Monday, August 31, 2015

Old friends

I saw an old friend today.

For those that have been following along for awhile, this is Fiona's former farrier.  When I called him up on Sunday to beg for his help, he was more than willing to zip out the next day and work on mi papi's feet.  I love this farrier.  As one of the other riders at the barn said, he just gives off good vibes that the horses like.  He's not cranky or crusty, he's a genuinely nice guy that does a good job on horse's hooves.


How does a horse manage to start chipping up his hind toe while in shoes after just four weeks, one of those weeks being out of work?  Bah.

We found a special surprise while checking out that left front.  Hello, Abby.

So yes, it's official, Abby blew out at the band and at the bottom of his foot.  It just wasn't seen because it was up under the shoe and was missed in the last reshoeing.  It was still oozing some junk when it was opened up today, but the hoof testers showed no pain anywhere.  It got some medicated packing since it's hard to reach under the edge of the shoe.  That should keep it clean and sterile while I continue dumping betadine in from the top.


The cracked up area was mostly just cut out.  The part that was running up under the frog was completely opened up which will make it a lot easier to keep clean.  There's a remaining crack running up toward the heel bulb, but it's not deep or weight bearing, so he thinks it will be fine.  Time will tell, of course, but it looks a world better.

It took him two hours of work to get Theo shod and it cost a significant larger price, but in my eyes, it's worth it. I didn't work Theo, I just sent him back out into the Ritz to eat grass.  He was not pleased with the two hours of farrier work.  The farrier commented at the end when Theo was tossing his head and pacing that his time was up.  Yeah, mi papi is a bit opinionated that way.  I figure a day off at this point won't do any harm and may help to get him using that heel again now that the damage is trimmed back.

Tomorrow is a lesson and I'm hoping to see Theo back to comfortable.  I'm cautiously hopeful.  Horses have taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed, but I feel better now that I know Abby is opened up and shouldn't be taking any hits when working.  I don't think I even bother uncrossing my fingers at this point, but here's to hoping for a sound, uneventful lesson.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Balls and brains

You can tell the whole thing with Theo's foot has been messing with my state of mind because my updates have been sparse and kind of lackluster.  I need to do something about that.

So yesterday I took Theo out for some exercise.  He was sound, so we thought some trotting would be good for his brain.  After a week off, he was flying a bit high.  Ever handle a horse when it's more like flying a kite then walking a halter broke horse?  Yeah, that was mi papi when I got him out of his paddock.  I tacked him up and then threw his naughty pony butt on a lunge line.  Trainer A said I could meet her in the Ritz (big field) when I was ready and headed out with the other student in my lesson.  I hate being late, so we lunged for about five minutes, trot with a bit of canter, then I hopped on to follow them out.

May I note at this point that Theo has had ZERO work in a week.  Theo also has a reputation for being a spooky jerk out in the open, particularly after time off.  He has bucked people off and taken off on several occasions in his past.  We were also out with another horse that was already trotting around the perimeter of the field.  I, ladies and gentlemen, am a moron.  More balls than brains, forever and ever.

Of course Theo decided he needed to act up.  It was a forgone conclusion.  He curled, he propped, he even bucked a couple times.  He tried to dive out that left shoulder and he tried to take off toward the pretty mare that was trotting away from him and out of sight past the rise in the field.  Fortunately for mi papi, none of it was dirty and none of it shook me out of place.  I just pushed on, ignoring him and praising generously when he started to turn away instead of throwing a tantrum.  I was so proud of him.  Five minutes of this and he settled in to some nice, balanced trot work on a figure eight.  Mentally speaking, it was a huge question and he answered it for me.  Trainer A was more irritated with his antics than me, but we have different perspectives.  For her, he's a school horse and she needs him to not ever do that.  It would have been terrifying for other riders.  For me, he never got dirty or angry.  He stopped with just his D-ring snaffle.  I never lost my stirrups or shifted in the saddle.  In short, he didn't rattle me or upset me, so it was all good.  We even popped over some brand new, tiny cross country fences when he locked on to them.  That little champ jumped them both on his first try, even the spooky birch fence!

I was pleased with the ride.  While talking to another rider, she said it was a good thing for Theo that he behaved and didn't get dirty.  It would have been game over for him!  My reply was that it would have been game over for both of us.  I would have won, but I would have thrown away months of work.  I spent one month teaching him to respect me, then three months teaching him to trust me.  I don't want to go back to square one in our relationship by having a serious battle.   Not with his personality, this pony knows how to hold a grudge.  It was so much better to just pop him out of it, then pet him and coo when he chose to trot on rather than continue his fit.  It seems kind of ridiculous to hear me cooing and telling him he's wonderful and a genius when he's doing nothing more than trotting a figure eight, but I could feel him starting to bow out, then come back with the correction without a fight.  That, for him, was huge beyond the telling.  Then to have him jump over something brand new without weaving or stopping or barging off with me?  I couldn't be more pleased with how far our relationship has come.

