Hooves fascinate me which I suppose isn’t that surprising given my profession as a foot doctor. Biomechanics and foot function are interesting and complex topics in both humans and horses. That doesn’t mean anyone else finds it to be as well, so while I chronicle the changes in Cruze’s front feet for my own sake in the journey, I won’t mind if anyone decides to skip these posts.
Unfortunately I never grabbed immediate pictures when the shoes came off in the pasture four weeks ago. I was too worried about getting him comfortable again to bother making him hold still for a picture. There have been early changes but not drastic enough to ruin this series, so I’m starting out today as his baseline.
His front right is the better of the two. It has a higher heel to start with and a shorter toe. The sole is more concave though he still needs to lose sole out by the toe.
The hoof keeps breaking as the old nail holes grow down and I am hoping once that all goes away the wall will be stronger. He has almost no wall to walk on and while the angle of the hoof will take a year to grow fully out, he should get a stronger support base a lot quicker.
He is more sound on the front right and I expect that hoof to make changes quicker than the left which started out from a worse position. The heel on the left is extremely low and lacks support. The sole remains flat and has a lot of changes to make.
He is doing a lot better on the front left but his hoof print shows a lot of sole contact happening. I expect him to rock back on the heel as that lessens.
It is nice to have some baseline pictures to use as this process slowly moves forward. He gets a lot of motion in the pasture, has the paved driveway to walk down twice a day, is getting Farrier’s Barrier applied regularly and is on a hoof supplement daily as well. Plus he gets his high end complete feed, so nutritionally and physically he should be set up for success.
I began writing this a week ago and as of now he is walking at a normal tempo down the paved drive instead of slowly crawling and asking to go in the grass. That’s a huge win in terms of comfort. I also noticed that he has changed from toe touch to flat foot touch which while still not the holy grail of heel touch is a step in the right direction. I expect his soundness to be complete once he begins rocking back and landing in the heel. That will also jump start the changes he needs to make.
Time is my friend here and I’m in no rush to go beyond the basics of riding at the moment, so hopefully things move along well enough before the ground gets mushy in the fall rainy season.
Trainer had come out last Monday for a rainy lesson and then time slipped away and it was Saturday before I could get on again. Only Dusty worked in the morning and by the time I could have gotten on it was mid 90s and I decided it was safer for both of us to just wait until Sunday morning when it would be cooler.
Sunday morning I hopped on the big guy at 8 am trying to beat the heat a bit. He did great for tacking up and stood still like a gentleman at the mounting block. He even stood still while I mounted and didn’t try to walk away until I asked him to. Which is a great start to the ride as I am adamant my horse stands still while I am at the most vulnerable during mounting up.
I am learning that he needs a bit more time at the start of the ride to get his head in the game, however letting him go around toodling on a loose rein isn’t the best either with his slight ADD tendencies. It is a balancing act I am trying to figure out. Sunday I worked on the walk giving him a little more leeway than in true work mode, but being very consistent with our path and really concentrating on using my outside aides in our turns. Having never been able to play around with stuff like this I have to say how cool it feels to move my horse around using only my outside aides and get a nice sharp, clean turn. I even forced myself to drop my inside rein altogether to not allow the instinctual inside rein pull to turn. By doing it correctly, the turns felt balanced and we kept our rhythm.
I still had the three trot poles in the center of the ring and decided to do a modified Exercise 1 from the 101 Jumping book. I used both “chutes” between the poles to make circles of varying sizes in both directions which really helped me make a plan and adjust for the right leg aide that he likes to ignore. He got the memo pretty quickly that he must turn and while I lose some of my leg aides in the trot as a function of me sucking at it, we managed to improve upon the last two rides quite a bit.
He tried to pull out the head drag pretty early into our trot work, but I combined Trainer’s words with Emma’s visual she commented on my lesson post about sitting deeper in the saddle when he pulls against me instead of getting lifted out and forward and it really, really worked. The biggest change I did and something I really have to work on is not letting my elbows get locked out straight. By keeping them back by my sides and following more he didn’t have a lever to pull against.
