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



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ditches

I continue to be fascinated by this place. The people in general seem to be genuinely interested in what you have to say, and when you ask them how are they doing, they give you a real answer-they have no reason to believe that you might not really care. This is probably one of the most refreshing differences between South FL and this area up here. I've always been a quiet introvert, and for the first time since I was a kid, I find myself opening up to random people and yakking away like Charles does at any social occassion. The best part is the people I talk to open up in return. This is absolutely foreign and incredibly exciting to me.

 The trees are officially not green at all anymore-the only remaining green is from the pine trees. I've been seeing red trees. Not burnt red trees, like you would expect, but these amazing, fire-engine red trees. I was trying to get photos yesterday while driving from home to the barn and later from the barn to work, but they just looked darker in the pictures.


MUCH redder in person!!!
Yes, I found a job. I applied at only 2 practices: one a well-known specialty and emergency hospital in DC, which I'd been referred to by 2 different doctor friends, and another huge referral practice in MD. I was referred to that one by BQ-it's only 15 minutes from the barn. As it turns out, the hospital in DC refers cases to the one in MD! I got an interview right away with the MD hospital, and they offered me the position before I went to my interview at the DC practice. I took the MD job. From what I've continued to hear, I made the right choice. It's a pretty impressive hospital. I've worked at one other practice this big, but this place is set up in a way that makes sense-for the techs to do their job to the best of their capabilities, and also to maximize patient care.

However, due to the new job, my schedule has been crazy, which is why I've been MIA from here.  These photos are from last Thursday:

The big field and all the horses. Sorry for the crappy pic-taken with my cell.


Lily patiently waits for me to come to her.


This pic got sent to everyone back in FL :)

Snazzy extended trot in her Simple boots! This was taken in the outdoor arena. She was flipping her toes up like an upper-level dressage horse. Sadly my phone doesn't take video. :/

I led Lily on a walk through the trails off the property, and we discovered this stream! This one is not for crossing (I was told those sticks in the ground mean there are holes, and there is mesh netting on the far bank), but there is another part of the trail where there is a creek that the horses have to cross.

I rode her in the outdoor that day, and she was excellent. Actually much better calmer and focused than in the indoor. We even did some real cantering-she is finally comfortable enough in the Simple Boots to do so without tripping.

On Friday we went on the trails with Tina and Houdon. I did lunge Lily a bit prior to tacking up, but she was calm-no bucking or playing on the lunge, so I took her in to saddle up. We went out on the trail, and Lily was a very good girl. Until we got to the first ditch!

She had never seen a ditch in her life-we didn't have them at any of the parks where we rode, and given that the land was flat (except for the big artificial hill at Wolf Lake), a ditch back in South FL would have been a very unexpected landmark. The first ditch we arrived at was narrow (about 2 feet wide) with a short drop to it (about 4 feet), with a longer, steeper rise on the other side (maybe 6 feet long). Houdon crossed it like nobody's business, and Lily went to follow him, then realized that the ground dropped suddenly and rose on the other side. She stopped dead in her tracks, looking first at the ditch, then at Houdon on the other side, then back at the ditch, with this comical expression that totally said, "How the hell did he DO that??!!" Poor girl. She wanted to cross but she was completely intimidated, and after much unsuccessful coaxing from the saddle, I ended up having to get off and lead her across. She simply jumped from one side to the other, and I got back on.

The 2nd ditch was wider, with less steep banks. Lily *almost* crossed it after Houdon, but then she became very insecure. I didn't want to insist too much and create a negative association, so again I got off and led her while she jumped across.

We continued on our ride, following the skinny leaf-covered trail as it wound its way through the trees and up and down the hills. Eventually, however, we came to an abrupt stop when we discovered that there was a giant fallen tree blocking the trail. Tina led the way back, then we took a different route that led us to a small stream. The stream was shallow (maybe 4" deep) and narrow (about 2' across), and we went right up to the bank on Houdon's heels. And I saw his feet sink fetlock-deep in the mud as he went across...and I knew this would be a problem. It was. Lily is instinctively afraid of soft mud, and the sucking, slimy clay on the banks of the stream was terrifying to her. I could not get her to cross. Again I dismounted and attempted to lead her across, but after 15 minutes of coaxing and arguing with her, and only succeeding in getting her to leap from one side of the bank to the other without crossing, we gave up. Tina crossed back to our side of the stream, and I re-mounted.

I got my workout that day, as, despite heading home, Lily still did not want to go through (or over, for that matter) the ditches on the way back, so again I had to dismount and lead her. I vowed that the next day I would lead her back to the trail on foot and practice crossing the ditches until she wasn't afraid anymore.


