Author Archives: vmceastonvet

Farm Animal Basics

One of my greatest joys so far in this job has been helping hobby farmers with their herds and flocks. I love working with these clients because they have so much love for their animals and want to know as much information as possible about health and welfare. I really enjoy listening to our clients’ goals for their animals and then providing support for any problems that come up.

The first thing I do when I meet a new client is get to know their housing, nutrition, and preventative medicine plan. I wanted to provide my typical “spiel” in a public place so everyone has access to the basics. You can give us a call to schedule a farm visit for a consultation during which we can advise on all the following subjects as they relate to your animals and your needs.


Orthopedic or lameness problems are common issues for farm animals. Instances of injury, arthritis, foot rot, or bumble-foot can be minimized by good, safe housing. Individual results may vary – lambs and kids are pretty wily and even the best fencing or barn siding can cause injury…

Sheep and goats need good sturdy fencing that is escape-proof. There should be no nails or wire jutting out that could cause injury and tetanus infection. Fill in “ankle-breaker” holes as they appear to keep the pasture nice and level.

Bedding in barns or coops should be cleaned regularly to decrease risk of parasitism and infectious disease, and to improve hygiene. Preferred type and depth of bedding varies by species but overall rules are: avoid potentially harmful substances, avoid substances that give off lots of fumes in enclosed housing, and keep depth somewhat thick to provide ample cushion.

Predators are managed differently for the species as well. Hens can be entirely protected by housing if they are enclosed on all sides in their coop/run (roof included! Ground level predators are not the only things that will try and get at your flock). Many of our clients will free-range their hens so if you choose to do that, I recommend locking them up at night when you are not watching them. Dog bite wounds are common reasons for hens to visit us for urgent care – please ensure your dogs do not think your small farm animals are for them to chase.


Feed is never a one size fits all. You shouldn’t feed your layer flock feed for meat birds nor should you feed your dairy goats feed that isn’t specifically for goats. Protein, fiber, macro and micro minerals, and caloric needs are different for each species and each “job” an animal might perform. Some animals are what I call “unemployed” and need very little or no grain besides good pasture, a nice grass hay, and a mineral block or mix.  Wethers or bucks that aren’t breeding are a great example of “unemployed” animals and can actually suffer negative consequences if fed too much grain. Since they are getting more calories than they need they are at a higher risk of developing urinary stones and becoming blocked (not being able to urinate) as well as obesity leading to orthopedic problems.

Mixing scratch and pellets for hens can lead to malnutrition because they may preferentially eat the yummy scratch over their balanced pellets. This is problematic because scratch doesn’t provide balanced nutrition and they will often fill up on scratch and not eat their complete feed. Over time you will see the negative effects of malnutrition.

Preventive medicine

Yearly physicals are very important for us so we can compare the individual animal’s health from year to year. That wellness exam time is a perfect opportunity to correct any issues and hopefully prevent any avoidable emergency visits.

We will be checking FAMACHA scores on all sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas that we see, and teaching you that skill if you don’t already feel comfortable. FAMACHA is a scale that was developed to estimate levels of anemia (red blood cell levels) which is a good indicator of how heavily parasitized a sheep, goat, llama, or alpaca is by pole worms, or Haemonchus contortus. This assessment will help your vet advise you on a deworming protocol for your herd.

I really really strongly advise against deworming every animal in your hobby farm on a regular basis without consulting a vet. There is a large amount of resistance to our traditional dewormers and frequent deworming without a protocol contributes to this problem. The bottom line: if there is resistance to dewormer(s) in your herd, it will be near impossible for me to help you treat a heavily parasitized animal when it comes time. By that point, the stakes may be life or death. Besides FAMACHA there are several other measures including regular and specialized fecal testing as well as management tools you can use to decrease parasite burden for your herd. Our large animal vets will help you develop a plan specific to the land and resources you have available.

Chickens also suffer from internal and external parasites. Good housing, hygiene, fecal testing as needed, and physical exams will help reduce the risk of heavy parasitism in your flock.

Other parts of the wellness visit include some combination of hoof trims, disbudding, castration, and vaccinations. Adult sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas should get yearly vaccines if appropriate. If you are breeding we may recommend boostering the females before giving birth as well as several boosters for the babies. Rabies should be given once yearly and can only be administered by a veterinarian. Other vaccinations are risk-based and a veterinarian can advise you on their use if necessary.

Give us a call to discuss your animals needs and we can schedule a farm visit consult or physicals on any animals of concern to help you maximize their quality of life as well as help you achieve your farm goals!

Dr. Eliana Greissworth,  DVM

What I (re)Learned During My Corona-cation

The sore throat and cough started right at the beginning of the pandemic.  Most of the sleepless night was spent assessing if I was having trouble breathing.  No doubt I acquired the virus traveling across the Midwest, contracted at some rest area in Ohio.  It had to be Ohio, the state that never ends.  Surely not my beloved Chicago or Madison could harbor such a nasty germ.

Thankfully I stockpiled Zicam, Airborne, Tylenol and throat lozenges.  By morning I decided it was just a cold and would be back to life and work in no time.  Ten days and ten fitful night sleeps later, the sore throat and cough persisted.  Wellness and daily life seem a distant memory.  What was initially a fun hiatus at home was getting stale. You can only enjoy so many Coronavirus toilet paper memes, and review so many graphs on impending doom.  Depression sets in, especially when looking at the endless to-do list, full of projects that require energy and stamina.

What now?

Perhaps the best way thru this was to focus on the positive, count my blessings, etc. etc.  I turned to the internet looking for guidance, but reading inspirational quotes online was not very uplifting. It felt counterfeit, and actually had the opposite effect on me.  Especially when I couldn’t be doing what I do best, medicine, pets and people.  I started feeling guilty about being home, when everyone else was struggling.  I missed my work family terribly. But it wasn’t rocket science to know being on the front lines coughing was never going to happen.

Plan B.

Accept the facts. Figure out what was enjoyable in this new Emily Dickensonian apocalyptic world.  I discovered with this extra time off, there were a few things missing in my old life.  I now have new favorite things, which I may be reluctant to give up once I do stop coughing.

  1. The power of daily naps – nothing beats a 2-hour nap in your own bed on a sunny afternoon.
  2. Reading- a book! Not just the newspaper or journals or social media. An actual book!
  3. Television is actually pretty boring.
  4. Hot, hot long showers before bed.
  5. Breakfast. What a fun meal, who knew?
  6. Eating meals together as a family at the dining table.
  7. Board games can be fun, and I can still hold my own at scrabble.
  8. I do love a clean house.
  9. There is nothing wrong with sitting and thinking, or not thinking, just musing.
  10. Life is good, to quote fatheur.

Dr. Elizabeth Bruce

Update on VMC services during the Covid-19 outbreak

VMC is committed to keeping your pets healthy while protecting the safety of our clients and employees during this Coronavirus outbreak.  We are doing our best to reduce the spread of disease by increasing our cleaning and disinfecting protocol.  We currently plan to continue with our normal business hours, with reduced services over the next few weeks.  To do this, please do not visit our hospital if you are experiencing any symptoms of illness. We want to continue to provide excellent care for your pets, and in order to do so, we need to stay healthy.

Please postpone wellness appointments, elective surgeries, and elective technician appointments.  If your pet is sick or needs immediate attention and you are not well, or have been around others who are not well, please call the clinic so we can determine how best to safely help your pet.

We have launched a telemedicine option, which will allow our doctors to speak to you directly, make a diagnosis and prescribe medications for existing clients. Download the TeleVet for client’s app on your phone or tablet, enter your information, and start a consult.

The link to the website is here

If your pet is sick and needs to come to the office, only one person can bring the patient to the hospital.  Once at VMC, stay in your car, then please call the main office number at 410-822-8505, and a technician will direct you to the exam room.  No multi pet appointments allowed, unless a dire emergency.  For clients requesting routine refills of medications for pets, understand we will dispense only a 2-week supply; additional refills can be obtained through our online store.

Many people have questions about transmission of the Coronavirus from their pets.

At this time, experts believe it is very unlikely. The World Health Organization currently advises that there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. The OIE states there is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this disease or that they become sick. The CDC also seconds that opinion, stating that, “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult, confusing situation.  Together we can work to keep our VMC family safe and healthy.

