Sunday, July 31, 2022

Turning into a trail pony?

Ben was the BEST horse yesterday for a walk around the neighborhood. He walked ON THE BUCKLE for most of the ride. He only spooked once at a squirrel and quickly regained his composure. 

I'm not sure what happened, it was about 93 degrees, hence the walk only ride, and also day 6/6 for rides. And he's going out with the whole 5 horse herd at this point so maybe he's worn out from new social interactions. But in any event, I have never been able to just hold the buckle and have him walk with a loose, swinging back out on trails. 

Tacked up, about to head out, his mane looking much more civilized than it actually is right now

At least we were mostly in the shade while we rode

Walking past a house with geese and goats without batting an eye

He gave the cows a long hard look, but kept his feet moving forward. The look didn't escalate into a spook in place like he has sometimes done. 

I am so so happy with this, I've been trying to turn him into a solid trail pony since I got him (because what else do you do with your fancy new event horse). 

Friday, July 29, 2022

In which Ben is surprisingly adaptable

Ben moved to the GY's on Tuesday after our jump lesson. It had been in the works since I purchased him, but his ::ahem:: lengthy abscess saga had delayed it. I LOVE JT and Ben LOVED being there. But it is 45 minutes from my house. We may yet spend some of the fall or winter with JT so that we can be in twice weekly lessons or training rides, but for the heat of the summer, we're settled back in at the GY's. With my late night work schedule, being able to get up at 9 or 10 and be at the barn 5 minutes later is awesome. 

Ben loaded right up into his fancy box stall trailer. He came to me really good about loading then went through a short phase of needing a tap with a dressage whip, but now that I have made the trailer suit him, he is back to walking right on. He eats hay when we're stationary, but I'm pretty sure he travels slanted backwards, like the general internet says horses prefer to ride. 

When he arrived, he didn't even have his back feet off the ramp before he was head down in the grass. NOMS. We put him out in the 8 acre field and left everyone else in the barn yard. He was remarkably sane. Everyone in the barn galloped around like loons, but he did some trotting, a brief canter, and then mostly ate grass. 

Introductions to others + to electric fence 

My friend said he looked blue roan in this picture... You too can have a blue roan if you mix sweaty bay with sugar sand! 

Grazing after our ride yesterday

He went out by himself Tuesday and then got introduced to Mr. GY's horses on Wednesday. They made an adorable little herd of bay TB geldings. He had been by himself in the small pasture overnight, but last night apparently decided he was part of the herd and started pitching a fit when the others went out front. Ms. GY put her gelding in the barn yard to keep him company. Initially her gelding was charging at Ben over the fence, as he does with new horses, but Ben was not impressed especially on the other side of the fence. By the morning, they were scratching withers over the fence. 

This morning they went out together and there was ZERO drama

We added Ms. GY's other horse to the mix this morning and again there was very little drama. Her horse mostly just wanted to sniff Ben's butt. Mr. GY's older gelding was pushing Ben around a bit, but he doesn't do anything more than pin his ears. 

We're going to put Mr. GY's younger TB back into the herd tomorrow, then they will be one happy herd all together. We took him out for the intros this morning because if anyone is going to start running, it will probably be him. 

Overall Ben has been SUPER good here. There's a lot to look at and neighbors through trees doing things, so I was expecting him to be a bit up, but he has been really very focused. We took a short trail ride today to the hay field to do a trot set. He was PERFECT for that. It did take us... 3 times as long as it should to walk back up the 8 acre field to the barn. We had started out tacking up with Ms. GY and I think he was looking for her horse the second we got back in the field. We just did a lot of turning around when he started to prance down the field and then a few halts until he could actually sigh and relax. 

In annoying news, my dressage saddle STILL makes his back sore even after several adjustments. Everyone agrees it looks great on him, but his back disagrees. So just working in the jump saddle for the time being. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Something worth writing

My content on here has most definitely been lacking lately, especially in comparison to last year. The whole of 2022 has actually felt a bit that way. A lease horse that was going to be up for sale then as soon as he became my horse, an abscess that sidelined him for two months and made me contemplate quitting horses altogether. And then figuring out the emotional side of the horse who was on stall rest for 2 weeks and is more emotional than any other horse I've had. Not that the emotional side of things is not worth writing about. To the contrary. But I am completely muddling my way through it, trying different tactics, and not really feeling like I have anything useful to add to a dialogue about spooking and overflowing emotions. 

To summarize that muddling for posterity, Gastrogard was the most useful part of the whole thing. It enabled Ben to actually come back to earth between spooking at things. It did not stop spooking, but he could definitely check back in wayyyyy better rather than just escalating. 

We're finally back on track for something more akin to last year's excited lesson updates. Ben spent last week in JT's hands while I was in New York with family. I got some interesting updates

"Couple things- I’ve been working on getting him moving off the leg better. Some of the spookiness comes from how much he holds his breath and clutches when leg goes on, we are sorting that out. The other thing is he’s too down into the bridle coming to the jumps and then gets onto his left shoulder. If we can fix the self carriage and straightness this is a hell of a horse"

1. Always nice to have your trainer say the horse is a hell of a nice horse. 
2. I'd felt that with the leg on, but couldn't verbalize it or fix it. The spurs improved the response, but also felt a bit like I was just managing to be stronger than his breath holding and push him forward in spite of it. Not that he had actually let go and moved freely forward. 
3. Getting onto his left shoulder. You'll recall I love to pull with my right hand. I'm sure that's really helping him :: sarcasm:: Or I could have actually created that problem. 

Chicken or egg with that right hand and his left shoulder. I've tried telling myself you can't pull a horse straight and was working on that coming to jumps prior to our extended break. Also sorry for the repeat pictures. We may get to another show at some point, and I'll get some fresh material.

JT continued on and said she popped him over a few jumps with just a couple jumps that were over 3' and even with the strength he is lacking it was dead easy for him. Except for the spooking and chipping to the base that made holding his shape to the base a little hard for him. She said she wanted to get him through some grids soon. I totally agree and am excited to do grids again. 

Bounce x 4 to a 1 stride with Yoshi last fall

So with these things in mind, I had two lessons back to back on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Monday was... a hot mess. I haven't jumped since the end of April. We started out well enough, but fell apart when we had to do an S turn of jumps. The left turn we managed, but it wasn't pretty. The right turn (shocking) fell completely apart and we stuttered to a stop in front of the fence. 

The general problems broke down as follows: 
  1. He is BIG and appropriately forward feels, well, horrifyingly fast right now. If you'll recall back when I started jumping him, we crashed/launched/I almost fell off through a two stride that we tried to fit... more than two strides into. Because his 12 foot stride feels HUGE compared to Yoshi's. Because properly forward felt SO fast, I was not adding leg. Basically we would stutter over one jump, land and he'd launch forward and down as compensation for the lack of forward over the jump. I'd pull to try to restore an UP balance and then we'd lose our impulsion of any kind and we'd slog our way down to the next fence. 
  2. That pesky left drift. I think it is mostly a strength/habit thing, he feels wonderfully sound right now. But without any leg, that left drift is fairly significant the last two strides. 
  3. I struggled to sit my butt down and was just pulling BACK while leaning forward at him through the turns. Ineffective way to half halt. 
Uhm. Once I typed those, there are fewer than I thought and all go back to really one problem - lack of leg! I spent my drive to work that day and my drive to the barn the next morning trying to put a default of "add leg" into my subconscious. 

Tuesday was MUCH better. Monday felt like a serious LESSON in that there were so many things that we worked on improving. Tuesday felt like a lesson, with more bite sized pieces vs. unhinge your jaw and swallow the whole damn lesson in one bite. We switched Ben to a wonder bit with a figure eight bridle. After warmup we started on the same S turn of three fences. The second and third he drifted left HARD and JT asked to get on him. She got on and kept him straight. WOWWWWW he can seriously jump when he is held accountable for being straight and lined up. It massively helped my feel of pace watching her on him. 

After she got off, she put an angled rail on the left side of every fence we jumped. About 5 strides out from the first one he eyed it pretty hard, but still went forward, good boy. I had a much easier time sitting down and half-halting up. The deal with trying the wonder bit was that it would give him more lift up, but I COULD NOT pull back on his face in it. I thought the "hands to the jump" every single jump and the whole thing went a million times better. We even did a two stride line fairly well. The first time through he got long to the first and I got left, but thanks to his rides with JT, he powered forwards and put two in and jumped out nicely. The second time through, in spite of making a different turn, I got the same slightly long spot. It's funny, Yoshi LOVED the slightly gappy spot, I think his secret inner dream was to be a hunter. Ben on the other hand has been a firm believer in fitting in an extra half stride there. But now he will take the longer spot and do it pretty athletically too. I was more prepared the second time through and just sat up and rode in between and he jumped out beautifully. Good boy. 

Then I loaded him up and moved him up to the GY's. But that's a post for another day. 

Headless horse, but a look at how he gets to travel now... made my two horse into a single box stall which he greatly appreciates

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

WW: Shoe Day!

Brand new shoes today, hooray!

Both of us making good life choices yesterday. He actually handled this just fine, thankfully.

A more relaxing photo

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The good and bad in a different species...

Neither part A or B of this post are horse related. BUT... the first part felt too important not to share and the second is important to my personal animal life, so it's going on here. 

The good first... 

I attended a conference on Friday and Saturday that focused on feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in cats. FIP is an "uncommon presentation of a common disease". FIP is a disease caused by mutation of the feline enteric corona virus within an individual cat. The seroprevalence of feline enteric corona virus is between 26-78% of cats. Typically when cats are infected, they may have no signs or may develop a fever, diarrhea, or lymphadenopathy. Regardless, most recover and never look back. However, in some cats the immune system does not respond properly, and they develop FIP. FIP comes in a "wet" form or a "dry" form. The wet form is characterized by development of abdominal effusion or pleural effusion with a thick, sticky yellow fluid. The dry form is trickier to diagnose and is characterized by granulomas forming on various organs, even sometimes within the central nervous system and eyes. FIP is the number one cause of neurologic signs in young cats.  

Prior to 2016, FIP was uniformly fatal. Yep, 100% fatality rate, most within days to weeks of diagnosis. To make that even worse, it is a disease that tends to affect younger cats, most under the age of 5, some as young as a few months. 

Then in 2016, UC Davis published a study with an anti-viral drug GC376 showing a 30% survival rate. This drug was less effective against the neurologic and ophthalmic forms. But still, going from 0%, this was huge. Even better though, clinical trials of GC376 were followed by clinical trials of GS-441524 that showed a survival rate of 96% if those who died or were euthanized within the first two weeks were excluded. Even with including those cats, the survival rate was 81%. 

Feline enteric corona virus has been around forever (discovered in 1963, but who knows how long it has existed), but in 2019... yeah... so there was all of a sudden a huge interest in things that might treat corona viruses. GS-441524 is the pro-drug of remdesivir, one of the anti-virals used in treatment of Covid-19. The patent-holder of GS-441524, Gilead Sciences, has withheld animal rights to GS-441524. And remdesivir has a limited distribution according to the US government. So veterinarians cannot write prescriptions for remdesivir. 

But trials have proceeded in Australia and the UK showing similar stunning success rates for a disease that was once considered a death sentence. And... people are resourceful everywhere, and here in the US, so there are facebook groups such as FIP Warriors 5.0 that will help people with cats diagnosed with FIP find treatment. Veterinarians CANNOT purchase or touch these "black-market" drugs. But they can direct people where to connect with other people whose cats have been diagnosed with FIP. And they can help monitor treatment and monitor the resolution of bloodwork abnormalities. They can also share tidbits like make sure the cat is weighed frequently so that ANY medications can be dosed appropriately. 

And the patent for GC376 was acquired by Anivive, they have been developing the medication and should be bringing it to market within the next few years! Then there will be a totally above-board treatment for FIP in the US. 

Anyways, this is just super, super exciting, and I know a few people who read have feline friends as well, so I thought it might be potentially useful to share this. 

The bad... 

Pico has stage 2 chronic kidney disease. She's only 6.5 years old, so she's young for that diagnosis. And far too young for a diagnosis that has a median survival time of 1156 days. I'm coming to terms with it; it is a very treatable disease. But not a curable one. For whatever reason she's had multiple renal infarcts and even a central nervous system infarct once (weird, rapidly resolving neuro signs), but alllllll of her coagulation testing comes back normal. All I can do is treat the kidney disease and hope that she stops infarcting her kidneys. We may end up putting her on plavix, but we're waiting until we recheck her abdominal ultrasound in 6 months. Because there's not great evidence it would help, and true to cat form, medicating her is just a joy for everyone involved.

Supervising bathroom door replacement

She is clinically felling much better though. And after a short hunger strike, she has accepted her new kidney diet. My husband promises to be the voice of reason when it comes to making the hard end of life decision. But she's a pretty vocal and active cat, so I don't think I'll have too hard of a time deciding that one either; it is what I owe her for being such a wonderful companion. 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Sound of body and...

Ben has a box of gastrogard sitting in my living room right now... we've gone back to "work" which for right now means 30-40 minutes walking with 5-10 minutes trotting. Poor kid is very spooky right now though. He doesn't DO anything, he just tosses his head, prances a bit, tries to escape forward, etc etc. Certainly not dangerous, but not really conducive to walking with relaxation and swing through his back either. And not pleasant for either one of us. 

After all he has been through the past few months, I would not be surprised if he had ulcers, so we're giving gastrogard a go to see if that helps. In a week he'll get shoes back on the fronts and can go back to full time night turnout. I'm hoping that will help as well because he does play a good bit in the pastures. 

For now we just try to keep our shit together, and I try to lower my expectations. He is not Yoshi, Leila, or Zing. He has genuine fears that rattle his cage and he struggles to put himself back together after that happens. Whether or not I find it rational that a small bird flitting in the bushes near us spooks him, it does. I would do better to accept him for who he is as a person in all facets of life. (While still trying to rule out medical issues that could contribute to this right now)

I've stumbled across "rabbit practice" on the chronicle forums over the years and always kinda blown past it because I had horses who were naturally very brave and steady. But it seems like it might be productive for Ben. 

I am also incredibly glad we went through this in the summer. I can't imagine adding winter friskies to the mix. 

He did get the privilege of grazing off lead in the barnyard. I was hiding from the sun in the shade right by him, the lead just wasn't long enough to let him get the good stuff without me roasting. He handled the privilege well. 

It's hard to be motivated to really delve into blogging about our should-be-boring rides right now. But I think his mental state does deserve more attention because my "pretend it isn't happening" isn't particularly working.