Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Old age, PPID or something else?

Rebel is my older gelding. He is unpapered so I don't have an accurate age on him but we think he is somewhere around 25 years old, give or take.

Photo taken 6/24
Picture from Labor Day Weekend 7 years ago.. Lima/Dillon Montana

Rebel is my rescue horse, although I wasn't truly the rescuer. My friend rescued him and then I bought him from her shortly after she got him home. I have mentioned him and his story somewhere on this blog, probably a few different times. He had a pretty rough start in life and those scars have never completely gone away but, somehow, I managed to gain some level of trust. Never to the level I had hoped . Rebel has always been his own horse and highly intelligent. He had a lot of issues. Some have been resolved. Others, just lessened over the years. All in all , he is my buddy. A kind horse to handle but a Rebel, as the name suggests.  He came with that name. I should have changed it in hindsight but it fits him.

Rebel is the horse that has seen me through multiple moves and phases of my life. Always my constant companion.  Plenty of times spent crying into his mane, plenty of hours just telling him all my concerns. He's been that heart horse for me in many ways. I have had him since he was four years old. He is also  the horse I did everything wrong on and then went back and fixed as much as I could when I learned how to be more effective. He was incredibly forgiving of me considering his first experience with humans.  He suffered though my  bad fitting saddles and poor choices of bits because of bad advice to a somewhat impressionable young east coast girl, lost in the traditions of the west.  He even caused me to have to get  stitches in my lip   when he flung his head and caught me in the chin.  I still have a scar from that. He was a renegade with other horses, and is what is often referred to as "proud cut". He will cover a mare. My guess is he was bred before he was ever gelded and was likely gelded the old fashioned way.  He once jumped out of his pasture fence to come with me when I rode the neighbors mare down the road. He and I have seen more miles of Montana trails than any of my horses. Oh the adventures of a young girl and her fiery Red horse.  I could go on and on down memory lane with Rebel but that is probably quite enough!

These days, Rebel is quieter, arthritic and  is officially retired . A few years ago, a tripping issue developed and has now worsened .  He has always been a  very stiff horse.  The tripping that developed  is not just stumbling, he literally goes down, and had gone head first and flipped over.  Worst of all, he has done it  with me on him , multiple times.Its really scary and I stopped riding him because of it about 4 years ago. We went through the gamut trying to see what the issue was. We ruled out his feet and teeth. All we could determine is that it was related to his stiffness. He has always been a really stiff  horse and it worsened whenever you picked up the reins and asked for anything involving a little contact. Oddly enough,in spite of that, we found a use for him.  He was able to run down the archery track and do fine, no tripping , as long as you left the reins alone . He packed archery riders for two seasons with no issues.
Most recently, my husband was riding him earlier this spring to give him some exercise. The stumbling in the front didn't seem to be showing up but  now he was starting to stumble really bad with his hind quarters. It was like his back legs would just stop working after about 15 minutes of being ridden and they would just go out from under him.  I brought him in to a chiropractor to be worked on to see if it would improve . The chiropractor said he had some arthritis and scar tissue in the pelvis region. It was his recommendation  to keep him on a light workload, especially since Rebel prefers to not move if he doesn't have to. My guess is that he hurts.  so I keep him on MSM to help with that. The chiro appt didn't really seem to make much difference. He kept stumbling behind and  we have not continued with giving him routine exercise, other than what he gets when he is in the pasture.

The latest development with him in the last couple of months is that he is now losing muscle along his top line. Right over the top of his bones on his hnid quarters and then the part of his spine in front of the sacrum is poking out.The muscles seems to have "wasted away"  It seems to have happened quickly.  His teeth were done in April and he is wormed regularly so the vet doesn't believe those are contributing factors.

There are , at this time, two possibilities that are likely.   It could just be he's getting old and he needs more calories to maintain his weight. Muscle loss can happen in old horses. Or, it could be the beginning of Cushings or maybe , the other "C" word.. cancer.

Equine Cushing’s disease is one of the most common diseases of horses older than 15 years of age. This syndrome is better defined as Equine Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) because it reflects the location within the brain that is abnormal.

Cushings Disease  is most commonly  caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland  located near the base of the brain and is often referred to as the “master gland” because it controls the body’s hormonal system. This tumor  causes the adrenal glad near the kidneys to produce  the stress hormone called Cortisol.  Cortisol has a lot of  functions, one of which control metabolism to regular muscle tone. Over production of the hormone Cortisol is what ultimately does the damage. Horses become insulin resistant which causes an increase risk of laminitis.

Correctly managed a horse can survive with Cushings anywhere from 5-7 years on average. Management can involve feed and drugs in some cases. High doses of Omega 3 's has been discovered by Texas A&M to signifigantly help by decreasing inflammatory responses.
**There is my non scientific understanding of the disease, although I am certain it is much more complex than that.

