Friday, September 30, 2016

Leah's Coming Back To Me

Last Tuesday, my farrier came by and tested Leah's hooves and she wasn't reacting anymore.  He said it appeared things were going back to normal.  She had lost some (not enough) weight and she was feeling pretty frisky--moving out lameness free.  

Yesterday, Thursday, I took her on a ride with Cowboy & some friends.  I ponied her behind--up and down hills, over rocks, and I trotted her around the arena for quite a while.  She looked great.

Since everything was looking good, I figured today was the day to give her a shot in saddle.  

So, I called my trainer to come by and get in the saddle.  

My trainer didn't respond, therefore, I had to get in the saddle myself.  I guess it's only fair--why ask someone else to do my dirty work?

I thought about it--Rebecca says always have a plan--and I decided to put her to the test on the ground first.  What would Leah do if presented with a scary crossing?  Would she shoulder her way through me--like she does in the saddle when she goes left?

I pulled in a large piece of heavy-duty plastic.

Leah was prancing around at the trailer, thinking, uh oh!

I took her in and had her cross over it length wise and width wise.  At first, she tried to balk, but I had my whip handle ready for her and I gave her a swift bump on her shoulder.  She moved right back where she should be.  It only took a couple more bumps during our 15 minutes or so doing the tarp training, and Leah was walking across nicely.

Time to saddle up.  We walked did all our work at the walk, but eventually, as usual, Leah decided she was tired going to the right and pulled to the left.  This time, however, I gave her some left leg.  Leah trotted forward, but went right.  I let her trot it out and brought her back to the walk.  That happened a couple more times in the same order--and finally, Leah was going both ways with NO RESISTANCE.

I got off and praised her!  She's ready for tomorrow's clinic!  If she hadn't been ready, I was going to take Cowboy, but she is good to go, and this going left thing is going to be easy to work through--from I could tell from today.  What is left in the resistance seems to be habit, and Leah is not a big fighter under normal conditions.  When pain was involved, it was a different story.

I wanted to analyse her swirls and facial features, so I took some shots today.

Facial swirl: Long Single Swirl

Getting in TTouch: "A single, long swirl that may be between the eyes or extend below: Indicates a horse who is friendly and particularly enjoys relating to people.  Over the past twenty years I've repeatedly found that when horses with this swirl are unfriendly , it is because they are in pain or have been abused."

Nostrils: Large, open nostrils, loose at bottom, flaring at top. "Intelligent and an indication of a horse who thinks a great deal."

Lips: Heart shaped  upper lip: "A lip like this can be an indication of an expressive, curious and extroverted character."

Profile: Straight "A horse who is very uncomplicated and learns easily."

Jowls: Medium: "Average ability to learn."

Mouth: I can't tell--short to medium. Horses with short mouths are hard to fit with bits and do better in hackamores.

Refined, soft muzzle-"Usually goes along with a sensitive personality."

Ears: wider at the top than at the base, sest wide apart at the base, fine fluted.  "Indicates steadiness and a tendency to be uncomplicated. Likely to have a good capacity for learning."

All of those things are Leah.  She is uncomplicated, that's for sure, and she loves people.  She's not over reactive and she learns fast.  Now, I just have to keep her from getting fat, and we should have a wonderful life together.  

I'll write more later on how I've completely changed the feeding for ALL my horses.  I have a lot to say about that subject and why I felt the need to overfeed them.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Day 98 and 99: Broken Bit & Runaway Horses

You could say I got to my 100 days with a bang because 98 and 99 were rather exciting & strange.

I'll start with 98.

(Here we are before the ride.  Oh, what adventures awaited!)

This was a ride with my 87 year old friend--a retired family practice doc & lifelong equestrian who hails from the great state of Texas.  He can barely walk, but he can still ride!  And he likes the challenging stuff.

He'd stop us for a "meeting" at each juncture and say, Okay, we can go this way--the easy way--or this other way--through a walking tunnel, over the railroad tracks, along the railroad tracks, up some private property...etc."  He'd let us choose.  I usually opted for a smorgasbord of his ideas & nixed some of his others.

At one point in our adventure, my brave, seasoned gentleman rider almost got bucked off, and I have to admit his life did flash before my eyes--but it didn't seem to phase him. Not one bit.

(Along the route we stopped at a friend's ranch. Things were still going well.)

The picture above is the last one I took--happier times--because when we left there-half way through our journey--things deteriorated for me.  And, they deteriorated for my bit.  Because, you see, my bit broke in half along a steep cliff trail.  

Cowboy didn't act like anything had happened, but when I pulled up to slow him down, there was nothing there.  Nothing.  Just two  hanging pieces of broken bit and the bridle held on by a chin strap.

At that point, I dismounted, but the trail was too thin for rider and walker, so I was sandwiched behind one horse and Cowboy.  Cowboy was sandwiched behind another horse and me.  It was a bit crowded, so everyone spread out and gave us some room. 

And, that's about when we got to the down tree.  A large down tree.  

I got over the tree with no problem, and then I asked Cowboy to come over.  But Cowboy had other plans.  He wanted to go around the tree.  He was even willing to go over the cliff to get around the tree.  Although, in his defense, it was so overgrown with brush and shrubs, he probably didn't know it was a drop off.  As you can imagine, he figured it out quick when he started slipping and getting tangled up--and he jumped back on the trail to save his life--barely missing me.  I shouted a few not-so-savory-words during that little fiasco.  Not that it helped.

