Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Spring and Summer

Well, it's been an absolute minute since I last blogged. It kind of makes me sad in one way, but it also has been weirdly cathartic to not feel pressured to write or share more private and intimate details about mine and my horse's life. 

Not that I don't enjoy writing or sharing, but it has been hard to stay motivated and part of me did not want to open myself up to judgement or criticism. Truth be told, I still don't know where the cards will fall with a lot of things and for a long time felt like I was suspended over a large ravine, clinging to the edge of a rock face with aching fingers... just hoping and praying to get some kind of traction to pull myself up and back onto flat ground again. 

It hasn't been all bad, though, because I have been chugging along with things and am trying to keep a level of indifference to things, as I know that stressing over something to the point of physical exhaustion is not productive or conducive. I mean, I do get pulled into the game of "I'm not doing enough", "I don't deserve these animals", "I'm a terrible owner", but I also remind myself I am quite literally doing everything I can to advocate for them and ensure their health and safety first and foremost.

Regardless of all of those... feelings... I figured it was time to do an update of sorts and while a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. We last left off sending Maizey to pasture which was a blessing and a curse all in one and somehow was one of the best and worst decisions I've made in a while (which, we'll get to that). 

Still, things had been moving forwards and the month of May came with sending Maizey off to "big kid pasture" and the unintentional purchase of a new-to-me trailer. It was one of those situations where you couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth because it just played out ever so poetically that even though I attempted to reel myself in and say I didn't need a new trailer, it just kind of... was too good of a deal too close to home to pass up.

And so, I somehow found myself bringing a 3 horse trailer home in the middle of attending a canine behavioural clinic. 


I did end up selling my little straight haul (a few months after purchasing my "new" trailer) that the SO and I refurbished five years ago after doing some touch ups and I was able to offset a majority of the costs spent on the "new to me" trailer. Which, heck ya I'll take that. I definitely shed a few tears as it pulled out of the driveway for the very last time - that trailer has seen so much and was one of my prized possessions. 

The very last picture with her <3

But I'm getting ahead of myself again...

Where was I? Oh, right... 

The month of May closed out with battling off and on flairs with Annie, who continued to baffle me with her inconsistent symptoms. I tried a variety of different medication (and at the time of first drafting this post, had just finished trialing yet another with zero success) and have tried to track her symptoms with borderline obsession with absolutely zero trend... It has been quite frustrating to have an inconsistent horse and no real conclusive or definitive answers to be seen. I remained optimistic for our Vet appointment in July though, and held hope that the allergy testing would at least reveal what her sensitives were so I could eliminate or start to manage them.

Admittedly, I didn't ride much this Summer. Annie fluctuated daily and some rides would be symptom-free outings where I could walk, trot and canter to my hearts delight. Other days, the prospect of even trotting would be met with several deep coughs. And so, on those days, I would simply come back to a walk and that's where we'd work. 

The Summer was.... tough.

And actually, I haven't schooled the mare since early Spring when she was feeling good. My desire to play in the sandbox currently mirrors the light of a dull flame most days, as I feel as though any schooling goals do not align with my current level of horsemanship. Her comfort and wellbeing will always be first and foremost, and with a pending vet appointment looming near the end of July to hopefully give us more answers, I saw no reason to push her for absolutely zero reason.

As June approached, I started taking Spud out for more drives and visited Maizey a handful of times. Things seemed to be pretty good and despite losing some weight initially, she seemed to fill back out as she stayed out on grass and learned the ins and outs of being a pasture-pony. The herd her and AJ were put out with were finally becoming more accepting and I was pleased to see she retained a good level of soundness as the month progressed.

I started hiking more - taking advantage of "less" horsey time and more "me" time, which was well needed. I still got the horses out for scheduled exercise but it was much less structured and still largely is. Some days we toodle, some days we stretch, and some days we walk in a frame and leg-yield like we know what we're doing.

The end of June brought a massive heatwave and with that came the first cut of hay for the year. Since Moo is boarded at a friend's barn and they only feed square bales, we got quite the work out loading 400 bales into the loft. We headed out around 4pm and called it quits around 1:30 in the morning - the humidity and heat was just killer and I distinctly remember looking at the clock and wincing when it read it was still in the high 20Cs (70F+). While some areas of the country are made for that kind of heat, we just AREN'T.

We regrouped the next day around 9am to offload the rest of the hay and finished around noon, which I was incredibly thankful to have that whole adventure behind us. The remainder of my hay will be roundbales which do not require the same level of handling and physical exertion, which brings me much happiness and relief. 

The things we do for our horses.

Regardless of the heat wave, I still got out to play pony and made my biweekly trip to the fairgrounds to let Annie and Spud loose to kick it into fifth gear, play, and buck and roll. They always seem so appreciative of the extra space to kick up their heels and truthfully, I am glad they are located closer to the grounds now so that I can give them that freedom. While their "new" boarding situation is much smaller than the previous one, it is spacious enough to allow some theatrics. Although, neither area (current and previous) would allow for Seabiscuit rehearsals, so the ability to turn them out at the public grounds is a good option.

Following a good visit with Maizey near mid-July I received a slurry of text messages in the middle of the night that some of the horses had gotten out, followed by a redaction that all the horses were in the pasture and not to worry. Upon waking up and reading this, I contacted the barn owner and we chatted for a bit before she realized that AJ had gotten loose on the property mid-morning and it Maizey was actually injured and had sustained a variety of cuts to all four of her legs, chest, and all up her thighs.

That's an unhappy leg, even post-wrapping.

There was a lot of back and forth, as the BO could not determine where the horses were getting out (as two others had made their way onto the wrong side of the property not long after she had put AJ back) and the message she had received the night before about a horse loose on her road became less impossible. Essentially, a concerned passerbyer had posted on social media that there was a loose horse on the road but when the BO went to check, all the horses were accounted for (albeit an hour later than the social media post). The following morning, one horse was out in front of the house and upon returning him to the pasture, two others had somehow gotten out as well.

