Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Turn!

It has been a busy weekend! First, I enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends, then we found the perfect Christmas tree and decorated for Christmas! It's always one of my favorite weekends of the year. I hope everyone had a great weekend too!

We've been having spectacular fall weather, but unfortunately I've been unable to ride. For once it isn't because Lilly is injured either! This past Monday I was making preparations to winterize my horse trailer and I ended up doing something to my shoulder when I tried to drain the hot water tank. Because of some built up pressure, the giant bolt shot out like a rocket when I started to remove it, which sent my socket wrench flying, which caused my arm to go flying backwards. And for the cherry on top, I was soaked with water.

I've winterized that trailer three other times and never had that happen... note to self for next year, though!

My shoulder is feeling better today finally... I never did go to the doctor because I figure they'll just give me a prescription for muscle relaxers and send me on my way. I already have some of those from the last time I managed to hurt myself, so I'll save myself the 4 hours.

Hopefully tomorrow I can head out to the barn for a nice ride. I need to get some riding in before this weekend because I'll be heading to Michigan for an early Christmas next Monday.

Also, don't forget to enter our giveaway! I must not have a lot of scrapbook followers, but the software is really neat and can be used for so many other projects! The best part is, it's free!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

"You know, the Statue of Liberty and this wonderful holiday we call Thanksgiving go together naturally because although as Americans we have many things for which to be thankful, none is more important than our liberty. Liberty: that quality of government, that brightness of mind and spirit for which the Pilgrim Fathers braved the seas and Americans for two centuries have laid down their lives.

“Today, while religion is suppressed in perhaps one third of the world, we Americans are free to worship the Almighty as we choose. While entire nations must endure the yoke of tyranny, we are free to speak our minds, to enjoy an unfettered and vigorous press, and to make government abide by the limits we deem just. While millions live behind walls, we remain free to travel throughout the land to share this precious day with those we love most deeply – the members of our families.

“My fellow Americans, let us keep this Thanksgiving Day sacred. Let us thank God for the bounty and goodness of our nation. And as a measure of our gratitude, let us rededicate ourselves to the preservation of this: the land of the free and the home of the brave."
President Ronald Reagan
-November 1985-

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does Lilly Have UFP?

After reading all the comments on my last post, I think everyone is right with their diagnosis of Upward Fixation of the Patella (UFP). I had the same suspicions, and after doing some more research and watching a lot of videos on YouTube, I'm even more sure.

If you're not familiar with UFP, here's an explanation from SmartPak that describes it very well:

The patella is the small, bony plate (the kneecap) that protects the knee joint in people, where the femur and tibia meet. In horses, this joint is known as the stifle. A unique hooking of the patellar ligaments over a notch on the femur allows the horse to lock its hind legs in the standing position. Unfortunately, if one of these ligaments remains in the hooked position, the horse is unable to bend its hind legs. This condition is known as Upward Fixation of the Patella and can range from a slight delay in a leg's forward motion to completely locking that freezes a leg for long periods of time.

From what I read, this condition can have quite a few causes:

  • Conformation-excessively straight hind legs
  • Lack of fitness
  • Negative plantar angles
  • Excessive ligament length

You know, people ask me all the time if I've ever thought about breeding Lilly... here's just one more reason why I might laugh out loud when they ask! She's built pretty downhill, which seems to be a factor with UFP, and she's also sporting hind legs that are slightly straight. I've definitely seen worse, but it's there.

Legs a little too straight...
Lack of Fitness
She's been on 24/7 turnout since the middle of August when her shoes came off, but she hadn't been in consistent work until the middle of October when we started an exercise plan. With her thin soles and sore feet, I'm not sure she's getting much exercise on her own, though. Part of our exercise plan incorporates backing over poles, backing up small inclines, and leg lifts, all which are supposed to help strengthen the stifle. The Equine Fitness book I have includes some great exercises for this specific purpose, and we're doing them every time we ride.

