Sunday, September 11, 2016

Decisions, Decisions

What's interesting about this whole 'trial' business is how it goes heart to head to heart to head.  If I hadn't had such a long trial period, I would have bought the damn horse already.  But the longer the trial, the more I waffle because my head says "maybe you could find one with NO problems".  Then I laugh hysterically because...well, it's a horse.  And a living being.  And ain't we ALL got some problems, it's just a matter of finding someone who's baggage goes with ours.  At least that's what the Mister always tells me.  Course he also tells me "I loved you yesterday and I loved you today and I'll probably love you tomorrow."  Probably.  Thanks, husband.

Though I'm a TERRIBLE commenter (meaning I hardly ever do it), I've been reading horse blogs for years.  And I don't think I've read ONE SINGLE BLOG where they said "my horse is perfect and has been from day one and narry a problem in the last 15 years."  Maybe there's one out there, but it's pretty rare.

Instead, there is the bumpy transition of getting to know one another.  Of finding out if they leave the toilet seat up or down.  Can I sleep with that snoring?  Just like with people, this can take some time.  It may be a year before I know what's really lurking under the adorable face of my trial pony.

Anyways, for those of you who ARE decent commenters, I'd love to hear stories (or just put links back to your blogs!) of what you went through with your new horse as you got to know them.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A little Less Magic - A little More Dust

The beautiful thing about an actual trial period, is that it gives both you and your new partner a chance to settle in to each other.  The first few days were magical.  We were both on our best behavior and neither one was asking much of the other.  Much like the early days of dating.

"Do you want Thai food or steak?"

"Oh, either.  I'm just happy to spend time with you."

"Do you want to watch Harry Potter for the umpteenth billion time?"  (this, by the way, is me.  I don't know why but I've watched the first three HP movies a ridiculous amount)

"Oh, sure."

Fast forward to a few dates down the line....

"Do you want Thai food or steak?"

"Actually, I want Italian food.  In my pajamas.  Pizza.  I want pizza.  I don't need to shower do I?"

"Do you want to watch Harry Potter for the umpteenth billion time?"

"Uh...no."

So, the pony and I have been politely asking questions.  Until three days ago when he decided to bring out his inner Jersey Shore personality.



"Yo, yo.  There's food over there. I don't care that it's an empty grain pan OUTSIDE my turnout, I need to get there now.  Get outta my way lady!  Seriously, lady, get outta my way!"

As I had already taken his halter almost all the way off and had mistakenly thought that we were 'together', he was free to rear up, spin around and run to the corner where he could lovingly stare at the grain pan.

Then yesterday we were out for a ride.  I thought we should take a left.  He thought the direction of his stall sounded better.  There was some circling and backing and even a mini tantrum involving front feet leaving the ground for a moment.  Basically, the problem was that he was trying mansplain to me which direction we should go and I was trying to gently and kindly explain that I didn't need a man to give me directions.  Yeah, like that ever works.  So - now that we've realized that - I've stopped trying to treat him like Enzo and started to deal with the horse I have.  The stubborn "I want to be in charge" horse.  I've added "Yo, Vinnie.  Knock it off!" to my vocabulary.

Though this may seem like bad news, it's actually great.  I wanted to see what the real pony was like, not pony on his best behavior.  Now that I know what I'm dealing with, I can create better boundaries for him.  And though my long term goal is to get to a place of passive leadership with him, I need to create safety for both of us first and that may require more of a dominant attitude for a while.

Vet came out today and did his teeth (he had sharp points and mouth ulcers..poor kid) and so he's going to rest from that for a day or two.  He was also back sore, but that may be from being ridden in a frame without using his body properly.  He holds his ribcage *perfectly still*.  My acupuncture/chirporactor is coming out Monday to take a look.  Otherwise, he now has a super clean sheath (yeah for sedation!) and a clean set of hock x-rays.

I have a few more weeks and plan on putting him in some serious work to see how we gel.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Magical Unicorn Dust

There's nothing like the nerves of bringing a new horse home...even if it's just on trial.  Add to that a barn that is new to us and yesterday I was a bundle of anxiety.

Pony arrived in the midst of Armageddon.  The barn is replacing their old outdoor arena with a brand new, full size dressage arena.  Yeah!  But in the meantime, the scene looked like this (but worse, so much worse).

Please note:  semi truck coming down the road.  Crane on right side is smashing concrete to bits.  All three roller/bulldozer things going at once.  Total.  Chaos.
So - there's so much noise we're having to yell to talk to each other.  Pony steps off the trailer.  We have to walk past all of this to get to his paddock.  He looks hard with his ears pricked.  And then walks on.  The end.  Drama over.

Pony settled in perfectly with just a few laps around the paddock.  This morning was quiet as can be.  Walked past the mayhem again.  I wish I had a better picture of where the round pen is, but it's basically right behind that tree on the left hand side.  Pony wasn't worried at all and did walk/trot/canter without even looking at the machinery.  In fact, the horses in their turnouts were more interesting to him and only for a hot minute.

