Thursday, January 28, 2010

Locking Stifles

Wednesdays are always pretty hectic for me because my class schedule calls for 3 riding classes and 3 academic classes, four of which (riding class, academic class, IHSA practice and another riding class) are separated by a mere 15 minutes. It all makes for a very tiring day! I start at 9:15 in the morning and get back from my last dressage class around 6:45pm, eat a quick dinner and head out to my barn around 7:15pm to take care of Emmy and Johnny.

Today was one of those REALLY tiring days. The temperatures have dropped back down so it was really cold outside, not to mention that I was sore from working out at the gym last night and from riding 3 times already today. I just needed a day off, so I went to the barn, turned out the horses, cleaned stalls and decided not to ride anyone else tonight. Emmy needs the day off...she's an old lady now and she doesn't need to get ridden every day. She's perfectly happy to go out in the snow, roll, come back in and pass out in her shavings. Johnny on the other hand, is getting fit again after his month off and has had a bit of extra energy to burn recently. Instead of riding him, I decided to stick him on the lunge line for a bit to play. I would have preferred to just free lunge him, but A was working her new OTTB project in the the arena so that wasn't going to work.

Of course, Johnny had quite a bit of energy in him and so he was having a grand old time bucking and playing on the lunge. He was cantering around when all of the sudden his left hind leg snapped off the ground and he almost fell flat on his face. Instead of cantering he was suddenly bunny hopping behind with both hind legs as if he couldn't put the left one on the ground the right way. Next thing he stopped dead and parked out with a look on his face that seemed to say "OH MY GOD."

My first thought was that he had tied up. I have no idea why, but that was the first thing that came to my mind because it didn't seem like he could move his hind legs. I read once that you should never make a tied up horse move, so I stood there and waited to see if he would take another step on his own. He didn't, but after a minute his face softened and his ears perked back up. Tentatively I clucked to him and he took a step forward and walked normally. He walked halfway around the circle before he decided that he needed to take care of some unfinished business and out of no where exploded into an encore of leaps and bucks. He went another lap and then broke back to the trot. I let him trot a lap or two before I asked him to woah.

I checked over all of his legs, back and neck. There was no heat, swelling, tenderness or soreness anywhere. Clearly he wasn't injured and I was racking my brain to figure out what the problem might be. It wasn't until I turned him around to take him back to his stall that I heard his stifle click and it suddenly hit me. His stifle had locked! I had always suspected that he might have some sort of stifle problem just based on the way he moves and the fact that when you walk him, you can hear his left stifle clicking every time the leg swings forward. It had always been a minor concern on the back burner in my mind, but since it never seemed to bother him at all, it had slipped from my mind into something that was just deemed "normal" for him. Emmy, for example, has tendons in her hind legs that click with every step. Every person who rides her notices the sound except me. I've heard her tendons click for almost 8 years and it's become almost irrelevant information. Nothing ever bothers her or hinders her performance...its just the way she is.

I've never actually seen a stifle lock, although I know quite a few people who have dealt with it before. After doing some research tonight about the physical symptoms I'm 99% certain that is what happened to Johnny. The stifle "clicking" or "popping" is a common symptom associated with upward flexion of the patella (UFP) and his sudden inability to swing the leg forward combined with his sudden stop to stand stretched out are the classic signs of a locked stifle. I placed a phone call to my old trainer on the way home from the barn and described the situation to her. She agrees that Johnny's stifle definitely locked. She suggested some exercises (hill work is the best but it's winter in Ohio so that's pretty much out of the question) to help strengthen his quadriceps and help pull his patella back into place. Hopefully that will be enough to do the trick, but if it happens again I might have to actually call a vet out and maybe have it blistered...something I would really prefer not to do. I'll post updates as we go along.

Next Post: Upward Flexion of the Patella (UFP) Described


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

IHSA Update

I am officially ONE POINT away from being qualified for our IHSA Region 1 Championship! This past weekend at our show against OU I won my Saturday equitation class on a very lovely warmblood gelding named Pumba and Sunday I was 3rd after a slightly humiliating class where my draw suddenly stopped dead in the ring, pinned his ears back and refused to go forward. This was an antic he had pulled numerous times already that day...clearly he was cranky after being ridden so many different times by so many different people. Unfortunately, I was the designated point rider for our team (the rider who's placing counts towards team highpoint) and so our team only got 4 points from my placing (at least the other riders from my school, which were also in the same class, didn't place any better.) The third place also left me one point away from qualifying for Regionals. The good news is that we have 4 more days of showing (2 more 2 day shows for this season) in order for me to qualify, so I'm hoping that won't be a problem lol!

