Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snaffles and Western Dressage

Because of the issues I was having with Lilly yesterday, I switched her over to the snaffle bit today. It seemed like she was evading the bit, which is something she doesn't do nearly as much with the snaffle. When she evades in the snaffle, I don't feel as bad about working her to get her soft again, so I think we'll stick with the snaffle for the next few rides.

Initially we had a few moments where she wanted to push her own agenda, but then she decided it just wasn't worth it. After that, we had an outstanding ride.

We did a lot of trot circles and serpentines today. I used the two jumps in the arena to make my 8 and used nothing but leg to keep her in the circle. At first she wanted to speed up rather than just circle, but I was able to keep the circles small enough that she could only go so fast. Once she figured out the leg wasn't telling her to speed up, she settled in to a nice jog and worked the circles like a pro. I had to keep bumping the inside rein to keep her shoulder up and keep her bending, but that should improve with time. The exercise seemed to be a good one for her.

As always, we worked on canter circles too. Just like yesterday I worked her on circles to the right and then worked on something else before going back and working the circles again. Then we switched and did the same thing going to the left. I'm seeing a lot of progress with her canter and she's being much more consistent and staying off her forehand. Like with the circles, I have to help keep her shoulder up, but it's just a bump here and there.

She switched behind once going to the right today, but I've really been paying attention and I can feel when she's going to switch. So today when we were cantering, once I felt her start thinking about switching, I pushed her forward and she stayed correct.

We rode barefoot again today and she was fabulous. :)

In other news, I'm finally getting around to reading Cross Train Your Horse by Jan Savoie. There's a western dressage clinic not far from me in May that I'm thinking about auditing, so it inspired me to take the book off the shelf and get to reading.

So far, so good!
There are some pretty cool western dressage videos online, but comments in the forums about it aren't so nice. I guess a lot of the dressage riders think it's icky to see dressage done in a western saddle. Anyone have any experience with it?

There are quite a few shows in the area with western dressage classes, but apparently there's usually only one rider in the class. It has already been defined by the USEF as a discipline for Morgans, and they even have their own rules and tests. The parent organization, the Western Dressage Association of America, will recognize shows and offer awards with the goal of USEF recognition. I think it might be something fun to try!

Monday, January 30, 2012

More Barefoot Riding

I've been oiling the heck out of my new saddle, and I got the conchos all cleaned up the other day. I also had to replace the Blevins buckles (what a nightmare that was), but I think once my stirrups and pad come, I'll be "done" with the saddle, except for oiling and cleaning it quite frequently. It's still pretty thirsty, but we're making progress, and I love it very much! :)

JenJ asked about cleaning the saddle in a previous post so I wanted to mention what I used. I started out cleaning it with Lexol Leather Cleaner because that's the only cleaner I can seem to get sudsy for some reason. After I cleaned it really well, I oiled it with Pessoa brand oil, which isn't supposed to darken the leather at all. The fenders are so dark, though, that I decided to switch over to regular old neatsfoot oil for the rest of the saddle. I figure if the leather gets a bit darker, that's ok. Plus, I want the leather on my new bridle to get darker so it matches the saddle a bit better.

As far as cleaning the suede seat, mine doesn't have much suede left, but the best way I've found is just with a really mild soap and water. Use a stiff bristle brush to go over the suede with the soapy water and then pat it dry with a clean towel. To rinse it, do the same with clean water and a clean towel. It usually does a pretty good job. Supposedly a pencil eraser works well on small stains, but I've never tried it.

When I was saddle shopping, I purchased a bit just like the one Alex let me borrow and I've been riding Lilly in that each time I ride in the western saddle. I'm thinking I might need to switch her over to a snaffle for a while, though, or maybe alternate bits, because she is just SO sensitive in this bit that it's driving me crazy. I'm having a difficult time communicating certain things to her because the second I touch the reins, she overreacts.

She's such an overachiever...

I pretty much steer with my legs and rate her speed with my seat, but every now and then I have to communicate to her using the reins. I can't even ask for the desired command because she reacts so quickly, usually by turning one way or the other. Because, you know, I couldn't possibly want anything other than a turn... Also, she seems to really like this whole loose rein concept because she can drag her nose in the dirt and look all over the place. Despite the new challenges, we had another great ride in our "new" western saddle today. I rode her for the second time in the arena without boots and she did really well. The arena is really sandy, and quite soft, but she felt the same as she does when she wears her boots, if not better. I think the boots get in her way sometimes when we ride, so I'm very pleased that we've made it to this point!!

Does she look ready to star in the Paint Horse Journal?
 I might just be making excuses for my mare again, but she acts like she can't feel me quite as well as she can in the english saddle. There's a bit more leather between me and my horse, and it takes her a bit longer to react to my cue. I'm sure it feels a bit different in this saddle, but the cue is the same. Like stopping from a walk... sounds easy enough, but even when I exaggerate my cue, she just keeps on walking. I've really been working on that a lot these past couple days and she finally did really well with it today. I only had to grab her a couple times.

Steering takes a bit more effort too and I really have to make sure I'm specific, and I have to squeeze a bit with my bum to keep her from going faster as she's turning. Bless her little heart, though, she's trying. :)

I set up some ground poles for her to walk over and they're quite colorful. She snorted at them at first and then decided everything was okay. It took a while to get the spacing right and I'm surprised at how closely I had to put them together! I think some of the TBs at the barn could walk over them two at a time.

