6.30.2016

The Starting Point

12

On Tuesday I got a text from BO stating that Fiction seemed stable - definitely not dying from bare tootsies.

So, I, uh, made a mistake when ordering these Kensington Natural fly boots. Apparently the colors aren't just named after horse colors...they're actually meant for you to buy the 'Bay' colored boots if you have a bay horse. I somehow missed this and instead purchased the grey horse boots. Meh.
I went out yesterday to check on him myself, since the Keratex finally came in, along with his fly boots. He was definitely tender; walking slowly through the grass behind me (and occasionally stopping with a sad look on his face). He stumbled a couple of times on the gravel too, but that was to be expected.

Once inside I cleaned him up, coated his feet in Keratex, and then took him for a 15 minute walk on concrete. He was slow, but not crippled. I'm actually pretty impressed.

So I took starting point pictures so I can see how his feet progress.

This was the worst foot - the one losing shoes.
He's never split in the middle like this before. It's weird.
As you can see, we actually have some nice hoof to work with. They wouldn't look like this if they hadn't had shoes with nails damaging the integrity of the hoof wall.

Anyways, no riding until I can get him some boots, for sure. That means next week's lesson is canceled, along with the show in July. We'll reassess later to see if he can make it to any shows in August.

The plan right now is for daily Keratex, long concrete walks, and monitoring of the tootsies for inflammation or anything else that might become serious.

6.28.2016

Aaaand...We're Barefoot

11

Completely unplanned, 100% split minute decision, but I'm buckled in to ride it out.

It sort of started Saturday when I went out to see him and noticed his feet were just crumbling to pieces. I'm positive this is a result of wet grass at night followed by stomping flies in the morning. His feet are just getting too soft. They even feel a bit squishy.

Then, when I went out to ride on Monday, the right foot looked horrible. On one side, the entire wall was gone and the nails were just hanging out, not nailed into anything. I knew he would lose it, and sure enough, it came off during our ride.

I knew just from looking at his foot that there was no way we could nail a shoe on and have it stay for longer than a few days.

These nails can't do their job without a hoof wall...

So, after a conversation with a farrier well versed in both barefoot & glue on shoes, I yanked his other shoe, had him trimmed up, measured his feet for Easy Boots, and let the BO know what was going on.

I had actually already ordered fly boots for his front feet & Keratex to try and keep moisture out. I 2-day shipped them, so they should be in Tuesday or Wednesday.

The tentative plan is to see how he fairs barefoot over the next few days. If he acts like he is dying (I don't anticipate this), we will shove glue-on shoes on him. If not, I have an Easy Boot Fit Kit on the way to fit him up for boots for riding until his feet toughen up.

Of course, this may mean that the July show (and possible August/all of them- who knows!) is off the books in order to accommodate his feet and my wallet. It's not a big deal. I honestly would rather get this barefoot transition going now before winter hits and the ground freezes into sharp jagged crevices.

I don't think I'll be riding until I can get him comfortable/a pair of boots, though.

Anyone have any awesome barefoot tips?

6.27.2016

Solving Fiction's Ulcer Problem

10

Disclaimer: I self-diagnosed Fiction's ulcer problem based on many different signs. I did not scope him, so I have no way of knowing if he actually had ulcers (all signs + statistics point to yes), what severity they may have been, and how healed they may be now. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to forgo medical examination/diagnosis for their horse. It is merely meant to share our problem & solution, perchance it may be of some help to others.

With that out of the way, I want to break this down into a few parts.

Yay for recycled media! He's looking good - would still like a little more weight on him I think!

Why I Suspected Ulcers

Fiction transferred to the new barn in November. He was of a good weight but lacked muscle. As the months progressed, I struggled to keep weight on him during the winter. His coat was still shiny and soft, but his ribs, hips, and back bone lacked their normal fleshy appearance.

He also started to get girthy. Nothing too extreme. Just pinning of the ears and swishing the tail when I tacked him up. I started him on a pro/pre-biotic + yeast to help out his stomach, and added in some fat (cocosoya oil for a while, and now flax) to fatten him up a bit. He stopped eating most of his hay.

At the same time he began to become very grumpy and unruly under saddle. He was anxious more often than not. He would quickly lose his mind when the work became too hard. He fought me constantly. It was exhausting to ride him.

