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Cross Country Fun

Not a lot of media due to being there without ground crew so I’ll keep this short and to the point.

Eeyore was amazing.

Trainer AB continues to build my confidence in leaps and bounds.

I left thinking “We can do this. We can actually do this!” for the first time since trying this sport the fall of 2016.

There are worse sights on a Sunday morning.

I met up with Trainer AB and one other rider at FENCE Sunday morning for a go around the course. I’d been there three times with Gemmie and have found that there are a few teeny tiny jumps I’m ok with popping over and figured I’d at least spend time in the water.

Eeyore started off with his head firmly up his rather rotund buttocks. He was so fixated on the other horse during warm up that you’d have thought they knew each other for years not just 15 seconds. Trainer AB eventually hopped on his rearing, sassy butt and galloped him up the massive hill a couple times which not only instilled the fact that he can work away from another horse but also had the added benefit of being strenuous enough to make him realize life can really suck when you don’t get in line.

Surverying the course

Once she handed him back to me it was on to some jumps. I looked around a little dismayed that there was only a single jump in the immediate vicinity that I was comfortable jumping: a tiny red jump on the starter course that I had jumped previously with Gem. I figured she’d work the other girl who is showing BN and schooling N for a planned move up after AECs this fall and we’d move on to find some jumps for us.

Nope.

PC KC’s helmet cam a couple of years ago.

She told me to take the red starter ramp and well, there is just something about the combo of Eeyore under me who never says no to anything and Trainer AB on the ground with her quiet confidence and insistence that I’m a better rider than I give myself credit for, that make me just go and do the thing.

So I did.

Still in love with this vest. It was insanely humid that the sweat was pouring down my back in the shade at rest. While I was still hot, I easily forgot I was even wearing the vest within 5 minutes of putting it on.

We went over that a few times and then she said “ok…do the next one”

I looked around for “the next one” but didn’t see anything. Then it dawned on me. She meant the BN bench. Uh….

This bench. This massive, wide, unforgiving bench. This jump is the first legit xc fence I’ve taken on that wasn’t a log or a tiny roll top or something that basically the horse could walk over. This bench makes me feel like I’m actually doing xc for the first time.

She nodded to me and well….if she thought we could it then so did I. I approached at the trot and he flew over that thing like it was 4′ tall. Trainer AB chuckled and commented on how big he had jumped and I laughed back that it felt even bigger!

The next time I backed way off and let him drift to the right. He glanced off the side though being a Good Boy he still jumped the side of it. We circled around again and came with me actually riding and over he went no issue.

I felt like I was flying. I felt like I had wings. I felt like I could do absolutely anything. Riding folks. It gives you confidence for all your life.

A gorgeous view between these mighty orange ears

By this time he was blowing hard and was radiating heat. The sun was covered by a heavy cloud bank and while the heat was nicely blocked out the humidity felt at 90% and the sweat was pouring off me like a waterfall.

We all agreed it would be best to head to the water next for some cool down play time. Eeyore hadn’t seen water for over a year yet he waltzed right in like an old pro. The jumps in and around were N and up so she had us work on coming into the water from the steep down hill approach through the water and out the steep up hill. The whole goal was maintaining the trot and forward momentum while not letting him fall on his face going down or speed up going out.

This is a really nice water complex with plenty of room to work on a number of different skills with or without the jumps

Eeyore very much enjoyed the water and we had a good time playing through there before heading up the hill to the cluster of banks. We attacked the tiny middle one that I’ve done with Gem a few times.

I was taken completely off guard when he took one look at the bank and slammed on the breaks in alarm. It was the first time he ever gave me an honest “no” as an answer. I think it just caught him off guard and he didn’t know what to do so in his safe way he stopped to look for guidance. We came back and let him walk up it and from there he gave a hearty, and rather obnoxiously large, yes each time.

It took me a while to get my own rhythm and body under control up the bank but eventually I got Trainer AB’s approval.

Hot, but happy at the end of the schooling

As one final task she had us go back to the water, come through it then over to the bank and up. By the time we did that Eeyore was done. He was blowing hard and overheating, so she told us we graduated and I headed back to strip tack and dump water on him at the trailer.

I was so so so so proud of him. Outside his obnoxious warm up behavior he was amazing. It took a bit to get him to settle when the other horse would go off to do his thing but that is just an experience thing. He was honest, brave and bold all day long and handled the terrain and insane humidity very well.

