Reminiscing

Confession Whine: I miss jumping my horse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we found dressage and it’s working well for us. But when we found Christy, back when I thought Pearl had “just an injury” that was going to get better, I really hoped that we were going to be poster children for “here is how dressage can improve your jumping.”

I always feel odd saying I started off as a hunter, because I basically jumped speed bumps once a week on random school horses. Not exactly a remarkable career. But I love the feeling of all four feet in the air (on purpose!), and nothing makes me drool like knees to the eyeballs over an oxer full of fill. Preferably dark bay with chrome, of course. Omg a dressage person who doesn’t take every opportunity to bash the hunters what madness is this?!

I’ve tried to piece together Pearl’s past, but I’ve been fairly unsuccessful. I know she was bred by a dressage breeder but made hunter babies. Owners of her offspring that I’ve stalked gotten in touch with have said they were told the dam “did dressage.” So my sneaking suspicion is she was haphazardly taught to jump, and then magically became a “hunter school horse.” Her… unconventional style was a running joke with my college equestrian team. I freely admit to being barn blind, but I really feel like with better flatwork and gymnastics she could have been quite a nice jumper.

Our early efforts were… appalling at times. I used to post on internet forums and everyone was like “omg I am keyboard jockey you are going to have a rotational fall!!!1!!!”

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There was one horrifying “clinic” where I played photog which basically turned into “let’s run Pearl at big fences and see if she clears them” day. The instructor was like “omgz she is so talented, you should sell her as a junior jumper on the West Coast” and I cried thinking she was going to leave.

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Knees???

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Legs? What do I do with them? Her gaping mouth is why I am always like I AM NOT THE RIDER IN THESE PHOTOS.

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Courses? Who is organized enough for courses? Surely we should just set big singles and run her at them.

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Aaaaand that is why you shouldn’t do that. It’s already been established that homegirl is a saint.

But she actually got super cute with gridwork

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If still a little… overjump-y

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And sometimes we were able to jump actual courses with jumps you didn’t need a microscope to see

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Pardon my horrifying equitation in all these pictures

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You get extra points for matching your outfit to the jump

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And she clearly was… enthusiastic about it

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And I’ll always wonder if she would’ve been one of those ones who sharpened up her style as the fences got bigger, or if she always would be of the “heave my body and don’t fold my legs” variety. Right around the time when she got Really Lame, I was working at a fancy hunter barn and the trainer asked me if I wanted to move her there and work for board instead of cash. I would’ve missed my Christy crew, but I probably would’ve hopped on that opportunity, since there is no way I would ever be able to straight up afford a program like that. I just really regret that I was never (as in literally not one time) able to take a lesson on my own horse with a highly qualified, well-respected jumping instructor.

She freaking loved to jump, and I wonder if she misses it as much as I do and I definitely am not a big enough nerd to have an “animal communicator” do a “reading” and she definitely didn’t “say” she wanted to jump more.

Sometimes she jumps imaginary jumps

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She free jumped once and I was like will you have my babies plz

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Sometimes (like literally a couple times a year) I am a bad Navicular Mom and let her hop over teeny weeny things because she LOVES it so much

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Can you see the jump? Look closely and you might be able to find it.

And she throws a party for herself on landing, so I figure she can’t be hurting too bad

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DID YOU SEE ME JUMP THE THING I JUMPED THE THING AND I WAS SO GOOD AT IT

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Like, could her ears possibly be any more forward? And her tail flagged? So it’s our little very occasional secret. I would never actually School Her Over Fences, but she does worse to herself out on her own that I don’t beat myself up about it as long as she can walk the next day.

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Dear lord horse why would you put that much weight on your poor front feetsies

So there you have it. I would chew off my own arm to make this horse sound enough to jump again. But as always, I am so incredibly grateful that she is sound enough for what she CAN do.

