Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Show of 2015 (And In Many Years!)

It's been quite a while since Lilly and I had a consistent show season. The last one was in 2011 and we did pretty well, but things really tapered off after that for one reason or another. I only took her to one show in 2012 and one show in 2013, in May of both years, so I started out the years with good intentions, but never managed to get out to another one. We won a reserve championship in the Stock Type Division at the show we did in 2013, which I thought was pretty amazing. I never dreamed we could top it, but we did.

It was a Johnston County Horse Show Series show (JCHSS), and the show was supposed to be on Saturday, the 11th, which was also my sweet Lilly's 15th birthday, but the weather has been stormy and they ended up post-poning the show for Sunday.

I wasn't sure what to expect from her. She's always easy going, happy go lucky, and performs when I ask her to, even if we've been out of work for quite some time. I've been riding her a little bit since moving her to the new barn, but nothing consistent, and nothing too taxing. She's hairy, out of shape, and out of practice. (To be honest, so am I! Well, not hairy, but out of shape and out of practice.) At first, I only entered her in enough classes to make us competitive in two divisions, stock type and adult, so we would be eligible for the day awards. At the last minute, I threw in an english pleasure class (to maybe grab a few PAC points) and one other western class, just to get the practice.

Halter classes are always hit or miss for us. Sometimes we're in the middle and sometimes we're at the bottom. It always depends on who else is entered, and how the judge is feeling. We ended up in the middle of the pack yesterday, and placed 3rd out of 6. Honestly, I thought Lilly deserved a second, but the judge disagreed with me. That happens a lot.

Showmanship was amazing as always. I couldn't have asked Lilly to perform any better... her back up was so straight, her pivots were perfect, and she set up in half a second. She rocked it. We ended up with 2nd place behind someone who is a judge, and there's a feeling around the grounds that she sometimes places where she shouldn't because of that. I thought Lilly had a way better pattern than her horse, but Lilly is still a hairy beast and her horse was slick and groomed to the nines. You never know what the judge sees, or why they place how they place... you just get what you get because that's horse showing.

We had a nice, long break after our in hand classes and Lilly was happy to hang out at the trailer and eat hay. I socialized a bit and caught up with some of my horse show buddies, ate a chili dog and fries, cleaned up my tack, and frantically searched for my belt. It felt great to be back in the show atmosphere.

Our english classes went pretty well. We always do ok in the stock type english class because we're competing against other stock type horses (slow, lazy, fat, stubby legs...), so I wasn't surprised that we were pinned 3rd out of 9 horses. That won us 1 PAC point for walk/trot, which should earn Lilly her APHA Certificate of Recognition for walk/trot. YAY LILLY!

The adult class didn't go quite as well, as there were lots of gorgeous hunt seat horses in the ring. I lost count of how many horses lapped us in that class. I've really given up on pushing her hard in those classes, though, because she's just not going to look like the english horses do. I figure consistent and slower is better than pushing, pushing, pushing. We ended up with 7th out of 12, which I felt was actually quite respectable.

Our english pleasure class had 13 horses, and I went with the same philosophy. Consistency was the plan and try to keep her head in a good place when we cantered. She was REALLY good, and her transitions were beautiful. I was very pleased with her performance, and the judge seemed to like what she saw, as she pinned us 3rd! I definitely wasn't expecting that, but I was really excited about it. We won 2 PAC points for that one.

The western classes were not spectacular. She seemed a little cranky and even though she was consistent with her speed, it was too fast, and she wasn't really happy with her bit. It's the one I always use when we show, but usually when we're training at home, I ride her in the big o-ring snaffle. She very clearly prefers that one, so I'll need to ride her more often with her show bit. We got 4th out of 11 in the stock type, 4th out of 5 in the adult class, and 7th out of 8 in the open class.

The open class was a bit of a wash because there was a very young boy on a very hot horse zooming around the ring and riding up on everyone's butt. Despite the announcer repeating that faster horses need to stay to the inside of the arena, he continued to nearly run us all over. He had zero control and couldn't keep her on the inside if he had to. He should NOT have been on that horse. I spent most of my class trying to stay out of his way.

