Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Looking and Better Moving

My lesson day with Toby went pretty well. He wasn't as outstanding as he was the other day but he was CONSIDERABLY better than when Betsy last saw him work. So my ground work with him did make a difference and he tries hard. I really have a tough time getting him to "go" when he's in a lazy mood, which of course he was in. In his defense, both of his back legs were stocked up from being inside due to our crummy weather. But he came through after a ton of urging.

Betsy, for the first time, actually worked on my leg position. Particularly when Toby and I were walking. Being a former hunt seat rider, I like short stirrups and to tip a little forward. Betsy didn't bother me about my position at first because she felt that I'd make my own changes as I learned how to ask my horse for certain movements. She was right about that! I have changed some thing but now I need to make a little more of a conscious effort to make further changes. I'm glad she started to pick on my position a little more. It helps everything all the way around.

I had another realization today. When I get Toby in the right frame, it's easier for me to sit up and back. Toby is a L-O-N-G horse. So he needs help getting himself together to make turns properly and stay balanced. Therefore I need to help him with my own balance as well! Duh! Sometimes I'm amazed at the realizations I make which seem so obvious but in action are not so easy to enact.

So I have something to work on with Toby and my position. BTW - Betsy mentioned how good Toby is looking. Did I not just write about how well he looks right now?? She said he does not look his age AT ALL! His coat is super glossy and with the rice bran I've been giving him at lunch, he's filled out in all the right places. I'm so proud of him! Secretly, I love it when people say "He's how old????? He doesn't look it!"

Hola wasn't worked today because of his leg. His leg was cold as ice - perfect! No swelling. Nothing. I'll be putting him back to work next week. He still is having loose poops but I'm confident he will improve. He was in great spirits and was the total busy body checking out everything we were doing. He's such a social horse - with people and other horses. Everyone at the barn is feeling badly about his loose poops, since everyone knows how hard I've tried to get them to be normal. So there is a good team in place to check on him. I can't wait till his tummy is normal...

Oh yea - Hola made sure to roll at least 3 times in the mud with his freshly washed turnout sheet. What a guy...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dwelling on Poop

Tomorrow will be lesson day and I'll have it with Toby. Ollie's back left leg still has some very slight swelling in it and an itty bitty bit of heat. So he's getting some time off.

I rode Toby on Sunday and he was terrific! I sure hope he is good at lesson time.

I realize that my two guys are really lucky. They have me, a fun loving owner, who has few other distractions to keep me away from them. I'm single, no kids, a good job and am in love with learning about dressage (even though I'm not great at it yet). Having horses is more than just a hobby for me. Not only do my guys bring together two worlds that I love (racing and dressage) but my guys are also a part of my family.

So I do things that most people probably wouldn't or couldn't do. Such as, my lunch hour is spent running out to the barn to give Ollie his liquid supplement along with beet pulp/rice bran mash to help him gain weight and poop better. It's been working. But today - inexplicably - he had the worst diarrhea I have ever seen come out of him! It was "explosion diarrhea" which some was sprayed on the wall of his stall and it was all over his turnout sheet he was wearing. He's acting normally, his temp was a normal 99.1 and he woofed down his mash. It's pouring rain outside so I put Toby and Ollie out into our indoor arena to stretch their legs while I stripped Ollie's saturated stall. The two of them were their normal curious selves investigating everything they could in the arena while I took out 4 full muck buckets from his stall. Normally, it'd be 1 to 1 1/2 buckets. I put him back in his cleaned out stall (I wiped down the walls too) and took home everything he was wearing and pooped on.

I'm hoping he just ate something and that he'll be fine in a day or two. He's so normal otherwise.

It's times like this where I wish I had some other distractions so I won't dwell over poop...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Proud of My Boys

Toby in cross ties
Hola in cross ties

Aren't they a pair?

Toby is looking so regal lately. He's at an excellent weight and fitness right now and his coat is glossy and shiney. He's looking great for an old man! I'm so proud of him.

