Sunday, February 28, 2021

Classical Conditioning and Yearlings

When I first got Maizey, I knew I was in over my head a little bit - she was a (mostly) untouched weanling, who was used to being turned out on several hundred acres with her dam and several other foals. Her daily life included her mother, her friends, food, and an occasional human observing from a distance. Her life was pretty simplistic and the basic needs were all met - until one day she was removed from her usual surroundings and weaned from her mother. A small amount of handling occurred, but nothing consistent or concise until she came home.

I remember unloading her at home, unclipping the leadrope in her temp paddock and thinking, "I'm never going to catch her again." 

  

She wore that halter and catch strap for a few weeks
when I first got her.

She wasn't what I would call wild - but she was certainly fearful. I can understand her apprehension to people, considering a large majority of her interactions with them were linked to mass life changes and brought a lot of confusion. Which, is sometimes the way of things. I couldn't spend several weeks teaching her to lead and load in a trailer to take her home. Of course, we were as gentle and kind as possible, but we also needed to get this horse home. 

Which - if you ever breed horses you intend to sell, please give them the basics. I understand it's "not the way" for some areas or disciplines or people, but giving them a basic start to life is so much easier on everyone and removes a lot of unnecessary stress and turmoil from the animal.

Soapbox rant aside, I've had a lot of fun learning about babies and have made quite a few observations in Maizey's "preschool" education. She's kind and intelligent, but she also is also fear/ reactive-based (like most unhandled horses). Her response to something "scary" (let's use an example of a tarp) is to be on high alert - ready to vacate the area if the threat intensifies. Which, is a pretty normal equine response when you think of it.

So if you are wondering how I got this filly
to walk over something crunchy and weird without
a halter, keep on reading!
 
I've been picking my brain a bit, wanting to work on piquing her curiosity and have her be confident in herself. I don't want a horse to rely on me for all of it's confidence in awkward or weird situations - I want that horse to be confident in themselves to react in a way that is sensible and makes sense.

As I pondered the best way to encourage and motivate her, I recognized there was a very similar "game" I play with Cedar that has proven to increase his own critical thinking and confidence.
 


Classical conditioning is a process by which an animal associates a neutral stimulus (ie. tarp, ball, umbrella) with a positive/potent stimulus (ie. food, treats). It is commonly used to chain behaviors in dog training, and while it can be a bit of a "long" process, it allows the dog to think for itself and become confident in their own decisions, knowing that the end result for them is positive. 

In situations of dog reactivity (in Cedar's case), it can be exceptionally beneficial, because it allows the dog to associate the stressors (other dogs) with something positive - this is counter-conditioning, as it relates to a "negative" stimulus. And in Maizey's case, it would serve some of the same purpose. I wanted to harvest and encourage her curiosity, and if Maizey recognized she was getting "paid to play", it may also entice her to explore things a bit more.

 It is a process that starts off rather slow, but in my experience with Maizey (and Cedar), it gains traction relatively quickly. To walk you through how this process work(ed)s for Moo and I, I played around with a very new stimulus (umbrella) and videoed the process as I worked through it.

Before I start, it's important I don't have any expectations - I let Maizey steer the direction of her training journey and it's important that I stay within her comfort zones to cultivate her curiosity and build her confidence. I also choose to not halter or restrain her in any way - she is free to leave if she so chooses, and she is free to maneuver however she likes throughout the process. I simply stand aside and let her do her thing and reward her for exhibiting the behavior I am looking for. 

So what does that look like and how do I determine what behavior I am looking for/ what to reward?


I start off with an object, in this case an umbrella, and stand off to the side with food/ treats. In this situation, it's simply her soaked alfalfa cubes (which I do not recommend, as the umbrella, Maizey, and I all got covered in wet mush lol). I typically use sliced carrots or horse treats if I have any on hand, but I have seen that people have successfully used alfalfa pellets. It's important to use a treat that has value and it's important to remember it's value. In a circumstance where she over-exceeded my expectation, I would dole out treats like crazy (also known as giving her a "jackpot") or switch to a higher value treat (apples, sugar cubes... something your horse REALLY likes) that is different from their usual treat.

