Leptospirosis in Horses

The saying goes that a parent knows. I guess the same is true even when your children aren’t human.

Last Saturday, my mare was in the wash rack giving me side eye to assess whether I brought treats. I noticed something. Her sclera (the white portion of the eye that shows when your horse’s head is facing forward but they are looking to the side) was red. There was no swelling, no tears, no pain, and she wasn’t squinting.

Red Sclera

Red Sclera

I have seen and treated several corneal abrasions and ulcers in my time. But her cornea looked perfectly glossy and intact.

I’ll admit it: I am a concerned and involved parent when it comes to my animals. But when you know, you know.

I put on a fly mask hoping it was allergies. Sunday the redness seemed a bit less. Off we went to a horse show. After my second test, the Judge mentioned her eye.

Murmz mask

Neo-Poly-Bac ointment every eight hours until the vet appointment. And then I got the call: no ulcer, no abrasion. Apparent uveitis without a clear cause. The vet gave her a solid dose of atropine to dilate the eye. In the aqueous fluid of the front chamber, there was a fibrin deposit.

My horse is like an odd ailments junkie: if you are selling, she is buying. From respiratory infections to ligament injuries, she has been through it all. The silver lining is that my vet is like family. She was honest but tried not to scare me. And most of all, she already knew what my response would be: test her for everything and treat her for what we know. A few generous banamine doses later and the redness subsided.

Banamine on board and feeling good.

Banamine on board and feeling good.

By Thursday we had the pressure readings. And they are wacky. The symptomatic eye came back a very normal 14. The seemingly healthy eye came back with several very abnormally high readings in the 80s. I made an appointment to see a leading equine ophthalmologist at New Bolton Center next week. I don’t mess around with eyes.

In the meantime, my phone rang this evening. My (genuinely surprised) vet told me the results of the blood-work she pulled just as a precaution. “She tested positive for Leptospirosis.”

Leptospires are spiral-shaped bacteria that swim, for lack of a more scientific term. Horses housed near where possum, raccoon, fox, squirrel, rabbit, and bobcat live have increased potential for exposure to leptospires. Dogs, cattle, pigs, and skunks have also been identified as hosts. Rodents, including rats and mice, are “reservoirs” of the disease.

I wouldn’t even venture to guess where, when, or how my mare was exposed because with the exception of pigs and cattle, she has lived in close proximity to all of those critters. And the pathway of infection is generally through ingestion of urine. Think about how many animals might pee in your horse’s water trough in any given night! Last fall, I grabbed my bridle from the tack room and it moved as a mouse fell from my hand to the floor.

One recent abstract suggests that acute respiratory issues may be caused by Leptospirosis. While I have no reason to believe the two are linked, my mare did come down with a respiratory infection this winter.

And Leptospirosis can cause severe kidney and liver problems.

Though there isn’t scientific consensus, Leptospirosis has been linked to recurrent uveitis (moon blindness) in infected horses.

Leptospirosis is considered rare, but there have been outbreaks in several states over the years. Just this spring, there’s a spike in Lepto cases of dogs in Florida. Despite substantial research, there is no vaccine for horses. Dr. Yung-Fu Chang at Cornell is working to develop one.

On the one hand, I’m terrified about what this means for my sweet girl. Any damage to her organs, including the eye, could be irreversible. But on the other hand, I’m glad to have some clear answers and specific treatment protocols. She will start on an oral antibiotic to kill the leptospires and a probiotic to support her digestive system. Hopefully the experts at New Bolton will have some guidance on future eye care. We’ll take it one day at a time. And those mice better watch out…

Murmz cavesson


Chipped Sensitive Hooves? Try This Soak in a Pinch

Capital CowHorse came up significantly lame a few weeks ago. Her toes were long and the left front shoe was loose. The vet pulled her shoes for a thorough exam and recommended a decent trim. We discussed whether to reset and decided that if she can be barefoot, she should.

