Thursday, July 30, 2020

Adventure with the Lameness Locator




As previously mentioned, Chili had an accident in April. Initially vets had hoped the tincture of time would help with most of the initial contusions and injuries.

Then after radiographs showed no real issues, I put her back into work, which helped some secondary issues that had cropped up after she had been sedentary for a while.

But there was something still not quite right. She was a little bit shorter on the right hind and toe dragging at times. After a bit of schedule rearranging, I booked her in for a secondary lameness evaluation with a veterinarian I have previously worked with and really liked. This veterinarian does primarily lameness work and has some nice equipment to aid in her work, in addition to additional training in complementary modalities like VMST (veterinary chiropractic) and acupuncture.

One piece of technology that this veterinarian utilizes that I was interested in was the Equinosis Q Lameness Locator system, which was created at the University of Missouri and then eventually spread into a format that trained veterinary practitioners could utilize in the field without a treadmill and slowmo cameras.

This system has a poll sensor, a leg sensor, and a croup sensor. The sensor on the leg is a gyroscope and the other two sensors measure X and Y axis in space relative to the start of the stride. The data is streamed to a tablet, run through an algorithm, and converted into a visible graph.

It is meant to be used in conjunction with a thorough lameness exam. The vet had Chili trotted on a straight line, slight serpentines, on the circle, and after flexions.







Being trotted after a flexion



More straight line trotting

Trotting on the circle

The scientific nerd in myself thoroughly enjoyed seeing the data, in addition to have more quantitative evaluation of the lameness. For Chili, she had a hip hike, which correlated with a right hind limb lameness. She did not have additional severity of lameness after stifle and hip flexions on the right hind, which indicates more of a likelihood of a SI pain or higher above the hock pain on the right side.

In the trot photo above, you can also see the right hind lameness as indicated by the toe drag and the broken trot on the circle.

For Chili's case and with her case history, we decided to proceed with several shockwave treatments of the right side of her gluteal muscles/hamstring and see if that improves her lameness. If that doesn't generate improvement, then onto plan B and C.

For those that want to know more about this system, I found this video to be quite helpful!



Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ride On


I haven't had as many rides this week on Chili as I would prefer, but it's now the weekend, so hopefully I'll get a couple squeezed in, despite the weather. It's supposed to be over 90 both days and with high humidity. Joy. ;)

But I am proud of starting to put beginning steps into action. Chili was an absolute dragon the two rides I've had this week. Just being impatient in the cross ties, peeing in the cross ties (what??? a gelding looks at you and you have to pee?), and so forth. She usually stands rock still, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into.

Yesterday, I decided to put her in side reins and the surcingle for a few minutes before hopping on. When she's particularly offended, she likes to fling her head and avoid contact and I thought she could work out her feelings in the side reins.



This method seemed to work for the head flinging and contact issues. She still sucked behind my leg and was particularly offended every time I put leg on. Ear pin, suck up, break into canter, ignore me. Mares in heat can sometimes be full of such drama.

But we worked through it. I'm pleased that she finally relaxed through her back and got over respecting my leg. One of the issues with rehabbing after an injury is that a lot of the work that I would normally do like spirals, a lot of lateral work, and change of directions isn't advised, so we have both been learning a heavy dose of patience and just learning that hysterics doesn't mean she gets to evade work.

What is your usual mechanism for when your horse has a temperamental day?



Sunday, July 19, 2020

Symbols and Asterisks--Arabian Horses



From time to time, I get asked about the symbols that often appear next to Arabian and Half-Arabian names. They symbolize one of two things: either importation or award achievements.

The asterisk was used to denote horses imported into the US from other countries. In-utero foals bred in other countries also carried the asterisks. The official use of the asterisk was discontinued by the Arabian Horse Association, however, it is not uncommon to see people still use it to promote that their horse is imported into the US. The asterisks were always used before the horse's name.

*Bask+ was imported from Poland to the US in 1963.


Now onto the achievement awards, which are made up of the plus and slash symbols seen after the names. *Bask+ as seen above, has one plus symbol after the name.

There are six achievement awards:

Legion of Honor
Legion of Merit
Legion of Supreme Merit
Legion of Supreme Honor
Legion of Excellence
Legion of Masters

The awards are given based on points earned from Arabian shows, along with rated non Arabian show events including dressage, driving, eventing, racing, working cow, jumping shows, and many mor.

The way points are earned varies in rated non-Arabian events and it's best to just look at the AHA handbook chapter.