He doesn't have all the symptoms of Cushings. He has stiffness and lethargy but he shed out completely this spring, other than his legs, which he has always had trouble with. The only change is that this year the leg hair is moreso. See pics below.  He has not gotten the long, wavy hair coat that is the most common symptom of Cushings and he has not shown any sign of laminitis. Another symptom is increased water intake. I honestly can't monitor that because he is in with two other geldings.

After consulting with my vet , we have decided to opt for the conservative approach.

For now, I have put him on an increased calorie diet. I have started him on a senior low NSC (in case it is cushings) grain , alfalfa pellets and fat in the form of Canola oil. I might also be adding in an Omega 3 supplement like Equi-Bloom, which is often recommended for horse with Cushings. My approach is to give him the calories and nutrition while assuming it could be Cushings. Horses with Cushings can't handle high carb loads, thus the reason for the NSC grain. I have chosen to try a Nutrena Senior feed called Triumph.
We will give him a few weeks of this higher calorie diet to see if it helps his weight and energy. Lucky for me, we have had a ton of moisture and our pasture is quite lush so he is out on pasture most of the day. Laminitis is the risk there but I will be monitoring that. If he is getting Cushings, he may be prone to it.

I will reevaluate in 4-6 weeks. If there is no change, I will bring him in for bloodwork and possibly the Cushings lab test. Keep your fingers crossed he has some good improvements with diet.

Here are some other photos of his body condition - which doesn't look bad but his has lost muscling along the top of his rump and his spine.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Cow Clinic - Day 3

So I went back. I really didn't want to and driving over there that morning , I was in such a bad mood. T left that morning to go visit his parents but encouraged me to go and try to make the best of it, afterall I did pay for the 3 days.  If nothing else, just work on the stuff I new I needed to work on with Maggie.

The day shaped up to be nice weather so the plan was to spend the morning working inside on alot of the same things , ask any questions and he had a couple of additional things he wanted to show us.
Well I am not sure what happened, but maybe D went back and read his horse training books over night because he started out the day doing a really good job of explaining the process of working the horse on the ground around you on a line, getting the soft feel in the halter and how that translates to the time when you get on the horse.  He even brought out his other horse , who was obviously better trained (probably not by him) and demonstrated a walk , trot , canter all in hand on a line with nothing more than just the energy from his body , down the rope , to the horse. It was truly a nice thing to see.. it was as it should be and really spoke to what a lot of natural horsemanship is about...

All I could think about was, why the hell didn't you start out on Friday talking about this?? "

Anyways, it set me at ease and Maggie and I had a pretty good morning working on some things. We even had a nice canter on  a loose rein.

In the afternoon we went and gathered cows out in the big pasture. Maggie got really worked up over that process and even bucked a couple of times before it was all said and done. We brought the cows into a pen that was adjacent to the arena. The plan  was to let two cows into the arena at a time and two riders would go. Each rider would pick a cow and work that cow down along the length of the arena and back, across the diagonal of the arena and back, and so on. The goal was to move the cow and let the cows speed guide us. If the cow went faster, we could follow faster. If the cow slowed, we had to slow up. Piece of cake, right ???
It really makes you think about rating your horse and realize how cool it would be if horses came with a volume dial that you could turn up for more , down for less. I am working on installing that on Maggie Unfortunately,  those cows don't want to be moved away from the their herd on the other side of the fence and come up with some creative ways to avoid being moved.

After some work ,and a lot of back and forth, trying to get a feel for moving this cow,   Maggie and I finally got our cow working pretty good. We even had some really nice stops and turns and blocks.

NEVER CHASE THE  COW BECAUSE YOU WILL ALWAYS GET BEAT!!!  (unless you have a rope handy)

Needless to say, It was a total blast. At one point, D was instructing me through some moves and was building up to having me push the cow down the fence line with some speed. He encouraged me to let Maggie go and get after it but I was a bit tentative because we were coming up on the end of the arena pretty darn fast.  Nonetheless, Maggie was moving along pretty quick and to make it just a bit more fun, there was a big puddle, actually a bit of a lake on one end of the arena.
Well as we came barreling  down that line in a gallop with that cow, we made a big splash into that water. We got soaked but it was a blast! I could see how someone could do that all day.  D said he was hoping I was going to let Maggie full out, apparently he wanted to see what she had.. but I  guess I kept it within what considered safe... silly me, right?

So all in all, we ended on a good note. I got a lot of compliments on Maggie on how quiet she was. Man, if they only knew how hard I was working to keep her that way but I guess that if they couldn't see it, then maybe what I have been doing is working.


