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.