Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Logos and Clipping

How do you spend the two days your horse is on stall rest?

Turning him from this:
Go to take a great conformation shot, horse closes his eyes. Of course.
Into this:

Giving me the "why mom?" expression.
 Obviously. Because there's nothing I'd rather do on a weekend where I'm battling a nasty case of bronchitis (seriously, I think I'm dying over here) than shave a ticklish thoroughbred, hyperactive as hell from being on stall rest.

Unfortunately, after reviewing the USEF rules on decorations, logos, and monograms, I decided to play it safe and remove the Guinness harp from Pig's flank. It's always a good idea to stay on the safe side of USEF rules. No one likes stupid eliminations. That meant my clip job had to be done last weekend, to let the inevitable clip lines (more on those below) even out a bit.

Normally, I clip Pig after drugging him, to avoid being kicked across the barn. This time, I was the one huffing the drugs (mostly steroid inhalers and Mucinex) and Pig was dancing around avoiding the clippers. With lots of patience, breathing breaks for me, and several people helping me distract the ticklish kid, I got it done.
Clipping the ticklish parts first means he looks pretty moth eaten...
The worst part? It was an average of 35* this weekend, which made bathing impossible. This horse is filthy. I went through 3 sharp clipper blades to get this clip done. I'm kind of impressed with how even the damn thing turned out. By the end, I was literally hacking through the hair. It took 4-7 passes with the clippers to get through a single pass.
Those clip lines, doh...
 I've said it before, but seriously. I will NEVER CLIP A DIRTY HORSE AGAIN. It was so painful.
"Hey Mom. You know what's painful? Being on stall rest when it's blustery and cold and you have boiling hot thoroughbred blood in your veins. Then some idiot decides to shave off your winter coat. Yeah. That's pain."
I do think he looks ultra fancy all clipped. I wish I could've managed his head, but that was really pushing my luck. Plus, I always leave his legs to help protect his accident prone self on full turnout. (Not that it works!) Still, studly chestnut horse is ready for showtime!
Have you met my stallion?

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Treatment as diagnosis"

I had the vet out Friday to evaluate the funky movement of Guinness' back right leg. He immediately agreed there was an issue with the leg. I have to say, it's strangely reassuring to hear the vet say "Oh yeah, I totally see it too." Somehow, it's nicer to know I wasn't imagining things, and that there is really an issue to point to.

However, that issue isn't the hock. It's the stifle.

We didn't take x-rays, so we don't know for sure what we are treating. My vet offered me the choice of going to Purdue to get ultrasounds and x-rays, having some digital x-rays taken at his office, or just treating now and seeing how any improvement informs future decisions. I chose the later.

See, I've know there's a pain issue, even more so than I let on in my previous post. I've been through training issues, and stubbornness issues with this horse before. This hasn't felt the same. He's trained to this level, and knows his job. He even likes his job. So when he's recently started off easy and lovely in the bridle and remained that way through the whole ride, except when tracking right, alarm bells started chiming. Then, we very recently started working in the deeper footing of the outdoor ring, and Pig started panic sweating when we track right. The alarm bells got even louder.

So why didn't I leap in for the whole diagnostic shebang? Well, I have a 17 year old ex-racehorse on my hands. A really wonderful one, who has given me so much and means the world to me. But, his fetlocks look like they were pounded on with hammers, and his neck snaps and pops when he stretches. There isn't a lot of mileage left in him in the riding ring, and one more issue isn't the send of the world. It's one more issue to take into account when I look at his overall soundness picture.

The look of eagles.
The truth is, he isn't really lame. There's no sign of an acute injury. He resists and lets me know something isn't right, but moves just fine once he gets his balance shifted. I know what we're dealing with is probably arthritic changes due to damage to the cartilage around the stifle joint from our trailer accident. There's nothing I can do to resolve it at this point, but I can take pro-active steps to help manage Guinness' pain and try to keep the joint from degrading too much. Our previous track record with his fetlock arthritis makes me feel confident in my ability to do this.

Sweaty and gross from a ride in the outdoor.
 So I had my vet inject the joint, and we'll play the waiting game to see how the treatment helps him. If he doesn't improve, we'll seek more diagnostics. If he does, we'll move forward and put him on a similar treatment plan as for his fetlocks.
For now, he's been unhappily stuck in a stall for two days to let the injections settle and the site heal. I'll ride him today for the first time, and on Wednesday I'll ask for real work and assess his soundness. Friday we head to a show to make a grab for our last scores before 3rd level. We can do this.
"Stalls are terrible! Give me candy corn!!"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dear Tack Hoarders, er, Collectors...

