Monday, September 30, 2013

What did I do, must have head examined asap

One of the bigger philosophies I have followed in life is Everything Happens For A Reason.  While things tend to suck and something good doesn't always result from a sucky situation, the majority of times it turns out that things happened for a reason.  Something bad happens because I am being set up for something good that wouldn't have happened if option 1 had stuck around.  Buying our house in MI was a great example, we went through 7 months of hell, offers falling through after months of waiting on different 2 houses, SO living in a hotel for 6 months, unbelievable stress and then suddenly our dream home with a barn, arena and workshop popped up in our search quite suddenly due to a price decrease and 30 days later we closed on it with no drama.

TWH came up lame after our show in September and I brought him to the equine hospital on the 20th.  2 days later I got a phone call from my instructor, H.  She had looked at a horse as a potential prospect for herself and was passing because the horse is smaller than advertised but thought it would be a good fit with me.  Wait, what?  She said it was a young mare that was just broke out this past spring, 16 hands, has good conformation and for some reason had caught H's eye for potential, that I should go look at it.  Everything happens for a reason, right?  If TWH hadn't gotten hurt and had felt as great in the last show as he did in the August show, I wouldn't have even considered it.

I talked to SO and he said he has been expecting the 3rd horse for a year now so I might as well go look at her.  She was being advertised about 1500 out of my price range but H said the people were desperate to get rid of the horse due to a boarding situation gone bad.  I was sent several really bad pictures of the mare because, obviously, why would you take GOOD pictures of an animal you want to sell?!?!  (Sorry, major pet peeve of mine).  I finally requested very specific photos that would show her squared up, in frame and clear so I could evaluate her conformation.  I got them and they were actually not bad at all so I made an appointment to look at her on Saturday.

Saturday I drove a little over an hour to see this horse.  Upon arrival, we discovered we couldn't bring her into the arena to ride because the gates to her turnout were padlocked.  Apparently these people owe board and the barn owner said they owe 2k and they say they owe 200 and the barn owner wanted this mare and another one of their horses in trade and they were refusing.  Oy, what was I getting into?  I climbed over the gate to see her and though she is underweight and her feet are horrible as they haven't seen a file in a good while, she moves quite nicely and was very soft in the halter. Apparently the owners also didn't have any tack at the barn anymore other than a bridle for one of their other horses.  Luckily I had brought my own saddle to see if it would fit (it DID!) and they found a girth that should have been thrown out 5 years ago.  The owners weren't to keen on getting on and I hopped on to see what she would do.  She knows how to move forward into a walk, she knows how to turn when I pull her head and she knows how to stop when I pull back.  Nothing else.  Well, that isn't all bad I suppose.

There was some discussion with them that yes, I liked her but she isn't worth anywhere NEAR what they were asking for her.  She is very green, underweight, in need of a farrier, not UTD on shots or coggins and are coming into winter when horses don't sell.  They asked what I valued her at and to not worry about insulting them and I told them what I thought she was actually worth which was well less than half of their asking price.  There was actually very little negotiation and I bought her for $200 more than what I told them.  I went home, got the trailer, made the trip back down and picked up my first ever 3rd horse.  OMG.  Introducing Mia, a 6yr old greener than grass Appy.  She is chestnut with some frosting on her hip and some slight roaning through her body.  She is hopefully my diamond in the rough.  Once I got home and could look up her papers, I saw her sire is a national ApHC champion in hunter in hand, hunter hack and hunter under saddle.  He is also has multiple world grand championships including suitability for dressage.  COOL!!  We have lots of work to do, she is content to bump into you when excited, head in the air and has no manners.  The next week or two will be mostly ground work, I am so excited!

No worries though, our beloved TWH still has plans.  If he passes his checkup this week he will be going Novice level next year while I have fun with him and work on training Mia.  If he doesn't pass his checkup, he will get some months off and be relegated to a judged trail ride horse and maybe even a mounted patrol volunteer!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A visit to the equine hospital, getting to the root of the problem

After the last visit with my vet, his recommendation was to give the TWH 2 weeks off until we could get him in for an ultrasound.  The first vet recommendation for the ultrasound wasn't available until at least this coming Friday so I called the second vet recommendation and was able to schedule the visit for this past Friday AND was able to have my vet there at the same time.  Success!  While the vets are colleagues, it was important to me to have my vet there when the ultrasound was being done.  I trust his opinion and believe that he will recommend what is needed to for testing and won't go overboard just because or to bill me more.  When talking to the ultrasound vet on the phone, he was making me nervous when he said the ultrasound was just a starting point in our visit, ugh.