 

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State of the Lameness Address

Pearl has been “back in work” (defined as walk/trot/usually canter 4-5 days a week) for about a month now, since we moved to our winter farm. Here is where I always feel like I have to get disclaimer-y. No, the horse is not clinically sound, and cannot be made so for love nor money. However, she is comfortable enough under saddle that she can have a job, and if she doesn’t get ridden exercise she tends to get creative in her self-exercise regimen, so with the support of my team (vets, farrier, trainer) I ride her and let her dictate what she’s comfortable with. So far she has been perfectly happy, but with the creakiness that comes from being an 18-year-old horse in winter. So I’ve had “maintenance” on my radar, because I want her to be able to use her body to the best of her ability, so that she is not dumping any excess weight on those bad front feet.

One of the many perks of working at an equine sports medicine clinic is I can say “You know what? We’re having a slow day; let’s go inject my horse’s hocks.” She hasn’t had her hocks done since spring 2013, and based on what I feel under saddle I was pretty confident she needed those injected. The vet I tech for is fairly soon out of school, and as such is enthusiastic about sharing knowledge, so we did a lameness workup (lungeing, flexions) for my own educational purposes.

We started off by watching a video of Pearl under saddle (she is sounder under saddle than on the lunge) and playing “tell me what you see.”

I see that she is short in both hinds, left more than right. I do not see any overt (headbobbing) lameness in front. He confirmed the shortness behind, and added that she is landing hard on her left front, presumably in an effort to unload the right front (the worse of the two). I need to get better at seeing these things, and have asked him to walk me through it a bit more when we are at farms.

Next we took her into the arena to lunge. I wish I had taken a video of her lungeing for reference. She looked pretty good for her… I assume having softer footing helps. I got a briefing on the AAEP Lameness Scale. Basically, a 1 is intermittent/hard to detect lameness at the trot, a 2 is consistent under some circumstances (ie lungeing one direction or another), a 3 is consistent anytime the horse is trotting, 4 is lame at the walk and 5 is non weight bearing. Pearl is a solid 2 right front lungeing and trotting in hand. She is also a grade 2 on both hinds, as she does not bring them forward (shortened cranial phase) and is quick off the ground.

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Her flexions went about as expected– positive on both hind uppers (hocks) and very painful to the point we barely even flexed her right front lower (coffin/fetlock). Which sounds kind of bad, having your horse lame in three legs! However, this is where she was starting from, when she was at her worst

Headbobbing at the walk and very lame at the trot, so a solid 4. We’ve come a long way, baby!

The last videos I had of her lungeing are from this past August. Slight head bob going right, significant head bob going left.

However, she was nowhere near that lame under saddle at that time. Not sure if it’s bigger circles or she is carrying herself better with a rider, but I’ll take it. Again, I wish I had videoed her on Monday, because she really did look the best on the lunge I’ve seen in a while. She also looks a heck of a lot better free lungeing running around the arena like a crazy thing.

So, we settled on injecting both her hocks as well as her right front coffin. She got .5 dorm and 1 torb, for those keeping score at home. She definitely was due for her hocks– the joint fluid that came out was very thin/watery and tinged with blood.

I asked the million dollar question: Based on how she goes under saddle, would she get kicked out of the show ring? The answer was a firm no, which… says something about the show industry, but that’s for another time.

She had a couple days of rest/handwalking, and then we’ll build up to lightly hacking later this week. I’m excited to see how the injections help her. I feel like the last time she had her hocks injected I didn’t feel a huge difference, but I feel like I’m a much more educated rider and more in tune to her, so hopefully I will better be able to tell.

Just for funsies/if there is anyone else out there struggling with the same issues, here is the regimen to keep Pearl serviceable. I’m not sure which of these things actually help her in a significant amount, but she’s going so well I’m not about to change anything!

Shoeing: 3 degree wedge pads on both fronts, bar shoe and Equipak on the right front

Turnout: As much as possible (but not pasture board, because she would starve)

Meds: previcox (quarter of the 227 mg tab) daily, 500 mg isoxsuprine BID

Supplements: Actiflex, extra MSM, Bute-Less pellets (plus vitamin E and tri-amino for muscle, and a probiotic)

Maintenance: Pentosan every 2 weeks, Osphos every 6 months. We’ll see how often she needs her intra-articular injections, if she continues in work… my guess would be coffin every 6 months and hocks every 12 which… we’ll see if I can afford to keep that up.

