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We Are Flying Solo

October 13, 2011

X Is For Xray, eXpensive, and eXplode

The first is what Encore got, the second is what the credit card got, and the third is what my head did.

Hold on, back up....what?

Oh yes, my theory holds.  And by that I mean my theory is that if you have one horse, you will just have a lame horse and no spare; if you have two horses, you will just have two lame horses and no spare; three horses, yep, three lame horses and no get the picture.

I've been noticing that Encore has a bit of a bobble on his left front at the trot.  Not always, but I can see it and I can feel it, especially on the longe.  Well, he's an underweight, undermuscled, crooked ex-racehorse with bare feet in recovery who flexed clean so it was hard to say it was a true lameness.  But last night, it was a definite, though slight limp (insert head explosion here) and I decided to take him to visit Dr. Bob (or rather Dr. Brian, the sidekick of the very busy Dr. Bob when you call last minute) this morning.

Of course, by the time I parked my truck in my driveway yesterday evening, I was already sure that he had ringbone and would either (a) never jump again or (b) snap off his leg and die. Cue Anxiety Girl.

We flexed again and we shot a couple radiographs and then we tucked Anxiety Girl back into her bed:

(1) Despite my diligent, yet sporadic application of Durasole, the sole on his left front was soft enough that you could see it flex beneath the pressure of Dr. Brian's fingers. Owie, so not comfortable. You're getting front shoes, my boy!

(2) I wanted a lateral view of each front ankle and foot anyway -- the rads are such a powerful tool for understanding what exactly you are dealing with mechanically. Both fronts were remarkably clean. There are a couple of osselets on the right front that are old and set and a small P1 bone spur on the left, also old and set, no problem. Otherwise, P1/P2/P3/navicular bone have clean joint spaces and nice edges, yay!

(3) I would never guess it from looking at his feet from the outside, but Encore has a TON of toe which needs to be lopped off. Said lopping will hopefully go along way towards correcting...

(4) P1/P2/P3 should line up on a nice straight axis. They don't -- each has its own angle in there (can we say cattywompus?!). The rear end of his coffin bone sits too high and things are jammed up. By slowly changing the hoof angle, we can realign this whole support structure to avoid problems in the future (cattywompus = bad).

All in all -- fixable. No ringbone, no legs snapping off. We will put our lovely farrier to work and hopefully go on about our business. And may farriers who don't pay attention to bone angles find their underpants invaded by fire ants -- no one likes to fix your messes!

October 11, 2011

One Moment

A moment of silence for Andrea and Gogo.

A moment for the love and lessons and loss that encompass our lives with horses and the other animals we embrace in our hearts.

It is hard for me to read her posts, as I am still struggling with the loss of my best friend, Smokey, who I let go this spring.  There is no healing such a gutting wound, really.  All we can do is try and carry the love left behind as a gift forward into our other relationships.

It will be a new saddest day, but I think we have all lived that day and I hope that Andrea can take solace and know that she is never alone.  Remember that nothing lasts forever, but we have been lucky to have had the soft breath of a beloved horse blow across our hands and that is something that neither time nor man nor life nor death can take away from us.

Many of us shed tears for your very special mare, Andrea, and we extend our support to you in your grief.  Nothing makes it easier to do the right thing, but we are here for you nonetheless.

October 10, 2011

Yield, Sir, Yield!

I confess to weariness after a long week and a busy weekend.  My boss and I ran a three day fish meeting in the mountains and that was enough to do us in twice over.

I am sure Encore felt the same way last night, as he spent the weekend hard at work.

Saturday, we met P for our second dressage lesson.  We are attempting to coerce Encore into a shape resembling a leg yield with about 50% success -- either he gets it...or he doesn't.  (Ha, sorry, old statistics joke)

Tracking right, he is beginning to get the gist of things (I recommend full-screening all videos if you want to see what's going on and you have a 'net connection faster than a dead tortoise).  You start on a 20 m circle, then spiral in to encourage the horse to bend.  Make one revolution of your smallest circle, then give the aids to leg yield.  The idea is that the horse will WANT to move back out to the larger circle, as it is much easier.  Use physics as your aid!  I have introduced the concept on the longe and Encore's done reasonably well with it. 

