Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not the news we wanted

It's hard to write this post.

When Bobby got diagnosed with the Big N Word last fall, he was so immediately more comfortable with corrective shoeing that his having navicular took a good long time to set in, and it never really felt like a final thing.

This spring when his feet grew too uncomfortable to hold up to more than an occasional jump on good footing, a sinking feeling started. When he started to get sore flatting in our deeply cushioned indoor, I steeled myself for trying to eek out one last season. Farrier assured me there were more shoeing options we could try, and Vet was willing to move on to coffin joint injections. You can't heal navicular, but you can slow down its effects and you can make the horse more comfortable.

The vet called me Monday morning with preliminary results from Bobby's biopsy samples of Fungus Leg. "Your horse has Sarcoidosis. It's an incredibly rare cancer, and I need you to come down and pick up new meds for him."

I'd heard of sarcoids of course. Little nubbins of usually benign cancer usually found in horses' ears. I didn't think much of it. No one wants to hear their horse has cancer, but I was flustered with dealing with the bank fucking up our first car payment and annoyed I had to drive the forty five minutes to the vet's office.

fungus leg looking really good yesterday.
i'll do a full progression post still at some point.

I met Vet when I got there and showed her the latest round of pictures of his leg. Nope, no fever. Yes, still eating everything great. I handed the receptionist my credit card while Vet pulled out a thin stack of papers. "I'm going to give you all the reading material I have on this because I think you need to prepare yourself."

Sarcoidosis is rare. It presents in less than 1% of horses. They don't know how horses get it. They don't know how best to treat it. There's no one breed, age, or gender that's more likely to get it than another. They can't give you a solid prognosis because it reacts differently in every single case.

Best case scenario is if it's localized to his leg, but even then the treatment is nothing more than throwing steroids at him for months or years--steroids that might affect his already compromised feet. He could go into remission, he could spontaneously heal completely, or he could go downhill and have to be euthanized.

Worst case scenario is that it's generalized and spreads to his organs. There's nothing to be done then. We could nurse him along on steroids and still have to euthanize him.

They're running more tests because they found cells that point to the latter in half the samples.

The good news, or at least the hope I'm clinging to, is that his weight looks fantastic and his temp has stayed steady. He looks incredible everywhere above the knee.

does not look like a sick horse

The bad news--more bad news--is that amidst all this his feet are spiraling downward quickly. Farrier was out to put him back in his aluminium wedges this morning because of the soreness he was showing before his leg exploded and the vet came out.

Overall he was being very shifty while in the aisle like he couldn't get comfortable anywhere. He usually parks himself in the middle and naps, but he kept stepping over to me and leaning his head against me while shifting his feet one after the other.

For the past couple days he's occasionally been resting his LF on his toe instead of putting full weight on it. Farrier said that the outside of it looks great, but we know the inside is a mess. The wedges lift the heel up, but they also run the risk of crushing them so we don't know if we're helping him with those or not because he's uncomfortable everywhere. It's hard to tell where the pain is originating from.

The RF foot is in dangerous territory. It might tip us over the edge before the cancer ever gets a chance to. Because of the prolonged swelling in that leg--a result of vasculitis--it's been impeding the circulation to the hoof. Along the coronet band it's been slowly bulging. Farrier has been keeping an eye on it every time she's been out without even telling me because she didn't want to freak me out. It's to the point now where a crack has split from the top down. He's in danger of the foot going bone cold and losing the hoof capsule, or getting burning hot and foundering.

we love farrier because she's liberal with the cookies

I don't know what to do, how to feel. Until the final results come in it's basically a waiting game to see how long I have until I have to put my horse down.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Vet Findings

In short: the vet found nothing conclusive but a new injury in the opposite leg.

can't stay out of trouble to save his life.

It's kind of become a running joke that every time I call Vet out to look at Bobby's RF, he is without fail off in the LF instead. Since his entire RF from his knee down is covered in a flesh eating fungus (definitely not showing you guys pictures until it's further along in healing because right now it looks like he needs a full limb transplant, and I quite literally threw up a little yesterday cleaning it) I at least had undeniable evidence this time around that I know which leg my horse is crippled in.

However, while Vet was down there picking and poking at the RF, she looked over at the left leg and asked if the fungus had spread. Uhhhhh, no, don't even suggest that! Further prodding revealed the scabby patch was just mud over a cut--a large, incredibly swollen, painful to the touch cut he didn't have when I'd turned him out five hours earlier.

She switched legs and started investigating further, finally finishing with, "I'm having trouble telling if that's soft tissue damage along the splint bone I'm feeling."

STOP TOUCHING MY HORSE AND GIVING ME MORE PROBLEMS RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I quickly reminded her that Bobby has old, set splints in all four legs and she agreed that she might be hitting that instead, and since the swelling was so bad it was hard to tell. Three days of Bute twice a day was prescribed for that before we moved back to Fungus Leg. Fortunately, as of this morning, the swelling has finally fully subsided and it looks like nothing more than a plain old cut that's healing up really well.

"i don't care if there are other horses in the barn
that need attention, give me cookies now!"

As far as Fungus Leg, she didn't know what was going on with it. She took a skin scraping (waiting for her to call me back today with those results), and biopsied three different spots to send off to Cornell. I should have those results back by the end of the week. She left me with a tub of Vetosan which is nothing more exciting than ChlorHex lotion since everything else is burning his skin and until we know what exactly we're dealing with we don't want to put anything else on it.

He also went back on SMZs--a larger dose this time--less to stave off whatever is going on with his leg and more to keep cellulitis at bay since she still wants him turned out, but his skin keeps splitting open.

Not an aggressive approach, but it's getting results. BM and Farrier both looked at it today for the first time since last Wednesday (BM was at a multi-day show) and were appalled with how it looks. I was actually pretty happy. It spent the weekend blowing pus everywhere. I peeled off all the hair along his cannon bone and got most off his pastern, but underneath is healthy looking skin already trying to grow some peach fuzz. With the pus gone as of this morning, the swelling is almost completely down as well.

It still looks horrendous. Clearly there's something very not right going on inside the leg. Until results come back so that we know exactly what we can throw at it without making it worse, it's just a waiting game. I'm keeping it clean, keeping him on the antibiotics, and making sure no fever pops up.

