Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where we left off (pre-cellulitis)

In the spirit of 2ptober:)
Before Scout's cellulitis we had really started ramping up the workload in lessons. His condition was looking quite good and he could handle much more mentally and physically. So, we'd generally start a lesson with some dressage (schooling the walk is so hard for a baby) gradually asking for a little more suppleness and work over his back. The name of the game being transitions, transitions, transitions.

Fighting the balance between being supple and maintaining the forward energy 
Using the halt as a forward transition, ask for a little give and then release

At the walk and again at the trot, we'd serpentine the arena in loops, changing direction and punctuating the gait with a downward transition for a few strides to really help Scout use his hind end and engage over his back.

The tail, always with that tail
In canter, we just work on getting him in front of my leg and keeping a constant pace. I have a little PTSD from Riley, in that I don't trust my crooked body to pick up the right lead on any horse, but Scout is helping me by demanding that I try to stay straight when I ask and keep his hind end from creeping in once we're going. And while we're talking about creeping... I have to work on staying tall in my body and allowing my leg to get long with my weight in my heels (something that is a real struggle due to my crappy ankles) so that I don't let my leg creep up rendering it ineffective. Amazing how that works?!

Moving on to a little jumping, we try to reinforce what Scout already knows about jumping (very little), namely forward, straight, canter away. My job is to steer, keep my leg on and encourage him to go forward away from the jump all while not impeding his effort. And at this point in his sophomoric education I expect him to make some mistakes and to question what we're asking. He's a baby after all... SO while it's easy for me to get lured into thinking he's going to do everything correctly the first time, I need to remember to be a little more defensive in my position and really be supportive.

Good boy Scout
 And this is what it looks like when things don't go exactly as planned:

Me: Figure it out Scout

Second time around
I've gotten better at waiting for the horse to figure out what they are doing while still being effective. I think a year ago, I'd be climbing up the horse's neck trying to "help". During this particular lesson, we were in pretty good synch with one another so we decided to add in some jumping outside the ring, like a little baby xc school.

And Scout, while not really sure what he should do with his legs, was very game!

Warming up over the tiny coop
Baby's first log!

Good boy Scout!

Had a little Oh Shit moment here when he touched down on the log with his toe

The tail! Stop jumping up his neck Niamh!
I couldn't have been happier with his attitude. Obviously, the jumps are small enough that minimal effort is required (though, these logs are bigger than they look in the photos) but he's gaining confidence carrying a rider over fences one jump at a time.

I love this feeling after a good jump! #datbooty
So, while the injury set us back a bit in terms of condition and training, I'm feeling really excited about what the future holds for us. We'll get back on track soon.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Grooming essentials

Scout is a horse that thoroughly enjoys grooming, which is great because the little girl in me (you know the one who didn't get a horse until she was 32) wants to groom and brush and braid his hair all day long. Riley, while being a thin-skinned chestnut tolerated my grooming obsession and Nolan took some real convincing. I bought extra soft brushes for him and only the most gentle curries, and by the time he left he could be groomed like a normal horse.

Moving all your stuff certainly makes you accountable for your hoarding tendencies and while I don't have them regarding tack, I do have a lot of grooming stuff!

All the stuff NOT related to grooming in my trunk
Having less space actually makes me much more organized, paring things down in my tack trunk and keeping my trailer tack room neat and tidy. I thrive on being organized, so I love having a reason to sort through things and get rid of the clutter. It's also nice just to know where all my stuff is again!

I keep all my grooming stuff in a tote like this:
Not my actual tote
These are handy totes because they have lots of pockets, they can fit a ton of grooming supplies, and you can shove the whole thing into a small space if needed. Usually I dump the whole thing out once a year to wash my brushes and I through the tote in the machine to freshen it up. I've had mine going on 4+ years!

So what's in my grooming tote?

