Thursday, March 31, 2011

Massage #2

Lilly's massage therapist came out for another visit today. It's been rainy and cold, so Lilly has been locked up in the stall for the last day and a half while I attempt to keep her shoes attached to her feet. I wasn't sure if that was going to play a part in today's massage or not.

It didn't seem to, as Lilly was a much better this time around. I think the "why is this strange lady touching me all over in ways I don't like" attitude was gone, so she seemed to enjoy it more. She didn't fall asleep or even ever really relax, but she was much more calm and didn't resist the techniques as much.

She was a little sore along her spine, and she was still showing some symptoms in her neck on the left side. Otherwise "V" was able to work the other areas until Lilly showed some kind of release.

V likes me to leave her lead rope as loose as possible so Lilly can react however necessary and move if she needs to, but Lilly being Lilly, ends up wanting to walk over here, and sniff over there. It's hard to tell if she's getting anything out of this since she hardly ever pays attention to what's actually going on.

Tomorrow is the one week anniversary of Lilly being off grain. Maybe it contributed to her behavior today!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Good Ride

Riding has been hit or miss lately with all this rain we've been having. The next 3 days look wet as well, so I took advantage of today's sunshine and went to the barn to ride Lilly.

She gets a little better each time I take her on the trail. She still wants to hurry on the way back but after a few circles she agrees to walk, albeit very quickly. We saw a lot of wildlife today and for the first time she didn't spook when the heron flew up from the pond. I don't know if she's just getting used to the surroundings or if she's improving and getting better about being on the trail by herself.

Either way, we had a great ride today. :)

A quick note about my new irons... Today was the second day I've ridden in them and I love them more each time I ride. On the first day, right away I noticed that I could really relax my leg. Before, it seemed like there was always tension in my legs because I was straining to hold them in a certain position. Why I was doing that, I don't know, but I'm able to relax my leg without feeling any pressure on my ankles or knees, and in turn I can relax my whole body. They also have a larger base than my other irons, so it feels like there's more support and my overall position just feels more secure.

I have them turned to the 90 degree position and I haven't had any ankle or knee pain. For my first ride with these new irons, my ankles had been sore thanks to the "show from hell", but they felt really comfortable and didn't make them hurt more. The real test will be when I ride in them at a horse show, but so far they're great!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Going Grain Free

Let me just preface this by letting everyone know how appreciative I am of all your comments and suggestion. Some of you even take the time to email me privately to voice concerns, give suggestions, and even share personal stories. Your real world experience is priceless to me, and I thank you very much for sharing!

As you well know, I have been struggling with Lilly's nutritional needs... again. Trying to figure out what those needs are has been my latest obsession and it has taken me to a place I never thought I'd be.

I've decided to go grain free.

Here's why.

1. Going back to August, Lilly was being fed 1.5 lbs of SafeChoice (SC) per day. SC is a pelleted feed made by Nutrena that I had heard really good things about and it was one of the options at our new barn. I hadn't really given feed that much thought at the time, and she seemed to be doing very well on it. Because of nutritional challenges I was facing with AJ, I started looking more into nutrition and after realizing that in order for Lilly to get what she needed out of the SC, she would need to be fed at least 6 lbs per day. Feeding her 6 lbs of grain per day would definitely have caused her to gain weight, so I took the advice of the Purina guy and switched her over to Strategy Healthy Edge (SHE). She was being fed 4 lbs of that per day and she completely lost her mind.

2. She was back on stall rest at this point, and I decided it must be related to the SHE because her behavior was not normal and that was the only major change in her life. I switched her back to the SC. She went back to being her sweet, calm self, but I think it was too late at that point. She had probably already developed an attachment to Baby, and most likely ulcers.

3. She was back to being fed SC when M and I moved our horses to our current barn. Little did I know, she wasn't eating her grain and I'm still suspicious that she was being fed Strategy. We all know how the first show went, and she was again acting like she had when she was on SHE. The second show was even worse.

I've really been thinking about how all these issues and problems she's been having are most likely ALL related. Perhaps the SHE caused the worry, anxiety, and attachment to Baby, which caused the ulcers, which caused her not to eat, which causes all kinds of other issues because she's not getting the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals that may actually help her!

If only I had a PhD is horse nutrition.

So the first thing I've been wanting to do is address the ulcers. There could be a lot of reasons she's not eating, but when you add it all up, ulcers sound like a pretty good diagnosis. My vet will scope her for around $300, and prescribe a month's worth of GastroGard for an additional $1,000. We could skip the scoping and start her on a week's worth of GastroGard which is about the same as the cost of the scoping. We would know if she has ulcers by her response to the medication. OR, she said I could try a more conservative route, take her off the grain for about 2 weeks and feed her alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is high in calcium and helps raise the pH of the stomach making it less acidic.

After giving it all much thought, I decided to take the "no grain" option and run with it. She's on a great pasture and is fed an appropriate amount of hay. Since she's not interested in her grain anyway, I'm swapping it out with alfalfa pellets. The BO doesn't want outside hay on his property, so actual alfalfa hay is out, and I thought the pellets would seem more like "grain" to her when she's eating than the cubes. Plus, they don't need to be soaked.

She tends to be a pretty easy keeper, isn't worked very hard, and is nervous by nature, so we can go from 18% NSC in the SC to about 9% in the alfalfa pellets. I'll be supplementing her with SmartVite from SmartPak so she's able to get all the vitamins and minerals she needs. I'll keep a close eye on her weight and I may end up needing to supplement her with beet pulp or something else for calories.

I'm still researching and figuring out exactly what I want her to have an how much, but since Friday she's been off grain completely. Alfalfa pellets, grass, coastal bermuda hay, and her supplements are the only things going into her tummy. Well, that and cookies.

Anyone else gone grain free, or given it some thought? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

She Does Listen!

Today was trail ride number 2 for Lilly and she did really well. She did a lot better than last time, and I wasn't expecting so much improvement so quickly. Kind of makes me wonder, ya know?

We went all the way out and all the way back without a single whinny! That in itself is huge, I think. There were even a couple horses on the property that whinnied when she left and then when she came into sight again, but Lilly never responded. Not even a squeal.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. She was still pretty nervous and she kept looking behind her but we moved forward without issue. I took her around the trails in a different direction to mix things up a bit.

When we got to the turnaround spot we stopped. She didn't want to stop, and she stomped that foot of her once or twice, but she stood still. She actually had both ears on me for a change. At one point she even rested her hind leg. There wasn't nearly as much head tossing either.

At different points along our trek back I stopped her. I made her stand still and when she was calm and not chomping on the bit, we'd move forward. I think we only had to circle 3 or 4 times, and it only took about 3 circles before she'd stop. She did pop up once when she got really frustrated, but I got after her and we moved on. There was a point in our journey back that I had my hand on the buckle and she was walking along like a good girl! She was MOVING, but she was walking, and that's all I want from her at this point.

The biggest difference in today versus our last ride was that she was actually listening! She'd start to trot and I would tell her to walk and she would walk, without the circle forcing her to. If I said stand still, she'd stand... not happily, but her feet weren't moving. It was a major change, and I was really happy with her today.

