Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bandage Off! Hand Walking! Pen Turnout!

Red had his two weeks after surgery vet visit, and things went very well.  His large compression bandage was removed, and the incision looks very good.  There's still some swelling, but less than there was two days ago.  The vet removed the end sutures but left the rest in, as they will dissolve.

Our new regime, for the next two weeks, will involve some pen turnout - Red and Pie will have small adjacent pens - starting with two hours a day and working up to four hours a day.  On days where Red gets pen turnout, I'll also hand walk him for 20 minutes one other time.  On days he can't go in the pen due to bad weather, I'll hand walk him for 20 minutes twice.  I can also ride him at the walk under saddle once the routine is established.

And we'll be using some chemical assistance, at least for a while.  He had another dose of Reserpine this morning, and I can give him more every several days as long as his manure stays normal.  For our first turnouts and hand walks, I'll give him 3 ccs of ace about 45 minutes before, and as time goes on I can reduce that.

Today, we walked for the first time.  The vet gave him 1 cc of ace IV and 2 ccs IM, so, although he was alert, he was fairly relaxed.  We walked for 20 minutes in the indoor, and did some figures with cones and also used a ground pole to walk over.  He seemed delighted to get out, and his leading manners were perfect.  Tomorrow, it's supposed to rain for most of the day, so we may just do two hand walks and start pen turnout on Friday.

At nights, I'll make sure the incision is clean, and put a little Neosporin on the place where the cannula was inserted last week - it's healed but not as completely as the rest of the incision.  And if there's still swelling, I have some DMSO creme to put on.

The vet will return in two weeks to evaluate his progress and evaluate his soundness.

Progress . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - My Assignments for the Year

At each of the recent annual Mark Rashid clinics, I've come away with specific assignments - an area of focus for my next riding year - sometimes these assignments naturally arise from what happens in the clinic and sometimes Mark specifically gives them to me.

In 2011, my assignment was about "allowing" - here's the post I did on that.

In 2012, I had two assignments - ride all my horses the same - here's the post on that - and developing my own style - here's the post on that.

In 2013, I had my lesson on Whisper, and my assignment was continue to do even less to get even more.

This year, I didn't have to ask Mark what my assignments for the year were - it was pretty clear from our work sessions.

Here's my list:

Do things with the horse - on the inside of you - not to the outside of the horse.  Physical aids are fine, but use them as secondary cues for what you're doing on the inside of you.  If you offer the horse the feel from the inside of you, the horse can connect to that.

Direct rather than react, and do it clearly but with softness and not abruptly - don't wait to see what happens or leave gaps in the connection with the horse.

Keep your focus only on what you want the horse to do, not on what the horse may be doing that may be unwanted behavior or on what the horse may be distracted by.  Focusing on what the horse shouldn't do doesn't tell the horse what to do, and focusing on a distraction confirms for the horse that  the distraction is worth paying attention to. Both take your eye off the ball - what you do want the horse to do.

While directing, get the timing of releases right to reward moments of softness.  When using secondary cues (to avoid upping the primary cue), the timing must be instantaneous - don't leave a timing gap.

Leave only the opening(s) you want the horse to use - make sure you're giving adequate direction and are clear and precise.  It's a good thing to be soft, but don't try so hard to be soft that the horse can't understand what you want.

If the horse keeps repeating a behavior you don't want or doesn't seem to be able to do what you do want (assuming that there's no physical problem for the horse), do a whole-body inventory (of you) to find the cause - the horse is very likely doing exactly what you've been asking the horse to do.  And be sure that you're doing what you want the horse to do on the inside of you before, not after, asking the horse to do it.

And the big one, which underlies everything - softness isn't just about horsemanship, it's about life, and you have to build it into your whole life for it to be available in your horsemanship - it's not something you can just turn on and off.

There's a lot packed into those assignments - if anything's unclear, ask and I'll try to clarify.

Happy Birthday, Pie!

Today Pie is 8 years old - I've had him for almost half his life, since he was about 4 1/2 when I got him back in the fall of 2010.  We've come a long way together in that time, and I think we've got more places to go and to be together.

Here, in honor of his birthday, are some of my favorite pictures of him - first, a couple of his baby pictures from Montana:

Here is at age 4, the day he arrived at our barn from Minnesota:

Here he is, all grown up - what a wonderful horse he is!

Happy birthday, Pie, and many happy returns!

Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day Three Roxie - Directing, Timing and Feel

My last ride of the clinic was on Roxie.  As you may remember, our first ride had not ended well - for either of us - and we had worked together on our leading on day two to tune up my "directing" so she and I would be more confident together.

We started our day three session with some preliminary leading work.  Everything was good, and she was more relaxed already.

Before I mounted up, Mark asked if I was worried at all about riding her, and I said no (except if there was another hailstorm . . .).  I learned later that Roxie, since they got her in a fairly messed-up condition, had only ever been ridden by her owner (the clinic host) and Heather (the clinic host's daughter and the trainer who worked with Red and Pie and I back in 2012).  So having to deal with me - a new person - must have been challenging for her, and made it all that more important that I give her direction.

Mark said that, since our last ride had ended in a bad place for both of us, that's exactly where we would be at the beginning of this ride.  Mark had us do something very interesting.  After I got on and we had worked for a bit, he had me dismount, and either just stand there for a while with Roxie, or walk her around for a while.  Then he had me remount and start working again.  The purpose of this was twofold.  First, since we'd had a ride that ended badly, we needed to build up a sequence of rides that ended well - Roxie would think of each ride where I got off as a "separate" ride and the number of good rides would then add up and start to count more than the one bad ride in her mind and feelings.  I got off and remounted maybe 6 times - so that made 7 good rides to the one bad one.

The second purpose of the series of "rides" was to evaluate if things were going in the correct direction - if they were, there would be improvement within each ride and each ride would start (in terms of relaxation and connection) where the previous one left off, and therefore each ride would be better than the one before it.

What I was working on with Roxie was start to direct immediately, from the first step, rather than waiting to see what happened and then directing in response.  My directing had to remain soft, and the timing of my releases exact - we weren't doing circles and figures just to do circles (that is, we weren't interested in "moving the feet"), but were circling to find softness that I could reward by releasing - allowing her to move forward.  And my job was also to focus only on what I wanted the horse to do, not on what the horse is doing or may be distracted by.  This included little things, like getting the behavior I wanted on mounting - for her to stand still until I asked her to move off.

We didn't get out of walk the whole hour, but I was delighted in our mutual progress.  It was a very good lesson at how important it is to get the basics right. It was great learning for me on how to be more effective and how to help the horse relax and settle.  With each "ride", Roxie relaxed more, and the quality of her walk and softness improved.  At one point another horse came into the arena - just as had happened on our first ride - Roxie's energy went up and she was starting to think about being excited, but I continued directing without interruption, and she immediately settled.  And one of the most important "tells" was that, by the end of our session, all her head/neck fussiness went completely away.

It was a great ending to the clinic - it was really delightful that they let me "borrow" her for the clinic and they said it was very good for her, too.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Retraining Red to Take Medicine by Mouth

When I got Red, he would push against any pressure on his head or face - if you put your hand on his nose he would flip his head or even heat butt.  Same thing for pressure on the halter.  It took a while, but as part of working through his bracing issues that head bracing pretty much entirely went away.

After he got over the head bracing, Red was so good about taking medicines by mouth - it didn't matter what it was - dewormer, bute, you name it, you could just slip it in his mouth and he would stand there calmly.  Unfortunately, he came back after two days at the vet hospital with a serious case of almost head shyness about having anything administered by mouth, probably because he had to have so many medications and also possibly because he was restrained, perhaps with some force, when he was being medicated.

So, since I've been giving him daily doses of Ulcergard to ward off developing ulcers while he's stall-bound, that was a great opportunity to retrain him back to where we were before the vet hospital experience.

I've been working with him completely free in the stall - no halter.  We started with my putting my hand on his face and his nose.  I used approach/retreat, which I've found very helpful with things like this.  I would put my hand on his face or nose, and keep it there (without pressure, just resting it), while he tossed his head around - he'd gotten that unhappy about any pressure on his face at all.  The instant he stopped moving, I'd remove my hand and verbally praise him.  We repeated this with my hand on various places on his face.  That went pretty well.