Fingers crossed progress moves forward at lightning speed so we won't have to miss another show. I already don't know how much time I have left to compete this horse with how his feet are. I'd hate to have to throw away our last season ever because of skin crud.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

JKLOLOMGWTF

Everything was mostly roses for my last post. Good lesson, good things to work on, horse is feeling relaxed and ready to take on the show season. He had Friday off, and then went back to work over the weekend.

never go to emma for bonnet bling support. she'll be like, "you can do it!" and
you'll be like, "bitch, if i stab myself in the face with this needle one more time
i will come and find you and cut you."

But lurking in the background of every day Bobby life has been Fungus Leg. It could have its own instagram if it wouldn't make everyone vomit to see its face. Even Farrier calls it by name when checking in to see how Bobby's feeties are doing (Fine, by the way.). Fungus Leg has been seen by the vet twice already this year. We've done SMZs, we've done prescription shampoos, Desitin, antifungal creams, leave this on, take this off, scrub it twice, don't scrub it all...you name it, it's been tried.

The shampoo helped a lot initially. It stopped the balding on the cannon bone and ankle, but it didn't really clear up the scabs. The Desitin seemed to help with that, and we're mostly scab free around the pastern and ankle. So far, everything below the knee seems to be moving forward. Slowly, slowly forward, but healing.

The knee? It. Is. Fucking. Disgusting.

couldn't leave his stall until more candy was inserted 

The main problem seems to be that the leg is reacting to the fungus by swelling overnight when he's in his stall. It causes the skin over the joint to stretch and then crack open so nothing is getting a chance to heal because, you know, his knee is an integral part to him moving. I thought I was on to something when I went back at night to wrap his leg to keep any build up from happening. Relieve the pressure of a fat knee on the skin and everything will have a chance to knit shut for good. That worked for about three days before the swelling was like, "Can't settle in the lower leg? I'll just move up to the forearm and settle directly on the knee." That being the complete opposite of what I was aiming for obvi.

Through this all Bobby hasn't acted lame due to the fungus side affects. Occasionally he'll walk a little stiff until he's moved around enough to knock the fill out--movement being the only surefire way to kill the swelling, but then of course the knee is moving and cracking open all the scabs trying to heal. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

you can kind of see the offending knee here.

This weekend, though, he kind of lost his shit.

multiple times. 

I got off both days feeling completely defeated and like the worst rider on the planet. He's been going so well and been so relaxed in his work that to have him revert back to last year Bobby, who was too tense to ask anything of and we basically just tried to survive every movement, made me feel like the biggest failure ever. We'd taken approximately ten thousand steps backwards and I felt for sure I'd undone all of BM's work with us.

After having a serious pout on Sunday, I came in Monday with a plan. I shortened my stirrups a hole since in the pictures I could see that I was using them to brace against him the second he started tensing up which obviously helps nothing. We had a long, long walk warm up since his leg was fatter than normal, and then we moved on to the trot.


Only he didn't want to trot. He wanted to canter. His answer to everything was canter. And if I shut him down, he got furious and threw a fit. Coming off a weekend where I already felt like a shit rider, I gave up. I got into half seat and let him rip around the ring while I quietly cried and ignored him until he finally settled down--a solid fifteen to twenty minutes later--and trotted on his own. Then I had to get off and cool him down since he was drenched in sweat and blowing, and I felt even shittier.

And shittier still when I saw that his knee now looked like raw meat. I immediately got on the phone with the vet and scheduled an appointment, and then shoved Bute down his throat as a last ditch effort to combat the overnight swelling.

He's not getting ridden until the vet comes out. He's still not lame, but I can't even bring myself to do more than glance at his leg to make sure it's not about to fall off without hating myself and hating him a little.

He goes out in a huge field with a rowdy gelding that he plays with all day. He shouldn't have this crazy amount of excess energy he needs to burn off. I got him his wedges back to make his feet comfortable again. I ditched the jumping so he wouldn't be sore. I'm in a good program with an incredible trainer that's making me ride him fairly and correctly. If he feels even remotely lame, he doesn't get worked.

CAN YOU NOT THROW ME A FUCKING BONE HERE AND JUST MAKE MY LIFE EASIER, BOBBY?!

it can trot around like a second level horse when not flinging itself around.

All that is to say that Sunday's show looks like it might not be happening. Unless the vet can work some magic and make this knee look presentable enough to go out into public--and obviously get Bobby feeling more comfortable with it since I can't imagine it feels great in its current state--I'm going to have to scratch him. We're already going to be missing two of the shows that qualify for year end awards for various reasons, so I'm being a selfish child and being exceptionally bummed out about the prospect of having to miss this one, too, and potentially not getting to enough shows to yet again to qualify for giant ribbons.

Please stop costing me money, Bobby. Or at least be nice to me while you're doing it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Go Time

Could alternately be titled: Oh, shit. My horse is trained beyond my capabilities.

BM didn't waste time in this morning's lesson. She put us quickly through w/t/c and lateral work at the stretchy trot (which seemed exceptionally difficult in my brain, but wasn't all that bad), and then told me to pick a test for us to work on. Obviously it wasn't the warm up I'll be using at shows, and Bobby wasn't quite ready to jump right into a test, but show season starts next weekend and it's time to start dissecting what parts of the test need the most attention instead of encompassing all the things.

And really? Bobby was so chill for his abbreviated warm up and just went about his business doing what was asked that there wasn't any big picture stuff to work on. No worries though. We gave BM plenty of nitty gritty things to put on the list.

i have no new pony pictures, so enjoy these shots of lake ontario consuming the shoreline

I picked 2-2 because even though it's been over a year since I've ridden a First test I feel like we can scoot through 1-2 with few enough issues to notch those scores needed towards our Bronze without too much effort and then be done with it forever. Dressage judges love to throw points at Bobby, though they do have to mark him down heavily when he's flinging himself violently across the ring on two legs.

Not that he's ever done that.

More than once per show.

Probably.

Anyway, I like 2-3 a lot and don't have any problems with it that I wouldn't have at 2-2 where the counter canter work feels a little turn and burn for my giant moose horse. 2-2 it was.

the water is usually a good 15' from the top of the pier
not nearly level with it.

