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: