dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, February 3, 2023

Disaster Averted. Probably.

 Buckle up folks, this is a bit of roller coaster. I debated about posting this but then decided to go ahead. 

When I last posted the situation was that I was recovering from my rib injury and Ed from his heart surgery.  Both of us have been healing slowly but well. My rib is barely a twinge. Ed's recovery is much slower- as we would expect when your chest is cracked open, heart cut into and all put back together. We're still 3 weeks off from him being able to lift anything more than 5 pounds or drive. 

Needless to say it's been quiet. Then this week I caught a virus. Not Covid (as least based on the rapid test) but a nasty bug all the same. It knocked me on my ass. Ed has been trying to help as best he can. On Thursday morning he told me to stay in bed and he could feed the horses. I agreed because all he had to do was throw in their feed and some hay. I clean the stalls after breakfast. When he came in he told me that Quaid didn't seem interested in his feed, just his hay. I didn't think too much just a 'hmm'. Sometimes he likes to socialise before eating. 

I had a moment of seeing Ed and I in our senior years as we had our morning coffee. 

Ed : I'll clean the stalls

Me: You can't because of your heart 

Ed: Well you can't because you're sick

Me: I can do it and I will. 

Ed: You are so stubborn

Me: back at ya!

In the end we both went out. When we came into the barn, Ed looked at Quaid's feed bin he still hasn't eaten.  I walked over and saw him standing there with his hind end shaking. Oh Oh!  I thought he was colicking. Then we saw that he was holding his left fore leg up. I went in and lifted his foot. I was horrified to see that he had a block of wood with screw jammed in his hoof. His hind end was shaking from not being able to put his weight on it. The screw was stuck in tight so I had to hold his leg while Ed grabbed the drill and backed it out. He was so good about that. Blood came out. I grabbed a pad and some vet wrap and wrapped it up. Within minutes he went over to eat. 

I left both horses in and called the vet. The receptionist was asking me where it was and I told her that it was between the point of the frog and his toe. This confused her 'there's a frog?'  I tried to explain and then gave up and said- about an inch away from the edge of his toe. 

The vet, not my regular vet but another horse vet,  called me back right away and said she needed to come and do x-rays. Absolutely I said. 

They came out within the hour. She looked at my wrapping job and complimented me on it. (side note, I am so glad that I took the Equine First Aid course a couple years ago. It totally came in handy). 

After some checking him over and giving of some tranquillisers we put his front legs on blocks and took the x-rays. He was so good for that too. 

The x-rays were not great. It looked like the screw might have hit the edge of the coffin bone or the lamina. 

The very front pointy part

This was not good. The risk is of dirt and infection that travels into the bone. She used words like 'career ending' and 'surgery' and 'risky'.  I had a bit of roaring in my ears. Her recommendation was to take him to the Veterinary college in PEI.  there they could do an effusion of antibiotics over days. I asked her if there was any way we could to that here. She said that it was possible that she could come and do one every day but it was risky and with the bitter cold coming (we're under a cold advisory of -40) it would be bad. 

This was bad news. First of all, I have never trailered more than 2 hours before and I don't drive it in the winter. The college would  require me to travel out of Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, cross a bridge to PEI. Second I felt so crappy that I wasn't sure I was actually able to drive. And, oh yeah, I'd be leaving Ed alone when he really shouldn't be doing anything. 

We were both freaking out but began to make  plans while the vet called the college to consult. I contacted Karen who lived in PEI. She kindly offered to pick me up and give me a place to stay. Even with my cooties.  

The vet came back and said I spoke with the surgeon at the college. He doesn't think you need to bring him. Because you called so quickly, he thinks it should be manageable by me doing an effusion today and then oral antibiotics for the next 10 days.  

I could have have hugged her. I didn't. Because cooties. But I wanted to. 

