dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Full Truth

This weekend Carmen and I are headed to our first 'big' show. It's an Equine Canada Gold/Bronze show.

The ring is inside a hockey arena so it's got seating that's above the ring, plus lots of openings and lined with plexiglass.

not spooky, right? RIGHT?

It's also coinciding with cooler weather and Carmen has become more feisty.

I'm okay with feisty and sassy. I'm trying to not worry about the spinning/bolting and her shutting me out.

It's one thing to go to a small schooling show that's so supportive. And this show is really not going to be that different - other than the venue.

Yet I am still freaking out.

My demons are speaking up and gaining ground:

  • you are going get hurt
  • Carmen is going to bolt on you
  • everyone will see how terrible a rider you are
  • you are over-facing her/yourself and going to look like a fool. 
But why? Why have I lost my confidence? My brain knows that if it doesn't go well it's not the end of the world. 

The rest of me is saying that my brain is stupid. 

I can't take this attitude into the saddle. Because that will make everything worse. 

So instead of getting ready/organize and/or riding I sit here and blog. 

Because maybe, just maybe, if I put it in print I can take a look and see if for what it is: self-doubt that, while it's not without merit, is not the full truth. 

Part of the truth is that Carmen can be spooky/bolty. She can decide that nope, she's not gonna to listen to me and threaten to escalate if I don't back down. 

The other part is that I have ridden through her antics before.  I have tools to use. 

The final piece of the truth is that Carmen can look to me for leadership and is doing so more and more. 

So it's not a total crap shoot as to how it will turn out. 

But before I ride my horse I have to corral my demons. 

Wish me, not luck, but strength of mind and belief in myself. In Carmen. In where we are now-  not where we've been. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Shadow Dancing

Thank you everyone for your concern. My bruise spent a few days becoming quite spectacular. It still hurts a bit but nothing else seems to be an issue so I'll take it.
a small part of the bruise
Riding a sensitive mare is lot like chasing shadows. As soon as you shine a light on thing it disappears.

We were away at a wedding over the weekend so Carmen had a couple days off. I think the rest was good for me and, probably, her.  Last night I didn't get to ride until around 7. Typically this would result in Carmen spooking at shadows and things. I've been working on not reacting unless her reaction is a big spook/bolt. Otherwise I carry on with what I'm doing.

The last two rides I've been carrying a small jump bat so that if she starts to use her shoulder against me I can quickly give her a tap to tell her to knock it off. Otherwise she bulges the shoulder in and that can lead to her leaving to the inside.  I had to give her a few taps on Monday and she pitched a bit of a fit about it.  Today it was a non-issue and didn't need to be used once- as soon as I asked her to bend to the inside she complied.

The trick is to not get tense when she does but not get left behind if she launches sideways. Today she gave a couple spooks but I completely ignored them and carried on. I did take note of the spots where she reacted and used those spots to rest.

What I had to tell myself is to not change my plans because of how she behaved. Part of her spooking is learned- she learned if she does that I will back off. So today she spooked in the corner. I ignored it and continued with my plan of a shoulder-in to straight to haunches in down the side. In the past I would try to get her soft and then ask again. Not this time. So it was a pretty horrible shoulder in but I  didn't care. The work does not change because she spooks. The larger plan may change but the moment to moment plan doesn't.

 I'm also working on keeping my legs on through it all  because I've been letting her get behind the leg. I'm good about getting after her when she's slow behind the leg but not when she's fast. I tell her that she can take bigger steps but not faster ones. This helps her to use her hind end rather than speeding along stiff and braced. All of this means that I have take responsibility for riding her correctly and not letting myself be floppy.

I've also been trying to keep her mind busy so that there's not time to get horribly distracted. I'm also not backing down on the ask to flex to the inside. She does not have to look outside for monsters and she's gotten good at barely flexing but really looking out. I'm not a fan of 'headset' but her looking out is not doing either one of us any favours so it's become a non-negotiable.

On Monday after my ride I dropped the gate to walk down to the barn. She was quite keen to leave so we did some circles and then in and out of the ring so that she doesn't get the idea that she can rush out. I then made her stand half in and half out of the ring until she settled and seemed to be willing to stand there as long as I wanted. Then we walked to the barn.

