Big thanks for Olivia for some blogspiration. She recently posted this topic on her blog, and I just had to tackle the idea!
Apparently, I am having a bit of a throwback week this week. (sorry, not sorry). I am going to go back a few years, to just before I bought my first horse. Let’s call it, “5 things I didn’t know I didn’t know about owning a horse”.
1. This is your responsibility only.
This one seems obvious right? You’re buying a horse and that horse is your responsibility. However, it really comes down to how it is YOUR responsibility ONLY. Your trainer, barn manager, and friends may all be incredible resources for you on this journey, but this horse’s training, happiness, welfare, and health all fall on your shoulders. Be ready to educate yourself beyond your core group.
2. You will feel guilty, and that is ok.
Shocking to no one, owning a horse is expensive. Owning a horse you want to train and compete is VERY expensive. I have always made enough money to support my horse habit, and I have always responsibly reined back my expectations for myself and my horse when funding just didn’t cover my goals. However, it is still expensive. Even spending the bare minimum, I still often feel guilt. I should be riding more, doing more, succeeding more.
Horses don’t work that way though. Just enjoy what you are doing, make sure you aren’t spending beyond your means, and remember that a horse doesn’t care if it has the newest, fanciest anything. She really just wants a carrot.
3. You will fail, and it will make you better.
Failure in horse ownership takes so many paths. I have failed to prepare my horse properly for a competition. I have failed to recognize the signs of ulcers. I have failed to call the vet immediately for an injury that I thought was minor that turned out to need more extensive help. I even failed to make my first horse into what I hoped he would be. Now, however, I am a more educated horse owner, rider, and trainer, and every horse I touch is better off because of it.
4. You will succeed.
I recently downloaded a mood tracker on my cell phone. I wanted a better sense of what impacts my moods (food, caffeine, hormones, etc.). Most of my ratings hang out in the middle of the scale, kind of like a Dressage test. There are lots of 5’s and 6’s and 7’s, even the occasional 4. However, after my first lesson of the season, I pulled out a 10. I was beyond myself. I called my husband just to word vomit to him all the amazing things I did with my horse in 28 minutes. I get the same high after a great horse trial and, sometimes, even after that perfect Dressage transition.
5. Ignore the Rail birds
Rail birds take all forms. They are the catty teenagers (and adults!) on the sidelines at show that feel the need to comment on your troubles. (Fun fact, it is not fun to watch the video after a rough SJ round and hear this commentary in the background.) There are friends and trainers that will try to put you into a box surrounded by what you “should” and “should not” do. There are COUNTLESS people on the internet that will love to critique your position, horse, tack, weight, and more. These people don’t matter. The beauty of riding, and eventing in general, is that this is a sport of you and your horse. Buy the horse you want to ride everyday, and then go out and ride it whenever you can.
After 6 years of horse ownership, I have grown a ridiculous amount, and I know I still have so much to learn. What about you? Do you have any advice for yourself prehorse ownership?
So yesterday was my birthday, so I am not going to apologize for the lack of media here (although, that should be changing soon!). It was one of those birthday that just happens between the time you can legally drink and the symbolic “decade” birthdays. Solidly out of my Mid-Twenties though and into my Late-Twenties. As an extra special surprise, I got a text from my trainer on Monday morning. All it said was, “Lesson at 6:30 on Tuesday? Jump? :-D”
Obviously, I answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” (followed by about a million smiley faced). Then, I sort of panicked. See, May and I have only kind of loped around fences super casually, and I didn’t get the weekend at all to prepare. Saturday we did some long and stretchy stuff, and Sunday we did some walking.
We also have only had 3(?) jumping lessons with this trainer over the course of the year and a half I have been at this barn. The last jump lesson was a year ago. (I am not counting the impromptu lesson we had where I jumped around tiny jumps in my dressage saddle… but I guess I could.)
Most of my trainer’s clientele are either actively competing or planning on competing at the Training/Prelim levels this year, so sometimes, she cranks the jumps up. So, in a totally normal reaction to stress, I polished my boots up, wiped my saddle down before my lesson, and worried about having forgotten to grab a clean white pad to replace my teal, fuzzy, and now very hairy saddle pad. (I don’t think my trainer cares about any of this in reality, but I needed to do something to “prepare.”)
I got on about 20 minutes before my lesson to let us warm up before the lesson started. Unlike trainers of my past, my current trainer likes to get right into jumping or Dressage or whatever it is we are working on that day, so it is best to be warmed up before we get started (unless we are working on building or fixing a specific warm up routine for whatever reason).