The previous ride had her so worked up that she was really sweaty. Today she wasn't even sweaty underneath her saddle, so she was much more at ease. The little love tingles I have for her are slowly returning. :)

In other news, my new irons finally came today. Hopefully I'll have a chance to ride in them tomorrow and see how they feel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lonesome Trail Ride

Before getting into the nitty gritty details of my ride today, and all the other drama that comes along with Lilly, I wanted to show you my new saddle pad! I've been wanting a monogrammed pad for a long time and the one I had been eyeballing on Dover's website went on sale. Save $20? Don't mind if I do!

Personalized!
Now for the drama...

My plan was to ride Lilly yesterday, but when I got to the barn she was missing another shoe. This time it was the shoe from her bad hoof and she took a bit of hoof off in the process. When my farrier put her other shoe back on last week, he had to use a bit of filler, and it appears he had to use the filler on this hoof too. For those of you playing the home game, that makes 2 ripped off shoes in less than a week's time.

The mare is wearing bell boots 24/7, but she's been out on pasture board since last week. I don't know if she's running around out there in the pasture after the other horses come in or what, but something is going on out there. Since I'm still tossing around and experimenting with the whole ulcer thing, I was trying to weigh the benefits of having an ulcer free pasture mare, or a mare with hooves. I opted for the mare with hooves, so she's back on stall board at least until the bar shoes can come off, and then I'll reassess.

While I was at it, I decided to move Lilly's stall. She was on the end stall across from Baby. I wanted her there for the view, the breeze, and so she'd stay calm because her soul mate is there with her. Since I'm done catering to her highness' every whim, however, I had the BO move her down about 4 stalls so she can't see Baby anymore. Assigned tack lockers for those stalls are in the other room and are bigger anyway... bonus for me!

The BO and I also made the decision to start feeding the SmartPak in the evening when Lilly comes in at night. I was able to determine that Lilly didn't like her SmartTendon supplement and that's why she wasn't eating breakfast (for the most part). She's been on that supplement for months, so I'm not sure why she suddenly decided she doesn't like it anymore. Either way, we thought she might get bored/hungry enough during the night to eat her grain. This morning the BO told me she ate all her grain last night and all her supplement-free grain this morning, so it looks like we might have that figured out as well. He did comment that she was NOT happy about being put in a stall that far away from Baby, but this morning she seemed fine and didn't get nervous or excited like she usually does.

This doesn't mean I'm going to quit pursuing the ulcer route, though, because I think it's still a good possibility that she has them. As Cowgirls mentioned in my post from yesterday, perhaps a dose of UlcerGard before the show would benefit her. I have a call into my vet to see what she thinks the best course of action is and we'll go from there.

Regarding calming supplements and paste, I'm really a bit torn on the subject. Regu-Mate has been suggested as a solution as well, but I don't think she needs it under normal circumstances. This is new behavior for her and I'd rather fix the problem, instead of mask it with drugs or supplements. In the end, I did decide to order a calming supplement because I think it might help with all the other little issues she has going on, but I'm not sure it will make a difference with her attachment to Baby.

As far as trailering her alone or going to the shows by myself as SillyPony suggested, if I had any money left to bet, I would bet that she'd be fine if we were there by ourselves. I have a show the first weekend in May that M isn't going to, so we'll see how she does being there by herself. I'm not sure about trailering separate. That's something we'd have to try, and unfortunately, the next show we're planning to go to together is the Paint show... we'll be trailering separate so we each have our own sleeping quarters, but if that doesn't work either and Lilly is loco for the whole weekend, I'd rather not go. By then it'll be too late, of course, but with a show like that you also have to worry about stalls. Do we stall them in separate barns?

It's just a bummer because it really is a lot of fun showing with M. I've been showing by myself for so long...

As to JJ's point about isolation, it really got me thinking. Lilly has had many pasture buddies over the years and we've never had a problem like this, but it just hit me today that they've all been geldings. There was a time a few years back when she was pastured with another mare for a week while some horse swapping was going on, and she got VERY attached to her as well. I never had issues with her when she was with the boys, so there seems to be something about mares that causes her to lose her mind.

Sam asked if Lilly is still pastured with Baby, and she is. There's a giant herd of geldings, the four mares, and then the barn owner's horses have their own pasture isolated from the boarded horses. My only option would be to put her in with the BO's horses. They have a mix of geldings and mares, but I really don't think he would be open to the idea of putting Lilly in with them. As I become more desperate, though, I might have to beg.

The other comments from Paint Girl, Mare, Kate, and Milo were centered around motivating her with work, letting her work herself out of it, and ignoring the behavior. The biggest challenge for me in that regard is that she's good at home. Even if she's out of Baby's sight, she's ok... I can work her in the round pen, in the arena, and tie her up inside the barn and she's ok. When she's in an unfamiliar area, though, she really gets anxious. She's also not very motivated by rest... the reward for her seems to be moving rather than resting, but I will admit I haven't worked her to the point of exhaustion because I haven't had a need to (until now, perhaps). Once she is exhausted, as she seemed to be on Saturday, she starts right back up again once she catches her breath. I ignored her for hours at the trailer on Saturday but the screaming never stopped. I'm not sure how long it would take for that to actually get old with her... I'm guessing days, especially since the bad behavior got worse instead of better as the day went on.

I have a feeling this will take some time to fix, but hopefully I'll be able to work through her issues and start enjoying my horse again!

Today I decided to take her out for our first solo trail ride in a long time. I took all of your suggestions to heart and I tried to erase from my mind any expectations that I might have about the ride and what Lilly might do.

I started in the arena and we just walked around for a bit. She was relaxed and worked as well as she always does in there. Once we left the arena, she started looking over towards the pasture and I asked her to side pass... it was just something to take her mind off the other horses and put her focus back on me. We did that quite a few times as we made our way down the trail. It winds along the pastures for a bit, and then goes out behind a pond, always allowing Lilly to still see the pastures and her buddies. She was nervous and alert but walked as I asked her to. She kept looking behind her, I think to check and see if there were any horses following her.

Once we were on the wooden hidden part of the trail, her behavior changed. The first thing she started to do was whinny. I remembered the suggestions about ignoring the whinny as long as she was still doing what I asked, so I let her whinny as we walked along. I heard Baby whinny back a few times, but then as we got farther and farther away, the return whinnies stopped. Lilly's whinnies got shorter and shorter until she was making these pitiful little squeal sounds that were rather humorous. Eventually, she stopped altogether and we were having a nice little walk. She was still very alert and jumped when something would rustle in the woods, but she was being a really good girl. I made sure to scratch her withers and tell her what a good girl she was as frequently as I could.

She did really well when we got to the creek and focused completely on me, waiting for direction about how to cross the water safely. She didn't jump or rush, but instead took her time and got us across exactly how I asked her to. More praise for being such a good girl.