Cow Clinic - Lessons learned and other Post Clinic thoughts

3 days of horsemanship and working cows. It sounded like fun, it was local , and not too terribly expensive.  I did have a goal of getting Maggie exposed to cattle this year and this seemed like a good place to start. I did a little asking around about the trainer and reports back were , on a scale of 1-5 , about a 3 when it came to Horsemanship, trainer personality about a 2 but the word was he was pretty darn good with cows and teaching horses to work with cattle.  OK.. so he wasn't overly likeable.. but maybe I could learn something and if the horsemanship was bad,  there is no law to say I had to take this guy's training advice for the biblical truth.

A lot of the weekend is foggy because I took what I liked and left the rest behind. I will give the highlights day by day. Not sure what value it might bring to you anyone reading , but I will try to capture the good and the bad along with what I learned or maybe didn't learn.

Day 1- Meet and Greet. . I will refer the trainer as "D". D was a pleasant,  friendly man. The Facility definitely got 5 Stars..absolutely gorgeous . It was obvious that there was lot of money behind this guy and I felt very excited to get to use such a facility. I was pretty sure however, the money  didn't come from putting on horsemanship clinics. Nonetheless, everyone seemed pretty friendly and the atmosphere was laid back. There were about 10 clinic participants all together. We all gathered around D as he introduced himself that first morning. I was one of only a couple in the group that had never worked with this guy before. The rest were definitely part of his personal fan club. We sat on our horses and listened for what seemed like FOREVER, D talk about all the work he has done with his teacher Buck Brannaman, and basically , a lot of tooting his own horn... Maggie was falling asleep but finally when he was done doing that, we moved on to working through a few suppling/ lateral work exercise's.
Much of it was very similar or the same as what I have done before in clinics like this but he seemed to have his own unique approach.. definitely more of a "cowboy" edge to it.  But things seemed to be going relatively well. After a couple of hours, everyone was working on these exercise's on their own and he was walking his horse around, helping people. I walked over to him to ask him a question about something he had been having us do . I was a bit confused on what it was we should be looking for as a result. It was at this point I was told I was never going to be able to get lateral flexion in my horse  because of the shank bit in her mouth.  He went on to say that it was pinching her and agitating her.
I need to point out here that Maggie was not the picture of agitation of all. She was actually very quiet.
I was a little surprised at his response to the bit. I knew this crowd might find issue with the bit but I didnt' expect a full frontal attack  with chastising.
Not really off to a good start ...

He then went on to make an example of me of sorts.. he brought everyone's attention to the fact that I was using this bit and it was a bad choice. I may as well had had a flashing red beacon above my head.. blaring


Shank is a bad word in the world of natural horsemanship it seems.  You could almost hear the gasp when he said the  word.  He didn't even question me about my choices to use it, just assumed I was unenlightened and said I just didn't "know any better" .  Then he went into some long winded story about some other client of his that had a horse so messed up because he was using a shank bit "just like the one I was using". There it was again.. the verbal pointed finger.

Lucky for me I am fairly thick skinned.

Clearly , this crowd only believes in snaffles with a "MCCarty" rein. I think it's because of a gross misunderstanding of bits and how they work. Sadly, most of them have the hands of a monkey and no feel so maybe it's using a snaffle is the best thing. The trainer wasn't interested in hearing any reasons  about my choice of bit and  I could definitely see that if I tried to explain, he would argue. People were paying him to be the expert.. not me.. I wasn't interested in arguing and frankly, I have nothing to prove . Bottom line was that I was wrong, he was right.. end of story...

Ok , so now that  I had a pretty good idea of how it was going to be for the weekend..

Had he asked, I would have explained the type of bit I was using and the reasons why,  but he didn't . The type of bit I use is in fact a comfort snaffle with a roller and a copper inlay , tongue relief, and the shortest of shanks available , 5 inch.  It encourages salivation. used with rein chains, like I have, it provides a very clear path of communication without have to pull or hold or any of that. The bit is specifically designed so  it can't pinch. It works off three pressure points instead of 1 like the snaffle. It's a tool. What makes a bit bad is the hands behind it.. regardless of whether it's a snaffle, a shank, a curb, a Weymouth or even a hackamore.

After that little derailment, we spent the day working on lateral work..spinning circles, backing up and all that other typical stuff that happens at these sorts of horsemanship clinic. I won't say it wasn't all for none. Alot of it was the same stuff I have learned in numerous other clinics like this , (but with far better horseman and explanation /demonstration of it)  Nothing earth shattering was learned. 

At the end of the day,  D came over to me and actually said I did a nice job with my mare and that she didn't seem as bad as he expected.

Expected??  I could only assume he was referring to the bit but I took it as a bit of  a peace offering and let it be.