It's hard to get the hang of it, but timing is everything and in that case, understanding what earns a "regular" treat, a "jackpot", or a high value treat isn't as important as knowing when to treat.

In the above clip, it shows a pretty normal start to our sessions, which last 15-20 minutes. I simply offer the item and stand to the side and as soon as Maizey shows any kind of interaction with the item, she receives a treat. Something as simple as walking closer to it (if the horse is backed off of the item) or attempting to reach out and touch it are both things I would treat her for. Lipping the umbrella and causing some kind of movement is a pretty big deal, considering she hasn't been exposed to umbrellas before this. 

Since she did so well with the umbrella sitting upright, I decided to move the umbrella around and offer it in a new position.


As I figured, the movement caused her to back off a bit. Which, isn't really the end of the world - as I outlined above, she is free to remove herself from the stimulus if she feels threatened or insecure. I don't acknowledge this or offer any food motivation - my goal isn't to entice her to the umbrella by spoon-feeding her treats all the way there. I may call or cluck at her to walk over, but I don't move, don't rattle the treats, and don't remove the stimulus or make it less intimidating (it's important to know your horses threshold so you don't overface them, especially in the beginning).

It also pays to be patient in this process because:

It may not seem like much, but she held her position, assessed it and decided to move forwards. You can see she is a bit apprehensive about me approaching (it was raining and the drops hitting the inside of the umbrella were a bit loud), but chooses to keep her foot planted and resumes her curiosity.

That single step towards the big, scary umbrella gets a treat - especially in the beginning stages. She made the right decision here, even being uncertain. And showing her she made a good decision piqued her interest and made her brave enough to continue on to do the following:

Moving the umbrella on her own, continuing to explore and becoming confident in herself! 

You can see several instances I could have treated her, but I chose to wait to allow her to play around and explore. Once I saw the umbrella move a few times and her continuing to interact with it, I chose to treat her. I do vocally express how proud I am of her by giving a, "Good girl!" or "There you go!" to encourage her as well.

I let these sessions basically run themselves - seeing where Maizey is uncomfortable or falling short and trying to mend those bridges by simply being patient and offering treats at the right moments.

And eventually, it lends itself to:


 Allowing the umbrella to move, assessing/ processing, and continuing to explore. She is apprehensive when I moved it, but her apprehension is also closely followed by curiosity, which is what I'm trying very hard to harvest in her.

Our umbrella session lasted a whole 12 minutes as per my phone, and it showed a horse starting to develop confidence in herself and the things around her and I'm pretty proud of that. As this is our first session with the umbrella, it still shows a lot of promise for things to come! 

As she develops a bigger and better understanding of the world around her, she'll continue to flourish and become her own advocate, which is the primary reasoning for a lot of this. I had initially assumed that she would become resistant to interacting with the stimuli I provided, but the most she has done is tried to follow me for treats. When this occurs, I simply reposition myself (in the case of the blanket, I walk to the other side of the blanket, encouraging her to follow but not demanding she does so). She caught on pretty quickly that interaction = pay off.

Don't worry, the blanket has a good amount
of holes in it and the sand is pretty dry.
It makes for a good impromptu "tarp".

 For the short amount of time we've been playing with this new training regime, it's paid off in big ways. After an entire summer of endless tarp/ blanket walking, she would still balk at it the first few attempts at passing over. Which, is fine, she was scared pretty bad in the Spring and obviously it's manifested itself somehow. But the above GIFs of her with the blanket are our second session - something that would have never happened had she been haltered and asked to walk over. It's pretty impressive to see her brain turn as she found pretty quickly that treats come when the feet are on the blanket, not the nose. 

It's going to be fun continuing to explore this with her - it warms my heart to see her working outside of her comfort zone without relying on halters and leads to keep her engaged or "with me". Of course, halters and leads have their place in training as well, but this experiment has been really fun and engaging for the both of us.

Which now begs the question(s) - have you done something similar with your horse? What was the outcome?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

An Update of Annie

 

Time for a recap on this Queen!
 

