Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Clinic

My brain is in a bit of a fog - But whether that is due to long days hauling back and forth to a very exhausting clinic, or due to the fact that I just sprayed a majority of my house for fleas (gross and totally another issue altogether..) everything seems a bit jumbled. 

We had initially signed up for a two day clinic with our favorite outside trainer at a facility that was about 15 minutes from our barn.  I figured it'd be a great opportunity for some extra butt kicking without all the rigmarole of hauling all the way to her facility which is just over an hour away.

Best laid plans and all (wow, do I say that too much?) of course it was forecasted to be the rainiest weekend in Seattle ever and the clinic location only had an outdoor.  Ergo, we relocated to the trainer's home facility which has a gorgeous indoor, but would come with a big commute, in the rain that we were trying to avoid riding in.

The rain was truly hideous and had me at a crawl with the rig.  I think we averaged about 40mph the whole way which turned an already long drive into a painfully long drive, but oh well.  And of course there was no overnight stabling available so we'd be commuting both days (wah).
Prair even tolerated a bath to get all pretty for her outing and modeled her new cooler

She also made faces and demanded cookies
Logistics aside though, it was a very educational weekend.  Prair showed up to work both days and made it possible to really work on some detail stuff as opposed to spending $$ to get instruction on how to calm your dragon-mare-wolf down while the hellish rains drown out any other sound and your ears start to bleed from the dull noise...

We spent a majority of the time working on mobilizing the shoulder, relaxing our lateral work and trying to get Prairie to carry that relaxation into her work over fences. 

Almost immediately my spurs were taken away and my stirrups were raised which left me in a state of perched horror as I tried to figure out what muscles would stabilize my body and position without just death clamping knees. 

The phrase of the day for me was to "whisper" my aids and try to do everything as quietly as possible and still (barely) get a response.  This meant trying to execute out turns on the forehand (and haunch) in slow motion and not letting Prair go "oh I know this!!!" and then proceed to whip herself around. 

This was easier said than done, but exposed an important hole in our communication which is that I ask for something and Prairie goes "EEEEEEEEEeeeee, don't hit me don't hit me don't hit me, watch how fast I can get through this... eeeeEEEEEEE." 

This showed up early in our career together in her canter departs, leg yields and rein back.  Reared (not literally) it's head when we started over fences and Prair would RUSH through them.  And most recently is obvious in the tension she sometimes shows during her flying changes and in between fences of a line.  (especially In and Outs).

The idea being if I can quietly converse with Prair about where her body is and have her respond thoughtfully and without anxiety, then maybe I can start t take that level of communication into the things that Prair just blacks out and rushes through.

The next tool that we used (and I really liked) was the concept of focusing more on lateral flexion (bend) than on vertical flexion (in terms of collection) to soften the mare.  I'm not sure this "fits" on a traditional training progression but it was very effective for us.

I tend to try to constantly soften Prair by collecting her up and working her mouth to keep her from getting tense.  Of course, my own issues get in the way and I end up pick, pick, picking her to death instead of pushing her together and then softening. 

Also, I let the pick, pick, picking turn into a less and less powerful canter and after a while we're barely loping around with zero gas in the tank. 

SO - this idea of lateral flexion over "vertical" was interesting.  Instead of trying to compress her and "tip" her back on her butt - I focused on creating some bend through her neck, or even asking for some haunch in to get her to unlock and transfer her balance. 

Something about the "lateral" ask doesn't trigger my obsession to keep asking for more, more, more... So I was able to ask... and soften.  Ask... and soften.  And wouldn't you know it - the mare felt like butter.  She was patting the ground, slow to take off, soft when she landed and I felt like I could just loop her around however I wanted - no stress or strain attached.

When we put these tools together over some smaller courses I kept having to remind myself not to override the fence (not totally dissimilar to the placing pole-two strides-MONSTER JUMP exercise from last week) and when I did stay soft and not worry about landing our lead and not worry about my distance... we had lovely rides.  When I started working too hard, things deteriorated a bit.  Not exactly shocking, but very obvious. 

We came home exhausted, but no worse for the wear.  I definitely have a few lightbulbs to plug into our regular rides and some new muscles to work on in order to stabilize and support Prair the way I should...

All in all a good weekend!

Friday, September 27, 2013

HP Blog Hop - Your Dream Horse Show

This is a tricky one.  My first dream show was (and I suppose always will be) Rolex.  That being said it is firmly staying in the land of dreams.  I don't have the balls to run cross country over 3', let alone at the four star level so I'm pretty sure the notion of training to that level will stay forever etched in my childhood brain.
Yeah. no.  Never happening.  Ever.
Not that much more realistic, is the distant dream of Devon.  I don't care if I'm in dressage tack or jump tack, I just love the energy of that show.  It has such a strong sense of Americana and something more akin to a fair than some of the other hallmark horse shows that is very appealing to me.  Not that I wouldn't accept a ticket to any of them :)
So many fun horsey things at Devon
Again, probably not ever going, but that Dixon Oval is alluring.

