Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some Firsts With Dawn, Maisie Diagnosis and Mark Rashid Clinic

Before our vet/chiropractor got here this morning, I had a chance to work with Dawn. Since Dawn isn't very interested in lungeing now that she understands that she isn't required to race around in a circle, I've decided to lunge only to briefly test her energy level and mood and to work on a specific task. So this morning, her task was to walk and then trot over a ground pole without excitement or rushing. The trot work over the pole was our first try at this - until only recently Dawn had pole-phobia, evidenced by rushing at the pole, even in a walk, or leaping over it (there's a historical reason for her worries that doesn't matter now). She's gotten pretty relaxed about walking over poles, so we started on the lunge with that. Then we moved up to trot, and after a couple of laps to establish rhythm, I directed her over the pole. She had absolutely no problem in either direction! I think pole-phobia may be waning. Next time I may try lungeing her over a small x to see how she handles that.

That was all the lungeing we did - just a few minutes - since our task was accomplished. I bridled and then mounted up. We continued with our softening work at the walk - last time we'd gotten 5 soft steps at the walk consistently in both directions. My objective today was to see how much further we'd get. Dawn's a very quick learner - once she gets what you want things proceed pretty nicely. So today, within about 15 minutes, we'd progressed to 7, 9 and then 11 soft steps at the walk. She was able to do this without ducking behind the bit, and I worked with her on maintaining a nice walk pace by "allowing" with my seat and legs - one of the challenges with many horses first doing this softening work is that they interpret the ask as a request to slow down. We changed directions after each set on one rein, repeating it on the other, with nice loose rein walking around in between. While we were walking on a loose rein, we did some figures around cones using my eyes and head to direct her to turn, and also worked on shortening and lengthening her stride by my "allowing" or "resisting" with my seat. I like to do some of this work on a loose rein because then I can't use my hands!

Since things were going so well, I decided to move up to trot - Dawn likes to know that if she's done something right that there will be new things to do instead of the same old stuff. We'll reinforce the walk work and refine it, but for now I'm going to assume when I ride her that she knows what to do in that part of the work. We'll also be doing a lot more transition work - walk/halt/walk and also backing, and combining the shortening and lengthening of stride work with the softening work. So for today, at the trot we just trotted a couple of big circles in both directions on light contact. Next session we'll work some on walk/trot transitions and softening at the trot. I think this is the first time I've ridden Dawn at the trot since probably 2002 - she's been my younger daughter's horse exclusively since then. I'd forgotten how much power Dawn's trot has - and how much vertical motion there is - it isn't rough, just very springy/bouncy! She tolerated my posting well, although I don't think anyone's posted on her in many years - my daughter only rides bareback - I made sure to keep my legs completely quiet.

Then to top off our successful session, I walked her on a loose rein out of the arena and up around on the grassy hill behind the barn, and back to the outside mounting block to line up for me to dismount. So three firsts - first trotting over poles on the lunge without worry, first trot work (for me with Dawn since 2002) and first ride outside the arena. She was a superstar! Now these achievements may seem minor, but until very recently I worried a lot about working with Dawn due to her past tendencies to be hot-headed and easily distracted, worried and reactive, sometimes to the point of explosiveness. I think in many ways I've made more progress than she has!

* * * * * *
Dawn had some minor things that needed adjusted by the chiropractor - she was pretty pleased with that (all of our horses love our chiropractor). Then our vet/chiropractor evaluated Maisie. As I suspected, the issue was with the left hind - she doesn't want to allow the pastern to fully sink when trotting. It wasn't her hock - she had no signs of hock soreness - but that swelling low on the outside of her left hind was the sign. On palpation, the suspensory ligament seemed a bit thickened - a sign of inflammation - and she was somewhat sensitive to the touch, and there was a little heat. So the diagnosis was a suspensory strain - not too severe as the swelling isn't that bad and she's 95% sound at the walk - I think this may have happened a while ago when she was at the old barn, and it's never fully healed. So she gets a month off from work - even though she doesn't mind walking under saddle, the extra weight isn't good for it. She can continue to go to turnout every day as the horses aren't doing a lot of running in the heat. Also, I will ice the leg at least once a day. We may decide to take her to the vet clinic to have the area ultrasounded in a month to determine what her long-term prognosis is and what level of work I can expect of her. And, since both hind feet showed some signs of heat and digital pulses, we've increased her chromium supplement (our vet/chiropractor is also an endocrine expert - it's nice to get all of that in one package) and she'll be getting a grazing muzzle to control her weight - she's not going to think much of that! Contrary to what many people think, our vet/chiropractor says that subtle signs of foot soreness due to metabolic conditions (pre-laminitis) often show up first in the hind feet, and can cause other soundness issues like hock strain without people realizing that it's the feet that are the problem.

My thanks to everyone who replied about boots. Since the Sports Medicine Boots are good for suspensory support - our vet/chiropractor likes them - I may continue to use those once Maisie's back in work but using a trick our vet/chiropractor told me about to lessen heat build up. She says to take a cotton kneesock, cut off the foot, leaving the heel, and slide the footless sock up the horse's leg, with the heal of the sock over the pastern joint. Then put on the Sports Medicine Boots and fold the top of the sock down over the top of the boot. She says it really helps prevent heat build up - I'm going to try it out.

Noble had some blood drawn to test thyroid levels. She thinks his rapid loss of muscle along the top line of his barrel and hindquarters is a pretty sure sign at his age that he's finally (at age 30) showing signs of Cushing's. He may need a pituitary supplement shortly - she's likely to have us use chaste tree berry.

