Sunday, May 30, 2010

Long Over-due

Sorry to have been away for so long...especially since I promised an Emmy update after her vet appointment Thursday.

Here is the good news: the leg is not least, we are fairly certain it is not.

Here is the bad-ish news: the vet DID find creptis on the outside of her leg, which can be indicative of either an infection or a break in the bone (and can sometimes be seen with open wounds but that isn't the case here.) The other bad-ish news is that the creptis comes and goes, which means that air is moving around under her skin.

The diagnosis was a localized infection which the SMZs have kept at bay, but not effectively treated. We started her on penicillin for 5 days and Animalintex wraps for 3 days. Today is day 4 and her leg looks ALMOST normal!

So tired though from working a local A rated hunter/jumper show...more later.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Plans

This summer has started off so crappy and I'm hoping that it will finally turn around soon instead of getting worse. There seem to be some promising signs...

For starters, it finally stopped raining this week, but wouldn't you know that Johnny threw a shoe? Of course he did, because last week when the weather sucked, he kept them on, and now that it's sunny and 85 degrees he throws them off! He lost it over the weekend (Sunday I believe) and my farrier finally came out tonight to tack it back on :) Tomorrow, we are going riding!

I did get on him today and walk him around a bit. I wrapped his foot up and kept him on the grass as much as I could. Yesterday I went to the tack shop and bought him a big pair of bell boots and a mechanical hackamore. I've heard that sometimes STBs go well in them because they can't lean on the bit (since there isn't one!) lol. That's the main reason why I got on him today...I wanted to try it out! I think it will work just fine, although I do like his neck stretcher the best I think. I've got 3 bridles for him now that we can rotate through to target specific problems...I feel like his training equipment is finally complete!

And speaking of training, I am attempting to put together a summer show schedule for him (and potentially Emmy but I'm not making any real plans for her...getting my hopes up would just upset me more). I'm still waiting on the dates for a couple of shows but here's what it's looking like so far (unfortunately I can only show on Saturdays because of work!)

    12 - SCSHA Open Show - Tallmadge, OH
    26 - Chagrin Valley Farms Hunter Schooling Show - Chagrin Falls, OH

    9 - Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic (Opening Weekend - Friday) - Chagrin Falls, OH
   17 - SCSHA Open Show - Tallmadge, OH

    1 - Brecksville Kiwanis Horse Show (Sunday) - Brecksville, OH
   14 - SCSHA Open Show - Tallmadge, OH

There may be some mini trials and/or hunter paces to add to this, but for the most part I plan on picking around 2 shows a month to try and get to...budget permitting! The nice thing about all of these shows is that (aside from the Classic) they are relatively inexpensive to attend...especially the SCSHA ones, those are quite reasonable! The Classic is kind of our "big bang" of the year...hopefully Johnny will be ready for it!

Here are our show goals for each month:
JUNE - To stand quietly and obediently for showmanship at SCSHA, to complete a trail class and enter our first three gait flat class! Our goal at the Chagrin Schooling show is to compete in the Adult 2' class and canter the jumps on both leads! If all went well at the SCSHA show, then we will enter the flat classes and complete our first hunter division.
JULY -  The goal for the CVHJC is to compete in an entire division at three gaits (maybe even win a ribbon?) It doesn't matter what division to me...probably something low, but I just want him to do the whole thing! The goal for SCSHA this month is to compete in the Hunter Hack and brush up some more on our flat classes.
AUGUST - This is a big August I would LOVE for him to be coarsing 2'6" in time for the Lows at the Kiwanis show. Of course, I'm not going to push him if he isn't ready, but as long as he's jumping well of the right lead it shouldn't be a problem! If not, we will compete (illegally lol) in the Children's Hunters (it's not a rated one knows or cares lol). The goal for SCSHA is to win a ribbon in a three gait flat class and maybe a year end award? That would be great! Also to place well in showmanship!

Hopefully it will all work out!

In Emmy news...well, there really isn't. She's been on SMZs now for 5 days (tomorrow will be day 6) and there really has been no change in her. My farrier took a peek at her today and he thinks it might be soft tissue damage (tendon, ligament, etc...) I'm hoping for a minor, minor bone problem if anything...those heal faster than soft tissues! The vet is coming Thursday at 2:00pm...I will definitely update you all after! Until then, keep your fingers crossed PLEASE.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some News...

So Thursday I finally broke down and called the vet.

