Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Review

January- This month did not set a great tone for a new year. The first few days included euthanizing Leila and the end of my riding time with J mare . 

The sweetest, purest mare - defying all red-headed mare stereotypes

A wonderful trail partner

The combination of these events led to ramping up my previously half-hearted horse search. The horse search was also off to a great start that included trying a few lame horses and then vetting one lame horse. Between my own search and my friend's search in the spring/summer of 2020, I started to wonder if I was going to need to re-evaluate my budget for this whole hunt. 

February- I met Yoshi/Shidoshi at the start of February. After two trial rides, I was REALLY excited to take him home for a month trial. He went cross country schooling, jumped some gymnastics and small courses, and went to a dressage lesson before his vetting towards the end of the month. 

Jumping new jumps during our second trial ride 

He vetted sound with no problems, so we called him officially mine and ended the trial. About 3 days later he went lame! 

March- We made a quite expensive trip to a specialist who radiographed his hocks, fetlocks and feet; ultrasounded his suspensory ligaments; and blocked his right foot. The take home message was shitty feet that needed a lot of help, possible front suspensory ligament issues (of some kind... more on that later), and hocks and fetlocks that are fine. This did help set us up with a fantastic new farrier who started to work on making him more comfortable. His first set of shoes were not at all made for riding, but made him SO much happier. To fill our time we worked on becoming an equine good citizen. Also he turned 7 ! The end of March marked 30 days of pasture rest. 

Grazing with his buddy on his birthday after turning down all the junk food I bought him! 

We continued building our relationship on the ground during this month. I also received a report from the surgeon who saw him at the beginning of March. This caused a bit of a meltdown because the report varied more than a little bit from the verbal information and instructions I received. Including recommending stall rest, something that had definitely not been happening since he had told me pasture rest would be fine. With the help of my BFF in Delaware, we broke down the actual information to something usable. The last day of this month, we moved to a new barn

May- Yoshi and I settled in at our new barn. We took a dressage lesson with my favorite dressage trainer. We also went on a 5 mile solo trail ride as well as a few trail rides from our new barn. May was mostly focused on slow miles and NOT panicking when I pulled on the left rein too much and made him rein lame. We both fell in love with the new barn though, and he really started to finally come out of his shell. 

June- This month we ramped up our instruction. Whereas May was focused on getting back to work very carefully, June became about getting back to work correctly. Unfortunately/fortunately due to scheduling difficulties, we started riding with a new dressage trainer in June. The fortunately part is because I adore her (obviously); the unfortunate part is that I had known the original dressage trainer since I was 15, which made it sad to move on. We also started with a new to Yoshi jump trainer and started jumping baby courses. 

July- Yoshi hauled off property 8 times in July, including to our second cross country schooling. We started working on transitions within gaits and also got nailed on our transitions between gaits. JT and DT seemed to be on the same wavelength and the lessons complimented each other very well. 

August- This month I again was incredibly grateful for having purchased insurance when I bought Yoshi. He spent the night in the hospital for IV antibiotics after being diagnosed with nasty cellulitis that THANK GOODNESS was not a septic tendon sheath. Yoshi also learned a new way to carry himself and spent a week with JT to help him understand those lessons more quickly. 

September- Yoshi and I went to our first show together! He was an absolute star and would've won except for my forgetting a jump in stadium and causing a TE. He also stabled at the show for the first time, and I camped in my horse trailer for the first time. We experimented with leg wear to keep him from knocking himself in the pasture. We also had an awesome cross country schooling in which we tackled BN and a few N fences, made much easier by being able to use himself better. He gave me new confidence over down banks as we tackled the T/P bank very uneventfully. 

October- We started with our second show. He actually did win our entry division this time because I remembered the courses. Our dressage was a bit worse though, prompting a couple month hiatus from showing 3 phases before we planned to move up to BN. We did go to a jumper show though, which was a fun low key way to get him out over some new stadium jumps. Yoshi also celebrated his 1 year retirement from his last race. 

November- This month we made it back out onto the trails twice. Yoshi was a star there as usual. Yoshi also rejected his fancy PSofSweden bridle and seemed perfectly content in a plain crank noseband (not cranked tight). He went through some chiropractic work at the start of the month and then four weeks later. His recheck got a great review. He felt great overall with much less tripping after the chiro. He also moved up to 3'

December- We started December with a mystery lameness. We're ending the month still not sound, but with a few more answers than we started with. Fortunately it doesn't look like cervical arthritis is the culprit, which has good implications for his future. Unfortunately though his future as a sound event horse is still questionable at this point. This feels unfortunately similar to how I ended 2020. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

WW: Horsey Rorschach

(Not Yoshi, I'll share his soon though) 

Image from

Good or bad, just hoping for an answer. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

A Short Update

Yoshi's first ride back was Monday. He felt sound. But more stiff than usual especially when it came to bending left. It was pretty hard to work through because he was a bit spicy after not working for 1.5 weeks. We kept it short and sweet though, just some w/t and an unintentional canter. I checked in with his vet who said flatwork with bending for 2 weeks. He wanted to see a video of him next week on the lunge. He said he wanted to make sure the systemic effects of the steroids weren't masking something else. Systemic effects from the steroids could last up to 8 days post-injections, so today will be the test on that one I suppose. 

Tuesday we hacked out with Ms. GY to check out the areas that were just cleared around a power line cut. We trotted through the woods and he felt sound still. As we exited the woods I looked down to see a banana spider crawling up my arm. I managed to extract my feet from the stirrups and fling myself off, barely. Yoshi stood like a champ while I used my dressage whip to remove the spider from my saddle. Eeesh. We kept the excitement level high by going down the power line cut across the road. There was a field with an adorable donkey or perhaps pony mule, a pony, and three cows. The mule/donkey was really, really, really excited about talking to our horses. Yoshi held it together really pretty well and just did a bit of sideways when the cows started running. 

Hopefully this all means that we are back on the right track. Time will tell.

He came to hang out with me in the pasture while I was working on my trailer

Friday, December 10, 2021

Dire Predictions

Yoshi went lame last Friday. Ironically, my friend was coming out to ride him to reacquaint herself with him so she could hack him over the weekend while I was at work because her horse is currently on stall rest. I felt a few funky steps on the left front while trotting left, but pushed him through it. 

But when she got on he looked lame. When I started him back to work in May, if I pulled on the inside rein while tracking left, he would go rein lame. I verified more than once with Ms. GY watching to confirm that when I tossed him on the lunge he trotted sound. And this eventually went away. So I had my friend get off and we put him on the lunge. Where he looked lame. I palpated his entire leg and other than his perpetual dislike of having any of his suspensory ligaments touched, he had no swelling, heat, or pain. Mr. GY watched and noted some swelling in the area of his right pec. We worked a bit on mobility on both front legs which he initially resisted and then relaxed into. 

He had the weekend off and then I tossed him back on the lunge Monday morning. Still the same degree of lameness. I put in a phone call to the lameness vet that JT recommended and he was able to come out Tuesday afternoon. It ended up being "the longest vet appointment I have ever seen" according to my husband. The lameness vet started by watching and palpating. He said that with the sensitive TBs, you sometimes have to call their bluff on the suspensory and managed to palpate that more successfully than I had without much reaction. He found it odd that the lameness was equally bad tracking left and right on the lunge. He blocked out his distal limb without much improvement in the lameness. Which left him thinking either proximal suspensory, neck, knee, or zebras.

He asked if I wanted to keep going and I did, so Yoshi got a light dose of sedation, and we moved on to imaging. He shot rads of his knee that looked great (this horse is working on being the most radiographed horse of all time). He took foot rads (for his own interest, I was not billed, I'm not sure what that interest was, he didn't explain) that showed an ever so slightly positive palmar angle (hooray!). He ultrasounded his suspensory ligament and did not find any lesions. He ultrasounded some of the structures just proximal to the knee and did not find zebras. He ultrasounded his neck and identified the right-sided chip that the chiro vet had found. The left side looked better, but there was some mild OA there. The ultrasounding of the neck is so interesting, you can only see about 15% of the facet joint, but it is more sensitive than rads. Most sensitive would obviously be MRI, but there's the whole expense, time, getting a horse into an MRI, etc. 

Then he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I needed to be given options and then I could choose. He said we could do NSAIDs and time off or that we could try injecting the neck. He said if we went with rest/NSAIDs he felt he probably would be back out after he went back to work and went lame again. I tended to agree and really wanted an answer (yes, I know that isn't always possible in lameness things...) Yoshi was given an extra dose of sedation and we moved ahead with injecting the neck with steroids. It was SO COOL to watch. His neck was sterilely prepped and then he used the ultrasound to guide the injection into the facet joint. He did C5-C6 and C6-C7 on both sides. On the left side C6-C7, synovial fluid flowed back out of the needle after he placed it into the joint - apparently any synovial fluid is significant, so this told us there was synovitis in that joint. He aspirated the fluid so as to not increase the pressure in the joint and then injected the steroids. 

Yoshi is now off until Monday when I can start lightly hacking him. If he is improved, great. If not, we start again. If he initially responds but then worsens again after a short duration (<6 months) then we may talk about orthobiologics ie alpha-2 macroglobulins or prostride injections into the joint. Prostride apparently runs ~$800 for the amount that would be needed to go into one joint, so we would likely focus on the left C6-C7 if we went that route. However, he had a lot of good things to say about alpha-2 macroglobulins, so I think that would be the more likely choice. 

I've been reading up on cervical facet OA and it seems to be a mixed bag. One paper had 71% of horses returning to their prior performance level, but the duration of time before needing repeat injections varied from a few months to a few years. Another, with only 8 horses, had 64% of them returning to or exceeding their prior performance level. The durations of response were longer in horses of this group.

I sometimes question putting this all out on the world wide web when, soundness issues aside, I have openly admitted Yoshi may not be a forever horse. But I would be forthcoming with any potential buyers on what he has dealt with and what we have done to keep him sound. Selling him without disclosing all that would be doing him a disservice.  

Side note, I've now gotten three different Adequan protocols from three different vets. It is labelled for 7 injections, 4 days apart. Everyone has agreed to do that loading dose to start. But then: 
  1. Repeat that loading protocol every 6 months. This is the way it is labelled, this is the way it was shown to be effective. 
  2. Give 1 injection every 2 weeks. This maintains therapeutic levels in the serum. 
  3. Give 1 injection a few days before every time you compete. A lot of people down here do compete every 2 weeks during the show season, so this may amount to the same as option 2. 
Anyone have any other favorite protocols to offer? I ended up restarting a loading dose on Yoshi and then I'm going to go back to the every 2 weeks. I may repeat the loading once a year in addition. Who knows. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

November Wrap Up

In November Yoshi had: 
  • 23 rides
    • 5 training rides with JT at the start of the month 
    • 2 trail rides away from home- one with company and one solo 
    • 2 stadium jump lessons
    • 1 cross country school at Majestic Oaks - Yoshi jumped all the N things and a few T 
    • 1 dressage lesson - our left lead canter transitions are finally coming together (I say this and then we'll go through a falling apart phase again) 
    • 1 jumper schooling show at Majestic

  • His first hair cut! And I learned how ticklish he is. Which makes way more sense with his general dislike of being groomed. We have a plan for round two.
These feels...

The point at which I decided we needed drugs 
  • 2 chiropractic sessions - something I am SO excited to continue with him, given the differences we're seeing 
November Goals Check:
  • Boot camp week with JT to solidify canter and transitions well they're solid with her in the irons
  • Hauling out to trail ride twice Watermelon Pond and San Felasco
  • Clip Yes, with plenty to learn from for next time!
December Goals:
  • Two away from home trail rides again, this was great motivation to get out and make it happen - they are great conditioning and he's just so much fun to trail ride. Also the weather has been absolutely amazing, so I am going to take advantage of it while it lasts! 
  • Show at Majestic on the 11th
  • Take reindeer antler or Santa hat pictures... 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Moving on Up!

The GY's and I took a rather spur of the moment trip to the Majestic Oaks schooling jumper show Sunday. I had worked till midnight the night before (what a pattern...) and decided that starting with 2'9" would be fine. It runs after the drag break, so starts a full 1.25 hours after the 2'6". That meant I got up at a fairly leisurely 8 AM. I had some nerves as I loaded him up. First, we were not meeting JT there. It was a weird sensation. I've never worked with a trainer as consistently as JT. For years I just bummed rides wherever other people were going and then Zing and I would do our thing without a second thought. I was never in a barn with an in-house trainer, so it's been the opposite experience of people who always go to shows with trainer in barn trailer then get their own wheels and can do things on their own. Fortunately JT is so good at inserting useful mantras into her students' brains that I was pretty sure we could do this just fine. Also, Yoshi is basically a pro at all things horse show now. 

Adding to the nerves though, we had a fairly terrible jump school at home on Thursday. He was... punchy and reactive. Two things this horse VERY rarely is. He started off dolphin launching after a few jumps. I don't mind that, his bucks aren't hard and aren't meant to unload me, so he can express himself some. But that progressed into bolting after jumps. I focused on myself and making sure I was not pulling and thereby giving him something to stiffen against. I also only did jumps headed away from the barn because he has exhibited a bit of a magnetic draw to the barn in the past. Finally we got soft and the jump I was going to quit on he tapped a jump with a hind leg and bolted again and bucked hard. That time I was certain I had been soft so I set him on his butt pretty firmly. We ended up working through it again, but it did add to my nerves on Sunday. 

He warmed up pretty nicely. Then we got kicked out of the warm up arena so they could drag and when we came back in everyone was trying to jump the same few jumps. He launched a bit when a horse got close to him while we were cantering. We had jumped the cross rail and vertical a few times before the drag, so we popped the oxer at height once and then called it good. I'm pretty sure JT would have had us chill out more and then do a few more trips over the oxer, but I didn't want to recreate our Thursday ride. 

The course started with a vertical headed back towards the in-gate then 6 strides to an oxer. Right hand roll back turn, either inside or outside an oxer, to a vertical for #3. Bending line left to #4, roll back left to #5. Fairly sharp right hand turn to #6ab, a one stride combination. Easy right hand turn to the oxer, #7 (that was either the inside or outside of the turn to #3). Continue that turn around to a vertical, then loop left around the ring to #9ab, another one stride, then 5 strides down to #10. 

Our first trip around, Yoshi was very good, but I could not see a distance to save my life. We were tight to a few and long to a few. This meant a rail at #3. I had taken the inside turn and he just didn't get straight or balanced in time to jump it well. The bending line right from #5 to 6 was exciting. I was kind of worried because it was the palm tree line that he had been spooky at last time off of a pretty sharp turn, but he was actually trying to rush to it. I half-halted hard then softened and got a really nice reaction. We still got deep to a, but JT in my head told me to stretch up tall and support through b, so he jumped out just fine. He found the oxer at 7 pretty spooky. Fortunately the turn near it gave me the heads up on that one. Plus he's so so honest and really scopes out the jumps about 6-8 strides ahead of time, so I just closed my leg and he got it done. He threw in a couple of flying changes for me again; it's pretty telling that they come when I'm trying to bring him back to the trot and change the bend... good set up for rebalancing haha. #9ab to 10 rode really well, I always want to gun it to the last jump, sort of a "woohoo!!" moment where I chase him flat, so it was actually really good for me to have a related distance. I sat up in between and he jumped #10 better than the whole rest of the course (other than #7 that had the spook factor). 

Jumping athletically from a tight spot 

Classes were pretty large (13 in the 2'9") and there was a trainer there showing with many students who apparently did not believe in giving directions to her students at any point prior to the one in the ring finishing, so it was 30-60 seconds of in gate directions with an empty ring. Yoshi and I hung out while I tried to decide if I should just re-ride the 2'9" or wait for the 3'. I stuck it out though because with how easy he is out cross country, it looks like if our BN debut goes well in early December our next show after that will be at N. I'm so glad I did, our 3' class was BEAUTIFUL! He was ready and game again, I could actually see my distances, the whole thing just really flowed together so well. 

I did do the whole left hand roll back turn from #4-5 on the right lead though. JT has not mentioned leads to me at all other than bringing to a trot and then picking up the correct lead if he finishes a course on the wrong lead for her smallish ring. Mr. GY and I were discussing after how much counter canter there is in dressage and how good it can be for balancing them on their haunches. I've actually started playing with very shallow one loops at the canter to help him bend and soften through his body, so I'm really just practicing higher level dressage when I do things like roll back on the wrong lead... 

I might have gone a little crazy buying pictures... but baby horse only has his first 3' class once!

Friday, November 26, 2021

November Trail Ride #2 - San Felasco

Yoshi and I headed out to San Felasco State Park this morning. It was just us again, but I felt much more confident than our first solo trip back in May. I took a better look at the map this time and managed to ride basically where I wanted/planned. Yoshi was a bit up in the parking lot; there were other people there getting tacked up, and he was quite interested in their horses. As soon as we headed out onto the trail he settled though. 

The first part of the Cellon Loop is really sandy, kind of deep in some spots. The return part of the loop has much better footing but leads into the hikers parking area. It's very close to the equestrian parking, so I need to remember to just start from there next time. We moseyed for quite some time before coming to the option to take the Turkey Creek Loop. 

Most of the trails are through the woods, so Yoshi had a grand time participating in his favorite trail riding activity - brushing his face up against foliage as we pass. He doesn't try to eat, he just... feels things with his face as we go by. 

Must feel tree with my face....

As we got to the power line cut we briefly chased a group of deer along for a while. After we crossed the large power line cut, the trail got very narrow and fairly hilly. He did well with the ups and downs. We paused to let a group of cyclists cross at a meeting of the equestrian and cycling trails. He was unimpressed by having to stand still, but not at all spooked by the cyclists, so I'll take it. The last person in the group was someone I work with, she yelled "HI" and even though I know that she goes there to cycle, it was pretty surprising to me. 

We popped out onto a slightly wider cut by "soggy bottom pond". We also had a very close encounter with a deer there that prompted just a slight bop to the side. We cantered down the trail for a little while and then came back out onto the power line cut. It had only been 2.8 miles at that point, definitely not the full 4.4 of the loop, so I figured we must have missed a turn at one point and we turned back around. We used the opportunity to canter along again, which Yoshi thought was great fun. We re-encountered the same doe and again, even though we were cantering, he just popped a bit sideways. 

Hello deer friend

The back part of the Turkey Creek Loop was well marked, but got a bit hairy in sections. The creek is so, so pretty with clear, flowing water. The banks are too steep to get down to it, so we just admired from the top. Unfortunately feral pigs have torn up a lot of the area near it and there were some pretty deep muddy spots. Unlike the trails in the front that are pretty meticulously cleared, there were significantly more down trees. One was in the muck from the pigs and about 2' high. I walked Yoshi up to it, expecting him to just step over it, but it seemed like he could not figure it out. I ended up jumping a 2'6"ish section kind of off the trail with a very short approach because even when we reapproached the smaller section on the trail, he just got way, way too close to it with his feet and then froze. Definitely a brain break moment, but he was very nice and responsive to steering off the trail, so it worked okay. 

Some of the trails at the far end are marked "for carriages" and "not for carriages". But I honestly cannot imagine a carriage traveling up/down these. We actually got to the section I used to be able to ride into from a different barn. I was last on those trails with Zing, 4+ years ago, it was interesting to see them through a different set of bay ears. Although Zing could do no wrong, ever, I have to admit, Yoshi is the best trail horse I've ever ridden. Other than a few moments early on in the ride where he thought the second I touched the reins from a loose rein walk meant canter, he was absolutely perfect. Responsive, safe, sane. He had a nice swinging walk on the buckle most of the time. The trot sections were a bit quick, but eventually towards the end he softened into a nicer rhythm. And cantering him along was absolutely lovely, easy to go or woah and just a nice smooth flowing canter. He alternated between right lead and left lead on his own, pretty interesting to feel. 

We eventually made our way back closer to home and had an option to go back the very narrow up/down portion or back by soggy bottom pond. Yoshi made it pretty clear which option he preferred, so we headed back by the pond and picked up a nice canter towards the power line cut. It started misting at one point so after walking through the power line cut (due to the possibility of meeting mountain bikers unexpectedly), we picked up a decent trot for most of the time home with one final canter on the last stretch.

We logged 8.75 miles in almost 2 hours. Average pace of 4.7mph, total of 290 feet of elevation gain. We saw loads of deer, a pileated woodpecker, a few sandhill cranes, and lots of ibis. There were also some really spectacular live oaks we rode past. Some of them must be a couple hundred years old. I love those trees. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

WW: Comparison

 September 7th vs. November 20th

September 8th

November 20th

September 8th

November 20th

November 20th

And just for fun... he spotted a mini in a blanket at JT's. He rarely gets this tall anymore, but was pretty concerned. Except he'd pause, stare, snort, and then take 2 or 3 steps TOWARDS the mini. I love his brain. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

It's a trend

Lesson today was AWESOME. 

Short version: We missed. A lot. But we learned. Yoshi tried new things. I tried new things.

Long version: We warmed up with the "medium" and "collect" game at the canter. The right lead still feels about half of what the left lead is, but I'm told it will get there. JT has been right on everything else, so I'll trust on this one for a while longer. I wish video captured the feel for me, I think if I looked back it would already be much, much better than it was 3 months ago. But alas, my eye is pretty awful, so I don't know if I could see big changes. I should pull out the pivo though to see if I can. Added bonus I'd have some pictures/videos to add to these word vomit posts. 

Two days ago from the kayak at Shired Island

I was having a bad hunchy day today for some reason. Which seems to exacerbate the pulling with the right hand. It crashed in our leg yields right. And then I found my right seat bone and released with the right hand and we got some (okay, like two) true steps. It feels like this will help him strengthen so much, I am going to add a couple of quality steps into our work each day this next week. 

Warming up over the cross rail we had an important lesson too. We got the same long spot twice in a row. But the first time I had pulled him through the turn to it instead of pushing his shoulders around the turn. This meant he had to really lift his shoulders UP a lot to take off and it felt much more dramatic than the second time where I kept his balance up through the turn. Very interesting to feel because it was the exact same long spot each time. 

Our own private beach 

Our course started with the red oxer, left hand turn around the top of the ring to a 90 degree turn to cavaletti-cross rail-cavaletti bounce across the short side of the ring. 90 degree right turn to come up the liverpool line which had been split out to a one stride cross rail to a cross rail over the liverpool to a 5 stride to the oxer out. Then it was a right hand turn around the top of the ring to a triple - 2 stride to 1 stride. The oxer and bounces rode fine, then I didn't get him up around the turn to the one stride to liverpool. He got very tight in to the first, tight to the liverpool, and then barreled down the 5 stride line and had to eek in the last stride. We repeated that once with a better ride through the turn to the liverpool line which made it flow better. 

Then we started with the red oxer, bending line down to the liverpool one stride. He was apparently sick of me missing and ran right through my half halt to launch over the one stride fairly crooked. It was definitely way more work for him because he jumped the high side of both cross rails, and they were set close to the top of the standards. JT had me "halt him like I was falling off a cliff" after that and then give him big pats. The next time we halted after the oxer with some assistance from her (she's fearless). Then we picked the canter right back up and politely did the bending line using JT as a cone to turn around/slow his roll. We continued on to the triple after that, one stride first then two stride. He very politely waited for the tight spot on the in at my direction. I told her that it was crazy having her stand there because I had time to have complete thoughts about not running her over, yet still feel like I don't have time to sit up and half halt in things like the bending line.

We finished with the single cross rail, bending line to the oxer at the end of the 5 stride, then right hand turn up the triple. She notched them all up a bit to N/T height and he jumped incredibly well. He's so funny, it's like taking off out cross country, we had to correct him sharply once and then he was great. JT said "he's just trying to be extra helpful, but right now his judgement is not always correct." Which is so true. It's like now he can move his body in these new ways and jump pretty athletically most of the time, he's trying out new versions. 

In other news (still unphotographed), the PS of Sweden is a no go for him. When we schooled Monday he spent our time waiting intermittently flipping his head like he had a fly on his nose in spite of there being zero bugs. He also was starting to have his tongue out more often than not while warming up. Not just a whisker pinching issue like I was hoping... Soooo I put him in a plain cavesson of the GY's that fits him better than mine did, and so far he is incredibly happy. No chomping, no flipping his nose when I put it on, no flipping his nose while standing. Time will tell, and very generously this is a long as I need it lend, so we're giving this a solid month before I commit to something. Fortunately since the PS of Sweden can be tricky to track down, JT bought it from me, so it isn't too much of a loss. I just wish he'd told me when I was still trialing hers and before I ordered it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Completely without (relevant) media

We schooled at Majestic on Monday. They had a recognized event running on Saturday so courses were still set, flagged, and decorated on Monday. I went with the GY's who are not ride with your cell in your smartpak tights pocket type people, so I have no media. Instead this post will be punctuated by random pictures from my phone.

Yoshi was a star again though, regardless of whether or not I have photo/video proof. We warmed up over an entry ramp, circled to the Novice #1, a ramp then a novice table. Yoshi and I are getting better at going forward from the get go, so it flowed decently well. We then headed from novice #1 to the #2 which was a decent gallop stretch away. Ms. GY's horse and Yoshi both found this a bit spooky and fish tailed a bit. Like the good boy he is though, Yoshi went forward when I closed my leg and sat up. Next we looped around through the water to the BN size table (flagged as part B of the novice combo that was 2 tables with an almost obligatory water crossing between them). I gave him a pretty short approach to the water and he was kind of surprised, slipped to a walk then picked up the trot again in the water and cantered the two strides out to pop over the table and then head to the same novice table we had warmed up over. We got tight to that, but he jumped up and over really very nicely. At least my inability to see distances is teaching him to jump well from wherever we end up. 

Next it was over the trakheners. We started over the BN one to the novice roll top with brush. We circled back to take the training trakhener. JT actually meant for me to come back over the novice one. I definitely didn't have enough forward to the trakhener, but he still hopped over it gamely. We re-did that set starting with the training brush roll top then back to the trakhener. As we headed to the brush I did think for a second it looked quite large, but JT's faith in sending us to go do it made me sit up and close my leg. The second time over the trakhener went much more smoothly. 

We headed to the banks next to play and Ms. and Mr. GY got to be amazed by the casual loose rein, hands forward, barely jog to it approach to down banks. It was so funny to watch them go through the same process Yoshi and I did a month ago. Yoshi and I went down BN, turned around to go up BN to a roll top that was part B, then turned back around to come down novice to the novice part B, a decent size roll top. 

Next it was over to the water. We did the whole novice line through then she had us do the smallest down bank in. Yoshi faltered a bit, but went after assessing the situation. JT said that was a pretty green moment and then said "we've done the down bank into water before, right?" Yoshi said "nope, we had not, but don't worry that's okay". We did that size a few more times before going to the next size up. By the time we did that twice he was splashing into water like a pro. And on that note, we were done! 

Ms. GY and I were talking later about JT's coaching. Ms. GY said that several times JT had started to shout something in my direction, but I had started doing it as she started to talk (ie stretch up and balance, move the canter). This led to JT stopping shouting and just chuckling. Between JT and Yoshi this whole process has felt so simple. I told her she had higher ambitions for Yoshi and me than I did when she told me back in August or July that we'd be looking at novice by the spring. But she knows horses and knows how to teach, so here we are, hopping over training fences like it is NBD and schooling whole novice courses. 

Yoshi is also the most uncomplicated, straight forward horse I've ever had the pleasure of riding. He goes forward when I ask, stops or slows when I ask, and goes over the jump he is pointed at. When we were circling around to head back into the water at one point he locked onto the skinny prelim log headed in. I turned him away, but he already has that down pat after 4 months of work. I cannot write/say enough how glad I am that I took a chance on this sightly blemished (dropped hip, crappy feet, osselet on left front) thoroughbred. I'm not sure if he is a forever horse for me or if he will eventually be for sale as a seeing eye horse for someone, but either which way this has been a really fun and rewarding road so far. JT said she could see him easily hopping around prelim at some point. And I would've laughed, but the prelim coffin didn't look that bad as I sat on his back. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

New bit, new bridle

So just as I finished collecting the largest collection of horse leg wear ever and had told my husband "I have all the horse things I need, so I'm done doing any shopping for a long while" a thing kinda came up. As I've talked about, Yoshi has some weird mouth things. He is orally fixated from the get go, anything he can reach from the cross ties or his stall will enter his mouth at some point. He likes to take each of my grooming tools and mouth them for a second before dropping them (although my one really nice Haas brush gets a longer chew... of course the only nice brush I own is subject to this). He also still tries to put parts of me in his mouth, although now in a toddler playing/exploring the world not an angry way. And under saddle he expresses stress by chomping on the bit and baring his teeth. He sometimes will flop his tongue out of his mouth, but the frequency of this one has lessened A LOT. I think it is a stress behavior? But I'm not totally sure. He basically does it once a cross country schooling session and rarely at lessons or shows. Apparently at the Majestic Schooling show he nearly put his tongue over the bit in warm up for dressage. JT had the good sense not to mention this to me until after the show though. 

Until August, he had been going in a Micklem with an eggbutt french link. I briefly tried a nathe that he was pretty soft in, but JT didn't love the idea of him in that bit, so he's been in the french link since then. We switched him out of the Micklem after the end of August when his constant mouthing caused a rub on his chin from the piece of leather that goes under the buckle. He did seem much happier in the plain cavesson, so I had been thinking about buying him one that actually fit his face because the Bobby's Tack bridle I threw him in was definitely not sized for his face (highest hole on cheekpieces and noseband, too tight in the browband), but fortunately had not bit the bullet yet. 

He's generally a pretty sensitive horse and has excellent brakes even though he is also nicely forward. But he would really like to hang on the contact rather than truly soften to it when asked to bend and lift. So one day JT suggested trying him in her horse's bit/bridle combo. It is a HS NovoContact Double-Jointed Eggbutt bit in a PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle. The interesting part about this bit is that the edge mouthpieces of this bit are rather flat front to back. This makes it soft when they are soft, but when pressure is applied, the mouthpieces rotate a bit to give it a subtle edge. 

You can see the shape of the mouthpiece a bit ;) better here than in the online pictures

Smart Pak's description of the bridle: The PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle features a classic noseband redesigned. The pioneer has a drop noseband that offers unsurpassed comfort for your horse and also modern styling. Thanks to the cross-sectional design, the cheek pieces are kept away from the eyes and the jaw strap is extra padded for increased stability and comfort. The noseband has rawhide on the inside to hold its shape away from the sensitive nerve endings of the nasal bone. It also features a built in soft pillow to increase the noseband's stability and is decorated with a white seam. It closes easily with the padded pullback strap featuring a ring for greater freedom of the jaw, and an easy on/off snap that is easily removed. This bridle is recommended for horses that are young or inexperienced, need extra support and stabilization, or tend to travel inverted. Reins not included.

And after mouthing the bit for 2-3 minutes, he got quiet in his mouth. It wasn't angels singing magic of softening and bending while I sat and did nothing, but it was much quieter. I rode him in that combo a few more times before deciding that this would be worth the investment because he did feel much more comfortable. I asked JT which was the more important piece to find first and she said the bridle actually seemed to make the most difference.  

It took a bit of hunting to track down a cob sized black bridle, but I eventually found it direct from the PS of Sweden website (although now it isn't even listed on the website at all!). The bit was easy to find at Dover. Smartpak is my usual go to, but they didn't have the 5" in stock. The bit came in first, so I set it up in my standard cavesson. He seemed quieter in his mouth, but did actually lean on it a bit more than without the PS of Sweden bridle. Odd, but again JT knows what she's talking about.