I'm still not really sure what happened, and I'm not sure we will ever know but it didn't take me very long to decide that I was hitching up the horse trailer and bringing not only Maizey, but AJ home. What had initially seemed like a one-off was now turning into a safety issue, as the BO frantically stated AJ had gotten loose yet again and she had no one to assist her in repairing fences, as her husband was away on business. 

What we assume happened was once AJ got loose, Maizey attempted to join him and got absolutely cut up by barbed wire in the back 40. Thankfully all of her injuries were superficial in nature and despite being clearly sore and moderately lame, it did not appear as though she would need any significant intervention. The BO, the sweet lady that she is, apologized profusely and once she was able to contain all the horses, had messaged me that they found a rotten tree had fallen and taken out 30 feet of fencing in one of the back pastures. 

I still am not 100% sure on what happened and I don't think we will ever really know. I just know that horses are stupid and even with 180 acres to roam, they'll take the first opportunity they can get to exit stage left when they so have the chance.

It took four days to subdue the swelling that Maizey's hind right canon sustained and despite being fidgety (every single time I attempted to wrap her legs, she'd lift her leg, thinking I had wanted to see her hoof. No baby Moo, I need you to stand still) she was a pretty good girl. 

With that over and done with, I was able to shift my attention back to Annie, who waffled between flairing and not, especially during the heatwaves. Her symptoms still continue to be coughing and mucus production, although the mucus has been few and far between this year compared to last. 

The SO and I headed out mid-July for a Vet appointment and hauled 6+ hours for both Annie and Maizey to be seen. We opted to make it a bit of a trip (what kind of sick person takes a vacation for their horses vet appointments??.... me... that's who) and it was kind of nice to be out of town and enjoy ourselves. 

Moo took advantage of the tossed hay to make
herself a bed and have a nap each and every day.

The vet trip went about as well as it could have gone, I guess. The vet was very adamant that allergy testing was not "good enough" and that it is quite inconsistent. I had a hard time convincing her that this was the right test for my mare, and despite her begrudgement, she pulled blood and sent it off (but not before reminding me to "not expect much"). To her credit, I can understand and appreciate that the entire basis of allergy testing in horses remains a bit of a mystery at best. However, as more reputable and thorough studies (because the one I just linked is... mediocre at best) come to light, I imagine that the ideology behind blood test-based allergy tests will go by the way-side. Of course, intradermal testing is the best way to go (but not always possible depending on location). Anyways, I could write an entire tirade about the whole situation because it really left me defeated, but I'm trying my best to not let myself get pulled into that line of thinking. 

The test results for Annie came back nearly a week later and the first thing the vet said was that she warned me that testing was inaccurate and the results did not make sense. Which, fair enough I suppose. The two allergens that Annie showed reactivity to did not make sense, considering we don't even have any of the one (cockroaches) in the Northwest wilderness here. What followed was the basic conversation I have had with several other vets, "She has heaves - you have to manage it, here is more dex."

I don't want dex. 

I want my horse back.

You can see the two allergens depicted near the bottom of 
the page - this was page 3 of 5 allergens. All the remaining
allergens were pretty similar in "severity".

And while yes, what she warned me about appeared to come to fruition (because of course it did), she also stated that had Annie shown reactivity to items that made sense that she would not be able to offer us immunotherapy unless we were to trailer to the clinic to receive the injections. Which, okay... but you're 6 hours away and the only other vet close to us is 3 hours away. I'm not going to trailer my mare 3+ hours to get a shot every 2-3 weeks.

So, it was kind of a bust for Annie. 

I laid there and licked my wounds for a few days in defeat before sharing my results on several of the COPD groups I'm a part of. Several people were quick to respond, urging me to retest, as out of the hundreds of people I've seen share the results of their test, none have had the puzzling results I have had. (Quick note, the lab that was used is NOT one that people typically recommend for allergy testing. So... good to know).

It took a few weeks but I managed to book Annie in with another vet to be allergy tested with the blood being sent to a different lab for the Fall. (At this point I'm basically funding several vets' family vacations).

The Million Dollar Mare.

Maizey's updated radiographs were about as good as can be expected - she's attained a lot of arthritis in the area (surprise surprise) and despite how her radiographs look, the vet couldn't help but say good things about her level of soundness. Of course, since that appointment it waffled and weaved as I knew it would. 

Still, we hold onto the here and now and I've slowly been playing around with ground-driving and continued sacking out, although my motivation-meter is quite low. I don't think it'll make much of a difference in Moo, though, as she is relatively unbothered by most things (unless that thing is a tarp. No tarps please).

And just as August came into bloom, I started to play with Spud more and more and noticed some inconsistencies with him as well. There was some issues with his recovery times in harness, although I chalked most of it up to fitness-related issues and since I wasn't riding much, it seemed very plausible. Of course, that didn't stop me from obsessively checking him over, trying out a few breathing treatments and beginning to track how he felt in harness. 

The bestest boy.

I had anticipated to take him to the BVX at the end of August, but something just felt off and when the entry due date dawned ever closer, I made the decision to not only not enter any of my horses, but to not attend.

This would be the first year Show Buddy and I would not attend the BVX together in a very, very long time. There were a lot of tears shed and I rooted for her from my work desk - a very different scene from the past several years where either her or I would be ringside. It was absolutely bittersweet, but something just felt off about the whole thing and looking at how the following months unfolded, I am glad I didn't push Spud (or myself) to go.

So that's where I have been for a majority of the Spring and Summer - slogging my way through very frustrating and diagnostically impossible ailments in not one, but two of my horses. It's been a heck of a trip the last few years and I can feel it in my bones that I am nearing the end of the pages full of sadness, frustration, resentment and heartbreak because I am ready to start a new book with my herd and we are well on our way.

