Monday, August 29, 2016

Oil and Glue: Arch Enemies

Did you know that you can remove those pesky little splotches of glue on your leatherwork by dabbing them with oil and wiping them away?  Somewhere along the way I picked up this handy little tidbit for leather working, and it’s worked well any time I’ve had to use it. 

But what happens when too much oil comes in contact with important areas of glue? 

Nothing good, that’s for sure.

I once had a friend bring me a lovely dressage bridle for repair. Some of the stitches were loose on the mass-produced (however high-end) reins and noseband, and she basically wanted me to tidy the whole thing up a bit. When she presented me with the bridle I immediately noticed a shiny goo coating much of the noseband. When I asked her about it, she said that it had been consistently leaking glue ever since she’d gotten it. 

I admit at first I was stumped. I had thought maybe they’d used the wrong type of contact glue when constructing the bridle, or perhaps the heat from being in the car had melted it. Perhaps some overzealous chap had slathered on just a little too much glue, or maybe the padding in the noseband was reacting poorly with the chemical makeup of the adhesive. 

Alas, after some more discussion, I learned that she had soaked the bridle in oil after receiving it from the manufacturer. This is a common practice in the horse world, and often it’s not an issue - apart from loosening and stretching the leather fibers and weakening the integrity of the bridle (but that’s a whole other can of worms!) 

In this case, however, the manufacturer had used lots of glue to make sure their bridle was well constructed and strong. The noseband was a complex design of many layers of leather and foam, all of which had to adhered to one another just-so, in order to stitch up correctly. I'm not opposed to this, especially when laying down several layers, but unfortunately when this newer practice of using lots of glue meets with the older practice of soaking new tack in oil a serious problem arises. 

You see, oil likes to break down polymers and act as a solvent, and many of the glues used in leather working are solvent-based, which means they are polymers suspended in a quickly-evaporating solvent. This is why they give off such a terrible smell when wet; the nasty solvent is actually evaporating into the air you're breathing. Delicious! 

Because oil acts as a solvent to many polymers, when it comes in contact with these "fast drying" adhesives it begins to re-distribute the now-dry adhesive throughout the oil. Worse than this, the oil actually begins to break down the polymer chains, creating less and less stable adhesive until finally it gives way to goo. Fascinating, and unfortunately a recipe for a sticky mess! 

So hopefully you've stumbled across this point before it's too late, though I suspect a high percentage of readers will find this as a result of searching the internet for "Help! Bridle leaking glue!" 

What do I do when I first bring home a new bridle or piece of leather? If it is stiff and dry, I oil it in light coats with a sponge, layer by layer, until the oil begins to absorb more slowly. That's the leather's way of saying "No thanks! I'm full!" Then I leave it to sit for a few days and finish it off with a layer or two of protective leather balm - something beeswax-based and not glycerin-based (I make and sell my own small-batch leather balm - shameless self plug!) 

To be honest, if I bring home a piece of tack that is soft and supple, I tend to just slap a coat of leather balm on it and leave it at that. Oil is good for leather that is starved of moisture, such as old stuff in danger of developing cracking, but apart from that it actually softens and weakens the leather so I don't use it much! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Holistic Horse: Bertie's White Line Disease - part 2


In my last post I discussed Bertie's white line disease and how he had to have a moderate resection of his front hooves to help eradicate the infection. This resection left his hooves unstable and sore, and so Bertie was put on stall rest until we could find a way to help stabilize his hooves. Part of the problem with this is that by being stalled, Bertie is getting significantly less blood flow to his hooves than if he were out and moving around. Less blood flow means that it is more likely that his infection will reoccur, since the body's defenses are limited.

Our equine podiatrist is always finding the coolest new naturopathic remedies. Her latest find has been "Artimud" which is a green-clay based hoof putty that includes anti-microbial ingredients to keep the surface of the hoof free from fungal and bacterial infection. We discussed the possibility of packing his resected areas with clay and then casting them with a breathable cast to see if that helped keep him sound while his hooves grew out. Neither of us really knew if it would work, but it was certainly worth a try! Check out the photos below for the various steps of the process. Before she arrived, I re-soaked and wrapped his hooves with CleanTrax to assure there was no nook or cranny hiding fungal or bacterial infection. I then gave his hooves a quick rinse and some time to dry out. 

The first thing she did was clean up the resected area and made sure the only tissue exposed was healthy tissue.


Then, she packed the hole with Artimud clay, taking care to push it into all the irregular edges of the hole.



She then wrapped the hooves in a breathable cast (which you can see on his white leg). This cast had to be set up with a heat gun because of the cold temperatures, and Bertie was a champ and only balked at it once! 

After this, I stuck him back in his stall and crossed my fingers...

Two days later I thought I'd take him to the indoor arena for a spin. First I walked him in hand and then lunged him lightly, and when he appeared sound I figured it was time to cut the apron strings and let him run!




