Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mid-week (doggy) critter

Elias was recently gifted with a Very Large Bone*.

It's so big that he has a hard time carrying it around. He occasionally misjudges the width of himself + bone and smacks it into doorframes or kneecaps.

Elias likes to keep his bone as close as possible, so nobody steals it. He also likes to taunt family members that He Has A Bone And You Don't.

P.S. Elias thinks he's a 60-lb lapdog. Which is to say, his butt fits in your lap. Sort of.

* Yes, it's a rawhide bone. No, he doesn't get to eat it as rawhide makes him sick. He just likes to carry it around and show it off - it'll be months before he takes a nibble, and then we usually donate it to our neighbor who has a Labrador that love rawhide.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sorta like old times

MC and I took another early morning ride, and I actually got in a real ride on Cash. I even used a saddle this time, lol!

Stepping out well at the trot.

He looks a little stiff behind - something we clearly need to work on.

I'm trying to work a little on my position, but I still need to get my hands in closer and bend zee elbows more. And we won't talk about my leg, lol!

His canter is amazing. I just shifted my hip forward, slid my outside leg back half an inch, and off we went. He feels pretty balanced but is not really relaxed along his topline.

He's still foot-perfect on canter departs. Love it!

We even did a few steps of lengthen trot. It's never been one of his strong suits, but he was game to try for a few steps.

We only worked for a few minutes, did a little trot and canter each direction while MC took pictures. Cash was extremely willing to work, but was tense through his neck and topline. That's something we struggled with constantly when we were competing, and it hasn't changed. It's one of the reasons I'm working him in a bitless bridle instead of with a bit - he's extremely sensitive about having anything but the lightest contact with even a super-soft Happy Mouth bit, so I figure we'll try it without a bit a while.

He is just so much fun to ride. I just have to think what I want to do, and it happens. He's really an amazing boy, and I am so, so lucky to be able to ride him again. I'm really hoping that he'll stay sound, and that we'll be able to have more rides like this!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back to really, really good again

MC came over for a nice early-morning ride. We seem to be making a weekend habit of this, which I have to say is really nice! I took Taran out and she took Reddums, as usual.

Taran apparently forgot all about our little bucking/hopping session last weekend and was very nice today. His trot work continues to improve, and his canter, while not spectacular, is coming along.

Going nicely on the left rein. He's harder to bend this way and has trouble taking contact on the right rein; he's also less responsive to the left leg.

A nice, balanced change of directions (ye gods someone please fix my left leg).

Right rein trot. I don't like where he's breaking in his neck, but we're working on that.

A bit of trot on a longer rein, encouraging him to stretch down and out.

Admittedly, most of our canter looked like this.

But we did manage to get it together here and there, and some of our canter looked like this. I'll take it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm awake, I'M AWAKE!!!

This morning, as per the usual routine, I was refilling the boys' haynets. I used up an open bale of hay, then pulled down a new bale and turned around to get the metal snips that I keep on the gate to open the bale. Despite my early-morning Benadryl-induced stupor, my brain was functioning slightly in advance of my hand and I realized that the large stick next to my nippers was not, in fact, a stick.


For reference, the metal mesh that this guy is clinging to is 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall. He was well over 6 inches long, including antennae.

Yeesh. Needless to say, after encountering this guy, I was really, REALLY awake! I pried him off the gate, stuck him on a tree, and went about the rest of the usual morning routine. Sadly, the horses were not impressed with the delay in their room service.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The pieces are still there

Tonight, for the first time in over three years, I took Cash out for a "real ride".

Ok, so maybe it wasn't THAT real. I rode bareback and we used his bitless bridle (really more of a fleece-covered noseband with side-pulls). The point is, we didn't just walk around the trails and down the road, we actually tried to DO something.

