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Monday, February 28, 2011

20 MT

Hey guys - 20MT didn't go well. Pulled 92 miles, Farley is lame lame LAME. Soft tissue injury to LF, guess at this point is check ligament or deep digital flexor. Either way is bad news. Vet's opinion at the ride was that it was probably a compensation injury due to getting cold/crampy during the first section of the trail, even though she seemed to work out of it for the rest of the ride. I'll give you the full story later tomorrow - I'm still trying to sort some stuff out - including some really bad news I recieved about a friend on a personal side - so please be patient. :)

As a stroke of sheer irony I recieved my high points AERC regional vest in the mail yesterday.

Please keep Farley and I in your prayers. Lame horses are always hard to deal with emotionally and this one has exceptionally bad timing for a number of reasons, including me quitting my job in a couple of months, and - if the rehab goes how I think it will - no real riding until the end of summer, at which point I will be in vet school. I'm not dwelling on it presently as it does no good to make plans until I get a real diagnosis and prognosis. Ultrasound is on Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just call me Dr. Mel

I really wanted to save the title in this post for when I announced I got INTO vet school - but I'm impatient and so can't wait. :)

The interview went very very well. I had mixed feelings about it right after finishing, but now, after 24 hours I can step back, look at my overall performance – and I believe it was enough.

Of course – nothing is a sure thing, and I may come back to you guys in 4 weeks and announce that I will NOT be in the c/o 2015 and will have to reapply – and who knows how my emotions and feelings about the interview will change over the next 4 weeks – but for now, I’m optimistically hopeful.

If nothing else – I know that I gave one of the best interviews that I’m capable of right now, (with the exception of one thing I will get to a moment) so I know that whether I get in or not, will be based on the “real me” right now. And that’s a really good feeling.

OK – enough of my incoherent ramblings and onto the details:

Remember the “one thing” I mentioned. Oh yeah - I forgot my blazer at Matt's, so had to do the interview in a shirt and slacks that I had NOT planned on wearing without a jacket. When you are sitting in the parking lot 1 hour before your interview, and your blazer is one hour (one way) away, there’s one of two paths to take. One path is scrambling to find a replacement jacket, stressing, and INSISTING that everything go according to plan – INCLUDING THE D*MN jacket. However, I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and decided instead that the whole situation was funny. After all, I had dry cleaned my entire outfit for the interview. It was my first time in my LIFE I had dry cleaned anything and because I had changed my mind about the outfit at the last minute, the jacket was the only thing I still planned on wearing. Yes, the jacket that was sitting 60 miles away.

Remember me saying that everything happens for a reason? Perhaps I wouldn't have had such a relaxed "oh well" attitude during the interview if I had had the jacket? I managed to crack a few jokes, be relaxed, and ended with a killer answer of “why you should pick me and not the other guy”. No way to know for certain, but I think when I found out I was missing my blazer and managed to laugh at myself and I think it helped. Yes, I still wish I had that jacket. But even if I had the opportunity to “redo” the interview with the jacket, I’m not sure I would. The interviewers were dressed in business casual, so I still “over-dressed” them, so hopefully it’s not a big deal.

I didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement, however I don’t think it would be professional or prudent to post all of the details of the interview. If you are a vet school hopeful and want more details than I’m posting here, I would be MORE than happy to talk to you privately – drop me an e-mail.

Suffice to say the interviewers were very interested in my endurance experience (in fact, my ethical question was related to endurance – something I was not expecting) and then quizzed me closely on what I had recognized in my preparation as the hardest question that I might have to answer. (and yes – to my dismay they were able to nail it right on the head and ask it. *sigh*). The question is: why are you getting your DVM instead of your PhD? This is a very good question. And I think I was able to answer the question well (thanks to my Aunt) and avoid the corner they were trying to back me in (thanks to Dr. C* for helping me recognize the corner).

My feeling is that they were trying to do 2 things with the question:
1. They managed to sniff out my weak spot and wanted to exploit it by putting me under pressure and to see how I would react.
2. They wanted to see if I would hang myself if given enough rope, by backing myself into a corner in a position that I couldn't defend.
3. They wanted to see if I would change my story/waver and show inconsistencies if pushed hard enough.

I didn’t get asked anything I would call especially “hard” or that was unrelated to my experience. I didn’t get asked about any current events. I actually thought I would get more technical questions – especially considering I come from a poultry background I felt that campylobacter was an easy question to ask (one of the leading causes of food borne illness in humans).

Not that I’m complaining – I don’t know anything about campylobacter (because I’m in RTE and not necessarily extremely knowledgeable about processing…) besides what I looked up and memorized from……

After the interview I attended class with my former roommate who is now a first year, went to the bookstore to buy gifts for my LOR writers and then cooked all my food for my 100 miler this weekend! :)

BTW – in case you were wondering (and you know that you were!), I FINALLY thought of an appropriate, thoughtful gift for the LOR writers and the vets that helped me to prepare for the interview. It was difficult because:

1. I don’t have a lot of $$ (big surprise……horses tend to do that)
2. I don’t have a lot of time (who does?)
3. Everyone is on a health kick nowadays and so the standard cookies and chocolates are not nearly as thoughtful as they once used to be.
4. A bunch of these people are high level people in the company I work for (VP etc.) and others I work with professionally.
5. None of these people graduated from UC Davis and have their own graduate school alma mater’s that they support…thus making them walk around with a UCD coffee mug would not be kosher.
6. I didn’t want it to be stupid.

Each person is getting a bottle of UC Davis olive oil, and a bottle of specialty balsamic vinegar that is made at a local winery that I really enjoy. I’m actually very proud of myself! I’m not known for timely, thoughtful gifts – just ask my family and friends.

I'm off to 20MT 100 tomorrow and I think that it will be JUST the thing to do to come down off the interview. And no, I won't be doing it in the rain. They are predicting "showers". Showers are not rain. "Wait a minute", you say......"showers mean"....

Lalalalalalalalala I can't hear you - what did you say? That's right - I'm an ostrich and my head is the sand right now.....LALALALALALALALALALALALALALA!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vet update - Saturday

I've just come back from the interview orientation and I have to say, that everything confirms my decision that I WANT to be a vet. It is the ONLY thing I want to do.

