Thursday, 19 December 2013

Uno - the vet's verdict

The lovely Ian Neilson came out again yesterday to look over Uno with his very experienced eye. Uno had been out with his mum in the herd (by 'herd' I mean an old broodie, a tiny shetland and now Jedi who's staying about 200m away at all times), for two days by the time Ian came. He'd been getting diarrhea for a few days, gradually worsening with no fever, loss of appetite or other changes, so I gave serious consideration to the stress he must be feeling not being able to run around.

I took the plunge and put him out for the day with mum, who promptly galloped off for five minutes while my heart leapt into my mouth where it stayed for the whole time watching them run around with gay abandon. But, she's never been big on running around for no good reason (or running at all, if I'm to be brutally honest), so within a short time she was munching on the first grass she'd had in over a month. And Uno was still sound. Fingers crossed with the diarrhea, thought I.

Sure enough, no diarrhea all day and a happy little dude. I brought them back into the yard overnight and, by the time I got out there in the morning, the diarrhea was back and he was looking listless. Still no temperature, though, so I put them back out and there was no running around which was great. And no diarrhea. He's been out ever since.

I was a bit concerned Ian might chastise me for letting Uno out over a week early, and without his OK. But quite the opposite! Ian was quick to point out that recent research shows that over 70% of foals confined develop ulcers in the first week of confinement which is a clear indication of the stress they feel. He was completely fine with my decision and thought Uno looked really good.

The knee has essentially healed, the fracture is no more, though the effect the injury may have had on the future development of soft tissue and the structures in the joint will not be known for a few more months. But basically, Uno is in the clear from the fracture. Bloody awesome. AND his front legs are, in Ian's words, 'straight'. Lots of leaping for joy.

BUT. And there's always a BUT with horses, isn't there? He appears to have injured the extensor tendon in the fetlock of the same leg the fracture happened. More interestingly, Ian thinks there may be an underlying iodine deficiency that is affecting those tendons in all four limbs and that may have even gone some way to explain the original injury.

The extensor tendons are the ones that run down the front of the fetlock and pull the hoof and pastern up and forward in the swing phase so the hoof lands heel-first on the ground. If that tendon is damaged or weak, the horse can't control that hoof and walks on his toes. For a time, anyway. Apparently, the injury simply resolves as the horse learns to flick the hoof forward in another way and the lameness or problem goes away. Very interesting.

In the case of an iodine deficiency, the tendons don't function or develope properly and the foal can start to walk on the fetlocks themselves in severe cases. Uno is definitely not that severe. However, it is noticeable that he walks a little oddly, almost throwing his front legs up and out with pointed toes before placing them on the ground.

Ian suggested feeding Uno and Rose (his mum) seaweed meal which is rich in iodine and see what happens. The problem is just subtle enough for Ian to be less than 100% sure it will work, but we are both very interested to see what happens.

Robyn Larson-Shelton came out the day before Ian to do some bodywork on Uno and Jedi. She was really pleased with Uno's progress and said if he was her horse she'd be over the moon with how he was doing. I was stoked hearing that. I'd followed her plan pretty faithfully (he just would not stand still for all those acupressure redlight points....) and we were rewarded. She did say he was extremely tight through his back and neck from holding his body upright off that leg. It'll be interesting to see if the iodine makes a difference there too.

All in all, a really amazing outcome. Uno is turning into a very big but handsome young lad and such a sweet boy to deal with. I'll post pics in the next post. Such a relief to have this worrying and time-consuming period over.

Jedi is doing really well. Lucy the Dentist came out to see him and said his teeth were quite neglected. They possibly had not been done since he was sacked from racing (or trials, still don't know if he raced). There's 3 or 4 years of neglect there and he has developed 'ramps'. I had never heard of these before. Basically, she said he had been stabled for some time as a young horse and fed up high, not on the ground, and this causes the lower jaw to move forward against the upper jaw, leaving a gap at the back of the mouth where a hook essentially grows up on the last tooth like a ramp (front to back). He'd need sedation and power tools to deal with it, meaning we'd need a vet to come and sedate him. Bugger.

Given the time of year, it wouldn't happen til at least after Christmas, but more like New Year, meaning not much riding over the holidays. Pooh. It also explained a lot about his unhappiness in the contact and unwillingness to round up properly. He physically can't...the ramps stop his jaw from accommodating the correct working outline. Lucky I hadn't been asking for more than long and low! That did explain why his mouth was so cut, though. Previous riders may have tried to force him to come round and he couldn't. Poor guy.

So, I tried to find a vet that could come out when Lucy could, after we got back from Christmas hols. Not easy. Eventually, I just rang Brindabella Equine and was thrilled to find out they could fit Jedi in before we went away on Christmas Eve. Woohoo!