The trail is really just a big loop, and once we were at the top of the loop heading back in the direction of the barn, she had a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

I had made the decision to stop and rest. My original intent was to rub all over her and tell her what a good girl she was being. She was more interested in getting back to her friends, though, and when I wouldn't allow her to move along, she started spinning around in circles, throwing her head, stomping her feet, and then she started to rear. They were fairly small hops, but she did it 3 different times, and that is behavior I'm not going to ignore. We had a coming to Jesus meeting right there in the woods, and when the meeting was over, she was standing still, waiting for direction.

The entire way back to the barn was a struggle. She wanted to trot and I wanted her to walk, and when I didn't give in, she would throw her head up in the air, side pass all over the trail, and prance around. Rather than constantly pulling back asking for a walk, I turned her in a very tight circle until she stopped moving her feet. As soon as she stopped, I released and we stood still until she was calm. Then we'd move on again. This went on and on and on, but eventually we needed fewer circles until she stopped moving her feet.

Saturday she got an F, and today I give her a C-.

So for now, the fitness stuff we've been working on is on hold. Instead, I'm planning to take her out trail rides and hopefully we'll make more and more progress each time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

JCHSS Recap

Good times or bad times, the original reason I started this blog was to keep track of Lilly's progress in the show ring. Saturday was definitely not one of the good times, but hopefully one day I'll look back and read this post with a smile on my face.

So far, no smile... but I've managed to pull myself up out of the dumps enough to document the day's events.

For the past 16 months I've been looking forward to getting back into showing. Even with all the other short term goals we've had because of the numerous setbacks we've encountered, getting back into the show ring has always been the ultimate goal. Every time I think I'm almost there and I start running towards that goal, someone throws down a giant brick wall and I slam right into it. I dust myself off, bandage my wounds, and start heading that way again, doing whatever it takes to get us there.

Lately, that goal has been closer than ever... I can see it, but I still can't quite touch it. Saturday was just another brick wall, and it's getting more and more difficult to keep picking myself up and starting over again.

Without trying to sound like a drama queen, Saturday has really had an effect on me. I have never been as frustrated with her as I was on Saturday, and we have shared many frustrating times together, including this gem of a weekend many years ago.

This isn't about her trotting too fast, or her not carrying her head where I want it, or even how she screamed and pawed at the trailer all day long. This is a serious, even dangerous, problem that I absolutely have no idea how to fix.

I can make excuses for her all day long, and I do it all the time. Oh, she was in the stall all night and she's just full of energy... she's been on and off stall rest for 15 months and has been through a lot lately.... it's possible she's in heat this weekend... maybe it's the grain, maybe she has ulcers, maybe she's just having a bad day...

If there's a legitimate, physical reason for her to be acting out, that's one thing, but we all know that when it comes to horses, even if there is a reason, sometimes there's no excuse for certain behavior.

Here's how the weekend went.

Friday night I clipped her, gave her a bath, and banded her mane. She was a really good girl compared to how she acted when I got her ready for our first show. She even seemed slightly interested in her grain, which is something she hasn't had much interest in at all lately. She stayed in her stall for the night and didn't seem upset at all when I left. Saturday morning I got there early and took her out to the round pen to exercise her a bit. She seemed pretty mellow so I let her eat grass until M arrived and got Baby ready. We loaded up and headed out to the show grounds.

Because of my constant begging for M to take Baby in halter, she finally signed her up. We were running a little late, so shortly after we got to the grounds, Baby left Lilly standing at the trailer all by herself to go into her halter classes.

Baby was much better this time around than she was last time, and after a few cries for Lilly during her halter class she quieted down. I thought maybe that would help Lilly relax as well, but despite the fact that she had a full bag of hay, she just screamed and pawed at the trailer until it was time for us to head up for showmanship.

Baby won her stock type halter class, the championship halter class, AND the "Best of Show" halter class. Perhaps M will put her in more halter classes now!

Baby, looking good as always!
M also entered Baby in showmanship, so we had both horses near the arena practicing our patterns. I tried to keep Lilly at the opposite end of the warm up area to keep her away from Baby as much as possible. She wasn't being horrible, but she always had one ear or one eye cocked toward Baby's direction, and I never really had her full attention. She continued to whinny every so often even though Baby was standing right there, so when she did, I made her back up. It didn't seem to make a difference...

We had the same showmanship pattern as the first show, but here it is again for a refresher:

I had already decided that I was going to blow the class if Lilly acted up. I wasn't going to let her whinny without repercussions, and if she did something else, I was going to take the time to correct her behavior. M and I decided that I should go in first and then she'd do her pattern after me.

We actually had a really good pattern until we were doing the inspection part of the pattern. After the judge walked around and I was getting ready to do my last crossover, Lilly decided to step sideways and move her body over so she could get a good look at Baby standing ready at the cone. "Here we go." I thought. So I moved her back over, set her back up and then "presented" her to the judge again assuming we had blown our chances of placing. The judge finished walking around us and gave me the signal to finish my pattern. Lilly nailed her pivot and we walked back into line.

Baby was actually quite a bit worse than Lilly and her sidesteps were much more exaggerated. They ended up a bit far from the judge, so I figured we both were out of the ribbons.

When the placings were announced, my number was called for second place. I was quite surprised because there were 10 entries in the class and at least 3 other patterns looked better than mine. If I was the 3rd and 4th place entries, I would have been upset. You never know what the judge is looking for, but it seems a screw up like mine would have knocked us down quite a bit. When I left the arena, I was approached by a spectator who told me he had me pegged for first and thought I got cheated. Was I the only one who saw her move sideways?

I took Lilly over to the far end of the warm up area again while M took Baby back to the trailer. Every time Lilly whinnied, I backed her up, and every time she tried to hurry herself back to the trailer leaving me behind, I backed her up. It took us a while to get back to the trailer, but when all was said and done, she was walking like a lady with her mouth shut.

The noodle head...
The two mares shared a hay bag while M and I ate lunch... all was quiet for a while until it was time to get Baby ready for western. Since M was going to take Baby up to the arena for warm-up, I thought it would be a good time to work with Lilly on her pawing and screaming. Of course she wouldn't paw while I was standing there, so I untied her from the trailer and stood with her waiting for her to whinny. It seemed to work okay earlier, so when she did whinny, I backed her and backed her and then backed her some more.

It didn't seem to work this time. She'd whinny, I'd back her up, she'd be quiet, then she'd whinny again... we must have worked on this for about 45 minutes, but it wasn't making a difference. All this took place behind the trailer along the fence line out of view, but somehow it seemed I was drawing a few nosy spectators, so I tied her back up to the trailer. I wanted to go watch M's classes anyway.

Baby did really well. Not a peep came from her cute little nose and she performed like a superstar. She didn't place as well as I thought she should, but she was in the ribbons and she looked great!

At least someone was a good girl!
Meanwhile, back at the trailer, miss mouth never stopped whinnying and she had quite a hole dug in the dirt from pawing. She had a hay bag the entire day, but never ate out of it unless Baby was at the trailer with her.

This all happened at the first show too, so I wasn't letting it bother me too much because I was expecting her to perform much better once she was under saddle. M was showing Baby in hunt seat too, so we got our horses ready and made our way to the arena for our 15 minute warm up.