I have a problem, and only you crazy tack people can help me out. This is your moment to shine...

The issue: A few months ago, my new double bridle arrived:
New leather! Is there anything better?
It's a Bobby's monocrown (this is important), and despite being on stupid clearance, must be one of the best quality Bobby's I've ever seen. The leather is buttery and soft, already feeling broken in. It smells divine, and I can't take my hands off of it.
Seriously. It's beautiful.
Just one problem...
See it?
Yeah. The noseband is massive. It's a 2" noseband, and when I was ordering the bridle I thought, "Huh. That noseband is probably going to be ridiculously large on my cob-sized TB. Oh well, I can just buy a replacement noseband and sell that one. People snap up wide nosebands like crazy on TackTrader."
It's a good thing it's pretty, or it'd have gone back ... a 3rd time.
And that's exactly what I would've done... if the bridle hadn't ended up being a monocrown.
Maybe it's not so bad from the front?
In an effort to just try to make the whole thing work, I put it on Guinness and went for a few rides. I tried to convince myself that he looks good with his face completely overwhelmed by noseband. I tried to tell myself that "it fills in the space before his very slightly Romany schnoz." Telling myself these things didn't work, unfortunately. I am unable to keep myself from seeing the truth... 
The truth? The truth is this thing is so damn big, I'm reasonably certain it was made for elephants.
 I don't like the noseband in the slightest. Besides looking ridiculous, it actually interferes with the way the top shank of my curb lays, and interferes with my bradoon. The cheekpieces have to flair out so much to allow room for it that the whole bridle just doesn't work properly. This is really sad, because everything else about this whole set up is perfection, and Pig actually goes really well in it.
These bits. So much love. Large, looming, noseband? Not so much.
So, my beloved tack hoarding (sorry! collecting!) friends, I ask you:
Where? How? Do you have? Can I find?  ...a monocrown noseband that is more appropriate?

Seriously. I need help.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pending hock injections

Guinness and I are no stranger to joint problems. Pig was diagnosed with severe DJD in both front fetlocks way back in 2011. That diagnosis ended his jumping career for good, and brought us both to dressage full time. It also started a pattern of steroid/HA joint injections to keep him comfortable while the joints remodeled.
This is my set of "really cool, but you wouldn't want to own them" x-rays. These make every vet I've ever seen cringe and ask me incredulously "Omg. And you RIDE this horse?!" Yes, actually. And he's surprisingly sound.
My set of radiographs is quite old, and I would love a new set to see what the joints look like today. Unfortunately, my finances don't allow me to just throw down money unless there's actually a problem. Since Pig's injection schedule has actually tapered from every 6 months, to every year, to finally none, I can't justify a new set.

But now, I might have another joint to obsess over.

While watching Guinness walk ahead of me on last week's eventful trail ride, I noticed his right hind winging out widely. My horse has always traveled straight behind, so I immediately took notice of this wild change. In fact, I've been obsessing about it ever since.

Year old video of Pig trotting:
 Video from this week (please excuse the wiggling!):

The whole thing is weird because Pig isn't lame back there. He still tracks up the same: at the walk he still overtracks by a good 4" and at the canter he still steps deeply. However, Pig has been incredibly difficult on the left shoulder for the last 3 months. I've adjusted my training and we can still manage all the movements, but that difficulty has been on my mind.

Did the trailer accident cause a minor modification to the hock joint?

It's completely possible. The leg with the weird movement is the one that was trapped under Guinness for the whole ordeal. While the hock didn't have a scrape on it, that doesn't mean that the joint didn't undergo enough stress to start some arthritic changes.

So with two weeks until we trot down the centerline at the season's first USDF show, I'm calling the vet today to schedule injections in the funky hock. If they work, great. If not, we'll look at other options. Wish us luck.
The offending hock in action, and looking damn good.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Let Talk: Accident Prone

I'm sure you've heard me say it before, "My horse is extremely accident prone." I'm not exaggerating about that. Since the moment I brought him home, Guinness has been trying to bash in some part of his body.
"How dare you accuse me of such self-mutilation?! Why would I hurt this stunning body?"
Sure... I joke about it, but what are you going to do with a horse who has accumulated the following injuries in a one month period?

  • A swollen knee, not lame, but hot. No cuts. Obviously tender to the touch.
  • A cut across his front left cannon. Not deep, but still swollen and hot. Not lame.
  • A big knot from some kind of blunt trauma on the side of his back left cannon bone. Slightly warm. Not lame. No reaction when you poke it really hard.
  • A cut just above the fetlock on his front right. Not deep, and not lame.
  • A small cut just above his nose in the middle of his face. Zero sensitivity or swelling. Was already scabbed over when I found it. Scab has since been pulled off about 3 times.
  • A cut to the right side of his cheek (affecting the fit of his drop noseband). Slightly deep and tender. No swelling. No heat.
  • A scrape under his chin, just an inch off his English noseband. Hard to see. Lots of blood. No pain. Easily treated.
This is the randomly swollen knee. I won't lie. I freaked out about this. I was absolutely certain it was bone chip from the trailer accident settling below the joint, and that my horse would be broken for life, or need surgery, or his leg would get infected and explode. Seriously. I lost my brains. Then it went away after three days.
That list isn't even an abnormal number of injuries. There is rarely a day that goes by that this horse doesn't have some sort of bump, cut, sore spot, bug bite, or chunk missing. I mean, remember how I've dealt with two instances of a bruised cannon bone that kept us from working? I'm so well versed in treating random injuries that I even wrote up this post including "Austen's Tidbits of First-Aid Awesome." 

Bubble wrap gets talked about a lot, but I'm honestly afraid Pig would somehow get hung up in it and destroy himself. Blankets seem to work to keep cuts and bites from his body, but he destroys them so easily I try not to have him wear them more than necessary.
Maybe we could try a hard hat instead?

For an animal that is the least energetic and playful on the planet, I don't know how he gets into such scrapes. He is on full turnout with a large group of horses. You might think this is the big contributing factor, but actually he has just as many injuries when stalled or turned out with a small group. In fact, he has less bite and kick marks with this group than any other group he's ever lived with.

So basically, I'm out of ideas and I've given up. My horse is going to look like a war-torn stallion in the show ring no matter what I do, I'm going to run out of betadine on the regular, and I'm going to constantly have to adjust my tack choices to accommodate his most recent face bashing.

Hell. He's probably out there right now sawing a new hole in his backside. Ugh. Horses. Amirite?

** Edited to add: He was in fact sawing a new hole. Since I wrote this post, this lovely scrape appeared. Seriously horse? Why?
Just superficial, but definitely hot, sensitive to touch, and swollen. Grrr...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Equipment Change

If you have a keen eye, you may have noticed Pig sporting some changed equipment in recent photos. And, if you follow Instagram, you're probably even more aware of some of them. So as a quick note, let's break down what I've changed in the last two months!


1. The Noseband

So regal. Such a disaster of a bridle.
Normally, Pig goes in a drop noseband. I use a drop almost exclusively to mitigate my busy hands. The drop holds the bit steadier in his mouth while I figure myself out. We both appreciate that.

However, Pig bashed his head on something a month ago and ended up with a cut right where the strap for the drop rubs. The strap kept irritating the cut, so I ended up switching him to a regular English noseband. The white padding does nothing for his face, and it has brass buckles, where everything else on his bridle is silver. But, the new noseband does not rub. Soo... #functionbeatsform

We'll switch back to the drop when the scab finally falls off, but until then the English noseband is just fine. Honestly, we probably don't need the drop any more.

2. The Bit
Mmmm brass and silver and white. Mmmm bleeding eyes. Mmmm...
After having a conversation with my trainer about choosing bits, I had it in the back of my mind to try Pig in a snaffle with a more welcoming metal than stainless steel. He's always been so tough in the bridle (part of which is me, of course!), and I wondered if a different metal might make a difference. I've been thinking about this for so long, I even wrote about it back in November.

Luckily, I had a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra bradoon hanging around, so I decided to just toss it on his bridle to see how he went in it.

The result? It's not a miracle bit. Pig is still slightly difficult to get to accept contact, and still a little stiff in the poll. However, there is a difference. His mouth feels ... softer? with this bit. He might be tight and stiff in his back and neck, but he's more willing in his mouth. Overall, it seems to just encourage him to be more present in my hand. Any little bit of encouragement there is a plus in my book, so the bradoon stays.

Now the question: Do I just show him in the bradoon? Or buy the KK Ultra snaffle version? I'm actually leaning towards just showing with the bradoon. The rings don't look silly small on him, though the brass with silver kind of bugs me. I am also the cheapest person I know. I'll probably just stick with this.

3. Fleece!
Wow, this is a terrible photo.
After trying a Mattes pad on Pig for a few rides, I liked how much more even the sweat patterns on his back and saddle pads appeared. So, I went searching for a fleece pad of my own. I scored a used Dover pad for $45. I've seen the Dover pads before, and the quality is pretty good. I wasn't disappointed. While the pad is definitely in a used condition, it does the job just fine. It's maybe a smidgen too small, but doesn't seem to effect the saddle fit poorly.

Pig goes fine in the pad, but he goes about the same in every saddle/pad/fitting configuration you can think up. The horse just does not mind saddle fit. I am comforted by the more even sweat patterns, though. Overall? The pad stays.

How about you guys? Any new changes going on with your tack for spring? Other than PS of Sweden? I mean, come on guys. We aren't made of money! ;)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gravel down pants?

Last weekend, I coerced my husband into coming to ride horses with me. I had two to work, and too much research to spend time at the barn riding both of them separately. They also both needed mental arena breaks (me too!), and the dogs needed a good long walk.

Who am I kidding. There is no need to justify an hour long road hack on a 70° 
day in March.

So we tacked up the two horses. I put Christian on Guinness, and I took Darius. Guinness isn't really a dead broke trail horse, but I trust his shenanigans enough to put a greenie aboard. At least, I trust him enough if we stay on the road...

After all, we've been walking roads for years. Pig's best friend was once the FedEx guy!
Of course, riding on the roads can never be 100% safe, especially when the horse you are on doesn't have the years of experience of mine. Take, for example, the horse I was on.
Who? Me?
As we came up on a rather steep hill, an older man on a four-wheeler and a younger boy on a dirt bike crested the hill.
This hill, to be exact.
(Okay, okay. I know it's not really very steep. But it's, like, the ONLY hill in this part of Indiana. It's steep by comparison!)
Luckily the guys were nice enough to idle the engines and slow way down. As Darius started rearing and spinning under me, I took quick note that Guinness was not even giving the wheeled horse-eating monsters a second glance. Instead, he was carefully scanning the perimeter, as if trying to figure out what in the hell could be so terrifying to Darius. My husband was sitting hunched over, holding on to the saddle and waiting for something to happen. Nothing did.

Meanwhile, I felt Darius think about going from spinning to bolting, and I decided to jump off to avoid leaving Christian stranded with a worried Guinness. In the process of kicking my feet free, my left foot ended up getting stuck in the stirrup. So, I slow-fell onto my butt into the soft wet gravel.

It honestly didn't even hurt.

Darius bolted all of 10 yards, before remembering that I'm the nice lady with the treats. He turned right around to be caught.

The guys with the four-wheeler and the bike actually killed their engines for the whole thing and just sat quietly in the road. They were so respectful and wonderful; I must have thanked them a million times for being so great.

We ended up walking to the top of the hill, where I got back on. As soon as I got into the saddle, I realized there was a problem.

Guys. My pants were full of gravel.

Wet.

Heavy.

Gravel.

I did the only thing you can do in such a situation: I rode the two and half miles back to the barn with gravel down my pants.

And that's the story of how I had to take my breeches off on the back porch. You're welcome.

No pictures of the gravel in my pants (sorry?), but I did snap some photos from the ride. Enjoy!
Yes. My husband is flipping me off here for taking his photo, but isn't my horse ADORABLE?!
Happy Pig takes big huge walk steps! (And yet still forges...)
It makes me happy to see my horse so happy.
Don't lie. You think this looks fun, too. Maybe not Gravel Down Your Pants fun, but still.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Good Day for the Irish

(This post is high on photos and low on content. You're welcome.)
The last couple of weeks have been booked pretty solid. Between school and trying to get in the training rides necessary to feel ready for the show the first of April, there hasn't been a whole ton of time to sit and write a post.
There's barely been enough time for this ... 
Of course, in the mean time the weather has changed from this:
Much snow dog. So vicious. Rawr. :)
And this:
Off leash huskies = winning at life
To this:
The whole road. No ice. It's Miracle Town.
And very recently, this:
The ground! I see it! Maybe it really IS March!
Speaking of March, yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. In true overwhelmed Adult Ammy/Student Style, I celebrated decking my Irish horse and my Irish heritage self out in green and went riding instead of to the bar. One redhead and one pale kid, coming right up!
Don't let this photo fool you. It was actually something like 35° yesterday. My hands went numb from cold.
The luck of the Irish must have been with us. We had a brilliant ride. It was our first day back in the outdoor ring, and no unforseen spooks could be detected. Pig was buttery in the bridle the whole time, and his back was very round.

We worked through all the trot work from the new 2-2 test, with good results. I even continued through the walk work and had nicely marching turns on the haunches. Feeling pretty good, we sauntered on into the canter work, where I decided to take advantage of a good day by working on some 3rd Level stuff.

Guys. It's coming along.

We've been working really hard on developing more through outside half halts, and yesterday they came through for us. When I had a really nicely bouncy and through canter, I did a volte teardrop back to the wall and counter cantered a 15m half circle. Just as we straightened onto the opposite wall, I asked Pig for a change.

We got it. Immediately. A beautiful and balanced change on the aids. Best of all? It felt correct, and Pig didn't even pop out of the bridle.

After a short rest, I tested my luck with the other direction. The canter departs to the right are tougher for us, so I expected this change to be a little rougher, and it was. We repeated the exercise, and this time I focused hard on connecting my new outside rein to my halt halting outside seatbone, and BAM we got another really nice change.

Who is this horse?

We ended the whole ride by working a little bit of canter half pass. It's been coming along so well, I just wanted to fiddle with keeping the shoulder angle a little more stable. Sometimes when Pig gets really excited, he launches sideways off my leg, and ends up throwing his haunches too far into the movement.

By keeping my reins short, and keeping that outside half halt connected (instead of throwing it away) I was able to keep control of Pig's shoulders. When I do that, the half pass starts to be all about developing jump in the canter, instead of a strung out movement a little on the forehand. It's amazing. Five minutes of half pass work in each direction, and we called it a day. You don't want to mess around with a ride like that!

Unfortunately, the video I set up didn't work out. So you'll have to make do with this video clip from a ride back in January...
A video posted by @northfuzz on

I'm still throwing away my contact here, and not effectively half halting on the outside (and let's not even mention my weird chicken elbow thing...). Still, the angle is pretty good, and Pig is obviously very willing and plenty capable. I just have to keep rising to his level.
Hopefully I get there by the time the show comes around. If we have a ride like we did yesterday, we have a really great chance at some good scores!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

TIL: The Florida Chronicles, the easy edition

In January, I flew down to Florida to join my trainer at her trainer's farm. I took lessons, walked around on fancy warmbloods, saw the sun, sweat my ass off ... and the like. It was gorgeous. 
Yeah. I meant it. Gorgeous.
Unlike my previous (Pt 1, Pt 2) training write ups (more coming), this post is going to be about something we all know and love. Or not.

Horse Laundry.

Gross. I know. If you're like me, horse laundry is just about your most hated chore. You let your saddle pads fester in the back of the tack room, washing them maybe every other month. Even in the summer. You go without polo wraps rather than take the time and hassle of washing them, untangling them ... ugh. Just the thought of spending an hour untangling polo wraps makes my blood pressure rise. Grrrr! Am I right?

So, imagine my surprise when one of the best things I learned in Florida didn't have to do with riding, but with laundry. (Okay. Okay, that's an exaggeration. But only slightly!) See, in  Florida horse laundry was a way of life. There was at least one load being done every day. Polo wraps and saddle pads were in constant rotation. 

All this washing inspired me to be honest with myself about my horrible laundry habits, but it also clued me in on a couple of things to make laundry easier.

First? Stop the polo wrap tangle.

"How is this possible?" I can hear you asking...  Diaper Pins. Yep. Those capped safety pins from the baby section. (Literally the only thing I ever plan to venture into the baby section for in my life!)
Mine came from Walmart. They were $1.
It's very easy. See, you take the dirty polo wrap and fold back the velcro so it is attached to itself. Then you simply half the wrap, half one more time, and stick a diaper pin through the middle. 
Like so ... (please excuse the dog hair. It's everywhere.)
Then you simply toss the wraps into the washer and the dryer. The pins keep the wraps from tangling into messes, but still loose enough to get clean.

It's a laundry miracle, guys.

Oh, and that second revelation? Use the dryer. It's not going to murder your saddle pads to dry them, and you can be done with the whole process quicker. Toss in a dryer sheet. It'll help keep the hair off everything.

Miracle worker, out!