Soaked through but glad I went and did the thing

I drove back home with yet another grin on my face. He may not be fancy. He may have a wonky gait at times. He may have his head firmly up his butt. Folks. This horse though. This horse. He makes my life better on the daily. He brings sunshine and hope and dreams. He is amazing in all his odd ways.

Ok. So maybe that wasn’t short or to the point.

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Damnit Eeyore, Part 2

When last I left off in Part 1, I had had the vet out due to swelling and sensitivity in Eeyore’s left loin. She had prescribed Equinox and was a little iffy on what was causing the issue but planned to come back out to recheck after completion.

Eeyore was a good boy about his meds and ate the pills whole in his food. I was unconcerned about the follow up as the weird area of swelling was gone, he was feeling amazing and we had the best jump school of my life.

This day. I’ll never forget this day.

So when she came out yesterday I didn’t think much of the follow up. Heck, I had ridden a short w/t/c flat ride in the arena Monday night and while he was behind my leg and a bit fussy he was fine and willing enough.

Until the hubby told me over lunch that she called to let him know Eeyore was grade 3 massively lame on the left front. WTF? All I had wanted was a darn chiro adjustment!

I finally got to talk to her this morning though I had patients waiting so I didn’t get as into the weeds as I would have liked. Apparently she was extremely pleased with the left loin stating that it was 100% amazing just as I had thought.

Contemplating life after an easy ground work session

She had wanted to be very thorough though so she had her assistant walk and trot him straight on the grass and on pavement (my driveway) and saw no issues. She then had her lunge him and bam! Grade 3 lame front left on a circle going left. Going right? Fine. She decided to look more into it and did flexions. If anyone is counting, this is now his third set of flexions in a year.

As expected, he was fine. Not a single hint of anything wrong. As happened the last two times he was flexed. The boy flexes nicely. Hoof testers were negative. She asked if we want xrays. No. No I don’t. I’ve had him xrayed. Twice. Everything inside is fine. Just like last year only this time it was the front left instead of the front right. Thankfully. If it was his front right all over again I’d shoot him myself. Just kidding. Sorta.

A gung ho very much not lame horse

We talked a while and the end analysis from her is that he has crap conformation, the left leg twists at an ungodly angle and well sometimes that is going to show up as a lameness when he is on a circle and the leg is torqued. She does not think this is at all soft tissue related and sees no reason I can’t do low level eventing/jumping for years to come.

Her biggest suggestion was to change his shoes a bit and uh….get him a muzzle to match Gem as he could stand to lose 100lbs and being fit will only help his longevity with regards to his legs. He will HATE it. Gem is pretty darn good about it and has figured out she can still graze and drink just fine and has already lost some weight. Eeyore. Well. This won’t end well but I’ll be ordering one for him today. Plus we are amping up his riding so that can only help.

Is he still good for what I want? Yup. Not perfect but I knew that when I chose him. I want to do low level eventing. Maybe get to BN. A few shows a year. Two lessons a month. Some hunter paces. A lot of back yard flat work. All things he should be able to do for many years to come. She said there really are no limits at the moment and since he is anything but stoic he will let me know when something isn’t right.

Never going to stop using this picture

At the moment we are moving ahead as normal. Any dreams of potential endurance have been shattered because there is no way he will pass the vetting but that is ok. I wasn’t set on that and thought maybe a 25 at Biltmore next year but oh well. She gave the green light to keep riding and keep jumping. If I ever get the lady bits to go higher, I may need to relook into things but for now it’s full steam ahead on my slightly wonky, little bit goofy gelding.

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Little Nuances

Wednesday night wasn’t all about major breakthroughs. Trainer AB has a sneaky way of throwing in little tiny details that make major changes in the way I ride and I don’t want to lose sight of those in the bigger picture of the lesson as a whole.

One of the earliest and biggest changes happened during the brief warm up. She is always saying to Own The Outside of him which is super important as he likes to bulge in forever and always. However, I can be quite literal when taking instruction so this led to me uh…nearly running into the fence in my turns.

Stills from he lesson that really have nothing to do with this but I love them anyway. Here I am looking towards Trainer AB and Eeyore is looking at Dusty. Is anyone looking where we are going??

Trainer AB easily corrected this with one of her patented (by me anyway) little gems. She told me that while I do need to own his outside, I do actually need to use my inside rein to direct him, but when I would abandon my outside and use the inside, he would predictably bulge inward and I’d feel unbalanced and like I was motorcycling around.