The point of all the work was for him to choose to keep still, and to relearn that I wasn't intending to muscle him around.  I learned some of this work with Dawn, who used to be dreadful about medicines by mouth - she would actually rear and throw you around the stall - she's now a peach about it.

Then I started working with the medicine tube, first just holding it in my hand which was resting on the side of his face.  Same deal, follow the motion of his head, keeping my hand in place, and take my hand away (release) when he stopped moving, with praise.  If he didn't move when my hand/tube touched him, I immediately took it away and praised him, and then worked to have him stay still with longer periods of touching.

The only time I moved his head with my hand was if he tried to leave, or to opt out of our work by trying to eat hay - I just gently asked him to stay with me in the work.

Then we progressed to my touching the corner of his mouth with the tube, then sticking the tube in, then finally medicating.  It went very well, and I think after a few more sessions, we'll be back to normal and the "hospital learning" will be undone.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day Three Pie - Leave Only the Opening You Want, and Fixing Falling In to the Right

Day three of the clinic . . .

Sunday night it poured - someone said we'd gotten 5" of rain.  Needless to say we were back inside on Monday - but even without the rain, it was in the 30s and the wind was very strong and it snowed on and off all day.  The indoor arena was cold, even with the wood stove going full blast.

I had planned to work on trailer loading with Pie but think it'll be fine if I'm clearer with Pie - I've just been confusing him.  He actually loads just fine, but I haven't been able to have him understand that I'd like to send him, rather than lead him, into the trailer. The work we did on day three will actually help us with our trailer loading, I think, and with lots of other things.

I told Mark that Pie and I had been struggling a bit with our lateral work - turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, side pass and also leg yield.  Pie sort of does them, but not crisply or precisely - and since this is Pie, this was undoubtedly due to my not asking him in a way that was clear and consistent.

Mark helped us out a lot with this.

First, many people (including me) tend to lean our body weight towards the leg giving the aid.  This makes it very hard for horse to do what you're asking since the horse has to lift that side of its body to move away from your leg.  When people complain that their horse moves away from a gate they are trying to open, this is almost always the problem - when they lean over to open the gate, they inadvertently put leg on on that side, and the horse correctly does what they're (unintentionally) asking and moves away from the gate.  So stay straight and don't lean.

Don't leave any openings except the one you want the horse to move into.  Be clear and precise.  The reason Pie was fumbling around with my requests for lateral movement was that I was leaving too many possible opening for him to move his body into - in an effort to be soft, I was being unclear.  It's possible to be clear and soft at the same time. I need to clearly define where the opening is and not leave him all those possibilities to sort through.  I just have to be more definite and more precise, while still being soft.

Take things one step at a time - moving hindquarters (tip nose), moving front end, then side pass, before trying any traveling movement like leg yield or half pass - isolate movements then put them together in side pass first.  Once side pass is fixed, traveling movements should be easy.

Pie and I have always had a tendency to fall in when tracking right.  Mark said this was unlikely to be my upper body - head tilted to right or shoulder dropped - that if anything would be likely to shift him left (since the rest of my body would be compensating by moving left).  Mark said that I'd been working a lot on improving my upper body position, and that I perhaps was ignoring my lower body in figuring this out. Mark watched for a while as we trotted to the right and then said it was my left leg.  I was appropriately using a little right leg preemptively to help Pie not fall in, but I was also using a very slight amount of left leg, a hair more than the right leg I was using (unbeknownst to me) and that was the cause of him falling in.  He was just doing what I was asking - honest Pie. As soon as I thought about taking my left leg off - voila!  no falling in - this was a tiny adjustment.  I have to work on not bracing with the leg I'm taking off, but that will come as it's more automatic.

One of the things I like about working with Mark is that he's perfectly willing to admit that he's learning things all the time.  He said he'd had exactly the issue I'd had with Pie with a horse he was working with - the horse kept doing perfect half passes across the arena in one direction - and Mark wasn't asking him to do that - at least consciously.  Mark said it took a while to figure out what was going on.  The horse was an ex-roping horse, and was overdeveloped on one side of his body, so the saddle didn't always sit perfectly square.  Mark discovered that in trying to compensate for the slight unevenness in the saddle position, he was inadvertently putting just a hair more leg on the horse on one side than on the other side and the horse was responding.  The lesson is that, whenever you find a repeated pattern with a horse, take a close inventory of your whole body position and what you may be signaling the horse to do without even realizing it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Day at a Time . . .

The surgeon came to visit Red this morning (several hours late due to emergencies he had to deal with).  He said the incision looked very good.  Then he and his assistant ultrasounded the swelling on Red's leg to see if it was just fluid or inflammation of the structures (the concern was the suspensory ligament).  It seemed to be just fluid, which was good news.  Since it was fluid, he drained it - undoing the bottom suture and inserting a cannula to drain the fluid - there was a lot of it, serum and uncoagulated blood - basically a hematoma.  Then he rewrapped the leg, gave Red another dose of Reserpine, loaded me a syringe for another Reserpine dose on Sunday, and left.

Immediately after Red came out of short-term sedation, he was irritated with the bandage, and started a big of stomping.  When I came back in the afternoon, he was stomping more.  I called the vet, and they had me give him a cc of ace by mouth - it seemed to help - he was still doing a bit of moving the leg, but there was a lot less stomping and kicking.  They very much want the bandage to stay on for several days, both to reduce swelling and to avoid contaminating the open wound from the fluid drainage.

Assuming all goes well, we will have a vet visit on Monday to redo the bandage, and another visit on Wednesday to evaluate if he's ready for a step-down to a standing wrap and starting turnout in a small pen.  I was able to persuade the surgeon that just doing more stall rest plus hand walking was less desirable in Red's case than starting pen turnout earlier - so if all goes well, by the end of next week, Red should be going out in a pen (with poor long suffering Pie in the next pen for company).  He'll be getting 2 ccs of ace by mouth before his first pen turnout, and then we'll step down to less ace depending how he does.  And then there's the challenge of keeping his wrap dry in the event of rain . . . any suggestions are welcome.

While we were waiting for the vet, Dawn and I managed a nice ride.  Her EPM symptoms are mostly gone, although one front leg is still a bit wonky - I gave her another 500-kb dose of Banamine.  And Pie did not get ridden today - I wanted to keep Red as quiet as possible so left Pie in his stall.

One more day . . .

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Symptom Flare Ups in Former EPM Horses

If a horse has had EPM - even a fully resolved case of EPM as is the case with my three horses - they can have recurrence of symptoms.  One of the commonest reasons for this is vaccinations.  Now, I'm not at all advocating foregoing vaccinations.  But it's important to realize that horses who have had EPM may experience a flare up of symptoms - usually the same symptoms they had when they had an infection with EPM (these symptoms can vary widely from horse to horse).  These flare ups are not due to the active agent of the vaccine itself, but usually are due to the adjuvants that are included with the vaccine to promote an immune response.  These can trigger an inflammatory response that can cause symptoms that mirror what the horse showed during an active case of EPM.

Recently, Pie had a minor flare up - he showed a minor hind end unevenness, and some difficulty picking his feet.  It went away quickly and nothing more was required. This week Dawn had a flare up, probably due to her rabies vaccination about two weeks ago (these reactions often occur 10-14 days after vaccinations).  In her case, she was "sprawly" in her stance on cross ties - she's usually very squared up - and her foot placement tests were very abnormal.  When I rode her, and even when she was led, she was a bit "fumbly" with her foot placement - not off but very much not quite right.  She also shifted her weight when I mounted - this is unusual for her.

Since Dawn's symptoms were more serious, I gave her a 500-lb. dose of Banamine yesterday morning.  By the same afternoon, she was moving much more confidently, and galloped off to the pasture with several nice flying lead changes.  I haven't ridden her since then, but I expect she'll be fine.

(If any of you are new to this blog and want all the details on our experiences with EPM and Lyme, please visit that page.)

Guess she didn't want Red to get all the attention . . .

Red Sees the Surgeon Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning the surgeon is coming to drain the fluid from Red's leg - he has swelling along the incision site that seems not to be an infection but rather just fluid that has moved into the space that was occupied by the removed splint bone.  The swelling is due in part to his bandage having to be replaced too often due to his kicking, chewing on the bandage and moving around rather than standing still.

