Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Miss Manners?!?

There were so many ways that yesterday's ride could have gone.  I even jokingly considered writing a "I'm sorry, but if you're reading this, I must have fallen off, bashed myself into a wall and this scheduled post declaring a "hiatus" is now in effect" post.

Seriously, I thought about it.  Given the last couple outings, I was fairly sure there was NO WAY for me to have a happy ending last night.

Buuuuut, lucky for me, I talked to P's Super-Mom during my lunch break, and she gave me a lovely pep talk (though I'm sure she didn't know it was a pep talk at the time..) regarding the mare-face.

Essentially she said that Pia is a big girl, she might be itchy, or her pad might have a wrinkle, but she doesn't get to be the title character of the-princess-and-the-pea and keep throwing conniption fits every time she has to do something aside from eat, look pretty, or play with her friends.  (although in fairness, I generally throw mini conniption fits every time have to do something other than eat, look pretty, play with friends, or pat a pony...).  Long story short, she told me to put my helmet on, yell at the mare and ride the crap out of her until she decided to play along. 

Good Plan.  Great plan, even.  Assuming that the twit doesn't unseat me halfway through our conversation.  (details, details...)

When I got to the barn, there was one other rider tacking up (bad news in case Pia went wild in the ring, good news in case someone had to call 911...).  Also, while P's worked with other horses in the ring, she's typically taken it as (yet another) opportunity to act up and decide to be excitable...

The good news for me was that I had an incredibly frustrating day at work, so by the time I dealt with crap, talked to super-mom, and sat in traffic on my way to the barn, I was thoroughly NOT interested in the mare flipping my any shit, least of all on the ground. 

I was pissy.  But I think it worked to my advantage.  Any misstep, any attempt to rub on me, or look at me crosswise was met by a loud  "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaare!!!!!!!!!!!". and a smack. 

P was probably confused, but she seemed to figure out right quick that not a lot was going to be considered "charming."  She was good tacking up, not fidgety, not snarky, so that was a good sign.  However, as soon as I got her in the ring, she started her "itchy" fit.  Shaking, wiggling, biting at her saddle...  All things that I was no longer concerned about.  I yelled and smacked her every time she itched or shook and it took about 5 minutes for her to "get over" whatever it was that was bugging her.  Given all the head waggling though, I snapped her side reins on without any free lunging or warmup time.  She was just going to have to deal.  Tough it out, mare...

Our groundwork was GREAT.  I definitely upped my expectations, and she rose to meet them.  Any hint of her attention going to another horse, or something outside the ring was met bah another loud cry, pop of the whip and tension on the line.  Any delayed response in a downward transition was met by a serious pull on the line, and reeling her in to a halt.  Sounds exessive, and the cute Lusitano mare at the other end was confused by all my clamoring, but Pia got the message, which I think was something along the lines of "crap, the girl is pissed today and apparently, 'whoa' means 'whoa NOW'". 

(such a smart little mare...)

Then P gave me my golden opportunity.  During our first canter depart, she threw in a fun little "woo" buck. 

Oh hell no.  Not today.  Not when we're learning about undivided attention... That little (non agressive) buck was met with another banshee yell, smack with the whip and getting her butt backed down into the ring wall.  then standing stock still for 60 seconds.  Yup, a full minute.  60 brilliant seconds of me staring the mare down puffed up and glaring at her. 

She tried one more buck, got the same response and that was it.  After about 25 minutes she was moving like a DREAM, soft, pushing, and listening so closely that we even managed some halt/trot transitions as well as walk/canter departs. 

Needless to say, I was feel pretty damn good about things.  I decided that she was as warmed up and attentive as she was going to get, so it was time to (da, da, DUM) get on. 

As I walked her back to unload our lunging gear, she started trying to shake/itch/scratch again.  Immediate yells (seriously, I sounded like a lunatic) and hand smacks, stopped her from getting all wound up and she stood like a champ while I tied up the lunge line, put my spurs on and grabbed a whip. 

At this point, the BO came home and wandered out to the ring to see how things were going.  P was getting distracted by horses walking around outside, so I made the executive (and extremely un-Pony Club) decision to leave the side reins on.  I loosened them, but left them clipped from her bit to the side of her girth and felt pretty good about it.  Even if they were my version of Dumbo's Magic Feather, I felt better knowing that they were on there in case she got seriously wild. 

Mounting Block.  No shenanigans.  Swung my leg over - no shenanigans.  picked up my reins and asked for a walk - No shenanigans!!

Seriously.  No backing up, no ears pinned, she... just... went.. forward.  Like a normal horse!

We took two laps around the ring on the contact, nice and relaxed, but forward and she didn't bat an eyelash.

Up into the trot... and she was forward.  Not perfectly rhythmic, but I was pushing to get her forward and in front of my leg, which was enough of a victory for me.  She stomped all over the ring like a champ,  circles, diagonals, serpintines, champ champ champ.  She switched her bend without snarking back against my leg, accepted the whip and moved off.  Stiffer to the right (as always), but waaaay less sticky than she's been.  After about 10 minutes we attempted a canter depart, which was (not necessarily flawless), but certainly clean.  Immediate, balanced and notably lacking any bucks/kicks/sucking back. 

What a stud.  I  was still in "angry mom" mode, so any of her head tossing, jigging or breaking to the canter when I asked for a bigger trot was met with more yells, aggressive half halts and every-once-in-a-while a serious slam stop. 

I was so proud.  Proud of her for listening, proud of me for being a hard-ass, proud of us having a good ride together.  Just proud. 

We ended with a few attempts at some leg yields.  They weren't gorgeous, but she didn't resist my leg, and she managed some really decent crossover.  Mostly my goal was to keep her energized and FORWARD even when asking her to bend or move over, so we sacrificed some form in the name of impulsion and I'm ok with that. 

Yessssssssss. So happy.  and more than happy I'm relieved. SO SO SO relieved that all she needed was a stern talking to, and not skin medication, or back x-rays, or some other therepeudic treatment for another obscure medical condition.  Also relieved that I don't have to send her off to a cowboy. :) 

We can do this.  We will do this. And we will look damn good doing it.  :)

Amazing how much of my journey with horses (and ultiamtely other obstacles in life) comes down to just putting your damn leg on and not taking it off till you get what you want.

So, here's to hoping this sticks, and here's to keeping your Leg On. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dr. Jekell/Miss Hyde

(Dr Jekell)

Technically that was the subject of the email from the BO that I got on Saturday, so I can't take full credit, but it does seem to be appropriate...

After our inconclusive day on thursday, I didn't really know where to turn.  I chatted with BO on Saturday and we decided to just keep on keeping on, but with me increasing my rides (I miss riding, yo).  I got to the barn nice and early so that I could groom the girl up, chat with the BO and then move on to my 47 engagements for the day.  I'm glad we got to talk, but the chat time sorta ate up my potential viewing time, so I had to leave right when P got to work, which was bad timing but unavoidable.

I must say that P looked nice and happy though.  Aside from all the mystery hairless spots on her body (95% sure they are bug bites), she was acting relaxed and happy.  She tacked up like a dream and walked out to the ring loosey-goosey and dead calm.

The plan was for the BO to long line her, then (if all signs pointed to happy) to get on and work her a bit under saddle.

According to the email I got, she long lined "beautifully."  Calm, happy relaxed. The Usual.

Until she got on, and apparently P wouldn't even tolerate walking around the arena (snot).  She started wagging her head, bucking, cow kicking, all her favorite tricks.  Which is when BO decided to get off and try long lining again.  Which is when Pia decided to buck in hand, take off and break ANOTHER set of reins.


Rude, rude, rude.

(For the record, I'm on my last set of reins, and she's going to get ridden in bailing twine if this keeps up any longer...)

BO is of the opinion that she was being a snot on purpose, and that this isn't a pain issue.  I'm starting to agree with her, and starting to think about options.   The obvious one is to send her to a "cowboy" for an attitude adjustment, but after talking with Super-Mom, I'm not sure that's going to work.

Pia is smart.  And temperamental, and mostly like a velociraptor in that she is constantly testing the metaphorical fences.

Remember Jurassic Park?? Remember how long it took those sneaky dinosaurs to figure out the electric fences were off?  Yeah... NOT LONG.

(Miss Hyde.... )

That's Miss P... It doesn't take her long either.  And while I'm sure a cowboy her kick her butt and she would mind her manners, I don't necessarily think that the etiquette lesson would translate to when I was riding, or the BO was riding, or anyone else for that matter.. which is infuriating.

So it's battle time.  Today the beast gets me back, and I get to see if she's immediately going to pull crap on me, or give me the benefit of the doubt and at least pretend to behave.

All I know is that maybe I should have thought one second harder about digging up my old x-country vest from my parents basement today...  :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Itch Fit Diagnostics

Yesterday I was determined to (at least start) to get to the bottom of Pia's itchy-fit from Tuesday.  I grabbed my trusty childhood friend who basically took pony club by storm and schooled anything regarding horse management and lameness.  (she's a rock star). 

My plan of attack was to grab P, give her a good grooming and inspect for any new signs of skin irriation, dryness, etc.  Then tack her up (using the BO's saddle) and put her to work.  THEN, if she threw a fit, I was planning to pull tack and replace the pad with a surcingle to see if she was objecting to just a pad, or if there was something specific about the saddle situation that was triggering her. 

