The Blog

Drama Llama Ding Dong. Can Anyone Escape Barn Drama?

It seems that a lot of barn drama is going around right now, it seems like a plague at least locally.  Maybe it has to do with the stress left over by Hurricane Harvey, maybe it was because Friday the 13th fell in October, maybe it’s because we recently had a harvest moon, or you know, because it’s Wednesday.

Drama comes in many flavors, between boarders, between a client and trainer, between the horse caretakers and trainers, between trainers and farm owners, between horse caretakers and farm owners.  The list goes on and on and on.  I have seen it all, in one form or another.  If you are new to the equine world, maybe you have managed to miss the drama or have only seen one of these.  Sometimes there is drama that a boarder will never know about, this is usually the drama involving trainers, horse caretakers, and/or farm owners.  Those that have been around for years have seen it all.

“Why the heck is an engineer writing about drama?  Engineers are boring, they don’t understand drama.”  You are right Engineers are pretty boring folks, but as an engineer who has spent 40 days straight stuck on a 250′ long boat with 48 other people (only one other person was an engineer), I have learned to handle drama.  “Holy Gilligan’s Island, that ain’t no 3 hour tour.”  Nope, and let me tell you, when the seas are rough and you can’t work, drama ensues.  Add a little sleep deprivation because you got stuck working Midnight to Noon, all kinds of shenanigans happen.

Some people love drama, some people cause it on purpose, some people thrive on it.  To be honest, I like to hear about it but I HATE being involved.  Generally, I tend to avoid drama.  It’s pretty easy for me to stay out of barn drama since my horses are at my house, the biggest drama I have to deal with is that a possum got in the chicken coop and roughed up one of my hens or the horses kicked down a gate and are running around like idiots.  I still haul in for lessons so when there is drama, I get to hear about it.

I have had my share though, I have been at a number of boarding barns in my years.  Boarders having screaming fights over whatever reason.  Caretakers not showing up for work after a night of partying.  Farm owners having unreasonable expectations of trainers or boarders.  Trainers playing favorites among clients, I see this a lot.  Trainers charging unfair prices, there is a lawsuit going on right now involving a trainer and a fraudulent horse sale.

“All the Drama, what is a girl to do, add more drama?”  No, do everyone a favor, don’t add to the drama.  “Why doesn’t everyone just avoid the drama and get along?  Sing some Kumbaya, hug, and go ride our ponies.”  That would be nice, unfortunately, when you get a lot of people attempting to exist together, it just doesn’t work out.  Kind of like that college roomie you couldn’t stand.  Working offshore has given me tips for minimizing drama.  When you work, eat, hang out and spend 24 hours a day in a small area with the same 50 people, you either learn to play nice or you get kicked out.  Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the years:

  • Less people mean less drama, one barn that I was at, the trainer was the farm owner and the caretaker.  There was very little drama.
  • Find a barn that fits your care standards, this will save a lot of drama between you and the farm owner.  If you feel that only plastic fencing is safe for your Fluffy Pony, then find a barn that has that.  “I can’t afford those barns…”.  Then be realistic, either lower your expectations or reconsider horse ownership.
  • More to the point above BE REALISTIC.  If you are paying $200 a month, don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out when you park your ’98 Honda Civic in the parking area.  If you are paying some of the lowest board in the area, you may have to clean up debris in the pasture, or make a few improvements to your horses stall to make it safer. (always get permission first)  The more you pay, the nicer the place should be and you can expect the farm to ensure the pastures are clean and inspected.
  • Move-in condition is what you should expect- in other words, if you move into a place that has wire fencing, don’t expect the owner’s to replace all of it with wood because you said it was safer.  Even if they say they are going to replace it, don’t trust it, things happen, money runs out, they get too busy.  You may be able to negotiate a lower rate and tell them that you will pay more once the fence is replaced or whatever is fixed up, but this is no guarantee that it will happen.  Be ready to pay if they hold up their end of the bargain…
  • Avoid problem people.  If you know someone is difficult to get along with, minimize your exposure to them.
  • If you are having a problem with another boarder, talk to the farm owner or your trainer first, they may have a way with dealing with it that will prevent more drama.
  • If you are having issues with a farm owner, remember they own the place, they are going to run it how they want to, because they own it.  If you have concerns you should talk to them but most of the time, it’s not going to change.  If they want your opinion, they will usually ask for it…
  • If you are having issues with the trainer, you should talk to them, also read this post as it will help clear a few things up.
  • If you are having issues with the caretaker, you need to talk to the person that hired the caretaker.  If the farm owner hired them, that is who you should talk to.  Same goes if the trainer hired them.  Whomever hired them has trained them to do things a certain way, and for a reason.  Discuss with the proper person so that things are handled correctly to avoid conflicts.
  • “Borrowing” happens.  I hate it as much as anyone else, if you keep your stuff locked up and don’t share the combo, then no one can borrow your stuff.  That fly spray you leave hanging on the stall, it’s going to get used, just be ready for it.  If it’s a major problem, talk to the barn owner or trainer about maybe doing a communal fly spray situation.
  • Don’t go into areas you aren’t invited into, if there are 2 locker rooms, only go into the room that has your locker.  You have no business being in the other room and you will look suspect.  Same goes with owner/trainer tack rooms.
  • Be courteous, clean up after your horse and yourself.  If you pull your horse’s mane in the middle of the barn aisle, sweep up the hair.  If your horse poops in the cross ties/wash rack, clean that up.  The only way you get out of this is if you are at a super swanky barn where they have someone to do that for you but 90% of us are not at that barn so clean up.
  • Follow the rules!  The rule may be stupid, it may be annoying, it may be an inconvenience, but it’s still the rules and they have them for a reason.  If you hate the rules where you are, move to a different barn, if you can’t afford a different barn, see above comment about being “realistic”.
  • Just because you take lessons from a trainer does not mean you have a right to use their stuff.  They may loan you something but after using it for a few weeks, maybe a month, you need to purchase your own and return the borrowed item, unless an arrangement has been made.  Never take/borrow anything of theirs without prior permission, this includes things like fly spray.
  • Do not judge anyone else’s riding/training.  If you want to know more about what someone is doing, ask questions, NICELY, in a friendly tone.  If there is something that you think is dangerous, if appropriate, ask them about it, if you aren’t sure, ask the trainer or the farm owner and let them deal with it.  Try phrasing things like: “Hey, are you ok?”  “Can I help?”  “I’m worried this may not be safe for (Insert horse’s name).”  “I am worried about your safety, I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
  • If you have a super spooky horse, instead of picking a fight with someone because they are spooking your horse, either ride at a time when there aren’t many other horses around, find a different area to ride, or use it as a “training tool”, work through it.  If your horse spooks at an inanimate object in the barn, do not move or remove the item, get your horse used to it, if you don’t have the experience, then ask your trainer for help.
  • Gossip happens, (it happens big time offshore) be ready for it.  Don’t do things that are worth gossiping about.  If someone sees a male and a female walk out of a closed tack room, it’s getting talked about, or speculated about.  It could have just been a conversation between friends, but it’s going to go through the barn like wild fire.  By tomorrow morning, the couple will have been having an affair for the last 3 months and the guy is going to leave his wife tomorrow.  I would say don’t gossip or spread rumors, but let’s be honest, it happens, it’s part of being in a barn.  However, don’t spread untrue stories, leave the fake news to Facebook.
  • Just like they say in kindergarten, treat everyone how you would like to be treated.

You can’t always prevent or avoid barn drama, but you can minimize your exposure by being nice, communicating concerns, and sometimes you just have to let things go.  Don’t allow the barn politics ruin your ride, you are there to relax and have fun, so get out there and have some fun.  If the politics are constantly causing problems, maybe it’s time to find a new barn.

Disclaimer:  I am not a licensed therapist, I didn’t even take psychology in college, I am just an observant person who has been stuck in High Drama situations.

Shout out to my fellow Houston Civil Engineer friend who sent me a message, good luck with your new “Fluffy Pony”!

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Interval Training, There is an App For That. Here’s Why You Need It No Matter What Discipline You Ride.

Interval training, it’s so hot right now.  Some of you may have heard of it, especially if you are a jogger or a crusty old eventer like me.  Back when I was a kid it went something like; you and your friend head out to the back pasture on ponies, race each other for a bit, get yelled at by the trainer, continue to race ponies but going the other direction, and then come back to a scolding but still happy because ponies and galloping happened.  In reality it should follow something like this:

  • Warm up at the walk, trot, and canter
  • slow gallop for 3 minutes one direction
  • walk for 2 minutes
  • slow gallop for 3 minutes the other direction
  • walk for 2 minutes
  • slow gallop for 3 minutes the first direction or split it for both directions

As your horse gets fit, you increase the gallop time and maybe the walk time.  However, the walk time is always less than the gallop time.  This is the best way to get your horse fit for things like Cross Country, but it can be beneficial for your jumper, dressage horse, heck even your reiners, barrel racers, roping horses, or anything else that needs to be fit for bursts of energy.

How does it work?  It raises the heart rate for a short amount of time (while you canter or gallop), allows it to recover some (during your walk), and then raise it again (back to the canter or gallop).  You can get very scientific about it and use heart rate monitors and go to a target heart rate, maintain it for so many minutes, then rest until it recovers to a certain point and then do it again.  Essentially the more fit you are, the less time it takes to get your heart rate to drop.  There is a lot of this done in endurance riding.  They have vet checks along the way to make sure your horse is not being over stressed, if it takes your horse too long to recover at the vet checks, you are eliminated.  Long format eventing involves some of this too.

If you are looking for a good way to exercise your horse without having to use your brain, this is a great way to do it.  “Oh man I had a bad day at work, bring on the mindless riding!”  Either set a timer on your watch or your phone and go have a good ride.

“Well this is all nice, but you mentioned an app?”  We all love apps, we have loads of them for all kinds of things so why not use it to your advantage.  I have one called “Running for Weight Loss” it’s free.  “Are you saying my pony is fat?  Poor Fluffy Pony, you aren’t fat, you are fluffy.”  Sure, “fluffy”.  There are many interval running apps available so try them to find one you like.  This one lets you set levels like beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  It will let you put personal information in too.  Then it gives you options for days of the week assuming you “run” 3 times a week.  If you look at the options, you can select a different type of training plan I chose 5k which gives you 30 min work outs.  Then you hit start and it actually tells you when to walk and when to run.  That will set you up on a walk/run interval, and it will buzz or talk to you when you need to change your speed.

As you get further in the workouts they will add in short bursts of “sprint” so maybe you gallop a bit faster during this time.  Modify your speed to fit the work out.  One that I did said “Jog or Light Run” I don’t exactly remember but when I heard that, I trotted.  If your horse isn’t in super great shape, you can trot when it says “run” and canter when it says “sprint”.  If you are out on a trail, it will track you on a map and show you where you walked, trotted, and cantered, and how far you went and at what speed.  You know how they sometimes post a speed at shows, like you may see 325m/min on the course map, well you can actually find out what that speed feels like.  If you are in the ring it shows a bunch of circles on top of each other, so not super helpful.

If you plan on doing some interval training, prior to starting, you should assess your horse’s fitness, it’s not fair to go galloping your horse in an intense work out if he has been hanging out in the pasture the last few months.  Talk with your Trainer, they can help you figure out how fit Fluffy Pony is.  Also take into account where you will be riding, if your horse is fit to ring work, hills will be challenging so take it easy if you are headed out on hilly terrain.  One of the nice things about my neighborhood is that I have a creek at the back that I can take the horses in for exercise, it’s belly deep in some spots, but working in water can be very difficult and tiring so ensure you take that into account as well.

The take away message is, there are tools out there that will help your pony and possibly you, get fit.  As with everything, you must use all tools wisely and be sure you are not hurting your horse in the process.  Once you get the hang of it, interval training is an easy and beneficial solution to the “I don’t know what to do today when I ride.” disease that we all get sometimes.

Disclaimer:  I am not an equine fitness professional.  I do not work for or receive any benefits from running apps.

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Coaches, Trainers, Riding Instructors, Customer Service Representative?

Last week I shared a funny post on my Facebook page about How to Make Your Trainer Hate You. It was quite funny but still kind of truthful, you know, full of sarcasm. “You, sarcasm? Do you even know what sarcasm is?” Well apparently someone knows about sarcasm. I’m sure we are all guilty of 1 or 2 of those but hopefully not all. “So, what is the point of this article?” Well there was an interesting comment at the end from a reader. Paraphrasing, it went something like “When will someone write about things trainers can do that make clients like them?” Then they continued to wonder what happened to customer service, etc.  “Let us massacre this plebe with our words on the interwebs.”  Before you call the angry mob take a breath and really think about this comment.

I have been riding since I was a kid, the trainer was second to god, it was a given.  This commenter did have a point though, I mean we are pouring our hard earned dollars into this trainer’s pocket.  “Yeah a lot of our hard earned dollars, for all the abuse!”  Put the pitch fork down, the more I thought on it though, it didn’t sit right.  Why is that?

Well I finally figured it out.  It doesn’t sit right, because it isn’t.  Those of us that started to ride as a kid, our trainer/coach was an adult, we were taught to do what the adult says, always.  Lately I am not so sure that this rule is taught but that’s a different soap box for a different day and different blog.  So us kid riders took for granted that our trainer was someone we looked up to and respected.  But what happens when you ride as an adult?  Your trainer becomes a friend or possibly someone who works for you, I mean, you are paying them for a service.  In theory this makes sense but there is one thing that I think people forget.  Hold on to your hats ladies (and gents), here comes a big “light bulb” moment.

Crossfit is very popular right now, people actually pay to go to crossfit.  People also go to gyms and pay for personal trainers.  These people aren’t generally nice to you, they push you, they drive you to do better, they yell, they make you do things you don’t think you can or should do.  I see posts all the time about people “hating” their personal trainers/dietitian/insert person who is not nice to you yet you still pay them, yet people still go back.  Why?  Because you see results.  “I lost 20 inches off my waist!”  “Look at my toned arms and abs.”  Etc.  These people don’t take you to the weight lifting machine, have you sit on the padded bench, hold your hand and say things like “Is this bench comfortable for you?  Is the atmosphere enjoyable for you?  You look great today, why bother working out.  Let’s just chat for the next 30 minutes and you can go home.”  No, they tell you to get on that bench, and start pumping iron, and when you say it hurts or you are tired, they say “Good, now do 30 more reps.”

Ladies and Gentleman, Your horse trainer is no different than a personal trainer or a crossfit coach.  Be honest, you don’t take lessons because you want to trail ride, you take lessons to become better, compete at shows, even win.  You only become better/win by being pushed, by doing one more lap of stirrup-less posting trot, or by them sneaking a jump up one more hole while you aren’t looking so you don’t spaz because you are now jumping 3′ instead of 2’9″.  The better the trainer, the tougher they can be because in reality, they don’t need someone who stands around and whines the whole lesson, they can fill your spot with someone else that is ready to put in the work to get the WIN they are looking for.  Essentially you are paying for the privilege of having Ms. Olympic Medalist yell at you, just like any other coach or trainer.  Those trainers want a barn full of winners, they are competitive, they didn’t win a gold medal because they like sitting on the couch watching TV all day.  The more winners they have, they more valuable they are, and the more clients they attract.  So if you want to ride with a top notch winning barn, tighten your boot laces and put your big girl panties on, you are about to go to work.

An example of this would be professional sports coaches, I might see them smile once at the end of a game they won, or I may never see them smile.  They are not holding the player’s hands telling them it will be ok, they will win next time.  “Those players are getting paid gazillions of dollars, I am paying my hard earned cash.”  True, but their goal is to win games, you do that by being a better team than the other team.  You only get better by being pushed and working harder than the other team.

“But riding is supposed to be fun… I do it because I enjoy it.”  My suggestion to you, pick a less competitive barn/trainer.  If you don’t always want to put in the hard work required by Mr. Olympic Level Trainer, then maybe riding with Mr. Local Show Trainer is more your style.  Maybe you don’t always win at the show but you have a lot more fun.  If you are super competitive and want to win at nationally rated levels, you better buck up and suck it up and do what Ms. Olympic Level Trainer says, heck, and if you are on a budget and still want to win, then you better do what Ms. Local Show Trainer says.

For the ones paying for their own lessons with money they earned (aka the adults):  That being said, personality conflicts do exist.  If you just aren’t getting along with your trainer, after half a year to a year of trying (give it some time, all relationships need work), then maybe it’s time to find a new one.  This doesn’t mean the first time Mr./Ms. Trainer says something you don’t like, or asks you to do something you don’t want to, or even yells at you because you are probably being unsafe.  Changing trainers is fine, it happens, however if you find yourself going from trainer to trainer every year or two, it’s probably not the trainers that are the problem…

For the record, I still talk to the trainer I had when I was a Pony Clubber and got to spend a Saturday with her recently, which was so great!  My Hunter/Jumper trainer I have been with off and on for about 11 years now.  My eventing trainer I have been with off and on for almost 9 years.  I say off and on because I was doing jumpers for a while, then I tried to event Emma, that was a hot mess, so then I went back to jumpers, then got Lily and am doing jumpers and eventing with her so I go to shows with the corresponding trainer.  And no I don’t say “Well my other trainer said such and such.”  They also know each other, are cool with each other, and know that I am not going to cause drama, they have both had me exclusively at one point or another.  This is not an easy balance, I do not recommend this arrangement to anyone.  It takes the right personality and a very good understanding of how the horse business works.  *If you have not been taking lessons for at least 10 years, you aren’t ready.*  Yes, I do have bad days, I always try and let the trainer know, if I am in such a bad state I will not be open to learning, I cancel the lesson (which includes still paying the fee as necessary) and I go trail ride.

Disclaimer:  I am not a trainer, I do not teach riding lessons.  I have taken hundreds of lessons in the last 25 years.

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Why You Need To Know About Harbor Freight and Few Other Frugal Horse Tips.

If you haven’t ever been into a Harbor Freight store, you need to find one.  None near you?  Good news, they are online too.  “Why do I need boat stuff?  What do I need from a Harbor store?  I’m not near a beach, heck I don’t even have a pond.”  Well my friend, they have things that can be useful for horse people for CHEAP. (Some of the pictures now have links!  Look at me being all awesome with the interwebs. “Loooooooser!”)

Anyone have a magnetic stud holder/bowl?  Smartpak has them for $17, Harbor Freight has them for $3-$4 Check it out here.

Need barn rags?  Try these red shop rags, 50 for $13.  Forget washing nasty barn rags, just toss them and get a new one.  They have white terry cloth ones too.

Extension cords? 25′ long for $9, almost a $1 cheaper than most places.

How about zip ties to strap down those electric cords?  100 fun colored ones for $2.50.

Need a giant pedestal fan for the barn aisle, they have a 30″ fan for $150.  Go ahead, cool off your barn aisle, tack up areas, heck even put one in the barn hang out area.

They have a staple gun to hang up your tack curtains for $8.50, it has better reviews than the expensive one.  Don’t forget to get your extra staples too, they have scads of them.

This hose nozzle is $22 on Smartpak’s site.  I prefer the $8 version…  They also have hoses, splitters, and other sprayers if you need those too.

Need a way to move hay around, they have these handy carts good for hay and lots of things.

If you have a tack trunk, this can be used in the bottom of the trunk and brush boxes to help protect the wood from drips and spills.

A few other things to check out

  • Pet Supplies
  • Kitchen Stuff (yes those are $1 scissors)
  • Solar Panels
  • Toys, yes that is a wagon
  • All the lights, solar, flashlights, head-lights(the kind that strap to your head), shop lights, battery powered lights, garden lights, shed lights, the little circle battery powered lights that work great in tack lockers.
  • Magnets for finding that screw you dropped in the pasture.
  • Ramps to get your golf cart into the trailer.
  • Grease to grease the ball on your horse trailer, and a mini grease gun to go with the tiny tubes, because who doesn’t love mini stuff.  They have the full size ones too if you are into that.
  • Emergency Impact Wrench for roadside tire changes, just try to get those lug nuts off.
  • Can you say Trailer Mirror?
  • Car trunk organizer aka trailer organizer.
  • They have pop up canopies for $70 but Academy has them for under $50
  • Masks, for all those reasons we should be wearing them but don’t, like painting or cleaning questionable areas.  At 40 cents each, you can afford to throw them away.  They sell them in a 50 pack too…
  • Megaphone, because your trainer can’t scream across the property at you to put your heels down.
  • Cheap sunglasses that your horses can break all day long, instead of your cute Smucci(you know, knock of Gucci) glasses.  These are less than $2.  Alright, they aren’t super cool but they work, and you wont cry when they get stomped on.
  • Hooks for tack and stuffHooks for barn cleaning tools.
  • Look around the site with an open mind, you never know what you will find that you can use.  If it’s something you can find at Lowes or Home Depot, check here first, it can save you big.
  • Warning: it is cheap, the things may break sooner so if you know you need heavy duty, go for a good brand, if you just need to use something a few times or are bad at taking care of your tools, go cheap, its easier on the wallet to replace.
  • Pro Tip: Harbor Freight has coupons regularly for free stuff, right now you can get a free flashlight with any purchase.  If there is something you can wait a bit for, you might just catch it on sale or free!