I called the farrier, and left town for a week. When I returned, there seemed to be separation between the horn and the sole. It wasn’t clear whether this was biological (a fungus or bacteria degrading the laminae of the white line), mechanical (long toes, loose shoes, and nail holes), or chemical (a nutrient deficiency). But even if it’s one of the latter, a secondary infection would only exacerbate the problem. white line

Within two weeks, her feet looked almost shredded. And she was sore. The left fore was sensitive to hoof testers; and a nerve block to the hoof resolved 90% of the lameness. This vet knows my mare. She suggested soaking with CleanTrax in case there was some white line disease.

Shredded laminae and nail holes.

Shredded laminae and nail holes.

It took a few days to get the product, so in the meantime I thought I’d try a home remedy.

I picked and scrubbed her feet well and tossed a flake of hay in the aisle. I mixed 1 part povidine/iodine 10% (PVP-I) solution (brand name Betadine) with 4 parts lukewarm water in a shallow bucket and soaked each foot for 5 minutes. When I turned her out, she took off. When the excitement of freedom wore off she slowed to a jog. While she wasn’t 100% sound, she was obviously more comfortable.soaking

PVP-I kills bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, and mold. And it is astringent. Generations of horsemen have used PVP-I to kill thrush, draw out abscesses, and harden hooves. In a pinch, I will use this soak again. With any luck, I’ll have a barefoot sound horse in no time.

This is NOT a Pony Club approved soaking method...

This is NOT a Pony Club approved soaking method…

Clean Horse with Mrs. Conn’s Bath Day Sponges

My horse became the smelly kid this winter. I’m embarrassed, but I might as well own it. I am a disciplined groomer. But with the unusually long and intense winter and the copious mud, she became a dusty smelly fur-ball. Exhibit A:

Mud Murmer

I coat her legs in poultice at the slightest hint of heat. It gives her a nice crusty clay residue. Exhibit B:

Murmer Poultice

For our first show this season, we were greeted by freezing rain and snow. I curried hard and gave her a hot towel to conceal the grime. But by the second show, it was time.

Having ridden horses for over twenty years, I thought I had tried every shampoo, sponge, and method known to man. Except one: Mrs. Conn’s Bath Day Enriched Sponges.

Mrs Conns Sponge

Please ignore my dirty fingernails…

These guys come beautifully packaged. Upon opening the box, the smell of clean pours out.

The Lemon Meringue formula has bamboo extract that is supposed to bring out high-shine and is “perfect for show prep.” Tools for this endeavor:

Take note: no bucket and no curry.

I rinsed Murmer and dirt was visibly pouring down her body. I wet the sponge and got to work.

First, her neck and mane. The sponge is the perfect size: not to small and not too big. It was easy to scrub down to the base of the mane.mrs conns

Then, her haunches. As you can see, the shampoo creates a thick and rich lather that is a magnet for ground-in dirt.

Mrs Conns haunches

Finally, her back and tail. Having evenly distributed lather made it easy to clean down to the root of her tail. And because the formula doesn’t dry the hair, it actually helped detangle.

Mrs Conns back

Murmer doesn’t let me wash her head. But because the sponge requires relatively little water, I went for it. She enjoyed the good scratch and when I rinsed, I was thrilled with her blazing white star.

With shampoo left, I scrubbed her hooves inside and out.

In a Washington Washing-Day miracle, the soap stayed on the horse and the sponge, and not on me. It rinsed out easily and thoroughly.

Tail braided, fluffy, clean, and dry, she was ready to load up and head out:

Ready for the Show

After the show, she was sweaty but glossy:

Murmer Flowers

Two days and a few good rolls later, her star was still blinding:


And four days later Bally notices her shine:


Smelly kid no more! Take the poll below and let me know what you think. There might just be a follow-up to this post…



Noble Outfitters “Perfect Fit” Gloves

Growing up in Florida, I very rarely wore gloves. I would throw on a lightweight pair for horse-shows only. I couldn’t stand them. My blistered hands wanted glove love, but I felt so far from the bit when wearing them.