Ollie is growing up. He's quiet and can stand in the aisle in cross ties. For the longest time he was such a wiggle worm that I could only cross tie him in his stall. Now he's relaxed and comfortable even in the aisle.

I'm very excited for Toby and me. We have signed up to ride in our first clinic. Betsy has invited Maryal Barnett to come to Traverse City and do a two day clinic. I love having something to work towards so I signed team Toby up. At first I was apprehensive because we are still beginners and Toby is an old guy (i.e. it takes us longer time to warm up and get round). So I emailed Betsy and asked if it truly was ok to have a middle aged woman and her 20 yr old ex racer as part of the clinic. She said "Absolutely! Maryal is great with beginners and very encouraging." So we are on the books for going. It will be held November 19th and 20th. We will be riding on the 19th. It should be a great learning experience.

Ollie came up today with a swollen left hind ankle. He had slipped going into his stall a couple days ago and gave himself a stinger. There was no heat and it didn't swell up. But evidently, it was tender and yesterday (the day after the incident) I had worked him on the longe line pretty well without realizing it was tender - he showed no signs. So today when I arrived at the barn it was swelled up. Part of the reason could be from standing in his stall for 2 days straight while the winds and rain (and by tomorrow snow) howled outside. It was a little warm so I cold hosed, gave him a little bute for the swelling, walked him for about 15 minutes and put on stall wraps. You can see he's favoring that leg in the picture above. He is walking on it fine so I'm hoping that he'll be ok in a few days. His Tuesday lesson may not happen. Stuff happens...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What a Day...

What a day...

I think I'll go in order of the day.

First was the phone call from Canoodler's racing trainer. She's a good friend and has a HUGE heart. I just adore her. But when I saw her number I had a sinking feeling. Canoodler. Canoodler along with another lovely fun mare from the trainers barn went to a gorgeous hunter/jumper barn in the Chicago area. They had the horses on a trial basis which is something my friend does not like to do. But after a month (maybe longer) and no word on the horses and no money for purchasing them, she sent her son (who is an expert equestrian himself) to check on them. He said he didn't recognize Canoodler because he was so thin. Her mare was another story where she had been injured and wasn't being properly treated and they had not been told about the injury. So today, the two horses were picked up and brought back home to my friend. She doesn't have the room or money to keep them so she called me for help. Of course she asked if I was still interested in the big goofy teddy bear - Canoodler. I can't even begin to say how much it breaks my heart to hear those words now. I don't have the means to take him. I feel like he's mine even though he's not and I want to help him find a good home. For some inexplicable reason I'm attached to the big peppermint loving lug. Thankfully, I have a great big network of good people and I hope to get him to a good place where he can thrive at a 2nd career which I firmly believe would be dressage. He's not the bravest guy in the world which is probably part of the reason he didn't make it as a racehorse. Dressage is so methodical and is also a great confidence builder for horses. And with a patient trainer who spells things out using capital letters in crayon, I believe he would do well. He's only 5 and just growing into his large 17+ hand stature. I wish I could take him and have Betsy work him. She's doing so GREAT with Hola and Canoodler has a similar personality but perhaps a less nervous temperment than Hola. He'd thrive with her. Please email me if you have anyone interested in him - wuzelac@prodigy.net

So I was crying with frustration and stress over Canoodler when I drove to the barn to get Hola ready for his lesson. Toby has this week off now that show season is over and my funds are, to speak frankly, tight.

Hola was so cute. He stood in the cross ties like a pro and I groomed him and tacked him up. He's suffering from really itchy skin especially around his hind end. Everytime I curry his hind end he literally throws his butt at me to brush harder. I'm almost thrown to the walls when he does it. So I made a concoction that one of you mentioned with witch hazel, baby oil and coconut smelling creme rinse. I mixed equal amounts in a spray bottle and applied it first to his tail. Then it seemed to make it to his entire body. He seemed so relieved from his itchy skin!