Jedi's bodywork was also revealing, but in a good (ish) way. He's in generally good shape and Robyn liked him. A bit weak in the left hindquarter, his feet probably weren't helping as he is still a little sensitive. A bit stiff but some carrot stretches will help. Getting his teeth done will do a lot to help throughout his body. Who knew everything was so connected?

Jedi's feet are getting better and better. I've moved him in with the girls and Uno now Tux has gone and their paddock involves a good 150m laneway of hard packed dirt up to the water trough. In this heat they'd all need to travel up and back two or three times a day which is all good exercise for his hooves. They're hardening up nicely and getting less and less sensitive. He's quite good to ride on grass now and I gave them a quick balancing trim this morning. Really pleased with his progress so far. More pics in a couple of weeks. There isn't too much obvious change at this stage, though I think the hoof wall is growing quite quickly now with all the stimulation and change of feed.

As always, I'll keep you posted.

Have a great Christmas everyone. This has been one hell of a year, good and bad. I hope next year is a bit more....umm....sedate? :) Come back after Christmas for the next instalment!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Barefoot Jedi - Day 3

Jedi has now been barefoot for 3 WHOLE DAYS, and he's getting a bit more used to it. We had our first ride today and all. He's still quite sore over the gravel or any rocky ground (that will take months I imagine), but he's getting better all the time. I took him for a walk down the end of our property yesterday to catch my son's Shetland, and he coped really well. He's still walking a little short, but seems way more comfortable than the first day.

Jedi spends the entire time in a large-ish paddock with Tux (who hoons around and makes Jedi move, bless him), where there is a wide variety of terrain, from soft grass to rocky clay. It's perfect for Jedi at this stage.

I called up Michael at Easycare Downunder to ask about boots. He advised it would be a complete waste of money getting them until after the first trim cycle (4 weeks!!) as the foot would change shape so much. Also, Jedi's front feet are wider than they are long by more than 2cm which means no boots will fit him at this point. Sheesh.

But I wanna ride, dammit! So, given Jedi's discomfort, I dug out an old pair of Cavallo boots I'd bought Assegai, a warmblood I first got introduced to barefoot with. They fit Jedi's hooves quite well, but were a little loose around the pastern but they stayed on and would be just fine for me to lead Jedi over the road to our friend's arena with.

All went well, though Jedi was still choppy in the trot on the arena and very Pepe Le Pew in the canter. For the 3rd day, though, I was pretty impressed. I think this will be a shorter transition than I imagined. Fingers crossed!

Luckily, it's quite dry and windy out here today and there's no rain in sight for a little while, giving his hooves a chance to harden up and fight that seedy toe. He's quite stoic, as are most TBs, so he's giving it his best shot.

Pics below of his hooves as of today:

The clunky clacky Cavallos

Off hind that had the very nasty crack, it's now been re-sected to remove seedy toe

Near fore re-sected to remove seedy toe. Very boxy shape but good integrity to the hoof wall

Underside of off fore. Looks pretty good really. Heels will let down and frog will grow a bit.

Near hind that had the big chunk out. Still does!

Underside of near hind. The chunk missing has encouraged flare on that side to compensate. Great frog though.

Frankenfoot. The off hind up close.

But underneath it's not so bad.

The good hoof, near fore. Still boxy, but no major cracks or chunks out of it.

That integrity is borne out underneath. Some sole to flake off but a good sized frog and wider heels than the other front.

From here, it's just a case of doing what we've been doing. Exercise over varying terrain, low GI diet, regular trimming every fortnight or so (I do the touch up trim in between Kirsten the Wonder Trimmer.

I've asked Kirsten to keep the wall a little longer than she normally does on other horses to minimise this issue of soreness post-trim. I have a real issue with it and certainly the majority of trimmers today seem to see it as acceptable. I vehemently disagree and have found that asking for a longer wall (most trimmers will take the wall back to even with the sole and trim the sole too) means my horses are never sore post-trim. Which I think is essential to from an ethical and riding point of view.

I'll take some more pics in a week or two to document the changes. Next blog will be about Uno - he's getting an assessment from the vet next week to see if he can get parole. Fingers crossed for us!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

'Shoes off' Day for Jedi

The day finally arrived - Jedi's first taste of barefoot in what seems quite a while. You can see from the pics below that his feet had started to show the effects of shoeing over a period of time, with cracks, large chips, under-run heels and an unnatural shape starting to really compromise the effectiveness of his hooves:

Off fore, very upright and boxy but otherwise ok.

Near fore: a lot more problematic. Big chip and quite a bit of flare at the base.

