Thursday, Jul. 25, 2024

Blogger Behind The Stall Door With: Ellegria

I've known Ella almost 10 years, so I think I probably know her better than anyone. And while she's quietly confident in herself now, she's terribly introverted, so she probably wouldn't be all that excited about me sharing all of her wonderful little quirks with the world in a blog post.

But: I think she's wonderful, brilliant, and should be shared with the world.

Plus, I have thumbs and she doesn't. So world, meet Ellegria!

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I’ve known Ella almost 10 years, so I think I probably know her better than anyone. And while she’s quietly confident in herself now, she’s terribly introverted, so she probably wouldn’t be all that excited about me sharing all of her wonderful little quirks with the world in a blog post.

But: I think she’s wonderful, brilliant, and should be shared with the world.

Plus, I have thumbs and she doesn’t. So world, meet Ellegria!

  • Ella’s real name is Elly McBeal. I mean, really. So Ellegria she became, a play on “allegria,” the Spanish word for happiness, with the E because Westfalen foals’ names must start with the same first letter as their sires. Ella is also known as Ella-bella, Ella Ella Eh Eh Eh (from the Rhianna song “Umbrella”), Princess and Princess Ellegria Of The Mountain (which is what Michael calls her, and I have no idea why.)

  • Ella is a klutz. She’s got a couple of good scars on her head, which have been there as long as I’ve known her, and I imagine that they’re from trailer or stall accidents, because the girl can’t get onto a trailer or horse van without trying to remove a body part.

    As such, she travels in a fuzzy halter, a head bumper, and wraps from knee and hock down, respectively, as well as with a towel duct taped to the top of my trailer. She’ll also basically run onto a trailer, no matter what her handler has to say about it, so I pretty much point her at the trailer and get the heck out of the way. She’ll take care of the rest.

  • She also has unbelievably sensitive skin. If you look at her sideways she’ll take a chunk of hair off her legs, and so she pretty much lives with her legs protected. (More on this in a moment.) And she’ll get nasty reactions to pretty innocuous stuff. One winter she had some dry skin after being body clipped, so I put some baby lotion, the super sensitive-skin soothing oatmeal kind, on her back. It blistered. We’ve used every lotion, potion, cream, gel and goop on the planet to help hair grow back. And Ella’s favorites come from the Zephyr’s Garden line at Uckele, because they’re some of the only products that don’t make her blow up.
  • Ella hates bugs, and they make her crazy, so for turnout, she wears a fly sheet, neck hood and a mask, not to mention her extensive leg wraps. She looks rather like a jousting horse, shrouded in linen, and it sometimes spooks the other horses when they catch a look at her.


Ella on her way to the paddock fully armored.

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  • Ella has really been terribly healthy (knock on wood knock on wood knock on wood) save two stellar incidents. The first, which I’ve written about before, was when she rolled under a fence in Florida a few years ago. It left her with a stunner of a wound, and a chronic infection called Pythium, leaving in its wake a scar that will never heal. Combine that with the klutz factor and keeping Ella’s legs wrapped and protected has become a full-time job.

  • Enter two Veredus products: the Piaffe Evo boot, which she works and turns out in, and the Stable Boot, which she lives in the rest of the time. They’re both super easy to put on and take off, as well as super easy to keep clean. They are absolutely, no questions asked, the secret to keeping her legs healthy. Hoorah!
  • The second was that, when she was 6 or 7, she was bitten by something—likely a spider—in Florida. (Florida, apparently, doesn’t like Ella.) The initial bite left a big open hole and some nasty swelling, for which I called the vet out, who prescribed a few days of antibiotics and went on his way.

    Well.

    The day after we stopped the antibiotics, her body BLEW UP. Huge ropes of inflammation all up and down her sides. Tiny round scars all over her flank. It was incredible. I couldn’t ride her for weeks, because they were right under where the saddle would go.

    Other than the scars, which persist to this day, she recovered completely, and it’s never held her back. But it does look like someone threw acid down one side of her.

    At the end of the day, it basically looks like Ella’s had an unbelievably tough childhood, when really we spend a pretty preposterous amount of our time trying to wrap her in bubble wrap!

  • Fortunately, she’s a really good girl. She’s insecure, and likes NOT being in charge. She’s quite the model patient, standing well for all her various creams and wraps, though she’s always had super snatchy hind legs. It scares the pants off vet and farrier assistants, because if you ask her for her hind foot, she’ll snap it up to her belly, and that’s where it stays. They’re like springs that are wound too tight. Weird.

    She’s also wonderfully sweet except for two things: the girth and blankets. She’d never bit anyone until the last show, where she reached around and got me when I girthed her, biting me so spectacularly I had a bruise for a week. (We then got almost 69% in the Grand Prix and almost 70% in the Special. So she’s mostly forgiven.)

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  • Ella’s a little tricky sometimes from the ground, just because she’s a nervous sort—not spooky, but nervous. But a lead chain won’t solve the problem; in fact, it sets her off. And because Ella’s not really a big fan of nature (she’s like Melman, the giraffe from the Madagascar movies—”Nature, it’s all over me, get it off!”), Ella doesn’t get to go for handwalks around the farm, and especially not at the shows.
  • Ella’s always my first horse of the morning. She starts her day with an electromagnetic blanket treatment, which she LOVES; it puts her to sleep. She gets ridden, and I’ll hack her a little bit, but again, she’s not so much with the nature, so our trail rides are usually pretty short. She gets turned out in her battle armor for as long as she can stand it, which is sometimes all day, and sometimes 20 minutes, with absolutely no predictability whatsoever as to what kind of day it will be. And in the afternoons, she goes for a powerwalk in our exerciser, where she gets thisclose to the front panel, as if she’s trying to outwalk it. 
  • Whether it’s balmy or scorching, Ella sweats like it’s her job. And whether it’s balmy or scorching, Ella loves being bathed in almost scaldingly hot water. I tell those who bathe her that if the water is almost uncomfortably hot for you, it’s perfectly hot for her. Any colder and she’ll dance around and complain. And she’ll let you hose her head off as long as you first let her drink from, and play with, the hose. 

  • When one comes to her stall, she walks over right away, but then presents her shoulder to you. It’s always struck me as a little rude, but she wants a little less conversation and a little more action, please; and for Ella, action is a good shoulder scratch.
  • But it’s not just scratching she wants—Ella’s a treat hound. She’s not a terribly good eater (though she LOVES her Tribute Kalm Performer), but she’ll eat just about any treat out there.

    But Ella’s favorite treat is bananas. And not just the meaty part. Watch this!

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