I'd warned BM ahead of time that Bobby's been breaking to the canter in the medium trot and since I hadn't gotten around to schooling them yet (since it involves one tap on the butt with a dressage whip and then forty minutes of convincing him I didn't just beat him before he's like, "Oh, okay, let's just do a medium trot then. What's the big deal?" You tell me, bro. You tell me.), he basically just ran through the first one and we carried on ignoring it for the moment.

The SI was all over the place, but the serpentine at X was easy and he shifted over the travers just fine. His turn on the haunches have gotten so much bettter. Now that he's fucking relaxed, he doesn't tighten his back up and can actually step around without being like, "Sorry, I'm a fucking support beam that is immovable. Let me just lurch around like a cement llama." He went right down for the free walk though BM told me we can still be better. For Bobby, it's already miles ahead of where he was last year.

We kind of fell apart at the canter. I tried gunning him into the medium with my legs since our indoor isn't quite the size of a standard ring unless you really stuff yourself into the corners, and the canter movements tumble over the top of each other in this test. Bobby was not okay with that and lost his shit a little bit, but after having a quick walk with a pat to mentally regroup, he went back to work without losing his shit for all eternity.

puppies were not impressed there's nowhere to romp around anymore

After a quick chat about what needed to be addressed, we schooled the SI a bit. The problem is that Bobby has gotten so bendy and so supple that I'm overriding him. He's a sensitive dude already, but now he's light and like goo to ride so where before I had to bully him around a little bit, instead I have to scale my aids way back and trust that he's going to do it. I kept asking for too much bend and too much angle at the SI. What would have produced an acceptable SI last year is now one step away from him folding himself in half. It's a big adjustment for me, but BM pointed out that I'm already adjusting with every single to each new massive bound forward he's taking. Baby steps for me, giant hurdling steps for Bobby.

The test and the work on the SI was the warm up Bobby needed, and when we came down the centerline for the second time he was raring to go. For the medium BM told me to let it build (something I've also been told by judges, damn it). He's got the energy coming from behind in the collected trot, the medium is just letting it open up into a bigger stride. I don't need to goose him with my legs, I just need to lighten my seat and let him move up and out into my hands.

Better with the SI this time. The medium canter was slow but relaxed. There was a difference in length, but definitely needs more. I can play around with this on my own. He picked up the wrong lead on the first simple change at B because I didn't bend him back to the right.

coming for your houses. also no worries, ny. it's cool to be 40* in may. 

The theme was that I need to manage less, ride more...while riding with less aids. It's all going to come from the seat now with legs only going on for steering and lateral work. He's carrying himself so well and so easily that the power and lightness is there. Now comes the fine tuning, and I so need to work my lady balls off to keep up with him.

I'm starting to get excited for this season. If he can stay relaxed and I can force my brain to stay focused, we might actually have an entire season where Bobby doesn't leave the ring. #highstandards #wehavethem

As far as feeties go, he got his wedge pads put on yesterday with the promise that Farrier would have his aluminium wedges in when he gets done next. Farrier seemed kind of guarded about if he's even going to be able to do real trail rides anymore, but rallied with, "If these don't work, we'll find something else!" Right. Stay positive. (Quietly vomits a little.) At least Bobby seems to have accepted this as his new life. I thought for sure he was going to turn into a rabid monster when jumping was taken out away, but so far so good.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is he or isn't he

Another weekend down, another roller coaster of lame horse emotions. Sweet baby Jesus, please just be sound, or be lame and ready to be retired. Obviously please choose the former option.

emergency sunday text to farrier: plz come fix my horse. again. he's lame. again.

We had a great lesson on Thursday where BM helped us put the canter back on track--literally the track instead of fishtailing all over--but more on that in a second. He had Friday and Saturday off because Rolex, and then I got on him Sunday afternoon. He felt fine at the walk, but as soon as he stepped into the trot he immediately felt not right.

I let him keep going for a few minutes, playing around with the loosening exercise we'd worked on Thursday to see if he'd work out of it as Farrier and BM both think there's a chance he could just be body sore.

He's not. I mean, he might have some aches and pains here and there from being a hard working mother fucker, but he's not lame in one front leg or the other because his ass needs a stretch. He continued to be lame, and when I started to pick him up and put him on a shorter rein, he started head bobbing. I quit there and sent a text to Farrier that he needs wedges put back on. She'll be out Wednesday to do that, and he'll start a new supplement that day as well. Feel how you will about supplements. If I don't see them working, they get pulled. If I see a change, I'm a believer.

looks like a sherman tank thanks to cocosoya and tri amino.
looks like ten different horses because shitty conformation. 

I feel like a crazy person. Okay, no, I don't feel like that. I feel like people think I'm a crazy person because he'll be sound a week straight, and then he'll be off, but not so off that it's really noticeable unless you're me whose been riding this horse since his very first time under saddle and can tell when he's feeling uncomfortable and where it's coming from. I know when he's out behind, I know when he's just stiff, and I know when he's giving me the same feeling he gave me last year when I spent $1k+ on x-rays and outside diagnostics and fancy fucking shoes to make him sound again.

In short: JUST LET ME BE THAT CRAZY OWNER THAT WANTS TO SHOVE MONEY AT YOU TO MAKE MY HORSE FEEL BETTER.

sirens and horses walking past make ears up a breeze

So. Anyway. Let's talk lesson.

Starting from the trot, BM had me, as always, with my reins almost to the buckle. She's big on letting the horse take the stretch as far down as he can without any restriction. So that there's no one second of resistance before I can react and let out more rein, I have to work with the longest reins on the planet. This is exceptionally hard for someone like me who lives off of being grabby and micromanaging, but I'm getting there. It's making me ride off my seat and leg way more, and it's making me put an outside rein half halt through that leaves a lasting impression since it's so fucking awkward to finagle my body parts into position to ask for it.

Our trot work was spent on one exercise to get him loosened up and working with a good bend since I'd asked that we really tackle the canter work. She had me leg yield Bobby over to the inside track focusing less on how much he stepped over--it could be an inch as long as he shifted his back--and more on keeping him straight in his neck and head. Then I had to catch him with my inside leg and as we came into the corner shift him into a deep inside bend for the short side.

LOOK AT MY LOOPY INSIDE REIN.
LOOK AT IT.

It was both easy and hard. He was better to the right, to the left he started off wanting to jet off once he hit my inside leg so we kept missing the bend in the corners because I had to half halt him to bring him back instead. We got it though, and he was certainly feeling free and bendy by the time we struck off into the left lead canter.