Near hind. The massive chunk out of it turned out to hide seedy toe

Off hind. The big crack is a worry. The angle is a lot lower than the front feet. Should be the other way around.

The crack in glorious close up.

Front heels. Not too bad for a long-term shod horse but still contracted.

Off fore. Not too bad - heel still quite big, heels not very contracted at all.

Excuse the poo! This is a hind foot - see the contracted heels?

Near fore heels are a bit more contracted

So, Kirsten the Wonder Trimmer pulled Jedi's shoes and found seedy toe in a couple of hooves, the ones with the big crack or big chunk missing. After resecting those hooves and blasting them with some hydrogen peroxide they look a bit sore and mangled. Hopefully, the seedy toe will die in the dry heat of the summer. It's horrible stuff!

Jedi is quite tender and walked very gingerly back to the paddock, as expected. He was quite good on grass, though stepping a lot shorter than usual, but very sore on the gravel road when we had to cross it. Early days, but I'm going to get some boots for his front ones at least for the next couple of months. There's a lot of riding to be done this summer with training, clinics and the first couple of comps of next year happening in February/March. Riding and exercise really does make a big difference in rehabilitation time, I've found, so I'll be booting him to help him out.

Some photos post-shoe pulling, with late afternoon shadow thrown in for a higher degree of difficulty: 

The hooves look pretty much the same as when shod. A few weeks to let the hooves settle will probably result in some noticeable changes. Will keep you posted!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Uno's knee - the halfway point

Well, it's about time I provided an update of the knee that stopped the nation....well, my life, at any rate! We've just passed the 3 week mark, meaning about 3 weeks to go, unless he gets parole before then.

I've kept up a twice daily regimen of redlight and pink goop, the Bowen every other day and attempted the acupressure and Ting points too, but he's less helpful about those! I've also managed to give his front feet a very slight trim about 3 times over the 3 weeks and I think you'll agree there is a marked improvement to the deviation of those front legs:
Day 1

Day 23

 I've been careful to keep the hooves balanced, not deliberately rasping off too much outside edge, just keeping the outside flat so the problem isn't exacerbated. He's straightening up really nicely, though with the way he has to spread his legs out so he can reach the ground and eat means he will probably have a little deviation for a while.

This is Uno in his current condition and growth phase. He looks fantastic:

Little bugger has become quite independent already and has done the bolt on his mother and I twice, now. I've had to use all four of the yards in an effort to keep them out of mud and muck, so in the process of leading Rose around to another yard in the last week he's just nicked off at a rate of knots. Whinnying, bucking and carrying on to boot!

So, there am I screaming at him to come back in that voice only reserved for panicking mothers when their toddler runs to the edge of the road. But he just merrily cavorts around on that busted knee. Little bugger. I finally corralled him and put Jellybean's (the Shetland) halter on him and wrassled him into the yard with his very revved up mother. And spent the next ten minutes calming myself down and watching him like a hawk to see if he'd done any damage. Apparently, not.

Fingers crossed Ian Neilson gives him the thumbs up in a couple of weeks. So far so good, I think.

On another note, Jedi will be having his shoes removed this Sunday and there'll be lots of pics! Stay tuned....

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Jedi the impulse buy

Well, once again its been a seriously over the top time since I blogged last. I've managed to buy a new horse, exhaust all known options for Tux's future, and little Uno has improved more and more. And I've popped a bit of judging in there while I'm at it!

First things first....Tux. After a week of work at Ben Netterfield's place, Ben rang me to give it to me straight. The horse is unbelievably reactive, quite tense the entire time, and pretty much unsalvageable. Ben was incredulous that I had gotten around several horse trials on him. I guess when you don't have any other options you just kinda keep doing what you're doing.

The gist of my conversation with Ben was that the horse was pretty much a write-off and probably dogmeat. Extremely depressing.

While mulling over my options, I did the only thing a horse person can do to feel better, window shop some horses. I ended up giving James Arkins a call about a prospective pony he had for sale for a reasonable price. James is a World Cup showjumper with a nice place up near Moss Vale. No, that horse was sold, he said, but he had a couple of others I might be interested in, one in particular that was a lot more talented than the one I'd seen advertised.

Well, I thought, I'm going to be up at Berrima on the weekend judging anyway....maybe I could pop out to have a look. No harm in that, surely! And as we talked a bit more, I told James about Tux. He knew Tux's breeder and full sister and maybe I should bring him up for James to try out while I'm off judging....Sure!! Suddenly things were looking up for Tux. After checking the plan with Ben (I had not come across James before so wanted a bit of a reference), who said James was a fan of crazy ponies and was really very good at riding them, I thought screw it. Let's do it. So, I picked Tux up from Ben's yesterday morning and drove up to Moss Vale where I left him for the afternoon.