I took Lilly in the arena and she came unglued... she started chomping on the bit, avoiding it however she could, and she started prancing wildly at both the trot and the canter, refusing to walk. She was throwing her head up and swinging her hind end wildly, trying to side pass to the other side of the arena where Baby was. There were a lot of horses in there warming up so I exited as soon as I safely could and took her out to the warm up area instead.

The meltdown continued there, but escalated slightly as I worked her in circles trying to get her to round up a bit and listen to my cues. The light pressure I had on her mouth trying to get her to give seemed to piss her off more, and she would sling her head in the air as high as it would go. So more circles and more circles, although they weren't very round because she was constantly side passing in the direction of Baby. No matter what I did, she always had one ear cocked in her direction, and I might was well have been invisible. If I managed to get her to stop (by pinning her between two trees) she would scream and stomp her front feet.

After realizing I had a good 8 classes before I was to go in, I decided to try something I had never tried before... I took her back to the trailer, removed her bridle, put her halter back on and longed the hell out of her. I longed her at the canter until she seemed like she couldn't go anymore, and when she was lathered up and had that exhausted look in her eye, I stopped her and offered her some water.

Do you know that she screamed for Baby with her nose IN THE WATER BUCKET?!

That told me she still wasn't tired enough so I longed her some more at the canter. Then I decided to take her over to the warm up area and longe her there. That way if she screamed for Baby, or even looked at Baby, I could push her to move faster.

I only had about 2 classes before mine at this point so I took her back to the trailer to get her ready for our classes. She was completely lathered on her neck, and was dripping sweat from everywhere else. I was hoping I had worked the stink right out of her.

It was only a few minutes later when we got back to the warm-up area that she picked right back up where she left off and was back at her antics once again. Prancing, side passing, slinging her head and avoiding the bit. She was screaming and pawing.  She's never been a horse you could "wear out" by longing or working.  I've tried it in the past and as soon as she catches her breath, she's right back at it again.  I was out of ideas, though, and it seemed this one didn't work either.

I thought about scratching my classes but in the end decided to take her in anyway and hope for the best. She did the same thing in the class as she had been doing all afternoon, although I managed to keep her on the rail by riding her completely sideways, with her nose wrapped around my leg. We never did walk during our 3 classes... prancing was all she did.

I was invisible to her. She didn't care what I did, her focus was on Baby and nothing else. It was a disturbing obsession... especially since Baby was right there in the class with us, or right there in the warm-up area. By the end of my last riding class I was fighting back tears... frustration had set in, she had won, and I was out of ideas. 
My body ached, I had blisters on my fingers, and I just wanted to be rid of her.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

JCHSS #1

M and I took our horses to the Johnston County show on Saturday, but Lilly was SO bad that I still don't feel like blogging about it... she had me on the verge of tears by the end of the day. So frustrating.

"Herd bound" doesn't even begin to cover it.

I look innocent, but I'm a brat!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eat, Horse! EAT!

Last night was Lilly's first official night on pasture board. So was it a success? Of course not! This is Lilly we're talking about.

First of all, she lost her shoe at some point during the night. She was wearing her bell boots and still managed to rip off her left shoe anyway (the good hoof). The damage wasn't too bad, and my farrier came out this evening and put one back on. So instead of riding, I spent the morning searching her pasture for a lost shoe... unsuccessfully.

The BO told me that Lilly ate about half her grain this morning and then tried to steal her pasture buddy's food. When they chased her off she just left her grain and went off to eat grass. So the problem with this situation is going to be that she's not locked up in the stall with her grain at night to snack on. That means there's a good chance she won't be getting nearly as much grain, or supplements.

So I realize it was only one night, and she will need some time to get used to the new routine, but I'm not hopeful that this is going to work either. From what they said, she was calm and content, but just didn't have an interest in her grain after eating about half of it. There's some other reason she's not eating and I don't know what it is yet, but we can probably eliminate anxiety.

The BO thinks that cutting her feed back is the answer... you know, I guess because then I can't complain that she's not eating all her grain. Just cut back the amount she's not eating and voila! No more issue! He thinks she's just not hungry, but 2 lbs is really not that much to eat at a time, and I've never had a problem getting her to eat grain. What horse turns down grain even if they're not hungry? And not hungry for 6 weeks?

He also seems to be very tired of me bringing up the fact that the grain is different. Not only is it a different color, but the pellets are a different size. I don't need a lecture about soybeans and corn to know that she's not eating SafeChoice. Either way, it sounds like he's only going to get it from TSC from now on (and hopefully he doesn't fill the barrel with Strategy).

My next experiment is with her supplements. She's on a supplement for her coat and skin called Nu-Image, and while the description says 'crumble', it's really more of a sawdust texture. She's pretty picky about powdery stuff and perhaps she's just developed an aversion to that...? So tomorrow the BO is going to feed all her supplements excluding that one, and see if she has more interest in eating.

I'm grasping at straws...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pasture Board

After talking some more with the BO, it has been brought to my attention that Lilly hasn't really been eating her breakfast since she arrived. So, for about 6 weeks my horse has not been eating as she should. Glad someone told me!

Is it anxiety, is it ulcers, is it the food, or is she just so fed up with stalls that she's afraid she's going to be left in after everyone is turned out? Maybe it's a little bit of everything, I don't know, but it's time to start experimenting.

Ulcers
She was really stressed out those last few months in the stall when we were doing the shock wave. She was also eating the Strategy HE that I didn't like, and did calm down a bit after I swapped her back to SC, but she spent a lot of time in distress and not eating.

This new place doesn't feed hay before they feed. The hay goes outside when the horses do, so let's say she finishes her grain and hay in the evening around midnight. They feed again at ~8:00am so she's been quite a few hours without anything in her tummy.

Food
Don't care what anyone says, she was eating Strategy but she's finally back to eating the SC. She doesn't like Strategy any more than I do!

Hates the Stall
She was on and off stall rest for the better part of 15 months. I tend to think that she's terrified of being left in the stall in the morning, so she stands at her door to make sure no one forgets her. After all, the grain will be waiting for her when she gets back, right?

The Plan
I'm not thrilled with her being without food for so long if what we're dealing with IS ulcers. I'm also not a fan of her ingesting 4lbs of grain in the evening and 0lbs in the morning. That's just not healthy. So to try and kill two birds with one stone, I've requested that they put Lilly on pasture board.

This way, she's out of the stall 24/7 and doesn't have to worry about being left behind. She can eat her breakfast outside, snack on hay and grass, eat her dinner, and snack on grass all night long until breakfast again in the morning. The pasture they're on now is actually really nice and there's quite a bit of grass to eat.

She'll be outside with the low horse, so I won't have to worry about her grain being stolen. She'll also be separated from Baby and her other buddy, Cocoa, so maybe that will help us out in regards to the herd bound issue we seem to be having. The stall will still be mine, so they'll bring her in on wet days (with Baby) until the giant hole in her hoof has grown out, and I can use it for nights when I have a show.

In May when they switch the rotation and the horses stay in during they day, I'll put her back on stall board and see how she does.

I'm trying to appease the princess. I hope it works.