We did our usual trotting exercises and she's doing much better with my leg steering at the trot. Normally she has a tendency to speed up, especially in the circles because it requires a lot of leg, but she's getting the hang of it. We alternate between jogging and long trotting so she can feel the difference in the cues. One means turn and the other means move out!

We also worked on canter circles. One of the boarders has set up jumps in the arena so I had to adjust my circle, but we made it work. It's a bit bigger than usual, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing as this point in her training. I started her to the right, her bad way, and she did pretty darn well. She wasn't slow and collected, but she wasn't running away with me either. She did switch her lead behind a couple times, but she's getting better at staying in the canter and switching back to the correct lead. I was surprised that she did that twice... the other times we just did a simple change back to the correct lead and kept going with our circles. I worked her on a bunch of circles, then worked on trotting exercises, and then went back and cantered her to the right again. The second time I also asked for a couple canter stops and she struggled to pick up the right lead. I think she was mostly just tired, but she got it.

The canter circles to the left were amazing. I had to help her out a couple times because she really wanted to drop her shoulder, but she cantered at a wonderful pace on a lovely loose rein. She had moments where she sped up a bit, but she came back down and was really with me. It felt amazing. She switched leads in the back going to the left today, which is a first, but I did work her pretty hard today.

Have you seen a sweeter face?
I did have a small moment of panic when I was walking her back to the barn. I was closing the arena gate and when Lilly stepped onto the concrete, she took a really short step and started limping. I thought she might have stepped on a stone, but why was she still limping?! When I checked her hoof, she had a tiny little stone wedged in right near the bar of her hoof and once evicted, she was good to go. So she's still quite sensitive, but she's sound in her pasture and sound enough to ride in the arena, so we're definitely making progress.

I worked her way too hard today!
I have four of the old SmartPaks left, so Saturday she'll switch over to the supplement with the Cosequin ASU. I'm hoping to see a difference once it starts!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Riding In The New Saddle

I rode Lilly in her new saddle on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but I haven't have a lot of time to blog about our rides. When I actually have time off work, I'm so busy I can hardly stand it.

The good news is that she seems completely happy with her new saddle. I haven't noticed any signs of her being uncomfortable and she was a bit of a booger on Wednesday so I've worked her pretty hard in the saddle already.

So what's the bad news? Absolutely nothing!! :) I'm so excited to have a western saddle to ride in that fits my horse and I can't wait to show her in some western classes at the show in March!

We've had a ton of rain lately so yesterday I was only able to work on walk/trot stuff, which is fine because there's plenty that needs work even at the walk. I took advantage of the squishy, soggy arena and rode Lilly without her hoof boots and she did amazing. I didn't feel her taking short strides or ouchy steps at all, and this is the first time I've ridden her without boots since her shoes came off back in August.

I snapped a couple pictures of Lilly in her new saddle on Wednesday:

Look what I got yesterday!
Does it make my butt look big?
The saddle still needs some work and I want to get new stirrups and a new saddle pad. I bought some stirrups on Thursday but after riding in them I decided I didn't like them. They're too dirty to return, so I'll have to put them up on eBay and look for something else.

Life is good in the world of Lilly and I hope all is well with all of you!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A New Saddle!

Alex and I had quite an adventure yesterday! She's horse shopping for a friend, so I rode along so I could ride a couple horses and try to learn a thing or two. I haven't been horse shopping in about 10 years, and I don't get an opportunity very often to ride horses other than Lilly, so I thought it would be fun. We tried a couple different horses and then looked around the tack shop

I found a sweet little buckskin mare that I wanted to bring home with me, but Alex wouldn't let me... she was a bit underweight and Alex said she was only sweet because she was hungry. So I didn't buy any new horses... :(

We did, however, find a saddle for me to buy!! We went to a saddle shop, and after looking all over the store finding nothing, Alex spotted a cutting saddle in the back. It belonged to the owner of the store and wasn't for sale, but it was the EXACT same saddle that Alex has and I had to have it! What are the odds of finding the exact same saddle?? The only thing different about it was the height of the horn, but everything else matched up exactly. So after a little bit of begging, the girl at the store called the owner and he said he'd let me have it for $250. SOLD!!

It needs some TLC and a lot of oil, but I finally have a western saddle to ride in, that I know is going to fit my picky mare. Here it is before I went to work cleaning it up:

Dirty and thirsty!
I worked on it all night and got it looking pretty good, but I'm going to have to oil it a lot to get the leather nice and soft. I'm going to get some new stirrups for it and I think it'll be perfect.

Here it is this morning after some elbow grease and lots of oil:

Making progress!!
It's definitely not a show saddle, and I won't be able to show in it at an APHA show, but it'll work perfectly at the local shows we're showing at this year. I'm super excited to have a western saddle for my newly western-ized pony, and you can't beat that price!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

UFP Vet Appointment

I had an interesting visit from my vet (we'll call her L) on Saturday. She was out to evaluate the possibility of Lilly having upward fixation of the patella, a condition where one of the patellar ligaments used to allow the horse to lock its hind legs remains in the hooked position.

She started with a physical examination of Lilly's legs and hooves and after some basic questions decided she wanted to use the hoof testers. I told her there would be none of that on the front hooves, but she could go to town on the rears. She said Lilly showed discomfort when she tested the soles, but I haven't noticed her being uncomfortable on her hind feet at all. Even as I walked her over the sharp rocks to the round pen for the second part of the evaluation, she never took a short step. She also noted a bit of effusion in both hocks, but nothing serious.

We went to the round pen so L could watch Lilly move at the walk, trot, and canter. It was pretty swampy in there from all the rain we've had, so instead of free-longing her like I usually do, I grabbed the longe line. That way I could keep her out of the really wet spots by keeping her in a smaller circle. I just have to say that she was EXCELLENT and made me look really good. :)

As is typical for Lilly, she had a difficult time cantering to the right and that's one of the first things L noticed. Lilly even started off on the wrong lead behind, but otherwise, she thought Lilly looked pretty good and didn't see any signs of lameness or UFP. She doesn't think Lilly reaches up under herself well, and while I can get her to do so, she doesn't want to willingly.

Next, we took her to the driveway for some flexion tests. She tested slightly positive on her left hock, and slightly less than that on her right hock. Nothing to be too concerned about, but definitely something to make a note of.

L wanted to see me ride Lilly a bit, hoping to catch her doing the "trip" thing she does, and I had also mentioned to her about Lilly switching her lead behind at random times during our ride. She tripped a couple times, but it wasn't clear whether it was because of the footing or if it was the trip I've been complaining about. She didn't switch her lead behind at all either, but she did protest picking up the right lead a couple times when I asked her to canter to the right.

When we got back to the barn, L said she didn't think there was a need for x-rays. She said if I was curious and really wanted them, she'd do it for me because she brought the machine, but she wasn't going to recommend it. She thinks Lilly's main issue is hock pain.

Lilly has more issues on her right side than her left side, and even though she flexed more positive on her left side, hock pain would explain most of the issues, or could be used to justify them:

  • Lilly tends to drag her rear hooves... it's quite evident near trimming time because they're pretty squared off. Her toes are nice and short, so she's not dragging them because they're too long, she's possibly doing it because she's having hock pain and just doesn't want to pick up her feet.
  • She could be switching leads behind because it's easier for her when she's on the left lead.
  • The tripping could be simply because if she's dragging her toes, she's going to trip. I've seen her trip on concrete, though, so I still think there might be something to my stifle hypothesis.
  • The increased tripping at the horse show in November could be related to the fact that we had been there all day and she was being worked fairly hard. Since she was fatigued, she tripped more.
L recommended that I ride her as much as I possibly can, and work on strengthening her hindquarters. I've been going out every other day to ride, but she thinks riding every day would be beneficial. When I ride, she wants me to do a lot of walk/trot transitions and a lot of "correct walking". She thinks longing in side reins would also help convince Lilly to step up underneath herself, but I'm not a big side reins girl. I'll have to investigate that a bit. Hills and trail work would be beneficial as well, but we don't have any trails around for me to ride on. I'd have to trailer her off the property for that.

She also said she doesn't think I should canter for the next two months or so... not until I've got her muscles built up.

We also talked about adding a joint supplement to her SmartPak and there's some potential for some Adequan shots. Lilly is already on MSM but I'm thinking of adding something more potent, like Cosequin. My vet recommended Cosequin ASU, but I'd love to hear your opinions as well.

I didn't end up getting the x-rays. I'm going to research all of this a bit, and I can always have her come back out if I'm not convinced, or if I don't see any improvement after a reasonable amount of time.

After the lameness evaluation, it was time to float Lilly's teeth. She had a few little ulcers in her mouth, so I was happy when everything was done.

She was a really good girl!
L also showed me a few rub spots where Lilly's bit must be rubbing, so I'm going to have to investigate that as well. There's nothing on either of her bits that could be pinching her, and I don't see anything that could be rubbing, so I'm not sure what's causing it. Even L was a bit puzzled when I showed her Lilly's bits...

Lilly taking a snooze...
Before she left, I asked L about Lilly's weight. The BO thinks Lilly is getting too thin and was thrilled when I told her it was okay to start her on half a scoop of beet pulp. L confirmed that Lilly is at a really good weight, and she wouldn't want to see her any heavier than she is now. She thinks she's still a tad on the high side, but with more work, she'll thin down a bit more, and gain more muscle.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

Leibster in German means "Dearest". Thank you to SillyPony at Diary of the Overanxious Horseowner, Our Beautiful Life over at For the Love of My Horse, and Sand at Manitoba MoonSox and Me, for the honor of this blog award!

The rules of the award are as follows:
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs!

I would like to give this award to the following blogs:
1. Barefoot Hoof Blog- My new favorite barefoot hoof blog!
2. Just Horses - I love reading about Sebastian and Oberon, and the photos are amazing!
3. Spazfilly - Halo is a beautiful palomino and I enjoy reading about their adventures!
4. The Alex and Apple Show - A fun blog filled with horse stories, recipes, and life on her farm.
5. Wyvern Oaks - One word; jousting!! Check it out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Have My Horse Back!

The Lilly I know and love is back!

I wasn't able to ride for long before it started pouring rain, but I got in a really good ride while the weather was cooperative. It was overcast, WINDY, and it kept sprinkling on and off before the rain poured down on us. Lilly was really good even with the wind we were having today, but she's not one to get spooky on windy days.

Here's Lilly before our ride... she wanted to show off the saddle pad my BO got us for Christmas. It's black and has her name written on it in gold letters. :)

She's so stylish!
It's bigger than my other pads, but I really like the way it fits... and it matches Lilly's boots too!

