Order of Operations Matters!

Do you remember back in middle school learning the order of operations for math problems?

Parentheses, exponents, multiplication/ division, addition/ subtraction

Well... don't worry- that's as far as the math talk goes here 😂

However, order of operations still matters and even applies to life with horses... and other areas of life too.

A big picture example of this is conditioning horses.

If we don't address the horse's basic needs (nutrition, environment, socialization, etc) before we start making physical demands, the muscle and endurance you are attempting to build is probably going to take a lot longer than it could. And if you don't assess the horse's experience and knowledge before mounting... you could end up in the hospital.
Those are pretty obvious situations where we can see that the order of operations matters- here are a couple that aren't as obvious.

If we don't help the horse to be tension and pain free before we attempt to build muscle:
  • your horse will likely end up being unbalanced
  • your horse will likely build muscle unevenly due to compensation patterns
  • your horse may struggle more with movements and endurance
  • your horse may develop behavior problems
  • you may cause your horse to have lameness problems 
  • you will have to work harder to ride your horse in a way that supports their proper body mechanics
Sometimes we skip steps because we don't know any better, we are too impatient, we have been lucky in the past, or we simply don't see the value in one step in the process. The fact remains that there is an order of operations for the best possible results. 

If you are ready for the best results for your horse, let's get them on my schedule ✨🐎🦄   Request an Appointment

Your vet doesn’t have all the answers for your horse.

Your vet doesn’t have all the answers for your horse.
Your vet is not trained in saddle fit.

Your vet is not thoroughly trained in equine dentistry.

Your vet is not trained to be a farrier.

Your vet is not thoroughly trained to assess your horse’s spinal alignment.

“To become an equine veterinarian, you must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from a college or university accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A DVM program takes four years to complete. Generally, the first three years of the program involve coursework useful for all types of veterinary practice, such as anatomy, histology, veterinary neurobiology and reproductive physiology. The fourth year is dedicated to clinical rotations through several areas of veterinary care like large animal medicine, surgery, critical care and ambulatory care.”

A simple google search tells us that equine vets are not trained only about horses- in fact, their first 3 years of school include learning about a wide range of animals and all the different aspects of animal care.

Much like my accounting degree- the first degree (four years) exposes you to the broadest aspects of the field you intend to go into and it's foundational principals.

It's the study AFTER those first 4 years that helps to determine what a person’s specialty will be. Some vets choose not to get into a specialty- and that’s great! Because we need vets that can mend wounds, diagnosis illnesses, and attend to the general well-being of our horses.

However, specialists are important!

And it’s important that we assemble a team of specialists to work with and assist our vets.

As most horse owners are aware, our veterinarians are in short supply and many are overworked and burned out.

The best way we can help our vets is to enlist the help of other equine professionals- saddle fitters, massage therapists, equine dentists, etc.

Just because these professionals are certified and don’t have a DVM degree, doesn’t mean they aren’t educated or able to help your horse feel their best and reach their highest potential.

In fact, I have found that the most passionate, effective, and dedicated horse care professionals are those certified in specific aspects of horse care. Much like a DVM, they continue to learn about their craft- they invest in continued education and they want to do the best they can for every horse they meet.

I have also found that while it sounds expensive to have so many different professionals involved with your horse, it is actually more cost effective- because it is more efficient. Problems are solved faster- or even prevented.

And really- doesn’t that just make sense? That is what we do for ourselves- we have a team of professionals from varying backgrounds to attend to our own health because they have done in depth study on one particular facet of human health and function.

We don’t ask our primary doctor if our teeth look okay before we bother scheduling an appointment with the dentist or if they think we would benefit from a massage leading up to or after strenuous activity.

So- do yourself and your horse a favor- assemble a care team for your horse!

Preferably, a team of professionals that are open to input from one other. A team of people just as dedicated to seeing your horse happy, healthy, and functional as you are. A team of people that are always willing to learn and grow- because that team of professionals will always be better than one thinly stretched veterinarian.

