Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Episode #867: King of the Dings

Series #3: Fun with Hoof Punctures!!

Episode #2: Nail Impalement Edition....

Subsection #1: Hoo Boy, but He Really Did It This Time.

changin it up with a front hoof this time. at least that poor beleaguered RH finally caught a break!
Ahem. Cough cough. So. Charlie appears to have stepped on another nail.

you may feel like you've already seen enough shitty 'Fraidy Cat Eventing wrap jobs to last a life time
The story, as I understand it, was that the evening feeder on Sunday observed Charlie to be quite fucking lame while casually chillin at the round bale with his best bud Iggy.

Said feeder fully expected to find a rock or something after investigating further, but instead was greeted by a farrier's shoe nail stuck inside Charlie's hoof. Presumably from some other poor horse's lost shoe, considering all of Charlie's nails are accounted for.

too bad, so sad, bc this wrap actually stayed on for a full 24hrs! so obvi it gets its 15min of fame haha
Up to this point, the story doesn't seem so very different from the previous two instances in which Charlie has punctured his hoof (first with a roofing nail during a lesson, and second with a piece of god forsaken mulch during a hack through the pasture lines).

"excuse me i was told there would be cookies" - charlie, probably
Those last two times, Charlie went from being 3-legged lame to more or less normal after the foreign object was removed from his hoof. Sure, he was sore both times. But generally speaking, his degree of soundness post-object-removal was considered a strong sign that any important structures had been missed.

proof!! finally, a wrap i actually had to cut off!! on purpose!!!!
This time we've gotten no such reassurances: The horse remains, as of this writing some days later, very lame. Tho of course just because he's lame doesn't mean that there *is* some degree of damage to some critical structure or whatever. Ya know. It could just mean that his hoof really fucking hurts bc he was hangin out with a nail in it for god knows how long.

tho yea the toe was a bit busted. oh well.
Still, tho. His persistent lameness makes me a little worried. And has changed how we've approached treatment this time around. In past instances he's returned to relatively normal turnout schedules quickly. Not this time, tho. Not until he either comes sound on his own or we can medically rule out something more serious like an injury to the coffin bone.

some seepage thru the toe into the poultice pad
Realistically speaking, the likelihood is that Charlie will be fine. If history is any guide, we can expect an abscess after some indefinite period, but eventually not much else.

arrow is approximately where the puncture would be under this pad. you can see what seems to be drainage
And obviously a small puncture to a horse's hoof pales in comparison to something as gruesome and catastrophic as KC's Pilgrim's recent injury, as one example. Ugh. Talk about horrifying :(

and there it be. the big bad puncture itself.... ugh. 
Still tho. The lameness. It concerns me a little bit. Based on the location of the injury, the vet doesn't think the joint would be involved, and also thinks it unlikely that the nail reached the bursa. If it did injure the coffin bone, there isn't much risk in continuing with stall rest for another day or two before pursuing further diagnostics.

mad pony is foot-stompin mad.
Basically the vet thinks that either the horse's soreness will diminish and the drainage from the puncture will abate shortly. Unless it doesn't, in which case we'll schedule an appointment and probably do x-rays.

gosh his injuries and my tack locker pharmacy take up a lot of space tho....
Charlie, for his part, is not behaving like a sick or critically injured horse. He's annoyed at the stall rest and has been just a touch feisty with the barn staff...

base layer of the new wrap: wet animalintex pad roughly cut to size
He's also impatient with my slow, clumsy and ham-fisted attempts at wrangling his hoof into something resembling a semi-respectable wrap.

vet wrap layer. must remember that it doesn't need to be stretched to 100% tension, emma! 
Since we've got active drainage (vs the last two punctures that sealed up almost immediately), I'm following the same soaking protocol as before (epsom salts + betadine). But now am wrapping with animalintex poultice pads instead of an epsom salt + betadine drawing pack.

