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I have not been a slacker, I’ve been blogging over at the Chronicle!

As I headed to Rebecca Farms for the Novice Three-Day long format, I thought, given how fun it was to blog the Dom Schramm clinic for the Chronicle of the Horse, that I would pitch them doing something at Rebecca. CotH said, “Sure, do a daily blog.” And so I did, and it, and the show, were a blast.

Now Cairo and I will be submitting monthly blog posts to the Chronicle! You can read them (including the Rebecca ones) here.

I’ll still throw some posts up here, shorter and possibly more personal stuff.  Or at the very least cool Cairo pictures and a long-promised post about Flash!


Inavale and Ready for Rebecca

Inavale was last weekend, and the last weekend of June and it was predicted to be very hot — upper 90s! Cairo and I got lucky with the ride times, all early morning. We had our dressage at 9:30 am Friday and Cairo was pretty stellar (for her) except for one itty-bitty rear during a canter trot transition. We got a three on that one. This time instead of last, our dressage score had us at second to last. And we got a 43.5 instead of a 44. It was the same judge and I’m telling myself her dressage must have been MUCH better if we can rear and actually improve our score slightly, right?

Stadium was Saturday and Cairo expressed her usual dismay at the other horses in the warm up. We kept it quick and cruised right in. The first fence was a little one, but it was off a short term, uphill out of a corner. Cairo charged, I held and she bashed the rail. After that she was “game on” and rode beautifully, even a downhill five stride and I didn’t hold her off her fences. Guess we needed to hit one to get our act together!

Lots of other horses hit that fence as well, so we moved from 16th to 12th. Our ride was at 8:40 am, so we missed the heat again.

Our xc was at 8:15 am. Meika coursewalked with her working student Letty and I at 6:40 in the morning and then I tacked right up and got on. I was feeling pretty confident — for me — since it is a Novice course we’ve done before. Cairo’s boldness does wonders for my show nerves!

Cairo was bold out of the start box and gleefully attacked the course. Log, big table, brush fence in the woods … she settled right in and was her usual bold self. Fence 6 was a maxxed out cedar table and Cairo flew it like a veteran. The only fence we bobbled a little was my old friend the little Trakhener. Cairo was great, I just held and stared a little. The second to last fence gave some folks a problem. It was listed as a ditch to a roll top but it was really more like a log. My concern was that Cairo would disrespect it and then blow the three strides the next fence. Meika had me slow her down the hill and really see the fence and it rode beautifully.

The whole course felt easy and that felt great. Some other riders found the course spooky and I heard a lot of refusals and a couple falls announced. We moved into 9th and I was thrilled. I was extra thrilled because Inavale doesn’t split amateurs from pros and I saw later we finished 7th in amateur points. I’ll update this post with video once I get it!

Now next on the agenda is Rebecca Farm! We are doing the Novice three day long format!

Clinic, the Chronicle and First Show of the Season!

After I got the A-Ok from the vet that flipping herself over a lead rope had merely annoyed and inconvenienced Cairo, but not harmed her, I put her in the trailer and off the Meika Decher’s gorgeous Polestar Farm and a clinic with Dom Schramm of Evention TV.

I was feeling a little unsettled. My jump trainer Kari has been on the road so I’ve lessoned over jumps maybe twice since December, I was still getting over a bodyworker episode who kind of freaked me out … and  I haven’t done cross-country since last August.

The clinic was fabulous, as was getting my write up posted on the front page of the Chronicle of the Horse! You can read the whole thing there, but suffice it to say, his advice to me to ride my hot like horse “like she’s sweet” is working great. Cairo was her bold happy self cross-country and stadium I could feel we had really come along. It helped before the clinic I hauled over to my friend Becky’s and jumped around a couple times, which was sweet of her to let me. I don’t want to push Cairo, but for her fitness and my brain we do need to jump once a week.

One take-away from the clinic? I need to stay with her jump! I’m trying so hard not to lean at the fences (hunter-rider flashbacks) that instead I lean back.

Camilla 001

Cairo’s first corner. She was delighted.

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The clinic really helped me feel like Cairo and I were ready for the season to begin. Or at least fences were not an issue!

And then suddenly it began… I had waited a day or two to enter Aspen Farms Horse Trials and got waitlisted. The day before I needed to leave for that 4-hour haul, I got in.

Wednesday night I packed and bathed Cairo and then Thursday morning Cairo and I (and my dog Biggie) were off. Cairo schooled dressage just lovely and Meika praised how far we’ve come. I warned her though that Cairo is the girl with the curl. When she’s good, she’s very very good, but when she’s bad she’s horrid!

