Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sailing Along

Geez Louise...

It's pretty amazing what can be accomplished when a person stops fighting their head and just gets back to business.

The big bay has progressed to being saddled and was pretty good about it. I may not have been thrilled with the trainer overdoing the round-pen riding, but it's pretty obvious how much he put into the ground-work on this horse...
My goal is to just keep messing with Jet-saddling and ponying him, until I get the time to start going over to Bub's and then I will have someone pony me while I am on the horse. Jet is a full QH on paper, but he is all TB in his brain and way of thinking. He needs forward movement and lots of it.

Bugs fell right back into work mode, so we moved to the round pen for some sacking and I even jumped on and rode him around bareback. Now, I'm riding him in full accouterments...
My round pen is 40', but Bugs struggles to work in such a small area, I'm going to take a chance and move to riding him outside in my riding area by the house. We have lots of work to do to get this little guy limbered up.

Frosty and Moon got some bitting work. This is a prime example of how Frosty likes to travel...
The horse carries his neck very stiffly and it's like he sucks it back into himself (think turtle)...It just totally locks him down in the front. It took a lot of playing with the rein length and I actually had to over-bit him to get him to stop doing that...
Normally I do not bit a horse so that they have to travel with their nose behind the vertical to get release, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I do not leave them this way for more than a couple of circles. It's too much and if over-done can create it's own set of problems. The day after bitting, Frosty was being plumb silly, which is his way of saying, "I'm a bit sore' and sure enough he was a smidge tender...But he was tender over his whole topline and not just over his loin, so he is finally starting to use all of his back. We just worked on stretching and extending the walk on the line and we warmed right out of the muscle tenderness. Yesterday I saddled him and went for a ride in the field next door. Good lord getting this horse to just walk out is hard work (Frosty thinks it is hard work too), but we made a couple of rounds and worked on a lot of softening. Afterwards, I noticed he seemed pretty tender on his hind fetlocks and they felt a bit warm. Lots of changes going on in this horse's body and I think I'm going to be dealing with lots of different sore spots until all the kinks are worked out.

Moon acted like he had about the same amount and kind of soreness as Frosty after being bitted up the day before. When I started to work him in small circles, I noticed a hint of a hitch in his giddy-up on the left instead, we went for a brisk hand-walk for about 15 minutes. Here I was not wanting to fatigue or strain those muscles and when I turned him out, he blasted off, did some jump, buck, farts and hauled butt to the other end of the pasture where the other horses were. Alrighty then! He's back to being ridden as well and we worked on the same thing as I did with Frosty, except for Moon, it's about making him stay engaged in the hind-end. He did pretty good and only fell out a couple of times. I'm not sure what to think about Moon, he seems so docile. Obviously, since we are not competing or training hard, I have backed way off his grain ration and with 24 hour turn-out I don't expect his energy level to be real high, but it feels weird...him being so quiet, after getting used to him having loads of energy like he did this last summer, but he is moving better and the soreness he experienced before is not manifesting again, so I'll take it and be happy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vacation Is Over

So the ponies got a bit of a vacation, as did least from doing anything but throwing hay and filling water.

I think we all need that once in a while.

I've had a lot of stuff rolling through my head these past few months and a little down-time has given me time to assess, absorb and re-calculate.

I could say that I felt rather dumb for having to have other people re-tell me things I already know...but I'm over all that. Mulling on mistakes doesn't leave much room to think about how to make it right.

Life with horses is what it is. Every step is a journey and sometimes you end up at a dead-end.

But reverse works rather well and if I have to back all the way up to the starting be it.

I'm back to groundwork.

After Moon made his charge through the electric fence, I almost brought him up and left Beretta out (nobody else thinks it worth charging through electricity to bother her)...but he was still very sore through his loin and I decided that right then HE was the one who needed room to roam the most. It took about a week for him to lose all of that soreness and start traveling normal again. I left him alone for another week just for good measure.

In the meantime, I decided it was as good a time as any to start working with Miss Beretta. We started formal longing lessons, worked on bend/give, move off of pressure and I started playing around with little exercises to teach her how to step up and drive off of her inside hind leg.

Interestingly enough, just messing around with her, I started to work some things out in my mind, so I have been carrying over what I started doing with Beretta to the other horses. I kept thinking that all of this seemed very familiar and one day it dawned on me that this was all stuff I worked with Moon on years ago when I started bringing him back after he pulled his stifle muscles.

Most of it is exercises that Mrs Mom gave me.

Working in-hand gives me an opportunity to see how a horse carries himself, where their feet fall and any stiffness/lack of suppleness.

Since I don't have anyone around on a daily basis to spot for me, I wanted to get a feel for exactly where everyone was..cause boy, oh boy...does that carry over when you are riding.

This is what I have found;

Beretta-Is very supple to the right. She has no problem relaxing and stretching through her neck. Subsequently she can really reach up underneath herself with her right hind foot and is using her whole back. Little sister can walk on! Her transition up to a trot and back down to a walk are smooth. Going to the left it's like watching a different horse. She is much bracier in the neck, stiff in her left shoulder and her transitions are erratic. Her left circles involve a lot of flat and bulging spots.

Jet-Is erratic and overreactive. He's supple bodied on both sides, but has a tendency to react with his body and forgets about his feet.

Bugs-Is stiff bodied and clunky moving. But he is a tubby little turd, so that's pretty much what I expected. He also has a tendency to overreact at the walk and downward transition and wants to whip around and face up. His transitions up are nice and smooth and he will just trot forever in relaxed frame, but because he is so chubby and stiff he lacks bend.

