Sunday, June 26, 2011

Royal Gets Better

So far, so good.

I went back out to the farm last evening to check up on the Fuzz. He met me at the gate of his paddock, all bright-eyed and "cookies?". I asked him to trot around the paddock at liberty, but that was a failure. At first he didn't see the point, and when I finally got him moving out, he ran through a sticky patch of mud and tripped. He caught himself and carried on, but I want to see him trot in a constant circle. I had taken his Parelli halter and lead rope home to wash, so I was stuck with his nylon halter and lead. I used to have a nicer one, but it broke and the barn owners have been kind enough to use an old one to shuffle him back and forth between paddock and pasture. But it looks so ugly on him.

Ew. But he trotted sound in the indoor with no heat in his legs. I didn't know how much was him and how much was the bute he'd gotten at dinner, but I knew it probably wasn't anything serious. 2g of bute can't cover up too many serious issues. I put some liniment on them and put him back in his paddock.

Today, he looked good enough to not need any bute and could go out in the pasture. No heat, but I did find a small amount of swelling between the Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon and the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon. It wasn't big and he didn't mind me poking and pinching it. I cold-hosed it for 10 minutes and discovered he developed a small splint on his right front cannon bone. ARGH! Royal, why you do this to me? I pressed on it with all my might and he didn't flinch, so that's a good sign. He had a splint a few years ago, which also didn't pain him, and the vet told me that I do do stuff with him. I just had to keep him booted and make sure he wasn't painful.

Nevertheless, he's getting another week off, although he probably won't be a fan of all the cold-hosing and liniment I will do. He'll just have to get used to it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


A.K.A What the f&*k did my horse do to himself?!

We've had so much rain here for a while that it's almost become a cliche to say we've suddenly moved to Seattle. This has meant that the front field where my jumps are has been too wet and muddy to ride in. I had really been hoping to do some jumping to regain my confidence over 2'6" fences, but it had to be put off. But yesterday and today, no rain. It looked like the ground would be okay today, so that's what I planned on doing.

Grooming and tacking Royal up, I noticed he seemed a bit quiet. Which can sometimes happen, where he's subdued when I get him, then perks up as we warm up and ride. But he didn't have any tender spots or seem colicky, so I figured he was okay. On-line warm up was good, riding at the walk fine, but when we started trotting, I knew something was off. I couldn't feel where, but I know something wasn't right. I got off and asked him to circle, and sure enough, he had a head bob on his left front going to the left. It wasn't present circling to the right or on a straight line, but you could see it to the left. I felt a bit of heat in that left front, but he wasn't fussy about me handling it. I tried to give him some bute, which didn't work, and cold-hosed the leg for about 15 minutes. I was successful in giving him banamine, and put him back in his paddock with some hay and his step-brother BJ. The barn owner promised to keep an eye on him for me, and I'll probably go back up there tonight and tomorrow.

At this point I have no idea what it could be. It might be that he was running around in the pasture and tweaked it a little bit and he'll be fine in a little bit. Or, this could be the start of a serious injury that means months or years of rehab. I do know that Royal is a very stoic horse and often doesn't show his injuries until they get pretty bad. Right now, all I can do is wait. I will most likely ask to have one the vets at the clinic come down there with me and take a look at it, no matter what. I just want to know what's going on.

Hopefully, he's okay.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Royal Gets A Quiet Week... And I Don't

After the excitement at Steepleview and with Birchbury being postponed, I decided to give Royal a relaxing week. He's really earned it, and I think letting him have ample time off is good for him mentally and physically. I try to keep our sessions fun and engaging, but it can still be hard stuff. We had a relaxed session on Wednesday, just playing at Liberty in the arena, and with yielding to pressure from Zone 4. He was a champ, as always. Friday was hot and buggy, but we still had fun on the 45 foot line. Today was Freestyle Dressage Test day. I put the bareback pad on and used the hackamore and we did the Intro A & B tests. Lots of fun was had, and the tests aren't too challenging. Turn, stop, go, circle, change direction, circle, change gait, stop. Pretty simple stuff.

I had a mostly exciting week. On Monday, I was at the clinic and one of the appointments was some dog vaccines and blood tests. One of the dogs (a big hound) didn't want his blood drawn and fought like mad. Eventually, it got to the point where the owner was kneeling on the dog, I was holding off the vein, and the vet was drawing the blood. At the last moment, the dog kicked and the needle went through his skin and into my thumb, stopping just below the back of the nail. Do I need to say OW!! I had to keep it wrapped and iced for a while, but other than a puncture wound and a bruise, no damage.

Thursday was another interesting day. The vet and I were called out for the works (check teeth, clean sheath, Coggins test, vaccines) for a Percheron-cross and his new owner. Who's never owned a horse before, and this is a 1400lb. behemoth. He decided he didn't want anything to do with us and he didn't have to. There was no fear in it, only dominance. We ended up having to give enough IM sedation for SIX horses. Oh yeah, this was a tough one. And the worst part is that we were confirming his suspicions about this being a fight, and it's probable that the next time will be worse. The owner said that a trainer was going to work with the horse, but this went beyond cookie-cutter "disobedience". This was a nearly-feral horse that had no respect for humans except as treat dispensers, which is something that is going to take a lot of work.