As I mentioned, our ride went really well. I had to undo some of the damage I did on Sunday by asking for a lot of trot, stop, back, trot exercises. She had a bit of a hair trigger today and I wasn't able to steer with my legs like I usually do. She kept assuming I wanted her to trot. After a bit of effort, she was back to being really light and responsive. We had some excellent moments at the jog and she's really learning to keep a level headset. It's getting to the point where all I have to do is pick up slightly on the reins and she puts her head down. I've been riding with her d-ring, so I think she's feeling the reins on her neck more than she is in her mouth. She's such a smart pony!

I have the blessing from my vet to continue to work Lilly as we normally would until she can do the exam on Saturday. She said, as always, just be mindful if anything new happens or something starts to get worse. So we worked some canter circles in both directions and I started her to the right, which is her "bad" way. She was excellent. For the most part, she stayed relatively balanced, found a nice rhythm, and all I had to do was keep her on the circle. As the rain started pouring down on us she got a little upset and started going faster, so I worked her in one more circle, asking her to slow down and relax, and then we headed for the safety of the barn.

Since my ride was cut short, I decided it was a good time to clean and oil my tack. Speaking of tack, I want to get a western saddle in the worst kind of way. Alex and I are going shopping on Tuesday, so maybe I'll be able to find something that will work... even if it's just a used saddle to ride in for now. I can always upgrade later on down the road. I just need it to fit!

I've got my eye on one I found on eBay, but I'm afraid to share the link for fear that someone will come in and ninja the saddle. So more details on that will follow if the saddle happens to become mine. I'm still keeping some other saddles in mind as well. There are just TOO MANY different kinds!

Monday, January 16, 2012

We've Been Rescheduled

Wow, my abs are sore from yesterday! At this rate I won't have to start my wedding workout anytime soon!!

Lilly's vet appointment was rescheduled until Saturday. My vet was on call today and was running about 2 hours behind when she called me early this morning. It seems there are a lot of horses having issues with colic around here... my vet's horse included. It's been crazy.

She said she could probably have squeezed me in, but wanted to make sure we had enough time to do a really thorough evaluation, so we decided to go ahead and reschedule. I was really looking forward to having some more information about what's plaguing my sweet pony, but I don't want to be rushed.

Now we wait for Saturday!

My barn friend, S, borrowed Lilly to do some ground work with a young girl who's leasing a horse at the barn. Lilly is SO good with that stuff that we thought she'd be the perfect horse for the job. I wasn't there to watch, but S said Lilly was really good and the little girl just loved her. :)

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!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Months Barefoot

My trimmer was out yesterday for what amounted to Lilly's three and a half week trim. I just trimmed Lilly back on December 18th, but I really wanted her to get a professional trim and it was my trimmer's day to be in town. Her first appointment wasn't home and the appointment after me cancelled, so I took full advantage of the extra time!

She graciously showed me how to sharpen my hoof knife and it became clear rather quickly that I need a new sharpener and a hoof knife upgrade. Save Edge has a really nice diamond sharpener that worked wonders on my cheap-o hoof knife and I must have one! She also gave me a left handed knife and another rasp. Thank you, thank you!!

We chatted a bit about the hoof clinic coming up on February 19th. I'm taking Lilly and really looking forward to it! I've got a list of things I need to buy before then and one item on that list is a hoof stand. I think I'm just going to bite the bullet and get the Hoofjack hoof stand.

Isn't it dreamy?
I need to get it in plenty of time for the clinic because my horse was an ass yesterday and we need to practice... yep, my horse was an ass! She took no pity on the fact that I had an expert trimmer with me who was willing to show me how to trim. She was rather impatient and you could set your stopwatch to her poor behavior.

"Ok, mom... you've got 30 second until I yank my foot away. I hope you can get those bars done in time! Ready? GO!"

She was even worse when I tried to put her foot on the stand to work on the walls and give her a nice roll. She kept doing doing her best impression of a downward dog yoga pose. To be fair, we did work on her for quite a while (because I'm slow), but she just needs to deal with it. The clinic will last ALL DAY, so today was nothing compared to what's coming up. We eventually took her out of the cross ties and put her in the barn aisle with just the lead rope and halter. That way, when she decided to yank her hoof off the stand and go backward, we could help her become an overachiever and back her all the way down the aisle. She decided after one trip down the aisle that she was cool with the hoof stand. She hung her head down and stood completely still, sulking. We finished up her hooves without another incident!

She's definitely not a good demo horse, but hopefully I can work with her between now and then so she learns to stand. I don't want to be the girl with the poorly behaved horse. I'm going to have an amazing opportunity to learn and I don't want it hindered by Miss Impatient. She is always so good! I know she can be better than she was yesterday!

The plan was for me to watch my trimmer do a front and rear hoof, then I was going to do a front and rear hoof. Because Lilly was such a turd, I only did the right front hoof, and I received a lot of help. Technique is key, and I learned a lot about that, which will help me out so much in the future.

We decided against the EasyBoot Glue-Ons we had been talking about for a number of reasons. Mostly it's because she is doing great as is, so there isn't a need to change things. Plus, I want to be able to see her hooves and ride her in the boots, and she hasn't been sore or gimpy on her right front in a long time. My trimmer said she can tell Lilly's soles have thickened since we started this adventure and her heels look better every time she comes out.

Here are the before and after photos from yesterday...

Left Front Hoof:


Right Front Hoof (this is the hoof I trimmed, along with lots of help from my trimmer):


And to put everything in perspective, here is Lilly's left front hoof on September 8th of last year, and January 12th of this year... 4 months later.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Patella Fixation Stuff

Today was hoof trim day, but I ran out of time and didn't get to edit my photos. So that post will have to wait. For now, I shall talk about stifles, UFP, and effusion...