Sometimes when you sit a room of your peers and watch people who are where you wish you were, it's easy to have second thoughts about a choice. The last 3 hours has confirmed every decision I've ever made to get myself to this point.

Wish me luck for Tuesday. I think most of my nerves up until this point was me doubting this choice - what I am sacrificing and giving up, and what I'm asking Matt to support me through - knowing the emotional, physical, and monetary cost this is going to be. It better damn be worth it. Now, all doubts are gone. This is what I am meant to be, and I can now push any thoughts away that I might be happy doing something else, or that it might not be worth the cost, or that I'm not good enough. I have finally answered those questions to my satisfaction - and thank God that I did so BEFORE the interview. I left the orientation early because I felt like I learned what I came to learn - do I really want to do this, and CAN I do this.

And the answer is an unequivocal "YES"!

I have many more

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pics, Stirrups, and other musings

WHAAAAAAAA!!!!! NOOoOOOOOO!!!!!! *insert head shaking and feet stomping* WHYYYYYYYYYY NOOWWWWWWWWWW?????!?!?!?!?!?!

I am of course referring to the weather forecast for my upcoming 100 miler. Although, I think the weather system that is coming in is fairly unstable and therefore it might change.

*crosses fingers*

Yesterday they were predicting rain most of the week leading up to the ride. This (for those of you readers that missed my newfound “I don’t ride 100’s in the rain” resolution post ) is bad.

However, in just a very short 24 hours the news has gotten better.

Today there’s only a couple showers in the week leading up the ride. And 60% chance of showers the day of the ride. So I’m pretty sure they don’t know what this system is going to do, and I will probably just have to wait until we are 3-5 days out to really know what I’m dealing with.

Also, I’ve had to do some thinking. I am committed to the resolution that I’m a fair weather 100 miler. However, I’ve also decided, “showers” aren’t rain. Just because there is a good chance of on and off showers doesn’t make it an automatic no-go. Rain and thunderstorms = no-go. Chance of showers throughout the day = maybe. Depends on temperature, the presence of wind, and how much rain the trail has gotten in the last week.

First up – pics of the clip. A couple of different angles (and as a side note – ain’t she cute? And yes, she’s as sweet as she looks). Not THAT much hair clipped off….but I was shocked how much it helped.

The Butt (edit - no idea why this is underlined.....*sigh*)
Now, bear with me because I know these are a bit blurry. I was shooting from across the pasture, over the back of her nosy pasture mate, BUT I want you to notice something…….see her butt? That’s the point – she has a butt to look at! Do you know how much hard work and labor went into that Butt?????!!!!!! (and yes – I’ve decided the Butt gets to be a proper noun). She actually has ripple-y muscles that show through her winter coat!


Next, I would direct your attention to the stirrup. This is one change I’ve done to my tack set up for 100 milers that I haven’t shared yet on the blog. I’ve been using these composite stirrups for a couple of months. They are FABULOUS. I’ve been using for jumping and for my endurance work and my foot is secure without feeling trapped. The foot bed is just a tad deeper than a standard fillis iron so it distributes pressure evenly and the composite material has just enough give. My trainer and I were a bit skeptical that they would be OK for jumping because they are really light, but the no problems picking them up, or keeping them so far. I was going to attach washers to the bottom of the stirrup to help weight them, but with no issues so far, I haven’t gotten around to it.

I have some nerve issues with my feet so I’m very picky about my stirrups. I’m not a fan of the easy care “easy ride” stirrup. They have too much soft cushion for my foot to feel stable on the platform, the very deep foot bed (back to front) is so wide I find that it actually puts additional pressure on the ball of my foot, and the stirrup it’s self is so wide, unless I was using the ones with cages, there was a really real danger of my foot going through if something happened. Not to mention that I’ve had the bolt assembly come undone at the top of the stirrup during a ride (if you see a pic of me at Desert Gold from 2008 and it appears that I’m carrying a stirrup and riding without a stirrup – I am).

I rode with easy care stirrups for a season or two, but finally switched over to an aussie stirrup. It looked like an English stirrup that was wider from back to front, and had a leather pad that velcro’ed over the base. I really like them and completed 100’s in them with no problem. However….something about the way the opening was shaped would catch the bottom strap of my half chaps. I’m not sure what was going on, because they don’t look that different from fillis iron (which have never done that). I like to readjust my foot in the stirrup as needed and somehow, sometimes, when I would try to kick the stirrup further to the front of the ball of my foot, the half chap strap would fix my foot in the stirrup and I wouldn’t be able to kick my foot out of the stirrup. It would absolutely panic me, and even though it was easy enough to reach down and get the stirrup off, I often wouldn’t be able to kick my foot out on its own without reaching down. I HATED that feeling, even though there wasn’t any real danger of my foot being stuck, or if I fell off my foot not coming free. (BTW – I’m having trouble describing exactly what would happen, if I remember, I’ll take a series of pics so you guys can see, but for now, the wind is blowing and the rain is soaking everything, so use your imaginations). The other drawback to the aussie stirrups was I would have to change my stirrups out on my solstice saddle after trail rides, back to a more traditional stirrup that could be used for jumps or dressage. The stirrup bars on my solstice saddle are not the easiest things to get leathers on and off of. To top it all off – the aussie irons are heavy. It doesn’t seem like they add THAT much weight to the overall weight of the saddle and other gear, BUT it shocking to see how much lighter the saddle is without the weight of those stirrups……

The composite stirrups seem to have none of the drawbacks of the aussie or easy care stirrups above – at least so far. They are light but durable (so far). They are secure without being trapping. They give without becoming unstable. They are economical (one reason I haven’t tried the Herm Springer stirrups…..yet). They are versatile – appropriate for dressage, jumping, and trail. They don’t make my feet hurt. I’ll keep you guys updated after 20 MT.

Of course, there’s always these: Mmmm….

