Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Can we...?

When he perked his ears and looked at me out of the corner of his eye, like "Where the hell have you been all night?" I felt guilty. When I unclipped him from the crossties and he nickered the next night, I felt guilty. When he stared at me with wrinkled eyebrows as we walked down the barn aisle lastnight, I felt guilty. And when he refused to eat his food and wanted his face petted instead I felt REALLY guilty.

~* * *~

I'm learning that care taking relationship are entirely different than your average relationships. When you have two equal beings who can do things for themselves & each other it balances out - you have someone else to help build you up when you need it.

Care taking isn't like that, the other individual may not be capable of helping you at ALL. Thus comes the challenge when you're on your last leg, clutching at your last bent & mangled straw: who's going to help YOU when you're down? And also while you're just stuck trying to survive and make sure everything is done on a daily basis: what happens to your relationship with that individual?

He's telling me we're missing out on our relationship. He's telling me he doesn't like it, he wants things to change. However subtle the side-eye might be - it means something.
To chose me over food has always been a huge thing, and to see it so incredibly voluntarily (he was literally standing in front of a bowl full of food) was shocking. And slightly heart breaking.

I haven't had the time to devote to 'us' lately, actually in a long time, really.

That needs to change. I'm rarely Present, I'm usually too far ahead or thinking about the past. One of my biggest hang ups. This journey has turned out to be as much about improving myself as it has about him.

We're linked like that I guess...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Cheerful Horse

Sometimes, it seems to take a slap in the face to wake back up to the world after something like the struggles of care-taking and constantly pushing your needs to the back burner. Where is the happiness and joy I once felt with horses? Everything is a chore. I just want to get it all done and go home. 

Case in point lastnight, the Universe decided to smile on me for a moment.

The Cheerful Horse... when set right with his comfort by a cold shower, a high powered fan, a special clip of his Cushings fur for ventilation and a good showering of new flyspray... may intend to show case his thankfulness with random displays of joy during exercise.

I swear I wish I had pictures of this.

Lastnight we set out for some controlled free lunging in a paddock next to the barn. The area is nice - 2 large shade trees, soft grass, etc. The object was to stretch his legs and get circulation going because we'd had 2 days of intense heat (95*) and riding/working specific muscle groups, which I'm sure left him sore. D hadn't even gotten once around before he took off at a peppy trot and ended up on the other end of the paddock, head and tail in-air. He shot me a look as he passed... something like Haha! Didn't see that coming, did you?

Crazy horse. He exploded several times into nice canters (complete with head shaking and grunting), and several more times into spontaneous trots. Eventually we noticed a family of deer had wondered over into a neighbouring paddock and were watching us, aghast. D found this amusing and actually trotted closer to get a look at them, and possibly show off. I guess he wasn't so sore after all...

The reason this is so amazing to me is probably two-fold.
One - yes, he is 26 and his 'good days' are fewer now due to the complications with Cushings, hoof issues occasionally, joint issues, heat intolerance, etc. For a former founder, with a variety of issues, while he does well - he's not got the same level of energy he did as a young horse.

Two - the troubles we've kept having have continued to jade me and I often find myself thinking we won't get any better than what I see everyday: the mundane parts of life where we trudge through chores and exercise, call it a day to sleep to start over the next...
Seeing him, of his own volition out and about - sporting and showing off, whether for me or the deer, was a shock. And one I needed.

The Cheerful Horse, that's what I'm doing all this for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I've got several posts queued up and ready to go - minus pictures...   but they've never been posted.

Somewhere a long the way this spring I lost my drive, my ambition and my enjoyment with Diego's fitness scheme. The weather was horrible Jan/Feb and by March he lost the muscle mass we’d worked so hard to build over the winter. April pretty much bombed due to circumstances beyond my control. Slowly, and resentfully: I started work back in May. The heat has not been helping either of us this summer. Due to age and Cushings he just can’t handle the temperature above 85+ right now. If it’s hot I pretty much have a wet noodle for a horse…

Aside from that, I’m currently working an extra job to help pay bills and it’s slowly starting to suck the enjoyment out of horses. I’m upset about this… I love horses – they’re in my blood. I’ve always said that, and believed it 100%. I feel a stronger connection with them than I do most other animals, being with them is as natural as breathing. 