Eeyore doesn’t really seem to respond to praise that much but it could be that he still doesn’t have it figured out that he is stuck with me and should care about me. HA! He does respond very well to less work and he quickly figured out that pulling on me wasn’t getting him anywhere. He then tried to curl behind the bit which is another new experience for me, but I remained calm and kept him going through our ever changing circles and directions. Eventually he got pissed off and I could both hear and see the shadow of a very sassy tail shake going on, but he settled well enough and we ended it once he went both directions on both size circles carrying his own head and not swearing at me.
I had wanted to canter some as well, but by that point he was extremely sweaty and there was sweat dripping down my face as well. The time flies when I am on him and what used to be a torture to get more than 20 minutes of work in an arena has turned into me checking my watch to find 45 minutes has flown by and I should probably stop riding and give the guy a break.
I gave him a good shower after, put his dreaded fly mask on him, and sent him outside to be with his friends for the day. I was so happy with him. Sure, he got a bit annoying when my abs were killing me and all I wanted to do was trot in a circle without my arms getting ripped off, but he gave up on it a lot sooner than before and I kept my posture better and I can see an end to this fight in the near future once he realizes he won’t ever win. He is a lot of fun to be on though and I am really excited to keep figuring him out.
In fact, when my surgery for this Friday rescheduled for next week, I texted Trainer and set up a cross country outing for Friday morning!! She immediately learned to never let me pick the time though. She asked me what time, I said early, she said fine, I originally started texting 6:30 am, realized that was probably mean, then changed it to 7:30 and she asked for 8. I’m a morning person, what can I say? Its odd though because well, I have yet to ride Eeyore off property and haven’t even jumped him over stadium jumps since getting him home yet here I am, the biggest wimp on the internet, setting up a cross country school. It would probably be smarter to take him to Trainer’s place first for a lesson “off property” and to school in the arena but I don’t want to miss this chance. My surgery schedule gets really full pretty quickly and I hate to pass up an opportunity to get out on a course. Eeyore has never been cross country schooling before, but he has been trail ridden extensively and reportedly does water, banks and logs on trail just fine. I’m prepared for him to be a little up and probably scream for invisible friends for a while, but he should get down to business quickly if the past is any indication. We will find out!
So fingers crossed we get the go ahead by the farm owner and I get our feet wet on the cross country course!!!
The blog is becoming very Eeyore centric which is fine as he is my main mount now and well, life is becoming fun with him around both on the ground with his antics and under saddle with his obstinate but still somehow easy going nature.
However, Miss Thing is still around and living large. The last ride I had with her pretty much solidified my decision to no longer do arena work with her. She doesn’t enjoy it and at 20 years old now she doesn’t really have to do much of anything. I’ll still take her on trail rides and to some hunter paces as able but her main job now is looking pretty and eating grass.
What has been amazing though is that our entire relationship has changed. Ever since her partial retirement, she has started greeting me at the gate even when it isn’t dinner time. I don’t remember the last time I had to spend 40 minutes trying to catch her in the pasture. When I am outside she always looks up and notices me and if I call out a greeting she comes over instead of her usual hiding behind a tree or Pete to avoid being seen.
Last week, we had our first mutual grooming experience. She had just been put out after dinner and lingered by the gate which typically means she wants some attention. I went back in and began scratching her itchy spots. In the past, she would tolerate this and eventually move on after a few minutes. Last week though she propped a hind leg, let out a sigh and leaned into the scratches. After 10 minutes, with my hands starting to cramp, she looked over and started grooming my shoulder.
Eeyore then wandered over because Big Goof can’t be left out of anything and started grooming on Gem as well. Pete eventually joined us and all three horses began grooming at which point I bowed out and left them to it.
Honesty, I put the change to the fact that I am no longer asking Gem to do what she hates doing. The pressure is off of her and she can enjoy my company knowing full well that she won’t be forced to do dressage or jump again. It makes me a little sad that I put her through it in the first place, but then I realize that we were doing 18″ jumps and fake-ssage at the walk and trot so really she could have gotten over herself just a tad.
Regardless, are relationship has reached a new level of understanding and companionship that took 9 years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to. I’m hoping we have another decade together to putz around when able and groom/enjoy each other.
It poured all night Sunday to Monday and by morning it wasn’t looking any clearer. By 9:30am I was starting to think my morning lesson would be cancelled. I needn’t have worried though. Trainer is the best person I’ve ever met and once I verified that the footing was solid under the 3″ of standing water, she was game to come over and get drenched.