I hope his owner is up to the task.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Steepleview Derby Day

I really really love Parelli.

I got up at 5am to get ready and on the road to Steepleview. It would be an hour's drive and I was pretty sure it would take a while to get the trailer hooked up and Royal loaded up. I was right: I got to the farm a little after 6 and headed out just before 7. I figured out a neat little trick to line up the ball and hitch, so that didn't take too long. Royal was still skeptical of the trailer, but loaded fairly well. We were on our way, and luckily for both of us, the roads were fairly quiet. Sweetie the truck chugged along with the new trailer and we spent a lot of time on the freeway and one long county road.

We arrived at Steepleview around 8 and I had to leave Royal in the trailer so I could find the check-in tent. After getting my number and course maps, I got Royal out of the trailer and let him move around. Then I had to tie him to the trailer so I could walk my first course, Starter Novice. This course consisted of fences up to 18" in height, with no unusual obstacles (banks, ditches, water), so I figured Royal would have a good time of it. I got back to the trailer, saddled the Fuzz up, and headed to the warm-up area. We were fifth on the course, and once the previous rider finished, trotted out. The first fence was a red-white-and-black stadium cross-rail with a judge in a big hat sitting not too far away. Royal was not too sure of the judges' hat, but walked over the jump. Then it was a series of logs and tiny benches that he made small work of before turning up the bank to another stadium jump. We tried to canter the turn, and the ground evidently was a lot slipperier than I thought as both of Royal's hind legs slipped to the left. He immediately caught himself and we kept going, hopping over another log and the first three jumps in reverse without a hitch. I was worried about the slip, as a similar thing happened to Gogo of Eventing-A-Gogo! in 2009. She injured tendons in both hind legs, and she still has not fully recovered. Fortunately for Royal and me, his legs were cool and tight after our run.

We went back to the trailer, hung out, and then I had to walk my Beginner Novice course. I knew I had made a mistake signing up for it while walking the course. I had been so focused on the unusual obstacles that I neglected to think about the height and width of the jumps. Royal can jump up to 4' easily, but I've only gone to 2'6" a few times and am not as confident as I should be. And these were robust BN fences. I knew I would be doing a lot of mane grabbing during this course. I had a question about how to enter the water for fence 4, so I walked back up to the check-in booth. There I saw a sign with all the SN entries and a "4" next to my name. I asked the person what the 4 meant and she said it meant I got fourth place. I was shocked, but happily took my ribbon.

At the trailer, I met two nice ladies who were so impressed that I was here all by myself and that Royal and I got a ribbon at our first cross-country competition. I had a nice conversation with them and headed back to the warm-up arena. Royal could feel my nerves and was deer-leaping over the jumps, which did not help me at all. I was second on the BN course; the first person fell off. She got back on and finished, but my nerves were starting to fray. We trotted out, had a three spooky jumps and went for the water. He was hesitant, but eventually walked in. I just let him walk, figuring it was better to let him check it out instead of trying to get him to go through it fast. Then it was a big coop and a long turn to the ditch. I prepared myself for a screeching halt... and he hopped right over. I was so elated that I botched the turn to the next jump and had a refusal. Well that totally blew my confidence and we had a refusal at the next two jumps, including a sizable table. We were able to get over the 10 jump, through the water in the opposite direction, back over the coop, and refused the last jump before popping over it again. I know it was probably kind of scary to watch, and it wasn't much more fun to ride. We went back to the trailer, put all my stuff back in, Royal loaded in pretty well, and we went home. All in all, I feel like it was a success, because I learned a ton.

Here's why it made me love the Parelli Program even more:

1. Self-Sufficiency. Parelli really focuses on developing independent horses and riders. I saw a few other loners there, but most had their trainers or helpers with them. Parelli gave me the confidence to do this by myself and the tools with which to accomplish it, both mentally and physically. (Speaking of which, about 1/3 of the way through the BN course where Royal's huge jumps were twanging me off his back, I thought "I love my saddle". It kept catching me and keeping me centered, even through the huge efforts.)

2. Confidence. The fact that Royal and I could even do this is amazing, let alone that we came home with a ribbon. Remember, this is a horse I used to be too scared to ride at a walk in the arena, let alone canter over solid obstacles in a field. Also, I know my confidence has taken a hit, but I know exactly how to regain it. The next thing I have planned is the Birchbury schooling show and I know how to prepare for it.

