Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cantering Isn't the Answer

Last week I decided to do some ground pole work with Griffin.

I took all 6 poles from my standards and set them up as trot poles.

It took a little botching to get the spacing *just right* for Griffin. You see, this horse thinks that the canter is the answer to EVERYTHING. He'd rather canter than just about anything - at least on the flat. If poles aren't spaced *just right* he will canter them. He has the ability to do the slowest, most collected canter. I've tried to tell him how trotting would be easier, but he is very insistent that his collected canter is better.

I did get the poles arranged in an acceptable spacing however.

I made the ground poles a piece of several patterns so that I was able to approach them from both sides.

As Griffin proceeded through the non-ground pole section of the patterns he often asked to canter and was immediately shut down into the trot.

Finally though, after being shut down many times, I gave in and told him, "Fine. If you're going to canter it's going to be really hard."

And so I made him canter the trot poles.

I could practically hear the cogs in his little head whirring with that! He maintained right until the last two poles and then broke into a couple trot steps. The second time through he did better, however.

He was happier to trot after this...for a time.

So I told him again, if  he wanted to canter it wasn't going to be easy. And so we did a 10m circle in both directions.

This is HARD, Griffin expressed.

"Oh, I know," I told him, "but you wanted to canter when I told you trotting was our goal. Trotting was easier. If you're going to do something else, it isn't going to be easy. Cantering will not solve the world's problems. It really is not the correct answer to everything!"

After completing a circle in both directions without falling in, we quit with canter. And Griffin agreed, finally, that trotting was indeed a good answer and we ended on a very good note.

I'm so very much enjoying my work with this horse lately! He's so wonderful to work with and learn with.

And while the angle is slightly different (and trot poles have been added), here is a ~6 month difference in this grey gelding of mine:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Sweetest Mare

I was going to make this post a "wordless Wednesday", but I just couldn't resist saying a few words of praise about Q.

I've been giving lessons to a 4 year old since February. When we began, she was scared and timid with all interactions around the horses and wouldn't let her dad not hold onto her when she was riding (once we finally convinced her that sitting on the horse was okay!). She's built a ton of confidence in the time since, and she is very comfortable riding now...for the most part.

A few weeks ago she did fall off for the first time. It was no one's fault and couldn't have happened in a safer situation under any better circumstances! She was riding Q in the indoor and Q stopped and shook, a frequent occurrence since late March when she began shedding. She's itchy! Because the little girl is so tiny, the shaking unsettled her and she toppled right off the side! Her dad snatched her right up - less than a second before she hit the ground! Q side stepped away from all of the fast movement, confused and startled. With coaxing, kind words, and carefully designed activities, we had the little girl back on Q in mere minutes and had her riding on her own again by the end of the lesson.

However, she still is hanging onto the fear a little bit, as one does. She knows she will be okay, but it is the unknown and the uncertainty of what *could* or *might* happen that worries her. I'm creative with lesson design, as riding for her right now is more about being comfortable and confident than being "proper". She's a very small girl on a very big-to-her animal! Q may only be 14.1hh and a small horse by all intents and purposes, but not to a 35-pound kid.

Q is SO ATTENTIVE to this little girl. I've never seen her so aware of such a person before. Q adores baby horses, and I think that mothering instinct transfers in some form to this little girl. Q always has an ear on her and is so stoic about things when the girl is riding.

The bareback pad is where my student is most comfortable, she settles down into it and the rough leather finish is "sticky" helping her stay solid and seated, and it allows Q to feel her leg aids better. The little girl has begun "steering" all by herself and being able to tell the horse to "go" is key!

Q is so compliant of the micro aids this little girl applies. She moves with the utmost of care when she is packing the little girl around. I am so completely blown away every time I watch Q with her. Q is more relaxed and calm than I have EVER seen her when she is working with this little girl. Such a sweet, sweet mare.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kenai Updates

First of all, I'd like to state for posterity's sake that my experience with the Virginia Tech teaching hospital was absolutely OUTSTANDING. Everyone I met while I was there was amazing, incredibly helpful, kind, compassionate, and empathetic. They loved on Kenai as if he was their own, called me 2x a day with not only updates on him medically, but fun anecdotes about him - the photo above of the shredded pee pad is a prime example! The student who was my main point of contact said he was just SO happy to have gotten to shred something. Everyone who met Kenai also shared with me not only how great of a dog he was, but how exceptional a husky he was. <3

We're now 6 days post op and Kenai is doing well.