The Self-Diagnosis

Honestly, after all of the above issues popped up, combined with the fact that I knew Fiction had never been scoped/treated for ulcers, I had pretty much made up my mind that this was an issue that needed to be addressed.

So, since scoping in exceptionally expensive, I looked up other possible ways to potentially diagnose ulcers. I ended up stumbling across this video:


Fiction tested positively in all areas save for the back. His reaction wasn't aggressive, but he was clearly uncomfortable, with lots of twitching, tail swishing, and slight ear pinning.

The Solution

There are so many ways to treat ulcers. Gastrogard is the only approved method, but also incredibly expensive.

I investigated natural remedies, but ultimately discarded them because of how difficult the majority of them would have been to implement.

The answer was Omeprazole - but which product? The blue pop rocks that everyone raves about (Abprozale) were affordable, but the ordering and shipment process put me off of the product. I read many stories of people not getting their order and then facing double charges/accusations of stealing, etc. Not something I wanted to deal with.

Instead, I opted for Horse Prerace's Omeprazole paste. If you run a quick Google search on them, you can find information in regards to the company's claims vs the product's actual efficacy. This wasn't too much of a concern. I ordered enough for 4 weeks of full dose + 1 week of half dose.

In addition, we dropped the amount of grain he was eating and replaced it with hay pellets. He also got alfalfa before every ride.


The Results

Within the first week, Fiction was nickering for his food and eating all of his hay. He also seemed happier in the cross ties.

As the weeks progressed, Fiction was much calmer under saddle. He stopped being girthy. He stopped fighting me during work. And he put on some weight.

Wednesday was his last day of omeprazole paste.

Moving Forward

To keep Fiction's stomach happy, the plan is as follows;

    • Alfalfa before rides
    • Low grain (looking to move him onto a ration balancer) + hay pellets
    • Lots of turn out
    • Plenty of hay
    • G.U.T supplement
    • Omeprazole paste at shows

Hopefully, with this regimen we'll be able to keep the acid in his stomach quiet! Has anyone else self-diagnosed (or even scoped!) a horse/treated for ulcers, or took preventative measures against ulcers? What methods did you use? How did it go?

6.22.2016

Demand Perfection

6

At Tuesday's lesson I explained to my instructor that our tests had been excellent save for our canter portions, and since the scores were so close, if we had nailed the canter bits we would have secured first place.

It was exceptionally hot, so we spent very little time in warm-up. Fiction was soft, compliant, and ready to go to work. Instructor praised both of us; me for obviously doing my homework, and Fiction for his evolving work ethic. We both think the ulcer medication is ultimately what has helped him the most.


We spent the first part of the lesson working at the trot. Fiction has a tendency to lock his neck in a way that makes it seem like he is bending around my leg when in reality only his front is bending. So, she had me straighten him with the outside rein, apply inside leg to move him out, and then inside rein to bring back the bend. I was to treat the circle more like a square. Fiction very quickly caught on, so we moved on to downwards transitions.

Instructor explained to me that Fiction has progressed enough to start demanding perfection. Previously, when we asked for a downwards transition, the only criteria was that he did it without too much fuss. Now the criteria is that he does it balanced, uphill, and without leaning on me. So, as I ask for the downwards transition, as he begins to lean on my hands and fall downhill, I am to push him forward and repeat until he gives me a proper transition. No matter how long it takes.

After the transition work, we moved into canter. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but Fiction gets stuck at the canter and often cross-canters in the back or kicks out with his back legs. This usually only happens when we are attempting actual balanced transitions as opposed to 'get it done' transitions. I've never been able to figure out how to solve it.


Instructor took one look and figured it out immediately. She told me that I'm closing my hips too much and it's restricting him from moving forward. So, she asked me to post the trot, move him out with the inside leg, then sit and immediately ask for the canter by using my hips. Once in the canter, we collected and extended using my hips only. It was exhausting work, but Fiction really took to it and started to relax and transition properly.

She told me she wants me to work on the hips at the trot as well, and instead of just 'sitting' the trot, she wants me to really try and feel the movement of his legs and move my hips with the motion. I get too stiff when I ride and that is not a great combination with a tense and sensitive horse. I also need to sit a bit more forward, as I lean back a bit too much and unintentionally drive him forward.

