Sadly, I have never outgrown the crazy horse girl phase even as I close in on my “vintage” years. I still have my original hobby horse from when I was a youngster. It was taller than I was for many years, but it was still my only horse until I was 37 years old. And, before you ask, I stopped riding him well before I was out of my early elementary school years.

My first horse. I seem to have an affinity for the brown ones.

I am that person who will call out, “Horse!” every time I see one in a field while driving. It is like breathing – involuntary and necessary. I smile when I see a truck and trailer headed down the road. There is a magnetic force that pulls my car into the parking lot of any tack store I find. Once inside, I am the kid in the candy store, deliberately stifling my excited squeals as I puruse the newest breeches and riding shirts. Put a horse in an advertisement and I will stop flipping channels.

In the office I am known as “the horse lady.” I am known for other things as well, but those things need not be shared here…my coworkers have (unfortunately) been indoctrinated into horse life. Sadly, no one wants to come to the barn on sheath cleaning day. Thankfully I have a very understanding supervisor who allows me to maintain my equine lifestyle even if he doesn’t fully understand the mystique.

In our neighborhood, I’ve also got the moniker of horse person. One lady saw my license plate with the horse head on the back of my car, and a few days later stopped by with a saddle rack and some horse decor. She used to own horses, no longer does, and so she thought I would like the items. The wreath she gave me now hangs in the front porch.

My dogs have squirrels; I have horses. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


P.S. Don’t forget to get your guess in for Ike’s weight. Contest closes on Wednesday, July 11th.


Carnival Game Time

“Does this angle make my nose look big?”

If you have followed us for any amount of time, you have probably heard me call Ike various nicknames: Big Boy, Baby Huey, The Jolly Green Giant (while wearing his green winter blanket), or Blue Whale (while wearing his blue blanket).

Well now we know precisely what he weighs thanks to the scale at the clinic in Marshall…so, let’s do a contest to see who can guess his weight.

Contest Rules

  1. One entry per person.
  2. Enter by posting your guess (weight in pounds) in the blog comments, on Facebook in the comments for this post, or on Twitter by replying to the tweet.
  3. Winner will be the closest guess without going over.
  4. If more than one person has the right weight, the person who posted it first will win.
  5. Contest will run July 7, 2018 through July 11, 2018.
  6. Winner will be announced July 12, 2018.

Winner will have their choice of either a $10 Starbucks gift card or a $10 Dover Saddlery gift certificate.

Good luck!

So you want to go on vacation…what about the animals!!?


It is July which means that summer is in full swing and most likely, the majority of us will be headed somewhere for vacation. But, before you put that final bag in the car and start the engine, have you made adequate plans for your furry family members? Two very unfortunate incidents (one to my brother and one to a friend) have put in stark focus the need to have plans in place for your pets. Here are things that we do before heading out of town. Please feel free to share your to-do list tips so that all of our pets have a safe vacation.

  1. Make sure you leave your contact information for your animal’s caretaker. We leave multiple cell numbers so that at least one person will have their phone on them and is reachable if an emergency should arise. We also leave the address and phone number of where we will be staying.
  2. Give your vet’s contact information to the barn manager, kennel staff or pet sitter. You should also consider noting where the closest emergency clinic is located.
  3. Let your vet(s) know you will be out of town. We call and tell them who is caring for our pets and who can make critical decisions if we can’t be reached. Yes, this is terrible to think about, but better you have it thought out rather than your animal suffer in your absence.
  4. I also work out payment options with our vets so the pet sitter does not have to worry about the cost. Some will let you pay when you return; others just keep our credit card information on file.
  5. Check the supply of critical medications and make sure you leave instructions for how to administer them. Don’t leave your pet sitter wondering what to do when your dog chews a raw spot due to his/her allergies.
  6. Is there enough pet food and supplements on hand to last through your vacation? Clear feeding instructions should also be left. If you have a pet that is a picky eater or who decides to have random hunger strikes (I speak from experience here), you should share that info so there is no undo worry for the sitter.
  7. Does your pet panic with storms or fireworks? Share with your sitter what can be done – wearing a Thundershirt, anxiety treats, happy drugs or what ever works for your animal.
  8. We have one dog who has to be kept separate from the others for behavioral reasons, so we leave clear instructions on how to manage him. Do you have an escape artist who likes to slip out the front door? Does your dog eat things they shouldn’t? Share any of those quirks with the sitter!
  9. Does your horse have shoes? Let the barn manager know who your farrier is in case your horse decides to play hide-the-shoe in his/her paddock.
  10. Make sure your fly spray supply is adequate. The green headed flies are out in force this year and the dive bomber horse flies are also lurking.

