Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ups and Downs

It's been a hard week.  Not disasterous, but hard.  So many things are clicking in my brain about just not "seeing" P's condition, or not recognizing it for what it was, that it's depressing.  I feel guilty that I was getting after her when she probably had no idea what was going on, and even now I can see how her bucks and hops on the lunge result from her being off balance and are her way of "catching" herself.

Tuesday I picked up a couple consignment saddles in an attempt to a) find something that fits me and Pia. and b) keep me thinking happy thoughts about riding instead of surgery. 

Turns out the process of taking them out, putting them on and then watching P wobbler-shuffle around was the most depressing thing about this yet.  I pulled her tack, put her away and just sat there in her stall trying to think of what next.

The only thing I could think of was emailing Dr. Grant again, in order to get his input, which was basically "stop wasting time and diagnose your horse."  I called Fleck's place shortly after and we are currently scheduled to take Pia in for the radiographs a week from tomorrow.  Apparently they need the big machine for her neck so it's off to the clinic for us...  I had said I was going to wait for bloodwork, but since we're 99% sure its not EPM, I think I need to move forward.  It's endlessly frustrating to know something is wrong and feel like I'm not getting any closer to understanding what it is.

In the meantime, I'm playing it safe and not riding.  P is getting lots of treats instead and I returned the saddles today. :(

I'm looking forward to a more confirmed diagnosis so that I can start to understand what a realistic timeline is for us, and mentally prepare.  Right now I'm just frustrated and sad. 

Leg on, right?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Wow, ok. long time no post.

Friday I woke up feeling "kinda crappy" which I assumed to be a result of the martinis/anxiety/nerves that were a result of the vet visit, but by 10am it ws EXTREMELY apparent that it was in fact the flu.  YUCK.

thankfully though it was only the flu for about 24 hours which meant I was up and at 'em out to the barn on Saturday.

Or rather it was "up" then 3 hours watching the Rolex cross country (woo) before heading to the barn.  My plan was to ride P, then help S take new video of Charlie for his online ad. 

P was a bad, bad girl.  I know she had a day off, but dear GOD, she was amped up.  thoroughly convinced that the mud puddles AND drainage pipe was going to eat her, as well as certain that the deafening downpours were masking the sound of a heard of pumas that were quietly stalking her in the trees.   She was just all snorty and uppity.  which was fine until she grabbed the bit, bucked, then did the turn-buck-run-buck-buck-buck. move. 

MARE, seriously!? don't you know you're a "3" wobbler and in danger of falling down at the canter!?  stop it.

she did, and we finally had a nice lesson.  worked on lengthening and shortening her stride.  I'm not gonna say "collected" cause we weren't exactly using our hind end (the hind end P doesn't know she has), but she was listening really nicely to my leg in terms of opening up and coming back, so that was neat.

Then we worked on her bending in and out at the walk.  That was more difficult of a concept, but she worked into it really well.  I was glad to see some serious progress on her at least moving away from my leg in both directions.  All in all after the turn-buck-run-buck-buck-buck move, I considered it a good ride.

This "wobbler" diagnosis is making me hyper sensitive to her balance, and paying attention to where her hind end is.  She does seem to have a hard time on smaller circles keeping her haunches in line, sometimes they just swing out and blow through my outside leg.  I'm trying to be "understanding" and not overreact to this since Pia might have no clue about it. Instead I'm trying to gently correct and be a little more forgiving without letting her walk all over me and ignore my aids compeltely.  It's a fine balance.

Pia "eyeballing" that that hind end that's always following her around...

After our ride, I pulled her tack and had the Chiro take a look at her.  He made two adjustments at her neck, which was enough to make Pia absolutely fall in love with the guy.  She wouldn't take her nose off of him, and any time he took a step away, she followed and just snuggled back up with him.  The chiro seems to see a lot of "mechanical" issues that could be addressed with adjustments and "might" alleviate some of these wobbler symptoms.  Everything in me wants to think that P's misaligned hind end is due to some sticky points and locked up muscles instead of a compressed spinal cord, but the realistic side of me is guessing that a few adjustments won't make this go away.
It DID however, instantly make her much, much nicer about her curry comb again.  like instantly. all the sudden I can rub and poke and brush all of those areas that got all sensitive a few weeks ago.  weird, no? maybe there is something more going on that the Chiro can assist with.... Either way, I'm going to have him keep making small adjustments on her and see where it gets us.  She seems to love it, and so far it only seems to be helping, so why the hell not.

My current plan is to still wait for blood work this week, but assuming that's clear to schedule the radiographs that will determine whether or not we will (most likely) need a myelogram.  I exchanged emails all weekend with Dr. Barrie Grant (, who pioneered the technique behind the "basket" surgery that fuses vertebrae in order to remove pressure from the spinal cord.  He performed the surgery on Seattle Slew, and has made a career out of streamlining and perfecting the process.  He runs a clinic down in California but flies all over the country performing this procedure and training other surgeons.  He has already offered to take a look at P's films and offer an opinion as to whether or not she is a good candidate for the surgery and what he thinks her prognosis is.  I'm encouraged and excited to already have him aware of her "case" and situation. 

I had to cancel my lesson today because I completely forgot about a board meeting downtown, which bums me out, since I really want to see P a few days post-adjustment.  So I just have to wait one more day.  The good news is that S got her a new treat for her stall, one of those giant granola balls.  I hung it in place of her Likit, since she DESTROYED her Likit and I'm sure is currently hopped up on electrolytes.

She's obsessed and this toy has the added benefit of getting "sticky," so when it swings and she smacks herself in the face with the ball she gets stamped with gooey molasses.  WHICH makes for a very dirty, very sticky mare.  but she seems thrilled.  Plus it makes all the other horses want to lick her face. which is cute. she's like a big, giant lollipop. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So the vet came out today.  I spent most of the night trying to sort out how I feel about everything he said and I'm still not sure I've digested it. 

Basically he said that P's problem is neurological, and that likely its Wobbler Syndrome, and then he rated her a 3.

Shocking. All of it.  I was expecting hocks or stifle, or something jammed up in her spine, but not spinal compression. I was prepared to hear "injections" not "surgery."  I was ready to think her attitude was from pain, not from lack of feeling or understanding what I was asking.

It's a lot of information.  It's a lot to think about.  And there are a lot of implications.

Things I know:
  • I don't know nearly enough about Wobblers. so its time for research. ( is getting a lot of hits from my computer)
  • P reacted strongly to the "tail pulling" test, but she doesn't seem that symptomatic otherwise
  • I will do whatever I can to make her life functional and normal.  
  • Surgery success rates seem oddly high, given that that the procedure is on their SPINE
  • I don't have care what our timeline is

Things I Don't Know:
  • If this could be EPM or an infection.  We pulled blood for titers yesterday and won't hear back for 10-14 days.
  • What alternative therapy is out there
  • Whether anyone else agrees with the first vet
  • Risks of her condition degenerating - what to expect
  • Other options...
When the vet left and the barn folk asked me what the diagnosis was I got a lot of "oh god's" and "i'm sorry's" and "she's insured, right?"

For one thing, no- she's not insured, and if she was insured I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have coverage for anything along these lines...  so that's straight up just not an issue.

For another thing, I'm still not worried?

I can't quite tell what this means.  One option is that I'm in severe denial and am just not grasping the consequence of this diagnosis.  But I don't think that's it.  It feels more like I'm "OK" with it.  Like the idea of rehab and testing and road trips to clinics and 60 days of stall rest isn't dashing any of my hopes or dreams about owning a horse.  It feels like its ok.  Like this is what I was signing up for.  It's not what I would wish for, but I'll learn from it and continue to take something from the experience. 

So, I'm in the dark for the next little while.  The only "therapeutic" remedy I can find easily (and that the vet suggested) is a HUGE daily dose of Vitamin E which has been show to improve the impact of neurological disorders like this. So I ordered that today.  overnight.  why not get started...

Otherwise, I'm looking into the sort of balance/rehab exercises that are recommended for post-op, and trying to determine if there's anything productive about beginning them now.  Could strengthening her core help now? can it impact her ability to carry herself? If nothign else it seems like healthy muscle tone would be a bonus going into surgery (assuming we get there), so I might as well keep her as conditioned as I safely can. 

Currently I plan on continuing to hack to hack her, but with the knowledge that she might not have a clue what I'm asking for, or even know that she has four legs and that its not just some phantom cow-monster that's always chasing after her.

So peculiar.  Makes you stop and think about why you are riding in the first place and where the joy comes from.

Here's to a new chapter and about 47 thousand new challanges. 

Oh, and also to a new label on the "New Saddle" change jar.  It will now collect funds for a "Spinal Fusion." 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Farm Call

heading to the barn in a few minutes to meet the vet.

I'm excited that a) I get to go play with Miss P instead of work and b) stop for a sub sandwich for lunch....
but I am not excited that a) I get to see P's vet-phobia for the first time and b) have to hear what the vet says.

Not sure a sub sandwich is worth the other stress, but I'm trying to stay positive on the day :)

Will post an update as soon as we have anything helpful/interesting/new to say.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Waiting Game

Friday did not go as expected.  I got to the barn, saw Lisa teaching one of S's other students, so I headed to the barn to groom P up and get her ready.  Except when I got to her stall I saw sweat marks.

Bummer, I thought. she already rode, oh well, I'll groom and we can talk about it.  guess I'll grab video the next time she comes out..

Which is when her fiance (who does a lot of their "training" particularly with "problem horses") came up to me.

He apologized profusely for working her before I got there and said he'd be more than happy to get back on if I wanted to see anything.  No, that's ok, Yes I trust him, Yes I want to "watch" someone else work her, No it doesn't have to be today...

Which is when we started talking about P's hind end. 

"Have you noticed she's short-ish on that right hind?" (yes)
"she seems to work out of it a bit"  (yes)
"she slips out with that leg a bit. doesn't seem to happen to the left" (I know)

He made a lot of observations I had (plus a few), but since she was doing her best to be a bitch to the new guy, he wanted to know more about her while he was trying to figure out what was attitude, and what might be her trying to avoid discomfort.

The more we talked, the more I felt my stomach drop.  All the pieces pointed to something hurting her.  I just have no idea what that is.

Let's back up.

When I was first test riding her, I felt the same shortness.  Her old owner told me that she's stiff to the right, and picks more of a fight about bending that way, moving off your leg and her canter transitions.  At that point it didn't feel like ANYTHING other than her stiff side.

The second time I rode P she had just had a shoe reset, so when I started noticing that shortness, we (all) assumed maybe her foot was a little tender from throwing (then reattaching) her shoe.  It made sense.

Then, in the past month, we've been working through her "testing" me.  The only incident involved her bucking like a god damn bronco when we asked for the canter to the right.  Ok, she was back sore.  New saddle and trimmed toes seemed to work wonders.  But she's still "stiff" to the right.

Her stiffness is getting more obvious for a couple reasons. 
1) I'm getting a feel for her, and starting to notice smaller things.
2) she's getting more balanced in general, so the difference between her big, relaxed trot tot he left and her stunted trot to the right is more noticable.
3) she's lengthening her frame more, and I'm asking her to really push with her butt.  She does, but mostly off her left.

I've attributing a lot of our "arguments" to her testing me.  And since they are getting smaller and less frequent it has seemed like we are on the right path. 

BUT, talking with Darren spurred some doubts. 

1) he saw the stiffness right away and almost untacked her immediately, but called S and she said that P usually warms up out of it (this is true)
2) he did about 40 minutes of ground work with her and when asking her to spiral in and out of her circle noticed that she refused to step under and cross over with her right hind.  No problem crossing over with her left hind.
3) when he got on he felt her REALLY object to his right leg and seat. so he stayed at the walk and tried to just suss her out a bit.

So then we start talking, when does she buck/kick out with me, does she slip, is she supple, how is she on the ground, everything.

And here's the relevant stuff I regurgitated: 
  • She fights me in our canter transitions, WAY more to the right than left.
  • She doesn't like me balancing her in the canter
  • she REALLY doesn't like me balancing in the canter to the right, especially if I close my leg and ask her to step under.  (in fact this is when she usually lets out her "big" bucks).
  • she'll do baby leg yields away from my left leg like a champ.
  • when I move her away from my right leg, the ears pin and tails swishes.
  • when I pick her feet she always holds her hooves nicely for me.  except her right hind.  That she usually shakes a couple times before letting me hold it.
  • she rests her right hind more than her left.  and when she rests her right hind she pops her hip more than with her left...
  •  when we have clean canter transitions to the right its because she's on her forehand and "pulling" herself into them, not sitting back and pushing into them.
Oh.  Damn.  this is WAY more consistent than I had noticed.  Then his next question -

"Did you vet check her?"

uhhhhh..... no.

Double damn. 

While I have no idea what her muscles/joints look like I know this:
She's young, and inexperiened, we're probably not talking about overuse here.  She's had REALLY limited work under saddle and nothing strenuous like galloping cross country or hammering her knees in lots of jumping gymnastics.

She has good conformation to the eye.  Everything is straight and balanced. nothing looks weird or mismatched that would inherently cause undue stress to her right hind.

That's it. That's all I know.

Since Darren doesn't know Pia well, and since she was giving him her full alpha mare song and dance, he wanted to look more at what's attitude and what's physical.  We made a date for Sunday to bute her up and then work her.  See if the bute masked/changed anything.  If she moved more freely or stopped the tail swishing with everything to the right... we need to look further.  If nothing changed? maybe this is her lazy crutch and evasion tactic.  Basically it was our version of a general baby nerve block. (how sophisticated).

(I will say that Darren was impressed that P seemed to consider me "alpha" since she was significantly more responsive to me on the ground, and respectful of my space than she was of him.. PROGRESS, yes.  I'll take it where I can... thanks)


First off, barn owner made life difficult by forbidding Darren to ride or teach at our barn.  Great, says, I.  I'm in my gym clothes since I was expecting D to do all the work.  (aside from me loving on mare and feeding treats).  So I groom her up, bute her up and give her a few minutes to soak up the wonderful, wonderful anti inflams while I change and drink my latte.

Finally I finish tacking her (in Darren's Tad Coffin, no less - I want one) and head to the ring. BUT we can't enter, since god forbid anyone lunges during a lesson.  So I have to wait for a cute little girl on her pony to finish her lesson.  Mind you, this pony has bailing twine tied like side reins to prevent him from running away and this little girl a) has a hard time steering and b) can't canter yet. BUT she is, in fact. Jumping.


Little X's, but still. I'm pretty sure I had to prove an independent seat before my trainer let me anywhere NEAR a jump.  Anyway, not the point.  Since it is in fact this girl's birthday, she apparently can't get off until she's does her "birthday jump" which involves placing a box of cupcakes under the jump and everyone singing happy birthday while she trots over it.  My brain starts sending out red flags at this since this seems like a tragically bad idea - Let's review the situation.
  • The pony is a brat.  He looks for an out any way he can.
  • He has BAILING TWINE tied to him for control  (red flag?)
  • The little girl cries whenever she has to lead him (not so brave)
  • The pony managed to dump said barn owner/trainer when she was jumping him last week
  • The little girl cannot canter/sit the trot/turn
  • The pony is now being sort of pointed at a jump with a HOT PINK BOX OF CUPCAKES under it that hasn't been there for the past 6 jumping "efforts."
Any guesses on how this turned out?

As long as you were expecting the pony to dump her OVER the jump ONTO the cupcakes and then run away right about the time everyone was shouting "HAPPY BIIIIIIIIIIIRTHDAY DEAR.............." then you're right.

It took everything in me to not laugh my ass off at the entire situation. But I didn't, cause the girls mom was right next to me.

P, meanwhile is attempting to eat every weed in grasping distance and really couldn't care less about ponies, jumps, crying girls or cupcakes.  Ok, she might have cared about the cupcakes if they were within reach, but they weren't, so she didn't.

FINALLY I get into the ring and go to the far end where Darren is watching, but definitely not riding or "instructing."  Long story short we lunge P, she is obviously more relaxed and less restricted on her right hind, but still "off." not three legged lame off, but just stiff/different/strange.  Her big bucking spree came after asking her to canter right, and she picked up the left lead 3 times.  when she FINALLY got her right lead, she bucked like a monster and did some weird crow hops that basically involved her just hopping her hind legs up off the ground.

I looked at Darren, he looked at me.  Not good.

So I get on.  Attempting to focus on P's back and NOT on how comfortable the Tad Coffin is, I trot her around and start doing lots of figure 8's.  She was amped up, I'm assuming because a) there were 5 other horses lunaticing around, and b) because of the bute?

But she was good, springy, forward, lovely.  Or at least, she was to the left.  Across the center of the ring... sit two, change bend. BAM. short, sticky, unbalanced.  into the corner.... slip. right leg for balance... tail swish, swish swish...
across the center, sit two, change bend to the left. forward, driving, balanced in the turns... lovely.

I did this back and forth for about 10 minutes.  My stomach sank and I didn't need anymore.

Darren confirmed what I felt, a horse moving VISABLY different to the left and right, with a VERY different attitude.  tail swishing, grumpy face, angry Pia.

I hopped off (reluctantly handed his saddle back) and headed for the barn.

I don't have a vet for her yet.  I asked for his input on who is "the best" and "honest" in terms of diagnostic testing, and wasn't surprised when he suggested Dr Fleck.  So, I called, we set an appointment for Wednesday afternoon and that was that. 

Now I wait.  Darren was optimistic.  or at least he sounded optimistic. I'm encouraged that she seems to work out of it, instead of it getting worse during a ride.  And I'm encouraged that it isn't getting catastrophically worse with weeks of work.  I think those are good things.

Or it means her spine is corkscrewed and nothing that I can do will make it better or worse.  Mostly I'm trying not to think about it until the vet gets here and we can learn more.  My hypothesis aren't going to make P or myself feel any better over the next two days.

On the upside, P's skin seems great. way less sensitive and no bumps to be seen.  (yay).  Even through the bugs aren't bad, I'm starting on fly spray vigilance already and eliminating the bug factor.. so far so good on that front.

Fingers crossed for good results.  What I wouldn't give for the vet to say "stretch her, get a chiro out here and bute her up for a week."  That would be music to my ears.


Friday, April 16, 2010


So, this week has not exactly been "productive" in the traditional sense.  Fun, sure, but we aren't exactly making leaps and bounds in our training.

So, Tuesday was playday, Wednesday I was busy driving to and from Portland for some meetings, which meant that by yesterday I was STOKED to get to the barn and actually get on the mare.  I even justified leaving work at like 1pm in order to be in the sunshine and avoid the busy lesson filled arena in the evening. 

I left, swung by my parents house were a BIG BOX was waiting for me from Dover (yay!) only to find my dad stuck on the couch with his back out.  crap.  Obviously I stopped my mad dash to the barn, made the poor man a sandwich (he had been stuck a while apparently and was hungry), called the doctor, called other family to take over and got out of there about 30 min later. 

When I finally did  make it to the barn, I found miss mare and i found the hives. or bumps, or bites or who knows, but they were new.  a few on her neck (soI'm thinking bug bites) lots of her belly (uh.... irritation from her bedding? turnout?) and a few on her back/side under her blankie (NO idea there...). They weren't big, maybe the size of a dime, but I haven't seen anything like this on her yet... so who knows. Bugs seem likely, since she's SO thin skinned, but coupled with her increase annoyance at being groomed, my brain was thinking maybe this is something else?

SO, since I didn't want to make anything worse I decided against riding (HUMPH) so I just booted her up (new boots!) and headed to the ring for some lunging.  We put about 30 minutes in, then did groundwork again for her cool down and she was good and obedient (again).
(P says, thanks for the new clothes. and also this lunge whip is tasty)
I still had time to give her a bath, so I did with that Eqyss stuff that is for sensitive skin and rain rot and dry skin and everything else.  The weird thing is that I could scratch the HELL out of her once her skin was wet. she didn't mind my fingers digging in (even on her girth line) with the suds and water.. weird right?

Then we went back to the sunshine to dry, where she got all sensitive and annoyed again when I would try to poke at her chest/girth.  what is UP mare?

Also, during the bath, the bites or hives or whatever totally went away.  they came back a LITTLE afterward, but not nearly as big.  also baffling to me.

Then, while we were drying in the sun, P decided that what she really loves is EATING SAND. she was face down, digging through the footing with her lip.  looking for.... grass?... gremlins?.... who knows.


Headed out today to have a stand in trainer (Lisa from Rock Meadow) give her a ride.  I'm excited to watch. I like how lisa rides (super soft and gentle) so it'll be fun to see someone else on Pia's back and see her from the ground, since that hasn't happened for a while. I'll get some good video of that...

Till then I'm basking in the sunshine that's peeking in through the office window. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Today was a fun calm day.  I've been trying to nail my mom down for a belated birthday dinner (hers not mine) so I didn't have too much time for barn stuff before beating it back to the city for my (current) all time favorite restaurant. The sun cleared, which was a nice change, and miss P was trotting around the arena enjoying her turnout when I showed up.  "enjoying her turnout" usually means that's she's knocked over anything that she can, and she's removed all the crops from their holder as well as kicked the mounting block clear across the ring.

I decided that maybe I would just chase her a little (read: free lunge) and give her some love/hand grazing.  So I chased her. She ran, we did about 30 minutes of work both directions, but since she doesn't like to walk while free lunging it's hard to cool her out.  Instead of throwing her halter on I just approached her, got her to "latch on" for her ground work and we did a really nice walk cool down that also practiced our ground manners. 

P stuck right with me.  There were some exciting dogs and people running around, so if she started to get distracted I just had to put my hand on her crest to remind her to watch my shoulder and stick close.

She's SO GOOD at her groundwork.  stops, starts, turn away, turn toward, backing up.  She was really tuned in and respectful of my space and movement even though she was halterless.  (what a good girl)

So we just walked around for about 20 minutes cooling out and brushing up.  If we were in a movie it would have been our "bonding-horse-whisperer" moment.  Though I guess that would have required that:
a) she was a wild untamed beast before and not perfectly trained on the ground
b) I had some emotional trauma that prevented me from trusting anything but this one "wild" horse
c) we were out in some huge field on a ranch in Montana (or Wyoming or Kansas..)
d) that there was an intense soundtrack dramatizing our progression.

So it wasn't so much "horse whisperer," but it was cute and fun, and everyone else seemed fairly impressed, though that's probably because they didn't know P already knew what she was doing. :) 

It was the perfect sunny afternoon at the barn before a 6 course 4 hour dinner :)
still full I think....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Elevated Poles!

Last night during our lesson, poor S (currently hobbled by a new sling..) scuttled around and set up fun cavaletti for us.  (cavaletti = poles propped on random objects, standards, flower boxes... her foot..).  Anyway, P warmed up fast.  We braved free lunging with her tack.  She was an angel! and she stays more balanced than normal lunging... so this might be our new routine when the arena is all ours. she's so cute about it.

So we had a quick free lunge, then brief big walk (2 times each direction) before trotting and starting over normal poles.  Pia is still playing the "I don't have to go forward right away" game, which I am losing patience for.  It now results is a HUGE smack with the crop until she stops the cow-poke jog and actually responds to my leg.  The frustrating thing is that she's only sticky for a few seconds, then she switches gears and moves off normally.  ANNOYING. but not disastrous.

Notice her sticky trot in between the poles, but then how much she's engaging and using her hocks over the poles.  She's starting to use her body, love it!

Then we started with our figure 8's across the center of the ring with elevated poles.  She was a stud.  I tried to stay off her back as much as possible and let her pick her way through them...

Then we started them at the canter.  This was a little curious, but P did a nice job of balancing and figuring it out.  Again, I tried not to ride her to a spot so much as let her discover the poles.  She stepped on a few, but got the idea.  There were even a couple loops where she hit on stride AND got her lead going away.  I was impressed.  She also really started to pick herself up at the canter and sit back more.

Today was also the first time I felt like I am getting my seat back at the canter.  My leg felt solid, i felt balanced and all in all just a lot "tighter."  Such a nice feeling.  Also makes me less nervous to push Pia for things I know she objects to, like moving off my leg, or cantering on the right lead...

Of course, after about 10 minutes, she starting picking fights about her right lead.  In general her little outbursts are getting smaller and less momentous, really they are just little hops now.  but this particular buck a) got caught on video and b) is pretty impressive! look at the angle of her hind legs!

REALLY, Pia??? bad pony. just canter. that's all we ask.

Finally we finished with 10 minutes of long and low trot again.  Her conditioning is getting so much better that she's able to maintain a big loose trot a lot more effectively.  You can still see where she loses her balance and shortens her stride, but there are moments that hint at how fun her trot's going to be once she's a big kid!

All in all a good ride.  My only hangup for the week is why she's getting bitchier about being groomed.  I don't think she's still in heat.. but she's getting really snotty about her girth and also bratty about her chest.  dry skin? annoyed at me for making her work? who knows... we'll explore some options, maybe a softer curry comb? But, she still loves it on her neck and withers and back.. so its not like she's sore or sensitive... what a weirdo.

Also, I've been putting the Eqyss coat therapy on her lucky knees to soften the skin, and they now feel like a baby's butt.  Totally smooth, soft and with the added bonus of smelling like a coconut!  cuter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Long Weekend

Wow.  I know it was only two days (like every other weekend), but this one felt long and I already feel like i"M forgetting details. 

Friday we had a lesson.  P was good. we did canter poles. lots of them. spaced at one stride, so the girl had to work a little harder to keep her balance. She did great, reached for the poles, listened to me, blah blah.

Also we "jumped" (!?). Or rather we kept piling poles and planks to give the mare something to keep her brain busy.  By the end we were even doing little courses to incorporate more turns and changes of direction.  She did pretty well.

We finished by figure 8'ing around a small X in the center of the ring.  Land left, cantering, canter around then end of the ring, back to a trot, over the x, land right canteing, around the end of the ring, back to trot, over the x...

P did great! she picked up on landing on the right lead, stayed pretty balanced and seemed to enjoy the obstacle.... it was a good ride.

Saturday I finally gave Pia (and myself) a day off, and in a rare occurrence didn't even go to the barn. 

Sunday morning we had an early lesson and continued our "course work."  Pia was back to jigging at the trot and trying to canter instead of using her muscles at the trot, so we trotted the whole lesson and just kept up with the turning and balancing and whatever.

Afterward, I helped host my brother's 30th birthday party, which miiiight  be why I can't remember any details from the weekend and also why I'm so apathetic about everything today.  WHOOPS.  oh well :)

We postponed saddle shopping, but maybe that'll happen this week :).

Lesson today, lesson tomorrow. Road trip to Portland on Wednesday and who knows what else. whee!

Will take photos and video today so we have an update on the big fancy jumper mare!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lazy Hack

I toyed with giving P the day off yesterday, since she's been going strong all week, but since we aren't exactly exhausting her, I decided that she's rather get taken out and played with than left alone all afternoon. :)

Thursdays are a zoo at the barn, lots of lessons, lots of parents, and dogs everywhere.  Since we had such a relaxed ride on Wednesday, I wanted to see if that would carry over with crazies in the arena, or not.  Also, I figure it's good to take the opportunity to hack when there are lots of distractions and get her as used to a busy ring as possible.

Getting to the barn was bizarre. I think I drove through, sleet, snow, almond sized hail and blazing sunshine.  totally wacky spring weather... which always makes for enthusiastic ponies.  Oddly enough the barn was empty when I pulled in.  Just the owner and evening groom feeding early so they could get home.  Apparently the forecast was calling for high winds and more random precipitation so lessons had been canceled (not sure why... I'm pretty sure I had lessons in gale force winds growing up..).  So the owner tossed me a "ride safe!" as she popped in her car and darted home...

Uh.. k.

Silent barn.

So I tacked P up, she had a bee in her bonnet, but whatever.  we lunged (she bucked. lots). and then we rode.

on a loose rein.




all on a loose rein.  literally a loop in the contact.

oh, and ps - the skies cleared and it was blazing sunshine... weirder, right?

So we had a nice lazy slow day.  P offered the same total relaxation as she did the other day, so I took it and just let her stretch and swing away.  Her stride felt a little short, but I didn't feel like pushing her, so we just had a lazy, easy ride.  We plodded around for about 30 minutes.  lots of transitions, lots of big gentle circles and called it a day.

Since we had the place to ourselves I took my time untacking and scrubbed the girl clean. tidied up her whiskers, washed her tail and socks and gave them mane a little trim (/chop in a few places, whoops).

fluffed, buffed and put away happy. 

totally strange evening... back out there tonight for a lesson.  hack tomorrow, then lesson and SADDLE SHOPPING on Sunday!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Toys, Toys, Toys

Since I'm not heading to the barn until after work (I am working, sorta... I swear). I figured I would share some of the goodies I caved on and ordered yesterday.  Whoops.

God I am the absolute WORST at sticking to a budget. worst, worst, worst... oh well :)

I've felt guilty at how tragic P's turnout splint boots are (they may or may not be 10 years old..) and I don't have hind splints for turnout, so it seemed PRUDENT to order some new ones.  and we got these (in purple, obvi).

They weren't too pricey, and had a gazillion good reviews that I figure they are worth a shot.  Plus she'll look cute, cute CUTE in them.  I had a 5 second regression to middle school when I remembered a girl I rode with who did the diagonal boot colors (like you did with polo wraps when you're 6..) but I think that purple on all four is enough flair for Miss P.

Also, since the over the top glitter bells rubbed her ankles.. (tear), I broke down and ordered boring black no turn bell boots.   I've been squeaking by without bells sometimes, or borrowing someone's, but since her stride is getting longer and she's swinging more, there's no excuse not to have bells on all the time.  Bad mom.

We also got a fancy new hoof pick!  Somehow I have managed to keep the same (basic) hoof pick in my grooming box from since before I got a pony.  One of the older girls in the neighborhood gave me basic brushes for my birthday when I had just started taking lessons.  Curry, Hard brush, leg brush and a hoof pick.  They also came in this reaaaaly rad purple and pink CABOODLE  which was like the height of plastic totes/boxes of the time.  Really thoughtful and cute. I still have (and use) all of them.  They're my favorites.  Or they were my favorites till I used a lady's Oster hoof pick yesterday.
Holy Crap. Who knew?? its magical.  And since the new sand in the ring packs into a hoof like cement... it seems downright necessary.  So bam. 20 years later, I splurged on a new hoof pick...  Big day, I know.

Fun right?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Today has been brought to you by the letter P and the number "180"

Ok, first off, P is for poop.  because this horse managed to poop 4 times between pulling her out of her stall, riding, and untacking/polishing.  FOUR TIMES.  Really, mare? At least I know everything's moving...

Yesterday was a great lesson.  We worked past the trot/canter jig business and got to busy.  S replaced our poles with pole "piles" about 8 canter strides apart and P liked them plenty.  We trotted them, cantered them, all dandy.  She was relaxed and good and got over her fight.  only a couple hops during canter transitions, but good cantering once we got it.  all good.

Today, I got up and hit the barn early to school cute little Charlie before a pony clubber came to try him out again.  So. Much. Fun.  I miss ponies. they are cute and since I like always shortening a stride they're little sewing machine legs work great for me.  We warmed up, and then got to do a little course. I realized after I got on that I'm not sure I've jumped ANYTHING since 2005... details, details.  Fortunately Charlie is a saint and was a little forgiving of my distances, but we got them in the end.  So fun.  I hope Pia likes jumping... because I sorta miss it.

THEN, we got on P.  Chased her in the ring for a few minutes, then tacked up and got straight on.  She was a totally different horse this morning (hence the (180). No jigging, no tightness, no hops, no qualms, no anything - except for calm and relaxed and accepting of my leg and bit.  (what???).

S didn't question it, instead we just moved forward.  long low trot work, up into some canter intervals and three poles spaced at one stride each. 

What'd P do? rocked them.

Easy transitions, listened perfectly to half halts and leg. opened her stride, shortened her stride, halted, started, rocked the socks off it all.

The confusing thing is that we didn't work through any of it.  It's not like we "unlocked" anything, she just magically did everything better.

So what the heck changed?

  1.  I rode in the morning.  I know she was used to getting ridden in the am.. but so far I've always been on her in the afternoon or evenings.. is she a morning girl?
  2.  I switched saddles.  Instead of S's Hermes, I popped her Bevel on there.. it looks like it fits about the same (but maybe P has something against the French...)
  3.  The Bevel drops my leg a little farther back... and makes it easier for me to keep it on her.. so maybe my weight was distributed a little differently?
  4. It had been about 12 hours since her last ride and she hadn't had breakfast (maybe she was tired/her blood sugar levels were low and she was lazy..)
Of course there's always the possibility that it all just clicked and she decided I'm a nice lady and she should just behave.  But that doesn't seem like her sneaky self. There's got to be something else...

Below are our video from this morning.. First some warm up circles up and down the arena, then our canter poles.. note the boring, boring transitions!  My fault for not backing up half halts with enough leg...

Trot Warm up:

Canter poles to the Right.... (our sticky side)

Annnnnd to the left (rock star!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Nothing of massive note happened yesterday.  The ring got dragged and I was too lazy to haul poles around so we had a boring straight forward ride.  What was funny is that when I pulled up two horses were being lunged. The first horse is a girl at the barn's "move up" warmblood who is sweet as can be, but currently ignores her very tiny rider about 1/3 of the time.  Not in a bad way, just in a slow, deliberate, I-steer-like-a-cow way.  It's cute, mostly.

The other horse is a lanky TB owned by another young student who is currently forbidden from riding him.  Apparently he's "dangerous." Mind you, a month ago I saw her going around 3'6" jumps no problem, but apparently he's learned how to rear, and while he won't pull any crap with any of the trainers, he's learned to take advantage of his cute owner and is a total nitwit.  He is now for sale.

ANYWAY, the move-up-warmblood belongs to the girl who's mom said that Pia was a "liability" in the ring and referred to my unfortuante "dismount" a few weeks ago as an "incident."

So, while I was tacking up I was chatting with said mom (she's a nice lady), and she was mentioning the incidents leading up to Nitwit TB being put up for sale.  I was distracted, mostly because I've never heard the word incident used so many times (it was sort of like counting how often a girl says like).  Buuuut, I tacked up, took P to the ring and got ready to lunge.  Meanwhile steer-like-a-cow is trotting round and round, turning sometimes when asked, but often encroaching our lunge circle (mind you, this ring is HUGE, space is not an issue...).

I get on, start doing our long low loose walk, when steer-like-a-cow gets put away and the girls old pony gets brought out. Ahem, the girls bratty pony gets brought out.  The pony is cute, but she's a pony, and she's bratty, and she also hadn't been ridden in about 4 days, so she's extra bratty. 

I was eyeing her just a little bit, since I wasn't sure how bratty the pony was going to be, and I really just wanted to not be worrying about any other horses and just focus on P, but it took about 5 minutes to realize that was not going to happen.  Bratty pony walked nicely for the first 4.5 minutes before promptly beginning a series of bucks, hops, spooks and small rears. 

I'll give her little rider some credit, she stuck on, and aside from being a little timid about sending the pony FORWARD to get out of it, she did well.  But her outburst meant that I stopped riding, and coached cute girl and bratty pony for 20 minutes while P chewed on her bit and waited somewhat impatiently to do something.

Moral of the story, I was kinda smirking about the fact that the mom got to watch P sit quietly and amble around the ring while her daughter fought the pony in fits and spurts attempting to get a consistent forward trot and canter out of her..

Point, Carie. 

It seems like the emphasis on my "incident" is going away, since every other horse in the barn is behaving like a lunatic. So that's nice.  It's also a little validating. 

Anyway. Pia was pretty good. nice loose walk, that weird trot/canter trot again (better by the end) and some minimal canter work.  We also worked on baby leg yields down the long side - getting her off my leg a little.  She's starting to get it. Tried to do it on a loose rein so as just to have her listen to my leg and not get her panties in a bunch...

Today we have a lesson (S is apparently up and about a little bit), so we'll see what's in store... fun times.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Free Lunging

I have mixed feelings on lunging.  I like it to let horses loosen up and get warm, but keeping any horse on a small circle for more than 10 minutes makes me fear for their joints.  I've often used lunging to let my horses warm up for a few minutes before I get on, but I cringe when I see people send their poor horses careening around a 15 meter circle for 45 minutes before their lesson/hunter under saddle class/whatever.  I've seen a couple horses with stifle issues and other strains that just worsened and worsened due in part to their oweners endless lunging.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think lunging is creul, or useless or without purpose, but I am hyper sensitive to both the size of the circle and the amount of time I spend with a horse on the end of a lunge line.
My preferred solution to this problem is to teach horses how to be super comfortable free lunging, so that i can send them down the long side, open up the circle a little more, and in general let them balance themselves better.

Free lunging isn't always possible since I need the ring to myself to do it, but our barn isn't too busy (especially in the middle of the day) so S has been experimenting with free lunging Pia in order to get a few more bucks out and make sure she gets plenty of "room to play" while she's turned out.  

I hadn't witnessed P free lunging until this weekend when I rolled myself out there on Saturday only slightly loopy from DayQuil.  I wasn't sure if I would be riding or not, so I grabbed P, groomed her, booted her up and took her to the ring. unhooked her and preparing to chase her around the ring to get her bucks out.  Instead, what I got was a nice little mare who put herself on a 25-ish meter circle and lunged PERFECTLY even though she was totally detached.

