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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Friday Trails

Tina on Houdan in the lead, Sally and Jezebel in front of Lily and me as we wound through the woods

Tina, Sally and I went for another ride on the trails. I'm happy to report that Jez, despite being in race horse mode (head up, snorty, and prancy) did AWESOME on the trails, and even crossed the stream! Sally had to get off the first time and lead her across, going away from home, and Jezebel decided that she was just going to jump across...almost knocking her mom over! She then wouldn't hold still long enough for Sally to get back on, and I got off Lily and held Little Miss Racer so her owner could get a foot in the stirrup. The rest of the ride was uneventful, and we even trotted a bit on the way back. Jez put in two canter strides, but responded right away when Sally brought her back down to a trot. We then arrived at the same creek crossing from earlier, and this time Jezebel followed Houdan right to the water's edge. And then it was like time went into slow motion. From our position  in the rear, I watched Jezebel lower her head to look at the water more closely, then gather herself and LEAP across, all 4 feet leaving the ground. I gasped, watching. Sally did an awesome job, instinctively following Jez during the jump. They landed hard on the incline on the other side, almost colliding with Houdan's butt. Sally almost lost her balance for a split second, but Jez swung around in such a way that Sally regained her seat perfectly and they both came to a halt next to Houdan and Tina. "Good save!" Tina and I exclaimed. "What was that?? What did she do??" Sally asked in bewilderment. Tina and I laughed. "Jezebel JUMPED!"

Lily and I crossed the creek behind our leaders, and we continued on our way. Thankfully, there were no more acrobatics from any of the horses. We were on the trail for almost an hour, after which Lily was particularly tired and quite sweaty. It was in the upper 50's; a beautiful day. We even saw a butterfly and there were little gnats pestering the horses. It's SPRING, really and truly!

Friday, March 29, 2013

In Sync

Ok. Enough about the weather.

Yesterday I was at the barn by 9:30 am, in an attempt at trying to get a head start on riding both Jezebel and Lily before the afternoon mayhem started.

I got to see some of the morning crowd of riders, including Descent's and Bally's owners, but it was so much more quiet than in the afternoons. I'm usually up early no matter what, so I will probably continue with this new routine until the lesson schedule changes again once the weather gets warmer (I'm still rooting for Summer, since Spring seems to be losing the Epic Battle of the Weather Gods. *lol*)

I decided to ride Jez first, to give my own goofball time to get turned out for a bit before I hopped on. It was early enough that no one had been turned out yet. Jez was just finishing her breakfast, so I removed her blanket and groomed her while she licked her feeder. Sally had mentioned a while back that Jez can be territorial about her stall, so I figured this was a good opportunity to work on that. She seemed to enjoy being curried while eating and gave no problems. She's shedding like crazy! Great gobs of hair were coming off of her. Lily's coat still hasn't received the memo.

When Jez started nuzzling me in the hopes of getting treats, indicating that she was done with her feeder, I took her out of the stall and cross tied her in her usual spot in the aisle in front of her stall. This is when her Brat-ometer swung up to 100.

Levi, the horse stalled directly across from her, was still working on his breakfast mush (he has choked before so all of his grain gets soaked now), and there was a fresh mess of it on the bars of his stall. Jez loves to lick his stall bars after she's been bridled, which means she holds still long enough for you to be able to do up her throatlatch and noseband. Today, however, she tried to rudely go straight for Levi's stall bars as I was  attaching the cross ties, almost yanking my arm off in the process. This, of course, meant that she was not going to get to lick them at all. I picked her feet and started saddling her. Normally she will air bite while the girth is being tightened. On this day, she was being EXTREMELY dramatic about being saddled, biting the air, pinning her ears and giving me dirty looks from the moment I put her saddle pad on. I rolled my eyes and carried on, ignoring her. I did reprimand her sternly when she turned her head to bite the air close to me (she won't bite you, but that was a lot more of a threat than her usual antics) as I was attaching the girth on one side. She immediately snapped her head back up and her whole expression softened, then she looked at me with twinkling eyes, "I'm being good now! Can I have a treat?" Silly girl! She still did her air biting when I tightened the girth, but it was her usual display, not this excessive drama.

This is not pain-this is classic OTTB-mare-in-heat behavior. Sally had mentioned the day before that Jez was being uber pushy, which is something she does when she's going into season.

The bridle...bridling was an event in itself. It took 3 attempts before I could remove the halter, as Jez kept trying to barge forward every time I went for the halter buckle. Each time, I had her step back. She finally held still long enough for me to quickly remove the halter, slide the bit in her mouth, and get her ears through the crown piece in one fluid move, as she tried to step forward again!! With the reins, I had her step back. Well, she stepped back, then tried to turn towards her stall. I blocked her, and she tried to turn towards Levi's stall. I stopped her again-no rewards for naughtiness! Being so much bigger than me, she decided that she didn't care, she was going to go into her stall, which she succeeded in doing, but I smoothly went with her and we simply turned around in a circle without pause and found ourselves back out in the aisle. Jez tried this stunt three times more, but I had just figured out the perfect correction, so she found herself twirling quietly around me in the middle of the barn aisle each time she tried to go back into her stall. (This was MUCH easier than trying to make her back up, and effectively curbed her from being able to so much as set a hoof in her stall.) Each time she tried to go back in the stall, I made her circle tightly around me at a slightly quicker pace than the previous time. (Another perk of it being quiet-I could correct Jez uninterrupted by people trying to walk by. You MUST make training corrections within seconds of the behavior occurring, otherwise the correction is pointless-the animal, whether horse, dog, cat, etc, won't remember what you're correcting them for.) By the third time, where I had her prance around me, she figured out it was just easier to stand still. Smart girl. I was finally able to buckle her noseband and throatlatch. I was laughing at her, though-she has all of the qualities that I love of OTTBs, especially the mares-super smart, opinionated, with a bossy streak, but playful, with a sense of humor. Jez took all of this in stride and learned, by the third attempt, that I was the alpha mare even if she was feeling crabby. She stood quietly with ears perked and eyes bright. Silly, silly girl! *lol* Hopefully she's good for Sally after this one!

For more updates on Jez and her new pretty pink boots, go to Sally's blog.

Since she was definitely in a mood, I took Jez into the indoor where there were no distractions. My original plan had been to practice cantering on the lunge prior to riding, but given Jez's current spazzy state of mind, I decided to leave this for another day. I took her to the mounting block, where she did her usual trying to step forward when I was going to get on, then backing up all the way past the block when I stopped her. I immediately hopped off the block and turned the backing up into another twirl around me. Voila! The little girl stood still at the mounting block on our second attempt.

She was SO HAPPY to be working. I LOVE this mare's work ethic! We did a looong walk warm-up, walking at a nice rolling pace in straight lines, then adding 10 meter circles in the corners. We then did a forward trot, where she felt a little stiff in the beginning, but by the second loop around the arena, she had worked herself out of it. The indoor sliding door was closed, but it wasn't firmly shut, so drafts of wind would occasionally blow through, making it thud against the door frame. Jez would prick her ears each time, and she startled a bit once, but as we continued to work, she stopped paying attention to the door and focused on what we were doing. I did Tina's exercise from the lesson the day before with Jez, and it proved to be beautifully effective with her, getting the little mare into a gorgeous frame, where she lightened in the bridle. She would stay like this within the space of a 20 meter circle, too, before having to remind her again to soften. Every time someone walked into the wash stall area, they would stop to watch. There were several comments about how beautiful Jez looked.

