Thursday, September 28, 2023

kindergarten crowd control

I've heard it said before that, 'you should never miss an opportunity to reintroduce yourself!' The context (I think) was relating to political candidates trying to win over potential voters... But the concept has always been interesting to me. 

enjoying evening daylight for as long as we can!
From a horse training perspective, the idea can be adapted to, 'never miss a chance to reinforce the fundamentals!'

first time under saddle in the indoor with company
Which is kinda where we've ended up after deciding to sorta 'restart' the restarting process with Doozy, following a weeks-long hiatus due to various lamenesses. 
she's starting to fill out a bit!
Basically, the idea is --- all those steps I saw as so important and fundamental in accomplishing, day by day, during Doozy's first week or two on farm.... Well, if they really are so important (hint: they are), then it's equally worth it to just go on ahead and do them all over again. 

mesmerized by there being two horses in the mirror now lol
Tho, ya know, things tend to go a little faster the second time around. And we did adapt some approaches based on earlier experiences. Like... Getting on down at the barn and riding up to the arena now, instead of hand walking like we did the first few times. Because #wecan.

getting used to sitting here
And we added a little more complexity to this, our 10th ride, too: riding indoors with a friend! Sure, it might seem like splitting hairs, since Doozy has been ridden in the outdoor dressage ring with other horses, and has hacked out a number of times with a variety of companions... 

getting used to this walk too!
But, eh, we don't take anything for granted around these parts LOL. Esp since Doozy hasn't actually been ridden in the indoor in probably like a month, not since her 3rd ride. 

lolz accidental canter step
Plus --- we wanted to do actual riding things this time too, not just basic existential type stuff lol. Like, we trotted (and accidentally cantered a step or two!!) around a (very) little bit in each direction while our riding buddy stood in the center. 

she was feeling a bit protective of that LH again, womp
I say a "very little bit" bc... Ugh, Doozy was not very comfortable on that left hind again. Womp womp womp. So we cut that short basically right away after ascertaining her discomfort, and reassured her that we understood how she felt. 

whelp, at least we got a few new experiences even if the actual riding part was cut short...
Obvi not ideal.... But ya know. Ugh. Horses. Still, tho, got to check off another new experience -- coping while another horse trotted around. Again, Doozy has experienced this in hand, but this was her first time being ridden in proximity to other horses moving at speed. And she definitely noticed and felt a certain sort of way about it, but was basically fine. 

izzy's old running martingale is the perfect fit!
So, eh, we walked another lap or two quietly and obediently, then dismounted, told her she was the bestest girl (aside from the whole soundness thing), then hand-walked her back down to the barn while our barn buddy went off to actually proceed with their own schooling session. 

oh mare, pls just be sound so we can do things!
So, eh, not exactly what we'd hoped for, but at least a positive experience, maybe? 

One note for myself going forward: Doozy is definitely looking for a bit more firm direction from me. I've been careful not to do anything to make her feel boxed in or claustrophobic, but she definitely tests limits in a way that makes me think she's looking for leadership. For example: rooting the reins once or twice in a row right before wanting to spurt forward a bit. Or not wanting to stand for the 3 seconds it takes to run up my stirrups. 

So a reminder to myself: just keep asking for that little bit more, raise my expectations a bit, and keep setting clear + consistent limits and boundaries even as I continue allowing her a certain amount of freedom and softness. 

Anyway. Another ride in the books. We're officially into the double digits lol (not that we're counting.... and definitely not that we're counting the number of unique lameness events either, siiiigh). Slow and steady, one way or another, right?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

traffic skool + other updates

It's been a bit quiet around these parts for my own two creatures lately, mostly bc the weather was terrible (thanks, Ophelia!), our farm hosted the final starter trial of the season this weekend (at which, natch, I spent the day volunteering), and Charles was massively lame again after his latest farrier appointment. Le sigh. More on that below. 

charles <3 we all hate it when you stand like that! 
But just bc things are "quiet" doesn't mean nothing at all is happening, so let's get into some of those softer details of horsey care and mgmt, yes? 