I was back at my trailer, brushing Maggie, and  getting ready to pack things up for the day when  I had a clinic participant come over and ask me if I needed to borrow a snaffle bit for the next day. The question dripping with condescension. This person then went on to try to explain why the snaffle was good and the shank was bad and basically sending the message that I was just too clueless to understand. I know that the intentions were good but by this point in the day, I had had about enough of the bit discussion so  I politely declined  their offer but took the opportunity to give little bit of education on the workings of the shank versus snaffle bit. I got a bit of glazed over look. No I am no expert but this is also  not my first rodeo.

I did finally get out of there without pissing anyone else off and was glad to be done for the day. On the positive side,  some of the exercise's he had use working on gave me some good reminders of the sticky spots I have in Maggie's lateral work so I did get some value out of the day.I might do a follow up post on that.

 So that was day one..

Day Two..

We practiced alot more of the same , working on a soft feel , backing , turning, and alot of time sitting there listening  to D toot his own horn..Man he likes to talk. I get bored easy so you can imagine this was like torture for me.  He talked and demonstrated on his horse what a supposed  proper soft feel and correct back was.   Right about this time, I really needed to stuff cotton in my mouth.

There is a difference between responsive and soft. His horse was responsive yes, (robotic like if you want the truth) but not soft or light. When he backed his horse up,  his horses front legs were stiff and drug lines in the sand. His soft feel  went as far as the horses poll and not clear through to the tail like it's supposed to. You could see the horse pushing the base of his neck down... that isn't a soft feel..

By now, day two, I really started to regret my decision to come to this thing but still trying to focus on the positive here...we would be bringing cows in for the afternoon session so there was hope. Afternoon could NOT come soon enough.  We had one more exercises that was really going to "shape our horses up"(supposedly)  for working the cows that D wanted to show us. It involved doing roll backs along the wall.

I have worked on that with Maggie but only at a walk , sometimes a trot.. I have never gotten too crazy with it because I think there are better ways to teach a horse to rock back and use their hind quarters. Like haunches in , leg yields and such. .He wanted us to do roll backs at canter. The idea was to canter the horse along the wall,  bring your inside leg back to ask the hind to step over, direct (not sure how much directing there was,I saw alot of jerking) the head around with the  inside rein, ask for them to turn or  roll back to the opposite direction, then  ask them to blast forward into a canter , rinse , repeat.

When it came to my turn I did it at a walk /trot.. Maggie started out not listening too well and not really  not stopping correctly with her butt underneath her .  Eventually we got there and while it wasn't pretty, as soon as I slowed it down to a walk , she improved. She was soft and listening and her head wasn't in the air.  I got two nice roll backs and quit .

Well , that was the wrong thing to do.  Apparently I was supposed to go faster and I should not have stopped when I did.

He asked me why I stopped and I told him that she gave me two  nice turns , rolled back and was quiet and soft so I thought that was a good place to reward her. What's the point in still going? Or going faster?  With her, don't I want to define success in smaller increments??? Get it good and leave it alone?? Right??

Wrong.. atleast in his world...Apparently it was also a mistake to question him.    I honestly don't remember the answer he gave specifically but  the jist of his message  was that if she wanted to get all uptight about it, then I should just increase the pressure, work her really fast back and forth along the wall and really get after her until she realized that she was not going to win...He went on to say that if it were his horse, he'd have his spurs into her clear through.

 Yikes.. ok, dude, any respect I might have had for you is quickly going out the door here...

I told him I wasn't willing to do that and he told me that I will never get her any better.. OK.. whatever..   I will take my chances on that one.

I think the message he was trying to get through but doing a really bad job at presenting it, ( and will likely get someone in trouble at some point) was basically that  when your horse braces or resists, which Maggie started out doing, that the rider needs to meet and or exceed the pressure that the horse is presenting  in order to make a mental change..  In a lot of cases I can see this working. I have even done this and in the right circumstance it works.. as long as you can keep things safe for everyone.

With Maggie, I have learned that hurry = worry . I can't approach things that way with her. It backfires every time..Going slowly is often the fastest way to get there. Small successes. It might take me longer but atleast my horse won't be all jacked up .. that is the last thing I need.

We brought the cows in for the afternoon and I learned a new term. Rodear. It is the Spanish term for rounding up cattle. We got them into the indoor arena since it was pouring outside. We took our turns each for cutting out a cow from the rodear and moving it around the outside of the Rodear. That was pretty cool.  Maggie was really tentative at first and then she really got into it . I had to back her off several times because she would get pissed and try to bite the cow to make it move. Needless to say, my turns and stops were not quite always prompt enough to keep the little heifer from rejoining  the rodear and I would have  to start over, pick another cow out and go. Ofcourse,  I was promptly reminded that if I had listened to him on the roll back exercise's instead of questioning him, I would be able to make those stops and turns better and the cow would not be able to get away from me.

 Seriously??? Let it go...There is no way I was going to get Maggie to be stopping and turning like a trained reined cow horse in one afternoon.  I had watched D with another clinic participants horse and he nearly flipped it over backwards and got the rider hurt taking a hold of the horses reins.

 and I am being harsh on my horse by using a shank bit???  serious disconnect here..