It was a super fun ride. We stopped at the 40 minute mark, and I walked Jez out on a loose rein. We'd done some solid trot work, and she had neither broken a sweat nor was she out of breath. We had both been so focused that neither of us had heard Lily screaming her head off in the paddock outside, which I was told about by the other boarders.

I groomed Jez in the cross ties after untacking, and she was an absolute angel. Miss Cranky Pants just needed to have a job again, I think.

I put her out with Lily, who was calmly eating hay by herself  in the paddock at this point, but she started whinnying and whinnying and whinnying when she saw Jez coming. Jeez Lily. Won't you do that for me some day?

Just a *little* attached...
They got to hang out for a bit while I put all of Jezebel's stuff away and set up Lily's tack. Then I fetched my mare, and she actually let me catch her without running around the paddock like an idiot first.

She was really fidgety in the cross ties, and at one point she even crowded me against one wall of the wash stall while I was trying to get the mud off her legs. She got smacked in the butt for that one, which got her attention, and she stood still afterwards. I knew why she was being antsy: of course she's going into heat, since Jez is in heat, and she was looking for her buddy. No Lily, you will pay attention to me when I'm working with you. It's just 2 hours out of your day.

Since I could hear the wind whipping around the building outside, I decided to ride Lily in the indoor as well. We rode in the mullen mouth snaffle again, and since for once we had the entire arena to ourselves, we really got down to work.

All we did was Tina's exercise from the day before. Lily braced, I asked for counterbend, she softened, I asked for slight bend. Over and over and over. Walk, trot, and canter, with the occasional walk break on a loose rein. Then we did shoulder-fore at walk and trot, and we cantered again. Cantering to the right, she was uber-stiff, wanting to look to the outside and bulge her inside shoulder, like she used to do last summer in FL. So I ended up asking for a shoulder-in at the canter. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't pretty; I just wanted her to bend to the inside. She complied, but with great effort on her part. We only did this down one long side of the arena, then circled and trotted. Her trot after this was super awesome-up, loose and long-strided. We zoomed around the arena a couple of times, maintaining the rhythm through 20 meter circles, then changed direction and repeated the other way. We did this twice in each direction.

By then, we had been working for an hour, and we were both sweating. We finished one last circle in Lily's forward trot and called it a day.

We had a good session, but I've been running out of ideas, and am really needing a spotter on the ground. We need lessons!

"Mom, stop taking pics and put me out with Jez already."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Schizo Weather

Yesterday I made it to the barn by 11:00 am, in time to finally watch one of Tina's lessons with Carolyn del Grosso.

Carolyn is a Grand Prix dressage rider who has ridden with the likes of Sallie Swift, and is a gold USDF medalist. She teaches more in the classical dressage method of lightness and balance, and is a well-known trainer in this area. I had been itching to watch a lesson, because I haven't met another classical dressage trainer since the rather unconventional Manuel Trigo clinic.

We were introduced, and I sat down next to Carolyn on a mounting block in the outdoor, and Tina rode Houdan in a 20 meter circle in front of us, walk, trot and canter. Tina worked hard! Carolyn had them do an exercise where Tina applied contact with the outside rein, enough to turn Houdan's nose out in a slight counter-bend, and once his shoulders straightened, she was to pick up her inside rein, moving her hand slightly back, up and towards the center of Houdan's neck. This is a Nuno Oliveira technique, where turning is initiated by moving your hands towards your center, rather than away from the horse's neck. When inside rein pressure was applied in this way, Houdan would respond by lifting and lightening in his entire front end. At this point, Tina had to let go, and Houdan's head would automatically fall into a straight vertical line, and his trot gained a floaty quality. Tina also had to sit so that her outside butt cheek was more medial in the saddle, to help keep Houdan in line.

It was pretty awesome to watch. Houdan would complain a little initially when the cues were given correctly, in a small attempt at an evasion, but he would immediately respond. It was very clear when everything happened the way it should-he looked like a picture perfect dressage horse. Tina is a good rider and is great at following instruction, and also has some of my same quirks when riding, so it was a good lesson to watch and learn from. This was an exercise I actually NEEDED to do with Lily.

I took down Carolyn's information, with the goal of calling her for a lesson myself sometime in the next few weeks.

It was freezing. The forecast had said it was in the 40's, but it felt like the mid-30's, even in the sun.

I got Lily and walking back to the barn from the paddock, it started to...sleet? Snow? Rain? All of the above. Despite it being sunny.

Snowflakes and rain drops on my jacket sleeve!
I tacked Lily up in the wash stall, deciding to use the dreaded mullen mouth snaffle that I had not used since this event, and took her into the indoor, since the rain was coming down hard.

We had just finished warming up at the walk, when it suddenly cleared up outside and the sun came out. It was way too gorgeous to avoid, so I got off and took Lily to the outdoor.

Well. I got Lily trotting, and we were able to canter once in each direction, when the trainer we don't like and one of her students entered the arena. This complicated everything because there were already 3 of us riding in the arena. It's not a large arena, and with the jumps it can get tricky maneuvering to avoid colliding with other riders when it gets crowded.

I was starting to get flustered about trying to stay out of everyone's way, and suddenly, the weather made it easy.

We had been in the arena for only 15 minutes, but the sky had quickly become overcast. Halfway around the arena at a trot, I heard a distant rushing sound. I looked up at the clouds, and saw that distinct shredded look they'll have when they're bringing rain. Right above us. I hopped off Lily at the same time as Nancy, one of the other boarders that was riding in the outdoor, and we were the first to flee back inside the barn. I got these photos as I trotted Lily into the shelter of the building.

Snow/sleet/rain falling-note the little white slashes.

My saddle covered in the sleet/snow combo as we trotted into the barn!
Crazy, crazy weather!! I had a big flashback of the summer we spent if Wyoming. When you go hiking in the mountains there, you HAVE to pack enough gear for surviving in inclement weather and a possible overnight stay, simply because the weather is so unpredictable during the summer-one minute it will be 70 degrees and sunny, the next it will drop 30 degrees and the skies will let loose golf-ball sized hail and lightning (I actually experienced this over there...)

So back in the indoor we went. The trainer with her student came too, which meant that our 20m x 40m indoor became VERY crowded indeed with 4 riders.

I picked up a trot and had Lily circle in the center of the arena to assess which direction we should take, as everyone seemed to be going in different directions on different tracks. I just wanted to try to do something productive without getting in anyone's way. Thankfully, 5 minutes later it had cleared up outside again, so back all of us went to the outdoor, except for the trainer and her student, who stayed in the indoor.

The sun lasted even less this time, and I quickly got Lily working in a circle at the trot, in an attempt to do something productive with her. I worked on the exercise that Tina had been doing with Carolyn in her lesson, and this worked really well with Lily: when she came above the bit, I asked for a small counterbend, and when she released, I turned her nose towards the inside, supporting with my inside leg. She lightened and rounded. This was one of our best snaffle bit workouts in a long time.