Back when I was in college, it was a big deal to go to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night and do stupid stuff with your friends, including dressing up in the random ridiculous clothes, riding the bikes, playing with the balls, riding in the carts, and generally getting scolded by the staff.  I don’t even know what is going on in that picture, it was late…  We did find a number of things that could be used at horse shows though.  This list doesn’t include the obvious like fans, tools, first aid stuff, and extension cords.

  • Hairnets, they don’t last long but they are crazy cheap and will get you through a weekend.
  • Clear and black hair elastics that can be used for braiding
  • yarn and hooks for braiding
  • Suave shampoo and conditioner for baths, some even have Mane & Tail.
  • Sponges for tack and ponies (check the Auto department for pony sponges)
  • Boot cream and polish
  • boot laces for paddock boots and sometimes tall boots
  • Endust, works like show sheen, I have been told Pledge is too greasy
  • Polo shirts
  • brushes in the cleaning section, regular hair brushes can be used on manes and tails
  • buckets
  • A cleaning caddy can make a great brush caddy
  • Challenge yourself next time you are at Wal-Mart or Target to see what things can be used at your barn or next horse show.  Take your barn friends, do a scavenger hunt or just see who can make the longest list.  We did this at camp one summer, lots of fun.

FYI now is the time to buy fly sheets/masks/wraps, sun shirts, and summer riding gear.  It’s all on sale right now to clean out for the fall and winter stuff.

What topics would you like to see the Engineering Equestrian cover?  I am open to suggestions

Note:  All prices are based on whaty can be found on the website at the time this article was written and are subject to change.

Disclaimer:  I do not work for Harbor Freight or any other store mentioned above, these are just stores I patronize.

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Holy Exploding Vests! Air Vests for All Riding Sports.

What do motorcycles, airplanes, and horses have in common?  Vests that inflate when you pull the string!  Last week we addressed protective vests (read about it here).  When doing any cross country activity, you must wear a protective vest, but what about an air vest?  They are completely optional.  They may be a good option if you are not a cross country rider but want more protection, the vests are less bulky so they are easier to use in an every day situation.

So a little history on these vests, they were originally invented for motorcycle racing.  As you can imagine, at those speeds, a fall will hurt, bad.  Add some concrete and you just earned a very expensive trip in an ambulance.  If well fitted and well adjusted, they will inflate before you hit the ground, similar to an airbag in your car.  “So basically an airbag for motorcycles.”  Yep.  If you are nearby when one goes off, at least the first time, it will scare the shit out of you.

“How does it work?”  Well there is an air canister inside the vest, similar to a self inflating life jacket, think airplanes.  “Your exits are here, 2 over the wings, and at the back of the plane.”  For those who have never been in a plane crash with water exits, this small air canister is shoved in part of the vest and looks a lot like a mini scuba tank.  So when you pull on the cord/lanyard on your vest, a trigger like a gun is pulled which shoots a “firing pin” (yep similar to a gun) that punctures a hole in the tiny scuba tank.  “Greaaat, so if I fall off, I am firing an air gun next to fluffy pony?”  Yes, and it may freak your horse out, although it’s not super loud, it is a bit exciting.

“So how does the air come out of the canister and fill the vest?  Does it just think that someone is firing a gun at it and decide it needs to leave the canister on principle.  Like the neighborhood is suddenly taken over by gang members?”  Sort of.  Much like a regular scuba tank or propane tank for your grill, the gas inside is under pressure.  “Over crowded” is a good way of thinking of it.  If you are locked in a packed room with a gazillion other people, it’s hot, there aren’t any chairs, then you hear the door unlock and someone yell, “Look a way out!” people will stampede to get out.  Same with the CO2 in the canister.  “I’m hot just thinking about that, I’m going to turn on a fan.”

As with all other safety equipment, proper fit and adjustment is key.  There is a lanyard that goes from the vest to the saddle, if the lanyard is not short enough, you will hit the ground before the vest deploys, if its too short you will lean over to adjust your boot and deploy the vest (yes I saw this happen once, yes I laughed after I knew the person was ok).  If you forget to unhook it before you get off, you deploy the vest.  It does take some force to deploy the vest, 33lbs. is the smallest load I saw, so if you aren’t too enthusiastic about getting off, you might feel it before you deploy it.

Getting down to the vests, there are 2 types of deployment internal and external.  “What the heck does that mean?”  During one of my offshore training classes, I put on a life vest and inflated it as a demonstration.  For safety reasons, there are actually 2 vests, in case the first one gets a hole or breaks, the second one is there as a back up.  I put on the vest, and fitted it snugly.  I inflated the vest, the one furthest out filled up quickly and was quite comfortable to wear around.  Then I asked the instructor what happens if you inflate the second one, he told me to inflate it and see.  When I pulled the red toggle, just like on airplanes, the lifejacket between the already filled one and my body filled with air.  Things got quite uncomfortable.  So external deployment is like inflating the first life jacket, it expands away from your body, the internal type inflates close to your body and can be a bit like getting squished.*  Neither is bad, its just a matter of preference.

On a note about the canister, once used it’s trash, there is no reusing them.  Something to keep in mind if you might be deploying your vest regularly.

For standards there isn’t much out there yet.  One standard is EN1621-4  which is the motorcycle standard for air vests, although no company touts passing that.  There also seems to be “SATRA M38” testing but I can not find information on what that entails.

A quick comparison in no particular order:

Point Two: Internal deployment – Manufactures motorcycle vests as well, has passed BETA level 3 tests and SATRA M38 tests, inflates within the vest for easy repacking, replacement canisters are $25-$30**, low end model will cost you about $675, they have a hybrid mentioned above.  They have a number of very informative videos on their website, the one below has a number of rotational falls with the horse landing on top of the rider and the rider walking away, you need a strong stomach to watch.

Hit Air: External deployment – Says it has done testing and has 20 years experience, inflates outside the vest so less of a “squished” feeling, needs to be repacked into the vest, replacement canisters are $50**, Low end model will cost you about $420.  Skip to minute 2:50 if you just want to see it inflate.

Helite: Internal deployment – has a shell type vest on the market, they mainly do motorcycle stuff but outfitted 12 nations at the London Olympics.  Not a lot of information on this company yet, the vest will run you about $700.  This is more like a fashion vest with a safety element, if you are looking for something with less bulk for more every day wear.  I haven’t seen it in the US but they sell a show jacket with an air vest built in, if you are a jumper looking for some added safety, I would look into these!  Replacement canisters are $30**.

Airowear:  External deployment – They have the AyrVest which is a combination air vest and safety vest, the safety vest passes BETA level 3 and the air vest passes SATRA M38 and will cost you about $710.  Replacement canisters are $45**.  Sorry I couldn’t find a video on this one.