Of course, the mare decided that today she was not itchy, and had no interest in any antics of any sort.  Her only "exuberance" came from her increasingly predictable pattern of free lunge- lunge- ride.  So when I started tying up her reins she started dancing the two-step. 

In my head, this was unacceptable, so we changed up the order of operations and lunged first, then free lunged, then lunged again (with side reins the second time). 

P was a gem.  A little rowdy without her side reins to discourage ridiculous head tossing, but she stayed fairly responsive and showed no signs of the irritated, annoyed itchy mare who showed up on tuesday. 

On one hand, I was thrilled (Yay! my horse isn't busted!!), on the other hand, I was frustrated.  How am I supposed to figure out what's wrong if she only displays this behavior once a month!??

Hold up.

Tuesday was August 24th.  Hmm, (check calendar to see when saddle fitting was..) Dawn came out to play with the Prestige's on.... July 23rd. 


In theory mares are supposed to cycle every 25 (or so) days.  But P's mystery itch fits certainly look like they might be right on top of a lunar cycle to me.  I already circled the week of Setember 22nd with a big red pen and wrote a note that say s "WATCH OUT FOR DEVIL MARE." Just in case we see a third repeat of this weird display. 

We ended our day yesterday with a nice long grooming session, some coat conditioner and the first emergence of our cotton sheet since we moved barns.  Per P's Super-Mom's suggestion, Pia is back under sheet until further notice.  She spent all last summer with either a cotton sheet, or her fly sheet on her back and maybe that helped?? Who knows.  All I know is that I'm trying to eliminate variables until I can get a better understanding of what's going on..

I also boosted P's grain rations back up a bit, adding in her Rice Bran and Veggie Oil. Nothing like a nice shot o' fat to help lube up her skin.  I mean why not.. it can't hurt at this point, right??

Hope everyone has good weekends! I'm crossing my fingers for a calm, happy mare and some good rides!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Itchy Itch Itch

So my current operating theory is that the mare is itchy.  Don't know why, don't know how, but my gut says that she is uncomfortable and it's my job to figure out why, why, why.

Current Hypothetical Contributors:

- She's shedding
- Her skin is dry
- Bugs
- Saddle fit
- Dirty pad

Theory #1: Shedding

Realistically, this is the first time I've seen her shed her summer coat, so it's possible that it's a big contributor.  BUT she wasn't shedding when she displayed this same behavior during the saddle fitting. So I'm doubtful that it is the primary issue at hand...

Theory #2: Dry Skin

This is my current winner. For one thing, her Super-Mom mentioned that she got a little itchy in the summer, and needed a betadine bath once a week-ish.  P is outside all day, hasn't been wearing a fly sheet, and has been sun bathing like a floridian retiree. Could be contributing.  Also, I think she's drinking tons of water, but without her beet pulp, she might be slightly less hydrated than we're used to. 
Only confusing aspects are again that she has done this only twice, with lots of sunshine and sweaty saddle pads in between. Why now??

Theory #3: Bugs

Fact - Pia is thin skinned and a priss about bugs.  She gets annoyed out in the grass paddock because more bugs bother her.  She grows huge welts in response to gnats and mosquitoes. But I know this, and the regimen of fly spray, bug check (in her smartpak) and the barn's fancy spray system keeps her exposure pretty low. 
 Like I said, I haven't had her fly sheet on, but she also hasn't been growing huge nasty welts recently.

Theory #4: Saddle Fit

P's dam would notoriously throw HUGE hissy fits if a saddle didn't perfectly fit her.  Snorting, bucking, rearing fits.  Not unlike Princess P...
Usually saddle fit would be a front runner for me, but again, she did this the first time when we saddled her up in the Prestige saddles, then this time with the BO's saddle that's she's been worked in ever since we changed barns.  Why now? Her topline hasn't changed significantly, which makes me suspicious of a fit issue that would have had to magically spring up in the last week.  confusing

Theory #5: Dirty Pad:

This might be a winner.  When we did our saddle fitting, her pad was gross (read: used for one week) and its probably back at that point about now. 
Is her own dried sweat THAT offensive?? Who knows, but it is the only thing that seems to be consistent between the saddle-fitting-tantrum and this most recent display. 

Great, all good leads, but none of them are that conclusive... So here's my plan of action:

Betadine the crap out of her.  Nice big bath with a Betadine soak, and finishing with a little bit of coat conditioner.
Cover her in her flysheet, and put her cotton sheet on at night (get used to it horse).
Wash the saddle pad (in hypoallergenic, super wussy detergent) and double/triple/quadruple check her saddle fit.