And then the clouds really started to get dark again. I walked Lily out, and as the rushing of the coming downpour became audible again, dismounted and led her back into the barn.

It had not been a productive day at all! The weather was annoying, but at the same time fascinating. I'm used to this-the weather in Puerto Rico is can be just as topsy turvy, and it was weird to me now because if I had been indoors looking through a window, I would have automatically assumed it was hot outside with the coming rain: on the island it was 85 degrees all the time, and you're just alternating between rain and sunshine. Some of my rides on Lucero would be just like this-ride, take cover, ride, take cover. Or just stay out and get wet...of course I had desensitized my boy to being ridden in a poncho, too!

Drenched after galloping home in the rain. Lucero, back in Puerto Rico.

At least now I have access to an indoor arena.

I never in a million years would have imagined I'd be experiencing that same ambivalent sun/rain pattern in the cold. It's kind of a nice change from the sweltering mugginess of alternating rain and sun in the summer! :)

Because, you know, since this happened, might as well just sit back and embrace the cold and forget about spring ever coming:
Except spring isn't in Florida either-it's just summer down there all the time.  My conclusion: spring is  a myth, along with unicorns, elves and the tooth fairy...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WW: Spring vs. Winter

Who will win?

Cherry blossoms blooming in front of our apartment

Sleet/snow/rain combo at the barn.
Mind you, the barn is less than 15 minutes from the apartment...

Weather Gods, make up your minds already!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring? Huh?

I woke up to this this morning:

I had to scrape a good 3" of snow off of my car. THREE INCHES. And as I was taking it off, more was piling on! It's the end of March! Good thing this area supposedly doesn't get a lot of snow...lol.  I think it's funny that we've had more snow in the month that is supposed to be spring, than during the rest of this winter put together.

In 3 days, it will have been exactly 6 months of cold weather for Charles and me. This is the longest either of us has experienced winter. The locals keep saying that it isn't usually this cold for this long in this area; that usually it really starts to drop around December.  It's been cold since the end of October. I think it was better when, being used to living in places where it is the same temperature year-round, I kept involuntarily thinking that this is just how it would be forever and ever. But we had a couple of days in the 50's where we didn't have to wear 5 layers to walk out the door, and now we want those days back!

Parking lot from work

Courtyard at work

On another note, does anyone know what happened to Fugly Horse of the Day? The link doesn't work anymore. I really liked the direction in which the new administrator had taken the blog, but her and the blog seem to have completely disappeared.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Awesome Rides

On Thursday, I was at the barn before noon.

I brought Lily in from the paddock, and put her in her stall to groom and tack up. I had set up her hay cubes, but she got so wound up being in the stall that she barely touched them. I got pretty irritated with her, as she was getting wired despite my being in the stall with her-I would have thought she'd realize this was a change of routine and the fact that I was tacking up would let her know that I had no intention of leaving her locked up by herself. She started seeking comfort from me, turning her head to nuzzle me, which made me feel really bad about having been annoyed at her.

We had another great ride, where she was up and forward and like putty to bend, extend and collect. Halfway through, I stopped her to fling my arms around her neck and kiss her, she was being that awesome. I worked on transitions until I was able to get her loose enough to where her walk was loose and swinging. It's the walk she does after warming up on the trail, and it almost has an oscillating quality to it -her back will stretch and compress with each stride, at the same side swinging from side to side. We have been able to re -create it in the arena before. 

This time, we achieved it at the 30 minute mark, and I cut the session short then. Lily had been absolutely wonderful. I thanked her profusely for such a great ride, then untacked her and sat outside with her in the sun while she finished her hay cubes. After that, I put her back out with Jezebel and went home. 

Charles was shocked-I was at the barn for only 3 hours for once, and we had time to go exploring afterwards.

Charles had found this really cool little restaurant named Fire Station 1 in Silver Springs, close to the used CD/DVD store he likes to go to. The restaurant literally used to be a fire station. It turns out the place is also a brewery. The food was okay, but their beer was pretty awesome, especially their stout.

The top floor of Fire Station 1. Not my photo, but this is where we sat. That's the upstairs bar on the left.

On Friday I was back at the barn early, and was able to get a head start on the excavator. John and Alex were still shoveling the stalls, and only one other boarder was there. There is something about a quiet barn early in the morning, hearing the guys talking in Spanish in low tones in the background. It reminded me of an infinite number of mornings spent at the barn back on the island.

Lily was still getting settled in the paddock, while Jez was happily munching on the hay Alex had thrown out for them (another perk of being on semi-private turnout-they get hayed.) My goofball decided to give me a run for the money, trotting and cantering around the turnout, looking at me as she ran past, "Come on! Chase me!" I stood laughing at her, as this is the first time she has ever invited me to play, but waited for her to stop. I didn't want to start a new habit. She surprised me by trotting right up to me. I rubbed her neck and talked to her, but did not clip the lunge line to her halter right away. Of course Lily noticed this, and decided that she was going to run a little bit more.

When she finally stopped again, I caught her and took her straight from the turnout to the outdoor, where I removed her blanket and lunged her, since she was feeling so hyper. 

She cantered a lot, and when she settled down, we did the exercise the farrier had given us, where I had Lily walk and trot in a tiny circle around me while stepping out sideways with her hind legs.

I then took her to her stall and tacked up. She was much calmer about the whole thing than she'd been the day before, and munched on her hay cubes while I got her ready. I decided to ride her in the baucher bit, which I'd set up on Rhythm's old dressage bridle 2 weeks before. My baucher is a French link, and I put the Rein-Aid attachments on it for a little extra give.

Lily gave me another really good ride. She chose to work in a Training Level/hunter type frame, and I let her, but worked on trying to keep her withers up while doing so so she wouldn't be on the forehand. I *think* I got her working correctly, but have no idea, really-before when working long and low, we've had moments where I thought we were working correctly, and then in photographs it turned out we were on the forehand the entire time...

She came up a few times above the bit, and then we worked on bringing her nose back down. If I picked up my inside rein and lifted my hand a few inches, she responded by bringing her head in and softening. We did walk/trot/canter, and I was so happy with her overall state of mind that I decided to take her on a trail ride. For this, however, I had to change her bridle. The tractor was in my barn aisle, so on a whim, I put Lily in Jez's stall in the aisle next door, removed the dressage bridle, then ran to my locker where I pulled out the bridle with the mullen mouth pelham. Back in Jezebel's stall, Lily had taken a big bite of hay and was quite relaxed and contented. It worked: placing her in her friend's stall for a minute, vs her own stall, resulted in a calm mare. I put the other bridle on, and we walked out to the trail head.

Lily balked for a second when I pointed her at the trail, but the rest of the way was mostly smooth sailing. I had her cross the main bridge, go up the road and take the trail we've taken most recently with Tina in reverse. We had a moment where she tried to turn around a couple of times in response to the sound of construction vehicles over the hill, but once we were in the woods, she relaxed. We made it all the way to the first creek crossing, which she took with only a slight hesitation. After that, I had her loop around and we returned the way we had come. She didn't even think about it as we came upon the creek again. In fact, she was so relaxed that I took this photo as we approached to cross:

Tiny but muddy creek crossing. She owned it!!
She had her really nice oscillating walk all the way home, and didn't try to trot or do airs above ground even once. She totally earned her hay cubes, which I let her finish while standing out in the sun. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

On Floating and the Wintec Pro Contourbloc

On Wednesday the vet was coming out to the barn for spring shots, so I was at the barn early to turn Jez out and get a ride in before the vet arrived at 3:00 pm.