And for those of you that are interested – the vet update:

I cut my hair today (yes, it’s absolutely adorable), bought new slacks last night (I think the entire female population a size 6 – there was literally ONE PAIR OF size 6’s each in the entire store in the colors I wanted - black and very light khaki - and they were medium length. So I’m going to have to hem), and managed to find ONE pair of acceptable shoes (whatever happened to the classic black pump?).

Don’t even get me started on button up shirts for women. There was NOTHING that would be appropriate under a blazer. NOTHING. The men’s shirts (obviously) didn’t fit, and everything in the boys section was some shade of Blue (doesn’t work with a coat that hints at green). Grrrrrr……..

I got my coat dry cleaned (as well as a backup pair of slacks, and the shirt I’ll be wearing – better to have someone else iron it in a cat-free environment). First time I’ve ever had anything dry cleaned. Feels like a waste to have a $3 thrift store blazer cleaned for $15…..but I happen to LIKE this particular coat, and I’m pretty sure it ‘tis better to have it cleaned of cat hair for $15 than try and replace it for less than that on short notice!

I had a great conversation with a vet over a cup of coffee this morning that really gave me a lot of confidence. I had felt a bit overwhelmed and unsure of myself after a similar conversation with a different vet, but I think I’m back on track now and ready to totally give this thing a good try.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ben and Jerry’s is not single serve and other observations

I have a ton of half-formed posts and topic floating around, and I think since life is marching onward at an alarming pace, the probability of me doing justice to these topics is rather slim. So, I’m going to do one of those random posts where I talk about a lot of different things, while still managing to talk about nothing.

1. Your first clue that Ben and Jerry’s is not a single serving should be that it doesn’t come with a spoon, like the very cute (and oh so small) “single serve” cartons. I’m pretty sure attempting to eat Ben and Jerry’s with your fingers while driving down the interstate constitutes distracted driving.

2. It’s important to have more good days than bad days. Stress, frustration, and bad things are going to happen, but if that starts to be the “norm”, that’s a good indication that I need to step back and reevaluate. I’m happy to report a plethora of enjoyable days recently.

3. The cookbook I finally admitted to loving a couple posts back (Eat this, not that! 350 calorie meals)– yes the title is corny, but it’s really working. After trying to curb a fast food habit for more than a year, after using this cookbook for a month I have gotten to the point where fast food doesn’t appeal anymore. The other night I was REALLY hungry, and it was late. I gave myself permission to eat fast food and was shocked to find out that NOTHING appealed to me. I ended up going to the grocery store and fixing something really fabulous for dinner instead. Victory! I’m eating lots of veggies and protein and very little gluten and carbs. I feel great.

4. The definition of dressage could be: do the opposite of what makes sense. Turn with your outside rein, push the reins (no pulling), the horse develops lightness and self carriage through being heavy at first.

5. My days alternate with me feeling very fragile, and feeling incredibly strong and capable.

6. I’m getting a hankering to look at Farley’s working HR again. I posted earlier that although I’ve used them in the past, I don’t ride with a HR monitor any more. I think I’m more curious than anything else – I don’t really need it for training or rides because I’m not racing and, at least in the past, I was really good at reading Farley. But I’m curious…..I can modify a human HRM to work on a horse, so it’s probably time to start keeping an eye out for a sale – I can usually find one for under $50 that will work.

7. I’ve almost sold enough tack to pay for my school commuter car!

8. I have a new strategy for eating at my next 100. Eat real food as long as I can, and then when I start not being to get anything down, switch to Gu’s and Gels until I can eat real food again. It’s not ideal, but better than getting sicker and sicker because my body is screaming for calories but can’t handle anything real. I’m finding that the new formulations of the gel’s are better than when I running marathons almost 10 years ago – they are softer on the stomach and not nearly as “sharp” in their sugar spikes. Yep, it completely contradicts how I’m trying to manage my nutrition in my every day life, but I’m so tired of spending the hours after a 100 puking.

9. Anyone see Stagg Newman’s EN Nov 2010 article on the longevity of endurance horses? I found is article well thought out and inspiring. AERC published an outline in the endurance section of the website on key factors in successful long-term endurance horses. The longer I do this sport, the more I appreciate the dedication, commitment, knowledge, and yes-luck, that it takes to do this sport on the same horse year after year, ride after ride, successfully. Some of the key points from Stagg Newman I found especially relevant (with my own thoughts in parantheses):

a. Horse history may be the most important part of the prepurchase exam. (I totally agree – I care more about how the horse grew up, what it’s been fed, and it’s riding history, then I do bloodlines, genetics, and xrays. Those things are still important but not number one of my list).

b. Distance before speed. (I haven’t “made” enough endurance horses to have a valid opinion on this….BUT my gut so far is that distance is so much more important. I don’t think it’s necessary to do fast 50’s before graduating to 100’s. I think it’s important to be able to finish a 50 strongly, and I feel it’s important to get to your goal distance as fast as possible. Then go back and add speed if you want)

c. Dollars spent on early prevention pay great dividend (no kidding…..).

d. Horses for courses, conditioning for what you will do.

e. Two principle causes of lameness in horse are rider on back and farrier who does the feet. (The rider part of this equation will become especially apparent if you do dressage and jumping – talk about humbling. It can take more miles for it to show up in an endurance horse and it’s easier to be in denial than if you are cross training in a different discipline under the watchful eye of a qualified trainer).

f. Long-term goals, carefully planned seasons, modification as necessary. Select course consistent with your long-term goals and your training. Mountain horses cannot readily go fast in sand and vice versa. (Farley is a mountain horse. Every time she’s come up slightly off after a ride it’s because I went too fast on a desert ride. Also – choosing of the rides – totally agree. I won’t do American river again – not because Farley can’t do it, but because I feel like it’s too hard and I don’t want to risk our long term goal. In the same vein, I may do Tevis every other year, but at least for now, doing it every year is too hard on both of us – and would increase our chances of both mental and physical burnout).

g. Never take the horse too close to its maximum potential.

h. Ride fitness – a tired rider makes a tired horse. And a tired rider makes career-limiting mistakes.

If you want to read more on this, I encourage you to do to the AERC website and browse their educational section.