He's in his crate or locked in a bathroom nearly all day except for his bathroom breaks. He's perkier every day and quite happy being a 3-legged dog. Leash walks began yesterday at 5 min 3x a day. Today is 6 min, tomorrow 7 and so on. The hospital gave us post-op instructions for the first 7 weeks. We'll get radiographs retaken the second week in June to see where the healing is at. From there, we'll start some sessions with a canine rehabilitation specialist. 

The goal is slow introduction back into life. Doggy dressage - gotta get that hind end built back up! I'm a part of a really neat Facebook group about canine body conditioning and body awareness that looks to be a very wonderful tool in helping Kenai really build strength. I'm eager to see where the journey will take us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Treatments and Another Surgery

I've been sitting on this for awhile, waiting for all the pieces to fall into pace before sharing...

I'm sure the erratic nature of my posting the past few months has not been lost on some of you who know my posting to be more regular. Additionally, I'm sure the concise nature of my posts lately has also spiked some radars.

Things have been a bit up and down in these parts with regards to Q and Kenai.


At the horses' annual vet exam last month, Q didn't look great. Neither of my horses came out of winter very well despite being blanketed nearly the whole time to help them keep their calories for weight instead of shivering them off. (There is currently no shed or shelter.) I think it had something to do with the hay quality this year - none of the horses liked it. Q, despite being the resident piggy always at the hay no matter what, especially looked lackluster. Even my vet noted the difference and said something at the exam. 

Q's coat was dull, her attitude was muted, she had a slight cough, and overall, she didn't seem completely herself. She received an injection of Excede at the appointment and I ordered Safe Guard Power Dose that night to administer over five consecutive days. As if that wasn't enough, the eye exam showed some irregularities to her left eye. Further investigations led to the conclusion that she has uveitis in this eye. My vet noted that the cyclical nature of uveitis is likely why, despite multiple observances last year, we didn't notice it; it will flare up for a time and then fade away and show no symptoms. During flare ups, my vet said horses may experience a kind of migraine-like pain. While sad to find out, it is good to have the last piece of the spooking puzzle in place to explain Q's behavior over the past year.

Fast forward several weeks to now: Q is doing 110% better. The power dose and excede did their job and she looks brighter, happier, and heftier by the day. The spring grass doesn't hurt either! Additionally, her eye is looking better than it has in ages, too, the slight inflammation is gone and the little bit of drainage  from the corner is gone, as well. I shared about the absolutely outstanding ride I had on my girl a week or so back; that was post treatment from all of the above. I am happy to finally be doing so right by her and moving in a great direction.


Kenai hasn't been quite right since November 2014. I thought he'd retorn his groin on his right side and put him into limited activity status. I've been through so much lameness with him that my first reaction is to just limit his activity and keep him quiet. I figure most vets would recommend as much as a first shot at fixing the "problem". He certainly wouldn't get any worse doing next to nothing.

I tried time and again to slowly bring him back into some exercise, but each time, he didn't make it past a week or two before regressing. By January, I threw in the towel and decided it was time to head to the vet.

At the vet's, x-rays were taken and Kenai was diagnosed with a fractured fabella - a small sesamoid-like bone behind his knee. It is surrounded by soft tissue (ligaments/tendons) and is where the lateral suture from his knee surgery was blindly anchored 18 months prior. It seems he somehow exerted enough pressure to pull the suture through the fabella? My vet had never seen it and had to call other professionals to consult. I was very against surgery at this point though and really wanted to see if I could keep his activity super limited. So I picked up medications for the pup and headed into two months of nearly no activity.

Unfortunately, at the horse's annual exam (Kenai and Griffin and Q all see the same vet), my vet was not pleased with Kenai's progress at all. There was some swelling and fluid in the joint she told me, upon palpation of the area. She wanted him to come in for digital x-rays later in the week. He shouldn't be this lame after so much time doing nothing.