Frosty-Is stiff and bracy through the neck. He doesn't lift his shoulders at all, which leads to short strides with his front legs. Because he strides so deep behind, he keeps pushing himself into a jog. It's really interesting to watch him because now that I realize what I'm looking at I understand why he rides the way he does.

Moon-Is stiff bodied, lacks impulsion from behind and does the same thing with his shoulder that he does when I am riding him. Going to the left, he over-bends and pushes his shoulder out. To the right, he is stiff in the shoulder and keeps fading into the circle. I also notice he is dragging his left hind toe occasionally. That is the side he jammed his back and was so sore on. I can't help but still think that there might be something physical going on, but I also remembered that when I started bringing Moon back after he pulled his stifle muscles (years ago) that he had the same tendencies. (Thank goodness for the blog so I could go back and read up on all that.)

What I'm going through with Moon is similar to what In2Paints is going through with her mare. I've always said that Moon was built just a hair off of being ideal in the back legs. He's got a high hock and is a bit straight. This is not an uncommon conformation characteristic to see in barrel horses as it lends itself to speed. The downside is, one or two degrees to much and you have a horse that is prone to letting his hind legs get too far behind them which leads to back, stifle and hock issues, particularly when they are lazy like Moon is.

LMAO...I knew all of this, particularly about Moon, but I got so wrapped up in his injury that I got tunnel vision and stopped doing all of the stuff I normally did to strengthen his stifle and make him use his whole back.

It has been really interesting to watch how the other horses move around the line and see how they use their entire topline (even if it is sporatic/erratic)...Moon and Frosty do not do that, so it was definitely a training issue.

Whewww! I finally feel like I am back in my element again and have very specific goals to work on with each horse.

Something Bub told me really resonated with me. I made the comment that maybe I should just stick to training because I couldn't seem to figure out how to compete very well. I always feel like I am starting over. He just laughed and told me, 'You gotta start from the beginning every. single. day.' At the time, I understood what he was saying, but until I started over again, I didn't really get it. But more on that another time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Sorry...have been meaning to do a post for days and by the time I get sat down to write...I'm tired and am lacking for words. Not to mention that Megan's cat has decided *I* must have nothing else to do in the evening except give him cuddle time and he is not above plopping down ON the laptop to get his cuddling...He is in fact, at this very moment nestled deep in my lap while I precariously balance the laptop on my knees and try to type without disturbing him overly much.
Deuce is not much of a best it is barely discernible, but Lordy can he snore. LOL

The squirrel says Hi...

And hopefully everyone in the good ole U.S.A. gets the chance to look like this after feasting on Thanksgiving Day...

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

And to my Canadian Friends...I'm a month late in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. Sorry!

I'll be back to pony postings after the Holiday! ;-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting There

I had promised pictures of the kitchen repair to some friends on FB yesterday...but things didn't come together quite as much as I had hoped...

Isn't that the way it always is with repair/remodel work?

Please forgive the messes...we are still in the middle of finishing up! :-/

Earlier this summer I flooded the ceiling due to a broken swamp cooler line and that caused a significant amount of damage. All the work I did to repair the ceiling from a previous leak...ruined...and then some.

The guys ended up having to take down all of this...
It doesn't look like that much from this angle, but it's about an 8'x16' section.

The really unfortunate part is that the insulation in the ceiling is the blown-in type, so the entire kitchen was tented off for 4 days while the guys pulled sheetrock and loose insulation to make sure there wasn't any moldy parts left. To get from one end of the house to the other, we had to go out the kitchen door, across the patio and in through the sliding door. For FOUR DAYS!! I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but by the time Monday rolled around...I was damn ready for that tent to be down and to be able to use my kitchen again.
Maybe I should have asked them if they could do a cathedral ceiling. LOL

The last few days have been a flurry of activity. The guys were busy putting back up the new sheetrock and the electrician was making all of the changes to the lights I have been dreaming about....
The only good thing about ruining the ceiling? It made it much easier for the electrician to check all the wiring out...And booyyyy...were there some doozies of DIY screw-ups. It's a wonder this house is still standing. The people who remodeled the house (2-owners ago) did some lovely things like tie into existing wire, patch wires together with duck tape and pushed old fixture outlets up into the ceiling and left them 'live'. Holy Hell!!!

So yea, I glad we ended up finding all of that.

In the kitchen itself there was a single bar of track light. It actually didn't light anything very much. :( The island was too dark as was the stove if I didn't turn on the light over the sink, as well as both stove lights. So out with the track light (although I kinda liked the fixture itself) and I had recessed light put in. One over the bar section of the counter, 2 centered over the stove and one in front of the refrigerator (which you can't really see in this picture)...
That white strip and hole in the ceiling is where the old track light was. The two holes in the ceiling to the right are where the pendulums will hang over the island.

Here's a broader view (that includes all of the messes). The fixture in the foreground is newly positioned to be centered over the table...
The hole just to the right of the new dining room fixture is where the old track light was that was supposed to light the dining room and the 'sitting room' off to the right. It was atrocious! As like the other track light, it didn't really light anything.

