Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Is it Dawn or is it Sunset?


The first few days home were tough. I have the world's most amazing barn owner and we had a plan. There's a very small turnout pen at the barn known as the "penalty box". It's about the size of a stall and there's a paddock adjacent to it so Chili could go outside and stay calm.

My veterinarians at home devised a plan. Stall rest, radiographs, Softride boots, leg wraps inside, and cold hosing. This was to cover the major differentials for her acute lameness. The radiographs taken at the show were extremely poor quality with some artifacts, so several sets of repeat radiographs were taken over the following few weeks.

Dwelling on the poor handling of the situation by the show veterinarian, I called the practice manager to share my experience and how I would have improved that interaction. To my surprise, the show veterinarian actually called me back to discuss my experiences. I doubt any of what I said stuck since she ended the call with "Have a good rest of the 2021 show season." OK thanks, my horse is lame, lame, lame, but I'll get right on that.

Video a few weeks after getting home. Significant improvement.

After a few weeks and starting to rule other things out, it was a presumed medial collateral ligament injury. I could take her for an MRI to confirm the diagnosis, however, her lameness was improving with conservative treatment, so we opted to skip that and save the money.

Since she has a known spot of hock arthritis from a traumatic injury in April of 2020, I try and maintain Adequan twice a year. It certainly wasn't going to hurt Chili and to support her while she was in the penalty box. It was tricky because the confinement certainly seems to improve the front end lameness, but then the hind end gets sticky.

Finally at the end of November, I had the OK from my veterinarian to begin working Chili in straight lines at the walk. No lunging, no turnout, and to evaluate if she maintained the same level of soundness.

Kind of fat and definitely out of condition

Now, I understand the idea of straight line rehab and the goal to build up her strength before turning out, but has it's winter here, she's a dragon, and she hasn't been turned out in three months.

But I've had some amazing barn mates and friends that have been willing to serve as an emotional support human. Our first rides were definitely on the end of a lunge line to ensure she stayed quiet and didn't torque that front right foot. When she's been quiet, we've been able to be let off the line and we've even built up to a little bit of trot now.

So while the past few months have been filled with a lot of uncertainty about the future, there does seem to be the dawning promise of a return to schooling and training once again, fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Expect the Unexpected


September had started out with a bit of hope, despite the daily drain at my job as a microbiologist. My dad came out from the West coast to help me haul to Sport Horse Nationals which was about a nine hour drive from my barn.

I was a bit proud of myself for being able to haul through some busier cities. I am not particularly brave while hauling the truck and trailer as there's a lot of stupid people out there.

The drive seemed well worth it to show at the World Equestrian Center in Ohio. I mean, look at the size of that arena! Unfortunately Chili had a little scrape on her hindquarters from a bump in the journey (I blame the super pot hole filled roads through Indiana and Ohio!) and was a little sore behind.

Fortunately, there were some people that did Magnawave on the grounds and that seemed to help. Chili's first classes were with my friend who showed her in hand, but unfortunately no ribbons for them. The classes were big--more than forty horses and Chili was still pretty tight behind and didn't move as well as I would have hoped.

My dressage test with her was on Wednesday, so each day we went to school in the various arenas at WEC. I have not ever really shown inside with her and certainly not dressage and not these giant arenas. The first few times, she was a very hot tamale. I was immensely grateful that my dressage coach and barn owner extraordinaire came with to the show so she could also ride and help school.

It was pretty warm most of the time we were there and I was having issues with not feeling well from some POTS related issues. My electrolytes would get out of wack, I wouldn't eat, and I just felt terrible. Add in a spicy horse and I was pretty convinced I should just scratch my dressage ride.

Well, S, my barn owner and coach didn't let me so on Wednesday, I dutifully put on my dressage coat and rode down center line. I had some minor geometric errors (sorry! I know better coaches!) and definitely dashed up some movements with coefficients. Chili was tight at times, but probably because I'm not sure I decided to breath the second half of the test.

