Trainer Ride


Tuesday I woke up feeling incredibly ill - stomach flu-kinda ill. I barely made it through work, unable to eat anything, and then dragged myself out to the barn to tack Fiction up before asking my instructor to hop on him in lieu of a lesson.

I'm glad I did. Her first words when she was done? "This horse is an asshole."

Yes, he is. I have a very deep love-hate relationship with him.

I love how effortlessly he can go into a pro-longed piaffe (untrained) instead of going forward when asked.

I love how beautiful his extended trot is, even when you don't ask for it.

I love how deeply he can get his hind end under himself when he is actively trying to avoid your leg.

I love how nicely he can turn on the haunches/leg yield/rein back....when it is on his terms, of course.

I love how incredibly athletic and talented my horse is.

What I do not love is how much of a jerk he can be - how he gives zero fucks about your opinion and will do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it.

This was her second ride on him and her first ride where she really pushed him.

What did they do? Oh, nothing more than 'turn this way, move off of my leg.'

That's literally it. Fiction tried every evasive maneuver in the book to get away from her leg and when she refused to take it off of him he threw massive hissy fits. It was rather entertaining to watch. I equate it to a small child kicking and screaming on the floor of a grocery when his mother tells him no, he cannot have that candy bar.

Someone got new boots. I'll review once they have some more rides.
After she ranted about just how much of a jerk my horse is, she then told me that she completely understands why I ride the way I do and that she really feels for me.

Thanks, I guess.

So we discussed training. Starting next week (hopefully), she'll begin putting a training ride on him 1x a week. I'll ride the 5x a week as normal (and take lessons every 2 weeks) and provide feedback to her on what is working/not working. Then, next year, he'll be shipped off for a month or two of full-time training.

I'm tired of playing nice. It's time for Fiction to shape up and stop acting like the a spoiled brat he totally is.


Well That's....Different


Last Tuesday was chiro work. Jan was amazing and held him for me when I couldn't take off work. She told me the vet said Fiction's neck was in very bad shape and he was also out in his left hind.

I gave him several days off before venturing out to ride him on Friday. I noticed an incredibly difference in his movement - either from the chiro or just additional time off adjusting to his new pampered feet.

During chiro. Photo courtesy of Jan :)
It was so insanely hot and muggy (like 88* F and 100% humidity), so we didn't get to ride long. Fiction was lathered when we were done and I was drenched in sweat.

Saturday, piss-poor time management kept me from the barn :(

Sunday I headed out early determined to beat the heat. Was in the saddle by 8-ish. Fiction was a hyper little bugger so after about 25 minutes of fighting him in the indoor arena, I took him outside over the the the trot hill. Normally 2-3 times up and down the hill has him completely exhausted (it's a substantial hill). I figured I would put him through it a couple of times and then return to work.

First trot up the hill was great. Second time he gave me some trouble but ultimately quieted. Third time I opted to let him canter and he rewarded me by throwing a huge succession of bucks.

The first threw me on his neck since I was already up out of the saddle to give him his back (relatively steep hill so I never ride it sitting on him). Tried to recover but the second buck quickly squashed those dreams. So I concentrated on how to fall properly and in a direction away from his flailing hooves. The last thing I needed was a hoof in my face. I used the third buck to push myself away off of his side. Amazing how the brain can make a 5 second situation seem like forever and give you enough time to process a good course of action.

I picked up a new saddle pad on Saturday. I now officially have TWO :)
I hit the ground hard. So hard, in fact, that I couldn't get up straight away. Fortunately, Fiction immediately stopped and looked at me with his classic 'wtf mom I thought we were playing why are you down there?' face. Unfortunately, the horses in the nearby field were freaking out and running so I had to force myself up to collect his reins to keep him from joining them.