My last post on the blog before a rather long (and well needed) break from writing in any formal sense, outlined the absolute chaos of trying to medically diagnose my sweet mare, and trying to understand the fall out from the subsequent vet visits. If you haven't yet read the entire saga (or simply forgot, because it was nearly 100 years ago at this point), I highly suggest giving it a quick study or revisiting it to simply recall the events in their entirety, because a lot of that information is important and relevant in this post.

As the middle of August came, went, and disappeared, I was beyond elated to see my mare returning to a relatively normal state. I was slowly but surely legging her back up, and continuing to do an obscene amount of research and reading regarding COPD - what it all meant and how to address and support concerns as they arrived. I wouldn't even be joking to say I have tried hundreds of dollars worth of allergen-suppressive and allergen-reducing supplements and drugs and tonics and tinctures. The amount of ingredient labels I have scrutinized with a sharp eye, and the amount of flip-flopping I have done between shipping costs and transport fees from the States to Canada has been... expensive and very time consuming.

For a majority of the year, you wouldn't know she was
diagnosed with respiratory issues at all.

We trialed a few holistic and more natural options, as well as veterinarian prescribed allergy meds with lukewarm success. I didn't notice a rather large difference in her mannerisms, and she continued to have a mild cough (mostly once or twice heading into canter). It was rather frustrating, although we were certainly having more good days than bad days. I held on to hope, knowing that these things take time and the multitude of COPD-related F(ace)book groups I was part of kept me motivated (and humbled) that respiratory issues are a process in itself and you need to take it one day at a time.

And so, we started to take it one day at a time - and things were looking promising. Like previously stated, Annie was slowly being legged up again and I finally was able to actually school her for the first time in months. It felt like we might just make it to the other side of this whole debacle. And yet, as I navigated my way through figuring out what would work best in terms of support for her newly diagnosed condition, Annie seemed to have other plans.

Oh, Annie.
 

You see, not even a day after posting back in August of last year, I noted that Annie's hind left was a bit puffy (that may or may not be why I struggled to publish this post, lest Annie have some kind of trick up her sleeve). I sighed, believing the bit of a gallop she had in the outdoor arena a few days prior was the cause and began the customary cold hosing, poulticing and wrapping so many of us are familiar with. The next day, upon removing the bandages, I noted that the swelling was gone and was relieved to see it did not seem serious. However, a simple glance at her right hind showed that now it was swelling, much like the left had done the day before. 

Confused, but not at all surprised (I mean, when you own a horse like Annie, nothing really surprises you), I cold hosed, poulticed and wrapped both hinds - but not before dosing her with some NSAID support. While I was quite happy to see that her persistent coughing and mucus accumulation was gone, her leg swelling was beginning to worry me. However, I simply assumed she had strained herself galloping around in the outdoor arena.

But what seemed like a "little tweak" seemed to be for naught, as each day that I assessed her, both legs would be in various stages of mild to moderate swelling and as I went through the checklist of what to look for with swelling every single day, I noted a few things: there was no heat accompanying the swelling, she was not lame, cold hosing would help, hand walking/ riding would make the swelling disappear, and constant pressure wraps would remove the swelling. However, within 24 hours it would return. 

 

Even on the rainy days we hand walked.
So much handwalking.

 
At this point I figured maybe she wasn't moving around much and started hand-walking her every single day. This improved the swelling but did not prevent it from returning 24 hours later. I lamented my frustrations to a friend, who suggested perhaps the new hay we had just rolled out could be the culprit. In fact, this friend suggested that from the beginning, but I was too stubborn to recognize it could be a relatively "easy" fix. I instead went ahead and shaved down her hind legs and slathered them in some lotions and potions to combat canon crud and Annie enjoyed throwing me for a loop when she randomly went tight-legged for a day or two post-leg shaving treatment.

But, it didn't last.

So, after trying all the tricks in the book without any solution, I scheduled a vet appointment a week and a half out and decided to do a little test to see if the hay could indeed be the culprit. At the beginning of the year, I had secured hay from two sources, as the previous year left slim pickings and most had to source hay outside of their usual suppliers. In doing this, I was able to score some local bales, but also some higher quality bales that are trucked in from outside of our immediate area. I was pretty tickled to have options, as I am pretty limited to what I can use, as storage options where Annie and Spud are are very limited. That being said, I was able to secure more than enough hay (and then twice over, lol) and in August, after the final cuts were done, we switched to the non-local hay.