When I was in middle school and high school I watched some of my Hunter friends migrate south every year for Indio.  I couldn't believe that they were excused from Thursday and Friday classes to fly (fly!!) down to the desert and show horses all weekend for weeks on end.  I was jealous, and that much more irritated when my parents wouldn't let me take off a few hours early in order to arrive at Horse Trials before the sun went down (assembling tents in the dark continues to be one of my least favorite activities).
Whether you like horses or not, any Seattle-ite would be *thrilled* to be here in the middle of winter...
Indio has become Thermal, and while I never had it pinned on my wall, the notion of packing up and heading anywhere to show for more than a week is a big 'ol check on my bucket list.  I'm really hoping the pieces come together for us this year.  Over the past week I've let my mind (and heart) run a little wild with the possibility.  (grin). 

Of course I have not even begun to think about the actual cost and what needs to be done to support it... (details.  minor... minor... details..).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Season

Considering that in June of 2012 I we could barely get Prairie around a course of trot poles at a schooling show, I would have never guessed that 2013 would have brought such a fabulously entertaining (and educational) show season. (not to mention enough ribbons to wallpaper a small room)

I also wouldn't have guessed that I was going to dive head first into the Hunter world with such gusto (checkbook and tailored sportsman's firmly in hand...).

But it's been a very enjoyable experience.  I've found that some of the things about Hunter Land that seemed so unappealing as a wild-teenage-eventer are actually not so bad as a significantly less wild thirty year old with bad knees and a cranky back. 

The beautiful $$$$ horses are fabulously entertaining to watch, the fancy stall set ups are not only wonderful when you're exhausted, but fun to put together and organize.  The obscene amount of ribbons help ease the pain of entry fees and the pursuit of relaxation and rhythm are something this girl can get behind.

Of course everything seems more rewarding and fruitful when you're winning, so Prairie's impressive twelve (what?) tri-colors over the season have certainly helped indoctrinate me.
2013 Tri-Colors *minus* hideous novelty color ribbons.
I was rearranging my ribbon walls in the garage to accommodate her latest haul and was hit by the fact that everything that's (proudly) tacked up is the result of essentially one season of showing.  There are a few ribbons from November 2012 (most of them default for last place, ha) and a couple from our early dressage outings last summer - but for the most part the loot in our trophy room garage is all the result of Prairie's 2013 run. 

I will spare myself the agony of calculating how much that satin cost me per yard, since that's neither helpful nor uplifting - but instead focus on how lucky I am to have put a season like this together and to try to not take it for granted.

It's so easy in the moment to be constantly assuming that there will be a next show, or a next season or a next five seasons - and while I'm the first one to write down goals and constantly have the next step in mind (3'6" A/O's... 3'6" A/O's...) The past month of nursing both Prair and Gus a bit more than I'm used to is all it takes to remind me how fragile our competitive aspirations are.

Lameness.  Life.  Money.  Family.

The amount of stars that have to align to even get to the point of sending in an entry form and walking your horse on the trailer is sometimes dizzying.  As I was rearranging ribbons and moving horse crap around the garage The Boy asked me "um, where are all the ribbons from next year going to go?"

My first thought was "crap, we're almost out of ribbon walls." 

But my second thought was "who knows if there's a next year."

I don't mean to be overly morbid, but I do think it's realistic never to plan too far in advance when you're relying on the participation of a giant, easily broken animal.  Overlay that with my own ailments and conflicts, and it's a miracle we even eek out our weekly lessons.

In that spirit, I'll impede on the current Blog Hop post a bit and put something out in the universe:

We're aiming for a trip to HITS Thermal this winter.

I always told myself that I wouldn't travel (or rather I wouldn't travel, travel) for a show until I was reasonably competitive in a rated division.  It's always just been hard for me to justify the time, money and stress of the BIG shows to play around at 2'3" or 2'6" or Training level Dressage.

But, as S planted the seed of "just think about going down to the desert" in my head, I began to have thoughts....

Who knows how long I'll get to enjoy showing Prairie.  Who knows if/when kids will crop up and exponentially complicate showing.  Who knows if in a few years I'll still have the flexibility at my job to up and leave for a couple weeks.  Who knows?

So, while I doubt that Prair and I will have confirmed our right to strut in the 3' AA ring by January - if she's sound, and I'm able, we're going to make hay while the sun shines even if it's in the baby leagues.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Doctor's Orders - Put 'em up!

Prair really felt fabulous all last week during our hacks and lessons.  I think the injections really have alleviated a lot of her discomfort and she's just happier and more relaxed in her work.  As requested, at the end of the week we checked in with our vet, gave her our feedback and asked for her suggestion.

And she said to put them up

Ok, she didn't actually say those words, but she said to get out there, jump the mare and put her over something big enough to make her round her back and lift her belly.