Nothing was broken, thankfully, but it took a good minute for the use of my right arm to return (landed rolled on right shoulder, so shoulder/arm took the brunt of the hit). I walked him back to the indoor arena and proceeded to ride the snot out of him for another good 30 minutes until he was completely drenched in sweat. Cooled him down, hosed him off, treated him with liniment, and tossed him in his stall for dinner.

This was a first for me. First time I've been bucked off a horse (I've always stuck it, thankfully), and first time Fiction has ever displayed this sort of behavior under saddle. I'm 100% certain it wasn't malicious or an indication of pain. I simply think he's feeling good & had too much energy that he wanted to express.

He was, unsurprisingly, still relatively hyper in the shower stall.
Anyways, I made a diet adjustment and took him off of Empower (it made him super hot the last time he was on it, but he also had ulcer issues at that time so I thought I would try again). And for a little while we'll see if lunging before riding can take a bit of the edge off (not horribly optimistic, but in this heat and humidity it will probably help since he gets tired quicker in the heat). We have a lesson coming up on Tuesday but I may have our Instructor sit on him instead.

My mother laughed and my father congratulated me with a pat on the back (glad to know they care haha). I've been pretty lucky throughout my riding career - only a very small handful of controlled falls. This was the first fall that hurt. I'm pretty banged up and my shoulder isn't too happy.

We'll both get today off as Fiction gets a massage and I'm not sure my shoulder is up to a ride just yet.


Time Off = Hot Hot Hot


There is one thing about Fiction (and thoroughbreds in general) that I admire and love but also hate with a passion: his energy. I've very rarely seen this horse tired when mounted. On the ground he looks like he could fall over from exhaustion at any moment, but the second you get on his back he is raring to go. At events he would sleep in his stall and then race around like a maniac on XC. When XC schooling, he would gallop for hours without a care in the world.

When you pair this energy with a sensitive horse that blows up the moment one seat bone shifts too far to the side, or one hand gets too heavy, you get an insanely hard ride. I'm a shitty rider. The only thing that has saved me thus far is the never-ending patience I have developed to deal with his bullshit. And, luckily, Fiction tolerates my shitty riding enough that we can actually progress now, rather than shooting backwards every time we try something new.

I've been on his back three times since he got shoes on. Rides have been short and sweet - about 30 minutes apiece. He's still a bit short strided on the right front, but that foot was the most traumatized and is still a bit too small/at a weird angle, so it's understandable.

Fiction never forgets how to do something. What he does forget is how to do something nicely. As in, how not to be an asshole. So the last three rides have been lessons in patience.

Yes, you must move your haunches in on a circle and then out when I ask.
No, you may not blast off at the canter.
I don't care if you want to go fast - if I say slow down, slow down.


To his credit, he's been a very good boy. But, then again, I'm riding completely differently. The lessons on Merlin completely revolutionized my seat. My stirrups are now two holes longer and do not feel foreign at all. My legs now wrap around Fiction and I can effectively use the inside of my calves rather than my heels. All three seat bones are connected to the saddle. Fiction can no longer pull me forward, no matter how hard he tries. I feel secure and comfortable and in charge and I'm pretty sure Fiction isn't a fan haha.

A rare moment of bed sharing.
With how much energy he's been expressing in these short rides, I intend to boost them up to 45 minutes to an hour just as soon as I get in a bit better riding shape. Being pretty much out of regular riding for a month really deteriorates your core! As it is, he's being consistently heavy in the bridle and it takes a lot out of me to keep him contained. Perhaps some hill work or canter sets might help express some of the energy without thoroughly exhausting me. We'll see.

Pretty boy has a chiropractor appointment today, so he'll get a few days off. Then next Monday is his first ever massage. After a month of being barefoot, I'm sure he's sore in a multitude of places and I want to make sure everything is addressed before asking serious work from him.


Appropriate Measures


Five weeks in and we called it quits.

At five weeks, Fiction was not sound on grass. He couldn't trot. He was miserable.

