Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Partial Answers

Knowing that I would be taking Suzie to the massage therapist and chiro on Monday evening, I decided to pull her off of her Previcox. So, Saturday night I ceased administering the pills to ensure that any lameness the two specialists saw would be real and there would be no pain masked whatsoever.

^ A reminder of what I had on March 24th.
Look closely and you can see that no matter how hard she trots, she doesn't even
come *close* to tracking up. Also, pay special attention to her hind right and then read
the rest of this post and come back and watch again...

I arrived about 40 minutes prior to the appointment and brushed Suzie out and cleaned her up a bit. The massage therapist (MT), showed up on time and I went into a bit of a speal about Suzie's lameness and how she's had shoulder issues in the past (this MT has seen and treated Suzie when I first got her).

MT went straight into massaging and there were a few things she found:

- No heat, bumps, lumps, etc on any of her legs or hooves. No suspicion of an abscess, although that is a possibility that this could be an additional problem.

- Upon beginning to massage, it was found that Suzie is quite tight in her scapula; specifically, the "back" of her scapula. She is also tight along the front and due to her "Quarter Horse beef" it was hard to really get into the tissue and massage it.

- Hips seemed crooked upon MT's inspection. Suzie confirmed this by swaying her hips back and forth, redirecting the MT's hands to her right hip.

- Suzie was short-striding with her hind-right (which I already knew).

Mare is displeased she is the only horse at the entire fairgrounds.
As the massaging progressed, Suzie was quite a star patient - she gave a lot of long releases (yawning, blinking, licking, chewing) and redirected the MT to her problem areas by shifting around or walking/moving to make the MT's hands move to the "trouble spots". The MT was great and really wanted Suzie to express herself (moving around, etc) and allow herself to "show" what she wanted.

At one point, Suzie literally just started to walk away from the MT and myself, and she went for a good long roll. The MT was pleased to see this, as it is seen as a good thing? Was neat to see, nonetheless.

After the MT appointment, the Chiro showed up and he had me walk Suzie and trot her out. Immediately, he saw a huge problem area, followed by a few more:

- A huge "hip hike" (the right side of her pelvis had rotated downwards and made her right hip "hike" upwards). A hip hike means there is strain on the sacroiliac (SI) joint and the pelvis is "caught" so when the horse tries to track up, they simply can't. So remember how I was saying that Suzie was short-striding on her right hind? Yep, totally related to this hip hike/SI issue.

- Because horses are quadra-something (I can't remember), when they have a hind-end lameness it'll affect the diagonal pair leg. So, in Suzie's case, because she had a hip hike on the right hind, she was over-compensating on her front left.... Her bad shoulder. So in addition to a hind-end lameness, she was over-straining her already messed up shoulder.

- Four adjustments were made to Suzie's lower lumbar and one to her mid-back. She was VERY ouchy and "out" in her back. The Vet asked me if my saddle fit - this puzzled me, because yes, my saddles do fit. (We'll touch on this in a second).

- Three adjustments in her poll/neck area. This tied together the whole "issues with bending to the left."

- The bulge I see on her left shoulder is due to the overcompensating and is overmuscled. It isn't that her shoulder is actually out, but rather overly-muscled. Good to know.
So, that left us with trying to figure out what the hell Suzie did to royally fuck herself so bad.

Remember how three weeks ago she colicked? And thrashed around on the road?

That's literally the only thing that has happened and was that violent. So why did it take so long for her to go lame when she colicked on March 2nd?

Well, Suzie was given a week and a half off after she colicked, which brings us to March 14 being her first ride "back". I rode her March 14 (schooling), 15 (schooling), 17 (trail ride), 19 (trail ride), and 20th (schooling). She started to "go lame" on March 20th and went quite lame March 21st. I tested it out to see if she'd come out of her lameness, but decided to schedule an appointment with the MT and chiro for the 28th.

So, that brings us to right now.

^ March 30th, just before our ride.
She isn't tracking up here (she isn't trotting nearly as fast as she was in the other video), but you can see a swing in her hips that was not there before. She is still, unfortunately, off.