While she prepared the dose, the vet tech and I brought Quaid back out to soak his foot in a solution of warm water, Epsom salts and betatdine. He was so cute about it- he put his foot down and brought it back out 
Quaid uh guys? there's something there, not sure I should step in it. 
But with gentle persuasion he let us soak it. We then wrapped it with animalintex poultice pad, vet wrap and duct tape. 

He was then sedated again. When he was out the vet tech put a twitch on him while the vet put a tourniquet on his leg and injected into his fetlock. The idea is that this drives the antibiotic into the hoof to impact the bone. He was agitated by the twitch and part of me felt that he might be better without it but we persevered and it was done. 

We have a plan: 
  • 10 days stall rest
  • 10 days antibiotics
  • 7 days banamine
  • 3 days of soaking
  • then 7 days of dry poultice
  • by Monday I can hand walk him. 
The stall rest is so that he doesn't rip the bandage off and get dirt in there. I also am giving him some probiotics because of the antibiotics. As well as vitamin e to help with inflammation.  He doesn't seem so keen with the crushed antibiotics in his feed so I'm trying some creative solutions. 

A spoonful of sugar should do the trick
(feel free to add suggestions)

When they left I was exhausted- emotionally and physically. 

He is not happy. We're ripping the bandaid off on being separated from Carmen. My plan is let her out in the morning and have her in for the afternoon. She is hanging out with him a bit in his stall (she can come in and out).  
Quaid; let me out. I'll behave, I promise

I am glad that I have a barn cam - it allows me to keep an eye on him. He's also not enjoying the oral banamine. He's backing away from me and I feel bad. 

There is learning from this: 
1. call the vet for any hoof puncture. If I had left this we could be looking at a much worse outcome. There is also the possibility that I will end up taking him to the college anyway if he doesn't do well. I am determined to do everything I can to make sure it goes well. 

2. Quaid is amazing. By the time they were done both the vet and vet tech were in love with Quaid. 
I have old horses that are not this well behaved the vet said. And he was- all the poking, soaking, wrapping, etc and he was so cooperative.  She even shaved a part of his leg and he was like 'that's a neat sensation'. 

3.  While he's not happy being left in his stall he's not tearing it down or trying to climb out. I think I'll get him some stall toys to see if that helps. 

4. learn how to bandage and deal with emergencies. I had to remove the screw because him standing on it was going to do more damage. 

I'm going to obsessing on this for a while

Friday, January 20, 2023

Victory Log- 2022 Goal Recap /2023 Plans

January has been very busy. I ended up cracking a rib doing some work with Quaid- totally not his fault. Julia was holding him and I wanted to lay over his back. He had on his surcingle and I kind of 'floofed' onto  him. Unfortunately one of the metal rings was sticking up and it crunched into my rib. I heard the crunch and felt the pain. I slid off. Are you okay? Julia asked. I just need a minute.  I caught my breath and then did it again. Not hitting the rib again but still not good. Honestly, I treat my body like it's still 20. Anyway, it was very painful for a week and now is just cranky. But that kept me out of the saddle. Then Ed finally had his heart surgery that he's been waiting for. It was a valve repair and, while serious, not life threatening. He's home now and recovering. The last few weeks have been a lot and I just didn't have time to blog. I am definitely overdue on my goal recap. 

 I need to give credit to Jane for the blog title. She is writing a paper for her students on goal setting. She asked us to get started by thinking about what we accomplished last year. 

"In the meantime a great exercise is to write down your achievements in 2022. Be specific. Was your passion renewed? What did you learn? New movements? New understanding of the sport? Did you discover that you are a capable rider. What struggle did you overcome? These are just thoughts to get you started. "

I love the phrase 'victory log' so I stole it. Also, who doesn't love a coach who is so invested in her students not matter their horse, riding level or show aspirations.  The detailed goals can be found here: https://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.com/2022/01/playing-with-fire-2022-goals.html if you want the fine detail. 

1. Unlock Carmen gaits: definitely better. We are not shuffling around anymore and I have become more confident in sticking to the plan of forward.  I might not always get it but I'm not shutting her down so there's that. 