Super-Mom suggested that I rig her up in a surcingle with her pad to see if she objects to that (and therefore the pad), or if the pad without the saddle is not a problem.  This is great sleuthing, and hopefully will help rule out the fit issue.

Dear Mare,

I just want to riiiiiiiide yoooouuuuuu.  But I also want you happy and comfy. 


your mom

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Mare Face!

Today is P's birthday, and she is a whole 7 years old. 

I went out to love on her and feed her apples on my lunch break, but she was just getting ready for her workout from the BO which meant that slobbery apple froth was not the most brilliant idea I've ever had.  Technically, neither was going to the barn in a flowy skirt and open toe sandals, but at least I had more self control with the apple feeding pre-ride.

The monster is in FULL shed mode.  She's seriously sloughing off fluff like it's her job.  Which means she's itchy, which means that she is in full rub mode, and also that she hates her saddle/anything that's strapped to her body.

We've been letting her take a little free lunge before each workout, just to get her wiggles out and let her romp around.  Today she took full advantage of the space and was a total bucking bronco. I think that her skin is itchy, because there was a lot of wet-dog shakes and the sort of bucks that appear to be an attempt to full on remove the saddle.  No one seems to know what I'm talking about when I say that, but I really think it's a skin thing.  Super tail swishy, super annoyed, and just a general attention to her sides as opposed to what's in front of her.. I think we're going to start some science experiments with pads/washes/lotion/sprays/etc to see if anything seems to make much of a difference... anyone ever had a super itchy horse before? thoughts?

The good news is that P looked great.  I had to leave just as BO finished groundwork and was getting on, but she looked just lovely during her bit rig work.  Her shoulders are swinging slightly freer, and I think she's carrying a little less tension in her spine, but maybe that's just the adoring horse-mom eyes talking.

Regardless, P got some love, some treats and put right back to work. :) my camera is currently broken (whaaa) so instead of fun new pics, here are a few of my all time favs from our almost 6 months together :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Laying Low

Not much is going on with the P this week.  She's enjoying life (though not getting any fatter..) and that's about it.  She's been great on the lunge, relaxed in the barn, and there's really just not too much else to say.

I am annoyed that she's not getting chubby, might be time to put some rice bran or beet pulp back in the mix for the lady.  She's cleaning up all her food, so I guess I'll just keep throwing more at her until she stops.

I did get the chance to corner the other boarder at the barn with a Wobbler yesterday.  We somehow hadn't crossed paths until now so it was neat to talk about her diagnosis/treatment experience.  What's interesting is that her story sounds pretty similar.  She got her boy when he was 6, he hadn't been in work for years (passed the vet with flying colors) and her only thought was "gee, his butt seems pretty far out behind him."  But for a 17.3h warmblood out of work, that didn't seem too odd. 

Then a few months into putting him back to work he began tripping and falling out behind.  She brought in a vet, he diagnosed Wobblers and she was in surgery at WSU two weeks later (WOW).  He came out of surgery great, and ended up being downgraded from a 3 to a 1, but she regrets operating so soon.  (honestly, her story is making me feel so good about holding off on P's surgery for the time being).  The recovery sounds rough, he's still not great, and his disconnect with his hind end puts so much stress on his front, that he's had two suspensory injuries in the last couple of years (yikes!). She cautioned me about the string of related injuries she's had as a result of his spinal compression.  I am NOT jealous of what she's gone through, and lord I hope I can avoid some of the hurt her boy has endured. 

We had a great chat about Vitamin E (her boy isn't currently on it..) and training techniques.  I was really grateful to her for sharing her story, and at this point, I really feel like I'm doing right by Pia.  I'm certain that her chiropractic issues stem from the Wobblers, and that it's something we will always deal with.  However, I'm also terrified of her putting extra stress on tendons/ligaments due to her muscles not taking their share of the load, so I'm feeling even better about the slow pace of our training.

I want this horse happy, healthy and nowhere near fatigued when she's working.  As snotty as she can be, I feel like P is being fairly honest, and only objects when she's tired/confused/hungry and not because she's deliberating trying to pick a fight. 

The BO is back from vaca this weekend, so the mare get's to busy starting Monday.  We are meeting to go over goals, set some schedules and GET ME ON HER. (whee!). can't wait.  I miss riding her, but I also recognize that I'm more out of shape than Pia is, and if I'm shelling out big $$ for training, right now I'm going to be the last one to step in and screw that up.

Happy Friday everyone, enjoy your weekends!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Culture of Community

Apologies for being the worst blogger ever.  Its currently 95 degrees in Seattle, which doesn't mean much to most people in the middle of August, but here it warrants heat advisories, shuts down businesses and puts the horses into a constant sweat (much like me, they prefer a temperate 75-78 midday high..).

