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



Friday, July 20, 2012

Lilyversary

My Lilyversary was last Sunday, July 8th. One year together! On that day, a year ago, I signed her $1 bill of sale.

I've had a tumultous horse ownership journey here in South FL, where neither of my 2 previous horses was with me for more than 9 months. I mean, who goes through 3 horses in a year? Not a normal, non-wealthy person who truly loves them...even my vet gave me a funny look when he first came out last year to vaccinate Lily and realized she was not Rhythm, even though he himself had declared Rhythm unsafe to ride after all of his neurological signs and recommended re-homing him. True, I did jump into the ownership of Rhythm way too fast after Cloud was taken from me, but I didn't know how else to cope with the loss of my heart horse. But Lily was simply fate. Right after finding Rhythm a home, I was given 24 hours to make up my mind (there had been a potential buyer for Lily at the time, and my barn manager said I had to choose: we either let the buyer look at her and split the profit from her sale, or I took her), and while I'd been looking at horses and wanted to take my time finding the 3rd (and hopefully last!) horse, I couldn't see any reason why not to take the little mare with the history of abuse who'd been doing so well with my training. So that's how I ended up signing that bill of sale last year.

To celebrate, I tacked her up in Dianne's Western saddle and we hit the trails. She was very calm going down the street, so on a whim, instead of heading down the powerlines under the blazing hot sun so we could hit the main trails, I veered right and took her into the shade skinny trails. We had never gone this way by ourselves-only in the company of other horses. She has been on them several times, however, and has always been extremely confident, insisting on leading, when we've gone on these trails with our friends, so she was familiar with them. She was pretty much as confident as if we were with company, and didn't try to turn around even once. We didn't trot because the sandy footing of the trails was deep (no rain for a couple of weeks now) and some parts of the trail had very low branches. Lily was adorable, navigating the narrowest parts of the trail without any kind of hesitation with the long strides of her power walk. At one point, some overgrown palm fronds were blocking the trail, and without pause, she stuck her head forward into the fronds, ears back and eyes closed, to shove them out of the way with her body. Her gesture made me laugh-usually she'd stop when the trail appeared to be blocked. All that ground work is paying off!




We eventually came back out on the powerlines, but a group of riders was coming back, and the sun was higher in the sky and still hotter, so I turned her around back onto the skinny trails and we took the long way through the trails-one of them opens up onto the park street that crosses through the powerlines, and leads directly to the main trails. It took as 3 times as long to get there, but at least it was cool in the shade. Once on the main trails, we trotted. Lily went again without hesitation, arching her neck and surging forward into her extended trot. After we'd gone through all of the trails once, I took her to one of the long straightaways under the trees and asked her to canter. We had never cantered on the trails by ourselves, either. She picked up the correct lead, and maintained a nice steady canter all the way down the straightaway, until I asked her to come back down to a trot. I was grinning from ear to ear.

We trotted for another 15 minutes or so, and then cantered one more time. I had clipped a water bottle holder to the saddle, and this time it started tapping Lily on her shoulder as we were cantering, which caused her to throw up her head and accelerate. I verbally asked her to trot again, and she obliged. We trotted down a loop in the trail to give her a chance to completely settle down, and then came out onto the powerlines. Lily automatically switched gears to a walk-she now knows that she is not allowed to go faster than a walk on the way home.

It was a really good ride.

The next day was Monday, and it was a long, exhausting day at work where one of our more critical patients died. It just set a negative tone for the rest of the day. I got to the barn in the evening feeling like I'd been emotionally mauled, to discover both Judy and Diana all tacked up and ready to go for a ride. They invited me to come along with them. I was beat, but allowed them to convince me, so I quickly tacked up Lily and got on. We had a long trail ride, going around the park and through the main trails, as the sun was going down. It was cool enough that the 3 mares barely broke a sweat. The 3 of us laughed and talked and just had a great time. It was the first time Judy, Diana and I were all able to ride together. By the time we made it back to the barn, I felt 100% better-my exhaustion had evaporated. Riding is definetely the best therapy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

We broke the emergency record at our hospital yesterday...17 emergencies, plus 12 hospitalized cases. Our ER doctor rocked, and I think so did we-not one treatment was late, and we were able to get the emergencies in the door, properly taken care of, and back out the door in no time at all. It was a maddening, relentless pace that we had to keep, however, and I was exhausted by the time our 13 hour shift was over.

