Friday, April 27, 2012

"Good Lord, How You Frustrate Me Minnesota Weather!"

The Minnesota Horse Expo is this weekend, and I'm going on Saturday. It should be fun, but the weather always has to play a few trick. Today? Cloudy, sorta windy, not too bad. Sunday. Partly cloudy, some sun. Tomorrow?

Cold and rainy with a chance of SNOW.

Sometimes I really hate the weather here. Sheldon does a good job getting the general spirit:


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Little Successes


Okay, now that is out of the way, onto good things. I haven't had too much time to play with Royal (see above), but what little time I've had has been fairly successful. Last Friday was nice and sunny, so we played out in the field on the 45-foot line. He gave me some really nice, soft trot and canter pretty far out on the line. So I, of course, decided to ramp it up and see how he did at the gallop. He tends to get really tight and high-headed, so I anticipated some fireworks. Which I got, a little. He's a little hard to slow down afterwards, so I think the next step is to just let him gallop until he comes back into the canter by himself. But right now, he's not fit enough for that, so we'll just keep doing "sets" OnLine and riding for now. Research has shown that doing sets are really efficient at fitting up a horse and hopefully it'll keep building his self control.

I also may have, erm, altered his tail slightly.

I banged it. (By the way, the term "banged" supposedly comes from the practice of banging tails on blades with blocks of wood to blunt the end) It's not the most radical, but I can definitely see the difference when he moves. I'm not sure I like it, since he doesn't hold his tail like a regular sporthorse. He tends to hold it straight out, especially at higher speeds. So I probably won't do it again. I've trimmed the hairs at the top of his tail and that looks better (will have pictures of it soon). Also, look at the black hair on his legs. It seems like it's staying a lot longer this year, even though he started shedding earlier.

On Saturday, it was cold and rainy and dreary, so we were confined to the indoor and practicing stuff on OnLine. I set up a 2'6" jump and had him practice jumping out of stride. Again, he did very well. He tends to find a pretty good take-off spot on his own, so all I have to do leave him alone when I'm riding. Then I decided to try desensitizing him to the clippers, which also went fairly well. It didn't help that it was raining and someone was longing a young'un in the arena, who was having too much fun bucking and rearing, which got Royal's blood up. But he still let me have the clippers around his head and ears, and actually clip his legs.

He was not very sure if he liked the look or the rain. He was really not happy with the rain.

Sunday we practiced trailer loading. He hasn't been in the trailer since last October, so he was a little nervous, but willing to hop on and off. I didn't have a lot of time, so I left it there. We continued with it on Tuesday, but this time I actually got smart and used the clicker. He tried to be all weary, but the power of cookies won him over. I got it him to stay in the trailer for 5 seconds before backing out. But I need him comfortable in the trailer for the start of our Summer Adventures.

You may remember my *New Years Resolution(tm)* post back in January, and while most of the plans are going fairly well, there have been some changes. First of all, I am NOT planning on competing at Otter Creek, at least not in the spring HT. We're not at the point with the GoC where I feel comfortable adding the stress of competition to it yet. So, instead, I'm dropping that plan and adding three (!) new competitions. The first is the spring version of the MN Hunt Cup! Yay! I was ridiculously excited the news and I'm still very excited. Low-key and relaxed x-c experience not too far away and it was so fun. I don't know if we'll do as well this time, considering a lot of the competitors didn't quite know the purpose of the event: to practice pacing. So, who knows. But it'll most likely be great, and a friend is probably going to be competing as well. Awesome! Then we have the Carriage House Schooling Show, doing the 2' jumpers as a confidence builder, but hopefully also the walk-trot dressage tests. Again, it'll depend on where Royal and I are with the GoC. And, in late June, we have a SCHOOLING horse trial! I know! And it's not too far from the farm, except...

Royal is moving. After graduation, I need to focus on getting a job and more experience for vet school. So, he's going to live at a family member's place, which is going to be a lot cheaper for me. I'll be losing both the indoor arena and closeness to the Cities, but I'll have a lot more space for my jumps and the ability to set up a little dressage arena, plus space for galloping. We'll also be close to a trail park, so I'll be able to do lots of trail riding. So, quite a few pluses, but I'm sad to be leaving the farm. Royal's been there for over six years, and it's become like a second home to me. But the horse care aspect has started to slip (Almost all the shelters in the pastures have collapsed and I am REALLY tired of picking burrs of Royal's mane and tail), and it's not set up for someone like me. So, it's sad, but a necessary change.