Legwork: Back On Track wraps when she is stalled after working, ice in the summer when I have access to a freezer that works

I think that’s it! Like I said, I’m not sure how much is science and how much is witchcraft, but she looks great so I’m not fixing what ain’t broke.

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Breaking news

On Wednesday, January 27 2016, I rode my own horse in a lesson for the first time in 2+ years. I can tell you the exact date (November 4 2013) of our lesson, because the next time she came out of her stall she was lame and continued to be so for the next year.

Of course we had to dress up for the occasion

Of course we had to dress up for the occasion

Before we got started, Christy remarked that from what she’s seen while she’s been teaching other lessons at POF, Pearl has been looking pretty nice. I think that was the best silver lining of all this chronic lameness bullshit. Because I was able to ride so many different horses (thanks to their generous owners) and keep on lessoning even with Pearl out of commission, I was able to keep progressing in my riding, and now I can ride my horse better than I could the last time my own horse was in work.

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Yes, yes she is the cutest

It wasn’t like we were magically up to schooling tests the first time out. We did a lot of working on my position (my inner equitation princess is not speaking to me after she saw the pictures) and a lot of time getting Pearl to carry herself and not just cruise around. She is quite fit cardiovascularly– never was out of breath and barely sweaty at the end– but as Christy reminded me, her muscles aren’t that strong yet, so I really need to be mindful of that and give her breaks, because otherwise both of us will just keep going round and round forever.

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Standing still is the worst though. Please don’t make me do that, mom.

Our biggest challenge was getting her to not curl under the bit when she got tired of a true contact. I’ve been riding her in a leather mullen bit which she seems to tolerate well enough (I rode with it under the hackamore no reins attached for a few months, and then gradually added contact on it), so I feel pretty confident that her fussiness with the contact is a training issue, not physical discomfort. Christy gave me some good exercises to work on, and I already saw an improvement the next time I rode her.

I’m trying to stay realistic. She still looks terrible on the lunge line, so I wouldn’t call her clinically sound. But both my vet and farrier saw the video, and my vet said she “looks fantastic” and my farrier proclaimed her “dead even,” so I am trying to reassure myself that I am not hurting her with this newly increased level of work. If she looks like she is going to stay this level of soundness, I will have her neck/hocks injected, because it’s been so long since I’ve had a 4 figure vet bill I just don’t know what to do with myself I want to be able to ask her to use her body as correctly as possible so she can get her weight off those front feet.

Best of all, having a lesson didn’t break her! I rode her the next day before the farrier (yes, my horse is almost 18 and needs to be ridden down so she can stand still long enough to have her feet done) and turned her out in the indoor afterwards, and she was none the worse for wear. Actually, she warmed up a lot less creaky, so I guess we’re subscribing to motion is lotion.

So there you have it. I’ll still hold my breath every time I trot her off, but if she can keep going like this, I’m the happiest girl in the world.

 

Posted in Lameness status update, Lesson reports | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

That post got too long so here is the rest of my update

I found another thing to ride, sort of. A pony at the barn where many of my friends moved to in the Great Exodus of 2014 needs a rider, and guess who is pony sized?

Pony has spots so is presumed POA, but moves like a fancy Welsh. I swear when I have the time and money I am going to find ponies in backyards and teach them to jump little courses and be fancy and it’s going to be the best. Soon after I got the ride, pony got a paying shareboarder, so rightfully, they have pick of the days they ride. So I’ve really only been riding her once or twice a week.

Also, some combination of trying to make arrangements for Lacy, housesitting for a month straight, and tweaking meds kicked my anxiety into absolute OVERDRIVE. So I’ve been downing xanax like it’s candy and some days it’s all I can do to go to work and not have a meltdown, let alone go to the barn and deal with either other people or being alone. Mental illness sucks balls. I wish I had polio or some shit instead. We’re still working on very slowly switching SSRIs and I hope in a few weeks I’ll have leveled out and can lead a more normal life.

On to the most important update! Pearl has been (said in the whisperiest of whispers) doing great. I spent the summer trail riding her anywhere from 6-12 miles a time.

the EquiTrack app is AWESOME

the EquiTrack app is AWESOME

We did a lot of schooling in the field, and a lot of messing around with saddles and bits justincaseIcangetherintheshowringorsomethingshhhhh. She continues to make my heart sing daily with her big heart and willingness to work (most days translated as CAN WE GO FAST MOM PLEASE).

