Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Just a quick update this time.  For everyone that's been following along and sending us their well wishes, thank you and good job.  It worked.  Fi's test results came back today and she is officially off of quarantine.  She's going to be on doxy for two weeks, but she doesn't have anything contagious and is cleared to get back to work.

Tomorrow's ride should be very, very entertaining.

On a completely unrelated but hilarious note, this was Dorkzilla when I went into the barn.

Our working students are an odd bunch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quality time

As frustrating as it is to be out of the saddle, my mare and I have had a lot of quality time over the last couple of days.  Since she got sick on a weekend (no surprise there), her blood work could not be started until Monday.  That means Wednesday is the earliest possible day for any results.  Despite the fact that she's bounced back and looks as good as ever, she's still on quarantine until we know exactly what happened.  This means a lot of time spent caring for her since it's easier to hold a quarantine when the person taking care of her doesn't touch any other horses.  That means someone that's not staff.  That means me waking up at six in the morning to go take care of her before work, and sometimes going in to take care of her after work.  Thank goodness her junior rider is picking up some of the shifts with her.

Our time starts with taking off her wraps.  Edema has been a major problem, between actually being sick and being on stall rest.  However, twice a day cold hosing and constant wrapping has resulted in some legs that look really good.

If her legs look poofy, she gets cold hosed for 20 minutes or so.  After her legs are deemed fit, we go for a walk.  Hand walking Fiona is quite an experience.  She's probably over fit for a novice horse, so imagine a horse that's fit enough to go around training happily suddenly having nothing to do all day.  Yes, that's my mare right now.  I'm so, so grateful for that first winter when I spent so much time doing ground work.  She has excellent manners so she's easy to handle even when she's on edge and just wants to go!  I'm also grateful that she's spent so much time with traffic.  When you have a mare that's not supposed to be around other horses and is starting to get a bit stall crazy, you find yourself power walking down a lot of roads.

I'm wheezing long before she is.  We go out for at least twenty minutes of power walking and she's getting walked twice a day.  But at least it's in Hollis, so we get a lot of lovely scenery.

Once we're back, it's a brief stint in turn out while I clean her stall.  Once her stall is clean, I refill the hay net, take care of her water, and then start prepping her meds.  She's getting bio sponge twice a day, doxy twice a day, and pro bios in the mornings to make sure her stomach doesn't get upset again.  The doxy and pro bios are easy, just toss them on her food.  The bio sponge has to be mixed with water and dosed with a syringe because it is nasty.  It smells terrible, even when I tried to hide it in apple sauce.  Fiona was having none of it.

Once she's done eating and everything else is taken care of, the wraps go back on.

It takes about an hour and a half, sometimes two hours to take care of everything.  Her legs have looked really good so she's only getting wraps at night now. We'll see how that goes. 

The princess is ready to get back to work in the worst possible way.  She doesn't understand why we're just walking around when she feels so good and she just wants to get out and do things.  Hopefully the blood work will be back tomorrow showing that she's not infectious and she can get back to her regular routine.  If nothing else, I'm going to be a lot more fit by the time this is over.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

State of the Princess Address

Quarantine does not suit Fiona.

Fortunately, as you can see in the picture, the princess is feeling better.  Her fever has stayed gone and she is eating everything in sight.  The vet gave her some more fluids today and got her started on doxy.  Though the tests haven't come back yet, it looks like Ehrlicha and we've started treating her with that assumption.  Fortunately she got that aggressive treatment that's recommended for the first 24 hours and she's already starting to bounce back.

Today her legs were cold hosed, she was hand walked, and she had her legs wrapped to help with the edema.  She was perky and ready to head out for her walk which was a nice change.   Judging by the condition of her stall, dehydration is no longer an issue.  Lots of wet spots to remove.  She also drained a bucket of water while I was in there.  The vets are happy with her progress and with any luck she'll be back at 100% in a week.

Keeping a horse, particularly a show horse, is not a one person activity and I have to thank my support team for how this turned out.  Within two hours of her fever starting, she had a vet at her side.  I know it was the quick, knowledgeable treatment and all of the people helping that made her recovery possible, and I'm eternally grateful.

I'm sure Fiona would be grateful if she wasn't protesting her quarantine and the fact she had to take her banamine today.  Hopefully the tests will be back soon and she can come off quarantine.  And her doxy is peppermint flavored, which she approves of and it has mollified her. For now.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Under the weather

You need to go to barn Fiona is not feeling well.  Not colicking.  Vet on his way.

No one ever wants to get that text.  Ever.  But I got that message from my trainer today just before heading out with my husband.  He got a frantic 'Fiona's sick bye!' as I bolted out the door.  I didn't even bother to change out of the slacks and cute little flats I was wearing.

