Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The good news is that on Sunday, a semi truck load of Orchard Grass hay is arriving from Ontario, Canada. It's the first time I've ever ordered hay on my own and not gotten it directly from the feed store, but for $10/bale (delivered, and compared to $15/bale from the feed store), it's totally worth it.
It took quite a lot of legwork to make this happen, since I didn't have a supplier or really know of one. I emailed a number of blog friends (you know who you are!) and horsey contacts (including a barn I boarded Cash at up in New York!) to get recommendations. Finally, the lady that runs the hunt that we ride with said that she had just ordered a semi-load of very nice hay from Ontario, and got me in touch with the guy she bought it from.
A semi-load is the only way they'll ship hay, so the question became what to do with 840 bales of hay? Much as I would LOVE to put up that much (it would last me about a year), I only have room for roughly 150 in my hay storage, and maybe another 100 if I cram some in various spots. If I wanted to give up my barn aisle, I could stash an additional 300, but it would be fairly inconvenient not to have a barn aisle for 6 months while the boys ate their way out. Not that they would mind!
In an effort to find buyers for the other 500 or so bales of hay that I can't store, I contacted all of my friends in the area that keep their horses at home. Apparently the ability to store 250 bales of hay is a luxury, as most folks don't have room for more than 20-30 bales. I guess we planned the barn better than I thought! Anyway, I couldn't find enough takers for the rest of the hay, so I called my favorite feed store and asked the owner if he'd be willing to split the load with me. He said he would if the hay was good, but he wanted to see it first.
So we took a little road trip to the hunt owner's barn (1.5 hours away) to pick up a hay sample. Alas, we didn't get in any hunting while we were there. Fortunately, the trip was worth it - the hay was nice enough that the feed store owner agreed to take whatever of the load I couldn't store. He also agreed to use his tractor to unload it - something I was definitely not prepared to do by hand!
All that remained to be done was a wire transfer of the funds to the hay grower's bank in Ontario - which sounds fishy, doesn't it??? We even checked into getting the load of hay insured just in case something happened between Ontario and here, but apparently that kind of insurance is only available for commercial carriers. Sooo... after wiring an obscene amount of money to Canada, we now have our fingers crossed that the hay will show up as scheduled sometime this Sunday.
'Cause otherwise Red's gonna starve and all.
* The reference is to this song by REM. Which has absolutely nothing to do with hay, really.
Monday, November 28, 2011
What's really amazing, though, is how sound he actually is on all surfaces. If you look at his feet, you'd swear he'd be the next thing up from dead lame.
But viewed from the side, we see a more dramatic story. The event line is nearly 1/2 inch deep, and the heel is incredibly underrun.
The event line is even worse when viewed from this side. The surgery, combined with a hospital plate and 4 months of stall rest, have caused impressive changes in the hoof.
From the bottom, the event line is so severe it almost looks like it's from two separate hooves. The foot is thrushy (we are working on this daily), the caudal hoof is poor, and the heel is... er, somewhere around there...
Another view of just how underrun the heel is. You can also see where he's wearing the caudal hoof - it's getting some stimulus for sure, but in a really odd place.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Normally the boys are very good. However, lately Taran's been getting a bit cheeky. For example, when we stopped at the end of the street today (I was on the phone - sorry MC!), here's what happened:
I can just... reach... eet...
Oh, never mind that... instead, I shall leeck your eyeball!
Also here on your cheek... sluuuurp...
Oh and here too....
Oh and what's this??? A halter crownpiece!
I'll have you free in a minute, buddy, just hold still while I pull on this here tabby thingy...
Enh! Enh! (Notice Mr. Oblivious on the left, in the bay fur coat.)
Pfffbbbbt! What is ON that halter of yours?!?! It tastes AWFUL!!!
Saga: Dude. You're getting germs and stuff on me. Quit touching me and go bug someone else.
