with my own veterinarian about whether we could feed the horses alfalfa for the extra protein, and she said that it would be fine because it wasn’t that much higher in sugar than what we were feeding. You should, of course, discuss all dietary concerns with your own vet for your horse’s specific situation! 

Some veterinarians also recommend chromium supplements to improve insulin effectiveness. Vitamin E, C, and zinc can also supplement immune function. These supplements have not been proven to be effective in helping PPID, but they are probably not harmful. 

If left untreated, Cushing’s horses experience chronic bouts of disease, a decline in health and comfort, and reduced quality of life. Correctly managed horses can improve and generally can live a happy, healthy life and continue with many of their normal activities. 

When should I talk to my veterinarian?

The best thing is to catch the signs of Cushing’s early so treatment can start. Make sure to monitor your horse for signs of lethargy, increased drinking, a saggy midsection and sunken back, and changes to skin and coat. Many vets say that by the time most horses develop the long, shaggy coat that is most commonly associated with Cushing’s, the disease is fairly advanced. So look for the other signs and get your vet to check your horse as soon as you suspect a problem. 

Have you ever had a horse with Cushing’s? Tell me about them and what kind of treatment they had in the comments!

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Funny Horse GIFs from around the Web!

Hey there blog readers! I have a writing deadline for a paid project that is fast approaching, so today’s blog is going to be a lazy one. Enjoy some of my favorite funny horse gifs that I found around the internet!

Do you pronounce GIF as “jiff” (like the peanut butter) or “gif” (like “gift”)? Let me know in the comments!












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Best Quotes about Horses and Art

Hey there everyone. I’m feeling a bit down today, and one of the things I love when I’m feeling down is to read uplifting quotes. I decided to gather some of my favorite quotes about horses and art, and share them with you.

I absolutely love this quote. It reminds me of the Breed Spotlight on the Arabian horse that I wrote last year, and the stories the Bedoin people told about the Arabian horse. 

There are so many things I love about being with horses, but one of the best things is to just watch them. I love to see them move across the fields, free and full of grace. 

One of my favorite quotes of all time! Some days (especially right now with what’s going on in the world!) I’m feeling so afraid. But real courage is continuing on despite the fear.

Is there anything better in life than the beautiful eyes of a horse? I don’t think so.

This is one of the quotes that I think of whenever I talk about my mission as an artist! Horses have been a part of all of human history and I am fascinated by their history. I hope that my art inspires others to learn about them too!

This quote really hits home for me these days. I am so, so grateful to all of the people who have purchased, shared, or commented on my art in the past two years. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I started focusing on my horse art, and I couldn’t have predicted at all where this would have taken me in my life.

Neil Gaiman is just the best, and I really relate to this quote right now. I’ve been throwing myself into creating the past few weeks so I can try to bring some brightness to someone’s day.

Is there any other horse quote more iconic than this one? Even just being in proximity to my horse can elevate my mood and make the world a better place. I just have to watch them out in the field, or pet and brush them, and the world seems like a better place.

Glory has both changed my life and defined it.

I finished this piece just yesterday because I wanted to work on something bright and sunny on a day that was gray and cold – and also because I think the world needs more sun right now! I’m so glad that I am working on this series of horses with medicinal plants right now because I can think about the healing that needs to happen in the world. 

What is your favorite quote? Share it with me in the comments!

 

Have you downloaded your free coloring pages yet? 

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Birthstone Horses – Part 3

If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen my new series of horses I’ve been working on this year – Birthstone Horses. These are horses with coloring based on the birthstone associated with each month, and they also are bordered on two sides with sprigs of the monthly flower as well. I’m so happy with how well these designs are being received, and I wanted to introduce the next four horses to my dear readers. So, read on to see some new Birthstone Horses and to read about the properties of each stone and flower.

The first part of this blog post series can be found here.

The second part of this blog post series can be found here.

Sapphire (September)

Traditionally a stone of priests and kings, the sapphire symbolizes purity and wisdom. This stone was once thought to guard against evil and poison, and it was believed that a venomous snake placed in a vessel made of it would die. Considered one of the finest of all colorful gemstones, the sapphire features in Asian, European, and Near Eastern mythology, history books, and religious texts. The name of this stone originates from the Greek sappheiros, which means “precious stone”. Many people believed the sapphire could cure physical ailments, especially eye infections, headaches, ear ache, and thyroid problems. In ancient Greece and Rome, royalty wore blue sapphires because they believed the stone would protect the wearer from the evil intentions of their enemies.

Click the photo to buy a print of this work!