We started with some trot poles (maybe 5 or 6?) and then canter poles, and then canter poles with a jump in the middle.  Then a placing pole, two strides, jump, and a placing pole two strides after. 

2'6", no need to use her body, 3'... meh.  3'3" not much more, 3'6" started to back the mare off and get her to round up. which I thought was pretty good.  It was an inviting ramped oxer... not too wide, but a bit of depth for a nice shape..

Then S put both rails up another hole and I was given express instructions to hit my distance to the pole then RELAX and let Prairie manage herself up to and over the jump.

relax? uhhhhhhhhh I'll try.

it was great.

Then everything went up another hole.


Then they went up another hole!

AHHHHHHHHHHHH I'll try???????

And then there were no more holes to move up because we were literally at the top of the standards.  So we just jumped that height a few times getting a nice rhythm and me trying to keep my body quiet and slow...
Prair, hiding behind her humongous fence
I must say it's the best I've ever felt Prairie over fences.  Her takeoff was slow and deliberate, the jump was round (though I didn't get snapped out of the tack, thank god) and her landing was soft and controlled - not at all rushed or anxious.

Also, I didn't die.  The mare didn't do anything dirty or rude and it was totally fun.  I have not jumped anything 4' or higher since high school.  Which, for those keeping count was not exactly yesterday...

I think we topped out around 4'3"?  I'll have to measure the standard at some point so I know what our high water mark is.  But regardless I felt her back in a way  I never have before and now I know what we're trying to replicate at lower heights.  I'm ok dropping back under 3' for a bit now :)  But nothing like a good adrenaline rush first thing in the morning....

The following day I headed out for a nice slow ride working pretty much only on long and low to let her stretch out and have an easy day after our efforts the previous day. 

You'd think I'd know by now that there is no such thing as "sticking to a plan" with horses but it's amazing that I continue to try.

When I got to the barn one of our friends who regularly takes the All-Around high point award home with her cute Paint gelding was getting out her cart (!!) to practice driving.  Knowing that Prairie would see said cart, decide it was chasing said cute gelding and would most certainly chase her after it caught and devoured him - I had two choices.

1. Play pretty-pretty-princess and groom the crap out of the mare until the death-cart was gone from the outdoor


2. Tack up in a rush and make the mare deal with the cart (being pulled around at a slow jog) while we rode.

The second options sounded way more fun to me so I threw tack on and scooted out to join in the cart pulling fun.

Or rather, I scooted - Prair on the other hand planted all four hooves like a mule and snorted at the cart from a safe distance of about 50 yards outside the ring.

Once we got actually in the arena and actually on, things stayed pretty entertaining.  Prair was okay as long as she could see the cart, but if I circled away and she had to turn her back to it she got all sorts of wigged out and tried her best to spin out from under me.

It wasn't exactly the "relaxed, long... and low..." ride I was planning for, but it was a "productive" one.

After about 5 minutes the mare calmed down enough for us to get (sort of) to work.  Much like our high flying adventures the day before, when we picked up the trot, the only thing I could think was "holy shit her back feels rad."

Now, there was a good two-Mississippi between her footfalls and I felt like I was in some medieval parade of knights, but omg she felt ahhhhhmaaaaaazing.

Also of note was that even with all the huffing and puffing and freaking-the-eff-out, Prair was shockingly light in my hand.  It didn't feel like I had to have her on lockdown the whole time, but that I could ask for forward, and ask for her head to stay not in my lap and then relax for a bit without a legitimate feat that we would end up across the highway.

So we fake-passaged around the arena, Prair calmed down enough that we could follow the cart around the whole arena and worked through our W-T-C both ways.  She never quite lost her super-inflated-lofty gaits, but I figured if we're supposed to be asking her to step up and round her back... freaking out about a cart sorta counts.

I, on the other hand, was exhausted.  I really wouldn't have complained about a boring long and low hack... But that's not to say I didn't have a stupid grin on my face the whole time. :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Octoberfest - The Low Adults

Between the abscesses, injections and other sprinkles of life thrown in, I haven't had time to recap my divisions at the last show.  And given that pretty much all the courses are configured with a line-diagonal-line-diagonal-line-single-single... The details have... blurred.

I can remember that there was the course where we went too slow (shocking, really), the course where I lost my reins and nearly fell off but the judge didn't see, the course where we chipped the first fence, and the course where we zoomed around way too fast. 

I know there were other courses, but those are the only moments that still stand out in my brain.
I also know Prair got lots of pats.
All in all, Prairie was a really, really good girl.  I took her around in the chunky KK snaffle and we had moments of really nice relaxation with a few moments of not so nice tension/bobbles/whatever thrown in.

I really can't complain though, our Hunter division was a respectable 8 entries and we won every class.  I wasn't really too sure how, but in watching the videos back - the rounds (once again) look much smoother and more even than they felt. 