The Rodear work was enjoyable and in spite of his continued chastising, he did compliment me on some of the turns and stops I was getting on Maggie nonetheless. Maybe he sensed I was considering bagging out of the 3rd day and wanted to smooth things over a bit.. By the time 4 pm rolled around, everyone was just standing around on their horse listening to him tell more stories and more self aggrandizing. I couldn't spend the next hour listening to him philosophize any more that day. I politely excused myself, loaded up and went home where I promptly found a beer and chair on the back porch and tried to think about anything else about that day.

In trying to stay focused on the positive , Maggie got some exposure to cows , which was my goal to begin with.   I was getting concerted time with my horse to work on some things that I typically don't (but should) focus on s I was seeing some definite holes that were probably the reason for some of the other issues I was having with her.

Nonetheless, I wasn't sure I could go back for a third day of dealing with this guy.

More to come...(this post has been long enough and I need to go ride!)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cows Ahead

Tommorrow morning I will load Maggie up for a 3 day Cow clinic with a local trainer, who is a supposed good hand when it comes to working cattle. I have never even met the trainer, just going off various feedback I have received from various people I know that have ridden with him in the past.

This particular trainer is supposedly a BB student. Honestly, I  just cringe when trainers use name-dropping of the masters of natural horsemanship , deeming themselves "so-and-so's preferred student , worked exclusively with so-and-so for xx number of years, ".. and so on. I get they are trying to build clientele . In my home area, they sem to be a dime a dozen  and maybe unfortunately, in my experience, MOST  of those that are self proclaimed "natural horsemanship" trainers, are anything but....those that I refer to as
"All hat, no cattle"

Ok- stepping off my soap box now..

The feedback that I have received is  that he is good with cows. He keeps people and horses safe. He's a champion roper and he does okay with horsemanship. OK, there 's some opportunity there I guess.

The morning sessions will be focused on horsemanship. The afternoons, we get to apply what we learned with working the  cattle.

I am hoping the horsemanship is good enough and we aren't going to spend the morning turning our horses in tiny circles or backing our horses up ad nauseum until the cows come home (no pun intended) That will send me home in a hurry. Yes, I am a pessimist when it comes to natural horsemanship trainers.. what makes you ask?????

For me and Mags,  cows are the focus. It's time to see if cows are where Maggie's niche lies.

Ideally ,someone will fall in love with her, offer my my asking price and I load her up to go be a cow pony.. But before that can happen , she has to like cows and she has to like moving cows. So , that is what we will set out to do and since I don't have free access to cows, this clinic was the best option that has come my way.

The clinic fee seems reasonable for three days (assuming this guy is not a total boob) and it includes the cow fee.. yes  a cow fee. Apparently (and this was something new to me) when people do cow work, they are charged for the use of the cows. This trainer had to "rent" the cows from a cow dealer  or local farmer. As it is with all economics, the fee is passed onto the consumer.. 

I honestly have no idea how good this guy really is. I couldn't pick him out of a crowd if my life depended on it. I have talked to him several times on the phone. He seems ok..  He has a pretty nice facility and he's not from here.. That could be good, actually.

All in all , I am looking forward to trying something totally foreign and new. It's exciting to get out of my comfort zone.. I hope I can take some good stuff away from it.

Stay tuned for the updates and hopefully video and pics!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Over the Moon.. Another jumping lesson

Had another jumping lesson this past Wednesday. I was totally Over the Moon after the lesson.

Wednesday's lesson would be the second time I have ridden the new lesson horse Jazzy. She is a grey QH mare who has done a fair amount of local shows. She is perfect for someone to build their confidence and find their jumping legs again.. like me.

 Wednesday 's lesson went well enough that I  got to jump an actual course.. 5 fences to be exact at a canter!! They were small fences, just 18 inches or so but this was the first time I have done this in what seems like a 100 years. Man, those fences come up quick at a canter.

We had one 5 stride... and we kind of struggled on getting our stride right. This is the tricky part about jumping a course.. hitting your strides right..I thought Jazzy was going to leave for the jump at five strides but we didn't have quite enough momentum going and she decided to play it safe and put in another half step , which is never exactly comfortable or pretty.. Needless to say , Jazzy and I weren't exactly on the same page for that one so we went around and did that one over.  We managed to do a little better but because she is so short strided, it is hard for her to get down the line so I really had to push her , which just makes he go faster.. unfortunately, she still didn't make it in five strides , but atleast on the second go around I was a bit prepared for that extra step , if she decided she needed it.

So, something to work on for next time.  Jazzy is the sweetest little mare ,  I wasn't going to complain.

