Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosquito on my Ass

I last posted on the 24th of June. I had just taken Abby up to a club arena and had started to think that maybe I might just make that July show I had set my sights on back in May before having to leave her off due to my very Big Mistake. Other than a handful of very short, very slow rides on very soft ground Abs didnt get any riding until that ride in the end of June. Actually, Abby has had very little riding, period, in the time I've had her since she got pulled off the broodmare field where she had stood for over five years. I got Abby home in November of 2013. I didnt ride her at all until January and those rides were very short and sweet and I remember being so happy and shocked with how much she still remembered. But that Spring I never did really get it together and actually start working her. I would guess, all total, I rode Abby about 30-40 times coming up to the last week in June and nearly all of those rides where walks in the field and on the trail. I rode her twice at the neighbors, once at a local indoor, and a few times at a half I can safely say that I did not have more than ten arena rides on her or any kind of serious work. So when I decided to, (at the end of June) try to get her fit and ready to rein for that July show, I knew that I was going to have to keep my expectations low... but I decided to bite the bullet and just go ahead and enter. I wasn't going to be "ready" but I really just needed the experience under my belt. I paid my fees. I was entered to show on July 13th!

That last week of June I dropped in three times at the neighbors arena, hauled her over to another big arena and had a very short ride in the gravel paddock. I had avoided stopping her at all in that week because I didnt have sliders on her and the neighbors arena is deep and stick- I didn't want her jamming up her hocks but on July 3rd I got a set of sliders put on and the next day I went over to a local indoor with good loose footing. We had a really nice ride at that arena. I am always so impressed with this horse and how totally relaxed she is wherever we go. New horses, new arena, a mirror, jump standards- none of it phases her. It was exciting to finally get to ask her to run down (a little bit) and stop. I was a little surprised that she was wanting to really break down to a soft stop rather than slide but then I realized that I have done nothing but break down to a stop since I've had her (because I didnt have the ground or sliders on her). I didn't want to overdue do it and make her sore so only stopped her four or five times. I really wanted to get her stopping better but thought it was better to error on the side of caution. The crappy part was that during that ride I had asked her to gallop out a little and she had popped her lead and when I picked up on her to bring her down and switch back she kind of jammed to a stop on me and I could feel a little twig I have in my back get tweaked.

I've had chronic issues with my lower back since I was eighteen. Most of time it will just be a little "twig" and if I baby it for a little while I can get past it but every year I will randomly make some motion that will spontaneously set it off and leave me barely able to walk, stand, sit or even lay down comfortably. When Abby stuck that stop suddenly I felt that stab of pain and later that night I definitely felt that inflammation come up but I just took an Advil, went to bed and hoped it would be gone in the morning.

And wouldn't you know it, the next morning was my birthday. You know, that special day wherein the world is obligated to lay off the bullshit and cut you some slack for 24 hours and maybe even grant a few wishes? More than anything I really just wanted to take Marm to the park and go for a nice little trail ride by myself. I felt some tenderness in my hip/back but not enough to not ride. I hauled up to a local park and hit the trail feeling like all was right in the world... for about three minutes until I felt the sudden prick of mosquito on my neck, my thigh, my wrist, the back of my hand, my upper arm, shoulder... everywhere! Marm was tossing her head and swishing her tail like crazy. I had doused us both in repellant but it was no use. Right by the parking lot there is a large field of tall grass so I decided to just pick up a trot and see if I could get out of that infested area. Marm thought this was a great idea and we were quickly hustling down the trail. Five minutes later I slowed to a walk and waited to see how many mosquitos would land on Marm's neck. Within thirty seconds a dozen or were greedily sucking her blood and I was slapping bloody streaks off my own neck too. I stubbornly refused to admit that my morning, my birthday morning no less, was going to be ruined by a mob of vampire bugs! Oh no! So off Marm and I went again. We long trotted that trail for twenty minutes or so before I stopped to turn around. For half my ride my bladder had been protesting that it needed some relief. For half my ride I had been telling it to shut up!  The morning was hot and humid and my jeans were damp with sweat and stuck tight to my thighs. The trail I was on, while not busy that morning (no one else was crazy enough to dare the bugs) was not entirely abandoned either and there was no deeply wooded area in which to step. The idea of exposing one more inch of my skin to the hordes of lurking bloodsuckers was needless to say, unappealing...however,  only slightly less so than the idea of long trotting all the way back to the trailer with a full bladder. I resigned myself to getting off to go but I knew I had to do it as quickly as possible to minimize the time my butt was exposed to the pariah like mosquitos and maximize my chance of missing a fellow rider or walker. I think actually mumbled to myself, "ready, set, GO!" I hopped off, stepped two feet off the trail, peeled off my pants and sat my ass straight down on to a stinging nettle bush. Happy Fucking Birthday! Oh! And it's not like the mosquitoes had any sense of sympathy! Oh no! They sensed my vulnerable state and pounced on my posterior with their greedy little fangs. I told my bladder to stop! Stop quick! We had to run for our lives! But it ignored my desperate pleas in it's own quest for relief. Finally, finally, I was finished. Surely the worst was behind me. But no, oh no, the best part was yet to come- I couldn't get my pants back up. I was hopping up and down the trail, yanking on my jeans and trying to unfurl the tightly bound roll my underwear had become with my backside stinging like the dickens and my horse threatening mutiny if I did not get her moving before she was drained of every last drop of blood in her 1000 pound body all the while I'm craning my head over my should certain that at any moment some tender eyed group of boy scouts would walk around that bend in the trail and catch me with my red spotted behind on full display and cussing like a sailor. But alas, I was granted some small mercy and managed to get my jeans back up... though my panties were quick literally and figuratively still in a knot.

I got back on. We hauled ass back to the trailer. I took this video just as we were getting back the parking lot.