Judging was a pretty fun deal. A good class with some quality horses, though it got a bit hot with not much breeze. I still marvel at how many riders throw away marks for nothing - don't maintain their halt for 5 seconds, don't show any lengthening (not medium, just lengthening people), don't show a clear transition between free walk and medium walk....meh, accuracy is always the bane of my existence too.

After judging for 3 hours, I got a call from James. Tux was a no-go. Bugger. Basically, James has two categories of horse he takes on: the ones quiet and calm enough to sell on, and the ones that are pains to ride but are freak jumpers and therefore worth the effort. Tux didn't fall into either category, even for free. Bugger.

Ah, well. We tried. So I drove back up to James' place and thought I'd just have a ride of a couple of his horses to see what he had and keep my hand in. At this point, other than trying out a very unsuitable TB in Wollongong last Wednesday while I was there for a conference, I hadn't ridden for over 3 weeks.

I hopped on the first one but he was very green, very OTTB. Nice enough but I knew after 2 minutes he wasn't worth pressing on with. In the meantime, I was plied with beer and really lovely company and was having a really good time. It was a good end to a long day.

Then we saddled up Thunder (the boys really do know how to name their horses....they even have one called Doreen). James hopped on (without a helmet!!!) and showed him off. I could tell he really liked the horse and I immediately saw why. They'd only had him a couple of weeks, bought him unraced at the sales, but he was already showing softness, rhythm, balance and straightness beyond the norm. And with really quality movement to boot. My interest grew.

Then James started casually cantering around and popping over some jumps. These guys have a very different reality to you and I (unless you're a World Cup showjumper too!). He thinks a small jump is a metre. So, he's popping over jumps and asking us to jack them up and suddenly the jumps were over 1.20 and at least as wide. Thunder has no trouble and jumps them just the way he'd been jumping the smaller ones. With no heat, fizz or stress. Very interesting.

I hopped on (with 2/3 a beer under my belt by now) and felt this supple, attentive horse under me. It's a massive difference sitting on a decent horse after Tux and all his craziness! Bit of a trot, nice and forward, holding the rhythm fairly well, adjusting his stride a bit with no fuss. Some transitions with no fuss. Popped him into canter (still working on that transition but hey, who isn't!) and it was so balanced and comfortable. I was really liking this guy....then I jumped him. Just once. But it was awesome.

I made James an offer. He accepted. And, after another hour of hospitality (no more beer but plenty of garlic prawn pizza!), I was loading Tux and Thunder (who I immediately re-named Jedi) onto the float.

Crazy or what. But hey, the usual rigmarole of vet checks and second rides hasn't worked for me so well in the past. This wasn't a huge amount of money. Not small, but not huge. So....fuck it. Ha! This is a pic from this morning:

Uno is coming along pretty well. Latest pic of his wonky front legs:

Currently, he's on a pretty intensive treatment regime of redlight twice a day with pink goop applied after and Bowen therapy on his knee and redlight on his Ting and acupressure points every other day. He seems a lot less sore on it and is starting to put his weight on it while he paws with the other leg. All good signs. Happy days.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Uno's knee - Part III

We have had a bit more information and a bit of progress since the last post, though I'm afraid these little victories will be few and far between in the weeks and months ahead. First and foremost, the knee is still holding and there is no sign of infection. Uno is bearing weight on the leg and seems to be looking after it quite well, doing a lot of lying down which is great.

I have ordered some 'Pink Goop' and some Tuffrock poultice (which I should have gotten straight away, I know!) and am still waiting on the red light. I am not entirely sure how much these things will help, but I reason they can't do any harm and frankly, I need to do something! It's been very hard just sitting back and doing nothing so I thought I would simply stop doing that so much.

I had a good chat with Ian Neilson and Gary Dowling about what to do with Uno's feet. Gary and I had been tentatively looking at glue-on shoes with wings to help straighten those legs, but Ian was adamant the legs would straighten on their own with confinement and healing of the fracture. As Uno wasn't born with valgus deviation of the forelimbs (knock-kneed in the common tongue!) it is unnecessary to interfere too much at this point. The shoes would just put too much pressure on the knee joint and cause deviation the other way over a short time. Not desirable, apparently.

But, in the research into this kind of deviation and its correction in young foals, I came across Babi-Cuffs: These are apparently revolutionising the treatment of limb deviations and deformities in young foals and getting rid of the need for surgery in a lot of young horses if used early and correctly. Amazing. Gary Dowling was amazed too, and very keen to try them out at some stage - though not on Uno! Ian Neilson was also very complimentary about them and thought they were changing the face of the treatment of these issues in foals.

