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We Are Flying Solo

May 31, 2010

And It Only Got Hotter

I confess there may have been skipping. I honestly wasn't sure how our test would score. So when I checked the leaderboard, I was shocked and ecstatic all at once. And there may have been helpless giggling all the way back to the trailer.

We booted up to get ready for jumping. This HT runs stadium first, then XC immediately after you finish your course, which I have grown to like as it makes a perfect XC warmup. But one thing I have learned is that the stadium courses here are always very tough. The course is set on the lumpy side of a slope. Ok, that's fine, we practice on a hill at home. But it's also set on grass in a very small area. And this time, that meant practically every turn was a rollback on a hill to a jump you maybe had two or three strides in front of to get straight.

We really struggled with it; Solo is many things, but catty on a turn is not one of them. He is careful and really tries to keep his toes off the rails, but there wasn't a single jump that gave you a nice, inviting entry line and as a result, we pulled two rails. Eight penalty points, owie. They were all in the same line -- a double combination coming out of a rolling downhill corner with about three strides to an uphill vertical right on the ropes. Add to that it was getting even more humid as the heat cranked up, which really takes it out of poor Solo.

On the plus side, all our work on single fences really paid off -- I kept my eyes firmly on top rails (no more staring at decorations going "oooo, look at the little flowers!") and he handily worked his way through width, colours, Blue Tarps of Doom, and walls without a glance. Next project -- going back to riding more courses at home!

Cross country ran completely uneventfully. There were a few funky jumps and moments. As soon as we finished, I collapsed off my horse in a pile of sweaty wooziness and laid in the shade next to the trailer while our lifesaver friend got Solo some TLC till I could stand up without the field doing crazy heat-spins. But double clear, a bold canter into the water, and a really fun ride at a ditch/ narrow brush combo in the woods! We also finally got to jump the picture frame that I've been wanting to do forever -- wow, it looks so much smaller than it did a year ago!

All in all, we regained some placing with our XC run and finished in a solid 4th place. Not bad considering and I am still thrilled to pieces about the dressage test, especially given the challenging circumstances. We are definitely done horse trialing for the (hot hot HOT) summer. Well, at least until August. But that's a special event. And it's in Maryland. So that doesn't count.

May 30, 2010

It's Really Damn Hot. And Other Stories.

Like 90% humidity hot. Like my bone marrow is sizzling when I get off the horse hot. You know when you leave onions in the skillet for too long and they just turn into this syrupy goo? Yeah, that's what my brain is.

Oh, you wanted to hear about a horse trial? Oh yeah, we did one of those today. It was hot. Did I mention that? In a small mercy, at least we were done by noon.

I did manage to rope in invite a friend to hold the video camera and such so there is evidence! But since it goes through my PC first, I get to delete all the ones where I look like a baboon having a seizure on horseback. HaHA!

Shall I tell it in order or save the good part for last (no, the good part does not involve a blue ribbon, but it still makes me squeeeee!)? Hmmm, well, the alarm went off. I cursed at the earlyness. Morning is the devil's time, you know. Then I stumbled to the back door to let Smokey out. Oh, you want the HORSE part? *sigh* So demanding.

I barely refrained from beating people senseless in dressage warmup. Apparently, on their planet, there is nothing wrong with parking your horse smack on the track and just sitting there, staring glassy-eyed off into the universe. As if there aren't six other horses trying to warm up in a very small space. OMFG. I confess, in a feat of heat and rage, I just shot them glares and muttered curses instead of being adult and saying something. I am so weak...

Oh and the Novice dressage arena was on the grass. In the middle of the cross country field. So upon walking over to it, Solo went, "OH YAY TIME FOR GALLOPY JUMPY!" And I went, "Uh, no no, please, NO!"

Then something impossible happened. After stomping around (did I mention it was hot and I may or may not completely lose my mind in heat?) hopelessly unable to find a ring steward, I finally was able to connect with the judge to find out, yes, I was next. So I entered at A. And I felt my horse click. He went, "Oh, ok, dressage arena. Ho hum, I guess it's time to do dressage then." And popped into a springy trot. Completely ignoring all tantalizing logs nearby for the rest of the test. OMG, my horse is learning how to be an eventer.