The left is the better direction at the canter, but it's still not great especially since he likes to ride the change train that direction. He's getting to that point that green horses reach: Where he thinks he has the answer to everything but he doesn't actually know anything. Only instead of being green to the world, he's green to the beginnings of all the upper of the lower level tricks. "Flying changes? I can do those, so easy. Half pass? Why didn't you just say so? Oh, you didn't say so? Here it is anyway."

BM right away pointed out that he likes to park his right shoulder out making it sit a good two inches lower at the canter. He's bending, but he's not lifting the outside shoulder which is the cause of why he feels so crazy weird--stiff as a board, and yet loosey gooseying all over the place.

That carries over to the right lead as well--different shoulder, but same problem.

She put us on a circle to the right--we were able to get it fixed going straight to the left--and told me to think of riding a pirouette canter. I was like, "LOL, who the fuck do you think we are, BM?" But the idea was that the inside rein is the open door, the outside rein is the closed door, and the hind end really has to sit and push to give the shoulders the room to move up and out of the way. Since we're obviously nowhere near ready to ride a fucking canter pirouette, it was channeling that canter for a few strides and then letting him open up and go forward for several strides and then right back in again.

I had to work hard on remembering to push him over with my outside thigh instead of pulling him in with my inside rein ("Don't do inside rein! If you ever want to really fix this, stop touching your inside rein!"), and sitting on my inside seat bone to get the bend.

proof my horse can dink around with no inside rein yanking.
ughhhhh, trainers being right is the worst. 

Through this all, every break we gave him he went right down into a deep stretch. We're working so hard lately that he's learning to take his stretch breaks very seriously when he gets them. I hope this carries over to our tests as well as free walk has always sucked for him.

This morning he was sound. Of course he was. I did the same warm up from our lesson and had great results. He remembered how to horse at the canter, and then we rode through 2-2. I'm doing 2-2 and 2-3 in two weeks so I figured I'd better remember how the tests went.

Very happily he stayed in the counter canter! I probably overrode the bend to hold it, but oh well. We also had to throw in a little canter half pass to scoot over to E quick enough once, but no change once we hit the wall! He was cool, calm, and not at all offended by my legs being on him to ask for the change of bend on the little loopy circle things at X between SI and travers.

PLEASE BE THIS NORMAL (SOUND) HORSE AT SHOWS, BOBBY!!!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hardest easy lesson

I had one of the hardest, most frustrating lessons ever last week.

I think the frustrating part was that we weren't actually doing anything hard. And yet Bobby and I could not get it.

airplane ears in full affect

Before we even started in on anything, BM honed in on tightness in Bobby's RH. She gave him a quick dig into his muscles to rub him out a little, and then sent us off at a jog to get him to loosen up.

Bobby does not jog. Bobby does not loosen up. Bobby does not relax. These are not Bobby attributes when we're in the ring. Strolling about on trails? Maybe. In tack, in an arena, with an agenda? No. Thus began an hour long mental battle for the both us.

BM put us on a circle at one end of the ring. I was to exaggerate the inside bend, even if I had to spell it out to him like a kindergartner with a wide open inside rein and over using my inside leg. If he drifted out while bending, that was fine as I then used my outside aids to push him back in while keeping a forward yet relaxed rhythm. All with my reins on the buckle so that he could stretch as low as he could go.

waiting for the resident fox to show up for pictures. the one day i bring my camera
and the stupid thing couldn't be bothered to come out.

This sounds like an easy way to run into some basic problems: losing the haunches, not getting the bend, losing the forward, etc. For Bobby, the first thing we ran into was that he wouldn't just chill the fuck out and keep diddling around on the circle at a relaxed pace. He was great at stretching, but he just wants to do everything fast: relax fast, stretch fast, everything has to be done rightawaygetitdonenow. I was more than happy to play along and half halt him every other stride to slow him down for one step before off he went again, but BM called us out on it right away.

It goes back to us nagging each other and staying on that middle ground where it's just pick, pick, pick instead of "This is how it's going to be done. I'm asking once, I'm telling the second time, end of story." Every time he lost the tempo and tried to shoot off into a big trot instead of maintaining our slow jog I halted him completely. Whoa means whoa, Bobby. That is all.

Once we sorted that out, and it took a long time, we were finally able to move back to the bending exercise. I could. not. do. it. Once again I felt like I was being overloaded with aids and I couldn't sort them out fast enough to make a difference. I finally gave up at the jog and came back to the walk so I had one less thing to focus on.

I finally got the inside bend sorted away, and then I couldn't get him pushed back over without his haunches winging out. BM told me to keep my outside leg right at the girth--in fact, since I default to bringing it back far enough to kick my horse in the stifle when asking for anything, to think of kicking him in the shoulder instead and I'd probably be at the right spot. That helped a lot and I was able to also bring my thigh into the picture and really push his shoulders around without making the hind end think it needed to be doing something large and grand as well. It also carried over into doing a super SI in our next ride.

spring is finally here!

We were able to move back to the jog and get the same results, and then BM had me do something else horrible and frustrating: picking up my reins. Kind of an integral part of riding, but something else I apparently can't do correctly. I was supposed to keep my shoulders back and down and my hands forward and independent of the rest of my body while shortening my reins.

Yeah, no. My body parts don't move independently of each other and everything wanted to lurch forward in a giant movement. At this point my ass was chafed from sitting the trot for an hour, my right ankle was completely numb and just dangling there uselessly, and my brain was fried. I've since worked on this on my own and found that if I focus on keeping my core hard and still instead of thinking of my shoulders, my middle holds everything in place while my hands get to go about their business on their own.

taking bobby's picture from across a giant field is the key to making him look attractive

In summation, our lesson was this: slow down, relax, bend.

THOSE ARE THE THREE HARDEST THINGS ON THE PLANET WHEN YOU'RE A BOBBY HORSE.

BM is pushing us hard without actually taxing us Bobby physically. My brain feels like goo after each lesson, but once I chill out and have time to process, there are about ten million new things I have under my belt to work on which is a really, really good thing. I'm hoping to get some help with the canter tomorrow as the right lead has gotten...interesting.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The weekend strikes back

Those of you that are friends with me on facebook or follow me on instagram know what I was up to this weekend:

leaving the stable tour just before midnight.

