Thursday, April 15, 2021

Goals... modified

I initially thought I had nothing to write about in this kind of post given Yoshi's uncertain soundness currently. The effusion in his front left fetlock is better some days and worse others. I'm getting more and more suspicious he had steroids put into that joint around the time he retired from racing. But neither the fetlock nor the feet mean that he can't continue his in hand education. So without further ado... 

April - June 2021 Goals: 
  • Work through all doable exercises in the Equine Fitness book. Do 2 each time I see him. 
  • Improve ToH so that we can do a correct 1/2 circle of it in both directions
  • Work on standing still over grass for up to 2 minutes without needing corrections
  • Continue to handle ears until it is no big deal all the time. Generally he's fine with it, but I think he was ear twitched in the past because sometimes if I move too quickly he will get kind of panicky and then I can't touch it at all for the next few minutes until he forgets about it.
  • Continue to behave ourselves for the farrier. 
  • Improve handling of hind feet 
  • If allowed with this next set of shoes, start hand walking 30+ minutes 3 times a week. Trailer to new places to do this and continue to practice ground manners while at new places. 
  • Clip bridle path again. Assess whether it seems like I'd be able to body clip and if not, start working on desensitizing to clippers. 
It would be more exciting to write riding goals, but dammit, we still need something to work towards. 

A good friend came to visit- we kayaked "the Chazz" and saw manatees and otters

There's only so many different pictures I can post of Yoshi from the ground, so I figured this was more interesting anyways


Friday, April 9, 2021

Florida joys

We've been having absolutely gorgeous weather - 50s/60s at night and 70s/80s during the day. No complaints here. But in spite of that, the flies are already out in full swing and the rain rot is raging on most of the horses at the barn. Yoshi is no exception, which means he got his first fly mask the other day. It was too small on my friend's horse, so it was a gift from her. In return she got his webbed halter in horse size that fits her horse perfectly. He's rocking a new blue one in cob sized now. 

Hi mom! Thanks for the mask, I'll take it off later. 

I also got him the Majyk Equipe fly wraps. A few people at the barn have the Shoo Fly wraps and they seem to work really, really well. However, they were about $10 more on Amazon than the Majyk Equipe ones at Rider's Warehouse. And they also come in fairly atrocious colors. I put them on him this morning and got this video from my friend a few hours later... 



So we'll see whether or not they hold up. If they do, I know they're sturdy. It is really entertaining learning his personality with things like this. He's also gotten so much more cuddly recently.

The farrier came out Wednesday and added more casting material. Blue camo this time! Even before I told him that I was feeding the gelatin, he commented that he looked like he had already grown some more hoof. No confirmation bias there, hooray! 

Forgot to take a picture before I walked him through the dirt/sand. They looked much more awesome initially. 

Hopefully when he resets him in 3 weeks he will be able to go into something else. I'm not in a rush though because he's looking super comfortable, and I would rather get it right than get it done quickly in a way we have to fix again later. 

I tried Farnam's Equi-Spot since it wasn't too badly priced at the feed store when I was buying alfalfa cubes. I believe it was $16 and it promises 14 days of fly control as well as repelling ticks. Fortunately at this property we don't have a big tick problem, but when we go back to trail riding, there are a few parks that are known for nasty ticks. I may revisit it then, especially with the continually increasing incidence of Lyme in Florida, but for now this product is a definite NO. Yoshi HATES it. Like seriously hates it. I applied it once and he started stomping furiously a few minutes later. I think particularly on his front legs that were shaved for the ultrasound it was really burning. The permethrin concentration is 45%, so no freaking wonder. It also advertises 2 weeks of fly control. I'm not sure where/if that is ever true, but it was barely 2 days post that I could not tell a difference. I gave it one more try, but when he smelled the package once I cracked it open he immediately started dancing before I could even get it near him. Told you he's a quick study! I persevered and bribed with treats, sucked in by the idea of longer lasting fly control, and again, barely 2 days later I could not tell that I had applied it. There's a draft mare at the barn who does not give a damn when it is applied, but I'm pretty sure with her feathers it does not go anywhere near her actual skin on her legs. Also, drafty = not nearly as sensitive about life as TB. 

