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We Are Flying Solo

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!!!

July 27, 2013

Blogging Pays Off -- Again!

Eating up the Five Points Novice course last September.
Like many horse bloggers, I started this venture simply to track where Solo and I had come from and our progress (or failures!) along the way.  It's been invaluable to look back on veterinary and training issues, and just fun to have all our event images and stories organized.

Yesterday, I mused aloud on Encore's journey this fall (with a caveat of not breaking himself, laughingly, because plans ALWAYS need adjusting over and over and over and over).  Just writing it down really helped clarify the variables, risks, and perspective of the question at hand.  Perhaps it's just the way I think, but simply going through the mental exercise of making things coherent on paper forces my brain to draw more distinct lines than normally present in its usual spinning chaos.  Some excellent comments further delineated the issues.

And conundrum resolved!

I KNOW CHP has tough, tough XC courses at Five Points.  As in not only maxed out, but with technical questions to boot.  It would be extremely poor horsemanship to throw both at Encore at once at this point in the game.  Talking to a course designer further emphasized this point (hey, benefit of volunteering, you meet officials and you learn new ways of thinking about courses).  I want him to always believe he is the confident bawss horse seen below.

I am adamant that the focus stays on Encore's development.  It can not ever get waylaid into, as a friend so aptly put it, chasing NQR's for my beloved T3DE.  No matter how badly I want it, I will never, ever sacrifice my horse's long term wellness, both mental and physical, for any numbers on paper.  This journey is about the joy of the gallop and I want there to be as many of those as possible!

Dis de biggest thing you gotz?  Let me rockz it for you!
I am also lucky enough to have access to a decent fall calendar of high quality CT's, jumper shows, and schooling horse trials (still at my dear CHP).  So I have ready access to my choice of challenges, all valuable, within 45 minutes to an hour, should Encore decide to cooperate.

Will I enter Five Points at all?  I would really like to run it at Novice, not least to try out the new courses!  In the end, it will come down to careful budget choices.  I have to make the farm a priority right now.  While some competition, even a $15 jumper class, is important to keep Encore strong and sharp and keep his brain (and mine) from dying of boredom, we can't have it all.  At least at CHP, we do not have to stable thanks to awesome and generous eventing buddies and I can either lodge with them or on my technical trailer tarp, ha.  That is a HUGE money saver, as stabling alone at the Park for two nights is around $150-200 for a recognized event.  That's my entire month's board!!!

Hmmmm, anyone need services they are willing to pay for in the Triangle area?  Wait, something about that doesn't sound quite right...

July 26, 2013

The Conundrum Of A Sound Horse

Oh yes, they are a puzzle too, albeit an excellent one to have!  You have to decide what to do with them!

Encore feels good.  He's moving well, working well, and improving.  I am sure he will be lame again (he is still a horse), but for the time being, I want to enjoy him while he is GOOD.  Actually, I'm terrified to let Dr. Bob inspect him for fall shots, for fear of him finding a sore spot I didn't know about!!

But it means a lot of decisions.
The flying Throughbred at Becky's in March.  He's back!

He's perched on a brink, level-wise.  We've been hard at work on the assignments from Becky and Eric, and always in the background are our exercises from David and Priscilla, and he just keeps getting better.  He is working confidently in the long lines and I am encouraging him to increase the swing of his shoulder little by little.

What this all boils down to is that he is getting very close to being ready to move up to Training.  How exciting is that?????!!!  So, while he will probably break himself, I'll just pretend...

The jump is there.  3'3" is not an issue for either of us and we have schooled there quite a bit.  My eye is accustomed to it, as is his.  The gallop is there, naturally, heh.  The basics of the dressage are there.  He doesn't have an extended trot yet and we still need to work on crisper transitions within the gaits, but that doesn't worry me very much.  I am completely of the view that the dressage is always a work in progress and even scorewise, you can still do very well even when one movement is not quite there yet.  Heck, you know me, I get excited when I am not last!

Herein lies the puzzle.

I am aiming him at Five Points in September.  I just love the events at Carolina Horse Park, I very much like the new organizer, Marc Donovan, and am intruiged to see what Hugh Lochore does with the XC courses.  I always run into eventing buddies there and it's my own little vacation.  It will be a little longer this year since it will be a three-day event over three actual days (although XC last, poo on FEI format), so I will have to be little more clever with my scheduling.