Red is still struggling with stall rest.  He had doses of Reserpine on Saturday (when he was kicking at the stall walls), Monday (when he was continuously stamping and attempting to chew the bandage), and Tuesday.  Monday and Tuesday he was fairly quiet.  On Wednesday, he was starting to wake up a bit more and had to be lightly sedated for his bandage change.  Today he seemed completely unsedated - he was moving around a lot in the stall and had his full "voice" back - he screamed anytime Pie was out of sight.  And there was a bit of stamping his foot on and off - but no big kicks.

I didn't ride Pie yesterday or today since taking him away from Red made Red very upset.

I'll be discussing our treatment regime with the surgeon tomorrow.  He's a surgeon, and cares about the leg and how the leg responds to treatment.  I care about the whole horse, and it's clear that Red is not happy and is not staying very calm despite the (supposedly) long-term sedation he's already had on three occasions.  I'll be asking about alternatives to stall rest - I understand the need for keeping the incision dry and clean until the sutures come out, but after that I'm not yet convinced of the need for continued stall rest.  There's little evidence of soft tissue injury, and I believe even now Red would be much quieter in a pen next to Pie than he is in the stall.

We'll see how tomorrow goes . . .

And I wanted to add how much I appreciate all of your comments as Red and I cope with our situation (Dawn and Pie say they have to cope too!).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day Two Pie - Feel and Timing

Finally a ride outside!  Of the 24 work sessions (three days times 8 sessions), only three were outside - and Pie and I got one of them on Sunday.  It had rained quite a bit on Saturday, but the outdoor arena has excellent drainage, and after dragging there was a rim around the outside that was useable and also one smallish circular area near one end.

The clinic hosts had managed to order a 5 1/2" Rockin' S raised snaffle for me - it's not generally available but can be special ordered - in fact sizes up to 6" in any of the Rockin' S snaffles can be ordered - Pie had long ago outgrown his 5" one that we'd gotten at the clinic back in 2012.  This is an unusual bit that Mark worked with the designer of the Rockin' S bits to design specifically for horses that have large tongues and low palates - this would be Pie. Although my ported Mylar snaffle was an approximation of the shape of the Rockin' S raised snaffle, the Mylar is a more rigid bit whereas the Rockin' S actually opens a bit wider with rein pressure.  As soon as Pie had it on, he was quieter and more relaxed and settled both in terms of his mouth and his head and neck position - he tried to dive much less and didn't want to use my hands as a fifth leg.  Here's a picture of the bit:

All the transitions we worked on the day before were pretty much completely fixed - all variations of halt with walk with trot.  All I had to do was feel the transitions on the inside of me and offer that to Pie, and bang perfect transitions.  The slight popping up of Pie's head on the transition I'd been experiencing was due to what horse naturally does with his head and neck - he pulls them back slightly which creates an opening to go up if you don't follow the motion of the head and neck with your hands.  If you keep the feel with your hands, this doesn't happen.

Then we worked on walk/canter and trot/canter transitions.  It was great that we ended up outside, since we wouldn't have been able to work on this in the very small indoor.   The work was the same as with the other transitions - feel the rhythm and energy of the canter - canter yourself - and exhale for "now" to get the actual transition.  We didn't worry about leads too much at first.  It was initially easier for us to get good walk/canter transitions than trot/canter transitions - Mark said that this was because we tend to carry forward/get stuck in the feel of trot even when we're trying for canter, which confuses things.  A simple trick to get the correct lead - cue with exhale as you come down from rise in posting trot - this is when the engaging hind leg is leaving the ground and therefore can be called into action to initiate the canter.

Pie was really excellent despite it being cold and windy and our being outside for only the third or fourth time this year and in place he hadn't been to for two years.  Many people complemented the quality of his gaits and how responsive he was - this from the horse that had almost no forward two years ago - Mark said he was a really nice horse several times and offered to take him off my hands since he was clearly so messed up - I politely declined.

Pie, unlike Dawn and Red, is a literalist - he doesn't fill in or compensate for me - Red and Dawn are overachievers and do their best to guess what I want and compensate when I'm communicating poorly - Pie on the other hand will always try to do exactly what he thinks I'm asking, so if I'm not getting what I want I need to look hard at what I'm doing and how I'm communicating with him.  Mark says I'm very lucky to have such a literal horse - he's a great feedback mechanism for me and will tell me when I'm riding correctly and when I need to fix something.  This turned out to be important on day three as well . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Red Update - Keeping Fingers Crossed

Yesterday afternoon and evening Red was much quieter - the long-term sedative seems to be starting to help as the Ace would have long ago worn off.  His Previcox may also be starting to work to make him less uncomfortable. He did pretty well with Dawn through the late morning into early evening, and was glad to see Pie when I brought him in after lunch.  There were only a few instances of kicking. I put more Neosporin on his pastern rubs when I picked his feet.  He and I have worked out a way for me to pick the foot on his bandaged leg - I can't really pick it up so he rests it on its toe so I can pick it that way.

Last evening when I went by to give him his evening SMZs, he was resting quietly and his bandage was intact.  And he'd eaten all his hay and had a goodly amount of water to drink - when he was fretful he wasn't eating and drinking well - too busy kicking and churning around in his stall.  As he ate his meds, I slathered some Corona ointment on his bandaged heel to help keep rubs at bay.  Then I gave him some more hay which he eagerly started to eat. And I was able to pick his stall with the manure can in the stall door without him trying to push his way out.  Much improved over the night before.

This morning I got to the barn about 6:15 a.m. to see how he was doing as horses were turned out.  He was much better than yesterday, but still a bit worried and moving around the stall.  But there was very little kicking and the bandage was pretty much intact.  The vet got there around 8:30 and repeated the Ace/Reserpine injections - he's now had three doses of Reserpine.  And, for the first time since the hospital, his bandage got to stay on for more than one day - this is important to keep the swelling down.  Tomorrow at his bandage change the vet will use a shorter bandage, which should help with the rubs. Throughout the day he was much quieter, with both Dawn and Pie as a neighbor, and he only stamped the leg a couple of times.  He was also less insistent on escaping the stall, which made it easier to pick.  When I left him this afternoon, he was eating quietly next to Pie.  I'll be going back at 7:00 p.m. to give him his evening meds.

Keeping fingers crossed that he'll have smoother waters from here on out . . .

And I managed rides on both Dawn and Pie today - they were both very good.  Dawn is showing some mild EPM symptoms - not lame but just a bit "funky" - and when I did the foot placement test, she failed with both the left front and left hind.  She was vaccinated for rabies two weeks ago, and it's likely that this symptom flare up is due to that - vaccinations often trigger minor symptom recurrence in former EPM horses in the 10 day to two week time frame.  I'm not too worried about it, and unless the symptoms persist or get worse, she should be fine in a few days.  And Dawn's dental surgery has been rescheduled for June 4 - she was originally scheduled for May 8 but she's eating well right now and I've got my hands full with Red.  The dental surgery vet team will try to do her surgery on the farm and we'll only move her to the clinic if it's absolutely necessary - keeping fingers crossed on that as well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

More Drugs Needed . . .

Poor Red is really struggling with his confinement and how his leg feels.  Early this morning I arrived at the barn to find him very agitated - despite Pie next door quietly munching hay.  Red was churning around in his stall, was wide eyed and high headed, screaming and was kicking the floor constantly with his bandaged leg.  And then he started lifting his hind leg and tearing at the bandage with his teeth and quickly succeeded in starting to tear it off.

Another call to the vet.  I went in his stall, haltered him and tried to distract him so he'd stop tearing at his bandage and would kick less until the vet could get there.  The only things that seemed to help were rubbing his hindquarters and tail - both done carefully to avoid getting kicked.  He finally settled a bit with his butt to the stall door where I could stand outside and massage his tail through the bars.

When the vet got there, she gave him 1 cc of Ace IV and another IM, for a longer lasting effect, and gave him another 0.5 cc shot of Reserpine - that is the long-term sedative where we're trying to reach a loading dose.  Since morning when the horses are turned out and I do the Pie/Dawn switch seems to give him the most trouble - and when he's worried he started kicking and trying to get his bandage off - the vet will come each morning to repeat the Ace and Reserpine.  We'll stop adding Reserpine once he's calm on it without the Ace, or if he gets diarrhea from it we may have to continue the Ace.  He also got another gram of bute to help with the swelling and soreness from all his moving around and kicking - the incision looks very good but there's a fair amount of swelling, which isn't helped by all the bandage changes we're doing - the bandages are supposed to stay on for two to three days.  Poor fellow, he'd also developed rubs on the back of his pastern from the bandage which were also contributing to his irritation - he got some medicine on those.

Red noticed when I did the Pie/Dawn switch, and was still kicking a little but not as much, and as I left he gave a couple of whinnies that were subdued versions of his usual scream.

Now, if the vet had just had some medicine to give me . . .

Sunday, April 20, 2014

One More Day with Red in Recovery . . .

Red's bandage looked pretty good this morning.  I swapped Pie for Dawn in Pie's stall and left the barn for a while.  When I got back at around 1 p.m. to reverse the Pie/Dawn swap, Red had clearly been churning in his stall, had not eaten his hay and was kicking with his bandaged hind leg continuously - every couple of seconds - he had completely cleared the shavings from the middle of his stall.  The bandage had slid down several inches and had come loose at the top, and the more it slid, the more he kicked.

His long-term sedation hadn't really done much good - he was extremely alert and worried.  (He gets another dose tomorrow, and may need a couple more doses before things really kick in.)  The only thing the sedation seems to have accomplished is that he screams (slightly) less, and when he kicks, he tends to kick the (padded) floor of the stall rather than the concrete wall or wooden partitions - small but important blessings.  He's uncomfortable and aggravated.

But his bandage was a mess, and at some point he'd managed to get it wet, probably by running into his water bucket.  So another emergency vet call - I got the same vet as yesterday.  Red did stand like a statue without more sedation for her to cut the old bandage off and put a new one on.  The incision looked clean but there was a bit more swelling than yesterday - no wonder considering the amount of kicking he's been doing.

Another thing his visit at the vet hospital accomplished was to make him head shy for medicines by mouth - he'd been perfect for that before.  Either too many meds or being manhandled had made him resistant.  Tonight was his last dose of bute, so we worked on that with approach/release, and he quickly got better again - another small mercy.  He's eating his dissolved SMZs with grain as well as his Previcox well, but he still seems pretty uncomfortable.  And after the vet left, he was still doing some kicking and I actually caught him lifting his hind leg forward and bending his head and neck around and trying his teeth on the bandage - bad boy.  Bitter Apple may be in our future as well . . .

We have another vet visit already scheduled for tomorrow, and it seems likely that we'll need it to redo his bandage again.  At least the vet will be able to give him another long-term sedation dose, which may calm him down a bit (here's hoping).

And finally, at the end of a beautiful spring Easter day, I had a very nice outdoor ride on the wonderful Pie - a bit of a relief and a few moments of relaxation.

One more day towards Red's recovery . . . I don't know if I'll be as glad as he will when he's back to normal but I know I'll be mighty glad . . .

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Another Long Day

I was at the barn early this morning - around 7:00 a.m., to give Red his meds and see how he was doing.  I had left Pie in his stall for company - Pie wasn't very happy about that.  Red was somewhat worried, and seemed uncomfortable.  He did manage to eat his Previcox and SMZs, which was a good thing - the Previcox with a little grain, and the SMZs with another small portion of watered grain so the pills dissolved.

I brought Dawn in and groomed her and she promptly flooded the aisle - she's in heat.  I put her in Pie's stall and turned Pie out.  Red immediately became very agitated and started kicking hard with his bandaged hind leg and screaming for Pie, and churning around in his stall.  Not good.  Red kicked the partitions - hard - a couple of times, so I went in his stall to hold him and keep him from kicking the concrete back wall - as hard as he was kicking he would likely have hurt himself.  He was both very uncomfortable - the bandage had slipped down in the night due to him sleeping on it - he had shavings on that side - and due to him constantly kicking.

I called the vet and they said they would send someone out to take off and redo his bandage and start him on longer-term sedation - that clearly was going to be necessary, as I'd suspected it might be.  It took the on-call vet a while to come, so I stayed with Red in his stall, holding his halter and attempting to calm him and keep him from kicking where he would injure himself.  For some reason, I remembered something a horse acquaintance had taught me years ago - she used to do Linda Tellington Jones TTouch work, and taught me to place a fingers on the inside and outside of the horse's ear and stroke upwards to help calm them.  Darned if it didn't work - Red got a little calmer and we survived until the vet got there, although it seemed like an endless time.

He was slightly sedated, and the vet removed his old bandage and did him a new one.  She also gave him an injection of Reserpine - this is a long-lasting sedative, and he can have a touch more every couple of days until he's sufficiently calm, at which point we'll hold him there.  He's already a bit more relaxed.  Apparently the only possible side effect is diarrhea, which we'll keep an eye out for.  (Reserpine is the drug that is sometimes used to deceive buyers into thinking they're purchasing a calm horse.)

Once Red was done, the vet on call ended up having to do double duty.  There was an elderly Arabian at our barn who had coliced badly about three weeks ago and then had recovered - he was in distress again - a lot of distress - he was throwing himself down and struggling, rubbing big scrapes on his body, and was in obvious severe pain.  His owner knew it was time, and had called for her regular vet but he was a ways away and said to have my vet put him to sleep so he wouldn't suffer.  I was there with her and held his halter as he was euthanized - he was a brave old fellow.  The vet was very respectful of him, closing his eyes and rearranging his head.  It's always sad when an old horse passes, but he had a good life and his owner took care of him always.

I did have a very fine ride outside on Pie (finally) at the end of the day, but it was still a very long and stressful day - I'm hoping Red will be settling down tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Red is Home . . . and Loading Trouble

I had a long and very stressful day, but at least things finally ended well.  I got to the vet hospital at about 12:45 - 15 minutes before my scheduled discharge appointment at 1:00, in order to get hitched up - I'd left my trailer at the clinic.  And . . . there was an SUV and trailer parked directly in front of my trailer.  Not only that, but the owner of said SUV and trailer had gone out to lunch . . . a long lunch . . .  An hour later, the trailer owner pulled in with a friend in her car, and jumped out, very apologetic.  In fact, she'd been told it was OK to park there by a clinic worker (who had already confessed same to me).  They were very nice and even helped me hitch up and we discussed our various horse ailments.

Then I sat around and waited some more . . . perhaps another hour.  Meds and vet supplies showed up, with printed discharge instructions - I had a bunch of questions and was pretty anxious about everything.  I'd popped in to visit Red a couple of times, and he got very excited when he saw and smelled the trailer - I think he was having visions of Pie and called a bunch of times.

Red will be on complete stall rest for 10 days, then stall rest plus hand walking for another 10 days, and then 10 days in a pen for turnout.  SMZs 2x a day, bute once for a few days and Previcox once a day starting tomorrow.  The clinic will send someone out to rebandage his leg on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Finally the surgery tech came out to talk to me.  They do not want the farrier handling his leg for 2-3 weeks - and he's scheduled for a trim next Friday.  My farrier is a bit of a prima donna, although very good, and comes every 6 weeks on his schedule, not mine - he does 3 other horses at our barn besides my 3 - I'm going to have to beg him to make a special visit 3 weeks from now for Red - hope he'll cooperate.  Also, they want me to have him on Previcox for 14 days - I'm very anti-Previcox (it's in the same family as the previous human wonder drugs Vioxx and Celebrex) and think it's way overused by vets today and should be only used for short periods to avoid potential side effects.  They say there's no good alternative, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Red was lightly sedated and the surgical tech rewrapped his leg with a bandage.  The incision is looking good so far and the swelling is modest.

Then I tried to load him in the trailer - you'd have thought he'd want to get out of there.  No way . . .  45 minutes later he was still refusing to get on the trailer.  I wasn't willing to resort to force, because all of the work we'd done on building trust would have been in vain.  I should have been thinking - if something isn't working, don't just keep repeating what doesn't work but instead try something else . . .

I was completely at my wits' end - the fact he was slightly sedated made him not care too much about our usual go-forward cue.  Finally I put him back in his stall and sat down on a rock wall and burst into tears - I bawled for a while until some of the tension was released.  I didn't know what to do, but didn't want to resort to force and wanted to load him myself.  I was also very worried that all the churning around would hurt his leg - he was doing a lot of kicking out to say that his leg hurt, although the bandage seemed to be staying in place.