2. Solidify 2nd level movements: So much better, especially her SI and HI. The lengthens are coming with a lot farther to go. I wouldn't say that we're a solid 2nd level but we could do a test and not only not die but have a reasonable score. 

3. Improve my riding skills- definitely better. I am more balanced and softer. Having regular coaching and using the PIVO have definitely helped. I can sit her canter so much better and independently move my shoulders and hands. I can get my butt in the saddle so that it's sitting there and not tight (which pops me out of the saddle). 

4. Push my comfort zones- I probably could have pushed more but we did go to a show and I was not conservative about it. I definitely could have hauled to more places. 

But we did go to a few places

5. Improve my partnership with Carmen. I'm calling that a win. We play a lot with liberty and she really likes it. Under saddle she will challenge at times but I don't have that sense of hitting a wall. With the exception of the show with the pigeon of doom. However, I learned a lot from that- thanks to Jane. Also recognising that at times Carmen throws some moves in to get me to back off. But now, thanks to Jane, I am more confident in what to do and stick to it. If all we are capable of doing is a 10 metre circle then we ride the crap out of that circle until we can move on. If, at this point, you think I'm being mean, let me share that there is a big difference in scared Carmen vs 'I don't wanna' Carmen. When she's frightened she looks to me and wants to investigate things. The I don't wanna Carmen looks for a way to deke and get out of work. Funnily enough, when we ride through all this she becomes happy in her work and just does it. Two photos from the same lesson. 

6. Improve my overall fitness: it's a bit of a mixed bag. I did well but work, chores, riding etc. I definitely improved my core. 

So overall I feel that I had a good year with Carmen. There were other things this year as well. Quaid arriving and Irish passing were big changes. 

It's a good time to think about my goals for this year.  

1. figure out what it means to be retired. I have been either working or in school since I was 15. I have no idea what it's like to not have that responsibility. So it will be interesting. But I am looking forward to having not riding be a choice rather than dictated because of work. I will, at some point, volunteer but I won't even think of that until fall. 

2. Continue to work on keeping Carmen with me rather than making her own decisions. This will require both mental and physical work on my part but that will be good. 

3. Show: there are more shows this year and I want to try to get to as many as possible. 

4. Support Quaid in becoming a grown up horse. The little guy will be three this May. I'd like to have him going under saddle and doing light work. I want to take him with us to shows so he can hang out without the pressure. 

He's definitely growing

5. Have fun with the horses. I want to take both of them to an Obstacle Clinic, do some hacking, maybe try something new. 

6. Work on my riding skills- increase independence of seat and hand, sit Carmen's trot and be able to ride with softness and no tension. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Giddy (and Up)

 While most of North America was in the grip of bitter cold temperatures, Nova Scotia escaped the worst of it. Our temperatures were pretty temperate for the time of year. We did get a cold snap for over Christmas but right after we had some pretty balmy temperatures. It was a lovely gift to have such warmth and sunshine. Ed even joked that he used to be jealous of those who lived in BC but now we seem to be getting the nicer weather (no offense to my BC friends). 

Nice to have this view in December

I have enjoyed some great rides out in the warmth and the sun. Even when it was cloudy it hasn't been bad. The ring is in great shape and I made the most of it. 

I also noticed that the back field was pretty green. So I decided to let them graze on it for a few hours each day. It has lead to a lot of excitement and glee from Carmen and Quaid. I may regret it in the spring when I have to repair some damage but it was worth it. 

Enjoying  a post ride graze (yes I leave the line
loose. No she doesn't run off. Yes she sometimes steps
on it but has figured out how to be careful). 

Carmen:  Coming in hot! Look out! 

Quaid: ooh that was impressive.

Quaid: what are you up to doggy? Can I come on the walk too? 

Carmen: Forget the mutts, c'mon! 

Quaid: wheee. Did you see mom? Did you see? Show my internet friends! HAI freinds!