Over the last five years living in the Arctic North Mid-Atlantic, I’m learning to tolerate them. This winter in particular, gloves were a God-send. But let’s be honest, there is no “feel” quite like direct skin-rein contact. So I’m often disappointed by gloves.

For lightweight spring and summer versions, I need grip, slip, and FIT.

Noble Outfitters is a newer company based in California. If anyone can make Florida-girl-friendly gloves, they are probably based in a warm locale. Noble’s signature glove is the “Perfect Fit.” Pretty bold! A name like that dares you to give them a try, right?

Their website has a handy size chart. (Pardon the pun.)

I measured just within a 6. The gloves arrived yesterday. I did what any other warm-blooded equestrian does when a new “toy” arrives: I opened them on the front porch before even changing out of my work clothes!

photo (4)

At first glance, I noticed a few really great attributes. “Noble Outfitters” is stamped into the rubber on the wrist rather than printed in white like several other brands. Because it’s discrete, I can wear these both everyday and in a show.

The hang-tag is strung through tiny loops inside the gloves rather than the typical plastic tag fasteners.

photo (7)

No holes in the fabric, no need for scissors, and no contortions to try them on. This may seem like a very small thing, but it indicates that Noble thinks through the purchase experience.

Fit. The material is thin and stretchy. The dollar trick worked. The 6s fit beautifully without bulky seams. photo (8)


Grip. Handling horses requires decent grip to open gates, hold lead ropes, or keep a steady contact on the rein. The Perfect Fits handled these tasks easily.

photo (5)

Slip. Horse-folk understand what I mean when I say I need “slip” in a glove. I don’t want to have to throw the rein towards the bit. There is no stick, tack, or goo to the grip of the Perfect Fits. As I rode stretch circles and free walk, I opened my hands and the rein slipped through nicely.

Bonuses. The gloves are touch-screen compatible. My dad called. I had to fight the instinct to bite the tip of the glove and pull it off. I swiped once, glove and all. “Hi Dad.” And like magic, there he was! I was also able to snap photos and pull up the dressage test I’ll ride this weekend to refresh my memory. I’ll probably still take the gloves off for more intricate iManeuvering, like sending work emails, but it’s a very nice feature.

The girls. I took this photo with the gloves on.

The girls. I took this photo with the gloves on.

Considering the feel, the price ($22.99), and the added benefits, the name suits these. Try a pair! You may just feel the glove love after all…


P.S. As a former Pony-Clubber, the Noble Tomorrow program dedicating 5% of profits to equestrian youth programs is personally meaningful. 

P.P.S. Information “straight from the horse’s mouth” is said to be the most dependable, and Noble takes this to heart with “consumer focused design.”  Send them your ideas. I did! Or if you’re in CA, you can join one of their product development meetings.



Grooming Tip: Horse Leg “Feathers”

Chances are, your horse either has “feathers” year-round, or only during the coldest winters (depending on the breed).

The fact that I left these “hairy heels” unclipped used to send my trainer over the edge. And with a little Irish draft in her blood, my mare sports perennial leg-hair. But feathers do serve a purpose.

First, they provide protection for the sensitive tendons and ligaments that run along the backside of the cannon bone.

And second, these long hairs (when kept clean) wick moisture away from delicate skin to prevent fungal infections including scratches and rain rot.

That said, “feathers” tend to trap grime. It’s unwise to take a curry to these sinewy and sensitive soft tissues of the leg. I’ve discovered a great trick that comes in especially handy during prime shedding and mud season (horse people call this “Spring”). And it doesn’t even require stepping foot in a tack shop.


  • Flea comb (Yes, for a dog!)

First, angle down toward the hoof and comb. Then flip the comb so that the tines face the horse’s armpit and repeat like so:


Add this to your daily grooming routine and you will be rewarded with beautifully clean, dry, fungus-free horse legs. What spring-cleaning practices have you adopted?