One of my mom's oldest friends is a Cirque du Soleil fanatic, and he's been wanting to see Cavalia for ages. He lives out in the Bay Area but missed them when they were there, so when he saw they were in Chicago (where my mom lives) he invited us along. And then paid for the entire trip, VIP package second row center seats included. Ohhh-kay, if you're going to beg, I guess I can go.

Guys, it was fucking amazing. I had steeled myself against being judgmental against the riding as you will when seeing people fake it in movies. Yeah, no. I can't say I was as wowed by the haute ecole at the end as most of the audience was, but everything else was incredible. 11/10 would recommend. I can't say enough good things about it.

i was pretty giddy to be there, won't lie. 

I flew out first thing Saturday morning and landed back in Rochester Sunday afternoon. I was exhausted by the time I got home and even with a nap and a full night of sleep, this morning's 6am alarm went off way too early. Once I finished feeding, I chiseled Bobby out of his mud coat and got on fingers firmly crossed he'd be sound.

On Friday when I last saw him he was not sound. We'd had a tough-on-me lesson the day before (post on that to come), but we never even made it to the canter so I was kind of really a lot freaking out. If he can't even hold up to flatting on our cushy indoor footing, how the fuck is he going to show on stone dust? Fortunately Farrier was there doing another horse so I asked her to watch him go quick.

please stop being a fungusy gimp.

She agreed he looked uneven on the RF which was what I was feeling. I got off without doing anything more than the brief w/t/c soundness check and Farrier put the hoof testers on him. Of course, being Bobby, he tested worse on the LF. The LF is the worse navicular foot, but the RF is the leg with the old soft tissue injury and the still-recovering leg fungus. Farrier didn't come to any great conclusions.

Bobby isn't big on reactions on the ground. He's got such good ground manners drilled into him that he thinks it's his job to stand like a statue and never move. He jerked his hoof once each time Farrier hit a sore spot, but when she came back to the same spot he didn't so much as twitch. Occasionally he'd look back at me like, "Should I be doing something? Is this okay? I won't move again, I promise." Ugh, Bobby, for being such a drama queen under saddle, you're difficult in your own way on the ground.

I packed his feet and Farrier said to just keep riding him as normal. If he continues to be uncomfortable we'll go back to wedges. If he comes up sound, then great. This foot shit is a serious mind fuck, let me tell you.

we ride! for one day at least.

Fortunately he was sound this morning!

Unfortunately, I apparently can't take a weekend off without forgetting everything I know about riding. BM has given me about six months worth of things to work on in my past two lessons so I should have a wealth of things to draw on. Yeah, no. I couldn't get my tired brain to dredge up anything useful for a good fifteen minutes of wandering uselessly around at the walk. Even at the trot it took me way longer than it should have to start riding with a plan instead of being like, "I have legs. They push me up to post. That is all."

I did rally though. Once I started working on bending Bobby at the shoulders keeping my calves against his side instead of giving into his "Your leg means nothing or it means zoomies. There is no in between." I was able to get him moving really well.

hubby picked me up from the airport in my new car! so long, old saturn. 

Once again I ran into the flying change problem at the canter. He popped right over unasked for down the first long side--totally drama free, completely correctly, and in perfect balance. He was more than happy to pop right over as soon as I shifted my seat which again wasn't what I was asking for. If he's going to be change happy, he needs to remember there are other ways to get the lead. I can't do another change through the canter in the test to correct the lead, so he's got to work with me. I gave him a scratch anyway, then calmly brought him back to the walk and picked up the left lead again. Then, minutes later, I went to do a simple change across the diagonal--the move required at Second level--and he felt the half halt right before I asked for the walk and changed again.

I know having a horse that excels at changes is nothing to bitch about. The fact that he's decided that not only are they easy, but they're actually really fun is great. It's just not great when I'm not asking for them. I don't want to shut him down so, as always, we have to work on the whole listening thing instead of the anticipating thing.

"leave the dressaging to me, lady. you know nothing."

Of course once we got over to the right lead to actually stay there, he couldn't canter anymore. Honestly I don't even know what gait we were in. It felt like none of his body parts were moving together and yet everything was stuck nailed to a board. I finally just got into half seat and kicked him into a hand gallop. BM is always telling me to let him fail, so I let him fail hard. You can't make this circle without falling over or crashing into something if you won't bend, Bobby. You can't run fast if you're cross cantering. I was finally able to sink back down into my seat and work with a more forward, looser horse. It was a hot mess getting there, but the end result was where it needed to be.

It ended up being a good ride, but the amount of time it took me to sort out my body parts and what the fuck I was supposed to be doing was unacceptable. Mental toughness, it needs work.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

There are worse problems

Guys, damn it.

After my post yesterday about how good it's going to be to switch to strictly dressage lessons, and how BM has taken away my best friend crutch Inside Rein, we have overnight run into a new problem.

My fucking horse has figured that shit out and moved on with his life. "You want me to go into the outside rein? Fine. Stop laying on the inside rein? Fine. Bend off your inside leg? Fine. Fix the straightness with the outside leg? Fine."

Bobby. STOP. I thought we were going to have months to focus on this! You're learning the things too quickly and I don't have the learning to keep up with you!

hubby: "he looks like a cavalry mule."

He was quite saucy this morning coming out of his stall, but he didn't make a fuss when I put him right to work on pushing him with my inside leg into the outside rein. No. He just did it. I was like, "Uhh....uhhhhh....." and then figured I should be an active rider, didn't linger, and changed direction. It took a touch longer to the right which was a change from the other days, but still went down without much correction.

It carried over in the trot. He was so light and just with it right off the bat that after a few circles and trips down the long side both ways we threw in some serpentines to get a really good bend going off just my leg--far harder for me to commit to than him--and finally stepped into the right lead canter.

The right lead felt like a drunken sailor on a sinking ship yesterday, and while we started off with a little fishtailing, I focused more on getting him rounder today and that packaging him up helped get both ends under control. Once he felt with it, I asked for the medium keeping in mind BM's advice to bounce him up and ooze him forward. #ohmylort did we get it. He bounced his flat crouped booty and opened his stride right up. It lasted all of five strides before neither of us could hold it anymore, but I think I've got the 1+1 aids sorted in order to ask properly again.

basically the best at dressage. obvi.
also, LOL, pulling on the inside rein even when there's no inside rein!!