This is noteworthy because had it been with Gem I’d never have even thought of riding. The puddles would have made it impossible to get any actual work accomplished. But Eeyore is a different beast and after riding through a few puddles on Saturday I knew he’d be ok. Maybe not thrilled, but ok.
I was a bit nervous going in. Trainer had come over to meet Eeyore once before and had seen him crippled but never under saddle. Would she think he moved like a camel? Would she tell me I made a mistake? There was only one way to find out!
Eeyore didn’t disappoint. He never so much as batted an eye at the puddles. He quietly squealed his disapproval of being worked in the rain a time or two but other than that he went to work happily enough. In fact, he was the most energetic I had seen to date and even dolphin leaped into the canter the first time. No worries though. If that was his worst I’ll take it! I never once felt out of control or uneasy on him.
There were three main things I wanted eyes on the ground for and Trainer was on board to see where we were at with him. She is a very hard sell when it comes to horse partners so I was interested in getting her overall judgement too.
The first thing was his trot. Of course the rain, cooler temperatures and earlier hour had him much more energetic to start than my previous rides, but he is still Eeyore and I’m still me so cooler weather didn’t make him magically more forward or me less of a nag. She was impressed with his natural rhythm and inherently steady pace. Both things that will serve us well as we progress in our training. However she noticed that he tried to ooze back to the walk and caught me nagging quite frequently. In the end she told me to be crisper with my ask, more proactive with asking for more before he starts to slow and then letting him be able to maintain it. It helped and prevented him getting annoyed. All in all though she thought the pace of his trot was just fine for the majority of our work.
The second item to cross off was his obstinate refusal to bend left when we hit the barn side of the arena and thus headed away from the gate. Which is odd since he didn’t do that going right. Again, laser eyed Trainer honed in on the issue. Me. Shocking I know.
I’ll back up a tad for this one. Gem hated my leg even thinking of touching her side. It forced me to ride with a too forward lower leg and absolutely no leg aides. Eeyore though needs those aides to keep his body in line. Thankfully Trainer never once told me I needed to bring my leg back under me so win for that! The position nazi had nothing but good things to say. However, since I’m not used to using leg aides I sorta dropped the ball.
Eeyore is responsive to my left leg and dull to the right. This results in him blowing through my right leg aid. On a left hand circle it means his hindquarters bulge out and we lose our geometry. On a right hand bend it means he circles in making the circle teeny tiny. I really needed to be firmer with my right leg, set him up way earlier than I thought and keep that inside rein still. The moment I went to bend via the inside rein all it did was let his hind end slip out to the outside and make matters worse.
She recommended that I set up cones to mark a circle and then work on staying on the inside then the outside of them to really focus on controlling this.
The last item was his head. For the first 40 minute he was light in the bridle, offered up some really lovely low stretching and elevated his back. Then he got tired and decided that real work is hard and he couldn’t hold his head up at all. His chin was dragging on the ground.
Having never dealt with this before, Gem is a natural giraffe, I was clueless what to do though I suspected the answer was more leg, more forward. I was right and wrong. Yes he needed a cue to move his lazy butt. He also needed me to hold my core, bring my darn elbows back to my side and loosen them and refuse to get tugged on. This was hard. Very hard. My core was yelling obscenities at me and my shoulders weren’t far off.
We livened him back up with canter both directions which worked for a while but he quickly remembered he was tired and couldn’t horse any more. It was a rough last 15 minutes but I think we both started to improve by the end. Trainer plans to hop on him on Thursday to get a good feel and figure out some tricks for me.
Her end analysis? He is mostly a good boy who wants to do the right thing. Until he gets tired and then he quits. She saw his worst behavior I’d ever seen and it was laughable. She thinks he is a good match for me and we have some work to do but it should get there in time. He isn’t going to let me get away with being lazy but won’t punish my mistakes either. Exactly what I was looking for.
If it ever stops raining, 10 day forecast says rain at above 60% chance every day, the plan is to do another flat school at her place to judge how he does away from home plus have her get on him, then do some jump schools and mid summer hit up a cross country course.