But you know what? When I went down center line the second time and halted and saluted, I cried. I said thank you for the judge and looked over at the stands where my friends, coach, and my dad were: they were crying too.

There's been so much that's happened to Chili, to myself, to the world that who would have thought I would have finally made it down the the center line on a horse I bred, foaled out, trained, hauled, rehabbed, and rehabbed some more. A dog attack, my hip surgery, my increasing physical issues, Chili's fence accident. It all seemed irrelevant at that moment.

And like every good person at WEC, I had to go through the coffee shop drive through to celebrate.


After our dressage test, our next classes together were on Friday and were two in-hand classes. Chili felt good, so I was hoping for better placements than earlier in the week. I was dressed, she was braided, and I led her out of the stall when I felt her slip coming down onto the concrete.

I didn't think too much of it until I reached the end of the barn aisle when something didn't sound right. Chili didn't look quite right. I ended up making the heartbreaking decision to scratch. I handed the horse off to my dad and sent my husband to the paddock gate to let them know I wouldn't be coming. I had to run to the show office to fill out the official scratch paperwork. Don't fill out the paperwork and there's a hefty fine.

When I came back from the show office, my coach had realized something was wrong and was helping my dad with the horse. Chili was by this point immensely lame and could hardly walk. We cold hosed her and I had to brace her shoulder and help her walk back to the stall.

I may have cried. My coach undid her braids and my dad called the show vet. We waited and waited.

Finally the show vet came and it was by far the most upsetting experience with a veterinarian I've ever had. The abbreviated version is the vet said Chili had an abscess, disregarded my commentary about how she had slipped coming out of the stall, and then tried to pull her shoes. She was unable to pull the shoes so the show farriers came out, who then wanted $100 to pull one shoe.

The following day, Chili was not better and was so lame that we cold hosed her in the aisle as we couldn't even get her down the aisle to the wash rack. Again, we called the show vet. While waiting for the vet, I called my veterinary clinic back at home to discuss which diagnostics should be done to determine if we could get Chili home safely. Nine hours with a three legged horse wasn't going to be an easy task.

My dad ran to a local automotive store and picked up a camera which we hard wired into the trailer so we would be able to keep an eye on her. My coach called her coach whose barn was just an hour away. If need be, we could take Chili there until she was safe enough to travel home.

The show vet finally came back. I had asked her for radiographs and to block her to rule out a fracture. The radiographs were done and didn't seem to reveal much. The blocking was fine and she did block out about 80 percent sound.

With this information and working in conjunction with my wonderful clinic at home, we thought we would be at least get her home for additional diagnostic work and rehab.

We wrapped her up like a Christmas present, backed the trailer back to the end of the barn aisle, and were grateful that I had a ramp on my little two horse trailer. Chili handled the standing wraps, the Softride boots, and hopping in the trailer on three legs like a champ. The whole way home, we anxiously watched the camera and were impressed that she wedged herself back up against the wall and divider and rocked back off her front feet. Somehow, she managed to keep balanced even through all the traffic and turns and came of the trailer more comfortable than she went on.

At least we were home where we could create a plan and then assess what to do next.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

August Clinic: Quit Overthinking


Another month, another clinic weekend that I was fortunate enough to be able to fit into my schedule.

There's a few miscellaneous topics I need to create separate posts and catch up on, but the low down is that I am also riding and showing a friend's half-Arabian gelding while she is pregnant. I feel very privileged she asked me to ride him for her. I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome, so this has been a great way to boost some confidence.

But onto the clinic! Saturday, I rode Chili. Since the previous clinic, we had changed her bit back to a thicker three piece boucher. Part of J's thought was that a slightly larger bit would help stabilize our communication with each other. I also have spent a lot of effort in trying to minimize my reactions to whatever Chili is doing half the time. The horse is wiggly, I'm hypermobile. One of us is going to have to find some stabilization.

So the good news is that I didn't need a full recap of last month's clinic theme. The theme of this month was quit thinking.

