Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Feeling of Starting From Scratch

**Pictures provided by my BO are totally unrelated to this post, but too fun not to share!**

It's true. Lilly and I have done very little in the way of actual work these past several years. Between all the hoof issues popping up, the craziness that is my life, and a myriad of other excuses I can think of, we really haven't practiced much of anything for an extended period of time. I'd get a ride in here and there, but I couldn't really work toward making us better, because the rides were too few and far between.

Feeling frisky!
There's something to be said for winning either grand champion or reserve champion in at least one division at every single horse show we went to this past year, but we're not really improving, and that's because we haven't been working to improve.

We do well enough to squeak by. We're consistently the okayest horse and rider team out there.

Lilly is awesome, and I was reminded of this last night when I was talking with my barn owner about buying horses. She's in the market for an OTTB she can use for dressage and jumping, and we were talking about how much we enjoy our predictable horses. She's a little nervous about starting over with a new horse. She's had her mare since she was a foal, like I have with Lilly, and we love the fact that we know our horses inside and out.

Rodeo pony!
I got to thinking about that conversation and how, in a way, I feel a bit like I'm starting from scratch this year. I know it's not the same as starting with a new horse, but I want it to feel like I have a new horse. I want to ride a lot more than I did last year, I want to work on several of our issues, and I want to see and feel improvement. I want to finally make some progress and feel confident when we jog into the western pleasure class that we're going to kill it.

I'm just glad she didn't tear anything... just sayin'.
Last night I rode for the first time this year. I've done all the longing I want to do for now, so it was time to bust out the saddle... the very moldy, gross, uncomfortable saddle. Lilly gave it the stink eye when I brought it out from the tack room, so I don't think she was too excited about the prospect of going for a ride. Honestly, I tried to talk myself out of it several times as well because it was SO COLD, but I kicked myself in the butt and tacked her up.

Overall we had a really great ride, considering the temperatures and the fact that I haven't ridden in months. I rode for about 30 minutes, which is what I'm going to stick with for now, just so we don't overdo it. We did mostly trot work, with lots of circles, changes of speed, and ground poles. I threw in a canter every now and then and the transitions were spot on, but I can tell she's not strong at all.

The usual issues were present, and I want to acknowledge them, so I can work on making improvements.
  • When she thinks she should be done jogging, she roots with her nose. Maybe I give her too much credit, but to me it feels like she roots so there's contact with the reins and she can say, "sorry... I felt pressure on the bit so I thought you wanted me to walk."
  • After cantering in the first direction, she gets anxious about cantering in the second direction, and doesn't really settle back down until we do the second canter.
  • So by the time we canter in the second direction, she's like a rocket, and it's difficult to get her to focus. While trying several different tactics with her yesterday to try and fix this, I might have found a solution, and that's simply to pick a point in our canter where she's done something marginally well, and praise the living daylights out of her. This really helped her settle yesterday, so I'll be trying that one again.
  • After cantering in the second direction, she speed walks around the ring. I can mostly get her to focus on work again, but the walk is super fast.

These are definitely minor things, but they're issues we've had for a long time that I just kind of let slide. I want to figure out a way to get past them so we can move on to bigger and better things!

Such a pretty girl!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gettin' in Shape!

I've been doing a lot of research on the best way to bring a horse back into shape, and like with anything else, there are a lot of opinions about it. Luckily, we're not coming off an injury or anything, so in theory, Lilly should be in some sort of shape from being turned out on pasture for 12 hours a day. Right?

I've been exercising her as much as my busy schedule allows trying to get her moving and working a bit. I've been doing a lot of in hand stuff (ground poles, small jumps, trail patterns) to get her mind going and get her picking up her feet. I've also been doing quite a bit of longing as well. She's great on the longe line and pretty much just plods around on the end of it. We've been doing a lot of jogging, and I toss in some loping every now and then.

It's great because it saves me quite a bit of time, and if I only have an hour or so, I can just groom her quick, grab the line, and take her to the arena. It's hard to work her into my schedule some days, but I know we both need it. It seems like my free days are plagued by rain, and my busy days are sunny and beautiful. Today is one of those days... I have free time after work, but it's going to rain all day.

Winter sucks... I'm ready for spring!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hoof Pictures

I haven't posted hoof pictures in quite a while, but they've been looking really great! She always has hoof wall to trim when my trimmer is out, and I don't have any issues exercising her in the arena at the barn. She's just in a really great place with her hooves right now.

The only thing I've been having to deal with is her seedy toe. I think it's been an issue for us for almost 5 years, which is crazy to think about. I've tried recessing the hoof to open it all up, I've tried a less invasive method of just opening up the crack a tiny bit, I've soaked and soaked and soaked, packed with cotton and a mixture of athlete's foot cream and triple antibiotic ointment, and it's all done nothing but kind of keep the seedy toe from getting worse. I never saw improvement. My trimmer and I decided that she must just have some defect in her coffin bone that was keeping the connection from staying tight as her hoof grew out and that it was something we'd just always have to deal with. I was ok with that, as long as I could keep it from getting worse. Lilly has several maintenance issues, and we'd just add that to the list.

Several trim cycles ago, my trimmer mentioned that she had several clients that were having good luck with Durasole, and maybe it would help Lilly. We talked about it helping her soles more than anything, but thought perhaps it might help with the seedy toe as well, and I decided to give it a try. I can only find it online, and Valley Vet Supply seemed the best place to get it, so I bought at bottle. I used it on her hooves every time I was at the barn, and we always did a generous application after her trim. I made sure to squirt a bunch of it into her seedy toe, and concentrated on her white line and soles. The Durasole is different than some other hoof products because it isn't caustic and you can put it anywhere on the hoof and not worry about it. At first, I didn't notice anything spectacular, but she did shed some sole, and then she shed a little bit of frog.

