Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's just not my year

How many times have you been stepped on by a horse? I can't even count how many times I've had my feet squashed by an errant hoof. It hurts, you get a bruise, and you move on.

Well not yesterday. Coriander, for a reason unknown to me, decided to spin around and stomp on my foot while I was walking around him. It hurt a little worse than normal so to be on the safe side I got x-rays. Well guess what? I've got a hairline fracture on a metatarsal on my left foot. That's right, the same leg I injured back in March.

I'm back on crutches again, joy. I haven't been to the orthopedist yet so I don't know how long they think it will take to heal or what kind of cast situation I'm going to be in. At least this is a relatively minor break so it shouldn't take nearly as long to heal as the last one.

I'm seriously done with being broken though. I'm pretty sure I can make it through the rest of my life without any more broken bones. Now if only I could communicate that to my horses...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who wants a hoof update?

I do, I do!

First of all- hello new followers, welcome to my blog!

Okay, back to hooves. You may remember how awful their feet looked back in July when I first posted pictures. That post is here for reference (I also posted recent front and side views here). Since then I've dropped that farrier and taken a much more hands on role with my horses' hooves. I am relieved to say that much improvement has been made. Still far from perfect but at least they don't look abysmal anymore. Without further ado:
Coriander's left fore, the clubbed one
Coriander's right fore. Wow, that heel is unbalanced, and what's going on at the apex of the frog?
Coriander's right hind
Gwen's left fore, the mildly clubby one
Gwen's right fore, still a flare on the outside.
Gwen's right hind
I think that the move to living on pasture 24/7 has made a huge difference to their feet. For one thing that horrible thrush has subsided (I had asked the farrier about that last time he trimmed them and he said it wasn't that bad. I'd hate to see what he thinks is actually bad.) Their walls show much better connection and the flaring has dramatically improved. Coriander's bars are longer because of his super-thin soles, I think he needs all the help he can get so I've been really conservative about taking anything off them. He's pretty sore on hard surfaces and rocks so I have to put boots on him whenever I ride outside of the ring or the back fields (those boots are another post, ACK), but he's getting there. Gwen, on the other hand, has rock-crunching hooves. They may not look perfect but that mare can walk on anything. If we're lucky I'll never have to boot her.

I want to note that I took these pictures while they were loose in the pasture, I literally just walked out with my camera and a hoof pick to get them. Considering that a year ago Gwen wouldn't pick up any of her feet and Coriander was falling over on the farrier whenever he had to hold a leg up (especially that right hind), I am majorly impressed with how good they've gotten. Time, patience, frequent breaks, and lots of treats have made all the difference.

Critiques are greatly appreciated. I'm enmeshed in the learning process right now and want more than anything for them to have healthy hooves, so have at it if you want.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The leaves...

They are a changin'.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A bad day

Not every day can be sunshine and roses, and for me Monday definitely wasn't. I've had horrible allergies this year. I don't know what I'm allergic to, but whatever it is had a great growing season this time around. Sunday night I had a horrible allergy attack: my sinuses filled up completely giving me a horrific headache, I could only breathe through my mouth so I couldn't sleep, and on top of that I got menstrual cramps. I was not a happy camper (this will get to horses, don't worry).

On Monday I dragged myself to the doctor's office and got prescribed a boatload of drugs. I immediately headed over to the pharmacy and stocked up on my 3 new antihistamines. A couple hours later and I was feeling better so I decided that I could ride in my weekly lesson that evening.

The horse I was slated to ride is a hanoverian mare named Mira. She's sensitive but honest and we worked pretty well together when I rode her previously. But this time we started having issues almost immediately. She didn't want to leave the barn with me. I asked her to walk forward and she grew roots, I had to pull her from side to side to get any forward motion at all. It only got worse once I got on her, she cut off all the corners and blew through my half halts, we were having to circle like crazy because she was passing everybody with her speed demon trotting. When we started jumping, I had to do more circles at the canter because she was so jazzed up. Despite that, it went fairly smoothly- until I lost my left stirrup right before I needed to ask her to come down from the canter.

I can't pick up the left stirrup when I drop it, my ankle just won't maneuver that way yet. Whenever I drop a stirrup now I get frazzled and it messes with my head. So instead of doing what I should of done, which was pay no attention at all to losing a stirrup, I clenched my left leg on her like a vise. Mira lost it. She bolted across the indoor for all she was worth. Of course I lost the right stirrup pretty quickly after that, so there I was, clinging like a barnacle on this mare running mad all over the place, launching herself over every tiny pole on the ground, and spinning like a barrel horse every time I pulled on a rein to try to stop her. Force of will and a tiny bit of quick thinking were the only things that kept me on her back. The other students were quite impressed that I stayed on through that with no stirrups, but I don't  share that. If I was that good of a rider she wouldn't have bolted on me in the first place.

So what happened?