First Horse Show in Years



This may not look like much. But it took two-and-a-half years, several vet bills, sleepless nights, and lots of tears to get here. Prior to this moment, the last time we rode a centerline to a judge was November 2011.

I haven’t been taking lessons, but I felt it was time for an independent third party without reason to either see or to ignore signs of lameness in my mare to evaluate our progress. Owners of horses with traumatic or prolonged injuries know that the mind is a powerful thing and it can deceive. Some days I feel a shortened stride when she is moving beautifully.

In the DC area, there are several options for spring horse shows. For our first outing, I wanted a relaxed atmosphere close to the barn. Frederick Area Dressage Shows fit the bill.

I packed everything the night before. Freezing rain and high winds greeted us as we hitched up on show-day.

My mare has always hopped right on the trailer. But the last two trips have been to the vet hospital. Ever the honest horse, she walked up the ramp obediently, but trembling visibly. While she had no interest in her breakfast, she was at least calm enough to take a carrot.

Our schedule got derailed by the weather. We arrived at Pleasant Ridge Farm just a little too late to warm up under saddle. And we managed to get the truck and trailer stuck in the mud. I unloaded my mare and began tacking her up in the warmth of a pristine barn aisle, safe from the elements, and tried to shut out my nerves.

My veterinarian and friend was up first. She had a lovely ride on her young thoroughbred and eased my worries with good advice as I entered the ring, “Ride her forward.” Off we went.

After the final halt-salute, I approached the judge. She promptly did the one thing that’s sure to make me like a person: she complimented my horse. And then she mentioned that I seemed tense, which made the mare tense. She recommended trying to relax my back and allow the horse to stretch into the contact.

For the next ride, I did just that. The judge noticed that I had taken her advice to heart.


We placed Third and Second respectively, just behind the vet who managed the very rehabilitation program that got us to this point. I am tickled. We’ve come from complete stall rest to a decent horse show appearance in a year’s time. And in one day’s time, my horse went from trembling on the trailer to calmly finishing her hay as freezing rain turned to SNOW on the drive home.

I am a very lucky girl. The day absolutely would not have been possible without the tireless support of my husband and my father. These two hitched up the trailer, extracted it from the mud, braved brutal weather conditions, filmed and photographed my ride, and kept me calm by smiling even amidst total chaos.

I see many more horse shows in our very near future.

Horse Treat RECIPE: Dressage Nest

Lots going on in the Capital Cow-house. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we’ve had dressage on the brain. And we are praying for spring.

After a very wintry day and two successful dressage tests, here’s a new seasonal recipe. Your horse won’t complain if the Easter bunny hides these at the barn…

dressage nest and daffodil


Dressage Nests

  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c natural peanut butter (Find a brand with only one – yes, 1 – ingredient. Peanuts. Pure and simple)
  • 3 tbsp honey (A native Floridian, I chose Orange Blossom)
  • 1/4 c water
  • Jumbo nonpareil sprinkles

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Grease muffin tin. Blend oats, peanut butter, honey, and water thoroughly in food processor. Drop spoonfuls into each muffin tin. Press the mixture flat into each muffin well. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove tin from oven and increase temperature to 300 degrees F. Press nonpareils into the surface of each “nest.” Return the tin to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes. Let cool.

dressage nest close

Your mouth will water when you smell these treats. And your horse will rob them from your pockets. You’ve been warned!

DIY Crystal Spur Straps

I have a confession to make: I love sparkle.

Yes, I was called a tom-boy growing up. My nails have a permanent dirt line. And I’m happiest outside, preferably sweaty and covered in animal hair. But a little glitter never hurt anybody.

For my birthday last year, my husband bought me a pair of spurs with discretely-placed crystals. I’ve been coveting blinged-out straps ever since.

My travel schedule in 2014 has been unbelievable. I was due for an extended layover. Luckily, it came in the Atlanta airport. The place is essentially a mall with airplanes.

I found a cheesy accessory shop and went straight for the clip-on earrings. As I walked to the gate with my shimmering purchase, I ordered a pair of black leather spur straps from my phone (thank you and curse you – all at once – Steve Jobs and SmartPak).