Of course, he hadn't been this way the entire time - there were moments of soundness mingled in there, but based on all accounts I had been reading, there was no reason he should have been lame on grass five weeks in.

So we had him x-rayed yesterday.

The x-rays showed some interesting things. His sounder (left) front had less sole than his right front (which actually had a decent amount of sole). His new growth was exhibiting some very weird behavior - primarily growing at an absurdly acute angle that the vet and farrier could not understand. Finally, his right front had a small malformation at the tip of the bone structure that is indicative of prior foot trauma (inflammation, etc.) - something that could have happened at any point in his life but should definitely be guarded against worsening.

That being said, the prognosis is good and basically everything (except for the malformation) is fixable with correct shoeing.

If you enlarge this image and look at the very tip of his hoof bones, you can see a very slight curve upwards to the point - that is the malformation.
My new farrier discussed with me at length why she felt Fiction's feet had crumbled to pieces previously. The prior farrier was taking off enough toe but leaving too much width to the hoof, which then cause the hoof wall to flare (Fiction is prone to flares). He would nail into the flaring portion of the hoof, which was already weak, thus creating excellent conditions for a crumbling hoof.

It made sense. I had never been satisfied with the way the previous farrier did Fiction's hind feet - he always left on way too much flare which caused quite a bit of chipping. I just never thought the same thing was happening on the front feet.

New farrier packed Fiction's feet with anti-bacterial silicon and then tacked on a leather pad + these interesting shoes that offered wide toe support - I'll get a picture of them later.

The vet loved him. No tranq required. He pretty much just went to sleep while they took x-rays.
Fiction's feet were a bit small for the shoes, but he took the nails well. New farrier used very thin nails that left super small holes.

After he was shod, we took him into the indoor and trotted him. Fiction showed immediate vast improvement. He should be 100% sound in a day or two.

The game plan is as follows:

    • Check shoes in one week to replace nails (as compression of the leather pads will cause nails to loosen).
    • In 5 weeks reassess based on amount of hoof grown. Vet thinks wedges may be needed for his underslung heels - we'll decide after more foot has grown.
    • Eventually move to a more natural shoe (a-la easy shoe) to keep his frog decent. When Fiction is in regular shoes his frog shrivels up and he develops intense thrush without fail.
    • Take another set of x-rays somewhere down the line to make sure everything is progressing smoothly.

Could Fiction have transitioned to barefoot successfully? Probably (even new farrier thinks so). That is, if he had gotten a better start at it. Will I try again? No. Not knowing what I know now. The malformation in his right foot bones is not serious, but could potentially become serious with further hoof trauma and I have no intention of risking it. Plus, the way his new growth was reacting to being barefoot was concerning - especially since both a farrier and a vet had no explanation for it.

But some positive things came out of this experience. I have base x-rays of Fiction's feet now. I have a farrier that deeply cares about my horse and is fully committed to making him as comfortable as possible. Plus she boards at the barn and can tack a shoe back on for me even when I'm not there. And I learned that Fiction has beautiful feet but has suffered from a very long period of being shod improperly.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to riding my big boy again. I'm also calling to schedule him a massage - I'm certain after some time barefoot he's got to be sore in other places!


Barefoot - One Month Mark


It's been a rough month, but we've made it!

Quick recap:
    • Fiction started off fine for the first week or so.
    • In the second week he became incredibly ouchy.
    • Third week we had boots on him for a while - it helped relieve his ouchiness
    • Fourth week back to no boots - is weight bearing on front feet and seems relatively comfortable.
We celebrated one month with a foot trim!

I forgot to take pictures until after I had already doused his feet in Durasole - sorry!
Look at that paint skill.
My new barefoot farrier trimmed up Fiction's back feet (left on a little extra just in case he needs it right now with his tender front feet), and smoothed up his front feet. She went a bit short on the right front to get rid of a crack that would have gotten worse. But she didn't touch his heels or soles (as he's currently using those for quite a bit of support right now). As a result his feet are a bit boxy, but that will improve.