I'm sure the vet clinic personnel have seen as bad or worse in terms of horse and human behavior, but I was terribly embarrassed.  Finally I managed to collect my wits and asked if there was a dressage whip around - my tapping with the end of the lead was getting us no where, but tapping with the whip might be enough more of a cue to get his attention, and it was - a few minutes later he was on the trailer.

The surgeon and surgical tech came out and inspected his bandage and said it looked OK, so off we went home.  Red was very glad to see Pie, and Pie even seemed glad to see him, and he seemed to be comfortable with being home.

Don't know if it was the day I was supposed to have, but I'd sure prefer not to repeat it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Updates on All

Dawn got groomed this morning - she was very snuggly and there was lots of muzzle wrapping.  She hasn't been ridden in a week but that's OK - she's fine with things.

I went out to visit Red in the afternoon and was able to get some clarifications from my regular vet - the surgical folks are less "user-friendly" and I had called to complain about the lack of information they have been giving me.  I had bought and took out some Equilite Relax Blend - it has valerian, chamomile and passion flower to help with calming - to start adding to his feed as well as some U-Gard pellets to head off ulcers.  I've also ordered some pure ground valerian, chamomile and passion flower from to use going forward.

When I got there Red was fairly unhappy - apparently there had been a lot of activity at the hospital with horses coming and going.  He'd pulled out his neck catheter overnight and his neck was wrapped - we were able to take this off to make him more comfortable.  He was restless and his eyes were big. He was also unhappy with his leg bandage - it's a surgical compression bandage.  I spend a fair amount of time grooming him and doing some relaxation work and he did start to relax a little bit and eat his hay - I think he appreciated my visit.

The surgeon is wanting two weeks of complete stall rest, but my regular vet knows Red and his personality and will talk to him about getting some leeway in that - some hand walking, if only up and down the barn aisles to sniff noses with his friends - as well as being on cross ties for grooming, would go a long way for his mental health.  I told her I don't care a lot what the wound looks like when it's healed as long as it's medically OK.

Bandaging his leg until sutures come out - two weeks - is very complicated - The bandage runs from his hock to his foot and I think there are at least 6 layers.  The vets will come and give me some help with that every other day, so that's a relief.  Red will be going home tomorrow afternoon and will go in his regular stall, which is 12'x14', and either Pie or Dawn will be in the next stall during the day so he won't be alone when the other horses are in turnout.  It does require some moving Pie and Dawn into and out of turnout, but I'll be spending a lot of time at the barn with Red anyway so that'll work out.

On my way home from the clinic, I stopped back at the barn and gave Pie a good grooming - he's been neglected a bit recently and seemed to appreciate the attention.

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day Two Roxie - Leading (aka Directing) Work

I decided to tackle working with Roxie for my first session on Sunday (the second day).

Remember that statement Mark made that I'd had exactly the day I was supposed to have?

Mark said it's not about being wrong or a failure, it's not good or bad, it's just information and an opportunity to learn.  Mark said that's what he'd meant - if I don't find out where the limits of my horsemanship are, how will I ever improve?  That's one of the things I love about working with Mark - he never sugar coats things and is absolutely direct and honest, but he also has no interest in criticizing or running clinic participants down.  There's very little ego there - it's all about getting the best result for you and your horse.

Mark said that we often have a tendency to focus on the negative - my ride on day one was going pretty well for about the first 45 minutes - things only started coming undone at the very end of the ride.  So some things were working pretty well.

Today I needed to start over giving Roxie direction so she could find me to be a trustworthy leader - to help both of us.

We spent an hour doing nothing but leading work - and although I'd have said I have a pretty good handle on defining my personal space and leading, there were lots of subtleties I'd never grasped - this was a whole different level of paying attention to the horse and our interaction.

The leading work was designed to rebuild our mutual trust - the horse cannot trust you as a leader unless you are the one doing the directing.  You have to be at least as important to the horse as any distraction, and the horse always needs to know where you are at a minimum.  (Mark does not believe that it is necessary, or even possible in many cases, to be more important to the horse than a distraction.) If the horse is doing the directing and you are reacting to what the horse is doing, you aren't the leader.  This is not a matter of  dominance or being a horse's "alpha" - Mark doesn't buy any of that and I agree - but it is a matter of trust - the horse can't trust you if the horse doesn't feel safe with you as a leader.

Horses push on things - this has nothing to do with "respect" but is just the way they define their space and their environment - they push on other horses, they push on objects, like fences, and they push on us.  Mark believes the use of the term "respect" is a lazy person's way of making things the horse's fault, and gets us into an adversarial/defensive relationship with our horses.
Horses don't even have the part of the human brain where the human concept of respect resides.

We worked for entire session on refining my leading work with Roxie, to be sure I was clear, consistent, and direct but not abrupt.  The job was to define my space and not have her push me, but rather to direct her - some of this is pretty subtle. This allowed her to relax and have confidence in my leadership.  Mark taught me to pick up very subtle things that she was doing and coached me on what to do.  One example of this is our turns to Roxie's right.  Initially, I would walk from in front of her around to her right and she would start to turn before I asked for the turn - this was a subtle example of where she was pushing me.

By the end of our session, we were doing pretty well.  She was correctly maintaining her position outside my "bubble", and our turns were good, and she would maintain her distance by backing as I walked into her space.  She calmed down quite a bit and was much more attentive, and the feel in the line and between us was really beginning to come through.

It's very hard to describe the specifics of what we were doing, but by the end it was much more about flow and feel than about mechanics.  I hadn't gotten on her again yet, but we both felt much better about things.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mark Rashid Blog Post on Fear, and Red is Doing Well

A subject near and dear to the hearts of many people who handle and work with horses - fear.  Take a read of Mark's blog post today on the subject.

Red's surgery was supposed to start around 9:30 this morning, but the surgeon was delayed and things didn't get underway until around 11:00.  I hung around throughout - had my laptop and a book and talked to the office staff.  At around 1:30, one of the techs came out with a message - the surgery went very well, and Red was in the recovery room and had stood up.  He stayed in the recovery room for about an hour and then went back to his stall.  I got to visit him there briefly - he was still a bit wobbly so I couldn't go in his stall, but he was eating a bit of wet hay - the first thing he'd had to eat since midnight last night - and although he raised his head to say hello he went right back to eating.  It was good to see him alive and well - his hind leg was tightly wrapped from hock to foot, and he was standing comfortably on it.

And I got a souvenir - they gave me the piece of his splint bone that had been removed - it was about 10 cm or 3+ inches as the surgeon had expected:

And here's the fractured tip:

I'm sure glad we took that x-ray 10 days ago.  I'm now discussing with the vets what sort of sedation he'll need to tolerate stall rest and with the barn manager where in the barn he will go for the two weeks he can't leave his stall.

More clinic posts in the works . . .

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day One Roxie - Mutual Meltdown

I've been riding with Mark now for about 12 years, and many of those sessions have taken place here in Cedarburg.  I've know the family for those years, and Heather gave me enormous help with Pie and Red back in 2012.  They are gracious and welcoming and have been an enormous help to me in my horsemanship journey.

Last year, they were kind enough to lend me Whisper to ride in a one-hour private lesson with Mark after the clinics (I wasn't able to attend the clinics due to my daughter's college graduation).  My challenge for the prior year was to ride all my horses the same and to develop my own style - riding Whisper allowed me to test that out.

This year, my "mystery horse" for all three days of the clinic was a seal bay/brown Percheron/TB cross mare with cute slightly out turned ears - her name is Roxie.  She is the clinic host's personal horse.

Our first day turned into a big mess, and neither of us felt that good about things by the end of it.

Here's a brief summary of the events of day one:

She was a bit nervous in the indoor arena and I did some lungeing before my session.  She did some bucking on the lunge at the canter.

She did not stand well for mounting, and was not quiet - like my horses, the Black Star horses stand for mounting, so something wasn't quite right for her.

She was fussy with her head and mouth, which was not usual for her.

We started out doing some work on getting the walk I wanted and also getting her to relax and soften up in the turns.  This was going pretty well - it took a while - but she started to settle down and relax, and her walk got much better and the turns were softening up.  She was still fussy with her head and neck, but it was a bit better.  My job was to get good turns and some softness on the turn or circle before allowing her to move in a straight line.

Then one of her herd mates who'd been cooling out in a stall next to the arena left to go back to the pasture.  Roxie started to get pretty distracted - lots of calling.  We kept on working, and she started to settle a bit once again.