While I was warming up, another lesson was going on. This woman at my barn competes Saddlebreds in the breed competitions, but she has fallen in love in eventing and is retraining her REALLY successful Saddlebred mare to be an eventer. I think this was one of their first jumping lessons, and let me tell you, that girl has hops! My trainer was laughing about the variety of horses in her barn, going from training a Saddlebred to my little draft cross mare. It makes it fun and interesting, and it shows just how many tools she has in her tool kit.
Onto my actual lesson! Below was the general set up of the arena. There were two outside lines that aren’t shown on the below, but we didn’t jump them, so I didn’t include them. I think it’s busy enough as is!
So where did we start? Well, we started with my trainer explaining that this would be a gymnastic-type lesson to see where we’re at. Works for me!
We started with trotting that single orange pole at the top. Literally. One pole on the ground, at the trot. My trainer had me establish rhythm and had me focus on NOT pushing May past her rhythm, which was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. We ended up having to do this twice, each direction, to get it right. Then, we moved to the set of three, teal, poles next to it. Each of these were raised on one side in an alternating fashion.
Again, the focus was keeping the rhythm even and a little slow. To get the power and push from behind without the horse trying to run through the exercise. Thanks to the first exercise, this one was pretty easy. We got it quickly, and were able to move on.
We moved onto the “Circle of Love”, which is the circle of blue jumps and blue cones in the above diagram. (my trainer REFUSES to call it the Circle of Death). Either way, it was a 20M circle with 4 jumps, and 4 sets of cones. At first, she only had 2 of the jumps up, but we were able to do that with absolutely no problem, so she made it up to all 4 jumps after 1 circle. Moral of this story? I do not need to throw my body over fences, and I need to be more comfortable with correcting quickly after a fence. I would say the first time through in each direction was rough, but once I got over the idea of letting May lift me out of the tack instead of throwing my body around, it got a lot easier.
My trainer explained that the goal of an exercise like that would be to first be able to get through the exercise comfortable in both direction. Then, to get the same number of strides between each fence. Once that is established, then you can make it more difficult by going outside the cones and adding 1 additional stride between each fine, and then weaving inside the cones and getting 1 fewer stride between each fence. She said this is something you would build over time, and wasn’t something we should try to drill into the horse in a single session.
She was pretty impressed with how quickly we figured it out, and was even more impressed with the fact that May wasn’t huffing and puffing after it. Fitness is working! (for her… this was the hardest I had worked in the saddle in a while, and I was feeling it!)
So what was next??
Next was an exercise in adjust-ability. We moved onto the three purple poles in a straight line down the middle of the arena. Not sure if any of you remember an earlier post, but I had jumped through these in a super open 3 to try and jump from a more open stride. Yeah… not the focus of this lesson. I was told to jump in and just let it happen in 4. We did that once in each direction, and then my trainer told me to do each of them in 5.
Now, May now knew that these were a 4, and turning an open 3 into a 5 is a pretty big ask from the big lady. The first time in, she blew off my half halt before the first fence, blew it off between the first and second fence, and my trainer told me to halt before the last fence. We did, and then we tried again. It continued to be REALLY difficult for her, and there was a told of dramatic head throwing. However, she was completely capable of doing it. For my part, I had to think of getting a real Dressage-Like canter. I mean, I was visualizing the canter I need to get a solid leg yield across a diagonal type of Dressage canter. I needed to keep May really high through the poll and shoulders. I don’t think I have ever asked this horse to collect her canter this much, and you know what, I should be. A couple of times, we close momentum and ended up in the trot, but I just circled and asked again. If she went through the jumps correctly, she got to canter on a more forward stride and looser rein as a reward.
So how do you build on that? You jump a very technical course with very low jumps!
We were instruction to come down the purple line of jumps in a 5 to a 4, go around the 9 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go between the cones, jump the 6 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go through the next set of cones. Then, we had to complete the S patter, by jumping the gray diagonal jump, turn to jump the last 2 jumps of the purple pattern in a 4, and then make a right turn to jump the oxer. After the oxer, we had to keep our line to fit through the super tight opening between the middle purple jump and the teal, raise poles.
So how did it go? Well, the first time, I wasn’t able to get the 5 to the 4. I didn’t push May forward over the second jump, and we just didn’t have the power to get 4, so we started again, and we nailed it. I came around to jump 4, which she jumped a bit big, which left us big to jump 5… and then I promptly forgot where I was going. My trainer told me, “I knew you forgot because you were looking at the wrong end of the arena.” whoops!
We restarted at jump 4, since May seemed to really understand the purple exercise. I rocked her back for jump 4, kept the bouncy canter for jump 5, demolished jump 6, cross cantered to jump 7, got my balance back around the corner, and jumped 8 beautifully before easily keeping our line through the small opening before ending our course. Was it pretty? Nope. That’s why you do these types of things with small jumps.