1. Sharp scissors (a must, and yes mine have my initials on them, hands off)
2. Sleek-Ez (This is invaluable in the spring. I like this smaller version but it comes in various widths)
3. Slick n Easy Grooming Block (fiberglass brick that is wonderful for pulling out loose hairs and keeping the coat slick and shiny. It's also great on dried mud)
4. Hoof picks (one can never have too many)
5. Insta-twitch (just a double ended snap and bailing twine, makes an excellent twitch when you're flying solo, just apply twitch and snap to halter, magic!)
6. Mane and Tail combs
7. Tail Wrangler Brush (supposedly designed to not break tail hairs, but I'm not convinced, I just use it judiciously)
8. Pulling combs (Definitely can't have enough of these. The wooden one is a POS though, so i should just toss it)
9. Sore No More Spray (liniment spray that I use after tough workouts, I've also used it on sensitive soles)
10. Leistner "Prinz" Brush (Literally my favorite brush of all time. Well worth the investment, it's the brush I reach for when I only have time for a quick groom)
11. Leistner Luxurious Goat Hair Brush (a super soft finishing brush. Adds nice shine to finish grooming, great for getting off really fine dust)
12. Goat Hair Soft Brush (nice short bristled soft brush, I love it for faces)
13. Dandy Brush (Acrylic bristled dandy brush that I use for very dirty ponies! Easy to clean)
14. Leistner Dandy Brush (Medium bristled stiff brush, perfect for caked on mud. I find the bristles to be a bit long)
15. Mini Cowboy Magic (I love having this around to get out grass stains on socks!)
16. ShowSheen Shine (I use this only in tails, I actually prefer Vetroline's Shine product, but I won't turn down free samples)
17. Zepher's Garden Fungus Spray (Scout is prone to cannon/elbow scurf and this stuff seems to keep it at bay. I don't think it's a miracle worker but I do like that it's natural and smells great)
18. Rider's Rasp (I haven't used this since Riley, but it's definitely handy for stray pieces of hoof that crack off)
19. Epona Comfy Flower Curry (I LOVE this little curry, and you can use it on every part of the body!)
20. Heavy Duty Curry (Not for the thin-skinned horse, this is really like a mini massager!)
21. Sarvis Curry Comb (For as cheap as this thing is, I use it nearly every day. Great for mud, perfect for baths, and it brings up shine really easily)

And yes, I know this is a lot of stuff, most of which I don't use every single day, but it's nice to have it all on stand by in my handy tote for when I need it. What's in your grooming bag? Do you have a brush or tool you can't live without?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Crystal Lake Park, NJ (our first off property trip)

A huge side benefit of moving Scout was that he was going to be in a location near several blog friends, so when Stacey asked us if we'd like to go on a hack to check out one of the nearby parks I jumped at the chance.

You see, this would be Scout's very first off the farm excursion (going to New Bolton doesn't count!) and I can hardly think of a better duo to help make our first trip a success.

Who has 4 hooves and loves adventures? This guy!
I arrived early to factor in extra loading time if I needed it (so far he's been an absolute superstar for loading). What I really needed the extra time for was cleaning him. OMG, homeboy found the stream in his paddock and has been having a ball.

Like this, but worse

So, I attempted to hose him off, let him stand in front of his fan and then I scraped mud off him until it was time to load. Some first impression you're going to make on Klein, Scout!?

He's not a confirmed self-loader (yet) so we still count on having someone to do up the butt bar for us, but he loaded quietly and we headed out to the park, about 30 minutes away. Crystal Lake Park is a gorgeous place with manicured trails, designated trailer parking, running water, real bathrooms and even a huge concrete horse mounting ramp.
We basically kept to the dotted green but also went into the woods a little for some hill action!
Stacey was already there and we chatted for a bit and I put Scout's bridle on and unloaded. He looked around a bit (he suddenly seemed MUCH taller) but took a deep breath and relaxed and started grazing. I fully utilized the mounting ramp to get on and we were off!