That afternoon I headed across the line to find me a new pair of blue jeans. By the time I got to the Bony Pony in Mt.Vernon my back was feeling more than a little tweaked but I just went slow and kept moving hoping it would loosen up. I did find a nice pair of Wrangler Q-Baby jeans in a dark dark blue that I planned on showing in the following Sunday. My fun purchase of the day was a pair of good ol' fashioned Wranglers that are so old school they are back in style! That night my man took me to an amazing Italian restaurant and then we did something I've been begging him to do since we met... we went bowling! By the time we got home my lower back wasn't just protesting... it was threatening an all out strike. The next morning I took the bull by the horns and made an appointment with a physiotherapist. Come hell or high water I was showing my horse... that is if I could get my foot in the stirrup.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to Work We Go

I hauled Abby out last night and let her lope (and even gallop) a few circles in the deep loose ground of a big ol' arena (which was blessedly empty). She really had to dig deep in that ground and was sweated up pretty good. I kept it short because obviously she isn't fit enough to really handle the work but she was really jazzed and seemed to want to open up so I let her go. I always worry about doing too much and so I take it slow but in reality, if I had turned her loose, she would have worked twice as hard and twice as long all on her own just having fun and ripping around. I walked her out in hand on the firmer ground for a good 15 minutes and rubbed her down until she gleamed. This evening she didnt seem at all sore. I wanted to work her again tonight but I couldnt get my truck to haul out and there was no ground available so I stuck to the little gravel arena/paddock at my barn and just asked her to do a lot of bending/counter bending and then loped a few very small circles (which is hard work and gets those ab muscles engaged!) I am starting to think maybe, just maybe I might enter that show in July just for the experience. She needs to get out and I need the experience every bit (actually a lot more) than she does... it would be a good thing for us... I just don't want to make an ass of myself and this show is the biggest of the year. Go big or go home? I just about pee my pants even thinking about it!

Oh and I needed a new saddle pad for months now and was looking to see if maybe one with very little use would come up used locally. Last week a barely used (but very dirty) "tough enough to wear pink" ProChoice pad came up so I bought it for $40. Then this afternoon a damn near brand spankin' new ESP wool pad came up that still had a new looking price tag from a local tack store ($179.99) which I got for $82. Both pads are not even broken in and between them both I paid less than I would have paid for one alone. The Scott in me is smiling:)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not a Lotta Nothing...

I doesn't feel like I got a whole lot accomplished with my horses this week but in fact I did quite a bit! The reason why I don't feel productive is because I didn't stay on track with my training goals and instead went out and just kinda winged it.... but in a good way. I hauled Abby and Marm out on Monday night to an arena and I ended up working both of them to a sweat in the deep soft ground, the first work they have had in almost a month. Abby was surprisingly goosey that night, I ended up asking her to do more than I planned just because I needed to get and keep her attention. Then on Tuesday morning I actually hauled out again to a trail and had a really nice ride on Marm.  On Wedneday night I hauled Marm and Abby up to the little arena on my other property and had a nice short ride on both. I worked Abby to a light sweat again and she really was light and fresh from being tuned up a little on the ride a few days before. While I haven't worked with Hola specifically I do like that she was left twice at home "alone" (not really because a boarder's gelding is there and Ella too but not her every day herd). I feel bad that I didn't get to get Hola out in the trailer this week but still hope to get that done tomorrow night. On Thursday night  I got on Marm with the intention of riding out on the road/trail on both mares but the mosquitos were just too bad so I roped a little off of Marm but after missing ten times in a row I was so frustrated I knew my aim was unlikely to improve and so called it quits. That night I rode her in a halter with just the lead rope (one rein) and she was guiding around beautifully. Finally this evening I went to the barn with the intention of riding but again the bugs were horrendous and I just didn't have a mind to do much of anything as I had done yoga followed by gong bath meditation (which was weird, cool and just a little annoying) that morning and found that rather than being energized and centered as I usually am by practicing yoga I was actually irritable and flustered. I think it may be because this was the first time I had done yoga in a group (not at home to my favorite DVDs) and had a really hard time concentrating and finding my inner zen. I think I will try it again (the yoga not the gong bath) as I do believe that finding my center while in a group setting could actually help me in my everyday life. But that is another post for another day. Namaste!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chaste Berry and Raspberry Leaf

Three weeks ago I started Abby and Marm on chaste berry (vitex) and Raspberry leaf. For Marm my hope was that it would improve her mindset under saddle. For Abby I hoped it would help her loose some of the fatty deposits she carries (IR type symptom) and help her not have her notorious super raunchy 3 week heat cycles. Unfortunately, one week after I started supplementing I had that whole incident where I left the gate open and the horses were out on lush green grass all night long. While trying to keep them from foundering (and helping Abby through the resulting colic) I changed quite a few other things in their diet/environment in an effort to reduce their sugar levels and keep them on soft ground and to help re-establish their gut flora. Before my Very Big Mistake the horses were given access to a very sparse pasture for the better part of the day. I am going to be keeping them off of pasture entirely for another three weeks (4-6 weeks total). They used to get a few flakes of low sugar local hay morn and night in a slow feeder net. Now they get one flake of local and a small or half flake of alfalfa. Abby and Marm were on a joint supplement before as well as Hoffmans Mineral mixed in a little beet pulp with a sprinkle of low sugar/high fat grain to make it more palatable. I had just started them on 1tsp of chaste berry and 2 heaping tbsp. of raspberry leaves about a week before. To this I have now added SmartDigest Ultra by Smartpak which has psyllium, probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. Both mares were on an NSAID for about a week and I know this also affected their gut/digestion. The good news is that I haven't noticed an raunchy heat cycle on Abby and she has lost almost all of the fatty deposit she had behind her shoulder. Marm has been going beautifully under saddle (but I've only been walking her) and seems more relaxed in her demeanor and even in her conformation. The bad news is that I don't know whether it is because of the lack of grass/turn out, the digestive upset, the digestive supplement, the chaste berry, the raspberry leaf or the alfalfa (and less local). Both mares have dropped weight in all the right places. Right now I am just going to keep the status quo and hope that they continue to get happier and healthier.