Posted by Emily Jenkins Bastian on Friday, January 22, 2016

Time will tell if this is actually a solution for his hooves while they re-grow. One potential roadblock that I think I've found a solution to is that while walking through the snow to the arena we are introducing wet conditions into his hooves again. Not only is this bad for eliminating the infection, it may cause the clay to soften and seep. My solution? Since Bertie is an incredibly tolerant and level-headed boy, I've been putting ziplock baggies on his hooves for our walk to the indoor arena. No, he can't be turned out in them, but he can make it to and from the arena without issue! 



Posted by Emily Jenkins Bastian on Friday, January 22, 2016
Fingers (err... hooves?) crossed! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Holistic Horse: Bertie's White Line Disease - part 1

When I bought Bertie, it was on a bit of a whim. I had bought a simply stellar horse from the seller the previous year, so I watched her facebook page for other diamonds-in-the-rough. She gets horses in from all over the place, and often puts a bit of shine on them and finds them new homes. Bertie was one of these horses. I saw him pop up in some photos on her page and immediately liked what I saw. His conformation looked like it could pack one helluva punch, once he matured. When I brought him home I saw he was all that I'd hoped and more, as he has the brain to match his body.

A few weeks after bringing him home, however, he came up slightly off. At first we thought he looked to be favoring a front hoof, but then it looked like both, and then neither... and then both. I soaked his hooves and poulticed them for abscesses, to no avail. Then one evening I noticed a bit of flaking tissue along his white line. As I scraped away, I realized that the tissue had been disguising a deep chasm in his white line. The white line is the soft connective tissue between the horse's hoof wall and the rest of his hoof. By the time I had dug it out, I was more than an inch deep and still not to the end of it. My heart sank, and my mind raced instantly to those horrible photos of hoof resections that I had seen online.

Bertie has White Line Disease, or WLD. WLD is an anaerobic (prefers lack of oxygen) infection in the white line that slowly creeps its way up and up, under the hoof wall. From what I have read about WLD studies, current science believes that horses must be predisposed to WLD in order to contract it. In many cases this has been linked to copper and zinc deficiencies which aid in growth of elastic tissues. When the elasticity of the white line is compromised, it becomes somewhat porous, allowing bacterial and fungal infection to enter. This infection eats away at the vulnerable laminae, and in order to begin healing the tissue must be exposed to oxygen. Our equine podiatrist came out a few days later and began the nerve-wracking process of resecting his hoof wall. She exercises a strict "Do No Harm" policy, so she was conservative in what she removed, but it still left both of his front hooves looking fragile and deformed.

With that much of his toes missing, I was very concerned about the stability of his hoof and the strain it would put on the structure of his internal foot. We opted to put Bertie in a stall, and I soaked his hooves once with CleanTrax (a chemical that produces a chlorine gas that permeates the hoof) and then every other day with a mixture of organic apple cider vinegar (with "the mother") and tea tree oil. It's important to note that some horses are very sensitive or allergic to tea tree oil, so test your horse before soaking his hoof in it!

Three weeks later, Bertie's hooves showed no sign of further infection, but he was still considerably sore because of the lack of stability in his hoof, and the holes in his hooves had to be flushed multiple times a day.

Be sure to check out my next post on the super cool things our podiatrist is trying on Bertie to stabilize his hoof and bring him comfort while he heals!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Riding in Posture vs Frame

One of the most common, and in my opinion cringe-worthy, phrases in the horse world is to "frame up your horse." This phrase, unfortunately brings to mind (at least to my mind) a horse in restricted carriage. When I think of framing a horse, I picture draw reins, cranked flash nosebands and lots of tension.

If you were simply given the word "frame" out of context, what would first come to mind? Most people would say a picture frame. Four solid sides, bordering a picture or piece of art. The purpose of a frame is to provide a static border in which to put something.

In fact, the word's official definition is:

frame
frām/
noun
  1. 1.
    a rigid structure that surrounds or encloses something such as a door or window.

    "a picture frame"
  2. 2.
    a basic structure that underlies or supports a system, concept, or text.
    "the establishment of conditions provides a frame for interpretation"



True, the second definition implies a conceptual structure, but even in this definition there is still a feeling of stationary placement - a lack of movement.

I propose that we begin to use the word "posture" instead of frame. I recently read a facebook post about how posture is not a static thing, regardless of if you're speaking of humans or horses. The word "posture" actually encompasses the body's mechanical ability to produce balance and stability.  

Posture is a dynamic.

When a horse is in a "correct posture" the phrase reflects lifting abdominals, stabilized spine, suppleness in the poll, et cetera. Conversely, you can use the description "slouching posture" or "hollow posture" to describe a horse who is resisting, under educated, or not using their core effectively. Either way, you are allowing the phrase to describe the engagement and balance of the horse's body, not the "shape" as you would imply with the word "frame."