When the straps arrived, I clipped one earring on each of the keepers like so:

spur straps

Pulled out the bejeweled spurs:


Dusted off my boots, and:



So, what do you think? There are three main perks: 1) The sparkle. Just within the bounds of appropriate. 2) The cost. Cheaper than the pre-made version. 3) The options. Buy three sets of earrings, and you have three different looks.

Capital Cowgirl’s First Post on Chronicle of the Horse Blog

Capital Cowgirl’s First Post on Chronicle of the Horse Blog

Professional Eventer and Blogger Doug Payne wrote this week about an issue to which we can all relate: the ballooning cost of horse ownership and competition. He suggested a fundamental change to the sport of eventing. Concerned about the unintended impacts of his proposal, I wrote a response. But fundamentally, Doug and I agree that the sport must grow and that cost is a barrier to entry. As we grow, it’s so important to maintain the culture that makes our discipline special. So, what do you think? What creative ideas do you have? Here are a few to start the conversation:

  • If each venue offered one bare-bones recognized event each year, and those events filled up lightning fast, the farm still makes a profit, and everyone can compete. Eventually, this will drive the price of all events down.
  • Charge a small ($4) spectator fee and use it to offset the entry fee for riders.
  • Make horse trials a more social event. Red Hills Horse Trials has used this model and several non-equestrians sponsor every year. In return, there is a sponsors tent where they can mingle and be introduced to the sport.
  • Have more one-day events so that competitors can haul in and haul out without paying for a stall.

GIVEAWAY! Dressage Test Marker Board

I try to avoid making this blog discipline-specific. The truth is, good horsemanship has no discipline. My equi-love began on a blind therapy pony named Santa Claus. The flames were fanned on summer western trail rides. And a full-blown fire started in the hunter world as an “up-downer” (you know, where your trainer’s only words all lesson long are “Up. Down. Up. Down” as you learn to post the trot…)

I learned to really ride as a low-level eventer. But as a Pony-Clubber I entered every single rally, no matter the discipline. I love both a tranquil trail ride and a flat out gallop across a corn field as much as the next girl.

For the last two years, I’ve been happy to hand walk my mare. I’m happy to work Sam, the Rescue Horse, in hand. And I’m happy to throw a leg over the saddle of any horse, with any tack, at any speed. This year, I’ve taken a five-day Icelandic horse trek, ridden a hunter-jumper champion, taken my first biomechanics lesson, learned from a natural horsemanship master, and I’ll begin drill team practices this week. In two words, I’m horse crazy.

An acquaintance from a former barn called me a few weeks ago. She was considering moving her mare. Days before she was scheduled to arrive, she changed her mind and opted for a competition-oriented eventing barn.

I get it. I love my discipline. I understand wanting to focus. But I have learned so much by being exposed to true horsemanship in all its forms. As for what that has taught be about life: always say YES. Be willing to try new things. Take the opportunity, no matter how it is disguised. You’ll be glad you did.

With that said, this giveaway is dressage-oriented. My first show in years is March 30th. I posted a tip  last month to help remember a new dressage test. My readers provided excellent feedback. Adventures in the Horse World recommended doodling the test on paper. Imagine my excitement to find these the the Town and Country Tack Shop trailer while attending the Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee, Florida:

dressage boards

Of course, I had to buy two: one for me and one for a lucky reader! These dry erase boards are reversible. On one side, you’ll find a small arena. On the other, a large. This is immensely helpful because it gives you a visual for how to ride the patterns in either ring. Entering is simple. If you haven’t already, “LIKE” the Capital Cowgirl Facebook page. This post will be pinned at the top of the page until the end of the giveaway. Comment on the Facebook post with the horse-related event you are most looking forward to (watching or riding) this summer. On March 30th, I will randomly select a winner.

Listen to Your Horse

Horses don’t speak human. But if you “listen” with all of your senses, they absolutely communicate.

