Last Bath of the Year?

He’s so handsome!


Today was unseasonably warm, like record-breaking warm where I live. I know my car temperature gage is not always accurate, but it had it is 88° today! That is craziness for being less than two weeks away from Halloween. 

Starting to dry…


I decided that I was going to leave work on time and rush to the barn to give my handsome pony a bath. I normally can get one bath in during the fall, but this year it is even better than normal because it is still going to be relatively warm overnight! 

I love how fluffy he looks when he is dry…and how flea bitten he gets!


Typically, the last bath of the year involves a cooler and lots of hand walking to make sure that Gen doesn’t catch a chill, but with it still being so nice overnight I was able to let my pony just graze and relax while he dried.

Like my artistic capturing of the sunset😛


When I go and see my horse every day, it is usually not for longer than an hour. Today I decided to just kick back and relax and hang out while Gen dried. It took about two hours for him to dry through with his winter coat, but it was two hours well spent. We played with the barn cats, we get scared by some deer, and we just got to enjoy each other’s company. Well, I enjoyed Gen’s company, he mostly just ate😉

Gen listening to the gun shots of hunters off in the distance

He finally dried all the way through just as the sun was setting. As I put everything away at the now darken barn I couldn’t help but smile and think about how lucky I am to have a horse🙂 and a clean one at that! I know it is supposed to rain tomorrow so this won’t last, but at least he was clean for today!

I don’t even know how my horse hurts himself…

*This post includes pictures. They are not super gross, but there is a little blood*

So I get to the barn yesterday after work, and all of the horses are on high alert. It was windy and the coldest it has been since May. I knew when I saw all of the horses running towards their gates in the field as I drove up, Gen would be a crazy man.

The great thing about Gen is that he really is lazy at heart, so while he was carrying on when I first walked in to the barn, I could hear him just standing there being annoyed when I was in the tack room. The moment I came back in to view I was treated with a Mexican Jumping Bean instead of my Mexican General. He was leaping, bucking, and jumping around in a circle right by the gate. I thought about going back to the car to get my phone to video his antics, but I decided against it, afraid he would hurt himself putting on the show. I grabbed his lead and he stopped by the gate long enough for me to get him and then proceeded to snort and crab walk all the way to the barn.

Turns out my fears were justified because as I went to pick his feet, I saw this…

Sigh. Clearly he must have clipped himself on something. I have no idea if it was a rock, his hoof or a tree branch, but whatever it was at least it wasn’t worse. The good news is that the cut wasn’t deep and wasn’t bleeding much so it didn’t need stitches. The bad news is that is wasn’t bleeding much making it much more susceptible to infection, especially given the location.


So naturally I cursed myself for not having a coat, thankful at least the barn has hot water and set about cleaning the cut. Gen was annoyed and not repentant at all for hurting himself pretending to be a yearling. I’m sure it stung as I was scrubbing so he kept trying to grab his foot back, which would make me yell at him, which made him more annoyed.

Eventually the cut was clean and I let it dry after putting some antiseptic on it. After staring at Gen for a while debating on if I should bring him in for the night early, I decided to put some sterile gauze on the cut, cover it with vet wrap and turn him out. I want the cut to close up, and I didn’t want Gen to be inside alone if it was going to stress him out. 

I think he looks smashing with his red foot. He seems to think he looks good too. We will see what it looks like tomorrow. 

I went for a walk around his field and found a few things that could have caused the cut, but nothing that made it clear what the real culprit was. Oh Gen, never a dull moment!