My vet's horse is boarded at the same barn as Lilly. Convenient, right? I try not to bug her for "free" advice, but I couldn't help myself today. She was checking in on her horse because he coliced yesterday and I thought it would be the perfect time to ask her about UFP. As you may recall, I have been pondering whether UFP is something Lilly might have. I posted about it here, and have been watching for signs and symptoms ever since.

What's UFP? If one of the patellar ligaments used to allow the horse to lock its hind legs remains in the hooked position, the horse is unable to bend its leg. This condition can range from a slight delay in a leg's forward motion (what Lilly has) to completely locking which freezes a leg for long periods of time. My vet told me a horror story about a horse she worked on who was locked for FOUR DAYS and they ended up cutting the horse's ligament. Yikes...

I gave her the rundown of Lilly's symptoms and history and I was basically picking her brain about whether we would be able to diagnose the UFP with an x-ray or ultrasound. She thinks an x-ray would be a good place to start because that would show us if she has arthritis. She offered to palpate her stifle and noted that there's quite a bit of effusion (fluid) on the left side, which is the side with the issue. She was glad to see that Lilly is very symmetrical, because a lot of horses with UFP have disproportionate muscles.

We're planning to do an x-ray in the near future (maybe Monday) and then depending on what we find, we'll go from there. The reason I want to do the x-rays sooner rather than later is because she mentioned that circles are really bad for UFP horses... since circles are our main focus going forward, I want to make sure I don't make something worse. With an x-ray at least I'll know what I'm up against.

If she does have UFP, it is thankfully a mild case and there are quite a few options available. A strict fitness routine is one option, which would work toward strengthening the quadriceps muscles and help to put more tension on the ligaments. That would involve hills, hills, hills, and poles, poles, poles, but circles are a giant no-no. We could look at some different trimming methods too and see how she's wearing her hind hooves. Trimming the inside hoof wall more than the outside has been helpful for some horses. Injecting the stifle is another option, as well as blistering (which I am not going to do), and finally surgery, which is also not on the table. Accupuncture isn't an accepted treatment method, but it's being done with great results.

Interestingly, heavier horses have fewer issues with UFP because the fat pad behind the patella enlarges, thus reducing the likelihood of the ligament catching on the bone. And here I've got her on a diet...

Oh, and hard footing is also helpful, which is completely opposite of the hoof care plan I have her on now...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Going It Solo

Since Sunday was our mini obstacle course and yesterday we were rained out, today was the first chance we had to practice everything we learned when Alex was out on Saturday.

Things didn't start off all that well because Lilly was in a mood. What mood was that? A looky-loo, snorty-snort kind of mood. Even in the cross ties she seemed a little on edge, which is unusual. On our way to the arena she snorted at the giant, brown, horse eating monster (trash can) and was blowing at everything. I ended up taking her to the trash can so she could sniff it, but she wasn't convinced that it wasn't going to breathe fire and kill us both. After our walk around the arena and our stifle exercises, though, she seemed to settle in, and by the time I was in the saddle she was ready to work!

I rode her in our usual english tack. My only other option is english saddle and western bridle, but I don't want to overdo the new western bit because I'm still learning myself. Perhaps I'll alternate bridles when I ride so she gets a taste of both as we work more on our cantering.

We did our usual warm-up and then I went right into some trotting and jogging exercises. As was suggested by Alex, every time there was a transition, I exaggerated the "head set" (I hate that term...) to encourage her to really keep her head level throughout the entire transition. She did really well!

We did a bunch of serpentines in and out of a line of cones, and worked on our extended trot to slow jog exercises. I tried getting her to slow her extended trot by slowing the rate at which I was posting. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking. Now that I'm riding more with my body and less with my reins, I'm amazed at how little it takes on my part to get a response from her. She's such a smart girl!

After we were done trotting, I moved on to the canter circles. The arena was quite wet from the rain so I had to find an area that was fairly dry. The end where Alex and I worked was too soggy, so I moved some stuff around and worked her in the center of the arena. I think my circles were bigger than the ones we did on Saturday, but after I walked it a couple times to give myself a pattern to follow, they seemed to be just about right.

Lilly did amazingly well in both directions! She wasn't rushy at all and stayed very consistent throughout the entire thing. It was still quick, but she didn't seem upset or worried, and it felt a lot better than it did on Saturday. I don't know if it's because the circles were bigger, or if she'll just have some good and some bad days? I decided to do 10 circles in each direction, and I'll increase the number each time we ride, assuming the circles stay nice like they were today. If she's rushy and super quick, we'll just canter until she's more relaxed. I want to build a level of fitness before we start the canter-stop-back-canter exercises that are in our future.

Here's what we left in the arena after our canter circles:

A nice circle!
My boarder friend (we'll give her a name and call her S since she's been mentioned here quite a few times) called me when she was riding to complain about the tracks we left in the arena. :)

It was a great ride! I cooled her down, cleaned her hiney, turned her out, stuffed her hay net, and she was a happy girl! I hope this weather keeps up too... it's fantastic!

Looking thinner by the day! No more giant hay belly!
They're calling for more rain tomorrow and then Thursday my trimmer comes out, but I'm looking forward to our next ride! They're so much more fun than they used to be. I think Lilly agrees!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Playing With Obstacles

I never mentioned what I did with Lilly on Sunday... I didn't want to work her after the tough ride she had with Alex, but I still wanted to go spend some time with her. A fellow boarder had the idea to gather up some scary objects and work with our horses to get them used to new things.