Basically, so far, this pony has been sprinkled in magical unicorn dust.  And trainer #1 came out and gave him the thumbs up.  Next up on our trial list is to ride him in the big field and take him on the busy trail.  The trail should be interesting since it's a paved trail with bikes, rollerbladers, strollers and pedestrians.  However, considering how he handled the bulldozers and cranes and semi trucks I have high hopes for how he handles the trails.  And of course, we'll continue to perfect our selfies.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maybe, Baby


Practicing selfies.  An important skill for any horse that is my partner.


Rocking the english outfit for me and the Western get up for the mystery pony.

I don't want to jinx anything, but this boy has the perfect resume, a handsome face, passed his vet check and is arriving tomorrow for a 'make sure' trial.  Also, I adore his current owner and we both want the same things for the pony.  Lessons scheduled, stall procured and shockingly, I have managed to restrain myself from buying everything in sight since he's a new color AND a new size.

I'd love to hear (or better yet see pictures) from redheaded pony owners about what colors they like best so I can start window shopping.  Keep your fingers crossed that our love affair is real and that the next few days are magical.  Also curious on folks thoughts about x-ray vs. not x-ray.  Vet didn't see any reason to x-ray and he's 10 and has not been pushed hard, gamed or jumped.  Thanks for your thoughts!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dating New Ponies

Looking for a new equine partner is a bit like speed dating.  Except you only get one or two dates before you get married.  What a strange way to make a commitment!

I have lists upon lists of questions to ask, trying to determine if a horse would be a good match for me.  Do they think before they react or do they react and think later?  If your horse was a cartoon character, who would they be?  If someone says Tasmanian Devil, I know we're not a good match.  What kind of home would your HORSE prefer?  I'm surprised at how many owners have been surprised and a bit stumped by this one.  But really, the horse's happiness is important.  I want my new partner to enjoy similar adventures to me.

Then there's the health list.  Colic?  Lameness?  Ever done a blood test or x-rays?

And let's talk about your past.  How long have you had this horse?  Why are you selling?  Has this horse ever bucked you off?  What did you hope to accomplish when you bought this horse?

It's all so personal and detailed.  And it all can fall apart when you meet the horse in person.

Candidate #1 - 16 hand Red Roan solid paint.  Cute as a bug with a long forelock that went almost to his nose.  Seriously, his face was so stinking cute I wanted to chew on it.  7 years old, shown in 4-H and some local breed shows in English and Western.  Quiet, had done some trails.  When I asked the owner what his worst trait was, she said it's that he didn't slow down well for Western.  Ooh!  Sounds like a good fit for a dressage makeover!  Any sickness or lameness?  Nope.  She said he threw a shoe, so he was currently in easyboots on the front because the farrier was out of town.  Not a problem to be ridden though.

In Person -  Still the cutest face and the longest forelock.  First thing I noticed was a bump on his back where the back of the saddle would go.  Owner was young girl and no adults were present.  She had no idea what the bump was, but horse was slightly reactive to it.  Second thing (and this is before horse left stall), he was wearing Easyboots that were two sizes too big.  He also sucked his tongue and had a hard time holding his head still.  Owner tacked up and lunged.  He was a gorgeous mover, but probably would have been more so with boots that fit.  Owner got on and did some walk, trot and canter.  There was lots of hand/rein/bit action to keep his head down.  I got on and threw the reins away.  Horses head went up and he was looking every which way.  I trotted for all of 1 minute and got off.  Thanks, but not thanks.  Without constant direction, he is not confident.  Poor girl kept insisting he was quiet (which he was) and that he wouldn't do anything (not here....but in a year when I let him express himself, I'll bet he's a different horse under all that neurosis), but I said 'he's lovely, but not for me."  Scratch that one.

Candidate #2 - 15.3 hand palomino paint.  Owned by a young girl.  Being sold as girl is in high school and has lost interest.  Has done a little bit of everything, including dressage.  However, horse has been sitting in field for 3 months.  We talked about confidence and she said he was great, though he tried to lay down with her daughter once.  Worst habit was just that he was so quiet.  However, later in the conversation she mentions that she really wishes he didn't do this one thing.  What one thing is that?  Well, he throws his head in the air and strikes out with a front leg and can get a little light in the front end.  He doesn't MEAN anything and he gets over it if you get after him.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I'm not throwing my leg over anything that has tantrums.  Period

Candidates 3, 4, 5, 6 - No.  Hell no.  How do you think this horse could do english?  You call this quiet?

Horse shopping is such an exciting adventure.  And one I'm ready to be done with.  And that my family is ready to be done with.  With no horse, I have turned my attention to the house and cleaning out and getting rid of stuff.  I"m like a tornado whirling through the house saying "Do you really NEED this?".  Hopefully, I'll have a new partner soon and we can get back to ignoring the house and barely remembering to do laundry and dishes.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Wheel

In tarot decks there is a card called The Wheel of Fortune or sometimes just The Wheel.  It depicts the cycles of seasons, the changes of life.  In my life, one cycle has ended.  I know this leaves the door open for a new cycle, but right now I'm just letting things sink in and be what they are.

