Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby horse days

My work day was super busy today.  Like to the point I really had to talk myself into going to the barn tonight.  I knew once I got there I'd wake up and be ready to work, which is exactly what happened :-)

I groomed and tacked Alex all ready to lunge him and put in a good ride.  Too bad the indoor already had two occupants, one of which was working on the lunge.  There was just enough light left to lunge him outside in the cold which I did for a while till it got dark.  Considering the circumstances he was actually pretty darn good about that.  I walked him back to the indoor and they were done lunging so I figured I'd go on in and ride for a bit.  Of course the presence of not one but two other horses in the indoor, after a very brisk lunging session outside, made Alex very alert.  He immediately went into giraffe mode and could not take his eyes off the other horses even when they left the arena.  So I decided to lunge him some more.  When he finally stretched a bit and gave up I figured I'd better go on and ride.  At the walk he thought about a little rear... I immediately put the nix on this by urging him into the trot.  Although there were intermittent moments of nice stretching, he was mostly anxious and fussy in all gaits.  Grrrr... 

Now keep in mind that 6+ months ago, he probably would've come out of his skin with anxiousness about all that "activity." Tonight he didn't do that, he just wiggled and fussed.  He has made a lot of progress, but as with most "promise filled" horses, it's not going to be easy or quick.  Nothing about training a horse ever is.

Someday he will get over himself and the world around him, but today was not that day kemosabe. 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My name is Mud

We've had more crazy weather here in Kentucky.  Yesterday it was 70 Degrees and raining cats and dogs! Today it was 57 and nasty and tomorrow it will be 35 with flurries... there should be a roller coaster named The Ohio Valley. 

Alex got to go out for the day in his paddock naked during the warm and wet weather... there's an equation for this: ((rain + dirt = mud) + (Alex + 70 Degrees = naked Alex)) = MUDDY ALEX. 

Knowing him like I do, I had already planned to just lunge him in the surcingle and then bathe him within an inch of his life before I put his sheet back on (falling temps and all).  Now... I know this is not Pony Club approved, but when he's muddy and I know I'm going to bathe him after I work him anyways, I usually just put the surcingle on over the mud and work him.  I am aware that some people would cringe, but I just don't see the point of wasting perfectly good time grooming him when I'm just going to wash it all off after his work.  I would never ride him like that, but for lunging I seriously do not see the harm :-)

So with the wind howling and the squeaking of what ever it is that squeaks in the indoor when it's windy, we commenced to work and managed to get a lot done.  Then much to his chagrin, I thoroughly bathed him so he'd at least be clean under his sheet/blanket.  Like a typical Thoroughbred, he pretends to hate grooming/bathing/fussing, but I know he loves it, because he gets mad at me when there's no fussing.

Tonight Alex had the night off, although I did go out to change him into his actual blanket in preparation for the temps to plummet tonight and only reach about 35-36 degrees tomorrow.  Yes... he's spoiled.  He's a happy guy though and eating up a storm!  It will be time to up his feed again soon.  He's gained back all the weight he lost during the stress of the abscesses, but he's got a big frame and still needs to gain some more weight for me to be happy with his condition. 

It's super windy here right now, glad Alex is tucked away in his stall with his blankie on ;-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead...

So Alex has had his shoe back on for over a week now and he is SOUND! -- Cue Wizard of Oz "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."

Last week he got a bit of a reprieve, because Monday night I got the dreaded stomach bug/flu/nastiness and wasn't feeling like myself until nearly Friday night. I can ride through respiratory sickness, but this stomach bug was way too nasty.

Saturday, we had some family out to meet Alex for the first time and man did he put on a show.... four-legged leaping bucks on the lunge line, snorting and gawking and just basically being ridiculous for almost 25 minutes total.  To be fair, he hasn't been worked but one time in the outdoor arena since October and I hadn't done anything with him for nearly two weeks.  Finally, he gave up and I thought for just a minute about whether I really wanted to push my luck by climbing into the saddle.  I decided that I did, which I think surprised my husband who handed over my helmet without saying anything.  Once in the saddle, Alex was actually pretty good.  He spent a lot of time gawking and playing, but he only threw in two half-hearted bucks at the canter and generally was pleasant.  Score!

Sunday it was a nasty blustery day so I decided I'd just lunge in the surcingle.  Alex spent a little less time performing acrobatics and a little more time stretching and moving very nicely at the end of his work.  Sometimes less is more, so I felt like the lunging was just what the doctor ordered.