Jez didn't care that she was going out by herself. I set her free and watched her walk down the fence line, looking towards the field but making no move to take off running. I went back to her stall and brought out her leftover hay from breakfast. By then she was at the very far corner of the paddock. When I called her, though, she turned her head to look, and when I threw the hay out into the paddock, she turned around and came trotting! That was one happy trot.

So cute! She settled right down to scarf.

Lily, in the meantime, had been moved to Gratitude's stall so she wouldn't freak at the idea of being left indoors while everyone else went out. Her and Murmur have bonded-Murmur will nicker for Lily when she sees her. I love that big English TB mare. She's built like your typical English horse, with the big feet and thick legs, and is super sweet. Her mom will be able to finally start riding next month. Murmur suffered 2 different soft tissue injuries to the tendons in one of her front legs, and has been on stall rest for the past 6 months. 

Lily seemed really happy to see me, and came willingly. I had set up her hay cubes in a wash stall, and proceeded to groom and tack up while she ate. 

The new saddle finally arrived. I searched to the ends of eBay for weeks and then chewed my nails with indecision when I found 2 really good deals on 2 very different Wintec Pros. I went with a Wintec Pro because I knew the tree shape would fit Lily-Judy's saddle back in South FL fit her to a T. 

Both of the saddles I found were the newer models. One of them was the regular Wintec Pro with the gullet system and a new insert system that they just came out with that allows for further customizing. This one was over the budget, though still a really good deal on an almost new saddle, it was the right seat size at 17, and it was flocked. (I hate Cair.) 
Wintec Pro

The second saddle was the Wintec Pro Contourbloc, which I have not heard much about and I had never seen in person. I LOVED the idea of a giant knee block, the seat was 17.5, it was also flocked, and it was brand spanking new-still had the tags attached. The starting price was ridiculously low as it was a new seller. I looked over her reviews, and she had really good ratings as a buyer. 

Wintec Pro Contourbloc

I poured over photos and reviews of both saddles on the internet. Both of them had mixed reviews, which Wintecs will often have. I knew I liked the saddles, I just wanted to see what the overall view was regarding rider position with these newer models. Since I couldn't find much on the Contourbloc specifically, I looked up reviews of the Bates Innova, which has similar blocks to the Contourbloc, and people raved over the one with the smaller blocks, which are the same size as the Wintec Contourbloc's. I even looked up photos of both saddles. I knew how the regular Wintec Pro looked, but not the Contourbloc, and I was very pleased with the latter when I found a photo of one with stirrups attached-the stirrup bars are set further back than on the regular Wintec Pro, which forces your body into the correct alignment, like my Alta Escuela. The stirrup bars on the regular Wintec Pro would have put me into more of a chair seat, which you can actually see in old photos of me riding in Judy's saddle back in FL.

So I chose the Contourbloc, and won the auction. 

The saddle arrived within 3 days. It was horribly packaged, with no cushioning, but thankfully it arrived unscathed. I had already tried it on Lily the day it arrived, and checked what gullet size she would need. She was in-between the regular (black) gullet and the medium-wide (blue) gullet with the saddle against her bare back. Back home, I rummaged through my bins of horsey stuff, but of all of the spare gullets I have (yes, I have random Wintec gullets from when I used to own the All Purpose 250...), I did not have a blue gullet. So I had to order it, and it finally arrived Tuesday of this week. I switched out the gullets, and here we were. 

I had noticed some bridging when trying the saddle on Lily with the medium gullet in, but this pretty much vanished when fitted with the medium-wide, as it allowed the front of the saddle to fit lower on her withers. The saddle sits really nicely above her spine-I can see the entire length of her back when peeking through one end or the other of the gullet. Wintec has widened their channel with the newer models. The panels are not as wide as I'd like, but she was comfortable in them before, so I don't think that will be a problem now. She's a small horse after all.

Lily had started really making faces with the Alta Escuela, which had really started to worry me. I have always assumed there is a saddle weight issue there-remember the cowboy? He rode her in Western saddles, which are heavier. The Alta Escuela is easily 25 lbs. She has never complained about lighter English saddles, just the Alta Escuela and back when I was saddle-less and riding her Western, too. She'd kind of tense up when I went to put it on her back, but she'd relax as I continued with the process of tacking her up.

 She'd just recently started complaining more about the Alta Escuela, however, tensing up more when I went to place it on her back, then fidgeting the entire time I was trying to do up the girth, which had me starting to believe that it was really getting uncomfortable with her weight loss. She wouldn't tell me it hurt- I kept poking and prodding her back to see and could not elicit a flinch- but she behaved like it bothered her. 

So with the Contourbloc, she did not fidget at all and didn't give me dirty looks when I did up the girth.

I took her outside and lunged her prior to getting on, because I wanted her to get a feel for the saddle without me on her back, and also because if she was going to have any fits about not getting turned out first thing, I preferred she do it before I got on!

She was happy and relaxed, and seemed comfortable. So I hopped on, and we had a really, really good ride. Lily was asking to stretch at the trot, which she had not done in awhile, and felt up and underneath me at the canter, not strung out and hollowed like she had been feeling recently. I think she approved of the saddle.

As for me, I love it. The cantle is higher than on older Wintec Pros, and I like the locked-in feeling of that combined with the giant blocks. The saddle places me in that ideal shoulder-hip-heel alignment, and I was able to sit up effortlessly. Because of the blocks, the 17.5" felt like the perfect size. Love the suede-like material, too! I had read in the reviews that people felt like this saddle had a wide twist. It has a narrow twist, but because of the blocks, your hips will feel like they get opened up. I actually did not mind this, as it serves to stretch out my wonky hip, and made my inner thigh muscles work harder. The Alta Escuela is more comfortable, but as a second saddle, I'm thrilled with this choice.

After our ride, Lily got to go out for a bit while Sally rode Jez, before all of the horses got brought in for the vet.

This was Jez's first ride since her bruise was discovered, and while she appears sound at liberty, she's still a little sore under saddle at the trot. It's very subtle when observed, but Sally could feel it. She had me get on just to confirm, and I felt it too. Jezebel was also being fairly clear that she was uncomfortable-she'd really want to trot, but as soon as she was trotting, she'd ask to slow back down to a walk. Very unlike her. Sally decided to give her the rest of the week off.

The vet arrived at 3:00 pm, right on time, and got to work vaccinating 40 horses. Dr. O, our previous vet, recently moved to Pennsylvania, and so Dr. S, the owner of the practice, had to hire another associate. Dr. R, the new vet, is young and recently out of school, but she has owned horses for years and seems to be very, very competent and knowledgeable. I'm also just partial to new doctors, because they tend to be more up to date on newer treatment protocols. This new doctor won a bazillion points with me because she got heart rates and temperatures on EVERY SINGLE horse in the barn. I had yet to see an equine vet do that on a vaccine appointment. They almost never do a complete physical, like you see done routinely on cats and dogs, unless the horse is suspected to be very sick.