VMC’s Top Tips for Winter Horse Care

VMC’s Top Tips for Winter Horse Care

  1. Water

The risk of impaction colic increases as the temperatures drop and horses drink less. The average horse (1000lb) needs to drink 10-12 gallons of water per day. In winter we feed dried feeds such as grains and hay which are much lower in water content than grass.  Because of this your horse is going to need to drink more water.

Keep horses’ water between 45- and 65-degrees F, provide salt, and keep waterer clean.

  1. Feeding

Lower temperatures mean additional dietary needs in order for horses to maintain adequate body temperature. Feeding more grain is not enough to keep your horse warm. Feeding additional hay increases fermentation and keeps your horse warm. The lower the temperature goes the more hay they need.

  1. Shelter

Without shelter horses can tolerate temperatures around 0 degrees F, with adequate shelter they can withstand temperatures as low as -40. Providing shelter such as a run in will help keep your horses warm, dry and comfortable for the winter.

  1. Exercise

Horses benefit from exercise in the winter, whether that is from riding or from adequate turn out. The important thing to note if riding in the winter is to be sure to adequately cool your horse down. Avoid riding in deep snow or in icy conditions.

  1. Hoof care

Horse hooves do grow slower in the winter but regular trims are still necessary.  Regularly picking out feet is necessary as hooves are prone to packing “ice balls” and this can make it difficult and dangerous for horses to walk

Dr. Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS

Equine Gastric Ulcers

It is believed that between 50-90% of adult horses and 25-50% of foals may have gastric ulcers. In adults ulcers are more common in athletes, particularly racehorses and show horses; while in foals those that may be sick or are orphans and are fed less frequently than when they have access to the dam are at a higher risk for developing ulcers.

Why are ulcers so common in horses?
Athletes are usually fed large meals two to three times daily and stalled at least part of the day for management purposes or because of weather/bugs/etc. This management style may lead to ulcers for several reasons; a horse’s stomach is smaller than most other species and is designed to have an almost continuous intake of forage. Constant intake of forage helps to neutralize the acid that the stomach is continuously producing. Mechanical aspects of exercise can cause enough pressure in the abdomen such that parts of the stomach can be exposed to acid for prolonged periods of time. Transportation and chronic administration of NSAIDs such as bute or banamine also contribute to gastric ulcers.

What signs might a horse show if they have gastric ulcers?
The clinical signs associated with gastric ulcers can be quite extensive and include:
Poor appetite
Attitude changes
Not performing well
Intermittent colic
Grinding teeth
Acting “cinchy”
Weight loss
Loose manure
And many others

How will we diagnose ulcers?
The only way that we can diagnose gastric ulcers definitively is by performing a gastroscopy, which involves passing an endoscope into the horse’s stomach and evaluating the stomachs lining. This procedure is not invasive and is relatively easily done.

Preventing and treating ulcers
It is unlikely that the majority of us will stop riding, hauling and competing, but there are certainly steps that we can take to prevent ulcers. Free choice hay or pasture is a great way to buffer stomach acid. Reduce the amount of grain your horse is being fed and increase the forage if possible or break grain feedings into more small meals and increase the forage at each meal. Alfalfa can help reduce the risk of ulcers for those horses that may have it. Also try to limit the use of NSAIDS. There are several products on the market that may help to prevent gastric ulcers these include Purina Outlast and SmartPak SmartGut Ultra to name a few.
There is only one FDA approved treatment for gastric ulcers and that is Gastrogard, which you can get from your veterinarian after having your horse evaluated for ulcers.

In the coming weeks we will be posting articles on our Facebook page that will further delve into equine gastric ulcer syndrome.

Caitlin Hutcheson BVMS


More in depth information is available here:


Why you should look a gift horse in the mouth

They say “you should never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but you should definitely have your vet take a look.   There is a lot of valuable information that you can gain  about a horse from looking at its teeth and the inside of its mouth.

Why worry about dental care for my horse?

It is important to have your veterinarian be involved in your horse’s dental care from the time they are young through their adult life. Horse’s teeth are hypsodont meaning that they continuously erupt throughout their life.  Horses only get one set of teeth, and these days many horses are living well into their 30s, so quality dental care is extremely important.  As the teeth erupt and the horse chews its food, over time the teeth can develop sharp points, teeth can become loose or fall out and other teeth can over grow or erupt incorrectly, potentially causing some major issues. Many malocclusions, or misalignment of teeth, can start when the horse is very young even as early as about two and a half years old when the horse’s permanent teeth begin erupting. This is why it is so important to have your veterinarian involved in the oral care of your horse. Over the lifetime of the horse these malocclusions can cause major problems. If we catch them when the horse is young, we are better able to correct or manage the problem.

What does “comprehensive oral exam” mean?

We start by performing a thorough physical exam on your horse to evaluate overall health and determine if it is safe to give the horse a light sedative. Sedation is used to help relax the horse and its strong jaw muscles and allows us to place a speculum in the mouth. Warm water is used to rinse the mouth to remove left over feed and hay so that we can better visualize the oral cavity. We look for signs of inflammation, ulcers, foreign bodies and wounds.  Each tooth is examined and palpated to determine if there are any malocclusions, missing or loose/fractured teeth or periodontal disease.

After evaluating the horse’s mouth, your veterinarian will explain their findings and make a plan with you based on these findings and recommend future exams and the need for floating. In most cases a routine float will be performed, in other cases more advanced work will be necessary. It is even possible that no action at all needs to be taken. It is important to note that not all conditions can be corrected in one visit.

Why should I have my vet perform dental exams and floating and not an equine dentist?

            Many equine dentists do have a degree of training; however, they are not licensed veterinarians so they are unfortunately not held to the same standard of care or of liability.  If there are any concerns from the owner about what was done, the quality of the work or the outcome, there may be little recourse as there are no governing bodies for lay dentists at this time. Legally, only veterinarians can administer sedation, diagnose, create a treatment plan and oversee it.  It is important for horse owners to be educated on this issue to make the best decisions on who you choose to have work with you and your horse in all aspects of their health care.

Dr. Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS

For more detailed information please visit

Photo credit: Kirsten Jackson of Dental Vet


Photo Credit:  Caitlin Hutcheson, BVMS, of Veterinary Medical Center

The Long and Winding Road to Le Lion – The Final Day

The last day…

Quantum came off xc yesterday dragging Doug back to the barn and still full of run.  He lost a shoe (maybe on the drop off the roof?) and had a couple small scrapes on his legs.  We jogged him after the shoe went back on, and he looked absolutely great.  So, we all went home.

The jog up was supposed to be at 8:30, but the French seemed to have a vague concept of time, so when we go to the barn at 9:30, it was just in time to see him jog up and aside from spooking at stuff, he looked ready to go.

I went up to stadium to watch the 6-year olds go.  The stadium was held in the same place dressage was, so on grass and I think the fences were at most 6 feet from the rail.  We estimated 4-5000 spectators – all the seats were filled and they were 3 deep on the rail.  It was quite closed in feeling compared to what we see in the states at the big events.

The course was beautifully decorated – lots of plain jumps, with tons of plants, a Liverpool, and 2 double combinations for the 6-year olds.  And I was wrong – it was not just a dressage contest.   We saw maybe 6 double clears, a lot of rails, a fall of horse /rider and some unpleasant rounds.  These horses are still green, and the atmosphere overwhelmed some of them (and to be honest, some of the riders too). Now, I’m an amateur rider and I make plenty of bad decisions on fences, so I get it, but I really didn’t expect so much at a Championship. There was a lot of hardware in these horses’ mouths, and some of them were overbitted and a lot were just strong and running through all the aids.  Lots of pulling and yanking.   Kitty King’s ride was lovely – soft and forward and deserving of the win.

The crowd was great – watched every horse, groaned when rails came down, cheered when a clear round happened and although they did cheer a little more for the French riders, they were appreciative of everyone.

I did, however, hate, hate, hate the light plastic jump poles.  If horses hit them, they bounced up and caught at least 2 horses between their legs, causing one to fall and another to make a heroic effort to stay on its feet.  Pretty is as pretty does and safety needs to come first.

At noon, they had a parade of the winners of the 2 and 3-year old Selle Francais youngsters, who were also competing somewhere on the grounds for the free jumping and under saddle jumping   national titles (at least the 3-year olds were. Not sure what the 2-year olds did).  If you thought the atmosphere was a lot for a 6-year-old, just imagine the 2 and 3-year olds.  The Spanish Riding School would have been proud of the airs above the ground.  However, not one person got hurt and no horse got loose, surprisingly enough.

Then, much to my surprise, they totally redid the jump course for the 7-year olds.  They didn’t just add a triple, or increase the height, they moved all the fences, and made a totally different course. That’s something I’ve never seen before. Again, it didn’t look too bad from my vantage point but again, very few double clears. Maybe 12?    The biggest questions were in asking the horses to move up to a bigger jump (a triple bar and a square oxer off a tight turn) then come back quietly for a skinny/Liverpool and a double set short.  The quality of the riding was much better, but some of the horses looked tired and some just looked like this was the end of their scope – hard as they tried, it just wasn’t going to be a clear round.

Quantum was still fresh and was still not a fan of the close quarters.  He was jumping way over the fences, but a spook down the triple line caused Doug to ride him forward and he got too far in and pulled the last rail in the triple and then had the last fence down.  Even with 2 rails, he moved up several spots and ended up 29th out of the original 69 starters.

I want to thank   Christine Turner and Tim Holekamp for making this trip possible for Quantum, and Dave and Susan Drillock for supporting him as owners   And I especially want to thank Doug Payne for buying this horse as a yearling and bringing him along to this point.  No, he didn’t win, but that isn’t the point of the grant. The point is to further a horse’s education to be a 4 star horse for the future.  I know Quantum experienced stuff he has never seen before in the US, and that will only make him a better horse, and hopefully a team horse.

I also want to add that being over here makes you a little more appreciative of what we have at home, like Diet Pepsi and gas that isn’t 8$/gallon.  And, despite all our differences in the US right now, we are lucky, lucky, lucky.  One of the things we saw this week was not only the armed police and mounted police who were very visible, but army regulars in full body armor with automatic weapons who were patrolling the crowds.

Thanks everybody for reading.  Au revoir from France and go US Eventing!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

The Long and Winding Road – Part 5

The true test – xc day!

Well, what can I say about the crowds… I think unbelievable might be the answer.  I have never seen so many people on a xc course in the US – Ever – I’m not sure even at the event formerly known as Rolex. I think the estimates for other years were at 60,000 and I believe it.  And it seemed to be a much different crowd than we normally see in the US.  It was people of all ages – riding bikes, walking ALL over the course from one end to the other.  Lots and lots of baby strollers, small children, families who had picnic lunches all over the course.  No tailgating – these people walked.  On foot.  No shuttles and no complaints. There were large parking areas that were several miles away that had large shuttle buses, but once you got to the event you walked.

There were strategically placed food trucks around the course, (with wine, of course), serving pate, baguettes American (nope, not going there again) and hamburgers with goat cheese as well as French fries. Lots of loud speakers so you could hear well.  Unfortunately, although there were 2 announcers, the major speaker was French (well, duh), but my limited French knowledge was certainly an impediment.  It would have helped if the numbers were only 1-10.  The whole two hundred and whatever was confusing, so a lot of times I wasn’t sure who was going.  In an effort to go green this year, there were no paper programs- everything was on line so you had to stop and consult your phone to see what rider you had.  International roaming gets pricey (and more on that later!)

Doug didn’t go until later afternoon, so we got there early to watch the 6-year olds.  The course rode well for them and basically most of the standings were unchanged – time was easy to make, so unless the stadium is way, way tough, I expect the placings will be pretty similar.  The youngsters handled most things well.  I saw a few issues with them propping at the first landing in the first water and some scary hanging knees on the lion on the mound.  The lion ended up with enough leg grease on him to enter a greased pig contest. He caused at least 2 rider falls, even with the extra grease.

We watched the 6-year olds do the big drop off the roof with really no issues- that didn’t carry over to the 7 years old though, as that and the corner after it were the most influential fences on course.  As a matter of fact, the 7-year-old course had 10 riders get eliminated or retire, another 7 have refusals, 8 with time only and 1 frangible pin.  It truly was not a dressage contest!

Most of the issues were with the first water, then the drop to an angled brush with a separately numbered angled fence that caused a bunch of glance offs, and the following corner – upright and narrow that caught out a number of horses, as well as causing several falls. If you blasted into the drop with poor control or fighting to get back, you were done for.

Quantum looked great and Doug felt that he was up to the course.  Aside from breaking his lead shank and getting loose right before xc(!!), we were ready. (and I say that as if I had anything to do with the whole thing, which I did not!)

We decided that we would stay at the drop fence, and since there was live streaming we could watch Doug’s round and see that bogey fence in person.  So, as he started out, I excitedly tuned in to live stream, just to have my wireless carrier tell me that all the GPS I have been using has eaten up all my bytes, and my video would now run at half speed.  That means it doesn’t run.  So, as I cursed Verizon in audible tones, I thought I would miss the whole thing. Well, not to worry, because I did anyway, as Doug rode in between a French rider and a British one. That meant they showed nothing of his round (but did show the French rider refusing twice – once in regular speed and once in slow motion).  I’m still mad at Verizon though.  And the other thing is that no one except Americans cheer after a good fence.  They clap politely.  So, my screaming “Woo hoo!!”and jumping up and down was met with some odd looks.

Quantum was nothing short of spectacular.  He handled the crowds, the questions, and the tight quarters like a pro. And because of the TB in him, there was gas left in the tank and he went into the last run up to the finish on fire. He moved up 28 places by virtue of his double clear.

Someone asked me today if I would change my breeding program based on what I have seen in the last couple of days.  I thought long and hard about it and decided no.  There are horses that did well today that I think will struggle with longer courses. There were some good gallopers that weren’t good jumpers. I saw some really, really nice youngsters today. But mine was one of them.  I think I’ll stick with what I’m doing and I know we have more of these horses in the US. We just have to develop them- they are out there!!

On to the final horse inspection and stadium tomorrow.

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

Follow this link to see Doug’s YouTube helmet cam footage:

The Long and Winding Road Part 4

Day 4 (I think…)

It is hard to keep track of time when you aren’t in the “real world” but we did dressage today, so it must be Friday.  Courtney Carson had Quantum looking like the star he is, with a set of braids the hunter people would have been killed to have.  Quantum didn’t have quite the test we had hoped for, but he is for sure going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.  The atmosphere was quite electric and he felt it (and being half TB, when he feels it, you know it.  No internalizing for this guy!).

Nowhere in the US do you have the crowds so close to the ring, all the tents literally on 3 sides of the ring and the crowd moving and climbing right next to the ring.  He was tense, and his lateral work and canter work showed that.  There were no major mistakes, but the connection was not always there and he was penalized for it, rightly so.  I thought Doug did a masterful job keeping the lid on, and there were some very good movements.   His trot work in particular had such an improvement in the cadence and lift compared to a couple months ago.  When he gets strong enough to carry that, he will be fabulous.  What a learning experience for him – it’s going to make the event formerly known as Rolex a walk in the park when he is there in 2 years. 😊

I watched the 6 years old this morning, and there were still large variations in the scoring, with scores 9-10% points difference between the judges.  As I’ve said before, a lot of very heavy types, with a lot of straight dressage breeding.  I just can’t see some of these horses going xc at upper levels.  First not with their breeding, and second not with their type.  In the past, the 6-year olds have had more of a dressage contest here, so I don’t expect the standings to change much for them tomorrow.

The 7-year olds are certainly more of a type that I can see galloping, as they are on a whole, more of the type I expect to see.  I especially liked Birmane – just the type I expect to see going well xc.  I have heard that xc is more influential with the 7-year olds, so hopefully that will be the case.  There are a lot of scores packed in between 25 and 35!

The amazing xc elves have been hard at work overnight with finishing touches.  The dragons at fence 1 laid an egg overnight, and some wooden horses were corralled next to the big drop.  I have to admit I didn’t walk the whole course again, so tomorrow there might be even more surprises.  The very influential corners at fence 21 have been softened with a black flag option that will takes some time due to the roping, but at least you have an option because they are both pretty narrow.

As far as dogs, apparently it isn’t all about Jack Russells.  The French have a lot of dogs here (just like the US).  I saw a bunch of whippets and French Bulldogs. (breeds I don’t usually see at events in the US) and not a single Lab.  That’s weird.