Miss P has been mostly enjoying the heat. Every time I show up, she's snoozing in the sun, lip drooping and ears flopped out to the side.  I'm glad to know she's as much of a sun goddess as I am, and also glad to see that the heat is keeping her mostly relaxed and lazy for her workouts.

Last week we did switch up her barn situation a little bit.  In anticipation of the weather getting worse, and because she's skinny, I moved her into a stall with a run (and away from her paddock with a shelter) as her "main home."  Most of the ponies in the stalls/runs only get a 1/2 day turnout, but since P is an absolute princess in most things (and because the BO is exceptionally accommodating), Pia is still getting full turnout, and will continue to do so as long as the weather cooperates.  But the thought of P outside full time in the rain/wind/sleet sounded like a recipe for weight loss, which we don't need anymore of (note to self, stand in rain... ).

I'm liking this move.  In theory she'll get as much outside time as she did, but now when it's rainy, instead of standing at her gate and looking toward the barn, she'll be in her cozy stall with friendly gossip gate and little run if she decides that she needs to go stand in the wet.

I mentioned before that the BO is off on a lovely vacation all week, which means that the inmates are running the asylum. :)  Often, I've found that a good litmus test for the quality of boarders and the "snark" factor is what happens when the alpha mare/BO steps away.  In this situation, one of the boarders is "barn sitting" all week, while a number of boarders divied up some of the feeding/wrapping/managing duties for last weekend.

I didn't really realize that was the situation, but when I showed up to lunge Miss P, I found a good 50% of the barn scampering around preparing mashes, washing buckets and chirping away.  Honestly, it was the closest thing to a Pony Club rally that I've seen in about 10 years.

"Lester didn't appear to drink any water last night, are we worried???"
"Nah, he's downed 1/3 a bucket already, he's fine..."
"Carie, P didn't finish her lunch hay, but she cleaned up her dinner"
"Has Riley had his bath yet?"
"Nope! Just finishing my mare, then I'll hose him down...."

uhhhhhh, what??? No snarky comments, no holier than thou attitudes, just happy horse ladies relishing their increased responsibility for a few days...

AWESOME.  Thrilled, couldn't be happier.  What a nice change from our previous barn with concerned parents, posturing trainers and kids who wouldn't know their horse was lame if it was missing a leg. 

How lovely to be surrounded by concerned owners asking for input on slight heat at the sight of an old tendon strain.  To be discussing supplement theories and swapping opinions.  To be in a barn where you know that even if the BO is gone, someone will tell you if your horse leaves behind some stems of her lunch or is just "being a doll."

I was going to write about how P is doing great, calm and chill during her free lunges, relaxed during her groundwork, and only objecting when she seems to get itchy under her saddle, but I just don't really care right now.  Right now I'm happy to let the mare enjoy the heat, let me enjoy the other boarders and appreciate where we are at. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Man oh Man

OK, total hiatus on the posting... sorry about that!

P has had a difficult week in terms of getting her little butt ridden, but she's about to get a big break since the BO is taking a rare week long vacation as of tomorrow. 

Today P had a massage appointment.  Turns out the BO from one of the barns I was considering is a top Equine "bodywork" practitioner and she makes regular calls to our barn.  Today was her first session with P and apparently it was a long one.  She observed that Pia's hips were out, 3 ribs were misaligned, her neck was out of wack and her girth cuts off blood flow to her butt (as though we need more disconnect there...

I'm bummed that I was with a vendor instead of out there to see first hand what went on, but it sounds like P was a good patient and hopefully a few more sessions should have her a bit more aligned and relaxed...

Since the BO is gone, and I'm not riding yet (sad, but ok, I'm in no rush..), P should have a nice relaxing week ahead of her.  I'll get out there to do groundwork, free lunge and do some short bit rig work to keep the lady moving, but she doesn't have to think too hard until the BO is back from her own relaxing week...

In terms of bodywork, we're going to have monthly appointments until she gets a little looser, and get a foam girth channel to help alleviate the pressure on her veins for the time being.  I haven't used a girth channel in years (one of my eventers was "thin skinned" so he liked one to prevent galls, but I suppose the idea of it cushioning the veins makes sense too...

Happy Friday! Summer has returned in Seattle, so I am off to enjoy the sunshine and let the mare out to pasture.  enjoy your weekends!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There's an App for This!?!

I'm fairly not-cutting-edge (or savvy) when it comes to blogging techniques.. Buuut, I just discovered the BlogPress app for mobile blogging.


Maybe slightly disastrous as I can now blog with even less editing/mental filter which can be somewhat dangerous. :)

Oh well! So here's the first official iPhone post!