When I got to the barn, Diana was still there. Bali had been colicking on and off pretty much all day, for reasons unknown, as her management is ideal (hay 4 times a day, very small amounts of grain twice a day, she is on UGuard, Sand Clear for 7 days once a month, she drinks plenty of water, and is dewormed regularly). By the time I made it to the barn, Bali was doing better and had been nibbling on her hay, but she still looked rather dull. Her breathing was a little heavy, she seemed cranky and uninterested in her surroundings, and her gut sounded like she had some hypermotility going on. However, she had not had much to drink, and her bowel movements seemed rather dry compared to their normal appearance. Her gums were moist, but her capillary refill time was slightly delayed at 3 seconds, and a skin pinch test confirmed she was still slightly dehydrated-it took a couple of seconds for her skin to snap back. She was still passing a lot of gas.

Bali had had 2 5ml injections of Banamine (I'm not sure why Judy chose to spread the Percheron mare's dose in two half doses given a couple of hours apart, considering Bali had collapsed in pain at one point that morning), and Diana had attempted to give her Gas-X, which Bali would usually eat right from her hand, but she did not today. She had not had Gas-X yet. So I counted out Bali's dose, crushed the pills in a cup and mixed them with water to make a slurry, and showed Diana where I keep my own oral meds syringe for next time. I syringed the medication to Bali, who took it very well, but gave me a dirty look afterwards. Diana had to leave for the night to go home and take care of her daughter, as she had been at the barn since 7:00 am, and wanted to give Bali one more Banamine injection. She had never given an intramuscular injection before, and wanted to learn how to give it, so I showed her where the "V" on a horse's neck is, showed her how to pinch the skin over the area a couple of times to desensitize Bali, and how to steady the syringe with one hand while pushing the plunger with the other. Bali didn't even flinch. We hovered for another hour or so, during which Bali defecated again, and started eating her hay. We declared her to be on the mend when she pinned her ears at Lily, who was trying to nuzzle her from her walkout next door.

After Diana left, I hung around. Since I hadn't been sure at what time I'd get out of work with it being so busy, Diana had set up Lily's feed for me and Judy had picked my stall. :) No chores to do. You can actually see most of the fireworks from our barn, so I took Lily out in the arena to lunge her and do some groundwork while waiting for the fireworks to start.



Fireworks seen from the barn this past New Year's. You can see the fireworks from at least 4 different parks all the way around.
I let her trot and canter on the lunge, then I brought her in. We practiced backing with me just walking forwards towards her, disengaging the hindquarters, and I had her back up through an "L" of groundpoles that Judy had set up in a corner of the dressage arena. This is a challenging exercise that Lily did very, very well, despite the fact that fireworks were starting. Her concentration didn't waiver. I then practiced sending her over a single groundpole, not her favorite exercise, but she did it without fail each time-she didn't even try to dodge the pole. After that, I set her free and worked her at liberty, with changes of direction. She actually chose to do her final lap around the arena within the dressage arena instead of following the track on the outside, and I was finally, finally able to get her to come to me, not once but twice. While at liberty. In the arena. This was HUGE, and I ended the session on that note. I hosed her off in the barn, but Bob, the other new horse in the barn, was trotting in and out, from walkout to stall, and this had Lily nervous. I took her back outside to allow her to dry, and she stood next to me in the arena while the fireworks went off. I wish I could've taken a picture, but it was too dark. There was a giant loop in the lead rope and she stood quietly and calmly next to me, ears pricked and one hind leg cocked while the fireworks blazed 360 degrees around us. I kept looking at my mare, and was insanely happy by how relaxed she was, standing next to me. She was definetely hearing and seeing the fireworks, but she was fine because I was standing next to her.