On Friday I washed the TWH all up so he would be clean(ish) and threw both him and the App in the trailer to make the hour long trek to the equine hospital that my vet, Dr A, works with.  It was a pretty nice facility, there was a nice drive-thru space so we could unload out of the mist that was coming down.  The TWH had a nice fluffy stall of straw waiting on him and he was content to snack on straw as we waited for Dr A to arrive.  Dr A and the ultrasound vet, Dr K, had a fairly long discussion of what was going to be done, Dr A was telling him what he had seen last week and that we didn't need to do a full lameness exam with blocks before the ultrasound, he just wanted the suspensory checked first and to proceed from there.  This was the exact reason I wanted Dr A there, love Dr A!  We don't need to start from scratch, we already have a pretty good idea of what is going on.  Dr K tranq'd TWH and got him shaved for the ultrasound.  It was so funny, TWH is a lightweight with his drugs.  He kept having a hard time keeping his hind legs still because his head kept falling so far forward he was having to move his hind legs to rebalance and not fall on his nose.  Hahaha!  Finally the vet assistant held the TWH's head in their arms in a big hug to hold his head up and that seemed to be enough to have the TWH hold still.

The ultrasound was actually kinda cool to watch and I could (eventually, after some pointing and explaining) see the issue.  His left mid-suspensory is slightly inflamed and swollen, instead of a straight line like his right, it bulges.  Interesting.  Thankfully that was the only issue found in both of his hind legs, no torn ligaments, no frayed ligaments, nothing else abnormal.  I then agreed to a nerve block of his mid-suspensory to see if he was sore in his suspensory, his hocks or both.  The treatment options are different and we might as well know what the root of the issue is so after a quick 10 minute wait, we put the TWH on the lunge line.  The difference was amazing.  He went from a 2.5 lame going to the right to a maybe .5, if that.  Dr K said if he didn't know the horse was lame, he would have diagnosed the TWH as sound.  Yay!!  We successfully pinpointed the cause of his pain!

The treatment we are going is injecting his left mid-suspensory with some steroids and an anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling.  He has 2 more weeks off of work and then Dr A will come out to re-evaluate him.  If it doesn't work, however, I will need to decide if I want to spend $600-1k to fix him or if I want to retire him as sound to a non-jumping job and spend the $600-1k on a more suitable-to-eventing replacement.  Ugh the decisions.

We then took a final look at the App, he was just coming along for a follow up appointment to see how sound he was after his polyglycan injection/rest/salve application.  A quick lunge showed him moving awesomely, the vet agreed he is sound, sound, sound!  We are going to give him bi-weekly injections of pentosan and if he goes south again we will switch over to polyglycan.  Soundness success!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vet visit

With the TWH being a bit off at our last show, it was time to call the vet out.  It worked out well as the App had been off for about 2 weeks and I was planning on calling the vet out anyway when his issue didn't resolve on its own.  My normal vet wasn't able to get out until the following Friday and I needed someone sooner, I had entered a clinic for the Sunday following our show and had to let them know asap if I had to withdraw.  I asked around and made an appointment with RB3's vet.  Her comment was that he was good, but he was expensive and charged for everything.  Eh, I can handle that if he is good.

Vet 1 came out on Wednesday and evaluated both boys.  He could see the issue with the TWH and said the issue was his stifle and hock soreness.  He was tender upon palpation though he flexed out without too much lameness.  He gave some banamine to reduce any swelling, some polyglycan for the joints and some estrone sulfate to help tighten up his stifle.  He said to rest the TWH till Friday and then he should be good to go for the clinic.

He said the issue with the App was also hock pain, I thought it was more front end lameness.  Opps!  Apparently the App is compensating so much for his hocks that he is showing front end lameness, great.  He said to give 4 grams of bute for a day, 2 grams of bute for a day, 1.5 for a day then 1 gram for 3 days to reduce the swelling.  He said our only option was to inject his hocks and that he really needed front shoes, he would recommend backing up the breakover about an inch and squaring off the toes.  Ugh, I don't want to do that without a second opinion.  He did, however, look at the App's eyes and said they aren't as bad as my vet thinks.  My vet said he was likely 75% blind in bright sunlight and thus should work mostly inside.  Vet 1 thinks he is closer to 40%.  He said his eye structure is still in very good condition with slight cataracts but no moon blindness, etc.  He said the corporate nigra is a bit large but isn't blocking his vision that badly and that the App is seeing close objects quite well.  Yay us!