So she told me to a) start my turn way earlier, b) use the inside rein as a turn aide through the first half of the turn only and finally c) go back to my outside rein half way through the turn to rebalance and complete it.

And wouldn’t you know it but we had the most balanced corners I’ve ever gotten. It was a fun little tool to play around with as we went around and made a huge difference in his ability to maintain pace and balance through the corners.

Just a cantering fool these days. I do’t recall ever spending so much time cantering before. I love it!

Her next piece of helpful advice came in the canter poles exercise. I love a short approach. This comes from my Gem days. Riding a twisting, turning pretzel was difficult so I would eliminate most of her ability to contort herself by cramming her at things on the shortest approach possible. This has carried over to Eeyore and is apparently the exact opposite of what he needs.

When I’d let him trot too long and picked up the canter right before the first pole, he’d be strung out and take a flyer over the poles.

Like so. Fortunately he seems to have gorilla arms and can really stretch himself out when needed

If, instead, I got him cantering down the entire long side, through the corner and into the poles, he would be more packaged up and take the exercise smoother. We had our baubles and at times chipped in or got long, but overall with a much longer approach he performed a lot better.

No more cramming for me I suppose.

And last she called me out on my posting. I have mentioned to her that I seem to start out at a nice trot rhythm but as we go on it tends to get faster and faster and every horse I ride does this so it is for sure a me thing. As I was going around she, in her infinitely wise way, pin pointed the issue. When I post I barely flirt with the saddle. I go up and come down with my butt grazing the saddle instead of actually sitting in it with weight. When she told me to actually sit deeper, Eeyore responded by slowing down. This is extremely hard for me to do right now. I have to constantly remind myself to actually sit in the down which should seem easy, but ugh. This is a habit that has been ingrained over thousands of miles of trotting. Homework for sure.

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This Horse Guys. ❤️. This Horse.

There I was sitting at work typing up a medical note Wednesday morning when a text came through from Trainer AB asking if I wanted to lesson that evening. She was supposed to be out of town so I was surprised by the text. A quick check with Dusty that he wouldn’t mind and I gave an enthusiastic yes! The time was set for 745pm and I even got Dusty and Wyatt to come watch. Be prepared for an onslaught of media.

Trainer AB has been wanting to try him in a single joint full cheek as that is her favorite bit. I borrowed a bridle with the bit and he seemed to adjust very well.

Trainer AB came over after I unloaded to ask how my homework had been going. I told her that I’d been working hard on owning his outside and sitting up without letting him pull me down. He has responded by being way less of a bully with his head. I had also been working on the 42′ three stride canter exercise though I told her I kept getting a lovely and even four each time. Maybe I measured it wrong? And finally, I mentioned my tendency to stop riding as soon as an exercise is complete allowing him to veer off wherever he pleased and that I need to remember to ride every stride.

She was pleased that I had been working on it and had me do a quick single circuit walk before picking up the trot. Eeyore was in fine form and after only a single episode of him trying to shake his head and take charge, he quickly settled and got to work. The flat work was so smooth that she quickly had us working through the 42′ line first to the right:

And then to the left:

Really I’m just still so excited about my new found nonchalance about the canter transition. It’s a whole new thing for me! I could pick myself apart here, but screw that nonsense! I’m so happy to be where I’m at.

After a few go arounds both directions she had one major comment. Namely, his stride is really big and I need to focus on packaging him just a bit especially right before the poles as he tends to get excited and then expands his stride even more. Keeping him just a smidge more put together really helped with everything. She was overall very pleased with the progress and it turned out that I had set my exercise correctly at home. My error was in what I was counting as stride 1. I counted the landing as 1 and she started the stride after that. Either way I managed to get the same striding each time through.

Since that had gone well, she set a small cross rail with a placing pole in front and we came at it from a trot. The first time Eeyore paid exactly zero attention to it and we sorta plopped over it and zig zagged away so we came again and I actually used my leg and over we went. It was small and he could have cared less about putting effort in.

That went smoothly so she added a second cross rail one stride out.

I think she was expecting more issues from us to be honest, but Homeboy was being amazing and I was having a blast so had zero tension or fetal tendencies. It was all going swimmingly. After a few times through she said “Ok then. Here is your Grand Prix.” She raised the second element to a vertical and when I saw the height I turned to Dusty in the bleachers and said “She is trying to kill me!”