From Bottom up- Mineral, Flax, Joint Supplement, Raspberry Leaf, Chaste Berry, Grain
I did get to ride both mares tonight, Abby just bareback for a minute or two. Hola was also as such a good girl tonight, she stood tied for twenty minutes and then (for the first time) laid over her back a little. She was like "what the hell are you doing you weirdo!" but didn't take so much as a step. Good girl. We had a wee discussion the other night about her being sticky and bratty. This afternoon she was like "yes ma'am".

I took Marm over to the neighbors arena and she was AWESOME. She was relaxed, she listened, she guided beautifully, she stopped when asked and drug a pole around the arena like it was the most important job in the world. On top of that she looks freakin' awesome. I will try to get pictures in the morning.

Riding the Individual Horse's Mind

Last night's ride went very well indeed and, ironically, not because it went according to plan. My plan was to work creating softness in the back up.  I got on Abby and after walking for a few minutes went to turn her around so that we had room to back up. That is when what should have been a turn on the hind quarter to the right (because I was sitting down and had picked up my rein, laying it against her neck, opening my inside leg and closing my out) was instead a small circle to right. I went to correct her and found that she really didn't want to drop back on her hock and turn unless I circled her first. I realized that over the past month I have not asked her to turn around (spin), even a half a turn without first circling around to it. Every day I have been practicing standing still and having her actively wait for my cue. This time was no different, I made sure that I was giving her a very specific cue to turn around without walking off (moving forward slightly to set up her legs so she can step around smoothly is okay but not actually moving off). In less than ten minutes I felt like I had made some headway as she was really tuned in while waiting and put a lot of energy in to her response. Most importantly I really felt her listen.

So I got on Marm and thought I would get back on to my "game plan". I sat on her for a moment and worked out in my mind what I was going to do and how when suddenly it just hit me that as much as Marm could really benefit from that kind of softening and flexion work, that is specifically the kind of "work" that makes her so frustrated. On paper it sounds like the right thing. But in reality Marm just wants a job. Any job. So I got off and went in the barn for my rope. I roped the fence post for about five minutes and felt her relax and soften when I went forward and backed up to get my rope. Event that tiny bit of purpose to my intent changed the way she felt and thought. So I took it a step further and looped my rope on to a heavy piece of firewood which I then had her drag around the arena. I think we both realized that this wasn't a real job but it still put my attention and focus off of her and gave her something to think about. And she just gobbled it up. I could feel her relax even as she became more alert. It was awesome. I am hoping to get over to the neighbors today to rope a dummy (rather than the much too high fence post).

As for the little Princess. She spent another half hour tied to the wall tacked. Once I finished with the mares I was trying to figure out what short and sweet little task I could set her too and decided that I was actually already engaged in it... because I had turned the mares loose and was in the barn stuffing a hay net to feed them all lunch and I could hear Hola getting restless. I felt reeeeeally evil putting out hay for the mares and tying a net near her (but well out of reach) while she was still tied but what is the point in practicing her tying and patience if it isn't ever challenged? She did move around and jerk on her lead a few times but within a few minutes settled back down. I went over, untied and untacked her and then turned her loose. It was another great day with the my ladies.

Monday, June 9, 2014

3rd "Short" Ride- Not a Success

So last night I tacked up with the intent of having another very successful "short" ride. I was confident (bordering on cocky) that my horses were going to go just as good as they did in the previous two rides. Not so much. Starting with Abby, my finished reiner, the horse with the stop so deep and hard it'll knock your ovaries out... well, I had no stop at all. I sat down, exhaled, picked up my rein and got... nothing. No response. How is that possible?!? So I backed her up 15' or so and sat there for a minute and tried again, focused on really engaging my seat and pushing forward then dramatically sitting down, exhaling and keeping my hands still until I felt her stop... but no stop came. I backed her up another 20' and went again. No stop. I stopped and thought about it for a minute and then decided that the problem was simple. I had been standing holding her for twenty minutes or more before getting on while talking to L. and in that time she had been doing her own thing, playing with the lead, playing in the water and lollygagging around in LaLaLand. Then I got on and said "Okay, let's work on this" and she was like "La-de-dah-de-dah"... So I woke her up. I backed 20' but gave her some good bumps, sent her in to a roll back and then kicked her up to a trot before sitting deep and saying "whoa". And she stopped. Like, stopped stopped.... And stood there, her ears flicking to me listening and saying "Okay! I'm awake! What now?!? I'm ready when you are?" I got off, dropped her cinch and pulled her saddle. Good girl.

Then I got on Marm and found I had the exact same issue- Not awake, not wanting to stop and just not engaged or listening but with Marm I know my job is to get more quiet and more soft or she will just get more resistant and listen less. So I tried to do that but my patience was already worn thin. I decided to back her up a little and get off because nothing good was going to come of me continuing that ride.

On reflection I realize that the problem was my own. In the first two rides I was alone and when I stepped in the saddle my attention and intent was 100% focused on my predetermined objective. When I got on last night my mind was still rolling over my earlier conversation, I didn't have a specific plan and I was "present" until after I had already gotten annoyed. And we all know nothing good comes of getting mad. My bad.

So tonight I hope to get to the barn for another short ride. My goal will be to have both of them back softly off of a light feel. I will give
them 100% of my attention the entire time (even if it is only five minutes) I am in the saddle. And I will hope for a much better result.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Two VERY Successful Rides at a Walk

On Thursday night I went to the barn with the intent of working with all three of my horses in under an hour. Because I'm only riding for ten minutes, and only at a walk, it was shockingly easy. I grabbed Hola and gave her a good brushing over the saddle/cinch area. I popped on a saddle, cinched it up, walked her outside and tied her to the wall. I took a single brush out and did the same quick brush of both mares (Marm and Abby). Abby then got tied to the wall and I had Marm tacked in just a few minutes. I rode Marm for less than ten minutes with the idea that I was going to simply work on having her move forward when I pick up my energy and stop when I exhale deeply and sit deep. I was so relaxed and so specific in my intent that she responded instantly. We only did it a dozen times before I decided to call it a success and quit. I dropped her cinch before walking back to the barn. I took her right up beside where Abby was tied and slipped the saddle off of Marm and right on to Abs. I tied Marm to the wall and cinched Abs up. The same exercise on her (for less than ten minutes), the same dropped cinch while she stood from that last stop and I was back to the barn. I let both mares loose and took Hola for a short walk down the road to where I know there is another horse in a neighboring pasture. I wanted her to stay with me while that horse ran the fence line. After a few minutes of turning left, right, back, forward, stop, back, left right (just changing directions every few seconds so that she had to focus on me) she settled down and started ignoring that other horse. I walked her home, slipped the saddle off of her an called it a night. Less than an hour and I felt like I had total success on all three horses.