Our super partners for the day

miles and miles of this:)

I seriously had nothing to worry about though. This horse man... I feel like I've got PTSD or something because I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to act stupid or hot or spooky. But, I think what he's taught me in the last 4 months is how to trust. I feel like now, I trust him to behave how he has time and time again. He definitely looked around and was quite aware of his surroundings, but his only tension could be detected in some initial teeth grinding. Before I knew it he was stretching over his back and swinging along like he'd been doing this his whole life.

Always a good sign when you can pull your phone out early in the ride:)
We trotted for a nice portion and I'm happy to report that Scout felt super sound. He just cruised along behind Klein who set a nice pace. After going around the perimeter we headed into the woods where Stacey promised some very steep hills! It was probably some of the steepest terrain that Scout's ever encountered, but he picked his way up and down and even crossed a narrow wooden bridge that I thought he might give me grief about.
This was my face the entire ride!

Through the woods

We rode for about about an hour and fifteen minutes before heading back to the trailers. We certainly could have stayed out longer, but I felt like that was enough time to get a true feel for his attitude and ability in a new place. I couldn't be happier with his ho hum attitude about the whole thing. Having a horse that you can just throw on the trailer and go is such a blessing. And while Scout's appearance left little to be desired, I think he made a pretty good first impression on Stacey and Klein with his chill attitude:)

I dropped him off at the barn and then drove the 2.5 miles to Stacey's farm (how awesome is it that she's so close?) to meet the rest of her crew! I introduced Mocha to the All Ears app and she was hilarious about it. She was curious about me and then puzzled as to why this strange human was making horse noises! She's completely ridiculous and opinionated but so inquisitive, and almost human-like in her expressions!

And meeting Wes was just the icing on the cake for such a great day. He's like a giant teddy bear and he's just so sweet and gigantic. I was in love!

I couldn't be happier with how our first off property adventure turned out and I cannot wait to have more with blog friends (I'm looking at you Megan!).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Every day with him is a gift OR how cellulitis sucks

There's nothing quite like your horse getting injured or sick to help jolt you back into reality. I had been studying the fall calendar, looking for first events to take Scout to when I got a message (while I was on vacation) that Scout came in from turnout with a hot fat leg. I didn't panic, but I hated that I wasn't nearby and it was bad enough that a call to vet was placed.

He was initially very lame, sensitive to palpation and barely walking. My vet pulled a SAA on him and he was positive for an infection. So we deemed it most likely a case of cellulitis, he was ordered stall rest, bute for a few days and a regime of antiobiotics (IM/IV). He weaned off the bute and was significantly more comfortable after a few days. Things were looking up. Vet check a few days later and another SAA, improved results. My vet radiographed the leg to rule out any sort of fracture or chip and we decided to plan an ultrasound in a few days. He finished the course of mega antibiotics and was put on Naquazone to reduce the inflammation. The leg was still swollen and very, very hot.
Broken pony is good at dramatic posing
Three days later, the swelling was down, the heat was reduced and the infection was no longer present. My vet ultrasounded the soft tissue around the fetlock and found nothing of note, he was cleared for regular turnout and we opted to keep in a smaller paddock with a quiet buddy vs. his youngster gelding crew. We were scheduled to start under saddle the next day. The following morning not only was his leg fat and hot again, but he also managed to cut/scrape the skin off the front of his cannon on the bad leg #becauseofcoursehedid. UGH.
Luckily, this horse is an absolute saint
After checking in with my vet, we decided to cold hose, sweat it, jog and ride him to see how he was feeling. I spent the whole day feeling like I was going to throw up, I had such a terrible feeling that he was just broken and now, 12 days into stall rest and treatment I was mentally just spent.

So happy...
So we tacked up and headed up the hill (after a quick in hand jog to make sure he was sound) to the ring. I could have cried swinging my leg over. This 4 year old, on almost 2 weeks of stall rest was perfect. We walked around and he felt good, I was grinning ear to ear. Then I picked up a little trot, and he was LAME. Like, crippled, 3-legged lame. WTF?

