Equine Progressive

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Hard Hats I Have Known – Part 2

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The next helmet in this sad story of hard-working styrofoam was a Troxel Legacy. It was hunter green and I bought it on my parent’s tab without permission. “But Mom, I broke my hat and I can’t ride without a new one!” Borrowing a school helmet was out of the question. If any of you have children with open tabs at tack shops, I suggest you close them immediately. After reading my blog, anyway. I once knew a thirteen year old girl who bought a $1500 Ashland equitation saddle on her mother’s tab. At Beval. Don’t get a line of credit from Beval.

Anyway, that hat was a victim of hooves. Aren’t they all? Hooves or hard ground, the only question is in which order. I actually rode in it for entirely too long and when I finally did crack it – it’s amazing how they crack inside, like eggs, like skulls – I only wish I’d had on a motorcycle helmet, so that something would have protected my jaw. Yes, horses have two hooves, and sometimes they both hit you. It only hurts occasionally. And I still don’t like Quarter Horses, and I especially don’t like Quarter Horse mares, and I will under no circumstances canter one. You can’t make me. I know it will buck. I just know.

I think I am missing one or two, but here is one coming to me that may have met an early end in the shedrow at Classic Mile training center in Ocala one chilly morning in November. The day after the Breeders’ Cup, I think. A very nasty customer in the form of a dark bay or brown colt and you know what, I didn’t want to ride the sucker. So it wasn’t a shocker when he dumped me in the packed clay and left town. The trainer wasn’t thrilled. I was pretty embarrassed. That was an International, too, I do believe.

My current hard hat - highly recommended!

The most recent dear departed was an International ATH, and I loved its microsuede and its carbon fiber strip. I sold dozens of these helmets at my tack shop, especially the “Switch” with the removable color strips. What is it with little girls and pink? Just dying to live up to stereotypes, aren’t we girls? Anyway, Bonnie,  my lovely chestnut mare, spooked at a caterpillar or a spector or a Dementor or something in the  middle of a dressage arena on a cloudless sunny day. Bonnie is a world-class spooker. I went heels over head backwards. The dent in this helmet is impressive. I think it may have had something to do with the random rock in the orange clay of the dressage arena. Yes, kids, a rock. You never know!

I now ride in a Charles Owen J3 skullcap, and I love it.  I swear it has never touched the ground. I hang it up carefully between uses, or set it on the kitchen table. (I keep a lot of tack on the kitchen table. Seems like a good enough place.) I don’t know how long Chas will last. At this point, though, if I got on a horse without a hat, I’d panic. My falls have been random, unexpected, and largely unrelated to jumping, which is where so many people assume you’ll get hurt. In fact, I’ve never even had a fall cross-country, the one place where I’m required to not only wear a hard hat and vest but also a medical armband listening my blood type. I’ll be sure to update you, should a new hard hat be required. As I’m sure one will be, eventually.


Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Hard Hats I Have Known – Part 1

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I remember every hard hat I have ever killed.

As the dressage community, led by Heather Blitz, continues to cope with the realization that sometimes even being beautiful in a top hat and tails has to be sacrificed for safety’s sake, and that life-changing injuries can occur from spills even when you’re working on the flat, I have to recall the hard hats that have been sacrificed to keep my head intact.

The first one was luxurious, a velvet International show helmet, with brown leather harness. I was ten, and the riding instructor at my Fancy Hunter Barn was anxious to see me outfitted properly. (So was my mother.) The helmet was heavy and thick and hot on those summer afternoons in Florida, just one generation prior to the new thin-shell hats that were coming out on the market. You mean helmets didn’t have to weigh eight pounds and drag your head down? Who knew?

That helmet died several deaths. It probably should have been replaced several times over, but we didn’t realize at the time that helmets were one-time-use only! They seemed a bit expensive to be disposable. The first dispatch came when I was learning flying lead changes. My riding instructor taught flying lead changes as follows:

1) Canter horse on right lead.

2) Turn right across center of arena.

3) Wait until you get to the fence and turn left hard.

I’m sure there was more to it than that, as he is now training high school dressage on the west coast, so he surely has some working knowledge of flying lead changes, right? But that was all I computed, anyway, and so I swung Figment left, and the handy hunter turned on his haunches, and I went scraping along the fenceline. The gouge that was left in the velvet, straight down to the base of the hat, was legendary. The number of stitches that I would have required, had that gouge been in my head: dozens.

The velvet hat at last met its match against a solid wooden roll-top. First horse, my Quarter Horse Smuckers (as in, “with a name like…”) took exception to the big green monster. Not even the lovely “guide poles” placed on either side of the fence dissuaded him – it was a truly dirty move. 2010 me wishes I would have had on a Tipperairy vest as well, since the guide poles did quite a number on my back after I bounced head-first off the roll-top and onto them.