Soooo...old light holes need to be repaired and the new sheetrock taped, textured and painted. That's my might be like this for a bit yet. At least until snow flies. ;-)

A close-up of the new dining room fixture...
It's an antiqued rusty look...that I had hell finding because I was trying to match the ceiling fan I bought last year...that I just loved!...And that did not work! I was devastated because my whole lighting fixture theme was around that light/fan that was supposed to go here...
The fan/light I had picked out was a rusty look with raised stars on it, the trim looked like rope and the fan blades had horse-shoes on them. It was definitely a statement piece, but hung to low for this ceiling. I was soooo sad to have to return it and unfortunately they do not make a flush mount in the same style...or anything even resembling it. (boo hoo)).
The guys just finished up the new built-in bookcases today and I love, Love, LOVE them. When I get the finish coat on them they will match the kitchen cabinets. I always knew that wall needed a bookcase to help balance out the fireplace...but I don't think I realized just how perfect it would look.

I dunno...For some reason the whole kitchen/dining/sitting room feels HUGE now. It's amazing what good lighting can do...and we don't even have all of them in yet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finishing For The Year

Things are pretty much done on the outside of the house for this year. We finally got some great contractors...What a blessing these guys have been. The house has been fitted with new windows, screen doors, sliding door, all new trim and finally gutters all the way around. The coupe' de gra' was the completion of my long desired patio and pergola....

Thirty-eight feet of pure outdoor heaven. The guys personally cut each one of these fancy ends on the overhang and I don't think a laser cutting machine would have gotten them any more perfect...
Enclosing the hot tub was my honey's idea and I think it turned out just right...
Next year I will transplant my trumpet vines and maybe a climbing rose bush or two around this and maybe extend a flower bed along the length of the patio. 'Course ya know I'll be putting up hanging baskets of flowers down the length of it. LOL.

There are still some things to be done...the electrician is coming back and has a full day's work to finish up all my kitchen lighting and hopefully will get the exterior lights and plug-ins put in on the patio. I'm excited to get some twinkle lights up and maybe even a Christmas tree out here. (giggles) I have waited all my life to have a patio like this. I am soooo excited and happy with it. Thank you Honey for trusting me and letting me have my way, yet again. Your the best!

The guys also stripped off the old shingles on my shed, laid a good quality water barrier down and did a really nice job putting new shingles on...
Nice not to have to look at the bare spots on the roof anymore or have to pick up all the shingle pieces out of the yard every time the wind blew.

Next year, the house itself will get reshingled and the walls stuccoed. Then it will be done. Finite'. No more remodel, fixer-upper, mile long 'honey do' lists. What on ever will I do with all that time on my hands? LMAO

Ohhh...And I doubt anyone remembers that starving cat that jumped in My Honey's car at the stop sign?

Now here's a good reason to label posts...I don't remember when that was. A year ago maybe? I stopped to talk to MH at the stop sign up the road and this poor starving cat came out of the ditch. With almost no hesitation, he jumped in the car window and velcroed himself to MH and the rest was history.

Well...Charlie Cat, aka-Charles In Charge, aka-the shop cat...
Is a far cry from the poor starved creature that decided he was coming home with us...someone...anyone. For a long time we kind of assumed that the poor cat had been dumped by someone unable or unwilling to keep him anymore, but considering we have discovered that he has a penchant for sleeping in vehicles and has no qualms about someone driving off with him(several friends have had to return him), I think it is safer to assume that he mistakenly took a ride and found himself getting out of someone's vehicle in a strange neighborhood. He is such a cool cat, I am sure someone mourned the loss of him for quite some time, but we have no way of knowing where the heck he came from, so he is stuck with us now. He has however decided that maybe 'house cat' status is for him, so he hangs out on the patio now, looking longingly in the sliding glass door. If he ever finds the cat doors on the other side of the guess is that he will move right in. LOL

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh Yea...It's Easy...NOT

Geez...I have been looking for my camera cord for the last couple of days so I could download pics and as I started to type this post...It dawned on me...I can just load them off the memory chip.


Okay to avoid picture overload...

This was supposed to be a quick and easy project...

Putting up a hot fence to separate my one big pasture into two, so that I could leave Beretta out most of the time this winter. My plan was to give her and Spooks about 4-1/2 acres to themselves and just move a portable shelter and a hay feeder into their pasture so they can just hang out...
Okay, so putting up the fence was not that complicated or time consuming...It's mostly just getting everything you need gathered up that is complicated and time consuming. I had the poly-cord...but none of the accouterments. Several trips to town, several changes of my mind later and it was finally ready to assemble. The 'V' you see in this picture, I put in so I could get through the existing barbed-wire fence to fill tanks more easily. I know where I want permanent gates put in on this fence line, but am hemming and hawwing over whether I want to put them in now or wait until next spring when this entire fenceline is going to be replaced with either white vinyl or a post and rail. Knowing I am going to be changing the fence to something more decorative and will probably always need a hot wire on it to protect it, changed other things too...

Originally, I had intended to just by a solar powered charger, but lucky for me the guy at the store explained that if we had a power source within 50 feet of the fence, the electric one was probably a better long-term choice...and it was waaaayyyy cheaper...
Had the electrician not already been scheduled to be at the house to work on other stuff, I probably would have gone with the solar powered one just to get the damn fence up already! But it all worked out.

Everybody keeps telling us we need to plant trees along that fenceline I was just talking about and ordinarily I would agree that since that is the direction the winds are most prevalent from, that would be the thing to do, but I do dearly love my view to the south...
Everything went very well for the first few hours. Moon is the only horse I have that has been exposed to a hot fence, so I stuck pretty close and kept an eye on everyone. You just never know if a horse is going to run away like a lunatic or if they are going to be so surprised that they jump over the fence. I watched Moon in particular because if anyone was going to try that was going to be him.

Now, Moon does not like Beretta. For no other reason than he is a bully and he knows she will run from him. So I wanted to be close in case Moon decided to test the fence. I had already turned Spooks and Beretta out and then brought Moon and Frosty from the gate around the corner so they could get a good look at the new fenceline. They watched me build it, but still, I wanted them to clearly see where that new fence was.

Lord knows....I have moved my horses around so much that I have learned...It's usually not turning horses out in strange environments (if done like it should be done-in daylight, etc, etc) that they get's when you change their existing living arrangements that causes wrecks. So anyway, Moon and Frosty stand there and look at the situation and then proceed to start mowing grass. I stood there for a bit watching to make sure Moon was not going to charge Beretta who was fairly close by on the other side. Moon thought about it and took a few steps toward her, but I watched him size up that fence and I'm pretty sure he was searching his memory banks about that white string-like fence. He must have found the last memory he had of getting zapped because he backed off.

So I go get Jet and Bugs, who are spazzing out because everyone else is out and they are not. Everyone had been up for a few days while I pondered this fence situation and they were eager to get out of their pens. I did the same thing with them, but instead of going to eating...those two go to playing...running, bucking, jumping, squealing...oh they were having a ball.

I got worried in a hurry. I had seriously debated between using the usual hot tape (easy) poles vs. pounding in steel posts. In the end, my laziness kicked in and I decided I would see if the little sticks would work. On the other horses, the stakes come just to the bottom of their chests. Yes, they could easily jump them, but I didn't think anyone would unless they did it the first time they got zapped and that was their reaction. However, watching the big bay and the short sorrel play, I realized that the big bay would step over that fence pretty darn easy if he so chose.

Holding my breath for that first little bit, I watched for several hours as everyone except Frosty got too close to the fence and got tagged. The fence seemed to have just the right amount of bite to it because everyone's reaction was to jump, run a few steps and then whip around and face the fence. Bugs actually came right back up to it and stuck his nose on it. Wow! Did he get back in a hurry. LOL

Anyway, to make a long story, longer....several hours later, I started hauling hay out to the pasture for the big geldings. My intention was to leave them out, because they had all figured the fence out and done all of their running and playing. I was going to catch Beretta and put her up for the night. I was not going to take a chance of Moon doing exactly what that jack-ass did.

As the other horses headed the other way toward the hay piles, Moon starts heading toward the fenceline. Spooks and Beretta were heading up toward the fenceline from the other direction as well. Moon ran up to the fence and got tagged. He jumped back, looked at the fence, moved down 20-30 feet and touched it again. He jumped back again. The 3rd time, that dirty SOB hit the fence...He charged it and pressed into it until he felt the stakes give. His sole intention was to go after Beretta and he did not give a damn that he had to shock the crap out of himself to do so.

I was already on the run when I saw him touch the fence the first time. I KNEW that that snake had planned. I had left my big whip by the fence just in case, scooped it up as I ducked through the fences and I charged at Moon screaming and cracking the whip.

Beretta, being no dummy, was long gone. The second she saw him coming, she hauled butt to the far side of the pasture. Fence or no fence...little girl is a self-preservationist and I have a feeling it will be many years before she grows up enough to handle much of a herd environment. That seems to be the norm for babies that are injured early in life. They learn the best way to protect themselves is to just l.e.a.v.e.

I'm pretty sure Moon was slightly disoriented from the shocking he gave himself or I might not have made it in front of him before he got the chance to take off after her, but as it was, I got in front of him and beat the ever-loving crap out of whatever I could hit. He decided turning around and retreating was in his best interest.

Has anyone ever had a horse that was so totally oblivious to pain they would do that to themselves just to get to another horse? I mean outside of a stallion that was trying to get to a mare in heat? Moon is just not right in the head. You guys think I'm joking when I call him the Spawn of Satan...and I am not. I swear that horse is 1/2 Evil. And no, he is not proud cut...he has no love for mares. He is just one mean SOB and if he can get the run on someone...he's gonna do it. I made a major mistake with Moon when he was a youngster...he was always a bully and a sneaky little shit, waiting until the perfect moment to bite or kick me. I should have put his nasty little butt in with some big horses that would have tuned him right up and taught him some manners but I was worried he would get hurt because he never seemed to back down...and now...this is what I am left with. Never again will I raise a foal that does not have a good nanny horse to teach them their place in life. Either they will learn or they will die I guess, cause dealing with a horse that grows up to be like Moon is hell on earth.

So, needless to say, I will be pounding metal posts in to string a 2nd line higher, which I wanted to avoid because this is a temporary fenceline. (heavy sigh) Next spring the whole thing will be torn out so the field can be replanted.

But even then turning Moon out while Beretta is out, even though she is in her own pasture, is not going to happen again. Moon just bought himself a very long winter. Beretta is going to get to enjoy living in a big space this winter and I am not going to worry about having to keep an eye on the Evil Dun Horse as he hunts for a way to get through the fence. I think that is the saddest thing about losing Turk. Turk kept Moon in line because Turk was the boss horse and he brooked no BS from Moon. Now there is no one to put Moon in his place and he is just making himself miserable trying to figure out ways to torture everyone else. I do feel sorry for the horse in that aspect...It must be hell to go through life feeling like you need to be miserable to everyone around you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's All About The Lift

I suppose introductions are in 'farrier' is not a farrier by trade. At least he does not advertise as such, so the only way to get into him is through a referral (which came by way of the vet I consulted with on Turk's foot last year). He was gracious enough to take on my other horses. What he actually is by trade is a reining horse trainer....(link)Poplin Performance Horses. So to answer your questions...he does do lessons and clinics. He's actually in Italy as we speak doing clinics and judging shows. When he gets back, I'm going to start lessons with him. He had already agreed to take me on as a client next spring because I am hoping to get Shooter and Beretta into the show ring and between Bub and his wife, Becky...they coach a well-rounded spectrum of classes. Not are they only highly accomplished trainers/coaches...they are just super nice people to be around.