My coach wanted the clinician to evaluate my struggle with 3 loop serpentines. A judge at the last show focused a lot on how they needed to not have a straight line and that my circles were occasionally too flat.

I'm a scientist. I get frustrated because I understand the dimensions of a dressage court and I theoretically know what a serpentine looks like. I can draw it out. I can walk it out. But why the heck can't I ride it?

Well, the dissection that took place in my lesson was a couple of things. One, Chili has an obsession with just staying on the rail. That's probably my fault. I like to ride on the rail because I'm afraid of running into people when I cross lines or do circles because I can't hear what's going on. Two, the more people start discussing circles, serpentines, and everything else I start overthinking. When I overthink, I stop riding.

That part I probably knew. Only because I overthink everything.

The next day when I rode my friend's gelding Max, I tried the 3 loop serpentines again. The clinician said she would give them an 8 and promised to leave me alone. We had plenty of other things to work on.

But it's nice to have some outside perspective and that in some cases, less is more. Overriding and overthinking is a major struggle for me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

July Clinic


The other weekend, over the 4th of July weekend, I had the opportunity to ride with one of the coaches that comes into the barn.

Clinician J's point of emphasize on balance of the pelvis, the structure, and how to use it to influence the horse. A lot of Saturday was spent in the walk and off the horse. At one point and time, the coach actually had me feel which muscles and the tilt of the pelvis she would use to influence the horse in the walk. Nothing like being up close and personal!

She had me stay in the walk at first and utilize my pelvis to influence the stride and speed of her walk. She felt that often I was letting Chili drive and that I often maintain a passive pelvis that is the source of some of our inconsistency.

She also emphasized keeping a steady quiet contact, no matter what the horse was doing and if she was winging her body around. I was right and the horse was incorrect in her response, which is probably true.

Usually our rides go like this:

Me: Please take this contact

Chili: For only one stride, then I want to swing my haunches in

Me: Put inside leg on and probably pull on a rein I wasn't supposed to. Please stop swinging your haunches in.

Chili: *loses contact and goes above the bit* Huzzah. I win.

-rinse and repeat-

By trying to maintain a soft contact and having me actively ignore Chili's running commentary, I actually had a proper working walk with minimal inconsistency in contact and less work evasions. It didn't really matter if I was going straight as the initial point of the exercise was to maintain the rhythm from my pelvis and to accept and carry the bit.

On Sunday, we started off reviewing Saturday's lesson, then moved into keeping me busy. Clinician J did correctly surmise I like to override my horse and annoy her as well.

At one point and time, she alternated leg yields, shoulder in, and various circles and diagonals to keep me busy. After a few laps of the arena, she stopped me and told me her intentions (which I had guessed) were to keep my mind busy enough that one, the horse was kept to the task at hand and two, I stopped annoying my horse by overriding and usually either shoving with my pelvis or wandering off with my right hand.

I was pleased that she did let me know that would have scored one of my shoulders in a 7. It sounds silly to hope for a 7, but it was nice for a few strides to have her really feel connected inside leg to outside rein and to just side and ride. I wasn't really doing much besides just thinking of the movement I wanted and it happened.

Then I overrode it next time I actually thought about what I was doing.

At the end, the clinician had us working on shallow canter loops on the left lead. Our left lead at times has been tricky as I haven't always prepared her very well and she just prefers to pick up the right lead.

But she picked up the left lead well and it was a good lesson for me to keep riding the canter, sit back, and stop being so passive. If I ended up being passive, she would come down to trot. It is tricky to me to slowly reformulate my thinking of having an active seat/pelvis and not shoving. I don't know where I picked up that habit along the way, but I would prefer if it would please disappear.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Gone West

 Gone West

Good news, is that it didn't stick and we didn't die. ;)

In this case, my husband and myself went to Southern Oregon and Northern California to spend time with my family and to do some of the touristy things.

The theme of the trip was rocks, trees, and water.

Sorry for the deluge of photos. Some of our favorite highlights included Crater Lake in Oregon, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Redwoods in Northern California, and various parts of the Rogue River near where my family lives.

Where are some of your favorite places to travel? Where should we go next to find some fun trees, rocks, and water? :)

Friday, June 11, 2021

Bucket List: Riding on a Beach

 Ever have some ridiculous bucket list items?

I certainly do. One of them is riding a horse on a beach. I blame The Black Stallion for that one. 

Well, at the end of May, I traveled back to Oregon and Northern California to visit family. I had mentioned to my dad that I wanted to ride on the beach and at one point and time, he drove past a stable on the beach in Oregon. He looked up the number and booked a ride for myself and my grandmother.

The horses were fairly well kept with equipment that seemed to be fitted. The manure was all picked up out of the holding areas and most of the horses had shade over their pens which was nice to see. There was a little gazebo and a restroom to use before the ride started and the staff went over everyone's riding experience and comfort level.

I was given this kind of rangey looking grey gelding named Renegade. He was a little impatient in the holding corral, but moved off of leg well enough and was responsive so that's not too bad for a hack horse.

We rode through the dunes at first, then headed out to the beach, where we were told as long as we headed North, we could spread out and not be nose to tail, so this was my view.

When everyone had arrived towards the end of this section of the beach, the staff helped people turn their horses around and then took the obligatory horse against the ocean photo.

I'm not photogenic, but apparently neither is Renegade

When we reversed and began heading home. Another horse ended up trying to kick a staff horse and was spinning in a circle who then bumped into Renegade who was startled into a crow hop. Nice to know the horses still are horses. ;)

The staff did let the horses trot back towards home and Renegade was not incredibly impressed with this plan as he was a gelding on a mission. At that point, I pretty much appreciated his tie down and asked him to settle down and walk because I think his only two speed options were angry prancing or run-back-home. The staff, unfortunately, were quite interested in talking to each other rather than managing a few other horses and rider related issues, but I was fine with dealing with Renegade and his problems. I just felt that enforcing his walk was going to be important to whomever had to ride him next time.

Regardless of some slight naughty behavior, I had a great time. The horses really handled themselves well as the wind was very brisk, it was quite chilly, and I hadn't realized how loud the ocean really was there.

How about you? Which horse related bucket list items have you accomplished?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

May Clinic


May has been somewhat of a busy month. While I keep hoping things will be simplified at work, they aren't quieting down. There are still significant supply shortages so I spend a number of hours each day trying to track down reagents, sort out ordering issues, and find alternatives to keep my laboratory trucking each day.

So, I'm late posting this, but it happens.

I had a chance to clinic with a well regarded "S" judge.

She was very patient with my somewhat feisty, red pony mare. She declared she knew how to speak chestnut mare. :)

One of my biggest takeways was committed to a decision once I made it. Once I made the decision to ask for the canter, to marry that decision, and to canter. Don't ask for canter, waffle on it, ask again, and waffle. It just irritates the horse.

Makes sense, but somehow I still manage to waffle.

One of my other takeways was how to approach and ride each part of a circle differently. She emphasized on how often horses will bulge out on the circle closest to the gate or exit and it's OK to have different aids or strength of aids depending where you are in the circle.

On the horse front, she did have me keep busy, which sounded very counterintuitive and difficult for me. I want to be a kind rider. However, my little red pony takes full advantage of that and either quits, inverts, or stops using her back. So "S" wanted me to go ahead and think about the strength of my aids. When she was being steady and quiet, think about being a 1 or 2 on a scale and when she was being looky or needed to be kept busy, to emphasize aids up on a 5 or 6 level. Not saying, she meant to be harsh on the horse, but in Chili's case, it ends up being more tug-of-war if I completely release rather than keep half-halting or keep her mind busy with soft hands and something to do rather than leaving her to her own devices.

So all in all, a good lesson, despite having to move inside halfway through as it started raining.

Our first schooling show of the season is next week so it will be a good barometer to see where we are at at and to gain more feedback.