Monday, November 21, 2011
The post about the show got me thinking - it's been AGES since I've been to a show. In fact, I haven't been to a show since we moved to this house!!! We've been soooo busy with the house/barn/guest house. This summer, it was just too effing hot to ride. Saga has been off-and-on lame for... well, a long time. No wonder a show hasn't been anywhere near the top of my priority list!
Well, Saga is now sound (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!), it's not 110 degrees out every day, and the house/barn/guest house is, if not finished, at least no longer in a crisis state. So I've actually gotten to ride quite a bit lately. In addition, Saga's been doing well during our rides (except for that pesky kicking out on the left lead canter departs, ahem), sooo...
We're going to the Hy Court Farm Fall III show on December 4th! We've been to this venue before and it's really laid back. They have these fun sport horse versatility classes in addition to the traditional dressage classes. The plan right now is to enter Elementary Hunter Versatility, which includes Prix Caprilli Test 1 and a small, natural obstacle course (logs, a bridge, a few jumps, etc.). I would really prefer the obstacle challenge of the Novice division, but the Prix Caprilli 2 test includes leg yields and lengthen canters. Maybe we could have faked our way through those movements a year or two ago when we were really riding and training, but now? Probably we should stick with the basic stuff and not look like complete eeediots.
We'll also probably do Training Level test 3 since it's a fun test and within our capabilities, even if we don't go out there and score fantastically well. I mean, I haven't ridden in a real dressage arena in ages, so hopefully I can still throw in a sort of round 20 meter circle, haha. But I figure as long as we have fun, I stay on, and we stay in the arena, what the heck. Besides, I really, REALLY don't want to do Training Level Test 1. Again. For the 100th time.
[Aside: How many of y'all have all of your old dressage tests? And how many times have you done Training 1 at a show? Tell me in the comments, I'm curious!]
So, in short, Thank You Rebecca and Lilly for inspiring me to get my act together and go to a show before the end of the year! Hopefully we'll put in half as good a show as you two did.
Does anybody else out there have plans to sneak in one last hurrah before the end of the year?
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I want a pair of warm winter boots. Years ago, I had a pair of the original Ariat winter tall boots, and they were awesome. I could pull them on, and my feet were always toasty and dry, no matter how deep the mud was. Sadly, they only lasted about two years before they cracked around the ankle and started leaking. Bummer.
Last year, I had a pair of cheap ankle-high fleece-lined mud boots from Academy, a local sporting goods store. They were warm and easy to get on (they zipped up), but man they were clunky. They also had an unfortunate tendency to get sucked off in the mud. Fail.
So, I need new boots. I've looked online and all the winter boots seem to be more for riding than barn chores. They're super cute, and I need practical. I would also prefer not to spent oh, say, $200 on a pair of boots.
So here are my criteria for new boots:
- Must be pull-on or zip-up
- Must be waterproof and warm
- Must not be clunky and heavy
- Need to be easy-care, i.e. hose off the mud
- I don't have to be able to ride in them, but it would be a nice bonus
Saturday, November 19, 2011
First, we headed over to our current favorite canter spot. I mentioned in an earlier post that we have to go under a bridge to get there - here's what I was talking about.
After a good WTC warmup, we stopped by the retaining pond that doubles nicely as a dressage court. Yeah, it's square-ish, but it's flat with no mesquite shrubs, and the footing's pretty decent.
We did about 10-15 mins of WTC both directions. At the trot, I worked a lot on getting him more collected by holding him with my core while being soft with my hands. I was hoping that getting him to sit back a bit more would help with our canter transitions and maybe encourage a bit more balanced canter, and it seems to have worked. Our right lead canters (2x) were quite nice, and our left lead was much improved. The first left canter depart I tried to ask much more lightly but still got a buck/kick, so I tried again with even less. I felt him hunch his back and we aborted the depart, and then I resorted to saying "Can-TER" and stepping a bit more in my right stirrup and sort of rolling my ankle into him. He ran for a few steps and then fell into the canter, but without the kick. We tried twice more and took a few running steps each time, but since he wasn't offering to kick I figured it was an improvement. I think I'm doing something with my right leg/seat that really bugs him - left canter is the only time he ever does this. He's completely fine once he gets going, and he doesn't do it out in the pasture, so I'm pretty sure it's me. Anybody got any ideas?