In Arabian shows, the "Class A" shows can be difficult to earn points. For example, winning a 4-7 horse class earns one point. Compare this to winning a regional level class, where regardless of the number of horses entered, 12 points are earned. A national championship gains 30 points.

It is certainly easier to accrue points on the regional and national level.



Back when the achievement award program was created, there were more purebred Arabians than half Arabians and it was easier for purebred Arabians to have competition and to gain points, so the number of points a Half-Arabian needed for an achievement award was set at a lower level.

Awards start at 75 points for purebreds and 60 for half-Arabians.

The other way the awards are broken down are different symbols for horses that earned points from a combination of in-hand and performance points with a minimum of each or just cumulative number of points (ie could be all performance or all in-hand). I'm choosing just to list the purebred number of points below.

Any combination of points:
Legion of Honor: + 75 points
Legion of Supreme Honor: +/ 150 points
Legion of Excellence: +// 300 points

Performance and In-Hand requirements
Legion of Merit: ++ 75 points (minimum 30 in-hand and 30 in performance)
Legion of Supreme Merit: +++ 150 points (minimum 60 in-hand and 60 in performance)
Legion of Masters: ++++ 300 points (minimum 120 in-hand and 120 in performance)

The other thing is that the awards can also be combined, so some horses will have a lot of punctuation!

The one downside of this program is that it is a yearly nomination. There are plenty of excellent Arabian and half-Arabian horses that are not nominated and don't earn achievement awards. The points can be purchased back after the show years for a higher fee if people are interested.



After several years of showing and training on my own, I was stoked that Chili earned enough points for this! The achievement awards become a permanent part of their name and are listed on their registration papers. I love the idea that years from now, someone could look Chili up and know instantly from her name that she achieved success in the show ring.

What they won't know of course, is that it took so much blood, sweat, and tears with her amateur owner-breeder-trainer.

Any questions about Arabian horse symbols?

Thanks for reading such a long post, but I wanted the chance to share an often confusing aspect of Arabian horses that are shared.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Testing the Waters



I have wanted to film a test to help support a local therapeutic riding center's virtual dressage show. I broached the subject to my coach who said I could borrow her German Riding Pony/Arabian cross gelding to practice riding a test on and could film one afterwards.

The pony is such a good boy. He's quiet and good natured, but not an overachiever by any means. He has schooled through some second level work and some movements above, but not much more. It's been enjoyable working on refining my aids for shoulders-in, baby walk pirouettes, and haunches in so that I have an idea of how it feels on a learning and unfinished horse. One of the issues I've had on an absolute schoolmaster is that often I get close or get the buttons "correct" without actually realizing it. I don't have a solid basis on how to continue and teach my own horse properly, only how to ride on a completely finished horse.

My coach suggested schooling through some first level tests to see how I would ride it. Surprisingly enough, I feel more comfortable schooling first level than worrying so much in training level. Apparently I have so much time to sit and pick at the horse in training level and if there is enough to keep myself and the horse busy, I can actually sit down and ride and do something besides trying to pull down and out on my left rein. Go figure right?

I had the chance to school through first level yesterday in the full court in the outdoor arena. My geometry at times as been questionable, so it's been a focus to try and ride figures more accurately. I was quite pleased that I rode much better and my circles were more circular and less tetra-octa-hedral-something.

This was the first time I have ridden the Pony in spurs, so it was a little bit of getting used to both him and I on the process. While I have used spurs while riding the schoolmaster Morgan stallion in my past, I have not recently schooled much in spurs and I also have a tendency of trying to use too much heel and not enough calf while riding. I am not sure Pony always appreciated the learning process, but he was still good about it. He is a bit different to ride than Chili as he has to think, process, and then responds to the aids instead of being quick and anticipatory like my spicy little Arabians.

I am still fine tuning on how to ask for the canter depart. He can be a little heavy on the forehand and behind the leg and I just want to plain nag him if he doesn't immediately canter when ask. Unfortunately, this frustrates him, he throws his head, and then kerplops onto his forehand in a not so graceful depart.

The rest of our first level work was quite satisfactory and I am fairly impressed that I had a very nice lengthened canter and trot on him and he comes down into working gaits equally. While I have been playing around with asking for more power from Chili, I am not always quite convinced she is going to come back down after encouraging so much more forward and power.


A very fat Chili this past winter

So all in all, an excellent time practicing and schooling through first level. I am hoping to try and squeeze in a lesson soon so I can finally get a test filmed. The virtual tests can often be quite educational since the judges can freeze-frame and write much longer and detailed comments.


I'm hoping soon enough Chili will keep on rehabbing and perhaps we can practice and run through a first level test soon enough on her. Otherwise we'll keep schooling and here's to 2021 goals. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Pushing Boundaries


I'll admit it. I can be a weenie, especially as I've gotten older, out of shape, and had hip surgery.

It's crazy to think that just a few years ago, I rode anything and stuck anything. Gallop a couple miles bareback on a strange horse while gathering up a herd of horses. Sure, no problem.

Now, that sounds like certain death. With my lack of core strength, it probably would be.

One thing I had pushed off for a while was riding in the large outdoor at my new boarding barn. Part of it was pragmatic. The indoor arena was quite cooler and temperatures were hot and sticky for several weeks.

But enough was enough. I had to push out of my comfort zone and just pony up and ride in the outdoor. Chili was an absolute idiot at the last barn in the outdoor arena. I think there were several factors, including that trailers were parked adjacent to the outdoor so there could be people popping in and out, lots of strange shadows, and all that baloney. At the far end, there was a large burn pile that sometimes was burning and other times smouldering.

I got to the point at the old barn that I could sometimes reasonably walk and trot at the near side of the outdoor arena, but I could never get her to relax the tension in her back and canter most days was more of a death wish as she would want to bolt and startle at every shadow.




Anyway back from my digression into our previous issues. The outdoor at the previous barn lead to myself not routinely schooling in the outdoor arena. Trail riding was fine and being outside in general wasn't an issue, but being out of a smaller indoor arena seemed difficult. This lead in a self-perpetuating loop where I would expect issues in a large outdoor arena and then Chili would fulfill my expectations in a not so appropriate manner.

The weather turned quite lovely the past few days here. I decided to just take the leap and ride the horse. I can reasonably sit most anything she has and the fact the new arena is fenced was very promising.

I lunged Chili for a few minutes and she was quite unenthusiastic about moving faster than a slow trot. I didn't have a lunge whip, so I didn't press the issue. I hopped on.

She was perfect. She plunked along through the mud on the drain-off side of the arena, she didn't glance at the shadows, and she barely flicked an ear at the horse on the other side of the fence who was rolling.

I know it's something simple, but my goodness. Is my horse growing up? Am I just lucky? Maybe she likes this new barn?

Probably a combination of all above.

But in the end, pushing the boundaries and the nagging fear I had has opened up a whole new door again for me. I feel so relieved that I am comfortable riding outside without someone who could call 911 if necessary.


Friday, July 3, 2020

Training Level For Life?

Despite my many attempts and setbacks, I have still yet to show above training level.

I can make a lot of excuses. Hip surgery, some serious tightness and loss of flexibility post surgery, a lot of test anxiety, and a semi feral horse.

But in the end they are just excuses.


Semi Feral Horse Looking Crabby


Before the most recent accident with Chili, I had started taking lessons with a local dressage instructor. One, I needed an instructor in the area that would travel to my barn and two, sometimes you need things expressed in a different way.

This instructor loves spicy, little opinionated horses and that's pretty much what this semi feral beasty is. An athletic overthinker who ends up running the show. What became evident with my first few lessons was a few major takeaways:

  • The basic principles of training level tests are not conducive to an anticipatory, overthinking horse
  • The more "complicated" concepts that were introduced in my lessons like shoulder in, haunches in, and ten meter circles, the more rhythm and relaxation we achieved.
  • Making the horse think also relaxed my own body. I had to think more about the movement and what I needed to do as a rider and less on predicting my horse was going to anticipate, jig, canter early, spook, or any other number of events
  • My horse that I felt was always running in the canter, wasn't really running. Once I started asking her to carry her head up and out of a training level frame, I was told to keep asking more from her canter. Suddenly, I found her back would lift, I would have a sweet spot to sit, and there was a lot more power. I had always confused running with quick, rather than I was letting her essentially dump on her forehand. I just didn't have the tools to fix it at the time.


So I suppose my major takeaway that when we conquer our current injury, we have our sights set on first or second level. This little semi feral is too busy thinking in our tests. I am too busy thinking about her thinking.

In the end, we are that naughty child in the classroom who acts out because they are bored.

So here's setting our goal of a first or second level debut when this pandemic settles down. Let's skip this anxiety, keep our schooling goals high, and get out of this low bar of training level for life that I had set.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In Memory of Alex

How do you ever sum up the life of an amazing friend?

Simply you cannot.

1989 to 2020

How to summarize the impact a horse had on so many people in this time and especially me.

While I have failed to adequately blog for a number of years, I feel compelled to share the story of Alex and how he touched my life.



I first met Alex in 2006 at an auction at my university. I had originally conspired with friends to purchase one or two nice lesson horses to donate to the summer camp I worked for as a wrangler.

I had spoken to one of my equine professors and she went over a few horses that would be for sale that she thought would be a good fit. Alex, despite his charming good looks, was not on that list.


Alex in 2006, still with the auction number on his rump

But, as it was, I loved Arabians and Alex had no other bids. For a couple hundred bucks,Alex was purchased. I had no business buying a horse, nor keeping him, so the  camp picked him up.

Over the next ten years, Alex found himself as an amazing camp horse. I have so many stories that maybe I will continue to tell as I remember.

He was not a horse for everyone. While he was safe and not prone to misbehavior, he was forward. He had obviously had a good deal of hunter pleasure and basic dressage type training on him and so if someone was just balancing on his mouth, stopping could occasionally be optional.




But he was still a good boy. I often used him for special events as he was happy to be alone in front of an audience of four hundred kids and not even care. The camp would have theme weeks and often there were "bandits" coming into camp, demanding some or another. A chase on horseback would ensue (as seen above).

One year I was the bandit (in the above photos, I am such a classy bandit wearing the pink hankerchief).

Another time, it was my birthday and I was chasing the bandit across the parade grounds. I stupidly didn't plan my route, looked down as I was hand galloping in front of the children and realized there was a rock wall in front of me. I had visions of being lawn darted in front of an audience, but Alex neatly picked his knees up, jumped, ears up, and continued the chase. He knew his role to play in this little theater.

I also liked to use him to go through the sections in camp to wake the campers up since he was good natured and not prone to startling. One morning he proceeded to stick his head into the cabin and several tents. I can only imagine what those kids thought when they woke up a "neigh-bor" that was a little too close.

One of my favorite memories of him at camp was while an advanced equestrian camper was trying to learn how to do flying lead changes. Alex was absolutely schooled in flying changes and loved swapping leads, often a little too much.

I sent the gal down and asked her to do one flying change on the way down and one on the way back. As she held the reins and shifted her weight, a few too many times, Alex was merrily skipping along and changed leads five or six times. He never held a grudge as that poor kid finally figured out how to cue him correctly.


As Alex closed into his middle 20s, he started having issues holding weight at camp. I tried to figure out where he should go next. He was still enthusiastic, absolutely sound, and had never been lame a day in his life.





At this point, I had started getting involved in supporting a therapeutic riding program. What if Alex could become a therapy horse?

Alex took it like a duck to water. Nothing rattled him whatsoever about the usual therapy adventures of playing basketball off his back, getting objects out of the mailbox, hanging rings off his ears, or any of the other things we subjected him to.

He could carefully ignore excessive cues from his rider and listen to his handler, but then with an independent rider, would totally be game to teach a rider flying lead changes or the art of slowing down his fast trot into an acceptable western jog.



I have always loved the feeling of his gallop. He was a fast horse and in another life would have been an incredible endurance horse. He was difficult to tire out and even four or five hours in the saddle wouldn't slow him down.

A few years ago, while he was a therapy horse, I took a friend out into the hay fields riding. I loved the feeling of just letting him go and gallop, his hooves pounding the earth. I knew it brought joy to his heart. I never had to encourage him to go as he just loved to go. For those few brief moments, it brought us back ten years earlier to his younger years at the summer camp. Sky, rider, horse, Earth, all interconnected.





A couple of years ago, I nominated Alex for the Wisconsin Arabian Horse Association Ambassador Award. I felt that Alex truly was an amazing ambassador for the Arabian. In his years of service, he had introduced thousands of people to riding a horse. He had been a 4H horse, a university lesson horse, a camp horse and lesson horse, trail horse extraordinaire, therapy horse, and friend.

He was solid, dependable, strong, and sound.

I was so pleased when Alex won the award and was presented at a rated Arabian show and received his custom leather halter. I happily took the couple of photos seen above.

2020 has been a rough year for so many of us. I have been laying low and unfortunately putting off so many visits with friends and family. I do feel badly that I didn't have the chance to hug Alex one last time and let him know that I loved him.

His fifteen years of friendship didn't go unnoticed.