Negative Plantar Angles
I'll have to inspect her hind hooves more closely, but nothing has changed on her hind hooves. There's all kinds of things going on with the front hooves, but we barely touch the hind hooves when my trimmer comes out.

Excessive Ligament Length
I'm still trying to find out more information about this one, but I'm assuming it means just what it says... and it makes me think back to Lilly's stall door accident. Is it possible that her injury stretched the ligament, making it more difficult to release? I mentioned a while back that I noticed Lilly was resting her hind legs more than she used to. I attributed it to removal of her shoes, thinking she was just more comfortable, but maybe it has something to do with this instead.

The Atlanta Equine Clinic (thanks, Terry!) has a fantastic article on UFP and you can find that article here. After reading it several times, a few of the UFP clinical signs caught my eye:

- The horse will frequently drag the toe of the affected limb(s) during exercise - Every time my trimmer comes out, she makes the comment, "She really drags her toes, doesn't she?"

- The horse will resist the canter. Resistance may be most noticeable during the transition between the trot and canter, when the horse is forced to extend the pelvic limb for a prolonged period - How many posts have I done on this? I've lost track!

- The canter is very rough or "bouncy". This occurs as a result of consistent delay in pelvic limb flexion from the extended position - I was just commenting in the last post how her clockwise canter feels very rough. Almost like she's cross-cantering.

- As with many cases of pelvic limb lameness, secondary abnormalities such as thoracolumbar ebaxial (back) and proximal thoracic suspensory ligament soreness are also present - Back soreness? Ligament soreness? Those are two main themes with this blog.

Assuming UFP is what she has, I'm really curious as to why it has suddenly become so much worse. I've been seeing this in her for years but it was such a rare occurrence I didn't investigate too thoroughly other than having the vet/chiropractor out. Lately, it's been happening once every 2 weeks-ish and at the show on Saturday it was happening over and over again. Perhaps she was a bit fatigued, thus making it worse, but she really wasn't ridden very hard at all. Each class lasted about 5 minutes and only one of them involved cantering. I was really bothered by how often it was occurring.

If it's simply a strength issue, and exercise is the usual treatment, why does it seem like the more I strengthen, the worse she gets? Looks like another call to the vet is in order.

And you know, on top of this issue, we're back to the diarrhea again... she was covered in it when I went to visit her today. Way more information than you want to know can be found in this post, if you're curious about the history.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Show Pictures and More Questions

There was a professional photographer taking pictures at the show on Saturday and I decided to order a couple since I didn't have any of my own. It's a lot cheaper when you take them yourself!

I thought this showmanship picture turned out really nice.

All smiles!
I thought this riding picture was a good example of how happy and content she seemed. I have no idea which class it is, but she looks pretty relaxed.

A happy pony!
I told everyone at the barn how she won her showmanship class and now they're referring to her as "the champion". The BO sent me a text this morning saying he was bringing in the champion because it was supposed to rain today. :)

There has been a slightly disturbing development in the Lilly department and I didn't want to ruin my happy show post yesterday by including this information, but I'm really puzzled. If you're a long time reader of Lilly's blog, you may recall how sometimes she seems to get "stuck" when she's walking. I've done posts on it here and here, but basically what happens is her left leg seems to get stuck, or hung up somehow. It happens mostly when I ride, and I've only seen it once myself, so I don't know exactly what's going on. The one time I witnessed it, it looked like she tried to take a step, and her leg didn't go forward properly, which caused her to drag her foot a little bit. Her head shot up and she stopped for a minute, then tried to take the step again, and was able to walk forward. It seemed like it was something in her stifle that caused her to get stuck. Locking stifle, maybe? I can't say for sure.

She had some trauma to that area a long time ago. When Lilly was about a year and a half old, she lived in a stall during the day. The doors were only half doors and one evening when I came home from work, I found her half in and half out. She was hanging over the stall door... front feet out, hind feet in. I was able to get her back in the stall but she had really done a number on her left hind flank. The vet came out to take a look and said it looked fine, but she had an enormous hematoma that was there for a while and she was very sore.

