To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Still gambling

We drove to Lincoln City yesterday to do Lance's follow-up exam. The good news: his ligament looks as good as new. The bad news: the bone (where the ligament was/is attached) is rougher, over a bigger area, than Rick hoped or expected, indicating that the tear was worse than he originally thought. That roughness is a point of weakness, where re-injury is most likely to occur. If I condition Lance carefully, he doesn't do anything stupid (his mellow nature is a plus here!), and God blesses, he could still be an athlete. Otherwise, he will be a trail horse. Of course, this is the gamble I took when I decided to go ahead and get him, but I was so hoping the follow-up exam would show a better scenario. :-(

Lance's breeder has been anticipating being able to turn him out (in the indoor arena) if the exam showed he was healed up, but we don't want him ripping around and re-injuring himself. She says he has never ripped around, but neither has he been cooped up this long. She is going to be able to walk him Sunday, Monday and Wednesday; and I am going out to walk him on Tuesday. Rick thinks turning him out after four straight days of hand-walking might be a safe bet. I'm hoping and praying it is. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nine inch nails needles

(Actually, the needles are 10 inches long. If photos of medical procedures bother you, proceed through the following pictorial at your own risk!)
Supplies at the ready
The inject sites are clipped and cleaned
Finding the right spot, needle at the ready
Easing it in
The diagonal line on the left is the needle, going in parallel to the bone
Time to do the other side
After the needle is positioned, he injects the steroid
Little wonder that Horton told the farrier this afternoon that his rump is sore to the touch. Tomorrow I'll lunge him lightly in the surcingle, and Thursday Rick says I can start riding him again (if we can find a dry window in which to work). It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in Horton's behavior!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Every dry day is a blessing

We returned home from our Thankgiving trip late last night under clear skies. I caught the weather forecast before going to bed and was relieved to hear that there were a couple more dry days in the forecast. I knew Horton would be in need of exercise; it's not good to 'get them fit, then let them sit.'

This morning when I did chores I found a note from the person who did our farm chores while we were gone. She wrote: "Horton was a good boy until today! He was bucking and kicking from his stall to his pen. He kicked the back wall and may have broken a board." Oh my! I decided some turn-out was in order, so after he'd had a half-hour to eat some of his breakfast, I took Horton to the arena to expend some of that pent-up energy. When I removed his halter, he just stood there looking at me until I shooed him away; then all he did was trot to the other end and look for something to eat. That's it.

I went back to my chores, keeping an eye out for more activity. Finally, he rolled.
When he got up from that he did explode – but after two big bucks, he went back to grubbing around for greens. It took some encouragement with the lunge whip to get him to actually exercise!

I didn't have time to ride until later today. Horton was good on the lunge line, but it took a lot of encouragement to get him to canter under saddle, especially to the left. He never got cranky or balky about it, so I gave him grace in case of discomfort.

Rick is planning to do the injections tomorrow morning. It will be interesting to see if they make a difference!
Horton hears a Who!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No news, bad news, good news; no BIG news

Yesterday's wild weather hit the coast with much higher winds (up to 90 mph) and several inches more rain than we got, and the power was still out at Lance's barn this morning. No power = no ultrasound, so we will have to wait until next week to see how his injured ligament has healed. Unfortunately, between the holidays and his breeder's work schedule, Lance probably won't get any hand-walking until then, either. :-/  I'd drive over there to keep him from going stir-crazy if I could (getting this kind of mileage
with my diesel VW Jetta makes the two-hour round trip economically feasible) but alas, we will be out of town Wednesday-Sunday. (Looking forward to that fuel economy for the 800-mile round trip as well!)

The good news is that we had an unexpected break between the previous storm and the next one mid-day today, so I was able to get Horton out for a little exercise for the first time since Friday. We did walk/trot/canter both directions, first on the lunge line and then under saddle, and there was no crankiness at all. Not that he didn't need occasional encouragement to stay straight, connected from back to front, and/or forward, but he responded to the encouragement appropriately.