The trade fair is a little quieter than ours.   As usual, saddles and horse stuff, but fewer “crafty” things. Socks seem to be the “in thing” to have, judging by the number of booths.  Oh, and of course, wine.  Boy, is there wine.  But no chocolate anywhere, which I find both sad and disturbing.  As is the lack of pastries – I was expecting an epicurean delight of pastries, and no, not a single place selling them.

The wine comes both by the glass and by the case, and there is a very strange baguette you can buy that is labeled “American” which contains ham, cheese, lettuce and sliced hard boiled eggs with butter. My husband says one try of it was enough – and he is usually an omnivore, so I’m guessing the taste was exactly what it sounds like.  Apparently, he hadn’t sampled enough wine.

So, after drinking more wine tonight, relying on GPS to get us home yet one more way – we haven’t taken the same way home yet, we are looking forward to a great day of xc tomorrow!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

The Long and Winding Road, Part 3

We got up early and had a very French breakfast made by our host, which beat the piece of tongue I had last night (it had hair on it, so I’m not sure what part it came from, but I can assure you as a veterinarian, it was NOT tongue).  Then we headed out to watch Doug school early, then watch dressage and walk xc.

The horses are all feeling a little fresh – it is pretty cool in the morning and it was reassuring to see several riders head out to school flat work with neck straps.  I feel a little less like a weenie. Quantum schooled well, but may need a bit of a gallop before dressage tomorrow. He goes at 2:40 so hopefully will be a little more settled by the time we get to that.

Next up – dressage watching. The 6-year olds went in the morning and we were able to watch the top couple of riders go.  The scoring was a little difficult to understand at times – it didn’t seem the judges were all looking for the same thing and seemed to be rewarding opposite sides of the spectrum.  At one point, the final scores for 1 rider were off by 11% – that’s a pretty big range and it continued across the day.  It varied as well – not one single judge was always high or low.  I did get to see a 10 though – for a leg yield by Cooley Moonshine who is currently leading the 6-year olds.   I was impressed by Michael Jung’s ride – he rode his horse in a longer frame which I thought was better for his horse, as it is not the most elastic mover and it allowed him to show relaxation instead of cramming the horse together.  The youngsters did well in the environment – some were tense, but they handled it well and no major malfunctions seemed to occur.

The 7-year olds are quite impressive.  Ingrid Klimke is currently leading and had a lovely, forward test that wasn’t rushed, as some of the others I saw today were. The horses again handled everything well, and most of the tension was seen in the connection to the hand with some unsteadiness evident.  There are some very heavy movers though – I wonder how they will hold up over a 4* course.

I did see the Diarado, who is currently in third and although he wasn’t as relaxed as he could have been, I continue to like him.  I also liked Bogosse du Levant, an Anglo- Arab who though unsteady in his connection, was a loose, elastic mover and I think his gallop will be effortless.  I guess I’ll find out!

We then walked xc with Doug, Jess, Hudson, Marilyn and Richard Payne, and some of their friends here for the event.  It was kinda like a class trip, with people going ahead, having to wait for others and people falling behind to take pictures of the jumps.  They are truly amazing. The course is along galloping paths which are roped off pretty narrowly, so twisty and turny with some open spaces. It is really dry here, but they continue to water and aerate, so I think the footing will be fine.   The first couple of fences are pretty small (like even I would jump the first 4 or so!), and then they get harder.  I gave up thinking I could ride them after about fence 6.   There are a lot of accuracy questions and some very skinny corners and lines late in the course when the horses are going to be tired.  I’m also unsure what the course will look like with 60,000 people roped in close – I think that might be the toughest part for Quantum.

As far as the jumps, my favorites were the snails (escargots, for you French folks) and the dragons which are jump #1.  They are fairly innocuous dragons, but I like them anyway.  I’m not sure which is going to be the hardest combinations on course – there is a big drop off a house roof (yes, I did say a roof), 4 strides to a skinny to a 2 strides skinny, all down a pretty good slope, and a turning question which involves a skinny ditch and wall to uneven terrain and a corner, so….

So, looking forward to tomorrow and dressage.  Quantum is just starting to mature into himself, so I’m hoping this is not going to be a dressage contest. Watch the live stream and cheer us on!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan