Friday, September 23, 2016

Twinning BFFs

With the introduction of Stan to the herd, the dynamic of buddies has changed up. My three now pair themselves with their closest twins in the field.

It's kind of cute and very interesting from a herd dynamic perspective.

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Saja and Grif

Griffin is the youngest in the group and he's paired with the oldest.

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Q and Little Bit

Q is with her forever crush who is finally her boyfriend (except she's on house arrest now and thus must be lonely and turn him back over to the woman she tried, tried, and succeeded at stealing him from...but no fear Q, that woman is heading down the road soon and you can go back to being his only love!).

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Stan and Pokey

And Stan is paired forever with his girlfriend he was stalled beside for many years in his younger days. They're rather inseparable.

Although, for Q and Griffin - especially Griffin - if I'm in the field then they'd rather bother me and pair up with me!

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Mauling me for attention on my left
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And on my right, this one.

I'll take it. =)

Do your horses pair up with their twin in the field?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Well, F*ck.

Monday Sept. 19 I hauled Q the 5 minutes to the vet. Dan met me there because he was totally game for a learning experience and hadn't seen a lameness exam before. I was psyched to have my farrier on board with all that's going on.

We ran through the gambit of things to begin problem solving. Hind end lameness exams take time!
  • History - Noticed her slightly off toward the end of September. Chalked it up to an abscess as it's been a bad year for them. Noted that she blew a HUGE abscess in her RF shortly after. Seemed okay after, but then still noticed slight lameness. Off at the walk on steep downhills, sound at the walk elsewhere. Sound at the trot going straight on the flat with good footing, off at the trot on a circle, especially to the left. Suspect something going on with LH.
  • Walk and trot outs - first straight out and back as one would do for an endurance vetting.Could see that she was uneven behind, but obviously, inconclusive as to what/why other than the LH looking suspicous.
  • Lunging - off slightly more to the left than the right, but still inconclusive (and she was not nearly as bad as she was for last week's video so it made things hard) beyond confirming it was something in the LH.
  • Flex tests - Negative for fetlock, positive for hock, negative for stifle. 
  • Hoof testers - Some sensitivity near toe of LH, but nothing super crazy.
  • Blocks - blocked the hoof and while there was some improvement, the lameness, while subtle, was still present. Tried to block her higher and she Wasn't Having It. And so in favor of not stressing us all or injuring my vet further (Q NAILED her finger, fortunately nothing else in her fit about attempts to block higher than the hoof!), we moved into x-rays.
  • X-rays - While there is some very mild arthritis forming in the joint at the hock, it is nothing crazy at all and not something my vet would expect her to be lame from. Hoof looked good, too. (Some, not all, of the x-rays included below.)
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View 1
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View 2
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View 3
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View 1
12_Foot_DP
View 2
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View 3
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Hock shots
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Live action
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Dan holding the drunk while we x-ray so I could be more involved
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Quizzical ears


  •   Ultrasound - After many minutes with this, we found a small lesion toward the head/origin of the suspensory.

Well, fuck.


Silver linings?
  • While I hate this answer and it isn't what I was expecting in the slightest, at least I HAVE an answer and a plan of action to move forward with.
  • Caught it early and didn't ride the snot out of her and make it worse. I don't know if I feel better or worse about the fact that it happened in the field and not during competition?!
  • We've got plenty of time and can go slow. 
  • Taking time and going slow through rehab will give me time to work further on trust issues with this critter in hopes that some of her spookiness will be more subdued.
  • Gives more impetus to do dressage cross-training with her. Once back riding, we could easily spend months at the walk learning so much. 
  • While I'm crushed that I won't be doing any endurance for a year or so, my ultimate goal with this horse (or any endurance horse) has never been to win races or be at the top. My goal has always been health and soundness and longevity. This mare is 10. We have 4 years of successful endurance distance completions under our belts. With the ultimate longevity goal of Decade Team, *if things go well with rehab* I've got ample time to slowly work toward that goal still. 
I may wax and wane poetically on all of this with more time. But right now, this is where I'm at and it currently feels like a huge punch in the gut coupled with my heart being ripped out. I am both shocked, surprised, and incredibly saddened.

I am choosing to be optimistic and positive with my forward thinking on this ordeal - my personality is not one that does well falling down the "What If" Hole or living in the Doom and Gloom Dungeon, so being optimistic and positive is key! I've done (and continue to do) my reading to learn more.

I've already reached out and had answers from some long-time endurance riders about dealing with this from an endurance stand point. I'm certainly interested in hearing about success stories from others in any discipline. I recognize that the timeline of healing is fluid and there will be ups and downs along the way.

For now, it looks like Griffin and Stan will be getting a LOT more saddle time for the immediate and foreseeable future! Dressage and jumping competitions in the spring??

Friday, September 16, 2016

Shameless Plug + Updates!

First - If you have an Instagram, PLEASE go "like/love" this photo for me! I'm in the running to win a stainless steel growler of beer from the brewery.



I don't usually do this type of thing. But beer.

Now, onto updates!

Griffin

Griffin is taking his transition into "dressage horse" very well. I've been putting in 2 - 3 rides a week on him. As of right now, I think this will be the continued norm. I'd like to be putting in a solid 2 days of only dressage work and then a third day of dressage for 20-30 minutes with another 20-30 minutes of jumping. He is so fun to jump and he enjoys it SO MUCH.

So far, our jumping session following dressage work was one of the best jumping sessions we've ever had. The dresssage-focused "warm up" gave me an incredibly rateable horse that felt like a coiled spring; there was so much power that was so controllable! The combination of dressage + jumping with this horse is a very good pairing. And he loves it...mostly.

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Yeah, I'm in my dressage saddle.
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And yeah, I had to hike the stirrups up. 
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Look at his happy ears!

Dressage is hard work. Griffin has so much try though and so we're finding success. I'm quick with praise and he's picking up concepts quickly.

Our first two rides following Stephen's clinic were ROUGH. But the third was magic. Things CLICKED. And we've been building on that. We haven't had quite the level of magic since, but we also haven't regressed anywhere near those first two rides!

To focus on positives, I think by-and-large our biggest "breakthrough" to focus on right now is the fact that I have a horse who understands LATERAL MOVEMENTS. I never thought I'd be able to teach a horse such things! We're a long way from any definition of perfection (or a score above a 5), but he's GRASPING it and it's SO FUN.



In addition to lateral movement, Griffin is accepting contact much better, bending much better, improving greatly in his bad direction (to the right), and I'm becoming a better "human side rein". We're getting there!

Q

Since the 30, Q hasn't been too busy. We've been doing a ~10 mile trail ride about once a week and that's about it. Nothing crazy at all. Lots of downtime for the most part.

Unfortunately, some of that downtime is due to the fact that Q's been mildly lame for a few weeks now.

First, it was an abscess in her front right. (It has been a STUPID year for abscesses here! Seriously ready for autumn and hopeful change in weather... I don't know what rain is anymore!) I noticed it the first time on August 29. After 10 days or so, that abscess blew (holy huge hole, Batman!) and she was back to herself.

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Such a good girl lately <3

But now she's lame again. I noticed it when Lauren and I were riding last Wednesday. She started the
ride sound, but by mile 3ish (once we had some downhills under our belts) I began to notice her being slightly off at the trot and canter. She was sound at the walk - unless we went downhill. After checking her shoes for rocks (there were none) and checking her all over for cuts or swelling (again, none), I was a bit stumped. I walked her for awhile, rode her at the walk a little, tried the trot on the flat and uphills, and she was fine. But downhills triggered some funkiness that really seemed to be coming from her LH. Handwalking her down the mountain even Lauren noticed how Q's LH was being funky.

Finally, I had Lauren switch me horses and lead riding Q so I could watch her go.



My gut was telling me it was something higher up in her leg, but at the same time, she really didn't want to put that heel down on that foot it seemed, so maybe she had an abscess brewing or a stone bruise on the heel of that foot? I flexed her back at the barn and she trotted off sound on the flat. Nicole helped assuage my worries and so I let it go.

Except she was still off yesterday!



And so I did something I don't normally do and shared the above video to my Facebook to gauge some comments from other horse-folk. I had my hypotheses and concerns, but in lieu of looking for zebras when there are only horses, I decided to see what comments others may have and planned to take everything with a boulder-sized grain of salt. Because internet. The video generated some great conversations both publicly and privately! Q has an appointment one evening after work next week where we'll assess more with the aid of professionals, digital x-rays and the like. So stay tuned and cross all the things and light all the candles that it's something straight-forward that we can move past with minimal down time!

Stanley

Stan is a new barn favorite - and that's not something I can say about my barn because there are a whopping 3 of us that board there and we are close friends of the folks that own it. We do what we will with our own horses and that's about it usually! But now Stan is favorited by all and it's surprising and yet not-so-surprising.

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Top is end of August/early September, bottom is his first day on the farm

Everyone is riding him. Everyone is enjoying him. He's actually being used on a trail ride tomorrow! And my BO messaged me this week while I was on travel for work and asked me what my long-term plans were for him because she thinks he would be the PERfect horse for one of the other ladies at the barn. This fact is supported by the fact that the lady rode him Tuesday (I said they could take him out whenever!) and ADORED him. He is rather easy to love.

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Stanley, how did you get your spittle on your face like that?