Our dressage was at 8:30 am Friday, and it was chilly, so Cairo was feeling a little “let’s throw some bucks in the warm up” sassy. Meika put us to work and we did some spiraling at the canter and standing her up off the outside shoulder, which helped Cairo get her to bring her hind leg under herself.

Cairo does not like to stop and start, so Meika had a plan that would have us trot in the warm up, trot around the ring and go right in. It got foiled by a miscommunication with the gate person, and we didn’t start as soon as we needed to, so Cairo was still gnashing her teeth a little when we headed in.

The Northwest is not a big circuit, so there are limited numbers of judges. For some reason Cairo and I keep getting the same judge again and again, even when there is more than one judge doing Novice. And this judge is perhaps not Cairo’s biggest fan and doesn’t appreciate Cairo’s unique, ummm, style. I know Cairo has come really far, but alas thus far our scores are not reflecting it. You don’t get graded on doing all your homework when it comes to competitive horse prancing!

Soooo despite the fact a discouraging score of 44 percent put us at dead last in Senior Novice Amateur, I’m going to concentrate on the fact that Cairo no longer tosses her head and has developed a steady rhythm.

I was nervous as always for cross-country on Saturday and Cairo probably picked up on that. When we got down to school we had bigger and better bucks than for dressage schooling. Meika had us go right into a canter … then a hand gallop and Cairo, who hates to be boxed in, was soon happier.  From gallop to the x, to the vertical to the natural, boom, we were ready.

I try to be really careful in the start box to canter or trot off slowly when they say go — making time is not an issue — so we don’t have start box antics. We flew over the little log at 1 and then turned left to two in a big open field with people, other fences and distractions. Cairo was like, “What do I do?” And I said “Jump!” A tight turn to a flower stand then through the woods to some logs. The bright logs after the dark woods made her over jump and I don’t even know if she saw the ditch five strides later — she cantered over it like it was not there. And at that point it was game on. She flew around the course like a little fence-seeking missile.

A curving log at the bottom of a steeper hill was the only fence I questioned. Cairo said no problem. There was one related distance on course, a two logs separate by a 4 long strides or five short ones heading for home. Four long obviously with Cairo. Duly noted, she has a long stride. It was almost three and half! The last fence rode wonderfully and I almost cried I was so pleased. Cairo was so full of herself she danced and half reared while I tried to remove my pinney.

We moved from last to 12th with our double clear.

On stadium day she was still sassy but she rode like a little pro. With Meika’s coaching I remembered to NOT hold her back and we checked then flowed in the long gallops. Double clear again and she even checked herself in the in and out (rather than trying to bounce it!).

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We stayed in 12th but I was over the moon with happiness at how well she rode. The dressage? She’s only 6, we will keep working on it! Meika by the way had a beautiful double clear xc in the one start and got fourth and Cairo’s uncle Loki got third. It was kind of just one of those fabulous weekends …

I’ll post photos when I get some.

Cairo Loses Her Marble

Show season ends, Cairo doesn’t try to kill herself for a couple months and I become a blogging slacker! I can’t believe I didn’t post a photo of Cairo’s marble.

Oh, did I mention Cairo had a marble to keep her from going into heat? Well, she did, but since when spring hit, Cairo came into heat like a hurricane so I decided to have it removed since it wasn’t doing much.

We went up to Dr. Jack Root, who stands her daddy Baquero, and is the vet who put it in. His ultrasound was being slow, so he decided to palpate and next thing you know, he pulls out a pretty, big blue marble.


I pondered keeping it, but he was all about sterilizing it and reusing it, because apparently it was a good marble.

So the good news is I don’t need to worry about the marble causing any problems. The bad news is that for two months in the spring and a couple weeks in the fall, Cairo is still a demon hussy. Regumate? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you right now, all the raspberry leaves I stuff into her have no effect!

Next up: The trials and tribulations of bodywork.

Barb wire, a puncture and a vet bill

Barb wire is evil and it scares me, and everyone who has horses knows that if there is something in a pasture that could hurt a horse, then the horse will get hurt. Don’t Google the words horse and barb wire unless you want to be horrified.

Ever since Flash stepped on a nail in what seemed to be a perfectly safe pasture with beautiful safe fencing and lush green grass I have been a neurotic pasture walker. I try to go out once a month and wander around looking for places the fences could need fixing or, as in Flash’s case, a decades-old burn pile rises up through the mud.