We did the half-mile trail loop at a walk with some "western pleasure" trot to warm up and get him moving out. Since it rained, the boys have been up in the barn, so I wanted to give him plenty of time to stretch out. We then did some serpentines down the road - a few steps of shoulder in on the curves, straighten to change direction, change bend, a few more steps of shoulder in, lather, rinse, repeat. I asked for "contact" for this, but we'd only do two or three before I'd let the reins out and ask him to walk on. He mostly remembered how to do everything but, as always, had trouble going forward into the contact - he tends to get sort of scrunched up in front instead. It's really obvious when he does this - for one thing, he gets wrinkles on his withers when he gets tense, so I tried to ride him out and forward while still asking for some work. We also did a little trotting in a straight line on the road, and since it was headed for home, he really got his back up and his feet under him. He felt great!

Eventually we made it back to the field right by the house. The footing was good despite the recent rain, so we did a little more trotting in each direction, focusing on long and low. He was a good sport and tried, even if his trot wasn't as forward as I might want. I then asked him for a tiny bit of canter each direction (because let's face it, my seat's not that great bareback) and volia! there it was. Ok, so I did say "can-TER!" to him when asking, since he's really well voice trained, but he got maybe 8-10 strides each way before we mutually decided it was time to trot. Yeah, it wasn't forward and round, but it happened. Oh, and bonus, I stayed on!

I told him what a fantastic, wonderful, awesome schpotted pony he was, patted him on the neck, and leaned forward to wrap my arms around his neck - so he promptly returned the favor by diving for a bite of grass. Brat. Oh well, I guess at his age, he deserves some leeway...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mid-week (muddy) critter

Last night, we got about two inches of much-needed rain. Most of the state (including where we are) is still in "extreme drought" - we've had, including last night's ~2 inches, about three inches since September 2010. Apparently it's the worst 9 month dry period in recorded history.

Cash, who is never one to miss out on an opportunity to roll in the mud, took full advantage before I managed to snag all the boys and put them up in the barn.

Because any job worth doing is worth doing well, Cash makes certain to grind the mud in to all available body parts. Check on the glob on his cheek and ear, how evenly the mud covers his mane - he's even gotten his LF all the way down! I always knew he wanted to be gray...

You can also see that he spent some time upside-down, wiggling around to get his entire back and withers. None of that sissy rolling on one side, then getting up and rolling on the other side - he just flips over several times, legs flailing in muddy joy. At least his face and chest are still clean!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Deep thoughts

Tonight I took Cash out for a bareback ride on the solstice. It was nice - it was a little cooler today (only 102!) than last week and there was a breeze, plus the sunset was quite spectacular. We only saw one other person on the trail, although Cash did a fantastic "spook in place" cutting-horse type move when he spotted the person's dogs. I love my schpotted eediot, really I do.

Bareback trail rides with a horse you trust are a good time for thinking. Tonight I was wondering how old is too old for a horse to really be ridden - not just little hacks at the walk. I retired Cash three years ago because of an intermittent high-up lameness issue that we couldn't diagnose, despite ultrasounds, blocking, and enough x-rays to make him glow in the dark. At 19 1/2, I figured retirement wasn't a bad thing, and he was pasture sound, so off he went to be a lawn ornament. Over the last three years he's continued to be pasture sound, and then about a year ago he suddenly seemed really quite sound. But he was still retired so it didn't much matter, except that he was more comfortable and could do more romping with his retired buddies.

Tonight as I was riding I picked up the reins and asked him to go into the (bitless) bridle at the walk. It took about two seconds and he was like "Oh right! I can do that!" We did a smidge of shoulder in, a little lengthen in the walk, a little bending. I eased the reins out and he followed my hand down. I guess they don't forget much.

So now he's home with me, seemingly quite sound, with years of training on him and a willingness to work - what to do? This is a horse that was doing canter half passes and baby piaffe/passage steps when I retired him from serious dressage competition. Yeah, he's 23 now, but if he's sound and comfortable, should it matter? Should I try bringing him back up and see what we can do? I certainly don't have another horse with his talent or training (Saga's never going to make a fantastic dressage horse), nor am I likely to in the near future.

Worst case, I start bringing him back and at some point he's not comfortable. Since I've dealt with a permanent injury (bone lesion under the suspensory on the LH) with Cash for years, I'm SUPER sensitive to how he's going and am confident that I would be able to tell if he was even a smidge uneven. If there's an issue, we stop and go back to walking trail rides, it's that simple. If he continues to be 100%... who knows? We could have a lot of fun, and I could have the opportunity to learn more on a very willing schoolmaster.