Once the bridle came in, I oiled it multiple times with the tiny sample conditioner they sent. Then struggled at reassembling it, but finally got it back together properly. The range of adjustability on these bridles is definitely much smaller than in most other brands, so it is pretty important to get the sizing right. JT made some small tweaks to it after I set it up, she recommended the two cheekpieces be parallel. In the noseband/jaw strap there are 3 different areas that can be adjusted - the jaw strap, the noseband, and the pieces between the two. 

Not parallel here 

Properly adjusted here 

Now that it has been in use since we schooled at FHP, he has a complaint about the drop noseband. I'm not sure what it is because I can't find a rubbed spot, but as I go to do it up he flips his nose each time. It may honestly be pulling/trapping his whiskers, because I got the same reaction when I test pulled on a few whiskers... I'm not sure how we'll address this one. I have been tightening it to the point where I can slide two fingers underneath of it still, so I don't think it is overtightening. He does feel mostly fantastic in the combo though and usually produces a soft white foam on the bit. I'll continue brain storming on the noseband and testing out different ways to adjust it. In the mean time I do enjoy looking at his face more in this bridle than I did in the poorly fitted Bobby's Bridle. And fortunately I sold the micklem, the bobby's bridle, a sheet I'd hardly used, and a few other random things on FB marketplace, so I didn't end up actually "spending" that much on the new bit/bridle. 

Dressage saddle woes up next...

Friday, November 12, 2021

Jekyll and Hyde

Title probably how Yoshi was referring to me on Tuesday...

Ms. GY and I went trail riding that morning at Watermelon Pond Wildlife Environmental Area It was SO LOVELY. It was in the high 60's, she brought Mr. GY's OTTB. Both horses were absolutely amazing. They moseyed along on a loose rein most of the time with one tiny spook from each of them over two separate things. They trotted together - side by side when it allowed, and one in front when the trail was too narrow. They also cantered like perfect gentlemen, her horse not caring when Yoshi got a little close, and Yoshi staying politely behind him for the most part. When Yoshi led he was a little bit sucked back/cautious, but he still showed no hesitation going forward. 

Smiling about the beautiful day in front of watermelon pond

The trails are mostly sand and mostly in the sun. It was perfect for us because it was cooler and it rained a TON last week, so the sand was still pretty hard packed. I could see how on the trails closer to the entrance that are more travelled the sand could get pretty deep if it hadn't rained in a while. Watermelon Pond was quite high due to all the rain, and we did cross a couple of puddles in the path, good practice for them. There were a few gentle hills that we went up as well. We rode for almost two hours. I forgot to turn on my Garmin, but I know we covered some distance because we had two pretty long canter stretches, four nice trots, and the boys were both walking BIG the whole time. 

When we got back home, I hosed Yoshi's sweat off and decided I was going to clip him. He's been a bit out of kitty minutes since arriving home. Shortly after we got home Monday he had to stand for the farrier. He was still good, but did a lot more dancing than normal and the second the farrier wasn't actively working on him started pawing. I had already nixed clipping him that day, figuring he needed some time to play bitey face with his friends and run around. But I really wanted to get the hair off of him, so Tuesday I was committed. He has been completely fine with clippers places other than his ears when I've run them next to him. He has tolerated his legs getting done just fine. However, I had not had occasion to actually put the clippers on him and clip other places... yeah... He is the world's most ticklish horse. We came to an agreement on standing still, but I could not stop his muscle twitching. I had put tape on him for a high trace clip, but the constant muscle flicking/twitching quickly removed that. I pulled out the dormosedan gel after a 10 minute struggle and then cleaned tack while that kicked in. 

Regrouping after 1.5 mL (half his body weight dose, but he was a light weight for his teeth), I could get more done, but he was still SO tickly in his girth area and even on his jugular groove. I got the left side done pretty well, but we both kinda ran out of patience for the right side. Because he had flicked my tape off, I ended up using the saddle pad to draw a straight line across his back. This worked fine on the left, but on the right he cocked his hind leg and I didn't realize the effect this would have on the straightness of his saddle pad. So the right side climbs from the shoulder towards the hip in a diagonal line. Which meant I clipped a lot more of his butt to keep it even. And there are also more clipper tracks because we were both getting impatient.

This is the better side.. his face sums it up

Soooo much higher up on this side...

I basically could only do his girth area on both sides by hovering the clippers just off his skin. It is what it is... I told JT I understood if she didn't want to be seen in public with me for the next couple weeks. Also I am quite glad I did this a full month before we plan on showing next. I don't know if he's going to get another clip this winter, but if he does we're taking it all off and getting a full tube of dormosedan prior to starting!