A little planning goes a long way for a restful vacation. Don’t forget to pack the camera and enjoy the journey!


Bubble Boy

Well we have some answers for the question, “What the heck is wrong with Ike?” Now we are working on what the correct solution is to keep us going for another 10+ years.

Right before our scheduled June show, Ike and I had one final tune up lesson with Ms. C. About 20 minutes into our lesson, Ike strangely cocked his leg like a dog at a fire hydrant. WTF?! He felt so unstable that I flung myself off. Ms. C and I performed a crime scene investigation, but found nothing obvious. We let him relax and he seemingly walked out of the problem. I hopped back on, but he was moving a little wonky. A call was placed to the vet. Bute and rest.

Well, given that we were supposed to be headed down centerline in 72 hours, my overprotective mom-mode kicked in and I was able to get a vet appointment for Friday morning…2 hours before the departure for the show…because who doesn’t need a little added stress to the show weekend. Nothing was screaming “ouch,” so we decided to make the short trek to the show grounds.

Ms. C came to school us and watch for problems. Not much escapes her hawk like vision. Well, a half-blind dog could have seen Ike cock his leg. We took him back to his stall, and I made the sad trek to the show office to scratch my classes. A funny aside, the assistant show secretary asked if I had another horse to show. “Yes, I have another horse, but no, he won’t be coming to pinch hit for his brother.”

We ended up taking Ike to Piedmont Equine Practice in Marshall, Virginia for further consultation. Dr. Nolan gave Ike every chance to fail and show pain, but big man gave no obvious sign. Xrays were clear of any lesions or arthritis. Flexions were also good. We believe that Ike’s left hind hits the low pastern of the right hind causing temporary pain thus the odd leg cock. Dr. Nolan’s plan is to pull the hind shoes, do a corrective trim on the left hind, and for Ike’s legs to be as protected as I can make them. Fingers crossed that we can keep Ike shoe-free on the hinds.

I have been using neoprene low pastern wraps sold by Big Dee’s. The are marketed for the harness racers. They have been fine, but we need more. Bringing polo wraps down low was an option, but still not ideal. I toyed around with using bubble wrap, but decided if it popped, I might need additional padding. Whatever we use needs to have some flexibility given the leg and joint movement. Enter the Bed Sore Boots by Professional’s Choice. Fleece-lined neoprene velcroed to the lower hind leg.

One test ride gave me no cause for concern. Ike is not bothered by them. They cover the area where he brushes the low pastern. I put Ike through the paces and I am happy to report that there was not a single mark on either of the boots.

Sure, they will get us some “looks” at shows, but so be it. If it means that we are good to go with chasing our silver medal dream, laugh all you want. I am just glad that my pony is all right.



I write this with tears in my eyes and my mind going a million miles a minute. Yes, I am worried about Ike as we try to get to the cause of his odd lameness, but when I take a step back from my problems, I realize that while it feels like a big deal, it is nothing compared to the struggles of my friends.

I have friends coping with major health issues, friends whose significant others have health concerns, friends struggling with depression, friends who have lost horses, and friends who have horses that are worse off than Ike. I wish I could blink my eyes or wrinkle my nose and make all the problems disappear.