Today when I dropped the gate she was calm and quiet. This time I took her to the right to do a small hack. She was a bit tight going by the tall grass. I just took a deep breath and relaxed. She stayed tight but kept going. As we went into the woods and on the trail she relaxed more and more. Which tells me that she's not a true 'spooky' horse. Because with the leaves and shadows not to mention going by a shed, manure pile, wagon and through a gate are all potentially spooky things. But she didn't even blink. Even though we were all by ourselves.

I plan to ride her each day leading up to the show. Experience tells me that she does better with that then being rested.

And guess what I picked up on my way back from the wedding:
I have never won a trophy showing horses before. But to be honest, my biggest thrill is what it represents. Carmen and I exceeded all of my expectations. It represents not only the work I've done but also that I kept the faith that we can do this thing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Death of Me

love Terry Pratchett

I swear that my horses are going to be the death of me.

Irish has been NQR since the beginning of August. It would come and go and to be honest I just figured it was an abscess. Before I went off to the clinic he was really off so I figured it was ready to burst. But when I came back he was still three legged. I checked him all over and there was no heat or swelling except I found a solid lump on the bottom of his hoof.

Like what the hell horse? What is this lump? I googled it. And instantly regretted do that. I then called my farrier with the hope that he would explain how perfectly normal this was and entirely common. But he was unsure and told me to call the vet. I called and left a message- the vet I usually use was off but the other equine vet was working.  She called me back and was unsure as well. And explained that  she's pregnant and is not doing large animal calls. She advised me to bute him- but I can't because of the previcox.  She told me to cut out a piece of styrofoam and fit it to his foot with duct tape. Yes, because I have that lying around.

She also advised that maybe I should get x-rays. I had an immediate visceral reaction  of no. Before you judge me - hear me out. Irish is in a delicate balance right now. And he has terrible feet. If I x-ray and find some horrible thing (like navicular) I will have to make some decisions about quality of life. Let's be honest- there are only so many things that he can handle at once. So I am taking the 'no news is good news' approach.

  I took a photo of his foot and sent it to my farrier. I love my farrier because he came out yesterday. He was still not sure what it was but is thinking that Irish damaged it and the sole grew too much in that one spot. He trimmed and reset his shoes and did some pour in cushion stuff- sort of like rubber cement. He also told me (I was at work and he phoned. I would have come home but it was too late) and said that Irish was walking okay when he brought him in.

Really? Because this morning I had to force him to walk out of his stall. WTH horse? He then said that Irish was acting very spooky and jumpy which is not like him at all.

Unless he colicking.


I came home right away and I was not happy with how Irish was looking. He was definitely in a mild colic and very agitated. I brought him out and realized that I needed to cool him off. I began to hose him and as the water washed over him he became more and more relaxed. I then gave him some 'chill', sprayed him with fly spray and turned him out into the front paddock so I could watch him. He settled into grazing and seemed to be fine. He was also definitely more comfortable. I think I caught it before he got worse.

By supper time he seemed to be perfectly normal so I figured that it would be okay for Caelen to ride him at the walk. I am a fan of movement if a horse can handle it. I brought Carmen up to ride as well. Caelen's mom (my sister) has arrived with the rest of the clan (husband and 3 more children). My youngest niece is in love with Carmen and wanted to watch. I told her it was okay as long as she stayed still and didn't spook us. With 20-20 hindsight I should have told her to go and get her mom. It's been a long time since I had a seven year old. Anyway, Carmen and I were cantering up the long side and I didn't see Carleigh crouched down by a post. As we went by we scared her and she jumped up with a scream. Carmen leapt sideways and I was completely caught off guard and flew off landing on my right hip and scraping my right elbow. I thought at first I broke something but I was just really sore.
Poor Carleigh was very upset and kept apologizing. I held up my hand and said quietly 'it's okay. I need you to go back to the house now'. I then limped over to Carmen and went back to the mounting block to get back on. 