For starters, Doozy got to try out some of her new-to-her wardrobe! We were able to source a couple used sheets and medium blankets from our own barn family at very little expense, hurray for gigantic boarding barns lol. The sheet Doozy wore this weekend is particularly special, as it belonged to Charlie's beloved best friend, Iggy. It's nice to keep a part of him with us <3

something borrowed + something blue! 
Tho I did suck it up and buy one new thing for the little lady --- this Harrison Howard shoulder guard. Charlie has the same one, and I swear by these bib-style rub guards. They're so easy, and work so well, and aren't super particular re: fit. You can find them on amazon for less than $20, and Doozy is comfortably wearing the cob / medium size (Charlie wears the large). 

d'aww, look who survived traffic school without causing (intentionally or otherwise) harm or mayhem to either of the tackless juniors keeping us company!
We're all feeling a little blah and icky after the waterlogged + cold weekend, tho, not gonna lie. And the gray misty weather has persisted into this week. Nobody is particularly motivated, but everyone is pretty chill about it. Meaning, we had a nice opportunity to tag along with some juniors for low-key bareback rides on their horses in the indoor. 

Recall, 'traffic school' is our immediate and big focus area for Doozy in the coming weeks -- particularly in the indoor. So that's where I'm prioritizing my time right now. 

she would also like you to observe that she continues to conquer ground poles just fine
It just isn't realistic to expect she'll cope with riding outside under the lights just yet. And meanwhile, it's our responsibility to safely share space in the indoor if that's where we need to be. Meaning, if other riders want to be in the indoor jumping and cantering and minding their own business, Doozy will either need to cope or give way. 

So I was pleased to log another solid experience earlier this week, in which Doozy successfully navigated the crushing weight of existence in the indoor while other horses ignored her, lol. I'm finding it really effective to stay busy with little 'micro-tasks' within our walks, too. Like, not just walking laps around the ring, but walking specifically over this pole, or into that corner, or to fetch the muck cart and pick up poo

It'll surprise nobody to hear that, actually, the typical OTTB does a lot better with something to think about and focus on. And in the absence of explicit direction in that regard, will fill in the blanks themselves --- often with alternatives like "going to the door" and "leaving."

really cannot emphasize enough how badly it hurts to see my beloved horse like this
So. Things with Doozy continue to move in the right direction, and hopefully more updates to come! Charlie, meanwhile, broke all of our hearts this week.... siiigh

it wasn't a bad idea, it just absolutely did not work for charlie
It's maybe a little bit my fault, too. His new farrier is really committed to getting him back to soundness, and I probably could have done a better job reassuring her that we really seem to be on the right path with the work she's doing, given how incredible he's felt in recent weeks. 

As it was, tho, I hadn't given her any recent updates on his soundness, and she meanwhile had a new idea on a potential shift in tactics by using dental impression material under his pads to improve contact and promote increased blood flow. 

whew, standing just fine after the material was pulled out
I'm not an expert farrier, I don't really know the pros / cons to these sorts of things, and don't know enough about anything to really brainstorm ideas with the farrier. I've just said to her, 'do what you think is best for the horse, and I'll trust your judgement.' 

And that's still true. But I also wonder if she would have still opted for a change in strategy if I'd been better about communicating how sound he's been recently. As it was, Charlie found the increased material under his pads to be intolerable. He was completely crippled and stall-bound until the farrier could come back 3 days later and yank the stuff back out again. 

do you love my diy-rigged free range grazing between two paddocks? lol
Luckily, tho, I was there for the appointment, and really emphasized how well the horse has been recently --- his feet look the best they have in six months, and y'all saw how sound and happy he was even just a week or two ago. So I do truly believe we are on the right path with what the farrier was already doing. 

He seemed instantly more comfortable once the extra padding was removed too -- I suspect he just can't tolerate that increased sole pressure. Which, I totally get. If you've ever worn the wrong thickness insoles, you know the feeling. So maybe he'll come sound fairly quickly. 

My last metric for putting Charlie back to 'full work' is whether he can walk away from a regular shoeing appointment more or less of normal soundness. We reeeally hoped this cycle would be the one. Obvi it's a little hard to tell, now, with the misfire on trying something new... But, eh, we'll see, right? Cross your fingers for us! 