probably unnecessary but i still have oodles of elastikon from his surgery, so i did a little layer around the shoe to hold the vet wrap in place
The idea here being: We want to be able to tell at least in some small way whether there continues to be drainage. Since again, at this stage the drainage isn't exactly abnormal. But if it continues for very long it could be indicating something more serious.

lol @ charlie's twinkle toes.... plus one little snip to relieve any excess pressure over the coronet band
We're also keeping an eye out for any spiking temperatures or fevers. In the past it's taken something like ~8 days for an abscess to brew. And probably by this point we would have already seen indications of any sort of acute infection to the injury. But ya know. Gotta stay vigilant, just in case.

then all wrapped up in duck tape, avoiding taping above the vet wrap, and extra coverage at the toe
Charlie, again, certainly isn't acting like a feverish or lethargic horse. He's still a good boy tho. And while I bet he wishes my 3hrs with him involved burning off some of his energy.... Well. He'll take what he can get haha.

i'm always nervous about going over the heel bulbs but am hopefully finding the right balance of coverage vs tension
So idk. I guess we'll see what happens. It's crazy to me that I'm writing this post again. I don't understand why this keeps happening to Charlie. Like. I guess it's not the most uncommon thing in the world to step on a nail from a shoe in turnout. Horses lose shoes all the time, after all. But still... Three times in one year feels ridiculously excessive.

dis how charlie feels about the fact that i'm still a crappy wrapper all these years later....
We've been lucky so far, tho. so here's hoping that lucky streak lasts...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

charlie's pre-season retreat

This is my third winter with Charlie now, which feels kinda crazy to say. Our first winter was just after I brought him home from the thoroughbred adoption facility. At that point, we were basically focused entirely on Charlie's transition from race horse into riding horse, including the under-saddle restarting process, and his own physical let down transformation.

goose is our resident farm pig
Our second winter together was in some ways obviously very different after having had a full year together. But in other ways, it was kinda similar. For instance: we went into winter slowly, just rehabbing following Charlie's splint surgery. Then almost exactly one year ago from this point, Charlie stepped on that god forsaken roofing nail...

he's a big piggo haha. charlie's always mildly interested, but not bugged out
So ya know. Maybe we don't exactly have a great winter track record! But generally I think that's an ok thing, ya know? It's good to have some down time throughout the year, scheduled or otherwise.

Like late this past fall when Charlie aggravated another splint injury and earned roughly 6 weeks of downtime. I had planned to give him time off anyway, so it worked well enough for my purposes (except for, uh, that whole ordeal with forfeiting yet another clinic entry... le sigh).

it's funny to me that you almost can't tell a difference in charlie's expression when he's totally drugged out vs sober haha
That's always the way with horses, tho, right? Like we can do our best in planning everything out sensibly on ye olde calendar, but things are still gonna happen when they happen.

At least there's one aspect I *can* control: Charlie's routine maintenance. Specifically, I wrote last year about hock injections being a part of his annual care plan.

sad charlie can't believe he has to deal with this weather tho!
For pretty banal reasons too: Charlie's 6 year track career included injections, I have x-rays from his PPE that show very mild arthritic changes in one hock in particular, the horse will flex positively on them, and considering he has a well documented history of resisting pressure when even the least bit uncomfortable...

Well. All these considerations are sufficient for me to feel comfortable with this degree of maintenance.

me too, charlie. me too. these little flash blizzards stink!
The timing worked out well too. Realistically speaking, Charlie's been keeping pretty busy this winter so far! After recovering from the splint injury, we've basically been full speed ahead.