No one wants that text, and no one wants to hurry up the driveway and see their horse in the barn aisle with an IV bag hanging next to her.  The vet beat me there by quite a bit since I live forty minutes away.  I was told that she had colitis of unknown cause.  She had a fever, diarrhea, was reluctant to move, and was stocked up.  The whole thing unfolded in a matter of hours.  Her temp went from 99 at 11am to 101 by 1pm.  Fortunately her junior rider was with her and noticed that something was wrong right away.  The vet arrived and started supportive treatment.  As of right now, it doesn't look like she has to head to the clinic.

We won't know exactly what is going on until the cultures are done.  Right now she's being treated for dehydration, diarrhea, and fever.  Fiona was already perkier by the time she was moved back into her freshly cleaned and disinfected stall.

The Irish knit went on when she started to get chills from her fever.  The poor thing was shivering so hard I worried she would fall and her hair was standing on end.  Even her ears felt cold.  Her temperature got all the way up to 103, but another dose of banamine and some time has her back down to 98.3.  She's on all she can eat hay and she's taking full advantage.  The world would have to end before this mare lost her appetite.  Everyone is giving her anything she wants.  The princess is loving all of the extra attention and fussing.

Until we know what the cause is, the princess is in quarantine.  Quarantine is tougher to keep with a horse as popular and friendly as Fiona.  Everyone wants to check on her and she wants to touch everyone looking in at her.  It was definitely touching how many people were there and worrying about her.  Everyone jumped to get her stall stripped, power washed, and sprayed down as quickly as possible.  She got lots of petting and love, followed by all of us having to take advantage of the foot bath and bucket of water and bleach.

I reek of DMSO and bleach.  It's a terrible combination.

Hopefully she'll bounce back from whatever this is so the fall season can go as planned.  However, after standing outside of my mare's stall and watching her shake and knowing that there was nothing I could do, things have been put into perspective.  I don't care if she misses this show or the next, I just want her to feel better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From the sidelines

The season that no one expected has come to a close.  Fiona took her junior rider around the Novice course at the Huntington Horse Trials for their final show of the season.  I was asked to come along by my trainer to give everyone a hand.  With eight horses showing in one day and a very tight set of ride times, she needed someone to hang out by the trailer and help keep the chaos to a minimum.

Yes, even on weekends where I don't show, I find myself slamming my alarm clock off at 3:15am after just one hour of sleep.  Yes, I do this of my own free will.  Yes, I should be institutionalized as soon as possible because I'm clearly not safe to be part of society.

The weather forecast called for a gorgeous, perfect day and we were all dressed for that.  Minor problem:  mornings in Vermont are chilly.  We had to improvise, as we did not pack clothes for temperatures in the 40's.

Coolers make great sarongs in a pinch.

Once the sun came up, the day was every bit as beautiful as promised.

I didn't see much of the actual show as I was sticking to the trailer.  I spent most of the day tacking, untacking, filling haynets, offering water, putting in studs, taking out studs, and providing moral support.  Oh, and keeping an eye on the dogs.

 It's an important job and so very challenging when they're all flopped out in the sun, napping.

When Fiona was in for stadium, I was too nervous to watch even with the ring right next to the parking.  Being a spectator is far worse than being a rider.  It was kind of fun to play support for her, though, and I really appreciated her ground manners when it came time to put in her studs.

Fiona in her Masked Avenger costume, waiting to make her grand entrance

It wasn't a perfect outing.  The princess had a stop on cross country at the one stride combination.  Her rider says that if she had come in more aggressively they would have been fine, but she wasn't determined enough and Fi just politely stopped in front of the jump to give it a good look.  They circled right around and jumped through it without a problem and still had 52 seconds to spare.  The stadium was exciting but clean, giving them an eighth place ribbon and a spot in the victory gallop.  The cross country was riding rough and there were a lot of stops, so that helped them slip into the ribbons.

And so an unexpected chapter in Fiona's life comes to a close.  Back in May, it was just a one-off catch ride.  Four months later and they had a real season together with three schooling shows and three sanctioned shows.  They managed to get a ribbon at each outing and they certainly had a lot of fun.  I've already told the junior rider that she can take Fiona out again next summer, even if she won't be a junior anymore.

I posted some pictures of Fi on Facebook with the junior rider tagged.  A rider that hadn't seen Fiona since our first winter together commented on it, completely shocked that this was the same horse.  She had ridden with us in one of our scary jumping lessons that seem so long ago now.  I guess we were pretty terrifying for someone new.  It's a good reminder on just how far we've all come.  Once upon a time, I couldn't pay people to jump my horse.

Now it's up to me to fix some of those little niggling issues so that the Princess is ready for her great move up to T/N in two weeks.  Good thing summer session for school is over, because I've got a lot of work to do.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pic spam

Just my luck that the junior rider was in the tack when my favorite photographer was at an event.  However, these pictures are just too nice to not share.

You know?  My mare looks really good in teal.  I didn't think she would, but it's a nice shade on her.  I'm sticking to royal blue myself, but I can admit that this is a good color as well.  You can't see it in the pictures, but she has a matching chain for her browband with silver and a type of sapphire jade that I found.  I even got a chain for dressage featuring some teal crystals for accents.  It only seems fair to not make the junior rider's outfit clash with my royal blue chains.  Ah, eventers and their colors.

Clearly Fi missed the memo that she was going Novice for this event.  Look carefully at the second picture.  There are three jumps in a row, and she's doing the middle one.   She's not actually jumping the training sized fence on the end.  I guess that settles the question on whether or not she's athletic enough for training.

This photographer will be at the Labor Day show as well, so hopefully there will be another pic spam featuring me in the saddle in the near future.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Project Fiona: Day 730

It seems just yesterday that I was cheering when the Princess made her way around her first jumping course at a show.  But today marks two years of working on the great Project Fiona, and oh, how far the Princess has come.



The first 'after' video is me and Fi at the UNH dressage show.  That mare has really developed some serious 'bounce per ounce'.  I heard that phrase from a commentator at Rolex and loved it.  The second 'after' video is from yesterday where Fiona went for a lovely gallop with her junior rider at the GMHA horse trials, completing their first sanctioned Novice together.  They finished on their dressage score and took sixth place in a very competitive Junior Novice division.  They have one last Novice next weekend at Huntington before the junior rider is off to college.

It's been a wild year.  On the one hand, Fiona has grown by leaps and bounds.  Gone is the mare that looked mildly confused at shows and didn't like crowds of people looking at her.  There are no more 'overly expressive' comments on her dressage score sheets and we no longer clear the ring while jumping.  She's now a confirmed, confident, enthusiastic Novice level horse that's schooling Training level exercises.  We're on track to do the long format Novice Three Day next summer, which is a big goal for me.  Two qualifying scores down, two to go.  We're scheduled to do two more Novices this year so hopefully we'll be all set before the season ends.  We also got our first  qualifying score at First Level in dressage and got a blue ribbon for her Training Three test.  That's progress by leaps and bounds.

On the other hand, it's been the year of the guest riders.  A lot of her last year took place with other riders for various reasons.  Fiona went from being the horse no one jumped to being a bit of a common place event.  Two working students, my trainer, and a friend all jumped the Princess this year.  Many riders have ridden her on the flat, including a somewhat nervous senior citizen taking her out for a trail ride.  I never, ever would have thought that the slightly nervous, jumpy TB mare I bought would one day be declared so bomb proof on trails that she would be lent out to riders that needed a steady partner.

But that's what I wanted.  I don't want Fiona to be a one person horse.  I want her to be a horse that many people can enjoy.  However, I'm hoping that I can be in the saddle for more of her accomplishments in the coming year.  I like being her cheering squad, but I like being with her when she flies over the fences even more.

I baked up a bag of cookies for the Princess to celebrate the occasion.  I figured she deserved it after her wonderful performance yesterday.   After Huntington, I'll be taking over as primary rider again and gearing up for the Labor Day Three-Phase where we'll be moving up to the Training/Novice division.   After that is a trip to GMHA and then a possible trip to New Jersey to try out the Jersey Horsepark.  It looks like it's going to be a very exciting year three.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Size matters

Once upon a time, I was an instructor at a hunter/jumper barn.  I taught a lot of beginners and nervous adults how to jump.  When the kids would see me ride, they almost always would ask 'how do you jump those big jumps?'.  My standard answer was 'Jumping anything between two foot and three foot is the same ride.  It's not until you get over three foot that anything changes'.  Of course, I was referring to 3'6", since that was the world of jumpers and we didn't have heights like 2'11", 3'3", and 3'7".  But I find that it still holds true.  Your ride doesn't change until you hit about 3'3"-3'6", depending on the horse.  Some horses start to really jump earlier than others. 

Fi and I have started to cross over into that world.  Our trainer has started to put the fences up into the training realm.

That's a triple bar as the second half of this four stride line, set right around Training height.  The first jump was an oxer, coming off of the rail and heading across the diagonal of the ring.  Fi offered to do the line in three, but added the fourth stride when I insisted that she did NOT need to take a flier to that triple bar.  We also had a bending four stride line from a vertical to a corner and a complete one eighty turn after the vertical set up at the end of the ring.


This lesson was about getting it done, not about it being pretty.  At some point, the princess has to be flustered and has to push through it or she won't grow.  I need to stop going 'oh no, she can't do that yet' and just get'er done.  The corners were difficult, the ride wasn't smooth, but we left the rails in the cups and made the course happen.  After that, any Novice course will be a walk in the park.  Which is kind of the point.

I got the green light today to enter the T/N division at the Labor Day three-phase my barn hosts.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Princess and I are looking at moving up once again.  And just when everyone was thinking we were going to become dressage queens.

Cautiously, oh so cautiously, I'm starting to hope.  Maybe even plan.  Summer of 2013 could find us moving up to Training.  An awfully long way for the mare that was declared dangerous to jump less than two years ago.