Rick didn't get the needles and drugs assembled for Horton's hip injections until yesterday, so he'll wait until we get back to do it. The chance of a bad reaction or infection is minimal, but he wants to be around just in case. So bigger news with photos next week!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lazy Lance and wild weather

Lance is not really this red; it's a low-light reaction of my camera

I bought Lance a new halter, and remembered to take it with me when I visited him today. It's a grooming halter; the whole 'undercarriage' behind the noseband can snap off for grooming access. It fit him perfectly straight out of the bag, and although I would have preferred brown, I think it looks good on him. The narrower leather also got his attention the few times he needed to be reminded to be a gentleman; no stud chain required. He was much calmer than the last time I visited, though; no airs above the ground this time. In fact, he was acting so sensible that I utilized the other tack I brought – saddle and bridle!
Photographic proof (such as it is)!
Lance's breeder thought I was brave to get on, but Lance was very mellow under saddle. His slightly lazy nature will be a blessing when I get him home and start slo-o-owly conditioning him enough to start dressage training. I can hardly wait!
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It's been wet all day, but the weather has definitely intensified this evening. Wind is whipping the trees to and fro, and rain is splattering against the windows. Internet connection is spotty and I won't be surprised by power outages, either. I guess I should have hitched up the trailer and taken Horton with me this morning to work him in the indoor arena; I'm not sure I'm going to get any opportunities to work him outside until after we get back from our Thanksgiving trip. :-/

Friday, November 16, 2012

Horton's wonky haircut

Yesterday Sylvia came out to ride her horse again. I lunged him first – not to "take the edge off" which seems to be the reason most people lunge, but as the quickest and easiest way to get him thinking forward. Horton's no longer a "balky-butt," but we still have to work through "stickiness" – his reluctance to move freely forward – on a regular basis. When I finally get him moving forward he is lovely, but it can take awhile to get him there.

Getting his gears moving on the lunge line seemed to work; Sylvia had her best ride on him yet, at least here. As you can see, it was a beautiful day!

After his schooling session, Horton got a haircut. No, not a body clip or trace clip; more like a "hip clip."

When Sylvia was out Tuesday, Rick happened to come down to the barn and watched us ride Horton for awhile. He asked, "Does he always carry his tail to the left like that?" Sylvia answered, "Always. It gets better for awhile after he has bodywork done on him, but eventually he returns to carrying it to the left; never to the right." Rick pondered out loud whether or not Horton might have something going on in his pelvis; if he does, it could explain not only the tail carriage but perhaps the behavioral issues he's had. Sylvia gave Rick the go-ahead to investigate, so he did that yesterday morning after our ride.
Sleepy Horton held by Sylvia

Rick performing the external ultrasound exam

Shaving the area to be ultrasounded gives a better image; hence the haircut. (Rick also ultrasounded the pelvic area from the inside, but I didn't figure anyone really needed to see a photo of the vet with his arm up the rectum!)

The verdict? Horton's lumbosacral and sarcoiliac joints both look "wonky." Yeah, a real technical term, but since Rick has never seen joints that look quite like Horton's, it fits. No way to know the cause, since Horton's early history is veiled; could be the result of injury or even congenital. Rick is going to inject the joint areas with steroid to see if that makes a difference in his behavior and movement (he didn't have the incredibly long needles with him yesterday).

Once again all involved were reminded that horses always have a reason for their actions, be it pain or past experiences. They don't spend their time thinking about how to get out of work just because, and many horses put up with an amazing amount of discomfort and continue to try their best for us until we finally figure out there's a problem and do our best to make it better. It is also a good reminder that all the bodywork/chiropractic/essential oils or whathaveyou cannot fix damaged tissue. It might make our horses feel better for a bit, but the underlying problem needs proper diagnosis to be properly addressed, whether with rest, drugs, therapies like extracorporeal shock wave, a change in usage or all of these combined.

As for usage, Rick said it was fine to go ahead and ride Horton; he'll need a couple days off after the injection but that's it. So I rode this morning . . . obviously with a different mindset about the task at hand. I didn't lunge Horton first; I did spend a lot of time warming up at the walk on the buckle. Horton loves to go on the buckle, reaching his head down for a good stretch over the back. Makes me wonder if that stretch feels particularly good for his wonky joints. Anyway, I tried to fix any stickiness through a "back door approach," and eventually got lovely walk/trot/canter work both directions. I would love to be able to keep building on this, but next week is forecast to be very wet, starting this weekend, and we will be gone over Thanksgiving. I'll be looking for breaks in the weather whenever I can catch them!