Another mare came into the arena, she got very distracted and was calling again.  We kept doing our circles, but my directing was slow - my timing wasn't very good - and she wasn't settling.

Then the wind started to pick up and it started to rain hard - the rain was pelting against the arena very loudly.  We kept working, and she didn't settle that well and it felt that she was getting more nervous.

Throughout all this, Mark was calmly giving me directions, but my timing wasn't the greatest but I was persisting, although I was getting more nervous.

Then the storm really picked up and it started to hail - we were in metal arena - the wind was slamming hail against the walls and roof of the arena.  All the horses outside started running madly and screaming and Roxie really started to lose it, and more importantly, so did I.

She started crow hopping - several auditors said she had all four feet off the ground a couple of times -  I felt that she was about to lose her mind.  I was no longer able to control my own worry, and so couldn't help her and told Mark I wanted to get off, and I did.  That's where our session ended - ugh.  I felt terrible, and like I had let her down.

Mark had a couple of things to say about all this.  He said that as we get older, it's perfectly natural to be more cautious and even fearful about getting hurt.  And with Roxie and me, the fact that I didn't know her or what she was likely to do made things more difficult.

But he also said that for someone at my stage of horsemanship, where my technical skills are pretty good and you almost always do pretty well with your own horses, if what you do works with your own horses but not with others, particularly if the wheels are starting to fall off - then you haven't made it part of you on the inside - your responses aren't automatic - it's just technique.

This is where I am now - I'm pretty much able to work things through with my own horses and "know" what to do even with other horses, but it isn't yet fully embedded and part of me - that's clearly one of my next challenges.

If I'd been able to focus on what I wanted Roxie to do, rather than on all the other things going on - horses coming/going, rain/hail storm, I would likely have been able to continue to give Roxie the direction, with good timing, she needed to remain calm.  When panic starts to take hold and we get into a defensive mindset, we can no longer direct but start reacting to the decisions we start allowing the horse starts to make.  And even though Mark was giving me directions on what to do with her, my reaction time was slowing down, which made me less effective.  All this put us behind the curve and Roxie felt abandoned - the connection got lost.

Wow - what a comedown.  I felt just awful, and very discouraged.

As I was leaving that evening, I told Mark that I hoped I had a better day tomorrow.  Mark's response was "you had exactly the day you were supposed to have."  What did that mean?  I was still pretty embarrassed and upset and he was perfectly fine with the way things were.  I stewed a lot about that over night . . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Red's Surgery is Tomorrow

Red's splint bone surgery is scheduled for around 9:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  I talked to the surgeon this afternoon after delivering Red to the vet hospital.  The surgeon expects to be removing the bottom 10 cm of his lateral left hind splint bone - the portion that is fractured and also the portion above that is pulled away from the cannon bone.

Including time for sedation, prep, anesthesia, the surgery and recovery from anesthesia, the total time is 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The riskiest portion is the recovery when horses attempt to stand for the first time after waking up.  The surgery itself should be straightforward.

After surgery, Red will likely return home on Friday, and then have 2-3 weeks of stall rest.  He's not going to think much of that, but there is a stall available in the main barn (a horse just moved) that Red can use during the day - it's right in the main aisle opposite the wash rack and there should be lots to watch.  At night he can be in his regular stall next to Pie.  Once the stitches are out and he's in a pen, things should be easier.

Recovery from this surgery, if the suspensory ligament and flexor tendon are not affected - the fact that he's almost sound now is a good indication that things may be OK - should be uneventful, and I should be riding him at the walk after 3 weeks.

I spent some time sitting with him this afternoon to reassure him that I was still there, and he seemed fairly settled.  I won't see him again until after the surgery - keeping fingers (and toes and hooves) crossed that all goes well.  I'll be working on blog posts on the clinic while I'm waiting - someone at the barn asked me what I'd learned at the clinic, and I replied that there are so many things that I'd have to share my written reports with her to explain.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Back Home and Very Tired

Pie and I have safely arrived back home after our clinic excursion.  I have several posts in the works, including on Roxie and how I learned to give direction, Pie and such things as transitions and why I was having trouble with him falling in when tracking right and why our lateral work wasn't working as well as it might.  I may also be able to squeeze in something about the mare who knew nothing, the horse that couldn't be caught (until Mark showed his owner how to do it), and maybe some other things.  Even though the weather continued to be just terrible - it rained 5" last night and today it snowed - the clinic was an amazing learning experience for me.  And I have a pretty clear idea of what my work for the next year will be.

Right now laundry, unloading the trailer and food are my highest priorities.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day One Pie - Consistency and Do It Yourself First on the Inside

The clinic started, as they always do, with an evening demo - auditors are welcome to participate.  Mark's demos never involve horses - they are exercises for the people designed to illustrate some of the principles we'll be working on in the clinic with our horses.  I can't describe them in detail - you really need to be there to experience it.  Suffice it to say that we used wooden dowels with one or more partners for a number of the exercises, including one on the difference between "make" and "help", and also several exercises involving feel, balance, timing, blending and breathing.  Every year, Mark comes up with some new exercises and I always learn new things.  It's a great way as well to get to know the other clinic participants and auditors.

The weather was horrible on day one.  The first rider in the morning got to ride outside - it was cold but bearable - and Pie and I mounted up outside but we quickly had to retreat to the indoor since it started to rain.  It rained on and off all day, and there was a big storm in the afternoon - more on that in the next post.  The temperature never got out of the low 40s, and with the arena doors open and the wind blowing, it was very cold - I was wearing all my warmest winter clothes and wasn't warm for a moment until my hot - very hot - shower in the evening.

The useable space in the indoor is very small - 60'x80' (at most) I'd guess.  Worked fine, though, and sure beat being outside.

Pie and I had a very productive session.  There was one moment that involving staying on.  The clinic host came into the arena with a broom and attempted to brush away some cobwebs.  The moment she raised the broom, Pie did a gigantic sideways and forward spook - I stayed with him and she gave up her attempt to tame the cobwebs.  We went about our business and Pie was fine - I like that he settles right down.

I told Mark that my transitions, upwards and downwards, were often not what I wanted - they were often abrupt and jerky.  Pie and I did a lot of work on our halt/walk/halt and then on walk/trot/walk transitions.  Mark immediately identified two things that were making our transitions rough.

The first is a big one, I know for me and I expect for a lot of other people too.  It's about consistency and directness.  First, I have to know exactly what I want and Mark made me specify it in each case.  For halt to walk, I wanted to use, on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pressure and 10 being the most pressure you could ever use, no more than a .25 of leg pressure with an immediate step off into a big striding walk - not a single slow step.  Mark asked me if that was what I was getting and I said no.  Another very important point - if we want to change how our horse is responding, we have to change how we're presenting things to the horse - we have to change before the horse can change. Mark said I wasn't getting what I wanted because I wasn't being consistent with Pie about exactly what I wanted, and direct about asking for it.  Pie was doing pretty much any old thing in the transition, because he didn't understand that I wanted anything else - my inconsistency created this.

We worked for a long time - maybe a half hour - just on our halt/walk transition.  As Mark correctly says, if it's not working the way you want at the lower gaits it's certainly not going to get better when you go faster, and if you can fix these basic things that often fixes things elsewhere at the same time. Mark told me to ask Pie for the walk with a .25 and if he didn't immediately - and I mean in less than a fraction of a second - move off into a striding walk, tap my leg or the saddle within that fraction of a second with my dressage whip - no need to touch the horse.  This was to say to Pie ".25 means go, and go now." Mark caught me doing lots of things other than that - upping the pressure (this means the .25 became a .50 became a 1) and getting a sluggish, death march walk far from instantaneously, using a .25, not getting the response and being late with the whip tap.  It's hard to establish new habits, and I had to really pay attention to what I was doing - I had to consistently present to Pie what I wanted and consistently and directly - but not abruptly - ask him to do it.

Things improved greatly - no more death march walking - and we worked some on walk/trot/walk transitions and halting.  Here's another very good piece of learning.  A lot of times things don't work as well as they should because you may be asking your horse to do something with your aids but you aren't doing it yourself first - if you ask the horse to trot but you don't trot inside you first, there's no internal feel for the horse to connect with. If you ask the horse to do things using aids and the horse does them, that's the horse doing them on the outside of the horse, and the horse may not really be engaged in what you are doing.  If you ask the horse to do things by doing them on the inside of you first, and then if needed use an aid (and often you may not really have to do much of anything or perhaps nothing at all), the horse will join you in doing the activity from the inside, not just the outside - together - and there will be a feel between you.  Pie and I worked on this as well, and made more very nice progress - all our upwards and downwards transitions were much better.