We'll continue our Keratex + Durasole 5x+ a week regimen for the foreseeable future. I'm riding him at the walk now (booted) a couple of times a week.

I'm transitioning him back onto Exceed 6-Way + an extra biotin supplement. I've never had luck with hoof supplements, but it was cheap and I figured why not. The foot he is growing now is quite strong, but it doesn't hurt to try and help it out a bit - especially with him stomping at all the flies.


Fancy Pony Lesson


Last Tuesday the BO was awesome enough to offer me her horse Merlin as a catch-ride for a lesson. Merlin is a Friesian mix who is wider than he is tall. He is super lazy and dead to the leg, but very fancy and definitely knows his stuff.

My saddle just barely fit him, and right after I got on, Instructor had me drop my stirrups two holes (Jan helped!). She essentially said that on Fiction my stirrups need to be shorter to better control him, whereas Merlin knows his stuff, isn't crazy, and needs a longer leg anyways because of how broad he is.

The lesson was simple - we concentrated on me.

Primarily, we concentrated on keeping my legs loose and my ankles soft. On Fiction I tense up and contract my legs while simultaneously jamming my heel down. This keeps me from actually being able to use my full leg - from thigh to ankle (and causes the muscles on the inside of my thigh to permanently tighten - I definitely need to do more stretching to counteract this). It also causes me to shift my weight backwards into a driving seat, which is exactly what Fiction doesn't need.

So, on Merlin, we primarily maintained a circle and emphasized keeping my legs super soft, shifting my weight forward more onto my crotch, and keeping forward movement with soft hands. Some bullet points for my reference:

    • Keep ankles soft. Instructor told me that ideally she wants me to get to a spot where my foot is basically parallel to the ground and I can feel the stirrup lightly on the ball of my foot. However, she doesn't want me to ever feel like I'm reaching for the stirrup.
    • To bring the horse to a halt, shift my pelvis forward, as if I'm jamming my crotch into the pommel of the saddle, and sit deeper. This prevents me from falling back and accidentally driving the horse forward.
    • Concentrate on lateral work via the thigh instead of the calf/leg. This helps prevent my ankle/leg from locking up.
    • On a circle, whatever the inside rein takes, the outside rein should give.
    • Think about wrapping my arms around a beachball - that is how my arms should be while riding. This keeps my elbows bent and my hands up.

Someone did get new booties though.
It was a very productive ride. Instructor told me she wants me to continue to ride Merlin in lessons if possible, even if Fiction becomes sound enough for a lesson. She thinks riding experienced horses will give me time to work on myself so that I can learn to apply myself better when riding my horse. I agree.


Boots Blow-out



So on Saturday I went for another trail ride with Jan & G. Fiction was sound. It was awesome.

Until we went for a canter up a hill and he ripped both of his boots off/completely shredded them. Grrrr.

Luckily EasyCare has a 30 day money back guarantee, so I was able to get new boots on the way on Monday and they arrived on Wednesday.

I also noticed how soft his feet were getting in the boots. He's turned out in them, so he spends about 16 hours or so in boots a day. They have been keeping his feet too soft. After his first night back out without boots, he came in super tender.

I wrapped both of his feet and two days later he seemed completely normal again. Ouchy on gravel, of course, and not 100% sound, but far better than before. His feet had also hardened up again. So I made the decision that he'll be turned out without boots for a long as he can tolerate (as long as he doesn't start rocking back again/falling on me/refusing to pick up his feet/seem to be in horrible pain) and will be booted only for riding.

In a few weeks he'll have enough foot for shoes, if I decide to go back to them.

Hunting Pokemon with the pups.
I have to keep telling myself that I don't miss showing and that the money it is saving me is wonderful. I also have to keep telling myself that the muscle Fiction is dropping is redeemable. Everything is fine :)

In the mean time, I've been riding & taking lessons on other horses. It's a nice change!