The adventure's only begun...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Adventures, Peace, and Pedicures

Bah. Another week, another paper/test/ridiculous assignment. And now the U has one last dirty trick up its sleeve with regards to my internship. We'll see if lawyers have to get involved, but hopefully not.

Royal and I had a grand adventure on Saturday. I had enough time to get some riding in and we played with posture and frame. I can get everything (head, shoulders, spine, abs, knees, and feet) in the right position for about half a stride before it all falls apart. So I'm working in pieces, starting with the abs. It seems like if you don't have those right, it's hard to get anything else. I think I was marginally successful. Afterwards my barn owner asked if I wanted to go for a ride on the road. Which I agreed to, and we moseyed down the dirt road until we got to the highway. And decided to go across. To the suburb-like paved-street neighborhood.

I don't think Royal's ever been in the suburbs before.

But he did great! We first encountered a shiny horse-eating little windmill which he briefly thought was going to eat him but then decided it was in a coma harmless. We walked a little more before we encounter some dangerous children. Normally I would have invited them to come and pet Royal, but he was trying really hard to hold himself together, so I decided against it. To their credit, the little munchkins kept their distance. Onwards, we found some scary siding materials and barking dogs, but he still kept his cool. He wasn't particularly relaxed, but didn't freak out either, apart from leaving a few, erm, "calling cards" on the street. I was very proud of him when we got back to the farm. I also kept chipping away at his mane, and it's starting to come together.

Sunday was... less successful. I tried to work on Liberty stuff and found that we have some significant holes there, especially in the forehand yield. He tends to walk backwards and sort of sideways instead of a nice clean yield. It's definitely something to improve on. And trying a figure-8 at liberty did not go well. At all. He does the pattern perfectly OnLine, but suddenly forgets it at liberty. It probably didn't help that I was trying to do it in the arena instead of the round pen, which was kind of wet. I ended the session feeling kind of discouraged.

Yesterday was pedicure for the boys and they did great. BJ thought about throwing a fit but I had a discussion with him beforehand and he realized that behaving meant he could go back to grazing sooner. But they were almost overdue. I can usually count on 6-9 week intervals between trims, but this time 8 weeks (normal in late winter/early spring) was way too long. Sections of wall almost as wide as my finger got taken off and the change from before to after was pretty stark all around. Crazy weather evidently means crazy feet. And the line from Royal's abscess is almost gone. I forgot to get a picture of it, but it will probably get clipped off at the next trim. Which hopefully means it will be done forever.

Less than a month until graduation. I think see the light/train at the end of the tunnel!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vet School It Is

So, I had a (mostly) quiet week and a half. It's been a tough time of tests and paper, so I haven't had a lot of time with the horses. But right now, as long as I show up every once and a while with cookies they're happy. A little obsessive and zombie-like, but happy.


On Friday, I had some time between class and work, so guess where I was. I wanted to play with Royal on the 45' line in the hopes that he would not be all crazy-like. He was slightly more sane, but still wanted to zoom around like a maniac. He also has a habit of hitting the end of the line (usually close to the gate), interpreting that as a "come-in-to-the-center" signal, and trotting in all snorty. The progression of bolt-come in has made it had to progress. So, this time my strategy was to allow him to hit the line, come in for one or two seconds, and send him straight back out. We kept at this until he was able to canter around a complete circle without bolting or pulling on the line. Progress! 

I was working on getting him to go sideways over a small log when my barn owner started calling for me. Her old horse was choking and she didn't know what to do. I went to them and felt a hard lump in his throat, by the junction of the esophagus and trachea. I tried to message it down while my BO talked with the vet on the phone. The poor horse was miserable, coughing with half-masticated food coming out of his mouth and nose. The vet said to keep trying to push the block down and help it break up. For an hour and a half, we keep rubbing the old guys neck, trying to break up the block and help him swallow. It seemed to work; the lumps went away and he seemed more comfortable.

At this point, I would love to stop here and say the horse got better, thanks to our intervention. Unfortunately, that was not the case. My BO had to call the vet out later when the horse stopped getting better. It turns out we did move the blockage... down to the entrance to the stomach. The vet had to pass a nasogastric tube and manually break up the blockage. In addition, he had aspirated some of the food, giving him a high chance of pneumonia. He's better now, but it could have been really bad.

