Tuesday, December 15, 2020

More Recaps

 I'm a few lessons behind, oy.

Tongue sticking out!

I've managed to squeeze in a few lessons the last few weeks. As my work life continues to crush me, my once weekly lesson seems to be at least an encouragement to get in the saddle and forget about work for an hour.

My most recent lesson was one that was much more of a struggle. Chili was a little offended at the request to work on a smaller circle, maintaining bend, and accepting my inside leg. One of the things I struggle with is using my outside rein properly and riding more leg to outside rein. Chili is not entirely sure about this whole idea and upping the game plan. The last ride, she would just suck behind my leg while I was asking her to bend softly around it.

My instructor suggested asking her to bend properly off the leg and then if she sucked back, showing her the bend by cheating a bit by using the inside rein. If she complied and did as we suggested, then I rode her forward and let her move out as she wanted and waiting out the drama if she wanted to resist the contact, suck back, or any other bit of her antics. In some ways, she is a bit of a pony and my coach laughs and said she had to go through her rolodex of evasions before settling down and realizing the actual work was easier than the evasions.

One of the things I am guilty of is while she is often fussing, I have historically fussed back. More leg, adjusting the reins too much, or something similar and that would just feed into a cycle where Chili would fuss more back. Doing less is so much harder than doing more!

One of the previous lessons I think was one of Chili's favorites as it was starting to compress and lengthen her gaits. I am not always 100% convinced that Chili won't use her canter for evil once we teach her to lengthen much more in the canter and as she builds up strength, but trot work is always good too.

The suggestions were very simple ones, but always good to have the feedback as we were going along. Compress (usually on the short sides) and then work on building up a lengthen on the long side and finding the sweet spot in where she can still maintain strength and balance without running away. I do always have to remember that she is coming back off of a series of injuries and for myself, I need to figure out how to precisely balance and clean up my aids to communicate lengthening compared to a change of gait, since I am so much weaker on my left hip and calf than my right. It all seems to come back to using my core and seat aids to clarify my intentions! 

Chili seemed to enjoy this work much more than all of the stupid tight circles because she is so much tighter on one side of her body as well, but it's all a balance between the fun things and the physical therapy for the both of us!

I did find out that the national championship horse show has qualifications waived, so here's to setting lofty 2021 goals and to see if I can put myself (well ourselves) together enough to warrant showing on the national level at this horse show. She already has four national titles in-hand. Should probably work on fulfilling some of that potential now.

Twenty twenty has been such an obnoxious year that by hopefully setting some lofty goals, I can maintain the drive to a better 2021!

Anyone else setting lofty 2021 goals or still planning on sticking close to home?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lesson Recap


Ever have days that feel like this?

Life has been complicated, but one thing I've been trying to do is to take time for myself. Scheduling lessons has given me drive and focus when life keeps getting a little more chaotic.

Last Thursday, I squeezed in a lesson. It was a lovely day as far as Midwestern weather goes. So strange to be riding outside in late November!

We started off the lesson on playing around with my straightness in the saddle. I am tight in my left hip flexors from a previous hip surgery and can often twist in the saddle, but ironically enough, my shoulders are straight. Some of this subsequently is reflected onto the horse as Chili often wants to track crooked as well and I'm sure part of that is myself and part of that is Chili's own previous injuries.

What my coach and I have been discovering is that I need to tighten my obliques a bit while riding to also correct some of the hypermobility issues I have elsewhere.

At the trot, I have been working on almost "bouncing" from one seat bone to the other while being cognitive of my obliques. Chili is very expressive and so it does become clear what she approves of and disapproves of quite quickly (thank you mare ears!). The goal of the "bouncing" is because I can't really open my left hip to have a way to send energy and shift my seat while essentially bypassing a blocked joint.

This was most evident while I was working on spirals on the circle a couple weeks ago. While spiraling with my left leg on the outside, Chili was having a difficult time maintaining the bend until I went a little rogue and had my left hip a little more forward than one would traditionally have it and then used more of the idea of the bounce to maintain forward impulsion and then had the right leg asking for the lateral movement. I'm hoping one day I can get video to share what I mean!

This also has come into play at the canter. I have long been overwhelmed with the great canter discussions on if the canter lead should be picked up from the inside leg or the outside leg or a combination. One stallion I rode for a while was definitely off the inside leg, while of course, many others I've ridden were off the outside leg. Some off both simultaneous.