 I tarped over the leftover bale so the horses couldn't access it and supplemented some local square bales from Maizey's stash across the street and within five days time, guess who's legs went tight and normal again? 

I was pretty pleased and switched them back to the non-local hay before our vet appointment to see if her legs would blow up again and lo and they slowly started to fill once again. I hauled out 3+ hours with friends who also had appointments and saw a Vet who travelled up to the area (she used to run a practice in the area but now lives elsewhere). Of course, when I unloaded Annie after a 3 hour trailer ride, her legs were cold and tight. I swear to God, mare.

Just a casual 3 hour trailer ride for the Vet to check
a mare who decided not to have swollen legs
that day.
 
Since there wasn't anything to see, the Vet and I mostly chit-chatted and we both agreed that the excess protein in the non-local hay was probably causing the leg swelling. I noted to the Vet that Annie was diagnosed with COPD and I had heard her cough in the paddock a few times during the "leg swelling test" and I was concerned the local hay could be a trigger. The Vet advised that she would rather see a COPD horse with mildly swollen hind legs vs coughing and being on various medications. She did recommend using some pressure wraps and advised to hand walk and get her moving where I could. 

Things started to get better though, as they always did, and Annie did well with the Equiflex Sleeves I ordered. I'll have to do a product review at one point to go more in depth about my experience with it, because I feel like this post is going to be excessively long otherwise!

Looking (filthy) fancy in her pink sleeves.
 

As the Fall came and went, things were relatively normal - although we still battled the puffy legs. It was certainly made easier with the Equiflex sleeves, and things were chugging along pretty steadily. I managed to continue some relatively easy schooling, given the fact that we had a very, very wet year. I cannot accurately give a number on how many days we had rain, but I just know it was... gross.

We started to get ready for the inevitable Winter and I was able to get things set up pretty early on - given the fact that our usual snowload seemed elusive for the most part. We had some bumps in the road as Annie had periods of regression and success and I started to lose my mind a bit. She presented mid-November with a glob of thick snot affixed to her knee and I sighed, dialed the Vet's number and reached out for more information regarding nebulizers and how they are used as a mucolytic. I had been researching nebulizers for a few months and was starting to lean towards purchasing one to help Annie with her (obvious) mucus accumulation. 

After speaking with our Vet, I took the plunge in purchasing a (very expensive) Flexineb nebulizer and looked forward to seeing what it could do for us and how it would help Annie. I'll have to write a separate post about the Flexineb (I actually want to do a full write up on COPD and what I've found works/ doesn't work, and a bit of a run down of how the Flexineb works, how to clean it, etc. Would any of you be interested in something like that? I haven't found anything that covers the entire use of a Flexineb system (even their own website), and a lot of what I've learned about COPD is what I've strung together from my own Vet's advice, Vet Med articles, F(ace)book posts, blogs, and other horse care websites.

A quick little video of how it looks/ works.
 
Anyways, we got the Flexineb a week after my birthday and I was pleased to see those sporadic, random coughs, started to disappear. The Flexineb, along with the saline and chelated silver (I promise I'll explain how to choose what to put in the cup and how much liquid, how often, etc if everyone wants me to! It'll definitely take some time to write out properly and show little videos but I would be thrilled to do so!) started to work pretty well and I was happy with the results I was seeing. We did a lot of hand walking and a few rides when the weather allowed, but for the most part, I was busy switching out rain blankets every few days as they would get soaked through after being exposed to the torrential downpours we were receiving.

 With Winter coming and the issue with the non-local hay not fitting properly in the hay feeder (which meant I'd have to unravel the bales until they did fit and then stockpile the unraveled hay), I opted to try out the local hay bales (they are half the size). I was nervous, considering the local square bales seemed to aggravate her, but was pleasantly surprised to see the bale didn't seem to cause any issues and I happily continued to use the Flexineb as part of our regular maintenance routine.

One of our many hand-walking nebulizing adventures.