Until now.

Now I struggle with too much anger and frustration. When horses are a job and time is of the essence – things inevitably go wrong, and finding extra reserves of patience is sometime seemingly impossible (patience is not a virtue of mine away). I’ve noticed it’s becoming easier and easier to block out every horses’ individuality, in favor of blame and standardized behavioral expectations. It’s getting easier to yell, easier to see and assume the negative in every little thing. It’s easier to be aggressive in the name of “getting the job done” and that scares me. Suddenly I find myself wholly relieved when I get to leave for the day and not deal with horses anymore.

This is wrong… it shouldn’t be like this. I feel like I’m swimming upstream trying to get out of it.  *Sigh*

I bathed Diego the other day, in an attempt to do something slightly frivolous with him, just for the sake of doing it. Admittedly I got a thrill running my fingers over his clean, shiny coat yesterday. I miss that. It’s been too long.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 ~ Reviewed

Well then...  who'd have ever thought we'd have come as far as we have in a single year?

Who'd have ever thought I'd get to take a starlight ride on Christmas Eve with Diego this year? Galloping recklessly through a field to burn off excess energy... freezing our noses off simultaneously!
Who'd have thought I'd be able to point him at a fence (a small one of course) and have him leap it like a champ, with plenty of room to spare?
Who'd have thought I'd be able to go more than a week without hoof issues and a lethargic horse?
Amazing, really.

The beginning of the year really started out horribly. On New Years day I was at the barn in the pouring rain calming an upset horse who kept running through the fence, while my boyfriend helped fix said fence. :/ Not great memories.

February brought a new barn, new acquaintances and all-around new experiences. I hate moving, I hate leaving people I know for situations and people I don't know. I hate starting over. The good news was that Diego made friends quickly and 'settled down" into a happy horse, promptly surpassing my expectations.                                     

March and April brought some struggles with weight and metabolic management - usually involving hay and hay tests. We battled hoof inflammation and pain, along with plenty of rain rot (despite a great diet) and the effects of warming temps. And clippers that refused to work...

May and June really settled down and for the first time in a long time I had real hope. We were riding again!                                                        

July was the turning point when I started to see my old horse come back. He was FIT and FIESTY! And I was horribly UNfit and desperately needed to workout!

August got bumpy right before vacation. I delayed too long in raising his medication for PPID and the hormonal seasonal rise started to undo our hard work: he got ulcers and his muscle began wasting again. September I played 'clean up crew' for that little mess.

October and November came out well, despite a 2 week hiccup due to a laminitis bout. We worked our collective rear off! I saw little muscular improvement in comparison with my expectations, but I kept at it despite.                                       

December wrapped everything up so nicely. Despite record cold temps, D stayed stable health-wise and we kept working. Muscle FINALLY has started filling in his topline and rump. I was told that random visitors to the barn who are often looking for a horse to buy, stopped at his stall asking about him. Even the DQ wife of our vet took an interest...

Yay! Christmas horsie! (or Krampus, your choice ;p )

I can't even begin to say how relieved I am to see him happy and healthy again. It really is incredible...  Here's to hoping 2014 is just as good for us!

Happy New Year, All

I'm shocked and thrilled at what we've been able to accomplish, but I'm also chafing under the burden of new responsibilities. Riding again means fitness goals, and fitness goals means finding time and space to ride when I'd really rather do something else - rain - shine - wind - sleet - even sick.
    It also means Diego tends to resent me more, there are many days he doesn't want to work anymore than I do. This is something I really wish I could fix.. I can't say I blame him. This is the one disconnect between horses and humans that I really hate: the ability to look forward into the future: to plan and to guesstimate. I know what will happen if he loses the condition we've worked so hard to build - he doesn't. I know he will be more stiff and his arthritis will get worse if we don't move enough - he doesn't. If he had his way he'd prefer his face stuck in a high-sugar roundbale of hay 24/7 in a small crew of mixed-sex horses that he could boss around any way that he saw fit. Hmmm... yeah. Not gonna happen hun, sorry.
Still though - I wish I could find a nicer kinder way to bring him around on those days when we have to work.