Not a fan 

Moving on from flies to rain rot... last summer Leila mostly escaped rain rot. Except right before her acupuncture appointment for her neck, excellent timing. The vet who came out to see her recommended bathing with dawn and then applying lime sulfur dip. The dawn is just very gentle application with a hand, not even the small side of a jelly curry. The point is not to yank off the crusts, just to clean as much as possible of the skin around the crusts. Then once they are a little dried off, applying lime-sulfur dip. The lime-sulfur dip smells LOVELY. I thought initially that Yoshi's rain rot was clearing up when he was switched to pasture board. In general the pasture horses seem to fare better, my thought being that the UV light during the day helps with the bacteria, but Yoshi is the exception. He's got it fairly badly on his back and hindquarters. I also ordered the Equiderma lotion when I ordered the lime-sulfur dip. It's much more expensive (Lime-sulfur is $12 for a bottle that makes one gallon - I dilute it 1/2 gallon at a time and each 1/2 gallon lasts at least two weeks), but it is much more appealing to the nose. Lime-sulfur isn't supposed to be applied more than 2-3 times a week because it is too drying. I'm not sure how well it lasts in between on a horse that lives outside and is definitely wallowing in the sand/dirt multiple times a day. The equiderma has a mineral oil base and definitely lasts a few days though, so I've been alternating. I was amazed after the first application how many crusts came off pretty easily and without seeming to bother him when I curried him the next day. Hopefully this gets him cleared up quick enough that we don't loose chunks of his summer coat too. 

Really pleased with his progress in the weight and growing hair over bite marks departments 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Casted clogs pt 2

Yoshi chipped the front of one of his clogs a week ago. 

I texted a picture to the farrier and got a quick response. After dealing with several farriers over the years of solo horse ownership who wouldn't return calls or couldn't be bothered to come out for one horse, this was a relief. He said as long as it didn't chip more it was fine. 

However, this Monday I noticed that the right one had loosened up considerably. A bath confirmed this, I could hear him squelching around with water between some part of the set up and his foot after I bathed him. 



This time he said we needed to address it and that he could come out in two days. It wasn't super convenient since it meant I'd be awake holding Yoshi instead of sleeping before an overnight shift, but the horse comes first. Especially because when I jogged him in a few circles (not really intentionally working on that exercise...), he looked pretty darn sound. If it is working, I don't want to mess with it!

We did a lot of in hand work on Monday - walk, halt, trot, halt, back, ToF. Trot with me on the right side was really confusing and not possible, which is why we ended up trotting a few circles. My lead rope is ridiculously long, so when he claimed he couldn't possibly trot with me on the right I backed up away from him and mini parallel lunged him to the right. The next time he could figured out it was in fact possible. Halt is not very prompt still and he definitely wanted to curve around me and slow down to a halt even from the walk. It didn't help that we were working in a new field so he kept wanting to spin and stare across to the neighbors place - every horse spooks at their yard, it must contain demons. 

We tried to add in some turn on the haunches, per Emma's blog. It was really, really challenging to move the front feet and keep the hind still. We got a few steps of side pass that I praised a lot since any progress is progress. 

He has retained the lesson that he can be touched anywhere with my hand and should not protest. He even seems to think it might be pleasant now, my how a week changes things! We worked through a few of the conditioning exercises: 
I LOVE these pull out cards, so handy

He really loved the TMJ massage and relaxed into it with lots of licking and even a big yawn. The lateral cervical flexion he also appreciated and gave me really good responses there. No real reaction from the tail pull. 

Today was more of the same. It started early, watching/videoing Presto at Majestic Oaks because I creepily responded to an instagram story Amanda posted asking if she had any friends close by who could video Presto while he schooled this morning. Does reading about Presto's adventures on your blog and following along on instagram count as being friends? Yes, yes we decided it does. It was a lot of fun to watch him jump around. In other ways of getting my horse fix, I also signed up to volunteer at the Majestic Oaks schooling show this weekend. My comfort zone positions of jump crew or jump scribe were already full, so I'm doing dressage warm up. Maybe some day I'll be able to use the schooling passes I keep earning! 

He's a quick study and our faux showmanship went much better this morning. He was pretty quick on his halts and trotting off and much more focused overall. After working on that for a while, a good grooming, and an application of lime-sulfur dip, we went for a nice hand graze with two friends and their horses. He nipped my friends horse (also a 7 yo thoroughbred) twice. Just nips, just wanting to play. I wonder how he keeps getting beat up in the pasture... such a pest! He also tried to go up to the other horse, who just so happens to be the one that tried to kill him in the pasture, and do the same. Uhhh no buddy, that's a bad life choice. 

Pre-nipping friend on the ass, looking so innocent

At least he's cute 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Lessons I didn't know we needed

Yesterday I planned on working on some of the exercises from Equine Fitness by Jec Aristotle Ballou. I bought the book while rehabbing Leila and have been working on some of the ground exercises with Yoshi. However, Yoshi had other plans. Fairly early on we had addressed whether or not I could touch his stifles. After a few sessions of alternating reprimands and praise depending on his reaction, he's pretty solid on that one. He's also gotten so much better about grooming and has started leaning into me currying in areas on his hindquarters and soft brushing his face. But I casually laid a hand on his barrel while I was talking to my friend while grooming him and got pinned ears, swishing tail, and a raised leg. Excuse me, sir? We spent the next 20 minutes with me running my hands all over his body, palms flat. He's growing some rain rot on his hindquarters and back and it was hard to resist the urge to pick at it while doing this. He definitely finds that unpleasant though, so I managed (and ordered some lime sulfur dip). He actually really enjoyed the touching with lots of big yawns and a relaxed sleepy eye. I guess we'll start incorporating some massage into his daily grooming sessions as well. He's so funny. Initial reaction was very much pissed, but when I went back and gently introduced the idea to him, he accepted it was actually a pleasant thing. 

He's started to shed out really beautifully on his neck and shoulder. He's also growing hair back on his bites and only accumulating 1-2 new ones a week now that he's settled in with his pasture mates. We've been slowly working on the weight gain:
  • 1 month of Smart Pak's "Smartgain" 
  • 1 month of a full scoop of alfalfa cubes soaked and fed with 1/4 scoop of Cadence Ultra when I'm out there (5-6 days a week usually)
He also has free choice coastal hay and gets 1 scoop of Cadence Ultra twice daily. In February when he was still on stall board he got 1 flake of coastal and 1 flake of alfalfa during the day and free choice coastal at night. When I went to buy alfalfa at the start of February the feed store was out so I switched to cubes which are much more convenient and cheaper. Thus far he seems to be handling the coastal okay. We may have a pasture rearrangement coming soon which may end up putting him with another thoroughbred who could use some weight. If that happens, that horse's owner and I are planning on getting a large alfalfa bale for the pasture instead of or maybe in addition to the coastal. I'd love to decrease his grain, but he's barely gaining weight as it is. See, yet another silver lining to not being able to ride, he's much easier to put weight on now! 

Initially he lost some weight, I think coming off a free choice block of alfalfa is responsible for that one, but now we're definitely on the gaining track. 

Day he came home


Where we're at now. Definitely need to stand him up for a better comparison picture


As I look at these pictures I am also realizing that this horse grows mane insanely fast. It was so short the day I brought him home and I've already cut it twice! 

About a week ago. So much mane. 

He really really hates having it pulled, even combing it up to use the solo comb makes him unhappy. I've been using scissors on it since we're definitely not going out in public anywhere fancy anytime soon, but I'm going to have to come up with something better if we ever get to the point of a show. It is so thick, especially in the top half, that scissoring is going to not work soon. 

We've made some progress in not kicking out when I pick up the hind feet. He doesn't do it badly, but typically will pick it up, pull it forward and then kick back a little bit. Sometimes ends with a little kick back when I let go. I'm not sure how to make this one better other than making him bored. So that's what we've been doing, every grooming session I pick up his hind feet about 5-10 times, ignoring the bad ones and praising the heck out of the good ones.

We have taken a pause on the clicker training. He'd figured out that straight and relaxed got a reward, but the moments after the click, pre-treat, he'd starting snaking his neck at me to grab the treat from my hand. Time off from treats while I figure out how to fix it/what I screwed up.

So that's the "I still can't ride my horse" update for the week. 


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Boats are holes in the water into which you throw money

My husband told me the title of this post a few weeks ago, shortly after Yoshi went lame. It's not so much a knock on my spending; we split our shared costs proportional to our respective incomes and then keep our own separate accounts with no judgements. It is however an exclamation on the immense expense that comes with keeping horses sound. Yoshi's soundness challenges come close on the heels of euthanizing my mare. This whole mis-adventure over the past 1.5 honestly has me thinking about quitting altogether. Right after Zinger died I wasn't sure if I would own a horse again. I'd had him for 15 years, loving another horse as mine seemed so foreign. I gave away his blankets. I kept his bridle and his grooming supplies as well as my helmet, boots, half chaps etc. I eagerly sold his saddle. I had no attachment to that and bought it while I was poor and in school. I hated it, but he was picky and he loved it. I tearfully cleaned the brushes and his bridle and packed them up with my boots and other gear into my tack trunk.  And when we moved a few months later, I packed it all into the moving van and then unloaded the whole trunk into our spare bedroom. And there it sat.

Right after Zinger's death I started running a lot more often. Since running competitively in high school I had become a very casual runner. I hadn't worn a watch since high school and usually ran 1-4 times a week, no more than 3-4 miles at a time. After he died I ran to cope. And I ran to fill my time. Turns out you have a lot of free time if you eliminate 3 hour barn trips 4-5 days a week. I was running almost every day, taking more day trips with my husband, and visiting family and friends much more often. But I still found myself searching for riding lessons with people with lesson horses. I didn't have a particularly easy time finding a place, most lesson barns in this area teach kids up-down lessons or teach people on their own horses. Because while I was ready to see a horse again, I was not anywhere near ready to own. Finally I found a trainer who had a couple of horses that could be used for lessons. I had a happy 6 months with weekly lessons with her. Then Leila fell into my lap. I hung all my hopes and dreams on her. I finally had money and time to take lessons consistently, to go to shows, to haul myself and friends to trail rides. That fell apart in the worst, catastrophic fashion I accepted pre-accident she wasn't going to be the forever horse who helped me accomplish my dressage goals, but I thought she would LOVE to be a kids pony club horse who did a beginner novice event one weekend and played mounted games pony the next. Instead she got to be none of those things. While she was trying to heal, I was lucky enough to ride a lovely warmblood mare who had been sitting for 3 years. She was absolutely phenomenal and looked like she could be the horse I could get serious about dressage on before searching for another horse of my own. Instead she damaged a rear medial oblique sesamoidean ligament in January. Exactly what the damage was is still unclear, but it didn't look like a good injury to come back from. She will hopefully heal enough to be sound for her owner who wants to occasionally walk or trot her around a field for 10 minutes, but she is unlikely to be sound enough to do any sort of serious work again. This pushed me to speed up my horse hunt. And the rest is basically detailed here already.

Yoshi makes horse number 3 in just about 6 months that is not sound. It's strange because unlike most of my years of owning Zinger, I actually have disposable income now. Zinger and I strung along while I was in school - I ate about $50/month of groceries so he could have his alfalfa hay. The barn owner let me work off most of my board and even was kind enough to let me increase the work when I could and when I needed to like when my car needed new tires. Yoshi can have whatever he needs that makes him sound. But he still isn't. I realize this is all premature, he may yet be sound when we get his feet straightened out. But there's still some effusion in his front left fetlock that has a little voice going in the back of my head. And I'm not really a voice in the back of my head kinda person, y'know? I'm one of those annoying "If anything can go well, it will" bumper sticker (no I don't actually have one) type of people. I don't tend to worry about things until they're actually a thing. I just have a gut feeling this is not going to turn out well. I'm sure that gut feeling has been shaped by the negative experiences since Zinger's death in 2018, but it still has me considering different... hobbies? lifestyles? life options? I'm not sure what to call horses. Riding is more than a hobby, more than a sport. 

I feel like if I quit I'd get drawn back in eventually after the heartache ages a bit. But I'm not sure. The practical side of me says that if I sold the truck and trailer and quit dumping money into vets, farriers, board, and supplements, that we could do those renovations on our house much sooner. We could take more vacations. We could save for an early retirement. I'm not sure what I would do with myself though - start identifying as a "runner" instead of a "horse person"? Acquire more cats? Pick up a new sport or hobby? Knitting? There's surely no emotional roller coaster in knitting. And while yarns can certainly be pretty expensive, they don't hold a candle to the amount I've spent in the past two months on Yoshi.

Pico princess says "F you, don't you dare get more cats. I am all you need."


Monday, March 29, 2021

Happy 7th Birthday!!

Today is Yoshi's 7th birthday! I'm so excited partially because I actually know his birthday. I knew my first horse's b-day since he was a registered Appaloosa, but I had no idea on Leila and Zinger. I had grand plans to bake him an oat and apple cake, but I worked all weekend and work the next four days as well, so those grand plans went by the wayside. Instead I picked out a cherry pop tart, a cinnamon bun, powdered sugar donuts, and an oatmeal cream pie for him at the gas station on my way out to the barn this morning. While he tasted all the things, he was not a fan of any of them. He tried a second bite of the pop tart, but then vetoed it. He and my friend's horse, also a 7 year old thoroughbred, spit most of the treats out on the aisle. And then tried the crumbs again multiple times... hoping they had somehow become tastier with barn aisle dirt on them? Fortunately some of the other horses in the barn were more than happy to eat the rejected treats. I had remembered to bring out carrots, so he got two of those and then a nice hand graze with my friend's horse. 

They're so cute together

He definitely does not fit this halter... such a dainty face! 


Friday, March 26, 2021

Saddle time

Yoshi continues trucking along with clicker training. I discovered he is much crankier about his right side. I suspect this is an OTTB thing, but it also could be just him. 

Side note, I hate when people assume that every dog that is afraid of things has been abused, so I'm trying not to assume that every weird quirk in Yoshi is an OTTB thing. Seriously on the dogs, my own dog that is now my dad's dog is terrified of almost everything. Do I think she was ever hit? No. She doesn't react to a hand raised or even accidental boops with the foot that happen when living with a dog. I do think she spent her formative years in a backyard with no socialization and no exposure to normal things like cars (driving past her and riding in), music, etc. This makes her really reactive to anything new or loud. 

Anyways, back to the horse. We have made progress with politely standing in a relaxed fashion, and he continues to want to come out to play each time, quickly engaging with me now instead of wandering the round pen looking for scraps or staring at other horses. I started asking him to yield both sides of his body with a nudge just behind the girth area. Left side no problem, right side ears pinned and swinging his head at me. I had to adjust to be a lot less picky about it to begin with, not waiting for inside hind crossing in front of outside, just rewarding any movement away from the pressure. Today we started to finesse the movement a bit, rewarding the actual crossing over I was initially looking for. He also primarily wants to stand on my right side (with his left side to me) when I am rewarding relaxed, attentive, head straight behavior. I flipped the treat pouch to the other side of my hip and tried using my other hand to give treats to make sure it wasn't me being uneven, but nope, he feels more comfortable and confident with me on his left. So I'm trying to pay attention to evening that out and working both sides equally.

I did get some saddle time in this week. His old owner generously let me come out and ride one of the horses at her barn on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun and turned into a mini lesson after I let her slip out of the second jump in a line. Several good tidbits: 

  • Hands in front of shoulders, always - said after I was lamenting my leaning/jumping ahead and lack of release
  • If you don't correct the run out she won't even know that she has done the wrong thing - I let her loop back around the ring and approach the jump a second time rather than stopping and circling in the direction of the runout. I know better, but I was so much to blame for letting it happen to begin with that I didn't want to correct too strongly. 
  • Get the bend on small walk circles, making sure she can yield her jaw and neck both directions. Then move it up into trot. 
She was very big on correcting things as they happened. Not letting the mare go around too quick at the trot or on the wrong lead. Overall a pretty interesting and educational ride. I really liked the mare, she was quite willing and smooth. 

I rode with her again yesterday, this time on a training level eventer whose owner might be interested in a trade for a horse like Yoshi. This was a very interesting lesson/ride to me. We started out okay at the walk and trot, but I wasn't demanding enough of him - not enough round, not enough forward. Once we addressed that, we moved on to the canter, the gait that I apparently cannot ride. This is not a this horse problem, this is a me problem. It starts with the canter transition during which I want to flop around like a fish out of water. The best advice I've gotten on this was actually very simple "Don't stop riding during the transition." For whatever reason I stop asking them to stay round, stop asking them to stay forward and just try to chase them into it. I'm not sure why. Zinger's canter transition was a very simple sit, squeeze up with the inside leg. And he did it beautifully. I'm not sure if his was so easy that when that same move doesn't instantly get a canter transition I panic and start monkeying around doing useless things?? We got a few transitions that were better after doing a lot of trot-canter-walk-trot-canter-walk/halt. I have an easier time with walk-canter because I don't start uselessly chasing the horse into the canter from the walk, but she picked up on this and made me ride them from the trot. Once in the canter the horse wanted to pop up and down instead of going forward. This made me stiffen and drive with my seat which drove his back further down, shockingly. More leg, less inside rein. When I could figure out how to use my outside rein and not pull on the inside, especially not the left, it went much better. This is so remedial as I type this out, but damn if I don't have to keep learning it over and over again. 

We also worked a good bit in two point which was fun. For galloping cross country: up in two point, shorten reins, press hands into sides of neck further ahead of shoulders. To half-halt bring shoulders back slightly, leave hands where they are, support with leg. Going over fences you just shift back slightly 6-8 strides out. When you do this without changing rein length you will be shortening the reins and compressing them which you need to do to jump well. Coming up to down banks and ditches you give some rein so they can drop their head and look, but you widen your hand as well to funnel to avoid any side to side attempts to duck out. To see this all demonstrated while she was sitting on one of her sales horses was neat. It all works together so you're not constantly shortening and lengthening reins. 

Next week I'm going back out to an eventing trainer I rode with most consistently about 1.5 years ago, next week. We did weekly lessons for a while until I got my mare and ended up boarding at a different barn. She always picks apart my position and bad habits, and I am excited for her to do that next week. I was hoping to get some time in on my friend's gelding this weekend while she is out of town, but unfortunately he is lame right now, probably feet as well. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

WW: Manatee

Brief explanation for those not from Florida... Our waterways are often home to the West Indian Manatee. These "sea cows" are lovely and unfortunately slow moving creatures. This means they often get hit by the propellers on boats in the area and end up with scars. You rarely see a manatee without scars across their back. My friend made this comparison, and I cannot stop giggling about it. 



Monday, March 22, 2021

Progress

Progress on several fronts today. First we worked on jogging in hand - it was embarrassing when the farrier asked to see him trot last week and I couldn't get him to trot in hand. I think part of that was just how sore he was, but part of it was lack of training. We started out with a dressage whip today until I got a "yes ma'am" from just a cluck and me starting to jog. Although I clearly was not jogging to assess lameness, I at least didn't feel/see him majorly head bobbing beside me. So there is that. 

Casted on clog 

A little bit of the dental molding is visible between his heel bulbs there. You can also see just how much material there is between his foot and the ground. 

Bottom view with the casting material at the edge. The plastic base is visible although dirty. 

Magical clogs. He also started his gelatin today. Hopefully in 5 weeks we will have more foot. It's weird not being able to see part of his foot, although looking at these pictures, I can at least look for new growth from the top (and make myself crazy doing so...). I guess weekly progress pictures wouldn't hurt, what's a little chunk of my google storage space. 

We also had our first clicker training session where he seemed to really get it. He was much more interested in playing this time from the start. He understood that head straight in front of his body but paying attention led to a good stream of click-treat. A few more sessions like this and we can hopefully move back to the actual target. 

Grooming was also much more pleasant today, no pinned ears. He's also mostly healing from his huge number of bite marks, which is probably helping his attitude. He does have one new wound - a puncture just dorsal to his right eye. I'm not sure if he got bit there or if he found some errant piece of fence to stab himself. He was a very good boy and let me hose it off and apply swat near it. My friend checked on him over the weekend for me and reported that it looked much better today, so at least we're headed in the right direction. Good to hear because it is very close to his eye and makes me a little twitchy. In addition to being good for grooming and wound treating, he tolerated camp kids running up to him and petting his face, shoulder, and barrel (before I nixed the first and last). I groomed him in the outside wash rack to start, but brought him into the barn aisle to keratex his hind feet and take pictures of the fronts. I thought the camp kids were all outside riding or watching the other group ride, but he got ambushed by a few. The kids got a lesson in asking before approaching strange horses and then in horse facial expressions and body language. He was overall pretty good, mostly thought they should feed him treats since that's what they had been doing with the other horses. I shooed them away before we could run out of kitty minutes, his and mine. It makes me nervous to be responsible for children around a horse that I don't trust completely. This camp is only a week, but last summer there were about 3 weeks straight of camp with kids there from 8 AM - 4 PM. Weee!! I usually tried to get in and out by the time they were getting started for the day. Helps that it was about 80 degrees by 8 and 90 degrees by 10, extra motivation to get done early. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

In Loving Memory

Zinger: He was my heart and soul, my rock for 15 years. He was there through my parents divorce, undergrad, professional school, and for a half a year of my first real career. He was the horse that was better than I ever deserved. I don't think I'm just being an overly proud owner when I say anyone who ever met this horse loved him. He was a large dog in a horses body. In addition to being the most chill horse I have ever met, he was extraordinary talented and well trained. Before I got him he competed through prelim. He injured a back suspensory and was given to my instructor's daughter. When she stopped riding him, I bought him from my instructor. We went to a Peter Gray clinic at the farm he came from and the person who gave him away commented "If I knew he was going to come back like this I wouldn't have given him away." He was effortlessly correct and lovely in his dressage. Other than our first show together, he never scored below a 65%. We competed through second level together. If we had been together during a time of my life with more money and time, he could have done so much more. He allowed me to feel passage and piaffe during my dressage lessons. His collective remarks on tests were always so complimentary, and he routinely got 9s on his stretchy circles. But he wasn't just a dressage horse, he did everything. He stopped at a jump once, ever, in the entire 15 years I had him. I fell off and immediately started crying. Not because I fell, but because I was so afraid of what was wrong with my horse. Turns out he hated the saddle I was trying that day. Usually his move was to turn into a wildebeest and hollow, but that day, that was the way he expressed it. Completely understandable, but just a testament to his willingness the rest of the time. We never competed above 3'6" so I never tested the limits of his scope, but I could screw up and put him in any spot and he would jump. During one clinic the instructor had us all walk our horses up to a painted stone wall with a lot of contrast. He wouldn't go closer than about ten feet, but when we cantered towards it he went and jumped the hell out of it. He never said no to any jump, any adventure, any question that was asked. 