As far as what the vest covers, they all are pretty much the same.  Hit Air has a large neck roll but the others do come up high around the neck to control the head during a fall.  Here is a nice video of Hit Air and Point Two, literally back to back, the coverage is very similar,skip to 4:25 to see the side to side coverage.  It is a little promotional for Point Two but the video of the 2 girls comparing back to back is an unfair comparison since you can see that the Point Two has begun to deflate.

As always, something is better than nothing, whether you are ready to make the investment for an air vest or not is a personal decision.  I am doing novice and I don’t have an air vest currently, I may reconsider if/when I move up to training.  There is no right or wrong answer, I will point out that the cheaper ones inflate a bit slower than the more expensive ones, however deployment time and inflation time are 2 different things, deployment time is how quickly it starts inflating, where inflation time is how long it takes to become fully inflated, the “slowest” rate I saw for full inflation is 0.25 seconds, a quarter of a second is still quite fast.

So what is my suggestion?  For upper level XC either the Airowear, if I want a combo vest or the Point Two for just the vest.  Simply because they have certifications.  The Hit Air may be just as good but since they don’t have a certification, its harder to guarantee, but honestly for me doing Novice and and maybe training, I am considering Hit Air because it is so much more affordable.  If you are a show jumper or dressage rider looking for low key and discreet protection, I would get the Helite.  As I stated above, any protection is better than no protection so if the Hit Air is in your price range then go for it!


*This can differ from each person.

**The canisters may be cheaper if you buy in bulk or get them on sale, this is just what was found generally on the internet.

Disclaimer:  I do not own an air vest, I do not sell them, I am merely presenting the facts and engineering behind them

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Protective Vest, Safety Vest, Cross Country Vest, Which is the Best?

We have all seen them, whether watching jockeys, bull riders, cross country or those one or two people at the Hunter Jumper shows. Funny looking foam vests, some in plain black some in colors. Which is the best, which protects the most? What about the kind that blow up like a life preserver?  I did have a lot of requests for this article when I was at an event this weekend.  The time has come my friends.

First of all, I have heard people call them flak jackets, this is similar to someone calling a bagel a donut.  “Did someone say donut?” Sorry, I have no donuts, but it is breakfast time so I wish I had a donut.  Flak jackets are made for bullets and shrapnel, they have kevlar or metal plates in them.  The light ones weigh 5lbs. some of the early ones weighed as much as 22lbs.  My tipperary weighs about 1lb.  For those wondering what kevlar is, oddly enough this has become a popular turn out blanket material.  When you see “ballistic nylon” advertised, its similar stuff.  “Sweet, so my pony is bullet proof!”  Not quite, in order to make kevlar inpenetrable to bullets, they take many layers of your horse’s blanket material and glue them together.  All of those layers slow down and stop the bullet so when you get shot,  I won’t lie to you, it will hurt, bad, but you probably won’t die.  So, just because your blanket says its “ballistic nylon” does not mean you should head out and shoot at your horse, really really really bad idea.

Ok with that out of the way, let’s talk about standards.  “Ooo jump standards, I love those!!!”  Not those standards, testing standards/certifications, you know, all of those letters and numbers that they put on helmets and vests that no one really knows what it means.  “Oh, boring standards, hooray, she said sarcastically.”

ASTM F1937-04 – Standard Specification for Body Protectors Used in Horse Sports and Horseback Riding

ASTM F2681-08 – Standard Specification for Body Protectors Used in Equine Racing – This is not suitable for cross country or jumping but might be ok for trail riding.

BETA 2009 – British Equestrian Trade Association, Body Protector Standard – There are 3 levels of protection:

  • Level 1 (black label) provides the lowest level of protection that is only considered appropriate for licensed jockeys while racing.
  • Level 2 (brown label) offers a lower than normal level of protection so is considered suitable for low risk situations – not including jumping, riding on the roads, riding young or excitable horses or riding while inexperienced.
  • Level 3 (purple label) is considered appropriate for general riding, competitions including eventing and working with horses. Level 3 body protectors should prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain, reduce soft tissue injuries and prevent a limited number of rib fractures.

EN 13158:2009 – European Norms For Protective Clothing – Similar to BETA, just the European standard.

SATRA – Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association – An independent British testing company that certifies vests along with other safety equipment like steel toe boots and safety glasses.

A quick point on ASTM standards.  You can say that you have an ASTM certified vest and all that means is that you built it to their standards, you have to have ASTM/SEI (Like your helmet, click here to read more), to know that the vest has been tested.  Essentially ASTM is just a checklist that you have to follow, SEI is the company that tests it.  BETA (and EN13158) have a standard and they test the product.

Next is the differences, truthfully, there isn’t much.  Both standards require that you cover certain parts of the body, and the variances are very slight if at all.  They also require impact capabilities, ASTM standard tests are comparable to BETA Level 2, not quite as high as Level 3 but not far off.  A rough estimate of the difference between the 2 standards is that ASTM drops an 11lb weight from a height and BETA level 3 drops a 16lb weight from the same height.  “Clearly the European/British standards are far superior, I will buy a BETA level 3 vest.”  Hold your horses, BETA tests on a flat hard surface where ASTM tests on clay which can indent (like a human body) and the pass/fail requirements are the same for both, however, if the clay on the ASTM test dents more than 1″ it fails, BETA doesn’t test this.  “Well then, what do I buy?”

So similar to helmets, any vest is better than no vest, a well-fitting vest is better than an ill-fitting one, a rated vest is generally better than an unrated one, a tested vest is usually better than an untested one, and a vest that meets many standards will ensure you are covered no matter what.  “A rated vest is generally better?  A tested vest is usually better?  You mean it is better.”  Not necessarily, an unrated vest means it just hasn’t adhered to the standard, it could be designed just under the standard but still be a very safe vest.  With a tested vest, you know what you are getting but an untested one could be better, you just can’t prove it because it hasn’t been tested.  “This is all really confusing.”

Well lets talk about what is required:

USEA: A protective vest must be warn for cross country warm up and competition.  A rated vest is recommended.

Europe: BETA Level 3 for all of their cross country stuff including many Pony Clubs so if you are heading there, make sure your vest is properly certified.

Bottom Line Suggestion:  If you are doing upper level eventing (or just want to be super safe at lower levels), and you want the best protection you can get, that is proven, get one that is ASTM/SEI and BETA level 3.  So far the only one I know that might fit this bill is Airowear Outlyne, most places will advertise that it is BETA Level 3 but show nothing on ASTM, however if you visit Airowear’s site, they make mention of it also meeting ASTM standards for Sale in the US.

For BETA Level 3:  Charles Owen Kontakt 5, Airowear Flexion, Point Two ProFlex Vest, Point Two Hybrid Jacket, Racesafe Provent 3.0

For ASTM F-1937-04/SEI: Charles Owen JL9 (BETA Level 2 Rated as well), Tipperary Eventer Pro

Like helmets vests need to be replaced every 3-5 years according to the manufacturer, 5 is a good standard unless you abuse your vest.  Like a helmet, they are made of foam which degrades over time,  this is accelerated by things like heat (you know like leaving it in your car or horse trailer over the summer), sweat, and chemicals (think fly spray).  If you do get in a wreck and the foam dents and does not return to its original shape after 30 minutes, its time to replace.  Also, fit is very important, if your vest is too long it will hit on the back of the saddle and could get caught.  I am pretty short 5’3″ and in some cases a childs vest is a better fit for me.  Try some on before you buy.  Another thing to note, the higher the rating the “stiffer” they will be, most foams warm with body heat and conform nicely but do expect a stiffer product if you have been using a typical Tipperary or other light weight vest.