Here's a recap of our placings:
Halter Stock Type - 3rd out of 6
Showmanship Adult - 2nd out of 5
English Walk/Trot Stock Type - 3rd out of 9 (1 PAC Point)
English Walk/Trot Adult - 7th out of 12
English Pleasure - 3rd out of 13 (2 PAC Points)
Western Walk/Jog Stock Type - 4th out of 11
Western Walk/Jog Adult - 4th out of 5
Western Walk/Jog Open - 7th out of 8

And just when I thought the day couldn't possibly get any better, they made the announcements for day champions. Lilly and I won Reserve Champion in both the Stock Type AND Adult divisions! The ribbons are gorgeous!

Lilly was better than I expected both in the ring and out. When at the trailer, she was happy to stand and munch hay. When waiting at the ring, she took many naps. She was very relaxed, very content, and just a joy to spend time with. As always, we have things to work on and I'm looking forward to having more time to ride and get her prepped for the next show. Overall, we had a great day!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Long Overdue Update

Usually when I'm a blog slacker, it's because I don't have anything to write about. The holidays are always busy, the days are short, it's cold outside (and I don't do cold very well)... but the holidays are over, the days are getting longer, and while it's still cold outside, I have ventured out a time or two.

I didn't do a 2014 recap, I didn't set 2015 goals... I just wasn't feeling it. However, it's time to stop being a slacker and get back into blogging. Show season is on its way, and soon I'll have lots to write about.

I've actually had something to write about, but never got around to writing about it. No one will be shocked by the news, since I do it all the time, but I moved Lilly to a new barn. Again.

My previous barn was increasing their boarding prices, and since I was already paying for my own feed and extra for trailer parking, I didn't feel like forking over more money. I've been concerned about the grass there anyway, so it gave me the little push I needed to start shopping around for something else.

Since I've been to just about every barn within a 20 mile radius of my home, I knew I'd have to go out a little farther than I probably wanted to, but I didn't have much choice. I checked out one place that was just awful, and then stumbled upon another place that I liked a lot.

It's not nearly as 'fancy' as I'm used to, but it has everything I need and the facilities are safe for Lilly. She has a stall, there's a wash rack, an arena, a nice tack room, and obstacles on the property so I can practice doing trail stuff. The barn owner is super nice, shares many of the same philosophies as I do, and actually RIDES. It's a small place, with 5 boarded horses, the BO's riding horse, and then an adorable little pony that she has for sale. I moved Lilly there Thanksgiving weekend and I love it.

I have to provide my own feed and hay, and prebag all the grain, but I don't mind that at all. I thought the hay storage was going to get annoying, but I have room on my pallet for about 8 bales of hay, which lasts my porker quite a while. It helps that the feed store is three minutes from the barn, so I can just "store" my hay there, and run over to buy some whenever I'm getting low. I'm saving quite a bit of money by boarding there, which is also a perk.

Shed row style barn, with wash area.
The very large arena.
Lilly in one of the pastures with her buddy, Bear.
Kat the barn cat, wanting more love before I head home.
Lilly waiting for dinner.
I mentioned my new BO actually rides, as does one of the other boarders. They're always hauling somewhere to do the trails and I happened to be at the barn one day before they hauled out. When they offered to haul Lilly with them, I jumped at the chance. We had a great time on the trails and Lilly was a super good girl. We talked about doing a lot of trail rides this year as a group, so I'm excited about having horse people to hang with and places to go ride. I was always amazed at how 'dead' the other boarding barns were. For as many people as we always boarded with, I was always riding by myself. It's nice to have people around for a change.

Me and Lilly on the left, the BO in the middle, and one of the other boarders on the right.
I also made a decision recently to switch Lilly's feed. I was feeding her the Purina Enrich Plus, but the feed store close to the barn doesn't carry Purina. My BO mentioned she feeds her piggy Tribute's Essential K, which is also a ration balancer. After comparing the two, I figured I might as well give it a shot. She was finally all the way switched over to the new feed about a week ago and seems to be doing really well.