Really, mare?

She would stop and change direction every once in a while, but for the most part she worked perfectly on a nice big circle, and every once in a while I would push her down the long side just to make her straighten out.  She'd go, loop around and then circle up again around me.  what a cutie.  I started playing with transitions just to see how well she was listening, and she was right with me. Walk, trot, canter, trot, halt, trot? She nailed 'em.  She broke into the canter a bit especially on the "downhill" side of the ring, but that's ok.
(Halting on the "lunge." I could see her little brain trying to decide 
if she was supposed to be listening to me or not...)

I was so impressed! and when I asked her to halt and called her to me, she just came right into the center, totally calm, not all hyped up even though she had been charging around.  What a good mare!

 (Cute mare comes when called)

Anyway, she was so great that I had to get on and play around a little, even if my sense of balance was totally wacko. Our ride was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad.  P was stuck behind my leg a little, and whenever I tried to send her forward she did this half trot/half canter thing that was fairly obnoxious and hard to prevent without bringing her totally back.

But we did poles, and transitions, and a little bit more canter work, no big arguments, no fusses.  So I'll call that a good ride.

Sunday, I felt a little worse so I just went out and free lunged again. No ride. But she did get fluffed and buffed and a little bit of a mane trim to keep us looking tidy.  She had dropped a little weight her first week at the barn, which was probably a combo of stress, hay she didn't love and getting ridden 6 days a week by an excited new owner, but she has PACKED it back on.  She looks great. Might actually have to cut her rice bran down a little to keep us from getting chubby, but I'm glad that it didn't take long to get the weight back.  I'm a little obsessive when it comes to keep horses at weight so I think I notice small changes before most people and adjust feed accordingly, but what's wrong with that?

I tried my best to get a cute clip of Pia lunging herself, but it was a little difficult to watch the horse, use the whip and attempt to film with a steady hand.  Just a slight warning that this might make you dizzy :)

Cuter! right?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rock. Star.

Quick update before I run out the door to the weekend (with my freshly arrived cold... stupid sick boyfriend..).

Hit the barn yesterday before all the evening lessons started so that I would have the ring to myself for some more pole work.  The wind was blowing all OVER the place, so the horses were spunky and Miss P was no exception, so I wasn't sure how she was going to ride... but she was fantastic.  Warmed up long and low, big loose walk on the buckle.  I think this will be our new thing for at least 10 min. It totally seems to get her off to the right start, and seems to translate into her trot work nicely. 

We trotted both ways.  She was forward and responsive and didn't balk at ALL to my very present leg contact which was great.  Then we added in our single poles, then spaced poles, then 4 in a row again and she was a stud.  about 20min round and round both ways, then a big walk break. 

Since she's been a twit about going back to work after breaks, I threw in lots of walk/trot/halt/trot/walk/trot transitions.  We only fought the first couple times before she was pushing off into her transitions and completely left the hunchyback/sucked in trot behind.  (LOVE IT!)

We finished with a touch of canter both ways, with a little pole work after to bring her back and make her refocus/balance. 

We worked for about 40 min total, and only one small buck in the canter! what a rock star!

Of course, when the kiddies flooded the ring just as we were finishing one of them was throwing crops around so P did a nice little side step/spook, but that was it.

I was proud.  Plus one of the mom's who has "concerns" about Pia and the safety of others riding at the same time as me was watching her daughter get ready for her lesson.  I couldn't help the smug "that's right, my horse is pretty, and cute, and a ROCK STAR" look as I walked by.

In reality I just said "hi" but I'm sure she got the full meaning.

Anyway, today is absolutely DISMAL outside, so I'm giving Pia the day off while I stuff myself full of airborne and sudafed. My plan is to be "all better" by tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe if I'm feeling wealthy I'll swing by the tack store to eyeball saddles... we'll see.  S has been generous in letting us ride in her close contact, but a) my ass is having a very hard time with the (very sturdy) seat of a 1970 Hermes. and b) I don't want to be responsible for ruining a collector's item :)
plus, c) P should have a saddle that is her very own. right?

I've decided to part with my Ainsley Pro National to offset the cost.  Something tells me that its going to be a very long time before I need its ridiculously forward seat and thigh blocks.  :) something a little more neutral might be in store for us. 

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Always Something..

When horses are involved, it's always something, right?

Yesterday I forgot my video camera, which bummed me out since a) Pia did RAD over lots of poles. single poles, 3 poles, 4 poles, poles with standards on the sides. she's a ground pole machine.   and b) she pulled her "i'm done" trick again, which was quickly and repeatedly remedied with a swift pop with a crop, which was fun watching her figure out.

All in all it was a good lesson. Walk, trot, canter, poles, bending, very little in the way of arguments. Also, she spent almost the entire lesson in front of my leg which felt GREAT.  No more sucking back, we've got a solid feel of our aids now... woo-hoo!

I'm all set to go out again today, but the lesson has been postponed since S is currently reattaching two ends of her collarbone that have split up after an unfortunate run in with a car.  WTF.  I'm thankful its a collarbone and not a spinal cord, but still not fun for her. :(

SO, we'll see. I'll hack the Piasaur today, give her tomorrow off, then play all weekend with the beast.  Hopefully S is feeling better and put us back under her watchful eye soon. :)

But till then we'll keep ourselves busy, and hopefully well behaved....

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