We decided to end on that note. Sure, the 4,5,6,7 line could’ve been cleaned up a bit, but we kept our rhythm and our line, which was the whole point. Since she jumped 8 so well, we through that was a great note to end on.
And today? I am so sore! hahaha. Can’t wait for the next lesson! (we also might have put a local schooling horse trial on the calendar for next month. Stay tuned!)
As per the flavor of the month in the blogging community, I downloaded the Equilab app on my phone on Monday. I was planning on having a thorough Dressage school after our very brief jumping session on Sunday. I already knew that Tuesday wasn’t going to be a barn night due to severe thunderstorms being in the forecast and Wednesday is never a barn day as I have to go straight home to take care of the best dog ever. (I might be biased… enjoy the over indulgence in puppy pics this post) As a result, Monday HAD TO HAPPEN.
So Monday was marked on my calendar as a day I HAD to ride. It was also the first business day of the month, causing my work day to be even more hectic and stressful than usual. By the time I got to the barn, I was a massive ball of stress, anxiety, and frustration. I hopped in the saddle, we walked around a ton. May gave me some great work including some lateral work and starting to reach into the left rein when tracking right (a big accomplishment since getting that wolf tooth pulled).
I, however, was horrendous. I’m sure my riding was fine and my aids were correct, but my attitude wasn’t. As the ride wore on, I felt myself asking for more and meeting resistance not with patience and humor (the only two emotions that belong in the saddle according to Mr. John Lyons) but with frustration. After we completed our warm up of all three gaits and some stretchy lateral work, we walked for a bit.
Then, when I asked her to trot, ready to start asking for the harder work, she popped up above the bit and threw her shoulder through the transition. I am sure my timing was off, or I hadn’t gotten her properly balances before the transition, but I mentally just couldn’t get past that she was being bad and a jerk. Even worse, I was getting more frustrated with myself for not being able to get past my own frustration…. Sounds great, right? So I stopped. I put big loops in my reins, gave her a pat for the work she had done earlier, and we walked a bit longer. The total ride was only 32 minutes… and Equilab tells me that 24 minutes was spent walking.
My next chance to ride was Thursday. I threw my jumping saddle on and planned on just doing an easy flat hack. ~40 minutes, no pressure. When I got to the arena, there were 3, 18″ fences lined up through the middle of the arena. After our rhythm issues on Sunday, I figured it would be a great idea to add that line into our hack. I won’t go into details, because the ride was REALLY boring and simple. However, it was good. I was able to be fair and effective in the saddle, and my horse is better off because I stepped away on Monday.
I was scrolling back through my posts to see if I could confirm this, but I am pretty sure Sunday was the first day I did an actual course of jumps in my new jumping saddle… I have popped over a few single fences here and there, but hadn’t actually strung a course together… nor do I think I had jumped an oxer in that saddle… and I know I wasn’t jumping oxers in my Dressage saddle… so how long had it been since we had jumped an oxer… Oops. Oh well.
(I think that might have been our last oxer… 11 months ago) Sunday was actually really beautiful in KY. We had about 18 hours of dry weather, which was enough for the amazing footing in our outdoor arena to dry up. So I begged and pleaded for the husband to come take video for me. (Really, I just asked since the weather was finally nice enough.)
Hindsight? I should’ve brought my crop with me. The horse with the carriage was out there when I went to get on, so I got on in the indoor and then walked over to the outdoor. No reason to get dumped because I didn’t want to bother to walk an extra 50 feet to a less busy arena. May didn’t seem to have a problem with the carriage this time, which was definitely improvement, but she was definitely just preoccupied with thoughts of what the cart was doing. I couldn’t really get her totally in front of my leg, but she was relaxed and obedient.
Since the jumps were set pretty small, I figured I would just warm up a bit and hope she woke up a bit. (This is terrible horsemanship, but… oh well… I had a relaxed horse.) There was a small box (maybe 12″) set up so that you could canter a 20 meter circle over it, so I started with that. I worked on establishing rhythm without losing suppleness through her body.