Then Betsy arrived to work him. Today we decided to just get right on him - no longeing. Betsy was able to mount him and he was quiet with nobody holding him. Good boy! Then she walked him around and he was calm right from the get go. He had a nice relaxed movement and a huge walk - which is just part of who he is and I adore! Then Betsy asked him to trot. He was trotting like he was either 1) drunk or 2) trying to do weave poles. His front legs were crossing over each other and he was all over the place. Betsy was laughing when she said "OMG! He's so crooked!" He did a few passes around the arena doing haunches in (not being asked to do so) in both directions. He seemed to keep wanting to break into a canter too. He has no problem with "go." Finally, he relaxed. He really falls to the right side and Betsy had to support him big time when they went to the right. So to help him, she counter bent him. It worked like a charm. But what happened next was amazing! She asked him to go on the bit and he did! He WAS GORGEOUS!! I was there sitting next to a young girl who is learning to train from Betsy and the two of us had our jaws on the ground. He went about 3/4 around the arena in perfect form. That ended the lesson! We were all so proud of him! Betsy walked him around and I have to tell you that his walk was killer. He overtracks BIG TIME! In fact, for a horse that is not so big, he has HUGE movement. Dressage is his calling! I'm so excited!

So today had a big down and a big up. I do hope to help Canoodler and I'm so happy to have Hola!

And on one final note - I worked as the photographer at the Lope For Hope Classic horse show which benefited Breast Cancer Research this past Saturday. I hope you enjoy my photos in this slide show. Be sure to click on specific photos to read about the people behind the show. Many of them have amazing stories.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Here's the Poop Scoop

Exciting stuff, I know. But I'm sure that any one of you reading this are horsey enough to know that good horse owners monitor feed intake and poops...

When I first met Hola in July in Baltimore, I noticed that he had very green, very loose poops. I asked about it and was told "grazing in a lush pasture."

When Hola arrived in August, not unexpectedly, he had very green, very loose poops. As time went on, these poops didn't seem to be getting any better and I can assure you we do not have lush pastures for the horses to graze in. They are well picked over with this crowd of gelding nose pickers (said with affection).

I was shaking my head over what to do. In the meantime, I had put him on GUT and was giving him supplements for his joints and a supplement for Vitamin E and selenium which northern Michigan soil is deficient in.

Betsy noticed the loose poops as well. Eventually, she mentioned the name of a girl who may be able to help out with Hola's poop issues. At this point he was still a mess. The poops were exceedingly wet, had no shape and very green in color. I always had to wash off his backside... I called this girl for help.

Gabriele is her name and she works for KAM Animal Services. Gabriele told me Hola is having some very expensive poops and to stop with all his supplements. She made a good point and so I stopped with the supplements. Based on my description to her of Hola's behavior, (nervous, didn't like to be brushed, a weaver) we both assumed he had an ulcer as well as having a strong need for probiotics to help his deep digestive tract. She recommended I get two items to treat for both. Hola is getting their UF-Formula to treat for ulcers as well as KLPP to bring back the good bacteria he seems to be missing in his gut. I won't lie - they cost me a fortune. In fact, I've never spent so much on supplements in my life and I wasn't happy about it. I grumbled about it to anyone that would listen to me. I was even prepared to chalk it up as a financial mistake. However, I'm dumbfounded by the results after a month!

His poops are brown, are taking on a "road apple" shape and weigh a heck of a lot less because they are not nearly so wet! He's much more calm to be around, tolerates being brushed almost to the point of not minding at all (he doesn't lift his leg to threaten to kick anymore), and will quietly stand in cross ties in the aisle! He's like a new horse!

The best news of all, is that once I run out of these (expensive) supplements I do not need to reorder them. He should be good to go with his digestive tract in good working order. He has at least another month worth of supplements to go, maybe more. But after a months worth of supplements, he's doing exceedingly well. His poops aren't right where I want them to be yet but they are very close and I have great faith that these supplements will get us there.

Only a mother would be this excited over a good poop... and only a mother would want to share a story of curing loose poops with the world. :)

Thanks Gabriele and KAM Animal Services for helping out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Toby Challenge and Hola's First Ride

not food

Another good lesson with Hola. In fact, we had a good lesson with Toby and I was given a challenge by Betsy.