We took some video of him under saddle and in hand and sent it to my vet. Puzzled, I took his polos off only to discover that he was significantly more sound without any pressure on the swelling. Now I was completely convinced he had a soft tissue injury. Devastated, I made another appt with my vet to re-check him. Another course of Naquazone started, a negative SAA and another ultrasound scheduled.

Meanwhile, I creep on my horse while he's in a makeshift small paddock
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't losing my mind a little bit. I trust my vet 100%, but my gut was telling me to look further. I felt like we were out of diagnostics at the farm so I scheduled a visit to New Bolton (it's just a few miles down the road) for a more thorough ultrasound just to completely rule out ANY soft tissue lesions/tears.

And, wouldn't you know it... my horse arrived at New Bolton and was SOUND. Palpated negatively, jogged sound, and they sent me home with a long term anti-inflammatory and told me that basically the cellulitis must have resurfaced again a few days prior, and that when he has an infection/swelling/pressure around that joint he's going to be lame. I was under strict instructions to wean him off stall rest while keeping the problem leg wrapped. I could begin taking the wrap off an hour a day until the swelling completely stayed down.

Oh Hai... Yes, I'm totally drinking the BOT kool-aid now
And with his prognosis up in the air and his short term care being pretty high-maintenance, I made the decision to move him close to home (more about this in another blog post). I needed to be able to wrap/re-wrap his leg at least once a day and monitor his progress more closely. Scout, while going through all of this was foot perfect. His only objection to stall rest could be detected by occasional teeth grinding. He was otherwise a gentleman for all of his poking and prodding and constant care.

Settling in, day one
The new barn made him a small paddock with a shed in a spot where he could see everything, but stay quiet. Day after day, he improved and I started leaving the wraps off for longer and longer. After about 10 days I switched him to wearing Back on Track wraps just overnight. His leg has stayed cold and tight and he's been sound. We started legging back up and he feels terrific.

Feeling good again!
And, as of a few days ago, he started big boy turnout. He's got a 15 acre field and 5 geldings to play with.
27 days after the initial injury/cellulitis 

He galloped for like 5 strides and realized he was surrounded by acres and acres of lush grass!
This whole experience made me realize something very special about this horse. I've never had that "heart horse" feeling before, but I think I understand what it is now. He seemed to understand that I was trying to help him and he tried so hard to be on his best behavior. While being on stall rest, we bonded more than ever, logging lots and lots of hours just being around each other. No riding, no agenda. Somehow, having riding taken out of the picture helped me to appreciate who he is even more. When I made the tough decision to move him I realized that even if he needed long term rehab, or couldn't be sound beyond a walk that this horse owed me nothing and that I would move heaven and earth to make him happy. healthy and comfortable.

I truly feel like every day with him is a gift. The future feels bright for us.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Behind the bucket

In the manner of full disclosure I'd like to share a little bit about Scout's feed and forage program. I was going to make this strictly a post about the progression of his feet (spoiler alert: they were a disaster) but I strongly feel like good nutrition, exercise, and supplements make a happy horse so here's a sneak peek behind Scout's feed tub.

What he eats (currently):

Nutrena 10:10 pelleted grain (3 qts -- 2x a day)
*He ate a quart of Pro-force fuel on top of this when I first bought him

We feed most of the OTTBs this pelleted grain and they all seem to adjust quite well to it and eat it with gusto. Now that Scout is in work and decent shape, he doesn't "need" the added Fuel, however it's nice to know I can top dress his feed without him getting wound up. He's still eating more hard grain than I would like, but our pasture grass is not enough to sustain his weight. 

Grass hay (locally grown and typically nice 2nd cutting) -- he gets his slow feeder hay bag stuffed so he has access to hay all day while he's in. He tends to swirl his hay into a mess in his stall and then look at it with a sad face, which is why it's in the hay bag now. Strangely, it took a little while for me to recognize that he wasn't really eating much hay in his stall before the bag and his weight blossomed after I installed it!

Pictured is the Gatsby Slow Feed Hay Bag. It's inexpensive and super easy to fill, it holds a ton of hay!