The Morning Glory is the flower of September and of 11th wedding anniversaries. This flower blooms and dies within a single day. In the Victorian flower meanings, they signify love, affection, and mortality. In Chinese folklore, they represent a single day for lovers to meet. The flowers blossom in the morning and die by afternoon or nightfall, making it representative of the sometimes fleeting nature of affection. The vine produces new flowers each day during its growth season, representing the renewable nature of love. 

Opal (October)

The birthstone for October is the Opal, whos name was derived from the Sanskrit upala, meaning “precious stone”, and later from the Greek Opallios, meaning “to see a change of color.” For a long time, Opal was believed to be a stone that brings bad luck. This unfortunate reputation and myth is attributed to Sir Walter Scott and his 1829 novel “Anne of Geuerstein”. The public took a part of the novel where an Opal’s color was destroyed after coming into contact with a drop of holy water to be a warning that the stone would bring bad luck in real life. This myth destroyed the European opal market for almost 50 years, causing the market to crash within months of the novel’s publication. Before this, however, in medieval times, all blond maidens wanted a necklace made of Opal because it was believed the stone would keep their hair from fading or darkening. The opal was also believed to make its wearer invisible at will. The opal was a symbol of fidelity and assurance among the ancients, and became associated with emotional religious prayer. It was believed to have healing properties against illness of the eyes, and that it would also make the wearer of an Opal amulet immune to disease and increase the powers of the eyes and mind. 

Click the photo to buy a print of this work!

Calendula, also known as pot Marigold, Holligold, Bull’s Eyes, and Mary’s Gold, is the flower of October. It also bears the folk name of Summer’s Bride because the head of the plant turns as the sun moves across the sky. Because of this, Calendula has strong symbolism tied to the sun. In the garden, Calendula repels insects, which gives it a protective meaning. The petals of the Calendula are edible, so when you want to take in the energy of this flower you can toss it into salad or soup! Healers in the Middle Ages carried Calendula as a talisman to protect them from the plague. In India, this flower is among the most sacred. It represents thankfulness, excellence, and serenity. Calendula can be found adorning holy statues in India like living necklaces. 

Topaz (November)

For over 2000 years, the Topaz has been treasured and appreciated. Though Topaz comes in many colors, it is the golden-yellow version that is associated with November. Topaz is said to bring prosperity and happiness into its owner’s lives. It is known as the bringer of abundance, and also has a reputation for promoting good health and alleviating stress. It is said the stone has a relaxing effect and may help people keep calm under pressure and help you think straight. The stone is said to aid in visualization and the manifestation of your goals and dreams. Topaz was associated with the sun god Ra in ancient times. In India, a Topaz worn just above the heart promised beauty, intelligence, and long life. 

Click the photo to buy a print of this work!

As early as the 15th century BC, the Chrysanthemum appeared in Chinese writings and was used as an herbal remedy. The boiled roots of the flower were believed to cure headaches, and the sprouts and petals were eaten in salads. The Chinese city of Chu-Hsien was named after the flower, and the name literally means “Chrysanthemum City”. Buddhist monks took the Chrysanthemum to Japan in 400 AD. Soon after, it was adopted as the emperor’s crest and official seal. Every year there is a national Chrysanthemum day, which is also called the Festival of Happiness. The Chrysanthemum blooms in the fall, signifying joy and beauty despite the oncoming Winter. Victorians used the flower to show friendship and to wish others well. In China, the chrysanthemum is traditionally offered to the elderly as they symbolize long life as well as good luck. 

Turquoise (December)

Since the days of Ancient Egypt, turquoise has been known throughout the world and in high demand. Turquoise was one of the first gemstones ever mined, as far back as 6000 BC. It has been used for thousands of years in jewelry, especially by the Ancient Egyptians. Today, the Native Americans, especially the Zuni and Navajo peoples, produce the best pieces in the United States. The Zuni believe that the stone protects from demons. The Navajo believe that this blue stone falls from the sky. Apache warriors wore turquoise in the belief that it improved their hunting abilities. It has also been seen as a symbol of good fortune and success, and is believed to relax the mind and protect its wearer from harm. In particular, Turquoise rings are thought to keep away evil spirits. 

Click the picture to buy a print of this work!

The holly plant, now used primarily to decorate for Christmas, was considered to be sacred by the Druids. The Druids regarded the plant as a symbol of fertility and eternal life and was thought to have magical powers. Cutting down a holly tree was said to bring bad luck, but hanging holly in the home was believed to bring good luck and protection. Holly was also thought to protect the home against lightning strikes. Christians adopted the tradition of hanging holly from the Druids, Celts, and Romans, and its symbolism changed to reflect Christian beliefs. Today, Christians believe the red berries symbolize the blood of Jesus, and the spiky leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head before he died on the cross. 