10. Ride your horse 364 days in a way that will allow her to compensate/take care of you on the 365th day, when you really screw up.

11. Tips to save money - cut up all the product magazines. Don't even look at them. Unsubscribe from all mailings that are trying to sell you something. Get into a cash habit. Don't pay full price for anything.

I think that catches me up on pending topics!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Somebody got a haircut

I’m embarrassed to admit where I think my camera is. I’m pretty sure my camera is hanging in the barn on my bridle rack…..because my bridle is mysteriously on the front seat of my truck.

Yep – just a little scatter brained right now.

So, unfortunately I don’t have snazzy pics to show you’all of my very first clip!

But don’t worry, there’s always plan B. Because there’s a lot of different vocabulary used to describe different clips, check out this site so we can all be on the same page:

I don’t typically clip for a couple of reasons. I feel like the horse is a wonderful animal and that most of its parts – hair included – is there for a reason. I think when you go clipping hair off or doing other “modifications”, there is a certain risk, or “unintended consequences” that must be considered. Up until this point, the benefits of clipping have not outweighed the potential risks. A couple of things have swung the balance this year:
  • The barn I’m at now offers a blanketing service. If I clip too much off, I know that I still have other options besides me going out to the barn to blanket/un-blanket as needed.
  • By May the goal is to do a First Level dressage test at a recognized show. As a result I’m riding some serious dressage 4-5 days a week. I simply do not have the time to cool her down and get rid of the sweat on a daily basis. Remember my goal to spend more time doing the things I enjoy and eliminating as much stress and time-consuming chores for now?
  • It could be quite warm at 20MT this year.
  • During hot winter rides where a lot of sweat is deposited on Farley’s hair, it is difficult to groom off – especially after a ride in the cool hours of the evening (or wee hours of the morning) when it’s inappropriate to sponge. Invariably she ends up with rain rot on any groomed areas that were stiff with sweat. There are advantages and disadvantages of a thin skinned horse…..

When I’m choosing a clip, I keep a couple considerations in mind:

  • Hair must remain in areas where it’s critical to have protection. For Farley, these areas include: the girth area and under the saddle, legs, face (because of running into branches/overhanging twigs at night.). I would prefer hair to remain on her chest for protection against brush, but because SOMETHING has to be clipped, I usually say “OK” to clipping the chest since her breast collar doesn’t rub, and most of my winter rides are desert rides where I’ve never ended up busting through brush on a single track.
  • Enough hair must remain that she won’t get chilled during the night portion of a 100, or in the early morning start with just a rump rug.
  • When in doubt, leave more hair. She doesn’t have a super thick winter coat, and Farley cools very easily and deals with heat well, so I would rather error on the side of having to go slower in warmer weather, than worrying about her getting cold.
  • Clip must be acceptable at a recognized dressage show.

Based on all this information, I decided on the “Belly and neck clip” that stops short of the girth. Its’ actually more of a “chest and neck clip”, leaving the chest and jugular exposed for better cooling.

I gave the clip its first real test this afternoon – I did enough galloping and cantering at noon to get her nice and sweaty. The current clip was enough to help her shed the heat easily and make clean-up a BREEZE, but it also leaves enough hair that I don't have to be super concerned about blanketing or if it gets cool. I was also able to see the areas that I'll clip if I decide to clip more hair off - namely in the flank area – based on the sweat pattern.

The current forecast for 20MT is in the low 60’s, so I think the belly and neck clip is perfect. If the forecast predicts warmer weather (mid 70’s) I’ll probably do something between a “Chaser” and a “Trace” (but not clipping half the face since it looks stupid and there seems to be no point….), with the focus on the flank and inner thighs, while leaving most of the hair on the belly for protection.

The nice thing about “progressive” clips is that I can adjust the clip throughout the season as my needs change. My funky “not quite a trace clip” I do for 20MT can be converted it to a more conventional “low Trace” clip for my dressage show in the beginning of April. Because clipping is semi-permanent (at least for the next couple of months!) I think it’s important to consider my competition schedule, type of competitions, and how the clip can evolve. I still prefer the look of my horse in the un-clipped “natural” state, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ease at which she cooled and cleaned up today! And I’ll also admit that I found clipping fun – exploring all the little nooks and crannies. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Part 3 - Selling your tack

Can we just forget I got an interview, and go back to a semblance of normal life? Pretty please?

Yeah……I can’t either.

Interview practice last night with the darling (and very patient) boyfriend dissolved into hysterical laughter, and then hysterical crying, in which the boyfriend told me to go change the laundry over and think nothing but “shirts and pants” for a couple of minutes, and then announced that the practice session was over when I continued to sputter illegible answers and eat copious amounts of ice cream.

Oh yeah. It’s going that well…..

While I recognize that my hysteria last night was probably the sum total of my crazy emotions over the last week – it’s time to pull myself together. Yes, getting into vet school (especially Davis) is a major accomplishment. I deserve a gold star if I pull it off. BUT – the quicker I realize that getting in is just the beginning of a very long, tough 4 years, the better off I’ll be.

Obviously the compulsive obsessing over everything is not working, and the preparation is actually making things worse. In fact, I can't remember the last time that obsessing helped...I’ve NEVER had a problem interviewing and if I’m having this much trouble, than I’m going about my prep in the wrong way. I got to this point by doing what worked for me - and I need to go back to the basics of what has worked for me in the past.

Here’s the new plan for preparation (many thanks to my reader, Cat from Virginia – most of these are her suggestions, with my own twist):
  • Outline my potential questions on paper.
  • Pick a general “theme” of the interview: theme = how I’m going to sell myself to the committee.
  • Have a one sentence “summary” for each question that concisely answers the question. I have a tendency to ramble when I’m nervous, so it will be easy to stay on topic and be concise if I keep my sentence in mind while talking and explaining!
  • Have up to 3 “talking points” per question. Not all points will be covered on initial question, BUT having 3 talking points will allow me to discuss the question further if follow up questions are asked.
  • Have two anecdotes per question to use examples – one from my current job, one from a former job or hobby.
  • I’ve been doing public speaking since I was 9. I’m very good at it. Start treating this like a presentation. I wasn’t practicing because I didn’t want it to sound rehearsed….but I’ve been doing this long enough I know HOW to practice so when I do “present” it doesn’t sound or look rehearsed.
  • Be myself. When all else fails or if something really screwy happens – go with my gut and be honest. I think part of the reason I can't formulate responses in my practice sessions is that I have too many people telling me what to say and what not to say and truthfully, it doesn't really matter. I'm either a good candidate for the school or not - if I get rejected while presenting myself in an honest way, I'm cool with that. That means they are telling me I'm not ready, or I'm not what they are looking for.
  • Go to the website daily and read the current news articles, so if I get a current events question I can at least admit passing knowledge of the story.
  • Survey the public health information on AVMA so that even if I don’t know a whole lot about (for example…) Anthrax, I can at least say that I know it’s a spore forming pathogen that affects mostly bovines and has public health implications and beyond that I’d have to consult a resource……and then laugh and say “can we talk about Listeria instead?” ( I work in RTE processing so LM is very relevant).
  • Peruse the ethics section of AVMA and compare it against some of the biggest current events ethical dilemmas that I might have to discuss in the interview. In addition to being a guiding light in the interview when having to discuss ethics, the guideline/principles are interesting because as a vet, I will be taking an oath that will bind me to a certain code of behavior etc. I was happy to see that upon an initial review, nothing seems too funky, or that I fundamentally disagree with.

As for part III of my “selling tack” series – it boils down to this.
Sell it cheap at a local tack sale, combine stuff into lots for one low price, or give it away. Or decide you want to keep it after all. Chances are, if it hasn’t sold by now – no one else wants it either.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yes, one more obsessive post

This was posted on the Student Doctor network:

"Just to throw my 2-cents in about the timing of invites, admissions decisions, etc, here's my experience from last year: I got my interview invite in one of the first "batches," my interview was the 3rd one on the 1st day (talk about having time to forget me!), and I was one of the last to find out I was accepted (decisions started going out on a Wednesday, I found out the next Monday at 4pm - that weekend was pure torture!). I thought since I was one of the last notified about acceptance, I was probably near the bottom of the "wish list", but after I accepted my admissions offer I was awarded an academic scholarship that I didn't even apply for. So here's my point: I think the order of notification really is random, so try not to read into it, even though it's practically impossible not to. "

I got an invite on the first day, I'm the 3rd interview of the 1st day. This person sounds a lot like me. So here is you'all's job - when I'm completly freaking out because I don't hear back from admissions saying I'm accepted on the first day - you are to remind me of this post. Over and over and over. Until my heart rate returns to normal and I stop puking with anxiety. Got it?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cat in Virginia

Sorry to do this to everyone - but I can't respond in the comments!

Cat in Virginia - I would love to get your insights on the vet school interview process and tricks! Can you e-mail me at

Flying high

So my vet school notification post was #600 and I didn't even notice!

Remember me talking about leaping high buildings?

Apparently my trainer and Farley had a little talk and they decided they really would make it possible for me to fly.

First up was a corner. We had never jumped a corner. We jumped the 2' corner like it was 3' and (always a bonus) Farley didn't buck on the landing. It was obvioulsy a day to push the envelope and so my trainer pointing me at a coop.

"What's that?" I said, stalling for time. "A coop". I decided against asking what the height was.

And so, Farley and I jumped a 2'6" coop! We flew!

I got to jump it lots and lots of times because, of course, there was was a problem - if I even TWITCHED my upper body at the fence, Farley would swerve and dive. I had to stay way upright, "boobs on fire" blow-them-out position and then she would leap and we would fly.

***BTW a coop is a sold jump made of wood, that rounded on one side and then goes straight to the ground on the other. Or at least this one was.

Absolutely spectacular lesson. I'm super excited - my dressage is going fabulously, my jumping is fun again, and I've finally found a dressage and jumping goal that I can aspire to this year. More on that later, and possibly (this is what they call a teaser) a pic of the hair cut I gave Farley today!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Obsessing - vet school

Last one of the day I promise.

In my letter, UCD mentioned "new curriculum" that they are rolling out for this years class.....I went on the website and "new" means....(among other changes)
  • Switching to the semester system from the quarter system
  • More "learner based" rather than teacher based and LOTS of small group stuff
  • Reduced classroom time
  • More common material that's covered, don't have to chose a "stream" until 3rd and 4th year. The 3 streams are: small, equine, and food. You can chose 2 streams by doing one your 3rd and one your 4th year.

Let's talk about the good first. It looks like I could do food and equine studies if I wanted. I like this.

Let's talk about what I don't reason I specifically chose Davis was the quarter system. I absolutely excel in the quarter system because I have a really good short term memory and can stay focused for 2-3 months SO MUCH BETTER than the 4+ of the semester system. I can handle it, but it's definitely going to take me a couple of days to digest this change. Especially because school is going to start THREE weeks sooner than I had planned.

Another "Oh crap" moment is the small group stuff and less classroom time. Let's face it - I'm not a 20 year old that lives in a dorm and can get to my "small group informal learning time" at 8pm at night. I sincerely hope that the small group stuff is structured enough that it's useful. I do really really well in the traditional school setting (teacher teaches) and so get a little nervous when we deviate from that formula....I like the fact that I'll get to know my classmates really well and make some friends hopefully? That would be nice. I'm keeping an open mind about it and I'm REALLY glad that I waited to apply - I'm MUCH more able to handle small groups than I was as an undergraduate and can manage my frustration and me feeling of needing control much better now. Yeah for the more mature Melinda.

Most of the other changes I like - teaching abnormal and normal together is something I absolutely agree with, getting first years into rotations in their first year is wonderful (working with 4th year students a couple of days a month).

Here's another thing - thank goodness I didn't buy that $1200 computer I need....they are going to require me to buy THEIR $1900 computer (I can chose a Mac option). And it's going to be a laptop. I'm bummed about this as I was really considering going to a Mac Desk Top. I will probably invest in a keyboard/mouse for my home computer - ergonomically it's just so much better for long hours at the computer.