Quaid: now get one of me looking Majestic AF.

Me: do you know what AF means? 

Quaid: of course- it means 'absolutely fabulous', 

Me: .....yes, you're right. Not super grammatical but it works. Okay. Aaand ACTION!

Carmen: I am AF too. 

Me: yes, yes you are. 

Today we're back to colder temperatures but that is okay. It is perfectly fine if winter starts in January rather than November. 

Galloping and looking majestic AF

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Lessons Learned: A Recap of 2022

 I can't believe that 2022 is over. It has been quite the year and I always find it helpful to review some special moments in a single post. 

January was a bit of mess, with Irish falling on ice and coming to the realization that he couldn't handle winters anymore. It is when the back of my brain began to think about what would be next. Other than that (and having to get an emergency repair to the well) the rest of winter was pretty typical. Spring was a little early and I was back in the saddle and resuming lessons pretty regularly in March. 

I was able to have regular lessons all year and they have made all the difference. It's hard to believe but Carmen and I just started with Jane last August. I believe that we have both transformed. Having a regular lesson program where I'm being pushed has been so helpful. Having a Pivo has also helped. As they say 'seeing is believing' and I've learned a lot by watching us (even when I have cringed). 

August 2021

In May I won a small bursary to put towards riding lessons. It was a small amount but felt like a nice boost. I definitely made use of it. Looking at my calendar I had approximately 14 lessons. It felt like I had more than that but it's probably pretty accurate. I will do a separate post about my goals and how we did, but what I did like was how steady our progress was. Jane said to me "I remember when you said to me that you were waiting to hit the plateau and I told you that wouldn't happen. Was I right?" Yes, Jane, you were right. I learned so much this year- mostly about myself and Carmen. Basically forward but with rhythm is the key. 

In June Carmen and I did our one and only show of the year. Overall it was a very positive experience until the we encountered the Pigeon of Doom. The learning from this was Carmen still has a pretty solid nope in her and I was not able to get her through it. This lead to a whole new plan with Jane showing me how it all starts in her neck and that is what I need to target first. I did enjoy that whole experience and it was wonderful to connect with horse show friends. 

Also in June I bought a horse off the internet- a 2 year old 3/4 Lusitano/ 1/4 QH from Alberta named Quaid TNT. 

my gosh he looks so little here

I realised that I wasn't done with horses and, to be honest, I have zero regrets about this purchase. He's just such a great horse. This opinion was solidified when I took him to an Obstacle clinic in August and he totally rocked it. 

In late August/early September Ed and I went on our trip to Scotland and Ireland. This trip had been planned for 2020 but, well, you know what happened to plans that year. It was an amazing trip and highlights included riding in both countries. 

I like horseback riding because you can see places you might not see doing the regular tourist things. But I do struggle riding horses that feel less responsive than mine. I do enjoy the smoothness of Carmen. I also learned that I love Scottish Whiskey cream. Like Baileys, only better. I also bought some gorgeous Dubarry boots. #noregrets

In mid-September I gave my notice of retirement for March 2023. It was a big decision but I am looking forward to seeing what this next phase holds. Hopefully lots of pony time. 

Then in October I said good bye to the best, red headed gelding. It was hard but the right thing to do. I find myself completely at peace with it, even while missing him terribly. It is pretty self-evident that a planned, gentle euthanasia is less horrifying than a traumatic event but I didn't realise how different it could be until I experienced it. 

Such a great guy

If anyone is struggling to make this decision, I will share that it is far better to do it when you can make sure it's kind and gentle. 

November and December were quiet (at least on the horse front, not the work front). That was okay. I tried to enjoy the time I got to spend with the best mare and baby genius. Right now the weather is warm and the sun is shining. It was great to have a little reprieve to ride and be outside. 

post ride graze. In December!!

OMG, this face. Can you stand the cuteness?

I don't know what 2023 holds but I'm looking forward to it. 