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She was a little ouchier than usual and that is just how she wanted to trot that day idk man I don't ask questions

She was a little ouchier than usual and that is just how she wanted to trot that day idk man I don’t ask questions

Then we’ve been having the weirdest warmest winter ever (because global warming is totally fake and all), and it’s been too wet to ride pretty much anywhere. So then I pull her out of the pasture and she almost jumps on top of me so I stick her in the arena to work out any kinks and she looks like this

So I feel like she feels pretty OK, and I want to be able to keep riding her over the winter and not die. So I took a deep breath and took the plunge, and the beginning of January she is moving to said barn where all my friends are. Just for the winter, because I have never seen her so happy as she is at BPL, and it’s a better turnout situation for her, and she deserves that happiness. But I get to make selfish decisions sometimes, and I wanna ride, so we need an indoor. I’m trying really hard not to get ahead of myself in regards to goals for our time there. I want to be able to toodle around W/T/sometimesC and not be constrained to daylight hours and go on trail rides with friends. So as long as that happens, I will be happy with my decision. If we can get to the point where we are schooling First Level tests maybe not show ring sound but still accurate and functional, I will be thrilled. If by some miracle she can go around on decent footing and not look lame enough to get kicked out of the show ring and we can hit some little schooling shows just so I can say I’ve finally shown my damn horse whom I’ve had for six years but something is always getting in the way, I will be over the moon. I’m not holding out for that last one though. Safe, happy, and comfortable is our main goal.

Posted in General ramblings, Lameness status update, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh right, I have a blog

My horsey life has been… disorganized for the last six months. I haven’t ridden so irregularly since before I had a horse, probably. Roundup of things that have happened:

 

In September or so, Lacy’s mom messaged me. Lacy had been having a series of impaction colics that H and her vet believed were due to the coastal/bermuda hay down south, plus a history of ulcers. She also doesn’t handle the bugs and humidity very well, and H was spending so much on vet bills she couldn’t enjoy her horse. So, she made the heartwrenching decision that Lacy needed to find a new home in a different climate. Did I want to lease her?

This could have been my life

Um, what? I jumped at the chance. I spent weeks checking out barns, getting quotes from shippers, researching feed, consulting with my vet about ulcer treatment, daydreaming about having a sound horse who moves like a freak and can jump and trail ride and show and has the best mind of any young horse I’ve ever seen. And I looked at my bank account and realized the numbers just don’t match up. I can’t afford a second horse. No Lacy, no bay OTTB. Not until I have been to school and have a career and a salary and a home and a truck and trailer.

I was and still am heartbroken. True, I’ve only known this horse in person for five months, but I’ve loved her since before she was born. She embodies all the things I love and admire about Pearl, and is truly the fanciest most naturally talented animal I’ve ever sat on. Unsurprisingly, H had no trouble selling her. In less than a week. She shipped to California at the end of October, to a woman who wanted to do the hunters and “promised she was not a trainer or a horse flipper.”

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Ofc they slapped her in draw reins right away

Then H didn’t hear any updates on her for a while, until she was contacted by her new, new owners. Turned out she had been resold again for a “huge profit.” These owners took the time to seek out H and say they are planning on keeping her but will give her the first opportunity to buy back, have had her chiropracted and teeth done, and I’m sure she will want for nothing, and will kick ass in the show ring.

But still.

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This is the horse that, in another life, I could have had for free. If circumstances were different. I know I am deeply fortunate for all the things I DO have…but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one more thing. Did you know my horse makes the fanciest freaking babies on the planet?

I swear, if I could just have one of these, I would never ask for anything ever again. Technically, I could afford a stud fee. I have a dream stallion picked out. I can get vet work done on the cheap. But I can’t afford to support another horse for all of its days, and lesson and show, and all those other things I want. So I wait, and hope that by the time I am able to do my own repro work Pearl will be around and I can do an embryo transfer. That is my biggest dream and the goal I am striving for.