At the end of our work, Mark had me start adjusting Pie's head position upwards - Pie has always tended to dive down when he softens - some people watching asked if he'd ever been a western pleasure horse or a QH hunter under saddle.  Carrying his head this low makes it hard for him to use himself properly from behind, and it shows up particularly in backing. He had to work harder to back since he was on the forehand as a result.  He was doing this simply because that's how I'd been letting him go. To raise his head, Mark had me raise one hand slightly to tip his head - this brings the C1/C2 rotational joint in the spine into action - horses lose their horizon view when they tip their heads and want to bring their eyes back into line and the result is they tend to align with the upper eye - hence raised head.  I wasn't raising his head by lifting it - I was changing his head orientation and he raised his head on his own.  This also worked very well.

I told Pie what a fine horse he was and put him away.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Almost Ready for Our Trip

Today, Dawn had a day off, Red and I had a nice hand-grazing session after a good grooming, and Pie and I had a lovely, not too hard, ride by ourselves in the outdoor arena and pasture.  I spent some time getting the trailer ready - loading a hay bag and putting all Pie's tack and equipment in the tack room. I'll be riding Dawn in the morning and washing water buckets before we leave, so there are still a few items to load - my muck boots, Pie's water buckets and feed pan, and my helmet and grooming kit.  Otherwise we're pretty much ready to go.

The weather's supposed to be all over the place while we're in Wisconsin - warm, then thunderstorms, then cold.  I've taken everything from my winter jacket and gloves to my summer riding tights - I suspect we'll use it all.  I hope we'll get some outdoor riding time, but if we're just in the small indoor, that's fine too - whatever it is, it'll be productive.  These clinics continue to transform my riding and interaction with my horses, and I expect this clinic to be no exception.  And I hope to see (and meet!) some of you there . . .

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All Vet, All the Time, and Pie Saves the Day

You know when you see two different sets of vets in a single day - after seeing one set of them yesterday - that things are more than a little out of hand.  Yesterday, our regular vet took an x-ray of Red's injured hind leg that revealed that he had a fracture of the lowest (distal) end of his splint bone, several inches below the actual kick wound.  The vet stopped by today to drop off the x-rays and explain the results of her consultation with their surgeon.

Here for your viewing enjoyment is an enlargement of his x-ray:

The cannon bone is the big bone down the center.  The splint bone is the thin bone to the right of the cannon bone.  There are two things to note about this picture - first, the small tip of the splint bone at the bottom (my vet refers to this as the "button") - that is snapped off and rotated to the outside leaving sharp, jagged, edges - ouch! It's amazing that Red's as sound as he is.  The second thing to note is the "wiggle" in the splint bone above the fracture - the vet says the place where the gap between the cannon bone and splint bone is larger than elsewhere isn't normal.  All of this is several inches below the injury site.  The vet says that, either upon the impact of the kick, or as a result of twisting forces put on the leg as Red moved in response, torque resulted in pulling the splint bone slightly away from the cannon bone and fracturing the tip.

Sometimes these things heal up and calcify, but the location and sharpness of the fractured edges - adjacent to the suspensory ligament and several blood vessels - dictates that the fragment be removed surgically, and the remaining sharp end smoothed.  Otherwise, his long-term soundness would be at risk. The safest way is with full anesthesia at the vet hospital - there's too much risk of the horse moving during standing surgery under sedation.  So off to the vet hospital next week - their first available opening for surgery is a week from tomorrow.  The surgeon says that recovery should be quick, and he should be completely sound afterwards.  If all goes as planned, I should be back riding him at the walk three weeks after the surgery, and he can start back to real work after four weeks.

So, no clinic for Red.  But I'll be taking Pie, and will also be riding another "mystery horse" for the three days as well, so I'll be busy, and should have lots of things I'm learning to report.

And then there was the second set of vets . . .  Dawn had a visit from the dental surgery experts.  Today, she had a full examination and x-rays - no copies of those to show, although I reviewed them with the vet.  At least two, and perhaps three, molar fragments including roots will have to be removed, and since Dawn's only 16, the roots are still substantial.  This apparently can be done under standing sedation with facial nerve blocks.  The lead vet is out of state right now working but we'll be scheduling her molar extractions soon.  They were also able to smooth off a molar fragment that was listing to the outside and poking her in the cheek. Poor girl - that must have been very uncomfortable. I spent a good part of the morning and early afternoon waiting for her to come out of sedation - she was really zonked.

After all that vet drama, my good Pie really helped me feel better.  It was a very nice day, and Pie and I went on our first outing this year to the outdoor arena with a friend - this required a bit of navigation through muddy patches in the pasture we had to cross - and we had a wonderful ride.  Pie was very relaxed and nicely forward, and the improvement in the quality of his gaits from last year is very striking.  A most excellent Pie . . .

Monday, April 7, 2014

With Horses, If It's Not One Thing, It's Another . . .

Our vet - from a very good nearby equine hospital - Merritt and Associates - was out today to do our final round of vaccinations.  Dawn and Red got rabies shots and Pie got his West Nile - he already has a lump at the injection site which I've used a hot compress on.

I also had the vet evaluate Red's persistent (now hard) swelling behind and below his wound site from his kick (about 18 days ago).  On the lunge, he was much better than he'd been even last week - about 90% sound and very willing to move. The wound is healing well, although not fully scabbed, and I'm to continue to hose it and put topical antibiotic on.  There is still some swelling, but there's little heat and the entire area isn't sensitive to palpation.  Just to be sure, the vet took a couple of x-rays to be sure that we didn't have a splint bone fracture.

The vet just called - Red does have a splint bone fracture, but it's nowhere near the wound site - it's well below that at the distal (bottom) end of the splint bone.  When he had the injury, the worst swelling was below the wound site - splint bone fractures can occur from direct trauma or from forces put on the horse's leg. Here's an article about splints and splint bones - Pie has several "splints" - bony lumps due to irritation of the attachment of the splint bone to the cannon bone in young horses - not a problem or issue.  Red's fracture is more of a question and is not the same sort of thing that happens in young horses - the the vet will be consulting with her surgeon tomorrow regarding what the best options are.  It may be that the fragment is an old/cold injury unrelated to the current injury, and requires no treatment, or it may be that it needs to be removed or injury to the related suspensory ligament could occur - the fragment is separated from the rest of the bone and is also rotated at an angle.  We'll see what they say.

The good news is that it's not an upper splint bone fracture, which is harder to treat and requires much more rest for the horse.  It may be that the small bone fragment can be easily removed or can stay in place.  My vet agrees that Red is not a good candidate for stall rest or even pen confinement, and she said to keep riding him at the walk and leaving him in turnout for now - he did a big gallop away from the gate this morning with no apparent difficulty or pain.

Hoping we can still go to the clinic to work at the walk and do our trailer loading . . . we'll have to see - if not, perhaps there's a mystery horse in my future . . . who knows? And tomorrow Dawn has her consultation for her likely dental surgery - the people we're using are the specialists my vet uses regularly for dental surgery.

With horses, if it's not one thing, it's another . . . I guess my education on equine maladies isn't over yet . . .

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Trailer Loading - Still Looking for Softness

We did more trailer loading again today.  This time I prearranged for an assistant to hold Pie while I loaded Red first.  There was still quite a bit of resistance on Red's part to loading.  But once he loaded, he loaded well and stayed on the trailer while I attached the butt bar.  Pie was a trooper - he stood calmly at the front escape door while Red was loading, and then walked right on and started eating hay.  Red, on the other hand, was still very nervous about the whole thing.

I closed up all the doors and took them for a quick ride - probably about 10 minutes or so - perhaps about 6 miles or so "around the block".  This was our first outing with the new trailer and truck - I wanted to test out how the rig drove before our trip to Wisconsin next Friday.  I must say I was delighted with both the truck (Ford F150 with the Ecoboost engine) and trailer (Hawk 2-horse bumper pull) and how the combo handled and drove.  One leg of our trip was quite hilly, and the truck handled it just fine.