Back in September, Cairo came in without her fly mask. I decided to pasture-walk as I looked for it. Her pasture is an old orchard so there are some sticks and such but nothing too drastic (no walnuts either if you remember THAT episode). But when I found her mask, it was snagged on something on the ground.

Barb wire: an old strand that had been buried in the mud along the bottom of the fenceline. I told Jordan and he came right out and pulled the wire. It was late and getting dark but I noticed some wire that ran along the top of the fence and asked him if he minded if I came back and pulled it, which Jordan, being the good horseman he is, didn’t mind at all.

My friend Carolyn’s horse McKinna goes out with Cairo and she offered to come out with me the next evening and fix it. Of course it was dark and raining but we put headlamps on and pulled a mass amount of wire — or it looked massive in the dark when we coiled it up by the garage!

There was one strand of wire along the top of the fence that seemed to actually be holding the fence up, so we decided to leave that up until we could talk to Jordan. The location was in a spot that the horses had no real reason to put their heads — they have plenty of grass and there were no horses on the other side. Famous last words: We’ll come back for that later.

Right after that Flash got a horrible purulent bacterial infection and my mind went out the window. This blog is really about Cairo, but my darling auxiliary gelding does deserve more mention so I will have to do a retro post on him, complete with oozing pus pictures. For now, let’s just say that thanks to the abscess on his shoulder, I was already good at flushing wounds when Cairo had her close encounter with the wire.

So last Monday, we got a new mare in the barn and she was added to Cairo’s small herd (McKinna and Mickey. Mickey is the world’s least dominant pinto gelding and Cairo gets to boss everyone around.) Jordan kept an eye on the introductions and all went well.


Cairo and Mickey chilling in the sun.

What we didn’t count on is JJ, who has been in a pasture nowhere near Cairo, got moved to the paddock next to her. Cairo is kind of a hussy, but I put up an extra strand of hotwire between her big pasture and the paddock. What I didn’t think about was in her marish determination to either dominate or make kissy-faces at JJ, she would walk above the section where the pastures adjoin and try to reach him diagonally — across the only spot where there is some barbwire. Or was, trust me, it’s gone.

Cairo came in that night with a pencil-eraser sized hole in her neck. It would have been barely noticeable — except for the swelling, the blood and the fact it was located right over her jugular.

I knew something was wrong the moment I went to get her from her stall — instead of little miss bright eyes, she walked away from me and stood in the corner, periodically glaring at me over her shoulder.

I lured her with a treat, got a halter on, saw the puncture and it’s that moment at 6 pm, when you know you’re into emergency fee vet pricing hour that you stare at your horse and go, “Sooo, can you wait til morning?”

I thought that for maybe half a second before moving onto “Holy crap that’s right over a major vein and what if whatever punctured her is in there, cozying up to that rather important blood vessel?

I called the vet (who had just been at the barn five minutes before I got there) and off we went.

It was a fairly small wound, so I felt a little awkward keeping Dr. Wes late, but the moment I walked in, he was all “That’s a bad location!”


Next thing I know Cairo is doped to the gills and Wes is ultrasounding the area and doing weird vet things like pressing down on the vein so we can watch it open and close on the ultrasound. I was all, “Umm should we be doing that?” And Wes responded, “Oh, we do this all the time.”

Then he decided the best way to make sure that there was nothing in Cairo’s neck was to stick a finger in there.



“Hmm what’s that?” Wes says.

I stiffen and freak (as much as I can while holding my drugged horse).

“Oh, her trachea,” he continues. Then he goes on to tell various stories about horses with sticks through their trachea and goats with their throats torn out, breathing through their trachea “like a straw” all the while fondling Cairo’s trachea and jugular from the inside. I muttered something like “Suddenly I’m not hungry,” and Wes whipped around. “You’re not going to pass out are you?” he asked.

I pointed out that while this is the first time he’s stuck his fingers inside Cairo while I watched, he had a long history of doing things with Huey’s many youthful wounds like saying “Hey look I can get three fingers in there!” and I have yet to faint.

After some feeling around inside her some more, Wes declared Cairo free of small sharp objects and cleaned and stapled her up — leaving a hole for drainage. He also hit her with some antibiotics and Banamine (some of those hits were in the other side of her neck as we determined that her left side had enough holes.)

In case you were wondering how I managed to have the presence of mind to both hold Cairo AND take photos, I’m not that good a journalist. Several lovely folks from the barn, including Jordan, stuck around for moral support and documentation of gross vet things.