The best part? Even soaking wet and covered in mud I walked in the house with a big grin on my face and a hankering to ride again. It’s an unbeatable feeling.
When I started horse shopping I made it a point to be realistic in what I both needed and wanted in my next riding partner. The fear of getting something not suitable was strong.
One of the main characteristics on my list was the ability to have time off and not come out a lunatic. My riding life was defined by squeezing in two rides a week if I was lucky with a lesson once or twice a month. I made sure to ask every single seller if a schedule like that would be suitable for the horse I was looking at.
Thursday evening I rode Eeyore for the first time. While it had its frustrating moments, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Friday was a surgery day from the netherworld. I knew it would be going in though it was made worse by an inopportune shift change between my surgical cases resulting in me losing my A team and getting the F team. This made an already stressful and complicated revision case all the harder and I didn’t leave the OR until after 6pm resulting in me not getting home until after 7pm for the second day that week. This occurrence gave Eeyore a day off.
Saturday was looking ominous however the storm blew through over night allowing the sun to shine throughout the day. By late afternoon I was itching to mount back up and had an even better second ride on the Big Goof. We did walk and trot much like the prior ride only with crisper transitions and less protests on his part. It felt so nice that I ventured to canter both directions and then much to his dismay I broke out three ground poles to work over.
Were it not for the sweat pouring down my back and a dinner that needed made, I think I never would have gotten off him.
And there in lies my “problem”. I searched high and low and focused my efforts on finding a horse that didn’t need ridden very much. A low key horse with more whoah then go. After all, that’s how my riding schedule had paned out before. But low and behold, with a horse that is inherently well behaved with bad behavior resulting in slowing down and never a single moment of anguish on my part, I find myself forcing myself to not ride instead of dreading tacking up. Instead of using anything as an excuse to put off riding another day, I find myself sneaking in time that I could use mounted up.
In other words, the Big Goof is going to find himself with a harder work load than was anticipated. I still keep the rides short and give plenty of walk breaks. Saturday I rode for about 40 minutes with at least 15 of that in the walk so it’s not like I’m on him drilling or pushing his cardiovascular limit. It is still me we are talking about here.
I never anticipated this side effect of getting a horse I am more compatible with. He seems better for the frequency having already understood what lines I drew in the sand. He was much lighter in the bridle, actually showed true bend in the circles and handled the trot poles like a pro. He still wanted to peter out a lot but I believe a big part of it was my fault.
I’m used to my high octane Gem whose trot is fast and erratic. Eeyore is much slower by nature and when we were trotting I found myself nagging him for more. I felt like we weren’t moving at all but I believe that is his speed and my nagging annoyed him as he was actually trotting. Just not at Mach 10.
I really need Trainer to help me get to know him better but for now I’m enjoying each moment spent with him. After we left the arena I was super tempted to hit the trail surrounding the property, something I had yet to brave, but he was sweaty as was I and the Dynamic Duo were eyeing me up for dinner time. Eeyore needed a post ride shower as well so instead I settled for Eeyore snuggle time and plan to hit the trail another day. It may be sooner than he thinks though. Every day I find myself excited to ride and that is a brand new feeling.
Last night I swallowed my nerves, fiddled endlessly with tack, and eventually hopped on Eeyore for our first of hopefully many, many rides together.
And it went…..pretty good.
In 45 minutes I learned a lot about myself, him and my past experiences. There is a lot to say and a lot of thoughts to sort through, but today I just want to gush a little about my big goofy man.
Because while he wasn’t perfect and I didn’t sit on him and magically start doing piaffes and jump around a 4* course, he never once made me feel unsafe, scared or nervous. He never once pulled a dirty move or became tense, hollow or braced. He never once spooked at anything, not even the pile of digging toys Wyatt had left in the arena that I was too lazy to pick up before mounting.
Sure he pulled hard to the gate and became a sloth going away from it. Sure he tried to convince me he was unable to bend left while still actively bending left. Sure he put on a good show that he was exhausted after 20 minutes of walking. But even through his protestations about being asked to work after nearly two weeks of being a pasture puff and a light schedule preceding that, he did the thing. Sanely and with only minimal opinions that I suck.
And that folks is a whole new experience for me.
