Monday, February 5, 2018

Karen Lesson: Good Lesson Goes Not So Good

Not many horse photos... so here are some dog photos lol
The weekend before returning to work from our turn around was full of horsey-things. Saturday the Boy had to drop off his ski-doo to be repaired, so I ended up tagging along and managed to watch Trainer K put a ride on Annie.

First of all, it's super weird seeing someone else ride your horse, especially when you are the primary rider. Secondly, I was pretty pleased with the progress that had been made in six short days. There are quite a few things that still need polishing, and Trainer K and I discussed Annie's needs and naunces. It was incredibly helpful to have her "feel" the ride as opposed to watching - she can appreciate and understand more of what I feel in the saddle.

Sunday morning I headed out and braved the road - in retrospect I should've just stayed home - to the barn. I immediately regretted not bringing snowpants, as I waded through hip-high snow to the paddocks. Annie was wandering around quietly, and tried to hide, but reluctantly allowed me to put her frozen halter over her nose. The temps had plummeted the last two days, with Sunday being the coldest thus far. Her halter had to be used to keep the gate shut, as the latch had frozen shut and required the Boyfriend to pry it open off it's hinges. #hatewinter

Trainer K said I was the only one to have a lesson -
the rest of her lessons cancelled. I lived the furthest away.
I meandered into the barn and tied her on the opposite side Trainer K had been tying her - we had discussed tying her in various places around the barn to get her used to the idea that "tying means we do not fidget" vs "THIS is the only place you must not fidget". She was good as I left to go get her saddle and bridle from the warm office area - one of the perks of having her in training, haha! She pawed a bit, but settled and quietly stood to be tacked up.

Since I had planned on getting her feet done while I was there, I stopped and chatted with the farrier. He had me bring Annie over to look at her feet, as I didn't feel as though they needed much more than a quick rasp or two. We found that her front left shoe was starting to come loose, but the rest looked great, so I had planned to get that one fixed and the rest rasped/reset as needed after my lesson. She was a bit nervous and looky over at that end of the barn. The farrier had brought big lights and backed his truck up into the aisleway. I don't know if the smoke from our warm breaths by the lights were scaring her or what, but for the most part she stood still for him to look at all of her feet.

I walked into the arena, tightened my girth again and hopped up just as Trainer K came out of the lounge. I was running a bit behind since everything was frozen and had a tough time opening the sliding barn doors.

I warmed up as she instructed, asking for over-exaggerated bend in both directions and asking for halts without her dumping herself on her forehand. She felt good - much more attuned to my leg and I could feel that she was thinking.

What is that?
Oh, that's just 20 days worth of Annie grain.
Don't worry tho, 80% of it is alfalfa, as I have to supplement it
since Spud can't have any.
For those curious:
6lbs Alfalfa Pellets
1lb Equi Cal Pellets
1.5 cups Dr Reeds Minerals
3tbs Magnesium Oxide
1 scoop Myoplast
We attempted some circles with outside bend. Key word - attempt. Several steps felt good before we fell out again. Ah well, green horses and all that.

Moving onto the trot we did some "lengthening" and shortening of the stride on and off a circle, as well as on the long/short sides of the arena.

Some things to remember:
  • Support the turn. In order to support, you must prepare yourself - give yourself plenty of time to set her up for success. Ask for bend, stand up the shoulder, have more feel in your outside rein and almost leg-yield your corner.
  • The canter gets better the more she moves out - encourage her to GO, but also don't let her drop the shoulder in the turns especially.
  • Response must be immediate. If she doesn't comply, give her a tap with the whip and then go back to asking without the whip.
  • She lacks a lot of strength in her canter, the only thing that will make it better is more cantering.
  • She sure likes you fight you about that right lead (story of my life). We both kind of think it's "old habits die hard" in this case. Annie has been inadvertently taught that she can pick up the wrong lead and I won't get mad/correct it. This is something I knew I was fiddle fucking too much with, but c'est la vie. I had been told by a few trainers to let her canter on the wrong lead because at least she's cantering off my cue. Which, I totally get, but now it has created a problem. Clinicians are only trying to help, which I appreciate, but it also has turned this right lead thing into a bit of a nightmare because I'll fight for that lead and then I back right off as per instruction so Annie is more receptive to Trainer K who does not have that baggage with her and who insists she gets the correct lead.
  • Collecting/extending will help bring her haunches under her.
  • Lots of leg in the halt so she doesn't dump herself out front - she stops like a Western horse. We want her to stop like an English horse.
  • It's ok that she makes mistakes - ignore and move on.
  • It's time to get after her about the lead. (re: when we had 10 unsuccessful attempts) She will be able to walk when she gets the lead, which is her reward.
  • When doing your serpentines, be straighter in the middle. Ride the C shapes like corners.
  • Watch your lower leg doesn't swing back at the canter, sit stable but make sure you aren't impeding her forward motion.
  • If she swaps behind (cross fires), push her forwards, she usually self corrects. Do not bring her to trot.