Not such a bad outing for our first time out at 2'9". 

This is my favorite round, which was our second hunter round in the division (last ride on Saturday).  I actually even like the course design in this one... there's almost a rollback.  In a hunter course! (almost)

Eq was a slightly different story.  I feel like my equitation has gotten worse over the summer.  I'm not sure why, but I think I look more tense, and more braced than I did this time last year.  It makes little to no sense since last year I had plenty of good reasons to be braced, but this year the mare is significantly more trustworthy and responds well to me softening...

It's something S has me working on more at home, and I'd like to say is improving, but I'm not actually sure it is.  Hopefully it does eventually (sigh).

Anyway, we placed... 3rd over fences, 3rd on the flat and 2nd over fences? I think? I should maybe look that up.  Whatever it was we ended up Reserve Ch.

Here's the first over fences round. I just look so... braced! I do need to adjust my spur, the angle makes it look like my heel is creeping up more than it actually is.  I don't need visual illusions hurting me any more than I hurt myself, lol.

All in all it was a really fun outing.  A few too many rounds compressed into two days, but now with the subtle Kissing Spine diagnosis I wonder how much was a factor of discomfort from that...

Who knows.  All I know is that 2013 was a great shows season.  Lots of learning, lots of improving, and more than our fair share of big pretty ribbons to hang on the wall.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Back" At It

In all my ranting and raving about Gus and my love-hate relationship with his current abscess, I totally forgot to update on Prairie.

Tuesday I hopped on the mare (after her four days off) and she felt pretty good.  It didn't feel like I got a brand new horse, but things felt really relaxed and swinging and easy.  Most notably she was much softer through her poll and neck, which I'm guessing is because she wasn't bracing against a super painful back....

Both S and I hacked her around for a couple minutes testing all the gears and kicking all the tires. When I was on S threw up a little crossrail (maybe 2'6"?) and I popped over it.  Prairie definitely felt bouncier, but it was hard to say if that was because she was feeling great, or because the construction men were playing on a genie lift and throwing roofing material around.  Also it was chilly.

I'd like to think she's feeling significantly better, her shoulders and wither definitely felt more mobilized over the jump, but I'm trying not to get too excited or hopeful just yet.  She has a trainer ride today and I have a lesson bright and early tomorrow which expand our data set significantly.

Still keeping fingers crossed for a bit..

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hunter Princess Blog Hop - A Hunter Princess Stereotype You Break

I'm late to the party on this one, but I liked everyone's answers so much I'm joining in.

I think the easy answer is "I don't have a made horse."  It seems like a popular one, and certainly one that's easy to empathize with, but I'm also pretty sure that even the people spending $250,000 on a derby finalist could swear that they aren't buying a made horse either.

So I'm skipping that one (for the moment) and moving on to a few others. 

I think probably the biggest thing that sets me apart at this point is that I prefer to do as much of my own care as possible.  I enjoy grooming my own horses, I enjoy wrapping them myself, hauling them myself and being involved with as many decisions as possible.

I fully recognize that there are plenty of DQ's out there who enjoy full service facilities and full service showing, but I think the Hunter Jumper circuit probably has the highest percentage of competitors coming from full training barns with full setups and full grooming.  There are plenty of exceptions and I totally see those folks too (we're usually commiserating with each other in the wash racks at the end of the day) but I still think they are the minority.

So, that makes me weird.  I did dabble with having a full groom at one show, and while it was really relaxing in some ways (your tack being magically cleaned was kinda cool, so was someone to hold your horse while you pee), it was stressful in other ways too (not having my hands on the mare's legs, not getting a sense of her mood as we tacked up... not knowing what to do with myself while someone else cooled her out..).

I'm not saying I won't ever hire a groom again, but I think I have my most fun when I'm scurrying around trying to get everything organized and The Boy is chasing after us with a rag in hand to clean us up at the back gate. 
Back Gate Crew
I also pretty much always wear full seat breeches.  I don't wear them when I show obviously, but still, schooling in them seems to really be odd in the Hunter Ring.

Though they are all Pikeurs... so I'm not sure that counts against the whole "princess" thing.

There are definite things that throw me into the princess category, which I don't mind.  I thoroughly enjoy hemorrhaging cash on tack and pretty things for the ponies (like my truck and trailer). But I like to think that I get so much enjoyment out of using it all and cleaning it all that maybe I'm not obnoxious about it.

