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We Are Flying Solo

September 21, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Bell Boots

Every time I sit on this young horse, I get more excited about him. He has all the goods to take me wherever I want to go and he just blows me away anew each day. I feel sure he will go lame very soon, he IS a horse! After some transition work tonight, I did a few little jumps and pointed him at a 2'3" vertical with a mess of hay bales and orange cones piled beneath. He had not been presented to it before so I grabbed some mane. He analyzed the rail in one breath, sat back on his hocks and hopped right over. After I got over being weirded out by feeling a horse who sits on his hocks at the base of a fence, I hugged his awesome little neck. Kickass.

But what I am SUPPOSED to be talking about now is bell boots. With Solo, it is always a conundrum as he wears them full-time when he is in work. The best ones to use were the gum pull-on type. However, when competing on a regular basis and changeing boots around all the time, it is a MASSIVE COLOSSAL ANNOYING PAIN to pull those on and off over shoes all the time. I tried the velcro type for a while, but we shredded about a pair a month and buying bell boots in large lots got old quick. The no-turn kind pretty much always turned and stayed too wet for my liking.

I settled on this solution: petal bell boots. Yup, retro to the max. But they are inexpensive and were more durable than anything else I put on him. They moved constantly which kept air moving in and let dampness dry out. You can replace petals and straps individually; I love things with spare parts. And the most fun: you can colour coordinate! Well, to a point -- thus far I have only been able to find them in red, black, white, navy, and grey. But you can mix and match petals should you so desire. I got them from VTO Saddlery and always keep a pair in the trailer.

September 17, 2011

Baby's First Dressage


Now that we're clear on that...

In some fit of insanity, I decided to take Encore to a dressage show today. Because I've had him all of, what, seven days? I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get him out there in a dressage arena and start racking up the miles. Our goals: staying in the arena, not getting eliminated, and successful exposure to a show atmosphere. What could possibly go wrong!?

Yesterday, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and a layer of silky, grey clouds unrolled above us. Perfect weather for Horses Gone Wild, right?

I'd selected USDF Intro Test A, so simple a 3-legged pig ridden by a blind gerbil could do it. Except I've only ridden this horse twice in any sort of arena. And he doesn't know how to bend yet. Or half halt. And oh, there's my tendencies towards Idiocy Upon Entering At A.

After nearly falling out of the trailer upon arrival in his haste to check things out, Encore proceeded perfect. Well, he was about 17 hands tall for the first hour, but he still never put a foot wrong. Funnily, he was more interested in the woods than the people and horses and trailers and fences and booths and flowers. That little racehorse never spooked, never flinched, never rushed, never protested for even a moment. THIS is why I buy horses for their brains. The evidence does not lie:

I apologize for video quality -- the only thing I had charged was the helmet cam and given the high chance of rain today, I decided waterproof was the way to go.

Naturally, I managed to mess up even that simple test. Being trained for years to trot boldly down centerline upon arena entry, that's exactly what we did. Even though you are supposed to transition to the walk at X and walk all the way around to M. Ooops.

But Encore was a superstar; he held a rhythm, he even did some stretching! And we won! First place in our class of, oh, well, one. Ha! I can only thank the amazing CANTER ladies for what they have done for him. They took a horse who was sour and hated people (it's true, this babyfaced ham wanted nothing to do with the pink apes) and gave him a chance to blossom into the amazing horse he is already becoming.

September 16, 2011

Back To Good (For Half Of Us)

Wednesday, two shiny red boys went to visit Dr. Bob's trusty sidekick, Dr. Brian, who does lots of bodywork.

Encore was first; he needed his fall shots and a bloodwork panel (all normal, hooray!). In addition, his lumpy back and pelvis, all jammed up from exploding out of starting gates, needed some serious chiropractic attention. So Dr. Brian adjusted his withers. And lower back. And hips. And elbows. And neck. And pelvis. Did I mention he was jammed up? Afterwards, it was amazing, even his topline changed and softened. He gave a sigh of thanks and stood very still for his ministrations. I am very excited that we've reset everything to baseline so I can rebuild his muscle and condition from there.

Solo was next, the problem child. Dr. Brian went over every joint in his body, adjusted a few things, and then said, "Hm." The same sore spots in his loins and behind his hips tweaked as reliably as ever. I'd given him two weeks off to see if complete rest made any difference whatsoever. It didn't. Per Dr. Brian's recommendations, which agreed with Dr. Bob's, we'll keep up the light work schedule for another month, then re-evaluate. We don't want to let him down completely -- he's difficult to condition and just letting bad muscles sit merely gives you tighter muscles and less body support. That miraculous cure I was waiting for? Poor Dr. Brian didn't have it and got to watch my crestfallen face again.

So we'll keep on keepin' on. Encore has been threatened within an inch of his life to stay sound so I can stay busy with Project Horse 2011. Yesterday, he conquered the Blue Tarp of Doom without even a flinch over the course of about 30 seconds. I am baffled by a horse who learns faster than I do so new lesson plans are in order for the weekend!