Back to, conservative, incremental trimming is the way to go, and Uno got a very little trim to the outside wall of his two front feet yesterday. I caught him when he was napping and he's quite happy for me to handle and rasp his feet when he's lying down. A couple of minutes later and Uno had balanced hooves and heels and a little breakover slightly offset to the inside of the median line. I couldn't get a pic - little bugger decided to get up!

But here's a pic from today:

And here's a pic from Saturday:
I think the difference is noticeable and positive. Fingers crossed for little Uno. He's getting so relaxed around me now that it's getting difficult to take good pics of his legs - he keeps wanting to stick his nose in for a selfie!

Monday, 18 November 2013

And now for a bit about Tux....

So, after some serious soul-searching (try saying that while eating a peanut butter sandwich!), I have decided I need to sell Tux on. It wasn't the brain-snap in the cross country warm up at Canberra for me, but the dressage test. It was so disappointing to find that, after 6 months' work, he was performing even worse in the dressage than before. I feel quite useless and my confidence in my abilities as a trainer and rider has taken a serious nose-dive. Not really what I need.

I analysed the videos of all three phases and just couldn't believe the difference in the horse when there are jumps in the vicinity. He settles (well, about 80%), focuses, doesn't rush and is careful. I think he and showjumping are destined to be together.

With that in mind, I rang up the trusty Ben Netterfield and hit him up to take Tux for a couple of weeks before I go down to AEBC. I want an assessment of the horse's ability, his trainability and a price tag Ben thinks is reasonable. I am still going to take him down to AEBC, regardless, as I don't have any other horse to ride at the moment (Rose is a bit busy on mum duties). I have learned a lot from Tux and don't see any reason to stop learning now!

That being said, I have my eye on a lovely ISH in Melbourne that I am hoping won't be sold by the time the clinic kicks off. The owner has very generously agreed to let me do some (or even all!) of the clinic on the horse if we hit it off, and I am really looking forward to seeing what he's like. There's a couple of others I will have a look at if the ISH doesn't work out. I'm hoping I can have a minimum of downtime between neddies (isn't that always the hope?).

So, what with the gorgeous Uno recuperating and the serious time I'm spending looking after him and his mum, not riding for a couple of weeks couldn't have come at a better time. I tell you what, I'm not going to lose any fitness - mucking out a large yard twice a day, filling up the water trough by hand for the moment (I just need 5m more hose, dammit), and carting hay around is keeping me quite fit!

I feel happier having taken the pressure off with Tux. I was pushing him because this is my 'fun' time and I wanted to be having fun again. Making the decision to move him on was difficult but right. He is such a talented, charismatic horse, he deserves someone with a more subtle riding style than me! Let's hope that rider also happens to have a nice fat wallet! :)

Uno's knee - Part II

Well, it's been a few days and we're settling into a bit of a routine. I've moved Uno and Rose into one of the yards, decked out with shade cloth and a water trough:
 At this point in the 'fracture timeline', we are already a quarter of the way through the healing process and that is both heartening and worrying. Uno is still sore and, while he does put weight on the leg, it is obvious it's still causing him some trouble. Also of concern is the deviation from the knee down now quite severe in both legs. However, with a little trimming of the outside hoof wall once a week, we're already seeing a little improvement:

Interestingly, the uninjured leg is probably the most severely deviated (ie the one on the right):

 This is due to the increased weight-bearing it has had to undertake and hopefully can be corrected in time, too. After speaking with Ian Neilson, we're going to stick to the conservative trimming plan, rather than going down the corrective shoeing route too early. I am a big believer in doing a little bit often and allowing the results to come over time. Ian thought this was the best approach for those knock-knees at this point. I'm happy - no big bucks on special 'Babi-cuff' corrective glue-on shoes!

Speaking of big bucks, I lashed out on a Jenkins 'Wound Bank' phototonic light on the weekend and am eagerly awaiting it's arrival in the mail so I can start treating Uno's knees (and everything else that will hold still long enough at Dragonwood). I think the light will help stimulate the growth plates on the outside of the joints and that will help even up his legs that bit more. It certainly can't hurt and I have read a lot of good things about the use of the lights in these cases.

I'm feeding Rose Breeda, some slippery elm to help her gut during the confinement, some lucerne for calcium and something different to eat, and they have a mineral block in the yard. I'm trying to find time to cut some fresh grass for them to munch. Uno is already cribbing Rose's food and hay!

To be honest, this has been a really difficult week. A lot of emotions and disappointment are working their way out. The vet was quite upfront about Uno's chances - 40/60 on the negative side. Even if he comes through the healing process without contracting a major infection or blowing the fracture apart, he has only a slim chance of ever being the eventer he was bred to be. It's hard to be hopeful, but we're going to give him every chance. He's just so damn easy to love.