As I continued to familiarize myself with the Flexineb, it's capabilities, and what kind of support Annie needed from it, I was let go from my position at work. It was a devastating blow, given how the entire situation unfolded, but at the end of the day, I cannot help but feel a small amount of pride in myself for sticking to my morals. It did suck though, especially considering Christmas was just around the corner and an increase of COVID cases in our region made work-forces come to a screeching halt.

And as if 2020 wanted to continue the beatings, Annie went into an awful flare a week and a half before Christmas. I was confused, as she had been on a bale of local hay for over a month without an issue and it seemed as though a few days after another bale went out, she was a coughing, hacking mess. There were a few other external factors that were confusing me - writing it all out, it seems so obvious, but being in the situation is a whole 'nother ball game. I drove myself crazy trying to find a trend or a link somewhere... some place. My gut churned, feeling as though it could be the local hay causing issues, but she had been on a bale of local hay just days prior without issue.

Suffice to say - W.T.F.

These were very, very expensive antibiotics.

As her symptoms worsened, much to my dismay, I once again reached out to my vet who immediately sent up some heavy duty (and expensive!) antibiotics since the mucus Annie was coughing up looked a tinge suspicious. We also put her on steroids and a bronchodialator to use with her Flexineb and I struggled to get ahead of the symptoms. 

Two weeks of pure misery trying to gain traction to only have success and then just as quickly, disaster. The Vet changed dosing of the steroids and bronchodialator and we added a few other things and once again, we would have success and then it would all come crashing down within a few days. I spent hours sitting in the hay feeder, as the rain poured down, timing and counting each cough, each sneeze, and any little movement or improvement. Annie, bless her, never felt completely poorly - she still tucked her butt and galloped around several times, but on the not so good days, you could tell she was pretty frustrated with coughing. I felt for her, and panic-ordered several cough remedies, tonics, and cut out every single hard feet or treat I could for fear it was making things worse. We were down to the basics and I was practically living in the paddock with the horses, obsessing over every single breath (in fact, the Boyfriend called me one afternoon asking if I was planning on coming home, since I had left several hours earlier).

It was so wet that my poor phone could
barely snap a clear photo or video.
 

As the bale in the feeder was down to the last 100-200lbs, I made the decision to switch back over to the non-local hay (I know, I know, what a fricken back and forth debacle). It took a few hours of fucking around with the giant bale, fitting a hay net, clearing snow, and then finally loading it... but I was glad it was such a nice day (ie not snowing, raining or below 0!) that I didn't mind it. And, instead of continuing to feed the last hundred or so pounds of the local hay, I dragged it all out and disposed of it far from the horses. 

Once the bale was in, I grew a bit worried as the days ticked by and there didn't seem to be any signs of improvement. I stayed the course, however, and within the nine day mark, Annie was pretty much back to normal. I weaned her off of the whole slew of medication she was on, but continued the antibiotics, and carefully started to exercise her a bit again. And as the days continued to pass, she did really, really well. I was able to successfully reintroduce her grainfeeds (I don't feed extruded feeds, but she is mainly given rice bran and beet pulp, as well as supplements) and I finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief. 

 


There are so many questions I have about this entire saga - namely, why did she do fine with one local bale, but then not the second?? Which brought me to my next plan of attack - allergy testing. 

We are working alongside a local vet to arrange for an allergy panel once roadways are safer and I can actually... yanno... dig my horse trailer out. I'm in no absolute rush to get the panel done, but I know it'll answer so many of the questions I have and remove a lot of fear of "Can I give her this grain?" "What about this hay?". Instead of fighting an invisible trigger, I want to see X, Y, Z in front of me - undeniable proof that they can cause issues and therefore, we can avoid them, minimize them, or implement immunotherapy for them. 

It took some time to get the Vet on board, because I actually had approached this Vet back in August after her diagnosis and several Facebook groups recommended allergy testing to me, and I was given a very abrupt, "We don't do that here." from the receptionist. I am a bit frustrated I didn't push back in the Summer, given how things have turned out now, but I was quite new to the whole allergy/COPD/RAO world and having had just made a 7 hour trek for a lung wash and additional diagnostics, I was a bit overwhelmed and under-educated. 

