"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Hot Summer Evening

I rode Lily last night after 3 days off. It has been raining every late afternoon into the evening for the last week or so, so she had not had much turnout either. She came out of her stall relaxed, however, so I decided to go ahead with my plan of riding her without prior lunging.

She's been very itchy lately. Actually, all of the horses in the barn have been itchy, I'm guessing from a combination of the heat, the bugs (mostly in control FINALLY thanks to an ongoing flow of fly predators and strategic placements of Starbar Trap n Toss fly traps, which also atract toads, who then in turn assist with decimating the fly population. But we still get midges), and dry sweat, despite fans placed in every stall and a giant Farmtek fan creating a wind tunnel at the end of the hallway. It will still be a good 5 degrees warmer inside the barn, even with its open, airy construction. Even then, every outsider that stops by, either the vet, farriers or boarders from other barns, always say that our barn is the coolest on the street. Which goes to say how miserably hot it's been. 5 more weeks of the onslaught...can't wait for September to come and go!

Lily got a good currying, during which she makes this face, no matter where on her body I curry her:

Love it. :) Her favorite spots are her chest and shoulders. This time, however, I discovered that she has more rainrot popping up on her rump, about 2 inches above her tail. Last year her rainrot was so bad when I first got her that most of the hair fell off her croup and loins, and it caused both hind legs to swell so much (she had it all around and down the length of her cannon bones) that I thought she'd somehow injured both legs in her walkout. It was scary. Thankfully, a visit from the vet, a round of oral antibiotics and diligent anti-fungal baths and applications of a prescription topical anti-fungal medication cleared it all up within 2 weeks. This year I've been staying on top of it, washing affected areas with Ketochlor shampoo as soon as I find any fungus, and following it up with Muck-Itch. This has worked well so far. I love the Andalusian in Lily that gives her her athleticism, flexibility, and sweet, people-oriented nature, but she managed to inherit the feet and sensitive skin of the Thoroughbred. Diana and I agree that she has to have Arabian in her somewhere too-whenever she's turned out with room to run and play, she will flag her tail the entire time she's in high spirits. Yes, most horses will flag their tail when playing, especially initially, but Lily will do it the entire time she's at liberty. Very, very Arabian of her. Even the new farrier asked me if she was an Arabian cross when he first saw her, which made me wonder if maybe she isn't a Tres Sangres, also known as a Hispano-Arabian Horse: it is a cross between Andalusian, Arabian and English TB. It is the cross most popularly used in bull-fighting. Yes, I'm still obsessed with wondering about my horse's background. It never hurts to dream. I don't remember if I posted about it, but back in April I was able to contact the lady that originally trained Lily, Holly Homewood at Exceptional Equines (she is now based out of Texas-she used to be located in the Fort Myers area), which was when I found out she'd been started as a hunter. I prodded about Lily's breeding, and found out she was purchased in Ocala, but I could not get any more info as to how old Lily was at the time or whether Mrs. Homewood knew who her dam and sire were. So I still wonder. Her original Coggins from Mrs. Homewood described her as being a year younger than she actually was.

We warmed up at a walk on a loose rein as usual, while dark clouds gathered in the sky and thunder began to rumble in the distance. We then proceeded to some shoulder-fore and shoulder-in at a walk, then alternating shoulder-in and shoulder-out down the long sides of the arena. On a whim, I removed the reins from the pelham shanks, leaving only the reins on the "snaffle" rings of the pelham, and asked her to canter. We did some relaxed, undemanding canter in both directions, with a simple change in the middle. This is not a traditional warm-up, but lately Lily prefers to canter before trotting-it allows her to lengthen much better at the trot if we canter first. I then asked for the down-transition to trot and she launched herself into her version of a working trot, flying down the long side of the arena, reaching down for the bit. With the reins on the large bit rings, her frame did not seem as pretty as with the double reins, but I wanted to see if I could still get her to work correctly without the extra pressure on the bit shanks.

After trotting a couple of times in each direction, with some large 20m circles thrown in, I asked her to collect and we did some more shoulder-in at the trot. She finally gave me proper trot shoulder-in going to the right-previously, she would try to walk when I asked for it in this direction, unless I had the dressage whip in my hand. Not so this time-I was not carrying the whip. More working trot in straight lines, and then I asked her to go down the center line in shoulder-in in both directions-she did it, without the aid of the rail to keep her straight! I gave her a brief walk break, then picked her up and asked her for a right lead canter. She trotted 2 strides, but picked up the correct lead at the canter. We practiced some lengthening and collecting, and I was very pleased to discover that I can finally get Lily to collect with just sitting up straighter and tightening my abs. She only tried to break to the trot one time-collection at the canter was almost impossible 3 months ago, as Lily had only one speed at the canter and any attempt at organization caused her to break to a trot each time. I then asked for a canter-walk transition, and Lily obliged, with 2-3 trot strides inbetween. Change of direction, and canter cue again. On the left lead, she went up into the canter right away, no trot, and around we went, collect, lengthen, collect, and back to a walk, again with some trot inbetween. Still a big improvement from before. I gave her a walk break on a loose rein, then we did some more working trot in shallow "S" curves down the long sides of the arena, and again into the canter. This time I asked her to continue with the "S" curves at the canter. This was a completely new exercise that I had just read about, and Lily surprised me by keeping up with her canter-no attempting to swap leads nor break into a trot. I was inmensely pleased with her; she did this exercise equally well on both leads. After that, I let her stretch again at a working trot, and focused on getting her to maintain the same speed and energy with longer strides by slowing down my posting; she always tries to go faster with shorter strides. This worked very well. After a few minutes in both directions, I asked her to walk and gave her her head, and she stretched down, nose to the ground as she always does when cooling down. We walked for 10 minutes or so before bringing her back inside. The thunder was closer, and I wanted to get her stall done before it started to rain.

The temperature had dropped a few degrees with the incoming storm, but Lily was still hot. Her sweating is definetely becoming patchy. Her skin was damp along her shoulders, but not what I'd call sweaty-not enough to cool down her body. I put her in the crossties closest to Rose's stall and turned the big Farmtek fan on Lily, then proceeded to hose her off and scrape the water off repeatedly until her respiratory rate went down. Between the fan and the cooler stormy weather outside, her breathing slowed fairly quickly. I gave her a bubble bath, rinsed her off, and put her ice boots on to drop her temperature further. By then her respiratory rate was pretty much normal, but I like to put her ice boots on after an evening workout regardless because it helps to prevent her hind legs from stocking up-this is a frequent occurence in the summertime with her.

By the time I was done with my chores and setting up Lily's feed for the next day, the sky had cleared outside, so I turned out Bali and little Willy, but chose to leave Lily in so she would have access to her stall fan. Anhydrotic/hypohydrotic horses are triggered by a combo of high humidity and high temperatures round-the-clock. The best move for us is definetely somewhere where the winters get cold, ideally outside of Florida. We'll see.

On another note, the farrier comes Thursday to trim Lily's feet again. They are longer than I'd like-they grow so fast! But they've held up well these past 4 weeks barefoot: she has not been footsore at all after diligently applying Durasole that first week, and while she's chipped a little along the old nail holes on the rim of her front hooves, she has had no cracks. Fingers crossed that the farrier is happy with her feet too! I intend to ask for an old rasp-he offered to show me how to keep her feet trim, and I'm totally taking him up on his offer!

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