Across the diagonal, testing that I could get the change where I wanted it and not just wherever Bobby felt like giving it since diagonal at canter means change time. Hold the right bend, he holds the right lead. Straighten him out and cue, and he pops over. I do love that R-L change. It's always there for me.

To the left, he immediately felt straighter so we didn't do too much before I asked for the medium that way. Sit deep, bounce him up, both legs on, and send him forward. I could feel him sit and reach the first couple strides and then I suddenly felt him jump for a step before carrying on. It wasn't a buck or double pump like he sometimes throws out that wrench my back, and he carried on still completely in balance so I didn't even connect what had happened until I glanced down and saw we were on the right lead.

I must have poked him too much with my outside spur which is his change aid, and he took it and rolled with it. We were approaching the corner quickly so I was greedy and asked him to switch back over. Easy peasy, no fuss, so I immediately halted and shoved cookies down his throat.

always cookies all the time.

Who is this horse that's so in-tune to my aids and does what he's asked--inadvertently or not--without throwing a royal fucking shit fit?! I don't know how to ride this creature!

I let him have a long stretch break before going back to a collected trot which was where I wanted to work out of for the end of the ride. He was feeling so pumped about his changes and his candy and praise that he was looking for every twitch from me as an excuse to canter. I eventually got him serpentining all over the place, making him settle the fuck down and that my leg meant change the bend not canter, until he was like butter in my hands. He was super light, super forward, super still wanting to canter at the drop of a hat, but he let me channel all that into a touch of legs and off he went into his newly discovered extended trot where there's no lugging on the reins and we actually stay way uphill for a Bobby Horse.

If he can just keep a lid on his psychoness this season, we're going to have some fun at Second and maybe not entirely embarrass ourselves if we can get to the goal of one Third test by the end of the year!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Curse of the inside rein

Another foot crisis narrowly averted. After Bobby was trimmed way back, he came out for our lesson Thursday looking like he was okay with doing such strenuous tasks as walking and standing around without shifting uncomfortably. He actually felt really good, and BM said she didn't notice anything aside from the usual stiffness in his right knee he gets when the fungus leg blows up overnight. (Fuck the fucking fungus leg, omg. That's its own post. It will be like, "I'm completely healed!!!" and then two days later it's like, "JK here's MOAR FUNGUS!!1!!")

when you forget about the lake dividing your
horse's pasture and don't put your boots on so
you have to ford your way out on horseback.

The theme of my lesson was: It's time to actually ride real dressage.

Ugh. You guys. You think dressage is fun and stuff until you're not allowed to cheat at it anymore. And then it's not that fun at all.

I usually get on early enough that I can warm Bobby up with a little w/t/maybe-c on my own. That way we're not wasting time on just getting the muscles juiced and can focus on the nitty gritty. This time BM got there while I was still doing chores so she could get on another horse first. That meant she was there from the start of my ride and asked how he felt.

Insider's tip: If you don't want to stop cheating at dressage, do not tell your trainer your horse won't connect to the outside rein.

ok, but we're both really good at snacking so
that should count for something, right?

BM started reeling off a list of aids to apply to rectify this problem--you know, basic "Stop fucking with the inside rein, put both your legs on, hello where is your outside rein connection, touch that inside rein one more time I will cut you, etc."--and it was information overload. Not because it was really anything difficult, it was just too much too quick and too different from the simplistic "pull horse, kick horse" mentality I usually coast around in.

I had to stop and have BM place my hands, arms, and legs exactly where she wanted them. Yeah, not the first time a trainer has had to do this with me so I can't blame the ole TBI on this one.

"This is like easy math, right? It's 2+2. Don't overthink it."
"That's too much math for me."
"Okay, then make it 1+1. Inside leg plus outside rein."

YOU THINK THAT'S SUCH AN ELEMENTARY CONCEPT UNTIL YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THE INSIDE REIN EVER AT ALL.

jumped that baby gate to finish out today's ride.
because my horse is not going to break dammit.

We spent a lot of time at the walk. Mostly walking to the left because Bobby loves hanging on the left rein so he was reluctant to let go of it. Me too, Bobby. Me. Too. The main theme, besides don't ever touch the inside rein that's not for you don't do it, was to stop nagging. "Tweak it, and if he doesn't respond then correct it and move on. Stop lingering on middle ground and picking at each other." So hold the solid outside rein connection and put the inside leg on. If he twists his head to the outside instead of bending around my leg, then I get to do one quick tug on the inside rein to tip his head back in and immediately release it and let the leg go back to bossing him around. No constantly pulling on the inside rein to "bend" him.

This is hard because he doesn't particularly respect my leg. Probably because I'm not big on using it and err on the side of reallyfuckinghandsy. Real talk here, folks. Once we got permission to move on to the trot, we worked out of a serpentine to get both of us on the leg train. Not touching my reins to steer was a tough mental exercise, but BM had me put both reins in one hand to prove that he was moving beautifully with zero help from my reins. He literally didn't even notice the change. It's nice to know he's trained somewhere in there, I just suck at riding.

At the canter, same thing. I was allowed to use my ring finger on my inside rein if I need a bit more roundness, but it was all bouncing from one leg aid to the next to keep him straight, keep him forward, keep him bent, keep him in the connection. He can't lift his shoulders if his shoulders are falling in or out. Touch with the outside leg at the girth. Just touch though and just at the girth because Bobby associates outside leg aids at the canter with a flying change cue and wants to swap.

Speaking of, his changes these past few rides have been delicious. I only do one each way to not get greedy, but I've been starting with the L-R which has always been his angry one and he's been jumping over without any drama. Super clean and super quiet, carrying on at the canter like nothing happened. This whole riding the hind end forward thing is magic. Who knew?!

is this a real dressage horse?!

Of course by myself it's been slower going. I can get the same work, it just takes me longer to do my math. Especially on Friday where Bobby came out feeling quite fresh and I had to keep throwing in half halts so it was like 1+2 which is advanced stuff bordering on the complexity of fractions. But I sorted myself out, and this morning things came that much quicker. I have to beg Bobby sometimes to give me some amateur points and make some best guesses on his part. I am not a reliable Captain. We need to work together. Co-First Mates or something, I dunno.