Today was another rainy nasty day, and since it's still getting dark to early for me to get a ride in outside, we were stuck with the indoor.  Normally we've had the indoor to ourselves, but tonight we had to share with another horse/rider while we worked on the lunge.  This is a first for Alex (inside) and I really have to say he handled it much better than expected.  Generally he was very curious (read gawky), but no real acting up or acrobatics at all!  After a few minutes, he started to relax and stretch and that was pretty much all she wrote.  I do think he was a little heart broken when the cute little mare left the arena prior to our ride, he'd been showing off for her, I think there's a little stud still left in him :-)

In the saddle he was very agreeable, minus a few looks at his least favorite corner.  Walk, trot and canter, were all pretty decent and well behaved.  His movement is so much better than before the abscesses, I really feel like they had been brewing a long time. 

Overall we've had a very satisfying and excellent start back to the routine.  So happy to have my horse back!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Boring Tidbits

Not much new to report.  Alex and I have been working a lot on the lunge, throwing in a few rides here and there.  Yesterday was his last day of oral antibiotics and soaking.  Today was the last day packing his foot with ichthammol.  He will remain dry wrapped until Friday when the farrier comes to do his feet.  I think we might finally be getting past this ordeal.  Eeek! I really hesitate to say that... this monster has NOT wanted to die it's been more resilient than a movie monster.

The weather here has been crazy... Saturday it was 70 degrees, so I took the opportunity and gave Alex a bath.  I say that like I had much of a choice... he was so caked with mud when he came in from the field, it looked painted on!  He is really enjoying "being a horse."  By the time Sunday night rolled around it was 37 degrees.  This was, of course, after it had rained ALL day.  Tonight we're getting sleet/snow/ice... fun.  Too bad grown-ups don't get snow days, that's one thing I miss about school, those unexpected days off.

Hopefully all will go well with the shoeing on Friday and I'll be back in the saddle this weekend.  We shall see!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Back in the saddle

Saturday turned out to be a busy day.  We got my jumps moved to Alex's farm, into the indoor and out of the weather, which took most of the day.  By the time I got to the farm, I had already kinda given up on my plans to get back in the saddle and resigned myself to settling for a good session of lunging.  Turns out this was a good plan, because new jumps (even set off to the side) in the indoor are SCARY!  Alex spent a good portion of his lunging session gawking at these new "creatures" that had taken up residence in the indoor.  He didn't do anything particularly bad, but he did do a lot of bouncing around and snorting.  Intimidation tactics?  Too bad the jumps don't care how much he bounces and snorts :-)

When he wasn't trying to intimidate inanimate objects, he was stretching really well into the side reins.  He is really getting the hang of this self-carriage thing... he loves his endorphins.  This is so rewarding to see, considering that when I first started into Alex's retraining he would trot/canter around like a giraffe most of the time.  He is going to have such nice movement once he gets stronger and gets over his obsession with everything else going on around him.  We were just starting to get to that when this abscess reared its ugly head.

Alex had the day off on Sunday, which I actually think he was rather irritated about.  He really does like to work, otherwise he gets bored.

Tonight, I decided I'd lunge him in tack (instead of the surcingle) and see if maybe we couldn't get a ride in, but honestly I wasn't hopeful.  Alex was a REALLY good boy despite the fact that the footing in the indoor was not ideal (they had just watered it and gotten a little overzealous).  So I figured I was safe to go on and try a ride.  There were a few moments when he was a little unsure, but overall, he really surprised me with his good behavior.  Hopefully the indoor will dry out a little bit and tomorrow we can do a little more.

Friday, January 4, 2013

No more vacation... back to work

The last three days have been spent lunging Alex, trying to get back in the swing of things.  Although I am still soaking and wrapping his foot and we have 9 more days of antibiotics, he can be lightly worked.  I had started toward this goal prior to Christmas, but failed miserably during the holidays.  He's been feeling pretty good lately and has spent a good amount of time having what I like to call "thoroughbred moments" about one corner of the indoor, so I figured we needed to take a step back and get some consistent work done on the lunge line before I got back in the saddle. 

For the most part, the lunging has gone well, with a few exuberant interludes.  Some of his naughtiness is due, in part, to the fact that I think the long term antibiotics have irritated his
ulcer.  He's back on the UlcerGuard at least until we finish these meds and probably shortly thereafter.  I can't get too mad at him, I have my own stomach problems and definitely have trouble concentrating on my work when my stomach bothers me :-) 

I'm also starting him on SmartDigest from SmartPak to (hopefully) put some of the "good bugs" back into his gut.  I'm sure all the antibiotics have really done a number on his "bugs."  We'll see if that helps.  Generally, I have been very pleased with all the SmartPak supplements I've used, not to mention their shipping is super fast (even free over $75) and customer service is awesome. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to lunge him in tack with the intent to get back in the saddle.  We'll see how things go... Hopefully I'll get to ride...I'm going through withdrawal, since I've only been on him three times since October.  Of course, knowing Alex, there will be a surprise... could be good, could be not so good... just have to wait and see!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

All Good Things...