Stay tuned for a second, certainly more positive update.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Pasture Paradise

These wide open spaces aren't a regular occurrence at
home, but a short 60min drive and land is in abundance.

Near the middle of May, I got the "go ahead" from our "regular" Vet (I say "regular" because there is really nothing regular about our Veterinary situation in the North. This Vet, however, is the one we have dealt with the most over the last while and knows a good majority of my horse's history) to send Maizey out to pasture for a majority of the summer. I was both pleased and slightly uncertain about sending her out - it's always a bit nerve-wracking to send your baby out to the big, wide world! 

N decided to send AJ with Maizey, so it was good that they would be going together and at least have some familiarity in eachother's presence at a new place. While we do not have much for pasture-land available in our little town, the next town over certainly does. We found a place that would allow for both horses and seemed like a good fit for some of our requirements - mix of gelding/mares, smaller herd, large pasture-space, safe and secure. We hauled them out at the end of May and after an initial scuffle, they seemed to settle in quite well.

Aside from the normal scratches and nip marks, Maizey has faired pretty well and since it's a smaller herd-setting, they've gotten used to one another quite a lot faster. The horses there are also pretty level-headed aside from one, but it isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. Everyone just gives eachother a wide berth if needed and it seems relatively civilized. 

The gang's all here.

I've been out several times to check in and say hello - I've avoided trying to do much more than that, because this time is meant as an opportunity for Maizey to be a baby and grow. Having just turned two in May we still have a long ways to go before I'll be sitting in the saddle (if ever), especially since a lot of it depends on her health and wellness. 

I'm in no rush, especially not with Maizey.

We're hoping the horses can stay out for the remainder of the Summer, but I know N has some reservations on AJ being out there that long. Which, sucks a bit but I can also respect that she has to do the right thing for her horse at the end of the day. We'll figure it out if plans go awry or change, as they often have a way of doing so.

Quite literally they are joined at the hip - hilarious to
think of, considering AJ was not very nice to her in the 
early days.

For now, both horses are enjoying their vacation (although I imagine both are quite fed up with the sheer amount of precipitation we've received over the last few weeks) and I'm hoping that once we receive some better weather, they explore further into the 90 acres they have access to.

While it has certainly been odd not seeing her every day, as she is boarded across the street from my other two, it has also been a very large breath of fresh air. I think I needed the mental and physical rest from managing boarding at two places, while trying to shuffle exercising, training and spending time with all of my horses. It's something I've struggled with in the past, and with working excessive hours most days of the week, I am having a tough time trying to figure out my time management. 

Onwards and upwards though - I have so much to be thankful for and although it's a hectic and busy life, I need to stop and count my blessings every now and then. Twelve year old me would be absolutely tickled and overjoyed to see where I am now, especially with the abundance of horses I have, haha. 

One day at a time and one ride at a time, right?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Making Lemonade

It's been a hot minute since I've blogged (what else is new though). Things are moving along - the horses are in relatively regular work and I've been trying (marginally successfully) to find routine with the new job and regular life. It's been hard though - the hours are quite long and involved, but I am thankful for this new opportunity and the ability to continue to finance my passions - as well as yanno... the lesser "fun" debts or adult purchases. 

Things kinda took a bit of a nose-dive at the end of May with Annie, a few weeks following our very successful Anthony clinic. I had a funny feeling that her allergies were going to flair up around that time, considering it's when she struggled the most last year. 

This was a... not so great ride. 
She worked out of it, but it's not necessarily something
I want her to "work out of" either.

She's alright though - definitely better than she was last year (by a landslide) - but there is still some definitive irritation and it's lead me to a really difficult road. Unfortunately, it most likely means our clinic-season will have to be shelved until her symptoms subside, as any coughing will cause damage to the very delicate membranes in the lungs. 

Since she already has damage from her variety of illnesses and ailments, its important that I keep her lung irritation to a minimum. For the moment, she is pretty happy to walk and trot without issue and some days, can move comfortably at all gaits without any inkling of a problem. 

Alternatively, this lunge went well.
Mare didn't enjoy that I told her no snacky snacks, though.

I am trying to stay positive (but it's really fucking hard), because she is doing so well - lightyears ahead of where we were last year. But it is evident there is something environmentally related out there bothering her. So, for now, I'll keep managing it the best I can and continuing mindful exercise without triggering her symptoms until we can get our allergy testing done in July. She is game and healthy enough to do some things with, but the additional stuff like clinics and shows are just... not going to be on the table for the next little while. Some days we have 100% symptom free rides and other days we have several coughs at the canter - unfortunately, I cannot guarantee we will have a symptom free ride during a clinic and there is no real purpose in signing up for clinics only to have to scratch.


Such is life, I suppose.

One of the pretty neat things is that she isn't on a butt-load of 
medication either. I started giving her some dex, but I honestly
have never found it made a huge difference in her way of going 
like it does for horses who actually struggle to breathe (VS Annie's 
moderate exercise intolerance).

We'll take it a day at a time - one ride at a time. I have no intentions of pushing her and having it lead to more issues down the road. Part of me is staying positive that she's doing pretty good considering everything, especially considering last year I couldn't even ride her at this time of the year. Eliminating the one source of hay eradicated a good 80-90% of her symptoms, but there is that last little bit that still needs some work. I'm both excited and nervous for the allergy testing - excited to get some answers, but nervous that the test will show nothing or the immunotherapy shots will not help. Of course, you don't know until you try, so we'll explore those options and fingers crossed that Annie continues to be (mostly) rideable and I'm still able to get in a good amount of saddle time despite putting a hold on clinics and harder schooling.

It's definitely not what I had hoped for, obviously, but its still quite a lot better than the alternative. So - trying to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons.