 

And that, dear reader, is the end of the Birthstone Horses series! I loved working on this series, researching the different stones and plants, and using new techniques to render these beautiful horses! I learned so much about colored pencils doing this series. One of the things I love most about doing art is figuring out how to tell a story with a static picture, and this series was a challenge but also so rewarding to work on!

 

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How to Keep Horses On a Budget

Let’s be real for a minute: having almost any type of pet can get expensive. But make that pet several hundred pounds and the costs just go up exponentially. Anything with the word “horse” in the title or a picture of a horse on it can cost more than double the same item that isn’t marketed to horse owners. I don’t make a lot of money, but have still managed to find ways to have a horse and enjoy her without spending tons of cash. It takes some planning and careful shopping, but it can be done! Here are some tips to cut your horse expenses.

Disclaimer: Check with a veterinarian or a trusted professional before making choices about horse feed, supplements, or other nutritional needs for your horse. Each horse is different, with different needs and workloads. The following is general advice and not meant to diagnose any specific need for your personal horse!

Get a PPE before buying your horse.

If you don’t have a horse yet and are looking to buy one, make sure that you get a vet out to do a pre-purchase exam on any horse you are seriously considering. I don’t care how much you love that big, young Chestnut gelding at the rescue, without a PPE you may take him home and find out two years later that he has a terrible case of kissing spine because you didn’t get x-rays and a vet exam before adopting! If you already have a trainer you trust, take them with you horse shopping to get a second opinion. If you don’t have a trainer, find one with a good reputation and get their opinion before buying. It may seem silly to spend money on a vet exam for a horse you may not buy, but it could save you lots of grief and expense in the long run by catching potential problems before you’re the one responsible for thousands and thousands of dollars in vet care.

Self-care board or exchange board for chores or other goods.

Keeping a horse at home is the cheapest and easiest option for owning one, but sometimes having a horse in your backyard just isn’t possible. When searching for a boarding barn, see if you can do self-care (if allowed!) for a discount or if you can help out with barn chores or by trading some other service or goods for some of your board price. (For instance, if you’re handy with tools you can offer to repair fences or do other tasks around the facility!) Self-care only makes sense if you can afford the gas and time to come out every day, possibly multiple times a day, so be sure to figure that into your planning before committing to it. My best friend and I currently self-care at her parents’ farm, and we take turns coming out to feed the horses and change blankets so that all the running around isn’t just on one of us.

Feed the best quality forage you can afford.

Barring medical issues such as Cushing’s, most horses will do just fine on a steady diet of quality grass. Hay is cheapest in the summer when grass is plentiful, so buy as much hay as you can store during the growing season. Buy the best quality hay you can afford, and feed from hay nets or feeders that are up off the floor to minimize wastage. Just remember that horses are designed to eat from the ground, so try not to feed their hay TOO high. And if using hay nets, hang them high enough off the ground so that your horse won’t get a foot stuck in it! 

Don’t overfeed grain and concentrates.

Horses are designed to forage most of the day, not eat big meals all at once. If you are going to supplement with a feed, make sure that it’s appropriate for your horse’s needs and that you aren’t overfeeding grain and skimping on hay. Feed, supplements, and concentrates can add up quickly, so unless your horse needs “extras”, feed more hay than grains. Never feed horses any food that is for cattle, as it can contain ingredients that are dangerous to horses!

Check tack regularly for wear and tear.

Buy tack secondhand, perform regular maintenance on tack you already own.

Thanks to the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier to find horse tack second-hand. There are groups with thousands of members that are dedicated just to buying and selling used tack, from Western to English, and even Driving tack! If you need a piece of tack, look for it used first before buying new. Not only is it better for your pocketbook, but it’s also better for the environment, too! Also, most tack stores have a consignment section where you can purchase gently used items from other local horsepeople. 

Once you have your tack, be sure to perform regular maintenance on it. Clean your tack regularly to check for signs of wear, leather fatigue, or metal fatigue. Check saddle billets, girths, and bridles for wear. It will be cheaper to keep your tack in good shape with regular cleaning and conditioning than it will be to keep buying new tack. Also, keeping up with tack maintenance will help prevent sudden tack failures that could lead to vet or hospital bills.

Have your horse go barefoot.

If your horse doesn’t NEED shoes, he probably shouldn’t be wearing shoes. Obviously your circumstances will vary, but it will be much cheaper to just pay for a trim whenever the farrier comes out than having to pay for shoes. As a bonus, the horse can’t pull a shoe if they don’t have one on, so you won’t have to pay the farrier to come back out after you find the left hind shoe out in the muddy paddock two days after it was put on!