Here are a few photo of me winning on Pumba from the show:

He was a great ride! A little lazy off the leg but he was quite a gentlemen once he realized that I was serious about him getting his hind quarters engaged.

In other news, Emmy and Johnny have been very good. They both got the entire weekend off because of the horse show and were happy to get back to work. Johnny had a few good leaps in him but about 10 minutes on the lunge line took care of that pretty quick yesterday. Today he was still pretty fresh and probably should have gotten to play on the line a bit more tonight. His trot and canter are getting sooo much better though! Today he cantered all the way around the ring (balanced!!) on his right lead and he did some bounce poles off the left lead and a set of raised trot poles from both directions. He's finally learning to stretch down and be round, but his stride is still kind of short. Wondering how I might be able to fix that? I think part of it is his conformation...his chest is a little narrow.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Short Video

Here is a little video of a smidgen of today's work with Johnny. He hopped over a little cross rail for the first time since winter break (aka over a month!) He was VERY excited but also really good! Unfortunately, my friend didn't get a video of his AMAZING canter jump. His rhythm was so perfect and his strides were long and had even cadence...we got a prefect distance and seriously just had a perfect jump, but of course we didn't get it on film :( Oh well...maybe next time. Until then, enjoy the short 45 second clip below lol.

And a few pictures:


Still working to tighten that front end up...can't say he was really trying very hard here though. He doesn't actually start picking his feet up until 2'6" or so.

E also jumped Emmy for the first time since her leg injury this summer (aka like 6 months ago...LOL) she was also CRAZY excited and jumped like a little loony-head. Here are a few pictures of E riding Emmy:

Trotting like the freak that she sshhh...don't tell her she's 23 years old!!

Little chip in...mainly rider error, but Emmy tried to adjust the best she could. This mare's been around the block a few times...she knows her stuff :)

Busy day tomorrow in school requires me to ride FOUR times in one day...gaahhhh


Monday, January 18, 2010

A short update

Back at school after a weekend spent at home with the boyfriend :) N and E rode the horses while I was gone...N really liked both Emmy and Johnny. I survived the first week of classes for the new semester, but it sure seems like I'm not going to be able to show my horses at all this winter. Not only do I have a heavy schedule of IHSA shows, but for one of my equine classes we are required to wok almost every single horse show here at the college...essentially leaving me with no free weekends for horse shows :( I'm still trying to work out a spring/summer show schedule.

P.S. for any STB lovers/owners out there...there is not a YouTube blog for us to share our experiences! Visit 


Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to School

Just time for a short update before I run off the school barn for my hunter class, dressage class and IHSA practice. Emmy and Johnny both made it up to school safe and sound despite the weather and they both seem to be settling well. Johnny jumped right back into the swing of things up here but it's taking Emmy a little more time to adjust in her old age. She's not a huge fan of change so much anymore, but she sure does like being ridden again! She's sound and crazy happy to be back under saddle!

I worked some more on Johnny's clip new clipper blades are a champ! Should be able to finish up the clip in the next two days. I just dont have the time to sit there and work on it!

Here is a picture of Johnny's first day back:

Goofy boy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Packing, packing, PACKING

The latest weather report shows that our snow storm should be tapering off sometime late tomorrow morning. I didn't ride at all today in an attempt to get the horses packed and ready to go should the roads clear up by tomorrow afternoon.. Tentatively, our plan was to leave Sunday but if the weather turns out alright on Saturday I would really prefer to take the horses then. It would give me a day to make sure Emmy settles before I go back to class on Monday. Not that I don't think she will, she's got TONS of show mileage so she handles change pretty well, but I'm a worrisome mother and I like to make sure she's adjusting alright in her old age.

I got in a fight today with my clippers while body clipping Johnny and ended up having to drive all the way out to Big Dees to get a new blade. I still have the original blade on them and I've had these clippers for at least 3 years, so I figured it was time. Of course, that ended up taking WAY longer than anticipated and so I never did get to finish Johnny's clip. I guess he's just going to have to go back to school looking like he got in a fight with a blender.