After our short dressage go, he was soaked with sweat and blowing (it was 84 degrees today). Apparently the bib clip I did on Tuesday didn't help at all, so I think we're going to have to do something more drastic to keep him cool. We walked for the next 45 minutes while I looked for Things To Jump...
Ok, I would be lying if I said I hadn't noticed the post-and-rails fence first, but it's too big for us right now, and the approach would be a challenge to say the least. Hopefully someday, though! Today, we just did the culvert as a tiny bounce. Saga was a star and quick on his feet, although the second time through I was a little worried that he'd jump the whole thing since it's fairly narrow. He managed to keep it bounce-like, though, and then thought it was so much fun that he threw his head around and insisted that we should find something else to jump. It was getting toward dusk, though, and he was still wet, so we headed for home.
On the way, I found a tiny bench (really just a log with feet) with a do-able approach - but it's maybe all of 4 feet long so I would have to ride REALLY straight to get us over it. There's also a stone retaining wall, and another bench that could work... I need to do more reconnaissance! I may also talk to the city to see if they are willing to leave some logs where they fall (or are cut) as small jumps - that would be SUPER fun!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
And then this morning, there was this odd sight. There's actually a vulture on the other side of the glass, wings spread wide to sun himself. His body is behind the pylon so you can't see it, just his Very Large Wing.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
This gorgeous hunk of barn is from BeamBarns.com. Alas, it is not my barn.
And then I brought the boys home and reality sank in. Horses prefer being out 24/7, with access to a big run-in shed, to living in stalls. I really didn't want to get into mucking 2x/day (I do have a full-time job after all). And we also have this pesky Impervious Cover rule, which greatly limited the size of the structure we could build.
So I sadly ditched the idea of The Perfect Barn.
However, I refused to let go of The Perfect Tackroom. The one with wood-paneled walls and a tile floor. With a sink and a nice bench to sit on while you put on your boots, and maybe even a rug in the center to make it just that much more plush. With all the saddles neatly on their racks, and bridles perfectly lined up and not a sweaty saddle pad to be seen. With faded ribbons from past victories hung on the walls next to shiny new ribbons from last month, and photographs of competitions from years ago to remind us of What Once Was and How Far We've Come.
Yeah, you know the tackroom I'm talking about, don't you?
Well, I'm not quite there yet, but last weekend brought us one step closer. We finally got the saddle racks built and hung, and I covered them with fabric and organized all the saddles:
Yep, this is pretty close to what I had in mind, wood paneling and tile floor included. There's even an enormous antique armoire for storing all those clean saddle pads!
So maybe I don't have The Perfect Barn (or maybe it is actually the perfect barn - for the boys, even if it's not what I had in mind!), but I am nearly done with The Taj Mahal of Tackrooms. More pictures will be forthcoming as we finish it!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Our rides start out with some walking on the trails, and then me asking if he'd like to trot. The first two rides he started off with lots of head-shaking and a very, very BIG trot (I'm talking like 250 mpm, at the trot... that boy can MOVE!). I sat in two-point with my reins loose, bridged over his neck in case he decided to do something silly. I learned quickly that I've got my leg too far back, since a few of his head-throwing maneuvers pulled me rather far forward. I pulled my stirrups up a few holes and pushed my leg further forward, and we seem to be in a better place for it.
There are a couple of directions we can go from the house. To the west, if I go under a (four lane) bridge, there's a couple of great areas for a nice long trot, or a good canter. There's also a spot that's a catch basin for drainage, but it happens to be perfectly flat at the bottom, fairly square-shaped, with ~10 foot tall sides. It's a nice area for a bit of dressage work. We went there three of the four times since there usually aren't any joggers out on those trails. The first time, Saga just wanted to trot. The second time, he chose to canter on the best canter spot - his big, ground-eating stride, even though we actually weren't going all that fast. Heaven!