I had my normal vet come out on Friday and check the boys again.  The TWH was a bit better but not great, he was still quite sore in his hocks and the vet said he is much more concerned about his suspensory/ddft ligament.  He is concerned over the amount of reaction the TWH is giving when pressing on it, he is afraid we have sprained the ligament.  He recommend against riding in the clinic unless we absolutely had to because he didn't want the ligament to rupture.  He recommended having someone come out and ultrasound the TWH to see the extent of the damage, he doesn't want to inject his hocks and have the TWH feel good enough to snap his ligament.  Great!  Not.  Thankfully the clinic was willing to let me drop out without a hassle, phew.

My vet did agree with Vet 1 that the App's issue is with his hocks but he agreed the App does have some mild front end lameness.  He gave the App a shot of polyglycan in hopes that the new injectable supplement will work better than the pentosan I am currently using.  He gave me a salve to use on both of the boys hocks for 7-10 days and I was very pleased when his vet bill was half of what Vet 1's bill was.  Small victory lol.

At 5 days later, both boys are doing better.  Or rather the TWH is doing better and the App is doing fantastic.  The polyglycan seems to have really helped the App as not only is he no longer lame looking, he is moving around a lot better, trotting in the field (something I hadn't noticed he wasn't doing until he started doing it again) and is walking with his ears up more.  Success!  I am waiting for an appointment for the ultrasound still, the first ultrasound vet wasn't available for another 1.5 weeks so I am waiting for the other partner to check their availability.  Looking forward to getting the boys comfortable again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Novice success

Sunday the TWH had is debut in a Novice level show.  I was fairly worried about the dressage test as it is significantly harder though we have worked on it pretty hard for the past two weeks.  Friday we had a quick jump school and while the TWH was a little odd to the fences, he jumped nicely and was MUCH better than during our previous jump session.  He only knocked a pole down once, success!  Saturday was a quick dressage ride and it went pretty well.  He was a little sticky in the trot when we started but once he was warmed up he did great.  His canter/trot transitions were spot on, his trot was moving along nicely, he was balanced in his 10m circles, we were ready.

Sunday we went to the show, RB4 came with me and was my groom again.  I LOVE having a groom!  She braided him all up using a draft roll which is working spectacularly well for him.  His mane is long and french braiding isn't working as it always falls out.  The draft roll is the perfect solution as it is neat, it is super fast to do and it stays in as long as we need it.  Fantastic!  At warmup, the TWH had some sticky trot transitions again but some lengthening and shortening fixed that issue.  Some quick canter/trot transitions were under our belt and then it was our turn.

We started off nicely with a good trot down centerline and a 10m half circle at C.  A decent circle at E, he had nice bend and didn't fight me too hard in the bridle.  Good.  Another decent 10m half circle at A as we went back up centerline, 10m half circle at C to the right and a circle at B.  We are doing great, as I rode away from the judge I had a huge smile on my face as I rode towards RB4.  Our walk was good, our freewalk could have used more stretch but was decent.  A good trot transition back at A, I didn't forget the canter patterns (something I was quite nervous about!) and had a SPOT ON canter/trot transition.  Go TWH!!!  He went immediately from canter to trot, that rocked!  A long trot down the diagonal with a tiny lengthening to our final canter circle, our circle to the right felt amazing.  I was SO happy with it!  Our last movement was canter to trot between B and F which isn't a lot of room to the prepare for our last 10m half circle.  He bobbled it a little in that he took a single step of pace before picking the trot up and I had to really slam his outside shoulder around the circle as he almost overshot the centerline but we finished.  I am so happy with how our ride went, it was amazing (for us)!  I am so proud of how far he has come in dressage!

We went back to the trailer to relax for a couple of hours before going cross country.  One of my students showed up and and we had a good time hanging out and relaxing with RB4 until it was time to ride.  There was an off handed comment about how the TWH looked odd when walking down a hill but he looked sound so at 1p it was time to ride again.  I hopped on and started warming back up and the TWH was having a harder time with his leads, he was counter cantering when we went down a small hill in the warm up ring.  Hmm, odd.  I threw him over the warmup fences and he was good over the small crossrail but then knocked down the vertical.  Crap!  I certainly didn't want to start this again.  I jumped a couple more times and he was having a hard time getting over.  He was adding extra steps despite being put at the right distances, damn.  It was the same issue he was having in our jump schooling 2 jump sessions ago.  RB4 said he was acting very stiff legged in the rear but it was loosening up as we went so we pressed on.  I threw him over a couple more jumps and RB4 agreed he looked better than he had and wasn't obviously lame so off we went.