But no worries, Stan isn't going anywhere! I replied saying I planned to keep him forever and she'd be welcome to ride him whenever! I just want him to be fit and happy. And, sorry Stanley, fit means you get ridden!

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Shorter toes and lower heels!
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Getting there...
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Looking balanced

The big guy has been ridden 2 - 3 times a week for the past month. Between Lauren riding him on the trail with me and Q, me riding him for an escape and some jumping, plus the fellow boarder riding him now, he's been in a fair bit of work. Perfect! He's taking to it all like a fish to water and truly seems to enjoy having a job again. He absolutely ATTACKS jumps and is a total and complete dollbaby on the trail. This horse spooks at nothing (except school buses...a story for another time) and it is SO CRAZY AWESOME to ride him after being on Griffin and especially Q who loses her shit over butterflies and ferns. -_-

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Such happy ears!!

I did a 6-mile solo ride on Stan 2 weeks ago and despite flushing some deer that were very well hidden 2x during the ride, he spooked not at all. He moved down the trail with the happiest of ears the whole time. Such a doll.

The biggest thing other than general back-to-fitness that I need to work on with Stan is MANNERS. He isn't HORRIBLE on the ground, but in comparison to Q and Griffin, he's got a long way to go. But he will get there! He already stands tied with significantly less pacing than he did a month ago. These things take time, and I am positive that come his 1-year anniversary with me he'll be a totally different horse in the ground manners department!

Lessons - or lack thereof!

With some behavioral changes in my horses that were unrelated to the herd dynamic change from Stan's introduction, I have decided to discontinue giving lessons to newbie riders. The behavioral changes weren't outstanding or crazy, but I'm not completely deaf to my horses' attempts to communicate with me in their own way. The stress of giving 3 to 4 lessons a week on top of my busy work and extracurricular schedule was also beginning to get to me. I wasn't really *enjoying* my horses anymore and my horses weren't enjoying their time with me.

And so, now I'm down to Lauren - the junior rider I've gotten into endurance and who accompanied our group at RBTR this year. She's a very solid little rider and our lessons are as much a training session for the horse as they are for the rider! And that's the kind of thing my horses need. Predominantly, she's riding Stanley and they are a great match! We spend most of our time doing conditioning rides where she gets live-action coaching on her position from me throughout. She loves it, I love it, the horses enjoy it. It's great and it really brings things full-circle for me because this is what I did when I was a bit younger than her - long, "fast" trail rides with an older mentor. I can't tell you how good it feels to give that experience back to someone who truly loves it and soaks up all of the learning possible like the driest of sponges. This girl is going places and I'm so happy to be able to get her started.

On a side note, she's going to be riding at Fort Valley at the end of October in the LD again. If Q is back to normal, I'm going to be doing the 55. Anyone else doing the LD that might be interested in serving as a sponsor for Lauren? I'm trying to build a list of folks so I can match her and Shiloh with someone they'll pace well with!

Kenai

Kenai is 6½ now and the arthritis in his knees from the surgeries and life plagues him, but we're doing what we can to manage it and he's a pretty happy, active guy most of the time.

He's been doing a lot of hiking with us in addition to daily walks. Occasionally, he even gets out on our mountain bike rides when those ventures are mostly flat and < 5 miles.

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So happy.
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His paw slays me.
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Just waiting for something exciting to happen
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<3 

I had his thyroid tested early summer to see if that was the cause for some of his anti-hair growth and weight gain. However, all was normal (yay? boo?) and after a call to a few endocrinologists, he was started on a 8-week trial of melatonin. I switched his food at the same time and so I'll never know for certain which is the ultimate cause - but we have hair growth in places he was lacking it for the first time in 3 years! Hurrah! I'm cautiously optimistic my dog will have most of his hair back by winter's end at the latest.

Adventures

Between travel for work to a conference in Lake Placid and weekend jaunts exploring Almost Heaven, the past month or so has been a terrific one. Hiking, biking, and beyond, it's a really beautiful world out there.

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Mountain Momma
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The end of our 24-mile bike ride on North Fork Mountain
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Still smiling despite my longest bike ride to date! An LD on a bike is not the same as on a horse!
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Sue Haywood atop North Fork at one of our stops
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Pase Point, Blackwater Canyon, Tucker County WV
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Reppin' local business at their namesake!
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Home is beautiful
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And magical
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Sunset over goldenrod
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But really, it doesn't get much better.
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<3
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The sun peeking over the Adirondacks at sunrise
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Good morning!
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Autumn colors are coming out in the higher elevations like the Adirondacks and Canaan
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Greeting the Adirondack morning
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Heart Lake
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I love the stark white against a forest of green
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And then the day was done; I hiked up Mt. Jo for sunrise and sunset
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Day is done. Gone the sun.
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Sun salute to the end of the day, as well!
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That's the moon over my head.