"Amazing Horses Do Not Just Happen," but they do come into your life unexpectedly. 

As I wrote in Gryff's "bio," I’d be dishonest if I said that the first time I saw or even rode Gryff it was instant love.  Actually I had quite the opposite reaction.  I wasn't impressed with his looks and was appalled by his behavior, but his movement did peak my interest.  It took the first year riding him to establish that I was going to win battle of the wills.  I've never worked so hard to ride a horse and to this day, I am still not sure why I was initially so determined.  Perhaps it was because I was tired of being told he couldn't or he wouldn't ever achieve the goals I set for him.  But again, I am not sure what told me he could or would achieve those goals.  I just knew and the longer our partnership lasted the more convinced I became. 

Don't get me wrong, this isn't one of those horse stories where all the sudden the horse just becomes perfect.  Remember, "Amazing Horses Do Not Just Happen."  It was frustrating, we’d go forward two steps and back six; and this went on throughout our partnership.  Patience, stubbornness and determination sustained us both.

Gryff and I have given each other so much.  I could list all the competitions and ribbons, but perhaps I should just stick to the most memorable moments.   Never in my life have I crossed the finish line of cross-country with my arms wrapped around my horse's neck, shouting and crying tears of joy, but I did...with this horse.  I have never had an emotional reaction like that to the accomplishment of a riding goal.  The only other time I've ever cried happy tears from an overflow of emotion like that was at my wedding if that gives you some perspective.  With the completion of what turned out to be Gryff's first and last recognized Novice horse trial, we achieved the ultimate goal I had set so many years ago.  And you know what?  I still kind of can't believe we did it, but I must have believed we could do it, or I never would have made the attempt.

Then there's the little moments... somehow without realizing it, I fell for Gryff  and even though I didn't own him he became so much more than a horse to me, he was a friend.  "The love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being… if you never love a horse, you will never understand.”

What Gryff has taught me about myself as a rider, I don't think I would ever have found with another horse. I have literally sweated, cried and bled for this horse. There has only been one other horse to touch my life in that way and still it isn't the same.  I truly believe Gryff was born to be an event horse.  I sometimes imagine the levels he could have gone to if Eventing had come into his life sooner.  I wish my skills and resources had allowed us to move up the levels faster, but time and age catch up with us all and I suppose it wasn't meant to be.  Maybe he came into my life to give me courage... the courage to take the leap and start Alex.
Someone once said life is what happens while you're busy making other plans... five years with Gryff now seems incredibly short.  Maybe I spent so much time pushing toward my goals that I didn't take enough time to enjoy the ride.  It's not that I didn't appreciate Gryff during our partnership or that now, all the sudden, I'm having some sort of epiphany, but sometimes it takes coming to the end of something to really gain perspective.  So here's my advice... take the time to enjoy the ride on every horse, even if you don't own it, even if you're not sure it's the one, because relationships change and grow and if you don't see how that horse has touched your heart until your time together is over's too late.

After his accident in the Fall, I made the decision that Gryff and I would not be competing in 2013 and that I would solely focus on Alex.  After all, Gryff is now 19 and although he thinks he's five, sadly he's not.  This hasn't been easy, but it's the best thing for him and that is what matters.  Gryff's done everything I've ever asked of him and never asked anything in return... it's time. 

All good things, have to come to an end.

Love you Gryffster :-)

Buh-Bye 2012

It's been a "Long December" and November and October... so much has happened since my last post that this one is going to be lengthy.

At the time of my last post, I was not so patiently waiting for another pocket of abscess to burst in the same foot.  The evening of November 2nd, I got my wish.  When I arrived at the barn to soak and re-wrap his foot before I went out of town, the abscess had burst out the same hole.  The drainage shocked me at first because it was so gooey and... bloodyI thought, oh crap, he's stepped on himself or something AND I am supposed to be leaving town!  After I soaked his foot and had a quick conversation with my vet, I wrapped him back up.  Then I called my friend Stephanie, who had agreed to take care of Alex while I was gone and updated her on the latest developments.  Once all ducks were in a row, I reluctantly left town. 

