Friday, March 26, 2010

Recovery: week 1

I'm sure you're all wondering how I managed to break my ankle.  I suspect you all have a theory and I'm pretty sure that theory is correct.  Gwen did not take very well to mounting from the stirrup.  She jumped forward in surprise (she didn't buck).  I flew over her hindquarters and landed on my feet.  Unfortunately when my left foot hit the ground the sand must have shifted under it because my leg landed straight but my foot took a detour to the left.  My foot dislocated and broke off the tip of my fibula in the process.

Of course I had no idea what I had done, only that it looked really bad.  I opted for taking the ambulance to the hospital just in case there was a compound fracture hidden under my boot (there wasn't, phew).  I met a very nice paramedic named Fred, who's only job seemed to be keeping me from freaking out on the ride over, I made that difficult for him but he managed anyway.  

Once at the hospital they reset my foot (I don't remember that due to the drugs they gave me, thank goodness) and put a temporary cast on it.  The physician's assistant who put the cast on did a fantastic job of covering almost the entire emergency room with plaster, I missed this while it was happening but I did get to see the plaster splashed all over the wall and all over the floor where he'd tracked through it before I left.  Between that and the pile of dirt that came off my boots the janitorial staff at the hospital must have been super pleased with my visit.

That was Sunday night, Monday they got me right into an appointment with an orthopedist.  I got my options and decided to get my fibula screwed back onto my fibula with a plate.  They kept emphasizing the whole time that it was a good option since I am 31.  Over and over.  Would it have made a difference if I was 33?  35?  I'm now wondering what the cut-off age is. I decided to go with the plate because it cuts the healing time in half.  The surgeon got me into a Tuesday afternoon slot for the surgery and by Tuesday night I was a bionic woman.

I currently don't really have a clue what my healing time is going to be.  I have a follow-up appointment in a week and a half and I'm hoping to get a little more info then.  It might be 10 weeks though.  DRAT!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'll be on haitus for a while...

I broke my ankle on Sunday.  I'm having surgery today.  I'll try to post some more info tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I wanna be sedated

Well, I want my mare to be sedated, more on that later.

First I want to talk about my boy and how good he is.  I mentioned that I lunged him Saturday and Sunday for 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, I've found that lunging horses makes me dizzy and nauseous, so I'm going to keep it to a minimum.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I climbed up on him bareback and rode at the walk for 10 minutes.  Tonight I rode him for 15 minutes at the walk.

My plan has been to focus on bending since he's been so stiff lately.  I'll ride down the ring, ask for a small circle and then continue around the ring.  Later we'll go into the center of the ring and do a few more small circles, today I added in serpentines.  His suppleness has improved already.  He's started bending all the way from nose to tail.  Today he did the most wonderful thing, while circling he leaned into the outside rein and let the inside rein go slack!  It's good to know I'm doing something right.

The other thing I've been working on during our rides is me.  Since I'm not using a saddle I can play with my weight shifting and really see how it influences him.  So many times I've found him drifting off the rail into the center of the ring and realize that he's doing it because I'm leaning on my outside stirrup, so I know he's pretty sensitive to weight shifts.  While bareback I've been experimenting with shifting my weight from one seat bone to the other and seeing what he does.  Seat aids are not something that's ever been drilled into me during lessons, so right now I'm enjoying playing with it on my own. 

Now onto my girl.  I climbed up on her back for the second time on Monday.  I was a near disaster though, the first time I tried the F#%@#$@#G mounting block tipped and I fell on her.  That was bad.  But she let me catch her back up and we went onto have a successful mounting.  BUT, she hasn't stood next to the mounting block again since Monday.  I tried on Wednesday and today, she'll walk up to it but then she'll swing her hindquarters away before I can step up on it.  That one bad experience, even though it was followed immediately by a good one, made quite an impression on her.  GAH, stupid mounting block.

Well, there are other things to work on.  I've been saddling her up and leading her around with it on her back, getting her loose and relaxed.  Today I even got her to trot with it on.  She's getting more comfortable with it.  I think if she doesn't get over her mounting block issues I might have to just mount her from the stirrup next.  That's a little scary, but I think she'll be okay with it.