Lily going for the smaller ditch

The next day I didn't have to go in to work until 4:00 pm so I had plenty of time to play with Lily. I put her rope halter & lunge line on her, her Simple Boots and her SMBs, and off we went. She balked at the first ditch, and it took a few minutes to convince her, but eventually she jumped across. We did this over and over until she was simply trotting through, then just walking. At the second ditch, she hopped across one time, then walked through the rest of the times. I hadn't originally planned on doing this, but since there was time and Lily was doing so well, I decided to continue our little hike down to the stream. This was probably about 1/2 mile from the second ditch, so on we went. On our way through the woods, Lily suddenly stopped to stare, and following her gaze, I spotted a herd of deer as they silently leaped over some of the fallen trees in the woods, silhouetted against the golden afternoon light that filtered through. It was a beautiful sight. Lily and I stood quietly and watched them, until they disappeared beyond the slope of the hill.

On we went. We made it to the stream, and the banks were even muddier than the day before. I led Lily down the bank, and once she tried to back away from the mud, then obediently came forward, all the way to the water's edge. I gave her slack in the lunge line and hopped across the stream. Standing on the opposite bank, I saw that Lily was going to follow me across, so I turned to scurry out of the way, as my side of the stream was too narrow for both of us.

In that split second, I slipped and went down in the mud, at the same time that Lily became airborne. The next thing I know, I'm curled up in a fetal position, my right foot sticking out from underneath me, and I look up to realize that I had one of Lily's front legs on each side of my head. My life flash before my eyes, amid visions of Lily freaking out at realizing I was underneath her and stepping all over me. But she did not freak out-she simply stood, all 4 legs splayed out above me. I spoke to her quietly, and very slowly got out from under her belly and stood up. She didn't move a muscle, only turning her head to nuzzle me, even though her feet were sinking in the mud and there was no tension whatsoever in the lunge line to restrain her. I don't think I've ever given her so many "Good girl"s!

As it turns out, I think she did step on my right foot on the landing, probably with a hind foot, though she had immediately taken it off, because my foot was quite painful when I tried to put weight on it. Actually, it was so painful I was afraid she'd broken a bone or two in my foot. I had to hold my breath every time I took a step with my right foot. So we re-crossed the stream (I don't remember how we did it; I was still that shaken up over how close I came to dying), then hiked the 3/4 mile total back to the barn, Lily walking with her withers even with my shoulder so I could hang on to the "oh shit handle" and let her pull me along. If I needed a break, I'd say, "hold on, wait." And she'd stop right away and turn her head around to check on me. And then I'd say, "Ok. Walk on", and she'd keep on going, adjusting her pace to whatever I needed it to be.
The trail is NOT well-defined. It kind of looks like the Blair Witch Project woods (beautiful, but you wouldn't want to get lost there at dusk), and like I said before, the very skinny trail is covered with leaves-in fact, the entire ground is covered with leaves. If you're not looking for it, you will miss the trail. Lily, however, found that trail and stayed on it-there is a slight indentation in the leaves to mark it, and I remembered it from the day before. She could've totally gone as the crow flies, straight across to the barn, but this would have been impossible for me to negotiate between the fallen trees, dried bushes, and rocks. Lily followed the trail as it meandered up and down the hills and around fallen trees. I wasn't even thinking about where we were going, I just hung on, leaning against her, and concentrated on taking each step carefully so as not to further injure my foot. When we got to the ditches, she stood and waited while I gave her a long length of lunge line, then I'd quietly step aside and she would go calmly across first without any coaxing or pleading. All by herself. I'd call to her, "Ok, wait." and she'd turn around and stand and wait for me patiently while I hobbled across. Then back to her leading me as soon as I had that piece of mane in my hand.
It was an excrutiatingly painful but amazing experience. I felt like an idiot because just that morning, BQ had warned me to be careful about leading any horse across a ditch or a stream-a friend of John's had been killed when, as he was leading his horse across a ditch, the horse had jumped across and accidentally landed on top of him. OMG. My Thanksgiving was all about the fact that I'm still alive thanks to one Lily-Bird who totally could have trampled me, but who deliberately didn't. I LOVE MY MARE!!!

Work was not fun that evening, and of course we were particularly slammed with emergencies, but whatever. I took lots of ibuprofen and hobbled on without complaining (hey, an ouchy foot was NOTHING considering what could have happened!!), cracking jokes about it when asked by my coworkers, and iced hell out of the foot as soon as I got home.