After a few times in both directions, I asked the husband to turn on the camera, and I pointed out the few jumps I was planning on doing. The footing nearest where he was filming was a bit deep and wet still, so I just avoided that line, but I wanted to pretty much jump everything else. haha
My original plan was to get through the course and then clean up the parts that I felt were messy. Mind you, early in the week I had tried to jump a few fences, and I missed to Ever. Single. One. I COULD NOT find a distance. This time, I shortened up my reins a bit, and focused on keeping my hands a bit higher than what I am used to (but what is probably correct), and keeping my reins short enough that my hands were about halfway up her neck. Below is what we got:
Overall? I am really happy with that. The biggest issue is obviously pace. Our pace should be closer to what we have in this clip:
However, the most important thing to me when reintroducing a horse to jumping is to make it as nonchalant as possible. It should feel like no big deal, just popping over a few fences. I can always light a fire under a horse’s butt if I need to… It’s a special skill of mine, so a quieter than expected jump school is a good place to start. Our simple changes were pretty good (although very numerous), and our only small argument was coming to the oxer, where I wanted to hold for no reason coming around the corner. I was wrong, she was right, and I had to pony-club kick for the long spot. Enjoy our small fail photo below:
It is probably also worth noting that I was testing a different bit in this video. A Myler D ring with hooks. No chain, but hooks. Jury is still out on it, but I clearly don’t need the pelham if she keeps going like this! So how do I feel about my jumping saddle around a course and over an oxer? I am pretty damn happy with it still. It doesn’t rock over fences like other saddles I tried. May clearly seems relaxed and happy giving me the long spot in it, and I felt my position was fairly solid given how long it has actually been.
WHEW! Just happy to be doing more than fancy prancing and trot sets though!
Also – who is going to the event-formerly-known-as-Rolex, aka KY3DE, aka Land Rover 3 Day… AKA who knows what they’re calling it now? I will be there for XC with the husband!
So as May and I have been upping our fitness lately. There is one aspect I have let go. Lateral work.
After getting May’s teeth and joints squared away and getting our fitness back up to a respectable level (still not where I want it, but much closer), I figured it was a good time to see where our lateral work stands. If you read this blog at all last year, you know that, without a jumping saddle, almost all of our lessons were Dressage lessons where there was a strong focus on lateral work. Why? Because as my trainer describes it, May is a body builder… not a ballerina. She needs more yoga before we can achieve real collection.
It makes sense to me, and I did see a lot of progress in her way of going throughout last year. So, I started with the old 40 degree angle, nose to the wall, at the walk exercise.
This one… Black is wall, yellow line is horse (who should be straight) and arrow is direction of travel.
She was really good. She moved off my left leg, held herself mostly straight, and finished the move by straightening out and marching forward through the end of the arena. Awesome. I repeated it a second time with the same results, and then we switched to the other side.
I got nothing. I set her up for the move, closed my outside rein, but my outside (right) leg on, and she threw her hind end through my leg and snapped into a straight line along the rail… No.. not what I asked. I made a small 10M circle,and asked again. Same result. She got a tap with my spur and reluctantly moved her hind end over. Eventually, we mostly got there, but she was still a bit of a pretzel. I didn’t want to drill the move, so I moved on to walking leg yields.
I thought about my trainer’s advice last year. Ride the horse like a table. If you had a table around you, and you picked it up and moved it along the diagonal, without turning, the legs of the table would trace the line your horse’s hooves should follow. It’s a weird visual, but it works for me. Again, I started with having her move off my left leg. We started with the quarter line to the rail, then the center line to the rail, and it was something sort of magical. She kept her body straight, moved at the angle I requested, and I could simply hold the contact with the outside rein. She got a big pat and lots of praise.
Then, I reversed directions and asked for the same from the right leg. Again, I got no response. Cool. I rolled my spur into her, and she moved on her front end. Even more cool. I tried to hold her with my outside rein, but she sucked her neck back, popped her shoulder further to the outside, and twisted her neck to the right. Ugh. Mare. I straightened her out, rolled my spur into her, and asked again. Same response.
Of course, I didn’t have my dressage whip with me (which only really makes her tense and might not have helped anyway), so I reached back and patted her just at the hip. It was meant to be a “hey, you need to move this part too”, and was definitely not hard enough to cause any pain. However, May took serious offense to the whole thing. She flung her head around, threw her body sideways, and gave me a giant huff. Maybe I just surprised her? I have no idea. It mostly seemed to work though, and I was able to get some correct (albeit very shallow) leg yield off my right leg.
The rest of the ride continued in mostly the same fashion. She moved easily off my left leg and tried to ignore my right side. (This is probably the root of my issue of getting her on the outside rein and was probably exasperated by the wolf tooth) I think the issue is still likely related to some general stiffness issues, so I am adding in some carrot stretches and her Back on Track sheet to see if those help. I am also going to continue with the pony yoga to see if it improves.
I think my next ride (hopefully tonight) will focus on stretchy circles where we leg yield in and out. I think that will help with the stretching and moving over issues. All the mud probably doesn’t help any stiffness of muscle soreness either. -.- In fact, it is supposed to rain 10 out of the next 15 days. Pretty sure KY is going to float away at this point.