After it was all said and done, it turned out I was hungry after all. Jordan fed me pizza and whiskey, which I sorely needed (more the whiskey than the pizza) before I stumbled home to bed.

Cairo was pretty cranky the next day, but given her voracious appetite she happily ate the sulfa mixed with her beet pulp. She’s also been great about my flushing the wound. The only thing she has been a pill about is the Banamine. She flings her head and tries to gack it back on me. She succeeded, twice.

My efforts to treat the wound were first almost stymied by a flood blocking the road to the barn.


Then that went down and I got cut off by a herd of loose sheep.


I’m starting to feel a bit like like I need a vacation. Oh, no wait, I had PLANNED a vacation before all this started!

All this happened only a couple days before I was due to leave town for Florida and see my parents for a pre-holiday trip. Luckily Leslie, aka the world’s best dressage trainer-friend, is doing wound care, while Carolyn and Jordan man the sulfa and the rest of the barn is in charge of treats for the next five days.

Carolyn, her husband and Jordan went out in the pasture today and took out every last bit of barbwire.

When I get home, Cairo and I need to have a little conversation in which I remind her: Every time we have a huge vet bill, a horse show dies.


PS: Nice haircut, right? Her clip grew back in a month. When I suggested Dr. Wes get a template so when he shaves all the hair off my mare it’s a bit more stylish, he gave me a really weird look. Cool clip jobs are in. He could bring the vet-shave to a whole new level.

One year anniversary

Cairo and I have been together one year. More or less. I joke that I’m like a chick with a new boyfriend — my friends are all “Hey, let’s hang out.” And I’m all, “Nah, I’m gonna hang out with Cairo tonight.” Luckily most of my friends ride, so this doesn’t come across as rude and weird.

Cairo learns in leaps and bounds. In the past month or so I feel like she’s made some huge leaps (literally and figuratively). I got her on a three-month trial last October. Here’s where we were at the Halloween show:

Cairo jumping … maybe 2 foot?
Cairo jumping … maybe 2 foot?

And this is where we started in May:


And this is us in September, where we ended the season.


Leaps and bounds.

We did the EI show to wrap up our season and per Meika’s instructions, did our stadium at Training level. I was more than a little nervous — it’s been two years since I did Training with Huey and I was just as apt to be sitting on the fence as jumping over it — but Cairo thought nothing of it. She loved it. She was adorable and had a crowd of teenage girls oohing and ahing as she leapt and swished. Ironically, the height did not back her off, and we still took some rails. We got a ribbon, 8th I think. Honestly, I was so excited to jump my little sassypants 3’3″ I barely noticed! Between that and some seriously bad dressage with head tosses and tail swishes galore I was simultaneously delighted and stumped. Cairo is so athletic and so … well Cairo.

Right before I bought her, Cairo’s breeder had taken her into get her teeth done. She’s only five, so I wondered if some of our recent connection issues were tooth related. I felt like we’d been making progress and then in July, around the time we did Rebecca, we were backsliding.

I made an appointment to get her teeth done for right after EI. The conclusion was that while she had nothing major going on, she had some sharpish edges. The dentist also gave her a bit seat. I would say she was 80 percent more interested in connecting with the bit within a day. Lesson learned: Cairo is getting her teeth done every six months.

Right after that, Meika came down to Oregon from Washington for a clinic. I asked if she would hop on Cairo — no one but me has jumped her in a year. Meika did, and she said the same thing Leslie said the first time she rode her, “Oh! She’s not nearly as hot as she looks!” Meika waited out the distances and Cairo’s arc was miles better. I got back on and waited an extra beat longer than I felt was “normal” and it worked. Better bascule. I would canter up to fence and Meika called out “Believe” and I would wait.  Lesson learned: Sometimes Cairo, it’s not you, it’s me.

The next week it was time for a lesson with Leslie. Leslie hopped on her for the first time since March and deemed her “talented” and a “kick in the pants.” Leslie worked on getting Cairo to loosen at the base of her neck and give. Cairo showed her appreciation for this by attempting a small, slow-motion rear. Let’s call it a levade. But she gave. Leslie suggested I try a loose ring French snaffle, and I was dubious — Cairo tossed her head and resisted anything but a rubber Mullen from day one.

I tried the snaffle (bribing her with sugar per Leslie’s suggestion) and Cairo was a gem. I’ve been trying so hard to get her to contact the bit consistently I got oblivious to that she was actually sometimes seizing the bit on the left, and as Leslie puts it, riding me. Cairo isn’t afraid to work hard, Leslie says, but she prefers to choose the work. Lesson learned. Horses grow and change, don’t get set in your ways, experiment a little.