When it was our turn, we went to fence 1 and cleared it with no problems.  Fence 2 was a vertical and he put the brakes on and jumped from almost a standstill.  Uh hello horse???  Fence 3 was a decent oxer and while he came at it funny, he jumped clear.  I decided if he gave me a single rail or refusal, I would pull up and excuse ourselves.  He was feeling odd but he wasn't refusing and he was jumping clear so we finished the course which including a little bank down (yay!!) and a jump right in front of the water.  We walked around a good bit and RB4 said he looked worse but she couldn't pinpoint where he was truly off.

When the results were finally posted, I was actually really disappointed with our placing but am really happy at how our ride went.  All in all it was a success in my eyes despite ending up 10th, the dressage judge hated our ride.  Lots of comments about needing balance, needing more collection and needing to push more from the hind.  We did not, however, despite the harsh judging, get a single comment about being lateral or pacey!  Yahoo, that is a win in my book!  When I got home I scheduled the vet to come and check the TWH out, let's see why he isn't 100%.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A little novice, a little training, a little dressage

After we did so well in our last show, I immediately sent in my registration for the derby with the Novice box clearly checked.  We are moving up a level!  I then downloaded the new dressage test so I could practice, CRAP!!!  It was a good thing my entry was in the mail, otherwise I might have changed that little box.  Lots of 10m half circles to turn up centerline and a canter/trot transition at B-F with a turn up centerline?!?!?  Am I insane???  What did I get myself into.

Thankfully I have had 2 weeks to work on it and I will say, we are getting closer.  We have been schooling 10m circles pretty hard and the canter/trot transitions are getting there too.  I am fairly concerned with the balance we will have after our last canter/trot transition as we turn up centerline, very good possibility that inside shoulder will drop but I keep telling myself if nothing else it is only 10 points.  Ugh.  Our canter is awesome, our canter up transition is awesome.  Our circles are great and as long as the TWH doesn't plow on his forehand, his trot is really good.  His free walk is really good if I refuse to let him have a long rein until that moment lol.  We are still playing with it.  I also had a dressage lesson Tuesday night, stuff to practice!

This past weekend, however, we went cross country schooling.  Since I am riding novice, I wanted to jump novice jumps and perhaps, maybe, if not too scary, try some, perhaps, baby training jumps????  Novice jumps are a max of 2'11" and training is 3'3".  A pretty big difference from the 2'6" jumps we have been showing but I want him to go over whatever I point him at and he has been doing well so....  time to move up?!

We started over jump 4 that was at our last show, the one with the red roof in the previous post, and he was a little funny to it.  Not bad but he added a gaited step in with our canter right before jumping it.  Almost like he wasn't sure of the distance.  H had us try again and had me keep leg on to keep the energy going and he jumped it like it wasn't there.  Now that was a better start to the day!  We put some jumps together and did 3 in a row, jumping the beginner novice jump and then 2 novice jumps.  If I kept my leg on he was great, even at the funny looking flower bench and jumped the novice table SO awesomely.  He felt like a well oiled, knowledgeable machine instead of a green bean!

We played in the water and H seemed really impressed with how well he is starting to jump now.  She said he has made remarkable improvement, go us!  We meandered over to the "high meadow" and found ourselves at the banks.  My App loved the banks and I miss not being able to ride him to them, time to see how the TWH would handle them.  I seemed to have done my homework with introducing little banks down through the past couple of years as when I asked him to go down a 3'6" drop he did without having to ask twice!  No kicking at all!  We were both impressed with his willingness to try something so new.  We circled around and attempted to go up 3 consecutive 3' banks up but poor TWH didn't yet have the engine to get up all three.  I was only able to boot him up 2 banks before he gave out and so I didn't even ask for the 3rd bank as I didn't want him to have to tell me no.  Don't ask a question you don't want to know the answer to right?!?!  After a couple of tries he was able to get up 2 banks decently so we put a small course together of going up 2 3' banks, jumping an oxer, circling around, jumping a hanging log that is 3 strides out to the 3'6" drop.  Yowsers, definitely a training level question!!  Not only did the TWH do it beautifully, he didn't even pause at the drop!!!  He came up to it and hopped down like it was no big deal.  AWESOME HORSE!!