*If you happen to be in Michigan March 10-12, 2023- come see me at the Michigan Horse Expo!

Is horseback riding good exercise?

Is horseback riding good exercise?
For years we (my horse lovin' family and I) have cracked jokes about how horse owners don't need any exercise program- horse ownership is exercise enough!- and frankly, being a barn hand is definitely enough exercise. 

Or so it seems...

Here's the thing- I grew up riding and the amount of effort I had to put into the ride always depends on several variables: Are you casually trail riding or taking a few laps around the arena? or are you training for some level of competition? Are you riding Old Smokey, the 30 year old lesson horse, or Spike, who was just purchased by an inexperienced horse person from someone that swears he is kid safe- their kid just "doesn't like Spike" and they asked you to ride him because he has been dragon breathing with the whites of his eyes showing since he arrived?

In addition to these variables, my personal experience has been that riding and barn work isn't always enough. I was still gaining weight while working my ass off in the barn. I was strong in the best way, but I was getting a flabby belly. So, I took action and joined a CrossFit gym. Turns out CrossFit gyms are super expensive- but I loved it while it lasted and here is what I learned:

Even though barn work and riding will have you using muscles that most people don't even know they have, it's not enough to obtain your optimal fitness level. Why should you be striving for optimal health and fitness? Well, besides saving time and money on illness, it is how you best prepare yourself for situations you may find yourself in with horses. It's how you manage to mount under less than ideal circumstances. It's how you have the endurance to stay on in a bad situation (or the endurance to follow your mount the 5 miles back to the barn after sticking the landing of your unintentional dismount 🤷‍♀️). It's how you do your part to prepare for the next competition- we spend so much time worried about our horses' health and conditioning and we don't even THINK about our own conditioning... what kind of partnership is that?!

Your health and conditioning determines how you show up for your horse... and your FAMILY. You are nothing without your health and you may be thinking, "yeah, yeah- I'm young. I will be fine. I don't have time to workout or plan healthy meals." The truth is- you can't afford not to- especially if you have any less than ideal habits. Trust me- my 36 year old husband had a heart attack last week (he is doing well 😉 🙌). Needless to say, we have made big changes around our house- kicked some bad habits and established new ones. My health is now a priority in my life- no more putting it off with excuses about not having time or how the barn work is enough.

If you are done putting your health to the side and are ready to be the rider that your horse deserves, pop on over to my facebook group to learn more about how we are mixing things up and finding a healthy balance for life ❤

Restoration Part 4: Twice as Much as Before

Restoration Part 4: Twice as Much as Before
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.                                         ~ Job 42:10

The last horse I owned, I was gifted. After high school, my equestrian team coach had purchased an MSU Arabian that the students referred to as a big dumb animal- no one had been able to stay on him. She asked me to work with and show him. It was amazing for me to get the experience but also have a horse and all the horse fun without the bills. Our first year showing, we qualified for nationals- and then I got pregnant. Two years later, he was gifted to me as a wedding present. I kept him for several years- even after we gave up our house. Eventually, I had to give him up to. 

I was working with horses everyday to make my living and I loved it. There was one horse that came to us in about 2013. He was a sweet 3 year old trotter that was so easy to love. Well behaved, gorgeous, sensible and fun. His name was Five Towns- but I called him Bruce. Our first race with Bruce was the 5th race and he drew the 5 post position- AND he won. We raced him quite successfully for a couple years and then he was sold. And I decided that one day, I would bring him home to retire with me.

Fast forward to August 2019 when I found Bruce's current trainer on Facebook and asked how he was doing and why he hadn't been racing. He had sustained an injury and was getting some much needed time off. I checked in again at Christmas time and waited to see him back racing in March of 2021- he didn't enter until the end of April...