Digital x-rays a few days later showed that the fabella didn't seem to be fractured. Or, if it had been fractured, it had healed. If the bone had been fractured, it likely wouldn't have been in its proper place, but there it was. Kenai's knee, as a whole, was very unstable though. Additionally, there was more arthritis in the knee than there had been previously. Through discussion with orthopedic specialists about the digital x-rays, Kenai was diagnosed with what was very likely a meniscal tear, and perhaps failure of the lateral suture from the first procedure.

The only answer to help Kenai now is surgery.

And so, Kenai is scheduled to go to Virginia Tech next week to be operated on by an orthopedic specialist. Ultimately, it is hard to say what they will find until they open the knee up.

I'm discouraged and heart broken for my guy. Two (kind of three considering his first surgery was on the cruicate ligament in BOTH legs in 2013) major surgeries in as many years. It is incredibly unfortunate and uncommon to see such things in such a young dog.

To try to be able to afford this surgery, I've completely scratched my ride season - it was the biggest thing I had planned for myself this year as I don't have any major vacations out of state planned. I simply cannot afford to take Q to rides and pay for Kenai's surgery. No endurance for Liz - at least on my own horses driving my own rig. If I ride at all, it will be catch rides on others horses and only if the entry fee is covered and the ride is a short drive away.

Unfortunately, the sacrifice to scratch all of my ride season plans only frees up about a third of the money I need for this surgery. The remainder? Well, I'm having to put pride aside and ask for help.

Kenai gets more likes on social media than anything else I ever post. Others seem to adore my adventure partner as much as I do. Kenai is definitely a lucky pup. He hit the doggy life lottery with me - he's got a rich life of adventure at the climbing crags, on the ski slopes, traveling the east coast from Atlanta, GA to the Great Smoky Mountain Nat'l Park, NC/TN to Bar Harbor, ME, and hiking along with me through the Appalachians of West Virginia whether I'm on foot or on horseback.

Long time readers are sure to have seen many a post about this pup in the past many years that I've blogged, and many others have been able to follow along on Kenai's various adventures since. Kenai has been with me from the very beginning of the blog - Q, Griffin, and the cats came long after.

Saiph has generously set up a GoFundMe page for Kenai HERE

If you're so inclined to donate, please know that I am forever grateful and thankful. Any little bit helps. I dearly want to get my adventure buddy back on the trail, at the crag, and on the ski slopes with me.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Jumping Grey

When I pondered where I would ride and what I would do yesterday, I simply could not fathom the idea of doing the same trails yet another day. None of the options I could come up with for the evening sounded appealing. I needed a change of pace.

I pulled both horses from the pasture and grained them and sent their hair a-flying (hurrah for full-blown shedding and spring!), and then set Q free to graze about the barnyard and tacked Griffin up for a change. I don't think the grey horse has been out on a solo ride yet this year!

Griffin was a bit concerned about how the landscape around the creek crossing has changed recently, so I ended up having to dismount and lead him past, remounting in the creek proper. Fortunately, he was a solid citizen after!

I ground tied him in the back field (good pony) while I rearranged my jumps. I set them up like the below, with the cavaletti at the 18" setting and the standards as ground poles.

Brown cavaletti; blue standards as ground poles

I worked with Griffin at the walk for a time, circling left and right, doing figure 8s, serpentines, and combinations thereof. Once I had his attention, we began walking over all of the ground poles, looping around to do them again and again in various combinations. Happy with my calm and focused horse, we repeated this at the trot for a time.

Griffin was such a star. My only goal was to give him a good ride with praise and set him up for as much success as possible. I didn't know what to expect from him as we hadn't done much work yet this year! He definitely blew my socks off.

Finally, we trotted the 18" cavaletti for a time. I even took a few moments to set up my cell phone to capture some proof. Pictures or it didn't happen, right?

Griffin loves jumping so much. I'm really looking forward to more exercises with it through the warmer months!

I absolutely adore him. And his dirty, dirty face!