Do you know what that is? Good part: THAT'S A 33.9, BABY! As in a whole new record for Solo. As in an 8 on the extended walk, which is the multiplier (movement whose points get doubled in your final score) for this test, so we got 16 points for that. As in it wasn't even really that great of a ride for him as he stayed a bit stiff. As in next time will be even better.

As in we're sitting in second place after dressage. And that made my day.

May 29, 2010

Silly Videos And Schooling Attempts

First off, Solo wanted to send a wise look with his readers, with a little help from my best girl, Smokey.  Smokey is a 15 year old German Shepherd/Collie mix that we picked up from the pound at 8 weeks old.  She was one of my 4-H dogs, won all our showmanship and conformation classes, and has been a wonderful friend.  I can't believe she has been as healthy as she is, but that dog has never been sick or hurt a day in her life -- I told her I would keep feeding her as long as she promised to live forever.  Best. Dog. Ever. Although I do hate that I sound like an idiotic 15-year-old on videos. Cannot be helped, I suppose.

If you've glanced at our calendar, you know that Solo and I are off to a schooling horse trial this Sunday at a nearby farm. We won the Beginner Novice division here last fall, complete with bucket of goodies, so now I have been spoiled. Solo's jumped every jump which will be on our course, except for one, which is a white bench in a window frame that I don't believe will cause any problems. We have, I believe, conquered our liverpool issues, so the liverpool jump this organizer loves to place on the Novice stadium course should be a breeze. We've been schooling jumping widths up to about 4', so her equally beloved giant wide oxers ought to roll on by.

I feel as prepared as I can be. I would have liked to have another dressage lesson beforehand, but the budget put its foot down. Here is our final attempt at schooling our test this evening. Canine obstacles were provided free of charge. BO offers background commentary as my complimentary eyes on the ground, er, on the back of her horse. If you have any constructive suggestions, feel free to share!

May 27, 2010

Boot Basics

So, as a lot of folks have observed in our forays into the wild, wonderful world of horse boots, the choices are nearly endless. How DO you go about choosing a set for your charge?

A few points to remember:
(1) Boots DO NOT offer support. They are for strike protection only. Neoprene and velcro cannot abate the loading forces on a horse's leg bones, tendons, and ligaments.

(2) Restricting range of motion is BAD (caveat: unless your vet tells you otherwise). The tendons in the lower leg need to stretch to their full extent in order to absorb the shock of the leg hitting the ground. Any reduction of that joint's motion means that shock is transferred directly up the leg (not good) instead of being absorbed farther down (good). This is why I do not like boots with a pastern/fetlock wraparound strap. I want the suspensory ligaments to be able to go to their full extent, unhindered, doing the job they were designed to do.

(3) You do NOT have to spend $150 to have a good, effective boot. Marketing is nothing but marketing -- try to ignore the fluff and pay attention to the hard facts.

(4) Eventers, we all love our colours. But, as one commenter noted, they can be hard to find or can restrict your options unnecessarily. Especially if you have a colour other than royal blue, hunter green, or red, buy black and accent with coloured tape if you want a professional, yet personalized look.

With those points in mind, let's make a list which will help us to choose the best match for our horse.

(a) Does the horse interfere with himself while working? This includes brushing at the fetlock or pastern, overreaching, or forging. If not, then I would not use boots or wraps on the flat -- you are trapping heat for no purpose.

(b) If the horse DOES interfere, where does it happen? For example, Solo is prone to forging and he also can brush behind. A friend has a horse who only nicks his hind pasterns with his hooves.

(c) Take your interference locations and aim to protect those. For Solo, this means bell boots up front all the time (special shoes up front too, so more to grab). Usually nothing else for flatwork or trail riding. For above friend's horse, this means only pastern wraps behind.

What boots protect what leg parts?
In my humble opinion, less is more and I only want to put on as much boot as I absolutely need for the type of ride that day. I especially don't like to use boots while trail riding; it is too easy for dirt/sand/whatever to work its way inside a boot and quickly create a raw spot.