The second was an International Pro-Lite, the first generation of air-flow style hats. They had a remarkable design flaw that no one remarked upon until later – the holes were so large that if you fell into a pile of brush or tree limbs, you could be impaled through one of the air vents. Fortunately my hat’s death came in an indoor arena, when OTTB Number 1 did a very agile spin/leap/capriole/twist move. He was athletic. I was less so. I hit the ground, sadly, underneath him. One hoof on my elbow, one hoof on my hard hat. Again, legendary. There was literally a horseshoe mark on the helmet. And if you flipped it over and looked inside, the styrofoam was split in two. I was a superstar. My elbow, I got over in a couple of weeks. The hat, however, saved my life.

In case you’re keeping score, in this little narrative I’m now up to age 14 or 15 and I’m already lucky to be alive. And only one of those falls came over a fence. Not to mention all the unsung spills that I can’t remember (which may say something in and of itself!) I’ll have to think extra hard about the next few helmets. . . but there is a good reason why I had to get a new one from the Large Man in Red this past holiday season.

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 9, 2010 at 8:17 pm

The Tack Room Medicine Cabinet

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Canada recently released new safety standards for the meat of horses slaughtered for human consumption. Each horse will have to be accompanied by identification and six months’ worth of health records. 

The identification form, chillingly, has room for the horse’s name. Really? Talk about your food having a face. This seems different to me from naming your 4-H pig “Pork Chop,” but perhaps I’m just indulging in a rare fit of sentimentality. 

As Alex Brown continues his study on the reported percentage of racehorses receiving bute on race day (it stands somewhere between 90 and 100%), his essay published at Paulick Report points out what should be obvious to everyone who has ever walked into a tack room: horses are not intended for human consumption. Oh it happens – but not on purpose! 

At least, not in the United States. 

This isn’t an argument about the cruelty of slaughter, or civilization’s debt to the horse, or the question of unwanted horses. I’m not going to get into ethics. I’m interested in food safety. 

Now, I’m not a scientist, and my knowledge of toxicities is limited to Google searches. But I do have a tack box of horse meds, and while I’ve gone pretty natural and it’s not as colorful or interesting as some I have had in the past, some of them make the banned list. 

So, here is what I could find in my little tack room which contains some version of the old stand-by “Not for Horses Intended for Slaughter.” As if any horse ever bred was ever intended for slaughter. 

The first two items are on the banned or six-month list: 

    A banned substance in every tack room.
  • Phenylbutazone. Banned. Everyone gets bute at some point. Oh, you have a swollen eyelid, must have a bee-sting. Have

    some bute. Oh, you’ve got a big bang on your leg. Have some bute. It’s like giving children chewable aspirin. It’s even fruit-flavored most of the time.



  • Nitrofurazone. Banned. Including the very brand that I have, Furall aerosol spray.     

  •  Acepromazine. Six-month withdrawal period. Useful around here for: loading onto trailers, veterinary work in uncomfortable places (like, say, the inside of a yearling’s stifle.) My vet also uses something more hard-core for breeding work. And one of my broodmares, Ontherightwicket, had surgery and was absolutely pumped full of tranq and meds for months. While pregnant. She is officially inedible. And, I wonder, does that make the filly inedible also?

The list of other items that will be permitted, including feed additives, after a certain manufacturer-stated withdrawal period, will be released in April. All these items, which are in my grooming box, have warning labels but aren’t yet listed on the Food Inspection regulations. 

  • Betadine
  • Banixx – An antifungal/antibacterial spray
  • Swat – the insecticide ointment
  • Ivermectin
  • Regu-Mate
  • Smart Tendon – a joint and tendon supplement. It contains MSM – could that be the withdrawal substance?

And what of the off-label items? We all do it. I have DMSO, Lysol, and bleach in my tack room. Are these fit for use on horses intended for human consumption? And if not, who would ever know? They’re not drugs, so they’ll won’t show up on a list of restricted substances. 

How can you regulate an industry that pulls its product almost entirely from people’s backyards? My argument for years stands yet: There are no horses intended for consumption. There are show horses, race horses, pleasure horses, pasture horses, even Premarin horses, who are pushed into slaughter because they fell through the cracks, or no other options presented themselves in a timely manner. Six months off of the withdrawal-limited drugs will never make up for the fact that most horses have had bute, furazone, ace, or a host of other banned substances in their systems at some point. 

