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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

And the barefoot adventure begins!...

After spending the last 3 days looking at Lily's feet more than any other part of her body, I went online to grab the bull by the horns. Feeling empowered after reading The Barefoot Horse website from top to bottom (I can do this! I know I can!), I went to Star Ridge Company and ordered my first rasp, gloves, and the book Horse Owner's Guide to Natural Hoof Care by Jamie Jackson. I'm doing it! I'm going to start tackling Lily's hooves myself. With supervision from my farrier, of course (hey-he did offer, after all!), but I want to do it.

Here we go!

Isn't that a GORGEOUS hoof? It's not Lily's. It belongs to a horse from the UK. Photo from the Barefoot Horse Blog. If you're into barefoot, you should totally check out that blog.

Vet visit

Dr. Glen Gillard, one of the best vets in our area, if you ask me, was able to come out today after all! I called the office again at 9:00 am, right after they opened, and they were able to squeeze me in for a 10:30am appointment! I was already at the barn to remove Lily's bandage from her foot and clean her stall at that time, so I decided to just hang around and wait.

This is how she's been resting that foot for the last couple of days. See? It's not the normal way a relaxed horse will rest a foot-she sets it off to the side, keeping all of her weight on her right hind.
I did attempt to soak her foot in hot water with Epsom salts, but she was not thrilled about the hot water on her sore foot, and eventually managed to spill the entire tub of water (I used one of our giant rubber feeders for this-if she stepped on it by accident it would give) between trying to talk to Rose and flirt with Bob. She spilled the soak in the process of wiggling her butt over to Bob so she could squirt all over the wall of his stall...when I turned to look, BOTH Bob and Rose (who is a mare!) had their lips up in the flehmen. Apparently Lily's hot stuff...

Iffy about the hot water.
I shooed Bob out into his paddock, "She's MY mare!" (him and I argue about this), patiently made Lily stand straight on the cross-ties again while she rolled her eyes at me, and hosed down the wall of Bob's stall to remove Lily's urine. Mares!

It's a hike to the hot water tap, so I ended up using room temperature water with Epsom salts instead. It's not as effective but this still works-I know from personal experience from treating infected cat bites. This she tolerated better, especially when I put her feeder with bute, crumbled Stud Muffins and a drizzle of molasses in front of her.

Room temperature soak while she eats her bute-and-treats mix

I finished picking her stall while she ate, and then I moved her over to the other, dry wash rack to allow her foot to dry before doing anything with it. Some gunk did come out after the soaking; I wiped the underside of the hoof clean and wrapped a small hand towel around the hoof to keep dirt out of it.

The giant crack in her frog. Nice and clean after her Epsom salt soak.

I ended up not doing anything else with her foot; I let it be so Dr. Gillard could see it as is, and put her back in her now immaculate stall.

Mark and Dianne showed up to do their chores while I was puttering around waiting for the vet. Once she had settled down, Lily was in uber-sweet mode. Dianne and I stood in front of her stall talking about her, and Lily poked her face out, sniffed at Dianne's cheek, then stuck her nose under my chin, and started nuzzling the collar of my shirt, making doe eyes at me (she gets a very soft expression, and her eyelids droop a little). She's always very sweet with everyone, but I was moved by the extra gesture for me. After that, she was extremely attentive, watching my every move as I did the minis' stalls and cleaned up around the barn, even though both Mark and Dianne were working down by her stall.

Dr. Gillard arrived 45 minutes late, which is the norm for all equine vets in our area as the South FL equestrian scene moves into fall and the busy show season. He had me walk Lily up and down the barn aisle to watch her move, and then took a look at her foot. I explained what had happened while applying the Today and showed him the syringe. After palpating her frog and eliciting some flinching, he said she should probably receive a broader spectrum topical antibiotic, plus an oral one (thank God-I did want systemic antibiotics, since I have no idea what that hoof looks like on the inside), bute twice a day (already on it!), and inject the crevice with hydrogen peroxide to get oxygen in there and kill any anaerobic bacteria once a day. He gave me a 20ml syringe for this and a 14G IV catheter for this. Afterwards, I would stuff the hole with cotton dipped in the topical antibiotic medication. He told me to only wrap the foot if she was going to be on damp footing, and to definetely walk her-either hand walks or tack walking was fine, to promote circulation. Yesss! We get to ride in the wide open arena after all!

As soon as the doctor left, I proceeded to treat Lily's hoof. I poured 10mls of hydrogen peroxide into the syringe, removed the catheter stylette and attached the catheter to the syringe; prepared my cotton with medication; and had Dianne hold Lily with a twitch while I did this. Getting that catheter tip into the crevice was not an easy task, as Lily kept kicking out half-heartedly (the twitch did make a difference in her level of cooperation). In the process of her wiggling her foot around, the catheter tip did end up slipping in farther than I originally wanted, but I used it as a chance to quickly inject the peroxide. Bubbles and blood came out. I squirted the rest of the peroxide into the crack, then let her rest the tip of her foot on the floor and with cotton-tipped applicators, I gently stuffed the medicated cotton into the hole. I thought this would be more difficult than the peroxide injection, but she actually tolerated it very well.

I put her back in her stall and mixed up some beet pulp with the Tucoprim powder that Dr. Gillard had prescribed. She ate most of it without a problem.

That afternoon I returned to ride. While grooming Lily and tacking up, I noticed she was either standing square or even resting the right foot, in a normal way. Yay! She already feels better!

We stayed in the arena as night fell, and ended up doing an hour of walk work. She was very "up" to begin with, as I knew she'd be between being in heat and not having been worked in 5 days, and she tried balking at the corner of the arena that adjoins Bali's turnout to protest the fact that she was being ridden while Bali was out having fun. I asked Lily politely to continue, but when she tossed her head in protest, I gave her one sharp kick, where she leaped straight up in the air with all 4 feet off the ground like a frightened cat, then continued walking as if nothing had happened. She didn't balk again.

We did A LOT of lateral work: shoulder-in, shoulder-out, renvers, side-pass, leg yields, shallow loops, turns on the haunches and voltes, and a cool exercise from 101 Dressage Exercises where you do leg yield to half-pass as you go down the long sides of the arena. Basically, you are maintaining the same bend as the horse moves diagonally and laterally from the rail to the quarter line and back again. She actually did really, really well with this, switching from one side to the other as I shifted my weight and leg. She especially gave me a good try tracking left, which is her stiffer side.

Initially she wanted to complain, especially since I was riding her in the pelham with a single set of reins (extra braking power in case she decided to go cuckoo), but I was very quick to reward every little effort, and she soon became relaxed and willing. The one thing she refused to do was the Ackerman Square-she was hypersensitive to my seat, and wriggled forward, backwards, diagonally, and just seemed unable to focus on sidepassing in a straight line sideways no matter how I sat-every correction from me turned into an overcorrection on her part. I switched to turns on the haunches, and abandoned the exercise for another time-I really didn't want to fight with her when she's like this. I love her sensitivity, and I also love that she totally tells on me. 99.99% of the time, when she doesn't get something or can't do something, it is completely and totally my fault-I'm contradicting my cues unawares. She'll still try, though, but will become very frustrated, "You want me to do this thing, but your body is completely telling me to do this other thing! Arrrgh!! Make up your mind!!" At this point, it's best to let it go, avoid the meltdown, and revisit the exercise at a later time when she's more relaxed and I can concentrate on correcting what I'm doing wrong.

We finished the session with a power walk on a loose rein, Lily's nose almost to the ground, her stride long, her back up and swinging. I then gathered her up and had her do 6 steps of reinback in a straight line (she tries to escape sideways), then had her halt and got off, giving her lots of pats.

Even though she has never been trained in this sport, Lily is totally teaching me dressage. She can do everything; I know she could go all the way up to at least Fourth Level if we wanted to. She may never beat the fancy warmbloods, but she can certainly perform the movements.

I just have to learn to ask correctly and accurately, each time. We'll get there.

I let her chill in front of the fan-she was not hot, but she had broken a little bit of a sweat, so I allowed her to dry before grooming her, set up her bute with Stud Muffins in our tack stall (she took 2 steps forward in the cross ties when she smelled them! *lol*), then had Diana hold the twitch while I treated her hoof again. Her reaction was not as dramatic as this morning when I injected the peroxide, and as soon as the twitch was off, I placed the Stud Muffin feeder in front of her right away, so she'd associate it with a reward. She scarfed happily while I finished setting up her feed, with one cross tie attached to only one side of her halter, which meant that when she was done, she was free to wander over to Rose's stall wall to sneak some of the hay from Rose's haynet through the stall boards.

I put Lily back in her stall with her own dinner. Goofy mare. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I went today and Lily's left hind leg looked fine, but her right hind was slightly puffy, and the tendons were sore when palpated. Not good-this meant she had been putting all of her weight on the right hind overnight. I took her out of the stall and placed her on the cross-ties, and she immediately cocked the left hind. Sigh. I looked at the foot again, and brushed the frog off with the hoofpick brush, and she flinched. I applied more Today into the crevice in her frog. I introduced the tip of the syringe (Today is primarily a mastitis medication, actually a topical cephalosporin antibiotic, but very effective for thrush, and is available in dosing syringes with a very thin, flexible plastic tip, easily inserted into cracks in the hooves) into the crevice about 1/2" and as I was applying it down the length of the crack, the syringe tip suddenly slipped all the way into the crack. Lily immediately jumped and kicked back in pain; the syringe tip came out bloody. Yup, no wonder she's holding that foot up-the infection is pretty deep.

I hosed off her right leg, placed her on the other wash rack so she'd be standing on dry mats, and put her ice boot on her right hind. I mixed some bute with a couple of crumbled Stud Muffins horse treats (she LOVES them), and let her scarf while the Today dried on her foot. I called my vet and left a message to schedule an appointment ASAP, and picked Lily's stall, at the same time debating whether I should wrap the foot or leave it exposed to air. Thrush is usually accompanied by anaerobic bacteria, which thrive in moist, dark spaces with no air. But the crack was so deep I didn't want more dirt and manure getting into it. In the end, I chose to treat it as an abscess and wrap it.

By then Dianne and Mark had arrived at the barn, and were concerned with me when I told them what was going on with Lily. I decided to use it as a teaching experience and showed Dianne how to wrap a hoof: I applied more Today inside the crevice (this time blood came to the surface and dribbled down her foot...this upset me, but I guess it's better than pus coming out of such a deep hole), poured iodine over the frog, then soaked a couple of gauze squares with iodine and placed them over the frog. I did a figure-8 bandage with Vetrap around the hoof, then reinforced it with plenty of duct tape. I then applied Sore No More gel to the tendons of her right hind leg, and proceeded to place standing wraps on both hind legs for extra support. I dumped extra shavings in her stall for additonal cushioning, and decided to keep her locked in until Wednesday. The poor thing is going to go stir-crazy cooped up, but her walkout and turnout were still damp from all the rain.

Hopefully the vet can come Thursday morning at the latest. I think it was too short notice for him to make it out Wednesday. I just need to know how to treat this infection-should I keep it covered or exposed to air? Should I soak it? Should I let her walk (for thrush and abscesses, you WANT the horse to continue to move to promote circulation, growth, and push the infection out), or confine her because she hurts? Is it ok to ride her at a walk, or should I hand-walk her? And I think she needs a tetanus booster and oral antibiotics. But then that's also the ER vet tech in me talking...hopefully this is easily resolved. And how did it get so bad? I'm guessing having a wet stall for 2 days in a row (despite stripping it and giving her fresh dry bedding each of those days) aggravated an already existent problem. I'm just upset that it got this bad...I'm really diligent about her feet, and had been applying Durasole (which has formalin in it, another thrush treatment/preventive) to all 4 feet almost every day for the last 6 weeks. I have to post pictures of her frog. I've battled some really nasty chronic thrush where the horses' frogs were flaking off. Lily's frog looks great other than the one fissure down its length.

 So for now it's watch and wait, keep the foot dry and clean, and try to keep my fatalist inner voice quiet!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Isaac arrived Saturday evening as a tropical storm. Charles had picked up more hay and shavings for Diana and me at Finish Line feed on Friday morning on his way back from work, so both Diana and I were set for the storm supply-wise. I was called to work relief at another veterinary hospital all day Saturday until 10pm, and so I did not make it out to the barn that day to get my things in order. Diana took care of everything-she took all of hers, Mark's, Dianne's, and my stuff that we had hanging either in front of our stalls or in our tack stall into the feed room, where it wouldn't blow away.

Judy found on Craig's List someone selling giant plastic drums for storing water, and purchased 3 of them for the barn. We have well water, and without electricity, the well pump won't work, so this was a good thing to have regardless. Judy has never lived through a tropical storm nor a hurricane before (she is from the Midwest), and was afraid. She had discussed moving all of the horses down to the end closest to the feed room and boarding up the walkout entrances, but no one liked this idea: if the power went out, the horses would roast in their stalls, and if the storm turned as expected, we would probably only get a lot of rain and a little wind. Plus it was a lot of work, and we've all been exhausted at the barn. There have been some issues going on with Judy and we are all doing a lot more work than we originally expected when we came to board here. We're tired, and none of us boarders who are seasoned hurricane veterans were particularly worried about Isaac, especially given that every 12 hours the news reports were placing the storm track further south and west of Florida.

Well, I had to stay up very late Saturday night because I was working an overnight relief shift at the same hospital again on Sunday night. Charles was home for the night, too, so we made a 2:00 am run to the local Walmart Supercenter and rented The Hunger Games. The movie ended up being a long one, so at 4:30 am, when the first bands of wind and rain hit us, I was wide awake. I thought Diana had been overreacting by bringing all of our stuff into the feed room, but at that point, I was really glad she did.

I woke up at 3:00 pm to on-and-off rain and wind. At 4:00 pm I drove to the barn when there was a lull in the weather. It was picking up again as I turned onto our street. This street runs in front of the park. One portion of the road has a row of trees by a pond that were serving as a very visible barrier from the wind and rain, as further down the street, where there were no trees, you could see the wall of wind and rain that was sweeping in from the park.

An example of tropical storm weather

The driveway to the barn was beginning to flood, as it always does when it rains a lot, but the rain stopped as I parked. Water was draining from the walkouts into the parking lot, and in a desperate measure to not get my sneakers wet, I took them off and, carrying my socks in my hand, I hopped into the ankle-deep water barefoot and ran into the barn.

Mark and Dianne were there, and they had been at the barn most of the day taking care of storm preparations. According to the news per Mark, the worst of the storm had already passed that morning, but I didn't believe it given what I had just seen on the short drive to the barn. Judy had parked her horse trailer right in front of Bali's walkout in a vain attempt to block the wind, but it looked like the Tower of Pisa when seen from the front-tilted towards the walkout thanks to the graded footing between the ends of the walkouts and the parking lot. Diana had not been happy when she had seen it. First of all, the wind comes from all directions with tropical storms and hurricanes, and second, if the winds had been stronger, that trailer would have ended up on top of the Bali's walkout fence, if not Bali herself. Bali's colic back on the 4th of July was not managed well by Judy, and Diana is reaching her wits' end with the handling of her horse by the barn manager.

You just don't do this:
Judy's trailer lined up in front of Bali's walkout: the Leaning Trailer of Pisa. The wind came from the east/southeast, towards the barn...had it been a real storm, this trailer would've toppled over for real.

when you know that this can happen:

Trailer turned over by the winds from Hurricane Georges, a category 3 storm that split Puerto Rico in two in 1999. I experienced it first-hand. Photo courtesy of Sol Boricua.
Mark tried to explain to Judy that the trailer was a bad idea, but she wasn't listening. You can understand why Diana, another experienced hurricane veteran, did not take take that sight above well.
Lily's stall was soaked from the rain that had blown in through her walkout entrance. (And so was Bali's-the trailer did NOTHING in terms of blocking wind and rain!) Mark had locked everyone except for Bali in with their stall guards-Bali was the exception because she will simply plow through her stall guard if she feels like going outside. Judy had had Mark move the muck buckets that we use as a water supply from the turnouts into the horses' stalls. Initially I wasn't thrilled with the possibility of Lily overturning a giant muck bucket of water in her stall, but this turned out to be a smart move in the end.

All of the horses were wearing their fly masks to protect their eyes from flying shavings, which was a good idea. I placed Lily on the crossties with her soaked beet pulp/grain mix, and let her eat while I stripped her stall. She didn't care about the wind blowing through the barn. My little Florida mare.

Lily enjoying her dinner despite the nasty storm

4 wheelbarrows full of wet shavings later, the stall was clean down to the mats. I laid down a bag of ultra fine shavings to soak up the wet from the mats, and coarser shavings on top. Normally I would've bedded the stall down deeper, but I knew I'd be stripping the stall again the next day, and if the storm got bad overnight, I doubted Lily would feel inclined to lay down in her stall anyway.

Diana arrived when I was halfway done with my stall, as Mark and Dianne were leaving, and we quickly fed all of the horses and topped off water buckets. Everyone received 2 full haynets for the night, as I was going to be at work and Diana was not driving back out to the barn in the middle of the storm to do the late dinner. We were done by 6:00 pm. The horses were as safe and comfortable as we could make them.

As I was driving home, a ferocious band of rain moved in, the rain coming down so hard that I could not see the road, even with the truck windshield wipers at maximum speed. In the 5 minutes it took for me to get home, however, the rain vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, and I was able to run from the truck to our house without getting drenched.

I was able to drive to work inbetween bands of rain, thank God, though I still witnessed a car crash into the guardrail right in front of me on the Turnpike heading north, and drove past multiple fallen trees as I was arriving at Boynton Beach. Not pretty. I walked into the emergency hospital to find a waiting room full of clients and their pets, all of the rooms occuppied and, in the ICU, a dog that had been just brought back from the dead with CPR. Talk about a stormy night. It was total and absolute chaos, like something out of a movie. Within half an hour, I had taken radiographs on 2 patients, placed an IV catheter and drawn blood on a third that was being hospitalized, triaged another incoming emergency, and presented a treatment plan to a fifth client in an exam room. The pace was maddening. The 2 technicians that were supposed to leave at 8pm stayed until 10pm to help us get caught up, but also because the weather outside was so bad it wasn't safe to drive.

Around 10pm, the emergencies stopped arriving, and we were able to catch up. By 11:30, we had either sent the clients back home with treated pets, or had hospitalized the patients that needed further medical attention. The storm outside was just getting worse by the hour. At midnight the two doctors, the other tech and I all sat down in front of the computer to check the radar, and saw that a massive rain band was moving over us, with more coming right behind it. None of the forecasts had said it was going to be this bad. There was horizontal rain outside, and the trees were being whipped and beaten mercilessly by the wind.

At 2:00 am there was a lull in the storm and we were able to take the hospitalized dogs outside for a walk, but by 3:00 am the onslaught began again. This was the image I found online of Isaac, courtesy of www.weather.com:

Isaac Sunday night

As you can see, the wind and rain we were receiving over South FL were pretty much equal in intensity to that at the eye of the storm. This explained a lot. Still, the hourly forecasts didn't even begin to describe what we were experiencing in person. We were dreading the morning and having to drive back to our homes in the storm.

Judy texted at 6:00 am - the electricity was out at the barn, but everyone was fed and watered.

Charles had an easy drive home from downtown Fort Lauderdale, but my drive home turned out to be pretty much as bad as I expected. It was windy in Boynton, but with a timid sun peeking out among the clouds. Halfway home on the Turnpike heading south, I could see the bands of rain-the road disappeared into a gray nothing topped off by dark, ominous clouds. I drove through 4 of these bands, one right after the other, a full 20 minutes of pummeling rain and driving wind, where the water was coming down so hard I could barely see the car in front of me. I had to hold the steering wheel with both hands to keep the car in my lane. It was terrifying.  It really should be illegal to drive around in tropical storms. Florida doesn't take them seriously, endangering the lives of everyone who is forced to go to work in inclement weather. It's ridiculous. A tropical storm can turn into a hurricane at a moment's notice if the conditions are favorable, and it has happened in the past in Florida. And then what do you do? You stay stuck at work for the next 24-48 hours, in a building that may or may not be hurricane safe, or you drive home in dangerous conditions to make sure your family and your posessions are safe? It's a catch-22.

