Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Very Good Day and Dawn's Tooth

I spent many hours at the barn today, and it was really wonderful - beautiful weather and a day with horses - who could ask for more?

Pie and I had a very good work session.  After some initial walk and trot softening work, we worked on our canter transitions - with the only objective being "canter now".  I would cue him and if he didn't immediately step into the canter, I tapped him lightly on the shoulder with the dressage whip - this seemed to work better for him than tapping with the whip behind my leg.  Within a few minutes, we had "now".  Every transition after that was sharp and immediate - and lo and behold the left lead appeared, even though I was only focussed on "now" and not on him getting a particular lead.  So there's no problem with the lead, just a problem with the timing of my cue - now that we've got "now" that will fall into place, I expect.

After our arena work, Pie and I took a nice relaxed trail ride, and had the opportunity to greet and talk to many friends and neighbors - it seemed that everyone was out today, and several sets of small children, some of whom came out of their yards to greet him and pet his face.  Pie is a great ambassador for equines, and loves to have his face petted by small (and big) hands.

Then Dawn and I had a really nice ride.  She was very calm, almost sleepy, as we were grooming and tacking while ground tied in the arena.  I put on her bridle with her usual full cheek single jointed Mylar snaffle, and lo and behold she had no problem with it (those of you who've been following along may remember that I haven't been able to ride her this spring in any sort of bit).  When we were working, she was very soft and responsive, and we did a number of trot sets as well as some transition work - I was tempted to canter but she's just coming back into work and building fitness needs to come first.  And the bend to the right was no problem at all - apparently the damaged tooth was preventing her jaw from moving to one side which made it almost impossible for her to bend to the right or tolerate a bit.

And here's the evidence (cell phone pics courtesy of Jill, Scout's owner).  Here's our dentist, Mike Fragale, working to extract the displaced piece of tooth, while our chiro/vet Dr. Alice supports Dawn's head:

And here's the tooth fragment he removed - the black parts are decayed (the right side in the last photo) - the tooth fragment extended below the gum (hence the bloody bits) - those are Mike's hands:

No wonder the poor girl was hurting.  She's on antibiotics for another couple weeks, and then Mike will come back to evaluate how things are healing up.

And to finish my very good day with horses, Drift and I had another work session.  I went into this session with the intention not to free lunge or lunge on the line, but to do some leading work and then get on and get some relaxation at the walk.  We started out with leading in the parking lot - there were lots of distractions and it took a while before he could focus, but we got there.  He may not actually be a stallion - in fact I'm almost sure he isn't - but he has a lot of stallion-like characteristics - very focussed on mares and highly distracted by mares in heat, and with some of the fire and brilliance of a stallion - and I'm treating him as if he were a stallion - he's required to always stay out of my space and work (with an objective of relaxation) even if mares in heat are in the vicinity - good behavior is required at all times, no matter what.

After we groomed and tacked in the barn aisle on cross ties - it took a few minutes for him to settle, we led outside. Once we had good leading in the parking lot, we moved to the arena - no free lungeing or lungeing on the line any more - and we worked for a while on our leading until he began to focus and relax.  Then I bridled and mounted up.  We worked for a long time - at least 45 minutes - just at the walk, until we finally had some bits of relaxation, where he was able to walk around on a fairly loose rein without rushing and also halt and back without fussing.  On the way, we had screaming (at mares leaving and coming back from trail rides and then horses coming in from turnout), turning in circles and serpentines and much figure work involving cones and the maze.  At the end, things were pretty good - I wouldn't call him completely relaxed, but I did get a few sighs and head and neck shake outs and some yawns and he was able to stand still on a loose rein.  Pretty good progress in my book - this is going to take some time and every small step we take is good.

A very good day with horses, indeed - may all my days be so good.


  1. It will be fun to see what you and drift are working on in six months. Sounds like a great day with all three horses!

  2. Wow, that tooth is something! Hope you have many more "good" days. :-)

  3. Poor Dawn! It's wonderful that removing that tooth has made such a difference for her, though. I'm glad she's feeling so much better.

    Sounds like a wonderful day with all your equine friends!

  4. wow,i think you just made my mind up for me. we had a very unusual "no give" session today - very strange. he would not give his jaw to the left, at all - very strange. i attempted to check his teeth and didn't see anything alarming (but what do i know?!) this is so uncharacteristic for him that maybe he's got a tooth issue.... thanks for your post!

  5. That's quite the nasty tooth. Miss Dawn must be glad it's outta there!

  6. Here's to a riding season chock full!

    I wanted to ask - what are neck and head shakes about? Smokey does these most rides lately. Just one or two good one, once we settle in.

  7. Sounds like a wonderful day!

  8. Breathe - some horses have what is called head-shaking syndrome, which tends to be seasonal. One hypothesis is that it's caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerves in the face due to seasonal allergies - sometime the antihistimine cyproheptadine is used to treat this, and there are other things you can do. But a horse with head-shaking syndrome will shake its head constantly and violently - it doesn't happen just for a few shakes.

    Dawn gets "bugs up the nose" sometimes - I don't know for sure what causes it but she will shake her head up and down for a bit and then stop. Happens when the bugs are out so I suspect something's getting up her nose, but who knows?

  9. Our Beautiful Life - lack of jaw movement from side to side isn't usually the result of a problem as serious as Dawn's - it's often the result of tooth issues, particularly in the incisors, that prevent full lateral movement of the jaws to both sides, which puts strain on the TMJs. If you search "dentist" on my blog, or "Mike Fragale", you'll find my earlier posts on natural balance dentistry, which is different from the dentistry practiced by most equine dentists and veterinarians. Inability to relax the jaw or neck to one side or the other can also be the result of a chiropractic issue in the face, poll or neck.

  10. Good workout, Kate. May you always ride a good horse. (Word verification: nolows- describes your day!)

  11. Sounds ike a great day ! SO pleased to read Dawn's issues are resolving ,poor darlin it must have been sore!Drift sounds like a boy who has been ruling the roost where he comes from. I think you are on the rright track with focusing on manners and settling , the rest will follow .
    Like the new look of the blog btw

  12. H-m-m-m....a hormone test might still be in Drift's future. The behavior is a bit worrisome. Still, he is in capable hands, so I am sure you will know what to do.

    As for Dawn! Poor girl. Ironically, the vet was just here and did teeth. Tucker ended up in a similar rig and with similar tranquilizer so he could have two hooks taken off his back molars. That too, according to my vet, would interfere with his going happily on the bit.

    So many times issues of training are related to physical problems. It is something we always need to remember.

  13. That tooth is nasty, no wonder she didn't want a bit in her mouth. Glad she is feeling better and you had a good ride.

    Drift sounds like our Blue when he was younger. We even had a vet check him to make sure everything was missing that was supposed to be missing. Seems in his younger years he just thought all the girls were in love with him. He even tried to mount a few. As he's aged and been trained the behaviors have stopped totally. Good luck.

    And wonderful Pie as usual.

  14. things are coming along for you on all fronts!
    ugh that tooth was something wasn't it?


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