It will be interesting to see how Canada deals with these facts of the slaughter industry. Yay or nay on slaughter, you have to admit, keeping the food chain clean and safe seems impossible. And it sure makes you want to grow your own veggies and avoid meat, just thinking about it…

What’s in your horse’s medicine cabinet? Go on, I bet there’s some interesting stuff in there… spill it, we want to know!

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

Guardedly Optimistic, the Horses Trot On

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With a good response to the weekend’s open house, frequent editorials in the Orlando Sentinel, and local television news coverage, Freedom Ride can feel “guardedly optimistic” that they stand a chance of continuing their mission of helping Central Florida’s citizens with special needs.

This morning I spoke with Robin Baker, Freedom Ride’s Volunteer Coordinator. The more people that are paying attention and showing support, she says, the better the outlook for Freedom Ride is.

Many people who came to the Open House had no connection to horses at all. “People just came out to support us, from what they’d read.” People were generous with donations as well, and in promising to wear the free “Freedom Ride” hats and shirts to publicize and show support for the non-profit.

The tidy shedrow sits just a few miles from downtown Orlando.

Discussions are going on this week within City Hall that could determine the future plans for Trotters Park. In the meantime, the online petition is still collecting signatures, and the media continues to cover the mayor’s comedic waffling.

From mid-February, Scott Maxwell, the Sentinel’s political columnist, shares Orlando’s colorful history of inside deals and croneyism, illustrating with Orlando’s Safety Council:

For two decades, the council has operated in a city-owned building near Orlando Executive Airport, offering classes on everything from safe driving and workplace safety to victim awareness.

Then somebody else decided they wanted to use the Safety Council’s building. And that somebody happened to be a high-ranking city official: Deputy City Attorney Jody Litchford.

Apparently Litchford’s co-workers thought her idea was a dandy one. So they booted out a rent-paying tenant — eight years before the lease was up – for one that would move in rent-free for the first few years.

The deal was done with no fanfare, no announcements, no bidding – and losing rents costs the city about $200,000 over 3 years. A drop in the bucket for a city that is cheerfully laying off police, fire, and education professionals; the city insists that the space, now occupied by a charter school, will eventually turn a profit. Because so many charter schools are successful? Hmm.

Freedom Ride’s story isn’t new in Orlando, the City of Who You Know. But the decision to pick on the disabled is even lower-class than usual. As long as Central Florida, horsemen, parents, anyone who believes that people with special-needs deserve better than to be kicked out for non-existent ball field, maintain the pressure on the city, Freedom Ride can be a success story, instead of one more victim of Orlando’s exclusive City Hall.

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

Orlando vs. Freedom Ride

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A horse that makes a difference.

When the city government starts picking on kids with special needs, you know the world’s gone off the deep end. In Orlando, which is of course the arbiter of all things progressive, a highly popular and centrally located therapeutic riding center – and the last vestiges of a historical equestrian park – are about to be wiped off the map. By a city desperate to cut costs, another sign of our desperate economy? No, actually, by a city that sometime in the future maybe might want to use the space for soccer fields.

Fortunately, the typical apathy of Central Floridians has not extended to allowing the city of Orlando to get away with this act. And while Mayor Buddy Dyer managed to get in some pot-shots at the organization while doing so, he did agree that they don’t necessarily maybe possibly have to go right the instant their current lease expired.

Freedom Ride struck back by welcoming the community to an open house over the weekend, showing off their beautiful facility, with its white painted fences, reminiscent of the old days when they weren’t occupants of the last training barn standing in the sprawling Ben White Raceway, once the southern hub of Standardbred training. More than 100 people each month are assisted here by fourteen horses and about one hundred volunteers. With its central location just a few miles off the main artery of Central Florida, I-4, participants from all over the area can easily reach the riding center, unlike many rural farms.

During the open house, business was proceeding as usual. Children were purposefully striding about in field boots, carrying saddles and bridles, checking the white board in the tack room for horse assignments. An older woman in an electric wheelchair motored about, patting the horses that came to their stall doors. Militant locals in breeches and blue jeans showed up to rail against the city politics and pledge their support and even tracts of land outside town that could be used for a new program. Parents showed up to volunteer or even to sign up their children for the program, which assists people with a multitude of special needs, including autism, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.

Artwork from the heart.

What truly made Freedom Ride stand out from a typical lesson barn, though, was the artwork. Arts and crafts is always an integral part of hippotherapy, and on display were the drawings and collages that children had made describing what the horses meant for them. “They help me come out of my shell” in a thought bubble above a smiling little girl on horseback, purposefully colored in crayon. “Titan” as a word used in a collage of how horses made a boy feel. With the devastating simplicity that children demonstrate on a regular basis, the case for Freedom Ride’s continued presence in Orlando should have been easily made.

All good causes have an online petition. You can find Freedom Ride’s here.

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm