Monday, January 30, 2017

A Horse to Make Your Heart Sing

Last weekend, I took Cowboy and Leah to the barn next door for a day of fun.  First, I worked with Leah, and she did great, but when I switched the saddle over to Cowboy and hopped on--my heart sang! He's NOT a better horse than Leah--he's just the one I have the most time with, and I believe TIME makes all the difference.

You may wonder why I decided to divide my time away from my sweet boy--and sometimes I even have to remind myself--but it's because 10 years ago Cowboy broke his front, left P3 and I thought he was never going to be 100 percent sound again. He'd been mis-diagnosed by his vet for 3 months.  She thought it was an abscess, even though the x-rays showed a clear fracture and displacement--x-rays she took on the FIRST day.  She took more x-rays later, when he didn't get sound, but they weren't as good as the ones on the first day.  She just kept coming to the house and digging deeper into his hoof--drawing blood each time--swearing it was an abscess.  Eventually she consulted and they decided to make a removable plate and had  me pack sugardine inside to "draw out the abscess."  That plate inadvertently cast his foot, so in that regard, it was helpful.

(I had to take off the bolts and repack it twice a day with sugardine--sugar and iodine mixed together. My farrier was the one who took the measurements and nailed the plate onto his hoof.)

When I finally got my 2nd opinion, I brought those x-rays to the new doc and he saw the fracture with a flashlight in a dark bathroom at the barn.  It was clear as day.  (Moral: always look at  the x-rays and don't take your vet's word for it.)   We sent those x-rays, and new ones, to WSU and had the vets there give us an opinion.  They thought his prognosis was very poor because of the time that had lapsed (3 months) and the severity of the displacement.  They recommended that any treatment we did should be "conservative."

During his convalescence--which took a year--I didn't have a personal horse to ride, so I rode my husband's horse, Shadow, but he was already pretty arthritic and trippy.  I looked for another horse and ended up finding two--Leah and Beautiful Girl.  Then, Cowboy surprised us all and had almost a full recovery. He'd made it 6 months in a 12x12 stall--I visited him constantly because we had set it up right next to our house.  Then, he moved to a 24x12 stall for another 3 months. During the whole stall-rest process, he had not been allowed all, which would have been cruel for some horses, but Cowboy had been an Orphan Colt, so he seemed to like the attention and be okay.

Cowboy and I have been through A LOT together!

Time is key to a singing heart, and to that end, with all three of my horses, I'm devoted.  So, I don't have any time to waste.

I asked my husband to dig out my horse trailer with the tractor.

I loaded up Leah on Saturday and went next door to the barn.  (The only place safe to ride in this weather.)

I've only ridden her once--bareback in the snow--since our last clinic.  Saturday was day 17, but most of those days were spent riding Cowboy and working with Beautiful Girl.  Leah was a little wound up, but we worked on the walk, trot and lope.  She doesn't have any pain in her feet anymore, but I think she still does have issues in her body that exercise and massage will slowly work out.  She used to overarch to the inside going left, and she barely does that anymore.  It used to seem like a pinched nerve, but whatever it is, it's almost completely resolved.

On Sunday, I took Cowboy and Leah both to the barn.

I rode Leah first, then switched out the saddle and rode Cowboy.  He had been pretty bothered by the fact that he had to wait, so when I hopped on him, he was ready to go and as responsive as he's ever been.  Riding him was pure joy.

We set up a few obstacles to play over.

And, afterward, I rode bareback which, as you know, is much WARMER.

My heart did begin to sing a little bit riding Leah bareback.  She was happier than when she's saddled.  And, her trot is like floating on butterfly's wings.

All and all, I was at the barn for four wonderful hours that day.

I'm going to be trying a few new saddles on her in the coming weeks to see if I can replicate that bareback feel.  A friend suggested a cut-away--and another, an English trail-style saddle.  Whatever it is, it needs to fit around her broad, muscular shoulders.

Finally, today, Day 19, I took Leah over to the barn for more of the same work.  I hope that riding her more will help her lose more weight and stay in better shape.  My farrier suggested I ride her every day to get her moving good again.  That's not always possible, but with the arena, I can ride her quite a bit.  If I didn't have the arena there is no way I'd ride in the snow and ice.  Too dangerous.  I feel very lucky to have the arena.

Hope you're all getting horse time in, as well!


  1. Looking great! Here's to more days floating on those butterfly wings ~

  2. That looks like a nice arena. It had good footing and is set up for dressage with the letters posted. I would be so mad at that vet. The vets around here are very hands off. A lot of times they just shrug and say it's either this or that, and in either case you do this... It's impossible to get an accurate diagnosis.

    1. They did apologize and refund all the money we had paid out, since the xray had been so obviously ignored or misread. And, there was a happy ending, after all. I wish Cowboy hadn't broken it at all and I thank God for every day I have with him. We had xray done a few years ago and there is a lot of arthritis in that joint, but somehow he stays sound.

  3. Cowboy seems like the perfect horse. I'd have been very mad about the diagnosis but I'm glad it all worked out in the end for him and you. As you know I ride English and never thought to compare it to bareback but I guess it's a lot less saddle than a western so maybe it would feel like it to you. Dusty was a Quarter horse with absolutely no wither and a round body and she was impossible to find a saddle for that fit her until I had one custom made from England. It wasn't as expensive as you'd think. The name of the company is Black Country Saddles: Check it out if you think you might be interested in getting something that fits her perfectly from an English saddlemaker. My daugher also had a bareback saddle pad with stirrups but I have no idea what company made it or if she still has it. Good luck.

    1. I'll keep them in mind. I'm going to try out a few of my friend's saddles before buying one, but I will keep them in mind. They have a dealer about 4 hours from me in Issaquah.

      And yes, Cowboy is the perfect horse!

  4. Love that pic of you riding Leah bareback - good form girlfriend! And Leah is looking great!!! Yes, spend time with your beautiful boy. Love him, ride him, just be with him. In this life, as you know, there are no guarantees.

    1. Ha! Riding bareback has giving me better form, to be sure. It's either that or slide off. I agree about time with Cowboy. I would be sad to think I'd passed up opportunities. I hope to load him with Leah tonight, in fact.

  5. Have you tried a Wade tree saddle on Leah? They tend to fit wide muscular horses. It's what I use on Beamer.
    There is absolutely nothing so comforting as riding your heart horse.
    It looks like Leah is going to be a good horse for you this year, you sure have made a lot of progress with her.

  6. I didn't know Cowboys story, glad he continues to make your heart sing!! Best of luck finding a saddle that works for you both. It is no easy task. My saddle search experience's were extremely frustrating, and literally painful (ground is hard)...after a lot of convincing from my hubby on the value of safety, I ended up having one custom made that fit's Koda. Best money ever spent.


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