Toby, as you know, is an older dude and set in his ways to a certain extent. He's always giving out his opinions whether you want to know them or not and he's basically happy when you keep him on his toes when you're in the saddle. Toby and I always seems to take a good bit of time before I can get him to be round and on the bit. We rode serpentines and circles and once we got his brain engaged, he became supple, elastic and round. Betsy's challenge to me was to get him supple, elastic and round earlier in the ride. So it's my mission to accomplish and Betsy gave me a month to work on it. I love a challenge...

Now to Hola. He's such a good boy and settling down very nicely. I can now cross tie him in the aisle without him wiggling around, he's quiet to brush now and his poops are looking awesome! I will be writing another post about his poops but it is important to note. I think that Hola has/had ulcers which would explain some of his unsettled and anxious behaviors. But each week, he is quieter to tack up and easier to handle.

He marched around on the longe line. I had told Betsy how terrific he was just he day before and evidently he wanted to make a liar out of me. He started with his twitching and pulling on the draw reins. Ironically, once he got it out of his system he marched around like a trooper and was PERFECT in the opposite direction. Then Betsy got on him. This time I didn't lead them around. Betsy walked him all around and worked on getting him to give to the bit. He was chewing the bit the whole time. He seemed to like the work and did give to Betsy just a wee little bit. It's a starting point and he wasn't fighting it. Gold star on his forehead!

Here is a video of our work. Beware! It's absolutely the most boring video but for this proud mother it was a huge step towards getting him to the show ring. So without further ado, here is Hola's first ride as a dressage horse:

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm A Wimp

It's ok. I can take it. Go ahead. Call me a "wimp." Yep! I'm a wimp!

Saturday, I went up to Black Star Farms to photograph the hunter/jumper people at the Stepping Stone show. It was a gorgeous day but you could tell the temps were dropping and clouds were rolling in. After several hours of photographing, I went over to see my horses and go through the tests with Toby.

After cleaning up Toby and getting him tacked up and out to the outdoor ring, I noticed how full of life he was. He knew...

He knew that the weather was about to change big time! We warmed up, then began working on our tests. Toby's mind was completely elsewhere. In fact, he began a crow hopping escapade when the winds picked up. Then the rain began, which quickly turned to sleet and finally snow. Being the determined gal I am, I made Toby finish the test against his will in blizzard conditions. It wasn't pretty but he did it so I was very proud of him and let him know it. We both looked like drowned rats and went inside where he was happy to be. I was still optimistic about going to the show on Sunday so I gave Toby's whiskers a trim and fixed up his bridle path. He was enjoying the attention.

After cleaning him up, I took all my tack home to give it a final polish too. It was still a "wintery mix" as I drove home. So I called Betsy who was going to be hauling Toby to the show for me. I told Betsy that if her other clients didn't want to go that I would go along with their decision. The other clients were 7 yr old twins and as you can imagine, their mother didn't want them out in the cold and wet for the horse show. So we didn't go.

This didn't bother me too much. Since the twins didn't show, it pretty much locked me into the year end awards in Intro level since we won both tests in our first two shows. Yes, the 7 yr old twins were my biggest competition!

I would have liked one more show but I have to say that mother nature won out. I show for fun. I do enough work in the elements for my paid position that I don't feel I should have to be in unfriendly conditions for fun. Here's one example:

2006 US Women's Open At Newport Country Club, RI

So that's it for the year with our shows. Hopefully next spring I'll have a new partner to show with... :)

pretty neck

And he's doing so well!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Horse Show Preparations

I thought I'd give a quick Toby update as we head into the weekend and the finals of the local show scene.

Toby has had a much better attitude since Tuesday. I rode him in our outdoor arena and he was back to his happy-go-lucky self. He's definitely ready for more challenging work and becomes bored easily. To counteract that, I've become more unpredictable in what I ask from him - I do lots of transitions, many circles, serpentines, etc. I have to keep him guessing and then he becomes a very good riding partner. My lesson here is to keep his brain engaged. I also find it amazing how well walk-trot transitions work to get him round and stretchy.