Then the next week it was over to Karianne’s — I wanted to catch a ride with her before Kari left for Vegas to show down there. Kari has all kinds of ways to help a horse’s bascule with fence setting and her very careful, explicit directions and everything was just coming together beautifully. Cairo happily went through the combination and over the mini-Liverpool under the oxer (which looked HUGE to me in the indoor but Kari pointed out was smaller than the cross country jumps we do). Kari eyed her larger Liverpool with a gleam in her eye and said we would make that a goal for the winter.

And it is winter. It’s getting colder and I’ve clipped Cairo and I realized I have all these months with my little mare to grow and learn more lessons.

And clip silly things onto her butt.


Leaving the rails up

The show season is wrapping up — Cairo and I are finishing with a combined test at Cle Elum at the end of the season — that’s where we started off in May. We started at Starter (2’3″) and we are finishing contemplating trying some fences at Training (3’3″). Wow.

Cairo overjumps things by a mile, but she also takes rails because either she just doesn’t care or she overshoots her arc so much she tips the rail with a hind foot. Winter goals include working on our dressage and working on our jump (teeth and bodywork scheduled for October).

I hauled her over to Karianne’s today for a jump lesson and the goal of the day was getting Cairo to use her back and rock back to her fences. After warming up and using transitions to get my little I’m-still-in-raging-heat mare to pay attention we worked on a four-strided pole line — getting Cairo to do it in five by first collecting, then letting her flow the last stride. Then the same thing both directions through a three-stride.

The fun started when Kari decided to set an in-and-out with placing poles about 10.5 feet out for the landing. Vertical, pole, vertical, pole. The first time through I was a little backed off — Cairo and I have mainly galloped and jumped this summer, not had to collect to fences. We sort of floundered through it, and Cairo showed yet again her willingness to jump anything from anywhere. “Put a little leg on and support her,” Kari said. (That’s in addition to using my outside hand to straighten her off the turn and keeping weight on my inside heel with gentle pressure from my calf, of course).

I came at it again, with leg. And Cairo was like “Great, I LOVE a little support!” She then proceeded to jump the vertical AND the placing pole and the next vertical and its landing pole — let me remind you, the poles were over 10 feet from the fences. Yup, my little 15’1″ hand mare bounced a one stride, no problem.

“Oh no you didn’t,” I head Kari mutter.

“Umm, that didn’t feel like we did it right,” I said to Kari.

“No,” she said, “Your mare doesn’t seem to respect placing poles,” but she added, “at least you know she can jump a liverpool.”

I immediately began to picture Cairo jumping OVER entire water obstacles cross-country instead of splashing through them.

Kari decided to set short bounces instead (I mean, hey, as long as we were bouncing things …) The first time through I felt Cairo go “Holy crap, it’s hard when I have to use myself!” Considering I was mentally prepared for her to try to launch all three bounces in one bound, I simply appreciated that she recognized them as individual fences.

With her typical enthusiasm, she immediately decided the bounces were fun and was soon merrily jackrabbiting through all three of them. But the best part was she was backing herself off and not rushing in. Kari’s goal is for Cairo to get through eight in a row without tiring.

After the bounces Kari switched it to an oxer to an oxer and it felt great. I’m feeling like Cairo’s going to get the whole using her rump thing pretty fast. Another lesson scheduled for Tuesday before Kari leaves town for a show in Los Angeles, and I’m left feeling torn between delight and horror at just what goes through Cairo’s clever, cocky little mind when she sees a jump.

Does Your Mare Colic While in Heat?

Cairo gave me a scare last night. I finished riding her, rather late in the evening, gave her the usual beet pulp, and then tacked up Flash. Afterwards, when I was untacking Flash, I offered them each some apple and Cairo didn’t grab it with her usual alacrity. I put Flash away and tossed them both some hay. As I started dumping Cairo’s buckets and refilling them, I noticed she wasn’t eating her hay.

That is very unlike Cairo. She is always hungry. 

I sat down and watched her, and to my dismay she nipped at her sides, kicked at her belly and stretched like a dog, then she looked at me and pawed. Colic. That’s one of those things that just strikes terror in me.

