Monday, January 31, 2011

back on our feet

It was so good to be back in the saddle. I have really enjoyed my time with Major walking the road, eating grass and relaxing, but the trails were calling. I had lunged him and he was sound, also rode him in the arena, no problem. So we went for a small forest ride, took the SO who was hiking to keep us from getting caught up and going too far or fast.

The fog had come back, though not as bad as before, and at least the trails were pretty dry. We mostly walked, some trotting, with plenty of go and no missteps. I did allow Major one canter up a gradual uphill, he really enjoyed that until he swerved to take a different trail home...I stayed on and Major had to keep going (to his disappointment). He might sometimes be a jerk, but after all the worrying about him, I'm OK with that! (I'm sure that will come back to haunt me!)

We'll gradually build back up. I know a horse in good shape loses condition far slower than an equivalent human, but it's still winter and we have plenty of time and trails to explore. I will say that I never see photos of myself riding...and with SO there he took a few. Ignoring my lazy equitation since I was just trying to keep Major from eating: Bright orange jacket (I love the jacket), black and tan tights, dirty tan chaps, blue gloves, tennis shoes...what a bad fashion statement I am. At least my jacket matched Major's orange Renegade boots. I hinted that new black ariat terrain chaps would be a good Valentine's gift...

On a completely separate side note I finally had a fecal done. The vet's office called back to say that Major wasn't shedding any parasites. I was in a hurry out the door and didn't get a chance to ask details. I'll go back over my notes I made at a worming seminar I attended last summer. I like not putting chemicals in my horse if I don't have to, and not contributing to the increase in parasite resistance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

a good call

The barn manager just called me. They gave Major his Bute this morning and he was a good boy about taking it. Before it could even have taken effect he had gone through the pasture and into the arena that had been left open and was having a grand time. He obviously feels better, we'll just have to watch and make sure he doesn't overdo it. I'm glad my goofy horse is back.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

more worry...but ok!

A nice forest hike on Saturday, grass grazing on Sunday, small forest ride Monday...and Major wouldn't move Tuesday. He seemed stiff on Monday after the ride, but moved out just fine on trail, even being a bit of a snot. On Tuesday he just stood there in pasture, wouldn't come to my whistle. I went to get him and he barely lifted his feet, dragging like every part of his body was hurting. He certainly wanted to eat some grass, so we did that. I checked him all over, didn't feel anything, and then proceeded to worry. Actually, I called the vet for an appointment this morning.

After not sleeping and going through all the scenarios in my head (tick bites, Lyme disease! Tying up! Laminitis! Neurologic something! more colic!) This morning I went to the ranch and Major was chowing down his breakfast. He looked perky, but still very very stiff. The vet came (he is the same vet who did Major's pre-purchase, very nice guy and good vet) and gave Major the once-over. Actually he looked him over carefully, saw some swelling on his right stifle. Sore on palpation, and pretty warm. Turned Major in tight circles, stiffer to the left. Hoof testing (nothing). Trotted out, no lameness, just some stiffness. Flexions were ok too.

Finally the verdict: a strained muscle or kick injury to the right stifle, doesn't think anything is broken or serious, didn't recommend pulling blood. I'm thinking more along with a muscle strain, maybe from playing, maybe from our ride? I can't pinpoint any time he didn't move out as asked. When I asked if the injury would make him that reluctant to move, the (wise) vet replied that he wasn't a horse, but if we had a big hamstring injury we might not want to go anywhere either. I'm sure every horse reacts differently. I have some Bute for a few days and will be cold hosing and hand walking. If there isn't significant improvement, I'm to call him back.

I also asked him about Major's feet (even though hoof testers and all the tests said he was fine). I had kept thinking about the barn owner's comments. How can an idea you really know isn't true just get into your brain and bug you? Another blogger wrote a great post about those "ear mites" we need to learn to ignore. Easier said than done. But when I commented to the vet that I'd been told Major's "sore feet" could have caused the colic, the vet just kind of looked at me slowly. He got a little half smile and said that Major didn't have sore feet, I'd always have to watch his hooves' desire to grow lots of toe, and that some people just have an agenda that is hard to change. I felt better hearing that.

So I'll be taking care of the pony in the next week, he'll like the hand walks to eat grass and doesn't mind the cold hosing. I'm hoping it all goes well. But it is hard when I don't know just what it is/what happened. But that is how it goes. I hate uncertainty!

And of course the one thing is now I'm second guessing...he was a little reluctant heading out Monday, but sometimes he just is like that because he is leaving friends/food/barn. He moved out just fine our whole ride, nothing seemed off. I would hope I know my horse enough to feel that...but I also worry that he will just perform through pain because he loves to go, loves the trail. Did I aggravate the injury? Just another thing to consider/worry about. 

inspiration fog

Nice ride on  Monday, just quiet through the pea soup fog. Couldn't see more than 50 feet. Here is the view from inspiration point: January and July

Same view (just a little to the left) a bare corner of Major's ear in the fog photo. It was surreal.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

the unexpected

You never know what will happen when you go to the barn, or ride, or hike. Last week I was putting my tack away and looked over at the arena just in time to see a horse running to one side, and at first I thought he was on the longe line until I saw his rider on the ground. I ran down to find her shaken but ok, we sat for awhile before she felt ok to get up. Her helmet left a huge dent in the sand. We were the only people at the barn.

It made me think. And when the opportunity arose to take some classes at work I signed up for CPR and basic first aid. I needed them for work, but they are so important to know!

I last took CPR in the dark ages, so needed a full refresher. It was a great class, lots of hands-on dummies and scenarios. The basic first aid was good as well: learning splints and bandaging techniques. My partner did pretend one of his injuries was from falling off a horse! I think one of the best parts was learning how to evaluate a situation and the process of action steps to take. I am now Red Cross certified, and hope I never have to use it. But I can unfortunately think of too many scenarios where it could be put to use.

My saddle bag already has first-aid items, and I may rethink a few and add some (vet wrap and duct tape are so handy to have). Are you prepared for an emergency? Could you take charge and assess a situation? Do you have basic first-aid items on your horse, in the barn, in your car? I feel empowered with these classes, which I think is important in scary situations. Everyone tries to be careful, but I like knowing I could hopefully help a friend, or hiker, or family member or stranger, if something happened.


Major seemed 100% improved today, back to his usual self. I, of course, worried all night, but he ate breakfast and was out in pasture when I arrived. Gobbled up a carrot and we went for a short hike in the forest. Took a friend with her green arab, everyone behaved themselves and enjoyed plenty of stops for grass.

One story today made me laugh and just shake my head and sigh: I guess the barn owner (who, as I said, I like and appreciate) mentioned to the barn manager that she thought Major might have felt sick because his feet hurt from being barefoot. Sigh... Major has no lameness, not footsore, good feet...but no shoes. I'm not anti- shoe (do the best thing for your horse), so I wish people wouldn't be anti-barefoot. Don't know why Major felt punky, and would like to figure it out, but I truly don't think it's that.

The weather this weekend is beautiful, sun is out and it's almost 60 degrees. I still think I'll just take it easy with Major, maybe just over-cautious and a worrywart, but I plan to have plenty of weekends to ride in the future.

Friday, January 14, 2011


This evening Major wasn't feeling well. I went and got him from his pasture and he didn't want to lead. I thought maybe he was being stubborn and holding out for a carrot. I held a baby carrot out for him and he didn't want it. Red flag: this horse eats everything all the time. I am so grateful that my barn owner was there. She got out the stethoscope, listened for gut sounds (some, both sides, could be better), checked gums (a little pale), skin tent (ok), he had slightly pinchy nostrils (I didn't know that one.) I walked him a little, he did want to eat grass, and we gave him some oil in a little mash. I was willing to immediately call the vet, but she has 40+ years experience that I was willing to listen to. In about an hour Major was acting perky, trying to steal hay off the cart, and not letting her check his gums (usual brattiness.) I left worried but knowing he was in good hands.

Best part: she just called after checking on him. He seemed bright and chipper, wondering where the rest of his dinner was, and there was poop! She said she'd give him a big hug and kiss.

I have a great barn owner. We may disagree about supplements or hoofcare or tack, but she knows and loves horses, and treats her few boarders horses as she does her own.

I'll still worry tonight, but a lot less after her report. As always, hug your horses (and other creatures).

Monday, January 10, 2011


Freezing fog. Damp, cold. Little beads of ice frozen on Major's whiskers after our ride. It never got above freezing. I know some people are riding in snow and ice and I salute them because this is cold enough for me!