Needless to say we were both a bit tense. I realized I needed to get her focussed on me. I spent a bit of time working on our 'whoa' because obviously that was a bit rusty. Then we worked on flowing forward and keeping her 'under' me-even in her spooky corners. By the time I was finished we were both a bit sweaty but definitely connected. 

I am sporting a livid bruise on my hip and one stretching across my butt that is an incredible shade of red and purple. And it's sore- so is my neck.  But her spook was legit and I cannot blame her for it. I had been giving her some rein to get her to stretch into it and that gave her a door. It does tell me that I need to get her to stop running through my inside hand/leg - that is not a good thing for her to learn. I'm open to suggestions. 

Irish feeling better and Carmen feeling calmer. 
This morning Caelen and I rode and Carmen was awesome. I spent time at first making sure that she was straight and connected and under me. I found her very stiff in the poll going to the right and that was the side I came off on so she might have had a pull muscle as I grabbed the rein. I worked on getting her to stretch and soften. Finally she relaxed and we were able to get some half-decent work in. Caelen and I then hit the trail in the woods. Carmen led the whole way through the two trails and seemed to really enjoy it. I find that on the trail, when we're leading she really tunes in to me and takes direction. Which is so much better then her making decisions. 

on of my favourite views in one of my favourite places

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Transferring Learning

I had some major 'aha' moments at the clinic. I was intrigued by how not-spooky Carmen was. I believe that she didn't have time to look around and become scared because there was so much going on right in front of her. I also learned that I need to give her some responsiblity for her own feet and expect that she join in the program.

I was interested to see how this was going to go with a lesson I had booked with Shanea on Tuesday. That day turned out be really really hot. I figured that should help reduce any spookiness.

It's amazing how much braver I am and how I don't take Carmen's spooks seriously. I mean how serioulsy can you spook at a waving frond of golden rod after you've ridden your horse over a teeter totter? From that you can take it that Carmen did pull some spooks and that I was unimpressed and just would bring her back to the task and carry on. I found it fascinating that spooking was worse as the lesson progressed and she became tired.

Like I said, it was HOT and Carmen started out stiff and behind the leg. We spent a long time at the walk getting her to go forward and stretch and flex. I worked really hard on not retracting my hands when she retracted her neck. Instead I was to put on leg ask her to step forward. It took a bit but it actually started to work.

From there we went into trot work. I managed to set her up so that our transitions were straight and there was no flinging of hindquarters. We did a lot of work on leg yields. Shanea really wanted me to let her open her shoulder and move over and I was stuck on the hind legs. We sort of got it but I think it's coming.

At least Shanea didn't fling her hands up and leave.

So that's a plus.

As Carmen tires she curls behind the bit- which makes sense given her conformation. Then she would fall on her forehand and lose to flow. I was to sit up and open my chest to help her come from behind. I was amazed at how well that worked and how I could actually feel her rock back. It's okay that she can sustain for long- it's a strength issue not an obedience issue. Shanea really wants me to feel what she needs to help her and then, you know, help her.

As the trot work progressed there were a couple big spooks- especially at troll corner. I was not flustered by them at all. I would just bring her back and try again. Lots of prasie and pats when she was behaved. She did do one mini-bolt (really mini) that I corrected and then back we went. I honestly bellieve that she has learned this as response because it has lead to less work in the past. So we will get there. My abs were burning by this point so I'm sure that she was feeling it too.

We did a little canter at the end. At first she wasn't so sure that canter was on the menu today.  We had a walk break and I picked up the reins and asked her to trot. She picked up this little jog. Shanea said 'oh did you pick up a western jog at your clinic too?' I stuck my tongue out at her (#mature).  I asked for canter and she ran through the aid. I brought her back and asked again. She pinned her ears and picked it up. (don't you know it's too hot for this foolishness?).

It was interesting, as we entered to troll corner she kept trying to duck away- just like at the show. I said to Shanea- this is what she was doing at Five Fires/ Essentially throwing her shoulder against my leg and rein and running through.  This was perfect becasue we now had a chance to tackle this in a non-show environment (where it's far too late). The trick was to sit up and bold and ride her through the corner using half-halts in the corner to keep her on the aids and prevent her being able to use her body to evade.  When she went through the first time I praised her highly amd gave her a pat but we kept cantering.