Trot sets… or really any kind of planned interval training for horses is still a relatively new concept to me. When I rode in H/J, horses were just ridden for 30 – 60 minutes 4 – 6 days a week. You tried to balance out W/T/C and add in jumping as necessary.
Then, I entered the eventing world, and I had a trainer tell me that my horse needed fitness… “Just add some trot sets into your routine.” (not her exact words, but most of her explanation just kind of rolled off. “How does one do a trot set?” was my first thought. Does one simply trot around aimlessly until they get a bit fatigued and then walk until they’re ready to trot again? Nope. I learned quickly that there should be some kind of plan to this…
Ok, how does on make a plan? I started reading as much as I could on the topic, but I definitely lack the most important element of knowledge in this area: experience.
This year, I am making a more conscious effort to really plan out my interval training with May and to make sure we are gearing up for this season in an appropriate manner. So, our rides lately have consisted of long walks or interval sets to improve fitness… so our rides lately have been boring.
The fields aren’t open for riding yet, and our barn doesn’t have access to trails. As a result, long walks are done along the road through the barn (a whole lap takes about 40 minutes so I try to do it twice), and interval training is done in the main arena (thankfully, very large).
Last week, we completed a 54 minute ride that included a lot of walking, 2 – 10 minute sets of trotting, and a couple of short canter intervals. What did I learn? That May is probably in better shape than I am. While she was a bit fatigued after the ride, my back was on FIRE. Definitely time to add some core strengthening exercises to my out of the saddle routine!
With my sister’s birthday approaching, I was determined to get her a great gift. She has a very specific style and taste that keeps up with trends enough to be “on trend”, but most of her items are classic enough to stand the test of time. I also can’t just buy her horse stuff… since she hasn’t ridden in more than a decade and has no plans to start again. (boo)
After spending much too much time scanning through the websites of places I rarely visit (department stores, beauty boutiques, anything that shows up in a mall), I finally caved a bit and asked her if there was anything she wanted. She had a list… on a Department stores website. She forwarded it along to me, and while I didn’t have to search out the perfect gift, I did get to pick something out of a (rather long) list of things that I knew she would love. I could get her someone she wouldn’t just have to return, and I could cater my gift to my budget. Awesome! (budgets are important… unless a pony really needs something)
Since most of my family is 90% unfamiliar with my sport (especially if it is eventing specific), I figured this might actually be a helpful tool for them! I checked around on various equestrian sites (riding warehouse, dover, smartpak, horze, greenhawk, bit of britain), and it looked like only Smartpak, bit of britain, and Dover offered these features. While Dover has an amazing return policy, there isn’t a single actual store in Kentucky and the shipping costs can be a bit outrageous (and slow). Bit of Britain is also somewhere I have ordered form multiple times, but never actually returned anything to. So I decided to build a list on Smartpak!
26 Items made the list. Here are the highlights and why:
I own both pairs of these breeches in other colors. The Romfh Sarafina breeches are my favorite pair of pants (ANY KIND OF PANTS) I have ever owned. They are flattering, they are comfortable, they stay up on their own. And they should… They’re incredibly expensive. As a result, I only own one pair, in beige for clinics and shows where I don’t want to wear white (and we’ll get to that in a second).
The Hadley’s are much more affordable. They are SLICK though and not as flattering of a shape. However, I appreciate the fairly classic styling and, for schooling pants, they hit the mark for me. The colors aren’t too crazy without being beige, black, and brown. The rise is a bit higher than the Piper’s, which I like, but they also definitely need a belt, as (you can even see this from the pictures) they are not nearly as high rise as the Sarafina’s.
I did throw in one pair of the Kerrits “power sculpt” riding tights. I haven’t ridden in Kerrits in forever… or tights for that matter, but the marketing ploy of “Power sculpt” got me, and they’re a reasonable under $100 option.
Sunshirts – Kastel & Goode Rider
I own 1 Kastel sunshirt, 2 of the Dover Cool Blast sunshirts, 1 tailored sportsman sunshirt, and 1 ariat sunshirt. The Kastel (in a light, butter color) is BY FAR MY
FAVORITE. It is the only one that I actually feel is cooler than a plain cotton t-shirt, it looks flattering, and it actually protects my skin from the sun. I got my original one for an incredible deal, and I would love to add more to my collection.
I was shocked to find that the Goode Rider sunshirt was more expensive than the Kastel’s, but I figured it would worth adding as just another option to try.