Clean and repair your own blankets.

Or, don’t blanket your horse at all if they don’t need it. Most horses don’t need a blanket at all unless they are clipped, old, underweight, or don’t grow a good winter coat. So you can save a bundle just not blanketing your horse at all! 

But, if you do blanket your horse, you can clean and repair blankets on your own! There is a commercial blanket wash you can purchase that you use in the washing machine. Taking your blankets to the local laundromat will likely be cheaper than having them washed by a professional blanket person in your local area. Just be sure to use only recommended cleaning agents so you don’t damage waterproofing on your blankets, or treat them with a waterproofing spray after they’ve been cleaned.

You can also repair rips and tears either with iron-on patches specifically designed for horse blankets, with patches meant for tents, or by sewing the rips by hand. We’ve sewn up several rain sheets because Raven is tough on Glory’s blankets and like to rip them up, and have even re-attached broken straps on a bellyband of a winter blanket just by sewing it back on with a heavy-duty curved needle and waxed thread.

If your horse blanket does get a rip and you purchased it recently, contact the store you purchased it from or the manufacturer and see if the damage is covered under any sort of warranty. The previously mentioned winter-blanket-with-the-broken-bellyband was brand new and was still covered under the warranty, so we got a refund for the cost of the blanket and bought a new rain sheet (bonus: we got to keep the winter blanket, so after we repaired it we’d gotten two blankets for the price of one!)

Those are some of my tips for keeping horses on a budget. For more ideas, be sure to check out one of my favorite YouTube channels, The Budget Equestrian

Do you have any money-saving tips for taking care of your horse? Share them in the comments!

Have you seen my merch on Amazon yet?

Birthstone horse shirts are available on Amazon! You can get February-October’s designs on a variety of fits and colors, while taking advantage of your Amazon Prime benefits! I got to see one of these shirts in person just yesterday and I am BLOWN AWAY by the quality. The print looks amazing and the shirt itself is high-quality. Definitely recommend getting a shirt for yourself or someone you know who loves horses through my Amazon shop if you want the best feeling shirt ever!

I will be adding more shirts to Amazon as I can, however the way that this program works is different from other t-shirt storefronts I have. With Amazon, you have only so many design “slots”, and as you sell more shirts you rank up and get more slots. I am currently on the lowest level and only have 10 design slots, so I can’t put up all the months until I open up more slots. This means I have to get more people to buy shirts on Amazon! So if you know someone who would love one of these designs, please share the link with them! I need to sell 7 more shirts before I can get to the next tier, so there’s still a ways to go but I know we can do it.
 

Featured photo created by katemangostar – www.freepik.com
Horse with saddle photo created by topntp26 – www.freepik.com

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The Great Cart Crash of 2014 – How I Broke a Breaking Cart By Accident

With horseback riding, it’s not a question of “if” you will fall off the horse. The only question is “when” are you going to fall off the horse. Some horse people even say that if you haven’t fallen off a horse, you haven’t been riding long enough! In my almost-seven-years of being an equestrian, I’ve had my share of falls. Thankfully, most of them have been pretty minor- like falling off a horse at the mounting block (which I have done multiple times…), but there are two times so far where I had a pretty dramatic horse-related accident. The one that did the worst damage to me and to equipment was the great cart crash of 2014, where I managed to destroy an entire breaking cart and make my forehead bleed.

I want to preface this by saying that I believe EVERYONE who is doing something around horses should be wearing a helmet. We wear helmets whenever we ride or drive. I can make an entire blog post about the arguments against helmets that I’ve heard, and maybe I will one day, but I personally believe that a helmet is important whenever a horse is being ridden or driven. In the two accidents I’m about to write about, a helmet saved my noggin from being hurt even worse than it was. Okay, now that I’ve been on my Helmet Soapbox, let’s get into the story.

The Great Cart Crash – October 5, 2014

It was a beautiful Fall morning, and I was in a pretty bad mood. I decided to go to the barn and drive Glory, even though I would have no one to drive with and that makes it a little boring for me. I hadn’t been around horses for very long, but I’d been working with Glory for several months now and had been cleared to drive the cart on my own. So, believing that some horse time would cheer me up, I headed for the barn. After grooming and hitching up the cart, I headed down the fields. 

Back behind the arena is a pretty steep hill, but if you stay toward the left side of the property and go through the ditch between the hill and the arena, you will get to a decent-sized flat area that is great fun to ride and drive in. At the time I didn’t like driving in the arena much because I felt like I would crash into the fence all the time, so I preferred to drive out in the fields where I had a bit more space. Despite being with Glory, I still wasn’t out of my bad mood, but I decided to stick with it and work the horse. 