He also trail rode solo, went on hand walks with my relatively non horsey husband while on stall rest for a ligament injury, and gave pony rides to my dad's girlfriend's grandkids. He was everything I could have ever asked for in a horse and more. He didn't mind our various moves and always greeted me with a bright eyed, ears pricked face over the stall door or pasture fence. He died suddenly when he was 25. He was fine in the morning, chasing the other horses off of their breakfast, and was dead in the early afternoon. Just down in the pasture with no signs of a struggle or flailing. I hadn't imagined that ending to our story.  I'd imagined a surgical colic that I wouldn't put him through at his age or a slow decline, but not a sudden, unexplained end without time to say goodbye, to thank him for everything. I've realized over time it probably was the way he would have wanted it though. We still went for rides. I'd even jumped him up the small bank at the barn a few weeks prior and he tried to gallop and buck afterwards. He was still in charge in the pasture. He never struggled to stand after rolling. And that's the way he left the world. I owe nearly everything about my riding to him. He was so simple, so correct, so honest, and so giving. Without him I wouldn't have met some of my best friends. I got to share him with a few special people; one friend jumped him sometimes while struggling with lameness with her horse, another was his second mama who would trail ride him when he was sound and hand walk him when he was recovering from his injury. I got to spend 15 wonderful years as his person. I'm still heartbroken it wasn't more, but 15 years of that goodness and love seems pretty generous. 






Leila: Leila did not get dealt the cards she deserved in life. I started working with her in September 2019. She had been neglected in a field. I say neglected because she was skinny and unkempt, but not abused. She trusted people and loved them. She flourished on attention and loved being doted on. I unknowingly started her under saddle in a bareback pad on trails. And she was fine. No fuss, no carrying on, just figuring out what the person was asking. She took to jumping the same way, once she realized what was being asked, she just said "yes ma'am" every time. Over the summer at the end of a hot jump lesson, she stumbled and summersaulted about 3 strides after a jump. And when she went down she stayed down. Thank goodness she didn't fall on me, but she really hurt her neck when she fell. She took a while to stand because she couldn't move her head and neck well to balance. It wasn't until I walked away to put my saddle on a nearby jump, after I managed to get it off of her, that she stood. We had her neck x-rayed after to check for fractures. Fortunately they didn't see any. Unfortunately x-rays showed moderate to marked cervical osteoarthritis. In a horse that hadn't been ridden until the previous fall. The best I can figure, she had some kind of pasture accident that left her with significant arthritis as a young horse. It all made sense then though. I'd felt like she'd had difficulty flexing her neck. Other people had told me she was just green and needed more time and training. But she was so willing in everything else, the unwillingness to flex side to side and ventrally didn't fit. I still feel guilty for continuing to ask that of her without better investigating it. I was concerned enough that something was wrong that I had a chiropractor out. The chiropractor didn't like the way her teeth had been floated and said we couldn't work on her neck until her incisors got floated again, so she'd never even assessed her neck.

Post-accident, Leila never went back into work. I tried to slowly rehab her, but she was persistently weak and neurologic behind. People suggested making her a trail horse but I couldn't do that to her. She was the sweetest, most willing horse, and I knew from her rehab and starting her under saddle in general that she wouldn't express pain in a way that would make most people listen. Added to that, my husband has had a disc replaced in his neck and can speak to the daily pain of cervical arthritis. So I made the very difficult decision to euthanize her. We stuffed her full of carrots and laid her to rest on the farm of the friend who rescued her from the field. Parts of her story still haunt me, but I know the end was right for her. Euthanasia is taking their pain and making it ours.  Rest easy sweet Leila girl. You deserved better than this world gave you. 