 

She's still crazy sassy and playful! We both can't wait for
Spring (although maybe a little pre-ride lunging is
in order, lol).

All of that aside, I convinced the Vet and his team to use the lab I chose instead of their usual lab, as it is one of the only labs that also tests feeds (beet pulp, carrots, apples, molasses, etc). After about a month and a half of combing through labs, what they test for, the availability of immunotheraphy shots, and how concise they are, I managed to lock it down as to what I want to use. Of course, being the middle of Winter and facing sub zero temperatures with a horse trailer still buried behind the snow we did get, it isn't the best time to be hauling one of the worst stretches of highways in our region. So, that will all come in Spring. For now, Annie is stable and happy so we aren't in an absolute hurry. 

It's been an absolute endeavor working my way through this and even more so without the ability to just waltz into a vet clinic that has all the tests and whistles available. And so, we do the best we can and we do our own research to make those educated choices for our horses... and for the most part, I think we are on the right trajectory. I think the most frustrating thing about respiratory illness in horses is that there is no one size fits all approach. The groups on Facebook have been the most enlightening (and it helps they are so dang supportive too), because there are horses who exhibit a lot more symptoms than Annie does, some that exhibit less, some who can tolerate only square bales, some who can only tolerate steamed hay... and the list goes on. It's challenging, and I've learned a lot about the confusing world of respiratory disorders and to not judge people with their horses because chances are, they are trying so fucking hard to get their partner well again. Above all else, it reaffirms that the art of horsemanship does not stop out of the saddle.

Friday, February 5, 2021

A Very Potato Update

Next in line for a photo-heavy update is the very famous and very handsome potato-pony. 

For the most part, Spud wasn't up to too much - it was a pretty low key several months (not just for Spud, but for everyone) while I dealt with various health problems in Bannie and tried not to rip my hair out, as well as a very uncharacteristically wet and yucky Spring... then a very wet Summer... followed by a wet Fall. (For what it's worth, our Winter has been quite wet as well, but 2021 for the most part has been filled with sunnier and drier days, which I hope translates over into the other seasons as well.)

That all being said, we still got up to a few shenanigans and managed to make the best of a pretty weird year.

Let's recap!

 

On several of the nice and *gasp* sunny days,
Spud and I enjoyed some really nice drives.
We didn't do too much, but played around with the basics
and getting him off of my left rein (the one he loves to
hang on). Previous posts alluded to a bit change, which
never happened due to the postal service issues once
COVID hit. We continue to use the half cheek mullen
mouth he seems to still enjoy. We'll revisit a bit upgrade in
the future, but it's been tabled for when I can actually
send it to the PO box in the States (there are several boxes currently
sitting in Washington waiting to be picked up from... March 2020.  Oof).

I found that Spud did a lot better in the Frey cart
than he did in the year previous - definitely a lot stronger and
able to balance the weight much easier. We made some
adjustments to the cart and the way it sits, but I'm still
not 100% happy with it. The Boyfriend offered to purchase some
of the marathon shafts I have been lusting after for Christmas,
so at some point I'll order them and finish the upgrades
to his cart to make it much more comfortable and conformed to him.

He accompanied Momma Bans to a very neat-o
photoshoot my bestie had planned for several months.
It was a lot of fun and Spud was the best traveling companion - his
only complaint was that the photoshoot was not for him. Sorry dude, next time.

We still love our Greenguard muzzle!
I had some issues with it wearing weirdly from his front
teeth and Greenguard replaced it for me, as it was within a year
warranty. I made some adjustments as to how it hangs, and it seems to
have solved the problem. We had a bit of an issue with the halter rubbing while
he was shedding out, so I painstakingly sewed a cotton cover.
The fleecies I ordered are sitting in a PO box still...

As always, Spud came along for many hacks (where possible).
And as always, he was very happy to be out.

As part of a work-out regime, I incorporated in some
lunging while Annie was still slowly being legged
back up and couldn't really pony for extended periods.
She did, however, judge Spud from afar during his efforts.


He showed off his moves - especially when it was time to catch him again
after being allowed to frolick around loose. That was a fun time.