We played with ditches a little and the TWH is getting much, much better with ditches.  He has been stopping at them and this time he paused but didn't stop, stare, ponder, leap.  This time he paused, looked, jumped.  Progress indeed!  After the ditch H had us try our first, true Training sized fence.  It is a rather inviting 3' ascending, 3 bar vertical.  The first time over the TWH wasn't sure how to jump it and jumped straight up and over instead of being round-ish, it was a pretty rough landing but there wasn't any refusing or hesitation.  Yay!  After schooling it a couple more times until the TWH figured it out, she brought us to our second training level jump.  This is a true 3'3" jump that is set just on the top of a little hill so it has a 3'6" drop on the other side.  Oh great, lol, a blind landing to boot.  We got a long start to it and H's commentary of TWH's face said it best.  We were going to the jump and TWH was trying to drift left.  I applied more left leg, TWH looked like "Mom, if we keep going straight we are going to have to jump this".  I applied more leg and a little rein and TWH looked like "I am not sure if I am going to be able to get around this if we don't turn now!".  Finally after a little spur TWH seemed to say "OK, I have no choice, hold on!".  I actually concur with her assessment of his expression, that is exactly what it felt like!  He seemed totally taken by surprise by the jump, it is one we typically run around (for obvious reasons) so he thought it was pilot error until the last moment haha.  What a good horse for trying!  We went over it a couple more times for experience and called it a nice day.

I am so thrilled he is so willing to jump whatever I point him at, so different from the horse that would freak out over the smallest xc jump back in 2011.  He is learning how to jump and is applying his knowledge and seems to be enjoying it.  I am really looking forward to our show next weekend, let's see how we do!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Strutting our stuff Part III (PICTURES!!)

After a great cross country ride we settled down and waited a little over 2 hours for stadium.  SO brought us some Subway for lunch and it was fun hanging out eating lunch with a little group.  We took it easy and relaxed and by the time we had to get ready for stadium, we had plenty of prep time.

With TWH all gleaming and glowing, we meandered over to stadium and watched the Novice rounds to get a feel for the course.  Overall it wasn't a bad course, there was a three stride to pay attention to and fence three was at the bottom of a hill, headed back up but everything else was straightforward.  During the course walk I happened time it just right to walk with 2 other sets of people and got a full play-by-play of what to do over each fence via one of the instructors to a set of kids.  Ha!  I haven't ever had a stadium course walk explained so it was interesting listening in but overall it didn't help me much as it was pretty straight forward and a basic explanation of everything.  What I didn't do, however, was walk the last two fences as they looked straight forward and my boots were giving me a blister.

When it was finally our turn, we went in and I biffed the start.  I was too busy messing with my damn watch and gave TWH a bad distance to jump 1.  It was ugly and he hit it hard with his hind leg but at least it didn't go down, totally rider error.  We swung really wide for fence 3 to give him plenty of energy to go back up the hill and cleared it with no problems.  Fence 6 had been giving people problems and while he looked at it and jumped it funny, TWH didn't refuse or knock it like others did and we continued around.  The three stride went fine and we headed for home.  As we looked at fence 8 I realized I should have walked these last 2 fences, it turns out fence 9 is on an angle from fence 8.  A little surprising however everyone else seemed to have had gone fairly straight and so could we.  I pushed for a longer stride and took jump 9 at an angle and cleared it without a knock.  It wasn't super pretty but it was clean!

I knew that we were sitting 5th after dressage and 4th after cross country, I didn't know who was in the top 3 though.  I watched horse after horse have issues, some with time faults, others with jumping faults.  I wasn't sure how we would place and when they finally called us in to place, I was thrilled to find we were able to stay in 4th place.  4th place out of 15 to finish on our dressage score of 39!  I was so proud of him, he was awesome.  I signed us up to go up a division, to Novice, at the little eventing derby on Sept 8th, let's see how we do!
This is the jump he told me that he could do this and I didn't help again, save for the ditch.

Rocking this XC Course.  He did this without my help!


Biffing fence 1, way to forward, wrong distance.  He saved it though!

Our oops at the last fence, jumping at an angle.  Look at how high he picks his feet up though lol!