Various Show Stuff – Romfh, Ice Horse, Competition Pinny, Tredstep
Remember when I mentioned white breeches? Yeah – I have one pair, and I absolutely detest them. I think I might still own them out of a sense of obligation for needing white breeches. (There’s no rule that says you have to wear white, any light, neutral color works). However, I am still shamed into owning a pair of pants that I hate and that hate me. Enter the Romfh Sarafina pants in white… full seat… and beautiful.
I also don’t own a single pair of ice boots. (I know, I am terrible). When I needed to ice May last year, I took the liner out of my BOT quick wraps, filled them with ice, and left that on. It worked and was effective, but I probably shouldn’t be seen in public in them. The Ice Horse Evendura Wraps would just be a nice thing to have. Oh – and laugh you hearts out – I don’t own a pinny. I have begged and borrowed (but never stole) one when I needed one, but it’s probably about time I spend the $14 and get one… I really don’t need a custom one… right?
Another “wish list” item, would be an interchangeable collar for my tredstep solo pro coat. This is a total whim item. Like, why is this thing $50? But I still think it would look nice on my Navy coat with May in a white saddle pad… without being too much.
Items I Couldn’t Find
This was a strange thing. There are 11 breastplates on SmartPak’s website (Bit of Britain has 20 and Dover has 12) and not a single one was even the style I was looking for. Every single one attaches to the front D’s of the saddle. (not a great setup for a horse like May, where it is more likely to just pull the front of the saddle down, rather than hold the entire saddle forward). I would much prefer one that attaches to the girth. Like this one from Dover, or this one from Bit of Britain.
Also – my favorite saddle pad is the EcoGold Secure XC Saddle Pad. Smartpak apparently only sells it in White, where Dover had both black and blue, and riding wearhouse had the black version. The blue is really the one I have been eyeing.
Finally, XC boots. I put the outdated version of the professional choice XC boots on my list at smartpak, but it is the new ones you can get from riding warehouse that I am really interested in. I current have the majyk equipe boots (the Gen II versions), but I have been using them for a couple of years now, and they aren’t really in “show” condition anymore. In fact, the one boot is missing almost all of the fabric edging near the bottom. I wouldn’t mind something that fits a bit better. I have been eyeing both the Professional’s Choice Performance Elite XC Front Boots and their Performance Hybrid Splint Boots. Let’s be honest, at BN, we probably would be totally fine with just the splint boots, and they may fit May’s corgi-legs better.
Whew! Well that was a lot. Tell me – what’s topping your wish list right now?
Saturday was our “one week” mark from May getting her injections. I wish I had more media to share with you, but I will explain why that wasn’t possible. Promise!
All in all, May felt really good. She has always had trouble through trot poles.This weekend, there were 4 fairly spaced trot poles set up in the outdoor, and we could do them from a slow trot without an issue. She could push through them without falling on her forehand and running past my aides. But why no media? Well, both days this weekend we had to share the arena with the horse-eating carriage.
In fact, on Saturday, our ride lasted more than an hour. We walked, like usual, started our trot, then the carriage showed up. May was… not amused, so we walked. We followed the carriage for about 15 minutes. Then, they started trotting, which makes a lot more noise, and May had to be convinced to follow it again. By then half hour mark, we could reliably walk and trot with the carriage in the arena. Then, I tried to canter, and May put up a big fight. Flinging her head around, not allowing me to sit on her, and trying to run off with me… Fun. When I got a decent canter, I let her walk.
Then, the carriage needed a video, so I ended up walking around the arena while they took the video. After the video, I asked for the canter again, and I was able to get a mostly relaxed and collected canter. Whew!
The next day, I showed up to the barn still a bit sore from the day before (holding back the May freight train was a workout!). Of course, as soon as I tacked up, the carriage horse went out to get hooked to his trailer… cool. I went out and got on before they got out there, and another rider lamented that if the carriage came into the ring, she would probably end her ride.
Nope. No Way. Not doing that. It was one of the first 50 degree days with sunshine in a while. I didn’t have time to stop my ride and pick it up again. We were riding through this.
Luckily, May ended up being a lot more relaxed about the carriage this time around. Not totally relaxed, but at least, totally rideable. In fact, I ended up loping over a few fences with her, all of which she took quietly and out of stride. Good girl!
Hopefully, we can get a real jump school in soon. Has your horse ever seen a carriage? Or have there been any majorly “spooky” things you have had to school your horse through at home?
I am so behind on this one, but I thought it would be an entertaining one for May. Three Day Adventures with Horses started this blog hope, and I figured better late than never! Below are 3 words that I think describe May, although she would probably tell you differently.