I've had my vet examine her a couple times since then, but she doesn't do the sticking thing often and the vet has never actually seen it happen. She's been adjusted multiple times and did have a small issue with her pelvis, but the vet didn't think that would be causing the issue. I've been doing some exercises with her to help strengthen the muscles in that area, and we've been doing a lot of riding lately, which I thought would definitely help.

In the past, the issue showed up once in a while... maybe once every two weeks or so, and only when I'm riding her, usually at the walk. What's bothering me is that at the show on Saturday this happened no less than a dozen times. That's the most it has happened by far and I'm concerned about why it has increased so much, especially since I've been working on exercises designed to help her. It doesn't seem to hurt her, but there's something going on and I really want to find out what.

I've also recently noticed (and mentioned) that her clockwise canter is rough and fast. She always picks up the correct lead in front and behind, although it feels a bit like she's cross-cantering. Since this is new-ish too, I'm wondering if it has to do with the stifle issue as well. She seems to break more going clockwise, so perhaps when she breaks from the canter she's actually getting stuck and I just don't notice because we're cantering?

I know it's difficult to give ideas and opinions without actually seeing it for yourself, but does anyone have any ideas? I would really appreciate them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Show Recap!

It's cruel to put up a picture of Lilly sporting a blue ribbon and then not share the details, isn't it? Okay, so here are the details, and I'm not reluctant to share them this time around!

The evening before the show went pretty well... Lilly was happy to see me, but it was COLD. It was in the upper 30's when I left the barn and over night we got our first frost. Banding manes with frozen fingers isn't very much fun! I clipped her at bit, but mostly just to take off the long hairs on her legs, face, and ears. I washed her tail and used the hair dryer to make sure it was nice and dry before putting her to bed for the night.

Saturday morning didn't start out very well, though... I was having technical difficulties with my trailer and it was causing me to run late. Long story short, I have to replace my marine battery and without it, the carbon monoxide sensor in the trailer thinks I might die, so it SCREAMS when I plug in the lights. It has a mute button, and you'd think that would mute it, right? Not so much. I briefly considered hauling without the lights, but knew that wouldn't work on our way back when it's dark, plus it's just not safe. I didn't want to haul Lilly with a screaming alarm either because I could just imagine what she'd be like after 45 minutes of that! I finally got it to shut up, but not before I was 30 minutes behind schedule.

Fighting off the anxiety, I told myself that it wasn't a big deal if we missed the showmanship classes... when we get there, we get there. Let's just have fun.

I got Lilly out of the stall and she jumped right into the trailer. The BO's hubby was out doing chores and he was very impressed at how well she self loads. Psh... that's the easy part!! I didn't rush on the way there and I pissed off a lot of people in the process, but I didn't care.

After we arrived and it was time to unload, Lilly was in a huge hurry to get out. I thought she might bust out the back because she kept ramming her butt into the door. That's one bad thing about only having a 2 horse trailer... I keep the hay up in the front stall and she rides in the back. There's not a whole lot I can do when it comes time to unload, but I might need to do a little switcharoo... Anyway, she backed out ok, surprisingly, and I tied her to the trailer while I unpacked a few things, observing her the whole time.

No whinnies, no pawing, and she wanted her hay! I hung her hay bag and went up to the office to sign up for classes. When I got back, she was still standing there, eating happily, and when I brought her some water, she actually took a drink. Progress so far!

So I won't say that she was a perfect lady during the hours she spent tied to the trailer. There were quite a few times during the day when she pawed, but we didn't have a giant hole at the end of the day, and it wasn't the obsessive pawing where she just can't seem to stop herself. She also whinnied a couple times, but they were "happy horse" whinnies instead of "OMG I'M GOING TO DIE" whinnies. I think she called maybe 4 times, but the fact that she was eating and drinking and standing calmly for most of the day was a huge plus.