Monday, September 25, 2023

restarting the restarting

Charlie has taught me a lot of lessons over the years. Particularly -- patience. He was just so good so soon, and I was in such a rush to "get there," wherever 'there' was. 

Except, y'all remember, he was always all dinged up, one way or another. It felt like we faced setback after setback. A big leg here, a blown splint there, and there, and there

hand grazing 2.0
And I would just get so frustrated, ya know? Which honestly I still feel is normal and natural. But at least now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can recognize that I probably didn't savor some of those moments as well as I could have, if I hadn't been so distracted by feeling like we "should have" been farther along. If that makes sense...

what's one more ugly spot on an already dinged up leg anyway?
And that's horses, right? It's already been a little bit that way with Doozy. So I'm trying to not have to relearn the lessons Charlie taught me, and remember that... I won't always get to set the agenda. Sometimes horses are horses, and they get cellulitis, or abscesses. Or... Ya know, they get sound again and feel good and FRESH AF OMFG lol.... Ahem. 

and sometimes there are giant tropical storms lol, oh hai, Ophelia!
And it won't shock any of you to hear that.... Even with all my droning on and on about how my training methodology relies pretty heavily on routine consistent practice... I still kinda thought I could just pick right back up with Mondese where we left off a few weeks back. 

after a cold wet night in the paddock, Miss Thing was ready to blow off a little steam!
Which, eh, probably isn't a "wrong" assumption, per se. Except, you know what they say about assumptions lol. So I took Doozy for our first little post-abscess hand walk, and found myself quite astonished when the mare acted like she'd never set foot in the dressage ring before in her life, and had strong feelings about leaving right now

checking herself out in the mirror lol
At first, not gonna lie, I was actually pretty fucking annoyed with this horse who was carefully introduced to and regularly hand walks all same little pathways. Like, wtf mare, why so psycho?? 

But... Eh... It's probably even odds that the cellulitis infection, and gigantic abscess which may or may not have been related, was developing well before the leg actually blew up. And rather than thinking of the mare as "fresh" right now, it's probably more accurate to see her as "subdued" previously.

So with that perspective, I decided to basically hit the reset button entirely, and just... ya know... restart the restarting process. Up to and including our first little hand walkies + grazies with zero expectations on how she would react. 

she used all of her gaits + all of her leads, plus a few lead changes!
And now that she's really comfortable again, I can finally lean into my favorite training crutches of high frequency / low intensity activities. In other words, why go for ONE little walkies on any given day, when you could do TWO?!

obvi threw in a few other interpretative dance moves too LOL
And ya know, routine practice is a helluva drug. Just a day or two after losing a few layers of skin off my palms on that first walk when she acted like she'd never seen the dressage ring before... Doozy reacquired her ability to walk in hand like a sensible polite creature. Gotta love it lol.

the look on her face when i gave her something to think about other than the door lol
So continuing on in the same vein, after finishing chores up on Saturday morning, we made our way to the indoor. With basically my view point being, "act like she's never been in here before in her life." 

I also wanted to let her stretch out and let off a little steam after having been stuck out all night in the cold wet tropical storm. Turnout will switch soon, no worries there, but every change of the season eventually finds a couple days when the horses have suboptimal turnout conditions, and this was just one of those days. 

good girl!
So rather than wrestle her into any sort of in hand ground work, I just let her loose to see what she would do. And she was good! At first she ran around and whinnied, a bit upset at being alone in this weird strange place.... And obvi was very very preoccupied with the door. 

opted to strip the cooler off after a few laps to avoid her getting too warm -- she stood well for that! then immediately off to have more fun lol
But after a little while, her ears and eyes seemed to relax and she shifted into a more playful vs worried mindset. She'd periodically come up to me for pets or a bite of carrot, then continue her little tour of the indoor. Also stood quite politely while I held her halter in one hand and pulled the cooler off with the other. Then again, proceeded as she was lol.

the whole video is pretty cute, but i liked how she kept going back and forth over the pole
After she'd done a few circuits of the ring, I dropped a ground pole across the track near the door. And she was hilarious about it. 