With show season gearing up (less than a month to the first show now!), I think switching to dressage lessons is going to be really fun, really helpful, and really hard. We're basically the best at small jumps thanks to last year's training overhaul, so I'm excited to be the best at fundamental getting your horse correctly on the aids riding. Some rides Third feels like it's going to be easy to step up to, and some days I have to count not crashing into the wall because my horse won't steer off my leg a success.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Slow Your Roll

Where have I been in the week since I last posted?

Conducting the mother fucking crazy train is where. Toot toot, all aboard, one way trip to My Horse Is Dying Land.

me: bobby, are you sound enough to be standing here?
bobby: can you please fuck off?

Last Monday we trailered out to Mendon Ponds Park for a couple hour trail ride. Bobby was happy to be out and about. We, once again, set off down a new trail. It started in the woods and wound through there for about forty five minutes before crossing over to the grassy ponds side. We walk ninety nine percent of the time we're there because it's a hilly area and Bobby may be super ring fit, but he's not yet super traipsing about the countryside fit. I did, however, let him move out to a trot on a nice clear stretch...where he immediately felt very footy on the packed dirt. 

I pulled him up right away and that was that for trotting this trip, but I spent the whole rest of the day along the lines of "It's fine, he's due for a trim, I'll let the farrier check him out. Maybe the navicular has gotten worse and he'll need wedges put back on. Maybe I should have never jumped him this winter. I really think this is the end end of our eventing career which means he probably can't hunter pace again either. He probably won't ever even be sound enough to trail ride. OMG, what if he can never leave the arena again?! OH GOD IT'S TIME TO PUT HIM DOWN THE END IS NOW."

Things spiraled out of control quickly, guys. I'm not proud.

"hi, my name is bobby, and my mom is batshit crazy."

I packed his feet as soon as we got back to the trailer, and then gave him Tuesday off. He was fine for our dressage ride Wednesday (No, like, really fine. He was fucking fantastic.), so I went ahead with our jumping lesson Thursday. 

I got on and immediately felt the footiness again. Not lame, but a distinct minciness up front. BM put us through an A+ flat warm up, and we scrapped the jumping to work over a line of raised cavaletti. He felt great through that--essentially a giant canter stride, but so adjustable and light--but once we stopped and took a break in the middle of the ring he started shifting from foot to foot. We ended the lesson super early, and I packed his feet again and gave him some Bute. 

best frat boy friends

He had Friday and Sunday off. On Saturday I threw a lead rope around his neck and jumped on bareback to see how he felt. He felt sound then, too, so we popped over the tiniest of crossrails once before I jumped off and chucked him back outside. 

Monday was really nice out so I threw my dressage tack on and climbed aboard to see how he felt. 

Awful. He felt fucking awful.

He felt crippled throughout his whole body, and I lost my shit and started sobbing. It didn't help that I was full of raging hormones, but there's nothing quite like feeling you're directly responsible for your horse's soundness downfall and he's never going to recover from it ever.

Once I was over myself, I pulled his bridle, taught him a fun trick which he picked up on in approximately twelve seconds, and then brought him in to pull his mane, give him a bath and some Bute, and pack his feet again. 

will do anything for cookies
 
I didn't even look at him Tuesday. I threw him right outside and left. The farrier came today so I was forcing myself to act like a rational human being to outside people until I got her opinion. 

He was right at eight weeks, but he was so long. He'd grown a ton of foot--too much foot. For a horse that now has foot issues, it had messed with his angles too much and was making him uncomfortable. Bobby usually zones out or falls asleep while getting his feet done, but this time he was super engaged in the process. He kept licking and chewing as she went and shifting around to adjust to his new feeties. 

He walked off so much more comfortably, and Farrier agreed we'd need to take him back to no longer than six weeks. Between the navicular and a host of other problems--a possible bone spur, a previous soft tissue injury, and wonky as fuck conformation--we're not going to be able to get away with any sort of mistake anymore. 


Are we officially done forever and ever with eventing with no chance of a once a year comeback? Yes. We are. The navicular changes are only ever going to get worse. We can probably slow them down, and we can certainly make him as comfortable as possible, but we've shifted from "Let's see where we are and what he can handle before making any firm decisions" to "We need a serious maintenance program in place with set limitations." 

We'll treat the discomfort when it arises. We'll see how trail riding pans out with a heavy focus on staying on the best footing. We'll stick to our dressage-only show season. We'll play over jumps in the arena with less regularity until that, too, gets taken off the board. This horse loves to work. He loves having a job and using his brain. We'll let him keep going as long as he holds up to it. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Horse is Perfect: A Poem

My Horse is Perfect

My horse has perfect ground manners
He doesn't cross tie
And you shouldn't walk behind him because he'll kick you
Don't clip him unless you Ace him
Don't Ace him unless you twitch him
He doesn't like needles

My horse is perfect to trail ride
He's afraid to lead
But don't leave him behind
He can't go out by himself
But he hates groups
He won't cross water
And he doesn't know how to walk without jigging

My horse is perfect at shows
He just needs his own separate warm up area
And don't crowd him in the ring
That's what all those ribbons in his tail are for
It's your fault your horse got kicked
He should have won that class
He got on the trailer this time after all

My horse is the perfect turnout partner
Don't let him go out with that horse though or he'll rip its blankets
And he can't go out with that horse because they won't stop biting
I think that one is the one that almost broke his leg last year
He didn't deserve it though I'm sure
Because my horse is perfect

Dedicated to That Person in every barn.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Weekend Activities

you know it.

On the riding front, it was limited activities. Bobby had a massage scheduled for eleven Saturday morning so I jumped on him quick before then. He was surprisingly really, really good. No drama about a thing, not even the canter. He wanted to break to the canter when I cued for the medium trot, but once I started posting instead he went prancing around like a mother fucker.

For the massage, he was--as always--sore in a million different places in his hind end. He's got previous stifles issues, a mile long back, and he does a lot of dressage work. Massage Lady wasn't concerned with anything out of the ordinary. He was more sore in his neck than usual, but that seemed to show up right after he got vaccinated about two weeks ago. He also likes to play Fighting Giraffes with his pasture mate where they bash each other with their heads and necks so, again, nothing too concerning. She gave his back an A++ though and said his new saddle is perfecto!

giraffe chomp mark. 