We had plenty of time to get ready for showmanship. There were only 4 of us in the class, but it was a really nice group of horses. The pattern looked strangely familiar (I've done it once before this year) and it looked like this:

One of our favorite patterns!
I practiced a bit of showmanship the other day, but it isn't something we work on a lot. She knows the maneuvers and I don't like to make her do them over and over and over again. Once we saw the pattern, we practiced a few times in the make-up ring at the show and then waited for our class. As usual, no one wanted to go first, so Lilly and I walked over to the cone and waited for the judge. She squared right up at the first cone while we waited and then walked right off to the second cone. We started our trot right at the second cone so we were trotting around it as we headed to the third cone. We stopped, I turned to her to set her feet up and she instantly squared up. I didn't even have to ask! She's been doing that a lot lately... I turn toward her and she squares her feet. We did our inspection, executed the best 270 degree pivot ever, and walked into line. The girl is a machine!! The other patterns were also quite good, but I had a really good feeling about ours. We placed first!

Yay! Another PAC point!
After showmanship, we had about 4 hours to kill while the western riders showed. I cleaned my tack, grabbed a chili dog, watched some classes, and Lilly snacked on hay. I wanted to make sure we were ready for the 20 minute schooling break, so we tacked up a bit early and headed off to the make-up area. She actually stood while I got on and wasn't off to the races as soon as my butt hit the saddle... more progress!

After walking her around a bit, it was clear she was having some anxiety issues. She started chomping on the bit and any pressure I applied with my legs sent her scooting forward. After taking a second to evaluate myself and make sure I was actually breathing, I started working on steering with my legs. We did turns, turns, turns and eventually she was steering off my legs instead of trying to run off. I could feel her relax and she stopped chomping. From there, we did some trot, stop, trot exercises and we worked on stopping without the reins. I tried to do as many exercises as I could think of and they seemed to be quite effective.

Once it was time to warm up in the arena, I had to start all over. She started chomping again and was back to having a hair trigger. We went back to the exercises and before we were asked to leave the arena, I had a relaxed mare again.

While we waited for our first class, she snoozed outside the arena. She kept trying to rest her back foot, but I don't think it worked out very well for her. She didn't whinny once when she was with me, and she had no temper tantrums. :)

Our first class was an equitation class and there were 14 horses showing with us. We were having a few issues (bit chomping) and with that many horses in the ring, there was only so much I could do to school her without disrupting the class. Her anxiety seemed minor, she was listening to me, and didn't try to trot before I asked her to. We didn't place, but I didn't expect to as I'm pretty sure it was obvious I was doing a bit of schooling.

Our next class was an English walk/trot class for adult riders and there were 8 of us in there. Lilly seemed a bit more calm this time, maybe because there were fewer horses, or maybe the schooling helped, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get her to give to me for an extended period of time. I asked, she gave, and then she went back to being above the bit. We haven't been working on this a whole lot, but because she went back to being above the bit so quickly, I felt she still wasn't quite comfortable in the ring. We ended up placing 6th in that class.

We went in two huntseat walk/trot classes, both with 14 or 15 riders and we didn't place. I felt we had a pretty good ride in the second one, but I wasn't always "showing" because this was more about Lilly than it was about ribbons. She was starting to relax, but still wanted to travel above the bit.

The next class was a huntseat pleasure class and our only canter class for the day. Again, there were 15 horses in the class and I wondered how it was going to go when we were asked to canter. We were asked to canter from the trot, and it took us a while to actually make the transitions because I wanted her to do it right, but she picked up the correct lead in both directions. Her canter to the left was beautiful (!) but when we had to canter to the right, it felt like I was riding a freight train. There were too many horses to circle, so we did the best we could, but she canters similarly at home unless we're doing circles. I was very surprised to hear our number called for 6th place. :)

The last class was a stock type walk trot class and we placed 5th out of 8.  I thought we had a pretty good ride, considering. We have some things to work on, which I already know, but we had a much better show this time around and I was VERY proud of her. She didn't get fired up in the line-up when the other horses were leaving to get their ribbons, she was able to work through her issues, and most importantly, she listened to me! I was crossing my fingers that we wouldn't have any saddle issues either and we didn't, so there's another bonus! She's always been pretty good at shows if we go by ourselves, so I've decided horse trailer pooling is probably not for us. I like having my own trailer there anyway.