The other vet came out the next day for the second half of spring shots, so the boys got jabbed. BJ was good, but Royal threw a conniption fit while he was tied up. Great. He's been so good about it, so I haven't really had to teach him tying etiquette yet. That may change. He also did okay with the shots after I played with him a bit. Luckily, it was just vaccinations and nothing else. No sedations or drugs to mess with his head.

Pictured: Not Royal

But the whole choke event basically made up my mind. I felt so powerless, but also that what I was doing was the right thing. I know I want to do this sort of thing for a career, so for now, it's vet school or bust. I don't know how I'll get there or where I'll go, but I'll make it work. Somehow.

Speaking of vet stuff, Royal's face keeps getting better.

But, he likes to keep life interesting. I found this, probably gotten during a fight with one of the other geldings. No broken skin or tenderness, and I think the hair will grow back fairly quickly

Never a dull moment.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Today Is A Blue Day. No - Orange. Red!

Title inspired by Robin Williams.

The crazy weather is showing no signs of stopping. We've gone from hot and humid to windy and rainy. Royal keeps shedding, albeit at a reduced pace. We haven't had much time to do anything major lately in what has almost been a comedy of errors. Last Saturday, I went out with the intention of doing some finesse, but one of the barn owner's horses was sick, and she wanted my advice. I suppose my experience makes me a pseudo-expert and I was eager to lend a hand. The poor guy had a weird range of symptoms (sweating on his side and flanks, a fever which turned into a temperature worryingly below normal, and just not feeling well), but it didn't seem like anything serious. However, by the time we had taken his vitals and consulted with the vet, I had to leave to get ready for work. Royal was most good and patiently waited while we fussed over the other horse, with one mini-fit. Sunday, just as I was ready to go out to the farm, my grandmother came over and stayed for an hour and a half. Which meant I had very little time to do anything at the farm. I decided to try playing with him on the 45 foot like out in the back paddock. Now, Royal has two modes on the 45: good and responsive or berserk.

 Guess which one he was on Sunday.

 It started out well enough. The trot circles were lovely, but as soon as I asked him to canter, he took off. Right into a deep patch of mud. He lost his footing and his hind legs went flying out to the right. He basically sat down like a dog before popping back up. He seemed no worse for wear, so I did lots of calming exercises with him at the trot (going up and down mounds and sideways to a tree). He had a bit of heat in his hinds so I have him some bute and a massage and made sure his legs were cool before putting him back in the pasture. He was a bit subdued, though. I think he tired himself out.

 Tuesday, I set up a small grid in the indoor; basically a ground pole 9' from a small jump and 9' to a another ground rail. We just did that as a free jumping exercise, which went pretty well. He was a little confused about how to negotiate the ground poles, but the point was to let him figure it out. Didn't have to be pretty or perfect. But I noticed he had this funny scab on his face, near his eye. He seems to get something like this every year. I think he gets so itchy from shedding that he rubs his face raw. But I noticed another scab on his jowl, which was much bigger. I picked off the scabs, put some neosporin on the wounds, and hoped for the best. Totally forgot to get a picture of it though.

Friday, I tried (again) to help him get over his fear of the Blue Blanket of Death and once again felt unsuccessful. It's very frustrating because just as we get to the mythical "good note"  to quit on, something happens and everything goes wrong. He gets really scared of the blanket all over again, and I get really annoyed. So, I'm still at a loss for how to proceed with this. And, to make matters worse, his face wounds were all red and inflamed looking. I tried to put more neosporin on them, but they were so ugly looking. And I STILL forgot to get pictures! Argh! Epic fail day.

Today was better (I had to work all day yesterday). I want to do some jumping, both as a stress releaser and to test the grid from Tuesday. At first it looked like that may not happen, since he was TENSE. All the horses on the property were talking, for no discernable reason, and the arena was creaking. It took quite a bit of ground prep before I felt he was safe to ride, and a lot of stretching undersaddle before he was safe to jump. Once he was, it was awesome. It was still a tiny little jump, so I was able to focus on my position. I've heard pretending you're trying to show someone watching from a distance the bottom of your boots, and it seemed to work, judging from the lack of noise being made from my saddle and boots. It worked at both the trot and canter, although the canter had a few take-off bobbles. Again, the jump was tiny, so we were okay. I felt good to quit when we had two perfect jumps at the canter.

And the best part? His face looked better! The inflammation was mostly gone and it looks like they'll heal well.

Yeah, yeah, laugh at the weird scissor work. I didn't want any hair in the wound, so I had to take precautions. And it appears to have worked. So, I think we'll be okay.