In Puerto Rico, everything was shut down 24 hours before the storm, whether category 3 hurricane or just a tropical storm, and for 24 hours after to ensure that people stayed safe. I prefer this approach BY FAR.

We did have electricity at home, so I was able to shower with hot water and go to bed with AC. I went to the barn around 6:00 pm. It was cloudy outside, but the wind had died down, and it was sprinkling on and off. The power returned to the barn as I was walking in! It was good that the muck buckets had been placed in the stalls, as it had meant no one had had to worry yet about having to fill their water buckets from the water drums.

There were puddles in the turnouts and the arena, but it has been worse, so I turned Lily out with Willy while I cleaned her stall. The stall was pretty wet, as expected, though not as wet as on Sunday. Lily had a grand old time playing with Willy in Bali's turnout after 48 hours of being cooped up in her stall.

"Come on Willy, let's play!!"

Snorting at the big water puddle

Willy started looking for the perfect spot to roll, and Lily followed suit

A little rolling competition...*lol*

Lily's bucks

And an example of just how much air she can get between herself and the ground. That's a good 3 feet! From the angle of the photo it looks like she was about to kick at Willy, but she was even with the puddle-Willy was a good 20 feet away from her, and just happened to be running around in the background.

Her floaty trot

And a nice uphill canter

A more extended trot.


And they're off again...

I took out 3 wheelbarrow-fulls of wet shavings from her stall, and bedded it down deep. Around that time Diana arrived, and she put Bali out in the arena. Lily is in FLAMING HEAT and kept flirting with Bob over the fence and squirting, so I moved her and Willy out to the arena with Bali. The dressage arena had been taken down, and the horses had an absolute blast running back and forth through the water without having to jump over the dressage arena rails. The arena looks so much bigger without the dressage rails up. I wouldn't mind if Judy left it as is.

Lily and Bali walking off in the arena, almost perfectly synchronized

All hyped up from running around

I set up Lily's feed while the horses ran around and around outside. I finally went to get Lily, and they had settled down to grazing. Bali gave me a hard time when I went to get my mare, trying to wedge herself between Lily and the gate so she could escape first. I had to chase her off. Sometimes Bali tries to use her size and weight to get what she wants. I didn't let her this time. Diana ended up coming to our rescue and helped me close the gate behind Lily before Bali could try to charge through again. Lily was getting worked up, being her typical in-heat hypersensitive self, and ignoring what I was asking her to do, so I turned her around and calmly had her back up all the way down the hallway to the wash rack. I hooked her up to the crossties, and her eyes were bugging out, calling for Bali while Bob ran in and out of his walkout in the stall next door. *sigh* Horses.

I ignored Lily's nervousness and she settled down while I hosed her off on the crossties, since she was splattered with wet sand from the arena, and noticed that she is resting her left hind a lot. She always seems to rest it, but she was resting it more tonight. I felt all up and down her leg, and couldn't get a reaction from her, so her tendons seem to be okay. She does have a little crack in her frog, and I'm wondering if she doesn't have some thrush in there that's flaring up with all of the wetness of the last 2 days. I applied some Dry Cow Today to the crack and put her in her nice fluffy dry stall, leaving the stall chain up for one more night. I want to see what that leg looks like tomorrow. Hopefully it's just a bad case of thrush.

A watery moon was visible driving out of the barn, with some clouds sweeping in, but more like a normal South FL late summer evening.

And that was it for Tropical Storm Isaac.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stormy Weather

We did get to ride on Friday after all. It was sunny all day long; Diana swung by my house to pick me up at 3:30pm and we went to the barn. We did all of our chores first and fed the horses their early dinner a little after 4:00pm so we could head to the trails at a reasonable time. Lily was ignoring her early dinner hay and pouting for her beet pulp/grain mix, but I wanted to feed it after we were back. I went into her stall to give her attention, and she became super curious about me, sniffing my face, my neck, my arms, by body all the way down to my toes, and back up again. It took me a minute, but then I remembered I had used a different body lotion that day-it smelled really sweet and fruity. I guess she liked it? She repeated this a couple of times and the look on her face made me laugh. She was pressing her lips together tight in concentration, like "Hmmmmm...This looks like you but it certainly doesn't smell like you."

I took her out of the stall and checked her feet. Her energy was "up", not her usual super calm, laid-back self, and I figured it would be a good idea to lunge her before riding. However, her frogs on both hind feet looked somewhat bruised today-the farrier took off too much frog on her left hind as well! I applied Durasole to her frogs and soles, allowed it to dry, then I took her out to the arena while Diana waited for the other grooming station-Bob's owner was giving him a bath right then. I wanted to do a little groundwork, and then I was planning on letting her work at liberty around the perimeter of the dressage arena. The track around the arena is currently overgrown with weeds and grass from the rain and lack of use, so it's a soft cushy surface for sore feet.

I took the lunge whip with me this time instead of my dressage whip. The last time I worked her with the dressage whip free in the arena, she totally laughed at me and did whatever she wanted. I was also really tired that day, and I know this was also coming into play that time-without the right energy, it is nearly impossible to work a horse properly at liberty, either at close quarters (like in a round pen or the square picadero) or from afar. It is utterly AMAZING what you can do with a sensitive horse from one end of the arena, if you are able to project the right energy. It never ceases to astound me.

On this Friday, I felt that we had graduated to a level of trust where Lily would not run herself into the ground anymore at the sight of a lunge whip in my hand. I was right.

We walked quietly into the center of the arena, to a spot where the footing was softer, and I had her lunge a couple of times in each direction-I just wanted to watch her move, and also to control her warmup. She was definetely sore-she was not tracking up at the trot on her own, so I didn't push her. When I asked her to canter, she leaped into it and did her bycicles in the air (I love when she does this-her front end comes up, her head goes down, and she kicks her front legs forward, doing circles in the air. It reminds me more of a puppy playing than a horse!) which always makes me laugh, and tells me she's in a happy mood. She didn't hold the canter for long, and I didn't ask her to-only a few strides in each direction and that was it. We practiced a couple of changes of direction, where I changed the whip hand and lowered my upper body, and she was keyed into me so that she changed directions without barely missing a beat, without slowing down to a walk like she used to. Very cool. This was probably all a grand total of 5 minutes. I then took off running backwards in a straight line, with still 20m of lunge line between us, and she followed at a jog. I stopped, and she continued to jog, closing the distance and coming to a stop at a respectful 4 feet from me. I let her rest for a minute, patting her, and then practiced some turns on the forehand with her. I had read about this in the 101 Dressage Exercises book. She did it perfectly to the right (with me on her left, gently vibrating the lunge whip towards her hind legs), not so much to the left (with me standing on her right). One of the big things I discovered with Lily's groundwork is that she is decidedly one-sided-it is VERY obvious that in her early training they neglected to work her evenly from both sides, and when she is nervous or confused, she will actually GUARD her right side to keep you from stepping over to that side to ask her to do things. This sometimes makes me wonder if maybe she didn't happen to get beaten from the right side later when the cowboy handled her.