Lilly's hooves have changed quite a bit since moving there as well. When I first got her moved, her bars grew like crazy. They were very flaky and easy to peel off, but I was surprised by how much growth she had in that one area. Since her first trim, the bar growth has slowed substantially. Her seedy toe continues to hold steady too, and I'm seeing more concavity in her hooves. The terrain there is fairly sandy, but it's not super soft, and I've seen her running like mad out there in her pasture, so I know her feet are feeling good.

Sweet pony face.
Thus far, this has been a great move for us and I'm very happy with how she is doing at her our new place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pudge Pics

Thank you all for the comments on my last post, as well as the emails. I will be taking your suggestions to my vet to see what she thinks, and then also discussing them with my trimmer after the vet visit. I'm hoping we can try some of the IR medications available and see how she does on those because I definitely agree that her issue is THAT, and her hooves are just a result. If I just focus on her hooves while her body is doing what it's doing, I'll just be spinning my wheels.

I spent some time with her yesterday and took a few pictures to share. She doesn't look quite as fat in the side pictures as she does when you look at her belly from front, but they show how she's not exactly fit.

Oink, oink...
Such a beautiful girl. <3 
Belly? What belly?!

And this one is slightly out of focus, but I love it because her ears are actually up! I was using the timer on my camera and I guess it liked the trees in the background better.

Our vet appointment is Wednesday evening, so I'll hopefully have some updates soon.

Friday, October 10, 2014

So Defeated

I'm so defeated that I'm having to force myself to write this post. I just don't feel like rehashing the same things over and over again, and having to say it all out loud, and having to decide what to do about it. I'd rather just stick my my head in a hole and disappear until everything is somehow magically better. Instead, I'm going to have to act like an adult, weigh my options, and try to come up with some kind of solution. In the meantime, I'm counting on my Blogger friends to coddle me, tell me everything will be fine, it's not a big deal, and make me feel like I'm not a complete failure, even if you think I am. Lie to me.

Over the past four weeks or so, I've noticed a few changes in my girl:

* I have noticed that she's a bit foot sore in the cross ties. They have a concrete floor, and when I walk her in, she's a bit gimpy making the turn. She's more tender on her right front than her left front, but she's slightly uncomfortable on them both.

* I have noticed that she's put on some weight. She's always been on the pudgy side of things, just because she's such an easy keeper, but she's definitely put on weight recently. If I had to guess, I'd say she's put on about 50 pounds.

* I have noticed that her hooves are starting to change shape. Her right front (seedy toe hoof) has become more upright, and her left front has become more forward. I even noticed a few days ago that the heels on her left front looked a bit 'crushed'. I had to get out my rasp and clean them up because I didn't like the way the heels looked.

Some other noteworthy tidbits include: we're having saddle issues again, it's time for fall grass, and when my trimmer was out yesterday, she had nothing to trim.

Now, keeping all those things in mind, and putting the pieces together, I'd say we're dealing with some metabolic issues induced by the wonderful fall grass.

She's put on weight, her hooves are sore, she's keeping more of her weight on her left front hoof to relieve her right front hoof, which is causing it to change shape, which is also causing body soreness and totally explains why she suddenly hates her saddle.

This has all happened over the past four weeks... prior to this, her weight looked good, we had a really nice looking hoof shape, my trimmer was using her nippers to cut off hoof growth, and while she couldn't walk down a gravel driveway, she was comfortable on surfaces I'd expect her to be ok with. Now we have none of that.

At least she's still beautiful.

If you'll recall, I had Lilly tested twice for IR. Once in the fall last year (early November) and then again this spring (early April). The fall test showed that her glucose and insulin levels were fine, but her ACTH baseline was 126. A normal reading would fall somewhere between 9-35... so she was off the chart high. My vet reassured me that numbers fluctuate wildly in the fall, and it would be a good idea to do the test again in the spring. So when we received the test results from the spring tests, I was relieved to see that her number was normal, at 17.

I guess I really don't understand what the numbers mean. I didn't question them much in the fall because my vet didn't seem concerned, and then when we had good numbers in the spring, I dismissed it. I imagine if we tested her again now, she'd show similar numbers to what we saw in November. But what does it mean if her ACTH levels are super high, but her insulin and glucose level is fine? Since we only seem to see these kind of symptoms in the fall (September - December), can she be medicated for IR just for those four months?

My vet is coming on Wednesday to do vaccines and float Lilly's teeth, so we'll have a very lengthy conversation about it. I know she's going to freak when she sees how fat my girl is.

Bottom line is her hooves are really suffering, and I can only do so much to help them if I'm fighting a losing battle with her body. I could probably manage this until January when things go back to "normal", but I need to STOP it. I know it'll improve as it did last year, but we'll spend all next year getting her back to where she needs to be just in time for it to fall apart again. The cycle will be never ending and I will completely lose my mind.

I think I'm already too far behind to stop anything. The changes are already there, and they're quite visible. So for now, I'm playing catch up, and I have to do something to make her more comfortable. My trimmer was very upset about what she saw in Lilly yesterday too, and we talked about a variety of solutions.

Option 1: Riding boots with pads - I still have my Renegades, but I'm not happy with the fit, and they can't be padded. Perhaps the riding I've been doing without boots (even though it's been in the sand arena and she seems comfortable there) has been too much and it's making her sore. Maybe simply riding her in padded boots would be enough to help her become less sore. Movement is the best medicine for bare hooves and fat bellies, but I don't want to be working her if she's not comfortable. I'm probably looking at $200 to buy her another pair of boots.

Option 2: Easyboot Glue-on - While they're not supposed to be left on for more than five days, it would provide her an option for protection during turnout, which she wouldn't get if I just purchased a pair of riding boots. Unless there's a secret boot out there I don't know about, boots just will NOT hold up in a turnout situation, especially since Lilly is turned out about 15 hours per day. I could glue on the boots, leave her in them for five days, and then take them off. I've been told I could get two or three applications out of them, so I could put them on again a few days later. They run about $25 each, plus the Sikaflex ($10), tips ($12), Adhere ($30), and fancy gun ($85). Spendy. Plus, if there is any kind of bacteria in her seedy toe (we don't think so, but who knows), it would seal all that up nice and tight.

Option 3: EasyShoes - The glue on ones are just ridiculously expensive. My trimmer told me she could show me how to apply them and it would save me some money, but it's still ridiculously expensive. If we only needed to shoe her for four months during the worst of it, I suppose I could budget somehow and spend the $1,000 it would cost me. If that's what she needed, I would do it in a heartbeat. There are, however, the EasyShoe NGs, which can be nailed on instead of glued on. My trimmer said they recommend both nails and glue, but I'd be willing to try just the nails. The shoes themselves are only $41 per pair, and nails only cost a couple cents. My trimmer doesn't do nails, though,so I'd have to find a farrier willing to come out and apply the shoes. Or, if I could find a farrier who is also a dealer, maybe he could get the shoes cheaper.

Option 4: Casts - A similar idea to the glue-ons, except a bit more permanent, and a bit less expensive. I can't remember how much I paid for a set of casts back in the day, but I'm thinking around $50. They're also something I could learn to do myself to save some money, but I would still worry about trapping any kind of bacteria in her seedy toe, and I wasn't super thrilled with casts last time we did it with Lilly. They're definitely an option to keep in mind, though.

Option 5: The dreaded steel shoe - As my trimmer has told me, this doesn't have to be an all or nothing kind of situation. If the best, most cost effective way to manage this is to put her in shoes for four months during the fall months, then we put her in shoes for four months and when January rolls around, we pull them off.

Other non-hoof related options we talked about include muzzles, moving to a new barn with a dry lot (or at the least a really crappy pasture), and simply running away from home.

She recommended that we take the 0-25 approach and start with a new pair of boots that I can pad, see how she does with those, and then go from there, rather than taking the 0-100 approach and slapping a pair of steel shoes on her.