Getting into Mum's food.

Hey! Whatcha doin? And why aren't you scratching me???

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Uno and his fractured knee - Part I

Well, little Uno has now had a definitive diagnosis of a fracture in the knee. While pretty gutted, it's not catastrophic, and I thought I would start a blog to a) keep me sane, b) give people something to read over their weeties, and c) help me get advice and suggestions from people in the know who've been through this before or have training in this area.

Little Uno is now 4 weeks old. About two weeks ago he went very lame on his near fore and the initial thought was that it was an abcess. That was ruled out and fluid was taken, with the thought it was a joint infection - serious enough. 7 days of hardcore antibiotic injections, which he put up with like a champ, we got word that, no, there was no infection. But his front legs were now very distorted, angling out from the knee down.

Today, x-rays showed a fracture in the knee, extending through the growth-plate. The vet has prescribed confinement to 'a box' for 6 weeks, ie no movement if at all possible. Given that he is so young and still so dependent on his mum, this will be one hell of an interesting exercise. Rose is 17hh and only 4 herself, so confinement on that scale for her will be very problematic.

So, welcome to the rollercoaster that will be Uno's recovery (fingers crossed!).

Monday, 4 November 2013

The weekend that was Canberra Horse Trials

Well, that was one hell of a weekend. To say I could not have done it without a whole bunch of people would be entirely accurate. My husband, for one, who was pretty much a single parent the whole weekend with no adult company to speak of for the entire 48 hours. Which is probably why I was met by a babbling idiot when I came home, and two year old said hi too!

Saturday started pre-dawn with some plaiting by headtorch-light. The day before had been manic too, with gear cleaning in the morning before work, a day which ended with one of those interminable meetings you can't get out of run by a manager who doesn't know when to shut up, just at a time when you really need to leave!! I dashed home with kids, changed into the most horse-washing-friendly clothes I could find and ran out to collar the poor equine who was grazing quite contentedly in the paddock. A quick hose and a shampoo later (though I was kicking myself I didn't do his tail after all that), and I threw him back with a feed in a show set. Which he promptly tried to roll off. Then off to a great night of burlesque circus at Empire. Great timing!

So, back to Saturday....Tux was remarkably good-natured about the whole thing and stood there chewing his hay while I plaited feverishly in the headlamp's glow, until I finally realised dawn had well and truly arrived and I didn't have to bother with it anymore. Off we zoomed at 6:15am, arriving at Equestrian Park right on time at 7am, to be met by my awesome strapper cum penciller, Jo. I would not have made it through the weekend without her, let me tell you. More on that to come.

Tux had lulled me into a false sense of security with his plaiting zen. He was a complete shit in the dressage and spent the majority of the time chomping, rearing, cantering sideways, jogging and otherwise not doing as directed. Needless to say, we were running last after that dreaded phase.

A quick return of idiot horse to the float, then off I ran with poor Jo in tow to the showjumping to give it a quick walk before I headed off to walk the cross country. It was a really nicely designed course with flowing corners and nothing too scary.

Cross country looked great and I found myself getting a bit excited at the prospect of riding around it on a cross country machine the next day. I hopped back on Tux to go showjumping and things seemed marginally better to start with. We were able to walk and trot around the warm up area without too much problem. But the moment we hit canter it all went pear-shaped again. Any touch on the reins was met with rearing and carrying on. I managed to trot over a couple of warm-ups, then cantered fairly well in control over a couple more.

The actual showjump round was not too messy. We left all the poles up which is the goal, but once again there was that tension and resistance around the course. He never just turns, he chucks his head, bounding around the corner and swinging his quarters around. His poll regularly touches my chest. But, he gets around.

After sliding off in a quivering mess and having a confidence-boosting chat with Jo and my other friend Mandy who happened to be wandering past after her dressage test, it was time to switch gears and get into 'judge' mode. With Tux parked in a yard, Jo and I picked up our test clipboard, some yummy pastries and a well-deserved (and craved) soy flat white, and headed down to our arena.

Pre-Novice is a whole, beautiful new world. Filled with really lovely horses, decent riders and politeness far and wide, Jo and I set about having a smashing afternoon judging. Jo being the dressage queen of the two of us, even she was drooling at some of the eventers. And their horses.

It was a bit hot and a bit windy, and that started to wear on us, but it was quite a fun way to spend the afternoon. Fingers crossed the riders didn't think I was an incompetent slacker. Which I wouldn't blame there for assuming given every time someone looked at me I had a coffee or a snack in-hand!

By day's end, I was hauling a well-behaved but somewhat peeved Tux home, lying 4th last and pondering my future with Tux....