Still adventuring here and there with these 
two weirdos as much as I can <3

My mantra for the remainder of the season is "one ride at a time". If I have learned anything with COPD horses it is that things fluctuate and change so quickly that you have to appreciate the good and appreciate the little things. If we happen to have a good day, I have to take it at face value and appreciate the heck out of it. And if the same with the bad days - although comparing how she rode this time last year to now... there quite literally is no comparison. She's miles better, but still not exactly where I'd like her to be.

So, here it is. The frustrating world of COPD and all that comes with it - the highs, the lows, and everything in between.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 2

With Day 1 down and out of the way, I was feeling a lot more confident about Day 2. It seemed like my worst fears had been stomped down and I could focus and enjoy my horse, the lesson, and follow the instruction without being too guarded or worrying if something would trigger a reaction (nevermind the fact that Annie has been schooling just fine aside from the one day I previously mentioned).

It had absolutely poured rain overnight, and when I crawled out of bed around 7:30am, I inwardly groaned knowing that I undoubtedly was about to be cold and wet for a majority of the morning. With my lesson at 9:15 and a good 50 minute drive ahead of me, I was less than enthused to be getting up early on my only day off for the week. So hard done by, having to get up early for a riding lesson. 

I did run a bit late at the horses in the morning which meant I didn't get a chance to nebulize before trailering out, but figured I could nebulize at the grounds if needed. Since Annie was pretty soaked, I threw a cooler on and crossed my fingers she would be dry enough by the time we reached the grounds. The rain continued for the entire drive, and as I sped up my wipers, I tried to not focus on how miserable riding in the cold and rain would be. 

Upon arriving, I parked close to the indoor arena, having noted that the current lesson of the day was taking place in there. Annie unloaded like a much more civilized beast and went right to snacking on grass by my feet before we ventured to the indoor to view the current lesson (and to stay dry!).

Unfortunately, the lessons got a bit back-logged and mine ended up getting bumped to an hour later. Which, no biggie, it happens. One of the awesome things about Anthony is that he isn't under a time crunch - if you need longer than your slotted 45 minutes to figure something out, he'll happily coach you until things are in a good place. I've been one of those lessons before, so I can both understand and appreciate the delay.

I ended up not nebulizing, because of the time delay I figured I'd wait until we got closer, and then before I knew it, it was time to get on. Time management is difficult when you aren't exactly sure what your ride time is and are too focused on being late that you end up being late anyways. Oh, anxiety.

I needn't worry though, because the lack of nebulizing was a non-issue. Annie was perfectly happy to go round and we were able to get some good work in. Because it was her first time back in the indoor arena in (oh man I just looked back... it's been a while) several months and even longer since she was ridden in it, mare was SPOOKY.


Coffee cups on the mounting block were a NO GO and it took a little bit to get the hamsters back on their wheels and all cylinders firing once again. It was a good opportunity tho, because it made me realize just how much I hang on my inside rein (esp tracking left... which is our bad canter steering way.... a coincidence maybe?? Maybe not). 

Anthony instructed me to drop my inside rein, focus on making her an athlete (forward and steer) and ignore the rest. Spooking wasn't the issue, the issue was lack of forward and lack of steering. My resolution to this was to pull the inside rein, which off-balances her and over-bends her - as Anthony put it, "If you are coming up to a spooky liverpool, are you going to grab the inside rein and overbend?" 

Point taken, sir!

Once Annie stopped being so offended by the arena drag and the coffee cup, we went to work on the previous days lesson. The basis of this lesson was keeping her engaged in the bridle but not deep and down. A majority of our work was also on my tendency to push the inside rein into her neck and/or keep it tight against the neck. It was really hard trying to retrain myself to slacken that rein and to straighten her head/neck. The flat-work went well enough that Anthony suggested heading to the outdoor to pop over some jumps and I was quite surprised (and flattered, bc long-time readers might remember how hard I've worked to make it over some jumps in his clinics! I've spent a fair amount of clinics just flatting because we weren't "quite there" yet.) he gave me an entire course to play with.

  • Bend should be something you can turn on and turn off.

  • When things go wrong, I tend to bend her vs steering her. Bend isn't a bad thing, but it isn't going to help us go forwards or help us steer.

  • I ride with my hands off-centered to the right (inside rein tight against the neck), and therefore am consistently telling her "right, right, right" when I am meaning straight. The aid for "turn right" doesn't change when I am asking, and this is where a lot of the resistance to the right aid comes from. By asking her "right" all the time, I am making that cue lose value and confusing her.

  • When doing a down-transition, forward is the goal. Make her an athlete.

  • Left hand off/away from the neck.

  • Do not allow your steering to slow you down. Steering doesn't mean slow.

  • Encourage her to look up.

  • She makes your job of a going into 2pt before the jump difficult, as she doesn't like to commit to the fence until she gets to it. With adding power and steering, that will eventually go away. For now, your job is to ensure she stays committed and straight. (She likes to stall down a gear or two if I am not right on her butt until the take-off point).

  • "Can you imagine if this was your warm up round? We'd be having even more fun."
It was very interesting to see the difference in both Annie and myself when I sat down and compared to previous clinics. I think a large portion of it was that I actually rode my horse. Which, might sound silly in one vein but I have a tendency to sit there and wait for instruction from the clinician vs actually committing to a plan and riding it. I think a lot of it stems from anxiety - not wanting to be wrong or making the wrong choice, but at the end of the day, there are certain things (a, b, c)  I need to still do so that x, y, z works. Because without a,b,c I end up having no x, y, z but also an issue of d, e, f to now deal with. If that makes sense?

May 2021 vs
May 2019
Nearly the same stride.
Interesting how much allowing her poll to come up affects her uphill
balance. While the bottom photo may look "prettier", she is very 
tight and restricted in the shoulders (notice how much further her front left
 is reaching) and throatlatch, as well as downhill.