Before I make a decision, I'm going to wait until my appointment with the vet and see what kind of information she can provide. She's always been a 'put shoes on her' kind of person, so I'm not sure I want to talk about hooves with her, but I am interested in what she has to say about the nutrition aspect of it and possible medications we could try. She'll say muzzle, muzzle, muzzle, and perhaps that can be part of the new Fall Plan that we have to implement next year to head this thing off. I'm totally open to that, although I hate the thought of my horse wearing something on her face all day during turnout with other horses.

I have so much time, money, and energy invested in this, coupled with how well she has been doing all summer, that I just feel really defeated. I've felt this way before, but we had made so much more progress this year that it just hit me really hard. I have a great team of professionals around me to help, and I do have a lot of options, so things aren't hopeless or anything, but it just really sucks.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?


In other news, I do have some good news on the Rylee front... all her digestive issues have disappeared. I found a great probiotic/digestive enzyme supplement that has worked wonders for her. She's still on the raw diet and is doing amazing.

She makes me smile.  I just love her.

Friday, September 26, 2014

We Go For A Ride!

It's been so long since I posted anything about Lilly... I've been so busy this summer... now that fall is here... blah blah blah. I just feel like skipping all of that and moving right along to the latest happenings.

There has been a lot going on in my life, but the biggest change is that I started a new job about a month ago. Well, I'm still doing the same job, but I'm no longer a contractor, which means I don't have to work weekends and holidays anymore. SUPER awesome for a number of reasons, including shows for next year. This year, it seemed most of my shows fell on the days I was working, so I won't have to worry about that anymore. I was also switched from evening shift to day shift, so I'm a day walker now. That means I can't go to the barn until the evenings, though, which is something I'm still getting used to.

One of the problems with visiting the barn in the evenings, is that when I get there, the horses are all being fed and turned out. They're still on the summer turnout schedule, so they're going outside around 5:30pm. I'm getting there around quarter after, and Lilly really isn't in the mood to be fussed with when her dinner is in her stall and her buddies are all going outside.

My attitude last night, however, was "too bad". We're going for a ride, mare. So I let her eat and then I saddled her up for a nice, easy ride on the trails behind the barn. For various reasons, I haven't ridden her since mid-March, and I've been dying to try her barefoot on the trails to see how she'd do. We've had a lot of rain, so I knew the ground would be nice and soft, and that would make it a little easier for her.

And we're off!

She was surprisingly well behaved. Not one whinny or tantrum when we lost sight of the barn and all her friends. I had prepared myself for a bit of a fight, but it never came. I was very happy with her. Her hooves did really well on the softer part of the trails, and also in the clearing with all the grass, but when she'd step on a tree root, or a pinecone, or some other random obstacle on her path, she was pretty tender footed. After gingerly walking over an area with stones, I decided we weren't quite ready for the big time yet, at least not out on the trails, so I'll need to get her boots out and get them going again.

I only took her about half way and then decided to head back to the barn. On our way back, she started doing her head shaking thing that she does when she's uncomfortable with her saddle. For you long time readers, you'll remember how she used to do this many years ago, but I haven't had an issue with it since buying this current saddle. I'm terribly frustrated right now, but I'm hoping it's more that she was uncomfortable on her feet and perhaps compensating somehow... or that she's just a bit overweight (she is) and the saddle wasn't fitting quite right. I adjusted it a couple times, but she wasn't happy with it. I took her back to the arena and rode her around bareback in there for a bit.

At one point, I was feeling brave stupid and decided to ask her to lope. She stepped right off and we had a nice little ride around the arena. She was super good. It makes me so happy that I can go 7 months without riding her, hop on, and enjoy a relaxing evening with her.

Smooches for my sweet girl.

One last thing... Renegades. For those of you with a pair of these monsters, are they ever the same after you adjust them? Can you actually get them to function once you 'break the seal' on the cables? I had to looosen mine up for the trail ride in March and they've never been the same since. The barn is planning another ride in November, but there's no way we can go without the boots. Any tips or tricks? I just can't seem to get my cables to stay tight anymore.

Hope you've all been well!