Both boys rode quietly and well, but when I unloaded them, Red was pretty sweaty from nerves.  We'll continue to work on things together - I think he's going to have to be able to load softly from the get-go before he's going to be relaxed in the trailer - pretty much like the wash stall.  Now that he's able to walk quietly and softly into the wash stall, he's no longer concerned when he's in there.  But for him to be soft getting on, I have to be soft myself and offer that to him as a safe place to be.  Easier said than done when he's trying all his maneuvers to avoid loading - including today one time trying to run directly into and through a large, spiky bush next to the trailer . . .  I need to be sure to be slow, deliberate, and consistently calm and soft before he's going to improve.

As usual, it comes down to working on me so that I can offer the horse direction and guidance in the most effective way - with softness.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Imperfect Trailering Loading

Well, both boys got on the trailer, but it took some work on all our parts and required a second person.  And more work is surely required - I'm hoping things will get a lot easier with the work we're planning to do at the clinic.

It took a while for me to figure out the right order to do things, and what each of the boys and I can manage at this point.  I've never owned a straight-load trailer before - just a slant, which is easier to lead on to and easier to close the partitions on.

First I put Pie on the trailer (Red was still in the pasture).  He wouldn't send in, but I was able to lead him in with the partition pushed over.  If I tried to exit out the back of the trailer, he would back out.  Then I tried leading him in and ducking under the chest bar to get out - awkward but doable.  After a number of tries where he backed out, I managed to get the butt bar up and him secured in his part of the trailer.  A friend was handy, and I asked her to stay with Pie while I went to get Red.

This took a while, and apparently Pie wasn't too happy while I was gone - he got very nervous and did a lot of pawing.  Next time when I load, I'll have Red nearby so the time gap is shorter.

Red didn't want to get on the trailer with Pie on it - I was a bit surprised by this, but I guess the opening to his side looked small to him.  Leading him in and ducking under the chest bar wasn't a good option since I wasn't close enough to him to give him a secondary cue when he stopped moving or started going backwards - and I wasn't interested in pulling him into the trailer.

So we tried things a different way.  I unloaded Pie and gave him to my friend to hold.  I swung the partition over so Red's side was open, and had my friend keep Pie at the escape door on Red's side of the trailer, so Red could see that he was there.  It took some more work to get Red to load - he tried his usual evasions but I kept up the secondary cues every time he stopped or moved backwards.  Pretty soon he was getting on, but then he was immediately backing out - this was about where we got to the other day.

I asked him to step forward and back a step or two, and after that he seemed to understand that I wanted him to stay on.  The butt bar coming up alarmed him a bit, and he backed off quickly once I took it down a couple of times.  But we kept working on it, and pretty soon he would stand and wait for me to get off, swing the partition over and attach the butt bar.

Once we got that far, getting Pie back on wasn't too hard.  He still wouldn't send in, but would lead in.  I was able to have my friend stay by his head - he was pretty comfortable since Red was in there already - while I ducked out the escape door and around the back to attach the butt bar.

I closed up everything and had them stand there for a few minutes.  Then I unloaded both horses - Red first and then Pie - I took down the butt bars and just asked them to back by moving my hand on their sides, and out they came.  Back to the pasture - they were pretty happy about that and galloped off, bucking and farting.

It wasn't perfect by any means, and I had to fumble around and experiment a bit, but we have a make-do procedure now, although I still need an assistant to hold Pie while Red gets on.

I'm staying hitched up overnight, and we'll do more tomorrow.  Now at least I think I can get both boys on the trailer in order to go to the clinic . . .

Friday, April 4, 2014

Plan B for the Clinic (or Maybe It's Plan C - But Who's Counting?)

Red is still not sound, and his left hind leg is still swollen behind and below the injury area, although there is little or no heat or tenderness.  The wound itself seems to finally be healing well. I cold hosed for a while this afternoon, and the leg looked a bit better, and we didn't ride and I gave him a gram of bute to see if we can get the inflammation down. The vet is coming to do our last spring shots on Monday, and I'm going to have her take a look at him and give me her opinion.  (It's quite the week with vet visits - Dawn has her dental surgery evaluation on Tuesday.)

In the event Red isn't rideable except at the walk by the time of the clinic, he's still going, and here's the plan.  I have an hour a day with each horse.  I would ride Red at the walk for one day - there's a huge amount of work we can do on bringing the energy up and down smoothly and without abruptness at the walk, and reducing my asks to as close to nothing as possible - we can do shortening/lengthening work, walk/halt transitions, backing, lateral work - turns on the forehand/haunches, side pass, backing and putting that all together, and we can do moving lateral work - shoulder in, haunches in and converting leg yield into half pass.  Then one day Red and I can work on trailer loading.   Pie and I will do our three days of ridden work, and then Pie can "borrow" Red's unused third day to work on trailer loading - Pie will have one hour of ridden work and one hour of trailer loading on that day.

If need be, this plan still allows us to do a lot of very useful work together.  And there's still the remote chance that Red will be sound - keeping fingers crossed . . .

There's Something about a Mini . . .

Some of you may remember when Red bolted last summer when confronted with an "out of place" mini.  This was the small black and white mini - named Piranha - he's not at all vicious but is a bit feisty and the name somehow suits him.

Yesterday, there was a girl riding Piranha in the indoor when Pie and I went in for our ride.  Now, Piranha is in the same turnout herd as Red and Pie, so he's a familiar face - but apparently that only goes so far in the case of minis.  He's a pretty small mini, so even a fairly small girl looked big on him - she was riding him bareback.

Pie was quite taken aback by this - even alarmed.  He was on edge, and in the early part of our ride had to keep an eye on the mini at all times.  And although he settled down somewhat, he was still very forward for most of our ride.  His concern wasn't helped by the girl falling off the mini at least three times, maybe more.  Pie didn't think much of that either.  This was pretty unusual behavior for Pie, but there was clearly something just not right about the whole thing as far as he was concerned.  As usual, though, he was good as gold and we had a very nice ride.

There's something about a mini, I guess . . .

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dawn Needs to See the Dental Surgeon

Today was dentist day. All three horses were seen by our wonderful equine dentist Mike Fragale - I've been using him for a number of years and he's extremely good.  He does use a little sedation (he brings a vet along for that), because he uses a speculum to be able to see and work on the molars.  He also pays a lot of attention to the alignment of the incisors, and how the TMJs are working.  He uses only hand tools - no power floats - and is careful not to err on the side of over-floating, particularly with senior horses whose teeth may no longer be erupting, and where over-floating can result in too smooth mouths that mean seniors cannot chew properly.

Pie and Red had good reports and had some small adjustments to incisors and some touch-up work on molars to remove sharp hooks and points.  Pie also needed some scaling work done on his canines.

Dawn's mouth had some issues.  In December of 2010, she had come in from turnout with blood gushing from her mouth, and when the vet came, she had a large cut across the middle of her tongue. We have no idea how this happened, but after that, she's had dental issues as well - 4 molars were also affected - three on the bottom and one on the top.  One molar was sheered off flush with the gums, and three others were cracked from front to back down the middle.  Over time, these teeth have gradually failed.  Up to now, our dentist has been able to remove loose fragments and she's healed well.

Two of the bottom molars that have had fragments removed in past years now need further attention.  One lower molar has a fragment that is leaning outwards - towards her cheek - and one on the other side is loose in its socket.  No infection yet, which is good, and she's been able to eat well this winter and has maintained her weight.  Simply having our dentist remove them isn't possible - they're attached to the roots of the teeth and at Dawn's age - she's 16 - there may be substantial roots still left in her jaw.

But before these molar fragments keep her from eating or result in infection, our dentist recommended that we consult a vet who is a dental surgeon about having the fragments, and the roots of the teeth, removed - our dentist has warned me every year that this would possibly happen at some point with Dawn.  We've been referred to a highly regarded equine dental surgeon, who has developed some innovative procedures allowing dental surgery to be, in many cases, done through the mouth and under standing sedation - rather than through the exterior of the jaw under general anaesthetic.

A vet in the surgeon's practice is coming next Tuesday to do a consultation, including taking x-rays.  And we'll see what we see, and assuming they agree that removal is warranted, we'll make a follow-up appointment (I hope at the barn rather than a vet clinic) for the extractions - I'm just glad that our dentist is so on top of things and that Dawn will be in expert hands.