We then did the same to the left and I brought her back to me and then walked. Shanea said 'we still have 15 minutes left' and I may or may not have said something along the lines of 'I don't care'.

Which wasn't exactly true but we were done. So I said 'this would be a great time to work on the stretchy walk'. Which we did. Shanea showed me that if I let the reins out but kept the bend in my elbow I would still follow the bit and have her connected. And, miracle of miracles, she was much happier and listening to me. And we did the free walk in all the spots that were so very scary and impossible before. Except that they weren't.

I was happy with our ride. I hadn't expected Carmen to be transformed into some magical zen-unicorn. She will always be Carmen. But I am changing and not reacting and it's becoming a non-issue. Of course all that may change at the 'big' show we're going on the September long weekend. But Shanea will be there and I am gaining some really cool tools.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Clinic Recap: Leaving our Comfort Zone

Be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while; take the risks in life that seem worth taking. The ride might not be as predictable if you'd just planted your feet and stayed put, but it will be a heck of a lot more interesting. Edward Whitacre, Jr.
In my last post I let everyone know that Carmen and I were headed to an 'Ultimate Trail' clinic this weekend. My goal was to continue to work on my relationship with Carmen. Essentially I wanted to replace her 'NO' when exposed to new things with curiosity.

I was looking forward to the clinic but I also had some concerns:

  • I did not know the clinicians- but they came highly recommended so I figured it would be okay
  • This was a western clinic and I'm showing up with my dressage horse and tack would people think I was weird. Well no, not that, I am weird, but that I was a snob or didn't belong. I needn't have worried. Everyone was so welcoming and open I had a blast. 
  • Getting hurt. We were doing obstacles in a strange place. Carmen freaking out is not off the table and that had potential for me to be hurt. 
Let me just say that this clinic was an incredible experience for Carmen and I. It pushed out of, not just our comfort zone but out of our patterns too. If you have a change to take a clinic from Mike and Nikki Porter (Facebook group) do it. I loved their approach to teaching- it was systematic and measured. Each step built on the one before. It was all about giving the riders and the horses the support they needed to be successful and then upping the ante. 

In the morning we all meant (there were 15 of us) to talk about our goals, the horses, and the Porter's philosophy of training. It was a great group of people all looking to enhance their relationship with their horse. There were green riders and experienced horses, experienced riders and green horses and everything in between.  Then we were divided into groups based on our experience. Carmen and I were in the first group. We started doing ground work:

yes that is Carmen and I with a rope halter (loaned) and a
'carrot stick'. I never knew what it was and I ended up buying it despite the stupid name

It was fun to do this. We actually ended up waving flags and rubbing tarps on her and she was unfazed. Interestingly enough she was sticky about moving her shoulders and I realized that when I lose her under saddle it's through the shoulders too. So that's something to work on. Nikki and Mike went around to each person and coached them. Sometimes taking the horse to demonstrate something and then handing it back to the handler. It was pouring rain all day and Carmen began to react to the rain outside the ring. Mike came over and helped me to deal with that in a way that was stress free. I was so impressed with the philosophy- it was all about asking the question and giving the horse time ot figure it out. The pressure was to be as light as possible and build until you got what you wanted and then release immediately.

no my horse doesn't have bangs, it's just the angle.

In the afternoon we tackled each obstacle in turn. In the 20 x 40 arena  there were a number of obstacles and seven horses. It was crowded but it all worked out fine. The obstacles included:

  • a curtain of dangling sparkling strings (think vegas)
  • a teeter totter
  • water box
  • A frame bridge
  • a narrow platform connected to a square platform then a 90 degree angle to a taller, narrow platform
  • a cow attached to a bar : the horse pushes the bar with their chest and move the cow around the circle
  • a fred flintsone car that the horse pushes
  • a large circle to use for ground tying

There was a lot of coaching and helping. To be honest Carmen did great. She was uncertain about a lot of them but gave them a try. The biggest issue was with her letting herself go off of them and/or trying to hurry them. The hurrying is legit- I too felt the pressure to get over them before something 'bad' happened. But the idea is that the obstacles are a place of rest and the horses should stop and relax.