Am I nuts? Is this even fair to him? He loves to work, but after 3 years off... is thinking about bringing him back the right thing to do?

Monday, June 20, 2011

When he was good, he was very, very good...

... and when he was bad, he was horrible!*

Yesterday I had another ride on Taran. We took a nice ride over to the old arena, making sure to step on Every. Manhole. Cover. on the street on our way there (Taran tends to give them the old hairy eyeball). Once we arrive, MC and my SIL went to walk around for a bit while I got some actual work out of Taran. We went off at a rather fast trot, but I let him go forward since he wasn't inclined to be silly.

Having seen my awful eq pics from last week, I concentrated on keeping my upper body forward, elbows in, and hands together. I was feeling pretty solid with my position but of course don't have any pics to prove it!

Eventually I asked Taran to balance and slow a bit, and he was responsive to my requests. Once again we worked on stretching his neck and topline out and forward without snatching the reins or carrying his head in a fake frame. I asked for slow steps and big steps, and lots of changes of direction. He tended to want to pop his right shoulder until I noticed I was floating my right hand, so easily corrected. It was very nice trot work and I was happy with the way he was going.

After a walk break, I got him back together into the trot and then asked for the canter, right lead... and then the horrible side came out. He did a big buck, and then went around bucking with pretty much ever canter stride. Well not exactly bucking, but you know how they hop around with their head up? Fun times. I was yelling at him "No! NO! BAD TARAN! BAD!" and am pretty sure I woke up the neighbors. He broke to the trot and I asked for another canter with the same result, minus the big buck to start with. I pushed him through it but he was almost non-stop with the hopping crap. That's very unlike him, so I brought him down to a walk and checked him over to make sure he didn't have a burr on his leg or something else annoying him - nothing. We went back to the trot and it was once again very nice, but as soon as I asked for a canter (other direction), same hopping issue. I rode through it for half a circle, then decided I didn't want to get dumped in the dirt and went back to a trot. We finished with some so-so trot work and then called it a day.

I checked him over back home and he was fine, so I'm at a loss as to what caused the canter issue. I even took him out last night to longe him (saddle-free) and he was pretty good. He did throw in a few half-hearted hops at the beginning but then settled down to nice canter work, both directions. Maybe I had the saddle too far forward? I'm not sure. We'll try again tonight or tomorrow (if it's not 105 at 7 pm) and see if the issue resurfaces. I sure hope not - I have no desire to get myself bucked off. I'm too old for that stuff!

* Pardon the poetic license.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Horse divers

My hubby mentioned that he was talking about really bad French mispronunciations with some of his colleagues. The best (worst?) one was some guy from Louisiana who said he'd been to a restaurant that had really good "horse divers."

That's "hors d'oeuvres" for the rest of us.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Jousting video from Lysts on the Lake

The moment you've all been waiting... the first video from Lysts on the Lake, the jousting tournament that Reddums (ok, and my husband) competed in back in April.

With sound is best...

And since I can't quite get the thing to fit here, you can also see it on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cash is OK

The vet came out today and scoped Cash to see if he could determine the cause of the nosebleeds. The good news is that Cash does NOT have gutteral pouch mycosis - which is fantastic news, since the fungus can be fatal. However, he MIGHT have an ethmoid hematoma - the vet saw a small area that could be the beginnings of one, but he's not entirely certain. It could also just be the super dry air and the dust causing the problem.

The plan is to keep an eye on the nosebleeds. If they increase in frequency or severity we'll scope him again and see if there's been any development, then form a plan of action from there. Otherwise, we'll just keep our fingers crossed that this was a one-time deal.

I also checked with the vet about possible photosensitivity to alfalfa, since Cash has been super itchy of late. However, he thinks it's just a slight sunburn and recommended a full-length fly mask and possibly a fly sheet as well (challenging because of the heat). Ideally Cash would be kept in during the day, but he goes a little nuts when he gets put in the stall and the other horses leave the barn, so that's not an option. I suppose I could leave Cash and Saga or Taran in the barn area during the day, but there's no guarantee they'll stay in the shade. Ah, the joys of owning a white horse!

