Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Bunch of Updates

Today's post is a twofer! I rode Lilly Friday afternoon but never had the chance to post about it, and then I rode her again this morning, so I'll talk about them both in this post. First, though, a picture of Lilly sun bathing yesterday, courtesy of the BO.

Friday's ride was interesting. We worked on our usual exercises, although I rode her in the western headstall and pretended we were in a western saddle. She did very well and seems to be getting the hang of things. I think she looks so cute jogging around like a western pleasure pony. It's getting more and more difficult to get her to move out, though, so the huntseat classes might be a bit more challenging this year as she seems to be happy just plodding along.

Things got interesting when we started working on our canter circles. She did very well to the left, but when we started working on them to the right, she started changing her lead in the back at certain spots on the circle. She was picking up her leads just fine, but then after cantering the circle for a bit, she'd switch behind, go about 3 strides, and then have to break down to a trot. I had my friend S video us in case I was missing something, but she was simply switching behind.

This isn't something new, because it has caught my attention before. I did a post on it back in July of 2008, which is when I think it first started. I was concerned enough about it to have the vet and chiropractor out, but nothing ever became of it because there weren't any issues found. Sometimes she does it when we ride, and sometimes she doesn't, but for as many times as she did it Friday, she didn't do it a single time when I rode her today.

So what's different on the days that she does it? I have no idea... when she was doing it back in 2008, we weren't even working on circles, we were simply cantering on the rail in a fairly large arena. As usual, there's no pattern. The thing that keeps popping into my head is the UFP, but why would she switch to the lead on the side with the issue? From what I know of UFP, that would be backwards, unless for whatever reason it's more comfortable for her on her left lead? I've noted quite a few times that she is much happier and more smooth going to the left. Cantering to the right is always more of a challenge for her. Always a puzzle, this horse of mine...

The ride I had this morning did not go very well. The BO and my friend S had their horses in the arena and were finishing up their rides when Lilly and I got to the arena. They left shortly after we were warmed up, and Lilly just didn't handle being left alone well at all. It was really cold and windy this morning, so I think that had something to do with her mood, but she never really settled after her BFFs left the arena.

I was able to get some really nice jogging and trotting exercises done, but I could tell that one ear was always on the barn in case she saw her friends again. When we were working on some of the trotting exercises, I kept feeling her drift toward the arena gate, so I concentrated my work down at the far end of the arena. I think I made more work for myself that way in the end.

There were some times where she was chomping on the bit, which is something she hasn't done in quite some time. I had to do a lot of trot, stop, back, trot exercises and she was only half listening most of the time so our stops just weren't that good.

Since she had so much energy, I decided we'd move on to the canter circles. Since the arena was dry for a change, I was able to work her on those at the far end as well. She did fairly well to the left (as usual) and we did 15 circles before she started to settle. I took her around 5 more times before we went back to the walk.

She was briefly a bit more relaxed after that, but it was short lived, so we moved on to more canter circles, this time to the right. Her circles were NOT good. Every time she came around the circle to the point where she was heading toward the gate, she'd floor it, and drift as far across the arena and out of her circle as she could, trying to make her escape. I made the circles smaller, I shortened my reins, I used tons of leg, but she kept drifting. A couple times she got a little hoppy and I had to use the emergency brakes, the good 'ol one rein stop, to get control of her. I lost count of how many circles we did and she never really did settle. I even tried some canter, stop, back, canter to see if I could get her to focus and come back to me, but they didn't work either. She was a sweaty mess by this point.

It was one of those rides where it felt like all hope was lost and my best bet was to just stop before things got worse, because they certainly weren't improving. I did a bit more jogging so we could end on a good note and then started our really long cool down. Normally I would wonder if she's just not comfortable going to the right because of the UFP issue, but I've been told I make a lot of excuses for my mare... ;)

I'm just going to pretend today never happened and hope for a better ride next time.

Speaking of UFP, I made an appointment with my vet for tomorrow so we can take an x-ray of Lilly's left stifle. I checked with her again about x-ray vs ultrasound and she thinks the x-ray is the best place to start. She said she'll bring both machines with her and we can discuss it more in detail tomorrow after she's watched her move. Lilly is also going to get her teeth floated since that's been on my list for a while now.

I've also decided to add a bit of beet pulp to Lilly's diet. I think she's at a good weight now, but it's going to be challenging to keep her there. If I keep working her this hard, I think she'll continue to lose weight and I don't want her getting thin. The other horses are getting a whole scoop twice per day, so I've asked the BO to give Lilly half a scoop twice per day. She's going to weigh it for me so I know how much that is in pounds.

Cross your fingers for good news tomorrow!