(The photos I'm showing of the ground work are actually from Sunday but illustrate what we were doing in a halter and headline)

This water box had a floating piece of plywood in it so that when horses stepped on it, it sunk and water came up through the holes. We started with it empty, then with water and then with the plywood. You can see that Carmen is uncertain but trying it. Which was the word of the day.

 Here's the teeter. It started as a board on the ground and then add the bar underneath. Carmen was not a fan but honestly it was more about what was in front of her.  Which is what I figured out- she would become fixated on the far side- there was an open door (behind a gate) with grass and then a road that was above us.

Working on the platform. We started by walking straight ahead and then doing the turn. Initially Carmen kept walking/falling off- usually toward me. Mike figured out that it was because she letting her attention wander and not taking any responsibility for where her feet were. He took her from me and did maybe 30 seconds of ground work and then took her over and she walked perfectly. That was an eye-opener for me. What I realized that when Carmen is distracted she abdicates her own responsibility and then becomes annoyed because she gets in a mess. And I buy into the idea it's too hard rather then expecting her to take some ownership. So we spent a lot of time walking on, stopping, walking a step, stopping. If she jumped off she was worked a bit and then put back on. 

now this is a horse taking responsibility for her feet
The vegas curtain was just fine. She was intrigued by the flintstone car and the bull and seemed to really enjoy it.

Ground tying like a boss. Our work at home really paid off here

she kept trying to eat the car 

sure I can do this weird thing that you humans are asking of me. 

I was so excited by the end of the day and thrilled with how Carmen and I just handled everything. Not without bobbles but we didn't stand out as the 'problem team' we were just like everyone else- struggling in some things and doing well with others.

That night I met up with Paula (I was staying at her place) and Cindy Ishoy. Cindy was giving a clinic at Paula's barn. We went out to dinner that night and then went to bed early. Shortly after going to bed I began to feel ill. Then really ill. I spent the next few hours with my body completely rejecting the meal I ate. I was freaking out over getting ill at someone's place (have you ever tried to vomit discreetly? It's impossible) and about Sunday. How was I going to ride? How would I get Carmen home? Could I stay there an extra day? Who could I call to come and help us trailer home? The vomiting stopped around 1 a.m. and I fell into an exhausted sleep. The next morning the storm seemed to have passed but I felt like wreckage washed up on the beach. Pretty sure it was food poisoning. I had a piece of toast for breakfast and went to the barn. I decided to just take it as it came and leave if I needed to. 

I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride the obstacles even before I was ill but Mike gave me a pep talk and told me that they would be there to help. So I did it. Carmen and I were rushing the obstacles. She wanted to get them over with and I wanted to complete them before a disaster. Mike made us slow down and use them to rest. After letting herself fall off  the platform Carmen I repeated the exercise of before: is she fell/walked off I put pressure on her to work off the obstacle and then on the obstacle to rest. So the choice was hers- stay on and relax or fall off and work. She's a smart cookie and figured that out.  

Here we are doing our Vegas Show Girl Routine. We rode through and backed through it as well. 

Riding the connected platforms- Mike helping her know to step up on it- not jump off. 
 Resting on the taller platform. I am thrilled. Carmen is seeing if I have been drinking.

It's not enough to go over the bridge- you have to look pretty too. 

Doing the teeter like we're supposed to.

The water needs a little explanation. Carmen was VERY uncertain about walking in it with the board submerging. Nikki was helping me through it. The idea was to close the escape to the left and right and let her rest right before. I was getting tense which was not helping at all but I wasn't doing it on purpose. We were both worried about it so of course she wasn't going to go. This is so similar to what happens when she gets tight that I was happy that it happened - but only because of the ending. I ended up dismounting and leading her through. Then I got on and walked up to it. I started talking to Nikki and when she relaxed I asked her to go through and she did. See my smile. After we got through it everyone clapped and I may have done a fist pump and cheered.