Now onto the bad.  I've been working with Gwen first and then putting her back in her stall while I ride Coriander.  With the warmth we've had this week (High 50's and even 60's), by the time I bring him into the barn (10-20 minutes after I put Gwen up) she's a horrible, sweaty mess.  Her attachment issues are still just as present as they always were.  She's literally dripping sweat from her ears to her barrel from just racing around her stall and flinging herself against the door like a loon for 20 minutes.  It's amazing, scary, and annoying.  When I see her like this I take her back out to try to cool her down.  Try being the operative word here.  She's still pretty nutty then and it's walk three steps, circle circle, scream, walk three steps, spook, circle circle.  TIRING.

There are products out there to calm high strung horses, Calm and Cool for instance.  Has anyone tried it?  Could it help her chill out about her separation issues?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mud season is here

I had to pull out my fashionable black rubber boots to celebrate:

Coriander appreciates the restorative aspects of mud and has really taken to full body treatments:

Meanwhile, Gwen thinks she got some in her eye:

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I think I've finally got Psycho Gwen figured out...

I lunged Coriander yesterday and today at the walk for 10 minutes.  Well, mostly at the walk, he threw in a little canter just for fun.  I don't blame him, the footing in the ring is really good right now and he's been plowing through snow and mud for a long time.

Yesterday I gave another try at lunging Gwen.  She would circle around me once or twice and then stop and look at me, saying "where's my treat?"  It's going to take a while before she understands what I'm looking for, but she kept herself to a walk and was very calm the whole time.

Today I had a totally different horse.  Psycho Gwen was in.  I wrangled her out to the ring with the lunge line but I knew before I got her out there that it would be pointless to try to lunge her.  She kept screaming for Coriander the whole time I had him out and then she tried to circle around me all the way to the ring.  I turned her loose and she took off galloping and bucking (Once again, WOW athletic.  I'll try to video her some day).  She would occasionally stop next to me for a treat but then take off again.  She ran herself into quite a sweat.

I *think* she's in heat, but I'm used to seeing "hussy" heat.  You know: teasing the boys, peeing all over, raised tails and winking.  Gwen doesn't do that, she did seem to pee more than usual today but besides that I all have to go on was her being much more anxious than usual about being separated from Coriander.  When I track back and look at my tags, the last times I saw Psycho Gwen were right in the middle of the month (February is missing but I don't think I noticed because the weather was so awful I didn't do anything with her in the middle of the month).  It seems pretty likely that this behavior is hormonal, I guess I have a mare-y mare.  Hmm, maybe I should look into Regu-mate?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Clouds on the horizon

Literally, it's supposed to rain all night and all weekend.  On the one hand, that will be good because the rain will wash away the snow we've still got hanging around.  On the other, holy crud are we ever going to have a lot of mud from it.

One of the things I didn't anticipate before getting the quarters was becoming an amateur weatherman (woman).  Since I pay for stall board, when the quarters get turned out they go into pastures without shelter.  Which means that the first thing I do every morning is check the weather and determine whether I can turn the horses out today or not.  If there's supposed to be a little drizzle or a flurry they go out, more precipitation than that and they stay in.  Really windy and cold today?  They stay in.  I end up keeping them in a lot of days when I know they would stay outside if it was their choice.  Well, Gwen's choice.  Coriander would prefer to stay in everyday and wallow in hay for 5 months out of the year.  Anybody else struggle with turnout issues?

Anyway, the quarters didn't go out today because it was supposed to rain on and off and when I got to the barn after work it looked like it could start pouring at any moment.  All they did tonight was hand graze on a bit of the lawn that had finally emerged out from under the snow.  Yesterday I took Gwen out to the ring to do some targetting practice.  She only raced along the fence once before she came back to me ready to work.  That's quite an improvement for her.

Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be beautiful and I am lucky enough to have both of those days off from work.  I'm planning on using those days to jump start spring training.  That includes getting back on Gwen and starting Coriander on his new exercise regimen (compliments of Grey Horse Matters).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WE DID IT!!!!!!

I knew I couldn't put it off any longer, so tonight I sucked it up and climbed on Gwen's back!!!

I took her into the ring so Coriander couldn't mug me but was right there on the other side of the fence.  Then I stood on the mounting block and climbed up on her bareback.