The third time out, we cantered twice, and then he got a bit goofy out in the big field (there's a cute little pony that lives next to the field who was galloping the fenceline, which didn't help either!) So we went over to the catch basin and got in about 10 minutes of good trot work and a canter in each direction. He bucked/kicked out on the left lead canter depart, which is something he's done before - I think it comes from me asking too strongly to the left. He's very unbalanced in the canter both directions, quite sprawly, but I just tried to stay out of his way with the reins and help balance him a bit with my seat while keeping him moving forward. It was messy but we got it done. Yay canter!
Today was the fourth ride. He felt pretty quiet right out of the barn, I think because it was 80 degrees out (November weather, where are you???). Still, he was game for a trot, and this time we decided to head north instead of west. Just after we got going, we went past this:
Once we got there, we had two nice canters on a ~40 meter circle. The right was more balanced than the left, and to the left he had a tendency to tip his head and set his jaw. Again, nothing new, and I think it was more due lack of balance than him being naughty. I rode with a soft hand and just asked him to keep moving forward, and eventually he came back together. We also had a few nice minutes of trot, where I focused on using my core to keep his rhythm slow and steady. I always feel like he's taking such tiny steps when I ride that way, compared to the huge trot he has out on the trails when he really opens up. I'm sure we'll be able to get those big steps one day, but for now I just have to remember to help him stay balanced.
The walk home in the dusk was mostly uneventful, although he did develop this enormous almost lateral walk. Instead of the even 1-2-3-4 of a walk it was more 12-34. Still 4 beats but different. I also found reason 85140 to wear a helmet - in the event your horse almost steps on a rabbit, your helmet will protect your head from any looming tree branches when your horse spooks upward three feet. Despite that one bit, he was 100% solid even though it was nearly pitch black by the time we got home. What a good boy!
It's been nearly a month since the shoes were put on (the first time), so it's time to regroup with the vet and see where we're at now. Given how well he is doing, I am sorely tempted to stick with the shoes. I really, really want to hunt more this season. Jumping today was amazing, and heck, it's fantastic to just be able to RIDE my horse without the constant worry/fear that he's not comfortable. I guess I feel like if we can get him to grow more sole, and if we can get the laminitis under control, I am fine with him wearing shoes. I just don't want them to mask an ongoing underlying problem. We'll be taking x-rays before the next set of shoes so we'll know better how his feet are doing internally, so until then, I will continue to keep our canter and trot sessions short, and I won't jump him any more.
Bummer, though, 'cause that log was FUN!!!
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Remember I mentioned that we think Saga's issues with a thin sole and the event lines are diet-related? I now know he's definitely got some sort of mineral deficiency, or else he wouldn't be doing this:
Anyway, he found this particularly tasty spot on one of our hand walks on the trails behind the house. I've never seen him eat dirt in the pasture, so maybe this spot had something extra delicious? The soil was quite red, so I'm wondering if he was after the iron. The soil here is also rich in calcium (we're on a prehistoric deposit of tiny sea critters, which form limestone), but I doubt he was after that, since he gets both alfalfa and beet pulp which are both high in calcium. If I can find the spot again, I may get the soil tested just to see.
Then just a few days later, JD (who comes out to help sometimes and I love her!) sent me this picture, taken while she was mucking Taran's stall:
Taran has been known to lick Saga before, so maybe he just likes to do it. However, he usually goes after sweaty/salty spots, so I suspect that he's sodium deficient.
The odd thing is that during the summer, the boys get 1 tbsp of salt per day in their feed. They also have a mineral block, which they never touch (?!?!?). So, what gives?