Nothing will teach a rider to listen to their horse quite like prolonged lameness. Each time I approach my mare, my mind starts a checklist. “Is she bright-eyed? Was that a little swelling on her leg? Did she take a funny step there? Ok, was that a head-bob or did she just sneeze? Why did she leave grain in the bucket?”… and on and on and on…

Granted, this may have crossed the line from listening to paranoia a few times. But I’d rather be safe than sorry.

This week I got to her stall and she didn’t poke her head out. I tacked up and entered the indoor.

The first trip around the ring, she stopped in the corner near a box we use for an in-hand training exercise. The horses are asked to put their front two feet atop the box and stand quietly. Prior to her injury, we were eventers. The mare could jump the moon. In fact, a ring steward at our last event together told me so. She is brave to the core and will follow me anywhere, so she has been on the box in-hand several times.

The second time around the ring, she stopped again. This time, closer. I asked her to walk on and changed rein across the diagonal. The third time she stopped, I let her decide when to move. And sure enough, she went straight to the box. With me in the saddle. Left foot, right foot, up we went. I leaned over and gingerly rubbed each side of her neck in long strokes. She turned her head left, then right. I reached behind me to rub the small of her back. After a few minutes, off we went to finish the warm-up. She gave me a beautiful free walk and stretched her neck long and low. We rode Intro Test A. She was obedient, relaxed, supple, AND SOUND.

Happy to stand on the box, even as I walked away!

Happy to stand on the box, even as I walked away!

I hopped off grinning from ear to ear, tucked the reins into her noseband, and let her get back on the box. Her head came down and she poked out her nose, then she lifted her neck and she pressed her hips forward. After a few minutes, down she came. As I untacked, I noticed her muzzle was wet. She had been drooling.

I can’t say I would have ever asked her to hop on the box under saddle. But how many times have I talked her into things that were my idea? So I listened. My horse needed a little pre-workout yoga. I’m glad she told me so.

Learning a New Dressage Test: Ride to the Feet

Murmer BWMemorizing a dressage test, or anything for that matter, was so much easier when I was little. And even then, I can’t say I didn’t get lost every now and then. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

March 30th will be our first show in a very long time. I’m getting started early. While it’s intimidating to prepare for competition without lessons and without a trainer, I trust my mare. Isn’t that what dressage is all about? A partnership? We’re in this together, for better or for worse.

We began learning USDF Intro Test A this week. As the most basic of all dressage tests, the movements are straightforward. But like other adult amateurs, life’s distractions can enter my brain at any moment, sabotaging the memorization process. Luckily, I was prepared. By focusing on my mare’s feet, I shut out the rest of the world for 30 minutes. Here’s how:

I read the test three times before getting on. During the warm-up, I focused on transitions: halt-walk, walk-trot, trot-halt. As I came down the center line at trot, my mind was on my mare’s feet. She came against the bit and her hind end swung left. On any other day, I would have corrected her. But this time, I intentionally ignored the evasion. Her feet kept the one-two trot rhythm, so we continued down the center-line. At X, I asked for walk. We headed right and she cut the corner, but her feet fell in a consistent 1-2-3-4. I rode the whole test this way. And then repeated the process twice more.

Yes, I allowed position, impulsion, obedience, and precision play second fiddle. And maybe in doing so, I failed to address issues we will need to fix before the show. But by keeping “half-halt,” “yield,” and “leg” out of my mind, “laundry,” “conference call,” and “email” stayed away too. I can now ride Intro A in my sleep. And by staying mindful for 30 minutes, I’ve got the time and mental freedom to perfect the rest.

What are your helpful tips for a successful dressage test? Share in the comments below.


Use Google Shop to Maximize Vet Care for your Horse

Murmer eyeA penny saved is a penny earned, right?

Here’s a tool you must try: Google Shop. This handy feature from our friends in Mountain View, California aggregates the prices and links for various items in one searchable database.