In AJ news, he's doing very well. He and Justus are getting along great and my mom said she can't tell who is boss. They're just best buddies, which is great! My dad spoils Justus by giving him a banana every morning, but he didn't know AJ likes them too. Of course AJ made sure everyone knows he also likes bananas, so they were having to share the banana for a while. My mom told me today that my dad has decided to buy TWO bunches of bananas so each horse can have his own. Spoiled rotten, both of them!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Riding In Our New Saddle

Lilly wanted me to show you a picture of her new saddle, so while she posed I took a couple pictures.

I love my new saddle!
I was hoping to see a bit of a difference in Lilly today because of her massage yesterday. I didn't expect I would, but it would have been nice if I did. The only big difference I noticed was the amount of gas she was passing... gross, I know, but it has definitely increased since before her massage. I'm assuming that's a good thing!

Since I have my new saddle and it's ready to go, we worked in the arena under saddle. Lilly was really good and wasn't looking to the outside nearly as often as she used to. The problem with this whole massage thing is I'm going to be analyzing every little thing she does wondering if the two are related. Was it just more comfortable for her prior to the massage to carry her head to the left, or was she just having a good day?

Hard to say...

When we worked on trotting she went very well, staying fairly consistent as far as speed goes. She only only "fell apart" a few times, and with a few half halts and some leg pressure, she was back to carrying herself round.

Our cantering was not so nice, however. She was strung out all over the place and very fast. I'm going to have to work more on cantering in the round pen, I think, until she can balance herself again. We have another show on Saturday, but I'll only be taking her in walk/trot. We have a bit of work to do before we're back to canter classes.

In other news, I ordered myself a pair of these:

MDC Sport Classic Aluminum Base Stirrup Irons
Thanks to the Marine Corps I have a bum left knee. At the show last Saturday, by the end of my last class, my ankle was killing me. I believe my poor ankle compensates for my knee, and it gets very uncomfortable, very quickly. They have an adjustable top, so you can ride with them in a normal position, or rotated 45 degrees or 90 degrees. They claim to "Improve leg, calf and foot position, relieve pressure in ankles, knees, and hips because these stirrups come to you, instead of you trying to find them." I've read good things about these irons, and for the price I hope they work!

I ordered them from my new favorite online store: Adams Horse Supply. I ordered my saddle there and a few other things as well and their prices are the best. They were almost $20 cheaper than Dover and SmartPak, and they offer free shipping on orders over $100.

I'm using my old leathers until the new irons arrive, but I'm very excited to try it all out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lilly Gets A Massage

My saddle came on Friday, but it was such a busy day that I didn't have time to do much with it except open the box, caress it, and confess my love for it. And did you know that you're supposed to coat the thing in oil before using it? So Saturday morning I ran out and found some Pessoa oil, coated it, and now I need to let it soak in for 24-48 hours. Hopefully I can ride in it tomorrow. :)

One more thing before I get to the massage... I've been working Lilly in the round pen trying out all the different methods to get her to WALK when I politely ask her to. Yesterday I free longed her and used the turns to make her change direction when she wouldn't walk. Well, Lilly thinks she's smart, and she has this whole round pen thing figured out.

She doesn't like going around to the right, so that's the way I've been working her the most. She started off walking and then proceeded to trot as she always does. I asked her to walk and she ignored me, so I used my dressage whip and made her change directions. Now she's trotting the other direction, so I ask her to walk again... she ignores me and I have her change direction. We did this a few times until she finally walked going to the left. So I tell her she's a good girl and let her walk around for a while.

Going nicely to the left isn't what we need to work on, though, so I ask her to change directions back to the right. She starts trotting again, I ask her to walk, she ignores me, we change directions. We played this game a few more times and she decides to walk to the left.

I let her walk for a bit, turn her back to the right, she starts to trot, we change directions back to the left, and she walks. So she's figured out that if she trots to the right, I'll have her change directions, and as long as she's walking, she can keep going to the left.

I don't know why she just can't cooperate.

Moving on to the massage. The message therapist, I'll refer to her as "V", had requested that I withhold food from Lilly for at least 30 minutes before she arrived. Our appointment was at 10:30, so I brought Lilly in at around 9:50, and groomed her to pass the time. V didn't actually show up until 11:05, so Lilly had been standing in the cross ties for over an hour without any food, and no cookies (the horror!), so she was a little irritated from standing around for no apparent reason.

V took notes as I went over the extensive history regarding Lilly's medical issues. Yes, she had to flip over her paper... (normally I would insert an 'LOL' there, but it really isn't funny) Once we were done with that, V got to work. Lilly didn't know what to think at first and was looking here and there, not really paying attention. V wanted me to keep the lead rope slack and let Lilly do what she wanted to do, but it was driving me crazy.

We didn't really see a reaction from her until V started working on her neck. About a hand's length up from Lilly's withers she was very tight and sore. When V was working that area, Lilly pinned her ears, stomped her back foot, and swished her tail. We only got that reaction on Lilly's right side, though, which is good because V said it is most likely muscular in nature and not skeletal (which would require another visit by the chiropractor).

V said Lilly's 'badonkadonk' was also very tight and sore and while I could tell Lilly was trying to be a good girl, V ran out of time and Lilly let her know she was done back there. She never did anything bad, but she kept moving away and stomping her feet. V said if Lilly is uncomfortable or anticipating pain, the massaging isn't going to do her any good, so she switched to the other side.

Lilly's girth area on her left side caused her some discomfort as well as her hindquarters on that side, but we didn't have the reactions we did on the right side. Lilly did a lot of licking her lips throughout the process, although I never really saw any signs from her that she was enjoying what was going on. She did attempt to groom me a few times when V was working on her back, but she loves a good scratch there so I think it was more related to that than the massaging itself.

Overall, V said Lilly was a good candidate for massage therapy because she found her to be extremely tense and tight and thinks the MT could definitely benefit her in a lot of different ways. When I asked her about ulcers, she gave me the usual "I'm not a vet" speech, but pretty much said she'd be surprised if Lilly didn't have them because of the stall rest and the tension in her body. She also didn't work much on Lilly's belly area because Lilly showed a lot of discomfort there. V said she wouldn't want people poking at her belly either, but future sessions will incorporate that area a little more once she's used to the procedure and begins to relax more.

I'm going to work on those few problem areas until our next massage, so hopefully it goes better the second time around. I'm going to do some research on ulcers and determine if it's okay to treat horses as if they have them, or if she needs to be scoped first. I'm not sure if the vet would recommend scoping her just because, or if it's really necessary, but I want to be a bit more informed before I call to talk to her.

I'm going to adjust her supplements and perhaps replace her Ultra-Elite Digest with SmartGut... and I'm considering adding SmartCalm to see if it will help her relax.

Maybe then she'll walk when I ask her to..?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

High NSC = Hot Horse

I'm still dealing with the grain issue at the barn, but I hope we're making some progress.

I went over yesterday to organize my tack and unload some of the items from the show and the BO was there. He mentioned that there hadn't been much progress with Lilly's eating even though we left our own grain for them to feed her. After a little discussion, we thought perhaps having Lilly's feed pan on the floor was doing more harm than good because if her head is down, she can't see what's going on. Also, if she's pawing, maybe she's getting shavings and stuff in her grain that makes it seem less tasty.