As we gave him a walk break, we discussed my show future. Instructor no longer thinks Intro C is necessary and instead wants me to concentrate on T-1, T-2, and T-3. I voiced my concerns about the canter across the diagonal in T-3, so she gave me an exercise to start working on it.

She set up a corner for me and had me pick up the canter. Once he was calm and collected, I was to go around the outside of the poles she set up (to really emphasize a deep corner), canter straight a couple of strides down the diagonal, do a 15 meter circle to the right, trot the moment I hit the diagonal, and then halt.

Looking forward to many more shows :)
This proved difficult, as Fiction really wanted to bulge to the side coming off of the canter circle and into the trot. And he definitely did not want to halt. A few heavy checks on the outside rein corrected his shoulder, but we have a lot of work to do to get this exercise down without much fuss.

We ended the lesson there. Instructor told me that she sees no problem progressing to First level either later this year or early next year. The only hangup we might have is his leg yields - they need a bit of work. Other than that, he is more than capable of the work once he settles in the arena. It was amazing to hear this, because honestly, at the beginning of this year, First Level seemed so, so far away.

Fiction was super sweaty so he got a liniment bath and some electrolytes. He'll get today off because we really pushed him hard and he was acting just a bit back sore.

6.21.2016

Mid-Year Goal Review

4

Riding Goals


    • Take at least 1 lesson a month. 
      • So far, so good. Boosting it to 2x a month.
    • Ride 3-4 times a week. 
      • Yup. Nailing this one. Riding about 5x a week now.
    • Work on at least 2 different exercises each ride. 
      • New exercise sheets make this a snap.


Show/Clinic Goals


    • Attend at least 2 shows next year
      • Done and done. And we'll continue to show.
    • Attend one clinic. 
      • Shows are currently taking more of a priority.


Personal Goals


    • Lift 2x a week. 
      • Lifting every day at the moment.
    • Run 3x a week when daylight permits (spring/summer/autumn). 
      • Eliminating this one because my concentration has shifted towards lifting. I was, however, for the first half of the year, running approximately 10 miles a week.
    • Stretch 10 minutes, every day. 
      • Big fail thus far :(
    • Lose 5 lbs. 
      • Working on it. 2 lbs lost so far.
    • Track calories (1400) on weekdays, splurge weekends. 
      • Didn't start doing this seriously until mid-May. Splurging limited to special occasions instead of weekends now.
    • Read at least 1 book a month. 5 horse books over the year. 
      • On track for regular books, behind on horse books! Just finished reading Good Omens. Wasn't as impressed as I had hoped to be.
    • Contact close friends 1x a week at least (I'm bad at maintaining contact). 
      • Was doing well with this until close friends became ex-close friends in favor of less judgmental friends. Long story....but I hang out with new friends a lot now!


Financial Goals


    • Sell Hastilow saddle.
    • Pay off CC debt. 
      • No longer feasible this year. Half of it should be paid off by the end of the year though.
    • Pay off 1 private loan. 
      • Will be paid off in August! It has been super stressful dumping every spare penny into this loan so I'll be happy when it's gone!
    • Double my current savings. 
      • I was on track for this until tons of things hit at once and I was forced to empty a significant amount of savings. Wont be able to achieve this goal this year.

6.20.2016

6/18 Creekside Schooling Show

17

This show marked the very first time I ever hauled and showed Fiction by myself. It was nerve wracking and exhausting, but Fiction was a complete gem the entire time. He loaded perfectly, unloaded perfectly, and stayed tied to the trailer for extended periods of time with zero fuss. I'm seriously lucky to own this horse.

He's not a fan of his shipping boots, though!
My first ride wasn't until 11:04, so I braided him in the morning and headed out around 8:30 am. We got there close to 9:30 and Fiction chilled in the trailer while I went and signed in.


I tacked him up with 30 minutes to spare before our Intro C test. He was sluggish and tired. After all, he had been out all night and it was exceptionally hot on Saturday. Even I was dragging in the heat.

Warm-up was completely uneventful. Fiction was soft and compliant, if not withdrawn and sluggish. Perfect.

I pulled him into the shade after a short warm-up to chat with the photographer (a friend) before I headed up for my test.