Aside from regular riding and lessons, we had an epic xc school in November, a Phillip Dutton clinic in December, another xc clinic with Dan Clasing in January, and the combined dressage + cavaletti clinic with trainers C & K plus the Sally Cousins lesson in February.

meanwhile, i watched a magna wave appt and am now eager to try it for charlie!
Plus, with the saddle shopping extravaganza I was very eager to log as much trial saddle time as possible. Just to really be totally sure that I was getting what we both wanted with this new piece of tack. Ya know? So the hours were logged haha.

bc clearly this horse leads a difficult life
Making right now feel like a good time to switch gears and focus on Charlie's wellness ahead of the upcoming season. A nice byproduct of spending so much time in the last year reworking my budget is that now I have a fairly futuristic sense of what my upcoming expenses will be. In other words: entry season is nearly upon us haha!

it's so hard being charlie! look at those smooshed nostrils!!
So hopefully taking care of the veterinary expenses now will help spread out all the other costs? In any case, from a financial perspective and in light of the upcoming calendar, now felt like the best time to get this particular portion of Charlie's annual wellness plan taken care of.

my spidey senses were tingling lol - incoming!!
The injections themselves were fairly routine. I ended up using yet another new vet for this go round, since the vet who has handled Charlie's injections in the past (and also did his PPE) is unfortunately not practicing at the moment due to family reasons.

So this new vet was recommended to me by my dressage trainer. And we happened to schedule our appointment right smack on top of a random blizzard in Baltimore, ugh.

Like, seriously tho, we got about 3-5" of slushy icy snow over the course of a single morning. That morning happening to be the day of the appt. Driving out and home from the barn probably took literal years off my life, ugh, and naturally everything was melted by the following day. But whatever, we got it done.

meanwhile: i picked up a new fuzzy girth that has more coverage around the buckles!
And Charlie proceeded to enjoy a nice chunk of downtime. Which was good for both of us, considering the round-trip haul to the barn every day can honestly be exhausting for me too.

Spring time is around the corner tho, and our first entries of the year are due soon. So hopefully after this little breather we'll both be feeling refreshed and ready to go!

and a sheepskin bc i <3 sheepskins and am eager to see if it'll work with my new saddle! 
At least, that's the plan haha. Bc everything with horses is always in pencil anyway, right? But I try to be a boy scout about these things: Always prepared!

There are still so many things left to accomplish before we're actually realistically ready for the competition season (like, uh, probably xc schooling again haha). But at least the horse is physically as prepped as he's ever gonna get after a nice little chunk of time off!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Re-Post: Just Call Him Supa-Man!

The following was first published April 4, 2017. It's a fun throwback to when Charlie was first really learning to put course work together over fences. Meaning: I finally had to come to grips with actually properly jumping again! This is roughly 6 months into his training after coming off the track. 

Ok. Jump lesson media dump time. And a brief update on Charlie's jumping:

a) He knows how to jump now
b) He kinda likes it!
c) He thinks he's obvi the best at it
d) (He's not.... yet)
e) I'm still basically just clinging along for the ride

like so.
Also can we take a quick moment to celebrate Charlie's first jumping lesson EVER with no knocked down rails?? BOOM. Achievement unlocked!!

charlie y u so go downhill tho bro?
Nevermind that "no knocked rails" /= successful jumping haha. At least not in schooling.

It's cool tho. Developmentally speaking, Charlie continues to chug right on along. He just happens to be doing so now at a higher rate of speed than previously. Ya know. Like a race horse might reasonably do.

i don't ever care tho. <3 this canter forever.
As a rider, I'm still very much struggling with finding that balance between "letting him figure it out" and "doing my goddamn job."

believe it or not, this picture is a SOLID WIN. fugly? yes. winning? absolutely. that stride needed to fit. and? he made it fit. two weeks ago this would have been a crash. this week? #clearedit. next time tho... maybe i should plan a little further ahead, m'kay emma?
Because since he's not particularly schooled yet to niceties like contact or half halts or, idk, just general balance, the whole "doing my job" thing is actually typically a full body effort. As in, put my butt in the saddle, engage my core, lift and open my shoulders, sink into my heels... Ya know. The hallmarks of balanced riding? 

zomg go fast. or... ya know, sit up and put your ass in the saddle and try riding. just a thought!
But that's a pretty major seismic shift from my typical "just cruisin around in half seat!" mentality. And it means that when I should be engaging a full body half halt, I'm actually just standing up in the stirrups trying to make a pulley rein happen.