I had him take out the feeder when we first arrived because it's too tall for her. She can't really get her head in there very well to eat and I was seeing some grain left in the corners. So no feeder and no feed pan means... a bucket? So we hung a bucket on the front of her stall and he was going to feed her in there.

Last night I sent an email to the female half of the BO asking how they feed the horses in the morning. If Lilly is getting too excited to eat, is she being fed last? Are they waiting until she's done eating before they take horses out? I told her I was concerned that Lilly wasn't eating and I thought she was looking a bit on the thin side, not to mention I wondered what they do with the morning grain since that's where all her supplements are.

She emailed back to let me know that Lilly eats second and the horses all have about 20 minutes to eat. She said Lilly ate about half her feed this morning and then stood by the door to be let outside. Lilly is eating all her night time grain now, so they've been adding her breakfast grain (and supplements) to her dinner grain. She thinks Lilly looks great but has been giving her a little bit more hay just in case. Supposedly they refilled the grain barrel with a new bag of SafeChoice but she's still not eating like she should.

I had to see for myself so I went over to the barn today and checked the grain barrel. There was still Strategy on top, but when I dug down into the grain I found SafeChoice. I pulled a bunch of it up and mixed it in with the Strategy on top.

I sent her a reply email telling her all about high NSC value feeds and how they contribute to all kinds of issues with horses, most notably making the horses hyper. I'm not sure if she cares, but I have to get my point across somehow. I firmly believe that they've been feeding Lilly and Baby Strategy (probably when they ran out of SafeChoice since it's easier to get all one kind of grain), which has turned Lilly into a fruit loop. That's why she's not eating in the morning... she's too hyper with everything that's going on and is worried about being left behind. I've seen how she acts when she's on Strategy, and her attitude has changed quite drastically, and I'm convinced it's the feed.

Either they continue to buy SafeChoice, or I'll go get it myself and they can take it off the cost of my board. If they're not willing to do either of those things, then it'll be time to move again (somewhere...). M is just as adamant about her mare being fed SafeChoice as I am, so we'll be moving our horses together.

In other more exciting news, Lilly is scheduled for a sports massage on Sunday morning. The therapist coming out is certified in Equine Sports Massage Therapy and I'm anxious to see what she has to say about Lilly. She'll do an initial consultation to see if Lilly is a candidate, perform a massage, and then we'll develop a plan if that's what she needs. She works closely with chiropractors and veterinarians, but hopefully she doesn't find a whole lot going on. I'm just mostly concerned with soreness around her withers and perhaps a potential issue with her stifle. I hope Lilly likes her massage!

When I mentioned the massage to my mom she said, "you just can't stop spending money on that horse, can you?" I guess not! :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Out With the Old

All three of my saddles sold on eBay so I'm officially saddle-less!

THE HORROR!!

I had to return my borrowed Pessoa today, too, so the only saddle I have to ride in is the one my friend Alex, over at The Alex and Apple Show, let me borrow. Thanks again!

The tack shop let me keep the Pessoa beyond the normal trial period so I could try it at the horse show this past weekend. I could have purchased the saddle today but I decided I wanted to get a brand new one instead.

I've been buying some of my tack and supplies from local tack shops around the area to try and help out the local horse community. This is also why I chose the shipping company I did for AJ... they were local. I've found that their prices are a little higher than I could find online, but I don't mind spending a little extra here and there to help out. It's not a big deal until it comes time to purchase something that costs over two grand.

They had the Pessoa listed for $2395. Dover has the saddle listed for $2155. Add NC tax (at 7.75%) and you're looking at a $400 difference... I'm not that dedicated to buying local. I asked my saddle fitter if they'd be willing to match Dover's price and she said they would, but then they wouldn't be able to credit the $75 saddle fitting towards the cost of the saddle. When all was said and done, I could get the saddle for $140 cheaper by buying it online. I'm sorry but $140 buys me a new bridle, new leathers, a new show pad, or a three month supply of SmartPaks for Lilly.

When I told her I was going to be getting it from Dover, she seemed upset, calling Dover the "Walmart of equine supplies".

I ended up finding an even better deal than the one I found on Dover through Adams Horse and Pet Supply. The saddle ships for free AND they send a free pair of Pessoa leathers. I have to order the wide gullet separately, but I ended up with a great saddle for a great price and I can't wait until it gets here!

Hooray!!
In other "out with the old" news, I was pressured most heavily by SillyPony to purchase one of the new blouses over at Hobby Horse. She twisted my arm and made me feel like I had no choice with comments like, "check out the new turqua color!" and "this would look SO good with Lilly!"

Enabler!! :)

So because I had no choice, I went ahead and ordered this lovely new tunic (which is already on backorder and I have no idea when it will arrive):

Turqua with animal print! GRR, baby!
To help offset the cost of a new tunic and a new pair of pants, I've decided to sell all my aubergine stuff on eBay. I love the color, but I think it's time to trade it in for something new and exciting.

I have two tops, a pair of pants, chaps, and a belt, all in aubergine. I'm also selling my gorgeous aubergine, purple, and cream saddle pad. Also on the chopping block is my black hat, black gloves, sand gloves, and black belt. All are Hobby Horse items, and all are in excellent (or new) condition. You know, in case anyone is interested... :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Feed Headaches

About a week ago I was at the barn working Lilly and noticed her feed pan still had grain in it. I was there around 11am so I wondered if she hadn't finished or if they had put her dinner grain out already. I forgot about it by the time I left the barn (I have CRS...) and didn't really think about it again until Thursday morning.

Thursday was the day I was at the barn early to get AJ ready for his journey home. No one was there yet, so I went out to the pasture to get AJ. When I got back with him the BOs were there feeding. I was messing around with AJ, so I wasn't paying attention to what was going on until I heard Lilly going bonkers in her stall. They were walking the alpha mare out to the pasture and Lilly was not happy about being left (despite Baby being right across the hall).

Long story short, Lilly hadn't touched her feed and they turned her out even though she didn't eat any of her breakfast. She was way too hyper to eat, so I didn't fuss about it too much... I was sidetracked with AJ anyway.

I did glance at the feed and it looked dark. In fact, it didn't look like SafeChoice, it looked like Strategy. So after everyone left and I was there by myself with AJ, I went into the feed room and grabbed a handful from each can. I couldn't tell a difference between the so-called SC and the Strategy. I made a mental note to talk to M about it after AJ was safely on his way home.

I called her after he got on the trailer to let her know he finally made it out and I mentioned the grain issue to her. She had been keeping an eye on the grain too and she said she'd take a look at it that night. She called me afterward and said she agreed with me and left a message for the BO on his cell phone.

One thing that's great about M... she is not afraid to say something if she sees something she doesn't like. It's great having her as a friend because she sticks up for Lilly as if she was her own horse. It's a great feeling knowing she's looking out for her.

She said when the BO called her back he was irritated with her and insisted it was SC. She explained that he needed to understand where we were coming from because of what we've been through and that the grain doesn't look right. He said he hadn't switched the grain... end of story.

Okay...

Fast forward to Friday night when I was there getting Lilly ready for the show. I was there pretty late so the BO had fed and gone and Lilly's grain was waiting for her in the stall. After I finished her bath I went and got the grain from her stall so she could eat before I banded her mane.

She wanted no part of that grain... at one point she put some in her mouth and then spit it back out. M and I looked at each other and thought maybe there was just too much going on so I put it back in her stall. Saturday morning she had eaten some of it, but not very much of it. They gave her fresh feed with her SmartPak and she didn't touch it.

So on the way to the fairgrounds I'm a bit ticked off... there's four feedings that I'm aware of that my mare didn't eat. I told M, there's NO way that feed is SC. I don't care what he says, it's just not. I'd hate to think he would lie to me, but I'm not buying it. We still had some SC in her trailer and I fed it to Lilly when we got to the show. She ate it up... So it isn't that there's too much going on or blah, blah, blah, she doesn't like the feed. It's not SC.

So we get back to the barn and the female half of the BO is there without her hubby. She's a lot more understanding and easy to talk to than he his so I was glad she was there. Before I even got into the barn, M was confronting her about the grain issue. (Have I mentioned how great M is?) She said it was SC too, but I'm sure she's only repeating what he told her, so M asked to see the empty feed bags. They didn't have any of the SC, only Strategy.

She said he got it from a different feed store this time and maybe that was why it looked different. It isn't being milled at the feed store, it's being shipped from Nutrena. And it looks just like Strategy!

She said there have been quite a few nights and mornings where Lilly didn't eat her grain... she couldn't remember when it started exactly, and some of the times she's not there to feed, only he is. It probably started when he decided to switch them over to whatever the heck they're eating!

Seems like someone might have started to wonder why Lilly wasn't eating grain and perhaps should have thought about calling to tell me?? It's no wonder I thought she was looking a little thin... she's not eating!!

Still not convinced, we left the SC we had for them to feed Lilly to see if she'll actually eat the grain. No one called me today so I'll be calling in the morning to ask how it's going. Maybe the BO realized he'd been busted and went out and bought ACTUAL SC!

So frustrating... I'm just glad I've only got one headache now instead of two. Thanks again mom and dad!! I know AJ is being taken care of and being fed properly!

Because of the way Lilly has been acting lately, and the way she was acting at the show yesterday, I'm also assuming it's Strategy he's feeding. M said she noticed Baby acting a bit different too and the super high NSC content of Strategy would easily explain their behavior. Lilly is acting a lot like she was during stall rest when I had her on the Strategy HE.

SafeChoice my you-know-what... again, I'd hate to think he's lying to our face about the feed, but it's NOT SC.

ARGH!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Carolina Mane Event Show #1

Yay! The first show of the year, and only the second show since Lilly tore her ligament back in November, 2009. I've been so excited about this show.

Too bad it turned out to be a bit of a flop.

If nothing else, Lilly cleans up nice, doesn't she?

Not bad for a white horse with a winter coat!
Lilly and I rode with M and Baby to save on gas. She has a nice 3 horse trailer with a larger living quarters than mine, and her truck is beefy enough to pull all of it without issue. Just like every other horse person I know, M has a lot of stuff, but we were able to make room for my stuff and Lilly's stuff! It looked a bit like a dorm room in there, but we made it work.

We tied the girls up on the same side of the trailer and gave them each a bag of hay. Baby insisted on eating out of Lilly's bag, though. They sure do get along well!

Our two pretty girls!
M showed Baby in western pleasure classes and I signed up for showmanship and hunt seat. Showmanship was first so I got ready and took Lilly up to the arena to get ready for our class. Being separated from Baby wasn't something Lilly was really thrilled with, so she was in another world and kept whinnying to Baby. Baby would whinny back to Lilly, and Lilly would whinny back to Baby. See where this is going?

Yeah, so M took Baby out and longed her while I tried to perform a very simple showmanship pattern:

Here's how it went. We stood at cone A waiting to be acknowledged by the judge. Just as he nodded, Lilly started screaming... then as we walked to cone B and started to jog, she was looking everywhere but where we were going and bumped her shoulder into me. When we stopped at the judge to set up for inspection, she moved her hind end over to get a better view out the arena to her left and SCREAMED again. Even though she was crooked, she was square and she did have a nice pivot, but needless to say, we got 4th out of 5. So just imagine what the 5th place horse's pattern looked like.

And you know, she can't just whinny like "wheeeeeee!!" No, hers goes like this: "Wheeeeeee, wheeeeeeee, wheeeeeeeee, nicker, nicker, blow, blow" so it takes forever to get through it and get past it.

Good lord...

Western classes were next, so it was Lilly's turn to be tied up at the trailer while Baby was showing. M was having as much trouble with Baby as I had with Lilly so she decided to see if she could work the whinny right out of her.

Stop whinnying!!
In case you're wondering, the answer was no.

By the way, see that blue roan mare on the left? DROOL!! There was a reining show at the fairgrounds and there were some nice horses there. I wanted that one in the worst kind of way...

Lilly liked being tied to the trailer alone even less than she liked being in her showmanship class. She did a lot of this:

I shall paw my way to Baby!!
And even more of this:

I'm going to die if she doesn't come back soon!
So I decided to stand with her and threaten her life with the longe whip.

Don't you have somewhere to be, mom?
I did manage to watch Baby's classes. She's a really nice western pleasure mare, but you'd never know it the way she acted today. Those two just kept calling to each other over and over and over again. One of the spectators was like, "is this her first show?" Hehe, you'd think so, wouldn't you? It was all a bit much.

Once Baby's classes were over we decided to continue to punish the two drama queens. Baby went on the other side of the trailer and Lilly stayed tied on her side. They still screamed for each other and Lilly continued to paw. Once she figured out Baby was on the other side, she tried desperately to see her through the window of the trailer.

I think I see her!!
Notice the giant hole she's dug herself in the dirt...

Once it was time for the hunt seat classes I took Lilly up to the arena so I could ride her around a bit and try to find a buyer. No takers, though... weird.

She actually stood like the Lilly I know and love once we got up there. I had quite a wait before my first class and she was relaxed, stood still, and was nosey as always, but much better behaved. She didn't whinny at all until we went into our first class and made our way down to the far end of the arena where she could hear Baby calling for her. Even then I was able to dig my inside heel into her, bend her around, and get her attention back on me.

M took some pictures for me, but because it was inside they didn't turn out very well. This is from either the first or second class, and it's pretty much how Lilly went. Her head was up, but she had a pretty nice trot going on.

Not bad for our first show in a while!
The classes were big and we have short little legs, so we're not nearly as fast as the long legged horses we were showing against. M kept telling me I was being buried on the rail, but I don't think it mattered much. I've shown under this judge before and never did very well. Not to mention, I've been on my horse like 6 times in the past 6 months...

The stock type hunt seat class went a bit better. There were only 9 horses instead of 15 and I rode Lilly more like it was a training class to try and get her to relax and level out a bit. She did VERY well and I was very pleased with her. We ended up with 5th place.