Eeyore is so brave and honest though. I took a deep breath and approached and while I was a bit more grabby with my hands in an attempt to make him crawl like a snail towards it, he popped over no issue.

Again, she seemed pleasantly surprised with us. I was grinning like a fool which seems to be a theme with these lessons. I was so proud of Eeyore and of myself. I told Trainer AB that that was the highest I have ever jumped and it felt so awesome.

Then I heard her say “Ok then. Here is your Grand Prix”

uh oh…..

She wanted us to take the vertical with the plastic pipe around it going towards the barn. The actual exercise is a two stride combination of two of these jumps and the entire evil plan was to do this one as a single, then add the other one as a single going away from the barn and finish with the entire thing.

I was nervous. She reminded me that she had jumped him over that and he hadn’t cared at all. I reminded her that it was her in the irons and not me but I approached and….

Seriously, look how freaking much he over jumped this thing!!! You could fit another Eeyore between him and that pipe!

He over jumped it so much and I got left very far behind.

I don’t think this is proper technique, Buddy. And then there is Trainer AB calmly standing by probably questioning her life choices that brought her to teaching us.

It didn’t boost my confidence at all so when we came back around he ran out to the right and I did nothing to stop it. Trainer AB told me to come again.

He refused again. Something about me being a hollow backed, tipped forward fetus didn’t really scream “jump this obstacle Eeyore!” Shocking, I know.

Finally I pulled my big girl panties on and approached with meaning. When I felt him go right, I blocked him and made him stay in line with the jump and over we went!

Leaving this picture a but bigger so you can all enjoy the look of mortal terror on my face. Eeyore looks so super cute here.

I was so so so proud of him. All the refusal crap was 100% my fault. I was riding like a fetus and not helping him out one bit. A really nice thing about Eeyore is that his response to me being an idiot is to stop. If I’m flailing or left behind or feel out of balance he just quits. Which is fine for my wimpy ammy self as a safety feature but it does also mean I have to actually ride.

At that point it was clear we were done. Eeyore was huffing and puffing hard and all my adrenaline was used up. There was no reason to push the envelope after we had accomplished so very much already.

I thanked Trainer AB profusely for being her awesome self and for the amazing lesson. It is one for the books for sure!

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For Sale

No, not Eeyore. Though catch me on a bad day….

Whaaaat??

I’m putting a few items up for sale that just don’t work for us and thought I’d post here first. If interested, comment here or email me at agemofahorse at gmail dot com. First come first serve, money in hand before it’s off limits, add shipping and all that good stuff.

First is my girth. The EquiFit T Foam Anatomic Girth which I bought new in December for $300. Asking $200. 50″.

Leather has been well cared for and cleaned regularly
Ignore my apparent hoarding of girths in the back ground. I should probably sell some of those too.
Comes with some Eeyore magic butthead hair, free of charge! I scrubbed the crap out of this liner this weekend and got most of it off.

I love this girth. Eeyore loves this girth and that says a lot. He hates all others. The only reason I am selling is because it is too big with this new saddle and I have to buckle it to the very top holes on all billets which puts the buckle under my leg. The memory foam is removable for easy cleaning and this has held up really well to all my riding including the hunter pace and lessons. It’s a great girth.

Second, my brand new Eponia bridle. Max 2 in 1 bridle with figure eight and removable flash noseband in COB. I bought this two months ago for $200 and it is in like new condition and comes with the flash and the figure 8. Asking $125.

So pretty. So not the right size for Mr. Block Head.
Brass hardware

I like the construction, leather and overall look but I really don’t like the fit on Eeyore at all. I should have gotten the horse size because all the straps are at the absolutely largest hole and the nose and crown could still go bigger. The bridle I borrowed for my last lesson was a horse size and it fit Eeyore beautifully. He seemed way more comfortable in it too, so sadly I need to sell this one and find a replacement.

Next is my Kieffer saddle. It’s an older than dirt but in amazing condition Aachen saddle with a 17.5″ seat, wide tree and wither cut out. It is seriously comfortable and the German construction means it will live forever. I bought it used for $200 last summer but it didn’t fit Eeyore well enough in the channel. I’m not sure what to get from it. Probably $150. Would be a nice back up, lesson or kids saddle if anyone is interested or needs something like that.