Fiction walked into the arena fine. He walked around the arena fine. He didn't spook or get tense or nervous. However, the moment we turned down center line, his head shot up and his ears flicked forward, as if he was truly seeing everything for the first time. This time, however, I was ready for this reaction and I managed to wrangle him through it. He was tense throughout the test but there were some nice moments of relaxation. I was happy with it.

The judge had some very kind words for us after the test. Some of the highlights were an 8 for our trot circle at B, a 7 for the trot circle at E, and an 8 for our final halt. Some low lights were a 6 for our first halt (he pulled downwards), and a 5.5 for our left lead canter circle at A.

We ended with up with a score of 66.250%, which put us in 2nd place out of 4.


Our next test wasn't until 12:30. Fiction chilled in his fly sheet while I made sure I had my test memorized. Warm-up was short again because he was really dead and I didn't want to overtax him.

I decided to do T-1 in sitting trot. Again, Fiction was fine trotting around the outside of the arena, but tensed up the moment we got into the actual arena. But we held it together quite well. I, for some reason, couldn't ride a circle to save my life (plus Fiction kept throwing his outside shoulder), so we gave away points there. We had some very good marks for transitions, including an 8 for the downwards transition from canter to trot between B & M. However, we lost everything during the right lead canter transition where Fiction picked up the wrong lead, I corrected it, and then he took offense to my correction and basically blasted around the arena. We scored a 4 for the transition/circle and a 5 for the rest of the working canter. We redeemed ourselves with an 8 for the final halt.

The judge gave me some good pointers to fix the canter problems and then sent us on our way. We ended up 4th out of 6 with a score of 63.261%, less than one point from 1st place - everyone was very evenly scored.


Back to the trailer we went. Fiction got another sponge bath and we waited for our next test at 2:35. I barely warmed up for T-2; I just quickly ran him through his paces.

T-2 felt far better than T-1. He finally gave me a good first halt (7.5). He did pick up the wrong lead in the first canter circle but immediately changed it. This earned us a 5. He also tried to break into a canter across the second diagonal, which earned us another 5. The rest of the test felt great though, even if the scores don't necessarily reflect that. We got another 8 for our final halt, but the rest of the scores were in the 6s. I had a feeling the judge was starting to lose interest in us, because the test felt a lot better than she scored it.

We ended up with a 62.5%, which put us in 4th out of 5, with just two points or so separating us from 1st.


I did, however, like this judge's method of scoring. If something was nice, she scored you well. If something was bad, she really nailed you. And she was fair. Far fairer than the past few judges I have had, who scored us far harsher than I thought we deserved. The low 60s is where we are right now, so I'm happy with those scores.


Fiction loaded perfectly (he was so tired) and I took the long way home to avoid some of the back roads I had taken in the morning to get there. After we got home I pulled his braids, gave him a liniment bath, and fed him with some extra electrolytes.

I was very proud of my boy. Aside from a few tense moments, he was very agreeable. A far cry from what we've been experiencing. A few more shows and some more practice should put our scores into the upper 60s if we continue  on like this. That means we're still on track for First Level next year.


Our next show is in July. Instead of Intro C to warm-up, I may try and aim for T-1, T-2, and T-3. We'll see how he continues to progress. He got Sunday off and will get today off as well, since we have a strenuous lesson planned for Tuesday.

6.16.2016

Cracks in Our Foundation

11

This week has been busy!

Monday started off with mild annoyance at Fiction's crumbling feet. Nothing new. His feet are picture perfect in the winter but crumble in the summer from the constant changes in moisture combined with fly stomping. As a result, he loses shoes and his front feet look like crap.

So, the farrier came out on Wednesday because Fiction had already lost nails from both shoes and I wasn't going to take the chance of him losing one before the show this weekend. The farrier trimmed all four hooves, reset the shoes, and filled in a big chip in the left front with some glue. We're going to start scheduling visits every 4-5 weeks to keep on top of his feet.

He hasn't been very happy in this muggy heat.
In other body-related news: I've caught his normal summer fungus early enough to prevent most of it. He has a few small bald patches on his side, but these are easily hidden by the saddle pad. He's still getting anti-fungal baths every other day as a preventative.