OK - I'm done talking your ear off for now.

Vet school update

Update on vet school. Interviews start the 22nd and continue through March. I finally got through the phone line (we all call the same phone line, and if it's busy, call back later. Took me 2 hours to get through) to find out when EXACTLY my interview is. Because let's face it - an interview the Monday or Tuesday after a 100 is disastrous news, and an interview the Thursday or Friday before isn't much better. And really - the decision should be easy - vet interview versus 100 miler, but would you believe that decision is actually much harder than it sounds?

My interview is Tuesday 2/22/11 at 9am. So I totally lucked out. I should be able to get myself together enough to ride my 100 that Saturday, and perhaps my post 100 daze will last through the 3 agonizing weeks until I'm notified whether I got accepted.

I'm not sure whether having one of the very first interviews on the first day is a good or bad thing but in any case, it doesn't matter because either way, I have to go in and knock their socks off.

Next steps? Punch as many holes as I can in my application and formulate answers that are professional and non-defensive, in response to questions that will probably amount to an interrogation.

For something that up until this point has been moving so slow, it's all happening so fast.....

Part 2: Selling that high $$ stuff

Before I get into this, I wanted to share a comment from Buzz (what do you mean you don’t follow me in google buzz? Check me out as “mnfaubel”)

Funder: Great post. I'm interested to know if you've done the "what my time is worth" calculation on this, and if so did you come out ahead? Like if you spend 2 hours taking pics, listing, corresponding, and shipping a $10 bridle, your free time is worth $5/hr. I have a firm $10/hr my-time rate - if I don't think I can make $10/hr selling something, I'll gift/trash/donate it.

Me back in. I do consider my personal time cost, although I had never thought of a hard figure for it. However, this is a good way of explaining the difference between my 3 piles.

The high dollar pile is the stuff that is worth my time to clean, take multiple pics, develop flyers, and take the time to respond to detailed inquires.

For the “make it go away pile” discussed yesterday - because I had a mix of high and low items and everything huge pile in one location, I didn't spend a lot of time with each item - thus it was an assembly line effect: write it down, take a picture, write the next item down, take a picture etc. I also had a system for keeping track of items during inquires - once there was an inquiry on an object and I dug it out of the pile, it went in a different container - that way if it sold I didn't have to find it again, and there was a chance that if one person was interested, then if it didn't sell, I would quickly get another inquiry. It also keep track of items that might already be spoken for – I didn’t show tack with pending online inquiries to local people coming to look at tack.

That $/hour figure is why I didn't clean anything in my “make it go away pile”. I ended up washing the english pads and quilts later on because I was doing a load of laundry and I could, but for the prices I was selling, I wasn't cleaning because that WOULD take a lot of time.

The pile I mentioned that wasn't worth listing? That's what I'm giving away mostly for free. In some cases it's a "penalty" pile. LOL. When my dad stacked up a pile and offered $10, I dumped a bunch of stuff from my penalty pile on it and said, "NOW it's worth $10!"

I’m not sure what my “personal rate of pay” cut off is, but I have a feeling it’s in the neighborhood of $10/hour. I think so far my "move it out the door tack" personal rate ($/hour) is somewhere in the neighborhood of $40, which is darn good. I could spend more time getting more $$ out of the tack, but my personal rate of pay would go down….and at this point, time is precious so a higher rate of pay per hour is a good thing.

Onto Part 2! Selling that high $$ stuff
Once the tack sales from the “make it go away pile” calms down to a dull roar, I turn my attention to the items that I want to get close to what they are worth. Currently, I have one such item: A 1863 repro McClellan saddle, most of which comes from a well-known saddle maker, Doug Kidd.

1. Decide on a price. You actually need to decide on two prices: The “fair market value” and the price you are going to try and sell the item for. How similar the prices are will depend on how fast you need to move the item, and how much work you are willing to put into advertising it. Fair market value is the price that the saddles are ACTUALLY selling for – not what you *think* they *should* be selling for. It should be the price that you could sell for today if you spent the appropriate time advertising and promoting it. I use a combination of talking to people I respect and who intimately *know* the hobby/sport, and searching on line for similar sales. In my case, the saddle is probably worth $1200 or a bit more, so I will ask $1000 for it. I love the saddle and I don’t need to move it enough to take a huge sacrifice in price for it.

2. Decide on the terms. Is your price firm? Are you willing to give a “trial period”? How will you ship?

3. Take lots of pictures. Lots and lots and lots. Don’t post all pictures in your initial ad, but keep them handy so you can immediately send the interested buyer specific pictures upon request. Good pictures are important. Keep taking pictures until you have a set of pics you can send to potential buyers without apologizing for them.

4. Be very detailed in your ad. In my case, some of the pieces are made by Doug Kidd, some are not. I clearly explain which pieces are, and which aren’t (and are inferior quality to Doug’s stuff).

5. Advertise: Decide where to advertise online. To tell you the truth, I usually don’t use craigslist for these types of items. It’s just not worth my time. I also don’t list on general horse sites, unless I know that the specific group of people that would be interested in such an item exist in that forum or site. The McClellan saddle is a specialty item that would interest a specific group of people, and I tend to list it places that I know those people are: newsletters for local civil war reenactment groups/Calvary groups and their websites. If there is an extra charge for a picture ad, I usually just post a text ad. Most buyers who are looking for an item browse both types and in today’s world it’s easy enough to quickly send an e-mail asking for pics.

6. Advertise: Flyers. I will make physical flyers for high $$ items and post at various locations. It is my belief that if you do post flyers, than you *should* go back and take all the flyers down when the item has sold. J I like black and white flyers that are simple, well designed, and have tear offs on the bottom for contact information. I put them on feed stores, at my vet’s office, and anywhere else I happen to be that has a remote connection to the object or use for the object (in this case, horse related or military history related places).

7. Advertise: Personal connections. Likely you know people that are “in the industry”. Even if you know they won’t be interested in the item, likely they would be willing to pass the information along to others within the sport/hobby. Make sure you provide them with clear information. Nothing is worse than having an inquiry come back about the object and they have all sorts of wrong information – from the price to what the item actually is! I like to attach a copy of the flyer to the e-mail, or hand them a stack of flyers.