Today I went out to visit and thought he looked a bit sore.  Not lame, but landing on his toe more than his heel.  I tossed the plan for the day out the window, threw on his bareback pad, and we went out for a mosey around the property and down the trail.  No need to put pressure on that heel.

Yes, I took Mr. Prop and Buck, the one that isn't supposed to be good on trails, out in a bareback pad through the same field we rode in yesterday before heading out on the trail.  Balls, brains, etc.  He was quite good, only looked at a few things and didn't give me any spooks.  It was good for his brain without adding wear and tear on that foot.

The farrier was not out today, no one's heard from him, so I got permission to contact Fiona's former farrier and see if he can come out.  Yay!  I love that farrier.  Any horse that could take Fi from her elf shoes look to cute little feet without a lame day can help out with this mess.  I noticed a back shoe feeling loose today, so it's becoming a very urgent situation.  I'm going to call him and everyone can cross their fingers that he's available to come out and help get this mess under control.

Don't mind the goop, I took the picture after I put some Corona on that heel, trying to keep things soft.  There's no puss, just a long, horizontal crack right under that heel bulb that runs right up under the frog.  I have to get in there with a hoof pick and check for dirt and gravel each time I'm out before dumping in betadine to flush it out.  My poor papi.

So hopefully my next update will include a date with the princess's favorite manicurist and some pictures of a brand new dressage bridle that I ordered.  I'll just leave it with that little cliff hanger.

Friday, August 28, 2015

State of the foot address

So there's good news and there's bad news.

The good news:  Abby is still dead and Theo is sound again!  The vet was out today and it was the first time I've seen Theo since I went away on vacation.  We showed the vet Theo's rather messed up heel and he agreed with the farrier's theory that the crack means horn is being pushed into the soft part of his heel when working, which makes him heel sore over time.  While he's growing the mess out, he just needs his heel floated.  That means there is a small gap between his heel and his shoe on that side.  The vet took a quick bit out of his hoof before we trotted him off and Theo was sound as a bell and seemed happy for the attention.  The hoof testers showed no soreness in the hoof and the flex test showed nothing in the leg.  No heat, no swelling, just one messed up heel that needs some special shoeing while it grows out.

The bad news:  The farrier is having some issues at home and has been difficult to get a hold of and even more difficult to get out to the barn.  He was out last night and that was his first visit since the last show.  I called today to see when he would be available again, and he hopes to be out tomorrow or Sunday.  That's the best I can get.  With his history of no call/no shows, I don't know when that will be.

I know he's having a hard time with stuff at home right now.  I understand.  I'm sympathetic.  I'm also incredibly frustrated because I can't make any plans or plan to be around when he's out, because I've got a 50/50 shot he'll actually show.  With the adjustment from the vet, hopefully Theo can get some work done.  He's been out of work for a full week now and he's a bit like a kite on a string to handle.  If nothing else, he should be good to lunge without a rider in the indoor with it's fluffy footing.  As to my riding plans and my show on the 13th?  Up in the air.  Again.  For shoes.


But I'll focus on the positive.  The entire leg was checked out and there's no sign of an injury or reforming abscess.  It's minor, transient, and easily managed.  We're still on track to put in some fall shows and maybe even do his first three phase in October.  I just need some luck with the farrier.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Abscess Wars: Episode 2, Abby Strikes Back

Abby is back.

 After doing well at our two phase (finished on a dressage of 35), I got Theo a nice massage.  Since it was the first time she'd worked with him, the masseuse wanted to see him move.  On the lunge line, we both noticed he looked a bit off on the left front.  Not really lame, but a bit sore.  We got his massage done, which he really enjoyed, and he got that day off.  The next day, he was still just a hint off and I thought I saw him pointing in the aisle.  Hm.  When I picked him up he traveled well and the massage did really help the way he moved through his shoulders.

After my usual couple of days away while his other half leaser has him, I came back today for my Saturday lesson.  Nope, lame on the left front and pointing in the aisle.  DAMN IT.  He still wanted to get out and do something so we went for a nice walk in the woods. 

Fun fact, Theo is turning into quite the trail horse.  He goes out for nice walks and trots in the woods all by himself and it's a complete non-issue.  He's still unsteady on the road, just too much going on with signs and cars and all of that, but once in the woods, he's a total trooper that enjoys the change of pace.


I'm actually heading out on vacation tomorrow for my 15 year wedding anniversary and I'll be off the grid until Tuesday night.  It works out in a way, since that means Theo will get three days off and we can get the vet out to take another look.  This time will be more aggressive.  X-rays, antibiotics, whatever.  I don't want this to become a reoccuring thing.   Not when we're starting to really get somewhere.  With the location being the same and some swelling showing up in the same spot, I suspect the abscess didn't completely clear out last time and we're going for round two.  Theo is also a bit of a delicate flower for these things.  He had a cut on his leg today and his leg blew up like he's a TB.  Didn't much care for me cleaning it out, either. 

So, fingers, toes, eyes crossed that this time we can get the problem truly fixed.  Nuke it with antibiotics, lance it, change his shoeing, whatever, just be done with it.  I don't like seeing mi papi uncomfortable.  We've got work to do.  I'm supposed to be doing Training 2 and 3 on September 13.  I'm just hoping he'll be back to his happy self by then.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


If you are a dressage purist, turn away now.  There be sea monsters here.

Done?  Need more time?  I'll wait. 

You're sure?  No fair ranting in my comments after all of the warnings.


I used draw reins on Theo.

Stop that, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?  Goodness sakes.

So yes, I used draw reins on Theo.  Before I continue, I do believe that draw reins are for use by experts only and can be very dangerous for someone that doesn't have an independent hand, seat, and training in their use.  Since I have all three and experience with how to use them for a specific goal, I went ahead and tossed them on in a recent ride.  I had the specific goal of working with mi papi on not flinging his head in the air during the upward transitions, and I've done this before.

Theo had draw reins used on him in the past.  Keep in mind, this horse used to be a bit of a nightmare, so I'm not particularly surprised.  He recognized what was going on as soon as I got on and I noticed a change in the way his ears were set.  He wasn't happy.  I warmed up as usual, trotting around on the buckle with his nose around his knees.  He was cool with that, but when I started to pick him up, the yucky ear set was back.

I left him off of the draw reins for awhile, then picked them up while doing transitions.  He's a lazy butt that tosses his head up rather than lifting himself up with his back.  He travels so nicely before and after, it's frustrating.  I've tried most of the tricks in my repertoire, but he still pops his head.  With the draw reins, I could take that option away from him.  He was off of the reins before and after, but I could feel him hit the reins during the upward transitions.

I call this doing weight lifting sets.  He did transitions for a few minutes, then long stretching.  Repeat.  By the end of fifteen minutes, he wasn't hitting the draw reins anymore.  He was also getting ticked off, so I hopped off and removed them.  I got what I wanted, so no point in pushing.  He got a long trot on the buckle while I messed with my position and his ears went back to happy position.  When I picked him back up and worked him again, he was better with the head popping.

The next day saw some soreness in his back so he got a serious rub down.  He also was less frustrating about that head pop when I rode.  I may need to tune him in again in a couple weeks, but it's a nice change to have him use his back instead of cheating and using his head.  Today was a jumping lesson and he did the nicest walk to canter transition, stepping underneath himself and staying right on my contact.  Fantastic!  He also jumped over plastic feed bags, scary blankets, and walked over the tarp on the first try.  That earned him yet another rub down with liniment and lots of cookies.  Like a lot of drafts, he seems to get sore easily.  Or he's just a weenie.  I'm not sure.

Tomorrow will be a trail ride if Mother Nature cooperates.  Mi papi has definitely earned himself a fun day of flopping in the woods.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Aches and pains

Getting old sucks. 

Today I managed to nab Theo's dressage saddle from the school for my lesson.  Since I was sharing my lesson with a somewhat nervous adult with a young horse, I had a good bit of confidence that galloping and jumping wasn't on the menu.  I was right, it was a no stirrups transition day.  Honestly, I've gone with no stirrups almost every ride for two weeks at this point except for when cantering in the open.  Because I'm still a bit of a weenie.

Today really made my legs ache.  Correct transitions requires a straight, forward horse.  Getting Theo to that point is still a bit of a challenge, but riding him once he's there is freaking difficult.  We got mi papi into what I call his working mode, where his TB half takes over and the work ethic kicks in.  It's fantastic to ride, but you have to ride very correctly.  He will overreact to aids, trying too hard to get it right.  Correct the right shoulder and he may very well shoot out the left.  The strong aids that are usually appropriate are suddenly too much and can cause a temper tantrum.  These moments are what gives me hope that he will move up the levels.  When he suddenly goes light in my hands and I have to manage him to make sure he doesn't go too deep, when he starts to bounce because his weight rocks back in preparation for transitions he knows are coming, I feel like I'm sitting on a horse that's capable of anything.

It's a sign of his changes that he needs to be released into a canter to break up his tension before going back to walk/trot transitions.  He doesn't need a break, he needs an outlet for the forward and a way to break up the excess tension.  He will snort and his ears will relax, then we can get back to work on the things that he finds difficult.

People that know him don't recognize him under saddle.  The 'thigh master', the lazy, somewhat rude school horse is replaced by a horse that carries himself with some bounce and enthusiasm, looking for the next question.  We have our bad moments, when he balks and shakes his head in annoyance or frustration.  He bucked with me today when I really got after him about carrying himself in the canter.  But those moments aren't about being asked to work, it's about things that are challenging or his confusion when he doesn't know what I want.  Or I'm nagging.  He hates that.

The price for this progress?  I freaking HURT.  I don't know how I'm going to get up the stairs to my bedroom after today's lesson.  Riding deep and wrapping my legs around his barrel in order to lift him is new to my body and new muscles are developing.  It sucks.  It's working, but it sucks.  My hips ache from the new position, my thighs cramp from shifting away from my knees, my calves burn from using new muscles to cue instead of using my heels.  My back also aches from my work to fix my position.  My shoulders will protest in the middle of the night from my new hand position, carried higher and with more pressure on the outside rein. Hot soaks and ibuprofen are becoming staples. 

Today I actually sat a lengthened canter and felt my hips open up and get pulled in front of my shoulders.  The rebuilding sucks, but it's starting to work.

Two different people have asked me if I'm going to buy Theo in the past 24 hours.  It's almost starting to feel like a foregone conclusion.  I'm trying to tap the brakes, but I'm almost the only person riding him right now.  His shoes, supps, and worming are all mine to manage.  I only borrow school tack on occasion, I generally use only my equipment.  I'm not entirely sure how this happened.  Owning him would make little difference at this point, so long as he kept the other half leaser.  My bills would be the same, my riding schedule would be almost identical.  It's all so neat and tidy.

I'm just not used to things being neat and tidy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


This was inspired by today's lesson out in the jumping field.  As I was setting off to do my two loops around the Ritz, cantering up and down the hills, I did a fantastic whimpery voice.  "But I wanna be a DQ!"

After jumping the two logs as a line and then jumping another log pile on the steep uphill, I have to admit that I'm pretty fail as a DQ.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


And for our next trick, let's come across something that just about every horse and pony thinks is a horrible, horrible flesh eating monster while out for a walk.

Poor Theo.  I hopped off and led him right up to it, made him touch them with his nose and everything!  Then I got back on (thank goodness for guard rails on the road) and walked him past it with no issues.  Between the balloons, the car waiting for a tow truck, the giant diesel truck with a flat bed, and the motorcycles, we had more excitement in our little stroll then we would usually see in a two hour trail ride!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Follow that pony!

The indoor ring is having a new sprinkler system added.  I think Trainer A is going to host a party when she can use it for the first time.  Today and tomorrow are the days that the arena is closed, so everyone had lessons out on the trails today.  This included me and Mr. Just Back Into Work.  I'm a good sport (aka more balls than brains) so I hopped on and followed the trainer out onto the trails.

We trotted a good bit on the way out and tried a bit of canter.  Since I didn't ride Theo in the canter since Abby the Abscess showed up, I went first to avoid any possible racing.  Theo cantered slow enough that Juice Box the pony was trotting behind him.  Once we got out in the open, I practiced trotting and cantering mi papi away from his friend.  He actually handled it quite well and cantered with some enthusiasm up the long, gradual hill.

Once back in the woods, Trainer A and the pony were back in the lead.  On the even footing, Trainer A announced that I'd be fine and set off for a breeze.  I think if we had any spectators, the scene would have looked like this:

Yes, I was a bit nervous.  Theo doesn't like to lose races, and I don't like it when Theo doesn't like something.  It was interesting, though.  Once he hit his stride, my muscle memory kicked in and I found myself right over the middle, sitting up and keeping his head straight and up where it belonged.  Hello, galloping position, it's been a long time.  It felt really good to be reminded that I was, in fact, an eventer and I can gallop at speed through the woods and even like it.  Mi papi tucked in right behind that pony and cantered briskly along until the footing got a bit too uneven for him.  We went back to the walk and he got many, many pets.

Everytime I think I've got everyone convinced that I'm ready to be a DQ, I find myself back at the eventing game.  Why doesn't anyone believe me when I say I'm ready to live life in the sand box?