I also noticed that by the end of the day my shoulders were REALLY sore. They shouldn't have been, so I'm thinking I'm holding a lot of tension in my upper body. Maybe that's what I do when we're in the ring, and that's where a lot of her issues are coming from too.

I'm super proud of my super pony, and that was a great way to end the 2011 show season! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Today's Show

A preview... more after I sleep. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our First Giveaway!

I am beyond excited about this! This is the R Lil Bit of Cash blog's first giveaway! We've officially made it to the big time. :)

I was contacted a few days ago by a company called My Memories. They have an award winning digital scrapbooking software program that is rated #1 by Amazon and Top Ten Reviews. Using this software, you can create digital scrapbooks, photobooks, cards, calendars, and anything else your creative mind can come up with, without having to buy more expensive (and complicated) software programs.

Ummm, hold on... did someone say scrapbooking software? I am a huge scrapbooker!! I have roughly 10 books that I've done over the years, but I always did things the old fashioned way... with paper, scissors, glue, and stickers. I really enjoy going through my papers and choosing what I want to go on my page, but I could easily spend over 4 hours on one page. To say I'm behind is the understatement of the year.

Even if you're not into scrapbooking (what?!), there are some other amazing things you can do with this software. For example, you can use this software to create the most amazing design, including pictures of your horse, save it as a jpg image, and use it as the header for your blog! The library of embellishments, paper, word art, monogrammed letters, and templates make the process super easy, and super fast.

To show you just how cool this software is, I created this page for Lilly.

Please click to enlarge this image... the detail of these embellishments is absolutely amazing!
I had a lot of fun playing around with the photos and page elements and found the software to be really intuitive. Also, anything I wanted to do with my page, I could. All the paper, all the embellishments, everything, is high quality and digital. You can resize, flip, rotate, change, manipulate... and it doesn't pixelate or distort in any way.

Aside from the huge library My Memories Suite already has, they have an even bigger library of kits available for purchase. If you can imagine it, it's there in the store... it's like having your very own scrapbook store, except the best part is that you can use the same paper, same embellishments, and the same page elements over and over again. No more running out of your favorite paper! There are also quick pages that come pre-done and all you have to do is place your pictures in the spaces provided. In like 5 minutes, you have a fabulous page!

I could go on an on about how great this software is, but I want you to have an opportunity to experience it for yourself! My Memories gave me a copy of their software to try for free, and they're giving me another free copy to give away here, hence the whole giveaway contest! So, to enter the contest for a chance to win your very own copy of the My Memories Suite, I would like you to do the following:
  • Think of your favorite memory... one you would love to recreate with photos, paper, and embellishments
  • Visit and browse their huge library of kits and choose the one that best fits your favorite memory
  • Then post in the comments a bit about your favorite memory and which kit you chose to go along with it
Lilly will help decide the winner on December 2nd, so make sure to get your entry in before midnight on December 1st. You can gain a second chance to enter by promoting this blog/contest through your own blogs! Just link your post along with your comment.

And, as if that wasn't enough, My Memories has also given me my very own Share the Memories code that provides a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store! Just enter the code STMMMS29874 during checkout. So fear not if you don't win, you can still get this great software at a great price. Feel free to share the code with your family and friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Showtime!

I checked with this weekend's show manager about Lilly's hoof boots and she said she has no problem with me showing in them. She said they're just like shoes, so if anyone has a problem with me, I can send them to her. :)

Which means... we're going to the show this weekend! The forecast says sunny and 60, which is a bit chilly, but it's November, so I'll take it!