I grabbed her halter and led her out to the arena. We walked half a lap and she pooped. I wanted to believe the problem was solved, but she still seemed a little unhappy. I took her back to her stall and watched her again. Still not eating hay. I took the hay away and gave her some Banamine. Duly noted: She had pooped several times in the stall before I rode, once during the ride and once after, so my guess was this was not an impaction but maybe a gas colic? It didn’t make me feel much better!

I texted Jordan who owns the barn to give him a heads up I might be pulling a late night, and he told me he thought she was coming into heat and that he has changed the valley grass hay and both those things might be factors. Cairo seemed better minutes after getting the Banamine She started searching the stall for wisps of hay. I took her out and walked and grazed her and she made it clear she was hungry. I decided I was way too neurotic to sleep wondering if the Banamine was working all night or now — though at this point she was her usual up at the stall door bright-eyed self.

I went home, showered, changed grabbed a book and lantern and came back. My sleeping bag and stuff live in my truck and trailer so when I got back to the barn I walked Cairo again and then made camp in front of her stall.

Suffice it to say I did not get much sleep. Cairo on the other hand pooped (at least four times), peed, slept, wandered around and to my (exhausted) amusement she played tug-o-war with Flash with his feed tub through the small gap in the wall between their stalls. Every time I started to fall asleep the barn cat took that opportunity to massage my head with her claws. 

At 7 am, I blearily made Cairo some alfalfa mush to get some liquids into her (she’d drunk, but not that much) and watched her sharp-eyed to see if she’d kick her belly after. Nope. She slurped it and then she played tug-o-war with the dirty bowl with Flash again. I decided it was a good time to go get some coffee at the hippie gas station (because I live within only a couple miles of a biofuel station with organic coffee). I ran into Kari’s husband there and he noticed my bleary appearance. 

“Colic” I told him, and described what had happened. “You can’t be too neurotic,” I said of my decision to camp out with her. “Yes, you can,” he laughed (it was a nice laugh) and gently pointed out in his experience they don’t poop all night if they are still colicking. 

I got coffee, stopped at work to get my work clothes and went back to the barn. Cairo was hanging out waiting for more breakfast or turnout. I sat outside her stall debating what I wanted to do — turn her out? Leave her in? While I debated, she looked at me, turned around, shit twice then winked and squirted.

We all know that I love to Google and while (not) sleeping on the barn floor, I Googled away on my iPhone and discovered some mares have colic-like symptoms when in estrus (heat). 

Before I got Cairo, her breeder had a marble put in her to help soothe Cairo’s rather extreme heat cycles. It worked great for about three months, then Cairo began cycling. After a raging heat cycle in April, I tried medroxyprogesterone and it really seemed to help. As this link says, technically it doesn’t stop the cycles, but it seems to help the mares. She was on that for a bit and then I lapsed and actually all summer she’s gotten more and more chill about being ridden during her cycles. 

However if she’s going to act colicky during ovulation and give me a heart attack every 21 days, I need to ponder another approach. I’m hoping to avoid Regumate — partly the expense — but who knows? Raspberry leaf is sure not doing it! 

I went to the barn at noon today, and she was happily out grazing. I think she’s OK because at that point the Banamine was winding down. 

For the record, horses really don’t sleep much at night. Aside from one glorious flat-on-her-side snooze, Cairo did quite a bit of puttering around. Periodically, she would come to gate and Flash would hang his head over the stall wall and they would both stare at me like “Is she gonna feed us or just lay there?” 

Yawn. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight. 

10th at Caber

Ribbons don’t actually matter in eventing — that insanely good feeling you get when you come off a well-ridden cross country is one of the best parts of the sport. But it is nice to come home with a pretty ribbon sometimes, albeit a powder blue one for 10th. I called it a war of attrition at Caber —Cairo and I got a ribbon because the rest of the folks in my group fell off.

But hey, as that T-shirt I want to get says: “Stayed on! Won prizes!”

My partner in eventing crime and I Kristine got there early and Cairo and I had a good dressage school, where Meika had me fight my instinct to try to lower my hands to try to get Cairo to give at the poll and release at the base of the neck and rather let her relax and come to me. Relax is a key word with Little Miss Thing.

(On a side note, Little Miss Thing is an expression Southerners and often gay men use to refer to a woman or man who thinks she’s all that. I recently discovered that Kristine thought I was making a Munsters reference.)

Originally I was delighted to see that the same dressage judge who judged us at almost every other show this summer (including the schooling show where she called Cairo a “hot little unit”) was judging us again. Cairo has been progressing beautifully all summer. She still swishes her tail and makes faces but her gaits are rhythmic and she lacks the tense high-kneed trot she used to have. Sadly for Cairo and I, judges judge you on what they see right then and there, and not on your great progress. Each of these events has at least five dressage arenas with five different judges, so it’s rather impressive this poor lady keeps having to judge me.