He's also on a Smartpak which includes Farrier's Formula Double Strength which I absolutely swear by (thank Riley for making me a believer) and Cocosoya SP for coat and weight gain.

Honestly our feeding program is fairly uncomplicated (in the winter we add beet pulp without molasses). I'm lucky to be in full control of what my horse eats and how he's fed, which I know is quite a luxury. 

The real proof is in the pudding though, yes? We're overdue for a new conformation photo (he's looking even better now that he's in more work) but this is a 6 week progression photo from the 3rd week in May to the 1st week in July:

But that tail tho?!
I also groom the crap out of him, which thankfully he LOVES and I even splurged a few months ago and bought him very fancy brushes from Teddy's Tack Trunk:) I'm super excited to see his his body will change with a proper topline and more muscling. 

I hate using thoroughbred stereotypes, but Scout came with "typical" Tb feet. Low heels, long toes, shelly hoof wall. What he did have going for him was a solid interior hoof wall, great concavity, a good frog and a solid sole. In the grand scheme of TB feet, we were still in decent shape. The heels and toe can all be fixed with time and a great farrier -- but having a patient owner is key.

Let's take a look of the progression over the last few trims:

Left column LF (May-August) Right Column RF (May-August)
What's frightening about the first photo is that scary event line that continued to become a fissure as it grew out. We knew we'd have to address is eventually, and in the second photo you can see that the farrier actually had to put the nail right in the crack (terrifying, and he pulled a shoe twice during this period, but because they were in the crack he didn't lose any hoof wall), but as you can see in the last photo, the rate of growth helped insure that by the next shoeing cycle, he'd be nailing above that crack, which should be nearly gone by the next trim. What I love looking at is how very different the quality of hoof is that's growing in and how drastically different the angle of the hoof is. I can feel a massive difference under saddle as the break over over is much better and he rarely trips anymore up front. You can imagine it was pretty tough to go around with those silly flippers and NOT trip! I'm really pleased with the heel that he's getting underneath his body and overall his hoof looks much more healthy. He does have two quite noticeably different shaped feet up front, but I think over time his RF heel will expand to match the LF a little more. He's currently growing hoof at an alarming rate and we're keeping him on a 4-5 weeks schedule to keep on top of that.

What's so tough about being patient about hoof growth is simply the waiting. My agenda can't ever come before my horse's and I'm willing to let that hoof get in really great shape before his workload gets super demanding. I'm certain that many other farriers may have addressed his issues a little more aggressively (as in, to make him more rideable in the short term) but I'm willing to wait as long as it takes to get his feet shipshape.

In addition to a good diet, excellent farrier care I also paint his feet with Farrier's Fix (it's amazing) and he lives, LIVES in bell boots! My farrier tends to shoe a bit wide as to allow the heel and hoof wall to expand, and my guy plays a lot, so it's bell boots or death! I really like pull ons, but he destroys them so I've had better luck with Davis bell boots for turnout.

What sort of feeding/shoeing habits do you employ? I'm so lucky to have an amazing farrier and I can only imagine how tough this would all be with a lackluster one. Do you spend time with your farrier? Any tricks of the trade you want to share?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What to expect: Green Bean Jumping Edition

Since I primarily deal with young horses who have zero jumping experience, I thought I'd put together a little entry about what to expect when you start a green horse over fences.

You will need:

*one OTTB
*a hitchcock pen or free school (nice, but not necessary)
*a ground person to build/reset fences
*a neck strap
*a really good sense of humor
*the ability to stay soft and out of the horse's way

Typically, the way we start most of our OTTBs is to let them figure out their footwork in a free jump ring. We're pretty lucky to have a hitchcock pen (a large circular ring with two parallel fences) where the horses can get going at a nice pace in either direction with room for a few jumps or a gymnastic.