We've been to three shows so far this year, but only two of them were with this particular circuit. One of them was the nightmare show, and the other was for schooling because of the nightmare show. Somehow, though, we managed to get 20 points for the circuit and even a couple PAC points. We won't be winning any awards (although this show is double pointed), but it goes to show that all hope is not lost.

All expectations for this show are off the table. I'm hoping we can go, have a wonderful day, show in our classes, and come home with smiles on our faces. If things go really well, maybe we'll bring home a ribbon or two. If things happen to go sour, I'll use the opportunity to school and hopefully still come home with a smile on my face.

We will be showing alone, which might be the key to ending all the nonsense that happened at the last show. I'm definitely anxious to see if her behavior differs this time, both because she's barefoot and because her BFF is not going to be there.

We'll probably enter the following classes:
English Equitation with Pattern (maybe... depends on how she's doing)
Huntseat Equitation without Pattern
English GAYP (essentially a walk/trot class because no one ever canters)
Huntseat GAYP
Huntseat Walk/Trot
Huntseat Pleasure
English Walk/Trot Stock Type

Send good vibes our way on Saturday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Winter Sheet

I've been shopping for a new turnout sheet for Lilly. She has her black one, but it isn't waterproof, it's a bit too small, and the way the front closes makes me want to set it on fire. After much shopping, I decided on the StormShield Euro Turnout from Schneiders. I wasn't sure about the Euro style, but I liked everything else about the sheet so I figured I'd give it a try. Lilly's medium weight blanket is from Schneiders too and I love it. I ordered it on Thursday and it came on Saturday morning... I couldn't believe it! Lilly couldn't wait to try it on and show you how perfectly it fits her!
Look how perfectly it fits me!
It's actually a smidge too big for her, but the 74" is usually too small... I just can't win. It's super adjustable, though, so the 74 would probably have worked in this case but I wasn't about to send it back. The Euro style fits her really well and I'm definitely happy with it. Usually her blankets rub on her withers, but because of how far up it sits on her neck, there should be no rubbing.

After playing dress-up, we went for a ride. She was excellent, and I think she's actually starting to get lazy! I've been dreaming of having a lazy pony for years, so it would be a dream come true for me. :) Because we've been practicing a nice slow jog so much, that's all she wants to do, and when I ask for a bit more speed, she tries to canter. It's been really nice! We worked on cantering a lot today because she does really well to the left, but when we canter to the right, she has a tough time maintaining herself and we end up doing a lot of circles. She has improved quite a bit, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

When we were doing our cool down, a red fox ran into the arena right behind Lilly and booked it into the pasture. As strange as it sounds, I've never had to ride one of Lilly's spooks... she's been afraid of things, and she's spooked in place at something that startled her, but she's never had a big spook during any of our rides. So lucky me, I was able to experience it today! When that fox ran behind her, she scooted forward, ran about 30 feet, and then did a 180 degree turn to see what in the world that thing was! She was standing in perfect "dog stretch" form just in case she needed to make a quick exit. Good to know she'll stop running!

I've decided to go ahead and have Lilly clipped for the winter. I think we're going to go with the low trace clip, but I wussed out and got the number of a lady that clips for one of the big show barns here. She's very reasonable, has professional quality clippers, and I figure it's probably the best thing to do for Lilly's first clip. Maybe I can get some pointers and then try it on my own next year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Perfect Pony and More On Clipping

It was another beautiful day in central North Carolina. Soggy arena or not, I was riding!

Today was "let's pretend we're western pleasure" day even though I don't own a western saddle anymore. Actually, I don't own a proper western bit either, but who cares? We totally pulled it off in our hunt seat bridle, complete with d-ring snaffle, hunt seat saddle, and half chaps. The trot-stop-back-trot exercises are fantastic for getting her really light and we accomplished many pitter-patter jogs in between the stops.