I then removed the lunge line from her halter and stepped back. Lily looked at me for a second, alert, and I pointed towards the arena fence, and she obliged, trotting off towards the wall.

She worked beautifully. I always let her run as much as she wants to, initially, because these are the only times when she can gallop and pick up speed, since our turnouts are small. This is also why I always like to warm her up properly before setting her free-otherwise, I would not have lunged her with sore feet on this day.

Happy canter around the arena.
After galloping and then cantering around, she slowed to a trot, and I asked for changes of direction and transitions from walk to trot to canter and back down again. She was a lot more comfortable on the outside track of the arena, on the grass. During the last few months, she has developed LOVELY transition from walk to trot at liberty, where her back and withers come up as she pushes off into a big snappy trot, and she'll look like a mini upper-level dressage warmblood for a minute, before settling into a long, sweeping trot. She didn't do this today because it involved her pushing with her sore back feet, but she still gave me a nice long trot.
Standardbred trot around the arena

Her natural self-carriage has improved a lot in the last few months, I think

Should I come or should I stay?

I asked her to stop by standing still-as long as she is moving, I'm walking in a smaller circle in the center of the arena. This time, however, she wouldn't come to me-she'd just stand and stare at me. So I'd send her away to work, and try again. She would stop when I did, but still wouldn't come. We tried this a few times, and I must've been doing something different with my body language, because she would not come, even when I tried dropping the whip on the ground before standing still myself. So eventually I just had her stand still for a minute, and then walked over to her, put her regular lead rope on her halter, and we did an old Parelli exercise where I pass the lead rope behind her neck, opposite the side I'm standing on, and move lengthwise towards her rear end. The end result is that she must move forwards and come back to face me-the pressure on the lead rope will bring her back in a half-circle in the opposite direction from me. She used to freak out so much with this exercise, but we have this down to almost a dance-she knows to come back even before feeling the pressure of the lead rope on her halter. It's the best gauge of her mental state: if she is able to do it quietly, without even flinching (sometimes she still does if she's on edge, so we'll have to do it a couple of times to remind her that I'm not going to hurt her), I know she's in a very relaxed state of mind. On this day, she was 100% relaxed.

At that point I stood with her for a minute, and then led her back indoors. I hosed her off-we'd only been out in the arena for about 15 minutes, but there was that pre-storm heat and she had broken a sweat. I sweat-scraped her and tacked her up, still wet, knowing this would keep her more comfortable during the ride.

Dark clouds started to roll in as we made our way down the road to the park. Lily again looked at the clumps of dry, cut grass on the side of the path leading to the park entrance, and leaped over a palm leaf lying on the ground. I took her back to it and made her walk around it until she finally stood with both feet on it and relaxed, while Diana and Bali waited for us patiently. Silly mare.
Scary clumps of dry grass!

Once inside the park, we turned right and took the skinny trails, alternating between walking and trotting. Both Lily and Bali behaved well, despite the wind beginning to pick up and rustling through the treetops.
Bali and Diana take the lead at a trot.
We took turns leading, until we were out by the powerlines again. We crossed the street by the powerlines and headed into the main trails, which were unusually dark from the impending storm. We trotted and even cantered a bit, and took the mares through the handicapped rider's trails, with all of their little obstacles. Lily looked at some of the obstacles more than usual, but did not spook nor startle.

We came out of the main trails with the intention of crossing over the hills by the park pastures before heading home, but a flash of nearby lightning quickly made us change our minds. Instead, we turned back towards the powerlines and walked the rest of the way home. The wind was really picking up then. Thankfully, the two mares remained calm despite all the swirling vegetation around them.
Storm rolling in

The wind whipping through the tall grass by the powerlines

Diana and Bali :)
As we were reaching the end of the powerlines, I saw something dark jumping through the tall grass, and realized it was a loose dog. I have issues with dogs being off-leash around horses, and it is not allowed at the park. A couple of weeks ago, a couple of loose dogs almost caused a massive accident, spooking a group of riders on a guided trail ride on the park horses. Luckily nobody was hurt. This time, the dog belonged to a couple who had both of their dogs off-leash. I cursed out loud and it must've carried in the wind, because they immediately picked up their other dog, a beagle, and started looking for the black dog that had escaped. They made it all the way to the end of the powerlines with us, and they still hadn't found their second dog. That's what happens when you let your dog off leash, people.

Back in Puerto Rico people were not very good about keeping their dogs inside their houses or even confined to their yards. Loose dogs were a problem-they would chase cars, people, and horses. Thankfully, Lucero, my Paso Fino, was very brave, and I trained him to swing around and chase any dog that came up on our heels. He eventually learned to do it on his own, without a signal from me, and we were always lucky that the dogs never stood their ground.

Lily does like to chase things when I ask her to so far, but I don't know if she'd be willing to chase after an aggressive, barking dog. 

The rest of the ride back home was uneventful. Back at the barn, we rode into the arena to dismount as more lightning flashed in the distance. At that instant, Oreo came tearing out of the barn in a mad dash towards the far wall of the arena, with one of the brown tabbies in close pursuit. I don't like that tabby-she bullies Oreo constantly, and she used to pick fights with Smiles, Judy's barn kitty before Oreo.

Oreo leaped on the wall about 8 feet away from Lily and me, and the other cat stopped in her tracks when she saw Lily. I kicked Lily into a canter from a standstill and we took off after the tabby, chasing her out of the arena, away from Oreo. Lily received a big pat from me, and I hopped off.

We didn't hose the mares off, as they had barely broken a sweat. Instead, we untacked them and turned them out in the arena with little Willy to graze while we picked their stalls. The storm was holding and the lightning sirens had not sounded from the park, so it was still far away. The horses got to graze for about an hour before we brought them back in.

The first rain bands from Isaac were supposed to start coming that night, so we left all the horses inside for the night.

Friday, August 24, 2012


The farrier came today, and he was very happy with Lily's barefoot progress.

First trim & front shoe removal on July 20:

He left the toes long to see how she'd wear them down-he didn't want to take off too much and then have her be constantly footsore because of not having any foot to wear down.

He filled the nail holes with wood putty. I thought this was ingenious, and it actually worked-the nail holes did not crack during the 4-week period between trims.

Left hoof. Note the slightly uneven heels-the farrier said she puts more weight on the inside heel, but this can eventually be corrected.

Right front. Same issue with the heels on this side too.The mat was wet on this side, so the underside of the hoof was also wet, and there's some gunk stuck around the area of the white line.