Seriously, watch the video bc you can see the first time she trots up to it, she's like, "Whoa who put that there!?" and squirts out around the side of it, but then immediately pulls the little rollback move you see above to trot right back down over it like nbd. 

good girl!! it's supposed to be fun
For my purposes, I didn't really interact too much in the liberty work. Didn't really move her around, didn't really try to guide her in any particular direction or way. And I know that there are like, idk, what some might consider 'technical errors' in how she went around --- like being allowed to turn around by turning to the outside vs the inside... 

But, eh, I just kinda wanted her to run around, let loose a little bit, maybe have a little fun, and see me as a positive and reliable presence in all that. 

pretty sunsets before the storm hit!
So when it was time to leave again, we haltered back up and then just did a very very little bit of in hand stuff to make sure she understood she was attached now and would be staying that way on the long walk down to the barn. We got the cooler put back on easily, and then.... proceeded out the door and made it back to the barn without shenanigans. Perfect! 

And it feels satisfying. Not necessarily bc of what, specifically, we are doing in our time together --- but bc we're able to do anything at all. The nitty gritty process of coming up with ideas, exercises, plans, things to do with this mare to help prepare her both for the eventual 'real' work, and also to cope with the busy bustling boarding barn she now calls home. 

There's a lot of work to do.... as always... but as far as I'm concerned --- that's the good stuff. The whole reason we do this. So here's hoping we can actually piece together a stretch of consistency lol, and see where that takes us! 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

ww: horse people love the grossest stuff

After going through the cycle of.... a few really lame days, a few really fine days, then more lame days... Doozy came out of her stall looking fine again this week!

mmmm stinky putrid drainage!
And I happened to spy.... some sort of drip marks on her hoof. Upon further inspection, it stank. Yesssss!!! 

peroxide rinse after a hot compress
Obvi the yo-yo-ing soundness was pretty characteristic of classic abscess symptoms... But ya know, ya just never really know, right? Esp given that it's her bum leg and it wouldn't be too hard to imagine something worse related to the cellultis.

Can't argue with actual drainage tho! And oof, no wonder it was so painful, had to work all the way up and out the coronet band! She seemed to really appreciate the hot compress, tho, and is generally much more comfortable now.

freshly bathed and feelin fine!
So, I'm feeling relieved. We got the glorious stinky putrid proof that, yep, was just an abscess. Obvi still kinda stinks to not be able to get as much saddle time as I'd like.... But, eh, it's #horses. Here's hoping it finishes draining and grows out without complication! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

first 30 days

So! We already talked about Doozy's 30 Day Performance Review, which naturally zeroed in mostly what we haven't really accomplished yet. Performance gaps, if you will. 

meeting Mondeuse -- she's cute but scruffy!
For today, let's switch gears and do a quick review of everything we have checked off the "New Horse Plan" list since Mondeuse arrived.

fairly generic senior feed + ration balancer, soaked
also, ignore the little pills, this pic was from when she was on doxy

First things first: new or not, the horse is gonna expect to get fed on Day 1 lol. Which means I needed a meal plan set up and ready to go as soon as Mondeuse stepped off the trailer. 

In this case, we are keeping it really simple. She's eating about ~5lbs of a local Mill branded senior feed (protein 14, fat 10, fiber 15), and 1lb of a Purina Enrich ration balancer per meal. No supplements, daily medicines or top dressings at present. 

better living thru chemistry!
We also started a daily ulcer treatment regimen on Day 1, using Ulcergard, and finished a couple weeks ago. So far, the horse looks quite comfortable and healthy from a gastric perspective. And I *think* she's even gained a little weight!! 

Last lacking detail in Doozy's nutritional profile is... grass. Unfortunately, there was some storm damage to the grass pastures that's taking a bit long to resolve. So she's stayed in a paddock for way longer than I originally anticipated. Cross your fingers that she can at least get a little grass before the season passes by entirely!

paddock turnout with a friend... it's nice, but not as nice as pasture with a herd
Routine Wellness

Next big set of checkmarks on The Plan include regularly scheduled care and wellness activities. Like, meeting the farrier! Doozy is presently in just front shoes, barefoot behind. This is likely to change eventually, but we're going to roll with it for as long as makes sense. 