Both of our horses have a fear of things coming at their faces, so we selected a giant Parelli ball, an umbrella, and a big flag. Her horse is used to the Parelli ball, but I knew it would probably terrify Lilly. She's afraid of her Jolly Ball, so I didn't hold much hope that she'd be okay with a giant, green, bouncing ball either. It didn't take long until she was ok with it being bounced next to her and being rolled underneath her, but it took a bit longer to get her ok with the ball rolling right at her front legs. She never tried to run away and never pulled back, though, so I was quite proud of how brave she was.

The boarder's horse was playing "soccer" with the Parelli ball, but I couldn't get Lilly to push it unless it was by mistake. A couple times she hit the ball with her foot if I managed to be sneaky enough, but she wouldn't do it on her own by walking into the ball. I've tried to get her to squeeze through or knock over barrels with her shoulders in the past and I just can't seem to convince her that she can go forward. It's like she thinks the objects are stationary and I'm an idiot for asking her to run into things. Any ideas on how to get her to push things?

She was totally ok with the giant flag (parade pony, here we come!), and didn't mind the umbrella until I spun it like a top in front of her. That got the stink eye for quite some time, but then she got bored with it and tried to eat the handle.

We want to get a hula hoop, some pool noodles, and a plastic kiddie pool for our next adventure!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Alex Visit!

I have been sick, sick, sick... it's been over a week since it started and I'm still not back to feeling normal. It was so bad last week that I took some time off work to rest and try to get rid of this ick, and I never take sick days at work! I'm feeling well enough to do things normal, not sick people do, but I sure hope it doesn't last too much longer.

I went to the barn Friday and had a really nice ride on Lilly. Alex was coming out on Saturday so I didn't want to work her too hard... we just had a nice ride together. She was fantastic, and I've noticed a difference in her since I started using that gel half pad. I think it gives just enough padding on her back to make the saddle a bit more comfortable for her.

Saturday was gorgeous... 70 degrees and sunny! We're having some unseasonably warm weather, and I am not complaining. I had given up on the idea of clipping Lilly for the winter, but if it keeps this up, I might end up having her clipped.

So as I mentioned, Alex came out to visit on Saturday. I love having her come out because I get so much out of each visit... if she didn't live so far away I'd beg her to come out more often. She has at least 150 different bits to choose from (right, Alex?), a variety of headstalls and reins to use, and a western saddle that fits Lilly like a dream!

I've been wanting to outfit Lilly in a "big girl bit" so she can start learning how to be a western horse in something other than a d-ring snaffle. We have to show in something with shanks, so Alex brought some bits she thought would work and we selected what we thought would be the best bit for Lilly. I couldn't find the exact bit online, but it looks something like this:

Billy Allen mouth bit...
I like that each side of the bit works independently, so I can still communicate with her in a way that is similar to how her snaffle works. She seemed to really respond well and figured out fairly quickly how everything was going to work. Alex is letting me keep the headstall and bit for a while, so we'll be able to practice with it some more and make sure it's what I want to use before I purchase my own.

Alex rode Lilly first so I could watch how she worked Lilly and handled the new bit. I was also anxious to "show off" how much progress we have made since the last time she was out. I think she was pretty impressed with how much more relaxed Lilly is and how she really stays with her rider now. The progress is just huge and I owe it all to Alex and her now infamous "trot-stop-back-trot" exercises. For the kind of mind that Lilly has, those exercises are gold!

Then it was my turn!

Let's do this!
I really didn't have to do a whole lot to get the perfect western walk. Every now and then she would bring her head up and a little pull upwards on the inside rein would get her head back down. Alex kept saying, "more rein, more rein" and I'd let out some more slack. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that Lilly was walking slowly, consistently, and with her head down on such a loose rein!

Whose horse is this, anyway?
It was the same at the jog (heh, I said jog!). I kept her on a loose rein and she just plodded around as happy as can be. The jog was nice, too. It wasn't a pitter patter, she's barely moving jog... it was slow, consistent, and simply amazing.

La-de-da... this is fun!
After I was able to get the hang of things, we changed it up and went from a jog to a trot, back to a jog, and so on. I was amazed at how well she would speed up and extend the trot and then come back to a jog simply because I would sit deep and exhale.

Speeding it up...
Slowing it down...
I had to take a minute during my ride... the progress we have made together over the past year just suddenly came at me all at once and I got very emotional. I couldn't stop the tears. I had to hug Lilly and I had to hug Alex. Between the training help she's given us and the new pony I found when I chose to try Lilly barefoot, I finally have a happy horse and it means the absolute world to me.

After gathering my composure, we decided to move on and work Lilly at the canter. Alex hopped on and I told her about the progress we've made with our transitions, but that we really don't canter a whole lot. I've been cantering her enough to work on transitions and leads, but for a variety of reasons, I just don't work her much at the canter. It definitely needs a lot of work...

She does well enough at the canter to appease me and I don't worry about cantering at horse shows, but Lilly does not have a nice canter. Her canter is essentially what her trot used to be. Alex describes it as "running away"... Lilly isn't cantering with me, she's cantering to get away from me. We aren't together. Lilly is cantering and I'm sitting there on her back.

Alex decided that from now on, we canter circles at the end of the arena. All I'm supposed to do is keep her on the circle. She can carry her head however she pleases and she can go as fast as the circle will allow, but we need to canter, canter, canter.

I hopped on and gave it a try...