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I have been thwarted in my plans to drive over and walk Lance this week, so I was so relieved to get a phone call from his breeder yesterday. She's been very faithful in getting him out nearly every day this week, and he is behaving himself much better now. I'm hoping to get over there on Sunday, and then Rick is scheduled to ultrasound his injured ligament on Tuesday to see how it's healed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A good day for all concerned

Horton's owner came out for another ride today. Horton was in a mellow mood, Sylvia was in a more confident mood, and their walk/trot ride went much better than the last one. Then I got on and asked for canter and got all the departs without altercations. Hooray for Horton!

Behold, Horton and his lady:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Horton had to heed

He hesitated. He hemmed and hawed. I had to get hard-nosed.

He got hot post-haste, and had to hang out for awhile to cool off afterwards.

We'll see how well he heeds next time....

Besides a rather challenging ride on Horton yesterday, I also handled a hot young horse-kite.

Lance has been cooped up for more than six weeks now, and isn't getting hand-walked as often as would be ideal because of his previous owner's work schedule. Yesterday I drove to Lincoln City to deliver more Horse Guard and get him out of his stall.

Lance looked so sweet, hanging out with his little buddy. But once I lead him out of his stall, he was all sass – the stud chain our saving grace. For the first 15-20 minutes, he jigged and bucked and reared, explosive with pent-up energy. Thankfully, he minded his manners and never directed any of that energy towards me, but I am worried that his more timid former owner may stop hand-walking him altogether because of it. How I wish he were close enough for me to walk him every day....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I've been working on Horton's transitions, getting them smoother, rounder, less-fuss-more-forward. Lots of inside leg to outside rein always improves things, and he's making good progress . . . because I expect him to. After all, he's not a kindergartener any more; he's been to a show and scored over 70% in both his tests!

Another kind of transition that needs to happen is from me riding Horton to his owner riding Horton. She cooled him out at the show, the first time in quite awhile she'd been on him. Now it's time for her to start riding him again. She came out yesterday to do just that.

Even though I warmed him up and he was being a good boy, Sylvia was obviously apprehensive at the beginning. After all, Horton had thrown her hard – as he did her trainer and a tall, lanky young-but-experienced hunter/jumper Mexican cowboy. Then he went to the cowboy's hunter/jumper barn to learn to do this
Horton says, "That's my daddy!"
and was doing it quite well. But he missed his first scheduled shows due to a stone bruise, and he's a little on the short side according to most h/j riders, and Larry sold . . . and the rest is history on this blog. Now we're making new history, that of a successful partnership between Sylvia and her handsome young Horton. It's going to take some time for her to feel confident on him, so she plans to come out a couple times a week if the weather and our schedules permit. Based on the progress she made with him yesterday, I feel good about their future together. Maybe next time I'll get pictures!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seasonal adaptations

It has been a grey, wet week since Monday's unexpected break. There have been some short dry spells here and there, but never when I could sprint to the barn and get Horton out for some exercise.

Since I don't like to let a horse sit for more than two days at a time unless I'm out of town, yesterday was a "must exercise" day. The dry spells came and went while I worked hard at other obligations until I got down to the wire on time (I had an evening meeting) and daylight. So I put on a waterproof jacket, fitted Horton with lunging surcingle and side reins, and worked him in the drizzle at the far end of the arena. Rick had cleared it of leaves earlier in the day so I had at least a 20m circle in which to work. It got quite windy Wednesday night and a lot of leaves came down, but there are many more to fall before we can do our annual arena "deleafing." Keeping the organic matter to a minimum keeps drainage at a maximum – a necessity for our long, wet winters.

This morning was forecast to be dry, so "riding Horton" was right after "chores" on today's to-do list. But chores took a bit more time than usual. When I opened the barn door, the aisleway was a MESS. My husband apparently neglected to latch Horton's stall door when he did chores last night, and Horton had helped himself to the hay. (By design, that is ALL that is accessible; our grain is kept in barrels on an upper level.) Horton must have eaten his fill, because even though his stall door was wide open, he was standing in his paddock. Oh well, at least he had a nice, full tummy! He was a very good boy during our ride (just like he was yesterday on the lunge line), maintaining consistent contact and taking his canter departs quite nicely from aids alone, no vocal cues.