My horse is also fancy, though she was totally a nitwit when I bought her and couldn't execute a balanced canter transition to save her life, does that exclude her from the HP stereotype? I guess I'm not sure.
(not quite "made" lol)
The only HP's that irritate me are the ones who seem to be bratty about bad rounds or treat their parents/grooms/trainers with disrespect.  I think it's all too easy to point at the most polished pair in the ring as assume their path has been paved with gold.  It takes little to no effort to think that whatever level of "help" I have (be that training, turnout, grooms, equipment, etc) is "totally legit and earned" but anyone with an ounce more of anything is cheating.  It's that whole intrinsic/extrinsic thing - we won because we're awesome, we lost because the referees suck.  So easy to take credit for the good.... :)

I hope I'm smart enough to know the lady on the $50k horse is probably having just as difficult a time as I am.  Or that the one paying for a groom for the day might have cash burning a hole in her pocket, or maybe hiring a groom is what lets her still work an evening shift, or take care of her kids or whatever.

I do sorta wish that more people camped out at the H/J shows.  I miss that from evening.  Though it's a little easier to rough it for 3 days as opposed to a 5 week circuit in the desert.  haha.

For the love pete. Or Gus. Or whatever

Ugh.  Horses.  Just when you let yourself think that all the money that you spend and all the things that you do are justified and perfect decisions. 

They end up having an abscess.


Gus, who oh-so-charmingly didn't flinch at the hoof testers when he first pulled up lame(well, lamer) is currently in the process of blowing out a huge abscess that has most likely been the culprit all along. 

Farrier found the edge of it yesterday during a trim, and upon exploring it's hovering right between his bars and heel, with a very ouchy region a little closer to his toe. 

So, aside from the three (3! tres!) vet visits to initially diagnose, then ultrasound, THEN follow up, it turns out nothing has gotten better partially because he's been all hopped up on anti-inflammatory drugs the entire time.

cue loud, angsty wail as I beat my head against my desk.

So Gus got his hoof packed and wrapped and since we were part way through his trim, he's currently bare upfront and waiting for the squishy gross pocket of goo to resolve itself before we tack shoes back on. 

Hopefully he's feeling better by the end of the week and we can proceed with life as normal. 


Here's a pic of the bit that's exposed now..

please forgive the HORRID feet.  They are so much better than they used to be, but I still cringe a bit when I see them

Black bit marks part of the void that we can reach without digging around
Horses.  Sigh.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I had the vet (lameness specialist) out to check on Gussie on Friday and decided that while she was there I'd have her take a peek at Prair since we've not been able to resolve her dislike for R to L lead changes and S and I both have a sense that something is just not quite "right."  Part of me gets apprehensive about hunting for issues because I am certain that you can always find something wrong with a horse if you take enough pictures or poke enough places.  However, in my gut I knew Prair has been avoiding aspects of her work (however subtlety) and not exploring that gut feeling is not a very proactive method of fixing anything...

Gus, bless his little heart got a green light to return to turnout and also start back up in his lesson routine.  We are going to put him on some Previcox to help with the inflammation and play with what level and frequency of dosage keeps him happiest and sane.  We'll ramp his workload back up slowly and if he can't be used as often so be it.  But he seems happy and eager to do something.

Anyway, yay for Gus.  But onto the more interesting bit....

Prair was her normal self, a bit ouchie in her back, but otherwise happy and bright and in search of treats.  S and I gave a long, (not very well organized) account of our struggles and triumphs since we brought her home in April 2012.  This varied from more tangible information like which direction she is stiffer in lateral work to more squishy info like "her right hind just doesn't scoop up as much as her left."  I also discussed her tendency to hold tension in her neck (on the right side.. near her shoulder) and how she has twice been somewhat lame from the self-induced charlie horse. We talked about her history, her fitness, her willingness, etc, etc and then we got to jogging and flexing.

Prair hasn't really had serious flexions since I bought her and her PPE showed a nice, happy row of zeros across the board.  I held my breath a bit - only slightly terrified that something scary would have mysteriously crept into a joint over the last 18 months, but things looked good.  Prair maintained her zeros except for a mild 1 on her left front and a mild 1 for the right hind hock and a smidge on the stifle. 

Not perfect, but not horrid... and at least it was a matched diagonal set? I don't know.. The vet made noise that based on Prair's conformation and way of going on the lunge she was fairly certain the primary diagnosis was Kissing Spine, and that the low grade response on the flexions was most likely a result of her compensating and trying to work around the pain in her back.  Though she couldn't know for sure.


So we stopped and looked at her back and my heart crept into my throat a bit as I stared at her (still moderately) dropped back.  Significantly more lifted than when I got her, but still a bit of a sway to it and rarely do I feel her really round up into it under any circumstance.  Everything the vet was explaining and demonstrating was making sense. 

The exaggerated curve of her spine behind the with meant that the dorsal spines were likely compressed and rubbing at the ends where they were most crowded.  Additionally arthritic change in the vertebras themselves was subsequently likely as was damage to the big fat ligament that runs across the top of the dorsal spines. 
yellow line where Prair is affected

conformation shot from May, showing the dreaded curve...
I okayed the next step of taking some x-rays to confirm what the hell was going on and we headed back to the barn aisle.  While I was sitting there I was filtering my rides and experience on Prair through a "kissing spine" window. 