Good girl, Lilly!
M and I could only laugh and scheme up ideas for the next show. We're hoping this was a one time thing, kind of like how they acted at the new barn when they were first separated. Now they could care less. Maybe now that they got it out of their system they'll be better next time?

Or do drastic times call for drastic measures?

The saddle seemed to work out really well. Lilly did shake her head a few times and twitched her withers, but I can't say for sure if it was related to the saddle or not. With my fleece show pad the space around the bars of the saddle was a bit more snug than with my quilted pad, but she still had room and the wool flocking makes it really soft. I think I'll see if I can find a quilted style show pad with number pockets instead, but as far as saddles go, we might have a winner!

Friday, March 4, 2011

He's Home!

AJ got into Michigan around 5pm today. I am thrilled that he got there so quickly, even if the shipper's story did change about five different times. Thank goodness he's home safe and sound!

My mom said he looked good and settled right in, except for being slightly agitated with his new shadow named Justus. :)

The long walk up the driveway.

Justus in the front, AJ following behind.

Two peas in a pod!
I wonder what he thinks of the snow? He went from sunny and 60's to cloudy and snow! Thanks again for all the positive thoughts and well wishes!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Homeward Bound!

AJ made it onto the trailer today... finally!

Yesterday the shipper told me he'd be by to pick AJ up between 8am and 9am. I got there at 7:30 sharp, anticipating standing around until 10am, but figured I needed to be there just in case.

I brought AJ up from the field and fed him breakfast in his stall. He had hay for dessert but wasn't interested in any of it once the other horses started going outside for the day. I ended up moving him to the round pen with his hay and a bucket of water thinking he might stand there and quietly eat.

The shipper called me shortly after 8 and told me he'd be there between 9:30 and 10, so I had some time to kill. AJ wasn't being very good in the round pen either, so now I had to decide what to do with him for another hour and a half. It's like he knew something was up, so he decided running around and whinnying was a better idea. You should hear him whinny... it's pitiful.

I want out of here!!

Talent is being able to whinny AND suck your tongue at the same time.
I ended up finding a nice patch of grass for him to snack on, so we spent some quality time together, trying to warm up in the sunshine.

The shipper called me again at 9:45 to let me know he'd be there in about 25 minutes, and when he finally showed up around 10:15 he called me from the driveway.

Do you suppose they were saying nasty things about me behind my back? "Make sure you call her A LOT... she's annoying."

Yes I am, thank you!! :)

The guy seemed a little standoffish at first too, but I won him over with my charm and before long we were chatting like old friends! I asked him again about the trip and what the plan was going to be and he said he's dropping the loaded horse in Maryland tonight. He'll layover somewhere and AJ will be stalled at the farm in a stall and they'll get up early tomorrow and head straight to Michigan with 4 other horses headed to Michigan also. He said it's possible that AJ will be home tomorrow night unless he runs into bad weather (which is expected). Then it'll be Saturday morning when he's dropped off.

Adventure awaits inside!
He walked AJ out to the trailer, asked him to walk up the ramp, and AJ decided to JUMP into the trailer instead. He seemed quite happy that there was another horse in there for him to meet.

"Oh, hello!"  (Sorry about the blur...)
He's going to be riding backwards, so we had to convince him that backing into the stall was a good idea. For AJ, he actually did really well. We tied him up and gave him a giant bag of hay for the trip.

I kissed his sweet nose, told him I loved him and to be a good boy, and told the shipper to take good care of him. The doors were closed and off they went...

Miss you already, Boo Pony. 
While I'd like to think that AJ's home is with me, Michigan will always be my home, and it was AJ's home for a long time too. I think he'll be happy to be back with Justus, and he'll enjoy a more consistent routine with top notch care. The benefits of him being with my parents will only go so far to help fill the now empty space in my heart that only AJ's sweet face and goofy tongue can fill.

Have a safe trip, AJ! I'll see you soon!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Update on AJ

After not hearing from the shippers at all yesterday, I thought for sure I'd have an email waiting for me this morning when I got up. No email, no phone call, nothing.

I decided I'd had enough and I called this morning to let them know I wanted my money back. She sounded surprised... I guess people are okay with waiting 2 days without any communication to hear when their horse is going to be shipped?

She said her driver was on his way to Georgia to pick up two horses but had to turn back around because of something with the truck and she wasn't sure what time they'd be heading back out. So if they had started the trip at some point already, why hadn't I received a call? This was the point in the conversation where I politely asked for my money back. She asked if I would give her until lunch time (about 2 hours) and if they didn't have a plan by then she would refund my money.

I agreed, thinking that was fair, and depending on when she said they'd be coming to get him, I might still ask for a refund anyway.

Not 20 minutes after I spoke with her, one of the drivers called me. I could tell he was on the road. He said he was on his way to Georgia and he was going to lay over those horses at his farm for the night. He planned on getting an early start tomorrow morning and was going to stop and grab AJ on the way. So he claimed they'll be by to pick him up around 9am.

From there they're heading to Maryland and then into PA, and finally up into Michigan to drop off AJ at my parent's house. He said AJ won't get home until Saturday, early afternoon time. That's not the plan I was told earlier, so I inquired as to what the layover plans were. He'll be stalled overnight tomorrow night in Maryland, and then again at some point in PA. I'll be asking more specific questions tomorrow before he gets on the trailer, but two and a half days sounds like a long trip. I liked it better when he was going to be delivered the next day.

My mom said they're expecting another weather system to move into the area on Friday with possible freezing rain and snow through Sunday. Hopefully that doesn't interfere with the trip at all... today would have been a much better day for him to arrive.

Please send AJ some good thoughts and well wishes for the trip! I hope he doesn't get too stressed out and makes it home without issue.

*****

In saddle news, my Circle P has a bid on eBay, as well as my Lynn Palm, so two down, one to go! Of course the one I need to sell to help finance my new Pessoa is the one without any bids, but I still have hope. I had a few questions this time around, so maybe someone will try to snipe it at the last minute.

The fact that the Circle P is selling is good, though! Now I can forget about trying to find a saddle pad that may or may not fit Lilly and just start over completely. If I can sell them all, I can buy the Pessoa and start looking for a new western show/work saddle. How nice it would be to only have two saddles... and two saddles that fit!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He's Still Here!

I tried all day yesterday to find out what time the shippers were coming today but they didn't have an answer for me. Then finally last night (in response to my email) they said the truck wouldn't be done being serviced until this morning and at the earliest they'd be by to pick him up this afternoon, but possibly it wouldn't be until Wednesday morning. She would let me know this morning.

Despite my many efforts, I've heard nothing from her today.

I've got some anxiety about this whole shipping thing anyway, and this isn't giving me a warm fuzzy. How hard is it to call and tell me the trip has been delayed because of the truck? The only responses I have received from her have been in response to an inquiry on my part.

If she didn't already have half the cost of the shipping in the form of a non-refundable deposit I'd tell her to forget it and find someone else. I'm trying to be understanding because I know things happen, but I still have no idea if he's being picked up tomorrow or not. Are they going to call 30 minutes out and expect me to drop everything and meet them at the barn?

GRR!!