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We Are Flying Solo

September 22, 2011

I'm Afraid Of Good Things

There, I said it.  Because I have to admit, the magic of Encore scares the hell out of me!

Are you on crack, crazy woman? you query incredulously. He's a great horse, full of promise and potential, enjoy it!

Psssh, I can't afford drugs, I have horses! That detail aside, his awesomeness is exactly why he terrifies me.

I longed him today, his second longeing session (we'll not count the bolting gallop-fest that was his pre-purchase exam longe initiation). He politely walked, trotted, and cantered in both directions on a perfect circle. In vienna reins. All on voice command. And automatically switched directions when he halted because I showed him how one time.

See, in my world, this horse is too good to be true. He has a perfect mind, he is perfectly built, he is perfectly trainable, he is perfectly rideable, he has a perfectly professional attitude. He's like a damn unicorn -- absolutely amazing, but not something you'll ever find in your own backyard.

Therefore, I tiptoe through the barn almost afraid to watch him move, sure that he will go ridiculously lame or drop into a deadly colic. I am certain that there is no way the universe would EVER allow me to have a horse like this without some form of serious repercussions that I cannot possibly guess at.

I do remind myself that he still needs a lot of work. His feet are in need of some dedicated rehab; he's quite underweight; neither muscle nor balance are in very good supply and he breaks into a sweat after five minutes of work. So we do have a long road ahead of us and there WILL be speedbumps.

I think I just need him to have a good, old-fashioned idiot day, to just freak out about something ridiculous or do something incredibly stupid and assure me that he is not a hallucination from Fantasy World, but instead a real, flawed, and fully attainable creature who is not lying in wait to crush my soul when I least expect it.

In the meantime, however, I am having a freaking BLAST with this horse -- my barn friend stopped and looked at me the other day. "I don't think I have ever seen you smile so much since I have known you," she offered. "You've had a grin on your face all week, I had no idea you could be that happy!"

So, Jessica, Allie, Suzanne, mum, trainer in Delaware that I don't know, universe -- I am scared out of my wits, but I love it -- THANK YOU.

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.