We got warmed up in the little red wooden breaking cart, and a little bit into our drive I decided to work Glory at the canter on the flat bit of land behind the arena. We were going around to the right, at a lovely even canter, and suddenly everything went in slow-motion. I don’t know if we hit a gopher hill, or if the tires were too full and bouncy and we just hit a bump in the ground, but suddenly the cart was airborne. The cart, with me in it, bumped and then rolled to the left in mid-air. Both shafts snapped away from the body of the cart and came away as Glory kept cantering on for a few more yards. The cart flipped and dumped me out onto the grass, face-first. I hit the front of my helmet on the ground first before rolling a few feet. 

I didn’t lay in the grass for long, got up almost right away because I was worried about Glory. Thankfully, my rock-star driving horse had stopped only a few yards away and was standing there, looking back at me as though to say “Why did we stop? I was starting to have fun!” The only reason why she wasn’t eating the grass, I believe, is because the overchecks were keeping her from doing so. I stumbled over and grabbed her, then took stock of the cart, which was in pieces all over the field. I believe that Kennedy was out of town this day, but her parents were home and we up at the house, so I pulled out my cellphone and called the house to tell them what had happened. I called Kennedy too while I waited for help to come down, and she actually thought I was joking!

In the midst of my frantic phone calls, I noticed blood dripping down above my left eye. I took off my helmet and realized that when I hit my helmet into the ground, the helmet lining had scraped open a spot of skin on my forehead. After Kennedy’s parents got down the field to me, we took the broken cart shafts off the harness and gathered up the rest of the parts, and we all walked up the field together. Below is a photo of what was left of the poor little red cart…

All things considered, this entire accident could have been a LOT worse. Glory wasn’t hurt, and I was only minorly injured. I was sore and had a scrape on my forehead that hurt like hell for about a week, but it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet. The breaking cart did exactly what it was supposed to do- breaking apart if something happens. I got off really lucky. And I’ve been pretty lucky with riding as well, since I’ve only had one really bad fall while riding and one semi-bad fall… but those are stories for another blog post!

Have you seen my merch on Amazon yet?

Birthstone horse shirts are available on Amazon! You can get February-October’s designs on a variety of fits and colors, while taking advantage of your Amazon Prime benefits! I got to see one of these shirts in person just yesterday and I am BLOWN AWAY by the quality. The print looks amazing and the shirt itself is high-quality. Definitely recommend getting a shirt for yourself or someone you know who loves horses through my Amazon shop if you want the best feeling shirt ever!

I will be adding more shirts to Amazon as I can, however the way that this program works is different from other t-shirt storefronts I have. With Amazon, you have only so many design “slots”, and as you sell more shirts you rank up and get more slots. I am currently on the lowest level and only have 10 design slots, so I can’t put up all the months until I open up more slots. This means I have to get more people to buy shirts on Amazon! So if you know someone who would love one of these designs, please share the link with them! I need to sell 7 more shirts before I can get to the next tier, so there’s still a ways to go but I know we can do it.

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Adventures in Mad Science – Making Brush Cleaning Fizzy Bombs!

Wow, it’s February already! January felt both extremely long and like it went by in a flash. 

Today I wanted to write about a fun project that my best friend and I started two weeks ago, and we’re having so much fun with it that we’re hoping to really branch out! There’s a little backstory though that I’m going to talk about but not go into too much detail about because I don’t want to paint anyone involved in a bad light. The story I’m about to tell is true, but I won’t be calling anyone out.

A while ago, I purchased some brush cleaning items from a small business. I liked the brush cleaning items enough that I recommended them to another friend, who placed an order in summer 2019 with the same business. Weeks passed and the order never showed up. After several attempts to contact the seller, my friend got a message saying that this person had suffered an injury, that someone was coming to help them fill orders, and that they’d get their items soon along with a free gift to make up for the delay.  So, they waited another few weeks for their order to show up, but it never did. It still, to this day, has never arrived, and the seller disappeared off the face of the Earth instead of continuing to communicate with those who were waiting for their items. 

Since I’m a small business owner myself, I totally understand getting behind on things- especially if an emergency happens. But what I don’t understand at all is getting an order from someone and then not only not delivering the item that was ordered but also not communicating. So, since we were all disappointed by this turn of events, Kennedy and I decided to do something nice for our friend. We decided to learn how to make “bath bombs” that would clean horse brushes!

First, we had to do some research on the ingredients that we’d need. We wanted our brush cleaner to have a satisfying FIZZ when added to water, to smell nice, and to be antimicrobial. But they also couldn’t leave any residue that would be difficult to rinse out. We decided on a recipe and some secret ingredients to use, then set to work on our prototypes.