It is not that May is every really bad. However, she will 100% let you know what she thinks about whatever it is you are doing. Our first ever lesson? She tried to run out the gate on me while we were just trotting around. The right shoulder dropped, and she spun towards that open gate. Our first BN event, I gave her a tap on the shoulder at the first jump, and she jumped over it like it was on fire. How dare I touch her with that weapon. I mean, the below was just because I wouldn’t canter her around with bit loops in the reins, while she plowed along the forehand:
You know that old saying that an elephant never forgets? May never forgets. Good behavior stays pretty solid, but a bad behavior once learned has to be forcibly unlearned. She is also fabulous at making decisions. Not sure about the footing on cross county? She will slow down and figure it out, no matter how wound up she is. If terrain changes, she is going to read it and adjust accordingly, not just throw herself down a hill and hope for the best. (see the below jump then hill sequence to see what I’m talking about)
That’s right. I think my draft cross, unflappable, corgi horse is complicated. And she is. My trainer often reminds me that she is not a straight forward ride. I have to ask for things correctly, or I do not get them. If I let things go wrong once (i.e. let her run down to a jump on her forehand), we will be spending the rest of the lesson fixing it. She might not run out, take off, spook, or throw me, but she challenges me everyday. It shows up in new ways every day.
One day, she will stand perfectly still to be groomed and tacked up, other days she wants to dance around and needs to be constantly reminded that her feet should remain still until I tell them to move. It makes her decisively not a beginner horse, and often not a horse for an accomplished rider that lacks strong horsemanship. She has run away (in a slow trot) with at least 3 people, and she once put a friend of mine in the dirt after a small crossrail. How? She just put her head down and shook it, but she could tell she wasn’t being taken seriously. She let everyone know that was a bad idea.
She might be the least spooky horse I have ever ridden, but if she feels you aren’t paying attention, she will decide the trail ride should be over, and it’s time to head back to the barn. It’s never mean or nasty and is more of a gentle attempt to get her own way than dangerous, but I have no doubt that if she wasn’t corrected properly, her behavior would snowball. I will say though, that this kind of rebellion gets more subtle and less severe as the years have worn on.
I am going to fully admit that most of the below is for my own notes and recollections, as joint injections are something that are still relatively new to me, and I like having detailed notes about my vet visits outside of regular shots and coggins. There is a TL/DR section further down this page in bold, if you don’t want to read the whole post.
One of the joys of living within an hour of Churchill Downs is access to some amazing racehorse/lameness vets, and at prices that strongly undercut their NY/NJ counterparts. A few factors led to me looking for a vet to come look at May to discuss what (if any) maintenance we should be looking at:
May had her hocks injected in October of 2016. She was showing some lameness and the vet at the time prescribed this course of action. Both hocks showed changes at the time, but I was never really certain that the improvements I saw were due to fitness or the injections.
May’s job was fairly mild in 2017. If she jumped 6 times, I would be surprised. Between having shoes off, my wedding, our lack of jumping saddle, and zero competition goals, she was never really pushed in 2017, so I wanted an experience eye to look at her before I really started jumping or added in any heavy Dressage work.
A couple of times, May has shown some weakness behind. She tracks up normally, but would be VERY sluggish going up hills and doing any lateral work that required her to rock back. One or twice, I swear I could feel one hip coming up a bit uneven vs. the other hip, but I could never recreate it near the mirror.
While May is not a “high performance horse”, she is a horse that I need to stay very happy in her job. Ideally, she could continue to work and maybe even pack some kids or a timid AA around starter well into her late teens and early twenties… or do some lower level Dressage. As her owner, I think there is an ingrained responsibility to helping your horse be comfortable and happy in their work for as long as possible.
Originally, the workout was supposed to be on 17th, but due to the banamine in May’s system and the subtleness of what we were looking at, it was decided to wait a week. Good news, May’s eye got a thorough recheck and is healing even better than the vets had hoped for. Yay! Bad news, they definitively identified some lameness.
The way this vet practice works is there are two vets that come out for these types of calls, and they bring one helper to jog horses, hold horses, and basically just make it easier for the vets to do their jobs. The appointment started with the vet going over May’s entire body, utilizing acupuncture spots to see if any soreness jumped out. They also utilized hoof testers to make sure we weren’t looking at hoof pain, and they checked teeth. (May’s need to be done… not surprised, but something I am going to have to wait a few weeks to do. I had to prioritize current pain over a developing issue in this case.) They didn’t check eyes because… they had stared at her eyes a LOT lately.
