Friday, August 28, 2015

Vet Updates (again in plural)

You know it's suboptimal when you've had more visits with the vet(s) in the last month, than lessons...

While not unheard of in the horsey world - it's certainly not my favorite balance...

Anyway, when last we spoke (about Prair), she had a disappointing 3 month checkup and had her turnout totally pulled. 

Last week we had a 4 (jesus..) month checkup, and finally got a glimmer of good news. 

Prair was a 1.5 or 2/5 on the lunge (tight circle) and a 3/5 on the flexion.  It's a tad depressing that a 3/5 felt like a good result, but it's the first time we've seen significant improvement (from a 5/5) in this process, so I'm letting my expectations think that maybe, just maybe this is one of those super slow healing strains and we still have a shot of a solid recovery to flat work.

So, we've got a couple more months of hanging out again before we re-check, because at this point... clearly we need to go extremely slow and we don't have an agenda in terms of showing or seasons, or anything.

With regard to the poop doctor, the combo of antibiotic and high quality pro-biotic seems to have been a great 1-2 punch and for the last few weeks, all signs of diarrhea have been absent.  I've even been able to comb through her tail since it is no long in a constant state of manure-dreadlock.  So, while I'm sure Prair feels better, my grooming routine is also much more gratifying. 

I strongly prefer combing out a nice tail over pressure washing manure streaks off her poor tushy.  So that's a win all the way around (literally).

On the life front, there is a new nanny, so I am inching back toward the semblance of a schedule I was carving out that allows for some regularly scheduled days, both for the office and barn.  Very eager for that normalcy to be back. 

Beyond the regular life front, a casual perusal of potential new horsey options is still underway.  I'm trying to be more patient than I usually am, since a) I'm not wanting to move Prairier along any time soon (even as a brood mare) and b) with a kiddo the cash and time is severely restricted so there's no need to rush into a new pony commitment.

But that doesn't mean I can entertain suitors, and potential good matches.  There might be a gray that I'm flirting with, along with a couple other matches.  though I'm learning that shopping in a (good), structured program feels more like entering into an arranged marriage than my usual approach of going to the bar and trying to find a decent option that looks good, dances decently and doesn't have any obvious issues....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Deadhead Hunters - an impossible standard

There has been a lot of chatter around our barn this week about the USEF announcement that uber-hunter Inclusive tested positive for GABA, or Carolina Gold at last year's Derby Finals.

I am no expert on GABA, but it's a substance I associate more with the racing industry than the Hunters, but apparently it gets plenty of press in the H/J world too.
the buffet is open...
While I have plenty of commentary surrounding any sort of "prep" for horses in any discipline, that's not where my frustration immediately went with this announcement. 

Of course my concern for a horse's wellbeing trumps all - but I'm legitimately intrigued by the thought that Inclusive, who is arguably a standard bearer for what it means to be a top hunter, lays down his top trips with the additional support of a calming agent.

I'm certain that even totally sober, a horse like Inclusive would still sweep most competition aside - but as an Ammy who is still a tad baffled by the Hunters, I find it disappointing and discouraging to see our celebrated leaders in the sport brought down by a positive drug test.

It's an unfortunate blemish on the (amazingly impressive) record for the horse, especially with his prodigious rider Ms. Tori Colvin - but that just frustrates me all the more. 

I'd like to think that they don't rely on such substances and this positive test isn't indicative of the hard work and flawless rounds they have earned together.  If that's the case, I do feel badly for Inclusive, and also Tori - who is clearly an effective and remarkable rider.

Of course, there are other explanations, and I'm not sure it's any better...

Did they always need a little extra something in order to get their top finishes?

If so, how tragic.

How upsetting that our top junior rider and a top mount still need something extra.  How unbelievably crappy that our judging standard has encouraged such behavior.

Tori's mom, Brigid Colvin is one of the trainers listed for Inclusive and received a hefty fine and suspension in association with the positive test.  COTH has her on the record with a very predictable comment essentially saying that she had no idea and nothing to do with it. 

This is where my circle of horsey people are divided.  If she *truly* didn't know (or if the owner didn't know, or the rider didn't know, or whoever...) should they still be punished?

I feel INCREDIBLY strongly that yes, yes you should.  It's your team, your barn, your staff.  You are responsible for making sure your horses are ready and safe for competition within the rules. Ultimately I think owners are responsible, but in a competition setting where the Trainers are captains of the proverbial ship and in charge of running the barn-away-from-home, you better believe they get held responsible even if there was some sketchy dude in the shadows who was out there injecting horses with god knows what without permission.

It reminds me a bit of high school sports practice.  If you want mutual accountability you don't make the one kid who's late run extra sprints, you make the team run sprints and make sure they help each other stay on time.  (or for the ultimate impact, the late kid sits out and watches their team run sprints.  guilt is a fairly effective motivator...)

I don't know what the answer is for improving the culture of "prepping" horses for the show ring.  But I know it requires the Top Horses who are laying down trips in the 90's (and the rare 100), being TOTALLY SOBER when they do it. 