Question mark around that will be Doozy's recent abscess situation. Our farm has lots of rocky gravel-y driveway, and shoes could keep her generally more comfortable if she proves to bruise easily. We'll see. For now, first shoeing appt kept her with just the fronts. 

chiro + acupuncture!!!
She also had her first dentist appt! Sadly, I didn't know the appt was happening -- apparently a lesson horse needed urgent attention, so all the horses on the running "wait list" got done too, sooner than anyone expected... So I didn't get to talk to the dentist at all. But did get a follow up report that she had some significant sharp edges, but nothing else of note. So I'll probably have her seen again in ~6mos when Charlie is next due. 

Last bit of routine care includes her first meeting with my chiro / acupuncture guru! That was actually Doozy's first "big" appt with me, meeting an important member of my practitioner "team" who I trust to help set an informed benchmark. And even better, that session didn't really uncover any big issues or red flags, so hopefully we can keep it that way. 

charlie is such a pansy about the cold water, i was legit shocked by how much doozy likes her baths!
Grooming & Tack

Y'all already got the low down on Doozy's tack situation, so I won't spend a lot of time on that. Other than to say, we're probably going to roll with this "interim" solution for the foreseeable future. Eventually she'll get her own saddle, but that's likely to be a longer term plan until we better understand the soundness landscape.

As for grooming, this is a really important element of my care plan for my horses. Mostly bc... I honestly just love grooming horses, can spend a LONG time on it, and find it to be an extremely rewarding and effective way to build that bond and relationship, to enjoy each other's company. 

most recent pic of the bunch, from yesterday. fat leg aside, she looks pretty good! 
Plus, obviously, if you all recall - Mondeuse arrived recovering from a full-body case of rain rot. The mare was crusted from ear to quite literally the tip of her tail bone in nasty cruddy scabs. She needed a LOT of help, and I'm thrilled to announce that she also seriously enjoys the attention. 

Tail attention is her #1 favorite, followed closely by belly curries. And face rubs. And wither scritchies. And haunch scrubs, and neck kneading, and leg brushes. Basically, ALL of it. There isn't a single aspect of grooming, including actual bathing (despite our cold-only water situation), that seems to bug her.

gif from her first week lol...
she still doesn't love being alone in the barn, but she can #cope
Handling & Management

Last main detail in our first month together, separate from actual under saddle training, is how the horse is in the barn and to handle. 

She has so far conquered all the important details, including cross ties, the wash stall, leading in pairs for turn in / turn out... Probably all stuff she experienced on the track too, let's be real. Her pressure response seems excellent already, even when she wants to be fussy (like when the barn is empty and her paddock mate is screaming for her). 

developing that #SharedVocabulary
We still did a ground work session anyway with my local go-to guru, just again to start establishing baselines. And to remind me that I have responsibilities on my side of the rope too --- that whole "two way communication" dealio. 

All in all, tho, all reports indicate that Mondeuse is easy and uncomplicated for the various members of barn staff to handle and deal with in day to day barn management. Tho, not gonna lie, she's still a bit suspicious of the pig LOL.

one way or another, lady, important parts of your future involve the inside of this box!
The Next 60 Days

Overall, aside from the aforementioned "flunked performance review," Doozy is moving through The Checklist pretty quickly. Which, ya know, she should lol. She's young, generally healthy, and has an exceedingly pleasant disposition. 

Obvi there are still a lot of unknowns around the cellulitis situation, but, eh, for now let's just assume that it eventually resolves in a normal way. 

My hope is to have the next big "check in" on her general progress -- to include soundness and training under saddle -- around November. By that point, ideally, we'll have addressed a few more big items from The Plan, including: 

- Fall shots + dewormer
- Nutrition - any adjustments needed?
- Body clip, tbd based on training intensity
- Trailer training


What about you, any big to-do items in your plan ahead of winter?

Monday, September 18, 2023

pretend paperchase!!!