Last night I tried to run the same play with pretty much the same result only this time I worked on having them ride straight until told to turn (not allowing them to turn at the corners on their own). This meant having to either ask them to turn before they hit the end of the arena/corner or having them stop straight looking that the fence and asking them to weight there until I actually ask for the turn. Less than ten minutes for each and it felt like I really accomplished something. I love that I had one very simple objective in mind and I rode until it started clicking and then quit rather than moving on to something else. I could get used to this kind of riding in a hurry. Both night on both horses I quit with my horses licking and chewing. Love it. And last night with Hola I just tacked her, tied to the wall while I worked the other mares and then walked her over to the other side of the barn (where we rarely if ever go) and asked her to move in a narrow space between me and the tractor without bowing in to my space. Again my focus, intent and task was so specific that we had almost immediate success. Love it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Walking: It's a Good Thing

The Eye of a Sweet Soft Mare- Abby
When the vet first mentioned that riding would be out for a week at minimum and hard riding for 4-6 weeks my first thought was a very bad word. For the time being I had just put the repercussions of that news out of my head, I had bigger things to worry about than the loss of a show season. But once the initial panic wore off I had lots and lots of time (holding my horse in her ice bath) to wallow in a little self pity. I had just finally started to get on track, I had just started to get a real connection going with Abby, I had just found a saddle and most of all, I had finally resolved to chase down my dream of showing this lovely mare. The kick start to the entire plan had been the realization that I might not have "next year" because we never know what is going to happen in life... I needed to seize the opportunity available to me on that day and not put it off to tomorrow (or next year) again and again. Funny how life is never content to just say "Hello!" Life has to jump up and smack you in the face- it isn't enough to understand the concept in principle... oh no! Life wants to make sure you live those lessons. So, what is my lesson?

That I got a reality check smack in the face but I didn't get knocked down. Right now my horses all appear to be okay and while I am going to have to be careful over the next month I am able to ride at a walk on soft ground. Walking: it's a good thing.

Being forced to stay at a walk is probably the best thing that could have happened from a training perspective. At a walk I can work on softness, timing, feel, flexion, impulsion, and my "wait". Spending a month at a walk will force me to polish those fine details. By the time we are ready to go her back in to work, Abby and I will have a better relationship and ability to communicate. I cant wait to get started tonight!

Hola waiting (impatiently) for Ella up at the Clinic
As for the other two girls. I am going to work Marm on the same schedule as Abs and actually on the same program as Abs. I am going to write up a plan for what I want to work on each day and use the same plan on both horses. It will also be a really good thing for Marm-  exactly what the doctor ordered, literally and proverbially. As for Miss Hola. She is going to stand tied to the wall why I work her sisters. That Little Princess needs time to reflect on just how little "say" she has in this life and that patience is a virtue. I will be reflecting on the same.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Last of the Laminitis Saga- I Hope

What is the first thing one is suppose to do when a horse colics? Why get them on their feet and get them moving of course! But when the greater threat is laminitis, walking suddenly doesn't seem like the safest option. Walking, the hoof in motion, is the mechanism that pumps blood IN to a horses foot. That was last thing I wanted. Luckily my vet was 20 minutes away and Abby was not down. While she was drooling and frothing at the mouth (the vet figured was a pain response as she didn't want to swallow) she had no fever, only a slightly slow capillary refill and slightly elevated respiratory and heart rate. The vet listened to her gut and found she only had 1/4 for digestive sounds, not much was moving. He gave her a shot of banamine and tubed her to get some mineral oil in her belly. I continued my icing of their feet and started praying for poop.

You know that expression about a watched pot never boils? I swear a colicing horse never poops when you are watching. It was 4 hours after being administered the banamine that she finnnnallly pooped for the first time and I swear it was because I gave up and went and sat in the car for ten minutes to see if she would go if I left her alone. Little brat. I gave her some pro/pre biotic digestive supplement that night (which she has continued to get every nice since) and continued with the cold therapy.

The prettiest Poop There Ever Was (her first in 15+ hrs)

After that first day I decided to stay offline for a while and not make myself crazy- there was just too much conflicting information from reliable sources. I knew I had to get past the 36-48 hour mark before I could really let down my guard but with Abby I had to time that from Sunday morning's colic. From Saturday morning until Tuesday night I kept a very close eye and did what I could to keep those feet still, on soft ground and cold. I also had all three on a anti-inflammatory.

My view for 72 hours

 I had a few scares in there, Abby's front right seemed to get warm and her back left. Marm's front left seemed to get warm as well and both of Hola's fronts but none of them were ever more than warm and none had a digital pulse or anything close to "hot". For days I had been feeling every hoof in the barn (the horses who did not get out that night) and was surprised by just how much they vary throughout the day and from hoof to hoof. I promised myself after come Wednesday night I was going to have to stop. From my reading and vets advice I knew I was going to have to be careful for the next month to keep their feed low in sugar and on soft ground. It has been 10 days since the night of my Very Big Mistake and so far none of my girls have shown any signs of laminitis. For months I had planned to go to an out-of-town clinic with a friend from Friday- Sunday (the weekend after). I didn't think I was going to be able to go but really didn't want to bail on my friend so I arranged for someone to look in on the horses every day. I knew they were in trustworthy hands so I decided to go. At the last minute I decided to suck it up and take Hola. She needed the exposure and it wasn't too long of a haul. I was so glad I did. The weekend was great (a post for another day) and it was good for me to step back and not hover. 