Also, many, MANY thanks to MC who met the vet when I couldn't because of my work schedule. It is incredible to have friends who are willing (and able!) to do something like that, and I am very lucky to have such a friend. Thanks MC!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Cash has had two minor nosebleeds, both on the left nostril, in the last week. He's never had nosebleeds in his life.

After spending a little time on the 'net doing research, bleeding from the nose is highly unusual in a horse, especially if it happens when they're just standing there. As far as I can tell, the most frequent causes (after bonking themselves in the face, which is unlikely here since it's happened twice) are either a tumor or a fungus in one of the gutteral pouches. Neither option has a very good outcome. The fungus in particular is often only treatable by several days in ICU with a catheter to the pouch and continuous anti-fungal drugs, or surgery, and even then the recovery prognosis is poor. The problem is that the fungus eventually destroys the lining between the pouch and the artery, which is why the nosebleeds happen. In most cases, the horse either bleeds out through the nose, or is put down before that can happen.

I'll be honest, I am completely freaked out. My vet is coming out tomorrow to scope him and take samples to see if he's got the fungus. Maybe it's just the dry air or something completely benign, but I'm really, really worried about how this could go down.

Fortunately, if anything is actually wrong Cash is blissfully unaware. He's happily eating, pooping, and hanging out with the other boys. He looks quite the picture of health, actually.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday morning ride on Taran

Today, MC came over early to get in a ride before it got too hot. She took Reddums and I rode Taran over to the old arena for a nice workout.

I actually think I had the best ride on Taran that I've ever had! He was quite balanced right-to-left, got his canter leads the first time every time both directions, and his canter work is starting to be more through his back. Overall he really felt quite strong and balanced in his body, which is a huge improvement. Personally, I think it's being out on the track - even though he's not getting worked a lot, he's getting more movement than he's had in ages, and I really think it's helping him.

Looking quite pleasant at the trot.

Taran's biggest issue is coming into the bit over his back, instead of just bending at the pole. He can create a "fake" headset very well, so you really have to ride his back much more than some of my other horses. I was pleased to see in the pictures that MC took of us that his neck was out and longer than it sometimes is, and that he was stepping more underneath himself.

Relaxed but stepping through.

A bit unbalanced here, but nicely forward and his nose is in front of the vertical without having lost contact. I'll take it!

If the canter wasn't fantastic, there were moments where I could feel his back coming up under me. Awesome!

A giraffe moment, but he's not entirely upside-down. Even this is quite an improvement for Taran!

This was one of those golden "he's getting it!!!" moments, I think.

We did some transitions within the gait too, at least at the trot. I was very pleased to find him quite elastic and responsive, even if he wasn't coming through as much in the collected moments. It will come.

Now hopefully everyone kindly managed to ignore a) my impressive attire (yoga pants and my husband's t-shirt, anyone?) and b) my even more impressive equitation. I think it's past time to get back into some dressage lessons! Now if I could just find the time and the trainer...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Small world

Today as I was reading yet another heart-wrenching article about the fire at True Prospect Farms, I realized that I used to know one of the individuals that helped rescue five of the horses. Sadly, she lost her own mare in the blaze. I've lost touch with her over the years, but I found her contact information and sent her my sympathies.

The horse world, and the eventing world in particular, is such a small one. Tragedies like this hit so close to home, even if they happen a thousand miles away.

And now, I'm going to go tuck my boys in with a carrot and a hug.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm suspicious... that was faaar too easy

The hubby left on Saturday for another trip. This morning, the electric fence controller died. Easily (and cheaply!) fixed by a trip to Tractor Supply to buy a new one. I installed it, checked the fence line for issues and fixed a few, turned it on, and volia! One functional fence.

That was far, far too easy. And too cheap.

I mean, the AC died on his last trip. Is it really possible that the electric fence controller is it for this trip?

I'm cautiously optimistic...