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!

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.


  1. That is great that Lilly is eating her grain right now! Hopefully that problem is solved!
    Lilly's behavior on the trail reminds me of Brandy, she is not herd bound but she reacts in the same way Lilly was on the way back to the barn. When I am on a trail ride and in the lead and come across a water crossing or something that is scary to her, she just wants to spin around. Even though I have heard that turning the horse when they spin is not right (it just reinforces their behavior), that is the only way I can get Brandy to stop and think, then step forward, even if it's a couple steps. Then she tries to spin around and I do the whole process over again. I can't make her go to the left, it has to be the right, or she'll rear. It might take 5-20 minutes, but we work it out and get through it. And she has been through the creek on those trails at least 200 times!
    I think it's great that Lilly was moved away from Baby in the barn. Maybe her attachment issue will get better since she won't be near her all the time.

  2. The circling to stop jigging and prancing does work, although it can be tiring.

    Is she by any chance getting too much feed - particularly carbs (especially low in NSCs)? Could even be coming from the hay - Drifter was on a rich, high-energy hay (part alfalfa) when he came here and he's already starting to be a bit calmer now that he's on our plain grass hay. None of my horses get any grain - only a mineral/vitamin balancer pellet, some cocosoya for fatty acids (great for masking the taste of supplements as the horses love it) and a higher fat/lower carb (and low NSC) feed like Ultimate Finish if needed for weight gain.

    Good idea to separate them inside the barn. I think mare to mare attachments can be particularly strong, and also increased at the times of first spring heats. At least that's true of my mares.

  3. Are you serious??? Blogger ate my HUGE comment! GRRR

    Well I will reiterate (grr). Its aparent that Lilly is not "with you". She only listens when she feels like it but when theres a distraction shes checked out.

    Without trying to sell anything to you, I think you need to do a lot of groundwork. And by groundwork I dont mean endless roundpenning or chasing, but you need to find a way to get Lilly "with" you. In the barn, in the arena, on the trail, and at shows.

    Again, not trying to "sell" anything, but the Peggy Cummings clinic I audited this last weekend was truely inspiring. The way the horse's eyes softened as they connected with their handler/rider was just phenomenal. This was done without fear, pain, sweat, or force. It can be done! If I were you, I would do some research behind her and her methods and see if its something you might be interested in pursuing. It sounds strange coming from me especially since I havent received her book yet, or even taken a lesson. I dont wnat to amount it to "whispering" or anything, but it IS possible to connect to your horse. This seems imperative for Lilly.

    So, I think you should revist a lot of ground work, like i said, on the trail too especially since she is showing her bad behavior out there too. She clearly just thinks she can tune you out, even when on board.

    Im loosing my train of thought now, but if you want to hear any of Peggys "exercises" you can shoot me an email if you wish. paint_horse_milo@yahoo.com

    on another note, I think stalling her away from Baby will be a good thing, as well as keeping her out with Boys as possible. It might even allow you to go to shows (down the road) with M and Baby as she learns to disconnect from Baby. Milo gets SUPER attached to girls as well, but jsut treats the boys like his buddies. Keeping Milo away from his girls seems to do the trick, and I can even haul with his girlfriend now and he does fine. I think its because he lives his life without her just fine and basically only sees her for trail rides or hauling somewhere, and they both live on the property!

  4. AW Im so sorry your having so much trouble with Lilly girl! That makes riding SO not fun!! I dont have any advice for you sorry, but I do hope she improves! It sounds like your doing all the right things, so shape up Lilly!!

  5. Paint Girl, it's definitely frustrating, and it took forever to get back to the barn, but hopefully it works. It seemed to help Lilly and it sounds like it helps Brandy, so fingers crossed!

    Kate, she's on the SafeChoice, which has an NSC value of 18%... that's why I put up such a fuss earlier this month because I think she was being fed Strategy. Strategy makes her hot, hot, hot!

    Thanks, Milo! When we're not dealing with a situation as desperate as being without her buddy, Lilly is great on the ground. I've spent A LOT of time with her doing ground work and I'm always getting comments from people about how she behaves. With this whole Baby, thing, though, something just comes over her and I become invisible. It's just crazy to me... I'm going to do some research on Peggy, though, because I need all the help I can get!

    Thanks, Britnie! Our normally fun times together haven't been so fun lately. Hopefully thing improve.

  6. Here's the only thing I can add - Safecoice really isn't all that safe! You can find MUCH better feed at about the same price with way less NSC values. Are you able to get Triple Crown feeds? Triple Crown Low Starch is phenominal and it's NSC is 13.4. Triple Crown Lite is awesome too, with NSC of 9.3%. I had really great success when I changed Jetta from Safechoice to TCLS. Just something for you to look into....

  7. Oh, Jill... you say that like switching would be so easy! You must have forgotten where I board! Asking for a feed change is nearly impossible, especially if he has to get *gasp* FOUR different feeds now.

    I have been looking into the TC feeds because someone else mentioned the Lite to me as well. I'm actually considering switching her off grain completely. Then she'll be getting 0% NSC! :)

    Thanks for the suggestions!!