Lily got her first round of spring shots. I had made an appointment for having her teeth floated as well on this day, so after everyone was done, I brought her out and put her in the wash stall for the vet. She was sedated, and within 5 minutes, her head had slowly dropped until her muzzle was almost even with the floor. Dr. R and her tech put the speculum in Lily's mouth and adjusted it, then the vet proceeded to inspect Lily's teeth. Her teeth were actually not bad, but Lily surprised all of us by groaning tremendously when the doctor had her hand halfway up Lily's mouth. She started laughing, "My, you have a huge gag reflex!!" My dramatic mare... The doctor actually let me feel Lily's teeth, so I could feel the sharp edges, which, like she said were really not too bad at all. The vet proceeded to float Lily's teeth with the drill while her tech held Lily's heavy head up.

This is the first time I've seen power tools used, and had always heard that manual tools are better. Watching this vet, I honestly can't tell you why the manual blade would be better. The blades I've seen used are huge, the same width as a hoof rasp, and I could never see how, especially on a small horse, they wouldn't end up cutting the tongue or the cheeks.

The vet had a small, flat circular float attached to the point of the unit. It had no sharp edges, and was about 2" in diameter at the most. This is all she used to float Lily's teeth. She did all of her teeth, and let me watch over her shoulder as she did it, so I can tell you that she truly got any and all sharp edges without overdoing it. She was even able to go all the way to the back of Lily's mouth, where, on the left side, there was one truly sharp corner on a back molar. The whole process took her 15 minutes, and she did a good job-I felt it myself!! I liked this, as it is less tiring for the horse's jaw muscles. Have you ever had to hold your mouth open for an hour for the dentist? I have. I tell you-it hurts for days!

After she was done, the speculum was removed. Dr. R took a look at Lily's front teeth, to make sure they were lining up correctly, and played with her jaw to make sure she was grinding properly. She was.

We then quickly moved her to her stall, before she really got sleepy from lack of stimulation. Dr. R helped me remove all of the hay from Lily's stall, and we piled it into a muck bucket outside. Lily went in obediently, head still hanging low, and proceeded to stare at the corner.

In general, animals on sedation crack me up. Sometimes you'll get one that hates it and gets really freaked out, which is not funny at all and you feel terrible for them. (Thankfully most sedatives are reversible.) But most of them just go with it. My favorite was a feline patient of ours back in FL who needed sedation for some minor procedure. He was an active but otherwise cooperative cat, and at the time I felt that sedation really wasn't needed for what we had to do, but the intern insisted. Well. As soon as the sedatives hit kitty, his pupils dilated, and he got this expression of "WOOOOW...." He was staring at everything in fascination, even turning around in my arms to look at the ceiling lights. I put him in his cage to chill, and he turned around and surprised me by gently grabbing my face between his front paws and drawing my face up to his so he could look at me more closely. I couldn't help it-I started laughing. He must have been getting some amazing visuals. The problem was when he became mouthy-he wanted to put everything in his mouth-the bedding, the cage door, our fingers...Not aggressively, it was more like he just wanted to feel things in his mouth. Weird kitty. At this point we ended up just waiting for the sedation to wear off before doing anything. "I told you he didn't need it!" I said to the intern. I think we used hydromorphone and midazolam on that kitty. Midazolam and diazepam (valium) can sometimes cause weird reactions like that in cats.

I went into the stall with Lily and scratched her poll and around her ears, which made her lazily tilt her head towards me. I gave her hugs and kisses, and chuckled at her as she stood with eyes closed. When I scratched her neck, she'd wiggle her lip, which was even with her bedding. It was the only part of her that would move!

I hung around for the next half hour or so, to make sure she'd recover okay from the sedative. By the time I was ready to leave, she would lift her head and turn her neck around to look at me when I walked in the stall, though she'd immediately turn around and let it hang. She got a kiss good-night, and I left for the day. Dr. R had said it should be okay to ride her the next day, as her mouth should not be sore.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tractor Supply

We turned the girls out Tuesday in their semi-private turnout, and this was the first 10 minutes:

Lily found the MUDDIEST parts of that small field to roll in. Over and over and over. Both sides. Of course I had turned her out naked because it was supposed to be in the 50's during the day...
Jez, who very rarely rolls in mud, outdid herself too-by the time she was done, her pretty red blanket was clay-colored!

My favorite part was when the girls decided to go splashing and pawing in the mud hole by the water trough (these are the two mares that insist they are afraid of water and mud, by the way...), and the 4 studly boys next door lined up on their side of the fence (there is a walk way between the two paddocks-the horses can't even touch noses), extending their necks out and watching attentively. It was HYSTERICAL. Like men watching girls mud wrestling...I made a crack about Lily's and Jez's milkshake bringing the boys to the yard. Lol!

The milkshake..I mean, mudshake, caused quite a stir; the geldings next door started arguing over who would get to stand by the fence to watch the girls roll in the mud, which turned into lots of galloping, which in turn made the boys in the far field also start galloping. The guys continued to run around in circles long after Lily and Jezebel had settled down. (We figured out that if we threw some hay out for them, Jezebel would stop to eat, and thus so would Lily.) Sally and I had to walk over to their paddocks and call them over to get them to stop galloping like madmen. After that, all was quiet.


We hung around for an hour or so, just to make sure that the girls stayed calm. We had the opportunity of testing BQ's theory that if the herd stampeded to the lower field (adjoining the mares' paddock), Lily and Jez would run the fence line. They did not. They just hung out by the fence, and their friends from the main herd came over to say hi and ask why were they on the other side of the fence (you should've seen their faces of bewilderment). Harpo, the new pony (he's a retired therapeutic horse) and Lily's most recent boyfriend, stayed by the fence with his new sidekick Arrow (a horse in his late 20's who suffered from a broken pelvis a long time ago) long after the other horses had meandered back to the upper field.

Sally and I decided to make the trip to Tractor Supply.

Our first week back at the beginning of November, I was still waiting for all of my horse stuff to arrive in the U-Box, as I had nothing to groom my mare with or pick her feet, and I had decided to take a hike to the Tractor Supply in Leesburg, VA. I figured, "Ok, so this is a part of VA that's next to MD, so it should be close to home." (This is when we were first living in Alexandria.)


I had left the barn and been driving for 40 minutes, and my surroundings were getting more and more remote-I was quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Darkness was falling, and this was back during deer season (I developed a phobia of deer at night-I was terrified I'd hit one), and still my GPS wasn't indicating that I was anywhere near civilization. I flipped ahead on the thing's directions to see when exactly would we be arriving anywhere, and realized that I was going to have to take a ferry to get to Leesburg. Uh...no. I looked at the map on the GPS for the first time, and that's when I realized that VA actually wraps around 2 sides of MD. Leesburg might not be that far from the barn mile-wise, but it was far, faaaar away from Alexandria!

I later learned that that ferry is Whites Ferry. Whenever a horse needs surgery at the equine hospital in Leesburg, they hop on the ferry to get there, as it is the shortest route.

Whites Ferry

I kept on driving trying to find a place where I could turn around, and found myself in the little town of Poolesville. I pulled off the road by a paint shop and turned around in the parking lot...and discovered there was an equestrian shop there! It was a tiny place called All About Equestrian. And not only that, it was still open!