It's been a week now since the incident, and I've ridden Lily 3 times since then, and worked I don't know how many days in between. It's finally getting better. I'm still not ruling out a hairline fracture in the joint of my second toe, especially given the swelling over the area and the weird red bruising that developed within 24 hours over my 2nd and 3rd toes. The swelling has gone down significantly by now, the bruising is turning green, and I can walk almost normally with shoes on. Riding causes a tremendous improvement in my comfort level foot-wise...go figure.


The new accessory for the winter season: a CVS designer cane! (They didn't have crutches, it was cheaper than crutches, and anyway, a cane is much easier to store)

Looks pretty gruesome in this photo...this was actually an improvement from the day before! It didn't look that bad in person, I promise.

Lily has finally started going out in the big field, and it was a non-event: a group of 6 horses went right up to her to check her out, there was a big squeal from one of the mares, Lily trotted off, and 3 of the horses followed her, surrounded her, then they all calmly started grazing together. That was that. Very cool!


Lily in a corner of the big field with some of her new buddies.

And Lily has made friends. :) Her favorite is a bright bay TB gelding with a star and stripe named Chester. Chester is a sweetheart, allowing Lily to do her favorite thing with her best friends: eat from the same exact patch of grass/hay! He comes right up to me when I go get Lily, looking for treats, and allows me to take her away.

Lily also got her Eponas. Since she didn't have enough wall to nail them on, they were glued-on and then casted to her feet to keep them in place. The trimmer/farrier decided that since Lily has always been barefoot in the back, she would not put the shoes on her back feet. The trimmer was able to make the old puncture wound hole a little bit larger to keep small stones from getting stuck in there. I could finally see the bottom of it (the hole has become shallower FINALLY) but it was constantly getting packed in with dirt. Lily tolerated this, but has been a little more ouchy on that foot ever since. The trimmer gave me some Magic Cushion hoof packing to use on Lily's left hind until she returns for the next trim-she instructed me to apply it every evening whenever possible. I've been riding Lily with the Simple Boots on her hind feet for now while she grows more foot and this has helped a lot. Without the boots, she is fine out in the pasture, but I can tell she's sore when walking over the gravel by the field gate.


Lily's casted feet to help hold the Eponas in place. I'm actually thrilled that we couldn't use nails!


The casting material is only wrapped around the sides of each hoof-the bottom is left open. The hole on the bottom isn't really open-there is a special hoof packing in there that at this point was covered in sand and shavings. The packing is antibacterial and helps provide additional cushioning between the shoe and Lily's foot-this helps stimulate the WHOLE hoof with each stride, which should, in turn, stimulate more hoof growth and sole thickening.

In terms of movement, she was moving nicer with the Simple Boots on her front feet than with the Eponas, but she had started chafing with the boots-I'd been having to wrap her feet to protect her heels. She is still quite comfortable in the Eponas, though; she's just not flipping her feet up in extended trot with them. At least for now. We'll see what happens as she gets used to them. Of course, after 2 rides with the Simple Boots on her back feet, she has started chafing behind her fetlocks, which is very aggravating. Here we go with more Vetrap, which I have to order because we don't have tack/feed stores in the area (yeah, I can't figure that one out...). The Simple Boots do their job, but I don't see how laminitic horses wear them day in and day out without creating all sorts of new problems with the rubbing and chafing they can cause.

With the turnout in the big field, she has finally settled in completely. She loves being out there, but will still let me catch her and come willingly (she's more willing when it's towards the end of the day vs the morning when she's just been turned out), but once she is out of the field, she settles down 100% and pays attention. Initially with the stall rest and then the gradual turnout as she was introduced to pasture, she had gained some weight, but it has melted it off quickly in the last week. BQ had warned me to watch her weight, as they can lose a lot quickly when they are out in all that space with so many other horses. Today I asked if hay stretcher could be added to her meals. Lily looks good right now, but I don't want her to lose any more pounds.

The other evening I rode her in the outdoor after sundown with the arena lights on-this was a first for her, and she did great-no spooking or being looky. Today the outdoor was crowded despite plummeting temperatures and high winds (it was 39 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt like it was in the 20s!), so I put polo wraps on all 4 legs to help keep her legs warm, and took her in the indoor. I could see the vapor of our breaths anyway. We had a great workout, though-even with the frigid temps, she was still her normal, laid-back self, and for once she was all for the more collected work at the trot, so we did lots of shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yields to turn on the haunches. For the first time, I was able to see how she was doing in the dusty mirrors on each side of the arena gate that leads outside. And I can say now, with absolute certainty, that she did fantastic! She's still out of shape, but her lateral work today was perfect, as long as we did it in small doses. However, while untacking her, I discovered her chafed fetlocks, so I'm assuming that this is why she wasn't all that much into extending today. :(

Lots of Vetrap...

One cold Puertorrican Shorthair staying warm under the clean laundry!

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