- She tends to jump flat, though I have always attributed that to the fact that we jump low for her and she doesn't have to try very hard.

- She has always preferred a long spot to the short distance... but I always attributed that to not knowing how to jump, not to pain from having to get up underneath herself.

- When stressed out, she tends to motorcycle around turns with a short, choppy stride, instead of reaching underneath her. (again, avoiding use of her back).

- Especially early in her jump career she tended to land and freak out.  I thought she was being a nitwit, but maybe it was in anticipation of pain?

I snapped out of my recollections in order to watch the x-rays and hear feedback.

The first few pictures showed normal bone structure and spacing behind the wither, but then as we crept backwards, there was indication of some remodeling - though there was a big sigh of relief when we saw that none of the bones were actually touching. 

Huge.  Win. 

From the full set of x-rays I learned that we're still going to call it "kissing spine" even though the bones are really just air-kissing (think uppity socialites saying hello at brunch and not mashing into each other like middle schoolers on ski bus). 

So, the increased curve of Prair's back is stressing her spinal structure, that stress is causing damage to the attachments from the ligament to the bones.. causing some remodeling, but nothing horrid... yet. 

Vet explained that the increased stress made it very uncomfortable for Prairie to articulate her back normally which meant she spent lots of effort trying to keep it flat and immobilized (this fits with our training struggles).  Consequently, the muscles in that area have atrophied and increased the workload of the ligament holding everything together.

The next questions to explore were whether or not that stress had started to cause changes in the vertebrae themselves and what sort of damage the ligament had sustained from being overworked.

The vertebrae (god bless them) still looked normal so that was one more complication we crossed off the list. 

The ligament wasn't... horrible.  But there were definite signs of stress and fatigue and even a few spots of scar tissue that were visible.  (Oh did I mention we moved onto the ultrasound machine? For anyone who's tracking the vet-taxi-meter, it was running along at full speed...ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching...). 

Feeling slightly more optimistic than I had been, we started talking about what all this meant for Prairie getting/staying comfortable and what it meant for her career.

I think (knock on all the wood) that the prognosis is fairly good. 

The silver lining is that we decided to explore the issue now instead of waiting until Prairie refused to pick up the canter or started slamming on the brakes at small fences.  Right now her back hurts, but she's figured out how to work around it and it's only an obvious issue when I'm being picky about her form/self-carriage/whatever. 

The prescription was to inject the spine along the vertebrae that are most affected.  The ultrasound showed several spots with some serious edema and general inflammation from the stress of the curvature.  The hope is that the injections will alleviate the inflammation (and pain) enough that Prair will start using her back a bit more again.  In two weeks we'll start some shockwave to aid some of the healing in the ligament as well as for additional pain relief and we'll keep riding normally.  After we finish the shockwave (ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching) we'll put her on Previcox to really keep inflammation at bay and really allow Prair strengthen that part of her back and build up more muscle which will in turn hopefully support the ligament, prevent additional damage and make everything come up roses. whew.

We could have injected, done the shockwave and started the Previcox all at once, but I think there's information to be gained from each step along the way - and I like to isolate my variables...

So injections went in, Prair was told to take 4 days off (though turnout was ok) and we are to check back in with the vet at the end of the week.

I had to leave the barn and head straight for the airport to go visit a very pregnant friend in a very soggy Denver for the weekend.  Thankfully both the impending baby and the state of emergency were fabulous distractions from worrying about Prair, but now that I'm home I'm back to obsessing a bit. 

This afternoon we'll get on, and see what we feel.  The vet's prediction is she'll feel better than she ever has.  I'm dubious, but also hopeful.  I'd love if we can get the mare comfy enough to use her back and really work those muscles well.  Sounds like the perfect project for the off-season. 

I did have an interesting follow-up with the vet in talking about what sort of frequency she sees this condition and the varying outcomes... and it was pretty interesting.  I am slightly cynical and think that Kissing Spine has spiked in popularity recently, but I suppose x-rays don't really lie...   The vet had some interesting comments on how it's significantly more common than most people think and that a good number of successful Eq horses actually perform functionally with varying degrees of the condition.  She started talking about how a flat jumping style might not win in the Hunter Ring, but it is a hell of a lot easier to ride (attractively) in the Eq ring. 

Something I hadn't really thought about but did make me smile...

Anyway.  Climbing back on the mare this afternoon... more to come after we see where we are.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pretty Pad

Had a nice school on the mare last Thursday in some new gear. I tried to take a decent picture but the mare was more interested in the construction men.

So, not exactly easy to see, but she's rocking one of her zone champion saddle pads and (even harder to see) a new happy mouth french link.

Her back to school shopping is all done :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Holy Hammies

It's been a ridiculously busy week thus far (and I do realize that it is in fact only Wednesday... Or rather it was when I wrote this), but I was very much looking forward to a happy, fun lesson with the mare this morning (again, talking about Wednesday).. going over our foibles from the show and perhaps easing back into some serious work.