Coronary band, heel, shoe: bell boots, quarter bells, or grab boots

Pastern: pastern wraps

Fetlock: ankle boots (and for you reining people, skid boots protect the bottom of the fetlock against road rash during slides)

Cannon bone and tendon: galloping boots, splint boots (these two are essentially the same in function), polo wraps, brushing boots (generally a little lighter weight/duty than a galloping boot); in this category, choice is mostly personal preference

Tendon only: open front boots

Materials do vary -- neoprene is generally not super breathable, but is easy to clean. Some companies are now making "breathable" (generally perforated) neoprene. Effectiveness may vary widely. A few horses do have neoprene allergies, so just pay attention. I don't like fluffy, fuzzy linings for the cleaning issue. Some companies trumpet that their boots are super tough because they are made of Kevlar -- well, Kevlar was designed to stop an impact from a bullet, so it is good for direct strikes, but holds up poorly to friction, like brushing from a hoof. So unless you plan on shooting your horse in the legs, I fail to see the benefit of paying extra for this.

Beyond that, it is up to you to know the demands and risks of your discipline. For dressage, unless your horse is interfering, you should not need anything (step away from the white polos with your hands up!). For arena jumping, I like to protect the front foot and cannon bone and the fetlocks from brushing on all four. I like that open front boots let the horse feel a pole knock. For XC, I want cannon bones, tendons, ankles and hooves protected so will use the appropriate boots to do so.

The important thing is to be realistic about what you are going to do. If you are only doing dressage, your horse probably doesn't need his legs sheathed in layers from the knee down. If he interferes that badly, there may be other issues that need to be addressed. If you are only working in an arena with collapsable jumps, the hind tendons can probably be left bare to breathe as he certainly can't kick those.

Also, stick to your budget. Sure, you can blow $150 on those Eskadrons because all the other kids have them and you will look oh so trendy like everyone else, but you know what? The $35 Romas perform just as well, last just as long, and you can laugh all the way to the concession stand at your next show that you will actually be able to visit because you were smart so you still have some cash in hand to spend. Shop around and look closely at materials and design, always asking what you are actually paying for and how much of a pain in the butt will it be to clean (ok, the latter is a HUGE one for me because I don't want to waste time scrubbing silly things).  There really is an option out there for almost every price point, the tedious part is just sorting through them.

More questions? Post them in the comments and we can take a stab at it!

May 24, 2010

We Have Finally Achieved Normalcy!!

It only took four years.

You can read about our struggles to conquer Solo's abusive longeing past here. If you are not familiar with the story, it will help you understand why I led my horse back to the barn with a huge grin on my face today.

We have received an ungodly amount of thunderstorms over the past few days, everything is wet and I have two long days at work ahead of me, so I decided to just put Solo in the vienna reins and give him a longe workout. There was a ground pole up in the arena, so I just incorporated that into our circle to let Solo work out how to fit it into his stride on his own at the trot and canter, which he did.

And why is this so exciting? Because MY HORSE CANTERED CALMLY IN MULTIPLE CIRCLES IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. This is a BIG BIG BIG deal. Even when he was thrown off balance the first few times cantering over the pole -- he didn't get the distance right and ended up in a lopsided cross canter -- he broke to trot, I gave a quiet kiss and he stepped right back up into a rhythmic canter.

No bug eyes. No flinging self about. He had one nervous moment where he stopped, but I put him back in a trot and he calmly picked up the canter shortly thereafter.

And after cantering, no racing about in crazy trot, anticipating the terror of yet more canter! We calmly resumed a metronome of a trot, spiraling in and out from 5-20 m circles and I'll be damned if he didn't keep a perfect rhythm the entire time.

I try to be a good horsey, mom!