I've been thinking about moving forward this next year - what do I ultimately want for us both? I can come up with a lot of things *I* want, but I really need to sit down and think about some goals for bettering Diego - not just for me, but for himself, to make him happier.

One idea I've been punting around in my head for the last week is his insecurity and herd-bound issues. It occurs to me that this has been a problem for a long time, and a very serious one. Now I will continue to do what I can to be a trustworthy partner, in hopes that he might relax into my guardianship (we really should have eachother's backs when we're out alone so much), but I'd like to find some way to build his own confidence so that he's able to trust himself a little more too. In short: I think his world has grown too small. Experience, although sometimes stressful is the only way to really test yourself in the 'alone' department. I'd really like to concentrate on enlarging his world this next year...  this means getting out and seeing the world: going places, doing things together.

Some ideas:
  • Visit horsey-friends places!
    So far this has been difficult because it relies on other people's time and resources too (I have no trailer), but I'll keep trying. A short day visit I think would help him greatly.
  • Trails! Trails! Trails!
    A definite goal. We need to test our meddle out on the open trails to better assess fitness and emotional stability (Does he have any? Can he handle being left behind without throwing me? etc.). From there we'll know what we have to work on.
  • Social gatherings
    Whether it be a small schooling show, a big group trail ride or even signing up for a hunter pace (something remotely long-ish as prep for LD rides). Anything to expose him to the good 'ol hustle and bustle of other horses and humans again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Busy, Set-Back, Busy, Busy

Oops. I didn't mean to leave the entire month of October barren here...
The good news is it was almost exclusively taken up by RIDING! Woooooo!

In re-cap, we really made some progress last month:

  •  We hit the 1hr ride mark regularly, Diego's fitness and stamina is definitely improving. 
  • While I expressed doubts about hill-work here, it's pretty much unavoidable at our current barn unless you want to be confined to a hard-packed clay arena, and my opinion has changed on the subject. He's having considerably less trouble with hill now, than he did at Jamie's. We've even tried some steep ones, just for kicks (and working on MY seat and stability!). The only time I notice a real problem with him and hills is when he's feeling ulcery: he tends to be very reluctant and slow going downhill. Obviously I don't do them when he's not feeling well.
  • We explored the canter a bit more. I had to kind of "find myself" again, as my old dressage-style seat no longer works to sit a canter (not with a tailbone problem). So taking my cantle off my saddle and employing a light "saddle grazing" seat with a slightly forward tilted pelvis has been a big improvement. Now we're working on Diego "finding himself". I find that he doesn't quite know where his canter speed really is - is it on the forehand speeding like a rocket into oblivion while fighting the reins? Is it a slow, rocking lazy thing that he falls out of at the slightest hint? He's done both and we can't seem to find a happy medium. He did hit what felt like a decent canter occasionally but I admit I pulled him up out of it from feeling scared. It was a bit too forward and powerful for my tastes at the time, despite it being pretty balanced.
  • I'm getting my riding muscles back! While not strong by any means, I'm not waking up barely able to move in the mornings.  Part of the shift has been to stop trying to grip with my thighs so hard (a natural defense mechanism for me), mostly due to the fact that I ride in a Ghost saddle now...  Because of Diego's back I have to put a Cashel wedge pad up in there to lift the front gullet off his spine, but this adds more unwanted bulk in what would normally be the twist area. Instead of sitting on an A-frame shape I'm basically sitting on a barrel with my upper thighs - yeah good luck gripping THAT!

Things were going just swimmingly. I was totally ready to grab a hold of a friend and do our first trail-out trail ride...

Then Halloween happened.