I don’t want Eeyore’s life with me to degrade into a constant comparison with Gem. It isn’t fair to either of them as they are very different horses, but it will be inevitable in the beginning since Gem is my only experience to draw from. Where Gem’s answer to anything hard or new is to get hollow, tense and go fast, Eeyore’s response to most of life is to slow down, take it in and think about quitting. It was a refreshing new problem to find a solution to and while I didn’t cure it in one single ride there were a lot of glimpses of a lovely future admist this first ride.
After 45 minutes of a lot of walking and some trotting mixed in with a few “oops, this horse knows how to do a walk-canter transition when I accidentally pull my leg too far back” moments, I called it a night. He was sweaty, a storm was rolling in and it was 8 pm with dinner still needing made (of side note, if you haven’t made flat bread pizzas at home you really must. They are quick, easy and delicious!!! A hearty, filling home made dinner in 15 minutes) yet I didn’t actually want to get off him. On Tuesday evening, with my hot mess of a Gem, I had to force myself to stay on her and work through the tantrums keeping an eye on my phone until it was at least 30 minutes of ride time. last night though, I had to force myself to get off the horse. It wasn’t a perfect ride by any stretch and we weren’t making any ground breaking improvements, but it was fun. And safe. And everything I was wanting in my next horse.
I have more thoughts on how it went and what all I learned about myself and Eeyore that will help me in the future, plus tack questions/issues and a plan for the near future with him but all that is going to wait until another day. It poured this morning and the weather says rain all weekend, but maybe I can squeak in another ride. I have a saddle fitter scheduled for June 2nd and a lesson with Trainer May 31 and a head full of dreams to start making reality. Eeyore may not be perfect, but he sure is perfect for me.
Eeyore is back to his normal goofy, completely uncoordinated, forgets he has feet on terrain self. I love watching him run in for dinner as he inevitably trips over nothing and then flings his head looking around for someone to blame. He will learn with time. Or kill himself trying. Either way, it will resolve.
I had to take his water bucket out of his stall. The horse is in the stall for maybe 15 minutes at a time. He is the last one to come in and the firs tone back out so all we wait for is for him to finish eating. Yet he still manages to get bored and rip at his water bucket. The last day he had a bucket in his stall, I watched as he nearly ripped the wood boards out of the wall. If you are going to be a freak, you don’t get water bucket privileges.
No riding has taken place yet and really the only reason is that I am avoiding it. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why. I test rode him and he was great. In fact I felt bolder, braver and safer on him than any other horse I had ridden and certainly more than on Gem. There is this nagging fear in the back of my mind that maybe he won’t be that way. Maybe he will be a raging lunatic for me and I’ll regret everything. Or I’ll go to a lesson and Trainer will call me a moron for buying this horse and tell me he moves like a camel.
The reason I am avoiding riding is because my little dream bubble remains fully intact right now and I don’t want it to burst.
I am expecting some rough times to start while we get to know each other. My rough times with Gem lasted 3 years, so hopefully we won’t reach that peak wonderfulness. But I am also not expecting everything to be perfect as I learn to ride a new horse and he learns to deal with me and his new life.
Honestly I had planned to lunge him last night and then hop on if he continued to look sound, but then I got home from work at 7:30 pm after having left for work at 6:45 am and just wasn’t feeling it. Actually first I need to figure out his bridle situation and hope that I have a girth that will fit him.
Eeyore is a lot of things, but fancy and well put together isn’t really one of them. Which is fine. Fancy was not on my list of needs. His head though is a very odd size. His brow and throat latch are full horse sized, but his cheek and nose are cob. A full sized bridle is too big on the smallest settings and likewise the cob is too small on the largest settings. I have the cob bridle I bought off Michelle and never took out of the box plus the new full sized bridle I bought for Eeyore when I was up at TIEC, so in theory I should be able to frankenbridle something together for him. He will have to deal with Gem’s baucher although I was told by the seller he prefers a myler full cheek. I haven’t gotten around to getting one yet as I want to see if he will go in anything I have first.
So I have a plan. I just need to execute it and actually ride the horse I bought as my next riding horse. Even thinking about it makes me a bit nervous. He was so so so good when I tested him out but he was at his home then, got ridden by someone he knew first and well you just never know. I’ve changed his entire life and maybe I will have unleashed a dragon.