Sunday dawned bloody beautifully. I got there a bit earlier than first planned so I was able to walk the course again. I absolutely love the Cross Country app, though I feel like a complete wanker walking the course using it. But it is absolute gold.

The course was a good Intro test. The jumps weren't boring (very few actual logs), the terrain is quite challenging with the rolling hills, and the water involved an actual jump. About time. Tux would eat it up.

The cross country warm up started really well. He was actually chilled out, listening, just doing the gait asked....until it was canter. Then all hell broke loose and he completely lost his shit. This rearing, head-tossing caper lasted for a few minutes until he threw in a real corker when I was a bit unbalanced from the last. I had to hang on to his mouth as I was falling and he started to fall too. I just let go of the reins and that saved both of us. But I fell off. In the warm up area. How embarassment.

I hopped back on, to the consternation of my mates, and headed out on course. He was quite good the first couple, but just wound himself up, getting stronger, faster, stronger until he was almost uncontrollable in the last third of the course. We get round clear, 3 seconds inside time. Great result. But an absolutely exhausting ride, constantly hauling on him to slow down. He would only oblige with a lot of pulling, head tossing and bounding. Not fun.

I'm now in the throes of deciding what to do. I have made the decision to give him until the AEBC clinic in December (remember - daily blogging!!) before I commit to either keeping him or selling him on. I think, in hindsight and after the benefit of a night's sleep, I have pushed him too fast in the hopes he would simply calm down with lots of consistent work. Not so much.

Lastly, I trialled the first 'notch' cutting in Tux's feet. I was really please how they came out and the effect they seemed to have on his traction. We had zero issues in that regard.

Here are some pics of the notches I filed in with the edge of a rasp:

Monday, 28 October 2013

Light at the end of the tunnel

So, another week elapses and I now have a more concrete plan for Tux. After a week of essentially mulling over my options, I had a really great lesson with super Ben Netterfield on Saturday afternoon where he both gave credence to my misgivings and boosted my confidence. For some reason, Tux really chills out at Ben's place - he's calmer, no blow-ups, a bit tense still, but a different horse. He's more the horse I rode the one time before I decided to buy him. Interesting.....

Ben and I talked a lot. And the plan was hatched: give Tux til the AEBC intensive in a month, use that 4 days as a platform to channel our progress and training, then execute the homework arising from the intensive over the following two or three months and evaluate his progress. Ben put it in a way that really validated what I have been feeling. Yes, there has been progress, but is it enough progress for the amount of time and effort I've been putting in? Is there enough of a change and improvement for me to keep pouring time, sweat and money into this horse?

The actual riding part of the lesson (the second half, really, but Ben and I can both talk, that's for sure!) was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. Ben had two very clear suggestions, both of which made complete sense to me and both of which worked well with Tux.

Firstly, I have been skipping ahead with Tux, asking for more than he was ready for and not being super clear about what it was I was really asking for. The best example was the canter, which I've really been struggling with. Tux usually resists into the canter, bounding or pig-rooting, or chucking his head up and down as he canters sideways. Then if I do get him into a nice canter but ask for a change, like slower or turn, he chucks his head around and swaps onto the wrong lead. Ben just said 'keep going, push him on, just keep cantering on a big circle on the wrong lead'. Soon, we had a really nice counter canter and Ben would say, change reins in a big loop, and then we'd be on the correct lead. After a while, I'd upset Tux and he'd do his lead swapping thing again, disuniting and mucking around, but I pushed him on, made him canter and then when we got balanced and rhythmic we'd change reins again.

Essentially, Ben was saying that hot horses change the goal posts all the time. One minute it's, 'don't touch my mouth!', then it's, 'don't touch my sides!', then it's 'hell no, I'm not going to go forward!'. I need to be flexible and recognise resistance wherever it comes from. Tux will go from being super-sensitive to leg aids to really needing a boot to get going. Interesting....

So, that was lesson number one. Be really clear what you're asking and expecting. If you're having trouble with getting a canter, screw what lead you're on, focus on getting canter. Then worry about the leads once you get a consistent correct, calm reaction from the aid you're giving.

Lesson number two was about my position. I am letting him move me around a lot which, in turn, makes him more worried and reactive as he isn't sure where he's supposed to be. If I focus on maintaining my balance, my rhythm, my position and stay upright, he will learn that being under me, with me, is comfortable and safe. It's hard work, but the more I focused on keeping my line (shoulder, elbow, hip, heel), the better and calmer he became. Slowing and speeding up, keeping him with me, not fighting him and hanging on.