Our ride on Monday was nothing to write home about. Warm-up was great. Then I picked up my stirrups to practice T-1 and it all fell apart. It wasn't a change in leg or posture - riding stirrupless has really helped with my position and I can now tell when he pulls me forward/when my legs creep up on me. Rather, I'm under the impression that the combination of movements in quick succession was what perturbed him.

He got super fussy and heavy in the bridle. He refused to bend properly. We had a lot of fussing when I initiated half halts. All in all, it was reminiscent of our tests at shows. Which is nice, because now I get to work on that.

I took my niece to the dog park for the first time. She loved it.
So, Wednesday we ran through T-1 again (it was much better), then hit T-2 (in which I keep forgetting that the canter circles are in the middle, not the ends). Fiction kept spooking in the far end of the arena, so he got really tense and we got to work through that. Aside from some bolting into the canter transitions, he was actually pretty good. I also used the opportunity to do the tests with stirrups, and posting, which is a hard combination for us to keep together. We have a lot to work on still, but nothing that we can solve before the show on Saturday.

Friday will be spent bathing/grooming/braiding because I just know my ride times are going to be super early in the morning and I don't want to leave anything to the last minute.

6.13.2016

Weekly Recap

7

Ugh. These weekly updates are annoying, but until I get some content together there really is no point to daily updates.


Monday there was no riding - Fiction was lame. We couldn't figure out the problem and decided that it was likely he played a bit too hard in the field.

That meant Tuesday's lesson was canceled. He was sound by then, but if it was a muscle thing, I really didn't want to push him.


Wednesday we started on a trail ride that actually ended up being an introduction to the pigs - a boar and a couple of yearlings. Fiction was absolutely petrified at first - shaking and backing up as fast as he could. I hopped off him and encouraged him forward. After walking past the pigs a couple of times, he got curious enough to plant his feet (while still shaking) and stick his nose out as far as he could to get a better look/sniff.

I really am lucky to have ended up with such a level-headed thoroughbred. One that allows his curiosity to override his fear.


On Friday I felt quite a bit under the weather so I just groomed him and gave him his ulcer meds. He also got to model his new fly gear.

Saturday I spent the day driving the trailer around to practice parking. Backing a gooseneck up appears to be harder than it actually is. I was able to pretty easily get the hang of it and after an hour or so I could back the trailer up into regular sized parking spots.

Fiction got a fungal bath and ulcer meds that day as well.


I finally got to ride again on Sunday. Fiction was picture perfect. We ran through what we had learned in our last lesson, with emphasis on changes of rein and canter transitions. He was so calm and soft and very uphill at the canter. It felt amazing.

Tonight the plan is to practice our tests for the show coming up this weekend. Hopefully the horse I have now will be the horse I have at the show (though we all know that wont happen!). I'm still cautiously optimistic. Honestly, all I really want is a positive show experience.

6.06.2016

General Ramblings...with Kitties!

5

Fiction ripped off a shoe Monday night (still not entirely convinced this was not his way of getting back at me for a hard lesson on Monday haha). Luckily the farrier was able to get out on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet him, but my amazing friend G was there to hold Fiction/put him out after. He tore a pretty big chunk out of his hoof but remained sound.

I wasn't able to make it because I was getting my very first tattoo! Not horse-related, but still significant to me at least :) I also learned that my skin hates tattoos.

Wednesday I went on about an hour long trail ride with Jan & Penn. It was a beautiful day for it, but alas, I forgot to take any pictures!

Friday I went out and groomed Fiction but gave him the night off because I wasn't feeling up to riding.

Sometimes I wish I could be a kitty and sleep 22 hours a day.

Saturday was a great 45-minute ride super early in the morning. I might start going out to the barn early in the morning on the weekends from now on - it is super quiet and still cool enough to ride outside without the sun beating down on me.

Sunday I had a horrible upset stomach so I opted to longe instead of ride.

So hard to get pictures while longing.
I don't longe often anymore because I don't usually see the point. If I do longe, it is only about encouraging the horse to move forward without rider interference...just so he knows he can. Fiction was a super good boy - it was one of the best longe sessions we've had to date. Not a single instance of ear pinning.

Afterwards he got an anti-fungal bath because his summer skin fungus is starting to crop up.

In other news, we are nearing the three week mark of his Omeprazole treatment and I have seen definite changes. He now gobbles down his food and eats every little bit of his hay. His ribs are starting to fill in too, and he no longer swishes his tail when I do up my girth.

Syndrome the barn kitty!

I also sent in our next show entry. We'll be showing Intro C and T1/T2 in a schooling show on June 18th. Based on last year's entries, it should be a super small show. I'm tentatively optimistic because the show will be held outside and Fiction always does better in outdoor arenas.

Anyways, riding tonight & lesson on Tuesday!

6.02.2016

Floppy Ears

10

I have a few posts in the works but since Youtube is refusing to upload some video media Jan so kindly filmed for me, and I keep forgetting to take pictures of my ride schedules, I decided I'll just submit these posts in reverse order before I forget something crucial from my lesson.

Monday was lesson day. I think it had been about a month since Instructor had seen him last, and that was when she had sat on him for about 20 minutes and gave me some pointers on how to fix his tenseness issues.

Since then I had my break down, recovered, and attacked riding with new gusto. And, according to Instructor, "Whatever you're doing is working. You're riding a completely different horse today."
He did not want to stand still in the cross ties at all.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, because the lesson started off tense, per usual.

Instructor had me discard my stirrups (for the entire hour long lesson- it was intense). We started at the walk - small circles and figure-8s to get him to relax. She really wanted me to concentrate on pushing his hind end over when changing directions because he tends to just fall over towards the new direction and loses himself.

She also wanted me to concentrate on slowing my body to bring him into a slower walk, because right now the best thing for Fiction to learn is to slow down. She wants us at a pace that is manageable for both of us.

Not a lesson day pic, but he is looking healthy~
Then, into the trot we went. A lot of the lesson was mostly focused on me and using my body to tell Fiction exactly where he should be and what he should be doing. She pointed out the following:

    • When riding without stirrups, my left leg hangs neatly where it should be, but my right leg drops down too far and tenses. The best thing to do is every few strides lift the thigh/bend the knee and settle it back where it should be. But don't shift the weight of my seat bones.
    • At the sitting trot, concentrate on shoving the inside seat bone towards the outside of his withers. It's really hard to explain this, and at first I didn't understand, but when I started to visualize it and maneuver my seat bones accordingly, Fiction bent easier around my leg and my position stabilized.
    • Keep my wrists relaxed - I tend to tense them.
    • When he is calm and agreeable, use my ankles to motivate him to bend/move laterally, instead of spurs (I had to ditch the whip because he was severely offended by it that day). It was very interesting to see just how responsive he was when he wasn't fighting me. Being relaxed makes all the difference.
    • Use half halts liberally. And not just a quick half halt either. If I apply a half halt and he doesn't respond, continue the pressure until he yields, then immediately release. This is huge with Fiction because when he does throw his 'this-is-too-hard!' tantrums, the longer half halts really drive the point home.

Guys. My horse was amazing. Sure, we had a handful of minor tantrums (mostly just tossing of the head in protest), but for the most part he was relaxed, mindful of the aids, steady, and he had floppy ears. I honestly have never seen this before (of course, I have never looked for it), but Instructor told me that when a horse is truly completely relaxed over his topline/back, his ears will bounce and bobble. She got all excited when it happened and made sure to point it out for me.

We did a portion of the trot work in posting trot, still without stirrups, before we moved on to the canter. The canter is my weakest gait without stirrups. I have a tendency to tense up and forget to breath. Instructor told me to start singing the ABCs to force myself to relax and to breath. It worked.

Very sweaty horse after a very intense lesson.
Most of the same concepts from the trot applied to the canter. I had difficulties with my right leg again, but hopefully that will be fixed with time. His upward transitions were nice, and for downward transitions, Instructor had me exhale and deflate my torso to signal a downward transition. It worked. I didn't even have to touch Fiction's mouth. Instead, I added a bit of leg to make sure he didn't fall on his face and we had some amazing downward transitions.

Overall, Instructor had nothing but nice things to say. She told me to continue doing what I'm doing and to keep working without stirrups. She was not only really impressed with the 180* change in personality he is exhibiting, but also with the way he is filling out/moving.

And, to be honest, it felt like I was riding a completely different horse. A horse I didn't have to fight with. A horse I enjoyed riding.

6.01.2016