3. Realism. I have learned how to realize my and my horse's limitations, which is why I am not planning on going to the Roebke Run event. The problem over the BN course was me. When I get nervous, I freeze and shut down. Royal was only responding to my lack of confidence when he refused and that is something I can't rush. If I took the month off and practiced everyday, we might be ready. But that's not realistic, so I'm going to put my horse and my confidence first, and aim for the Steepleview recognized event in September. You can't rush this stuff, and I don't want to go into another event unprepared.

So, all in all, a success in terms of learning and material gains.

Royal with his ribbon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The New Cave On Wheels or We Haven't Won The Porcupine Game

We all know this was coming.

I sold my other trailer on Wednesday and bought the new one the nest day. It belonged to someone I know and who needed to sell it fast. It's a 1993 Trail-Et two horse straight-load bumper pull with lots of room for Royal. And it looks cool.

I don't have much experience backing up trailers, so last night I watched a bunch of Youtube videos on how to back up trailers. Most helpful was a series by a semi driver who broke it down into little steps that I was saying out loud to myself as I practiced backing in the local high school parking lot this morning. I'm sure I looked like I was nuts, but once I got out to the farm, I was able to back it into its spot with very little trouble. A few more times and I'll get the hang of it.

Royal was less enthusiastic about it. Besides the fact that its new! and weird! and different! which always sets him on edge, he hadn't been in a straight-load in years and the last time didn't end well. To make a long story short, he wiggled out of a 3'x1' escape door while still tied inside the trailer. And he didn't get badly hurt, only had a few scrapes.

I've previously mentioned that Royal had a tendency to turn around in the other trailer, which is just not an option in this one. That had to have made him nervous, since he had to carefully reconsider how to get out. It took about an hour to get all four feet in, with a lot of help from my trusty clicker and carrots. Then we got to the butt bar. Once Royal could stand in there for more than five seconds, I tried fastening the butt bar. I then found out that Royal is not totally respectful of pressure in Zone 4. He respects it in Zone 1 and yields off the halter like nothing, but is willing to blast through pressure in Zone 4. So he would hit the butt bar and lean on it. No panicking, just leaning, waiting for it to open. Then the new guideline became that if I went to unhook the butt bar and he started backing into it, I would walk up to his head, ask him to move forward and start over. He got that message pretty quick, and would wait for me to say "okay" before backing out, but we'll see if it sticks tomorrow when we go to Steepleview.

This is not an ideal situation, or even a very good situation. I would love to leave the trailer in his paddock for a while or just load him everyday for seven days before going anywhere, but that isn't practical right now. We'll just have to muddle through and try to make everything go as well as possible.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Time to Think

I haven't written lately mostly because I've been too busy. I still have plenty of Royal-time and other happenings, but just not the time to write about it.

Since Carriage House went fairly well, I signed us up for a cross-country schooling event this Saturday. The idea is to let Royal encounter "unusual" obstacles, like banks and ditches, in a laid-back setting. I had the idea to tape my clicker to the handle of a crop so I could "click" Royal while riding. I was able to find a cheap yet sturdy crop and, while it looks ugly, it works. I was able to play plenty of Friendly Game with Royal but he still tends to get a bit amped when I carry it. On Sunday, we were doing some jumping and I had two 2'6" fences set up in a four stride line. Royal did it in three. So I was thinking I'd scrap that idea since he'd already be pretty energetic going cross-country anyway, and I didn't want to add to it.

Fast-forward to Wednesday. After a great warm-up, including a Soft Feel at the canter, I created a scary obstacle consisting of a bright blue western saddle blanket draped over a 15" high pole on the Bloks. Royal trotted right up to it... and slammed on the brakes 5 feet away. I was surprised but laughed. We tried again, and he overjumped it by two feet. A couple more passes and he was jumping over it like nothing. So I decided to make it into a "ditch" by laying the blanket under a 9" high pole. For some reason, he still spooked at it, but did hop over. Once he was doing that pretty well, I took the pole away. For some reason, that made him almost melt down completely. He would completely stop any forward motion beyond a certain point, so I eventually got the Clicker Crop out and would tap my leg until he at least tried to go forward. I wasn't trying to make him go over it, just try. He did go over, but it was a scared little deer leap. He wasn't acting like an RBI, just wasn't to keen on getting close to the Blanket of Death.

It took a few sideways leaps before he went straight over it and then it took what felt like ten million Squeeze Games more before he went across it like it was no big deal. And we did end up messing it up.

Luckily, it's washable. But it was so weird how frightening he found the blanket just lying on the ground with nothing above it. So, trekheners and liverpools yes, ditches no. He also got quite a bit of emotional sweat, and was breathing quite hard even though all we did was walk. Much more mental/emotional exertion than physical. I just tried to be as quiet as possible and let him work it out, although I did have to do a few strong one-rein stops when he tried to bolt away from the jump. Hopefully he was able to work out all his demons, although I may attach a savvy string to my saddle on Saturday. That way I can help him out if he gets stuck, but he won't feel threatened.

Royal enjoying a nice roll in the arena after being hosed off.

I also sold the big trailer and got a new used one. Will post pictures of the new ones when I can.