also pictured: a strong left drift, a left-behind rider, and an honest horse. and. some kneeeeees!!
The cool thing about this horse tho - and the reason I keep calling him "easy" even when he's generally quite a physical ride - is that when I actually do what I'm supposed to do? When I actually put myself in the right place to communicate clearly to him? He responds in kind. Every time.

aaaaand made it out alive
It's honestly pretty nice. Because as you'll see in the video - I'm basically getting tossed all over the goddamn place while we're jumping around. Most of the time, tho, I can recover in the first stride or so upon landing and ask him to go straight again (since.... well. we drift left always). And he just does.

Mostly tho our biggest issue right now is finding a balance. Which I must repeat to myself again and again does NOT mean just pull on the horse constantly (bc that's my undying habit, apparently).

ditto the above
It does mean keeping him from getting so strung out, tho. This horse... again, you'll see in the video - he really doesn't look fast. He doesn't even necessarily look strong (the key there is to look for the gaping mouth - I promise that's him pulling on me and not me pulling on him, pinkie swear!).

But he is seriously covering ground.

e for effort. also just in case you thought maybe i fixed my winging toes problem, nope!
I edited it out of the video bc ain't nobody got time for that, but there was MUCH circling in this lesson in between jumps. Again - mostly bc my own reaction time was a bit too slow. It was taking me too long to do something about his building pace.

not coincidentally, my position is maybe the best over his most boring jumps
I need to channel my erstwhile hunter princess and use my corners to balance, instead of bombing around the turns and obliviously thinking, "Hm wow I guess we're going kinda fast!"

as in.... not the above lol
Altho there's a weird sick twist to our crazy unbalanced motorcycle turns: last week Charlie did a fully auto (tho definitely late behind) L to R change. And this week did the same, but this time R to L. Booooom.

we'll take it tho!
I've never had a horse with auto changes before ever (Izzy had changes but not auto and I fail at coordination so I never even bothered trying). My inner nascent dressage rider is very wary of 'auto changes,' but dammit they are useful in jumping haha.

Anyway - whatever the case, watch the video above. It's a good one. I mean, it's not a demonstration of excellent technique by either horse or rider, but it's entertaining. And honestly I'm pretty freaking happy with how the horse is going.

There are things to fix in my own ride but I continue to be thrilled that he's progressing so quickly despite me - and still fully believe that he's going to be ready for bigger and badder jumps WAY before me lol (considering the 2'3 of some of these jumps absolutely met my current mental capacity, le sigh).

Do you ever get relieved when the horse can succeed despite your errors? Or when the horse feels more confident than you? I know many of you out there ride green horses and have been very responsible for instilling confidence in your mounts - but maybe there are some of you who also have your own confidence built up by the horse instead of vice versa? Or maybe it's a constant back and forth of building each other up?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

bucket list lessons

When it comes to eventing, Maryland and the surrounding area has an embarrassment of riches in that it's crawling with world class professionals. Especially if you go up the Route 1 corridor from Fair Hill and north into Pennsylvania, virtually every highway exit leads to some other 4* 5* or Olympic rider's farm.

sweet charlie
One such pro is Sally Cousins, an extremely popular and sought-after trainer. That name might sound familiar bc tons of bloggers have ridden with her regularly over the years.

Actually it feels like almost every local eventer I know has ridden with her - at least half of my barn mates, most of my regular coaches, and even the person who first recommended OF to me back in 2014 when I wanted to start eventing.

the indoor was very bright, with two walls of windows and two walls of mirros
Lessons with her have been on my bucket list basically since day 1, but while there have been a number of "almosts," nothing ever quite materialized. Until this past weekend, that is.