On another note, I have a Tipperary, it is embarrassingly old, (quite possibly 20 years old?).  I will say, I have recently (as in the last 2 or 3 years) come off my horse quite tragically and the vest did its job quite well.  I basically landed on my spine on the poles holding a bank, my trainer looked like she was going to puke.  I hopped right up and got right back on, no worse for wear.  Thus, any vest is better than no vest.  To answer the question before it gets asked, yes I am vest shopping because of this article.

Stay tuned next week, we will discuss air vests!  If you put your email address in the box on the right, I will send the article directly to your email, which means you will get it before it hits Facebook.


Space Age Stirrup For Your Safety. Is This The Future Of Stirrups, Or Another Gimmick?

I was flipping through my favorite Tack of The Day website, as those of you who use the site know, it can be hit or miss, one of the offerings today was a “Urine Detector Light” for $10.  Everyone knows that “Urine Detector Lights” are just every day black lights.  Why do I need a flashlight size one?  I probably don’t want to know what is in that hotel room when I travel anyhow.  Anyhow, back on topic, they have these crazy looking stirrups on there.  It took me a minute to figure out what I was even looking at.

It turns out, a company that I have never heard of Space Technology Safety (STS) started making racing stirrups, then decided to branch out into English stirrups and western stirrups.  I’m not going to lie, they look super weird.  They do have a lot of merits though, they have a large foot “pad” area to increase grip, the have an easy slip out opening for safety and they even have a “toe stop” bar in front to keep your foot from slipping into the stirrup.  This might be a nice cheat for those who always get yelled at for too much foot in the stirrup, although if you look at how the foot is positioned this bar does not go directly in front of the toe so it’s still possible to get too much foot in, just not as much as before.  The nice thing is, there are no pads to change and its a metal stirrup instead of plastic with lots of metal tread and the foot part is angled to help keep your heels down.  Unfortunately there is no mention of metal composition but it is definitely a “beefier” design than the FreeJump stirrups we discussed a few months back, thus I would be tempted to try these over FreeJump.  Since there are no joints, you don’t have to worry about the rubber degrading on flexible stirrups causing instability.  I seriously considered buying these from Tack of The Day but I got stuck on the $110 price plus I had to add $8 for shipping.  If someone does decide to purchase them, let me know how they go and if you like them!  I doubt they will be accepted in the hunter ring or dressage ring for a while, if ever, but they might make great stirrups for Jumpers or Cross Country.

Update:  After many comments on the safety of hooking something with these stirrups, I do not recommend the ones on TOTD however if you are looking for a safety stirrup Victory Canter sells them with the rubber arm that closes the loop.  This should aid in preventing hooking on bits, shoelaces, fences etc.  There will always be a risk of hooking something, but this risk is possible with FreeJump stirrups, Peacock stirrups or any other stirrup that is not a complete loop.  If we are being completely honest, a regular stirrup can hook things as well, I have had plain old fillis stirrups hook on fences and pull off my saddle.  This is why they tell you to ALWAYS keep your stirrup safety bar down on your saddle

Below is a 7 minute video on how the stirrups work, although I will warn you, it’s pretty dry.  Watch at your own risk.

Note:  As always, the disclaimer, I do not work for STS or Tack of the Day, I have not personally tried these stirrups but I would like to, feel free to send me a pair!

September 11th, What Does It Mean To You? What Does It Have To Do With Horses?

16 years ago a major event happened in the US.  For anyone 20 or younger, they know the day is important but they either weren’t there or don’t remember.  For the rest of us, it was a day most of us won’t ever forget.  Planes crashed into the World Trade Center Buildings known as the Twin Towers causing them to collapse as well as another World Trade Center building.  Later that day a different plane crashed into the pentagon, this part is usually forgotten.  For the record, that eagle in the picture is made of chocolate and those are red, white, and blue cakes, not sideways French flags, or upside-down Netherlands flags.

I was in college, at Baylor University, I was living at home at the time, BTW I don’t recommend this to anyone but that’s another story.  I had spent the morning sleeping in and getting a few things done before making the 30 min drive to my afternoon American Literature class, slightly ironic.  I was also taking some other Lit class but it happened on the day of American Lit.  I heard it on the radio driving in, it was like 1 in the afternoon.  I had no idea what was going on, I was so lost, then when I realized what was going on, I was even more lost.  At that point both towers had collapsed.  I have family all over New England, I was worried about them, none lived in “The City” but some regularly went for fun or work.  Classes were canceled, the University was abuzz.  TVs were tuned to the news everywhere.  The loss was painful, I cried, to say I am not a crier is an understatement.  I didn’t even lose anyone I knew, but I still felt loss.

I also felt a sense of pride, I was proud to be American, I was proud to fly the old “Red, White, and Blue”, I was proud to stand with my fellow Americans and pray for my fellow Americans.

I know some of that has been lost over the years, as is natural.  Disaster unites, as we saw locally with Hurricane Harvey, and hopefully the same will happen with Irma.

“So what does this have to do with Horses?”  Well a lot actually, allow me to elaborate.  When you are having a bad day, what do you do?  “I go see Fluffy pony.”  Right, you ride, groom, hand graze, or even just watch him play in the pasture.  It’s relaxing, it soothes you, it’s calming, it releases endorphins which make you feel good.  Exercise also releases endorphins, despite what some people might think, riding is exercise so it will also help you feel better. I don’t remember if I rode on September 11, 2001 or not, but I know I went to the barn and saw my horse.  During the hurricane, I couldn’t ride, but I could go out and feed, check on, and pet my horses, that brought me a sense of normalcy in the madness.

Since I am not a licensed therapist or really a licensed anything, I can’t write you a prescription for a healthy dose of horses or riding, I can suggest you spend some time with your pony today.    These physiologists agree.  If you have kids remember they can get stressed too, a little time grooming can go a long way toward easing their stress, science agrees!  I put Mini EE on Buddy the Donkey the other day, sadly no pictures but now she wants to ride ALL THE HORSES, including Emma who was a very good sport and allowed about a minute of “riding” aka Mini EE sitting on her back while she munched hay.

If you find yourself stressed out, even if it’s just a bad day at work/school/home with the kids, heck its Moanday, we all deserve some pony time.  Even 10 minutes with your horse can significantly calm your frazzled nerves.  The study conducted only did 90 minutes a week, that is 13 minutes a day or 45 minutes twice a week.  Don’t have a horse?  Take a lesson, just one a week will cover your 90 minutes with tacking and untacking.  Or volunteer at a rescue to groom or hand walk, then you get double points, volunteering to help the less fortunate horses alone will make you feel good.  I would like to note that this works for puppies and kitties too.  The one risk of volunteering at a rescue is that you may come home with one, two, or three, but if you have one, what is a few more right?