Thursday, March 18, 2021

Relationship classes

The silver lining of Yoshi's lameness is that we definitely need some help and time building our relationship on the ground. Under saddle he is an extremely uncomplicated, straight forward horse. Ask and you shall receive. This was our second ride together, going over a small course over jumps he had not seen before. 



When I brought him home he was dancey-prancey in the crossties and while getting tacked up. Once on? All business. Steering was just fine, and he was walking, trotting, and cantering when asked. My friend rode him during the week I was out of town right after getting him on trial - she said the first day she didn't ride him because he worried her with his antics in the crossties. The second day she got on him and said he felt like a much more trained horse than she had anticipated. 

He works hard to understand new concepts - when we introduced leg yielding in my dressage lesson we started down the centerline and asked for a leg yield. Leading outside rein, soft inside rein just to maintain bend, and then inside leg. Faster walk. I half halted and applied inside leg. Faster again. Half halt again and then a "bump bump bump" with the inside leg and lo and behold we moved sideways. The next centerline he moved sideways with the first application of inside leg. 

On the ground? Well, I'm not quite sure. He started out basically not letting me groom basically behind his shoulder. He would pin his ears, swing his head, and dance. I attributed a lot of it to half of him being raw skin from getting bit by his pasture mate. Unfortunately even with new pasture buddies and now multiple changes in them, this seems to be his perpetual state of being. Having watched him antagonize other, more dominant horses, I am unsurprised. I switched to using only the tiger's tongue grooming block (brush? scrub?) on him instead of even a jelly curry. This seemed to be mostly okay. We even had one day where he actually started to relax and enjoy getting groomed. His lower lip went floppy and his eyes were half closed. Since then we have ups and downs. Right after starting 24/7 turnout, he seemed genuinely happy to get groomed all over. Since then he has gone back to occasionally swinging his head at me and picking up hind legs. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe that was because the first day I came back into town he hadn't been groomed in a week. Might've been kind of itchy and therefore more tolerant than usual. 

I don't want to force things on him that make him physically uncomfortable. But at the same time, expressing feelings by swinging your head with your mouth open is not acceptable in my book. I've been trying to strike a fine balance - I listen and watch basically the whole time I'm grooming. If he starts to look uncomfortable, I switch from the brush to just gentle stroking with my hand. Trying to establish that he has to allow touching everywhere, but it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. However, trying to keep an eye on him while grooming all the parts of him is more challenging than it sounds. And it turns grooming into a fully focused activity. I can't chat with anyone while I'm grooming him or I stop paying close enough attention to his signs and end up with a horse who looks like he'd like to take a chunk out of me. 

I clicker trained my mare before him starting with target training. She thought the game was fantastic and quickly figured it out, including the keep your head to yourself part. Yoshi thinks the game is fantastic and also thinks that mauling my hands and the treat bag are part of it. I started both of them in the same way - target near the face, when the nose bumps click and then treat with head straight forward. Yoshi gets the target part, but then the head straight forward is really challenging. I am obviously the main problem here, my timing is not good enough to click and also give the treat to him only when he is straight forward and relaxed. My mare made the whole thing much easier, but she had a much sweeter disposition. The difference either coming from their different backgrounds or natural dispositions, which is unclear at this point. So I've taken a step back now and started trying to JUST reward the relaxed behavior, target removed all together. He is only vaguely interested in engaging with me when it is challenging for him to figure out the question he is being asked. I'm hoping more engagement will come as we get to know each other and as he learns what is being asked. 

His pasture backs up to the barn, and as far as I can tell, he spends the whole time he is out by himself during the day (he gets friends at night) bothering the horses through the backs of their stalls. He started out with his head in the stall of another young TB who mostly loved to chat with him, but he has now moved on to the older gelding who belongs to the barn owner and has zero desire to constantly have company in his stall, even if it is just a head and neck. They squeal and charge at each other over the door. Yoshi has actually started pulling his head out of the stall to stare at me as I walk up though, the first sign of interest that he's shown. It does help that right now basically everything, other than grooming, that we do together right now is definitely positive and fun. Hand walk to good grass? Excellent. Clicker train while in the round pen? Still excellent, there's usually grass to pick at and hay scraps in there even if the clicker training isn't super fun. Get put back in field? Excellent, here comes lunch of soaked alfalfa cubes. 

I'm sure we will get to the easy-going positive relationship at some point, it is just interesting and confusing to me how he is a whole different horse on the ground. Even after establishing leg yields under saddle, a request to step his butt over on the ground was met with ears pinned and tail swishing. Strange stuff. I'm curious to look back on this post in a few months and hopefully see big changes to things!