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Aiken 2018: Prep

Feb 13 2018

You would think that going on vacation is relaxing, but there is a ton of work involved in getting ready to go on vacation with your horse.  It typically takes me 10 weeks to get ready for our annual trip down South each year.  Here is a summary of some of the planning involved as Cullen and I get ready to head to Aiken, SC this weekend.  This year, I am fortunate that we get to go 1 week in February and 2 weeks in March to train with Elissa.

Veterinary Care – In December, I had the dentist out to float Cullen’s teeth.  I have him see a dentist twice a year to make sure he is comfortable eating and holding the bit in his mouth.  In January, I had another vet visit to give Cullen his annual vaccinations and update his Coggins test and health certificate.  Cullen was vaccinated for 9 different diseases (that is standard for show horses)!  Cullen typically spikes a fever for 24 hours after getting vaccines so we watch him carefully to make sure he is comfortable and recovers well.  I had a third vet visit to do flexion tests and jog him to make sure Cullen feels good and is up to the physical demands of the training trip.  Cullen passed the exam with flying colors!  There is a forth vet visit planned later this week to do a final updated health certificate.

At this point, I could also have one or more additional treatments done on Cullen as needed – acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic therapy).  Fortunately, at this point in the season, the treatments aren’t needed and my checkbook gets a little relief. 

Waiting for the vet
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Truck and Trailer – In January, I took my truck to get an oil change, filter change, and general overall inspection.  After paying for this work to be done, Nathan and I decided it was time to upgrade the truck.  We ended up trading in the white 2004 F250 Diesel for a black 2016 F250 Diesel.  The new truck starts and drives like a dream!  The truck needs a gooseneck ball installed in the bed, but then it should be all ready to go.  I also took my trailer to get annual maintenance which includes checking the tires, floor, lights, brakes as well as packing the ball bearings.

The new truck
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Fitness and Basic Training – Before investing the time and money in a training trip, I make sure Cullen and I have a basic level of fitness and training.  Cullen has been ridden 5 days a week consistently all winter including 45 minute dressage schools and jumping small courses and gymnastics.  Unfortunately, the weather and the footing outside has been so bad that I haven’t gotten to do any trot/canter sets in the field.  I’ll have to remember that gap in fitness prep when we school cross country in Aiken.  For myself, I’ve been working out consistently for the last 3 months – weight lifting, circuit training, Booiaka dance, and running on a treadmill in addition to riding.

Jumping in the indoor
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Road hacking on a day when it was too muddy to ride in the fields
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Working out with the personal trainer at the gym
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Tack and Equipment – In the Fall, I had the saddle fitter come out and check my saddles.  He found that the dressage saddle fit Cullen well, but the jump saddle needed a minor adjustment.  The saddle was sent to Florida for a few weeks to be adjusted and now it sits in a better balance on Cullen’s back.  Fortunately, all of Cullen’s other tack fits him well and all of my barn equipment is in good working condition.  I bought Cullen a neck cover for his Back on Track sheet, but otherwise didn’t have to buy anything special for the trip this year.

Dressed up in his dressage tack
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Grain, Hay, Supplements – The barn owner is going to pack up grain and hay for me to take on my trip this year.  It is important that the horse’s diet to remain the same when they travel to reduce stress and the risk of colic.  In addition to hay and grain, Cullen will also be fed an electrolyte supplement in Aiken to keep him drinking well and replace the salt he will lose from sweating.  When we get back to Kentucky, Cullen will be fed a supplement to clear any sand from his gut. 

Farrier – Cullen gets his feet done by a farrier every 5-6 weeks year round.  I have to time the visits so that he sees the farrier the week before our trip South.  The goal is to make sure Cullen doesn’t have to be seen by an unfamiliar farrier out of state.

Cullen’s feet after a farrier visit
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Body Clipping – Cullen grows a super smooth, light winter coat.  If we stayed in Kentucky all winter, I wouldn’t get him clipped, but it is very beneficial to get your horse clipped before heading down South to warmer temperatures and lots of sand.  It makes cooling off horses after a ride and hosing them down so much easier.  Plus, Cullen is so handsome when he is clipped.  :-)

Cullen after his body clipping
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Well, that’s about it!  All I have left is to do laundry and pack for myself.  Stayed tuned for a bunch of Aiken training blog posts in the next 6 weeks.

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