Even though I 'can,' I promise not to blog 'n drive. Swear.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 9, 2010

Skinny Minnie

I popped out on Sunday to watch the BO put a ride on Miss Mare and she was mostly good.  The bodywork seems to be helping her, already her hip and back are much, much looser and we can work deeper into her shoulder joint before rides..

I'm confident in saying that all signs still point to a happy mare.  P continues to be quiet in the cross ties, calm and generally consistent.  All things that make me really (really) happy.

The only (small smidege of a) downside is that Pia seems to be dropping some weight.  Not a ton, probably like 20lbs, but its noticeable (especially because she wasn't plump when she arrived).  I can easily feel ribs on her (certainly not on me!), and I can see some drop around her hip bone and her shoulder.  I like to keep my horses on the plumper side, so this is slightly horrifying to me.  It makes sense though, I mean the girl is getting WORKED six days a week, and now that she lives outside I'm guessing that she meanders around a lot more than she did at the old barn. 

I'm not really worried, since she's hoovering her food up and everything else is strong and healthy.  But I do I think I'll pop her back on some rice bran to chub her up a bit.  She's also due for a worming, but I don't think that's our primary issue. :)

P seems to be making some strides in terms of consistency and her focus.  We are still starting her off with a short (BRIEF) lunging session, and as of late she's very mellow and reserved in them.  I love that she's such a sensitive pony that she's able to open up and shorten her gaits according to your voice, even on the lunge.  That bodes well for down the road...

Under saddle we are struggling with the same issues, but she is evening out a lot.  Her main annoyance is your leg (anyone's leg) on her for any extended period of time.  It's worse when she's in heat (at which point she will squeal/explode if you touch her girth ANYWHERE), but when she's in normal-land she still objects to lots of leg, or repeated requests to move forward.   As such we are still focusing on getting the mare to move off with gusto and open up her stride instead of getting "stuck" and taking little baby steps.

The really good news is that P's objections at this point come in the form of head tossing and balking, instead of cow kicking, bucking and other unnecessary actions.

I think our consistency is due in part to:

a) the Soothing Pink, she seems way comfier.
b) getting back in shape, it's not that bad.
c) Us learning her limits - I think her objections are somewhat honest, we just had to learn the difference between her saying "what,?? no, I'd rather not right now"  and her saying "STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT I"M CONFUSED AND TIRED." 

So far she's only working for about 30minutes per ride, and it seems to be best to keep her walking breaks to short intervals.  The longer she rests, the crankier she is about returning to work.  Also, the BO has taken to cooling her down from the ground, so that P "knows" when she's actually done and doesn't throw a hissy fit thinking that she'll be "forced" back into the trot again.

Here's a quick video from Sunday.  This was her last trot/canter session and her crankiness/fatigue is starting to show.  BUT you can see some brief moments of forward, and also that she isn't kicking into her canter transitions.  (ta-da!).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Trim Pics...

OK, so before I race out of here for a baseball game (at least the sun is out.. even if we lose horribly) I thought I'd get some pics of Pia's feet up since I'll also be out of the office (yes, sometimes I actually work) tomorrow for a very rigorous golf tournament...(don't ask)

 Pia says she's been waiting for this pedicure for weeks now....

The trimmer commented on how much HAPPIER Pia seems to be at the new barn.  Well, duh.  She's doted on and fawned all over plus she's out in the sunshine all day long, fed like a queen and has lots of friends.  But I digress...

Here are some pics of the lady's toes pre-trim:

Front toes:

 Front toes again - Showcasing our rather long toe... it's gonna take a while for that to round out..

And our hind feet: 

I'm thrilled that her feet aren't flaring, chipping, cracking or anything else undesirable.  In fact, the full gravel turnout is doing WONDERS.  The trimmer barely had to take anything off. All we really did was round her toe off a little more, file down her bars and even out her weird right hind a tiny bit. 

Mrs. Trimmer said that her soles look excellent and wasn't surprised when I said that we have yet to attempt to use our easy boots.  I just can't think as to why I would wrestle them on as long as Pia's got iron hard feet and no soreness..  We did talk about her long toe a bit.  I'm concerned that she's landing a bit toe first, which puts a lot of strain on tendons and the pastern joint.  I think I might be being a little sensitive to it since Mrs. Trimmer told me I was crazy, but still, I'm glad to have her trimmed back and rounded off a bit.

Here are our after shots: (Though apparently I didn't take ANY ground level ones...I add some in later)

Our left fore - Note the widened heels and dry happy frog.  Pia got extra gold stars for that. Not a single sign of thrush, no damp sole and rock hard toe callus!

And here's our weird right hind.  She wears the outside down faster than the inside.. Since she's not off and she's not sore, it might just be how she's put together, so at this point I'm not concerned.  It does look funny though.