This image of loveliness was shattered by an incoming text from the trainer "Lunge line lesson or Bareback today.  You're choice!"

Um.  hmmm.  Both very productive things to do in lessons... and given my less than stellar Eq performances, probably well deserved, but Oh. God.  The only time I've sat on Prair bareback she kept threatening to rear, so that didn't sound super appealing... but given my mental exhaustion a crazy-picky Eq lesson on the line sounded like borderline torture.

sooooooo bareback it was...

Given my early(ish) lesson time, Prair hadn't been turned out yet so when I arrived, she was busy pitching a fit about being left alone in the barn... Which was exactly what I didn't want to see.  An irritated, cranky mare who's had two days off.  Picture perfect for our first foray into bareback riding. 
Dear god.

I did cajole S into hopping on her first just to make sure she wasn't going to freak out, but after four minutes of totally uneventful hacking she slid off and it was my turn.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how comfy the mare was to sit.  I've been moderately terrified of her shark-fin wither and slinky-dog back, but both were a non issue.  We stayed at a pretty dialed down pace the entire time but the focus was on relaxing my legs down and keeping everything floppy and loose.  Very helpful for my hips (which are never square) and straightening my ribcage.

We played with figure-eights, serpentines and transitions, then worked simple changes (performed on a figure eight as I passed through two poles) and a couple flying changes.  All very good things to practice when I can't get away with tipping over :)

It was very obvious that my abs need some strengthening as they were screaming at me the entire time.. my hammies were also... unhappy.  I think I don't engage them enough when I'm riding in normal tack, but it was oddly satisfying to feel them holding me down and back, anchoring me into the mare. 

Yes, they were burning... but I suppose that's good for me too.

The whole process was made significantly more comfortable (and easier) by borrowing a friends ThinLine Bareback pad, which aside from being shockingly comfy, was also very, very grippy. 

Helpful Torture Device

At no point did I feel loose or unsecure - and now that I've successfully attempted riding the mare bareback, I think that maybe I will try to force myself to repeat the process once a week. 

All in the name of fitness.

And a more independent seat.

And more straightness.

And confidence with the mare.

And building better Eq muscles.

And because it sorta makes me feel 12 again and secretly I'd like to be comfortable jumping without tack....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Octoberfest - The Pre-Greens

Prairie put in her most consistent performance in the Pre-Greens to date.  Prair is getting more trustworthy, and in turn is getting softer and quieter rides that (in turn, in turn) help her stay calm and have a happy experience.

Riding in the mist Day 2

One skill that S has (but I lack) is the ability to take a medium-stressed-out Prairie from the warm up ring into the show ring and get a quieter round out of her in front of the judge.

That never happens when I'm riding :)

Day one Prair warmed up pretty nicely.  Lots of emphasis on landing from a jump straight, and halting to get her a bit lighter in the hand and not rip-roaring around the turns.  Prair was decent (aside from wanting to oogle the wash rack area) so warm up was short and sweet.
Still Cute.

They started out with a warm up class at 3' that went pretty smoothly and landed her 3rd out of 9.
She went pretty much right back in for her first Pre-Green round which was good enough for 1st.

The Boy has started a new (not so charming) habit of looking at me in the videos, particularly at the end)

Then they were right back in for Hunter Under Saddle, which I really wasn't too sure how it would go.  There were only 3 horses in the division.  All three are super cute, albeit very different styles.  I was pretty sure that it was going to come down to the Judge's preference since I all three looked cute, happy and pretty comparable in terms of relaxation. 

Here's that super fascinating video.  We're working on asking Prair for more self carriage in these classes now.  She's still a bit too flat/long but much more balanced than previous HUS classes..
I like the direction she's going in...

Sunday started out f-o-g-g-y.  When we headed down to warm up you couldn't even see the far side of the arena.  Prairie was a bit on edge as the lunging area is behind the big ring, which was hidden in fog which in turn convinced her that the ponies trotting around in circles were in fact little demon monsters out to get her.  Not ideal, but not horrid.

Prair came out a bit more agitated and was much fussier to start than she had been Saturday.  Lots of bending, releasing and counter bending helped a bit but Prair was still veiny, tense and gnashing at her bit.  Not exactly the picture of fluid relaxation.

But, true to form, S somehow squeaked out two very respectable rides and earned another first place, followed by a slightly less spectacular round that landed her 3rd.

Second Round:

Final Round:

I was proud of the mare for her rides.  Even her "worst" round is light years ahead of where we were at this show last year..

May I remind you of our Baby-Green Performance here last year...

Very proud of the rounds the mare put in.  But very glad we can hangout in the Pre-Greens for one more season!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Octoberfest, Success!

I am suffering deeply from a horse show hangover this am so I don't have all my video/pics ready to go, but I did manage to extract a couple iphone pics that will suffice for now.