It was huge for us- this box represents the trust that this mare has developed in me. Nikki said 'do you see what happened? You talked to me and took all the pressure off, then asked her to do it and it was no big deal'. And yes, I did know- I had done that on purpose. I needed to get my head out of the box (so to speak). 

After the box I did the other obstacles and she rocked them and I hopped off. I figured that was enough for that session. We had lunch (I ate very little) and then there was a 'show' in the afternoon. We had to do a pattern with all the horses outside. I volunteered to go first- I always volunteer to go first but I was also starting to be really tired and waiting in the hot sun did not appeal to me. Carmen was not happy about her new best friends leaving so we trotted a bit to get her head back on me and then did all the obstacles. All of them. She struggled with the ground tie and me leaving so far but otherwise we made it through. After I got off and joked that I had won so they could all go home now. Turns out I came second and won a prize! 

Thank god that Caelen was there - she helped me pack up and hit the road. Driving home I hit the wall. I had really pushed myself today - mentally and physically. I was done. I pulled in the driveway and unloaded Carmen. Caelen offered to clean the trailer (love this girl) and I went into the house and fell on the couch. And promptly fell asleep! 

I had so much learning from this clinic but that will have to be a different post because this one has gone on long enough! 

I will just finish with saying that my mare is amazing. 

*all photos in this post were taken by Judith Scrimger, photographer extraordinaire. The conditions for photos were terrible yet she pulled it off. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Simmer Down

First of all thank you everyone for your kind words. The boots seem to be working so far- his legs are dry on the inside. His raw flesh is already looking better and he seems a bit perkier. I'm feeling a bit more optimistic. 

there's a reason that relaxation is at the bottom

I am trying to consciously embrace the idea of relaxing in my riding. A couple days ago Caelen set up  a little trail class for us to play with. Including 3 upside down buckets in a barrel race pattern. Carmen  went from being a bit tight to curious about the whole thing.  We basically played in the ring and then went for a hack. And she lead the whole way. 

she sniffed the bucket and then flipped it over to check inside.
Princess was annoyed at the lack of cookies inside. 

Today I wanted to ride after work. The wind was quite high and I know what that means. When I went to get Carmen out of the field I was putting on her halter when Irish took off and she went with him. this happened a couple times. Curiously enough she would run a bit, stop, walk towards me and then, when Irish took off, she would go with him but apologetically.  I think Irish is feeling better......

In the barn and heading up to the ring she was definitely up. I decided to lunge her first and I'm glad that I did- she was quite spooky and reactive. I worked on finding the balance between presenting a relaxed posture but not passive. 

It's not easy. 

I was prepared to not ride but as we worked she became more tuned in and her body relaxed so I decided to get on. My goal for the ride were to keep her calm and relaxed and supple. To do that I had to make myself relax no matter what I thought she might do. 

Again, not easy. But it got easier. And it was interesting to see how she began to respond. As we did our quiet circles and changes of directions she began to breathe and stretch out. I refused to take a grip on the bit (although I did shorten the reins a few times but I made sure the my shoulders were relaxed).  I spent a lot of the ride telling myself what to do. 

In the end I was really happy with how I was able to get Carmen from a snorting, stiff necked, spooky horse to one up over her back and responding the lightest of aids. 

Which a great ride to have because GUESS WHAT WE'RE DOING THIS WEEKEND?!!:

Yup. As part of our 'do all the things' summer we're going to this clinic. I have heard wonderful things about it and it includes a ton of ground work. My goals are to expose Carmen to some training questions in a supportive atmosphere and perhaps add a couple tools to my tool box. I don't even care if we ride or just work from the ground.

So much fun. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

House of Cards

Many years ago I worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist in our local hospital. Part of my job included working with inpatients. One thing I noticed was that often an elderly person would come in with a pretty simple diagnosis (like urinary tract infection) but would quickly decline and other things would happen. A doctor explained to me that as we age we are a like a 'house of cards'. When one part goes the rest can quickly fall. I saw it happen again and again.

What has this to do with a horse blog you ask?

Well that is starting to describe Irish.