This is very true in my jumping position. I have this bloody stupid habit of, for the first fence at least, jumping before the horse does. It's obviously because I don't want to be left behind and catch him in the mouth, but as Ben explained, being ahead of the movement makes you more likely to be left behind. The horse is put on his forehand by my weight throwing forward, so he jumps badly and I'm not in balance so I get caught behind him. Makes sense when Ben explains it.

But, if I concentrate on simply sitting upright and still coming into the fence, it all just happens underneath me. He jumps up into me, I fold from the hips and I don't over-release the contact. It felt a lot smoother. And, Tux actually came calmly back to a trot which I've been trying to achieve for weeks. He really does like it at Ben's place.

So, Manu lesson on Friday. I'm a bit apprehensive as it's a shared lesson with a lovely girl on an even lovelier little stockhorse mare and I don't want to ruin their lesson with a crazy Tux. I'm also a bit peeved as I really need the help and the only lesson I could get to was the Friday as I've got Canberra HT on the Saturday. But beggars can't be choosers, and you just have to take what you can get when it comes to clinics.

Then Canberra, then in a few weeks' time it's the big drive down to Clonbinane for the intensive where I will be blogging every day, people! When too much Barefoot Eventer is barely enough! With pics!

Til then, happy riding. Might see some of you at Canberra.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Two steps forward, one step back - and meet Uno!

Craziness and uber cuteness have taken over the last couple of weeks. Crazy horse, uber cute Uno the brand new baby son of Rose, crazy weather, uber cute Jellybean the tiny shetland much to talk about!

Tuxedo and I have hit a new low. I am feeling quite depressed about his lack of progress at the moment, and literally dread getting on him. He's still very unpredictable (though much less dramatic) and I constantly feel like I'm sitting on a very tense leopard about to flip its lid and launch into a very athletic turn. Which he does. He still rears, though not the proper high-ho-Silver's, and he's taken to popping in some decent pig roots when I ask for canter.

It all sounds quite boring when I write it down, but he's a very tense, reactive horse and exhausting to ride. He is making riding not particularly fun and more like work, which is hardly the point. I keep trying to see all the progress we've made - he's so much quieter on the ground, he stands fairly well, he actually eats his dinner (admittedly, I've halved it so he will), he stands well while I mount and will trot rhythmically in general. We've even got some good calmish jumping going.

But he is still prone to becoming very excited, very nervy, and prances and stuffs around, cantering sideways, rearing when he doesn't get his way. It's confidence-sapping to say the least. And I haven't really once felt like I'd come off. Go figure! I've got a lesson with Manu coming up in just over a week, followed directly by the Canberra HT, so I think I'll see how that goes. Then I've got the Intensive Clinic at AEBC in Clonbinane, VIC, a month later and I'll use that as a re-training masterclass. I'll re-evaluate my work with Tux after that to see if I think I can take him on from there.

Moving on to the uber cuteness Uno:

He's probably the most unco-cordinated foal you'll meet in a while, on account of the most enormous back legs he was born with:
You may be able to just see the tendon laxity in his hind pasterns which made it very hard for him to balance and walk properly for the first 3 or 4 days. That has resolved with time and exercise, but he still has some issues with those big back legs. The near hind is not tracking through straight, winging out to the side from the stifle. I've got Robyn from Equine Miracle coming out to treat Rose and she'll have a look at Uno too. I'll keep you posted.

Jellybean you'll just have to read about in the next post! I haven't even taken photos of her yet with all the excitement about Uno. But she's probably almost as cute.

Had a great morning judging out at Lynton on the weekend. The atmosphere was a little tense with smoke from the bushfires casting a bit of a weird light over all the quality horses warming up for the stressage. Some riders had fires close to their homes and had to dash home to get other horses just in case. Amazing that they came back, I say! Not the best pic as I had to wait til we'd finished, but the smoke is visible....

A really great event. Can't wait to ride there - maybe next year!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Tuxedo's Barefoot Adventure - next installment

So, it's been about 6 months since Tuxedo came to live with us and got his shoes taken off. I'm going to post some pics to see if we can see much of a change....

Straight after taking his shoes off:
 Near Fore:

Off Fore:

Off Hind (the boxiest foot):

 Near Hind:

Off Fore:

And now, 6 months later:
You can see the big rings halfway down his hoof that show where the shoes came off. The hoof above the ring is a lot tighter, with less flare and no abscesses.

 Off Fore - you can clearly see the flare below the big ring line showing where the shoe came off:

Near Fore: More concavity, frog is really prominent, still a bit to go at the toe

You can see the abscess hole below the line showing where the shoes came off:

And another one here on the off fore (the boxy one is still boxy but much improved):

So, huge changes and that's in a horse that we think didn't have shoes on for very long! His feet are much smaller, stronger and don't chip at all. Very proud. :)