I’m also thinking of selling my Bates but am holding off on that for the moment unless someone super wants it. My Sweden temporary daughter will need a saddle to ride in when she gets here this fall and I have all the gullets so should be able to fit it to Gem just fine. She always went well in the Wintec I started her in so I think for what she will be used for, if M prefers that to her endurance get up, I’d like to keep it around. If I end up keeping that, I’d be looking at selling the Thorowgood T8 jump saddle I had for her instead. Really, I don’t need four jump saddles for 1 horse in actual work and 1 horse who is about to be taken out of retirement for a brief period. It’s a bit excessive. So I guess if anyone wants more info on either of those, ask and you shall receive!

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A Waggin’ Update

Accidents happen. Farm accidents are common. Things could have been way worse in a number of ways. I get all of that. But still. I can’t seem to forgive myself for running Waggy Tails over with the tractor last summer. It’s been hard and I hung on to her useless leg for way too long.

My gorgeous girl. You can see one of numerous bags, splints and casts we tried over the last year.

Three weeks ago we were starting a major yard project and spent the entire weekend outside from sun up to sun down. The dogs were out with us and I kept an eye on my Wags. She was getting around fine having long gotten used to dragging the useless left hind leg around but things looked different. She was no longer using it for balance or push off. Instead, she carried it forward and off the ground. Something had changed.

My favorite picture of her. This was in her teenager stage. About 9 months old.

After the first night I had Dusty unwrap the foot from the multiple layers protecting the skin from damage. The stink was evident even through the last 3 layers of padding. The oozing sores on the top of her foot looked bad. Back on antibiotics for the dozenth time but I knew then. The leg had to go. Her lymph nodes were rock hard and enlarged up to the knee and the nerve had stopped it’s regeneration to just above the ankle months before with no more distal progression.

I have had this talk with my patients a lot over the years. A dysfunctional leg is worse than an amputated one. The risk of sepsis is too high. I sighed, gave her a big hug and told Dusty I was finally ready.

He removed the leg two weeks ago. It was a bloody affair due to the chronic inflammation the infection created. He had to disarticulate it at the hip due to the femur plate so no prosthesis can fit. Another hard blow.

Coming out of surgery. I have some more pictures of the leg and such but decided to spare all of you

We did find out the reason for her nerve damage. It had always been so odd. Yes, I broke her femur but outside of being non weight bearing due to the break, her foot and leg had functioned fine right after the accident. The specialist performed the open reduction and internal fixation procedure placing an intramedullary rod, compression plate and circlage wire the morning after it had happened. She walked out of the hospital with a fully functional leg. Then three days later she had immense pain and began chewing her foot off. Dusty took an X-ray and called the surgeon about the change. He was told “I’m too busy to see her. Keep her 2 week follow up”. We were both pissed. The intramedullary rod, which had looked proud to me on initial xrays, had backed out and was now in the muscles. We knew she couldn’t wait 2 weeks so Dusty went in and removed the pin himself. She seemed to calm down after that but the foot got worse and eventually lost all function.

The nerve eventually regenerated from above her knee to just above the ankle but then stopped there months ago with no more advancement. All along I’ve thought the pin most likely severed her sciatic nerve when it backed out. Well, when he was doing the amputation he found the real culprit. They had entrapped the sciatic nerve in the circlage wire killing it.

In a way it was comforting. No matter how long we would have waited that leg was never going to become useful again. The nerve was irreparably damaged and while it didn’t technically happen in the accident, I still feel so much blame for it all. She wouldn’t have had surgery had it not been for the accident. It all comes back around.

She recovered ok from the amputation though the first several days she was in pain, even with pain meds and laser therapy, and depressed.

The look she gave us for the entire first week after the amputation. Talk about if looks could kill.

Finally she started to travel out of the house and then one day I was doing the horse chores and looked up to see my beautiful girl laying in the barn door way like she always does when I’m out there. It made my heart sing.

She is getting around ok again. She has had a year to adjust to a non functional limb though she would use it from time to time for balance in turning. Watching he fall down while making a turn breaks me but she is adapting and will get better with time.

When we returned from our week away, she was a much changed dog. She is much closer to being the big goofy pup we know and love. This weekend we did yet another major arena over haul and she ventured out to the arena and played with Einstein. It still breaks my heart when I see her struggle and I know the right hip is going to pay the toll of her lost left, but I cant go back in time and I can’t keep beating myself up. She is happy and always has a tongue out, tail wagging greeting. I’, sure there is a life lesson to be learned in that.