Off we went again, and I walked a good ways until we finally got off that Hell Trail and onto a wider one.  As you see, I'm writing this, so I made it back safely.  So did Cowboy.

In retrospect, I wonder what would have happened if the bit hadn't broken.  Would Cowboy still have avoided that tree and opted for the cliff?  Would my weight have got him off balance when he tried to correct?  It's a scary thought.

Day 99

Day 99 was a Back Country Horseman Scavenger Hunt at Riverside State Park.  The BCH is one of the most quality equestrian groups out there.  They donate time and resources to preserving and maintaining our trails.  Their events are of the highest quality....but there's always someone who comes along to ruin it.

We were all given rules for the hunt--and, as you can imagine, NO RUNNING was printed loud and clear for all to see.  With 75 riders--if you have some running, it sets off the others. But run they did--splitting up and scouring the trails for their items as if their lives depended on it. 

On that particular day, there was also a running marathon going through the park.  So, picture this, humans running by the hundreds--horses running---and add to that something extra special....

Two riderless runaway horses galloping by us.

Yes, riderless.  They had bucked off their people and headed for the high hills--which eventually led them straight back home.  

But, in the meantime, we were in the eye of the storm--me, my friend and trainer, Rebecca, who went after the runaways, and my 12 year old granddaughter.  

Cowboy was a hot mess.  He wanted to run--or trot--or something that got us out of there.  So, I dismounted and had my granddaughter dismount--not knowing if the runaways would circle back to us.  Better to be safe than sorry--especially when you have your granddaughter with you.

We walked them back to the arena and waited for our friend to get back and join us again and for the horses to settle.  Then, we went back out and finished up with no more incidents.  

We ended up having a wonderful time and my granddaughter won two tickets to the Spokane Symphony and a $50 gift certificate to a restaurant.  She's going to take her parents out on a date!

On day 100, I took Cowboy back to the park where the Scavenger Hunt was held, to prove to him, there wasn't anything to fear.  (I think he had a little horsey PTSD.  As an Omega, he has always been nervous in horse crowds!)

Day 100 was just a lovely, uneventful day with friends, like most of my rides in the 100 Day Challenge.  

And more good news, my farrier tested Leah's hooves today and she didn't react at all.  A good sign that things are going back to normal.  

What's next after my 100 days?  What adventures lie ahead in 2016-2017?  

I can't wait to find out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

100 Days With Horses 2016

Thank you, God, for the gift of my 100 days, in the year 2016, with horses.  One hundred days of seeing the world through the ears and eyes of the most sentient, sensitive beings you created.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Horse Husbands

(Sunday Ride--70 degrees and sunny)

I have to give a shout-out to horse husbands.  If you have one, be thankful, not everyone does.  They are built-in riding partners and a big help at the barn.

I had to laugh about this though!    

(Saturday Ride: 55 degrees and raining hard)

I asked my horse hubby to saddle up 3 times this weekend.  THREE times!  And, he did so happily.  One of the rides was a fund-raiser for Free Rein Therapeutic.  It's our local charity that helps kids, and veterans with PTSD, through working with and riding horses.

After the ride, we were serenaded with some live country music.  They also provided a yummy BBQ! The comfort food was so darn comforting because we were drenched and cold when we got back.

Some of the volunteers.

The upside to riding in the rain was the smell of wet pine and the increased activity of the birds.  We saw a bald eagle soar down the middle of the Spokane River for quite a ways.  It was stunning with the rain hitting the water, the dark backdrop of a gray sky and mist--stunning.  Of course, where's your camera at a moment like that?

 (Up on the bluff)

We saw a bunch of activity on the other side of the river, and it turned out to be a WEDDING!  What a beautiful spot to get married--even in the rain and cold.

We even got a free t-shirt for riding!

You may notice, I'm riding Cowboy and not Leah.  I had my farrier put shoes on Cowboy when he was out since Cowboy has been called back to full-time service. My farrier has been handling Leah's lameness issue for me. (He's coming out weekly or as needed.)  Because of my history with veterinarian mis-diagnosis, I tend to trust my farrier more than anyone else.  He is the reason Cowboy is sound 10 years post-P3 fracture. If I had continued to rely on my vets, Cowboy would be dead these last ten years.  (And that is NOT an exaggeration--he was scheduled to be put down.)  So, if there is an issue with one of my horse's feet--my farrier is the one I go to.  You may call this minimalist, but since I started down the minimalist road, I've had FAR less problems with my horses. If it progresses, though, my farrier will tell me when it's time to get x-rays and proceed to the next step.

From his tests, it appears she's slightly laminitic.  Not enough to limp or shift weight, but enough to test for some pain in the toe area of all four feet.  We think it was caused by her obesity, so our plan is to use an anti-inflammatory and take the weight off of her.  She loves to eat, so she's not happy with the calorie restriction, but it's for her own good.  In truth, she's getting a normal amount of food--like most horses get.  I was killing her with kindness before.

Interestingly, she was most sensitive in her left foot, but it is her RIGHT that she fights going to.  I think there are multiple issues we're dealing with--not just the feet, but the feet have to get well before we can proceed to the rest.  I'm quite hopeful that she will be sound--in the feet--very soon.

(Thursday's Ride: 80 degrees, hot & sunny. My TWO favorite COWBOYS!)