Cairo was, as always, a good girl. She is clearly disgusted by dressage, but she never tries anything bad. She never leaps or bucks or even breaks gait. She just swishes her tail and gnaws the bit, and pretty much the judge’s comments were “Unhappy mouth” and “tense.” This time she had nothing to say on my position (which I have been working hard on!) but we finished dressage DFL — dead fucking last.

Meika pointed out that her own wonderful currently-prelim horse Lear didn’t score great at the lower levels either in dressage, and that my goal is to move her up.  And I reminded myself that there’s nowhere to go but up, and that this time last year Cairo was hanging in a pasture and very, very green with a head-tossing issue.  We got a 45.7, possibly our worst score since our very first show at EI at starter where we got a 57. Same judge. Heck, technically we’ve improved!

Before Caber I had Leslie double-check the fit of Cairo’s dressage saddle, and I’ve also talked to Kari about getting Cairo’s teeth done again and then some more bodywork. I’ve done all that before, but it doesn’t hurt to double check that her mouth fussiness is just tension and not discomfort.

I had a nice late morning (9:42 am) ride for xc on Saturday, which gave us plenty of time for course walking (I walk it three times, every time).  For the first time in forever, I was really not worried about anything on course. That’s not to say I didn’t look at a fence or two and think really hard. Fence four was a palisades-looking ramp set on the side of a slight rise near trees and then it was just a couple strides to fence five (a log and drop) and I knew Cairo would be fine as long as I rode her well, but she’d never done a fence like that.

As you can probably guess, based on Cairo’s track record, she was amazing. Optimum time was five minutes and we did 4:39 so maybe a little fast, but not fast enough for time faults. She headed for the first fences with her usually cocky enthusiasm, log, brush ramp, house, whatevs. She didn’t look at fence four and the log drop at fence five didn’t make her bat an eyelash. She skittered a little on a long gallop to fence six at the sight of a fence judge but soon got back on track. And she slowed just off my voice after the gallop. As strong and hot as she appears, I’m still riding her in a soft rubber mullen mouth xc.

A wanna-be-coffin after we rounded the loop and head back to the finish? No problem. The only problem there was she jumped the ditch so big we got rather close to the fence three strides away (or more like two-and-a-half strides the way we did it).

The water complex was super fun:

First, a table heading towards the finish. I’m a little tense there — not sure if she will land and grab the bit and head for home when I need to make a show-jumping type turn away from home toward the brush fence and water!

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Signature tail flip on landing.

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Left turn to the brush? No problem.

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So then I was all in show-jump brain and headed for the water in a happy two-point.


Cairo remembered last time we schooled water at Inavale we had jumped off a drop. She saw the water and rocked back. I merrily fell forward onto her neck:

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And I’m now laughing wildly because Cairo is bunny-hopping through the water, and I’m relieved my brief moment of stupid didn’t result in my being IN the water while she splashed on without me!

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And out of the water to the next fence? No prob.

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We finished double clear and I was over-the-moon happy!

Then we got randomly selected for a USEF drug test. The nice vet tech was almost no match for Cairo’s stubbornness, which apparently extends to peeing while someone holds a cup. She drank and held her bladder for over an hour. When she finally peed, she pressed her booty up against the stall wall and kept trying to hold it so the urine came in fits and spurts while the vet tech chased it with the cup on a stick. We made taking blood easy on the vet — I held a small bucket of beet pulp and Cairo snarfed that and ignored the blood letting.

Stadium was another learning experience. Cairo jumps better if I let her be a little gappy to the fence, and I know that. But the horse of the girl before me slipped in the grass twice and fell, and I found myself trotting into the arena while people called for a vet to check him out. I was thrown and worried about the footing and held Cairo to a short choppy canter. It wasn’t slow but it lacked power and when we get a tight distance on that canter, she whacks fences. We had two rails right off the top and then I sat up and rode.  Once I let her flow, the course finished beautifully. We had one more rail after a drunken swerve turned a two-stride into a three stride but it was enough to stay in the ribbons and be the caboose on the victory gallop.