I don't want to relive the entire thing, so this may be sketchy on details but Enzo collapsed in his paddock.  The vet was called out and he was unable to walk.  His eyes were doing this wobbling kind of thing where they were constantly moving.  I know there's a fancy name for it, but frankly I'm too tired to look it up.  The vet used words such as 'vestibular' and 'neurologic'.  We gave him so anti inflammatories and discussed the situation, deciding what the next course was.

I'll skip over all the agonizing etc. and tell you that 24 hours later there was no change and on a bright, summer day in the shade of a tree and after enjoying a bellyfull of grass, Enzo crossed the rainbow bridge.

He was a teacher, a healer, a friend.  He didn't like being groomed and he hated cold water.  He liked slow trail rides and loved treats, though he was never allowed them because he was so pushy about them.





Enzo taught me to listen to the horse in a new way.  Enzo taught me that time is not always linear and that sometimes friendship is more important than being right.

I spent his final night with him at the barn, watching over him and making sure he had plenty of hay and water.  In the morning, I let him out into the big pasture (the one he couldn't go in because of his Cushing's) and he grazed (as best he could) with his girl friend.  A friend had brought out some acrylic paint so we could leave our handprints on him.  I covered my hand in pink and placed it near his heart.  He held perfectly still while it dried.  He wouldn't let anyone else put their hands on him after that, so he carried a single pink handprint over his heart.



I found this poem on the internet that pretty much sums it up.  Enzo - Licorice - Black Beauty - you will be missed.

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have,
He will come to you when you call-
Come to you over the far, dim pastures of death,
And though you ride other, living horses through life, they shall not shy at him, nor resent his coming.
For he is yours and he belongs there.

People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall,
Who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears.
People who never really love a horse.
Smile at them then, for you shall know some thing that is hidden from them,
And which is well worth knowing.

The only place to bury a horse is in the heart of his master

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Breaking One Thing Leads to Fixing Another

I can't remember the last time I posted.  It was probably back when I had a horse I could ride, but I'm too lazy to check.  So here's the quick version.

January - Enzo feels slightly off.  Give him a few weeks off.  No improvement.

February -Vet comes out and does basic lameness.  Yep, he's lame but it's slight.  Maybe he just pulled something in pasture.  Give the pony a few more weeks off and we'll go from there.

March - Block the right hind leg and find it's in the fetlock.  Even more fun, when the right hind is blocked, he comes up lame on both fronts.  x-rays for everyone!  Nothing on the x-rays.  Next stop, ultrasound!  Inconclusive on the ultrasound.

later that day in March - MRI is out of my budget since it starts at $3,000 and I've already spent almost that much on farm calls, x-rays and ultrasounds.  Vet suggests we inject hind fetlock and both fronts and see what happens.




later in March - Front feet look better but rear hind is no better.  Still slightly off.  Best guess without MRI is suspensory ligament in right hind fetlock.  Vet prescribes short course of anti inflammatories and then hand walking, starting at 15 minutes a day and working up to 50 minutes by end of July, at which time we will re-check lameness.  Shockwave therapy is also recommended, but is not in our current budget.  Also, had multiple vets disagree on effectiveness so we do 5-10 minutes of walking on concrete as an alternative.

April - start acupuncture treatments for back soreness and to help with healing.

May - up to 30 minutes of hand walking.  Adding on 5 minutes every two weeks.


So that's the bad news.  BUT here's the amazing thing.  For almost the last year, my horse has been barely able to be ridden.  I had pretty big anxiety about riding him.  Then I couldn't ride him even if I wanted to and was forced to walk, walk, walk.  I know I said it before, but I can't stress enough that walking with your horse is a goddamn miracle.  Not an instant miracle, but if you're in it for the long game and you want your horse to be more mellow, trust you more, have a better connection under saddle then walking may be right for you.  We haven't done fancy ground work these last six months, just walking.  We walk through the barn aisles, we walk around the property.  We have explored and stood around and done nothing together. We have been startled when a bird flew up from under the bridge we were crossing.  We have watched the other horses at the farm.  We have walked slow and fast.  We have walked side by side or with me in front or with me behind.



And last week, after Enzo not having been ridden since January I found myself at the barn throwing a bridle and a bareback pad on and hopping on.  We made a lap around the indoor arena, but it was so pretty out and I KNOW Enzo now.  We both wanted to get out in the sunshine.  And so we did.  And as I felt his muscles bunch and smooth out underneath me and after I took a few selfies to prove my bravery, I just tilted my head to the sun and smiled.  This is what horses are about for me.  This bond.  This friendship.  This trust.




Enzo has gone from shut down to spookier than snot to being happy and mellow and soft.  Notice the ears looking forward.  He's so happy!!

Yep,  chillin' in the wash rack learning to ground tie.  


As we head back to work later this summer, I'm looking forward to incorporating this relationship into our working relationship.  It's been such a great reminder that horses are a long game, not a short one.  Horse training from the ground up is slow, simple and kinda boring but damn if it doesn't work.  This break fixed us and I couldn't be happier.