Second trim, today:

I just realized I took this one at a different angle from the first. But you can see that he completely took off the nail holes. The toes are still somewhat long, for the same reason as before.

Her feet look uneven in this shot, but they actually look more even, in person, than they have in awhile!

The chip on her left front that had me concerned a week ago, but she's worn it down herself.

He took off some of the apex of her frog on her right hind, I'm not sure why, and there was some vascularization close to the surface of the frog-maybe an old bruise? Or maybe she had thrush starting there? It looked really ouchy, and I was upset because the farrier did NOT bring up any issues after the trim-he actually said she had no thrush, too. I'll get pictures-I didn't have my cell on me at the time, and by the time I took the photos of her feet above, I'd already applied Durasole to her feet. I was cleaning Willy's stall across the way while the farrier was doing her back feet, so I didn't catch this until after he'd left, and he didn't mention it while we were talking about her feet afterwards. Next time I'll just stand there and watch the entire time. I thought that in barefoot horses you mostly leave the frogs alone, especially on hooves like her back feet, that have been barefoot forever.

I'm soooo itching to do this myself; I'm just afraid of screwing up. Anyone do their own trimming out there?

Any plans on riding in the arena were pretty much done-I wasn't going to ride her in that rocky, sandy footing with a sore foot. So I decided to take her out to the park instead and just walk in the open areas on the grass. We have Tropical Storm Isaac threatening to come in the vecinity of Florida, so I wanted her to get some exercise, in case she ends up cooped up for the next few days due to the rain. I switched the baucher back out for her pelham, with only 1 set of reins on the shanks, in case she decided to go cuckoo, though she'd been so good the last several outings that I wasn't expecting her to be any different.

Dianne rode out with me on Beau, and as it turns out, it was probably a good thing they were with us! Lily was looky going down the white trail to the park. The grass on both sides had been recently mowed, and there were clumps of dried grass clippings lying in little piles all over the path and the grass. Lily stared at them as if they were rabid.

Going down the powerlines the horses were fine. The sky was overcast, and a nice cool breeze was blowing-the weather was perfect for riding. We turned left at the end of the powerlines, and I decided to take us through a service path that leads inbetween the park horse pastures and the Horses for the Handicapped covered arena. A stablehand was turning 2 horses out, and Lily just had to stop and watch, then leaped forward, terrified, when the girl slammed the gate door. Oookay... Overreact much? It's not like she's never heard a gate slam shut. I had to spin her around, narrowly missing poor Beau's surprised nose, and then we made our way hesitantly up the path. The footing had patches of black mud in the grass, which Lily snorted at as if they were cavernous holes in the ground, refusing to walk over them, and then, at the end of the path, tried to turn tail back home for no reason at all. She's been on this path before, just in the opposite direction-it's not like she's never seen it, either. I spun her around again to face forward, and she settled down as we crossed over to the park barn, through the children's playground. She actually didn't care about the playground at all, and we walked through the parking lot quietly, heading up the grass that runs along the pasture fence line. All of the park horses were turned out for the night, and a little red dun mare came trotting up to say hi, followed by a cute silver dapple pony. Dianne used to work at the park barn, and she was telling me about the two horses, when all of a sudden, they both took off running and bucking along the fence line, and some of the other horses joined them. It was like someone had flipped Lily's Dynamite Switch to "On". She whirled around, tail flagged, and tried to take off with the other 2 horses, but was brought to a rude stop by my hands on the reins. She arched her neck beautifully and pranced, but I felt all of her energy relocate to her haunches, and before she could try anything, I moved her off of the grass along the fence in a hurry-I did NOT want her rearing on an incline. She protested, tossing her head and prancing more, and I tried turning her away from the playing horses, but she spun around to face them one more time and gave a LOUD BLAST through her nose. Once, in a single exhale. If she had had fire-breathing capabilities, flames would've come out of her nostrils at that moment. *lol* I got her onto the grassy field on the other side of the path by the fence, maintaining her moving in small tight circles to keep her mind off of going UP and AWAY. She settled into an animated walk, neck arched, but as we were walking away on a straight line, she did manage to throw in a single rear, just to let me know exactly what she thought about me not leting her play with her new friends. She landed, and we walked off as if nothing had happened. Dianne in the meantime had just been focused on staying out of wild woman's way, and Beau did all of us proud by staying impassively calm. There have been times when he's fed off of other horses' excitement, but not today, thankfully.

Note to self: do NOT walk along the fence line by the pastures when the horses are turned out, especially if riding by ourselves!

Lily settled down quickly, and we made our way back through the hills to return to the powerlines. It's amazing how much my attitude affects her- if I'm calm despite her own nerves (like today), she really will settle down quickly. However, if I allow myself to be affected, her nervousness will snowball. She was a very good girl for the rest of the ride, and I rode her on a long loopy rein. Our ride was almost exactly 45 minutes long. I was glad I'd chosen to do this ride, though, because Lily was definetely sore on pavement.

Back at the barn, Lily had barely broken a sweat, so I only hosed down her shoulders and back, then let her dry in front of the fan. She then went out with Willy and their haynets. Hopefully it stays dry tonight and tomorrow-Diana and I are supposed to go for a hack in the afternoon. Go away, Isaac!


Last night I had another good ride on Lily. I finally, finally purchased the book 101 Dressage Exercises, so I wanted to add some of these to her workout. I switched out her pelham for my baucher French link, which she likes, because some of the exercises I wanted to do involved lateral work, and I didn't want the additional leverage of the pelham for these exercises-I wanted her to enjoy it, not be tossing her head in frustration.

We started out with our usual walk on a loose rein, then did some shoulder-in at the walk in both directions to loosen her up, and we moved on to a regular trot. Again she sucked back in the corner closest to the gate that leads out of the arena (not the barn gate, the one that leads to the parking lot. She's never cared about this gate, and if it's open she has to be coaxed to exit through it) and pinned her ears when I asked her for more trot. That was it. She'd been doing this for 2 weeks and I was done. I smacked her on the shoulder, not hard, but enough to make a sound, and this completely took her by surprise! She jumped into a canter. I immediately brought her back down to a trot, quietly, and had her circle in that same corner at a trot. She settled down quickly- this was the kind of reprimand that a year ago would have kept her nervous for a week!- and continued at a nice working trot. She did not try to suck back at that corner again, so for the first time in 2 weeks we actually had a normal workout of walk-trot-canter sequence. With the baucher she would occassionally go above the bit, but not the way she used to in the beginning, back when I first started working with her. As she warmed up, she was almost leaning on the bit when I asked her to lengthen down the long sides of the arena. Slowing my posting seems to help lighten her, and I can feel her back come up underneath me in these instances. I wish I had constant video of our work. It's hard sometimes to know if what we're doing looks the way it feels, especially since I haven't done any of this on a seasoned dressage horse to know how it should feel.