September 14, 2011

The Ubiquitous Foot Post

Brought to you by the cutest face, which I finally managed to capture!

It's impossible not to love me.
Two brothers meet at last.  I hope Solo didn't tell him too many stories in the trailer ride.
Unskippable cuteness out of the way, I shall move on to the Encore Foot Examination 2011.  The study of hooves is fascinating to me.  They are constantly changing with their environment and physical demands.  Encore came to me barefoot, I believe his racing plates were pulled when he came off the track in December of 2010.  I wish I had taken baseline pictures the day I brought him home, because believe it or not, they have already begun to change.  In five days.  Mind-blowing.

His hoof walls look good -- they are strong, smooth, and fairly even.  They were a little chipped up until last night when farrier cleaned up the edges a bit and balanced the heels, but just nothing further than cosmetic issues.  He'll finish the trim next week when he comes back for Solo. 

When you pick up his feet though, that all changes.  Up front, it's not too bad -- his frogs look decent, although his heels are still contracted and he's got some thrushy bits living between them, ewie.  Racing plates rarely do any favours to horsie feet.

Left front
Left front solar view

Right front
Right front solar view.  This one has smashier heels and there's some goop down in the crack at the center of them.
 Then you pick up his hind feet and it's a different story.  I know you probably won't believe me, but there has been a big change in these already.  Both had thrush in the grooves along the frog and the heels were crammed together very tightly with more thrush between them, even more ewie.  I kid you not, those creases between the heels were crammed together tighter than gator jaws, not even space to stick a hoofpick in.  And the frogs were dry, tiny, and shriveled; they definitely were not performing as they should.

These pics (and the ones above) were taken this evening and his heels are ALREADY spreading, opening up that central crack.  His frogs?  Suddenly revived and looking plump again.  The farrier did almost nothing last night, just cleaned the edges and took a bit off the heel bars, I swear.  He has worked for four days on harder ground and coarse arena footing, quite a change from the sandhills!  But he shows no soreness.  The saddest part is that his soles now look as good as the BEST Solo's ever were barefoot.  Poor wussy Solo feet, just couldn't hack it.   

Right hind
Right hind solar view

Left hind

Left hind solar view

I can't wait to see what happens next!  I will probably need to shoe him eventually, but for now, he will stay barefoot unless he tells me he needs otherwise.  I've gone to town with the Thrush Remedy and the Durasole, so we'll all be goopified for a while.

September 11, 2011

First Dates

Encore is used to having a job, so I decided to spend the weekend introducing him to our trails around the farm.  We've got hours worth, winding through woods and fields, so it should keep us busy for a while!

I met up with a friend on Saturday so that her horse, Diesel, could provide Encore with a steady buddy. Not that he seemed to need one! He trucked right out in a huge TB walk -- I could feel his shoulders swing out beneath me in a smooth, open stride, what a feeling! With steady steps, he booked right by cars, mailboxes, dogs, shady woods, fallen branches, dead leaves and quite willingly dipped his toes in the ponds. Until....


As we came around the corner where a herd of Herefords were calmly dozing in the shade, Encore suddenly grew to 18.2 hands and stopped, shaking and blowing as if his life was over.  I quickly decided that since he wasn't going within 50 yards of them and he had only known me for a day, I was dismounting.  Poor little bugger was convinced they would leap the fence and fang him to death.  We just hung out and watched them for about 30 minutes, until Encore returned to normal size and started breathing less like a steam engine and more like a horse.  He dropped his head and licked his lips a few times, although still keeping a careful eye on the beasts.  I felt that was very good progress and I certainly wasn't going to pick a fight or drag him past them, so we turned around, remounted and headed home.

Project Cow Terrors filed for future work.

Today, we headed out with lifeshighway and Pete for a brief ride just to stretch everyone's legs.  Encore was fantastic and led the way most of the time with eager curiosity.  He seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring new places -- as soon as we got on a trail we had not ridden yesterday, his pace tripled!  When we got back, we walked over two small jumps, a tiny crossrail and an 18" bright green and yellow vertical with flower boxes.  As soon as he hopped the cross rail, he said "WHEEEEE, JUMPS, YAY!!"  He peeked at the vertical but jumped readily over, even remembering to pick up his back feet.

Finishing off the weekend, was a good scrub in the bath, a hair trim, and a brushing-out of everything.  The shine came out in the sun and he reveled in the hearty devouring of clover patches.

He might want to be a poser after all.
Inside of front leg.

Front of cannon.

Encore shows off his pinfire scars.  The theory behind this practice is that you use a red-hot bolt to burn through the outer layer of the cannon bone and stimulate the flow of blood and calcium to heal bucked shins.  Valid?  I'm not sure, but it sure looks insane!

I see shiny-ness!!!  Clover noms...