Overall, Lilly was excellent, although she was on high alert for emergency stop requests, so we had a few accidental stops (or ten). The "stop" part of the exercises is a great time to practice, though, and she will stop on a dime without any contact at all. A slight wiggle of my hips will send her backwards, and a light tap-tap of my leg will send her back into a jog.

I've really been working on finessing her cues and she is doing great. Now that she isn't anticipating my every request, I actually have time to ask her and have her respond properly and without any anxiety. She's even been picking up the correct lead 99% of the time, which is something we struggled with for a long time.

I'm telling you, the turn around since those shoes came off has been amazing.

Speaking of gorgeous weather, it was about 70 degrees today, so Lilly worked up quite a sweat. I'm still contemplating a clip of some sort, but I'm trying to decide what to do. I was originally thinking of doing a bib clip, but after seeing her sweat pattern today, I don't think that would be quite enough.

So I'm thinking about either a neck and belly clip:

Neck and belly...
Or maybe an apron clip:

Or if I get brave enough, a low trace clip:

Low trace...
I think I'm more worried about screwing up the clip and making her look like a ragamuffin than I am about anything else. We have a variety of blankets to choose from, along with a cooler, she has shelter in her pasture, and she has a stall in the barn if things get really cold, so temperature wise, the clip shouldn't make her uncomfortable. If we're going to be working this winter like I hope we are, (pretty please!!) she'll need a clip of some sort or I'll be cooling her out and drying her off for hours.

I borrowed those clip images from Peasridge. I had no idea there were so many styles!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Too Early (Or Late) For A Show?

It's been impossible to ride the past few days. We've had quite a bit of rain and the arena doesn't drain very well, so about half of it is under water. Today was beautiful and I couldn't wait to ride, so we found the driest spots and made due.

Even though Lilly is wearing casts, I still use her boots when I ride. Hopefully that will help the casts last a bit longer, especially since I'm starting to see some wear on the toes. I assume that means she's still doing quite a bit of toe first landing.

We had another really nice ride today. We did some basic trot work and quite a bit of cantering, along with some transitions and it all went really well. She had a brief moment of panic when she couldn't quite switch gears into the canter, but I didn't make a big deal of it and we went back to the walk. When she still seemed on edge, anticipating the canter transition, we took a "time out" (a long and low circle) and she was back to being focused. She's made so much progress with that and I'm thrilled with how quickly she can let it go and settle. I also put a few poles out and worked her over those a bit... let's just say we need to work on poles a lot.

I'm also happy to report that my "emergency break" has finally been installed. It was taking her a while to pick up on my not-so-subtle cue, but now she'll stop without any help from the reins or my voice... and when I say stop, I mean instant WHOA. (Alex, you'd be proud! She's really tucking her caboose!) Today she flawlessly executed it numerous times at each gait. Hopefully I can refine the cue a bit, but I'm just thrilled she's got it.

I'm really considering a trace clip this year. Hopefully we'll be doing a lot of work this winter and I think it would be a huge benefit for us. I'm still pondering...

Enjoying the sunshine.
There's a show on the 19th that I'm seriously considering. If the weather looks nice and I'm allowed to show Lilly in her boots (unless the casts make it until then) I'll probably haul down there. I would do showmanship (of course) and some hunt seat classes. It's the last show of the season, so maybe we could win a ribbon or two. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hoof Casts and More On Hoof Wall Rasping

So far, the results of Lilly's hoof casts have been amazing. She's been wearing them for just over a week and they're still holding on tight, despite a little bit of wear on the sole area of Lilly's hoof. I've been keeping up with the cast maintenance by cutting off any little pieces that have come loose in order to eliminate them being snagged or torn. I want them to last as long as possible!