I've still got SO MUCH to do to be ready in case we leave tomorrow...about a million pounds of horse laundry, still have to sort through Emmy's brushes and decided whats going and whats staying (do you really need 10 brushes between two horses? I think not...) I have my own people laundry to do, clean my saddles, clean out the car and try to cut down on what I'm taking back to school with me...because of Christmas and the second horse, I'm going back with waayyyy more then I anticipated taking...packing the car should be super interesting.

Did I mention that I have to pack up my fish too? Gosh I hate making that poor thing travel...

Pictures tomorrow if we make it up to school.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Getting back to what it's all about

This morning I finally had the opportunity (meaning that the weather was decently clear and the snow made a good enough footing) to actually RIDE both horses and work them a bit. D had plowed the drive around the barn and the house yesterday and the warmer temperatures (around 25 degrees today) were enough to start to melt the snow a little making it pretty good and grippy on top.

I rode Johnny (english) and then Emmy (western) and both horses really had a blast! Johnny's trots were great and he was so excited to canter that he shoved his nose down to the ground and played on multiple occasions. He never bucks or does anything bad...he just drops his head and rounds his back a bit. It hit me while I was riding, that Emmy does the exact same thing when she's excited. Neither of my horses ever buck, they just play a little and move on. The entire scenario got me thinking as I walked Emmy out and put her away. Is it just coincidence? Or have I done something very correct in never punishing my horses for expressing themselves?

You may recall, that in a previous post I discussed the new USHJA Hunter Derbies which are popping up all over the country at rated shows. The installation of these classes has brought about questioning among judges and competitors within USEF and USHJA...should the ideal show hunter be penalized for showing expression while on course? The winner of this years USHJA International Hunter Derby was Rumba, a gray gelding who shook his head and played after multiple jumps during the finals. Generally speaking though, our hunters go around the ring a little like robots, never allowed to put a foot wrong. No where in the USEF rule book is "self expression" (head shaking etc.) specifically addressed but it's common knowledge that these expressions are often penalized at horse shows. Should the horse really be penalized for shaking its head after a particularly breath-taking jump? Isn't that the basis for which show hunters was founded on?

These principles also trickle down into horse training. I have to say that in my experience with different horses (especially those with "behavior problems") it seems as though the riders who explode into an angry rampage every time their horse steps out of line are the riders whose horses will continue to exhibit the same behavior time and time again.

Here's a senario that I've seen far too often:
A rider is trotting around the ring on her fairly sensitive hunter/jumper/dressage/whatever horse. Yesterday, the ring crew at the barn piled up some new jump poles and standards in the corner of the arena. Said horse, when passing the jumps for the first time, is startled, bends his head to look at the jumps, snorts and side steps away from them. The rider, who is appalled that her horse would even think to spook, whips his head around to face the jumps and starts kicking him for spooking. The fairly sensitive horse stops dead and tucks his chin to his chest, snorting at the (now REALLY) spooky jumps. The more the rider kicks, the more he backs away from the corner, and so finally the rider whips him around again and starts riding him on a tight circle past the jumps. Each time, he passes them the horse still spooks.

How many times have you guys seen that happen? I know I've seen it happen a million times...and (not surprising to me) the rider never really gets anywhere and the horse will continue to spook for the rest of the ride. Now, if the rider would have just corrected the horse laterally off the inside aides the first time he sidestepped, and then released her inside rein to reward him with a pat on the neck after correcting him, couldn't that entire fight have been avoided? I know it could have, because that is how I ride every horse that I sit on...and not to blow hot air, but that's the reason that I always ride spooky horses (refer to my older posts about Cruz)

This does all relate back to my original thought (I promise!) that allowing the horse to have freedom of self expression creates a much happier, trusting and willing animal. I firmly believe that there is a reason that all of my horses (including my pony who I have never really mentioned on this blog before) don't ever misbehave under saddle (misbehaving being clarified as bucking, rearing etc...I know there are a lot of things that people can classify as "misbehaving") None of my horses, for the record, are exceptionally brave animals to begin with. If we, as riders, will just give our horses the freedom to play a bit and ignore (or simply and quietly correct it) it when it happens, I think we will all find that our horses are much more willing to work for us because we haven't trapped them into feeling expressionless. They aren't robots who come out of the stall every day and perform flawlessly and they shouldn't be expected to be like that. They have personalities too which should be embraced by their owners/riders. Isn't that what riding is all about?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Snowy Ride

So I bit the bullet this morning and put front shoes back on Emmy. I can't say that I really wanted to spend the money just to have them on for 2 months, but he feet grow so terribly slow that there's no way I could ride her in a sand ring without them. She would have no feet left!!