From this angle you can see how the uneven wear has cause her frog to grow out to one side over time... her heels are still great, and the sole is nice and thick though, so there's no discomfort here.

That's our update.  I sprayed the mare down with extra fly spray, and put her back out next to her favorite (VERY pretty) Westphalian friend.. and gave her a treat for being good for her trim.  She's enjoying a day off today, but is back to work tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  I'm thinking I'll have some new video all ready Monday morning!

Barefoot Trim #2!

Ok! So today is our second official barefoot trim. (ta-da!) 

After our first trim 4 weeks ago (and at the suggestion of our trimmer) we purchased a pair of EasyBoot Epics to assist with our transition and keep Miss Mare from getting ouchy when she was working. 

Technically we bought two pairs, since I was an idiot and ordered the wrong size the first time... oops

But it turns out she hasn't been foot sore WHAT-so-ever, so they've stayed packed in their pretty little box. P's feet have been doing phenomenally, and are currently rock solid, dry and happy out in their gravel paddock. 

Our only "oddity" continues to be one of her hind feet, which is wearing a little funny and "squishing" out one side.  Our trimmer wasn't too worried about it last time, so we'll see what she says.

I'm armed with my camera this time, so I should have good pictures!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slightly Larger (but still small) Victories

Yesterday, my mental state was meager (at best). I was exceptionally exhausted from an exceptionally great time up at the cabin with good friends celebrating my birthday.  I was so tired, that regardless of the multiple tumblers of coffee I ingested, I was still somehow struggling to stay awake during meetings, at lunch and while sitting at my desk.  I also finally stepped up and declined to return to my coaching position for the fall.  Coaching at my old high school has been a massive joy for me the last several years, but the time, commute and energy required to guide 15 adolecant girls after a full day of other work definitely took it's toll on every other aspect of my life.  A few factors combined to make me question whether or not I would be able to give it my all this year (including increaed travel for work), but given where P is at this point, and everything else, I think that she deserves my undivided attention and enegery for the next few months.

So between the physical exhaustion and mental energy that went into the coaching conversation, at a certain point the idea of me being productive was just absurd, so I ducked out early to go pay board, slip the mare a peppermint and beat it home to hibernate for the night...

 happy pony nose!

The most pleasant surprise of the day came when I pulled up at the barn and the BO had P in the crossties and was just getting ready to tack her up.  So I got to watch P get her little bit of body work which she seemed to mostly enjoy.  Lots of muscle rolling and light palpitations - and P only seemed to object (with a tiny, baby squeak) to her lumbar.  I'm definitely on the same page as the BO though, whether this is helping or not, it's resulted in a couple days of good quiet work, so we're sticking with it.

The BO has also been starting each ride out with an in-hand walk around the entire ring, just to get a baseline of how distracted/looky the mare is each day, and yesterday she was loose, swinging, and completely relaxed the entire way around (even past the big scary mirrors, and past the big scary gelding!)

I was so nice to see Pia's eyeballs firmly in their sockets instead of popping out looking for monsters in every corner and her entire demeanor looked exceptionally relaxed. 

We started joking that at this rate we were going to be more superstitious than old baseball players..  Just you wait... in 3 weeks I'm going to be talking about our pre-ride routine and how "as long as we massage her for 3 minutes, walk the ring once, hop twice and clap," we'll have a great calm ride... Please tell me if we start getting ridiculous, but for the moment, if it works, we're keeping it until Miss P starts displaying some serious consistency.

Anyway - Back to her ride:

P was a star.  BO still lunged her for a moment (literally 4 minutes).  There were no crazy gallops, no bucks, no head shaking, nothing.  Pia was super duper responsive to half halts and adjustments at both the trot and canter, moving from slower, shorter gaits to bigger more forward movement.  I was so excited at how well she was listening and that there were no attempts at evasion, not. a. single. one. 

Another neat thing? BO uses totally different vocal commands than what P was initially trained with and what I've used, yet she's already figured them out.  She is such a smart, sensitive cookie it continues to surprise me.  Once we figure out how to keep her from getting in her own head, she's going to be such a stud...

After a few transitions each way, BO pulled her in and got ready to get on.  Remember last week when Pia spent like 20 minutes spinning in circles around the mounting block and refused to stand still?  yeah... not today! She stood like a square, solid statue while side reins came off, stirrups came down and the BO got on.  Good Mare!!

She was a little sticky in refusing to go forward, but other than that, P was a good girl.  Not one kick, not one buck, nothing aside from some stickiness.  When she was moving forward, she looked great.  BO threw in some leg yields at the trot, and she has really started to understand that particular question.  There was some mild tail swishing to start, but once she figured out that sideways was an option, she sat down, pushed, and got some really nice crossover.