He was still stiff overall in his body after his ride as she watched him go on the longe before working on him. I was bemoaning how tight he's been lately, and she reminded me that this type of weather is the worst for Lyme positive horses. I don't know why I didn't put two and two together and think of that myself. He's had it for so many years now that I guess I just kind of forgot about it. We should have one whole day of warm up this week though. I mean, that's basically spring, right? Ugh, fuck you, New York. I hate you.

contemplating life after his massage. 

We ran a bunch of errands to round out Saturday, and then Sunday we hooked up the trailer and used it to haul ten million pounds of landscaping timbers home. While it was so conveniently parked in the driveway, I gave it a thorough scrub down both inside and out. I also bossed Hubby around and made him do some quick fixes to it to get it ready for show season. He put a new spare tire on (Hubby loves changing out tires, just ignore all the swearing.), dug out a bolt to secure my saddle rack (ask me how long I've been trying to get him to find me the right size in his super special only he understands organization system), and I had him rip the old western saddle racks out.

ugly things

The last owner had welded them onto this aluminium sheet and the welds were barely holding. I couldn't actually put anything heavy on there for fear of ripping the thing off the wall. It's hard to find someone to weld aluminium, and they were such a giant waste of space anyway that I said fuck it.

drilling holes for a second english saddle rack
higher up and out of the way

It left an ugly strip when it finally came off. We'll put a new sheet of light steel or something there one day, but for now it got smoothed down with the grinder and bandaged with tape. It wouldn't belong to me if it wasn't a least a little bit ghetto.

much better! just needs the second saddle
rack put in once it gets here

The rest of the day was spent doing way, waaaaay too much yard work. At least I got my own wheelbarrow out of it? Do I really need my own? Probably not. Did I really want my own. Yes I did.

Today's festivities include painting my kitchen cupboards and a trip to Mendon with the brown stallion. Even if all we can do is walk because the ground is so saturated, neither one of us can do one more day in the indoor.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

how now brown cow

Since I had so much success with my mini jump school on Tuesday and had to deal with another bout of assholeness while attempting a flat school yesterday, I asked BM for a dressage lesson this morning instead of one over fences.

Usually I only switch out when I hit a training road block--like when our shoulder-in was going to shit which she got us back on track with in one ride--but this hasn't been a specific issue so much of, "Please, Bobby Whisperer BM, fucking help me keep this horse's brain in his head so I don't throw away my entire show season because he won't stay in the ring."

BM was, of course, accommodating. I mean, jump lessons are basically her yelling at me on the flat and the jump just kind of happens to be a momentary pause before she's back at it again. Equitation on fleek. Everything else not so much.

tried to take advantage of having my camera with me
to capture the cool early morning light. sadly there's this
brown cow in the way...

I did a ten minute stretchy w/t warm up on my own to get Bobby moving and then we started. Right away BM had me doing an exercise a lot like what Karen described the other day. She had me bending/tipping him in and as soon as he loosened and gave, I let him go and made sure he was still forward. Counter bend, release, go forward. She told me to think of it as sliding his back muscles back and forth to loosen them up and get him to soften and relax.

Bobby is such a fucking tense horse. He doesn't always use it for evil--a lot of the tension is that he wants to always be one step ahead of you, he always wants to get it right. When you're on the same page as him it's flawless. Telling him no, wait, that wasn't what I was asking, is a recipe for a blow up. If you can redirect quickly enough you can usually slide by, but sometimes he just locks onto things and won't let them go. He's a sensitive dude, but he also relishes a good fight so it's a fine line of coddling him and actually making him do the thing you want to do.

could have been an awesomely lit picture of you, bobby, but nooo.

Once he was loosened up at the walk we moved on to a slow trot doing the same thing. It was a lot of work. I had to keep him slow, but collected and moving over his hocks. Long and low, but not on his forehand. Relax and, oh yeah, don't forget to keep bending both ways. BM kept calling out to go lower and lower while I was like, "LOLZ, BM, this is the lowest Bobby has ever gone, WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN AND MAKE US DO REAL HORSE WORK MY FLABBY USELESS ABS HURT."

After a walk break, we moved on to the canter where Bobby has been blowing his shit for whatever Bobby reasons.

JK, we planned on moving to the canter, but first I had to get Bobby's back loose again without him parading around like a fucking llama. This is where my frustration really came out and BM had to earn her therapist salary a little bit.

other pone had a sweat wrap on for a hock wound. he's fine, it just
looks dramatic. 

I understand the concept of pushing with my inside leg into the outside rein. BM told me to keep at that instead of instantly giving up when he went full llama the second I picked my reins up and pulling his head down. The problem is pulling his head down takes two seconds and once he goes to work he lightens up into a true contact. It's fail safe for test work. It's not the right way to do it, but BM quickly saw why I cheat when it took ten full minutes of incessant leg to hand on a loopy rein to get Bobby to drop his giant moose face.

We're like a married couple in an unhealthy relationship. We love to fucking nag and fight and play into each other's weaknesses. He needs to respect the aids, but he doesn't want to and because he gets tense and blows up when I try to demand it, I just don't. I need to ride better, but he lets me get away with so much it's easy to cheat.

still have yet to master this camera, but i take every chance
i get to play with settings. bobby kind of looks photoshopped in. 

It took an equally long amount of time both directions to get the softening up, but we eventually got it and moved on to canter.

Which was a mess.

BM removed my grabby hands crutch and things felt pretty wild and woolly. I kept tensing up with frustration that things weren't going perfectly while BM yelled at me that the problem was that I was tensing up. Type A vicious cycle lemme tell ya.

She was telling me to relax and drop my shoulders while weighting my elbows and keeping soft wrists. Individually I could do each of those things, but everything at once felt impossible. The thing I like best about BM's teachings style is that she has a hundred different ways to explain the same thing. She finally told me to imagine that my arms were side reins--steady and firm, but still elastic. For whatever reason that finally made things click into place. She put us on a spiral circle, I got all my parts in unison, and Bobby did some really good collected work.

We finished with her yelling at us to walk with purpose and pep. Bobby has a shit walk. It's flat and dragging and slow. It's never going to be a great walk, but if we can get it into a consistent 7 range I'll be happy. I pushed and kicked and squeezed and didn't let him cheat and trot and all the sudden I had this big, rangy, powerfully moving horse beneath me. Bobby's ears literally fell over sideways--I think he was as amazed as we were and there was much laughing at his expense.

batshit crazy cow dog staring down a wild, stick eating black bear to finish you off