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We Are Flying Solo

August 28, 2013

Clip Clop Clip Clop BANG BANG Clip Clop...

Know what makes that noise?

Wait for it.... Amish drive-by.  HAHAHAHHA.  Ok, yes, I love jokes in poor taste, it is a weakness.

That is also the sound of a llama TB speed racing over trot poles.  Bugger.

In good news, he is looking and feeling sounder on his feet.  I still have not seen anything blowing out of his front hooves, but he does seem more comfortable on them.  We had a nice little ride on the grass on Monday.  Of course, he is also getting daily bute, so...

I confess we did have a terrible ride last night.  I should just not get on when I am tired and it is heinously humid.  Things degrade quickly, we end up frustrated and I ponder a hobby of goldfish.  Or rocks. 

Part of the problem is that right now, I just do not have the money to take the lessons I should have with the trainers whose eyes I badly need.  David is a two-hour haul -- well worth it, but hard to find the diesel money at the present time.  The truth is, as I know I've said before and as became very obvious to me with Becky this spring, to make real progress, you simply must have that pro time.

There are some more local options to explore.  The simple fact is, I'm not having fun right now, which then saps my motivation.  Therefore, the point is being missed!  Whenever I catch this phenomenon occurring, I know it is time to take a step back, inhale, exhale, and plan something light-hearted, relaxing, and...FUN.  I am fairly exploding with impatience to get back out on the trails, the Devil Belly-Stabbing Bugs need to hurry up and go away.

What do you do when this happens?  How do you uncoil those springs and relax with your horse, rediscovering that oh yeah, my hobby is supposed to make me happier?  How do you keep working towards your goals yet take some of the pressure off so the pot doesn't blow its lid? 

August 22, 2013

I Could Fund Dr. Bob's Retirement. I Probably Do.

Stomp.  Stomp.  Stomp.  Stomp.

With that, we were down for the count again.  If you follow us on Facebook, you already know that Encore has the dubious distinction of managing to bruise all four of his feet at once.  While I felt rather relived when Dr. Bob pronounced his diagnosis, as it was far better than whatever mysterious thing my brain was dreaming up, it was still frustrating and a bit disheartening whilst in the middle of it.  Bite me, fall schedule.

This year has been akin to hoof  murder for many, though.  It went something like this:

Enjoying dinner in a ditch in mismatched anti-stomp finery.

Shoes came loose, muscles got sore from ground concussion, and everyone ended up aggravated.

Sometimes it seems like my sexy brown horse is bent on getting out of work.  Each time we get into the swing of things, we crash into the wall.  Even Dr. Bob shakes his head a bit because Encore has great conformation, wonderful athleticism, and worlds of try.  And there is certainly not anything wrong with him outside of his back's arthritic changes, which have done great with injections and caused no further issues.  He just seems to have picked up his owner's penchant for hurt-yourself-just-enough-to-be-annoying.  Naturally, Mr. Solo Of The Wussy fine.

Making a list of his creative ways of hurting himself does make me feel better though.  Yeah, that sounds odd, doesn't it??  But it does remind me that they are all just poorly-timed little things.   A pulled ligament, a foot bruise (psh, who does just one, go big or go home!), a sore muscle.  Irritating, yes, but undeniably a part of owning the sporthorse!

His back feet have already blown out their abscesses.  His hocks were a bit sore from compensating for sore feet and more stomping, so we injected the lower hock joints to tide him through healing (heck, he raced for three years, it's not like he's never had a joint injection) by reducing soreness and letting him move more smoothly and naturally.  Interesting tidbit:  I asked Dr. Bob if there was any data about hock injections in terms of future prognosis, as I know he keeps up on his science.  I was very happy to learn that with hocks, the injections do not exacerbate any issues or limit your treatment window in the same way that coffin or fetlock joint injections can.

He'll stay on his bute until his front feet decide to erupt, remaining in a light riding schedule on grass to help keep the blood pumping in his feet and encourage those bruises to move out and heal.  And of course, I broke out my Durasole and introduced the two of them, along with my fly boots!  I already know from his radiographs that he has lovely, thick soles, they just need to be a bit harder this year to battle the crazed weather on top of hard ground in which rocks are a cash crop.  I also picked up this nifty little battery-powered fly mister for the run-in shed.

Keep an eye on those tootsies, folks, and don't forget, proactive is always better than reactive!  And less expensive, sigh...

August 15, 2013

Serene Solo

It makes him so happy...
When I swung my leg over and settled into Solo's dressage saddle, I remember how close to saddle heaven your butt gets to be in that thing.  Delicious! 

That's right, I brought Mr. Shiny down to the arena for a change since Encore continues to symie us with his particular feet.  I really didn't plan on much; for once, it was only 80 degrees with a refreshingly mild 50% humidity -- it practically felt like fall!!!  Solo wandered nonchalantly through the gate with the clump of his front boots and the swish of his sparse tail.  Ah, my follicularly challenged friend!