Ribbons or no, Cairo and I are finishing each show thinking “Damn, that was fun!” and I’m plotting what I can do to improve. I gave her a couple days off and yesterday in my lesson with Kari, we worked on developing a bouncy strong canter Cairo can jump even tight distances from. Kari leaves for Spruce Meadows tomorrow and then Cairo and I will work on dressage til we do a little combined test at EI to finish she season.  Tentative plan? Do Novice dressage and stadium Saturday and then Training stadium Sunday. Ack!







Can horses eat walnuts?

“Can horses eat walnuts?” “Walnut equine laminitis” “My horse ate a walnut.” Those were all searches I frantically typed into Google on my iPhone last night.

It was really hot — 100 degrees, which is crazy for Oregon — and after I rode Cairo, I hosed her, scraped her and grazed her. The greenest grass on the farm right now is under a large black walnut tree, so Cairo and I sauntered over there.

Have I mentioned that Cairo has a voracious appetite? She eats like a starved wolverine. She vacuums her grass hay, wolfs her alfalfa and can smell soaking beet pulp from a mile away. I’ve had her snake her head around a stall door, snatch a bowl of soaking beet pulp pellets, tip it into her mouth and snarf it down before I could take a single step. Then she looks at me with her bright, interested eyes and a “What else you got?” expression.

Luckily she also has a high metabolism and seems to be able to consume vast amounts of food and stay trim.

But walnuts?

As we grazed, watching the sunset, I saw out of the corner of my eye that Cairo was making her “I see something I want” face that she usually makes in the vicinity of the apple tree right before she snatches fruit right off the branches. As I heard the crunch, I put two and two together and realized she had scarfed up a walnut.

I dove for her mouth, and she took a step back, looking at me all the while, and rolled it around in her mouth and crunched again. At this point I wasn’t too worried — I figured the walnut husk would taste bitter and she’d spit it out. She has a get-it-in-your-mouth-first-and-then-decide attitude towards edibles. Nope, she tasted that nut and deemed it good and like Mr. Owl and the Tootsie Pop, she crunched again and it was gone.

As balls to the wall as she is, I still give Cairo credit for generally being sensible. She’s cocky, but I don’t think she has a death wish. So my first thought, after “OMFG aren’t walnuts toxic to horses?” was that I didn’t think she would eat something that would hurt her. Tansy grows in a lot of Northwest pastures, and it’s toxic to horses but unless they are starving, they simply don’t eat it, so I have a good reason for believing Cairo might show some sense. Also, I have seen her spit out rocks, cherry pits and other less than tasty objects after snatching them up.

Still, most horse people know that if you bed an equine on black walnut shavings, they will often develop laminitis within eight hours, so it stands to reason snarfing walnuts isn’t a great idea.

So I plopped Cairo back in her stall with a big slurpy bowl of beet pulp (operating on “dilution is the solution” when it comes to possible toxins) and began to Google.

I soon learned that: Black walnuts and horses come up a lot in discussion. That there have been dreadful experiments involving pouring black walnut extract into horse bellies to induce laminitis. A lot of people have black walnuts in horse pastures with no ill-effect.

Most importantly I found the the Oregon Veterinary Association says that while the heartwood of black walnuts is linked to laminitis, eating walnuts is not.

I contemplated giving her Banamine preventatively but with the weather so hot, I didn’t feel good giving her something that might slow her gut down unless I needed to. It’s hard to walk that fine line between practical and paranoia when it comes to fragile 1,000 lb beasts who seem to pour a lot of energy into killing and maiming themselves.

I finally left the barn and went home … and Googled more until I realized I was just going to keep coming up with the same information over and over again, and while many people talked about black walnut shavings-induced laminitis, and many talked about black walnuts being toxic, no one seemed to have any experience with a horse getting sick from eating walnuts or even leaves. MInd you, it did dawn on me to wonder if maybe most horses, who don’t have Cairo’s experimental tastes, just don’t eat black walnuts but I did finally get to sleep and stop fretting. Drinking gin helped.

I popped awake this morning and decided I would get a lot more done at work today if I wasn’t fretting, so I drove to the barn before heading to the office. When I walked in, there was Cairo, bright eyed and, since it wasn’t feeding or turnout time yet, hungry.

She’d eaten all her hay, reached under the stall partition and stolen Flash’s feed tub and cleaned that out, and possibly stolen some of his hay, too. No heat or swelling in her legs, lots of poop in her stall. Phew. I tossed her a couple bites of hay to tide her over until turnout time and headed to work — where I freely admit, I Googled horses and walnuts a couple more times, just to be sure.

I think as long as little miss thing doesn’t make a habit of walnut snacking, she’s going to be OK, but of course I will go check her tonight to make sure!