In spite of all that, I would be lying if I said it wasn't fun. I am enjoying this jumping thing.. more than I thought I would. My long lost position is starting to come back to me and I am feeling much more secure. The hardest part now has been . as my trainer refers to it, "riding into my leg" or getting more weight into my heels. This is your foundation over the fence so you can keep everything solid and secure as the horse jumps underneath you.
 I have this old ankle injury (years of  repeated sprains) that is complicating that riding into my leg a bit.

When I first get in the saddle with the short jumping length stirrups,  the tendons in that ankle kind of complain at the stretching that goes on with having your weight into your heels.

I did not realize how the dressage lessons  I had taken for two years really changed how I position my ankles (much more comfortable in dressage I will admit)  and since those lessons, I have learned to ride with a less "buried" heel. Now I am asking my ankles to do the exact opposite again!

After I warm up, the ankle pain lessens (or maybe I forget about it because I am having so much fun??)  I might have to work on some stretching in between lessons.  I might consider wearing a brace.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

There once was a Morgan Mare.....

A lot of folks have been following this story  and it's not late breaking news..but I keep going back to read more about it. I can't help myself. Afterall, what is Maggie???

As the story goes, its about a Morgan mare , known as Rik or Rikki and her rider who successfully finished  the Tom Quilty Race in Australia. It's the premier race held in Australia and it was the first time ever that a Morgan qualified for it. 
But there is more to the story than that. Rikki came back to her endurance career after being exported to Australia and then raising a few foals. I would say she came back with a bang and a now looks like she has  promising future in the sport of endurance.

Rikki and her rider finished the race 19th out of 111 horses in her division. Nothing to sneeze at.

Here is the facebook link to read all about it. The farm that owns Rikki is Whirraway Farm in Australia and they specialize in what they are referring to as Sport Morgans, although in my opinion that seems to be rhetorical. Morgans are known for their versatility in a wide range of disciplines. I am surprised... I am totally inspired.

Even if you are a die hard arab endurance rider/lover,  how can you not find this story inspiring?


Friday, June 7, 2013

Greedy, Greedy, Greedy

How many times are you working your horse and your asking something specific. It's that something you have been working on FOREVER in training that continues to be a thorn in you and your horses side. It's just not happening. You present, you offer, you ask in every possible way you know how to.. you may even beg and plead  but you keep trying.. because your the trainer..that is what you are supposed to do and who else is there to do ? It not like you  have a professional trainer  standing there every time you take your horse out to the arena for a training session.
 And then one day, the light comes on..things really start coming together . You horse is behaving and responding to your requests .. just like that.. after all those times of trying , things start to work like you want..

So what do you do?? You keep asking for more and pretty soon, you are right back to where you were. Your horse is acting out, no longer responding as nicely .  Instead of being happy with the small step of success that your horse just took,you ask for more and it back fired.

You got greedy...

 It's one of those things in my own training program that I try  to be thoughtful of. Always thinking about  how much is too much? Am I setting things up for the horse so they can be successful in what I am asking? Am I presenting something and allowing the horse to think through the situation or am I pushing them through it? When is it ok to ask for more and when isn't it?? There is a lot of thinking involved for me when I work with a horse.. especially one as smart as Maggie.

This has been a full week of work for Maggie in the arena. She has been doing very well. Tuesday night, we did a lot of canter work . On Wednesday,  I was thinking it would be a night off. I was  tired  and she could use a break but I thought it might good to stretch her out of any stiffness that might have set in . She is currently confined to a corral since the grass is currently Founder Food...She doesn't get to run and move  a lot..

Earlier in the spring I spent a great deal of time with Maggie in the round pen on a lunge , learning some discipline , voice commands, and such. She was really bad about misbehaving on the lunge and we needed a controlled environment to get things sorted out. We worked through alot of those issues, including the explosive canter departs and then the attempts to run away. In the round pen, she now drops into a canter calmly and stay in a canter with out any of the nonsense.. ..that is... as long as we are in the round pen. If I go into the arena where she has lots of room , she reverts back to her explosions. Still need to work on that..

So on Wednesday I put her on the lunge , in the arena . My plan was to have her move around for a few easy trots both directions. It had been weeks since I had her work on the lunge so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Well, she was absolutely lovely. She offered a nice relaxed trot , and lots of stretching down with her head and neck and back.. She didn't want to get racey at all.. it was actually as perfect as I coud have expected. The work earlier in the spring stuck..

 We went back and forth both directions a couple of different times . I had her do a series of trot poles to get her to extend her shoulders and lift her back. She did that so nicely I put up a cross rail to continue exposing her to the idea of jumping.. and in keeping with the theme, she did that perfectly lovely.

I was so darn proud of my little mare, I just had to go and put that damn fence up , just a little,  to a straight rail.