I've written about him before but essentially Irish has numerous health issues: 
  •  He has also been prone to colic (fortunately not in the past two years #notcursingmyself). I think that his current diet has really helped with that. 
  • His feet are terrible and he can abscess at the drop of a hat. He's in special aluminum wedge shoes to support his heels
  •  approximately 3 years ago started head shaking which I manage with magnesium oxide and UV fly mask. 
  • And most critically he was diagnosed a few years ago with a 'neuro issue' - most likely arthritis (I've written about it before) and he's on a daily dose of previcox. 
As a result of his neuro problems he started being incontinent of urine  (I cannot remember if it's been one or two years- I think one). It went from every now and then to essentially he dribbles all the time. I've had him tested and it's not due to any infection. I wouldn't really care except that it gets on his hind legs. I try to wash them regularly and keep them clean but I'm fighting a losing battle. And I can't wash them in the winter.  His skin on his fetlocks and cannon bones is essentially being eaten away by the urine.

I've tried diaper cream and it helps for a bit but not enough.  His fetlocks look like I've dipped them in acid and he's even getting some proud flesh from it. He also is becoming less 'himself' and more withdrawn and a bit unhappy. I used to say that it was a crap shoot as to what would take Irish out: his gut, his hind end or his feet. Now it's looking like it might be urine and I never imagined that.  I am feeling that if Irish developed an infection because of this it might be the end for him. 

I tried bell boots but they didn't help. I have spent hours scouring the internet for a solution: something he can wear on his hind legs. It would have to cover from his hocks to his hooves, be breathable but not hold the urine next to the skin. 

Then a friend posted on FB about some boots she was ordering to stop her horse from getting mud fever:

I looked into them and it seemed that they might actually be the solution I was seeking. I found a place in Canada to order them from (My friend was ordering from Great Britain at a killer price but by the time I did the conversion and delivery I realized that I wasn't going to be saving that much).  I decided to order them and if course I threw in a few other items to get free delivery.

I have to say I was super impressed with Sprucewood Tack- they answered my questions and delivery was FAST. I ordered on Thursday afternoon and they arrived the next Tuesday. I was impressed with the boots they were soft, flexible and seemed to be really well made:

 I gave Irish's legs a thorough wash and then wrapped his legs to dry them and keep the urine off. Once his legs were dry I put them on. They seemed to fit well and were easy to adjust. Irish was less convinced and did the horse 'silly' walk when he headed back to his stall. 

This morning they were still in place and looked good. I really hope that he can keep them on for a long time. The instructions say up to twelve hours. I am going to be leaving them on longer then that but think I will give him a short break every day.

If these don't work I am out of options.

And that's not a place I want to visit.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Soft Eyes

I had great plans to ride on Saturday but Mother Nature had other ideas and it rained pretty much the whole day. The weather apps had all predicted clearing in the afternoon but that did not happen. It seems that we were the only area that had rain all day.

Sunday morning I was not taking any chances and decided that Caelen and I would ride in the morning. It was a bit foggy and drizzly but I decided we would go anyway. It was an interesting ride- Carmen was very forward and was clearly thinking about spooking.

However, within 5 minutes my glasses were covered with a fine mist of water drops and I really couldn't see very well. The universe was hazy. that made things very interested. Instead of getting more worried and tense I decided to relax and go with it.  In Centred Riding there's a concept of 'soft eyes'. The idea is  that by relaxing your eyes you can take in more peripheral information and have a better awareness of your body. It wasn't that I couldn't see- I could, but it was like looking through a rain spattered window.

And do you know what? She didn't spook at all.

I don't know how much more evidence I need that my reaction to her reactions can make things better or worse. In my defesne, cycles are hard to break. I am working on it though.

We spent a lot of time working on transitions. I wanted her to reach for the bit going both up and down. I realized that I was tightening my thighs in the down transitions which was making her pop up. I had to really focus on stilling my seat without clamping my thighs. Once I was more aware of that our tranistions improved a lot. Even our trot-canter transitions were straight and not at all flail-ly.

We finished by going on a trail ride though the woods. Caelen and Irish led us through. I am very impressed with Carmen - she's definitely alert in the woods but listening. I think I may end up my hacking horse after all.

not from that day but still shows our view :)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Riding the Roller Coaster

This week was interesting.