Still cantering... remember to breathe!
What I found particularly interesting was how on the circle, her bad way became her good way and her good way became her bad way. When I canter her around the arena, she is much better when we're going counter-clockwise. On the circle, she was much better going clockwise. Strange!

A happy me and a sleepy Lilly!
Alex gave us some great homework and some great pointers! I'm anxious to get started with Lilly so our canter can improve as much as our trot/jog has. We're also going to plan a trip to a western saddle shop not far from us. Because Alex's saddle fits Lilly so well, we want to take it with us to the saddle shop and see what they have that's similar. Alex thinks that because her saddle is old as dirt that it is made different than today's saddles... it's made for the old school, bulldog style QH, which is similar to what Lilly is. I would love to find a "normal" saddle that fits Lilly so I don't have to spend a fortune to have a happy western pony. :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Still More On Western Saddles

I've lost count of the number of saddle posts I've done, but let's just say there have been quite a few. The saddle issues started back in 2008 when we really started doing a lot of riding. Prior to 2008, we were mostly just trail riding and playing around without any serious goals. Once I decided to start showing again, the rides became more demanding and more frequent and I really started to notice issues.

I mentioned briefly in another post that I borrowed a friend's western saddle. I've been wanting to ride Lilly western because of all the progress we've made and the saddle looked like it would fit so I gave it a try. It wasn't too narrow and had a nice, short skirt, but after a few minutes into our test ride I could tell Lilly was uncomfortable. She hadn't quite made it to the point where she was really displaying her usual symptoms because I could tell very early on that the saddle wasn't going to work and I took it off.

In my very popular Crates saddle post, I was wondering if I would have an easier time finding a saddle that Lilly was happy with because a lot of her issues dissolved when we tool those shoes off. Our experience with my friend's western saddle says otherwise, though, and I'm back to being a bit pessimistic about the whole situation.

My friend Alex rides Lilly in her western saddle when she comes out to work with us and I haven't seen a problem with that one at all, but Lilly doesn't always show discomfort right away. I'm not sure if Alex's saddle really does fit Lilly or if it just hasn't been used enough for Lilly to decide she doesn't like it. I suppose there really could be a saddle out there that fits as is, and maybe Alex has it, but she's not selling! Trust me, I asked. It's all a crap shoot really, and that's why all of this gets so frustrating.

But moving on to the actual purpose of this post... a new brand of saddle to consider! My trimmer recommends these saddles and I've never heard of them before until now. They're made by TW Saddlery and are quite unique to any saddle I've ever seen before. This from their website:

The traditional western saddle often is too tight due to substantial padding. The tradition of using both a blanket and pad, combined with the popularity of today's thicker pads, often creates bridging. Complicating the issue is the use of bulky, thick leather, double-thick skirting encasing the tree, and extending two to three inches in front of the bars of the tree. This often pinches the shoulders and interferes with the tree fitting in the manner it was designed to.

As a result of the saddle either being too narrow or too much padding, all pressure is on withers/shoulders. This failure of saddle to fit properly results in it being lifted off back, in center, and some remaining pressure is on loins where contact resumes. Horses experiencing this bridging will be reluctant to extend their gaits and this much pressure will cause pain, tissue damage and associated white hairs.

I wonder if Lilly would have white hairs on her withers if the hair there wasn't already white...

With these TW saddles, they have eliminated the unnecessary leather in front of bars and also shortened the bars slightly so shoulder movement isn't as compromised as it tends to be on a traditional western saddle. The saddles also do not have any fleece lining the bottom because it makes evaluating saddle fit much more difficult and just creates extra, unnecessary padding. The saddles come with neoprene pads and shims, and that's what is used to create a truly custom saddle.

The neoprene pads.
Think about it... you could have one saddle for four different horses. The pads are all removable, so you ride one horse with his pads, and then when you switch to another horse, ride him with his pads. Perhaps your horse has uneven shoulders... the pad on the left side can be thicker than the pad on the right side. Or, as the shape of your horse changes with work, you can get different pads for that too! Plus, the need for a special saddle pad goes out the window because that's what your saddle is doing for you with the neoprene pads.

There is a dealer who is pretty local to me, so I could load up Lilly and haul her out there for a consult. They use the Equi-Mapping technology when doing their saddle fitting so you can truly see how the saddle fits. I'm skeered to see the outcome with my new, expensive, of course it fits her! english saddle...

They also have a demo program so you can try the saddle before you make the purchase. Considering the saddle I'm interested in is $2700, a demo makes me feel much more at ease about the purchase.

There are a few different styles and I like the Ranch Versatility saddle the best. Without knowing the specifics about each one I might need something different, but if I were to buy one right now, that's the one I'd choose. They have a lot of different options too as far as color, tooling, and conchos go. Square skirts, round skirts, different riggings, and you can even get a matching breastcollar!

It's not super showy, but I think it would do okay in the show ring. I've also seen some of their show type saddles on different websites, so there's a good chance I could get some silver put on mine. So for now, this is the saddle I'm researching. I'm going to get in touch with the local dealer and discuss some of our issues with her to see what she thinks. This might be the answer!

Monday, January 2, 2012

More Thoughts For 2012

As is typical this time of year, I get bitten by the show bug pretty hard. I start thinking about all the shows I want to go to, the clothes I need to buy, the PAC points we might get, the things we need to work on... All the different circuits start putting out their show dates and their class list and I go through each one, bolding the classes Lilly and I would do well in. It borders on obsession...

This year, one of my favorite show circuits has kicked off a new hunter circuit. There are only a couple shows but I noticed they have a few beginner classes with 18" cross rails. I've been looking for hunter hack classes with 18" cross rails and haven't been able to find them. All the hunter hack classes have jumps with a minimum of 2', and we don't do 2'. We don't do anything over 18", actually. I'm not big into jumping (never have been) and neither is Lilly. I've tried a bit of free jumping here and there with her and it's obvious she'd rather go around the jump.

In a traditional hunter hack class, there are only two jumps, and I assume an actual hunter class would be made up of multiple jumps, maybe five of them, and a specified order that we'd have to jump them. (See how little I know about hunters?) Not that three more jumps makes a huge difference, but I'm not sure how Lilly would feel about jumping that many jumps in three different classes...

It's been easy to ignore jumping because of Lilly's history of tendon issues. When her ICLs were cut back in the day the vet said she'd be perfectly sound and usable, but he didn't recommend a jumping career. As time went on, I spoke to numerous vets and many of them commented that she would be just fine for jumping as long as we stayed under 2'6"... After her most recent tendon injury, the vet asked if we did any jumping and I explained that we never had and the reasons why. She commented that small jumps might actually be beneficial for Lilly's tendons and that we should include them in our rehab. I chose not to because I didn't feel I was experienced enough to do that type of exercise with her and ensure she wasn't injured.

There's a whole other world of thinking regarding tendon injuries that seems to be making it's way into the mainstream. Studies have recommended not resting tendon injuries, but rather working the horse to keep the ligament and muscles in shape because it produces a better outcome. Small jumps and hills were mentioned because of the different ways they would stretch the tendons and keep them from getting tight... My vet seemed really excited about the research and I can see the benefit of both methods, but I don't know enough about the research to have formed an opinion. I do find it interesting, though.

With all the research I've been doing about back issues in horses, jumping, raised poles, and other ground pole exercises come up often as a way to strengthen and stretch the topline. I do want to include some poles into our workouts, and it doesn't seem like most hunter folks consider 18" a "real jump", but I worry about her tendons and ligaments.

Now that I've found a few classes we could try, I'm starting to consider going to one of the shows and taking Lilly in the classes. 18" is our absolute limit but it might be something else fun to do with her. My vet is completely okay with it (although a professional opinion doesn't mean what it used to in my eyes), Lilly's torn ligament is completely "healed", and assuming Lilly doesn't seem to hate the small cross rails, is there a reason to hold back and not trot over something 18" high? We've been doing a bit of cavaletti work already and she seems to enjoy trotting over those. Unfortunately I have no idea how high they are... maybe 12"?

She does way worse to herself in the pasture, but the difference is that she's doing it on her own terms. If we did some cross rails, I would be asking her to do it and wouldn't necessarily know if it was bothering her. She might tell me, but she might not.

Any thoughts on 18" cross rails and my very fragile little mare?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Goals

I didn't set any goals for myself in 2011... well, I had one goal and that was to have a sound horse by the end of the year. Even though we're still having a few issues here and there, my horse is sound and happy and I am so grateful for that! We're riding on a consistent basis and even ended the year with a successful show. I hope 2012 brings us more happy memories!

Basic Goals

Hooves, hooves, hooves! I want to continue to work on Lilly's hooves and the thickness of her soles. X-rays will be in order again later in the year to see how much they've grown since the x-rays in 2011.

I want to stay consistent in my riding and work Lilly at a minimum of three days per week, although four is preferred. It's good for her hooves, great for her conditioning, and if we intend to show (which we do!) we need to work on a number of things to be competitive. I'm excited to see how she progresses with such consistent work.

For those three and four day work weeks, I want to go into the arena with a plan. Too often I find myself "just riding" without any goals in mind and without a purpose. Sometimes it's fun to just enjoy my horse, but Lilly needs direction and in order to keep us both focused, I want to have exercises to work on and goals to work toward.

I would love to take some lessons. This might not be the year to start having regular lessons because of wedding costs, but maybe I can take a lesson here and there. Ideally, I would prefer to take lessons on someone else's horse so I can get a better gauge of my riding skills. After riding my friend's horse a couple times over the past month I've realized that I can ride Lilly pretty darn well, but stick me on a different horse and things tend to fall apart. It's a bit embarrassing...

I really want to get a western saddle. Again, there's the whole wedding-gotta-save-money thing, but I'm hoping I can find something suitable for us to use even if it isn't the saddle I really want. That can always come later on.

My main goal for 2012 is to keep Lilly healthy and happy! I want her to see a chiropractor early this year and also investigate the possible UFP. She's already lost some weight (had to use the next hole up on the girth!) and I think she's looking good!

Show Goals

If this was a normal year (i.e. not the year I get married!) I would probably set a few more show related goals for us to work toward. Because of time constraints and a need to save money for the wedding, the actual 2012 show season will be scaled down a bit.

We won't be able to show at the State Fair since I'll be on my honeymoon, which would normally be a goal, but I want to attend at least one show every other month. September would be one of those months, but I'll be getting married on the 29th, so September is out. Right now I only have 4 shows lined up, but some of the possible show circuits don't have their dates out yet, so that could change. I added a gadget on the side to keep track.

I'm hoping our show in July will be a Paint show because I would love to get another more novice/amateur point this year with Lilly! I won't make the novice/amateur point a goal, though... PAC points are much more realistic for us at this point and I hope to get at least five more showmanship points and three performance points.

I'm very excited about what 2012 holds! May it be a great year for all of us and our horses! :)