He begged for cookies before I even got in the saddle.
I mean, who could say no to that face tho?

He showed off his Summer bod during one of the nicer, cooler
evenings. I was pretty pleased with how he looked given
the pretty randomized work schedule. Of course, he doesn't look
anything like this now as Winter makes everyone a little bit... pudgier.
Can't wait for the snow to melt and the days to get longer so we
can get back to it!

More Summer evening drives were had - this particular
photo has a bit of a story behind it. You see, I found these super
nice bales another farm trucks in and managed to score quite a few.
Except. They don't fit in my feeder.
The bales are a ginormous 6+' across and the widest part of the feeder is 5',
which means each bale has to get stripped down to a 5' diameter  before it
can even be placed out into the feeder. This particular bale was being hand-stripped
and fed incrementally until it was small enough that the tractor could load it. I have since
changed up the process so it's easier and less... time-sucking. But it's still a process.
I must really love my horses or something?

Back when I had to take Momma for further diagnostics, Spud was
alone for a weekend. The home owners where the horses live took him
for many, many walks, and he was very spoiled while I was away. I don't
think he missed me very much, haha.

I caught him nomming on the stirrup leathers before
we headed out for an early Fall ride. Naughty boy!!

For a small dude, he keeps up pretty well with Annie!





With all of the rain and general dampness, I
bought Spud a rather ridiculous rainsheet (and
apparently forgot his size in the process, d'oh)!

Looking very majestic in the snowfall - don't
let that face fool you, he tried to escape when I momentarily
left the gate semi-ajar.

The winter has been full of hand-walks with these two
goofs, and it's been very therapeutic.

A friend gifted a winter blanket to us - it is a bit too
small, but it'll do for those super cold and crisp days.
Spud looks pretty cute in it, too!

And to make the photo-spam complete - his little
apple-bottom booty <3


Monday, February 1, 2021

I'm Back (kind of), With a Maizey Update

It's been a hot minute since I wrote any kind of semblance of a blog entry - even longer since I was actually consistent with documenting mine and the horse's shenanigans and adventures. In some ways, I've certainly missed the blogger atmosphere and being able to flip back and fondly remember or recount certain rides, shows, or clinics. In others, 2020 has been a giant cluster-fuck that I don't know if I care to relive in graphic detail.

I'm still well aboard the #StruggleBus from 2020, but I am beginning to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel (I mean, I am also furiously knocking on wood because if I have learned anything about 2020, it's that it can smell confidence a mile away). It's going to take some time, and I'm trying to remind myself to take things one day at a time and to tackle each issue as it comes (IF it comes).

The last few entries before the extended blog-break, I shared the heartbreaking diagnosis of ringbone in Maizey's front left fetlock, and the myriad of COPD-related issues with Momma Bans. Truth be told, if I had to give a short version of what 2020 was like, it would be: an assortment of vet bills and diagnostics, hundreds of trailer miles, and a lot of uncertainty and frustration.

 But.

That isn't how I want to blog, and that isn't how I want to relive 2020 - which is why I disappeared for a majority of the year as I came to grips with everything (in my own way and on my own terms), navigated all of these medical diagnoses and figured out how to best advocate for my horses (and for myself).

It's been a really bumpy several months, and if all of this has taught me anything, it is that it can be so easy to be swept up into the shitty things that happened and how it changes the trajectory of this or that, but at the end of the day, I still have a lot to be grateful for. 

And I'm trying to do just that.

And so, with all of that being said - I'm slowly starting to dip my toes back into the blogging game again and what better way to do so than to revisit what Maizey Moo has been up to for the last several months?!

A moment of silence for everyone's viewing devices as they download the several billion photos and point-form captions I have decided to share below:

I will say that not much has happened for Moo over the last several months.
For the majority of the year, we spent time snuggling,
working on our ground-work manners and untangling that
wild and crazily FULL mane.

The long Summer afternoons were filled with a lot of growing and napping.
AJ was more than happy to join.
Moo continues to live with AJ, across the street from Annie and
Spud and is still quite happy with her living arrangements.

She also learnt the art of ponying, and joined us for several
trips around the subdivision. (For purposes of this picture, we were
at a stand-still and Maizey was actually being ponied by AJ. I simply
wanted a photo of all three ponies).