I raided the store for all sorts of grooming stuff, and lingered as much as I could, then got in the car and drove home. It took me over an hour to get home.

So that was my failed Tractor Supply adventure that day. This time, we went to the one in Mount Airy, which Sally had gone to several times. It was only a 30 minute drive, but we went past several horse farms, houses with acreage, hay fields and corn fields. The town of Mount Airy is beautiful-it feels like a real country town, but it is clean and well kept, and there is lots of space.

We finally arrived at the Tractor Supply, and I was like a kid in a candy store. Especially when I heard the chicks cheeping! I figured maybe it was a recording, but then we found them:

They had like 6 metal troughs with incandescent lights, and chicks of different type hens in each one. They also had ducklings. The sound of them cheeping away and the smell of their growth meal took me back home to the island, when my brother and I raised our own chickens growing up. We kept them in our grandfather's backyard, where we'd converted a horse stall into a chicken coop. They roamed the yard during the day, and slept in the "coop" at night. Lucero, who lived in the other stall in the yard, would chase them out of his stall, which I always thought was funny. We had chickens, ducks and geese from the time I was 11 until I was 23, when the last ones remaining died. All of them had names, quite a few of them had stories (the black hen named Ramona that lived to be a good 10 years old, from the original batch of chicks my grandfather got us; the colored Easter chick that we took over from a little boy at my brother's school who couldn't keep her at home, and she grew up to be one of the biggest, fattest hens I've ever seen; the two rumptailed hens we were given by one of our neighbors-both of them were the only hens in 13 years to give us chicks, and one of those chicks lived on to be our main rooster, etc, etc), and we were quite attached to them.

I yanked myself away from them now, before I ended up bringing a few home and insisting we could keep them in a cage in our apartment balcony... Good thing we don't have a backyard!!

We were in there for hours. We were able to find almost everything on our shopping lists. Among a few other things, I got 2 bags of super-fine shavings for when I do Lily's stall on Sundays (the guys get Sundays off; boarders are allowed to clean their stalls themselves on Sundays), a rubber ground feeder, and a bag of Standlee T&A hay cubes, so I can give her an extra meal when I'm at the barn. I prefer Ontario Dehy, which is now owned by Triple Crown, but Standlee is a decent brand. The one drawback is that apparently some of their stuff is really high in iron. I might eventually talk to BQ about ordering hay cubes from the barn feed supplier, since they have the whole Triple Crown line.

Back at the barn, I brought in my uber-muddy mare from the turnout.

She looks half-way decent in this photo...

...but the mud was PLASTERED to her coat, and ground into her back, neck and thighs.

I gave Lily a handful of cubes soaked in warm water, and she scarfed while I attempted to get all of the mud off and tacked up.

Maybe with this routine, she'll start looking forward to me bringing her in...

We rode in the indoor for about 30 minutes-a fairly short workout for us, but I asked a lot more of her. Lines had to be straight, and her head had to be turned slightly to the inside at walk, trot and canter. No more wiggling when going down the far long side of the arena. She was to go straight and stay on the rail. We did 3-track and 4-track shoulder-in at walk and trot, then cantered. Her canter felt odd, but I was riding in the Alta Escuela, so maybe it was discomfort from the saddle? We didn't canter much because of this. Her trot, however, was forward, with lengthened strides-not short and choppy like she wants to be sometimes, and she was seeking contact with the bit on her own. We rode in a frame about 80% of the ride-really nice!

Afterwards, since it was still warm enough that I hadn't had to put my jacket back on, I pulled our new real cooler out of its bag in my locker, and set up all of my bathing supplies in the wash stall. Yes, I gave her a bath. A partial bath, as I only did her neck, shoulders, rump, tail and legs, but a bath nonetheless. I scrubbed all of the mud off her face, neck and legs, then rinsed her off with warm water from the hose. She didn't seem terribly pissed off about it. I then threw her cooler on (it has a neck attachment with a loop that is threaded through the halter to hold it up) to keep the front part of her body warm while I did her back end. Then she got all wrapped up and put back in her stall with her dinner, while I puttered around cleaning tack and tidying up, waiting for her to dry.

Well, with her shaggy winter coat, it took a good 3 hours for her to dry off. When her cooler was fully wet, I toweled her dry as much as I could, then switched out the cooler for her Tuffrider Stable Blanket, which also doubles as a cooler. When that was wet, she was finally mostly dry. It was 9:00 pm by then. I brushed her down, and put her lined sheet on for the night.

She might be getting a trace clip soon...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Update on the Goofball

I've been absent for almost a week here, but not much has happened.

Lily continued to be on stall rest all last week, at the same time as Jezebel, which actually made the whole ordeal a little more fun: Sally and I hand-grazed the girls together (they're besties), we let them loose in the indoor or the outdoor together to walk around, and just hung around the barn for extended lengths of time for no real reason other than to be around the horses. :)

Lily's right front remained tight, even after her and Jez, while turned out in the outdoor, got all of the studly boys in the field next to the arena all riled up and chaos ensued.

Sally took this awesome photo of my mare having a ball in the outdoor before getting to work stirring up trouble

The field next to the outdoor is where all of the geldings that like to mount mares end up-it's a paddock away from all the mares-one of them has been known to attempt this stunt over fences!!

Lily had presented her butt to precisely this gelding, and I walked over and shooed the girls away. Both of them trotted off with tails flagged, and seeing the ladies showing off so prettily, all 4 boys started tearing around their field like a small herd of wild stallions. This, of course, got the girls hyped up further, who started GALLOPING on their "lame" legs around the arena (" " because they showed no signs of lameness then...), which of course got ALL of the other horses in the neighboring fields worked up in a chain reaction, and before we knew it, there were 40 horses on the farm all tearing around their respective paddocks and fields. Holy Mother of God... Sally and I were, of course, in the middle of this trying to get the two mares to calm down so we could catch them, but they were having none of it. (Oh and did I mention that the outdoor and the neighboring fields are in full view of BQ's windows? Hahaha...) Sally was WHOAing Jez and offering a treat in an extended hand as Jezebel ran by, and her mare hesitated several times when seeing the treat, but my goofball doesn't care about treats and all she wanted to do was run...so since Lily is the ring leader of this duo and she was galloping, Jez continued to gallop. Lily was about to give me a heart attack.

It was probably 5 minutes but it seemed like 20 before we were able to get them to stop. Jez finally gave in to the treat hound in herself and came to Sally, which forced Lily to halt. I had to kinda sorta chase her in circles around Jezebel before she actually allowed me to catch her. Sally and I stood there panting, looking at one another in horror, and decided we would probably not be doing this again in the near future...

Thankfully, neither one of the mares suffered ill effects from behaving like idiots. I put Lily's ice boot on and left it on until the ice melted, just for good measure.

Our trimmer-farrier came out on Friday to trim Jez and check on Lily. By then Lily was pretty much sound, but would seem somewhat off if I trotted her on concrete in a circle. Our trimmer-farrier said that it seemed to be more of a compensatory thing with Lily where she is basically tighter on one side than the other due to her conformation. She gave me an exercise to do with Lily on the lunge, where I work her on a small circle, turn her head in, and have her sidestep with her hinds only. Kind of like a shoulder-in on a circle. We started doing this over the weekend in the evenings after work. The weather has been awful, so they stayed inside. Today both Lily and Jez are to be turned out together in a semi-private turnout (Sally and I lobbied for this, and both BQ and the Powers that Be granted our wish...it was a weird coincidence how it worked out, but more on that in another post.)