Lots of good info was packed into this lesson. And we kind of found the glaring hole in Annie's training (well, time will tell) re: left right cantering. She picked it up beautifully the first few times, no hassle, no head-shaking, no bucking... and then struggled and fought with me the next time I asked. We had nearly 10 unsuccessful attempts and Trainer K scratched her head a bit considering she hasn't had that many wrong leads in a row since training. 

Spud is still enjoying his new digs - his gelding friends are being
nicer now, so he's happy.
Which, is fine. All part of learning and such. It basically boils down to the fact that I've pussy-footed around the whole thing the last year. Some rides I'd be OK with not getting it, some rides I'd push and push and push for it and not get it... some rides I'd get it ONCE and be happy and end there. 

And there isn't a wrong answer. I'm sure I could have sorted it out eventually, but the irony is that she is more consistent with Trainer K than me. Which also has to do with fitness - like Trainer K said, my timing isn't always great and I have my own faults (ie. hanging on that fucking inside rein) that make it harder for Annie. Doesn't mean she still can't do it in spite of my hang ups, but me and the mare have history. Which makes it tough sometimes.

So, we had a bit of a argument about the lead, which ended quite well and mare was given many pats for being an amazing pony. I was glad Trainer K didn't think poorly of us, as she mostly just thinks this is something Annie and I will have to suss out. Kind of like a dog who is allowed on the couch for months and months and finally one day, is expected to sleep on a dog bed ON THE GROUND. We'll get there - three more weeks of training are still left and we've already covered a lot of ground.

Into the other parts of the lesson, I had so much fun. I did have to carry a whip for the leg yielding portion, but a quick tap tap had Annie responding so well. She was curling herself behind the bit, so we spent some time uncurling her and encouraging her to stretch her neck out. We did a lot of free walk and loose rein trotting and cantering as well, which helped me "trust" her more. 

I went and grabbed Annie's heavyweight blanket and a few other things from the
barn on Friday - it's snowed more since then. I'm just praying it all melts
before I bring the horses home March 1st!
At one point, we even managed a few steps of a baby lengthen, which was SO fun. Typically our lengthens feel like RUSH RUSH RUSHRUSHRUSH. Her response to my legs has been so much better, and she feels like she's using herself vs me holding her up (or dying trying haha).

Upon completing a victory lap in the right lead, we came to a walk and let Annie have a mental (and physical) break. As we made a lap around towards the top of the arena, by the letter C, I felt her legs weeble wobble and Trainer K called out, "Make her go!" Annie felt like she was going to drop and roll! I kept her moving and walked a bit more before both mine and Trainer K's suspicions darkened - we had initially thought she wanted to roll from being sweaty and itchy.

I called out, "Somethings not right, I'm going to jump off." and quickly vaulted to the ground while Annie was still moving. Immediately, she laid down. She didn't roll or stretch out, just laid before popping back up. Trainer K stood on her other side as I unbuckled the saddle and made it just in time before she decided to lay down again.

We both looked at eachother, and both knew it, but didn't really say the dreaded word out loud. Annie laid, quite placidly, before laying flat out on her side and grunted several times. Trainer K ran and grabbed a cooler and held Annie while I fetched her halter. I managed to get the halter on, but not tied as Annie laid her head down and stretched out again.

When she got up and stayed up.
As far as colics go, it was very... tame? She "rolled" but didn't completely flip over and was up and down several times before alternating between sitting up and laying flat out. Trainer K and I rubbed her dry as well as massaged her stomach, encouraging any gas bubbles to break apart. 

Nearly 15 minutes later, her symptoms started to slightly worsen. It was at this point I called it and went to my trailer to grab my banamine. I'm pretty sure the Farrier giggled at the sight of my giant first aid kit - he's a old school kind of guy, so I imagine it was kind of funny to see me struggling through the snow with all my riding gear (including my helmet) on carrying this giant tub of supplies. 

I administered the banamine orally and spent the next 45 min brushing and petting Annie as she laid quiet. It was the oddest thing - I have seen much more frantic/violent colics, so to see my mare acting very placid was a strange thing. She was mostly dry by this point and had no temperature and her gums/skin didn't show dehydration. We were unable to check gut sounds, as I did not bring my stethoscope and didn't want to bend an ear over her as she laid.

As she dozed in the arena, I went and changed into warmer (less wet) clothing. I made up a bucket of warm water as Trainer K puttered around in the arena keeping an eye on Annie and when I brought it out, Annie was standing. I offered her the water, but she mostly just played in it and knocked the lid over on my first aid kit. Thanks, horse. 

She continued to get better as the minutes ticked by - she spooked at a boarder's horse, tried to follow a boarder around the arena (she was riding her mare), and tried to run me over when I took her outside to load into Trainer K's trailer (to encourage pooping). With no poop to be had, we set her up in a stall inside the warm barn and gave her a handful of hay and a large bucket of water. She drank deeply and furiously scarfed down whatever hay she could find. 

By 6pm, Trainer K told me to head home. The roads were getting dark and with Annie's recovery, she was optimistic I wouldn't need to spend the night. Begrudgingly, I got my things together and started to head home. The roads weren't much better, so I'm glad I left while there was still daylight.

Trainer K messaged me later that evening to say Annie was doing much better and by this morning had had several poops, drank a bucket and a half and was begging for more food. She'll also be staying in a stall so they can monitor her water intake more closely before she goes back to her paddock (which has an automatic waterer).

Her first day at the barn - the snow is much higher now.
We aren't quite sure why it happened, but with the plummeting temps we both figured she may not have been drinking much water. Not drinking much + lesson = cramping. The auto waterer is a both a blessing and a curse in this situation, as we couldn't really pin point how MUCH she has been drinking. She had eaten most of her breakfast that morning, and all of her normal/regular grain. The deep hole that is Google has suggested ulcers, but I don't think Annie displays any other symptoms - I've put a call into the mobile vet we saw in October for some advice regardless. 

So - kind of a fun and not so fun day. I swear, this horse and I need to catch a break soon. I hadn't published it on the blog, but I had fractured my nose a few weeks ago, then fell off in my Derek lessons and now this... They say bad things come in threes. I sure hope the mare and I are done now! Whoever has that voodoo doll of Annie and I can stop poking it!!


FYI, for those who are bound to ask - no we did not call the vet. We don't have a vet in the area. The closest one is 3 hours away and the roads were not safe to drive on. I am, however, speaking with the mobile vet we saw in October re: possibility of ulcers or if this may just be a fluke situation. Any stories/respectful advice is welcome as always!


  1. Oh no! Glad you guys were able to resolve the colic, how terrifying. Minus that speedbump, sounds like training is going well!

    1. It certainly wasn't what I had in mind :/

      She is on the mend tho, which is good <3

  2. that's scary about the colic tho! glad it seemed resolved with some banamine and close observation! winter can be so hard on them, and esp with so many recent changes it's maybe not hugely shocking? idk.... (fwiw i didn't call the vet when my horse colicked either, since the vet would have just told us to do what we were doing anyway). i hope she recovers quickly and can get back to work with the training. sounds like K is getting a lot of good insights and ideas and with still lots of time left!

    1. Colic is never fun, that's for sure.

      And no, it's not necessarily "shocking". she's undergone quite a few changes, but the way it happened was a bit... odd and irregular from what I'm used to when I think "colic".

      And yes, trainer K is wonderful :)

  3. Colic is always scary. I'm glad she recovered. I hope she settles in at the trainer's.

    1. Isn't it?

      Ugh. I'm glad she is OK tho - hopefully no more shenanigans!

  4. wow you beat our very bad ride by a lot :) HA HA HA I am so glad she is okay. Remus hates outdoor waterers in winter (ours are heated and he still wont drink that much (Goober) so i am glad he comes in at nite where he proceeds to drink two full buckets at least twice. (ANd those arent heated!WTF). Sounds like the lesson was good though mostly (that canter will come) and so scarey about her just deciding to lay down but SO Glad you went to your lesson so you were there for all that!! I am glad they are putting her in a stall for a bit. AND Um that weather/snow. LOOKS HORRIBLE I pray for an early thaw for you. I literally got chilled reading this post and looking at the photos :)

    1. It was a good ride... just the after part wasn't so great.

      Trainer K is making sure she stays hydrated now, so hopefully that's the last of that!

      The snow IS terrible. We are currently getting more of it...

  5. What a great lesson that ended in not so great a way. I bet it was because she wasn't drinking. and no, I don't call the vet right away with colic symptoms. I try to manage it first- although I might consult by phone if I am uncertain.

    1. It was a really good lesson!

      Hopefully this is the last we will see of colic.

  6. Oh my, that's so scary! I think you're probably on the right thought process with cramping. And honestly, that is exactly why I don't have automatic waterers. Though for being outside like she is in that awful winter, it's probably necessary to avoid frozen buckets. I'm glad she's doing better, and I really hope it was just a one off sort of thing.

    1. It's kind of a blessing and a curse - auto waterers.

      Thanks - hopefully this is the end of it!

  7. Minus the whole colic thing, it sounds like trading is going really well! I'm glad she's feeling better, it sure does sound like a water thing.

    1. I think Annie and I could've both done without the whole colic thing. Ugh.

    2. Saw the weather warnings and thinking of you and your ponies! Fingers crossed the snow is not slamming you too hard this week.

    3. Ugh - I am SO ready for winter to be over.

      Ponies are ok though - not liking the additional snow, but surviving and crossing their hooves for Spring!

  8. Oh no! Even mild colics are so scary. Glad to hear she seems to be feeling better now. Winter is such a sucky time for belly aches.

    1. They really are.

      And yes, she is doing really well now thank goodness. Winter really sucks - for a lot of reasons.

  9. I would have done the exact same things you did. I'm so blessed to have a vet school just a couple miles away! So glad you keep banamine on hand!

    1. Lucky!

      And yes, a lot of people in my area have various drugs for the very reason we don't have vets.

  10. Oof, that is scary! Here's hoping you guys catch that break soon!!

  11. Colicing during a ride is very scary. :( Glad she's ok and you are ok too.