Diego and his crew had been turned out 16+hrs on a roundbale of hay for most of the month. This experiment was going well, more turnout, more hay etc. The problem was that I couldn't test EVERY roundbale before it was put out for them, the cost and analysis time were prohibitive. So after the first test of a batch of them came back safe, I made the risky assumption that subsequent batches would be safe if from the same cutting. This isn't always the smartest decision when dealing with an IR horse.
    Needless to say we finally encountered a bale that was high enough sugar to cause a problem for Diego the day before Halloween (he had been on it 2-3 days). The poor guy had laminitis and felt terrible, so we pulled him off the hay and set up another regiment for him. I'm happy to say that with trigger (hay) removal, pain management (Microlactin), and inflammation control (short course of NSAIDS, hosing and light walking), he snapped out of it within 3 days.

I gave him 2 weeks off, carefully watching for any signs of change in his hooves (collateral groove depth changing, hairline changes etc.). After 2 weeks of him being perfectly normal, if not a bit of a handful I cautiously decided to start riding on soft ground again. (we're still bootless ATM)

I think he's ok, aside from an annoying battle with mild ulcers that we're treating. He's ok soaked hay, which as an added benefit is getting more water in him during the cold weather. I'm breathing a sigh of relief now - but it's not without a price (*I* have an ulcer now from all the stress, uuuhhgg).


Moving forward in November, my main goals are starting him back gently and working on stamina - long and slow. We were going full speed by the end of October and honestly I wasn't seeing much topline growth (he was also on some major muscle supplements). I think relaxation and proper use of muscles is a big thing with him and he is most definitely not a relaxed horse when doing anything other than a walk! He doesn't feel tense, per se, but he's never that easy, rhythmic cadence either. A lot of his suspension has been lost to forward movement and I need to put that in check. (even as much as I hate his bouncy trot)

I've got a few ideas in mind for schooling, so when I report back we'll see if they're working.

Can't believe it's a month and a half till the new year... *head shake* Fhew!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting Back to the Beginning

It’s Fall, and I’m having a day in introspection.

Despite the fact that Diego’s health struggles have been linked to this blog’s original subject matter (in the way that it’s suppressing his innate fire, spunk and opinions) – I feel like my thoughts and posts have drifted too far away from said subject.
I started this blog as a supplement to my diary on AND, where I waded through the new waters of self-introspection in my journey with Diego in an entirely NEW way of relating to each other. The entries complimented and added to the other. I haven’t been active on AND much during Diego’s sickness, being exhausted mentally – my creativity sapped. I need to get back to these roots though, that’s what this is all about.

Our relationship.
Who is he?
Not the horse I knew and controlled for so many years, but who is the horse underneath?
What are his thoughts and desires free of past abuse and shoulder chips?

 I want to dig and find this. I still believe in empowering him to be everything he can be in his golden years, mentally, physically.

So I’m diving head first into an assessment of where we are right now, relationally:

Firstly, I’m a perfectionist, so everything I write about our encounters tends to be pushed through an unreasonable filter that forgets the good pieces and focuses on the bad. Writing this helps me though, as the blank space begs to be filled with words, I think of more good and the bad can’t possibly fill the whole void.

I don’t think we are where I wanted us to be.
That frustrates me immensely.  My obsession with linear progress says we should be super-tight buddies now, inseparable, trusting each other endlessly, except after particularly bad fights. This isn’t reality though.

Interestingly though, reality shows that I have a fairly confident social horse now. He has taken the whole arc from Self-confident Young Bully to Old Broken & Insecure to where he is now (which is somewhere in between). On a bad day he’s a terror that walks into his paddock and immediately starts chasing and biting anyone in his way – on a good day he plays and makes jokes with everyone. Bold and mischievous, he waltzes up to stall doors to whuffle, squeal, posture and play the ‘nipping game’ for minutes on end. In the pasture he sees the herd and willingly goes toward them instead of carefully and fearfully avoiding them. Sometimes I have to be a bit forceful keeping him from ‘investigating’ the pasture mares a bit too thoroughly (IE: nose up the butt & kicked in the face syndrome).

This is all good news. I wanted this. I wanted him to feel good in his own skin again. 

I wish this had transferred into a more trusting and confident role in his partnership with me, but it hasn’t and that leads me to my next topic...