Modeled here (besides, of course, Mr. Shiny Pants' big fat cute nose) are also Solo's brand new fly boots! I had an old pair, the cheapie four pack that I think I got from or somewhere, they were HORRIBLE and I threw them away. They sagged down around his ankles like worthless slouch socks (ah, 1986, how I remember your glory). I picked these up from Dover, they are "The Original Fly Wraps" and they are so far (ok, days used = 0, but we'll go with initial impression) soo much better! They do have plastic stays so they do not sag, nice velcro with stretchy bits for give, lovely fleece binding, and you can pick lots of fun colours! The set of four is still only around $40. These will go along way to reducing summer hoof cracking!

I am going to confess a little secret, I was, ahem, almost irresistibly tempted to buy purple ones (or blue, OMG, how am I supposed to resist our official colour!), but I had to give in to sensibility and stick with the nice, heat dispersing white.

May 23, 2010

Need A Coat As Show Season Heats Up?

I am going to take a moment for shameless advertisement. Ok, maybe there's a little shame. Well, no, actually that's a lie, there isn't. I have just listed a show coat for sale on eBay and on the off chance anyone is looking for a lovely, lightweight coat, well, here you go! I purchased it at a local humane society benefit and it's just a bit too big for me.

eBay Listing

This is a Wellington Collection jacket, you can find them in Dover for $140. And bonus: you can throw it in the washing machine! Completely brand new, with tags, from my very own smoke free home. It really does look nice in person and the lining is just beautiful, this cheapie camera does not do it justice. Bidding starts at $0.99 and I have no reserve on it, so name your price!

May 21, 2010

This Is How We Roll: Horse Boots

I have mentioned my personal addiction love for boots of all shapes and sizes. So I thought I'd share what Solo and I have settled on after years of trying and watching about everything out there.

I do not use boots for dressage schooling, except for front bell boots to protect his special shoes, because I don't like to heat up tendons if I don't have to.  For jump schooling, we use open front boots to protect the front tendons and galloping boots behind to ward off interference along with the standard front bell boots.  At a show, I will use hind ankle boots instead of galloping boots (lighter).  For XC, we always go all out:  bell boots all around, rear heavy duty galloping boots, super awesome N.E.W. sport boots up front.      

Tri-Zone bell boots
Bell Boots

I'm actually pretty happy with a cheapie lot of Roma double lock bell boots I purchased as a group of 8. The velcro is ridiculously grippy and it takes me both hands & some patience to get them off, but I use these for our turnout boots; they hold up surprisingly well. Not bad for $7.

For competition, we are stuck with a pair of Equilibrium Tri-Zone no-turn bell boots.   If by "no-turn" you mean "pretty-much-always-turn." They have the little knobby in the back, but it does basically nothing. Having ripped boots at a horse show, I had to pick some up at the tack tent and this is all they had, so I had to cough up about $30 for them, ugh. As a plus, they are very professional looking & durable; aside from being dirty, they are in impeccable shape despite several trips around XC & schooling & mud. I think we will be stuck with their turniness for a while, which is kind of annoying on a shaped boot.

When we run XC, I also put a pair of simple pull-ons on his back feet, just to protect from interference.  I picked them up for about $10, no complaints.

Hind Boots

Solo sports 2-strap Woofs behind
It's all Woof wear back here. For schooling, I adore my Woof All-Around galloping boot. I will buy these forever & ever. If the ones I have ever die. They are simple, single-lock, two strap velcro, usually on sale at Dover for around $30. I have never had them budge or give way. After about three years of use, they are worn, but still perfectly serviceable. They used to be used for competitions as well, so they've seen a XC course or two, until....

I found a pair of 5-strap Woof sport boots in the trash can while volunteering at an event. Silly rich people (these are $60 boots)...yay for me! They were in perfect shape except for a tiny rub on one edge. So now they are our competition boots due to their heavy duty construction, I have no worries that Solo is going to bash through them. On the downside, they are quite heavy & do not breathe at all, but they don't seem to absorb too much water either.

I also recently bought a pair of hind ankle boots for stadium jumping, my barn-mates all use them & I really liked their lighter weight & smaller design.  The galloping boots seemed like overkill for stadium and, again, I don't like to heat up those tendons!  I found a set of Moxie breathable neoprene boots on sale for about $28.  They come in fun colours & are super light.  NO, mine are NOT hot pink, of COURSE they are a lovely dark powder blue!!  I would give them only a moderate breathability rating -- the ankle pad breathes pretty well, but the strip around the cannon bone does not.   