As it turns out, all of the horses in the barn were standing outside in their walkouts, completely calm, watching the fireworks. It was really cool to see, and I wish my phone could've taken decent night photos, because it was postcard material-10 horses watching the fireworks.

I did one final check on Bali, who had pooped again, and was devouring her hay. She looked much, much perkier than earlier that evening, and had even drank half a bucket of water. I breathed a sigh of relief, and turned off the lights for the night.

It was a good ending to a long and stressful day.

Feet

A week after her trim and shoes. I wish her toes were a tad shorter, especially on that right front. You can really see the rings halfway down her feet in this photo marking where I discontinued the California Trace. Note the more oblong right foot.

In this photo you can see how her right front appears flatter and kind of offset to the outside. This is definetely a horse that needs to be on a hoof supplement. :/

 It is interesting to note that for once we are NOT the hottest state in the country at the moment. It certainly feels like it with the humidity.

Our barn farrier, Edmundo Martinez (the same guy from the post "Paso Fino Adventure"), came out today to do Lily's and Rose's feet. He drives all the way up from the Kendall/Homestead area, and is an awesome farrier. He's the only one I've used so far whom I can talk to, ask questions to, and he really tries to educate you. Lily's right front is flaring out again, and is starting to look like when she was barefoot last year and was being trimmed by a different farrier. I addressed it with Edmundo, and he explained that she is slightly club-footed on that hoof. He had an entire magazine in his truck on managing club feet in horses, which he offered me to read. I sat down and read the magazine from front to back while he did both Lily and Rose. He was literally doing everything by the book, and he showed me which parts of Lily's hoof were more symmetrical than they had been previously. As it turns out, Lily has actually improved, with the angles on her front feet only having a 2 degree difference, whereas before when he started doing her feet, there was a 5 degree difference! It's interesting how appearances can be deceiving. The rings she had last year on all 4 feet are coming back, however, with the changes in humidity that are classical Florida summer. I had her on California Trace for 9 months successfully-this supplement had made a HUGE difference in the quality of her hoof horn, but they seem to have changed the supplement formula and all of a sudden, after all that time, she stopped eating it. She would pick at her grain around the supplement and leave all of the supplement behind. If I mixed it in her beet pulp, she wouldn't eat it at all. So I took her off of the supplement, and her feet have suffered for it. I have been searching extensively for a similar formula to California Trace, but anything with a similar mineral or vitamin content is missing biotin, and anything with enough biotin has the wrong mineral content. Either that, or the supplement has iron in it, a huge no-no especially when your horse is already drinking well water (well water tends to be high in iron as it is, and contrary to popular belief, horses do NOT need supplemental iron!) I want to try Equine Challenge Grass Supplement, but have not been able to afford it. Judy suggested Focus HF, but after some research online, I have gone with Kauffman's Integri-Hoof. It is affordable at $27 for a 30 day supply, and is The Horse Journal's #1 choice both as a general supplement and as a hoof supplement. I may have just found my California Trace substitute...we shall see how her feet look in 3 months from now-those rings on her feet should have grown out some by then.

 I'm still debating whether to keep this farrier or go back to the previous one, or just try her out barefoot again altogether...I thought her feet looked better with the previous farrier, but there are other factors at stake here too: the rainy season has started, and the change from wet to dry and back again will wreck havoc on a horse's feet; she's been off her hoof supplement for 3-4 months; and I've been working her more to the right in an effort to get her more supple in that direction. So all of these things could be contributing to the changes in her feet. Around this time last year I tried her out barefoot and that was when her right front became misshapen...I'm wondering if it's more of an environmental & dietary factor contributing to the foot, as last year I didn't have her on the California Trace yet, and rainy season was in full swing. I'm not sure yet what to do. I look at Bali's gorgeous bare feet and wish I could do the same with Lily. Diana's farrier does a nice job, even though I've never heard of him before. I do like Edmundo and the fact that I can talk to him and ask questions, and he is constantly educating himself.


Bali's pretty bare feet, 3 days after their trim
I have not written about Rose in a long time because I simply have not ridden her in a long time. Her issues continue. Her right hip had been bothering her and she had been slightly off in the back because of it. Judy was giving her glucosamine injections per the veterinarian, but this had not made a significant difference. Judy started her on Recovery EQ, and no difference there either. The one thing that made a difference was placing her on the liquid supplement whose name I can't for the life of me remember (I just know Smartpak doesn't sell it) and her hips don't click anymore when she is being ridden. She has been in heart bar shoes for the last 7 months per the vet as well, and on Sunday Edmundo recommended placing Rose in regular aluminum shoes, since her heels are high enough that she will have enough support for her suspensories. He also showed Judy where the heart bar shoes were digging into Rose's heels, which may have been causing some of her current hind end issues, as the sore heels would have caused her to rock her weight back 24/7, making her hips sore in turn. After the first heart bar came off and the first aluminum shoe went on, Rose immediately seemed relieved and was much more cooperative for her other 3 feet. Hopefully this resolves some of her issues. Fingers crossed!

I rode Lily Western on Saturday again and since it was too hot to ride in the arena, even at 6:00 pm, I took her out on the trails where there is shade. We had a great workout-we did a good 45 minutes of solid trot work on the trails, alternating between extended and collected trot. Mentally she was really good, too-she stopped or paused to look at things, and tried to turn around a couple of times, but I only had to circle her once each time and send her forward, and she complied. We power-walked home. I'm falling in love with riding her Western, to tell the truth-since I can't feel every little time she tenses up, I'm a lot more relaxed if and when she acts up, which in turn makes her a lot more relaxed overall. I've actually looked at Western saddles on eBay, but it is only a thought I'm entertaining while I wait for my saddle to arrive. Hopefully I feel as secure in the Alta Escuela as I do in Dianne's Western saddle, and hopefully it really does fit Lily that well.

Ines has officially started jumping Pink after a good 6 months of flatwork. Since we don't have jumps at our barn, she's been paying an arena fee at one of the barns across the street and riding Pink there. Pink did great last time, except for a couple of stops, but once they warmed up and got going, Pink was fantastic. On Sunday we all went over to the other barn to watch the ride, but it was already infernally hot at 8:00 am, and Pink fatigued rapidly. There was a small box jump that she refused to go over. It was not fear-she simply came to a stop and would not even walk over it, despite being only about 2' tall. Both Judy and I observed that her reaction seemed to be more pain-induced: Pink has arthritis in her rear fetlocks for sure, and probably in her hocks as well, and sometimes has problems lifting her hind legs over fences. I'm sure the high humidity wasn't helping Pink's joints. Ines finally got Pink to trot over the small jump and ended the session there.  No one knows Pink's background other than she used to race, but there were many years in between that we know nothing about-she was found by the SPCA abandoned in a field with another mare, and was at the SPCA for about 6 months before Dianne adopted her. I doubt her name was ever changed, as she has always responded to "Pink" and will come when called by her name. She does know how to jump, is relaxed about it to the point of distraction, and is unfazed by funny-looking jumps, so at some point she was trained over fences. She has a terrific jump when you can get her to pay attention!

That afternoon, Judy and I rode Rose and Lily out to the park for a 45 minute walk. It was too hot to do much else, and for some reason, both mares were particularly skittish. I'm not sure why because there was nothing going on in the park-all was quiet, but I was surprised, as Lily had been so good the day before.

That evening all of us went out to a local burger place for dinner. It had been MONTHS since the whole barn went out like this-we used to do it every weekend, and it used to be one of the big highlights of the week for all of us. Even Charles came along this time, and him and Mark did some catching up. We had a great time. It's nice to have things back to normal at the barn.