As soon as I asked her to come around on the lunge and she saw that bigger fence, it dawned on me that maybe this was not the best idea but asking her to stop now wasn't good either, so when she saw it and made a slight hesitation as if to say :

"Oh, wow.. not sure about this boss"...

I encouraged her forward with a cluck and my command of "trot on"...

She listened to my request and did what was asked of her but then she she bumped the rail and it came down , which scared her. She exploded into a couple of jumps and bucks and then tried to gallop away.. I got her stopped with only a loud "whoa's".. but I realized I had just screwed up..

Damn...I got greedy.. and I knew it.. At that very moment , if I could have, I would have kicked myself..

Now what?? Now I had to make it right, and make it a positive successful experience for her.

I put the fence back down to a cross rail. Something I knew she could do without any worries. It took a bit to settle her back down after the rail came down . I asked to go back around to take the cross rail .She didn't even flinch an eye and easily stepped over the cross rail like nothing had happened.. (sigh of relief)

Time to stop right there.. I asked her to walk and then Whoa.. and gave her lots and lots of accolades , good girls, belly rubs and then hand grazed her for a while.

Lesson learned.. or rather re learned.  I was just really thankful that Maggie has made enough progress in the last several months that I was able to get her brain back. It seems Maggie has come even further than I realized. She is actually forgiving my snafu's like this and carrying on without getting rattled.  A year ago.. the fight would be on and I would have spent another hour out there trying to settle her emotions down.

Greediness- it is something I really try to be mindful of when I am working with a horse.. It's exciting when your getting through and things are coming together.. sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of that.. and then push for more when it would actually make the training progress much further if you just find a good place to quit early.

What about you  all?

Ever find your self getting greedy in your training? How did you horse respond? Did you even recognize you were being greedy? What did you do about it? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Get your Green on...

For those of you living in parts of the country that have gone from lush to "crunchy", and are craving green, this one's for you (Irish Horse)..

This is the reason I live in Montana. Beginning in June, it's like Ireland in the Flathead Valley.
We all suffer through months of cold and gray to experience 4 months of gorgeous scenery. It's truly the best time of year..Ofcourse, the green lush grass can be deadly for little fat Morgans so the horses have to suffer through dry lotting with brief grazing periods until things cure out a bit in July..

Since I haven't been on the trail much, you will have to suffer through photos of Acer Farm... With any luck, I can get out on the trail soon and get some other trail riding photos.

The front yard.. and south facing pasture beyond

The corrals- as you can see, Maggie gave me her best side for the photo..Brego taking a sunshine nap in the background.

The north yard , haybarn and corrals

Green grass you say??Yah, we got that...

another section of south facing yard , oak trees and one unruly Russian olive that needs to be chopped down for bonfire wood

Close up of south facing pasture- Death by Grass for Maggie
JB , waiting to be let out to graze
Looking off to the North . You can't see it because of the tree but the Big Mountain Ski Area is within view from my house in those distant mountains.
More lush pasture under the big old ugly Larch..It's a landmark...

Strawberry blossoms
The ditch bordered by Caragana shrubs

. Onions and strawberries... weird combo but it helps with keeping bugs to a minimum.

So there you have it.. green stuff  and lots of it..
And just for fun...
here's a really  horrible shot of me riding Fancy a couple months back in my jumping lesson.. it was dark and hard to see because he took the OLD camera, but this was the day I had some really awesome moments jumping. In this photo we are making our way around the arena to take my first in and out on her. Ofcourse, the photographer failed to take ANY pictures of that..
 ("T" is really talented at getting horrible pictures of me.. .)


Monday, June 3, 2013

MRI Results Are In and other horse updates

The last post I mentioned I was going ahead with having an MRI of my left knee .I was hesitant but the Orthopedic doctor was almost 99% sure I had a meniscus tear, medially and maybe laterally too. I went in last Tuesday and follow up on Thursday for the results.

As it turns out, the doctor was WRONG!!(this always happens to me with doctors..)

I don't have any Meniscus tears to speak of. 

No, as it turns out, I have " the cartilage and ligaments of a 20 year old "  according to my doc....**blush*** (wish I had other things of a 20 year old.. but hey I will take what I can get)

Looking at the image, it's more than likely I strained my ACL (a little bit of fluid there) and the  IT band.

It was a huge relief hearing that I was not going to need surgery. I have made it this far in my life with ever going under the knife and would like to keep it that way.

The knee is actually starting to feel about 70% better and I have been able to resume some squats/lunges in my workouts.  I have not gone on any hikes so I can't say how it feels on the downhills. The doctor suggested a lot of stretching and using a foam roller to loosen the IT band. Since the Spartan race, and vacation thrown in the mix, I have been way off the rails in the excercise and eating departments so I am anxious to get back on track.

I feel like I definitely dodged a bullet with the knee thing.

Here are  few other updates..