Over the next two days, I got my information second hand... which absolutely killed me, because I am a very hands on owner.  The abscess continued to drain out the original hole and then began breaking through his sole.  This thing truly was a monster!  I arrived home Sunday night to find that Alex had conveniently ripped his bandage off in the paddock.  In the process of cleaning his foot up, a portion of the sole (where the abscess had been sitting) began to shed off.  You can still see the other drain hole at the coronary band on the same side of his foot.

Alex's foot after pocket of abscess #2 burst

Now, one would think that this would most certainly be the END of this whole series of events.  We had finally slain the monster.... right?  I thought so, and went about getting his foot dried up so we could finally put a shoe back on him.  Alex was still slightly lame, so my farrier and I agreed that he was probably a little tender from being without a shoe.  No sooner than we got a nice pretty shoe on than I got another surprise.  He was shedding his frog!  I know this happens all the time, but usually in the field or trimmed by the farrier.  I've never seen it like this and must admit it's pretty wild :-)

November 18th - Shedding Frog

Then a few days later, he started shedding more sole....

November 20th - Shedding Sole

During all this "shedding" Alex continued to be lame, even with the shoe.  I packed his foot with Magic Cushion in hopes that the extra padding would make him jog/lunge sound, but he was still just slightly off.  I kept feeling like there had to still be something in there, another deep pocket of abscess.  Grrrr....

On November 23rd (the day after Thanksgiving), I had the vet out to look at Alex's foot and tell me if he thought we needed x-rays.  Alex was of course wound like a top, wiggling all over the place and basically being naughty (which is my pet peeve when a farrier/vet is coming to look at my horse).  After a jog and some "hoof testing,"  the vet said he thought Alex just had a rotten foot and that we hadn't used strong enough antibiotics the first time around.  Translation, there's more abscess in there, yank his shoe and go back to wrapping with ichthammol and soaking; get it to open up so we can hit it with Penicillin and start working him to push all the crap out.  He couldn't give me a timeline, said it could take a few weeks or two months and that we'd have to wait a bit on mother nature. Although it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear, I was elated that he didn't think there was rotation of the coffin bone or that it was time for xrays.

So back to the drawing board... November 26th my farrier came and pulled his shoe.

November 26th - Shoe Pulled
After about 4-5 days of the wrapping/soaking protocol, a small soft (and painful) spot appeared in the opposite side of his hoof toward his toe.  I was hopeful this was the "break through" we'd been anxiously awaiting.  It was, but we didn't have your typical "burst."  A hole opened up, but the "gunk" inside was very thick and didn't really burst through.  It was time for Penicillin... unfortunately it was also time to start soaking twice per day which is hard for a working gal.  My mornings started coming earlier and earlier.

For those who don't know, injectable Penicillin is very thick and must be kept cold.  The thickness means you have to use a huge (18-16 gauge) needle to get it in, unless you want to be there all day. Adding to the fun, it needs to be injected right into the muscle.  You can't inject the same place twice because it becomes painful to the horse, so the injection sites need to be rotated, meaning you can't just use the neck (every one's favorite injection site).  You can imagine how much I was NOT looking forward to injecting my horse twice a day with a huge needle full of several CCs of thick antibiotic.  Lucky for me, my mom was around to help.

I cannot overstate how proud I am of Alex and his reaction to this treatment.  We did put a lip chain on him to keep him still, but he endured 10 days of twice a day injections and only threatened (pretty weakly if you ask me) to kick my mom once.  For any horse this would be awesome, but for my 5 year-old barely re-started OTTB, it's downright amazing.

By December 10th the hole tracked deeper and some new gunk came out along with a little more blood, we were really getting somewhere now. 

December 10th - Abscess Tracks Deeper
December 14th - Farrier Trim/Clean-up

Alex started a second oral antibiotic (the second part of the 1-2 punch) on December 15th and will have that twice per day for 30 days.  In the mean time, I continue soaking/wrapping and working him in his bandage. 

Slowly, painfully slowly, he got more and more sound.  Finally, I got an early Christmas present!  After nearly three months of killing myself, worrying, waiting and hoping...SOUNDNESS!!!  Not only that, but the "hitch" in his trot that I had originally thought might just be "part of him" was gone.   Oh boy was it gone, he has a TROT and he's not even fully schooled on the flat!  I don't think I stopped smiling for about 24 hours.

So, we are currently on day 18 of the oral antibiotic, still soaking/wrapping/working at my vet's request, but there's light at the end of this tunnel :-)