Filling molds with our prototype mixture

As with any new product prototype, we ran into some issues with the first batch. Since we only had two of our molds and we wanted to make four different scent blends on the day we were making prototypes, we decided to try to “kiln dry” our brush fizzies in an oven that was set on a low temperature. Little did we know that we had added too much of our wet ingredient and there was a chemical reaction going on that made them puff up out of the molds! Plus the heat from the oven made the edges hard and almost melted? So that experiment did not work at all! 

Once we got those out of the molds, though, we started to get the hang of things. The batch that got messed up turned into our testing batch and we used every single one of them that day to clean brushes with because we were having too much fun tossing them in the water and watching them fizz. Plus, the amount of dirt and grime they got out of our brushes was insane! I’d cleaned Glory’s brushes a few weeks prior, but even then the water was coming out gross and dirty. As we mixed and tested, we came up with fun names for each of our scent blends.

Now that we had our brush cleaners made and tested, I got to do the really fun part- design packaging! We wanted a label for each individual scent, as well as a label that would go on a larger bag to contain a collection of different scents. By the time I got to designing packaging, we had come up with six different scent blends (and now we have two more on the way, for an even eight!)

“Run for the Roses”- A romantic floral scent that will take you to the Winner’s Circle. This blend was inspired by the wreaths of flowers given to winning racehorses.

“Florida Cracker”- A bright and sunny scent evocative of warm and sunny days. This blend is made from orange and lemon and has a zesty, bright scent! (This was the first blend I created and the initial batch is what is pictured in the image where the brush fizzies puffed up and didn’t come out of the mold correctly, but the ones in this photo turned out perfectly now that we have the recipe down!)

“Winter Ride” – A wintery blend of pine and cinnamon, reminiscent of a ride through a snow-covered forest. This is one of my favorite blends. It smells so nice and like you’re riding through an evergreen forest! The cinnamon also reminds me of the cinnamon pine cones you can get around Christmas.

“Cubbing Season”- A woodsy scent that brings to mind early morning Autumn hunts. This blend is so nice. It really reminds me of the woods in Fall because of the oils that Kennedy put into it!


“Spring Invitational”- The scent of a warm breeze in your face as you gallop cross-country. The best word to describe this blend is “green”. It’s not exactly a floral scent, but more the smell of nature.


“Muddy Boots” – Tea Tree Oil and Mint pack a powerful punch for extreme muck and grime. First of all, I am so proud of the name I came up with for this blend. This is like our “super cleaner” for when you really need to fight some nasties. I did add quite a bit of mint though because it has come to my attention that not everyone likes the smell of tea tree oil as much as I do. 

We have two more blends in the works, “Mare Stare” (Dragonsblood) and “Foal Watch” (Lavender), but I don’t have photos of those.

And here’s our big packet of assorted scents! The large bag holds four of the four-packs, so it contains 16 brush fizzies. We’re hoping to start selling these to other people who want a fun and easy way to clean their grooming stuff. The tabs fizz really nicely when you toss them in water (Click here for a video!), they get the gunk out of the bristles, and they rinse clean very easily. So, we met all our requirements for brush cleaners!

After we had these packed up, we delivered them to our friend who never got her order from the other seller. She was so happy that we surprised her with these that she cried a little! I can’t wait for her to test out her cleaners and tell us how she likes them. We really enjoyed using our test ones!

How do you like to clean your brushes? Let me know in the comments! 

 

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Come Tour Our Tack Room!

A tour of our tiny tack room might not be particularly exciting to those who have much larger barns or a fancier set up. But I think our tack room is quaint and that we make decent use of what space we have. Besides, maybe this post can give someone some storage ideas for their own tack room! (Also, does anyone not realize how messy something is until they look at photos? Because that’s what I’m going through right now with this post, but I didn’t have time to straighten up when I was taking these photos. So please know that I share my unedited life with all of you!)

Welcome to our little tack/feed room! This is the view from the door. On the left wall are the cart harness that we use for both horses, extra lead ropes, rope halters, breastplates, and all our light-up riding gear (LED Breastplates, LED tail lights, magnet running lights to clip onto the breastplates, etc). Directly ahead, in the trash cans, are our feed, extra horse treats, alfalfa pellets, and extra bags of feed. You can see Raven and Glory’s feed buckets on top of the middle can in this shot. We keep the feed in here because we have a small space heater in the tack room and the feed that we use has molasses in it, so if it freezes we will be trying to break it up with a chisel!

