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.