We started with this exercise at the trot, which we had already been doing, except we do the short sides of the arena in shoulder-in only:

Changing bends was actually simpler with the baucher, and she kept up the trot all the way around the arena, in both directions.

We then took a walk break on a loose rein, and afterwards, I picked her up and did this one:

She totally rocked the side-pass. The square was probably more rhomboid in nature, but her side-passes were fairly straight and even in both directions (I had no markers, so I knew the sides of the square were not all the same length, but whatever), and quarter turns on the forehand were perfect!! I had never asked her for any kind of turn on the forehand while riding. She received lots of pats and another walk break.

I let her do some medium trot around the arena, with large 20m circles maintaining the pace, and back to a walk. We then practiced walk-canter-walk transitions once around the arena in each direction. Still a couple of trot steps going into the canter and back to a walk when on the left lead-I have to set her up perfectly to be able to go into the up transition without any trot, especially on this lead. We got it on the second try.

Lily was really into her trot work last night, and wanted to fly at the trot. I collected her into more shoulder ins down the long sides of the arena again, again once in each direction, and her energy was such that she gave me some of the most forward shoulder-ins ever so far. We then we tried our hand at a canter circle, with a halt after a full circle. I didn't expect her to be able to pull this off, as it is an advanced exercise, but she surprised me by giving me a clean halt and a very "up" canter depart on the right lead. It was excellent! We did it 3 times on the right lead, then gave it a go on the left lead. Not so successful-Lily picked up the incorrect lead twice (my fault-I wasn't sitting straight in the saddle), then became VERY riled up, anticipating the canter depart from the halt to the point that she actually sprang into the air, all 4 feet off the ground at once, before I could properly cue her. Laughing, I had her stop and stand, but she kept wiggling-to the front, backwards, and to the sides! I finally got her to settle down and just stand quietly for a few seconds, during which she kept turning her head to nuzzle my left foot, like, "Mom! What are you waiting for? I want to GO!" When she finally just STOOD, I just asked her for couple of trot-canter-trot transitions on the circle to relax her. Once she'd stopped anticipating, we moved on to a different exercise. I probably should've tried the canter-halt circles again, but I know my mare, and to press the issue would have just caused her get more and more revved up-I'd rather keep her in a meltdown-free state of mind; we can always re-visit this exercise later.  

So we moved onto this exercise, in which I discovered we really need a longer arena (ours is 20x40m):

The leg yields down the short diagonal were just taking us right into the corner, so in the corner I'd cue for the canter and we'd do a canter circle before coming back to a trot back up the long side of the arena. She totally rocked this exercise too, on the left lead more so than on the right for once. To the right, she did have to re-balance herself with a couple of trot steps on the straightaway before she could pick up the canter. I really liked this one-we'll be practicing it more.

We repeated our canter collection & lengthening sets from our last ride, and shallow canter loops, which she again did really, really well! We then walked out for 10 minutes. The evening was significantly cooler from the night before, with a breeze that was almost chilly blowing in, and Lily cooled down quickly. No ice boots for cooling down-a good hosing was enough, and then she went out with little Willy for the night.

Lily loves Wee Willy :)

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!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Counter canter!

We had a really good ride last night. Lily's canter is improving literally by leaps and bounds this week!

It has been miserably hot and humid pretty much since August started, and it stays hot until dusk. I've been dragging myself out of the AC of the apartment at 5:00 pm into the sweltering sauna of the outdoors, to get my chores done before riding. By the time I've finished mucking the minnis' and Lily's stalls, and picking the manure in the turnouts, I'll be dripping sweat but it will finally have cooled down reasonably enough to go for a ride. ("Reasonably" being from 92 with a heat index of 107 to 83 that feels like 85...Believe me, 85 feels cool after that whopping humidity)

I tacked up Lily and took her for a quick hack around the park as a warmup. We walked down the street, then picked up a trot at the white trail, most of the way down to the park entrance (she had to slow to a walk to check out some palm fronds on the ground) and then back up to a trot down the powerlines. She was eager to go faster; I had to control my posting to keep her at a nice energetic long trot. If I let her, she'll simply revert to faster, shorter strides.

At the end of the powerlines we made a left, where we had to cross the road. Here Lily came to an abrupt stop and would not move forward. I couldn't understand why-we've crossed this road a million times; it's the park's internal road. But all of a sudden I hear a quiet whirring sound, and a group of about 8 cyclists came flying by, low on their bikes. I'd forgotten that the park holds mock bike races on Wednesday nights in the late summer. Lily quietly watched them go by. As soon as they had passed, she willingly stepped onto the road without a problem. Smart mare! She saved all our butts!

We trotted up and down the slopes next to the park pastures  (she was itching to canter coming off the hills, and tossed her head in annoyance when I didn't allow her to), then made a left again to make our way back, following the park road. Here Lily asked to walk, and I let her. We picked up a trot again about 100 feet later, as we hit the cover of the trees by the side of the road, and continued our trot until we were back at the powerlines. I need to start bringing my camera again... I had to half halt her twice here, because again she wanted to canter! I then dropped the reins and she picked up her big swinging walk back home. One day before we leave I hope to canter her in wide open spaces of the park, but not yesterday, not when she's so eager to go!

We trotted back up the white trail to keep her warmed up, then walked down the road home. The whole hack took us about 20 minutes.

Lily usually pauses by the barn entrance-I had gotten her used to me dismounting here after trail rides, so I had started mixing it up, sometimes getting off in the arena. She must've sensed my purpose, because she walked on into the arena without hesitating by the barn, and after twice around at a walk, I asked her to trot. She was sucking back in the far corner by the open gate, next to her paddock where Willy the mini was turned out. She pinned her ears when I asked her to extend at this point, so I surprised her by asking her to canter instead. She picked up a nice, forward canter, and we went around once in in each direction, with a simple change in the middle. She has really started to nail her simple changes-going from one lead to the other in 3 trot strides or less. After cantering to the right, THEN I asked for the down transition to the trot, and she surged forward, reaching for the bit, and I let her slide the reins out of my hands. She only did a couple of strides of true stretchy trot, then chose to continue in a long hunter frame. We went around the arena twice in each direction in this fashion, allowing her to stretch because I had some more challenging work in store for her.

We did some shoulder-ins and counter-shoulder ins at walk and trot; she was getting frustrated with the counter shoulder-in tracking left at the trot-I had to lightly tap her left shoulder with the whip a couple of times so she would stop popping it out, which elicited some angry head-tossing. But she complied, and after 2 correct steps, I praised her and let her walk on a long rein for a few strides before switching to a different exercise. Since she has no problem with the shoulder-in tracking left, I picked her back up again and at the walk I asked her to first do a shoulder in, then pushed her over to the inside with my outside leg. She did lose some of her bend, but not completely, as she stepped laterally to the inside. She half-passed! A baby half-pass, but a half-pass nonetheless! 3 strides to reach the quarter line, and with the same bend, I asked her to step back to the rail: a leg yield. This is her stronger direction for leg yielding so she had no problem with that. We zig-zagged like this between the rail and quarter line down the long side of the arena, about 3 zig-zags for each since we have a smaller dressage arena, and it wasn't perfect, but I was really impressed with Lily for trying. She can half-pass all day long to the right just fine, but I had stopped working on it because she was so one-sided: she could not do it to the left AT ALL at the time. I know this is a really advanced move, but it was cool to revisit and see how our conditioning is just making everything easier for her. After that, I let her do a large figure 8 on a loose rein with her nose to the ground. She's funny-this is her reward of choice.

I picked her up again, and after I had her at a collected walk and listening, asked her for a left-lead canter. She obliged, going up into the canter in a clean, powerful transition! Good girl! This was our best walk-canter transition ever. Circle once, and, on a whim, I asked her to cross the diagonal still on the left lead. "Good girl, good girl, good girl!" all the way into the corner, still on the left lead. We got one stride of counter canter in the corner and I asked her to walk before she attempted to do a simple lead change on her own. I rewarded her with a couple of strides of walk on a loose rein, then picked her back up and asked for a right lead canter. Down the long side, and as we reached the opposite short side, I focused on sitting up straight and long, and she responded by collecting, collecting, collecting! Good girl! And down the diagonal still on the right lead. Same thing: we made it past the corner for one stride in counter canter, and again, walk on a loose rein before that simple change.

We repeated this exercise a couple of times, until we had a couple of strides of counter canter in each direction, and then we just cantered, with some shoulder-ins thrown in. I have to say, her canter work almost feels better than her trot work at this point.

Afterwards, we did some more trot lengthening in a more upright frame to let her stretch out, where she felt powerful and FORWARD, and we ended it at that. It was a beautiful ride where, as usual, there were no witnesses.

This was HUGE, HUGE progress! I'm guessing it was Lily's first owner who trained her like this-she was a hunter prospect originally-but she has always had those auto simple changes. She can't STAND to canter on the wrong lead, and would do simple changes even without asking. I had attempted the counter canter half-heartedly a couple of times back when she was flightier under saddle, but had not pressed the issue for fear she would freak out, and she would always do that simple change the minute we crossed the diagonal at a canter. This time she was trusting me, listening. I really did have to say "Good girl" with every stride to KEEP her in the counter canter, though!

She got a nice long bath in front of the fan, and I put her ice boots on her back legs to help her cool down even more afterwards. She was sweaty to the touch after the ride, but I think her sweating is starting to slow down with the  muggier weather and hotter nights. We've made it a month and a half longer this year, though-last year I wasn't aware she had a sweating issue until she was mine, at the very beginning of July, and by the time I realized it, she had almost completely stopped sweating! At the time, I scrambled to start her on One AC and do the round of Guinness in her beet pulp, but once the problem has started, it's hard to reverse it until the weather cools down-her sweating was patchy at best, limited to under the saddle and along her mane. I think I wrote about this, but I was hosing her off before and during our rides (at the time, there was a hose by the arena fence) as well as after, and carrying a spray bottle of 50/50 rubbing alchohol mixed with water to spritz her with during our rides and longe sessions.

This year, I kept her on One AC all the way through. Our feed room gets hot and muggy (we never order more than a week or 2 supply of hay at a time), so as the temperatures have been rising, my Smartpaks were getting increasingly yucky before the next round of them was due, especially the One AC-I was starting to wonder at its effectiveness. The price of the supplement through Smartpak also went up around that time to almost $30 for the 28 day supply, whereas I can buy a jar of it (~30 day supply) for $23 at the warehouse...so I cancelled the Smartpaks of this supplement, and am keeping the jar in the feed room fridge. I think it really has made a difference in her sweating. Fingers crossed that she continues to sweat until October, when the nights start to get cooler.

In a year, Lily has gone from being a lanky TB-type, to a dressagey-looking beast, to little fatty...she has a nice little fat pad now at the base of her tail and is starting to show traces of fat pads behind her shoulder blades; I really stepped back and looked at her this week. I don't want her to lose a lot-maybe keep her the same or ever so slightly slimmer. I started cutting out her rice bran oil, and have her down to 2oz a day from 8oz (she has been a hard keeper up until now-I don't think I've stressed here how HARD it was to get weight on her!). I don't want to cut the oil out completely because it has contributed to her butt dapples that I adore. :) I might cut back on her dinner beet pulp next-she gets 3 quarts of plain, unmolassed beet pulp, mixed with 1 quart of Triple Crown Low Starch, and 2 quarts of Ontario Dehy Timothy Balanced Hay Cubes, all soaked together in a giant rubber feeder. Breakfast is 3 quarts of the same beet pulp with 1 quart of grain (no hay cubes-she's not crazy about them. I originally wanted to D/C the beet pulp because of the inverted calcium:phosphorus ratio, and keep her on the hay cubes with the grain, but she wouldn't finish her meals) also soaked. I started this up over the winter when I was concerned about her water intake. I've never been satisfied with the amount of water she drinks, so this is one way of making sure she stays hydrated.

Lily is also the only horse in the barn to have the luxury of pretty much free-choice hay: she gets a big haynet with 1 or 2 flakes of 3-wire timothy for breakfast in the morning (I go by weight-probably about 8-10 lbs), a large flake (about 5 lbs) of T&A (75% timothy) for lunch), a small flake (about 3 lbs) of the same T&A for her early dinner along with her beet pulp/grain/hay cube mix, and another big haynet with a flake of 3-wire timothy, a flake of T&A, and a small flake of coastal hay as a filler (this net will be heavy! Probably between 10-15 lbs). I'll be cutting out the coastal after this bale is out-too scary. I didn't dare feed it by itself, especially with her water intake issue. Have I mentioned she can be a picky eater? She can be terrible!!! Especially when she's in heat-she'll leave half of her beet pulp dinner when she's in heat, no matter what I do. She's also a big social eater-she eats better now that Bali is in the stall next door (actually finishing one round of hay before the next meal is due), and the only way I could get her to finish her dinner haynet was by putting little Willy the mini out with her...(of course he helps her, too, which is why the haynet is so heavy now.) We tried turning her out with the other horses, but since Lily is so submissive, they would bully her and steal her hay.

With this crazy amount of food, any other horse would've looked like a whale at this point. I'd definetely give her a solid 6 on the body condition score system, which would define her as "Moderately fleshy":
" May have slight crease down back; fat over ribs is fleshy/spongy-ribs still palpable; fat around tailhead soft; fat beginning to be deposited along sides of withers, behind shoulders, and along sides of neck. "

My fleshy little girl.
Bad conformation shot and you can't see her dapples in this pic, but love her soft expression here. :)