Sally teaches regularly at various farms around the area - including the beautiful Kealani Farm up in PA, where Michele always used to go. Considering my goals this year focus on pushing myself and investing in my education, it was finally time to make the lesson happen haha.

it made for a very visually stimulating (and possibly overwhelming) atmosphere
And it was a really interesting experience, actually. Not just bc of the riding, but bc of my own sort of emotional or mental state. Turns out, I found myself way more nervous than I expected. I don't even know why. Maybe just jumping at a new place, for a new trainer? Idk, but I don't remember being that nervous for the Phillip Dutton clinic so who knows.

strip away the new location tho, and the exercises were all very familiar
In any case, Charlie agreed with me about feeling a little.... uncertain about the situation. He's always been a horse to be very transfixed by moving objects in the distances (other horses, cars or trucks, for example) and I think the two walls of windows combined with the two walls of mirrors where a lot to absorb upon walking into the arena.

charlie had #feelings about that blue and white diagonal jump. i blame the whales tho
Which is kinda funny, bc it's not all that different from the arena at our normal dressage lesson barn. Go figure tho, it felt different and both of us were a bit on edge. Charlie walked into that arena wide-eyed, stopped immediately and took a giant liquid poo haha.

He warmed up fine tho, although I was very slow about it. Being realistic here, I get my bravery from Charlie. Sure, in some situations where I feel really confident (like at home or in our normal settings or familiar venues) I can be there for him if he needs it. But in this situation, feeling him be a little nervous definitely contributed to the pit in my own stomach.

"oh no" - charlie, probably
It's all just so interesting to me, these visceral responses. Ya know? Like that anxious feeling is completely detached from reality. Had nothing to do with the farm, the lesson, the jumps, the exercises. It's just like this intangible vague insidious feeling of impending doom. But then nothing ever actually happens....

In any case, the lesson itself was actually pretty great. All the jumping exercises were similar to what we work on regularly, and were built up in a progressive and inviting manner. Also almost all of Sally's feedback was like a fresh take on what Trainer P always says haha. Which, ya know, makes sense since Trainer P has ridden with Sally plenty too!

"oh kay"
The lesson started with a couple trips up a center line grid - starting as just a vertical and systematically building up each repetition until it finished with a large oxer + fill. During this point, Sally quickly observed a big weak point in Charlie's training: keeping him straight through his shoulders while turning.

You'll hear it in the video, but she repeated often (almost every turn haha) that I needed Charlie more on my outside aids when approaching the fences. Almost in some cases thinking a little about counter bend. Essentially: his inside shoulder needs to be lighter in our turns, and he needs to be straighter on the outside.

sally didn't like that the whales clashed with the yellow so she moved them to our sticky jump. it remained sticky haha
She also echoed Trainer P in talking me through the differences between getting to a good takeoff spot in a bad balance, and getting to a bad takeoff spot from a good balance. To help Charlie with his balance, I need tons more core and a 3pt seat instead of 2pt or half seat. Aka, "Sit!!" haha.

While I love the feel this new saddle gives me through my seat and lower legs, it can't exactly fix me from the hips up. It won't miraculously make me sit up or grow some abs, ya know? And even tho I *can* sit the canter in it, I've gotta reprogram years and years of perching.

didn't care about the yellow jump at all tho
Which like, honestly that was kinda my response to everything Sally said. Whether it was about not keeping Charlie straight through the turns, or not using my core effectively.... honestly my answer was more or less, "Sometimes I just don't ride?" lol. Not altogether satisfying. But true.

simple progressive exercises - just looping around to the diagonals
Like, Charlie will stay straight and jump the dead center of the fence if I ride him to it. Comparatively, Isabel and I also had a drift but I swear, I could be thinking about literally nothing else except straightness and she'd still drift at the last moment. Charlie tho? If I actually do something about it, he will comply.