The hardest part of the whole experience was the amount of conflicting information I found. How can it be that we still don't really understand one of primary causes of death in horses? The treatment advice I found online did not bode with my vets and I really didn't know which way to turn. I decided to ice and use NSAIDs for 4 days straight. I will never know if what I did worked or whether nothing would have happened had I don't nothing from the start. That part is hard. But I knew I had to try my best and hope for the best. So that is what I did. Only now that it is (hopefully) all over, am I ready to sit down and try to understand what best to do should there be a "next time" (And I soooo hope there wont be) and even how best to continue treating them now. I will be sure to share once I get my head around the concept- a few years from now.

The last part to this whole saga is that my vet had advised against any hard riding for at six weeks- only very light riding on soft ground. Which meant that my goal to get Abby legged up and showing this July was being grounded before takeoff. Or was it?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ice- My Only Weapon

Before I had even arrived at the barn that morning after my Very Big Mistake I was already plotting my strategy for the coming battle against laminitis. I knew I had a few factors working in my favor- First was that I had been pounding the feed to Hola over the previous few weeks as she had dropped a good chunk of weight (she could ill afford to loose) the month before. Hola eats more than any horse in the barn and weighs half as much (or so it seems). So she was used to having a high calorie diet and free choice feed. Actually, all three of my horses have had pretty much free choice hay in slow feeder nets which makes them more likely to walk away from feed... walking away from knee deep lush green spring grass might not be as likely as walking away from my low sugar 2nd cut local... but it probably still helped and they also had a good belly full of hay that night. So Hola was used to being on more grass and feed and has a speedy metabolism. So right away I decided to kick her to the back burner of my worry list. Now luck was on my side with Marmalade too. At about 9:00pm that night I had a given Marm a killer hard work out in the (soft ground) hay field. I mean a hard work- as in she had sweat around her eyeballs. And thanks to BrownEyedCowgirls reminder of the importance of pre and post work care I had not only cooled Marm out very well but also had cold hosed her legs for 20 minutes after that ride. So her metabolism should have been burning fast and hot. However Marm is a quarter horse and prone more towards the fat so I was cautiously optimistic that she might not have a problem. Then there was Abs. I had not worked her the night before. She is still very fat and not in a good way. At 14.2HH and 950 pounds Abs is the kind of quarter horse you have to worry about. She has those tell tale fat pockets and smaller feet. Since getting her home I have been babysitting her feet quite a bit and have kept her shod in order to get them back in to shape. Her feet have been sound but by no means ideal. I have been really careful with the levels of sugar in her diet. Abby is the last horse you want to get out on the field overnight. I was not just worried about her, I was in full a full panic mode. I happen to have a farrier that is very well educated in laminitis so I called him for his advice but unfortunately he was out of town until the second of June. I called my vet and had him paged to call me back. I didn't have time or the mind to get on the internet and sort through the litany of information out there so I was on my own for the moment.

I thought back to a conversation I had with my farrier and tried to recall everything I could about laminitis. My frantic mind tried to condense that hour long conversation in to one simple concept that went something like this- when a horse eats to much sugar it causes a reaction in the gut that causes bad shit to be created, that bad shit goes in the blood...because every drop of blood in the horses body goes through the feet that bad blood goes through the sensitive laminae and causes something to happen that makes them react badly and basically die which is really bad news. The enemy is in blood so blood is the enemy. I remember my farrier saying how the old cowboy way was to stick a horse in the creek to keep the feet as cold as possible as long as possible but then scientists came along and said that was wrong and that lack of blood flow as causing the dying off so you had to encourage blood, but then it turned out that those cowboys were right all along and that cold is the best defense and really the only defense besides anti-inflammatory drugs and anticoagulants. I needed to try to stop that bad blood from getting in to her to feet and the only way I could do that was to make them really really cold. My weapon was going to be ice.

Barely an hour went by in that first day where Abby and Marm did not have their feet standing in or wrapped in ice. They had no heat or digital pulse, no temp and normal vital signs. I took a tentative sign of relief. After talking to my vet in the morning he opted not to come down until the end of the day as there wasn't much to see/do at that point besides cross my fingers. I sat down with my horse (standing in an ice bath) in one hand and my phone in the other and started reading about laminitis and what, if anything, I could do to prevent it. One of the first things I found out was that I was drastically premature in breathing a sigh of relief.  From what I read it was unlikely that the would show any signs of  for 36-48 hours after carbohydrate overload. I started scanning page after page of material and most, if not all, were explaining how the event that occurs in the hind gut, the release of endotoxins in to the blood stream was a process that would take days to occur.  I also read in a study published by Virginia Tec that there was a anticoagulant drug called Neparin that has been clinically shown to prevent the onset of laminitis while in the prodromal stage (before the laminitis event). So I call my vet and ask him about the drug. He says he will be by late in the day to talk about it. Meanwhile, I decided to continue icing as it is the only thing I have in my power to do. So around 5:30pm my vet comes down and feels Abby's feet for heat and digital pulse, checks her vitals and uses hoof testers on all 4 to check for tenderness. When I asked him if it was too early to see any kind of flare up he replied "Not at all, it can happen almost immediately." I then asked him about the Neparin and he said that they use it for severe cases after a laminitic episode but never before hand and he hasn't heard of that is being used in that application. I explain that this was a published study and he says that he will look at reading it but was familiar with that use... in other words he was not going to administer it and was probably rolling his eyes at yet another wannabe vet with a Google degree. He felt that all three horses should be just fine and that my icing should have made a difference and that I could ice a few times the next day to be safe. I continued icing until past midnight Saturday night before finally heading home to catch some sleep. The next morning I was driving to the barn trying to breathe and think positively when I received a call from L. asking why Abby would be foaming at the mouth. My heart sank. Not three minutes later I ran up to her stall and there was sweet Ab's, her mouth covered in froth, and not a single pile of manure of manure in her stall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Very Big Mistake