To the left...not so much.  On the circle, it was a FAIL, despite using every aid I knew (if I remember, I'll upload that video tonight).  However, P's bag of tricks is bottomless, so we asked for the leg yield at the walk heading up the quarterline.  While I gave the aids, P walked next to Encore's shoulder, using her energy and a light touch to show him how he was supposed to respond.  With the ground-person-aid, the young 'un finally went Ohhhhhh!  I get it! and lick, lick, chew, he got it and stepped over to the track.

I'm also introducing small bits of canter at the end of a session, just to start building the muscle and balance.  It's certainly not pretty (or comfortable!), but it will be fun to compare three months down the road!  He has a solid right lead, while the left is tougher, as per normal for racehorses (who work to the right, race to the left and are often taught to break from the gate on their right lead, swapping in the first turn).

We used a crossrail with placing poles on both sides, trotting in and cantering out to attempt both leads.  Clever boy would land and if he was on the wrong lead, would swap in one step over the placing pole so he was correctly balanced to turn.  This one is going to be handy with his feet on a jump course!

He reinforced my suspicions when we trailered one county over on Sunday for a trail ride with lifeshighway and Pete.  We got into some steep hills and it only took Encore one slope to figure out how to lift his back and balance on his butt on the way down.  He was careful and patient, never crowding Pete when I asked him to wait, finding safe footholds and making smart decisions.  As he picked through brush and fallen trees, he never panicked at the branches around his legs (face/belly/butt/chest), even on a tough slope where we lost the trail.  Despite catching the terrifying scent of ZOMBIE DEATH COWS around the property, he steadily followed Pete over scary bridges (even the steel ones) and sometimes even led the way with a confident stride.  A fat, juicy bucket of beet pulp, alfalfa, timothy, and rice bran was a well-earned reward back at the trailer!

Sunday night = sleepy pony, sleepy rider.  Alas, no bucket of treats and day off awaited said rider.  Ah well, one out of two's not bad.

October 6, 2011

Shout Outs And Miscellany

PetAg nutrition is sponsoring an awareness campaign for National Pet Obesity Awareness Day (I don't think they mean just NOTICING your pet is fat, but rather noticing the detriment to their health that goes along with it!) which is October 12th.  Now this is a topic near to my heart -- when I was a sophomore in college, I dissected a very fat cat in my zoology lab.  I will never forget the sight of his heart and all his vital organs encased in individual fat cocoons; it was horrifying.  I realized that allowing your pet to be obese is just as irresponsible as allowing it to become emaciated; both caused damage to internal organs and physiological systems, shortening your pet's life and increasing your annual vet bills.

PetAg has chosen five pet bloggers to interview for the month of October and Solo was chosen to represent healthy horses everywhere!  But we need YOU to help us win the prize -- a gift certificate we can use for tasty treats or giveaways!  What to do:  go to the blog post here and like/+1/tweet/comment/email it (your choice) in the lefthand column.  Whoever has the most clicks wins the prize! 

I also have some shout-outs that I have been remiss in posting! I first wanted to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to lifeshighway and Pete, our riding buddies. A few weeks ago, they completed their FIRST 50-mile endurance race up at Biltmore Estate. Not only that, but they actually went 60 miles -- and we are not talking walking, it's a race! Now THAT is a serious accomplishment and they deserve a standing ovation. They have worked hard, doing it the RIGHT way, keeping Pete safe and sound, and I am so proud of them!

I also have a shout-out for Ashley, who came up and said hi to us over at Encore's first dressage show -- it was great to meet her and see a friendly face at the show!

I have more product reviews for you coming up, as well as a report once Encore has his second dressage lesson this Saturday. I have been gone at a fish conference all week, so he has been on vacation. He did hop over our black and white gate last night, which made me very proud, and successfully went up and down our 2' bank. Progress!

October 2, 2011

We're (In)Famous On The Interwebz!

Check it out!  Katie, over at Equine Life, has just posted an interview with Team Flying Solo!  Solo told me he reckons that if he's made it in New Zealand, he can now rest on his laurels.  I informed him that we are at too low an elevation for laurels to grow and resting is boring. 

While you're over there, also check out Katie's stories about the mischevious Jack -- it's a good thing he lives in another hemisphere, because I'd HATE for Solo to ever get any ideas!

A big thanks to Katie -- she has started a series of blogger interviews that are great fun to read (and to participate in).  For direct links:

Our interview is here.
The first interview, with Now That's A Trot, is here.

What a great idea to get to know new blogs and bloggers!