Stress will creep up on you like a ghost in the dark, you may not even realize how stressed you are, spend some time with your horse!

*Note: I went to Baylor for 3 years before switching to Texas Tech and graduating.  Also, I am not any kind of mental health professional, these are merely suggestions based on articles found on the internet and personal experience.

How Wet Will My Pony Get? Understanding Flood Maps, Flood Plains and Floodways.

In the wake of the Hurricane Harvey disaster I thought it would be a good time to demystify Flood Maps.  “Ugh this sounds soo boring.”  I’m not going to lie, this is pretty dry stuff, but you might be interested to know, there are lots of horse pastures in flood zones.  “Wait, are you telling me that if we have a flood, Fluffy Pony could get flooded and drown?”  Yep.

Hopefully I have your attention.  “But I don’t own the property so how can I find out anything about flood stuff?”  Great question!  Did you know that flood maps are public records?  That means anyone can look at them and find out where properties will flood.  FEMA may be a bad guy to some people but they have made things pretty easy.  A good place to start is the FEMA website.  There is a lot of helpful information on their website including definitions to the terms you see and flood maps.


So let’s go over a few terms.

Floodway – These areas are designed to flow with water, that’s right, flow with current, anytime a creek or river overflows.  Basically these get hit first, they are made to take flood waters and help move it along to try and avoid filling floodplain areas.  Most places will not allow you to build new structures in a floodway, although people have been known to build without permits and sometimes buildings that were already there before it became floodway are allowed to stay.  

100 year Floodplain (1% chance of flooding every year)- The description can be deceiving, you may think that this area will only flood once every 100 years.  Sorry my friend, what it means is that you have a 1% chance of flooding every year.  So that means if it rains 100 times a year, there is a chance you will flood once.  In places like Houston, 100 times a year is a bit of a stretch so let’s say we get 25 good rains a year (not counting those little drippy rains we get in the afternoons).  If you have 25 good rains a year then you in theory could flood once every 4 years.

500 year Floodplain (0.2% chance of flooding every year) – Similar to the 100 year flood plain but less of a chance.  This is a 0.2% chance of flooding every year.  So if we go with 25 good rains a year, then you may flood once every 20 years.

1000 year Floodplain (0.1% chance of flooding every year) – This is a new one thanks to Hurricane Harvey, it works similarly to the other Floodplains so with 25 rains a year it could flood every 40 years.

Note: These are assumptions above, this does not mean that if you move into a 100 year floodplain that you will flood every 4 years.  It depends on how many rain events you get in a year and this is all probability, much like gambling, you have a chance to win, you also have a chance to lose, it all depends on the statistics and the odds.

So to find your nearest floodplain/floodway, try the FEMA interactive map.  Type in your address, barn address, the address of your BFF, or the address of your arch nemesis, and hit search.  Click on the “View Web Map” Icon.  Or skip that and go directly to this link which will take you to the maps and then you can sign in with your Facebook account or whatever you have available.  It will take you to a map similar to google maps.  It may look really confusing at first but give it a second to load, then click on “Basemap” in the upper left of the map, that will give you options I personally like the “Imagery Hybrid” map, it’s a satellite map with flood maps overlaid on top.  You can see if your back pasture is in a floodplain or if your indoor arena is in a floodway.  Hopefully your indoor is not in a floodway, it will wash all of your nice footing out and create huge holes in the ground from running water.  If you look at the purple area below, you will see a race track, that is the farm that I was at when it flooded waist deep.  

Yep, that was almost completely in a floodway (the area with the red hatch lines), and let me tell you, it flooded in a big way.  Even the back corner of the property is in a 100 year floodplain (teal/green area), and the road itself to get to the property is in all of those including the 500 year floodplain (yellow/orange/tan area).

If you have access to google earth, or another way to find elevation:  Another trick to find out what your odds are, find the nearest flood area, find the elevation around the floodway/floodplain, then compare it to the elevation of your property.  In flat places like Houston, a foot or two can make a big difference.

So the question is, how wet will your pony get?  Well if you have 1″ of water in the 500 year flood plain, then a 100 year flood plain would have about 2-3′ of water in it, then the floodway can have 5′-7′ or more depending on the depth of the creek.  At one location near the EE farm, it is about 15′ from the deepest part of the creek to the top of the water if its a 500 year flood with only 1″ of water in the 500 year flood so Fluffy pony will be swimming!

If you are in the Houston area, this website can help you during a rain event.  It will tell you how much rain the creek near you has gotten.  Click on the “More Information” it will give you info on that particular creek.

Below I have chosen one of the creeks still flooded from Harvey.  Click on the “Stream Elevation” tab to get all the details.

As you can see this creek is out of its banks.  But at what point are you in the floodway, 100 year Floodplain, 500 year Floodplain?  Well scroll down my friends and all will be known to you.

The 10 year and 50 year flood plain are pretty much considered floodway.  Currently this creek is just above the 500 year floodplain, so in this case if your horse is in a 500 year floodplain pasture, he would have water on his hooves, if he is in a 100 year flood plain pasture he would be belly/chest deep, your pony might be swimming.  If your pasture is in the floodway, your horses would be swimming or close to it and your ponies would be swimming for sure.  If you don’t live in the Houston Area, you may have a similar site to help you, especially if you are in a flood prone, highly populated area.

Note: The above is just to provide perspective, this provides no guarantees that your property will or will not flood.  This is merely to provide education to help you prepare for future disasters.  If you are in a flood prone area, it is always better to evacuate and not need to than to be stuck, better safe than sorry.

Here. We. Go. Another Storm. Another Natural Disaster. Past Experiences, Tips, and Tricks.

The Greater Houston Area is about to get hit with a Tropical depression/storm Hurricane, whatever.  This ain’t my first rodeo.  Since graduating from college, I have been through hurricane Ike, a major barn flood, area floods, and helped with a wildfire.

Major Natural Disaster #1:  Many moons ago, shortly after I bought Emma hurricane Ike hit Houston.  I had only been in Houston just over 2 years.  I loaded the dogs, cat, Emma, and even my pet fish up and “evacuated” I even had my boyfriend who became Mr. Equestrian Engineer a year later.  We went about 20 miles, got sick of the traffic, I took Emma to my trainer’s house a bit further out than the boarding stable I was at, and went back to the rent house.  We “Hunkered Down”.  The storm hit my house around 2am, I vaguely remember waking up hearing it, rolling over and going back to sleep.  The wind was nuts, the rain was more nuts and by about 10am, it was calm and quiet.  And MUGGY.  Luckily the wind and rain had cooled things off but it was wet everywhere and the humidity was insane.