I think the biggest difference between marketing a high $$ item and moving your big pile of stuff is the approach. For the high $$ item I am actively soliciting buyers – I think of myself as a small business that goes out and makes it happen through personal connections, being professional, and advertising in the right way at the right places. The big pile of stuff is about price points, and being ruthlessly efficient about information and pictures – you try to keep you time investment as low as possible, so your pay off is as high as possible.

Next up is…..
Part 3: What to do with the leftovers

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I got it!!!!!!!!!!

I just got the notification that I have an interview with UC Davis Vet school!!!!!!!!! Literally shaking with adrenaline, I can't think. I have to schedule it so I don't know when it is, but I'll keep you guys posted.

It's taking some time to sink in. Just now, I almost burst into tears so I'm pretty sure my body has no idea what to do with this information. I feel like screaming, crying, swearing, leaping, running, and possibly jumping over tall buildings.

I'm in the first round of interviews so my chances are good. Here's some stats from the letter:

1043 applications recieved
220 of the most competitive applicants interviewed
133 positions available

I'm getting my hopes up that this just might really be happening. I've always said that if I could get into the interview, I can get in. Now I just have to walk that talk.

WHOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Part 1 - Make the pile go away

Wow! I can finally breathe after the whirlwind that carried most of my "for sale" list out the door.

I thought I would share a couple of tricks to selling tack I’ve learned as a buyer and a seller. I have a bought a significant amount of tack through private parties, but had less experience selling anything but single high dollar items (like saddles) until recently. Heaven forbid you are faced with having to abandon your tack hoarder ways and cleaning house (or rather tack room), but here’s a couple things to keep in mind.

Part 1 – Make the pile go away

1. What is your goal? Get the money that each item is worth, or move it quickly? In my case, the majority of tack I wanted to move quickly, but there were a few pieces (notably a saddle) that I was interested in getting close to what it was worth. I recommend making two piles of tack – pile one contains a few high dollar items that you are willing to sit on for a while in order to sell at YOUR price, the other pile tack containing all the rest of the tack that you would see go out the door and get some money to boot. Advertise and promote each pile separately and differently.

2. Don’t expect to sell junk. If it’s broken or unsafe, throw it away. No one wants that pile of broken reins, or the homemade rump rug in a half finished state. (or DO YOU????? Contact me if you are interested in either…..). Critically examine your tack. If you purchased a replacement for the tack you are now selling – there was a REASON you decided to make it a spare and not your primary use item. Some stuff is worth selling – but not necessarily online. I have a pile of stuff I didn’t even bother to list in my ads, but that I fully intend on putting on a table at a local tack sale in April – plenty of functional stuff that a browsing customer might pay a $ or two for.

3. Be brutally honest in your descriptions. Realize that your perception of the tack may be influenced by how it looked when it was new, good memories of a ride it was used on etc. The brown schooling bridles that I priced at $15-10 were a good example of this. These bridles were Minx’s, and Farley’s for a long time. I had a lot of happy rides in them. Part of me wanted to price them much higher, but part of me also recognized that they were not top quality bridles to begin with, they were older (but in good condition), and EVERYONE has these bridles hanging in their tack room. If they were going to sell, the price had to be right. Otherwise I may as well not waste my time taking pictures and answering questions about them.

4. Pick your priorities. There was no way that I was going to be able to take the time to advertise my high dollar items “right”, while also making the mountain of other tack disappear. I decided to focus on the pile because space is really tight, then move onto the $$ items.

5. Price it right. Let’s take the pile of tack you want to move out the door. It HAS to be priced right. If you don’t get any hits on your ad in the first 24 hours (assuming you have placed an ad in all the appropriate locations – more on this later) than take a look at your pricing. A rough guide is to price good condition used tack at 50% of new price. You can expect to get that if you know the brand, provide pictures, and the item is in good, usable condition. Expect to take a hit in price if the brand is unknown, the item is very worn, not clean, or you can’t/won’t take pictures. And by the way – while we are on the subject: providing manufacturer’s pictures are not the same as taking a picture of the ACTUAL item you are selling.

6. Advertise in the right places. (Free) I start with the free places. My favorites are, craigslist, blogs, a variety of forums (such as Horse grooming supplies), and horsetopia. If it’s going to sell at those places, it will probably go in the first 72 hours. I usually wait 10 days before going to a paid site.

7. Advertise in the right places. (Paid) After an ad has run ~10 days in the free ads, I start looking around for my paid options. At this point, if you haven’t already, organize your list into discipline or use. Since you are paying good money, you want your ad to have impact and for customers to be able to easily find the item that fits their needs. It won’t do much good to advertise a bunch of western gear on a primarily dressage site and it will just clutter your ad and make it harder for someone to see an item that they want to buy! I usually advertise on one paid site at a time, leaving an ad for 7-10 days before listing somewhere else.

8. Handling inquires. It can be tough to handle the volume of interested buyers, especially if you have many items for sale. Have pictures taken of all your items ahead of time and ready to go. Have a tape measure ready and measure the most common asked for measurements. As people start e-mailing, keep track of who is interested in what item. Decide on a system of who gets the item if multiple people want it. Is it the person who pays first? The person that e-mails first and then upon your notification that the item is available, their response that they want it in 24 hours? It’s easy to make mistakes and it’s important to play “fair”. I had so many offers on my $10 Haf pad in the first 12 hours it was listed on it was ridiculous. It literally sold 2 minutes after being listed – even though it was used and close to being worn out. It really took me by surprise because it had been listed for that same price on all the afore mentioned free sites for $10 without even a hit!

9. Keep your ads updated: As items sell, update your ads. It will reduce clutter AND save you time answering multiple inquiries into a popular item that has already sold.

10. Shipping. My rule is never overcharge for shipping. Most people think shipping charges are a rip off and have no clue how much it costs to ship an item. I sure didn’t until I started selling tack. The last thing I want someone to see is that the shipping charge on the box is way less than what I actually charge them. I hate going to the post office and don’t like the extra day it takes to get exact shipping charges, so I estimate and I error on the low side and eat the difference.