Bub says the problem I have with Moon is that I have let him start traveling in the exact manner I knew he was pre-disposed to travel in due to his conformational tendency...he wants to drag his hock behind him and dump on the front-end....creating a broken topline. He would prefer not to break in the loin at all. I need to get Moon gathered up again and engaged both front and back.

The problem with Frosty is due to his conformation...he really uses his back-end and doesn't think he needs to use his front-end. Breaking in the loin is very easy for him so that is ALL he does to control his speed or stop.

MY problem is, is that I confused breaking in the loin with getting lift on the front end and that is not the case at all. Compare these two horses...

Both show the ultimate form of lift...which is the root to collection.


I had always heard that a collected horse was like an accordian...when you squeeze the horse together...they become collected. Somewhere along the line, I failed to really grasp that for it to be correct, the horse has to lift up in the front-end. I always knew there was something missing...if I had a horse like Moon who is not a naturally good stopper, I worked on getting them light in the front (lift)...but when it came to having horses that are natural stoppers, like Frosty, Spooks, Rip...and many of the other horses we have...I always struggled to get them to have the same round feeling Moon does when he stops properly. The 'natural' stoppers I have always felt flat.

Bub says that is because I was letting them break too far back (in the LS joint) and not asking for the lift from the entire latissimous dorsi...which is what reining horse people have to do to get a horse to slide the way they do. That lift actually comes from about 5-6 inches forward of the LS joint.

I always wondered how they got those horses withers to stay so high in a slide. It isn't just breaking in the loin and making them drop their head...their withers really are raised up, just like the dressage horse above. THAT is what allows them to keep running along on their front feet, which keeps the momentum going and lengthens the slide. The lowered head also encourages the momentum. The back end simply comes up under them and stops moving. There is NOT a huge break in the loin to begin with, it increases as the horse moves through the slide. The slider shoes removes traction and Whhhheeeeeee!...they slide.

That one little missing link in my knowledge and I kind of feel like one of the great mysteries of the world has been solved.

Bub gave me ONE exercise to work on while he is in Italy. I was directed to turn Moon out and not touch him for at least 10 days. Bub wants all of the soreness and crabby attitude gone before we begin again. When Bub gave me this one exercise, I felt a little bit of a let-down...just one? (sigh...patience is not a virtue that I got whacked very hard with) But Bub says first I need to get Frosty freed up a bit and start stretching his ribcage, latissimous dorsi and discourage him from breaking so hard in the loin. Soft, transitional stops only.

I guess I got two exercises because besides working on that specific exercise, I need to work on getting Frosty to really extend at the long-trot. That means getting him to drop his head and really drive forward. No more of this half-assed, head-up looking around bull-crap I've been doing with him. He's gonna have to start working...this is the frame we are going for...
Hahaha-I picked a big-butted horse QH because there is no way Frosty is ever going to look like those Appendix things that have taken over the HUS classes.

As for the exercise Bub gave me...this is all it is...(link)Haunches In. Wiki's explanation and the foot-fall tracks to the side seemed to best describe what Bub told me to work on. He said, most not ask for anything more than for the inside hind foot (the one closest to the fence) to reach up and track exactly in line with the outside front foot (the one away from the fence). If you aren't sure, have someone watch you to make sure you are not over-doing it.

I hope that wasn't a disappointment after all that he told me beforehand. It hardly seems like that would do much, but Bub swears it is one of the most beneficial exercises he uses to begin to teach a horse to use his abdominal muscles and start to build the entire latissimous dorsi, as well as keep his more finished horses strong. I do start lessons in a week or so, so there will be more to come.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saggy Belly Syndrome

(Frosty from this spring)

Walking over to Frosty, the farrier laid his hand on Frosty's hip and asks me, 'What has happened to this horse's hip muscles?'

This is definitely something I have noticed for about the last month on Frosty. His gargantuan butt is still gargantuan, through the stifle and buttock area at least, but the points of his croup have started to protrude. In all honesty, I think the horse is almost thin...

Any yet, I have been mostly unsuccessful at getting him to pull that belly up.

The thinner he has gotten, the more sunken he appears across the topline and the bigger his belly seems. Getting Frosty to use his entire back has not been successful and I know this. It has taken most of this year to get his system right (due to IR) and even though his riding has been way more consistent that ever before, to really get to the point where I don't think he is going to blow up and dump my butt at the slightest inclination has been a bit sketchy. Some days I am supremely confident that I am willing to take whatever he is going to dish out and some days I am more cautious and don't push him. At this point, Frosty knows his barrel pattern well and is loping it comfortably, but the fact that he is so slow-footed has kept me from starting to exhibition/compete on him. I don't get the confident feeling he really knows where his feet are.

Considering what the farrier has just laid down, I realize that while Moon has completely disengaged using his stifle and hocks, Frosty is really conformationally strong in this area and he is over-using his stifle and hocks.

The farrier says, 'Exactly! What do you notice about how this horse travels in the front?'

Oohh-ooohhh...I know this one...Thanks to Megan riding Frosty for me at one of the barrel racings, one thing I really noticed and was surprised about, was the fact that Frosty had a lot of knee action. It's not something I noticed when I am riding him myself because he is an amazingly smooth horse and I remember wondering while Megan was riding him, how he could seem so smooth to ride and yet he obviously was not traveling like he should. I just cannot seem to get the 'lift' in the front end that I know needs to be there to allow him to really extend his front leg.