^And going the other direction. 
Keep in mind there isn't really a good place to lunge and this was
a 15m circle.

I started Suz back on Previcox on Tuesday morning and this afternoon I lunged her since the appointment. She looks so much better, but there is still some residual ouchiness and I can't be certain if this is just stiffness or if there are still some adjustments to be done. She has another appointment this Sunday with the MT and chiro just to make sure there aren't any other adjustments to make.

I rode her today too, at the chiro's advice, and I'm not sure if I did the right thing as she was definetely lame at the trot. She didn't work out of it either, so I'm not sure if there are more adjustments to do or if she's just sore from all the work ups? I keep watching and re-watching the videos and everything just keeps muddling together. I've flip-flopped between "retire her" and "stick it out a bit longer" more times the last two days than I ever have...

^ This is after a 1hr ride which was mostly walking but had about 5min of trotting.
Also note that she is soaking wet because I gave her a bath and then poulticed her legs because
I am a freak.
The Boyfriend told me to give her time - she's old and it may take time for her to "come back" especially if she has been out since she colicked. If you think about it, that's quite a long time to be "out", and I'm sure it would take more than just two days to feel normal.

Still, I'm trying to not wear my heart on my sleeve in this, but it is so damn hard.

Thoughts? Ideas?

I feel like I'm just going crazy and I'm grasping at straws trying to figure it all out and process it all.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Pity Party for One, Please?

Unfortunately, this blog post isn't going to be very happy-go-lucky like the previous entry... I am, understandably so, confused and frustrated with the entire situation and the lack of Veterinary assistance in the area just adds to the frustration.

It should come as no surprise that Suzie has soundness issues - I've mentioned it many times in the past and have previously disclosed her on again off again lameness. And it's no real mystery as to why. She was used as a drill team and gymkhana horse for the better part of her life and was obviously not maintained appropriately and thus, her body has begun to break down. It's like taking a human athlete and not allowing them the oh so important stretching sessions, massages, chiropractic work, and injury management that allows them to continue to strengthen and progress. Horses, as our partners, should be no exception.

And it's not like this shoulder issue crept up on me - I knew about it before I brought her home. I knew Suzie's history and I knew what I was bringing home.

So, when she came up horribly lame (yet again) at the trot on Monday why did I feel so fucking upset?

And when I had several equestrian friends suggest retiring her, why did I feel a sting in my eyes and heat in my chest?

"She's had a hard life, maybe you should think about retiring her."

"Well she is old."

"I don't think she'll hold up to the schooling this year."

It fucking sucks. It sucks when your friends give you some "tough love" or some advice. It's so fucking hard to try and decipher what you should do.

And if you choose to go against what everyone tells you, what does that make you?

Of course, Suzie and I will not go down without a fight and all the horsey friends I've spoken to about it agree - first thing's first, we need to get some definitive answers. Last year I did a lameness exam on Suzie with the Traveling Vets, but since they do not have a mobile X-Ray machine, we were quite limited to what we could do. The Vet found some tight areas and prescribed acupuncture and chiropractic for her shoulder. Ironically enough, she was sound for the exam.

The Traveling Vets will be coming up again in mid-April and I've already penned Suzie in for another lameness exam - but this time, it'll be much more thorough. If there is anything I am unhappy with or uncertain about, I will haul her to wherever I need to to get the x-rays and information I seek. Of course, this comes with a price limit, as she is 22 after all.

You can see just how much she wants to lean to the right
and the unevenness in her shoulder. Her "bad" shoulder is HER left.
But I'm not willing to just retire her to pasture.  At least not without a firm diagnosis.

She doesn't deserve to be pushed and hurt, BUT she does deserve to be maintained, treated appropriately, and loved.

So if that means chiropractic work every two weeks, then that is what we will do. Or if it means injections twice a year. Or massage therapy and whatever else. I'll do it for her.

So yah. The last few days have been really fucking shitty. In fact, I spent our anniversary so miserable and moped for the better part of the afternoon. I mean, I shouldn't necessarily be surprised.

And I thought, since there is some time before the Vets come up, I should start small. So I called the equestrian chiropractor from the next town over and made an appointment with not only him, but a equine massage therapist as well. If my instincts are correct in that her shoulder is displaced, it should be a relatively easy fix. But if body-work does not give us any answers, I will know it's something much, much more serious.... and I think that's what scares me. What if there is so much more going

 ^There is swearing in the video, because Suzie is being a fucking idiot.

It's the unfortunate case of old horses that haven't been treated properly (in terms of body adjustments and such) and instead, used to gallop around and stop hard. I love Suzie with all my heart - don't get me wrong - but it truly makes my heart ache that I'm fighting so hard for something that everyone sees as a lost cause. And in a way, I'm beginning to think that way too... Is fighting for her truly doing her any good? Should I reconsider my goals with her?

Out of the few friends I've been told to retire her, there was one who said she had something similar occur with her gelding (right down to the weird "walking in a cast" lameness). She is quite hopeful Suzie will make a recovery, based off of the pictures, videos, and the fact that Suzie literally was acting like a hot mess during the lameness videos.

And that's what makes it so hard. Suzie is a spitfire. Even though she's lame at the trot, today while Spud was having his second ride undersaddle, Suzie was literally screaming her head off and digging a hole to China... with her BAD leg.

A spit-fire indeed...
This was taken the day of the lameness video.
I don't really know how to end this blog post, as it's more or less me whining and just getting a bunch of steam out of my head... I know I shouldn't come to any conclusions or make any rash decisions until Monday evening after I see the chiro and massage therapist - but it's so hard.

I love this old mare more than anything in the world.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

3 Year Anniversary

Three years ago today I loaded a certain ornery old red mare into a trailer and hauled her [with the help of friends] nearly 1,000km to her "forever" home. I had met her over three years prior when I had volunteered at an Equine Rescue which was run by a woman I had met about eight years before that.

There were many carrots to be had today.

It had always been a standing joke between Emmy and I that Suzie would just show up at my front door one day, as Emmy was more than willing to rehome her to me. It took almost three years for me to jump at the chance (broke high school graduate...), but I will forever be glad I did.

I didn't know it then, but this mare has truly stolen my heart, especially after losing so many horses I had grown to love and bonded with. We've had our fair share of bumps in the road, and I'll be the first to admit that age is but just a number with her. She has taught me immeasurable amounts of life lessons and I will always be grateful.

We've done a lot of cool things for the last three years. And we've come a long way since our first ride.

We've given riding lessons to my niece.

We've walked, jogged and loped bridleless!

We've played at a kid's playground.

We've jumped.

We showed in Reining and Trail!

We gave my nephew one of his first rides.

We've posed for countless conformation photos.

We went to a Trail clinic.

We've trail ridden.

We've been in the Canada Day parade.

We've competed in Dressage.

We were given a beautiful Dressage bridle!

We've given riding lessons.

We've posed for hilarious Christmas photos.

We've done a Reining clinic.

We've prepped for horse shows.

We've competed in the Hunter ring...

And we WON some serious satin in those Hunter classes!

We've competed in Halter - and won.

We competed in a AQHA sanctioned show - and won 3rd All Around
and have a certificate to prove it!

We competed in Showmanship.

We've recreated famous photos.

We've lost and loved.
So thank you, sassy red-mare, for being in my life.

As a sidenote, I'd like to think that when the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a chestnut mare" was coined, whoever wrote it was thinking of Suzie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Horse Sleep-Over

To preface - I am a bridesmaid for a friend's wedding which will be occurring in August.

This past Saturday night, there were some bridesmaid shenanigans going on that I needed to attend and since the bride is from the next town, I was offered a place to stay at the bride-to-be's farm. Knowing there would be alcohol and it would be quite late, I opted to stay over at her place. Since most of the bridesmaids are horsey-orientated, the bride-to-be offered a paddock for my two to stay in. I graciously accepted and hauled out Saturday afternoon.
I just walked Navarro back to the trailer. Also, note the
7 billion layers I had on... it was COLD!

 The bride-to-be was in a Dressage Clinic all weekend with her young mare, so I met her at the Fairgrounds since I had never been to her new place yet (they had just bought the farm not too long ago). After her lesson we trailered down to her place and almost immediately saddled up our old mares and headed out for a trail ride. I stupidly forgot my cinch and a saddle pad for the Western saddle, so I had to use my Dressage saddle which was interesting...

Suzie did quite well considering she can be quite strong while hacking out and I've avoided doing anything more than a trot on trails with other horses due to this. I was quite pleased she was more or less quiet and respectable to my aids as we puttered along the roadway and into a Forestry Service road. We stopped on the road and Suzie immediately started backing up, flinging her head, etc etc. I think it was more nervous energy than anything malicious, so I just went with it. She was sweating from her ears before her chest was even sweaty, so I knew for sure she was just nervous about being in a new place with a new horse. She is the same to show.

We did end up cantering along together and Suzie kept up with Nifty and came back down to a quiet walk, which was fantastic to see. Throughout the hack, Suz kept looking everywhere - taking in the entire situation. She felt good, very forward and swinging through her head and back. It was a good ride, but the blocks on my Dressage saddle were beginning to irritate me.

Upon arriving back to the farm (where Navarro (Nifty's pasture-mate) and Spud were going completely bonkers) we stripped tack, I put a cooler on Suzie, and put the mare's away in their separate paddocks. It was only an hour or two before we had to leave for the bridesmaid festivities, so the horses were fed and watered before we left.

The next morning I was super excited to wake up, as the window in the guest room overlooks the paddock my two were in. I was able to watch them for a few moments before going back to sleep to catch a few extra z's.

Once both the bride-to-be and I were awake, we hitched Spud to the cart and drove the "wedding route". Oh, I don't know if I ever mentioned it before on my blog but Spud is going to be in the wedding as well. That was another reason I brought the horses to sleep-over... the bride-to-be was nervous about a particular bridge that I would have to drive Spud over and wanted us to practice a few times.

Anyways, she needn't worry because Spud was cool as a cucumber. He neighed a few times for Suzie, who stayed behind, but was pretty amicable driving out on the road and across not only one but two bridges. My friend even drove him and she was very surprised at how quiet and easy he was - I was beaming at all the positive attention Spud received!

We did have a few baby moments wherein Spud neighed for Suzie and immediately picked up a trot, but he was easily controlled and attentive. Unfortunately, near the end of our drive we noted one of the tires was leaking air, so we didn't get to canter him or play around too much after driving the route for the wedding. I didn't bring the bike pump with me either, so I'll have to remember that next time! (No photos of Spud being driven, sorry!)

As soon as Spud was unhitched and untacked, both him and Suz were re-loaded to head back up to the Fairgrounds. My friend's ride with her green mare wasn't until later that afternoon, but I wanted to ride Suzie at the Grounds before her lesson.

In some exciting news, a friend of mine who lives over in the next province (I was also a bridesmaid at her wedding) finally got to meet Suzie and Spud! Ahhhh! I was so excited.

Anyways, I rode Suzie in the indoor during the clinic's lunch break and she was feeling pretty sassy since Spud was outside and don't you know he's her BFF. I did get some decent work out of her, but she felt quite stiff and it took a lot of work to try and supple her. Unfortunately, she started to get sore 3/4 into our ride and I attribute that mostly to the fact that she is out of shape at the moment and prior to that day, I had already rode her 4 days with three of them being relatively "difficult". I got one more trot out of her before calling it quits.

The video is certainly nothing special - you can see how Suzie is really struggling with the idea of contact during the first serpentine. It looks like she is lame, but that isn't the case. She's still quite fidgety with her face right now and you can see after I instill more "forward" (I have no idea why I was JOGGING her?!) she reaches more and suddenly doesn't look so lame... interesting!!

The friend of mine from Alberta recently got certified to do sports therapy taping and since she has heard all the stories of Suzie, she was keen to tape her knee and "bad leg". We chatted quite a bit during the taping session and she mentioned how Suzie's left side is "pretty fucked up". I was a bit sad, but at the same time, it's not damage that I have caused and at this point, it isn't reversible damage. It's pain and arthritis that is going to be there forever and it is up to me to manage it. We also talked quite a bit about Suzie's abilities and my friend thinks strongly that I am quite clear and concise about "what I have" in the sense that, I know Suzie's limitations and based off of how I rode her earlier on I am able to know when she is resisting out of pain/limitations/fitness or disobedience. It was nice to hear that I'm not overdoing it with her or causing her extra grief. And lastly, we went over stretches to do to encourage flexibility.

Happy to be home, and taped.

Shortly after the taping session, I left my two tied at the trailer and watched my other friend's lesson before driving my two back home.

I took off the tape this morning and haven't had the chance to "watch her go" to see if it's really made a huge difference or not. Yesterday, when my nephew went for a pony ride, I noticed she was bending at the knee much better and actually reaching.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spud's First Ride

It's been no secret that my plan for Spud has been not only to drive him, but break him to saddle so my nephews and eventual future kids can ride and enjoy. I don't forsee him becoming a riding horse primarily, as miniature horses aren't necessarily "meant" to carry weight. Still, I would like him to have that extra bit to add to his resume, and it wouldn't hurt to have him be a steady and reliable ride for a young kiddo.

Although, how steady and reliable are most ponies? Really?

Ponies are the devil.
First I had to find a kid to ride him, and a set of parent's who'd be willing to let their kiddo be the test dummy. A friend of a friend offered her daughter and I accepted - her daughter is quite tall and leggy, but doesn't weigh much at all. She has her own horse and rides a bit, so it was the perfect situation.

Friday afternoon they met me at the barn and got to meet Spud - grooming, leading, etc and just getting a history run-down of what he's like. After that, I saddled him up, we rigged the stirrups and headed to the back pasture where I was going to lunge him.

We do this pretty well.

He lunged great to the left and to the right, pitched a miniature bucking fit (no pun intended!). I do feel that his fit was due to the saddle - it doesn't sit exactly flat on his back due to the fact he doesn't really *have* a back. A rear cinch should help, but I'll also experiment with pads to see which fits him best. Unfortunately, miniatures are difficult to truly fit and that's just something that will always be a large problem.

After the lunging, S stepped up into the stirrup a few times and set back down, jiggled the saddle, and finally, swung a leg over and sat on his back. I led S along and Spud plodded like a quiet old school pony, which was exciting to see. After leading in both directions, walk and trot, I decided to stretch Spud's tolerance (and our luck!) and unclipped S from the safety of the leadrope.

First few steps.
And yes... that is Suzie's A/P pad.

Instantly, Spud got "stuck". I could see he was confused about what he was supposed to do when S applied leg and went over a few times to "unstick" him and promote the forward energy. After helping unstuck him a few times, I let him and S try to work it out on there own, wherein Spud got frustrated and immediately went down onto his knees and laid quietly in the grass. It wasn't a violent maneuver - it was more of a "I don't know what you want!" move.

So, after that little stint, I popped them onto the lunge and worked on S using her legs to get him going and vocal cues from her, rather than from me. It worked quite well and we did some walk/trot and had S work on steering him. After that, I unclipped them again and they successfully lapped at the walk without help from me.

The session in total lasted maybe half an hour, despite the ramblings and break-down on what we did and what we achieved. We've planned for another date this week for S to get back on and really start to work on being "on their own".

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

3/3 Dressage Rides Complete

Since it's been over a week now since Suzie colicked, I felt confident to start riding her again.

Nothing really exciting has happened in those rides; we are slowly working up fitness, but more importantly suppleness and elasticity. In the first ride on Monday, I focused on rhythm and balance - Suzie started out a bit stiff but worked out of it, which was nice. Incorporating leg yielding, turn on the haunch/forehand and such was beneficial in this aspect.

Day 1.
Don't ask why she is standing camped out like that...

There was mild excitement when we went to leave the community grounds and Suzie turned into an Arabian and sat her head in my lap for the first three minutes heading home... Thankfully it was short-lived and our cool-out walk home was uneventful.

Day 2.
And yes, that is my A/P pad, lol.

On Tuesday I didn't have time to hack over to the grounds, so I decided to ride in the back paddock. It isn't very roomy, so it made it a bit difficult to school effectively and appropriately, but I made it work. Despite the fact we didn't have much room, I took advantage of that fact and worked on a million transitions wherein Suzie porpoised herself with every "up" transition. Thanks, mare.

So nice

Very nice.

Not nice...

I honestly left that ride feeling a little discouraged, but we did have some excellent moments, as show-cased in the following video. So, we are doing things right and we still have some tweaking to go before it'll be perfect. She still slugs behind the leg in the trot, but with more fitness and whatnot, she'll get there.

Media from Ride #2

Finally, I rode today after driving Spud and Suz was pretty good - very amicable in the bridle but got very, very heavy in the hands near the end of the ride. It was to be expected, as these are the first "real rides" we've had of the season, so I'm certain some muscles are sore and such.

Tomorrow  Suzie will have a day off, and this weekend I'll be trailering out to a friend's place and overnighting with the horses.

Other than that, I'm exhausted from hiking the dogs all week, house-work, Spring cleaning, etc etc.... and have nothing else to add... enjoy the videos and pictures lol.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Favorite Saddle Pads?

I'm not a huge saddle pad whore and I don't have many of them (I have a few that have I've hoarded throughout the years, but I only have two or three pads I use continuously).

With that being said, I'm starting to branch out and look at more fancier pads - ones that have more support and padding as well as more piping and whatnot.

I've found a few pads that I really like, but most of them are in Europe and I'm not keen on the conversion factor or pricing differences...

BR Allure Saddle Pad

Waldhausen Pad
USG pad

So, my question to my fellow bloggers...

What are your favorite pads and why? This can include half pads, dressage pads, a/p pads....

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Week After...

An old photo.
It's been exactly one week since Suzie has colicked, and it's getting easier to accept and continue to prepare for the future. I truly wish that we never have to endure that again (or even with Spud!), but horses are incredibly delicate and the chances of it occurring is staggering. I mean, horses can colic due to low water consumption, sand ingestion, nervousness, the angle of the moon, tidal changes off the coast of Africa, and whenever you have a really important show.

Thankfully, "the week after" has been pretty low-key and quiet. Mare had one day where I fed her a scoop of beet pulp (soaked, of course) and I was convinced she was going to colic and die, so I went out to the barn five times that day to check on her. Each time, Mare looked at me like, "Cookies?"

No mare. No cookies for you.

I haven't given her any 'hard' grains and after the meltdown I had from feeding beet pulp, I've avoided feeding it as well. I'm sure "this too shall pass", but for now it really makes me anxious...

Aside from that, Suzie has been wandering around the paddock and acting quite normal. I had intended to hand-walk her this week, but it literally has been pouring rain (it also snowed today... WTF CANADA?!).

Other than taking it easy, some exciting stuff came in the mail for Spud!

Please, please, PLEASE ignore the horrendous photo. The bridle was much too big for him, so after I snapped the photo I brought it all home and punched more holes so the bit can sit properly. Additionally, the saddle does not sit properly on his back - you can see how it "pops" up a bit in the back. The gullet is wide enough for his shoulders (it is a semi-QH bars saddle) so I'm curious to know if the saddle doesn't sit well because he has such a short back and the cinch is sitting forwards like shown in the photo... I've punched some holes into the cinch billets, and next time I try it on him I'll work more on the fit.

I also received the blue diamond things for my driving outfit, but instead of receiving ONE brooch, I got FIVE. And, they are like... the size of a coin. We'll see what I can do with it once the rest of the ensemble arrives.