Screw that- I plan to be rambunctious

Friday, December 23, 2022

The Gradual Return of the Light

 December 21 marked the Winter Solstice. Even though it's now officially winter, it also means that each day there will be an increase in daylight (approximately 2 minutes per day). Our weather has been pretty rainy rather than snow in the past few weeks. However, on the 21st the sun actually came out, the wind was light and it was a balmy 5 degrees celcius. 

I love this photo so much- just two horses feeling relaxed
and chilling. I rarely see Carmen lounging outside.

I took Quaid to do some work in the ring. The day before a riding halter I had purchased from Counter Canter designs arrived. I love the quality of the work. If you are looking for something she has a variety of colours to choose from. I decided that burgundy and navy would look great on himself. Tell me if I am right:

Quaid: How do I look? 

He had a lot of energy but I like how he doesn't get super foolish with it. I try to balance letting him go without making it like it's okay to run wild on a lunge line. What I like about Quaid is that he really tries hard to figure things out. He's sensitive but curious and likes to figure things out. 

Here's a video from last week of Julia playing with him at the mounting block. I took the video from Carmen's back so forgive the quality. 

I like to mix up the mental and physical work along with the new and familiar. At the end of our work I took off the line and asked him to play with me a bit at liberty. I've done a bit in the field, just games of 'come to me'. I did a wee bit a month or so ago in the ring and it went 'okay'. This time when I set him free he trotted up to the ring by Carmen and was really keen on finding grass or being close to her. All I did was add a bit of pressure with the whip and stop the pressure when he looked to me. It didn't take long for him to figure out to be with me. It took literally 3 minutes. I took out my phone and did a little video while working with him:

At the risk of sounding like 'that person' isn't he the best baby genius?! Don't get me wrong, he does highly irritating things too. But they are not deal breakers and I am careful to not spoil him. But it was a good way to celebrate the solstice. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

Weekend Warrior


It is no secret that I hate the time change. If I had the power we'd stay on the 'summer hours' clock but, alas, I don't have that kind of power. Riding and other horse related activities has to fit in with work, weather and daylight.  This means that I'm not getting a lot of time in the saddle. 

Quaid's first time in his mainsheet. I was pleasantly
surprised that he didn't chew it to bits

This would, in the past, cause me a lot of aggravation. This year, I'm a little more philosophical about it, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have *almost* silenced that voice in my head that chastises me about not riding and training. It's not completely silent and I do sometimes let it creep in. 

The other is that I have given notice that I will be retiring the end of March. So knowing that I won't have this issue next year helps a lot. 

my vision for April (perhaps don't tell Carmen 'kay?)

The temperatures have been fairly mild so I am trying to get some time in the saddle, even if it's brief. But I am still largely limited to the weekend. If the weather cooperates. Last Saturday was horrible- cold and gusty but Sunday was lovely. I managed to get both horses worked and a crapload of farm chores done. That night I slept like the dead. 
Carmen is embracing her inner mud Queen
Or she's trying to see if she can discourage me from getting ideas

I took Quaid for a 'hack' in the woods. He was totally chill
even with Carmen yelling in the field

We'll see if I can hang on to my zen outlook. It is typically the time of year when I dream of winning the lottery so I can build a small indoor. Of course my failure to even buy a ticket is the fatal flaw in that plan (well one of the flaws). 

This warm weather results in more sweat

How do you manage the winter? Does the time change affect you? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

If I Only Had the Brain

 There have been a few lessons that I have not blogged about but, rather than play catch up, I'm going to use my last lesson as an update on where we are. 

Back in mid-october, Jane began to work on us unlocking Carmen's neck. To be honest, the only thing that has been harder was getting Carmen to not spook and bolt 5-10 times a ride. In fairness to Carmen she has been able to do this for the past 7 years with me so one could argue that changing the rules was unfair. 

Carmen: yeah! I'd like to make that argument. It is totally unfair. 

It has been so difficult that I was beginning to think that she had a physical issue. Then one day I had Julia here and we practiced ponying Quaid. I know that Quaid had done it before but I am pretty sure that Carmen had not. We started with Julia walking Quaid beside us on a circle then I took the lead. It went well: 

But what I noticed was that Carmen was flexing to the inside when Julia was beside us and even though I had both reins in one hand and wasn't even asking. So it clearly had more to do with where her brain/attention was than anything else. 

To misquote Robert Frost: "The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the saddle". 

Armed with this new insight I've been working on getting the flexion, forward, rhythm and relaxation. And to be honest it's coming.  Sometimes in bits and pieces but it's coming. 

It's kind of fascinating - when Carmen is still and unbending her ears are straight up. When I get her to soften and bend, her ears immediately begin to flop. It's actually really good feedback. 

lots of nice things here but the ears are up and 
there is tension in the neck. 

compare to this where the ears and everything are relaxed

Our lesson started as always- with me giving Jane an update on how I think things are going. Then we begin to put the pieces together. Jane immediately honed in on my hand holding the whip. I tend to carry the whip down but it needs to be across my thigh if my hands are in the correct position. Then I couldn't drop it so that I could keep focused on having my hands correct.  It seems that my hands like to cheat a lot. 

As we get Carmen flexed to the inside she's able to come into alignment. When she's focused out of the ring, her head is tilted out, her shoulder is falling in and her haunches are trailing. Add in the stiffening of the base of her neck and she is free to do whatever she chooses in terms of spooking, etc. 

Carmen did spook a couple times. Each time we just regrouped and went back. There was one moment where Jane was standing close to the rail and Carmen spooked in and I thought she was going to run over Jane. '

WATCH OUT! I yelled. Jane took a step away and we regrouped. 

do you need a break  Jane asked, like she hadn't almost been trampled. 

no, I said,  I can't let her have a break after that. 

Near miss

So we went back to work. my tendency to ride Carmen below threshold reared it's head and Jane kept telling me to 'ride her forward' and to stop pulling on the reins. Finally I decided 'fuck it, let's go die' and began to ride her forward. Spoiler alert- we did not die. 

Also, second spoiler- the work got a lot better. Jane keeps telling me that if you can activate the hind leg the brain will follow. And I believe her on an intellectual level. It's just my body and the lizard part of my brain disagrees.  Jane used the phrase "ask for more but sit slower'. I figured that she meant for me to get larger steps behind not faster.  Jane also got after me for pulling back. 'it's subtle but it's impacting her stretching out her neck'. I had to rewind the video a couple times to see it and then I was all 'sonofabitch'. So that's something to keep awareness of. I know that when Carmen shortens her neck my instinct is to pull back when I need to ride her forward into contact. 

I love this screenshot so much

Carmen is quite happy to lean on my hands and pull me around. So Jane was asking me to ask, soften, and even give it fully to see if Carmen would carry herself. Then to slowly take it back and repeat. At first Carmen would dive but she began to soften and carry herself more which was great. I am sure that if my timing was better it would advance faster but, well, there you have it. 

our shoulder in is getting better. ignore the rogue
left hand (and leg)

A couple weeks ago I was watching Jane teach and she said something that blew my mind: half-pass is a traverse (haunches in) on the diagonal line. when there was a break I asked about that and it led to me fake riding one in the ring. I then played with it with Carmen a couple times and it seemed so much easier than 'half-pass' where i think I have to shove her sideways.  It's  a bit of a mental game but one that makes sense to me. Jane had us play with that a little and it was a ton of fun. Carmen likes this work too.  here's a brief clip of our work. I do love how she looks when she's warmed up and on the muscle. 

The canter was a 'mistake' but a good one in that she offered it as a way to go forward and it was a nice transition. 
Puddles continue to be easy

All in all it was a really good lesson. I felt like I rode to my full capabilities and we're making progress. 

Carmen: Is it time for cookies? I think it's time for cookies