I wanted a stronger bond with him at this point. There are too many times I feel that he would really rather leave me in the dust, that he’d rather be free of my hindrance or restraint or pressure. My pride falters at that, and that’s really what it boils down to. My Pride wants that result. Over Entitled Ego is such a HARD thing to kill! It feels like a blow to my humanity every time he wants to leave me. 
Wow… could it be that I’m becoming codependent with my horse?   

O.o   Ouch. What a revelation.

   I truly believe in the philosophy of training that frees and enables the horse to be and assert himself in healthy ways, but the downside and ‘in between the lines’ social rules of some of those communities can make one feel terrible about themselves at times. Especially if their horse wants to be away from them. In all technicality, if you’re doing everything right and the horse has had a chance to heal – he should want to be with you, so says the philosophy. I’m starting to think maybe this isn’t a comprehensive rule though. Maybe he is more complicated than I think, maybe he has issues I don’t understand and needs for independence that I don’t get. To acknowledge human needs for independence and autonomy and yet deny Diego and all horses that same thing seems… well… stupid, now that I think about it.

The small victories really shouldn’t be forgotten. Just yesterday we both had to confront some serious fears – and me both made it through unscathed:
   We were riding in the pasture when a semi truck pulled down the gravel road to the chicken houses, just outside the fence. Not a big deal really, I thought it’d be gone by the time we were done as that path also leads back to the barn! It wasn’t done…  (I am personally very sensitive and fearful of sudden loud noises and I’ve seen this truck there before. The engine stays running the whole time and I never know when it’s going to make those horrible hissing blasts that tractor trailers are known for. Not to mention all the other mechanical noises attached to it’s tasks). I REALLY did not want to go past this thing, but with it nearing dark – traipsing up the other gravel road to the actual ROAD seemed like a bad idea. People drive fast on our road and it’s a curve to boot.

Deep breath… let's try this.

So after checking to make sure the driver was nowhere NEAR the seat in the truck (I also have an instinctual fear the driver will drive off or back up at the most inopportune time and squash us), I slowly led Diego forward. He wasn’t anymore keen on the truck than I was, as he slowly and purposefully set each foot on the path, silently telling me he was ready to dance and/or bolt at any moment. I think his head resembled a Giraffe at that point (which is hilarious for a horse with such a low-set neck). He was wide eyed and snorty, but kept glancing past me at the path ahead of us. We had maybe 6 feet of space between us and the truck that we had to squeeze by in order to access the upper path. 
   Naturally as soon as I started this endeavor – leading the way with my brave self (sarcasm if you can’t tell), I came upon some blocks to my momentary bravery: there were metal foot steps leading up to the passenger door that stuck out, and an air compressor box on the side of the tank was MUCH louder than I’d anticipated. We were already 3-4 feet past the nose of the truck and I was suddenly having visions of Diego slicing legs open on those metal parts and of him trampling me in an effort to get away from the noise. The compressor noise really was painful, I couldn’t get past it without putting my fingers in my ears, which meant reins looped over my arm. Not entirely safe. I looked back at Diego, silently pleading with him to just trust me and follow me past without bolting. I ended up going by sideways, keeping an eye on him as we went. When it was Diego’s turn to pass the compressor, he took one long snort at it, lowered and arched his neck, kept his eyes on it and literally ‘stalked’ past it like a horsey equivalent to a big cat.

    I could not have been more proud or relieved once we got to the upper trail and headed away from the monstrous thing! There was a sense of partnership though, borne out of going through that, and I begin to realize it’s not just ‘doing everything right so he’ll always trust me” but just ‘going through things together’ and building that bond of life experience. I think I sheltered both of us for a time from these uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying experiences, robbing us of the knowledge that we can get through it together. 

Writing about all this is extremely helpful. It helps me remember what I keep forgetting in life, relationships etc. It helps me keep hope and purpose in the midst of the angst and fights.

Always remember.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


So here we are, in the very beginnings of fall. I came back from my yearly vacation and my driveway already has reddish brown leaves littering the pavement. I admittedly love summer more than anything, so the beginnings of fall are always a little sad for me. (I know, I'm weird!)