Unsurprisingly, May reacted to none of their tests. Everyone kind of shrugged and acknowledged that she’s a pretty stoic girl, who would rather you stop poking her. Thank you very much! So we moved on to jogging her on hard ground. The vet explained that, if we didn’t see anything jogging on hard ground, we would move to small ground, and then to seeing her under saddle if nothing showed up. Fair enough to me.
Here’s the interesting thing. The hard ground (pretty much the only hard ground left in this part of KY… pretty much everything flooded this weekend) that we jogged on is on a slight incline. Going up the hill, May had a slight head bob and irregularity in the hind end. Heading down the hill? She looked totally sound. Huh. Ok. (Below is from before I injected her hocks the first time, you can see the lameness the most when we change directions)
We flexed the back end, first targeting hocks, although any flexions you do on the back end will stress both the hocks and the stifles. It’s not like the front end where you can clearly isolate a knee. However, the left hock showed a bit more positively than the right side. Then, we tried irritating the stifle a bit, and she looked a bit off on both sides. Then, we tried one last stifle flexion, and it really made no difference in the diagnosis. So what to do?
Again, we went back to the fact that I wasn’t really confident that the hock injections made a huge difference in 2016. The vets indicated that I had the decisions to only inject hocks and then decide on the stifles, but they were fairly confident that the stifles were also a problem and that I would just be calling them back again to do the stifles anyway. Given that I don’t take putting a horse under sedation lightly (especially not a draft cross of unknown breeding), I decided it would be best to do both sets of joints. She was testing positive both ways and showing clinical signs of issues in both joints.
May was put under fairly light sedation, again due to her assumed draft breeding. (Draft horses are often “light weights” when it comes to sedation and are more likely to have severe consequences from sedatives). She was sedated so lightly that, a few times, she picked her head up to stare at some noise she heard or some animals in the woods outside her stall. (yes, the below is the only media I got)
We decided to do the procedure in her stall since there is a step up from the aisle to her stall that would be difficult for her to navigate while drugged, her stall is large enough to allow everyone to move around comfortably, and there are lights in her stall. I acknowledged my concern with joint injections and infection, etc. I am not sure if that is why 2 people took nearly a half hour to fully clean and scrub down the area, or if that was their general procedure, but I was thankful to see it. I held May while they did the procedure, not because their weren’t enough hands, but because she is better behaved for me than strangers.
Both vets were great about explaining to me what they were doing, why, and what their opinions were on what they were seeing. We first injected the right stifle. While a good amount of fluid did come out and it was clear, it was noted that the fluid was on the thin side. A good indication that this joint would actually benefit from these injections. May continued to watch the world around her, unconcerned as a needle was shoved into that joint.
Moving on to the right hock, the vet had a difficult time getting a need. into the joint. Since this was the less positive (less lame) hock, we discussed the possibility that it was fusing. Everyone seemed to agree that it was likely and that next time we looked at injecting the hocks, it might be worth taking X-rays. (I had gotten them taken with the last set, so I knew we already had changes there.)
We moved to the other side. This stifle showed a bit more normally upon piercing the joint, but there was still some liquid. (of note, neither stifle palpated like it was full of liquid, but given the size and location of the joint, no one was really surprised.) The other hock, which flexed positive and was the one where I had felt the “offness” earlier, was clearly not as close to being fused at the other. It had a fair amount of liquid of the thin variety, and we were happy to get some relief in there as well.
TL/DR – Injecting both hocks and stifles was clearly necessary, but she was only showing the worst of her symptoms in there right stifle and left hock.
I was very happy to have decided to go with the whole round (although ask me next week if it made a difference). I do believe that doing one set would not have resolved the whole issue and that soreness in one area was likely making soreness in the other area worse.
We then rechecked the eye (easier to do under sedation), and everything looked as it should. I stayed with May for another hour – hour and a half. I wanted to make sure she came fully awake before she was fed, and I wanted to talk to the afternoon barn staff about not turning her out.
Around an hour and half after the original sedation (remember this was a very light sedation), May took a loooooonnnnnng pee and got the bright look in her eye. 30 minute later, the afternoon staff arrived to feed and turn out. May was nickering and banging against her door, asking for dinner. I watched her eat her (very very small) amount of dinner (probably unnecessary, but I am a worrier and it was only another 15 minutes anyway) and gave her one last brushing over before heading home.
When I visited her on Sunday, she was laying down, but she quickly popped up and said hello. She got a ton of cookies (and more goop shoved in her eye). I gave her Monday off too, and haven’t decided yet if I will begin her back in super light work on Tuesday, or if I will just wait until Thursday. Either way, I won’t really see results until a solid week.
All in all, happy I did this, and it gives me a bit of confidence knowing that I am helping May feel her best as we enter this competition season.