Horse Hurricane Preparedness 

So I am planner and preparer, I always have been. I am not an official anything when it comes to emergency equine management, but I have had some life experience with hurricanes and other natural disasters so below are some helpful tips to make sure that you and your horse are ready for a storm. This is of course inspired by the fact that Hurricane Matthew is currently heading towards Florida. One thing that I just want to say before I start this post is to make sure that your horse is always up to date on vaccinations and worm free with records of both. This way if you have to evacuate (before, during or after the storm) you can prove that your horse is not a health risk to other equines. I highly recommend you keeping a copy of you latest coggins, receipt from your wormer and bill from vaccinations in a ziplock bag in your tack trunk or trailer. Gen cannot safely be trailered, so I would not be able to evacuate him, so below are the tips for sheltering in place with horses during a Hurricane.
1) Have 5 days of Fresh, Clean Water on Hand – No, I am not kidding. You should have 60 gallons a horse minimum on hand. This sounds like a lot of water, but think about all of the spare buckets you have lying around the barn and how much can fit in your horses outside water troughs. I also have two of the water cooler containers (https://www.amazon.com/Bluewave-Gallon-BPA-Free-Water-Bottle/dp/B000ZHMVM8/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1475758852&sr=8-8&keywords=water+cooler+container) that I got at Walmart (for way less than what Amazon wants) so when a storm comes I take these containers that normally live in my trailer and just fill them up and leave them at the barn in case they are needed (and they have been). Last horse show I went to I saw several people with these more affordable 5 gallon containers what worked just as well. https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Water-Carrier-5-Gallon-Blue/dp/B00168PI4S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475758779&sr=8-1&keywords=water+cooler+container. Your outside troughs should be filled up to a few inches from the top (rain will likely top them off) and should be in an area that you can access easily in case you need to fill barn buckets.
2) Have Enough Grain and Hay for 2 weeks – You should assume that you may not be able to turn your horses out, or that the ground could be compromised, so you need to have enough hay on hand for that to be the main forage for your horses for at least week. You should also have grain on hand in case the roads are closed and supply trucks cannot get through. We all know how sensitive a horses tummy is, so making sure you have enough of what they are used to can save your horse from getting stressed about what they eat. You should store everything in an area that will stay dry. A large plastic container with a lid (like a trash can) can be an easy way to store spare bags of grain so they do not get wet. You can also see if you can get some wooden pallets for your hay to keep it a few inches off the ground. Even just putting a tarp on the ground, putting the hay over it and then tying the tarp over the hay can help to keep it moisture free.
3) Have Basic Medical Supplies on Site – I know that most of us keep handy a salve for cuts or a spare thing of Bute, but if a storm is coming you should go through your horsey first aid kit and make sure it is current. I typically have tons of medication that expires in my trunk (and I am not complaining about it!) If a storm is coming, I will check the dates on my medications and make sure that it is all still useable. Here is a link to a post I wrote about a basic first aid kit https://onthebit.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/first-aid-kit-for-horses/ and in addition to that I recommend that you have a pain killer, an antibiotic, a sedative and an anti-inflammatory on hand. You should also check to see if your vet is riding out the storm, and if not, who you can call if there is an emergency.
4) Have an Enclosed Shelter for Your Horses that Does Not Flood – This can be tricky because not everyone has a standing barn structure, and even some people that do know that it will flood. You want somewhere for your horses to be able to get out of the wind and rain if needed. If you know that in your barn there is one stall that floods or a place that has a leak in the roof, see what else you can use to provide your horse a dry place. One solution I have seen in a farm with no real barn is to have gates put up against a run-in shed. These horse owners never restricted their horse’s movement, so it would have been more stressful locking their horses up. Instead, they allowed their horses to be free, but had gates they attached to either side of the run-in so if they needed to contain them, they should round them up and close them in. During one hurricane a few years back the barn I was at knew that the two end stalls were likely to flood so they created two fake stalls in the aisle of the barn for those horses.
5) Have Extra Shavings/Blankets/Coolers/Towels on Hand – It is October, not exactly blanket weather, especially not in Florida. That being said, it is important to try and keep horses coats and feet dry without over heating them. Think about how much shavings/pellets that you use in a normal 24 hour period when you horse is in. Multiply that by 7 days and then add in a few extra bags just to be safe. You should also have towels and coolers on hand just in case one of your horses get wet. Fungus and other moisture loving problems can happen fast, so you want to be prepared to prevent them instead of spending weeks trying to cure them!
6) Write Your Name and Phone Number on Your Horses Hoof – Okay, I wouldn’t do this any time a big weather event comes around, but with a category 4 Hurricane I would do this as a precaution. Just grab any old Sharpe marker (metallic for black hoof) and put your thumb up to the coronet band, and write right below that (about half an inch down). Sharpe’s are water proof and once you get the all clear it would literally take 2 swipes from a sanding block to erase the writing. You should write your name (or your horse’s name), address of the barn, and phone number you can be reached at. That way if they get out or need to be rescued, they at least have some identifying information.
7) Trim Any Branches or Trees that are Near Where Your Horses are Sheltered – I know trees are beautiful, and they are great at providing shade, but Hurricanes can take down even the healthiest of trees. You may not be able to avoid a tree or branch from coming down, but you can at least take a look near the shelter and see how the trees are looking. If one is not looking healthy or there is a low hanging branch, you can take care of it before hurricane force winds do!
8) Have Two Halters on Hand for Each Horse – I know this sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. You want to keep one halter close to each horse, if they are turned out in a small field you should think about putting a halter on them during the storm. In addition to that, you should have an extra halter for each horse in a central location. That location may be a rubber container with a lid inside the house or it may be in a trailer, tack room or fence post. If there is a problem with the shelter or your horse gets out the last thing you need to do is go hunting for a halter. I would also have lead ropes rolled up in the same area as the halters.
9) Keep Extra Fence Boards and Posts on Hand – Sounds silly right? Well, after Hurricane Sandy I couldn’t get to the barn because of road closures. That also meant that the barn owners where I board couldn’t get out. There were a ton of fences and fence posts down so even after the hurricane cleared up, the horses were stuck inside waiting their turn to go out for an hour or two in the one undamaged field. Even better? The fence place opened the day after the hurricane and SOLD OUT of fence posts and boards within 2 hours. By lunch time that day the Facebook boards were going crazy because there wasn’t a single fence post to be found in the state. They were all sold out until another shipment could get through…10 days later! Luckily for Gen, I live close to a fencing company so even though phones were down, I got an e-mail from the barn owners asking if I could run over in person. I could, and it was lucky I did (and that their credit card was on file) because I was able to buy the fencing and have it waiting for as soon as the barn owners could get down. If we hadn’t gotten lucky we would have had some very unhappy ponies!
10) Be Ready for the Storm Yourself – Make sure you have an emergency radio, flashlights, food, water, shelter and anything else you may need for the storm. You need to be okay in order to take care of anything else!

Anyone out there have any other tips? I would love to know if I am missing anything from my preparedness plan! I board Gen, so many of these tips do not apply to me, but as a boarder I can do things like help with water supply, make sure Gen’s records are available and try and make sure all of Gen’s supplies are in working order and easy to locate. Good luck to all my readers out there who are likely going to get impacted. My thoughts are with you!
Update: 
I found some great resources online for those of you getting ready for Hurricane Matthew! See the links below
http://www.floridahorse.com/hurricane/hurricane.html
http://www.thehorse.com/articles/27532/hurricane-preparation-tips-for-horse-owners
http://www.aaep.org/info/horse-health?publication=786
http://horsefund.org/disaster-preparedness-for-horses.php

Equestrian Touches at My Destination Wedding

Why this post today? Because today is my 6 month wedding anniversary🙂

My husband proposed to me at the barn in June of 2015, making sure that my sweet Gen was a part of the ask, he knows Gen is so important to me. I never really grew up fantasizing about being a bride, but as soon as I realized the wedding was coming I couldn’t help but fantasize about riding down the aisle on a beautiful Friesian and my guests all arriving via carriage. It didn’t take long to realize that I was being selfish (and assuming I would win the lottery). My husband is still a little nervous around horses (although I am proud to say he was actually the one to held Gen at his last hoof trim since I was stuck at work) so a day filled with horses would be a wedding all about me, cause my groom lots of stress, and it would change our wedding day into something that wasn’t about us.

I started to think about what both my husband and I love, and travel was the first thing that came to time. With the average cost of a wedding in my area being $58,000 (no, I am sadly not kidding, you can actually look up average wedding cost by zip code), we decided that a destination wedding was the way to go. We knew we wanted a modest wedding with a budget to match that, so why not have an excuse to go on vacation as well? We had many false starts about where it would be (Alaska, Georgia, Montana, Texas, and a few others I can’t even remember) but over a weekend getaway over that summer, we fell in love with the “Oldest City in America” and decided to tie the knot in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a horse blog, so I will not bore you with details of the wedding or the lead up to it. I will just say that I married the love of my life and had a great time doing it.

Below is how I included a little horsiness to my wedding day:

One of the best wedding purchases that I made was to buy a bunch of custom ribbons. Everyone knows I am obsessed with ribbons, so I loved getting to custom order them for the big day. I decided to do 4 different kinds of ribbons, one tri-color and then some of each of the three colors of my wedding. We used them on the backs of the chairs at the ceremony and reception site to add a little decoration and color to the day. My bridesmaids and I also snagged some for photos and most of the guests took a ribbon home with them as a reminder of our wedding. The ribbons were a little over $5 a piece since I had such a small quantity, but they were a great way to get the horsey in my wedding while still being light and easily portable.

I also found a light and easily portable way to get Gen to my wedding…by getting a custom painted Breyer done (thank you ETSY) to look just like him. I also had name plates for each guest (ETSY again) and got extra done for Gen and the cats so they would be a part of our wedding day even though they were all at home. I think decorating our cake table with things we loved helped to distract from the fact that most of my wedding cake was dropped on delivery so they had to take from other cakes they were delivering and redecorate it on site😉 The name plates were not super expensive, but the custom painted Breyer was a splurge. I still have it on display at home though so it was a good excuse to turn Gen into a model horse.

The horsey thing that I think ended up being everyones favorite was the terrariums. My bridesmaids are very kind people and helped me create these little worlds in a jar. The hardest part was getting our fingers covered in super glue when attaching the pins to the scenery. Since they would be traveling thousands of miles down to the wedding, we wanted to make sure they were secure. The fun thing about terrariums is that you can buy similar decorations and have them all turn out completely different. I ended up having 6 wonderful mini worlds with horses, air planes, farms, churches, etc. Depending on where your destination wedding is, you can just bring the miniatures with you and get the moss and jars from wherever you get married and then bring it home as a keepsake to treasure forever.

Overall, I was very happy with the level of horse at my destination wedding. Horses are such a big part of my life I wanted them to be a part of my wedding day, but they are not my whole life so I wanted to just have some horsey touches along the way. For a couple hundred dollars total I was able to get four different ways to show my love of horses  that traveled well and hopefully enhanced my wedding day. Below are just a few pictures showing my equestrian touches, if you want more, just tell me, I am a totally ham about my wedding day!







The Horse Owners Financial Plan

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am not a financial expert. Please know that the plan below is what works for me, and something I have found to work for a few other horse people. Money is a personal thing, and the outline listed below may not work for you. I do think that the plan below could work for anyone, but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you. Typically, places in the country that are expensive to live in have higher salaries, but we know that is not always the case. I have found that the financial plans that work the best are the ones that are the easiest to follow. There is a little initial leg work involved in setting this up, but once you start doing it, it should be easy to maintain. It doesn’t matter if you only have one income coming in to the house or two, if you have kids or not, the plan is simple and is really just looking at what comes in versus what goes out.

The Horse Owners Financial Plan is based on percentages and I created it so I could live a balanced horse owning life. Most of your income should go to your living expenses, but you should also plan part of your income for horses, savings and of course fun. Yes, life is life and some months you will get a surprise bill, but this plan is about living life in a balanced way and saving for the rainy day so when those surprises come, you can handle it. You can tweak this plan if needed with a few extra percent on one thing or another, but the plan and how it is presented is how it has worked best for me. It really isn’t very complicated. Below is the Horse Owners Financial Plan in an easy pie chart, which basically sums up the plan in a neat little picture. All you need to do it take your bills from the last few months, see how they fit in with the chart, and adjust as necessary. Easy right?

piechart

Okay, so how do you find out what your bring home salary is? Take a look at your paycheck (and your significant others pay check if you have two incomes) and figure out if anything comes out of it (such as health insurance, school tuition, child support, retirement savings, etc). If things come out, add them back in, if nothing comes out then just take the number on your pay check and multiple it by how many pay checks you get a year. Write that number down, that is you income after taxes. We will use it to do the math for everything else.

Living expenses should be less than 50% of your bring home income:

  1. Mortgage/Rent/Property taxes
  2. Utilities such as water/sewer/electric/gas
  3. Health Insurance
  4. Basic food needs/cleaning supplies
  5. Cable/satellite/internet
  6. School tuition
  7. Student Loans/Credit Card Minimums/other debts you already have

The first category, and the largest, is living expenses. This category is a hard one because some things that we consider living expenses are actually things that are more to make our life comfortable and not actually essential. I used to believe in the idea that your mortgage should be 40% of your income, but as a horse owner that just doesn’t work. I had to make major cuts in my quality of life (heat set to 60 in the winter, no internet at home, etc) because at 40% going towards the mortgage the other living expenses were killing me. It wasn’t until I became a two income household that I really felt financial stable (get it) again. As someone with a horse, the best thing you can do to be financially sound is to keep all of your essential living expenses to 50% or less of your bring home income.

If you do the math and you find that it doesn’t work out, think about what can adjustments you can possibly make to get down to that 50%. For me, I got lucky, my husband came along giving me another income source without any extra work😉 Before him my living expenses ranged from 60-65% of my income and I can tell you first hand, just being able to get that number down below 50% has made a huge difference in my life. If anyone hit 50% or less on their first round of calculations I am very impressed with you! For the rest of us, can you find a way to get to the 50% mark?

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are spending over 50% of you bring home income on livings expenses. Do you really need to live the way that you live? Have you called the cable/internet provider to tell them you will cancel (which sounds scary, but they have always given me a discount for at least a few months whenever I do it)? Do you need both TV and Internet services? Can you make adjustments to your grocery bill? Does your child have to go to private school/Do you have to pay for their college tuition? Hopefully you don’t have any number 7 items, but if you do, ask yourself how long it will take to pay everything off if you only pay the minimums and how much more money will you have once you do?

Horse expenses should be less than 15% of your bring home income:

  1. Board or the cost of supplies to keep the horses at home such as hay/grain/shavings
  2. Any lessons/training/staffing costs
  3. Hoof Care costs
  4. General Medical Costs
  5. Small Tack/supplements/blankets/etc
  6. Showing/Clinics/Fun

Horses are expensive, but there is a huge difference between the cost of having a horse in full training and showing every weekend versus someone who does partial care and only takes a few lessons a year. If you can afford it, and you like doing it, it is no one’s business if you spend $3,000 a month on your horse. Personally, Gen is not 15% of my income at the moment, but the 15% number would still work for me if he was because I could afford 4 lessons a month and 8-12 schooling shows a year in that amount. Maybe instead of shows it would be more worth it to me to do 2 lessons a month and board at an indoor. If I follow this plan, it doesn’t matter how I spend the money, as long as I am within the 15%, I can spend horse money however I want. There are times that you may spend more because you need more lessons, you are showing more, or because your horse is hurt and needs more care. As long as you budget for NORMAL horse expenses being 15% of your budget, you should still be okay and can take a bit from fun money or short-term savings if needed.

Normal is the key phrase. Yes, Gen can go 6 weeks without getting his feet done at times, but I budget and plan for once a month. Gen will always get spring and fall shots, but I budget for 8 vet visits a year because…well…Gen is just Gen. Most years planning for 8 is fine, but even the years when there are 15 visits, at least I had half of them in the budget! I also know that equipment costs can vary, but considering Gen is retired I only budget for a few halters a year along with his hoof supplement. The year that Gen was hurt I spent just about every penny I made, and some I didn’t make yet, on him, but that wasn’t a typical year. If you plan for normal, extraordinary should be survivable.

Fun Money should be 10% of your bring home income:

  1. Entertainment such as movies/books/concerts, etc
  2. Food that is more than basic necessities, such as restaurants or take-out
  3. Appearance items such as hair cuts, make-up, clothes, etc
  4. Going fancy with the groceries or buy expensive cleaning supplies
  5. Anything else you want but you don’t really need

I don’t feel like I need to tell anyone how to spend fun money😉 I do find that if I take out my fun money in cash at the start of the week (which is typically how I do it), I am much better about staying within my budget. If I spend it all and then some in one week, I will try and just not spend any until I am back in balance again. I find that as a horse person, fun money is thought to be the money we spend on horses, leaving us feeling guilty when we go out to dinner with friends or want to buy that $5 coffee. Planning for fun outside the stable walls is something that we should all do because horses are fun, but sometimes even the most horse crazy among us need a break from the barn.

Short-Term Savings should be 10% of your bring home income:

  1. Paying off debt
  2. Vacations or trips
  3. Big horse shows/clinics/etc that you need to save up for
  4. Big ticket items such as saddles/new tires for your car/new boots
  5. Home repairs
  6. Gifts for holidays

I should really call Short-Term Savings “Planned Money” because that is really what it is. I do think it is important to contain horse money to the 15% under normal circumstances, but this is where a little extra can come from if needed. If you are in debt with credits cards, student loans or anything else, the best thing you should do is start to pay off some of the principle in addition to the minimum payments. Don’t throw all 10% of Short-Term savings towards debt though, the max you should do is 5%. One of the best ways to keep you financially healthy is to have savings available. I know I need new tires on my car, so instead of panicking in November wondering where I am going to get $500, I am saving up for them now, setting aside money each month so I have the money. I know a car purchase is likely coming in 2 years so I want to save for that now. Even if I do not end up spending the money on what I had planned, having extra cash on hand is never a bad thing.

Long-Term Savings should be 15% of your bring home income

  1. Retirement plan
  2. Down payment for a house or other item that will increase your personal wealth
  3. Stock market investments
  4. Any large savings that you cannot easily use

So this category is where I find a huge difference between single horse people and married horse people. I was a single horse person myself for all of my 20s, yet I was in the minority that I was saving for retirement. Most horse people in their 20s are just starting careers and it is hard to be able to afford yourself, let alone a horse at this time of life. I will be honest here, I did not put 15% towards Long-Term Savings during that time, but I did always commit to putting at least 5% towards retirement. It wasn’t much, but even by doing that little I am still in much better shape than people who did not do anything. Every bit counts, so while 15% should be what you aim for, anything is better than nothing!

So what do you think?

I know this was a long post, but if you are still hanging on you can see the chart below as to what this financial plan may look like for you. Please note these numbers are a rough guess. I assumed taxes at about 33% which is high for some and low for others. Does this look like something you could live with? If not, did it at least give you something to think about?