I don't think I could have imagined being at an 'ok' place in Diego's rehab last year at this time. The stresses of various events kept me from seeing very far into the future for so long. Yet, here we are, riding around - constantly active - a year later! I need not take for granted getting on his back and heading off for a ride. Never again.
 Last year at this time he was fresh out of a very bad laminitic attack and could barely walk. It was a solid 1.5 months before I even saw him willingly trot. :(
This year he is trotting around his drylot (albiet carefully because of the hard ground), mounting mares, cantering down barn aisles etc. He's absolutely full of himself. ;)

I will touch breifly on a few of the things we've been battling in August up till now though for catch up:

  •  Thrush!
 I hate it, nasty stuff. I believe I mentioned being frustrated about Diego loosing some robustness in his frogs due to being stalled more than I would like nowdays. It finally occurred to me that part of the problem however, was thrush eating away at what had been healthy tissue. Apple Cider Vinegar wasn't touching it this time, and I'm out of my trusty Resolve spray - so I resorted to soaks. Lysol (diluted) to be exact. I made sure it was very mild and then stuck soaking boots on him for a good 20 minutes for 5 days straight. I was pretty pleased with the result - before I left on vacation his frogs had shed some nasty little flaps and grown harder and less "mushy" with the daily soaks and the occasional scraping black tissue away with a knife.

BTW, check this site out for tips on treating thrush. Linda Cowles has alot of useful resources!

  •   PPID (Cushings) Seasonal Rise
Just another reason for me to be apprehensive about fall: it's the hardest time of the year for Cushings horses. Recent research has shown a documented (and in PPID - exaggerated) fall rise of the ACTH hormone which is heavily involved in the disease. Plain and simple this means that I will see more negative effects of Diego's disease from late Aug through Nov/Dec. The very first year he was diagnosed the biggest symptom was laminitis - worst case scenario. Other very typical symptoms include:

-More muscle wasting over topline, neck and ribs (appearance of weight loss)
-Large scale stubborn rainrot infections (back, butt - large areas)
-General lethargy
-Occasional symptoms like foot sensitivity and gastric ulcers (these don't always happen)

As you can see, it's a basket full of kittens to deal with this mess when the weather is getting cooler and all you really want to do is go outside and trail ride! Yuck...  I'm sure Diego feels similarly.

In our case though there is a key to battling the SR - I increase his medication through December. We did this last year and it really helped him remain perky and happy, despite recovering from severe laminitis. I remember by November he was a hot-aires-above-the-ground-MESS.  ;)
So this year I started increasing, but I think it was a bit late: I was already seeing sudden back muscle wasting in late August - I should have caught it sooner. After returning from vacation Tuesday I found him in an excellent mood. He seems to be doing quite well.

So with all of that said - we're back to where we began at the top of my post - a good place! My hopeful plan for the fall is to start serious trail riding. I met a new local friend over the summer who has volunteered to trailer me over to her place for rides, and another friend just bought a home in the mountains of north Georgia (complete with guest room - HAH!) so we may be traveling up there too!!! So much to do and see!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Annnd the Bad News (sorta)

I've managed to hit a few bumps along the recovery road here: some expected and one completely unexpected.

I've got a Monster of a horse again.

No seriously. A monster.
It first started when I was working on the pasture one evening. D's trot work had been good on the lunge and I figured it was time to see if he could do a little of it with me on his back. We'd trotted up a few hills, but nothing serious to that end. As soon as we started any formal trotting (meaning longer than a few hundred feet) it became apparent that maintaining a steady, reasonable speed was more difficult than I thought it should be. The first day, we managed to throw a front boot off! The second and third days I tried it, I realized my arms and torso were going to be sore and I was out of breath and shakey. It's not like I've had a lot of riding practice in the past few years... 

Against my better judgement, I moved us up to canter work shortly after the trotting began. The problem got significantly worse (which I should have seen coming)! Worse in the classic Diego fashion: gradually building sneak-speed until suddenly you realize you've advanced from a nice rolling canter to Warp Speed. Incidentally this is what used to terrify me about him as a child. I was a brave rider, but mostly because I knew tactics to "control' most runaways, I'd never dealt with a stealth runaway before. My tactics didn't work and if you got harsh right from the get-go in his canter you started a fight and ruined the ride, so I tried desperately for many years to learn to 'feel' those moments went he was pumping just a little more speed into it than necessary. I think all that concentration and anticipation of speed just made things worse. Cut to many years later and NOW, right in the middle of rehab my horse is running away with me and I'm having flashbacks again! Geez!