Posted in General ramblings, Lacey Lovebug, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Full circle

A couple weeks ago, I went on a road trip (my first solo trip to somewhere that isn’t Ohio!) and had the experience of a lifetime. The year before I bought her, Pearl had her 6th(??) and final foal. I’ve kept in touch with her owner over the years through the wonder that is Facebook, and when I knew I’d be heading down south this summer I asked if I could make a stop to visit the pretty girl. To my delight, she said I could not only see her, but I was welcome to ride her.

I can honestly say that riding Lacy was one of the best things that has happened to me in the last two and a half years.

There is something unbelievably special about being the first human being ever in the universe to lay your hands on a tiny perfect equine specimen. I have been so lucky to see many pictures of Lacy growing up as posted by her adoring owner… the next best thing to being there in person.  She is still the people-oriented lovebug that she was from the day she was born. She has the comfiest, floatiest trot I have ever ridden.

She is incredibly balanced for such a young horse (turned four in March) and while she hasn’t really been asked to use herself, her gaits are pure and correct.

For the love of all that is holy, BEND YOUR ELBOWS

She was not at all fazed by a new person in the saddle. I took her over a line of crossrails– she’s jumped maybe 6 times in her life and I’ve jumped 3 times in the last two years.

She’s got a case of the baby wiggles and got a little excited the second time through but her jump is smooth and easy to ride, and she has a natural lead change. She love face scritches and hates baths, just like her momma.

She even inherited her YEEEEEEEHAW face from mom

Riding Baby Laceface was a chance to feel connected to my past, and a reminder of how I’ve made it through so much in her short lifetime. I watched her breeder “push the trigger,” as it were, the day she was conceived. I remember having to cut a ride short in order for Pearl to be ready for her 14 day ultrasound. I brought Pearl home for the summer and watched in wonder as her belly expanded in just the span of a couple months, thinking of the little critter growing in there who was already so loved.

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Last preggo picture

I slept in the barn for two weeks during a frigid Ohio spring…only to have my sneaky mare showing no signs of going into labor at her 3am check, and waking up to my friend’s exclamation of “Natalie, there is a FOAL in that stall!”

 

I watched her squeal with delight and gallop in circles the first time out in the big pasture.

I looked on with pride as she rocked her foal inspection.

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I said my tearful goodbyes the week she hopped on the trailer bound for her new home.

It was hard not to feel a little wistful… if I had a 4-year-old Pearl, oh the places we could go! Her owner told me I should go to GA vet school and I could ride her anytime…how tempting is that! She would like to breed her someday, and I told her sign me up if it’s a filly. Lacy May, you are perfect and I am so honored to be a part of your life.

Posted in Lacey Lovebug, Pearl's past | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Prettiest in Purple

I mean, when you can’t really ride your horse with any specific training goal in mind, you gotta at least mug for the camera, right? Twenty years ago, Papa Glenn of Broken Pony Land planted wildflower seeds and to this day, the lupines bloom every year. Last year they came and went, but this year I was determined to do something with them. And by do something I mean drag my poor ever-faithful barn buddy to take pictures.

Cell phone photos in no way do this justice

Obviously, this meant we had to match our outfit to the flowers. P had a blast. Since she had an abscess on her birthday, this was our belated birthday gallop. Because horses totally understand the concept of birthdays and birthday presents. During our cool-down aka bit of schooling on the lawn so she doesn’t think she just gets to wildly gallop every time we go down to the front field, she was so proud of herself and marched along with her head high and ears pricked, and of course insisted on cantering a few laps. And probably would still be cantering right now if I hadn’t pulled her up.

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Yes, yes she did jump over the flowers.

Yes, yes she did jump over the flowers.

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Hello yes I am the proudest mare how ’bout you

I also had C snap a video while I had a captive audience, and she actually looks… not that lame?

She bobbles a little on the turns, particularly turning left, and of course she looks sort of stiff all over and rushy and just generally like a horse who is a little older and not that fit strong because, well, she is, but she’s not headbobbing lame. I will continue to be super cautious with her, but if we can maintain this for a while with our current previcox + isox + osphos every 6 mo regimen I’ll be pretty happy. And also sad that I can’t really ride her For Real. But mostly happy that she’s comfortable.

 

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