Front Boots

In the past, I've ridden stadium in plain open front boots from Roma -- durable, fit well, and affordable (around $25ish).  Easy to clean, but like the Woofs, lined with neoprene so again, not so breathable.  Then I ride XC in some generic neoprene splint boots that I think I paid a whopping $12 for.  The splint boots are now disintegrating after three years of faithful service, so it was time to find a replacement (I'll keep the open fronts for stadium, but want the front of the leg protected for XC).

In my other boot post, I told you how I'd learned some startling statistics about boots & injury. I also learned that something like 80% of sporthorse injuries were to the lower front limbs. So I wanted to be sure that this time, I had the best protection I could find. I wanted breathability, lightness, & a serious tendon strike plate.

I ended up with these: the N.E.W Airoflow XC boot. Yes, I paid a ridiculous amount of money for them. I'm not telling, but I did get them on sale. I think because the labels are sewn on upside down. But I am hoping to get some serious years out of them. Oh, and I tried them tonight for the first time. And they are totally AWESOME.

The inside is some kind of techy impact foam.  But the material is a very open weave, not quite a waffle weave, but same concept.  When I took them off of Solo's legs after a sweaty dressage workout on a humid night, his legs were almost totally dry!!!!  The outside is a super tough looking nylon & the cannon is encased in a carbon fiber strike plate that is molded around the leg & padded with the foamy stuff.  Oh and the best part:  they are machine washable.  Now THERE'S practical design!

May 17, 2010

Always Expecting The Worst

I have a new horse.  My mild-mannered Quarter Horse seems to have wandered off in the night.  In his place is a somewhat more brash and opinionated creature.  He is just as shiny as ever, but he relishes pushing around Jeff, his pasture mate, with pinned ears and bared teeth.  Instead of meekly submitting to something he doesn't want to do, he boldly states his own opinion, which may include kicking out in symbolic defiance.  There's a hint of arrogance that just wasn't there before.

Because I am, well, me, I quickly surmised the cause of Solo's Big Change. He most likely had a brain tumour and would be dead within the month. This was obviously the most rational and readily available explanation for this new horse at the end of my lead rope.

I presented this information to our most logical of friends, lifeshighway, sure that she too would be puzzled by this turn of events.

lh: "Hmmmm. Well, he's fitter now than he has been since you have had him. Horses often exhibit changes in personality when they reach a certain level of physical fitness."

Me: "Oh. Well, that would make sense too."

I may have a tendency to leap to extreme conclusions in a few...ok, many...situations.

But I think lifeshighway has hit the nail on its proverbial head. Solo is indeed fitter than he has ever been; he is sleek, muscular, and holding the perfect weight and his wind is much improved. I noticed a marked jump in base fitness after doing our two horse trials this spring and it has stayed in place throughout April and May. And the collective "they" say that horses do indeed develop an arrogant confidence of their own, a certain extra vim and vigor when they go from pasture puff to competitive athlete.

So, my horse is kind of a badass now.

And I think I kind of like it.

May 16, 2010

Things That Make You Go Ew

Very few things gross me out. I'm a biologist -- my job is sex and poop. But I have weak spots. What can induce a gag reflex in someone who regularly gets spermed on by fish??

Because it's your lucky day, I will tell you!

(1) Having to touch dog poo. Even through a paper towel. Possibly the grossest substance on the planet.

(2) One day, my vet stuck her bare finger in my dog's ear, pulled it out coated with this black, yeasty substance, then sniffed it. I about lost my lunch on the exam table.

(3) Any kind of fabric in my mouth. Even thinking about it. Gack. Don't ask. It's a weird OCD thing.

(4) Working on a National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, we had collected a clutch of endangered prairie chicken eggs. I went to open one to examine it and it exploded. Grey-green liquified chick soup sprayed all over my shirt. Yeah, that'll do it.