Last night I worked Lily in the indoor, and decided to do a regular lunge workout with her.  I had her trot a lot, on the lunge and at liberty, and we did the trimmer's exercise at walk and trot, then we did more regular lunge work. I stopped when I realized Lily was sweating, and not just a little-her neck, shoulders, withers, girth area, chin and cheeks were wet. This seemed really odd. It was 36 degrees. She has to be working HARD and under saddle to sweat at that temperature. We literally only worked for 30 minutes, and it was nothing unusual. The trimmer's exercise we did for a grand total of maybe 10 minutes, including breaks in between on a larger circle-I didn't want her to strain anything. I felt myself start to freak out-maybe she's in pain? Maybe she really is lame in both hinds and I'm not seeing it. Maybe it's just that her coat has gotten a little longer with the lingering cold (it has). I don't know. She had complained about some things and didn't seem as playful as she usually is when I set her free in the indoor after being cooped up. She had trotted out nicely, flipping her front feet out happily and seeming to skim over the ground. I thought maybe she was stepping ever so slightly short on her left hind when on a circle but then she was also trotting a little more sluggishly in this direction-she has always preferred really moving out to the right. Always, since the very first day I lunged her at the barn in FL. She is not resting the left hind any more than usual, I think, and when she trotted away from me in a straight line, I saw no hitch in her step when seen from the rear.

I put her cooler on, and decided to walk her out until the sweat had dried on her. She was being really lovey tonight though. I stopped to talk to Jill, BQ's assistant who rents the little apartment above the barn, and Lily kept nuzzling my face and my legs.

Back on the cross ties in front of her stall, I noticed her standing like a "V"-camped under. It does freak me out every time she does this. The trimmer isn't doing her for another 3 weeks or so, so I decided to trim her myself. For the first time, I used the coarse side of the rasp, and got to work backing up her feet. As I finished each foot, I put it down and stepped back to watch her shift into position. Her posture relaxed, her back softened, and she put her feet out in a normal stance. Okay. I went around and took a little more off of each hoof. I was surprised when she turned around and nuzzled me after each front foot. She seemed happy. I had backed her hooves more than ever before, but they needed it. Maybe that's all I'm seeing... I put Durasole on all 4 feet, and put her away in her stall for the night.

Today, she goes out in the semi-private turnout with Jez...fingers crossed they behave!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ice, Soak, Rest, Repeat

Yesterday I was at the barn to check on Lily, and even before pulling her out of her stall, I saw it: the whole outside of her right front leg, from fetlock to knee, was puffy and swollen. I thought this was odd, but since she also has a giant, infected sore from her bell boots on that same pastern, I figured maybe it was inflammation from the sore that had crept up the leg from being on stall rest.

I clipped the lunge line on and took her into the indoor, where I had her walk in both directions for a good 10 minutes. I then asked her to do lots of walk-trot transitions on the lunge, just to get her blood pumping. If it was just a little inflammation from the sore, it should go down with movement.

After 20 minutes, there was no change in the leg. She had a slight head bob that was barely noticeable-mostly when she was doing a down transition if she rushed into it. I asked her to canter a half circle in each direction, then more walk-trot. No change in her lameness, but after another 10 minutes of mostly trotting, the swelling had not decreased. It had not gotten worse, but I still couldn't see the tendons on the outside of that leg, and honestly, if it had been swelling from her sore, I would have expected her pastern to be swollen too-it wasn't. The leg was really hot. She flinched a little initially when I palpated the tendons on the leg, but of course with all that swelling, palpation would be uncomfortable regardless.

Telling the alarm bells in my head to shut up, I took Lily out of the arena. Sally had arrived and just finished soaking Jezebel's foot when I was done in the indoor, so we took the mares out and hand grazed them for over an hour while we talked. The girls enjoyed the socializing. Afterwards we put them together in the indoor, since everyone had pretty much left for the day, and let them wander around.

Jez has the pink halter with pink fuzzies, Lily is the one on the right.

"Do you have treats for us?" If Lily didn't have the white on her face, they would totally look like twins. They are probably related through Lily's TB bloodlines. Same white coronet and white pastern in front, opposite white socks in the back.

 I eventually brought Lily back in to soak her hoof in the wash stall, and for good measure, decided to ice the leg as well while we were at it. Just because I didn't like all of that swelling. I wanted to see what would happen.

Being a fidgety brat! I had to re-fill the soaking boot twice...
30 minutes later, I removed her soaking boot and continued icing for a little more while talking with Sally and Heather, who had arrived and was grooming Nate in the wash stall next to Lily.

After about 5 more minutes, I took Lily to the cross ties in front of her stall, and removed the ice boot. It revealed a nice tight leg, with two 1" diameter bumps right above her fetlock, on the outside of her leg, right over her tendons. I almost sat down and cried. This wasn't just the bruise bothering her.

You can clearly see the bumps-the light was shining on them!

I called BQ and told them what I'd discovered. She immediately came down the stairs with John, her significant other and the barn owner (he is also a very knowledgeable horseman). I showed them what was going on with Lily's leg, and they both felt the lumps. Both of them thought this was a windpuff, but given the acute presentation and the fact that it was only on the outside of a front leg, they both agreed that it would have been caused by a strain. We decided to keep her on stall rest, ice the leg twice more tonight (BQ would take care of this), and apply Surpass and wrap the leg later that night (BQ would also do this).

Today when I arrived at the barn, Lily was pacing and fidgeting in her stall. Her legs were still wrapped. I removed the bandages, and discovered a nice smooth, tight leg. We walked in the outdoor arena for about 15 minutes, and I was happy to see that the leg didn't re-fill.

You can barely see the bump.
I pulled out the ice boot and placed it on her leg while I hand-grazed her for the next half hour. She was, for the most part, a good girl, except she was obsessed with the horses in the field and kept trying to turn around to look at them. Eventually she settled and enjoyed eating grass.

After that, I put her in the wash stall to soak her hoof, and removed the ice boot. Sally arrived as I was finishing soaking, and we let the girls wander around together in the indoor again. This time, however, they were more about getting in trouble and trotting around, so we ended up taking them out. With BQ's permission, I temporarily put Lily in one of the giant stalls by the indoor, next to Murmur, one of the horses who's been laid up for the past 6 months due to double soft tissue injuries on the same leg. In the presence of another horse, Lily remained calm in the stall, and dug into the hay. I put the ice boot back on and went to find Sally and Heather.

They were in the outdoor, and Heather was talking about setting up a jump course. When the arena was dragged on Friday, all of the jumps had been removed, so we had a clean canvas to work with. Heather had some really cool ideas, and I added more to her ideas. We then got to work setting up jumps. We had a really good time, and this was the end result:

The same jump combination set up for the last 6 months in the outdoor. A bounce, and 2 single fences. We decided to change it up.