The snow finally let up for a little bit this afternoon and so I took the opportunity to take Emmy out for a ride (tomorrow is Johnny's turn lol) It was SUPER deep and really fluffy from all of the cold lake effect we've been getting. Of course, Pumpkin the mini just had to tag along with us and so we plunged into the deep stuff on the back drive and went to go have some fun! Pumpkin, who could barely walk through it, stayed right behind Emmy in the tracks that she was making, and even then the snow was still up to his shoulders! He couldn't really walk through it and keep up, so he would walk a few steps, and then hop and canter a few more strides, then walk, hop and was so funny to watch! Once I got Emmy trotting he would wait until she got a little ways down the path and take off running and bucking to catch up...too cute! When I got Emmy warmed up a little bit and put her in canter he zoomed up right behind her and kept up! D was on the tractor out in the field watching and said it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. Both horses had such a good time! Emmy even did her happy little head shake, front leg flingy thing that she does instead of bucking (she's probably only bucked twice in the 7 years that I've owned her lol and I saw her rear once in the pasture when she just stood up for no was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen) Anyway, they both had a BLAST in the snow...and Emmy must be feeling especially good with her new shoes because when I went to bring the horses all in from the field before dinner she was the first one to gallop down the hill...leaping in the air like a psycho (refer to older post...Emmy NEVER runs anymore) It was good to see them so happy!

Here are a few pictures that I took on my phone while riding Emmy:

Pumpkin following in the tracks...and swimming through the snow!
(yeah that big black looking thing is Emmy's tail...)

Pumpkin following behind us in our tracks!

Hope you all are enjoying the winter wonderland!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh, Mother Nature

My plans to begin body clipping Johnny have been delayed slightly because of the sudden turn in the weather. Over night we went from 30 some degrees plummeting down into the single digits with blizzarding snow. Yesterday was a brutally cold 14 degrees...and that was the days high! I booted the horses out for about an hour because they we all kicking around and making a fuss about being inside. They all ran around like hooligans for a bit (save for Emmy and Johnny...Emmy's too old for that kind of nonsense these days and Johnny just does whatever Emmy does lol) and then got a good roll in the snow. I've never really understood why horses like rolling in the snow so's cold and wet, how could that possibly been enjoyable? Oh well, I supposed, as long as it makes them happy! An hour gave me enough time to clean a couple stalls, fill the water buckets, throw hay and eat lunch before I figured that the horses had probably had enough of the great outdoors. They were still way in the back of the field when I opened the back door to the barn, but at the sound of it sliding they all picked up their heads and came galloping down (again, save for Emmy and Johnny who mosied) Everyone had frozen whiskers and snow clumps on the sides of their heads from rolling. What a ridiculous looking bunch they were!

My best friend C and I also went up to the tack store yesterday. She needed to exchange a set of SMB Elites that she had gotten for Christmas and I wanted to spend a little of my Christmas money on a new lariat. I've been using an old practice rope and I'm about 60-70% on target (by that I mean actually catching something) with the practice one...I feel like its time to move on to a real rope now! In all actuality I was looking for a 32' soft lay heading rope but that was almost impossible to find without ordering one from a catalouge and quite frankly it just didn't matter enough to me that I wanted to spend $40 on the rope and another $15 on shipping. Big Dees had a 35' medium lay heeling rope in stock, so I just went with that. I figure that I'm not really planning on competeing in roping events anytime soon (or ever at all for that matter) I just want to learn how to rope so it doesn't really matter all that much. I don't plan on making a massive leap to western riding, I just want to learn something new!

The snow is blowing pretty bad today but I can't wait to go out to the barn and crack the wax off the new rope! I'll let you know how it goes :)