I had woken up in a funny mood and the idea of some time with my best buddy was especially appealing.  With some lateral work and transitions within the trot, we both woke up and rather to my surprise, my often-uninspired chestnut found a bright rhythm as I felt his back and withers lift and the base of his neck reach into an extended trot.  His lovely, balanced canter has always been easier to sit than Encore's (not quite the same level of horsepower back there), like riding a hammock, and we even did a couple of flying changes in a figure eight and a fakey gallop.

He felt great!

As we wandered back up the hill, I couldn't repress my smile and enjoyed the peaceful vibe of my horse.  Solo's still got it, buttons are intact, and what's more, although he would still much rather soar than shoulder-in, now that he is on the more "finished" side of the training continuum, he enjoys the work so much more than when we were both grasping at straws, trying to figure things out.  And thank you, Encore, for making me a better rider with a deeper, more educated feel and more polished technique. 

Heck, maybe I should put him on the fitness trail and visit a show for fun.  That USEA registration is a lifetime one...

August 9, 2013

The Nose Knows

Happy face in the (s-word which I will not say aloud, ewww)
I am sure I have talked before about my propensity to school Solo without any type of cavesson on.  He wears just the headstall and bit, with his charming nose free to move as it pleases.  We didn't start that way, although I've certainly never been a noseband cranker.  I quickly decided though that if his mouth was gaping or evading or otherwise doing something, it meant he was uncomfortable or I was in his face or something else was Not Right.  Communication is important to me in all relationships, so I wanted to be able to hear what he had to say and the noseband went off to gather dust on the tack hook.

As you've observed, Encore's outfit is a little different.  You cannot remove the cavesson section from the Micklem bridle, but its design means that the horse still has nearly all of his jaw freedom and I always fasten both chin straps on the last hole.  The primary action of the chin groove strap is to stabilize the bit anyway, which he quite likes.  On the jumping bridle, it's so loose around his nose, I can almost stick a fist in there.

Both ends are the same:  zero (or as close as I can get) pressure on the myriad of sensitive tissues around the horses' muzzles.  They go on when required for shows, but remain loose and merely decorative.

I see a crease and the larger cavesson is pulled down.  No likey.
There are plenty of arguments thrown out there for tightening up a noseband so that I can see the crease in the skin around the leather (Yes, I am especially prejudiced towards the flash, which is almost always fit incorrectly.  Or hackamores sitting over nasal passages, aghh!).  He evades the bit.  He crosses his jaw.  He plays with his tongue.  He needs to learn.  Blah blah blah.

I don't buy any of them (there, I said it).  I have a hard time (outside of a few extreme situations) coming up with ANY reasonable explanation to tie a horse's mouth shut.  You certainly aren't solving a problem.  The tension, insecurity, or discomfort is still there and you may have just made it worse by taking away the horse's escape from pain.  Teaching a horse to accept contact involves using LEG to keep him  moving forward into it and ignoring his temper tantrums; this lesson in no way involves pulling against his face and jaw (of course, I am just as guilty as anyone of falling back to the stupid hand jive).  Not only is there an issue of pressure, but one of airflow:  any reduction of his ability to dilate his nostrils reduces his ability to cool himself and take in vital oxygen in work, whether it be dressage, trail riding, or jumping.

Observe:  an excellent news release from on a study exploring the pressure exerted by nosebands and exploring future avenues for research involving the repercussions thereof.  Not only are there some interesting findings regarding pressure, but they raise the important question that many have just assumed:  what do we REALLY know about how this pressure translates on the inside of the mouth and around the bit? 

At least fit the dang thing correctly.  Although I'd actually go a couple holes looser on the flash strap
This is not to say OMG, YOU USE A CAVESSON, YOU ARE A HORRIBLE HORSE ABUSER!!!  I have not seen legions of horses destroyed with rotting off noses.  There are few absolutes in horsemanship and we must decide on an individual basis, in the end, what is best for our partners.  But I think there needs to be some more thought and discussion about fairness, patience, and responsibility when it comes to this particular issue.  If there is a reasonable opportunity to make a horse more comfortable, shouldn't we?  Overall, horses are stoic creatures and will put up with quite a bit, but they shouldn't have to, if avoidable. 

I believe more riders should look askance as to whether they have truly and correctly approached their training and schooling with regards to contact, bitting, and oral care.  It boils down to another of my philosophies -- are you using tack that you actually NEED, because that is all that should be on the horse.  You know I am always in favour of an educated approach, which includes being open to new information and being willing to explore change.  Yes, the horror of horrors, CHANGE!   

Feel free to discuss at will, heh.

August 6, 2013

If Mo' Money = Mo' Problems, Then Shouldn't No' Money = No' Problems?

Empty piggy is sad.
It just sounds logical to me.  Harrumph.

What with vet bills and farrier bills and oh yeah, the riding mower decided to blow a piston ring, there are more tough choices to make all around.  Complicated, of course, by the complete unpredictability of equine soundness or lack thereof.

Encore was a bit footsore up front this weekend, no doubt from the angle change, so he will get a critical eyeball from me this afternoon to see if he is ready to get up and go.  He did feel better behind though, which was nice --  no more soreness from fly stomping thanks to the fly boots and mister installed in shed!