  1. Do you remember that exercise that I had you do in the clinic....the one where you ate dirt?? ;)

    Next time she decides to act like a barn sour 3yr old ass close the gate to the arena and get ready for a LONG ride. I want you to work the SNOT out of her right by the gate....when she feels tired of that walk to the other end of the arena to relax. Over and Over and Over until she is WITH you and putting her dern feet where you ask her to. ;)

  2. I had two thoughts on the circles... not sure if it will help but just thoughts.

    First, instead of doing all your circles left first (her good side), what if you do 5 to the left, 5 to the right, 5 to the left, etc. I know if I do lots of canter work one way and then switch to the other side, I have less horse and it's inevitably not as good the second direction. Maybe swap it up a little?

    As for her drifting down the arena, are you familiar with counter-flexing? It sounds like she's popping her shoulder and bulging out on the circle, so I'd tip her nose to the outside, then push her IN with your outside leg. You've got to get that shoulder back under control to make the circle round like you want it.

    It sounds like you made the best of a not-so-hot ride. Don't worry too much about it and cut yourself some slack. Ending on a good note is always a plus, and there's always tomorrow to work the snot out of her again! ;)

  3. How could I forget?! I remember that day with such fondness... :)

    I was debating whether I should work her at the gate or work her away from the gate. I thought I could get more accomplished by working her away from the area of her obsession, but I see what you're saying. By working her right by the gate, it makes it a place she doesn't want to be... I'll definitely plan on working her by the gate next time she acts like a booger.

  4. Jen, that's an interesting idea too! I was hoping that after the 15th circle she would be bored and start to settle, and wonder if changing directions would be too much "stimulation". It's definitely worth a shot, though, because I can see your point on that.

    I hadn't thought of counter-flexing her either... I was just making the circles smaller and smaller, but you're right that I didn't have control of that shoulder. I didn't have control of a lot of stuff today... LOL

    Good times! Thanks for the tips!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with both Double A and jenj. Both techniques work and you can even alternate. Work her butt by the gate, ease off toward the other end, if she is still taking off to the gate, counter-flex, get that shoulder, work her back and forth, then ease back to the gate and work the snot out of her again. That gate and thoughts of her friends have to become a whole lot less desirable than the thought of pleasing you!

    Sorry love...I think you were being much too easy on the little heifer.

    As for the circles, I think jenj is right...too many circles at once. Personally, I always start working circles on the horse's 'bad' side. The reason being, the muscles are still fresh, strong and full of oxygen. It's easier for the horse to attempt to travel more in the manner you are asking for. Since that is the side she is struggling on, it takes more effort and take more out of the muscles. The UFP may be a contributing factor, but Lilly is compensating for muscle weakness and imbalance by switching out in the back. When you lope her that way, move your outside leg back and bump in rhythm. Keep that hip pushed IN (You may have to actually kick that side pretty hard if she is really pushing against your leg) and she won't be able to switch out on you. If you can make ONE nice circle, stop loping, let her air up and lope a couple circles the 'good' direction. Stop loping, work on a few things, let her get good and aired up and lope on the 'bad' side again. For Lilly to get stronger on that side, she has to use it properly, but it takes time to actually build up strength.

  6. I'd go easy on the circles until after the x-rays and the vet's all-clear.

  7. LOL, Cowgirl! You called her a heifer! Poor, sweet, precious Lilly!! :) She'll be in trouble next time she tries to protest being away from her buddies!

    I see what you guys are saying about the circles and her muscles. The goal with the circles has been to get her comfortable with cantering because we haven't been able do a whole lot of it. She definitely has a lot of muscle building to do!

    Terry, I completely agree! I'm hoping to get good news tomorrow!

  8. Maybe you already do this, but when I'm in a situation where I know the other horses are about to leave the arena, I turn JR away from the gate and do something that REALLY distracts him, backing, sidepassing, something that will occupy his mind, then once they've gone I resume what I was doing. This really helped because by the time I resumed what I was doing the other horses were out of sight and he didn't seem to remember they were even there.

  9. LMAO...You forgot a couple of words...opinionated and determined come to mind. Words I find very flattering to a horse...IF they are focused on the right thing. ;-)

    Hopefully the x-rays and/or the ultrasounds give you an answer. It's really tough to just focus on training if you think there may be a physical issue that is causing the problem. I have waffled around with questions on several of my horses. The best we can do is eliminate the possibilities of a true limiting factor and continue to train for the horse we want to have. My hope for Lilly is that the vet finds nothing wrong. Then you two can just get down to the business of conditioning and training to eliminate the problem. Even if the vet does find an issue...that should only change your approach to deal with and improve it and maybe some end result expectations will change, but it won't be the kiss of death. Fingers crossed for you two!

  10. SillyPony, I wish I could but there is a REALLY long walk before the horses are out of sight. I'd have to put a blindfold on her head... now there's an idea!! LOL

    Cowgirl, you nailed that one! She is definitely opinionated and determined!

    It's definitely getting challenging to go out and work Lilly knowing there might be something wrong. Whenever something goes wrong I'm always wondering in the back of my mind if they're related. Lilly is usually not bad just to be bad... there's a reason.

    It stinks that I now have to wait a few more days to get more information.