I had a serious bout of frustration/depression at the end of June. The cantering had now screwed up our entire ride, transitions - everything. I had a tense ball of horse ready to take off, even on the days we weren't doing any canter. Not to mention I was getting body sore from all the bracing. Hardly the stuff of dreams and fantasies, so I crashed. And then I reached out for help.... and incidentally right after doing so had a psych epiphany too:

My expectations (Surprise!!! THAT word again) were way out of whack for what rehab IS.
Time to get real and get to work.

After reaching out to a few of my AND friends we discussed various possibilities and solutions. At first I was obsessed with the cause, as I could only see a few possibilities:
  • Pain (I of course immediately fear hoof pain, but joint and back pain are a possibility)
  • True excitement/being too fit
  •  Nervousness
 All of which are still possible, but my friends helped cut through the fog to give practical tips on helping alleviate my fears (and maybe his), while disrupting the rocket-launch issues.

I have goal specifics that keep me from using certain methods, so I wanted people that understood that A) we're staying bitless and B) I want to avoid fights & improper biomechanics/joint stress at all costs. With that in mind I got some really insightful tips from my friends. I've been trying then here and there, but admittedly I've also just been walking him a lot. I'm definitely not ready for full trot work yet - my body just isn't in shape and when I get weak and shaky - I get scared and freeze up nowdays. I do feel more confident now though. We've had a few nice short canter stints now that I'm riding with a saddle more, but my old inability to sit the canter has come back so that's another thing I'll have to work out later! For now it's 2-point as much as possible to keep from banging on his back.

Hopefully one of these days I'll have a helper to take actual pictures of me riding too... I am dying to see how D looks from ground perspective during all this!

One interesting sidenote is the condition/treatment of Diego's legs:
I had been concerned about what I thought was actual tendon swelling on the insides of his front legs, between the 2 tendons. It at times gets "puffy" with moveable fluid in there. I had our barn manager (who knows a lot more about tendon ailments than myself) take a look and feel one day. After talking about it she said she felt like really there was no tendon problem if they aren't warm and he's not lame (nope). She felt that the arthritis in his fetlocks is causing the fluid back up and the 'swelling' I'm feeling is basically a form of stocking up. This would make sense considering I've felt it more the day after we've had hard workouts, and he's stall bound overnight.
I also noticed D is hitting the insides of his fetlock joints with his hooves. :(  Considering the joints are already inflamed, I doubt the concussion is helping. I explored the idea of fetlock boots for protection but considering how much they stick out I was honestly afraid they'd get hit and twisted alot. I found some cheap "track" bandages at the feed store (I didn't want the heat of polos) and decided to give them a try. WOW - does wrapping every help! I do a simple exercise wrap that just barely covers the fetlock on the insides. Not only does it seem to help with the interfering, but his legs are TIGHT after work! The fluid build up all but disappears, it's wonderful!

Friday, July 5, 2013

First, the Good News

So in my long absence ~ I've been riding Diego lately! 

For a solid year and a half I lost part of what is probably the closest connection I've had with a ridden horse, yet. I remember longing, pining, dreaming of the day I'd climb on Diego's back again. I remember staring at his back, walking with my hand slipped suggestively over his spine, just imagining being up there. You don't know what you have till it's gone...

Now the days are back where I can hoist myself up on his back, with no ill effects and off we go... It's like nothing has changed... nothing... and yet - like the barn manager said the other day: everything has changed. So it's surreal.

May was filled with tentative rides: long walks, some hills and plenty of relaxation.
June? The work started: trotting, more hills, regular dressage and longer rides.