Our show is on Sunday at the very lovely Black Star Farm. If all goes well, Toby will be shipping over with one of Betsy's lesson horses on Sunday morning (Black Star is only a few miles away). It's a new trailer for Toby which means I just never know if he will load or not. He should since it's not a slant (which he abhors). Hopefully we'll get there safely and without incident.

It'll be great if we can continue our winning ways!!

what horses are all about
Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Someone Had An Attitude

A double lesson day - Toby followed by Hola/Ollie. Let's go in order.

Toby was finicky, fussy and annoyed. Perhaps it was the weather? It was pouring rain all day long and he just hates it when he doesn't get to go outside and roll. So he was looking for any excuse. It started with the saddle being put on too far back. That had him snarling until it was remedied. Then, and he's justified in this, he didn't like the saddle. My Albion saddle had some stitching break and now needs a panel to be sewn back on so it's back to the old saddle until the Albion is repaired. And the final straw was riding in the indoor arena. He was just a big grump. His back was tight, it took a long time to get him to relax and it felt too much like work.

We have a show this coming weekend so we were practicing the tests, and practicing and practicing. We rode for quite sometime because we just weren't that good. I'm certain the saddle was bothering him (and I even had it padded up) but eventually we were doing better.

I happen to have a Pessoa all purpose saddle which fits Toby well so I may be practicing for the show in that saddle to prevent his back from becoming sore. It won't help me to practice in it but it'll be more comfortable my old guy. It's just a thought at this point. Sigh...

Hola had a big day!

It started out with him being very quiet in the cross ties. Usually he'll swing his hind end from side to side while in the cross ties in anticipation of going to work. It keeps you on your toes. He also becomes grumpy when you brush him on his rib cage - he'll generally threaten to kick using the back leg on the opposite side of you. I'm pretty convinced he has an ulcer which I have been and am still treating. But on this day, he was like a lamb in the cross ties. Betsy and I marveled at his good behavior.

Once he was tacked up we went out to the indoor arena where a big drop of water landed on him from the ceiling and scared him. Did I mention it was pouring rain...

One thing to note about Hola is that he's a nervous guy and submissive guy. Which is the main reason we have been working him slowly. As long as you have a routine for him, spell it out in crayon, and have no surprises thrown in, then he will give you his best.

So we started out with the usual longe line work with our redneck draw reins. He gave to the bit, marched around rythmically and worked beautifully off of Betsy's voice commands. He did that in both directions. We shortened the draw reins a bit and it was more of the same. So then came his big moment...

Betsy got on him.

Taking into consideration that Hola becomes nervous easily, we did everything slowly, repetitively and my job was to be his security blanket. Part of his training is to take out the "race" that's in him. So for mounting, Betsy got on and we just stood there for awhile and then she got off. Mount, stand, dismount, repeat. He was doing exceptionally well. Betsy had sat in the saddle before on him and he immediately wanted to walk off into action. This time he just stood there like a good guy. Absolutely no forward movement. Just a repositioning of his feet so he could relax better.

After a couple times of that, we walked around the arena. Betsy had a hold of his reins and I had a hold of the longe line which was still attached. Betsy told me that I was to follow along but not do anything except to hold the longe line. My sole duty was to make him feel secure. So Betsy gives him a squeeze of her legs to move forward. Nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing happened. She smooched at him and he went forward! He has a massive walk. Big stride! It was difficult for me to keep up and he wasn't trying to go quickly. After a couple laps around the indoor arena, Betsy noted that he took to the bit well and has a very soft mouth. He also knows to move away from leg pressure as the two of them would go from left to right away from the leg pressure Betsy was giving him.

He was great! And he was relaxed the whole time. So we stopped. He had such a pleasant attitude about everything. I was such a proud mother!!

Now if only Toby could have that same pleasant attitude... :)