One takeaway from the lesson was Chili absolutely did not appreciate the canter coming off both legs. I think there was too much of a squeeze and the tight hip blocking her from really moving into the canter fluidly. When I worked on moving the left hip out of the way, canter coming off the right leg and then more of a "scoop" on the left seat bone, she seemed much more fluid about picking up the lead and without extra "expression".

One canter exercise we began working on was pretty simple, but I thought it was useful, since most of our canter work at this point has either been on straight lines or on a 20 meter circle.

I started on the 20 meter circle, then went to the diagonal at X. While on X, straighten the horse and go straight while in canter.

Chili is still gaining strength in the canter and still at times, not quite sure about accepting the contact and changing reins while in the canter. She swapped leads once and broke to the trot a couple of other times while starting to ask her to straighten, but all in all, it is a good exercise for me to think about just continuing to work on straightness and I'll begin teasing apart what I need to do to help her. It just takes a little outside the box thinking!

It is somewhat promising to see progress. Chili is a talented horse, smart, and creates her own games. Some of it has been while she's had time off from injury as well. But I feel like some of our stalling has been because she hasn't followed the logical progression that dressage said she should. I also am realizing I may not be able to ride in the exact fashion that people say is "proper." We all have physical differences, but it is hopeful and a little bit inspiring to work with someone who can think outside the box on how to help both of us progress in our skills.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Farnam Giveway

 I like to enter some of the random drawings on Facebook. I'm not particularly lucky, but here's to hoping right?

Well apparently  I got lucky and won the Farnam End of Summer Giveaway.

It was very exciting and very unexpected. The box contained a nice variety of products I am excited to try including Leather New Total Care, Equi-Spot Tick and Fly Repellant, Dual Defense Fly Spray which is for both humans and horses (how handy!), Next Level joint supplement, Sand Clear, Laser Sheen, a couple tubes of electrolytes, some wound cream and spray, Sand Clear, and a couple tubes of electrolytes.

Definitely a fun variety of products and some items I wouldn't have purchased on my own, but I am very curious to try and see if they help. Laser sheen which is a coat shine spray has never been in my lineup but I'm always game to see if it's better than my preferred products!

Anyone else been lucky lately or won a drawing like this?

Any favorite Farnam products that are always in your lineup?

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Lesson Recap

 The weather outside has been stunning and very unlike normal weather here in the frozen tundra in November.

I have been trying to take advantage and riding outside. The only negative is with daylights savings time and the fact it is now dark at 4:30.

Friday, I left work about an hour earlier than my typical end time. I've accrued a bit of overtime just from normal "everyday" crisis things occurring now. The great thing about leaving is that I made it out just in time to squeeze in a ride before pm chores. Chili is still easily distracted and can be kind of an idiot if there is too much going on for her little peon brain to handle at one time. Show environments, she can be better if she doesn't go over the threshold, but at home, she has a particular routine and she doesn't care for it to be adjusted.

I lunged her in the outdoor arena for a few minutes. We have sometimes had trouble in the outside arena with sticking and worrying about horses running in turnouts right adjacent to the outdoor. However, she seemed pretty quiet about the whole affair so we had a pretty nice ride.

I have been super tight, tense, and sore, so our usual routine starts with a bit of two point, since that's about the only thing that doesn't make my tight hip clamp against her in the saddle which just quite frankly, irritates Chili and causes her to jig and be annoyed.

After our usual warm-up routine, we just did some basic walk, trot, and canter work and then trying to work on leg yields on the spiral.

Saturday, I had a lesson. The weather was once again very nice and warm, but quite windy. I couldn't decide if I wanted a jacket and risk overheating and dying or just a polo shirt. I ended up with unzipped jacket, but that's how it goes.

We started off the lesson with my usual warm-up routine of two point and variations on that to try and regain some mobility in my left hip. Once I was feeling a little more comfortable and Chili let me know that she was ok with my status, we moved into work. She was feeling rather lazy, which is often quite unusual for her, especially with sometimes strong wind occurring.

My instructor had me working on keeping my body straight on the rail with minor jaw flexions left and right until it felt Chili would take both reins evenly. She has such a flexible neck that she can often evade and resist taking one rein.

Once the flexions felt better and we had a little more power at the trot and quit jog trotting, we did some spiral leg yields. I have often struggled with nagging her. One thing I can often do is turn my heel into the horse which annoys her. My instructor wanted to play around with some concepts to see what Chili would respond best to in the current circumstances. While going counter-clockwise, my weak and tight hip was on the inside. Instead of just putting my leg on and trying to send her over, I played around with the idea of almost picking up and "bouncing" my inside seat bone while sending my energy from the inside seat bone to the outside oblique muscles. I had also dropped my left stirrup and kept my right one to try and see if gravity could help correct some of my muscle memory and postural issues.

The difference in Chili's ability to comply and understand was pretty profound. We practiced this on the quarter-line a few times too and had some very nice crossing over front and back. Historically I had always struggled with her being so crooked, but now looking back, I wonder if I never really gave her back enough space to swing up, through, and over.

The other direction, going to the rail left, means that my hip is now tight on the outside. I have usually been much better on spiral circles this direction, but as always, struggle on the quarter-line.

What we ended up finding that worked better was to have my bad hip just a little bit forward that what is ideal. Too far back and my hip locked and Chili was resistant to moving over and neutral was a fairly similar effect. It's hard for my brain to process sometimes what is proper equitation isn't going to work for myself as a rider and secondly, what feels correct usually isn't anyway!

We had some really nice leg yields with good power and it seemed like such a strange feeling on her. Her rideability and my ability to sit comfortably just improved as soon as I could tweak it to have her accept the outside rein, not block her with that seat bone, and to try and not pick at her.

We finished out our ride with some canter work. My instructor wanted us to begin exploring the idea of balance in the counter-canter so while on the rail and on the circle, asked to flex her to the outside, straighten, and bring her back on the correct bend. Baby steps. Chili wanted to break to the trot if I was changing bend a little too quickly as I was also disrupting her balance. I practiced a little more today with the concept and she seems to be catching on. 

All elementary things, but to be honest, it's nice to have her be so willing and sound so that I can work on having instruction to keep filling in some of these gaps.

I rode with a couple other people in the arena the past few days which was also excellent exposure. Chili has been a little too coddled at times with not always having riding companions and in our past, we almost always rode alone so she gets frazzled when other horses are doing things. Plus, it was nice to hear from the other riders on what a nice moving horse she is. 😁

Hopefully work will keep itself in check and I'll be able to schedule another lesson shortly. Here's to hoping! :)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Good Things

Sometimes it can be hard for me to take a break and realize there are still good things.

This year, by far, has been incredibly stressful. I'm a microbiologist by trade and this year, have been plunged off the end of the universe. What I originally thought would be a couple month endeavor in terms of Sars-CoV-2 testing and so forth, has now been an almost 9 month marathon. 

I remember being a little flippant back in February, long before it was on most people's radar, while talking to an infection prevention nurse. He asked if I was really concerned and I said no, not really, as long as the person in charge could actually keep his act together.


Now back to the positive things. I'm hoping to expand on a few of these topics soon enough if I ever have a few minutes to catch my breath.

First of all, I was absolutely shocked I placed second in the 2ptober challenge! I only rode a handful of times due to work and my older mare having pneumonia.

Second, I was quite surprised when I won a basket of Farnam items! 

One of my work supervisors surprised me and paid for my coffee the other day. I also received a small bucket of Halloween candy while I was at an area hospital doing some training work. :)

So hurray for free coffee and excessively sugary snacks.

So what good things have been happening to you lately?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Where have all the Morgans gone?

 Where have all the Morgans gone?
Also known as a discussion on breeders subsidizing their products.

I see this discussion come up quite frequently on social media as well as in-person for people looking for specific horses.

One common breed I see discussed quite often is the Morgan. There aren't many Morgan breeders left in the United States and there are not many foals registered each year. Many of the Morgan breeders left are breeding foals for the Saddleseat type market or are Amish type breeders looking for a flashy road horse.

This has lead to many people that frequently post on groups lamenting on the loss of the historical old style Morgan.

My personal opinion is that many of the historical type Morgans were overfed and underworked and that a fit, sport type Morgan could be almost all "historical" bloodlines, let still look different.

But also in addition to that what I have found is that people looking for a sport or classical type Morgan rarely want to pay what it costs to put a foal on the ground. Ten years ago, I bred for my first and only foal and my costs were more than five thousand dollars at the time, not including the cost of the mare and so forth. Some of my costs could be reduced if I had done more of my own veterinary type work, skipped ultrasounds, and so forth, but let's admit that to breed horses with a level of personalized care without just throwing a mare and a stallion together in a pasture, there are certain fixed costs.

I have yet to find someone that wants to pay the costs for someone to produce that foal, let alone a little bit extra to keep a breeder going in years of unexpected expenses.

Thus, why would a historical type Morgan breeder keep producing foals at a loss?

I have also encountered a number of breeders that can produce foals relatively inexpensively (perhaps using aforementioned pasture breeding), but there is still lack of capital to put these foals undersaddle, show them, or to market them to build a market. These horses still don't reach their target market who want that well broke, historical type Morgan.

I don't blame breeders that create Morgans for the saddleseat or show market that actually sell. It makes financial sense. They can continue to reinvest in their animals and take care of the stock they have.

I personally wish more people would understand the costs that go into producing a young horse and that to find a well broke XYZ breed at $1,000 meant that someone(s) have taken a substantial loss.

Please feel free to replace Morgan with any particular breed of your choice. This is just a common one I've seen recently.

What are you thoughts on this? Should there always be the expectation for breeders to do this for the love of the breed and take a loss? Should historical breed type preservation be a bigger priority and how should it be accomplished?

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Donni has been improving day by day. I have been somewhat impressed with my skills to administer her daily intravenous antibiotics. While I had previously utilized my skills to draw blood, it's been years since I've done it with any regularity.

Donni has been less than enthusiastic about being a pincushion after her stint two months ago with Potomac Horse Fever. Fortunately, my barn owner was able to help and we were able to get Donni to cooperate. The intramuscular injection was met with much more protest with her rearing up and at one point trying to sit on me, so we ended up using a chain on her with a towel over her ears in the arena to get that done.

Chili had her right hock injected in all of this as well. Since her left hock showed clean on the bone scan and the CT scan, the vet decided that we only needed to address the problem. At about the two week mark, Chili looked markedly more comfortable.

Too bad I'm headed into a miserable Midwest winter ahead, but I am looking forward to trying to get into a regular lesson schedule once my finances have recovered a bit.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Series of Unfortunate Events

 Sometimes life just seems like a series of unfortunate event, which could also be used to describe 2020 in a nutshell.

There seems to be so much to update on, but at least let's update the most significant change in my life.

Meet the original semi-feral equine. This gal has been featured on this blog since it's inception. She's also been so very unlucky. In my thirteen years of owning her, she's fractured a splint bone, lacerated an artery in her hind leg, survived a hind colon displacement, had aspiration pneumonia from a choke, a couple of tendon injuries from kicks from other horses, and most recently, had Potomac Horse Fever two months ago.

Well, one can guess where I'm going. Donni choked on Tuesday. I don't mess wait and see with chokes because of her previous pneumonia history. She has a number of melanomas on the underside of her neck and I've often wondered if it has created a stricture in her esophagus. Since her pneumonia choke, her grain has been wet down, however, that didn't stop a choke episode last year. The vet that attended that choke said it's the most difficult choke she's ever cleared and took about 15 gallons of water to clear.

The good news is the choke on Tuesday only took about 7.5 gallons of water to clear. The vet and I decided to preemptively put her on oral antibiotics due to her previous choke history and the amount of discomfort and respiratory distress she was in during this choke.

Unfortunately, the oral antibiotics weren't sufficient. She started running a fairly high fever while I was at work on Thursday. I called the vet clinic and asked them to come back out and evaluate her. While ultrasounding her, the vet did notice several abscesses in the upper part of her lungs. Despite our effort, she developed pneumonia.

So our current routine is banamine twice a day, depending on if the is running a temperature and how uncomfortable she is, IV antibiotics once a day, and a longer acting injectable intramuscular antibiotic every four days.

Crossing fingers we will see an improvement. Today she ran a fever in the morning without banamine on board, but she is back to picking and eating at her (very wet) equine senior, chatting up a storm asking for more food, and being bright eyed and perky while being turned out. All very good signs, but this horse is so incredibly stoic, it's always been kind of hard to gauge where she is at with these things.

Her condition is cautiously optimistic and I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, despite my pocketbook being so very tapped out since her Potomac Horse Fever adventure two months ago.

Sunday, October 4, 2020



So the last few weeks have been some ups and downs. Just dropping my horse off at the veterinary school was a rough experience. It was cold and raining and the process was to pull into the parking lot, they clip a lead rope on your horse, and off the student goes.

Chili is a bit of a sensitive soul so the idea of not being able to check in on her was a bit nerve-wracking.

I wasn't incredibly impressed with the communication from the facility. I didn't hear anything until day two after I had called several times for an update. Day one, they were just injecting her with drugs and the imaging was to be performed the morning of day two. Evening of day two, I called on the way home from work. Still nothing.

The attending veterinarian finally called back around seven and they stated that during the bone scan there was something on the right hock, but they couldn't tell if it was a fracture or traumatic arthritis. They asked for permission to perform a CT scan and I asked if I could call back in the morning after I had talked to the insurance company, as insurance had approved the bone scan and I wanted to know if they would approve the standing CT as well.

Fortunately insurance did approve the CT scan and the end result was no fracture and there appeared to be a spot of (probable) traumatic arthritis on one of the right hock bones. It's hard to say if it is solely a result of the accident in April or something else, but on the plus side, everything else imaged squeaky clean.

At the end of day three, one again in the cold rain, I picked up my horse from the vet school. While I think they did an adequate jobs, there was definitely some more issues with communication that I was not pleased about overall. I was also not happy about the big shaved spot on her neck that I wasn't informed was going to happen, along with at least six different venipuncture spots.

Chili seemed pleased to be home and quite a bit more lame after having not been hand walked or even out of a stall, except for imaging for three days while away. Poor thing! She's definitely not used to being confined and certainly not alone without buddies in sight for that long. She loaded and uploaded like a champ and I walked her around for a while after we got home.

What I found somewhat sweet was that I was currying and scratching her neck after putting her back in her stall at home and she kept nuzzling and nickering to me. She's not an extraordinarily affectionate horse, so maybe she really was telling me not to drop her off alone again. ;)

The suggestion from the imaging at the vet school was to inject the right hock joint, so I saved that for my primary veterinarian. Here's to hoping that this really is the final answer and light at the end of this mysterious lameness tunnel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Off to the Vet School


As previously mentioned, Chili has had some lingering soundness issues since an accident in April. It's perplexing. Some days, she feels great and is developing a lot more push in the trot.

However, I have noticed if I am standing around chatting and ask her to move off again, she can be a little bit of a crab and not move off my leg. After some observation, I realized that she was actually more stiff after moving off than if we keep going the whole ride.

If we go over cavaletti or ground poles, she's more sound.

It's perplexing.

So insurance approved Chili to receive a bone scan, so today's the day. I woke up at 3:15 this morning, abruptly nervous and the whole ordeal. I'm not sure why. She's headed to my local university, but it's a three day ordeal and I obviously am not permitted in the building. It's a lot to surrender control of my horse for three days.

Apparently the first day she will receive meds, tomorrow will be the actual scan, and then Friday she has to urinate out all of the radioactive contrast before we can pick her up.

The theory is that if there are areas of bone remodeling, it should show up brighter on the scan.

Wish her luck and hopefully he get to the bottom of her discomfort.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Saddleseat Style

 I have dabbled in trying a lot of things and pretty much haven't mastered any of it.

One thing I haven't really tried was saddleseat. I have ridden in a cutback saddle a couple of times, including once on my grandmother's horse who took off on me while I was wearing jeans and sneakers. I was twelve so I thought that was pretty cool.

Last week, I went out to a local farm to take some photos of some horses at the request of the trainer. He has a lot of breeds on the property, but I would say he is best known for training Dutch Harness Horses, American Dutch Harness Horses, Hackneys, and Saddlebreds. 

The trainer asked if I wanted to hop on and ride and I said yes of course! My steed was Jeronimo, a very handsome black Dutch Harness Horse stallion with just the right amount of chrome. He was pretty lazy at the trot in the indoor arena, despite having a couple of days off. We went outdoors and once again, he was pretty lazy. I was trying to figure out how to ride a horse whose neck is entirely vertical. I'm pretty sure I was told to shorten the reins and put my hands up approximately 827 times. Apparently I just don't learn that quickly. Probably why I haven't mastered anything yet. ;) 

The trainer was hunting around and finally found a dressage whip he was looking for. It was a pretty remarkable transformation that just by holding the whip, the pretty boy puffed himself up and went into a somewhat respectable big saddleseat type trot. He also magically was able to move off of leg and stopped being in "child's pony" mode. 

Another thing that I had to adapt to besides the long neck, short reins, and his way of going was the encouragement of vocal cues. Whip and a little bit of clucking and he was a fun ride indeed. Quite comfortable to ride, very responsive in a simple snaffle, and a very different, but steady contact in the bridle.

While quite out of my routine normal, it was a very enjoyable experience.

I also enjoyed photographing the handful of horses on the property that evening including a phenomenal roadster Hackney Pony, a couple of girls and their horses they ride there, and a very young, high trotting Dutch Harness Horse foal. 

My cup of joy was certainly full from this adventure. I'm glad I didn't turn down the chance to ride simply because among many of my friends, saddleseat just has the perception of hot, crazy horses and horses that aren't schooled to the leg or bridle. What I found here was pretty much the opposite. A good learning opportunity indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Chili and the Mounting Block

 Sometimes I do things with my horses when there isn't traffic in the arena. Chili isn't a stranger to this type of work, but it has been a while since I've done any particular "liberty" work. I don't really subscribe or follow any trainer's methodology and I've just made it up as I've gone along, so if it looks wonky, it probably is.

But essentially, I try and mount from the taller block every time since it saves significant strain on my bad hip number. The horse needs to line up at the block. I turned it into a game that when she comes over and lines up, she does get a reward. Chili isn't an incredibly food motivated horse, but apparently just enough at times to make this work.

Anyone else do any particular "trick" or "liberty" work with their horses?

Sunday, August 23, 2020



Last week Sunday. Wasn't sure if we would make it to take this photo
A couple weeks ago, I was having a tough time. I left work early on a Friday and went to the barn and just cried. I'm a hospital microbiologist and to be honest, I had reached a point where I felt overwhelmed and so villainized by social media by means of my profession.

I have been fairly isolated since March since my husband and I are essential workers. However, I made the decision that I wanted to support my friend's open show. Chili wasn't up to attending, but she had a couple of horses I could show in hand and under-saddle.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the show, I received a call from my barn that my old grey mare (the original Semi Feral Mare) seemed to have a mild colic and had gone off feed. They had given her probiotics, electrolytes, and banamine and she seemed to be much more comfortable. I made the decision that they were keeping a close eye on her and I was several hours away, so I didn't return home at that moment.

I stopped out that evening and realized there may be something more going on. Unfortunately, she had pretty profuse diarrhea, but no temperature. I called my veterinarian who suggested that if she was eating and drinking to just keep an eye on her and to give her additional electrolytes and biosponge and see how she did.

 Well, the following morning, she seemed bright eyed and alert, but not quite right. Still no temperature. Of course, had to make an emergency vet call on a Sunday. The vet and I puzzled together, but decided to pull an SAA (serum amyloid A). SAA is a test that can be performed stall-side and rapidly rises if there is an infectious or inflammatory process. Normal range is a value of 0-20. Donni's that morning was over 900.

Oh sugar.

The best guess at this point was Potomac Horse Fever.

Despite the lack of fever, the rest of her symptoms seemed to fit. It was a bit of difficult news to take. Donni is 25 and with Cushing's. One of the major symptoms with Potomac Horse Fever (PHF) is laminitis, which often does not respond well to treatment and management.

Together with my veterinary clinic and barn owner, we started a plan. Another boarder had a pair of Softride boots I could borrow, which should help support her feet and hopefully help avoid laminitis.

Daily banamine, probiotics, biosponge, electrolytes, and IV antibiotics. My vets came every day and I had a wonderful barn owner who held her for the veterinarians to give antibiotics and fluids since in my critical job, I absolutely couldn't leave work (especially since I was in the middle of an accreditation inspection).

It really was one of the first times in my life that I surrendered control and decisions of my horses to a team I had to absolutely trust. My veterinary team dutifully called the daily report to me while I was at work and for a while, her SAA kept going up each day. I was pretty distraught and frustrated. What were we looking at?

Another veterinary friend did the biggest service and helped me think through and stay the (expensive) course.

Finally on Thursday, her numbers started to improve. Progress! Last Saturday, we gave her last dose of IV antibiotics and crossed our fingers.

 Hard for me to imagine that two weeks ago that I really didn't know what to think or even do with this sassy miss. It's an expensive lesson in learning some of the subtle signs and symptoms of PHF. Fingers crossed, it is all smooth sailing from here on out in her recovery.

For those seeking more education, please check out AAEP's website on Potomac Horse Fever
I'll do a separate post on the actual organism that causes Potomac Horse Fever.

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.