* * * * * *
I will be auditing the three-day Mark Rashid clinic at Black Star Farms, 1971 Granville Road, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 22-24. The clinic usually runs from 8:00 a.m. to about 5:00 p.m. - shorter or longer depending on what each horse needs each day. This is a one-on-one format where Mark works with individual horse/rider pairs - usually 8 per clinic - on whatever it is that they need to work on, for an hour or more each day per pair. I'm not riding this year, although I expect Dawn and I will want to visit with Mark in a year or so to refine what we're doing - my daughters and I have ridden in a number of Mark's clinics, including two week-longs in Colorado, but I'll be riding in more. I always learn some new things at each clinic, whether auditing or riding, as Mark's always adjusting and changing what he does in order to improve the work with the horse, and every horse/rider pair have their own unique situation and issues. If you're in the area, perhaps I'll see you there - be sure to find me if you come - daily auditing fees are usually in the range of $30 per day, and you can attend any or all of the days. I'll bet there'll be more posts to come about what I learn at the clinic!


  1. Wow! You've had a busy day!
    Sounds like your work with Dawn is going very well--maybe better than you expected? Those are the kind of pleasant surprises we all enjoy with our horses.
    Sounds like you've narrowed down Maisie's problem and are intervening nice and early. Good luck with that. The info about the SMB's sounds good, too. I suppose the sock acts as sort of a "wick" to carry heat and even moisture out from under. I'll have to try that.
    Have fun and learn lots this weekend (so you can share).

  2. You are lucky to have such a great vet/chiro. The "all-in-one" part makes things that much better :). Have fun at the clinic, I look forward to your posts talking about what you learned!

  3. Nice work with Dawn! It sounds like your relationship with her has come so far.

    Enjoy the Mark Rashid clinic and I look forward to hearing all about it :)

  4. Great work with Dawn. I well remember your anxiety about riding her. This is HUGE progress.

    Very interesting too about Maisie's hind end and the metabolic connection. I am treating Tucker as if he has some metabolic issues. If it every cools down, I will be interested to see if he seems more comfortable in his hind end.

    Thanks for another great post.

    Looking forward to the clinic notes.

  5. Hi Kate - sounds like a busy day but productive !!!

    Enjoy the clinic!

  6. What a great day with Dawn! You two are really bonding and moving forward. Sorry to hear about Maisie's needed rest, but at least you know what you are dealing with and a good time frame for rest and repair.

  7. Well sounds like you sure were busy today. I'll be waiting to hear all about the clinic when you get back. I'm sure it will be interesting and informative.

  8. Congrats on your progress with Dawn. Slow and steady wins the race as they say...

    I visited the sidebar link "Beyond Pressure and Release - the First Step: Attention" today which led me to your recommendation of Tom Moates' book - A Horses Thought: A Journey Into Honest Horsemanship.

    A heads up - it's not available at Amazon but you can find a new edition at Tom's website.

    As always I enjoyed my visit today :)

  9. I hope Maisie is on the mend soon. Interesting sock trick. Enjoy the clinic.

  10. I remember when you very first started working with Dawn - you have come a LONG way with her!

  11. One thing Griffin taught me in my early days of working with him (when he was scared of EVERYTHING) was that all those small, baby steps you take toward a goal eventually turn into BIG steps in disguise. You are doing great with Dawn. It sounds like her confidence is improving because of you and that is no small accomplishment!

    It's good to hear that you have some answers as to why Maisie is sore. Hopefully the rest and hosing will help and you will be back riding together soon :-)

    Mark Rashid is one of my favorite clinicians. I wish I could get over to audit the clinic. I got to see him once and really learned a lot. I truly admire his soft- spoken, patient nature. I hope to be able to see him again sometime.

  12. You had a horse filled day - the best kind!

    I am looking forward to hearing about the clinic. I'll see Mark in October in New Mexico.

    I wonder where I'll be with horses at that point? sigh.

  13. I want a vet/chiro combo! How perfect is that?!

    I, too, look forward to hearing about the clinic. I'm sure I would benefit. I'd be on the fence with you, though.

  14. I really like the work your doing with Dawn and well done!!!!! Sounds like major steps forward to me and you should be proud!!!!

  15. Wow, it is so great to read about other people's progress. We all all doing so well this summer.

    Does Mark's clinic allow walk in auditors?

  16. So interesting that pre laminitis shows in the hind first, unlike what we typically think of which is the laminitic stance, showing signs of stress in front feet.
    What does Chromium do-I'll ask Cliff about that for Laz's future
    Thx :)

  17. Beth - Mark's clinics (but not the week-longs) usually allow walk in auditors - you pay by the day - I know that the one in Cedarburg does allow daily walk-in auditors. At other clinics, you might want to contact the clinic host - listed on Mark's website under the clinic schedule.

    Kristen - my vet/chiro says that people often only look for laminitis signs in the fronts, and that things are pretty well advanced by the time the typical front foot soreness and stance show up. Looking at all four feet gives better indications. My understanding is that chromium has a beneficial effect on the regulation of insulin, which helps horses who are insulin resistant or who have syndromes (like Cushing's) that are often associated with insulin resistance.

  18. Oh VERY interesting...I'm in the small percentage that my horse got laminitis not from IR, but I still treat him as if he is now, to be extra safe.
    Thanks for the info!!

  19. Valentino - thanks for the heads up on Tom's book - I inserted a comment about it in the old post.

  20. How wonderful! I love "firsts" and can totally relate to Dawn's. I am going through firsts myself, as you know. Congratulations to you both. You must have felt fantastic after the session.

  21. Excellent Post...and on posting/confidence for you!
    Looking forward to more while Maisie mare heals up. SO great to finally know what ailed her and continue on.

    Have FUN, soaking it all up at the Mark Rashid clinic! Will be great to hear all about it.


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