The day finally came that we would get to see the mystery house. We had received the address the night before and google earthed it- but that was all. When I was at work that day, I couldn't get Bruce not racing out of my mind- so I messaged his trainer. I found out he didn't race because of another injury... and he told me that if I wanted him- I could have him!

Even though Bruce was in Saratoga, NY and I was in Michigan AND I didn't even have a house for my family, I immediately started making calls and finding him a ride home. Getting him home was filled with blessings- thanks to many amazing horse people, Bruce made the trip for $200 instead of the standard $1500 (but I didn't work all that out at once- it took 2 weeks to get him home).

After an amazing afternoon finding out that Bruce was mine and coming home, we went to see the mystery house. The house itself was small, but frankly, exactly right for us. The barn area was overgrown and the fences weren't safe for horses. The garage was a good size.... and it was over 10 acres. After all of the houses that we had seen, it was very apparent that this one was for us.

So we made an offer- and because this house wasn't even on the market, there was no bidding war- it was just ours. We closed on the house on June 15th and allowed the seller to stay in the house 30 days after close. During those 30 days, my husband completely rewired the electrical in the barn. My grandfather drove his tractor over and brush hogged the pastures. My dad loaned us the machinery needed to more easily clean out the barn and move fence posts. My daughters weed whipped and helped to run fence lines. Friends came to help move doors and completely transform the barn area.

And once we moved in- with nothing major needing to be done in the house or garage, I get to enjoy the view from my kitchen and patio:

We still haven't even explored half of our property. As I write this (and anytime I sit and look at this view), I can't help but to get a tear in my eye and become overwhelmed with gratitude. I swear we were given more than double what we lost just over 10 years ago. Every single one of my heart's desires have been granted to me. I was given this gift and you can be sure I will be using it to serve others.

Since moving in 2 weeks ago today, we have all started to settle in and while it still feels surreal at times, it is home ❤ Our four dogs are more at home and comfortable than I have ever seen them. Bruce is living it up and loving life.

To see more of our journey as it happens (and get a tour of Bruce's new home, make sure you join my Facebook Group: Heart-Centered & Intentional Horsewomen

Restoration Part 3: Almost There

Restoration Part 3: Almost There
In October of 2020, after years of reducing debt and building our credit, we finally applied for a mortgage. It took months to get all the paperwork together... And then a back log of processing before we could actually start house shopping in January.

If you know any one that has been house shopping in the last 7 months you probably have an idea of how crazy the market has been. First, there was NOTHING on the market that met our long list of requirements to accommodate our 4 dogs and our 2 daughters, plus my husbands want list of a basement suitable to become a theater + a shop/ work space for his Home Improvement business- and of course, enough land to accommodate my future horses.

We saw A LOT of houses. Houses that I never would have thought to see- if there was more than 5 acres, we were going to see it. We saw houses that would have me commuting over an hour BOTH ways. It was ridiculous, but always so hopeful. By month 4 of the house hunt, I was done. I had seen enough. We put offers in on several houses but they were going for $20,000+ over asking price. Our offers were declined for all kinds of reasons- we offered too little, we wouldn't give the seller enough time to move, we wanted too many concessions, and (my personal favorite) we offered too much 😳

We were just shy of the 6 month mark when we were told that we offered too much for a small house on the bare minimum of acreage we could make work. I had already declared that if we didn't get that house I was going to be done. I didn't want to resubmit all of the mortgage info just to keep getting my hopes up for nothing. House hunting was exhausting. Turns out, that offer not being accepted was the best thing that could have happened.

When our realtor called to let us know that we didn't get the house, she said something interesting and unheard of happened. The listing agent called to say our offer was declined, but she had a friend that was considering selling her house on more land that my better suit our needs. If we were at all interested, she would talk to her friend. Obviously, we jumped at the opportunity. We took the pressure to find the right house completely off for a couple weeks while we waited to see this mystery property which, just so happened to be in the neighborhood that both my husband and I grew up in...

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