My mare has begun a monthly maintenance regimen of Legend hyaluronan injectable. (Read about the product and differences between IV injection and IA here). Because she receives Legend regularly and intravenously, I can save money by purchasing the multi-dose vial. I can save even more by comparison shopping.

When it came time to purchase the first vial, I compared Jeffers, Valley Vet, and SmartPak. I calculated relevant shipping fees, coupon codes, and listed prices. Satisfied by my bargain hunting, I placed the order.

This time around, I entered “Legend Injectable 20 mL” in the search field of Google Shopping. All told, I saved $60.00 more. Talk about pennies saved!! California Pet Pharmacy earned this sale.

Some things to remember when using Google Shop for prescription vet care products:

  1. First, call your vet clinic to get their phone number, fax number, and mailing address. Let them know you are placing an order with a pharmacy and to expect a request for a prescription.
  2. Second, when you enter the search terms in Google Shop, double check the name of the product and the size.
  3. Finally, make sure to consider shipping costs when comparing prices.

Good luck, happy bargain-hunting, and healthy horses.

Recipe (2!): Equine Valentines and Human Treats, too

In the DC area, we awoke this morning to a very thick blanket of snow. If you’re a Capital Cowgirl recipe aficionado, you know that snow means baking…

I’ve been prepping for Valentine’s Day. When I was a teenager, I joked that I would take my horse to prom. A horse can be a Valentine, right??

Mud, fur, and pure love!

Mud, fur, and pure love!


My husband feels left out if I bake for the four-legged members of our family and not him. Today I made two recipes for two species featuring one ingredient: Hot Tamales.

Horse Treats: Nickerdoodles

  • 1 Apple
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 9 Hot Tamales cinnamon candies
Equine Valentine

Equine Valentine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin. Slice the Hot Tamale candies in half lengthwise. (Trust me on this. It is a pain to halve these and the candies roll around, but using them whole does not work. Slice. Carefully.) Quarter the apple. Place the oats and apple chunks into a high-speed blender (I used Vitamix) or a food processor and blend to a doughy consistency. Scoop spoonfuls into the muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and press one-half of a cinnamon candy firmly into the middle of the dough. Press the other half overlapping at the bottom to form a heart shape. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Tamale Heart Layout

Tamale Heart Layout

Human Treats: SaS (Sugar and Spice) Sandwiches

  • Sugar Cookie Dough (Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, but I used Krusteaz brand boxed mix. I work full-time, I’m in graduate school part time, I ride my horse and make healthy filling dinners every single night. I am not above using shortcuts!)
  • 18 Hot Tamales cinnamon candies
  • Ice Cream of your choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the candies in half lengthwise. Prepare the dough. Make “patties” 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick and place on slightly greased cookie sheet. Place one half of a hot tamale in the center, and overlay the bottom of the other to form a heart shape. Press into the dough. Bake for 14 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Once cool, spread the ice cream on one cookie, place the other on top and squeeze. I used Edy’s Slow-Churned and a butter knife to scoop and spread. If the ice cream oozes beyond the edge of the cookies, run the knife around the perimeter to keep it contained. Place immediately in the freezer as you finish the remaining sandwiches.

SaS Sandwiches

SaS Sandwiches

Whatever the object of your affection, show how much you care tomorrow. A little thought goes a long way. These Hot Tamale treats are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. From the Capital Cowgirl Kitchen to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lessons From the Red House Ranch

Lone cowIn my 29th trip around the sun, I found myself in Elko, Nevada in a weekend swirl of poetry and cowboys. Conflicted and confused, I naturally vowed to do it again.What on earth brought me back for the 30th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering I can’t really say. But whatever it was, I’m glad it did. Hitching

I landed in Elko on the most beautiful day. Sunshine spilled into a town nestled betwixt pristine sagebrush range  and the alpine ridges of the Ruby Mountains as far as the eye can see.