Emma was fine at the trainers, no worse for wear.  We were without power for a few days, since the stove was electric, we tried heating Lil’ Smokies over a tea light candle.  No it was not good, it was quite terrible.  At that point we reloaded everyone in the car and went to my parents 2.5 hrs. away.  They had food, power, and best of all Air Conditioning.  A/C might not seem like a big deal if you don’t live in the south but when its 85-90 degrees at night and 98% humidity, it’s uncomfortable.  Yes, I took my pet fish to my parents along with the dog and cat.  We were lucky, we had power back within a couple of days, some people around us were without power for 2 weeks, including the houses across the street.  Power grids are really odd that way.  Overall, not too much damage was sustained, some water leaked on the floor of the rent house and apparently there was a leak in the tub because we filled it twice and it emptied within an hour.  “Sounds like you were in a super awesome rent house.”  Yeah it was a shit hole, but it was cheap.  My office was on partial power for 2 weeks, I actually wore a dress to work because it was so warm, normally I am freezing because places here insist that the A/C should be set on 71-73 degrees.  The boarding barn had a section of roof peel up but was fully repaired within days, Emma came back after about a week.

For those wondering about offshore oilfield work in a hurricane, well there is none.  They close down the platforms and rigs and bring everyone to land.  All of the boats that I worked on at the time would move somewhere out of the path of the hurricane “run from the storm” as we call it.

Major natural disaster #2:  Luckily I was not directly affected by this one but since I had a trailer, I was on call to help.  Wildfires broke out north of where I lived, very near my trainer’s house, the same house that Emma stuck out the Hurricane.  Within 8 hours she managed, with help, to evacuate about 30 horses, 19 dogs, a few cats and whatever else they could grab.  Luckily our local Eventing Venue Pine Hill opened their gates and stalls for my trainer and another misplaced friend.  They both had RVs they could live in for weeks while the fires raged on.  When I went to help evacuate I had to take numerous back roads and turn around a few times due to closed roads.  The ash carried as much as 20 miles and the clouds of smoke were incredible.

Major Natural Disaster #3:  It was my 3oth birthday, and the boarding barn flooded, the barn my horses were in was waist deep, some of the other barns on the property were chest deep.  I had Emma and Truman at this point.  This was seriously stressful.

A few things I learned

  • When we started to tow the trailer out of the water, it floated, literally lifted up off the ground and started floating away.  I had to jump off the tractor and hook the chains to the tractor to keep it from floating off.  So yes, a 4,000lb. trailer can float, and yes, it had water in it.
  • Hunks of metal will get carried away in moving water, I dropped the top half of my trailer lock and it was gone.
  • As it turns out, a plastic trash can full to the top with pellets will float, and you can float it out of the flood.
  • If your horse will let you, put your saddles on your horses and they can carry the saddles out of the flood for you.
  • Rubber boots will rub your legs raw when you are walking in water
  • Snakes can swim but not all of them like to and they will curl up on the latch to your shavings room
  • Fire ants create floating islands of death as they band together.
  • It is possible to find a dead fish in your tack room
  • It takes a lot of bleach to get the swamp smell out of your trailer
  • After being in a flood, you need to get your trailer bearings repacked and greased
  • Some horses think playing in water is fun, some do not.
  • If you have a horse like Emma, with a strong flight instinct, put a stud chain on before taking them out of the stall.  Your horse can still move faster than you in water and you look like a dork trying to run in water. I was actually smart and put the chain on her before getting her out.
  • A tractor bucket will hold a lot of saddles and tack so you can empty your tack locker out, you just may have to wait until people are done with it.
  • Rats can get as big as cats, we saw a dead one at the track that was huge.
  • If you live in a known flood area, have a place on call to evacuate to
  • Call friends with trailers so they can help you get horses out, keep a phone cable in your car for when your phone battery dies.  If you have time and a trailer, donate both to help out, you never know when you may need help.
  • Keep buckets in your trailer, always, my little 2 horse trailer was able to provide 4 regular buckets and 1-2 small buckets.
  • Keep fungus solution on hand
  • Don’t store a bunch of stuff in your tack locker, keep it neat and tidy.  I had a plastic trunk with my blankets, I had a lot of laundry to do.  Same goes with your trailer.
  • Put all tack on racks and hooks.  I was lucky all of my saddles were on racks and tack on hooks, another person’s saddle was on the floor, it got completely soaked.
  • Rubber mats in stalls makes clean out after a flood a whole lot easier.
  • Having a preparedness plan in place is the best/easiest way to handle these situations, but if you don’t, Rule #1:  Don’t Panic!  Rule #2:  Don’t Panic!  Rule #3: Take a deep breath, reset your brain, then begin to think logically Rule #4:  If you are failing at Rule #3, call someone who can think logically.

Of course this happened in the evening and by the time the horses got to the race track it was about 8pm, so no place was open to get shavings or hay.  We also didn’t have enough buckets for everyone, we were able to scrounge and ensure everyone had water for the night.  Luckily by the next morning, hay, shavings and supplies were delivered.  There is nothing worse than having to leave a horse with no hay, and no shavings after coming in from a flood, but at least they were dry.

It took a few days for the water to fully recede, then the clean-up had to begin.  It took me 4 hours to clean my 2 horse trailer, the hardest part was the carpet in the tack room, I would put bleach and water down and then vacuum it out with a shop vac.  I cleaned all of my tack to prevent mold, I took most of it the night of the flood.  I had some shipping boots that were left behind and a few sheets/blankets and saddle pads, I threw the boots away as they were old and weren’t used, the rest I had to wash.  There were like 10 loads of laundry that had to be washed twice to get all the gross out.

A final “fun” side effect from this was that Emma ended up covered in fungus, all kinds and types.  I invested heavily in Zephyr’s Garden fungus spray, it took a month or so to get that cleared up.

“It won’t flood again, that was just one odd event.”  One thing I have learned in my years of living in Houston, if it floods once, it will flood again.  My guys did not go back to that stable, we moved to a different barn for a year and then moved out to our house.

Major Natural Disaster #4: You guessed it, more flooding.  This was just last year so 4 years after the last flood event.  We got 16″ of rain overnight.  Houston is flat flat flat, the only elevation we have is highway overpasses.  So there isn’t a whole lot of place for 16″ of rain to go, so Houston had major flooding.  Our house was high and dry, the barn was dry, the pastures were a bit sloppy and boggy in the low areas.  I had trouble getting my trailer out of the barnyard and we had to use the tractor to get it out.  That barn that flooded on my birthday, flooded again.

Major Natural Disaster #5: Surprise, more flooding.  One month after the last flooding, we got another 16″ of rain overnight.  The roads to get to my house were impassable for about 12 hours, I missed out on work, the north gets snow days, we get flood days.  A high school not too far from us had water in it, my office had water in the first floor, houses that had flooded a month earlier were flooded again, people died.  The pastures, barnyard, and backyard had standing water everywhere.  The horses were fine.  I got smart and put the trailer in the barn driveway where it’s hard so I could get it in and out.  That barn from disaster #3 flooded again and now is closed down.

So will this storm be Major Natural Disaster #6?  Probably not, it is usually a bunch of hype.  If it is a Disaster, then so be it, I will be prepared, as always.  I have my first aid kit at the ready, we have 3 water troughs that hold 100 gallons each in the pastures and a few up at the house that hold 50 gallons, we have hay in the hay barn and a round bale.  I have enough feed to get me through the next 2 weeks and I will make sure I can get the trailer out.  I have Zephyr’s garden thrush spray and fungus spray at the ready for any issues that may arise.

Do you live “prepared” or are you the last minute type?