Tomorrow – Part 2 – Selling that high $$ stuff.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Found Freedom

It’s odd.

It’s 5:30pm and I’m sitting at my desk. Trying to figure out what to do with my evening.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have anything to do with an evening. I’ve decided not to ride today (rode Mon-Wed, going to ride tomorrow and condition Saturday and I try not to ride more than 5 days in a week), and to my surprise, there’s no chores to spend my time on tonight. No pens to be mucked, hay to be bought/unloaded, horses to be fed, or endless mounds of tack to be organized. My tack has been cleaned, and I’ve caught up with all the pictures and shipping from my sale-tack. No reason at all to go to the barn. How very weird. In a self care situation, there’s ALWAYS something to do….

I could go for a run. That might be a good idea, as I agreed to do a half marathon with my aunt in April…..yes, a run could be a very good idea indeed.

I could cook something. I’ve been using a cookbook that my mom got me for my birthday and I LOVE it. Most of the recipies are very easily adapted to a primal diet, mostly because the philosophy of the cookbook is to cook healthy WITHOUT “cheating”. I don’t want cookies made with applesauce and splenda – I want to find a way to eat more vegetables and protein and not gag while I do it, while still enjoying fabulous and intriguing flavors. I’m actually scared to even list the cookbook name here because I’m SURE most of you are going to snigger and not believe me….I’ve cooked most of my life (I enjoy building meals from scratch), yet this book has totally changed how I look at meal preparation….it’s called “Cook This, Not That! – 350 calorie meals”. I have especially enjoyed their “salad matrix”. I’ve never built better tasting, and more fulfilling salads since following their guidelines and rules.

I could practice the fiddle. *sigh*. I won’t even talk about how long it’s been since I played. Mom – when do you want your next lesson? I need to know so I can actually still be ahead of you in the learning curve next time I teach you!

I could plan a sewing project. Mom found me a fabulous sewing machine…for $13. I’m so excited - aprons with fuzzy stuffed animals in the pockets? Or curtains? Or…?

So here I sit, trying to decide what to use the rest of this glorious evening for! I have a feeling it’s a wine, popcorn, and hot bath night…..there should be plenty of other evenings like this to do the projects described above. Tonight, I plan to enjoy this new found freedom, I can be “productive” another night.

Declarations of a Reformed Tack Hoarder

But first an update! Farley is all moved into her new home. She has fabulous accommodations and seems really content. I love the order and structure of the new barn. I’ve had one lesson so far as a boarder and I loved it. There are things I miss about the old place, but the sacrifice has been worth it - the barn has once again become the center of tranquility and peace in my life. All’s well.

Declarations of a Reformed Tack Hoarder
For years, friends and family have accused me of being a tack hoarder. I brushed them off with excuses of how it’s nice to have the tool at hand to get the job done, and everyone should have (insert a horsey thing here) in their barn, and why I couldn’t pass up such a good deal on (fill in the blank)…and most of the excuses are true. There ARE some pieces of tack that are nice to have around, even if it’s not a normal use item. And it IS nice to have “just the thing” when faced with a situation. However, it’s also led to me owning a large quantity of tack, most of which was never used.

It doesn’t help that I also have a reputation for “making something work” or finding the cheap red-neck way of doing it. Of course…this works for a while…until my complicated, convoluted system breaks down and I end up replacing it with the expensive thing actually DESIGNED to do the job. All while keeping the assorted tack used to “make it work”, thus leading to more, and yet even more tack!

Up to now, the excessiveness of my hoarding hasn’t been readily apparent. I’ve been able to tuck a little here and there, hide a few Rubbermaid containers in a tack room, and sneak piles of tack into the feed room etc. No more do I have that freedom! With limited space, time, and $$ - the mounds of tack must go! To curb such impulses as have led to these dire straits, I present the mottos of a reformed tack hoarder….

I SHALL buy what I really want…once. It is a coincidence that the ONLY original piece of tack that I still own from my early days in endurance is the very high quality Hought breast collar that I paid for new? Everything else has gone by the wayside as it broke, proved to be unsuitable, or irritated me.

I SHALL NOT buy items “just in case”. When I have my own barn, this might be possible. Right now, there’s no space for just in case…..

I SHALL NOT buy items just because it’s a good deal. We won't even discuss this one in detail....

I SHALL NOT continue to store things that don’t fit me or the horse and I haven’t used, EVER. Sportack Vosal and bridle anyone?

I SHALL put thought into tack purchases and I SHALL thing about the long term implications of my purchase. Are my colors going to change? What is the expected life span of this piece of tack? Can this be used in more than one discipline? What is the lifelong upkeep/maintenance required of the item to keep it in usable condition? I'm super happy with my Hought bridle because there's no color. The breast color is red - and it functions great and I love it.....but my color scheme has changed a bit in the 5 years that I've purchased it. The pieces that I put a lot of thought into and bought exactly what I wanted and needed, are the pieces of tack I get the most joy from using.

I SHALL refuse to buy something less than suitable because I’m impatient and don’t want to wait. And thus I ended up with all sorts of curb straps and chains - none of which really worked - until I had the patience to buy one from Hought at a ride.

I SHALL not buy things that require tons of maintenance to keep usable, unless I have a PLAN of how I’m going to upkeep the item. I bought a thinline pad with sheepskin rolls, but NOT sheepskin underside because of this consideration. The result? I'm much happier with the pad.

I SHALL critically evaluate my tack at least annually.

I SHALL NOT buy as much tack at the tack sale as I came to sell.

I SHALL buy horses of all the same size so I have no excuses to double my tack inventory.

I SHALL stop thinking of my tack as something large enough to refer to as “inventory”.

I SHALL be able to fit my tack into its assigned space at all times. Assigned space SHALL NOT include garages, pickup beds, tool boxes, and more than one horse stall in the trailer.

Which reminds me…has anyone else seen the ad in the USEF for the new ariat boot? Boy is it pretty….I can see myself in pair now! Just kidding….kinda.