Right now we have a culture of "prepping" mediocre horses in order to get a performance out of them that resembles something closer to what a horse like Inclusive might be capable of. 

But when the Inclusives of our sport are testing positive, not only are we chasing impossible standards, we are setting a dangerous bar if those perfect trips aren't possible with a clean and sober horse.

I have my moments where I doubt the current sport I've chosen, and this is certainly one of them.  When I'm loving the Hunters, I see it as something more akin to Dressage with jumps thrown in.  I find my riding is similar, managing balance, softness, connection, impulsion and elasticity... all the same building blocks of a good dressage test are what it takes for the 'effortless' look over fences. 

However, on my bad days it feels like the sport just encourages our poor trainers to do whatever they have to so that they can strap a crappy ammy or kid to the back of the horse and they can stay on for 8 jumps in a predictable enough pattern that they need not even steer. (face palm).

In theory the standard of judging for a show Hunter is based on what would have been safe and pleasant ride for a traditional field hunter.  But I can tell you right now I'd take a seasoned Event horse on a foxhunt about a million times before I grabbed a "seasoned" show Hunter for the same job. 

We've dumbed down the Hunter discipline so much that not only does it fail to reflect the actual job it's supposed to aspire to - horses in their right mind won't succeed.  I'd wager that wild eyed OTTB who started stamping the moment you pulled out her XC tack is a hell of a lot safer in an open field, with uneven ground and solid obstacles than the over-lunged fat, warmblood with earplugs in who can't feel it's feet and has a hard time balancing on the "downhill" side of the barely graded arena. 

UGH.  so disappointing all the way around.

Turns out four months of stall rest doesn't just make for a grumpy horse, it also makes a rider somewhat testy....  oops.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Oops, it's been a month (almost).  Sorry for that.  Though rest assured, not much has happened in the last few weeks. 

Or at least, not much has happened with the mare.  My life on the other hand has been full of First World Problems that have literally thrown all planning and organization out the window.

They can be easily summed up by all of the following happening in a week:
Dealing with a crappy all inclusive resort, bringing home whatever god damn stomach bug everyone gets in mexico, firing the nanny and sending The Boy on the road for several consecutive weeks for work. 

I'm fully aware that all of these things fall squarely in the problems-that-aren't0really-problems category as they pretty much all have to do with being on vacation, or the jobs that allow us to go on vacation... but still - Life. Is. Chaos.  And also, if I'm going to (uncomfortably) lose 10lbs, I'd prefer it to happen BEFORE the beach and bikini trip, not after.  K thx.

When last I wrote, we were just headed off for the Summer Wedding Tour 2015.  It started off dandy- a lovely mountain wedding in Idaho with good friends and good dancing.  Then we headed south to Mexico, where we were again surrounded by great friends (and good dancing), but the resort itself was comedically tragic. 

In theory it was really nice.

In fairness it was really pretty...

but the reality of the place meant that literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong and that made for some stressful moments (especially for our lovely bride). 

I spent most of the time ignoring my phone, sending my parents terse "don't text. expensive. we're fine" messages, while simultaneously exchanging countless texts with my vet (oops) including one 25 minute phone call. 

Sorry mom!

Prair got a "quick" 3 month (face palm) check up which resulted in one (still) bad flexion and confirmation that while the DDFT is healing nicely, the suspensory branch is still inflamed and pissy. 

So, Prair's precious turnout got pulled and she's back on the previcox and aggressive icing protocol to try and get that under control.  I'm confident Prair is a good girl in turnout, but maybe the increased confinement will be the game changer.  Who knows. Fingers crossed.  She gets (another) check up next week where we will ultrasound if the flexion looks significantly better. 
On a slightly more entertaining level - I took the kiddo to the barn, which I realized I haven't actually done in a while.  I've been hoarding my barn time for myself and now that kiddo wants to run and play and put everything in her mouth (including manure bits she finds on the ground), taking her with me significantly dampens my ability to do anything other than stuff Prair full of treats. 

The baby hasn't actually seen the horses since she's started walking (or talking) and she was very entertaining.  Since we have mastered all our animal noises, she identifies everything by the noise it makes.  If she sees a cat, she meows and points, quacks at ducks, etc....

So obviously, when she saw all the horses, she... woofed.


Pointed and woofed. 

And then cried if any of them snorted or sneezed or nickered or did anything with their noses. 

Because that's terrifying I guess.  Who knows,  the crying seemed rude to me, but she's a toddler, what are you going to do.  After I ran out of carrots, I took Cayla for a walk around the farm with the idea of introducing her to the pony barn and letting her pick one out.  I thought maybe smaller "woofs" would be less intimidating. 

She loved it.  marched around pointing woofing at everything despite all of my proclamations of  "no, not woofs, PONIES" sigh. 


Finally we got to a pasture with ponies and she went "OOOOOOOOooooOOOO!" which I considered to be a more encouraging response. 
As the ponies walked up she still pointed and woofed, until she got to the little mini, who is a paint - so she Moo'ed. 

In fairness, I guess she's spotted like a cow, and at that point I was ready to accept anything that wasn't a woof.

So, Moo.

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