I really wanted to jump on Day 2, since Day 1 was largely flat and by the time we wandered over to the jumps, Annie had pretty much zero fuel left in the tank. It took a lot of brain power for me to just do the things, even though that uncertain part of me was nagging, "Just wait for direction. She's drifting left... need to wait for Anthony to tell me to correct it." I was a lot more proactive than I have been in the past and it paid off in dividends. Anthony was quite pleased with the efforts and remarked that had our final round been our warm up round (and that it can be our warm up round), what fun we would have playing around for the remainder of the lesson.

She felt pretty good to jump - I concentrated quite hard on keeping her straight, in an even tempo and chugging along. You know, all the basics. Like I outlined above tho, it can be hard for my brain to remember all the things, because for some reason I convince myself that sitting up there like a monkey is the best possible course of action when in a clinic. Being proactive paid off tho and although there was some "meh" parts of the course, overall it flowed relatively well and we didn't have much issue. I was pretty proud of myself for staying attentive and proactively riding my mare - silly as it sounds, it is something I struggle with.

Overall, a very positive and impactful two days worth of instruction. I was doggone tired and absolutely riding a clinic high - the ability to participate in one relit a fire of desire I had forgotten I had and made me doubly proud of my mare and all that she has accomplished over the years. Certainly a great way to start off the clinic season - hopefully Annie continues to be game as the summer unfolds.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 1

Can you believe it has been 21 months (1.8 years) since I took a lesson, and nearly 24 months since I took an Anthony lesson?


The year of 2020 threw a lot of curve balls to a lot of people - most clinics were cancelled and barns were closed. Any ounce of horsey time was precious, and a lot of us went back to our roots, braiding flowers into manes and tails and hand grazing for hours on end. In my circumstance, having an ill horse put an additional layer of frustration and heartache as I tried my hardest to navigate her COPD diagnosis and attempt to leg her back up into some semblance of fitness once she was fully cleared to be restarted.

I have like... two photos from Day 1, so you'll
just have to enjoy old photos from schoolings/ rides
previous to this clinic that I didn't blog about.

Any fun days or clinics that were able to proceed within the COVID regulations were off the table, as Annie's health ping-ponged back and forth and I had a massive lack of funds to facilitate anything "fun" after a year of nearly consistent vet bills. 

Regardless, we pushed forwards and I was cautiously optimistic that we could potentially return to the lesson scene in 2021. I didn't plan anything, although my hands were itching to etch plans in ink rather than pencil.

I tentatively booked the clinic back in April, wanting to get Annie a bit more legged up before committing. Her breathing was superb and we didn't have any coughing episodes, save for a random afternoon wherein she was eating mash and gave one loud cough (which I panicked and obsessed over for nearly several days). For the most part though, all systems seemed a-go, and I was tapping my feet in anticipation of attending my first clinic in well over a year.

As the days drew closer, we put in a few more rides and I had a rather unfortunate school six days before the clinic was scheduled to run. She coughed a few times (3) at the canter. All were spaced out and sporadic, and I noted that they were very first undersaddle coughs I had heard all year. 

I tried to do my best to stay positive, but it honestly felt like a slap in the face despite nebulizing clear and otherwise looking outwardly healthy. We did a few more nebulizing sessions to see if I could coax whatever it was out, but she nebulized clear each and every time and did not showcase any other telltale signs of a flare (excess mucus production or flaring nostrils).

We did another light ride before the clinic, testing the gears and seeing if I could replicate the undersaddle issue, but she handled the ride just fine (ie. zero coughing). Admittedly, I was nervous to see how she'd do and part of me was uncertain if we'd find ourselves in the middle of a flair mid-clinic and result in having to scratch Day 2... or even most of Day 1.

How to appropriately prepare for a clinic 101.

Exuding confidence, I know.

Before I knew it, Saturday came and after a last minute scheduling change thanks to work needing me longer than I had anticipated, I hauled out the 50min to TBC to have my first riding lesson in a very long time.

Annie unloaded a bit fast out of the trailer, but once she took a look around she seemed to say, "Ah, this place. Cool." and happily went about her business munching hay as I started to get her brushed and tacked up. We were a bit early, so I had time to muck about and organize myself a bit better since my nerves were firing on all cylinders. Annie was unbothered, even despite the fact we were the only horse and rider at the fairgrounds.

As Anthony and his helper moved some jumps around, Annie and I warmed up in the ring and I was pretty pleased to find that she was pretty chill about being in the arena. I anticipated a spook or two, since we haven't been out to the grounds in a long time, but she humored me and was pretty unbothered.

I went over the last year and a half with Anthony, detailing out the issues we faced in 2020 and my heart spilled over with pride when Anthony remarked, "She looks amazing this year." You see, Anthony is someone who is quite honest about things - he doesn't sugar-coat and he won't ass-pat. I appreciate this quality, because while it may not be things you want to hear, he doesn't pretend or overlook certain things. 

I found this feather on the ground just before I mounted
up and took it as a good omen. I have a lot of positive vibes
surrounding black feathers, so this gave me a boost of confidence.

Long-time readers may remember Anthony's (and a few other clinician's) comments regarding Annie and her overall weakness. Physically she is very immature and unbalanced despite being an "older" horse. Most of the time she was mistaken for as a 3 year old (despite being actually 5 years old) when I first got her, and I'm sure those who have stuck around for the last four years remember how hard cantering and how hard bending and how hard circles were for Annie. And it didn't make a lot of sense to Anthony, who knew how much blood, sweat and tears I poured into Annie's fitness and schooling. It made no sense to him that it didn't make a difference how hard I worked - the horse just wasn't responding as fast or as positively as she should be to the changes.

However, this clinic Anthony remarked that Annie exuded a lot more maturity and he complimented my horsemanship. He did mention that it was interesting that she was so sick, and pondered the possibility of Annie having some kind of auto-immune or immune-suppressive issue all along, since she has always been kind of weedy, under-muscled and gawky looking. 

It was an interesting perspective for sure, but I could have cried with the compliments he threw my way - all of the time and effort I have put into Annie and her health and her wellness and her happiness... it was being noticed. And not just noticed, but it was an actual physical, tangible thing. It was actually acknowledged by more than just Anthony, as a few other people over the weekend went out of their way to comment how Annie was going and looked.

Ya'll, this horse has been a trip.

Beyond worth it, but a fucking trip.

I love her (and the mashed 'tater behind her) immensely <3

I could have honestly just ended my lesson right then and there, because my heart was just soaring. I have a lot of people in my corner with Annie, and although I have a very supportive community around me, it just felt plain good to hear an outside perspective who doesn't get the chance to see us very often. It made a lot of the tears and frustration and uncertainty worth it. Annie will always be Annie - she will never not be weak and will never not have balance issues, but we're chugging along and things are slowly gaining traction. And how cool is that?

As for the lesson, we worked mostly on the flat with a few cross-rails at the end. Nothing too crazy - by the time we transitioned to the jumping, Annie was pretty tired since Anthony had me ride her more uphill than usual, which is quite hard for her.

The notes from this lesson are as follows:

  • I ride with a lot more value now. I still don't ride her as assertively as Anthony would like, but my riding now is a lot less randomized in expectations. The things I ask for are, for the most part, more concise and clear.

  • Ride her less deep - when we are training horses for Dressage, we expect them to be a in a deeper frame but then we hit 2nd and 3rd level and all of a sudden expect them to be more uphill. Ride her in a 2nd level frame, encourage her to look up and where she is going. She is already a downhill horse, you are not encouraging her to be an athlete riding her deep and down. For jumping, we need an athlete not a horse that pokes around maintaining the status quo because they know their head in one spot means they get left alone.

  • Make her honest. The expectations need to be laid out and followed. She likes to falter when I transition to sitting trot or ask her to collect at the trot - the expectation is still to go forward.

  • More power. 

  • A higher frame carriage is hard for her.

  • You have only two jobs - steering and speed.

  • Let things get messy, this is why we school.

  • This horse needs to be ridden at the walk in meaningful contact and with swinging gaits. If you can commit to this as part of your riding, it will improve your other gaits. 

  • You lose steering in your left canter because you ride with your inside rein on and your inside leg on all the time. The aids mean nothing when they are used so much and have so little meaning. When you school, play around with doing nothing and asking her to only maintain her speed - she needs to carry you, not you carry her.

  • When you change gait or speed, she drops the head/neck down. Encourage her to look up.

  • There is a place for rest break walks (head low, dropped, on forehand), but there is also a place for meaningful marching into forwards contact.

We practiced a lot of circles and worked hard on encouraging Annie to bring her head and neck up without retracting hard at the throatlatch. We lost our steering into the left canter embarrassingly enough, but it made me realize just how much I rely on the inside rein (why is it that I pull on the inside rein when I need to use the outside rein... ughhh). 

Proof of clinic, pre-ride, with bits of hay hanging 
from her mouth, haha.

Annie worked quite hard, as I recognized I ride her a bit underpowered for what she needs. She finds a lot of the collected work quite difficult and I mentioned to Anthony that I almost have to nag every step out of her some rides. He suggested utilizing a dressage whip and educating her on it's use - we did an inpromptu in-hand lesson after I was finished riding and we went over a basic explanation of using the whip and how to appropriately train a horse to respond. For example, a majority of people will use it as a correction and only as a correction vs using it as an aid as it should be (I know I'm guilty of using it as a correction only). Anthony showed me how one tap = walk, two taps = trot, etc and how to place the whip along different areas of the body to dictate it's movement. 

We did get to pop over a cross-rail a few times, but it was made a bit difficult since Annie was pretty done by the end of the lesson (she quite literally obliterated the jump the first time through... oops). We got a good response towards the end, and finished the lesson there as she had worked quite hard and amicably.

And the best part? No coughing! No respiratory issues whatsoever and it made me so fucking happy. I'm still not planning anything too far into the future since things can change in the blink of an eye, but it feels like that monumental climb up a mountain is becoming less and less difficult. Feels like I'm well past the first leg and the summit is much, much closer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Happy 2nd Birthday, Maizey

How tiny!!!
Also, she was FERAL with a capital F.

I can hardly believe another year has just flown by - it seems like it was just yesterday that we were headed to pick up an unhandled weanling in another province. 

I remember longing for a foal from this particular stallion for eons, and having been so close to making that a reality, only to have mother nature throw in a cruel twist of fate. In more ways than one, I try to live by the adage that "everything happens for a reason". Had I gotten that colt four years ago, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fall in love with Annie. And even moreso, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fall in love with Maizey.  

Admittedly, the "plans" I had had for Maizey were dashed rather quickly, given her ringbone diagnosis and poor prognosis for a riding career, broodmare life and overall quality of life. It was (and continues to be) a very tough pill to swallow despite the evidence to the contrary.

This will forever be one of my favorite photos.
Momma Bannie and her baby<3

Her birthdays in particular are a means of celebration, but also a moment for me to pause and reflect on the 364 days previous. I am elated to witness the progress in her overall health and wellness, as it appears to be well above the assumed outcome when she was radiographed in early Spring last year. 

But at the same time, I am guarded.

I am painfully aware that a long life is not in the cards for my sweet Moo. The abundance of osteoarthritis in her pastern is painstakingly obvious, and being that she is so young and still growing, her body will certainly slow long before she or I wish.

That's not to say her birthday isn't celebratory. Instead, it is a double-edged sword in that we are closer to finality than we were at the start, but also, each and every birthday she passes is a milestone that professionals had stated she never would see.

Questionable attire on my part, but hey... I was
busy riding beforehand and then changed into a cooler

We continue to cherish each and every day that comes, and I continue to treat Moo as if she is still a normal young horse. We have shied away from a lot of classical training components (ie lunging) to reduce the strain on not only her legs, but her affected pastern. 

As part of our video conference with our Vet, we've made the decision to send her out to pasture in June to grow, eat grass, and fart around. Radiographs and other diagnostics will follow in July, when the Vet rescheduled to come up, and we'll see what options we have and if the area is in the process of fusing or not. I have a lot of things to mull over, but am choosing to wait until we cross that bridge.

The bestest Moo cow <3

These days, Maizey and I have been busy revisiting a lot of old questions (namely The Tarp of Death) and have also added a few new questions (bridling!). She is still a sweet natured lady, but also has a bit of stubborn streak if she doesn't wanna. She is pretty amicable though, and is handled by a friend's autistic sister with ease - in fact, she seems to act even sweeter when K is handling her. Go figure. 

Regular things like trimmings, tying, sacking out, and basic leading skills are worked on sporadically over the week. I try not to do too too much with her, as she is still just a baby. Most sessions are about 15 minutes in duration, unless we are hand-walking and in which case we can toodle for 45-60 minutes. She hasn't had the opportunity to be ponied since last year, as N retired AJ due to some medical issues. He is still happy to show Maizey the ropes (tarps really aren't that scary, Moo!) and be a form of support for her, which is great.

0/10, worst carrot ever.

At the end of May we will be hitching up and hauling AJ and Moo 45min out to a summer boarding pasture. It is a great opportunity to let the horses be horses, and especially in a young and growing horse's case, it is a perfect way to "let them grow up", being that they will learn to navigate a varying amount of terrain (and strengthen their bones and tendons as well as build muscles), learn herd dynamics (also finding buddies to play with and how to play appropriately), and of course, eat as much grass as their bellies can take.

As always, a close eye will be kept on her transition from paddock to (true) pasture lifestyle and if things don't work out, we can always bring them home. For her sake, I am hoping she'll be able to stay out there until the Fall. I imagine she will look a great deal more grown up after a few months at pasture.

One day, one month, one year at a time.

All of these small steps are inches closer to where we want to be, and I am, admittedly, holding my breath for the best outcome for us both.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

First Schools of the Season

The definition of joy is a fiesty
 mare rolling in fresh arena sand.

Over the last few weeks, things have been pretty busy on the horse-front! I've slowly been legging Annie up into some "real work" since a majority of our rides have been hacking around the subdivision while we waited for the snow to melt from the arena. 

We've been able to lay down a few rides now and I've had the opportunity to play around with a few things. I feel pretty good about the direction we're headed in, both mentally and physically. As always, I'm guarded about her capabilities, especially as we enter the month of May and the alder pollen starts to fall... but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and we'll deal with whatever comes our way as best as we can. 

As most readers know, I had intended to get her allergy tested at the beginning of May, but things got a little shaken up a few weeks back when Bonnie Henry announced travel restrictions for BC and the Vet (Dr. M) we had scheduled appointments with decided to reschedule for later in the Summer. 

It really, really sucks and I know I can't be the only one who is so over the whole COVID thing - vet help in our area is so sparse that it feels like a lifeline is being ripped away and admittedly, I cried I was so frustrated and upset. But, we'll just keep chugging along like we always do. Thankfully, the appointments I had (although of significant importance to me) were not emergency appointments that would completely alter the universe if I didn't attend. It would provide a lot of clarity on some issues, but waiting another two months wouldn't be an end game for either horse (Moo and Annie).

I also did this again.

I mean, I still ran around seeing how far out the one clinic we went to last year (6 hours away) was booking (answer: late June/ early July... ugh), called another that usually comes to the area twice a year (answer: not coming until end of July) and called another 3 hours away to see if they could at least pull blood and do Annie's allergy panel, as they do not have an x-ray machine (answer: no, the equine vet there actually is returning home to Saskatchewan and isn't coming back). 

It's frustrating though, bc I would have liked to have gotten rads of Maizey's fetlock but the best we can do is a virtual appointment with Dr. M. I just wanted some kind of confirmation that sending her to pasture in June is "okay" and won't impede her current soundness. So, we do what we can and at the end of the day that's all we can do. We will get rads and Annie will get her allergy panel, but there is no point hauling both girls 6+ hours when Dr. M rescheduled for around the same time period we'd be going anyways. The plan though is to schedule appointments with the one clinic for a week after Dr. M would be here in July, just in case she cancels again. That way I don't have to wait a month+ for an appointment if things once again go south.

No conformation photos until she doesn't look
so pencil-necked and her mane somewhat grows
back again tho, haha.
Lack of mane also means grab straps are in our future, lol.

Ah, such is the life with COVID and no fully functional vet clinics in the area. 

Anyways, we've been pretty lucky that the weather has been so wonderful the last few weeks that I've been able to swing a leg over the saddle numerous times. And for the moment, I'm just enjoying the ability to school and play with my ponies. 

We've made it to the ring several times and have mixed it up and done some brief trail riding - some of the trails are still snow-laiden and inaccessible, so they'll have to be tabled to a later date. Annie gets shoes this weekend so we'll be ready to walk over river rock and gravel with ease, which means some more intense trail riding will be in our future! Hooray!

I promise she wasn't as miserable as she portrays - I 
think mare was moreso upset I didn't strip her tack and 
let her roll in the sand post-ride.

I've managed to knock the rust off in the ring a few times aboard Annie and I'm really liking how she's come out this year - definitely more ready for tougher questions earlier on and feeling less frazzled when she answers a question wrong and I try to redirect her. She still takes things personally, but I've found she certainly takes it with more grace and tact. Which, for obvious reasons, is appreciated.

Most of our work is playing with corners and circles, since the last several months of our existence has been tied to straight lines on the roadways. It took a bit to get the bendy-ness I was looking for, but we've implemented a lot of bending exercises on our road walks so it wasn't too difficult. She feels moveable and malleable - just not exactly fit enough to commit to certain positioning for any length of time. Which is fine - that'll come with time. The fact she's willing to play is enough for me, especially since her self-esteem waffles when asked tougher questions. 

Annie and I even cruised over our first set of fences for the year - a rather unimpressive 18" crossrail - and I'm tentatively booking ourselves into an Anthony clinic for the month of May. It'll all come down to how she's feeling, of course, but I have my fingers so tightly crossed that we'll be able to enter the land of lessons once again since 2020 left me hungry for some instruction. 

Look at this wonderful bean taking the best care of me <3

Thus far, we've had pleasant rides in the ring. She has come back to work quite nicely breathing-wise, so I'm happy to see that things like arena dust and a bit of dryness hasn't impeded her capabilities. She has also maintained a pretty good baseline - although she's out of shape, she's able to get her breath back with relative ease. I tend to measure a lot of her breathing against Spud's - for example, we did a loop around the fairgrounds (where there are a number of huge hills to conquer) and got a bit nervous as Annie was huffing and puffing coming up the last hill. I took a second to look over at Spud (who was being ponied) and saw that he too was just as labored in his breathing. So, just unfit ponies and all that comes with it.

Still, things are looking up and I'm excited to play around with some lateral work with Annie if all the stars align, but I am also happy for the opportunity to enjoy her considering all that we faced last year. Things can change in the blink of an eye, and I am grateful for each day I get to grace her back.

I propped the phone up rather precariously, but it did the job... kind of. 

With that being said, Annie isn't the only one who has had some schooling under her belt this Spring. I dug Spud's cart out of my Grandma's garage and finally hitched him up for the first time in a long time. He was an absolute doll and surprisingly fit, although I shouldn't necessarily be that surprised considering he is ponied off Annie 90% of the time and his little legs certainly need to move faster than hers to keep up.

I actually trailered him into town for this drive, as we stopped off at my Grandma's to say hello prior to heading out. She is absolutely enthralled with Spud and with the restrictions of COVID, has not had many visitors as she typically gets. It's an exceptionally isolating and lonely time, so bringing Spud by definitely brightened up her day. 

The open bridle I custom ordered LAST JUNE finally 
arrived about a month ago. We were able to try it out for the 
first time and I'm pretty happy with the overall fit.
I don't love the noseband isn't moveable (it's attached into the cheek
pieces where the bit attaches), but it's meant to be a schooling/ fun driving 
bridle anyways.
(And yes, his right front looks weird. He had to have a chunk of the wall cut off
last appointment due to some thrush and WLD but we've got it under control now. It 
just needs to grow back now and he's also due for a a trim (this weekend)).

From there we headed down to the MIL's house and hitched up and did a 4km drive over varied terrain. It was nice to get him off of the river rock that is so prevalent where the horses are boarded - a lot of the old logging roads are quite rocky and don't serve the greatest opportunity for speed. We were able to poke along at a trot several times in the drive and I was pleased to see he remembered all of his cues and that there wasn't much rust to knock off.

At the end of the drive, the MIL drove him solo for a few minutes and it was pretty damn pleasing to me to see this little dude take care of someone who admittedly is not horsey nor has driven before in her life. Such a cool, cool guy and definitely worth his weight in gold.

A lot of development is going on in this area. 
It's pretty cool to see.

And now, the rain has returned and I'm waiting with bated breath for the skies to clear and the puddles to disappear so we can get riding/ driving again (because we've been hit with nearly 300+ mm this week alone). 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Let 'Er Rip

Well over a week ago, I had noticed that the outdoor arena was finally free of residual snow and with our above-average temperatures, the ground was pretty decent (ie. dry). It made me excited for the prospective riding season (I am so done with trotting in straight lines!), but it also made me doubly excited to take the horses out to gallop around and act like nutters. 

As such, I opted to clear the whole day and take all the horses to the ring for a chance to gallop, buck, and play around for the first time since last year. Since the arena is in an open clearing, it is one of the first areas to melt and dry out - the horses still have some ice/snow in their paddock so the opportunity to act silly is quite limited while the remainder of the snow melts away. I knew that Annie needed a good gallop the most, as when I rode her days previous, I could just feel her muscles quivering with anticipation. Good mare is always sensible when I'm on her back, but she was itching to let 'er rip.

And when I turned her and Spud loose, she certainly did not disappoint. 

I did miss a majority of their play, as I had brought the dogs along for the walk and was busy getting out of the ring to stand along the side and out of the way with them. I did manage to get a bit of the show, though! I think Annie rolled five billion times - she was certainly very pleased with herself. Spud, as always, was content to tag along and kept up pretty good as they galloped back and forth.

Once Spud and Annie had had their fill (after a whole 10 minutes, aha) I let them chill and wander around before hand-walking them the long way home to cool out. After I had brought Annie and Spud back home, I met up with N and we took AJ and Maizey to the grounds.

Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant to see how Maizey looked, as I haven't really asked her to move out in months, mostly due to Winter/snow. We've done a handful of trot sets down the roads when they were clear of ice and snow, but I haven't seen her move on her own in a while. 

I needn't be worried, though, because she looked pretty damn good:

It was pretty funny because it took Maize a second or two to realize she could gallop and play - and once she figured it out, she shifted into fifth gear for a stretch or two. It made me smile seeing how good she looked and felt - I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for our vet appointment in early May that we get some good news about her ringbone and that the Vet approves her heading out to pasture for the Summer. I think she needs some time to just grow up, be a horse, and play in the Summer sun with knee-high blades of grass all around her. 

All in all, a good day spent with the ponies.