We used most of the standards and most of the poles available. It took the 3 of us an hour or so to get it finished. We deliberately used the wing standards, and made some interesting combinations (like the cross rail with the log underneath and the oxer with the hanging tires) that would be a good desensitizing experience for the horses, and also difficult to re-arrange by yourself!

The oxer was one of my favorites. About 2'3" at the most, but  set  about 2' wide, and made wider by the hanging tires. Heather set the inflatable snake up on the standard on purpose, to make it even scarier.

The X. You could jump these 5 fences in several different combinations-there are at least 6 possible bending lines here, and it can also be ridden in straight lines as an X. I LOVED this setup. It was Heather's idea, and I tweaked it a little so it could be even more versatile.

Trot poles, set up as cavaletti. This was what I was talking about  at the clinic

We had fun setting up those jumps. I hadn't done that in a long time! The striding and organization of the jumps was made to be challenging. This is a classical, challenging jumper course that demands a good amount of athleticism from both horse and rider. It almost made me want to get back into a jumping.

I let Lily's leg rest while we put up the course, and then iced it again while Sally and I sat down to watch Heather jump. Nate made the course look easy as pie. Heather trotted him in to most of the fences, but cantered between lines, then brought Nate back to a trot after the combinations. He used to be a monumental fence rusher. Not anymore!

Afterwards, I wrapped Lily's front legs again, applying Surpass once more to the spot above her fetlock where the bumps were yesterday. We'll see how it looks tomorrow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speaking of Bruises...

Today just sucked all around.

I spent half the morning wrestling with a 110 lb Labrador who had a pneumothorax, and who was also regurgitating...we had to place an NG tube (nasogastric-through the nose to the stomach) to empty the stomach before anesthetizing him for an MRI to see where his lungs were leaking air. Why did we need to empty his stomach? Because with the regurgitation, there was a very high risk of him regurging while being induced, which could complicate matters further with aspiration pneumonia. You do NOT want a patient with a pneumothorax to end up with aspiration pneumonia to boot!

A pneumothorax is when air gets outside of the lungs, but stays within the chest cavity. It is common in trauma cases, such as bad hit-by-cars, but can also occur spontaneously, like with this patient. A pneumothorax is very dangerous because it creates increasing pressure on the lungs to where the patient can die from them collapsing-he won't be able to inhale.

Now that you know that, tune back into the above scenario. We had to wrestle with this dog. He had received whopping doses of 3 different sedatives, and was still shaking his head and trying to paw at his face every time my supervisor, who is another very experienced tech, tried to insert the tube into his left nostril. We finally had to give him a small dose of Propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) to knock him out 75% so we could quickly get the NG tube inserted and sutured in place. This whole process took an hour, because we were trying so hard to not stress him out. Why didn't we just knock him out entirely to begin with? Because patients need to be able to swallow so the NG tube will end up in the stomach where it's supposed to. If they are too sedate, they will lose their reflex to swallow.

NG tube in a cat. This was the best photo I could find, so you could see how it goes into a nostril, and is then sutured to their face. I can't say I blame our patient-I would've done the same!
We sucked out all the fluid we could from his stomach (about 15 mls, not much at all) then had to take the big boy to Radiology so we could take a placement radiograph, to make sure the NG tube was correctly in the stomach (not too far out nor too far in). It was definitely in, but it had curled around inside the stomach-we had to undo the sutures and partially pull the tube out, then stitch it back into place.

This turned out to be impossible. By then, all the drugs we had given the dog had started to wear off, and with one quick swipe of a front paw, he was able to yank the entire tube out. You have no idea how incredibly frustrating this is, especially on a critical patient like this one. You don't want to have to mess with them like this and stress them out, possibly endangering them further!

The doctor gave the okay to stop. She decided they would just have to be extra-careful during induction and place the NG tube then. It wasn't worth continuing to stress the patient out.

My arms, chest, and shoulders are going to hurt tomorrow.

That was the most eventful part of the day. We had 1...ONE...emergency ALL day. It was a 12 hour shift, and only ONE emergency! I was tearing my hair out with boredom.

I flew out the door at the end of my shift. I had brought a change of clothes, so I could go straight to the barn to ride!

I got to the barn, changed, and met Alex halfway as he was bringing Lily in from the field with the other horses. I saw it before he said anything-she was off.

After this frustrating day, I was upset. I took Lily down to the outdoor to lunge her so I could try to identify which leg was bothering her. She had an equal head bob to left and right, and it seemed to be her right front. She was acting like an absolute retarded nut. The arena had been dragged and the jumps moved. The same jumps she's seen every single time I've ridden her out there, but today she was blowing and snorting at them, and trying to run away from them! Yep, you guessed it-of course she's in heat! I HATE when she gets like this.

And of course looking at her in the setting sun, I could see the outline of her ribs and the backs of her shoulder blades. All the muscle I worked so hard to put on her, all of the weight I put on her-gone. Gone in 3 months. MONTHS of beet pulp, grain, going out of my way to find extra tasty, good quality hay; the haynets; the supplements; the rice bran oil and the vitamin E oil...It took me a good 6 months to get her looking the way she did back in July (see sidebar on the right). And it's all gone.

I took Lily out of the arena, and had her trot around me on the concrete. There it was-she was dead lame on concrete, and it was definitely her right front. I texted my farrier, who can't come out to our barn until Friday, and I decided to treat it as an abscess.

But first, I found Alex and asked him about increasing Lily's grain ration yet again. They had increased her Low Starch ration as originally requested, but I asked him to add more hay stretcher and also a daily pound of rice bran pellets.

I put Lily on the cross ties in the wash stall. It was wet, and when I picked up her hoof to stick it in the soaking boot, I saw it:

A nasty little bruise on her inside heel (to the right of the photo). I soaked her foot in the boot with warm water and Epsom salts, and brushed her again while waiting the 15 minutes for it to take effect. She was uper-fidgety on the cross ties, going back and forth and not holding still. I have to distract myself when she does this because it makes me insane. If she didn't know how to stand still, it would be a different story, but she knows-she just chooses not to when she's hormonal and/or acting herd-bound.

Finally the 15 minutes were done. I put her in the cross ties in front of her stall and packed her hoof with Magic Cushion, the put her up for the night. Alex had put bute in her grain for me, like I'd asked. I told him to keep her on it until Thursday.

It is frustrating. This mare was lame for a single day in South FL, the one time that her puncture wound really bothered her. That was the only time she'd been off in a year and a half of owning her. In the 6 additional months since we moved, she's been lame 3 times. There are 3 other horses with abscesses right now. Mud season sucks.

I'm just really, really upset right now, and it doesn't help that I only got 3 hours of sleep last night. While I love the longer days of Daylight Savings, I hate losing that hour of sleep. That one hour time difference really messes me up for the first month after the change. Last night was a classic: waking up every 2 hours thinking it was time to get up, then finally waking up at 3:00 am and not being able to go back to sleep. This scenario happens every year. We didn't have this in Puerto Rico-over there it's Daylight Savings year-round. I've been doing this little back-and-forth routine for 8 years now, but I still think it's the dumbest thing ever. I mean, why? It doesn't even make sense! Who wants a night that comes even earlier in the wintertime, when people are already suffering from SAD from lack of sunlight?

I'm off to bed. I'm whining. Sorry guys.