I'm working with my vet to schedule a blood draw to do a mineral analysis on Saga. In the meantime, I've started providing free-choice loose salt... and there are suspicious nose prints in it every time I check (2x daily), so I know they're making use of it. Yay! Magnesium is apparently another mineral that horses are often deficient in, and their bodies can get rid of any excess. So I purchased a feed-grade bag of Magnesium Oxide, and each of the boys gets 3 tbsp (~45 g) per day mixed in with their feed. There is some indication that magnesium-deficient horses (or just horses with mineral imbalances in general) are more susceptible to changes in diet, which in turn affects their feet. So it will be interesting to see if these changes in feeding habits affect Saga's feet in a positive way.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
His rehab started with handwalking, proceeded to tackwalking, and finally trotting under saddle. As of yesterday, he's allowed to transition back to full turnout (he's been stall bound since the incident) and can be slowly brought back to full work. WOOOOOOT!!!!
One of the biggest issues we faced (in addition to the surgery site) was how underrun Taran's heels became in shoes. This aggravated the DDFT, so the farrier did his best to shift the toe back, using Natural Balance shoes. However, two weeks ago we were finally able to pull Taran's shoes, and he actually became MORE sound after the shoes were off. He continues to have a toe-first landing, but you can see the improvement day by day.
Of course, you don't just start a horse that's been stall-bound, with light trotting only, back to work immediately. Nor do you just throw them out in the pasture to tear around like a nutcase. So, we started last night at the vet's by letting Taran loose in their round pen. He spent about 20 minutes bucking, rearing, and bouncing - but carefully, and without any tearing around. He seemed to know his limits and did his acrobatics within them. Whew!
Tonight, I let Taran bounce around on the longe line before Fuzzypony got on him. He did the same set of antics, combined with some trotting and a bit of cantering. Taran's actually a very good boy on the longe, so despite the bouncing he didn't pull on me and was clearly only performing antics that were comfortable for him. Afterward, we went out for a ride in the side field, followed by a nice long cool-down on the trails as the sun set.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
He actually looks just like my other horse Saga, but he behaves completely differently.
He no longer stands in the corner of the barn and acts depressed. Instead, he hangs out and tells me how starved he is - even after he's been fed.
He trots and canters on the track with Red and Cash, and even play fights with Cash (who just tries to groom him in return).
I can actually ride this Saga (tackwalking only right now), and when I tack him up, he doesn't pin his ears and threaten to bite when I tighten the girth. Under saddle, he's SUPER forward, with a huge overstride, and steps out boldly. He's ready to go down any trail. He looks left and right, ears forward and attentive to his surroundings (Deer! OMG DEER!!!!), instead of just bending his neck constantly to the left and pinning his ears while plodding along.
There are a few downsides to the new Saga. He feels so good that he has a tendency to fling his head around and bounce in place on our walks. He also needs better ground manners, since the other day on one of our handwalks, he ripped the lead out of my hands and took off bucking and running for home (thank all the gods, he was fine after that little escapade). He also likes to do annoying things like grab grooming boxes and helmets and throw them around, just for fun. I seem to remember the old Saga doing that, but it was a long time ago.
In short, the shoes have helped tremendously. Saga's a completely different horse - well, he's actually back to his old mischievous self again. So from that perspective, and the fact that I get to ride my (really nice) horse, it's absolutely fantastic!
On the downside, I'm still not so happy about the shoes, because I know they're just covering up his discomfort. The dual problems of thin soles and laminitis (more on that in another post) are still there. Worse, I can see aspects of his feet deteriorate day by day. For example, the cracks in the central sulcus, which were almost nonexistent, are coming back despite daily treatment with iodine. He also slips on some pavement now, which he never did barefoot. I can see a slight change in his landing as well - the RF is now landing flat, and it used to be heel-first. On the other hand, the LF is also now landing flat (instead of toe-first) and there is no discernible difference in stride length between the LF and the RF, so that's an improvement. I can also see a very slight unevenness in the landing - the outside of the LF lands first and the rolls over to the inside. Definitely not ideal.
But for now, I'm enjoying my horse instead of worrying constantly about him. I'm not sure what I'll be doing with his feet long-term, but the shoes seem to be the right answer at this time. Maybe they will be forever, or maybe I'll be able to get a handle on his diet so that he can be comfortable without them. I can hope!