Her canter work wasn't spectacular, but the transitions were clean and there were no major objections... so I'm happy with that.

She probably only worked for about 20 minutes under saddle, but it was all happy and productive and showed none of the anxiety, sweating or nervousness that she was displaying last week.  Also, it was her first time at the new barn working with another horse in the ring, and she wasn't disrupted at all.  She came out of the ring looking just as pleased and calm as she was going in, which is much more important progress for me than how long she's trotting, or getting the perfect bend at this point. 

The BO and I had a nice debrief discussing goals and our time line.  I emphasized that at this point, I just want to see her getting calm and staying calm while being worked and making sure that we are taking small enough steps that the mare understands her job and stays happy.  She agreed, and I think we are on a good path for that.

Who knows if it's the couple days of Soothing Pink, the bodywork, or just P's own decision to relax, but I'm just thrilled with how she's looking and acting.  It's a relief to see her so happy!

Monday, August 2, 2010


Apparently P had a pretty good weekend.  The BO sent me regular updates while I was away, which put me somewhat at ease and continues to be just another wonderful aspect of our new barn.

P had one rough day under saddle, complete with similar anxiety/lack of focus, which resulted in a casual ride at a walk.  It sounded really similar to her hissy-fit day in terms of her mental state, but didn't result in as much bucking/jumping/general naughtiness.

The upshot is that it sounds like the last two days, P has been an angel.  A little bit of body work and stretching before working has helped her focus and chill out and let the BO up the work factor a little more.  It sounds like they even added some more significant leg yields and bending work in yesterday!  I'm anxious to get back out there and see for myself, but I also don't want to jinx the progress...

In other news, I've decided to treat P for an ulcer (or rather, ulcer like symptoms).  I haven't scoped her, and I'm not quite going the GastroGard route, but at the BO's suggestion, I'm going to try Soothing Pink.  I've heard of it before, and know a few people who have had good experiences, so why not. 
The more I think about it, the more opportunities it seems like P had to develop a ulcer.  I've had horses capable of burning a hole in their belly in a few days, so I know it doesn't take long to start the process.  Also, it was pretty obvious how uncomfortable P was getting at the old barn, which is a classic ulcer red flag.

Here are my warning signs:
  • Reduced turnout and ZERO grazing at old barn
  • Crappy/inconsistent feeding schedules for the last month at old barn
  • Multiple high stress vet visits (spanning 3-4 days.. enough to send the stress factor through the roof)
  • Periods of extreme sensitivity around her girth
  • General distraction/fussiness
  • Lack of Toy for last couple weeks at old barn
  • Barn Transition
  • Slight weight loss (the tape has her at 1149lbs)
  • Fussy/antsy in the crossties
BUT. there are a few other things that don't point to an ulcer:
  • P is on a low carb diet and doesn't get a ton of grain at this point
  • Her appetite is fine.  (hasn't been an issue ever... )
  • Her coat looks great
  • She has hay in front of her all day to keep her stomach from eating itself
Anyway, it's not that expensive of a supplement, so I kinda think that there's no harm/no foul.  MIght as well throw her on it and see if it helps her brain calm down at all.  I'm in the camp that thinks if a horse is acting out/being an idiot, there's usually discomfort somewhere.

It's possible she's just being a high strung, herd bought moron, but it's easy to get that way if something else is contributing to the anxiety... So, this is our first stop on the focus train.  Cross your fingers.

Also new in supplement land is a new Vitamin E that was recommended to us by the Neuro Vet at UC Davis.  It's a liquid, and apparently a little more bio-available. So more of the E actually gets into P's brain box. 

Apparently, Vitamin E is a tricky one for absorption, since it's fat soluble.  This means that somewhere a scientist needs to make it water soluble before our bodies (or P's body) can readily suck out the good antioxidant power in there.  The bad news is that most Vitamin E supplements out there don't bother restructuring the molecule for this and your horse only gets about 10% of whatever you are dosing.   Fortunately Kentucky Equine Research has a rad product that is now getting squirted all over Pia's breakfast.  It smells pretty good, so I'm hoping that P thinks it's sorta like icing...

Aside from helping restablish good nerve connections, the E is also supposed to be a big boost to her immune system and can help combat stress and ulcer situations.  My fingers are crossed that all this stuff works nicely and tastes delicious.  P has shown a recent dislike for all of her powders, so getting her Vit E to liquid and adding the Soothing Pink in pellets is a nice little bonus. 

Today I'm headed out to pat the beast on her nose and pay for her room/board/training/supplements/daily adoration.  My goal is to take a little more video later this week to share with everyone!

Happy Monday!
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