SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

January 21, 2010

It's Time

Horses' legs: structures designed by nature to drive horse owners to and beyond the brink of madness and financial ruin. They are also the source of brilliant marketing opportunities for companies who can figure out how to vaguely promise to magically protect/heal/repair/strengthen/support your horse's legs if you only fork out the cash for their amazing product. And it's a pretty safe bet that if you choose to own a horse, at some point, you will be dealing with some leg-related issue which will cause you to identify strongly with the words above.

So for Solo, it's a hind leg thing. I'm pretty sure it's his hocks. Which means there is a great chance that it has nothing to do with the hocks, because that is the way horses seem to work. But previous study and examination and consultation lead me to believe it's a hock issue, so that is the story that I am sticking to! Until I find a better story.

He has some mild hock arthritis, more so in the left hind than the right. As a result, he has perfected the art of cocking his hips just so to the outside when tracking left so he is not fully loading the inside hind at the trot and canter when asked to bend. It's subtle and often times you can't even see it, you can only feel it when you are sitting on him. It certainly doesn't slow him down, just makes him a bit lopsided (and hey, who isn't lopsided?).

Like a good horse slave, I mean, owner, I set out to try and address this. When I bought him at age 10, he didn't really need anything, but the first winter, I could feel the tiniest hint of unevenness, so I began the Great Supplement Trials, looking for the feed-through which might help him out (different horses respond differently to different things and not all supplements are created equal). I gave each a month or two of trial and if I found no results, I tried something else.

I tried pure MSM. Nope, no difference.
Corta-Flx, adored by many. Nope, no difference.
Some random thing I forget. Nope, no difference.
Injectible glucosamine. Nope, no difference.
SmartFlex II Support. HMMMM....YES! I liked it!

My old vet wanted to inject his hocks straight off (well, of COURSE, that makes a bunch of money for them, doesn't it??!). I said no, it felt too drastic to introduce at this stage, I wanted to work through options gradually. I was sure he would need injections eventually, but I wanted to delay jabbing needles into joint capsules for as long as possible. The second winter, I decided to knock things up a notch and moved him to SmartFlex Senior, another feed through which had higher levels of therapeutic ingredients and also included Devil's Claw. I liked this even more!

About a year and a half ago, as we started to compete more, train more, etc, I wanted to give Solo some more help with the joints, so I added IM Adequan to his protocol. OMG, I love that stuff! I can always tell a difference within 24 hours of injection and it has been a huge help keeping the stiffness at bay. I finally got him back on 24/7 turnout and all that motion motion motion also helps keep everything lubed up, even in the nastiness of wintertime.

This year, our training will keep moving up. Solo will be 14 in February and he has politely informed me that the time has come. I have researched, consulted, polled, interviewed everyone I can get my hands on. And it finally feels right to take that step. So February 1st, the joint injections will make their appearance and the deed will be done.

I am excited, having made the decision. I want for Solo to always be comfortable with his job and I think that this will help him to do so. Of course, by this point, my expectations are ridiculously high. Post-injection, my horse will be able to passage, score a 15 on every dressage test, leap 4' fences from a walk, and make optimum time at the Advanced level.


January 19, 2010

I Ride

Written by an 87 year-old woman (who still rides) and had this to say about women & horses:

I Ride

"I ride. That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things you might have once considered out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet /farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer by the side of the freeway, or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold beer after a long ride.

The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. At least I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it 'the sickness'. It's a sickness I've had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of 'the sickness'. It's not a sport. It's not a hobby. It's what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.

I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap [I interject: HELMET!] down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust.

Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.

I consider the simple statement; I ride. I think of all I do because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the meadow, all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel better for doing so.

The beauty I've seen because I ride amazes me. I've ridden out to find lakes that remain for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Stairway at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart.

I think of the people, mostly women, I've met. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie amongst the bunch. We haul 40ft rigs, we back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. We cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions, the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, wait and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford the 'sickness' and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one."

January 15, 2010

My New Best Friend

Maybe it's premature to rank them so highly, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Solo's new shoes! Farrier was out yesterday -- we've been experimenting, trying to find a set of shoes that will fit Mr. Goldilocks "just right" and stop his forging ways.

My apologies, it's not the best picture, but it's the best you get from a phone with no flash in a stall at night! But up front he now has Natural Balance shoes with a wedge heel and we also put a slightly shorter shoe on the back -- he was having issues with the longer trailers we tried in the back, so those came off, yay!

End result, rode him lightly last night and he did GREAT! Not a single clinky forge to be had. And we incorporated our homework of adding a few 15 m canter circles -- and on the right lead (easy one) coming out of that circle, he sat down in the prettiest little uphill canter you ever saw.

Me = satisfied again. Anal hoof staring abated for the time being. Ok, you're right, I probably will still stare, but my eyes will be slightly less narrow now.

January 14, 2010

Thought For The Day

I am cleaning out my old cell phone in preparation for switching to a new one, as the buttons are about to stop working (especially the one with the "e" on it!). I found these timeless words from God, aka Jim Wofford, stored in a note from our clinic last year. I stashed them in my phone to remind myself often to keep my horse training priorities straight:

Any system which disturbs the natural tranquility of the horse is flawed.

Need I say more? Words to ponder every day...

January 12, 2010

Quiz Answers

Just because I know you were dying to find out, our two mystery horses from the 29 December 2009 quiz were successfully identified!

molly was the first commenter to successfully identify our stunning chestnut, Secretariat. A son of Bold Ruler, this red speed demon was not expected to have the staying power for the distance stakes races. It appears no one informed Secretariat of this. Not only did he win the Triple Crown in 1973, he blew it out of the water. In the Derby, he achieved the unprecedented feat of running each successive quarter mile faster than the one before it. That record still stands. He also won the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths and in the fastest time for 1.5 miles on dirt ever before and ever since. He is still listed in "Top Ten" lists of great athletes even in non-horsey circles, won $1.3 million, and his blood lives on in his descendents despite his death from laminitis at age 19 in 1989. As an honor for a great legend, he was buried whole at Claiborne, where he still lies. He also sired the first TB yearling ever to sell for more than $1 million; the colt, Canadian Bound, brought a $1.5 million sticker price, but was a failure at racing. Secretariat later became known for his penchant for producing mediocre colts, but excellent broodmares. Interestingly, necropsy revealed that his heart weighed 22 pounds, the largest ever recorded for a horse.

The grey was a toughie, but Kate chimed in, solving the mystery (even I couldn't figure out who he was): Spectacular Bid. He was a Bold Ruler grandson who may have also been a Triple Crown winner, only the morning of the 1979 Belmont, "The Bid" stepped on a metal pin in his stall and his jockey was in a fist fight, the two of which together cost him the prize. Nevertheless, he won 26 out of 30 races and never lost between 7 furlongs and 1.25 miles. He won $2.8 million and was syndicated at stud for $22 million. He left Claiborne in 1991 and he died of a heart attack in 2003 in upstate New York, 27 years full of heart.