It was early in the summer when I noticed that Frosty seemed to be built more and more downhill,
(Pictured in June-I know he is not standing square, but still pretty obvious how much his front-end has dropped)
I thought that was kind of odd that I hadn't noticed that being so obvious about him before. I looked at some older pictures of him and when he was a 6y/o, he was NOT build obviously downhilll like he was appearing to be now. Huh...He was obviously dropping in the front-end and I suspected something was going on with his feet. That is why I took him to the farrier to have shoes put on. Frosty's a 9 y/o (oh my, the years do fly) and has never had shoes. He has good quality feet, but they are (were) very plattered out.

Sure the time Frosty got his 2nd set of shoes, he had come up over an inch at the wither. The farrier didn't do anything except put a size 2 shoe on him and rasp off all of the outer wall flare, which was pretty unilaterally flared all the way around and Frosty's heels had started to spread excessively. Getting Frosty to stand up properly has made it even more obvious his complete lack of muscling behind his withers and he has these residual 'fat' deposits there.

I told the farrier I have had a hard time getting Frosty to lift his back and really use it and since I cannot seem to get his belly to come off, I thought that is what keeps pulling his back down.

Stepping to Frosty's shoulder, the farrier held up his first two fingers, bent over, placed them in the center of Frosty's girth area and pressed up. The area behind Frosty's wither rose and filled out. The farrier slowly slid his fingers back along the center of Frosty's belly and as he did, Frosty's entire topline lifted, by the time the farrier reached Frosty's belly button, Frosty's entire top line was full and rounded. Frosty's saggy belly was gone and he actually had a straight line from his elbow to his stifle. The farrier held Frosty in this position, turned to look at us and asked us, 'Now tell me, how is it I can get this horse to lift and use every muscle in his back and belly properly with two fingers and people find it near impossible to accomplish the same thing when riding and with every gadget imaginable at their disposal?'

None of us had an answer, but for the first time in months, I felt like I was back in my element. THIS is the stuff I live for. My farrier's enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and his ability to break it down doesn't make a person feel dumb for not knowing (like his apprentices) or not remembering (like me).

I know I had a spark in my eye again after the farrier's little tutorial. This stuff wasn't anything I didn't know or understand. I just got lost in that huge void between using what I think of as the basics and wanting to be a competitor. Apparently, I have quite the disconnect going on myself.

Not quite finished yet...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Hock Bone Is Connected To The Shoulder Bone

Without waiting for a reply, my farrier tells me to hold on and walks out of the barn. A few minutes later, he comes back with two pieces of twine. He tells me to come over to Moon's shoulder hands me the end of one and says, 'Watch this.' He pokes along Moon's shoulder blade starting from the top and working his way down. Right about at the point of the shoulder, Moon flinches away. Significantly. 'There', He says, 'Hold your piece of twine right there.'

He calls over one of his assistants, crosses to Moon's other side and pokes along his shoulder blade until he finds the sore point on the other side (almost equal with the side I am on, but just a bit higher) and tells the kid to hold his piece of twine there. The farrier takes the two pieces of twine, crosses them over Moon's back. While he is standing behind Moon, he asks if we agree that horses are animals that work on diagonals. We all agree. The farrier starts talking, 'So if the principle is that horse's work on diagonals, that means his right hock is connected to his left front leg and his left hock is connected to his right front leg, is that correct? (He didn't really wait for answers) So when we ask a horse to drive from his left hock, we expect to see a corresponding extension in the right front and visa versa. (My mind is racing trying to visualize and the farrier continues) Problems arise when the hock does one of two things, either it tries to take on the entire work load or it totally stops driving, either way, the hock has become disengaged from the front end. And where do you think the most pressure lands when the front and rear ends become disconnected?

The farrier paused for a minute, giving us all a chance to think about that and then slowly lowered the strings in his hands down until they were in line with each of Moon's hocks. The strings crossed over Moon's back and the X laid directly over his loins. Specifically a bit to the left side of center, which is the muscle that Moon always gets sore on first.

Holy Crap!

Straightening back up, the farrier tells me, 'I'm going to tell you, you have one thing going on in this horse (Moon) and a the opposite going on in the other horse (Frosty), but they result in the same thing happening to their backs, shoulders and neck...they are over-using their loin to compensate for not using their entire back. That is what is causing the loin soreness and until you get them connected again, you are going to keep having this issue. Because they are only using part of the muscle and it is over-worked.'

Dropping the strings, the farrier walked around to where I was standing by Moon and had the others come over. He asked us to step back and tell us what was wrong with Moon's musculature. I pointed at the bottom of Moon's neck and told him that Moon was starting to get that big muscle on the bottom again. This was something that I had noticed over these last few weeks. Moon always has had a tendency to build muscle on the bottom of his neck and at the beginning of this year, I had worked really hard to build up the correct muscling in his entire topline. As you can see from the picture of him in my header, by May, he looked pretty good.

The farrier said, 'Exactly. The top of this horse's neck is mush and he has an over-developed muscle on the bottom. THAT corresponds with his atrophied muscles over his shoulders and behind his withers. So we KNOW that he is not using the front half of his back. His loin is doing all the work...and let me tell you...Both of these horses have an over-developed loin. That muscle stretches all the way to the front of the horse and ties in under the tricep (he's talking about the latissamous dorsi) and on both of these horses, it looks like their loin is one muscle and there is a different one from there forward."