And number five got me today. Because it's Weenie Cleaning Weekend for Solo. I broke out the KY Jelly (which won't burn like Excalibur can if you accidentally leave some on there) and lubed him up before the ride. And pulled out half a big white bean, knowing I'd have to get the other half out. That got the old heave muscles warmed up. Just be grateful I didn't succumb to the sudden urge to take a picture of it to post on the blog.

Ah, the things we do for our companions.

May 15, 2010

Stupid Circles

Sweat is pouring down my face.

It's approximately 95% humidity, 85 degrees of drip-inducing goodness out.

I am torturing Solo with some dressage schooling, his absolute favourite. If horses are capable of sarcastic glares, I think I got one when I got on.

One of David O's favourite exercises to torment warm us up with is flexing the poll while cantering on a circle. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Ha. It's not.

I am determined to conquer this exercise. Solo's interpretation of this little gymnastic endeavor is to either fall on his inside shoulder while lifting his head around the turn, or pop his outside shoulder out and ignore the outside rein. If you do get close to convincing him to bend, he feels it is impossible to do so while maintaining forward motion.

We've had a little success on a previous ride under jumping tack. Which means I had spurs and the elevator bit so it was easier to use a light aid that Solo could not simply brace himself against and ignore. Today, though, I was in dressage gear, so we had the plastic boucher and no spur.

The canter transitions were going well and the rhythm was cadenced and Solo's back was soft. We began our circle in good balance and I closed it down to 15 m while asking him to flex.

The sweat burned my eyes and my completely non-breathable polo shirt from work that I had been too hurried to change out of clung to my back.

Hot, sweaty Solo said, "No. Flexing is hard" and tipped onto his forehand and leaned.

It happened. I was tired and my patience buckled. I made that fatal riding flaw, goaded by the ugly monsters of heat and fatigue: I got mad.

"Good god, horse, it's not that hard, just BEND!!" I tried to insist with gritted teeth and an outpouring of frustration to the hand on the rein and the heel in his side.

Solo, however, is unfailingly honest in his assessment of my riding finesse on a given day. And he got mad right back, as they unfailingly (and rightfully) do when we try to force our hand too fast. And flung his head up in the air in protest and skittered off to the side.

Immediately I knew that I had pushed too hard and with too little patience. I went back to a walk, letting Solo stretch and myself try and breathe and forget about the swampy air wrapped around my brain.

When I attained some semblance of calm and thought through what went wrong, I picked up a soft contact and asked for our cadenced canter back.

Solo was wary, one ear cocked back, warning me that I better be good up there, he wasn't going to take any crap. I asked him to come into the outside rein a little and asked for a single circle, just 20 m this time, one challenge at a time. As he bent around my leg, I sat up and asked for only a step or two of poll flexion to the inside. I did not force him to hold it very long as he is not there yet. He gave me my steps, I rode him out of the circle and let him continue straight and then we quit.

This is a lesson I must learn over and over and over. A lesson that I know, but that is so hard to stay true to when things get gritty. The moments when I lose it are rare indeed, but serve as an important reminder that impatience has no place in riding and training. If we find ourselves angry or frustrated, we MUST stop, breathe, and jump start our brains because that's where the solution is. Not in force, not in brawn.

We are making progress. We'll get there. As P says, one step at a time. If you get three good steps going one way, and three good steps going the other way, well, then that's six good steps. Maybe next time you'll get eight, then next time eleven and soon, you'll have a whole circle...

May 7, 2010

Canters And Connections - Simplified

Work is crazy, I've been driving around doing field work all week, so hence no Solo updates.  But we've been doing a bit of schooling here and there.  Had a good dressage lesson late last week where we began talking more seriously about staying in the outside rein.  A concept I have known for a long time and understand in theory, but like just about every dressage concept, actually making it happen on a horse who doesn't know how is a whole 'nother basket of eggs.

So I played with it a little, using my usual amateur-rider method of trial and error (poor Solo).  As it happened, there was a discussion on the Chronicle of the Horse forums in the dressage folder about this very thing.  I read an interesting tip and decided to give it a try.  And voila!  We have outside rein connection and even MORE fun, after two years of really working on it, we finally have some lovely canter work coming out!

Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to know what this little outside rein tip is?  Would you like me not to be cruel and leave you hanging? I would never do such a thing...

It's just a little body imagery. Imagine your outside elbow is super-glued softly to your side with a contact to your horse's mouth. Take a feel with your inside rein and do some flexion/leg-yield/shoulder fore to ask him to move into that outside rein. He might resist it at first and pop his nose up in protest. But then he will give in the jaw and flex at the poll oh-so-loverly at which point you do not open your fingers but just do a little soft give from the elbow -- do NOT throw away that connection.

I summoned up my super glue and it really did help. Before, I would get the connection but give too much and lose it on the next stride. Focusing on keeping my elbow back and quiet and not giving away the rein allowed me to KEEP that connection and I could feel Solo THERE in the rein. The hardest part for me about really learning how to keep a horse on the bit has been realizing that you have to give them a bit to be on. In other words, if you just have limp reins and keep giving the bit away away away, there is nothing for them to move and push into, nothing to harness and direct the energy from the hindquarters.

This also helped in our canter work and at the end of our school, I did a 15 m circle at the canter to set him back on his hocks and lift his front end, as assigned by P, then did a lap of extend the stride on the long side, collect it on the short side.

OH! All of a sudden, my horse was a delight -- his back was up and strong and he lengthened and shortened his strides from behind as he should without falling on the forehand or losing the rhythm of the canter. I believe I was grinning stupidly as we walked down to the barn. I like to think that Solo was rather pleased with himself as well...

May 1, 2010

My Vet Has Mystical Powers

Not too long ago, I took Solo in to Dr. Bob to have his Coggins pulled.  Dr. Bob LOVES to talk, so inevitably we end up chatting about 14 different things at each appointment, as he throws out his rather impressive depth of knowledge on all things equine.  On this particular day, he displayed his uncanny ability to read a horse's body like a newspaper without laying a hand on it.  Just standing there, eyeing Solo as he was tied to the trailer, this is what Dr. Psychic shared with me as my mouth was hanging open in awe.  Apologies if it's a little disjointed, I came home afterward and frantically wrote down everything I could remember, he threw a LOT of information at me!!

It appears that I have been riding him much more round (here he points at a muscle at the base of the neck in front of the withers that apparently gave us away) and we have moved up a level over the winter (OMG, um, yes, yes we have).

Occasional back soreness is due to that fact that while the front end has developed muscle brilliantly, the back end needs to catch up; this is probably why back toes are dragging so much too. But he shows no sign of stifle issues (fighting farrier, refusal to pick up canter leads, extreme handedness, strong toeing out), which I had asked about just to make sure that any resistance I was feeling wasn't coming from this.  His body at this point plateaued until his hind end can catch up to the front and middle.

There may still be a little scar tissue inside the foot from the low heel problem we've spent the last many moons fixing.  The outside looks great, but the internal structures take much longer to heal.  This tissue will eventually break up and heal completely and is probably pretty close to complete already since his angles have been looking great.

We should do a blood panel this summer to check cell counts, etc. This will also show any parasite loads since stuff encysted in intestines will not show up on a fecal. Horses generally have a drop in cell levels in summer due to heat stress. For older horses a steroid shot can help boost these cell levels so they thrive under a workload better.  (me back in:  I intend to do some research on this one.  I don't want to be shooting steroids into my horse on a whim, but I want to know for the future if this could be a useful tool.)

These days, we can help our horses stay more active and be healthier longer.  Medical advances have allowed us to provide better living through chemistry.

Use different exercises to help build a more balanced body (me again:  Dr. Bob has evented his own horses, which I love as it means that he understands the needs and development of the eventing horse).  Extended gaits work the gaskin and forearm. Collected work works the butt and abs. Use lots of hillwork always.

After your last spring competition, give Solo a two-three week break in summer to just bum around. Let any internal stress injuries which have not presented settle and heal. Do occassional light walking hacks only, no effort. After such a break, it takes about 4 weeks to bring back into condition.

Whew, I think that was it!!