I am a very forgetful person. Always have been. I haven't learned to be more mindful despite my best attempts and the best attempts of my DB, parents, teachers, etc... But what I have learned is how to better manage the fact that I am highly forgetful by developing the habit of pausing many many times a day to ask myself what I am forgetting or by setting an alarm. I set an alarm when I put water on to boil. I set an alarm when I turn the hose on to fill the trough. I stop on my way out the door to look back and make sure I turned the burners off on the stove. Even so, often my alarm goes off and it will take me a solid second to remember why I had set it in the first place. I haven't learned to remember but I have learned to remember to ask myself what I have forgot. At the barn I have strict system in place to keep my sieve like mind in check. Before I leave the barn I systematically go through and look at each horse, make sure they have water and make sure their pen/stall/pasture is latched by actually physical touching the latch of the stall door or by staring at the latch, blocking all other thoughts from my mind and consciously thinking "latched". I also stop at the driveway gate and run a double check- stall doors, check, gate to grain room, check, gate to barn, gate to paddock, gate to pasture, main gate, check then finally gate to drive. I do this every single time because I do not trust myself to remember. And I know that it is critically important that I do remember.

But on Friday night I failed to check. I failed to double check. I had let the horses out through the far gate (from the field which has next to no grass) and on to the deep pasture for their short nightly graze. I then went and caught Marm and took her through the near gate for a ride. I then caught Abby and took her through the near gate to tie her to the trailer and brush her down. Finally I went and caught Hola and took her through the near gate and gave her grain. I then took all three through the barn and turned them back out on to the field with very little grass through the paddock gate. I fed them hay. I fed hay to the other three horses. And then I realized it was 9:15 and I was running late. L had just come home and told her the only thing left to be done was to feed grain to the other three. I jumped in my car and sped off to meet a lady I had scheduled to meet to buy new head stall. I didn't stop and ask myself "what am I forgetting" or nor did I run through the check list of "gate check, gate check, gate check" and lastly I didn't mention to L that I had turned the horses out at all.

On Saturday morning I received a call from L saying that my three horses- Marm, Hola and Abby- were out on the front pasture....the deep, lush, bright green spring pasture. And they had been there all night long because the far gate had been left open. My heart stopped beating. My mind raced back over the night before. And I realized that I had broke the cardinal rule every single horseman who ever lived- I didn't closed the gate.

Before I even got the barn I had called my vet and was waiting for a call back. I knew that I was going to have to just cross my fingers against the high likelihood of colic and focus all my efforts on stopping that sweet rich grass from reeking havoc on my horses tiny, fragile, but oh-so-critically important laminae. The war against founder was about to be waged.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good Training, Good Horse

Over the past week I have started back riding Abs. I started with the idea that I would give her a solid two weeks of lunging before riding to help get her belly and weight better before adding a rider. That plan went out the window after two days. First, I hate lunging. I understand the benefits and if I had a larger space and better ground I probably would not have quit but I just don't- I have a small space on hard packed gravel with loose pea gravel on top. It was a recipe for disaster and I knew this but thought if I took it slow enough she'd be alright. On Monday and Tuesday of last week I started with a good rub down before putting her on the lunge line where she got four minutes walk right, four minutes walk left, four minutes trot right, four minutes trot left and five minutes each way at a walk followed by a 10 minutes cold hose of her legs with a fleece cooler over her back. I found my iphone timer really handy for making sure I was keeping it even and on schedule.

On the second day she somehow caught the clip of her left hind shoe, bent it out in to a makeshift blade and then gouged her back right cornet band. *bad word* And the next days she was stiff and sore behind. So on Thursday she got a new set of shoes and I abandoned lunging (and that whole arena) for good... but... One of the reasons I wanted to lunge was also that I didn't have a saddle and needed time to look for one that fit both my squat pony and my squat budget (which I thought should I only take a year or two).

On Thursday she got a new set of shoes and on Friday, (not wanting to loose momentum) I borrowed a friends saddle and trotted some large circles in the hay field where she was still a little off behind but quickly worked out of it. When I put her away on Friday night I spent a good 15 minutes cold hosing her legs, hocks and stifle and gave her a really vigorous rub down. I used the last of my Absorbine liniment on her that night a well and started researching what product I wanted to get her on both topically and internally to help support her joints, muscles and ligaments. More on that next time.

But first I needed a saddle. I was dreading the very thought of saddle shopping so much that I thought I would try a few English saddles as they are so much more abundant in my area. Probably 1 in 20 saddles for sale is a western and of that one in twenty only 1 in about a hundred would be of the type, quality and price I'd consider. I tried a handful of dressage and all purpose with no luck before sucking it up (or rather asking my darling man to suck it up) and went looking for that elusive reiner or cow horse.  A good friend of mine had a Bob's cow horse that she used on her old mare who was built very similar to Abs so I held out hope that it might work but she was gone for the weekend barrel racing so I stopped in at a local shop and low and behold a Bob's! A well used and plain Bob's at a reasonable price! Counting my lucky stars, I took out that saddle as well as a cheaper no-name brand western (wishful thinking). That night I rode around a little in the front pasture and reveled in the feeling of that big cushy seat. It looked to fit Ab's reasonably well. It fit my ass perfectly. I love love love me a Bob's saddle. You just cant beat them for comfort.

 On Sunday I invited B (a boarder and new friend) to come out on a trail ride on Miss Abby as her horse is off for the foreseeable future and I knew she was feeling pretty down. B is English rider with very soft hands and seat and a kind heart so I didn't hesitate to offer her Abby while I rode Marm. We went out for a nice hour long walk on the trail where Abby was just perfect. B couldn't get over how totally chill she was especially considering her years off and lack of trail experience. That day I rode in that light oil Bob's on Marm and damn if it also didn't look like a pretty close fit.