Walking to the rear of Moon, he asks his apprentices if they think Moon is a good stopper. Both of them kind of gave me a sideways glance (I'm sure they didn't want to say something that might hurt my feelings) and the girl tries to be politically correct by saying, 'Based on his conformation, I would say he is not a really good stopper.' The boy nods in agreement. My farrier turns to me and asks, 'Is he a good stopper?' I quell my inner smart-ass that wants to say, Well, not right now! and tell them that in fact Moon is a very good stopper. Of course, I have to have my timing just right, but Yea, the horse can stick it.

I swear the farrier could read my mind, because he commented, 'Not right now he can't. He has totally disengaged his hocks...because he is conformationally built to do that and I bet right now he walks around and drags those hocks out behind him. (It was really a rhetorical question, but I nodded in agreement) When the tension in his loin gets to be to much, he wants to start stopping and stands stretched out...right? He's stressed!'

Now, I'm pretty sure I didn't tell my farrier that is exactly what Moon is doing. Maybe I mentioned it, but I doubt I was that specific. I am hearing Ed Wright's voice tell me that Moon was doing his 'thing' because of stress. Did I misunderstand what kind of stress Ed meant?

"Now,' says the farrier, 'About that foot... (Foot? What foot? My mind is absorbing all of the stuff he has just talked about) That horse is loading on the outside of his left front foot because he walks crooked. His whole body is canted to the right and if you don't keep correcting him, he will just make a big old circle to the right, Right?'

Uuuhhh...This time I am dumbfounded. I know I never mentioned that.

I nodded in agreement. That particular characteristic has been a big source of irritation to me these last couple of years with Moon. I have no idea when exactly I first noticed that Moon insisted on fading to the right...but it has been a consistent pattern regardless of what I am doing with him. Earlier this year, I had pretty much fixed it because I spent a lot of time working on straightening Moon and gaining balanced collection. He got so much better. It was when he got hurt that we started to digress and the roller coaster ride got more and more pronounced.

Done with talking about Moon, my farrier walked over to Frosty and began his tutorial on him...

To be continued...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Back To Basics

So I had such an interesting conversation with my farrier yesterday that I just have to share...

I have finally conceded defeat, for the moment, on trying to figure out the root of Moon's problem and asked the farrier to just pull his shoes. Moon is so tight, tense and unhappy that I told him that I was simply going to resort to the old-fashioned belief of turning him out and forgetting about him for awhile.

Whether it's the saddle or not, his back is so tight and sore that continuing to try to work though things just seems futile and unnecessarily cruel.

I mentioned to the farrier what the vet said about tenderness in his right hind and asked him to check it. The farrier found nothing. I also mentioned that we had noticed he was loading the outside medial on his left front and asked him to double check that. The farrier acknowledged that Moon was in fact loading to the outside of his left front.

I must have looked pretty defeated because the farrier asked me what the heck was going on and I filled him in on the last few weeks of frustration and that I was just going to turn Moon out for awhile and start from scratch when I felt that his soreness and sour attitude had dissipated.

The farrier says, 'Good! Looks like you both need a break. But I want to show you something and then when you start bringing this horse back, you don't keep doing the same thing I can tell you have been doing.'

I was a bit taken back. Of course the nature reaction is to defend oneself and I told him, "I haven't been doing anything lately. I quit doing anything except to just ride and try to keep Moon's back loosened up, but it keeps getting worse."

Farrier: "I know. I can tell by how atrophied his musculature has gotten over the last 3 months." Then he says, "You do realize there is nothing physically wrong with this horse in the back-end don't you?"

My eyes kind of narrowed...because if nothing else, I have figured out there is nothing actually physically wrong with Moon from the hip back. I couldn't help but sound a bit snarky, when I replied, " took a couple thousand dollars, but I think we have safely eliminated any problems in the hips, stifle, hocks or fetlocks."

My farrier gets a big old grin on his face, like a kid you have just unexpectedly handed a piece of candy to and I get the distinct feeling he has been waiting for this moment. I'm already I throw out, "Well, the vet thinks it might be that the saddle I am using is pressing on his kidneys." I knew it was a dumb thing to say before the words were even out of my mouth. My self-defense mechanism kicked in and I wanted to assure my farrier that I was not a complete moron, but you know how sometimes you say things hoping they make you sound like you have a grip on the situation...when you are actually at a total loss?

And I got what I expected...the very same look Ed Wright gave me a couple of times not just to long ago...That look that says,

Wow, You are dumber than dirt!

UUggghhh...Lately I have felt dumber than dirt. I have never had a horse with such a pronounced and mysterious ailment that I can't fix. I am the queen of fixing things. *I* am usually the one that people bring their horses to or ask for advice from about particular things that are going on. *I* am the one who can spot the problem and pin point the cause. *I* am the one who figures out teeth, feet, diet, training and conditioning problems and fixes them.

When the hell did *I* become the one who was dumber than dirt?

My farrier walks over to Frosty and asks me if I use the same saddle on him. I replied, No. He takes his hand and presses on Frosty's loin and Frosty sinks away from the pressure. The farrier looks at me and asks me if I still think it's the saddle pressing on Moon's kidneys. I'm a little speechless because I have never noticed Frosty suffering from back pain.

Oh, but my farrier was only getting warmed up...

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Round And Round We Go

...Where we stop?

Hopefully with a sound horse again!

Things have just gotten worse and worse with Moon's back issue.

Something is not right and I was at a total loss.

So I made an appointment with the new vet that I have been using to have a thorough exam and consult about all of the 'issues'.