Now, some people who are familiar with tack rooms might be thinking “why is there a huge tool box in the corner of your tack storage?!” Well, the short answer is that the barn we’re currently at was empty for a few years, and so the tack room and stalls started being used for storage. There are some things still being stored in the barn that we’re not able to move and that we just have to live with. The huge tool box is one of those things. It’s impossible to move it out of there right now, so it gets to stay. We have some silicone mats on top of the toolbox to protect it, and we store our Bluetooth speaker, charging cables for our phones, more extra treats (presents from my parents, because they must spoil their “grandhorse”), and an electric kettle for making warm mash for the horses or hot drinks for ourselves.

Here’s a better shot of the wall with the harness and night-riding things on it. We keep the harness on a holder meant for a garden hose. It holds the breastcollar and the harness saddle perfectly, and we put the other harness parts on a bridle hook to the side of it.

Over in the far corner of the tack room are our saddles and saddle pads. My saddle is on the top left rack (because I am tall and can reach that rack), extra saddle pads go on the top right. Kennedy’s saddles go on the lower racks. We also put our helmet bags here so that we can grab a saddle, saddle pad, and our helmet and take it all out to the crossties in one trip.

This wall is fairly empty because we moved most of the stuff that was here over to the other wall when we were planning on having our heat come from an outlet heater. So we had to move everything away from the outlet so there wouldn’t be a fire hazard. Then we decided to use the heater we have now, instead, and we’ve just kept this wall mostly clear. Our primary bridles for each horse do live on this wall, however, within arm’s reach of the saddles. Because we are about efficiency and I like being able to grab all my tack at once!

Eagle-eyed readers have probably noticed the curtains in the tack room by now. Yes, those curtains are made with “Horses of the World” fabric, and I sewed them myself! It only seemed fitting to have some of my horse art in the tack room, after all. The curtains are lined with a thermal fabric that blocks out the heat in the summer.

Continuing to turn around toward the right, you come to the tack closet side of the room. To the left is a whip holder with our various crops, lunge whips, dressage whips, and other such things on it. Below those are our pool noodle horses. What? You don’t have pool noodle horses in your tack room?

Last year, a friend of ours wanted to have a pony-themed birthday party, but all our horses aren’t at the same barn anymore. So instead we turned pool noodles, ribbon, googly eyes, and craft foam into “hobby horses” that we could ride during the party. Each one is actually modeled off of our real-life horses and we put a different facial expression on each to reflect that!

The tack closet has items like bathing supplies, extra helmets, quarter sheets, stable sheets, trailering items, road hack safety items (reflective quarter sheets, reflective vests, etc), and our plush unicorn horns in it. On the door is a shoe organizer from Walmart that holds the everyday grooming supplies that we don’t want to freeze in it, like our leave-in conditioner spray, vet liniment, antibacterial wipes, and stuff like that. We also have fly masks, fly bonnets, sport boots, Glory’s extra medicine, paper towels, leather cleaner, and headlamps for checking on the paddock in the dark in the organizer. This keeps our items in the warmth, but also easily accessible since we just have to come one step in the door and reach around the corner to grab whatever we need.

And that is our little tack room! I hope you enjoyed looking around with me. Do you have a cool tack room? Share some images with me!

(Chalkboard in the featured image is from this DeviantArt user: https://www.deviantart.com/boldfrontiers/art/Chalkboard-Frame-824354197 )

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My Riding Ambitions

Usually, at the beginning of the year I have a new riding goal or two to work toward, but this year I don’t really have a new goal to go after. My goals in the past have been fairly simple, like “learn how to canter” or “canter my horse across an open field” (That one ended in a broken helmet, it wasn’t pretty), so probably not the types of riding goals that most people would have. 

I’ve never been very competitive, so showing or going to grand competitions just doesn’t speak to me. Maybe if I’d started riding at a much younger age I would be more interested in shows and competitions, but I’m more interested in having fun with my horse and my horse friends.

That being said, there are a few riding items on my bucket list that I’d love to do!

Riding on the beach

One of my top riding ambitions is to go for a horseback ride on the beach someday. I love to watch videos of people cantering or galloping down the sand on a horse, with the waves crashing in the background, and it’s just so magical to me! So, one day I’d love to take my horse to the beach and have a nice good run down the sand. Maybe not as fast as a gallop, because that’s a bit scary to me, but definitely a nice canter down the beach would be lovely, especially if my horse friends are with me and we can share the experience!

Taking my horse on trail rides

I’m fortunate enough to live in an area with lots of great places to go for trail rides. I live in driving distance of Gettysburg, the C&O Canal, and many parks that have horse trails the public are allowed to use. I get bored riding in the same arena or fields all the time, so going on trail rides would be an amazing thing to do, and we have so many areas around here that are perfect for it! Unfortunately, we are currently without access to a horse trailer, so trailering anywhere for a ride isn’t in the cards at the moment. We are hoping that we can find an affordable trailer this year so that we can take advantage of some of the beautiful parks in the area before our horses get too old to ride the trails!