I think it was pretty simple actually, I didn't feel as good as I thought I did. Lack of sleep and a cocktail of drugs effectively severed the ties between my mind and body. I was incredibly tense and couldn't tell- but Mira sure could. I ended up learning a more important lesson on Monday than counting strides and finding my jump spot. When riding a sensitive mare it's important to be connected to your body and feel as close to 100% as possible because she will know if you aren't and she won't appreciate it one bit. I'm filing this little tidbit away for later, because Gwen is Mira times 10, and 50% just isn't going to cut it with her.

Someday I'll be the rider I want to be, but there will probably be a few more rides like Monday's before I get there. I'm chalking it up to life experience; at least I know next week will be better 'cause it couldn't be any worse.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buckaroo sidepull

I probably haven't written about this much, but I nearly always ride Coriander in a sidepull. He doesn't respond to the bit as well and since he's so spooky on the trail I don't want to risk having him stepping on a bit in his mouth if I come off and flip the reins over his head. I had a problem with my old sidepull though, it has a rope noseband, and though this hasn't happened yet, I was worried about it roughing up his nose. So I bought a gorgeous new sidepull with a leather noseband.

I got this bridle from Buckaroo Leather, it's their Ultimate Sidepull model. It was not cheap but if it lasts for the lives of the quarters it'll be worth it. I also opted for the jowel strap, it should keep the cheek pieces from gaping and twisting.

I was super pleased when it arrived. Let me tell you, that leather is like buttah, it feels fantastic. I got a pair of reins to go with it and they literally melted into softness the first time I used them. I'm not sure if Coriander appreciates the exquisiteness of the leather or not but I feel like it was money well spent.

What's going on?
You're taking pictures?
Okay, I'll model
I also managed to pop it on Gwen's head. Everything that goes on her beautiful face has to pass her extensive approval process before she accepts its presence, so she's still not too sure about it. Looks good on her though, so I think she needs to get over it. I'm sorry about this picture, I didn't realize when I took it that it would make anyone who looks at it feel like they're on a roller-coaster. I also left the buckles undone in case she felt like throwing a fit about it so it doesn't look as neat as it should.
Gwen is skeptical
If you're looking for a nice sidepull and don't mind spending a little money, I highly recommend the Buckaroo Ultimate Sidepull.

Now watch it break on me...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The wrong side of the fence

Poor Gwen got stuck on the wrong side of the fence yesterday. The big pasture is bisected by a piece of fence that was left behind when their pasture was enlarged. It extends almost 3/4 of the length of the field, leaving an opening next to the smaller pasture where the run-in is. Somehow Gwen managed to be on the opposite side of the fence than the herd.

I had walked out to the pasture with just my bag of treats and a brush because I like to groom them both before I take Coriander out to ride. I could see three horses when I got out there but Gwen was missing. I finally saw her moving on the other side of the fence and had a little panic attack. All the times I can remember Gwen being on the wrong side of the fence it hasn't ended well.

I went over to her and tried to get her to follow me around the fenceline using the treats. She'd follow me until the rest of the herd got out of sight and then she'd wheel around and book it back to them, giving me a heart attack as my mind imagined her ripping through the wire. I finally just ran up to barn and grabbed her halter (That was interesting, ankle still doesn't want to do that. I swore at it a little and made it run anyway.). I brought the halter back and she threw her head into it without issue, but leading her around the fence was a little bit hairy. I had to pull out the tai-chi wall that Alexandra Kurland teaches to keep her from wheeling away from me and charging back at the fence. When I finally got her around it, she stood very nicely while I unclipped the leadrope and gave her a treat, then she took off running to reunite with the herd.

I gave her a few minutes to get sorted out before I walked back over to her and checked her for wounds. Not a mark on her, thank heavens! I think that the work we've been doing helping her gain confidence away from the herd had something to do with her not getting hurt in that situation. Well, I hope it has anyway.

I wanted to work with her but I decided that she had had enough emotional turmoil that day, so after I rode her brother I brought my mounting block/stepladder into the field and did some liberty work with her. We did some free-shaping- I leaned over her back and wrapped my arms around her barrel, when she lowered her head I stood up and rewarded her. She's pretty good at this on the left, the right needs a little more time.

I keep working with her with the intention of riding her but I have to admit I'm scared to try it. When I came off of her and broke my ankle she shot out from under me so fast that I didn't even touch her hindquarters on her way past. She's very fast, very powerful, and very emotional, i.e. a spook machine. This is why I haven't gotten back on her yet and why I'm asking her to lower her head at the mounting block. The more emotional control and relaxation I can get from her now the better. I'm not going to throw a leg back over her until I know for sure that she is beyond ready for it. If that doesn't happen until next year, so be it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Mexico

We're back from our foray into Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was a nice change of pace for a few days: the temperature was wonderful, it was bright and sunny everyday, and I got a reprieve from my allergies. A trip highlight was staying in a room with a fantastic view.
The view from our room
We visited White Sands National Monument. Wow, it was bright, that sand is SO white! Surprisingly it was really cool underfoot, we were walking around very comfortably barefoot. The neatest part about visiting there? They sell sleds that you can ride in a designated area of the park, we didn't get one but we saw a bunch of little kids sledding down the dunes. In hindsight, we totally should have bought some sleds.
Yes, I have very flat feet

Vegetation at White Sands
Tree at White Sands
Picture of me at White Sands, I'm that speck under the tree
My husband also took this picture, this one is much better
I wandered over to El Paso, Texas, and looked at saddleblankets and cowboy boots. Somehow I managed not to buy anything (only because I couldn't pick just one blanket, they have some gorgeous ones at El Paso Saddleblankets). I waved to Mexico too but didn't feel even slightly like visiting. Sorry Mexico, but your border is a little scary right now.

Since my husband was there on a business trip we didn't get to Roswell, Albuquerque, or Santa Fe. I guess that means we'll just have to go to New Mexico again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm going on vacation!

We're visiting the lovely state of New Mexico. Hopefully the dry air and foreign vegetation will be just what I need to kick the allergies that have been driving me crazy this month.

We'll be gone for 5 days, I'm going to have some serious horse withdrawal but the husband and I need time away. We haven't gone anywhere together since the horses arrived last year because I just wasn't comfortable leaving them in the care of ex-barn owner. Now I know they'll be perfectly happy in their pasture while I'm gone and I can go with an easy conscience.

Until next week...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Constructional Aggression Treatment

I had a clicker lesson with Kate last weekend, while we were planning on when to meet I told her about how I've been trying to get Gwen to be okay outside of the pasture. I also mentioned my frustration on the return of her anxiety-fueled barging. So when Kate arrived, she came with a plan.

She wanted to see if using CAT would help Gwen with her fear of being away from the herd. In a nutshell, CAT uses approach and retreat to help animals deal with fear and aggression issues (since fear and aggression are so often linked). Mary H. has a post on it here where she used this method with an extremely fearful horse. I also found this paragraph from a dog training site that I feel sums up CAT fairly well: 

"Researchers at the University of North Texas, Kellie Snider and her mentor, Dr Jesus Rosales-Ruiz have designed a procedure to very specifically take advantage of how badly dogs want unpleasant things to go away. Kellie and Jesus figure that since dogs do what works to get what they WANT, then the best possible reward for a dog who is presented with something she wishes would go away, is to make it go away! However, the dog must do something in exchange, something that is not barking and growling, some thing that looks a whole lot more like calmness. So, instead of twirling on her hind legs for a hot dog, or scratching at the door to be let in, the aggressive dog is going to figure out from this procedure that to keep quiet or turn her head away is what works best to get the bad thing to go away."

How does this apply to my mare? Gwen doesn't want to be away from the herd, it makes her incredibly uncomfortable, but she needs to learn that being away from them is okay and that there's a whole wide world out there for her to explore. So we approach the area she's afraid of (away from the herd), I wait for a sign of relaxation- like head lowering, and then retreat back to "safety." The goal is to gradually move the fear point and the safety point farther and farther away from the herd until she finally decides the outside world is no longer scary. 

This is going very slowly, on the first day we only got about 15 feet away from the herd before she got worried. After a few days we are now at 20 feet. You know how they say good horse training is as exciting to watch as grass growing? This is even less exciting, but there's a trade-off for working at a snail's pace, now that I'm not pushing her past her comfort level she's not barging or circling anymore and I can lead her with a loose lead rope again. I've got my lovely, soft mare back.

Slow and steady will win this race!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

That there's a club

Ah, the elusive clubbed hoof, the one thing it's almost impossible to find decent information about on the internet. Since both of my horses have one I'm very interested in finding out how, if at all, having a clubbed hoof will affect their long term soundness.
Coriander's left fore
The accepted cause of clubbed hooves is shortened tendons along the back of the limb. They pull the heel off the ground, causing the coffin bone to rotate down, thus creating that steep angle at the front of the hoof. What makes that happen? Genetics has a factor (especially in the case of my half-siblings), not allowing foals an adequate amount of movement may also cause it, some injuries may also lead to developing a clubbed hoof.
Coriander's right fore
How do you treat a clubbed hoof? According to the latest AQHA Journal, if the foot is really bad you can get a check ligament surgery to lengthen the tendons at the back of the leg. They also suggest  orthopedic shoeing, including the use of wedge pads to try to balance the hoof angles.
Gwen's left fore
All I can say is I'm choosing none of the above for treatment. I trim their feet according to what each hoof  needs and so far both of my horses have been perfectly sound on their clubbed hooves (except for the odd twig sticking out of their frog) so I see no reason to take drastic measures that could likely cause lameness.
Gwen's right fore

It does affect my future performance plans for them though. For instance, I will never ask Coriander to jump. I feel that the angle of his hoof is too extreme for that kind of high impact activity. But what about Gwen? She's already proven her affinity for jumping and her clubbed hoof isn't nearly as extreme as her brother's. Would she stay sound doing some low-level hunter/jumper work?

I've been looking on the internet for months trying to get info on clubbed hooves in jumping horses and haven't had much luck. I have found out that a couple famous racehorses have had a clubbed hoof, triple crown winner Assault was one. But racing impact and jumping impact aren't really the same thing (or are they?). Does anyone have experience with this you could share with me?

Coriander front view

Gwen front view
See how their flares are growing out? I'm so excited about that. Improvement is happening!