I gave Carmen a couple days off for us both to regroup. On Wednesday Caelen and I tacked up the horses to have a ride. But when we were walking out of the barn it was clear that she was off. I took Irish from Caelen and had her walk Carmen around so I could see. She was very lame.

Like panic inducing lame on her right front.

I examined every part of her and could find no evidence of heat or swelling. I started to calm a bit thinking it might be an abscess.

But Carmen has never had an abscess (as far as I know). What followed was a series of texts to my farrier with me trying to sound rational but actually freaking out and him trying to get me to calm down. He lives far away and we're part of his circuit so it's not like he could come out (although I tried).

I went to bend that night with my left brain telling me that it was an abscess or bruise and will be fine while my right brain was tossing up all sorts of things it could be from laminitis to a tendon tear to navicular.

The next morning she seemed to be much better and walked out to the field she was off but not as bad as the day before. I started to feel relieved. After work she was even better so I brought her out to check her over. After much examination I found a small hole on the inside of her coronet band. I did some soaking with water and epsom salts which she seemed to really appreciate.

On Thursday Shanea texted me to say she was coming my way and I could have a lesson. I told her I wanted to check Carmen first. Carmen seemed to be 99% so I decided to ahead with the lesson.

I am so glad I did.

We started with reviewing the show and what happened on Sunday. Shanea had some advice for me on how to ride it. The truth is that I was skeptical because in my opinion Carmen was just 'no' so there was very little work with. I realize that I have to get her through shutting down on me but it's a work in progress.

The focus of the lesson was to keep Carmen underneath of me and listening. The idea is that the direction gives her confidence that all will be okay. It makes sense to me to work on that - establishing patterns of behaviour when it's 'easier' will help when it's freaking hard.

The warm up was on getting her supple and responsive at the walk no matter the fluttering leaves etc. We then took it up to trot. She did do one scoot on me but other then raising my hands to go with her head I didn't really react and then just carried on like nothing happened. That seemed to end it there.

As always, Shanea took photos with my phone. Caelen also took photos with my camera and I'm curious to see how they came out. For now, here are the iPhone photos:
Not a bad trot but she's wanting to come against the inside leg (and away from the brush). Shanea had me leg yield her over. However, this is the same issue that came up at the show - when she's not wanting to go by a place she does not respond to my inside leg asking her come over which makes me pull on the inside rein and we go down from there (#downwardspiral). All that said, this photo looks better then it felt.

Now this is better- nicely bend and a relaxed frame.  

 Shanea had me use my seat and legs first and not my hands (oops. I know better. sigh #ridingishard). I was intrigued to see these two photos. They show me asking her to half-halt and the next one is her response. You can see her soften and bring her back up.

We worked a lot on transitions and me helping Carmen to keep her balance. What became clear to me (and no this is not new but I finally understood in terms of the 'doing') is that when Carmen is unbalanced she becomes uncertain and more likely to spook/spin etc. Which means it's up to me to balance her even if she's not always sure that's what she wants. 

We finished by coming trot-canter-trot transitions. Carmen's right lead canter is a work in progress. And she started off being very very tight.  Which is where I had to be so very careful with my seat to go with her and help her relax her frame and use herself. It was interesting to ride- because she started so stiff it was really hard to not be stiff in response. 

very stiff canter

Of course being stiff when I brought her down to a trot the transition was terrible and then she was anticipating another canter request and not in a happy way. Shanea had me simply get her balanced and happy again before asking. Slowly I felt her begin to relax and embrace the canter. Once she began to blow I knew I was getting there. Probably some of the best right canter we've had ever: 

I love this photo. 
We then worked on the left lead canter. This was easier for us but still required some work to make sure that my seat was active and following. 
ignore my hands trying to keep her from ducking away from the trees.
Instead focus on eh hind leg starting to come through

I think this is the moment of transition
Once we had a few really nice canter-trot transitions without her falling on the forehand we ended the lesson.

check out the hind leg
I really enjoyed this lesson. It felt like we were really helping Carmen understand how to use her hind end and lift her back. 

We might actually be able to do this dressage thing after all.