Lilly seems very comfortable in them. She has to walk across a gravel drive to get to her pasture, and although I used a shovel to create a walkway for her and eliminate as many stones as I could, she would still take a number of short, ouchie steps. Now that she's wearing the casts, she confidently walks across the drive with no obvious discomfort. While I haven't seen her running around in her pasture, she isn't spending her days standing in the sandy corner sleeping. I'm hoping that since she's more comfortable, she is also walking in a more proper, heel first manner... grow soles, grow!

Speaking of hooves, in my post about Lilly's most recent trim, there was some discussion about rasping hoof walls vs not rasping hoof walls. Just like with anything else horse related, there are a lot of different opinions on the subject. I think everyone has such a varied opinion because our horses are all so different. They're all on different terrain, have different nutritional requirements, and live in different environments. All of these variables can lead to different problems and the hooves can show different results even when the same techniques are used. Since each horse is different, what works for one horse might be completely wrong for another.

What works for my horse is rasping her hoof walls and this post is about my horse and her specific problem. I've seen the results first hand, and there are a number of reasons why it works for her. I went straight to the source (my trimmer and my trimmer's mentor) to get the details, specifics, and reasons. Their direct quotes are in italics.

First, the most important thing to keep in mind where my horse is concerned, is that she is in a period of "hoof rehab". If she was a normal horse, one who is lucky enough to have nearly perfect hooves, there would be no reason to touch the hoof wall with a rasp, except maybe to round the toes.

Looking at the big picture, we need to rasp her hoof wall to bring the hooves back into symmetry and establish a good pastern angle. In order to do that, we have to pull back her toes, which are way too long and way too forward. By bringing back the toes, we help bring the breakover back over the coffin bone, eliminating how hard the coffin bone has to work against her inner sole, and placing Lilly's weight back in the center of her hoof where it belongs. There is an ideal center pivot point in every foot. Working the outer wall will help to re-establish that balance point.

Generally speaking, most farriers and trimmers will rasp the hoof wall to remove flares. Flares are, of course, a sign of hoof imbalance, but they're removed so the new hoof growth doesn't follow the same deviated path, also becoming flared.

And what is a long toe, really? A flare...

Following the same logic, rasping the hoof wall will remove "growth road blocks" (the growth rings) which jam the hairline, potentially slow down the growth of the hoof, and make it easier for the new growth to deviate from the ideal path of growth.

Relieving stress from the hairline is important because that's one of the main arteries, which feeds the foot its nutrients. If the hairline is jammed, the artery is constricted, thus slowing down the blood flow. We try to relieve that when and where it's necessary; plus, doing so also allows the jammed hoof wall to 'drop out' of the hairline, thus helping to re-establish that good blood flow.

Keeping in mind that the lamina grows from the hairline and the hoof wall grows from the lamina (from the inside out), then rasping the hoof wall is not a dangerous thing to do. If for some reason the hoof wall is thinned too much, the lamina will replace the wall from the inside out.

Once Lilly has established the kind of hooves I dream about (similar to her back hooves!), there won't be a need to do much work on her hoof wall. Until that time, for all the benefits mentioned above, it is absolutely necessary for her, and is producing noticeable results.

I am interested in opinions, ideas, comments, or accusations that I recently busted out of the crazy house. Hooves continue to fascinate me and I enjoy learning from all of you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Drama Queen

It's a beautiful, fall day in North Carolina... a perfect day to get some pictures of the horses at the barn. Some of the residents were quite uncooperative, but I managed to snap a few good ones of three of the five geldings.

Music, an OTTB loved very much by his mom.
Trudeau, a PMU gelding with an interesting sense of humor.
Quill, a very accomplished Dressage horse, now enjoying his retirement.
Oh, and remember how I said some of the horses were not cooperative? Yeah, mine was one of them. Cameras can't feed or scratch her, so she has no use for them.

"Hey, mom! Is it time for carrots or scratches?"
"No carrots until after the pictures? I am NOT happy!"
"How's this? One ear up and as enthusiastic as I get about stupid pictures..."
"Extra carrots if I put BOTH ears up and pretend to enjoy this?
"I hope you brought lots of carrots!"