I find that as per usual - the most 'rusty' thing in all of this is ME. Whether it's getting my back and hips relaxed to sit a trot or remembering the all important nuances about fitness training that I learned many moons ago. Diego for the most part is smooth sailing. He still tires easily on humid days, but that's to be expected. GA summers are BRUTAL with humidity. As long as a good breeze is going, he'll keep chugging. We've done a couple of hour long walks now, which is great! Steep hills and all. He remembers almost everything perfectly (except "Halt" but that's another entry right there), including his wonderful laterals.
RAWR! Open pastures... lemmie' at em!

So now instead of the pity looks and the questions of when I'll be able to ride again, I often am the first one to tack up, and the one most often seen strolling through the pasture in the evenings.

It's much sweeter this time around, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dusk and the Setting Sun

Diego and I took a short ride last night. It was the first in almost 2 weeks... he was doing really well - no inflammation, enjoying the sudden cool snap (50's at night have now turned to 39! ) so I figured what the heck, let's try it.

I slapped on the boots, the bareback pad and clipped my reins to his flat-banded nylon halter. At first he looked at me suspiciously and made a move to walk away (then quickly got distracted by a bucket of food placed dumbly in the middle of the barn aisle.) but once we stepped outside he was clearly on his toes. By the time we got to the pasture I could feel he was pretty wired throughout his entire body. He stood still for me to mount (barely, tensely) from the trailer wheel-well  (great place to mount - will have to remember that) and enthusiastically took off at a FAST walk.

We made a loop around the edge of the pasture and back, a total of about 15 minutes, start to end. His back has such poor muscling that I just can't bring myself to stress his spine with my weight too much right now. I was surprised however in the ease at which he carried me for the most part.. then again I am trying my best nowdays to be a model of near perfect balance for him. This includes the ever careful alignment of my spine in proper orientation with his and keeping our center of gravities 'together' - one very good example is riding downhill: I do a mini 2-point seat. I tried this experiment several years back when I was still exploring riding before he got sick, turns out once I moved my center of gravity forwards, but in a balanced way D responded by moving down hills more freely and happily. Traditional riding logic would think that strange, but it kind of makes sense considering through out all my jump and huntseat training how I was taught to be balanced and light in all situations, even downhill. It was dressage training later that ruined part of my seat, ironically.

ANYWAYS! (tangents, tangents)

Back to the ride. D was feeling quite full of himself an opinionated - there was much head shaking, some impressive 90-degree turns (O.O did I mention I was bareback?), and on the way back to the gate a jig or two. Actually on the way back I afforded myself a treat, and when I see him today we will see if it was too much... but... I kept just enough contact to keep his head up, while letting him prance his way into a bouncy, collected trot. Normally I would strongly encourage him to walk again, fearing my merciless bouncing on his poor spine and his delicate hooves - but this time I said 'forget it. I'm just gonna sit here and stay balanced and hope he doesn't decide to buck me off in the end." (as he was still 100% wired). What came out of it was one of those events that really stick with you - those moments where you're in perfect harmony with your horse and both of you are enjoying whatever gait you're going along at, in relative easy and happiness. His head was up, neck tall fully extended, his poll flexed only slightly and although I bounced alittle, his back felt like a springy suspension bridge. If I tried I could almost imagine that I felt his front hooves hitting the ground independently - correctly. For those few strides he felt balanced, excited, powerful and truly perfect to ride.

Had dusk not been creeping in over the fields I think I would have wanted another round of the pasture, but as it was the cold air and impending darkness (along with wayyy too many strange horses trying to sniff his butt) was making D alittle jumpy/insecure. I am still trying to ride the fine line between our workouts and keeping him from feeling forced, alone and scared. It will come with time, but part of that comes from me respecting his feelings on any given issue. I was disappointed to note though that after 15 minutes of excitedly lugging me up and down pasture hills - he was not even WARM. It was like it had been no exertion at all!

Note to self: 30 minute ride/walks are DEFINITELY in order now!

I'm excited to see what today tells about lastnight's excursion. Was this too much? Will he be sore? Stiff? Depressed?
Or will I walk up to a bright eyed and bushy tailed horse?
Ahh that's the story of his entire recovery: you never know what tomorrow brings.

So I've decided to enjoy 'today' as it were when we can...