Sunshine in Lamoille Canyon, Capital Cowgirl 2014

Sunshine in Lamoille Canyon, Capital Cowgirl 2014

In precious daylight on arrival, my aunt and I ventured to Lamoille Canyon. In a few short hours, our Nation’s Commander-in-Chief was slated to give the State of the Union address. The snow, the rocks, and the trees of the canyon in the waning sunlight seemed eons away from the DC-beltway buzz. Even still, we felt steeped in true Americana.

Lamoille Canyon, Capital Cowgirl 2014

Lamoille Canyon, Capital Cowgirl 2014

The following morning, we set off from the Western Folklife Center to tour the Maggie Creek Ranch. I don’t believe any of us knew what we were in for. Our bus came to a stop at the Red House at the end of a long and well-maintained road spanning a massive gold-mining operation. The foreman Kevin greeted us and began to harness a lovely draft horse with a kind eye that immediately reminded me of my mare. Once his team “Peaches” and “Cream” were hitched, off we went to feed the cows.

Peaches, Capital Cowgirl 2014

Peaches, Capital Cowgirl 2014

I was thrilled to ride the hay-wagon into the pasture with the herd. Kevin exudes the quiet confidence that garners respect among large animals (humans included). He graciously answered our questions without so much as a sideways glance, got the work done, and treated the animals -equine and bovine- with appropriate reverence. All with a sparkle in his eye. Working the Cows

We struck up a conversation at lunch. Kevin suggested that I could return to the Red House the following morning. I don’t think he believed I would show. But his endearing wife Leslie knew better. Maybe she saw the bracelet with my horses’ names etched in the leather. Maybe she just sensed a kindred spirit.

CowsWednesday morning, we fed cows. We petted cats. We gorged ourselves on a homemade feast. And we learned why the Cowboy Poets come here to share their craft. The inspiration is unavoidable: the range, the animals, the landscape, the weather, the people. Returning to the Gathering, the poems came alive. And returning to DC, their messages stay with me. There is an innate fellowship among horse folk. We spend so much time in the quiet with enormous four-legged creatures that we sometimes wonder how we’ll relate to the two-legged kind. But then we do and it’s just like riding a horse: a pairing of souls and a baring of souls. It comes naturally somehow.

Red House Ranch Cattle and Feed

TODAY Save on Cur-OST, Effective Lameness Supplement

After over a year and a half of unresolved lameness in my mare, I am having outstanding success in a very short time with daily Cur-OST. (Please note: I am not sponsored by, and have no business or financial ties to, Nouvelle Research or Cur-OST. I blog about products only to provide helpful information to other horse-owners). After jogging her last week, my vet said the mare was the soundest she had been in years. Needless to say, I’m elated by her progress.

Murmer stall

The product is pricey, but it is effective, and for now I’m willing to make the investment. Consider the cost and risk of the alternative: Joint injection with hyaluronan and corticosteroids. TODAY Nouvelle is offering 10% off. Just enter “SAVE” in the coupon code line at checkout when you place your order here.

Every little bit saved helps. I just ordered a four-month supply. I’m interested to see whether others have similar success. Let me know if you decide to try it.

Try This Simple Trick to Stay Motivated

What’s the one thing you should do more regularly but don’t?

Whether it’s riding more, eating right, cursing less, exercising, cleaning tack, or writing blog posts, this simple trick will help keep you motivated.


I began this practice in 2012 while training for my first half-marathon. I’m using it now to track exercise in pursuit of my New Year’s Resolution.


  1. Good old-fashioned wall calendar (yes, real paper!)
  2. Stickers (Choose whatever suits your fancy. The more excited you are about the stickers, the better the result.)

1 day of intended behavior earns 1 calendar sticker

Sweat earned these!

Sweat earned these!

Bonus (not for the faint of heart):

For those who need added motivation, try adding a dose of accountability. Tell someone who sees your calendar daily (spouse, colleague, roommate, parent) what the sticker calendar represents. Positive peer pressure.

I’ve found the sticker calendar to be a highly effective, quick, and inexpensive motivation tool. Would you consider it? What other methods work for you?

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