Momma Annie remains largely infatuated with her kiddo,
and even though they have spent time apart, she always falters
or completely stops at the end of Maizey/AJ's driveway - mostly
to catch a glimpse of her baby and say hello.

We took an adventure to the riding arena where Maizey got
to check out some barrels, practice standing tied for a short period
of time and did some despooking stuff (see next photo)!

On the field trip to the ara, I noted that
the old mattress from the year previous' Cowboy
Challenge was still tucked away in the show office,
so I took the liberty of dragging it out and practicing
walking over with Maizey. She did really great, especially
considering the mattress had quite a bit of "give" to it.


We took another trip - this time to the indoor arena which is
a town over - for a PEMF session. A PEMF specialist has started
to service our area and I figured it would be a good option for Maizey
given the issues with her fetlock.

For a yearling, she did quite well with the weird
looking equipment, new place, and odd sounds.
She shuffled around moderately, but overall stood like
a champ and the PEMF lady was quite impressed.

As the Summer progressed, we continued on with
desensitizing and playing around with random objects.
The tarp continues to be a bit of a bone of contention, as
we had a little bit of a set-back in her first exposure to it due to
some weirdly high winds and a tarp that decided to blow up into
poor Maizey's face as she went to step over. Oops!
We revisited the tarp several times over the summer in low-pressure
settings and she's done really well. Slow and steady!


Maizey was introduced to the sights and sounds
related to hot shoeing, as AJ got a new set - we hung around to check out
the smoke and this was Maizey's reaction.


There was some time spent playing with surcingles, pads, and looking
ridiculously awkward (especially that neck... oh my lord).

And then, just like that, we had to size up to a
Cob-sized halter.*cries*
 

Every month or two, I'd trot her out to see what kind of pony I had.
The lameness we saw back in April hasn't reared it's head again - I
mean, I don't consistently trot her out or check her lameness because
I understand it is something that can change day to day. However,
the general consensus has been that she is pretty darn sound and
even better than that? She hasn't needed a single NSAID since her
initial diagnosis and subsequent pain management regime the Vets advised for her
(this is to say, she has been sound enough that she does not require NSAIDs).
I remain cautiously optimistic about her future, as I know the best laid plans
can go awry, but I continue to believe that things will work out as they intend to.
She is on some joint support supplements and wears magnetic fetlock
bands most of the time (with it being winter and quite snowy, I removed the bands).



The Fall was very wet, and Moo got to wear
some of her "big girl" clothes. They were kinda
saggy and awkward on her, but she'll grow into them!

And grow she did!!
Yes, that is me on my tippy-toes with my awkward long yearling.

Even with the rain, Maizey still got out for a few ponying adventure walks.
It was becoming concerning to me how big she looked
alongside a 16.1hh AJ though!!

A very fuzzy and fluffy Moo-cow out on a solo hand-walk.
She was a bit nervous without AJ but did so well!
(And no, her front left is not clubby. I have no idea why
it looks like that in the photos).

That about catches up Maizey's adventures for the last several months - everything is pretty easy and lowkey for the moment and like I had outlined above, I'm planning to send her to pasture for a few months this Summer so she can go be a baby. I initially was going to send her for the Summer of 2020 as well, but after her diagnosis, the Vet's advised against it. So, if things keep looking promising, she'll be released to be a free wild pony for a few months. I'm a large advocate of turning out horses as much as possible, on as much space as possible - especially young horses. I want her to gallop up and down hills, feel different and varied terrain under her hooves, and most of all, eat lots and lots of fresh green grass.

We'll see what the year brings, as her soundness and Spring/early Summer radiographs will dictate what move I make in that regard. For now, I am enjoying the time Ihave with her and trying to not obsess over the future too much. She doesn't seedd herself as any different and so long as she is pain free and happy, I'll continue to do the best can by her.

I have no real "plans" for her two year old year (in May) other than more exposure and desensitization. Just showing her what life is all about in a low pressure and positive setting - I have no desire to push her faster than what she can do, and with her medical issues, we'll take things as slowly as she needs.