The show was great.  It was a lot to cram into two days (three full divisions, a Classic and some warm ups..) but Prair actually handled it pretty well, S handled it great, and I managed to hang in there.

We were the only horse from our barn who went, and S (somehow) still managed to ride/teach seven horses in addition to putting in long show days which meant that The Boy was critical in keeping everyone clean, fed, and mostly functional.  :)  It was actually kind of fun to run everyone out of one stall.  My massive trunk was perfect for the task and I totally enjoyed keeping everything all organized and neat and (mostly) tidy.  Felt a bit like an old PC Rally...

However, the biggest good news is that Prair was a stud and managed to secure not one, but two coolers (2!!).  Related to that thrill was the lovely discovery that the coolers were green and white instead of black and orange.  I would have had a small fit if when we finally managed a cooler it made her look like a Halloween decoration.
The dreaded black and orange ribbons were still in full force, but for some reason certain divisions were also being run as the USHJA Zone 9 Stirrup Cup Finals - which meant they were also handing out Big, Pretty, Normal Ribbons.  I was nearly as excited about the tassels on the tri-colors as I was about the coolers. 

(Why I get so excited about this stuff I will never know. but I think it might have something to do with growing up totally ribbon-starved Eventing.  There are not enough ribbons given to eventers. Period)

Prair and her loot. 
More important than the ribbons or the coolers though was how well Prair handled some really heavy class loads.  Both days she was at her wits end (finishing with the Classic on Sat, and then my Eq on Sun) but both days she was significantly better than she has been for the first two days of competition at any other show.

The 3'3" Pre-Green division was canceled, so Prair ended up going in the 3' and was Champion with 36 points, (along with double ribbons for the Zone Finals).

My 2'9" Divisions ended up decently large (8 people I think?) which was a nice surprise and gave us some good competition!  Prair was a stud and ended up with a perfect 40 to win the Modified 2'9" Hunter Division. That gave us the Zone win and a pretty ribbon to boot!

We finished as Reserve Champ for our 2'9" Eq which was gracious to say the least.  We placed 2nd and 3rd over fences, and 3rd on the flat because when they called for "lengthen the stride at the trot" I (and almost everyone else) assumed that meant we could post.  Apparently we could not.  Also I looked like a hunched over crow, but that's a separate issue.  Also I nearly threw my reins over Prairie's head at one point but I don't think the judge saw that...

Finally, S coaxed an admirable performance out of the mare for the Classic on Saturday afternoon.  They scored an 80 in their first round which put them in second, but slipped to third with a 77 in the second round.  Out of a very competitive field of 13 I was super proud.  It was obvious that Prairie was pretty fried and I don't actually know how S got as relaxed a performance as she did out of her.. Also, there was a victory gallop.  I love those.  Prair does not.

To sum up - Great show.  Lots of wins, lots of fun and lots of COOLERS!!!
I think she was proud too
As always, lots to still work on (specifically for me), but that will come with some of the videos... When I finally get them up.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Win

I win the shiniest boot award!

I may be getting slightly OCD about this- but I'm pretty sure it's rewarding (and necessary).

If we succeed at noting else tomorrow - we will be well turned out.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hmm. Summer's.... gone?

Apparently it's September which comes with the added bonus of being able to wear sweaters and boots (boooooots!) - also comes with the distinct end of warm, sunshiney rides outside, and shows.  (boo to both).

After escaping over to Idaho for a few meetings and a few days of laying low by a river and playing at a rodeo I'm home again. And with just enough time to exchange the new breeches (Tredsteap, I'm obsessed) for a larger (boo) size before the show. 
sun streaming through the wildfire smoke....
Yesterday I trotted out to see the ponies and couldn't resist tacking up and going for a ride.  Prair was "supposed" to be having a day off so we just walked around the property, tootled through the trees and had fun going back and forth over the previously very scary ditch. 

I made myself not complain once about the "heat" or what passes for absolutely painful mugginess around here and just enjoyed a stroll on the big mare while the weather was still nice.  I feel like we have all the time in the world before the last (wah) show of the summer but I guess we really only have two more days.  S took the ride today, and I'll lesson Wed/Thurs, then we haul Fri. 


Where did the season go? It seems shorter than usual - which I suppose is due in part to a serious fall wedding circuit that I'm not used to, but man time is just flying, and before we know it we'll be back in schooling mode and hunkering down for the winter. 

That train of thought got me thinking about what I want to do with the mare this winter and I realized that one of my goals for her is to see lots of crazy new things.  I'm thinking about getting back to the Mountain Trail clinic, or maybe trying to reschedule Sequim again for some Cowboy Man time along with more trails and the beach, etc.

We've had such a fun and rewarding show season I think it would be enjoyable to expand our relationship a bit more and grow confidence in some creative ways. Like.... maybe..... schooling some super teeny, tiny, baby cross country?


Who knows.  But it's on my list.... :)
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