One area this drift issue showed up the most was in rolling back on the left lead to a bending right line in a measured 4 strides. Especially bc it was simultaneously a tighter distance, but also needed you to keep riding forward bc of the sharpness of the turn.

the outside lines were set at about 56' i think, and we had some trouble fitting in the 4 every time
Sally pointed out that Charlie gets the most crooked when I have him on a shorter stride -- this was kinda part of the whole "right takeoff, wrong balance" situation too. Luckily tho, esp since Charlie was being a little spooky, I was at least remembering to keep my leg on, and keep him in front of my leg.

we were a little careless and probably knocked the most rails of any other horse in the lesson
Bc again, it was weird to see how spooky Chuck was! And how antsy I was haha. And yet the jumping was honestly fine. Not perfect, but representative of our combined levels of training.

If anything, Charlie's spookiness made him way sharper off my aids than normal. All fully automatic lead changes. Turning on a dime (actually in some cases he turned faster than I did, which like... never happens haha bc he normally handles like a cruise liner...). He had two moments (both in the video) of briefly contemplating a run out at that blue and white diagonal, but then jumped it fine both times.

this bending line in particular was challenging
All in all, even tho Charlie didn't start out feeling 100% thrilled about the atmosphere, he was totally fine and confident about the exercises themselves. And actually seemed to settle in and relax quickly as he realized that it was all gonna be kinda easy - that it wasn't a trap.

Which obviously reassured me too, and I was able to go from riding a little tight and conservative for the first few efforts to finding a more open stride (sometimes to ill effect) as we went. Which actually, Sally liked the jumps from the open stride a bit more, I think.

you might say that maybe it'd be easier if i sat up. you'd probably be right.
Like there's one example in the video where we jump down over the white/pink oxer and are supposed to do 4 strides to the yellow. But instead we did a heinous skipping 3.5 and Sally marveled that Charlie managed to even clear it haha.

I repeated the exercise and came in on a collected canter instead, which Sally called "cheating" -- bc she wanted me to be able to jump in on that more open stride but then land and "Whoa!" to make the striding. Which, ya know, sounds familiar haha.

out jump of the bending line, can sorta tell that the rail is falling
For our final course I was able to make that happen down the same line, and while it wasn't pretty it did actually work and Charlie listened well. So all in all, a lot of familiar feedback from this lesson -- and in such a way as the instruction felt very effective.

one stride got stretched to 21' for cantering in to start our final course
We don't look smooth and flawless in the video (which is almost everything from the lesson), but we're not supposed to, right? Instead the exercises were good for isolating our weaknesses and allowing us to work on them. I liked it! And will hopefully get a chance to repeat somewhat regularly moving forward.

no touchy the pineapples!
Especially considering how surprised I was by the nerves and anxiety the lesson produced.... Which, again, were way more than I expected. But it feels like something I should keep in mind looking toward the upcoming season. Like a reality check of sorts.

damn those spooky ass whales tho haha
Bc I have all these plans, right? All these ambitious thoughts and ideas about competing and moving up and getting qualifications and the whole nine yards. But those plans are so easy to make from the safety of the off season, while we're comfortably ensconced in our quiet little winter routine.

Turns out, tho.... it's possible that I'm going to be in for a rude awakening once the new year actually starts heating up haha. Shit is gonna get real. And probably I'm going to be way more nervous than I expect. And it's hard to say what sort of impact that could have, ya know?

For now, tho, it's at least reassuring to do a lesson like this and experience all those nerves and have my horse feeling worried too, but then have the actual riding be fine. Better than fine, really. It was a good lesson.

In an ideal world, I want Charlie's training to be the bedrock foundation that we can both fall back on in moments of need. Bc... uh, yea haha, sometimes I'm gonna need it! But we all know tho that the margin of error - aka the horse's ability to bail the rider out of shitty situations - shrinks as you go up the levels.

So it'll be interesting to see whether these butterflies settle down once we get back into the groove. If not.... I might have to rethink some of my plans for the year haha! We'll see tho. The answer to my anxiety has always been to get out moar. To make the "big" things feel mundane and routine.

Considering the first events of the season are imminently approaching, we won't have to wait too long to start figuring out where we actually are haha. In the meantime tho, thank god for lessons!