Posture relates directly to the body's ability to maintain tone and flexibility in correct amounts to produce a biomechanically sound dynamic between the various parts of the horse's body. 

So how about it, horse world? Can we ditch the restrictive phrasing and introduce something more likely to invoke thoughts of swinging gaits and balance? 

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Can anyone else think of words that we could change to add empathy and flow to our equestrian language? 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Day 8: Getting Ten Good Steps

If you're following along over at The Mindful Rider: January Rider Challenge, you may have already read this one:

Ten good steps! That's all it takes!
Last night while teaching I found myself using the phrase "Getting ten good steps is better than getting an hour of mediocrity" and this morning I find it's sitting in the back of my mind, becoming my mantra of sorts. 
Often as riders we strive for consistency and conditioning, pushing for X number of warm up minutes and X number of times through the test movements or around the arena, or even X number of times down the "spooky" trail (or past the scary mailboxes!)
Today (and maybe everyday!) I challenge you to try to push yourself and your horse to actually ditch the planned goals, or if not ditch them, put them on the back burner. 
Find ten steps, in the moment, that are full to the brim of quality. This could be ten steps of forward trot, through a transition, of collection or even ten relaxed steps from a greenie. In fact, even five steps is enough. At the end of these steps, make sure there is no question in your horse's mind that they've done something amazing.
Walk your horse, scratch him, treat him, or (my favorite) hop off and let the ride end there! Horses should be rewarded for putting forth some extra effort in the moment, and often times we're a little too focused on our goals, short or long term, to see that all it takes to keep our equine partners happy and continuing to progress is reward for that extra effort.
In fact, let's take this a step farther and do the same thing for ourselves today! Take ten steps with your core balanced and engaged, ten steps sitting "the big trot", ten steps without nagging with your leg (guilty!), ten steps with your eyes up and focused. Bring yourself into the moment and focus on your own quality, and then give yourself a big pat on the back! This isn't "cutting slack" or abandoning goals... it's rewarding ourselves and our horses for intermittent extra effort, which ultimately begets more of the same behavior, and I guarantee it will pay off in the long run!

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What were your horse's ten best steps today? What were your own? 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Ease of "Correctness"

I can remember the first time I rode real collection on a horse I trained. It honestly wasn't that long ago, and I definitely thought I had ridden collection before then. Boy was I wrong!

There just happened to be a new swing and push in my mare's warm-up that day, and she was only just recently staying straight and over her back with ease so when my trainer asked me to slow and collect her stride I was feeling a little ill-prepared. I had spent some time in warm up thinking about my then-new-found philosophy - that everything we do in training should be low-impact, self-perpetuating and rewarding for both parties. If one finds they're taking regular steps backward, one should examine the variables and try to find what is causing physical or mental tension.

The collection that I had ridden prior to this was clunky, heavy, forced and not at all classical. That day I was determined to ride my horse while staying as mindful of my own cumbersome body as I could. I thought about collection in the trot and on a whim I engaged my core and thought about how to make myself easier for my horse to carry in collection. It's difficult to articulate, but a sort of controlled, steadied feeling came over my core. My balance lowered and suddenly my horse was mirroring my own actions. Her core and spine stabilized, her haunches lowered, and as we came around the corner by [F] I realized that my contact had stayed virtually unchanged. My horse had collected simply from my seat and core. Additionally, my trainer was watching and confirmed that this was, in fact, correct, classical collection. I remember calling out "It's so easy!" while breathless with exhilaration.

Why am I telling you this? Because it was EASY, and prior to the moment where I actually felt it, anyone who told me it would feel that easy would've been met with a major eye-roll.

Of course, I don't mean it was "easy" in the sense that little was involved. There was a lot of isometric control going on, and more than a little mental discipline (internal dialogue: "Don't you dare pull on that rein!" and "Breathe, damnit!") By "ease" I mean the physical exertion and the position in which I rode was filled with a looseness and, at the risk of sounding corny,  joy. I swung, and my horse swung; I sprung, and my horse sprung. It lasted for approximately eight or nine strides and I walked and rewarded her. Wowwie...

When you are riding a green, or even a fully trained horse, your aides should be applied in a way that is uncomplicated and without force. How do you know it's correct? The horse gives you the correct response without tension.

I can't tell you how many years I spent thinking this was a myth - a sort of Bodhi Tree meditation on nirvana for the dressage zealots. I believed that you had to use force to create a mechanical understanding before you could create a cognitive one. Yes, sometimes this is true, but what it really boils down to is that if you truly have a clear, correct connection with your horse you can begin to teach new concepts without force.

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Have you ever experienced the ease of correct riding and training?

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Rider Resolutions: Savoring Moments



You may have seen our images popping up on facebook an instagram this past week. We want to know what YOUR goals are for your 2016 riding and horsemanship!

Do you need a bit of inspiration? Feel free to join our brand new Facebook Group, and let's brainstorm some great exercises, tools and ideas to stay motivated in 2016!