Jumping into CHP water complex in Sept 2012.  Looky but willing.
Do I enter at Novice?  He hasn't run XC since this spring, but we need to do a school anyway since he needs to practice jumping into water.  He is bold and honest and I am confident on course.  Stadium and dressage will be very easy, even if I manage to hold my breath and crap up our dressage test, it's not like he can't do it.

Or do I go for the Training moveup at my home showground where I know the land and the facilities?  CHP may be familiar, but it is rarely soft for the level, especially after Southern Pines I in March.  The last thing I want is to overface us.  Solo and I ended badly, but it didn't have much to do with the level, nothing to do with XC, just a horrible time snafu.  And, as I did with Solo, Encore will do Training height during at least a jumper show and CT before we go.

All of this will require a financial investment as well.  I need to be sure, via lessons and schooling shows, that we are prepared for anything so no officials or volunteers have to be horrified (I certainly don't appreciate it when riders make me gasp with fright when I volunteer, although I certainly know 'oh shit!' happens!).  I also need to be very frugal and make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck.  It's not like spare change is lying around here.

It's something I am going to have to feel out.  I will be chatting with David about it after our lesson on Sunday to get his feedback and seeing how Encore does there and in our XC school, TBD.  I will NOT get greedy and end up moving up prematurely simply because I want to run at T.  Safety first!!!!

It's an exciting puzzle, even though I don't know the answer.  Were I closer to NoVa and had lots of money, my options might be different, but I'm not and I don't, so I need to find a schedule and an approach that will work best for me and my horse as individuals.  Hmmmmm..........

July 20, 2013

Lusting After Your Own Absorbine TryPak???

That title ought to get me some Google hits, ha!  But you know you are.

Well, now you can win one.  And I'm going to tell you how.

Get ugly.

That's right.  And now I'm going to explain (apparently, I'm in the mood for announcing intent).

We all know us working class horse people are broke.  Some of us more than others.  As a result, I do not buy a replacement item until its predecessor has well and truly collapsed into a panting corpse at my feet and gasped its final effort.

Example.  My VERY favourite gloves, a pair of mesh-backed Moxie gloves, never too slippery, never too sticky, always comfortable, inexpensive, and with a lifespan of TWO YEARS, as opposed to 6-10 months for my traditional SSG All-Weathers.

As an aside, I do now own a pair of SSG Digitals and another of SSG 10 Belows (sale on both) and they are worlds above the All-Weathers and so far excellent after their first year. 

When I finally had to give up on my dear Moxies, my skin was getting peeled off because they looked like...well, just look left.

It was a real shame -- had it been any other finger but my rein finger, they would have lived on, because the top still looked like...yep, look down.

2 yrs, perfectly fine!
I happened to be in a tack shop and replaced them with a pair of leather and mesh Heritage pull-ons...which got the first hole in the finger (I apparently have devil monkey claw fingers and toes, you should see my socks!) in ONE WEEK.  BooHiss.  This is what I longed in today (below).  The rest of the summer fall will be spent in a pair of sale SSG crochet-backs.

What they look like today.  I just cut off the fingers when they fell apart.
OMG, woman, this is the longest contest description ever!  Yes, you're right.  But here's what you do:

-Click the email link in my sidebar and send me an email titled "My Awesomest Gear." 
-Attach a photo to that email of your most persistent piece of equipment (dang, I should have taken a picture of my half chaps that are legally old enough to drive!). 
-If I don't get some photos of duct tape and hay string, I'm going to cry.
-Make sure all photos are submitted by Thursday, August 1st.

I want to see ugly, I want to see determined, I want to see creative!  However, said piece of equipment must still be in regular use.  I'm going to count on your honour for that!  I will post the top ten photos and the FIVE most talented salvagers (that's right, say thank you to Absorbine generosity) will be chosen by my mere whimsy careful scientific rankings to receive your very own Limited Edition TryPak Of Shiny Goodness to rock out in travel-size convenience at your next show or just to wave around the barn to the envy of everyone else.

Get out there and start collecting photos!!  May the most desperate poverty-warrior win!!