Alternate title: Joyriding with Charles <3 <3 <3


Longtime readers might remember that.... Usually right around this time of year, there's a whooole lotta fanfare about costumes and paperchases. Bc.... Labor Day weekend (or thereabouts) is Tranquillity's annual paperchase! That we normally do as a team! With themed costumes, omg!

charles and karen, and punky and amy #joyriding
But... We didn't do it last year bc, well, Charlie wasn't sound enough. And the year before it was a bit thrown together, and we only just did the (somewhat tame) wing costumes (2021). Who knows if we'll ever resurrect the tradition, but in years past we've been:

- super heroes (2019)
- the rainbow (2017)
- basic betches (2015)

kinda wishing this view was from between two red ears, but alas, i was on foot
And ya know. Charlie wasn't sound enough this year either. Trust me, tho, when I say I reeeeeally tried to rationalize that, ehhhh, maybe we'd be fine!?? Except ya know. Even a fool like me could see that it probably wasn't in our best interest to push it. Le sigh.  

they had a very nice time tho!! aside from a very unexpected RC Car encounter that prompted some very legitimate... pogo steps from dear charles, oof. karen did a great job sitting it out, and charles recovered somewhat sheepishly lol, so all's well that ends well, i guess! 
We had a good weekend at home anyway tho, actually -- maybe the best in recent memory!! Charlie has been a bit more consistent in his comfort recently, and had (past tense on purpose) all 4 shoes, so we finally made another date with barnmate Karen! Recall she has ridden him a couple times now, after the sudden and very sad passing of her own horse. 

mikey keeps a watchful eye on us!
I was supposed to ride Doozy --- ya know, the whole, 'two birds, one ride' idea. Except idk, Doozy's hoof was sore again. More on that later. Maybe. Maybe not, LOL! So, eh, I just walked along on foot. At least Amy opted to join with Punky so the two of them had a good ol' time! 

Luckily for me, I got Charlie all to myself the next day for another little traipse around the jump ring. No media, but... ugh, he was perfect! We did a bit more trotting -- probably the most trotting he's done in months, about ~4min. Then maybe about a minute total of canter. Plus trotted two cross rails bc I legit could not help myself lol.

ooooooh between brown ears!! 
The hope is to do enough to test the margins without meaningfully risking anything by over-doing it. Like, can he trot for 4 min? Hopefully! If not, that tells us a lot. If so, that also tells us a lot. And, verdict?? At present, it seems like he can!! Woot Woot!!

i know it's hard to tell we are running, but.... we are, and it's glorious
The Sunday plan was to ride with a barn mate who is prepping for a show and wanted to do a little xc in the safety of reliable company. And I'm not gonna lie... My hope was to... kinda just go along for the ride completely. Including jumping a few little things here and there. 

My idea was to follow behind playing pretend that we were on our own special little paper chase. Just, shorter lol. And at home obvi. But, alas, Charlie came in from turnout with another pulled hind shoe (gahh)... 

So.... Ok, fine. We wouldn't jump anything. But, ya know, maybe -- just maybe -- we could still eke out a little joy anyway? 

I tested Charlie out a little bit to see how he was feeling. And guys, he was feeling Like Running, And Fast Pls! Lololol.... So, what the hell, we might have to ditch the hind shoes anyway if he can't keep them on, so might as well let him have a little fun despite it all, right??

So we essentially just followed our friend around all across the xc fields while she strung jumps together and I took video for her. Which, obvi necessitated riding one-handed bc that's what one does while out running around with their thoroughbred who hasn't been out galloping in months and months LOL. 

d'aww mikey in an orioles cap!
I think my favorite parts were when I had to keep pulling Charlie off the lines to the various jumps we were passing hahaha ugh.... Homeboy is ready to PLAY! 

It just makes me feel so excited, not gonna lie. I live for getting run away with by this horse!!! We just gotta figure out how to keep him more consistently sound. Constantly losing hind shoes isn't helping, except .... I suspect more regular work (and finally getting him UTD on his hock maintenance) might actually resolve a lot of that mess. The key will be seeing how his front feet hold up. 

I'm hopeful, tho. Or at least, am still riding high off the endorphins of getting to gallop around with him a bit. Fall is my favorite season for riding. So even tho we had to miss the paperchase, maybe we could still get in a lot of fun activities if he's really truly getting sound again???? Wish us luck, y'all!