In which a small X gets RESPECT (Nolan)
Starting with just a pile of poles on ground we let the horse trot around and and get a feel for having to do something over the pile. Some stop, or sky rocket over but most usually half-step or increase their stride and canter away. As they gain a little confidence, we build it up to a small X. During the first session, it's usually pretty awkward, and for most, it takes several sessions to build up confidence and form over the jump. What I love about free jumping these guys is that it gives you a lot of insight into how they may be under saddle. Are they going to be the type of horse that learns from it's mistakes? The free school is great to see what happens when the horse doesn't it get it quite right, and come back around. Is it scared of the fence, does it make an adjustment, or does it wayyyy over jump? We want to see a horse that learns as it goes and builds confidence and bravery as well. For these guys who have never seen a jump before, we think it's important to allow them to sort out their body and footwork without a rider so that when we do point them at a jump under saddle, it's no big deal (hopefully) and they are less inclined to way over jump or balk.

Me: JUMP, Brando! Brando: Where do my legs go?
I'm not usually the person who starts them over fences because I am not that skilled or brave. But with Scout, I knew he had hopped over a few things without much issue before I officially made him mine, so I wanted to really build our relationship from the ground up. We worked together for quite a while on the flat to get to know one another a bit before we ever added in jumping. 

I think when you're building a new partnership with a horse it's really important to manage your expectations. What I expected in Scout was for him to show up to work, listen to my aids, and get to the other side of the "jump". This is the most rudimentary part of jumping education really,  and anything additional just feels like a bonus. 

So we started small, first trotting back and forth over poles on the ground and next cantering poles spread about 5 strides apart. At this point, all I am hoping for is that he recognizes a change in the terrain and adjusts his feet in response.

Finding our "jump" canter 
Scout is a big, gangly baby and is still trying to figure out that really great jump canter that's so elusive. And, while he's still very wiggly, and there's no real contact with him in the bridle, I still expect for him to listen to me gently guiding him straight with my legs and sometimes an emergency rein (!) and to respond to my cues to go forward over the jump and canter away. I missed this very crucial part of Riley's early training and he learned to get very, very lazy with me,often almost puttering out and heaving himself over the jump and landing in a messy heap on the other side. So I'm trying to teach myself and my new partner to go forward to the jump and continue that forward after. 

Sounds easy, right?

Wiggle, Wiggle, Jump, Jump

But, if this is from his first real jump lesson under tack, I can't be upset. He met my expectations of forward + straight, up + over, and land + canter. Yes, he's wiggly and a bit uncoordinated, but he's 4 and big, so we'll let him grow up a bit before I demand too much in the finesse department. Better, yet... he gives me a nice feeling over the jump. I'll admit, I was a bit intimidated of his size at first and fearful that he'd jump so big it would unsettle me, but in all reality he balances me in way that I can't really put into words. Like a tall ship, steadying itself against a raging sea.

Legs in every direction, but man... I love him
The truth is that even if I'm not the most skilled rider, I really love teaching the greenies to jump. Everything feels monumental, from the horse that refuses to walk over a pole on the ground (spoiler alert: the tend to be the best jumpers) to trotting them over their first log or through a little gymnastic. Getting to the other side always feels like a big celebration, and I love being a part of that supportive role and congratulating them the whole way.

What do you guys like about jumping green horses, or do you hate it? Do you have any special exercises that you like to throw at horses new to jumping? 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Goldilocks and the three OTTBs

If you can recall from your childhood, Goldilocks was a really pain in the ass. Like the kind of girl you'd never take out to eat because she always sends back food or complains that music is too loud and trying to figure out how to please her seems like a path to insanity in trying. Certainly, finding a suitable horse for Goldilocks could be deemed equally as challenging, I mean, if she's that fussy about a bed or how her breakfast is served, then how in the hell would finding a horse be any easier?

In this story, Goldilocks will be played by me, and not to worry, I am not nearly as finicky as the fairy-tale protagonist. I have however, learned enough about myself and the kind of horse I want as MY personal ride and the journey to finding said horse is not unlike the fable of a girl with yellow hair and too many opinions.