Learning more about Dressage

When I do need to ride in the arena, I like to ride with a purpose. I try to have a goal for most of my rides, even if that goal is just to not fall off the horse, or to just get one good trot to canter transition in each direction. The instructor I had when I first started learning to ride liked to use dressage patterns, and I always loved that! I feel like practicing even simple dressage tests can improve steering, riding accuracy, and riding gait transitions. I have a goal to make a set of dressage letters for our riding arena so that we can start doing dressage patterns. I have the wood, I just need to paint it. Hopefully, I can get that project done by Spring!

Try Bitless riding

Glory can be very sensitive in the mouth and she can be pretty picky about her bit. We use a very simple bit that she seems to love, but I’d really like to try a bitless bridle. I think that Glory would be happy without a bit, and she has enough “whoa” and less “go” than Raven, so she might be a great candidate for bitless riding. 

Photo from UltimateBitlessBridle.com

Do lots of fun stuff on horseback!

I would also love to do more fun things on horseback, like obstacle course type things (opening/closing gates, picking up poles and moving them, moving balls around, etc) and I’d even like to try mounted archery! I might eventually take Glory to a fun schooling show, or go on a hunter pace with her, but mainly I just want to have fun with my horse and my friends. That’s the best thing about having a horse, if you ask me!

 

What are your riding ambitions?

 

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My Favorite Horse Photos

Over the past six (almost seven!) years that I’ve been around horses, I’ve taken and collected a lot of horse photos. Not only is my horse cute, but I’ve worked around a lot of horses and I’m always needing new reference photos to create art from. So I thought it would be a lot of fun to post some of my favorite photos, both that I’ve taken myself and ones that I’ve collected from around the internet. I hope you enjoy!

My Glory as a baby!

First of all, look at how adorable my Glory was as a baby! Isn’t she the cutest thing ever? She had a sassy face even at just a few days old!

Glory’s Sire, Edelweiss Magic Man

Speaking of Glory, this is the best photo that I have of her sire, Edelweiss Magic Man. I have a couple photos of him from the people that bred her, but they are terrible and the colors have deteriorated over the years, so this is the clearest picture I have of him. Glory definitely gets her good looks from her Papa, because she looks nothing like her Dam!

Horse with gloves on its ears

Now for something completely different! This gif never fails to make me giggle with delight, so I look at it whenever I’m feeling down in the dumps. There’s just something so perfect and so ridiculous about the way that the gloves sit on the horse’s ears and the way that they move and it makes me very happy!

Glory in the Snow

This photo of Glory is from our first winter together, I think. We were having a walk around the arena (this was before I started riding her, so I was hand-walking her) and she just stopped and looked out over the freshly fallen snow. It was so pretty that I actually did a watercolor painting of this photo at one point that I think my mom now has.

Life with a horse: a summary

When I first got a tablet, I downloaded a horse game. The most realistic thing about that game was that you could brush your horses every ten minutes, and every ten minutes they would be covered in mud and dirt. This meme reminds me of that game.

Chaz

This photo was taken by me and is of one of the many horses I worked with at my first barn job. He’s a Morgan gelding we called Chaz, and he was just the best. A sweet boy with a great personality. This photo was from one of his first days on the farm, and he was running around with his head up, snorting and carrying on, and I always thought this picture looked like it should be on the front of Morgan Magazine. I miss this horse very dearly, he was a sweet soul and I think about him often.

Glory’s opinion on riding

This was the face Glory made after I bought my first saddle and was trying it on her. I owned this saddle for a few years but ended up selling it and saving for a different one that I use now. This was an 18 inch Wintec Wide and I’ve since gone down to a 17 inch Wintec All-Purpose. I took these pics and didn’t notice until I looked back at them that Glory was sticking her tongue out in this one!

Squishy Lips!

I found this photo on Tumblr a long time ago and it has never failed to make me laugh. I just love those big squishy lips! Bless the person who took this photo, it has brought me so much joy!

Me, Glory, Kennedy, and Raven

One last photo, because if I don’t put a limit on this we’ll be here all day. I love this photo of me and my best friend Kennedy riding our girls. This was right after we got our light-up breastplates and it was just so much fun to ride in them. Honestly, it still is fun to ride with lights on the horses and sometimes we put them on just because. (And sometimes we put them on because it gets dark very early now and we need to ride, but it’s already nighttime, so we need lights)

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my favorite horse photos! Do you have a favorite horse picture? Share it with me!