Slowly over the next few trim cycles, though, I noticed the seedy toe and the crack growing out little by little. I didn't want to jinx myself, or get too excited about it, but at our last trim, which was about two weeks ago, the last remaining bit of crack was trimmed off. IT WAS ALL GONE! (Well, almost... there's still a defect in her hoof wall, and an area on the underside of her hoof that needs to grow out, but the actual crack itself is gone!)

It has to be from the Durasole... and I wish I had purchased that little $12 bottle of magic sooner! There are several factors that I need to consider with regards to her seedy toe, and it's possible it could still come back, as it's not totally gone, but I am so optimistic now that I'll be able grow out a totally healthy hoof wall, and keep the seedy toe at bay with regular applications of the Durasole.

No more seedy toe!!
Left front hoof.
Left front sole view.
Right front hoof.
Right front sole view... the hoof with the seedy toe.
Don't they look amazing?! I just can't believe how thick her hoof wall is, and there's not a crack to be found anywhere. I highly, highly recommend this stuff, both for healthy sole and hoof wall growth, but also for that persistent crack or trouble spot your horse might have on its hooves.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January Condition Photos

These were taken on January 10th.

I did notice that once in a while, she looked a little ribby, but it didn't show up much in the pictures. The weight tape showed her right around 1,130lbs. I never know if I'm doing it right, or if it's all that accurate, but I figure if I do it the same way incorrectly all the time, it'll still accomplish what I'm after.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kicking Off the New Year

Lilly and I had an awesome year in 2015. She was kind of the bright spot in an otherwise stressful, depressing, and trying year. I'm hoping that this year is going to be no different (the Lilly part, not the stressful, depressing, and trying part), and I've decided to take proactive steps to make sure it happens. I'm not big on 'resolutions' per se, and I've learned not to define 'goals', mostly because I feel like the universe takes this as a challenge and sets out to derail them every chance it gets, so instead I've decided instead to lay out 'ambitions' for the year. These are things I'm going to work hard to achieve, both for myself personally and also for Lilly, and instead of listing specifically what they are, thus putting them out there to be crushed, I've decided to define the things I plan to do to make them happen.

I have even decided to give 2016 a theme... something short and sweet that I can fall back on anytime I'm having a crisis, or a dilemma, or something that has me stressed out. The theme I have chosen for 2016 is "Self Care".

I keep being told that I need to be a little more selfish... selfish with my time, selfish with my money, start putting myself first for a change, and I need to learn to say no to others and yes to myself. Society teaches us that being selfish is bad, as a recent fortune cookie reminded me. It said, "A life not lived for others is a life not lived." I've done a lot of living for others, so this year, I'm living for myself. I think taking some time for myself and finding opportunities to be a little selfish will help me heal and move on in my life.

I won't bore you too much with the specifics of my own personal Self Care ambitions, but I will say they involve new show clothes, girl time, pretty new tack, art supplies, time with Rylee, wine, fun events, fitness and nutrition ambitions, and lots of time in the saddle.

Self Care for me also involves Self Care for Lilly, and since she can't exactly do that for herself, I'm going to have to be the one to do it for her. This will involve several changes for her this year:
  • Joint Supplements:
    My sweet girl will be 16 years old in April, and for some reason that suddenly sounds old. I know she's not OLD (AJ is going to be 30 this year... THAT'S old), but the number just sounds old. Maybe it's because she's on the 20 side of 15, rather than the 10 side of 15. I really don't know, but I feel like I should start her on a joint supplement this year. With more time to ride, and more shows to go to, it certainly can't hurt.
  • EasyShoes:
    This is one of those "selfish with my money" scenarios. While Lilly has the most amazing hooves I think she's ever had in her entire life, she still struggles with certain types of footing. This doesn't happen so much at home, but it's an issue when we go to shows. We go from grass, to a sharp stone driveway, to an arena full of Johnston County Red Clay (mixed with stones and a tiny bit of sand). I have a pair of Renegades that I absolutely love, but I hate having to use them at shows. I always get funny looks from people, questions from the judges, and I feel like they just make her look heavy. They're also not perfect, and I have to take them off after every third class or so to dump out the clay and put them back on. It's dirty, annoying, and I'm always worrying if she's acting "off" in the ring if perhaps there's an issue with her boots. So the hoof boots just aren't working as I'd like them to, which has sent me back down the path of EasyShoes. The initial cost will be awful, but my trimmer said she's more than happy to spend some time showing me how to apply them so I can do it myself in the future. I'll only have them on her when we have shows, which is April - June and September - October (ish), which should help me save a little as well.
  • Weight Tape and Condition Pictures:
    When my vet came out in November, she was pretty happy with Lilly's weight. She said she wouldn't want her any fatter, but that she wasn't as concerned as she has been in the past. Then, after spending several minutes talking about how fat she is, my vet asked for a cookie to give Lilly... She said it might be a good idea to keep track of her weight with my weight tape, take pictures of her at the beginning of each month, and keep a close eye on her to see when she starts to struggle with the grass. This way we can try to stay in front of the weight gain and keep her from getting foot sore in July and August like she tends to do. This isn't necessarily a change for Lilly, but something I want to keep track of because of the issues we had last year.
  • Muzzle:
    This brings us back to the muzzle. I hate it, I hate the idea of it, but Self Care requires that Lilly wear the thing, at least during the periods of time where the grass will hurt her. I need to start working on getting her used to it now.
I also plan on blogging more this year, and taking more pictures. I didn't have much horsey stuff to blog about last year, but I will this year! It'll also help me keep track of Lilly and how the ambitions I set for her are working out. I'm definitely looking forward to the year ahead.