It was mostly prompted by walking out yesterday morning and noticing that Moon's ears were 'dropped'. His head was canted and he kept shaking it.

I wiped Moon's ears and didn't feel anything. So I trimmed the long hair and peered down in there with a pen light. Couldn't see anything. So I took a soft cloth and wiped down in his ear as far as I could reach (gently!) and didn't get anything that looked out of the ordinary. As a last resort, I massaged the base of his ears and on the left side it felt like moisture squishing around down in there. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how he would have gotten moisture down in there, so I figured having the vet check it out was in order.

I have been wanting to talk to her about the back issues, have him flex tested again and discuss ulcer medications anyway, so I guess it was actually good timing.

Of course, by this morning, Moon's ears were up again and even though he seems a bit sensitive to touch around the base, the squishy feeling is gone and he has stopped shaking his head. The vet decided it wasn't worth sedating him and thought perhaps it was just a wax nodule. Apparently massaging the base of Moon's ears helped it dissipate.

So on to the stuff that has been making me pull my freaking hair out...

The back issue!!!

I gave her a run-down of the symptoms and Moon's personality.

She agreed that if Moon does not have a full-blown ulcer, he at least is probably prone to gastric distress. Thankfully, today was not a day that Moon decided to suffer in silence. He was in a full-blown 'mood'. She had the receptionist call around to see what it would cost to scope him, but at a whopping $400...we both decided it was probably most effective to just start feeding him a better ulcer preventative supplement. I had been looking into the Gastroguard/Ulcergaurd...but at over a $1,000 a month, she thought without the scope to back up confirming an actual may be a futile and excessively expensive measure. She recommended Platinum Balance. Personally, I was looking to switch to U-Guard. I kinda like the fact you can buy that in powder, liquid or pellet form. Any opinions on one vs. the other from anyone?

One thing I did learn...whole oats is not good to feed to horses with ulcers. Rolled oats = fine. Whole (even crimped is not great) is irritating. So it's off to return my newly purchased stock of whole oats in favor of rolled oats.

Since Moon's blood work and urinalysis had come back normal, we talked about kidney stones. Kidney stones are not common in this area, nor any of the areas I have kept Moon. Adding in the fact that I seldom feed alfalfa...she said the chances of that are highly unlikely.

Bladder stones would be more likely. However, we pretty much ruled that out because Moon urinates normally and I have never seen any sort of discoloration or dark (bloody) streaks or streams even at the end of his urination.

We moved on to movement and palpation. Moon is obviously sore over his kidney/loin area...on both sides now. Not just his left side. His tail is raised and he is in obvious discomfort in the hindquarter. The vet flex tested both hind legs/stifles and came up with only one issue. His right hind foot. She applied the hoof testers and found just enough tenderness in the sole around his toe area to cause a reaction. Moon does have a bit of thrush that I had already noticed and have been treating for a few days.

There was no tenderness in his other feet, so it's a possibility he stepped on a rock...or has an abscess brewing. Even though it has only been 4 weeks since he was re-shod, his feet have grown significantly and he is due to be re-set, so I made that appointment with my farrier. I'm actually going to have his shoes pulled...I think! We will say what the farrier says.

I will say...I was not as happy with my shoeing jobs the last time I was over there as I have been in the past. I didn't think they looked as good on any of the horses as they usually do, but there was a lot going on, a lot of people popping in to visit and the farrier has a new kid in training. The kid didn't trim the feet or set the shoes...just pulled the shoes and then clenched the nails. However, I think the farrier was disjointed doing his job, trying to juggle trimming and setting two horses at once and having constant disruptions. From now on, I am only going to take one horse at a time and I won't go in the evening again. It's much quieter around his place when I go over at noon. But I suspect that is the reason I noticed (and the vet pointed out) that Moon was loading to the outside on his left front.

Neither of the minor feet issues would account for the excessive soreness over Moon's loin though. Personally, I think I can feel two vertebra that feel out of position just before the break in the loin, but the vet said she is not good with that, so she didn't give an opinion...guess I'll have the chiro out again. But even with that, the tightness/pain over Moon's loin seems excessive.

So finally we come to the question of saddle fit. Of course, I tell the vet that I finally have a little saddle that really seems to fit Moon...however...I mentioned to her that it does have tiny little skirts and it had crossed my mind, due to my mom and step-dad's teachings that could cause undo pressure on the spine. I pull the saddle out of the trailer and set it on Moon.

Wanna know what?

The vet came to the same conclusion that even though this saddle fits Moon very well...the tree ends at the exact point where Moon's back pain starts...right over his kidneys. We think the tree may actually be too short and applying a consistent pressure to the kidney area....

Which, when I started putting the time-line and everything together...

Fits! (or doesn't depending on how you look at it)

This was not the saddle I was riding the night that Moon jammed his back, but I switched to using it shortly after, to help free up his back and every since then things have just gotten worse and worse, with a lot of unexplained back pain issues.

Suddenly...all kinds of things started clicking in my head. Usually when I ride in the desert, I use the Cactus All-Around because it's so comfortable for long rides. Moon is never sore after a long desert ride. But when I am around the place and practicing, I always use the little barrel saddle so I get the right 'feel' and after a couple of days, that is when I start noticing Moon getting more and more irritated and sore.

God, I feel dumb now!

It's not a given that this is the problem...I'm going to have to go back to riding my Cactus saddle around the place and see...

But hopefully...we have finally figured it out (fingers crossed). All this time....with having so many people looking and checking things out...It never dawned on any of us that it was the back of the saddle causing problems. Holy Crap!!!