Let's just pretend, though, that it will all settle back down into good.  You know, just for fun.

We have a nice little schooling jumper show coming up in a couple of weeks, a personal favourite of mine we had a great time at last year.  After's hard to say.

I would still REALLY like to run him at Five Points HT.  As much as I would like to also do the Adult Team Challenge this year, it is not near stabling buddies and I think there is only room for one recognized event in the budget this fall.  If any. 

There are several other schooling horse trials, though, both at CHP and elsewhere, as well as scattered local CTs and jumper shows, so we have options and I hope to use them to hone Encore's Training Level skills.  When, where, and how will depend on diesel, debt, and horseshoes. 

August 2, 2013

Changes Afoot

Naturally, after I celebrate Encore's awesomeness and plan a fantastic trip down to Southern Pines to visit his CANTER MA aunties and ride with David...

...he shuts that down a few hours before we depart.  Apparently, I never learn!

I arrived on Saturday morning to find his shoes all jacked up from stomping endlessly at flies and his withers and butt sore from the repeated concussion.  The rest of his back seemed fine and I tried to ride the soreness out with stretching but it did not go well.  In addition, the stomping plus a hoof growth spurt from new grass made him grow insane amounts of hoof wall all over the place; his feet did not even closely resemble their normal state!  He had two loose shoes and the barn farrier, who happened to be visiting, tacked them back on for us and also made a few suggestions, which got my brain churning.  He didn't know any better, haha.

Regardless, no trip for us.  Sadness.

Both boys were due for their vaccinations and our farrier was visiting yesterday, so I hauled them down to Dr. Bob's clinic.  While we there, I decided to redo the lateral radiographs of Encore's front feet that I had taken almost two years ago when I brought him home.  I was curious to see if there had been improvement in his P1/2/3 alignment (it felt like there had not), if there were any arthritic changes (I hoped not!), and what his soles and toes looked like (I already knew he grew a ton of toe).

Dr. Bob agreed it was far more useful to shoot the pictures than try to guess, so we made the boy some nice wood platforms and had a look.  Turns out, my instincts weren't totally wrong.

Left front foot.
When I said he grows a ton of toe, I meant it!  This is at 4.5 weeks of this crazy cycle, our grass has been off the charts.  So try not to judge the heinous hoof wall too much, even though it looks uuugly. 

On the positive side, his joint spaces have remained nice and clean, as has his navicular bone (nestled in the back between P2 and P3 (coffin bone).  While his coffin bone shows some remodeling on the palmar (facing the ground) and rear edges, it is nothing outside of the normal range.  His sole thickness, which was already great, had increased a bit more, yay!

However, there has not been any improvement in the P1/2/3 alignment.  The heel end of his coffin bone still sits a little too low, which lets the bones sink slightly out of alignment.  This also creates some bruising on the palmar surface of the coffin bone, in the center of the foot (I thought this sounded horrible, but Dr. Bob assured me it was minor). 

Right front foot.
His right foot told much the same story (this was one of the two reset on Saturday, hence different nails).  Still clean joints, navicular is fine, sole excellent.

Same verdict on bone alignment and coffin bone angle.

We also discussed his back feet.  Encore travels very base narrow behind and twists his hind feet, especially his left hind, when he pushes off the ground (very common).  His front feet also hit the ground before his hind feet if he is not fully engaged, creating his nice four-beat canter, heh.  However, he does not grow crazy toe back there, his hoof wall behind is very  nice.

Now it was time to create a new shoeing prescription!  He was wearing Natural Balance shoes up front, which farrier alternated with keg shoes when he felt it was appropriate, and a normal keg shoe behind.  So what is he wearing today?

Up front, he has an aluminum wedge shoe that lifts his heel 2 degrees to help correct that coffin bone angle (as we move his toe back, this will help too).  I HATE HATE HATE pads, as Solo wore them once and they gave him horrible thrush, bleh.  So I was happy to use a wedge shoe and farrier rolled the toe with his rasp to speed breakover even more.  He moved the toe wayyy back and the narrower shoe let it sit closer to the frog than the NB shoes could.

Behind, he went to a size larger keg shoe to both widen his stance, help the foot to land more quickly, and reduce the twisting of the ankle.  There was also an option of using a trailer on the outside branch of his old shoes, but farrier felt that since we needed to use studs, the larger shoe would make that easier on Encore, as the trailer would change more forces on the leg and that added to the studs might be too much change too fast.

So we will see how he responds to all this.  I am very glad I decided to go ahead with the radiographs -- it 100x times more helpful for the farrier to be able to see all the details and we can KNOW what Encore specifically needs help with and what he doesn't; that is worth a great deal!  He is also now wearing four fly boots that I dug out from my stores to reduce some of that stomping.

And you know, why not try to spend as much money as possible in one day!!!

August 1, 2013

Send An Entry, Guaranteed To Win!

Last day to send in entries for the Absorbine contest!!!  Right now, I only have two entries, sadness, but happy for them, because Absorbine will send out up to five TryPaks for winner, so come on folks!!!