But what I have found, is that I have an amazing circle of friends. It puts a smile on my face to receive a text or a message from someone checking in on us. What seems like a small gesture can really brighten someone’s day. It can make the unbearable tolerable. It can give you the strength to see past the moment. We are stronger together.

So reach out to that friend who has gone AWOL. Splurge and send someone a card. Offer to help. Be there for each other. And of course hug your horse.


Keep the Faith

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ” Helen Keller

#silvermedaldreams #dressage

Slow progress forward is still forward. We are tentatively looking forward towards our Fourth Level debut. I almost cried the other day when I realized the dream is closer to being reality. Never give up. Take those steps backwards, cry the tears, scream with frustration, but never give up.

Goals and Happenings in Ike’s World

Alison Ike Datthe M May 2018

As many do, I like to set my personal goals for show season. These goals have nothing to do with ribbons and are independent of what anyone else at any given show is doing.  While I may not meet every one of them, goals help me gage how our training is progressing. Are we moving forward, backwards, or sideways? Are we plateaued due to one particular problem? Have I driven Ms. C off the deep end with my inability to understand proper half pass alignment?!

Of course, I should have shared these before we got two shows under our belt this year, but that just didn’t happen…life just kept getting in the way. So, without further ado, here are our goals (okay, my goals…Ike would say his goal is to be retired like his brother.)

Increase the points earned by 5-6 points per test.

Progress: Steadily ticking upwards with occasional lapses in progress due to unfortunate tension, i.e. spooking and other silliness. Last year we kept regularly falling short of the points needed to keep our median score in the 60th percentile. That evil word “more” kept showing up in the comments: more engagement, more collection, more bend.  Somehow, despite the challenging weather this winter with weeks of little riding, we managed to get stronger and improve our collection and the ability to maintain it for longer periods of time. While we still have a ways to go, we are more often than not seeing our scores in the low 60s this year.

Earn a Third Level Horse Performance Certificate.

Progress: Completed! With our Test 3 score at the May show, we had the final necessary score for Ike to earn his Third Level Horse Performance Certificate. When I shared this great news with him, he didn’t even bother to stop munching on his hay.

Qualify for the USDF Region 1 Third Level Adult Amateur Championship Division.

Progress: Completed! My wallet is quite happy that I managed to get both my qualifying scores already. Sheesh, it is an extra $15 every time you select “qualifying” with the test registration. I also can now stop worrying about it and just focus on the test at hand.

Participate in the USDF All-Breeds Awards Program.

Progress: Enrolled. It was nice to see that Ike’s breed organization is now a participant in the All-Breeds program. The popularity of Dutch Harness Horses in dressage has increased significantly in recent years. I had never even heard of the breed when I met Ike seven years ago, but someone let the secret out and now DHHs are fairly common.

Improve our half pass scores at the trot and canter.

Progress: Well….umm, yeah, there is still work to be done. I think I’m doing it right, but end up still being too straight, or somehow Ike is counter-flexed due to me overthinking the movement, or we end up just falling in the direction we are moving. Luckily we are gaining half points which are boosting our overall scores. Thank you to whomever suggested half points at the judging conference!

Have solid flying changes.

Progress: Depends on the day. In recent weeks, we have had some lovely, drama free changes. I attribute that to the improvement in our collected canter.  Ike is using his hind end better – more thoroughness and jump. His rider is also figuring out how to help him improve his work rather than just flailing around and praying that Ike can interpret the chaotic movements correctly.

Perform a Fourth Level test.

Progress: None yet, but Ms. C pulled out the Fourth Level Test 1 test to see what we need to accomplish is an indication that there is a chance it will happen before the end of the year. I was exhausted after mentally riding the test as she read the movements. Phew, it is no surprise that you typically do only one test per day at a show. There are things to learn like the walk pirouettes and the introduction to tempi changes, but I am confident that we will figure it out together.

I set out some ambitious goals for a team that is usually more tortoise than rabbit, but slow forward progress beats stagnation any day.

Enjoy the weekend!