Of course it wasn't quite as straightforward as that, but it was pretty close.  I took it slow, starting by standing next to her shoulder on the block and rubbing her belly.  The first time I swung a leg over she was a little worried about it and stepped away.  But after that she stood like a stone.  I sat on her back, clicked, got right back off and gave her a treat.  I did that a few times and then finally gave her a treat while I was on her back.  She didn't seem bothered at all about me leaning forward over her neck so she could reach it.  She even took a few steps forward towards the fence quite calmly on her own while I was on her. I stayed up there long enough to give her treats from both sides and then I got off and put her up for the night.

PHEW!  Giant hurdle #1 is out of the way!  I'm not going to lie, I cried a little bit when I dismounted.  Yup, I was that happy!

Fear, the rider's worst enemy

I've been working more with getting Gwen ready for that first mounting.  Yesterday I saddled her up (she was perfectly calm once again for this) and practiced stepping into the stirrup.  This time I remembered to put the safety stirrup on the saddle before I started, since getting dragged around through snowy poo piles is not my idea of a good time.  I put just the tip of my boot in the stirrup and then stood up,  I hovered at the top for a second before stepping back down.  She had all of my weight hanging off that one stirrup and she didn't even fidget.  The worst thing she did was take a few steps back while I was on the ground to get closer to the treats in my pocket.

She was SO good!  So why was my heart pounding so hard when I slid the saddle off her back?  In the back of my mind I can't help thinking about that future moment in time when I'll need to do this without her brother standing right there and I'm imagining the taste of dirt in my mouth and the feeling of cracked ribs.  I seriously need to stop doing that.  I just makes me nervous and she's shown me over and over how she reacts to negative energy.

Live in the moment- work with the horse standing right in front of you now, not the one that was there two months ago.  That's good advice, if only it wasn't so hard to heed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The best sign of spring

The automatic waterers were turned back on today!  Phew, three months of breaking ice out of buckets was more than enough.

Here's the latest on Gwen's leg.  Looks pretty good, eh?  There are two small scabs left but it looks like 95% of the wound has finally closed up.  Time will tell how the hair grows back in over it.  She's guaranteed to have one heck of a scar though.

I've been working further on saddling her this weekend.  She had no issues with the girth yesterday or today, I even put one of the stirrups on the saddle and practiced putting weight on it.  It might not be much longer before I need to gather my courage and swing a leg over!

I even climbed up on Coriander bareback this weekend.  Thank goodness he's a saint of a horse, because it was more like desperately scrambling onto his back.  Even with the snow advantage, he's still 15.3 and I'm still 5'4".  I just walked him around the pasture for a few minutes, maybe if Gwen sees me riding him she won't be so surprised to find me riding her.

It was another beautiful weekend, sunny and in the 40s F, and it's supposed to stay that way all week.  Finally!  I cannot wait for all this snow to disappear.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Attitude matters

I haven't really worked with Gwen for the past couple of days because she's been a bit on edge.  Not dangerous or anything, just sort of anxious and out-of-sorts.  I wasn't able to put my finger on why she might be feeling this way until today.

I'm not normally in the barn during chores, but today they were started early, and now I think I know what's been getting to Gwen.  My barn owner put her back out last weekend and so her husband has been helping her do chores.  Her husband is a bit... grumpy, shall I say?  Enough so that anytime I'm around him I feel a little on edge.  He's never said anything or acted any way towards me that would be inappropriate or aggressive, he just broadcasts negativity.  Have you ever met anyone like this?

I'm NOT insinuating that he's been abusing my horse, I doubt he's even been in her stall much less touched her, but she is incredibly sensitive to emotions.  I remember a new horse came into the barn one day and was very upset, all her herdmates were outside and she was pacing and screaming in her stall.  Guess what my mare was doing?  The same thing!  She had no reason to, before that horse came into the barn Gwen was absolutely fine and every other horse in the barn was completely calm.  She is just a mirror for unbalanced emotion.

Fortunately my barn owner says that her back is feeling 100% better so hopefully that negative emotion will start avoiding the barn again and my mare will chill back out.

Has anyone else had issues like this?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Look look look!

Isn't she just full of contradictions in this photo?  Check out the hairy eyeball in the front, then look back at the cocked left hind.  That left hind tells the real story, she wasn't nearly as upset as those eyeballs would have you believe.

This was Tuesday night.  She let me tighten the girth almost as quickly as I would on a "broke" horse, and she let me get it "riding tight."  She didn't want to move with it on but she stood quite calmly.  No offers to buck or rush off, not even when I brought the girth under her belly like she did before.  I'm quite proud of her.  My next goal is to get her to move with it on, but that will have to wait until the snow melts down.

You may have noticed that there's nothing on her head.  My barn owner thinks I'm the mayor of crazytown for working with her like this.  I decided to do this after reading Mark Rashid's books (if you've never read his books you need to).  When he gets a horse that's worried and nervous about being touched or worked with, his philosophy is to work with them at liberty.  If you give the horse the opportunity to move away if they're upset by something it actually helps them to relax and trust you faster.  This is 100% true with Miss Gwenevere.  If she's upset and feels the need to get away yet feels trapped - she panics.  Huge, dangerous, tunnel vision panic.  So I do as much with her at liberty as I can.  Some people may think that's dangerous but I like my skull intact, thanks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An award? For me?

Wolfie, you are the sweetest!  I got tagged for a beautiful blogger award!

So now I need to hold up my end of the bargain...

7 things about me you don't know.  Geez, where to start?
    1.  Why did I start this blog?  I started this blog so that the person who gave me the quarters could keep up with their progress.  I also started it so I could keep track of their progress.  I'm terrible at remembering details, if I write them down I'm much more likely to remember them.

    2.  I have a masters degree in museum studies.  While getting that degree I interned at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the Supreme Court of the United States.  Since graduation I have been unable to find employment at a museum.  Go figure.

    3.  I'm a rock climber and have taught classes for it at Cornell University.  I HATE heights.

    4.  My husband and I have our own cats.  His cat is Count Metolius and mine is Will O' Wisp.  Though our cats have an obvious preference for one of us over the other but they absolutely love each other.  If they weren't fixed we'd have kittens all over the place.  

    5.  I am addicted to gaming.  Computer games, video games, you name it.  I recently lost hours of my life playing Dragon Age.  What can I say?  That game is awesome.

    6.  I have a rather large collection of vintage dress patterns that I would love to sew up but am too daunted to really give it a try.  I have to rip out 1 of every 3 seams that I sew...

    7.  I don't put any stock in horoscopes yet every description out there for a Libra fits me to a T.  I was also born in the year of the horse.  How fitting.
      Now it's time to pay homage to all those other bloggers I visit so often.
      1. Wolfie, of course, at What was I thinking... who nominated me.
      2. Natalie over at Retired Racehorse and Equine Progressive, she cracks me up all the time.
      3. Mary H. at Stale Cheerios, who has a ton of great info on clicker training.
      4. Kate over at A Year With Horses who recently had to make a heartbreaking decision about her problem mare.
      5. Julie from Riding Aside, her blog is all about riding sidesaddle.  I am incredibly impressed, I'm pretty sure if I ever tried that I'd end up cracking my forehead on the ground.
      6. Mel from Boots and Saddles, she's got an arabian mare that she rides for both endurance and dressage.  My roots are in competitive trail riding so I get a little nostalgic reading her blog.
      7. Mikael's Mania, this woman blogs everyday, without fail, about her arabian horse breeding farm.  I am currently on edge waiting to see how her old broodmare will fare with her last birthing this April.
      8. From Racehorse to Showhorse, she takes incredibly beautiful photos of her OTTB geldings.
      9. Glenshee Equestrian Centre, she doesn't post very often, but when she does it's gold.
      10. EQUINE Ink, another interesting site where I always enjoy my visits.
      11. mugwump chronicles, years of horse training and great story writing in one site, what's not to like?
      12. Tacky Tack of the Day, Jessica snarks on ugly tack, a woman after my own heart.
      13. Forever Horses, she's been a bit busy lately but her thoughts on horses are very similar to my own.
      14. Dressage In Jeans, she's also been a bit busy lately but she's always worth reading when she finds the time to post.
      15. Jenn over at Green Slobber on My Shirt, I think she should win an award for the most clever blog title if nothing else.  She may have the most impish OTTB ever.

      Tuesday, March 2, 2010

      When winter hands you buckets full of snow, make snowade

      I've decided to use the vast amounts of snow outside to my advantage and try to use it to get Gwen used to the saddle.  There are three main reasons I've decided this:
      • With snow this deep, it's really hard for her to move around in.  So if she's going to flip out, it's going to take a lot of energy for her to do it.  Hopefully that'll tone her down a bit.
      • I need to keep her calm and concentrating on me, I can only do that if her brother is nearby.  The snow is too deep to allow grazing, so by throwing out a few flakes of hay I can keep her brother nearby but over there, if you know what I mean.  He's all over me if he knows I have treats in my pocket. 
      • If she does freak out and knocks me around, 2+ feet of snow makes a nice, soft cushion.
      I started out by just standing next to her in the snow.  Being ~850 pounds lighter than her I don't sink in the snow as far as she does.  So when I stand next to her I can actually drape quite a bit of myself over her back.  So I leaned over her and gave her a click and a treat for being relaxed while I did it.  I hung my arms over her back, rubbed her belly and even put a little of my weight on her.  She did pretty well with that.

      The next day I did a little more of that and she really didn't seem too concerned about it.  I put a little more of my body weight on her back and even swung my leg up next to her hindquarters as if I was going to mount.  She was still cool about it. 

      Last night I decided to try the saddle.  I brought it over to her first and let her sniff it, click and treat.  We did this a few times and then I put it on her back, click and treat.  She decided at this point that she was a little bothered by it.  She went to rush off... and discovered that rushing off in chest deep snow isn't easy.  So she stopped after 3 steps.  HA HA, my devious plan is working!  I gave her a click and treat for stopping and then I took the saddle on and off a few times until she was relaxed and eating hay with it on her back.

      Then I grabbed the girth.  I buckled it on the last hole on one side of the saddle and then went around her to buckle it up on the other.  She was bothered by this, quite a bit actually, and rushed off again.  Again, rushing off was rather hard so she didn't get very far.  It took 3 tries but she eventually let me buckle the girth all the way around her.  Mind you the girth was only on the last hole on both sides and really wasn't touching her belly at all.  I then, very slowly, with big breaks in between, buckled up the girth one hole/one billet at a time, clicking and treating all the while.  I got to where the girth was one hole away from being snug enough to ride in, and then I took the saddle off.  I'll see if I can get it tighter tonight.  Then maybe tomorrow I'll try putting some weight in one of the stirrups.

      Take that Mother Nature- you have failed to thwart me!

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      I'm in a sniping mood

      Since I have quarter horses that I'd like to show someday I've joined the American Quarter Horse Association.  One of the perks of joining is subscribing to the American Quarter Horse Journal.  I got my first issue in the mail last weekend... and was frankly appalled at what's winning in the halter horse rings nowadays.  All I can say is that my halter bred gelding is SO lucky that his breeder had a clue about what what good conformation actually is unlike 90% of the people out there showing today.

      Look at these poor things, textbook post-legged horses.  Also note how light their bone is, how can those flimsy front cannons possibly hold up that much horse? 
      Look at this poor baby, only a weanling and he's destined to be crippled for most of his life.

      Then there's this poor mare.  Just look at those hind legs, bow-legged much?

      Check out this bugger that I snagged from the AQHA website.

      There's an accompanying video of this particular horse.  He literally looks like he's walking on his tip-toes, his hind hooves don't reach any further forward than his sheath.

      Lest you think I'm just picking on the fringe when it comes to AQHA breeders- I'm not.  Every single one of these horses is advertised with World Champion in their list of accomplishments.  Can a single one of these horses ever be ridden someday?  It's just sad.

      It looks like my only hope for getting anywhere with Coriander in halter is to get some points under saddle and show him in performance halter classes.  Sigh.  

      I'll leave you with a palate cleanser.  If I was going to breed my mare (which I'm not, temperment alone rules her out), this horse would be a contender.  His name is One Hot Krymsun, he's a champion western pleasure horse, and his rear-end is 500% better than the above horses. Though now that I look at him again I don't really like his front legs...