I was supposed to ride with a friend to do a bit of training, but unfortunately her horse came up with a swollen leg and needed some cold hosing and wrapping, so I went out on my own. Took a few different trails, had a pretty good time. Coming back up a new trail (new to Major) it is wide and uphill so we cantered a bit. The first time was actually a nice canter, I think because he wasn't sure where the trail was going to come out. Once he saw where we were, he became a bit of a brat. So I turned him around and we cantered away from home too. Nice sliding stop, turn around, and back the other way. Just like the other day: repeat as necessary.

Since we'd taken the first part on the lake trail pretty quickly, I slowed down in the forest and did loops around, no particular direction, some trotting. One spot Major was awful: started cantering, didn't want to slow, and not in safe footing. So steered into some bushes then into the field, where he slid about 4 feet in the mud I'd been trying to tell him was there! We also worked a spot called Beginner's Hill twice. It is a great hill with three levels to walk/trot/canter up. A bit slippery going down, but the main problem is that he doesn't misbehave on the hill! He trots and canters up nicely, nothing out of control. And I know I'd have to do it about 20 times to get any of his energy out. It is a good workout, so one day when it is good and dry I may just do 20 loops, up Beginner's Hill, down the other side, around and repeat. Did I say 20? We may need about 1000 times doing that.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

who am I kidding....

Completely ignore the last post pondering any sort of endurance ride. That is so far removed from anything I can contemplate accomplishing...

Let's just say yesterday was an interesting ride. Well, no, let's say more: Major had a few days off, but that is consistently how it works. Went out to do a medium fast ride and let him move a bit since the trails have dried up. Heading out he was a slowpoke, so much so I (again) worried that something was wrong. He tricks me like this every couple months. Out to the lake not a perfect gentleman but listening...then we turned for home. Was OK, a bit iffy, so we worked on backtracking, sidepassing, turning, etc. All was better until the uphill for the forest, when I was on a horse careening up the path. Completely annoyed, I turned him back and we worked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until turning up that hill wasn't such a good idea. At one point I directed him in a straight line down the trail, he veered into the rocks, so I just pointed him up the bank, thinking he'd reconsider. Instead we stumbled over boulders, leaped up the 3-foot sand bank, running into the sticker bushes and finally circling to some form of stop, far above where we should have been. After about 20 minutes (our GPS track is funny with all the overlap, a big dark blue line) we went much more calmly up the hill towards home.
half-moon rock

Luckily things went better after that, but I was just so annoyed. We'll be starting back to much more arena work, listening exercises, and hopefully see some improvement. Coming home the trail was a nice curvy path we usually trot, but at this point we walked, trying to behave, and did lots of exercises on whoa, stand, back up and retrace the path.

Major's little face looks so cute, but don't be deceived!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

year in review and plans

The last few days I've been looking over all the statistics from my gps rides. I know it doesn't include all the hours in the arena, or some smaller rides, but it is pretty representative. In January 2010 I logged almost no trail miles and Major and I worked on our relationship in the arena. The ratio slowly changed, and in July I had about 65 trail miles. Our average speed also increased as we learned the trails and worked on conditioning. Some months were different depending on taking lessons (less trail miles) or holidays (more miles!). Overall my log shows 436 gps trail miles. Of course many people log that in a couple months, or just on endurance rides, but I really like seeing in numbers and evaluating progress. I'm also just a nerd with a calculator.

I am not a planner and I don't make new year's resolutions. I would rather try something new or accomplish something without the stress of a commitment. (yes, total commitment-phobic). At Christmas my Grandma asked us each to say what we were hoping to do in the next year. I was first up and had to say the first thing that came to mind: to ride in an endurance ride. I kind of shocked myself to say that, knowing how far I am from that right now, but must be foremost in my thoughts. I'll be evaluating that idea throughout the spring.

For now I'm just hoping for a happy and healthy horse and more adventures to come.

new year's day ride

An annual tradition, continued in the rain. I was able to convince a friend to come, even with the rain we wanted to ring in the year with our four-legged friends enjoying the forest. We just did a nice short ride on the slippery trails. The best part was the trail through the enchanted forest, which was rainy and misty, with the enormous rocks covered in moss, ferns creeping out from cracks, huge pines springing from solid rock. Welcome 2011.