On Monday I went over to the neighbors to ride Abs in her arena. I wanted to get a good sweat built up to check the saddle and I wanted to actually lope a couple of circles where I didn't have to watch my footing at every step. Abby didn't feel at all stiff behind but I still tried to keep my circles more like large squares and I didn't turn around or stop her (except once by accident where I nearly went ass over tea kettle). The resulting sweat pattern showed that the saddle was making little contact towards the back end of the treet (which usually means it is too low/wide in the front). I probably could have made it work with a very mild bump up front but I had yet to try my friends dark oil Bob's cow horse. At the end of that ride I made sure to spend a lot of time walking her out rubbing her down (and a 10 minute cold hose).

On Tuesday I went back to the local tack store to return the light oil Bob's and ask if they could hold it for the day while I tried the dark oil. I hauled the big saddle in and set it down and was chatting with the lady for a bit and was kind of wondering why she wasn't doing any paper work for my return and had just started to awkwardly ask if we could reverse the preauth on my credit card when it suddenly struck me that I had actually taken out two western saddles. *face palm* I assured her I would be back before end of day to return that cheap western (which didn't even come close to fitting). I then went and picked up my friends dark oil Bob's. It is also not fancy but I had ridden in it numerous times before and knew it to be uber comfortable.

That Tuesday night I rode in the long grass of the pasture. I happen to know that patch of field really well and was pretty damn confident that the ground was solid so I went ahead and pretended like I was in the arena. That was the best ride I have ever had on Abby. The saddle was so comfortable and she guided so nice. I felt like we actually started to really click. I find Abby so easy to ride because we were both trained by the same person so communicating a cue is never an issue but I think the past I rode her and that night we rode together... I couldn't feel where I ended and she began and I stopped consciously cuing her and started thinking about where I wanted to go and trusting her to guide there off of my intent. It was beautiful and reminded me just what I love about reining. After that ride I cold hosed her legs for a good 20 minutes and gave her another good rub down. At the start she had been a little short behind again but as she has every ride she really worked out of it very quickly.

I don't want lay Abs up because I really feel my best bet to getting her right is to get her fit (as slooooowly as possible) and provide her with support in reducing inflammation through cold water, good rub downs before and after riding and internal joint/muscle support as well. Brown Eyed Cowgirls did a post that reminded me just how important it is to spend as much time and conscious effort in their care before and after a ride as you do during the ride itself. Sometimes what you know and what you actually put in to practice are two different things but I know that Abby needs as much support as I can give her and I am determined to do my best. In each of our rides we have spent the majority of our time walking walking walking... Our total "work" time (almost all trotting) is less than fifteen minutes. Just enough to get her to open her lungs up, dampen her neck and wet her back. She is still pretty damn fat and sporting that big ol'broodmare belly.  I plan on continuing that level of work for at least the next week and then by next weekend I might be able to ask for a real work.

Oh! And as luck would have it, that saddle really did seem to sit on her nicely and her sweat pattern was even. Finding a saddle that quickly and easily feels like winning the lotto. I know her back is going to change a lot as I get her fit but I feel like there is enough room in that saddle to be able to make it work for a good while.

Last night I didn't want to ride but did want to stretch her out so went for a 45 minute walk in hand on the trail. She happily walked out and, as I did, seemed to soak up the beauty of that sweet spring evening. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. What a great horse. What a great life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carpe Diem! Showing Abigail

The Sheriff Dunit by Hollywood Dun It standing at McBride Quarter Horses
(unrelated to post just had to share a beautiful photo of a beautiful stallion!)
Last week I had epiphany! It went like this- I asked a friend of mine if she would be interested in showing Abby this year. She looked at me funny for a moment and then asked, "Why don't you just show her?" I replied with a long explanation about expenses, too many horses, too little time, needing to prioritize and a bunch of other legitimate reasons why I really cant afford to show- I really do have to many horses and too little time and I really should be focused on getting M sold and Hola started....


Then I had an epiphany. To be fair it wasn't like all of the sudden I just had some bright idea. It was that all of the sudden all of the support and advice I had been receiving from my amazing friends and family finally seeped its way through my thick noggin. I should show Abby. You know... my mare- the horse I put oodles of cash and time in to finishing as a reiner... yah, that one... I own a reining horse. Maybe I should... I don't know... rein on her? All of those reasons I had for not doing it might make sense in reality but when a "bucket list" dream is so immediately achievable it just seems almost disrespectful to life and to the opportunity I have to not seize the day! Carpe Diem! It seems I fell in to that old human trap of thinking that "next year" would be a better time... who knows what next year will bring! This year is the year I am living NOW. I want to show my horse. It isn't going to be easy and I might not be able to get it done but I sure the hell am going to try.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Understanding Horse Colors

I have long been fascinated by the varied range of color and beautiful tones created by the magic of genes as they set in to play on a horse's hair coat. Even a genetically plain red horse (one with no color modifying genes) come in such a wide range of colors that names like cherry sorrel, copper penny sorrel, chestnut, liver chestnut, have been created to try to describe the many shades of red. For so many variations to occur in a horse that is the simplest of colors (genetically) it is no wonder that so many of us have trouble understanding how horse color genetics work. I have trouble remembering even the basics and I actually spent some time studying the subject. Rather than try to memorize the correct jargon and true genetic make up of the various colors I instead try to remember in the way I did back in . You can find a link to that post here.

I think of a base color as the primer on a wall you are about to paint. I like to use bay, red and black. So I would paint a primer of one of these three colors on my wall:

Red- which would include any color of sorrel, liver or chestnut.
Bay- which would include any horse with black points and brown on its body (however minimal) including blood bay, dark bay, and brown.
Black would be simply that- any horse that is black with no brown anywhere on its body.

So now I have my primer base. Some horses, the majority actually, don't get another layer of paint. They stay in their primer color. It isn't until you try to calculate what color one of those "primer only" horses will produce that you have to pay any attention at all to how bay, red and black horses vary genetically, but we will leave for today. For now let's pretend that we are in a room and I've painted one wall with a primer of red, one with a primer of black and one with a primer of bay. In the center of the room there are a number of gallons of paint with labels on them that read "cream", "dun",  and "roan". I have other cans to chose from like "champagne" and "silver dapple" (the less common color modifying genes) but I am sticking with the more common colors for now.