  • The garden -its mostly in... need to plant a few more things but I am not getting carried away this year. Herbs, onions, garlic peppers, root veggies, and a couple of tomatoes.. I might get a couple of cucumbers or squash.. not sure yet.. I have been enjoying the asparagus that is FINALLY producing but after only a couple of weeks of production, the stalks are starting to get woody so it's time to let it go to seed again..

  • Maggie -Since I am not planning to do any endurance with her this year, or maybe ever again, Maggie and I are not hitting the trail. Friends  and family keep asking me a lot of questions about it. I definitely missed it now that ride season in the NW is in full swing but I also have mixed feelings. I miss the idea of attending a ride, and flying down the trail on a good horse,  but I don't miss the endless conditioning I had to do last year with Maggie just to attend a 35 mile ride. I don't miss the worry and fuss because she won't eat and drink on the trail or after a hard condition ride,  until we get home to her beloved water tank.  I don't miss the fight when she goes all race brained on me.  I certainly don't miss the time limitations on the schedule so I can get home from work and get on the trail to condition. It was a huge stressor and felt like a job. That said ,  I am still riding her at home ,working on her flatwork/dressage.   In the last couple of  weeks, she has made some interesting progress. She is doing much better with responding      to   my requests for a slow , collected trot. She is even starting to be able to leg yield while in a trot without having a major fit.. It's small steps but it's huge progress for where we were.. Her roll backs are pretty amazing and I am able to cue her for halt, back and rollback with just a neck rope. It's totally cool.  She has impressed me to say the least. I hope the upward trend continues.

Just to mix up the arena sessions,  I have  jumped her a couple of times over small cross rails. She is still unsure about this whole jumping thing but does her best at it, even though her trail savviness tells her that she should carefully step over it... I might have to put it higher for her to get the idea of what I am asking.. I have no idea if there is any glimmer of talent there but it doesn't matter. Right now I am just using jumping as a break from the dressage stuff. With a horse like her, I have to keep things changed up ALL THE TIME or she gets sour on doing the same thing...

At the end of June, we are going into a 3 day "cowmanship clinic"  to see what Maggie can do on cows. She has previously shown some interest . Her grand daddy , her sire, and her brother (T's gelding) are all pretty cowy... so we will see what she thinks about the smelly beasts.. It's all part of finding her niche.. If all else fails, there is always harness training!

  • JB- He gets his special shoes on this week and with out the demanding conditioning schedule, I hope to ride him more frequently. He really needs some work. His ground manners are embarrassing! I see some round pen sessions in his future.

  • Finding the Fix - So Endurance for Maggie is off the books.. which makes it hard to stay in the game. I still love the sport and don't plan on leaving it. As a possible way to still "get my endurance fix" without a horse to do it on,  I have offered via the MT region endurance FB page  to ride for anyone who has an extra horse at any rides in the MT region or NW region.  I already have some potential opportunities. I am working out the logistics of those opportunities. If you know of anyone, keep me in your thoughts!  This sort of arrangement would be a great opportunity to see some other rides that I normally would not if I were taking my horse du to expense /time. Things become a lot more simple when all you have to do is get in your car and drive yourself to a ride..

  • Jumping Lessons- I am still attending and it's a total blast.  I am planning to continue with a couple lessons a month as my schedule permits.  I have started riding the new lesson horse who is a sweet QH mare. She is much more "safe" than the Trakehner I was riding , but not as athletically talented. But she gets me safely to and over the fence with not a lot of complication.  Long term wish list.. find a horse that is suitable for jumping and endurance.. I am thinking an Arab or TB/Trakeher cross???? All I need is about $15k...yeah right(cough).

Equipment Failures:
  • The trailer is busted. Going into a  trail head parking lot a few weeks back we heard a big clunk.  The parking lot had been used as a mud bogging area by local teenage boys with big trucks. Needless to say, there are big holes, trenches and no matter how slow you go, you get bounced around. One of our leaf springs busted in the process and we had to limp the trailer home.  It goes into the shop this week.  Even if I wanted to get out and ride , I couldn't go anywhere. I would just prefer to get a new trailer but gotta live with in the Long term plan budget for now.

  • The Specialized saddle also had a minor issue. I got off Maggie the other night after riding her and my stirrup pad fell off. I managed to glue it back on with some kind of cement like glue I found in the garage. I have ridden in it once  and it held. The other stirrup pad looks like it's adhesive is starting to give way to so I see another glue repair in the near future. That is one complaint I have about the Specialized is that some of the craftsmanship is pretty chincy. Eventually I will have to get some of the EZ ride stirrups to replace these with.

The rain continues here , everything is lush and green and wet but still , the temps are pretty cool.  It's perfect for the still growing hay crops. Farmers usually start cutting and baling first cutting around the Fourth of July , assuming things dry out enough.

Hoping for warmer days ahead with lots of new adventures....