So I stand in front of my red primered wall and pick up the paint can labeled "cream". I paint cream on top of that red and just like that my wall has turned palomino!

I turn and paint my bay primered with that same can of cream and just like that my wall has turned buckskin!

Finally I turn to the black wall and paint it with that same can of cream. I stand back and see that the cream barely showed up (but it's there) and my wall is now smokey black. That can of cream has a warning label on it that says I have to be careful to only paint one layer of it because if I paint two it will completely cover up my red primer. So if I were to paint my red wall with an extra coat of cream then I will end up with a cremello. If I paint my black or bay wall with two coats I will come up with a perlino. This double coat of paint is really what happens when horse is "homozygous" for a cream gene. Which in the ever day world means that the horses look funky with blue eyes and pink skin and no matter what you breed them to they will always have a baby with a coat of cream on top (palomino, buckskin or smokey black).

Now had I picked up that can of "dun" (instead of cream) I would have ended up turning my red wall in to a red dun, my bay wall in to a dun and my black wall in to grulla. That dun paint is really cool because it always comes with something called "dun factor" which almost always gives us a stripe down their back but this often confuses people because non-dun horse can also have something called "countershading" which looks just like dun stripe and to make it even more confusing sometimes a dun horse can have such a dark body or such a faint stripe that you cant see it at all. Sheesh! Like, get your shit together dun! But most of the time, like almost all of the time, a dun horse will have a distinct stripe down it's back (among other dun factor characteristics.) But enough of that for now! I have painting to do!

Had I picked up "roan" instead of "dun" or "cream" I would have turned my red wall in to a red roan, my bay wall in to a bay roan and my black wall in to a blue roan.

But here is the cool part. Let's say, after I painted all my walls with that "cream" bucket I decided I'd just ahead and pick up the "dun" bucket and paint those palomino, buckskin and smokey black walls with "dun" paint too! I'd end up with a dunalino (dun and cream gene) on my red wall, a dunskin (dun and cream) on my bay wall and a smokey grulla (dun and cream) on my black wall! And then I went totally crazy! I picked up that can of "roan" and threw that on there too! I could have a roan dunalino (red wall), a roan dunskin (bay wall) and a smokey grulla roan (black wall). And it doesn't stop there! There are other cans of paint hanging around. I could throw in some champagne or silver dapple or pearl even. I could end up with all sorts of combinations... but underneath any one of those wild and wacky colors I would still have a base primer of red, black or bay. Sometimes it can be really hard to tell which combination of paint cans created which color, only genetic testing can figure that out.

But wait! I forgot! There are a few more cans of paint stacked by the wall and I hear they do some cool things! Like one called "gray". Gray is more like stucco than paint except it always has to go on top. That wall could have cream, roan, dun and champagne all on top of that red primer but you stick some gray stucco on top of it all after that wall has been painted and it will keep getting thicker and thicker until finally you cant see any of that original color. I actually owned a horse who had a red primer, then a cream layer (palomino), then a champagne layer and finally gray stucco on top. She was the color of oatmeal.

There are some other cans hanging around too. Like "tobiano" and "overo" these guys are also like stucco. They go white (solid white from birth) but they don't cover up the whole wall, only patches. The patches that show through can also be any kind of color like dunalino, grulla or plain old red sorrel.

See, horse color genetics can be easy when you think of it like this!?!?....


The last part to all of this is how it works when you breed on color of horse to another. People really like to think that their plain old red mare has a "recessive" gene for palomino. There is no such thing. When a horse has a gene for cream it must express itself. Must. Always. Whenever I try to explain that the rules of science made that miracle palomino foal completely utterly impossible people still want to insist that they know someone who knows someone who had a horse that was bay that they bred to a horse who was plain sorrel and that horse had a palomino. Ah ha! But you see there is an reasonable explanation besides that some people are stupid (did I say that out loud!?) and other people like to cheat (so they can get more money for their bay by calling it a dun) but mostly because horses LIE!! It's true! That bay looking mare that spontaneously produced that palomino out of a sorrel stallion was lying about her color! She only looked bay. She was really a dark sooty buckskin. Buckskin and dun can be sneaky little buggers. Palomino is not nearly as capable of going incognito but they can still fudge a little.

Just because there are rules to the genetics of horse color, that doesn't make them any less fun. Sometimes the painter of that room has too much wine and goes hog wild on a Saturday night and ends up throwing so many layers of paint on that wall that only the blood work can tell us what the hell happened. As horse people we like to make our own rules and come up with our "colors" and while it drives me batty to see horses registered as a color that they are not (AQHA apparently hasn't read even the basics of color genetics and still allow two sorrel horses to produce a "bay" (genetically impossible) it all really doesn't matter in the end... afterall, a rose by any other name...

Here is a link to a website with a "color calculator" which can tell you what color can be produced from a breeding.

Also, UC Davis provides DNA color testing, find a link here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Riding the Hay Field

Marms ears looking out at a part of the hay field.
Yesterday morning I really wanted to ride but there were great big black storm clouds on the horizon and I had no interest in getting caught out on the trail when it finally let loose. Up until now I've avoided riding Abby out in the big hay field. It has just felt like too much space. It seems like riding in a big field with no walls and no trail would be the easiest thing in the world but it can actually be challenging... but I'll leave that for another day. As we saddled the wind picked up, making the grass ripple in waves and the horses freshen. The second I stepped on Abs I knew she was jazzed. She wasn't paying attention to me, spooked at something I couldn't see and would paw if I stopped to talk to L for a minute. I know I've pussyfooted round a little with her in a sense... I've just been trying to avoid any situation where I feel like I'm asking a lot of her or where she is put under too much pressure... which is kind of "setting ourselves up for success" and kind pussyfooting:) Well, that had to stop. So I spent some time taking her nose around and waiting for her to relax and bring her attention to me. I was surprised how long it before really settled and became soft. Success came when I asked her to stand and she did, patiently... for about five minutes. We went for a little walk along the edge of the field and called it a day. I will definitely be spending some time out in the big field.