Tuesday Emmy's leg had looked so good after her long was actually starting to almost look slightly normal again, but the next morning it was blown up like a balloon, literally back to what it had looked like when she first came in with it from the field on day one. We were 5 days into the healing process and nothing was making any real progress.

My first step was to just talk to the vet. I called the vet office and left a message with the secretary for our vet to give me a call when she had a chance. She finally called that evening as I was driving home from work. I told her, in great detail, all of the symptoms and what I had done with her thus far. She gave me 4 possibilities based on what I could tell her, without her actually seeing the leg. They were 1) a localized infection from a minuscule puncture that you can't even see, 2) a really bad bone bruise, 3) although it's uncommon in older horses, a popped splint or 4) a broken or fractured splint bone. Oh dear.

We discussed, for a long time, the possibilities, how to treat them, the financial aspects of the injury and what to do next. I like this vet a lot because she's very down to earth with the whole thing...she never tries to push you into getting something you don't need and she is very conscious about the costs of things. Not that I'm a cheap person, but I am a college student with two horses which I pay for myself, a bank account which is running low, and a hefty paycheck which I haven't yet received. As much as I would like to, I can't just start x-raying and ultra sounding everything to find the problem. If it comes down to it, then yes, I will do all of those things, but first I want to eliminate what I can on my own.

Here is the plan: We started Emmy on 10 SMZ's morning and night for 7 days. Our first attempt is to fight a possible infection that could be brewing in the leg. I started the antibiotics Thursday and scheduled an actual vet appointment for the following Thursday (7 days from the SMZ start.) I told the office that I wanted a physical examination and possibly x-rays if the vet thinks it's necessary when she looks at the leg. This seems to work out the best for everyone. The vet gave me to go ahead to start the antibiotics myself, and so the idea is that I can eliminate a possibility and only pay for one farm call. Rather than having the vet come, prescribe antibiotics, wait 7 days and have it not work, then come again to x-ray, I started the meds myself and made one vet appointment for further investigative work. If the antibiotics work, and the leg gets better, then she most likely had a localized infection and I can cancel the vet appointment. If nothing changes with the meds, then the appointment is set up for the vet to come and do a physical exam and take x-rays.

My biggest fear is that Emmy may have broken/fractured her splint bone, something that a horse can do and still be totally sound (trust me, I asked the vet all about this one...) My understanding of it is that the splint bone, in an adult horse, is a non-weight bearing structure because it fuses as the horse ages (this is why older horses don't generally "pop" splints.) Because of this, a horse can fracture or break it and (especially if it doesn't interfere with the suspensory ligament) still be totally sound when trotted in a straight line (which is all we've done thus far.) Lameness in a "sound" horse with a broken splint bone sometimes won't show up until the horse is worked or lunged on a circle, neither of which I can do right now because all we have had for the past two weeks is thunderstorm after thunderstorm and the ground is totally saturated and sloppy. If the break is in the distal end of the bone and interferes with the suspensory ligament, surgery is required to actually remove the bottom part of the bone. Horses usually recover from this in about 30 days. If the break/fracture is higher up in the proximal end of the bone, surgery usually isn't require unless there is a chance of damaging the suspensory with bone fragments. If the bone has shifted though, the break is more complicated and surgery is required to put screws in the leg, again, so the bone won't damage the suspensory. Hopefully, this is not the case with Emmy. She's far too old to even undergo a simple surgical procedure and to be quite frank, I don't have the money to do it. We got her when she was already 16 so we never insured her because my dad didn't think it was worth it at her age, so anything we pay would have to come out of pocket. If this is the case, I have no idea what I would do...probably have no choice but to retire her as a riding horse :( I'm trying not to think too far into it thought. I'm taking this one day at a time, focusing on one potential possibility at a time, hoping for the best but yet starting to prep myself for the worst.

What concerns me about the whole thing is that, in all of my dealings with Emmy (and trust me...this horse is like a walking accident. I should have just gone to vet school because she hurts herself so much that I'm practically half way there already) I've never NOT been able to control swelling. I can't even tell you how many times she's done dumb things like kicked her leg through a wall, ran into a fence, tear her entire shoulder open, get her head stuck in a hay manger, strain her suspensory...I mean seriously, I've treated so many different injuries that it's practically routine (although in the past few years she's mellowed out and only had maybe 2 or 3) and yet I have never encountered something that I couldn't fix. Despite all of the trouble she has gotten herself into, I've always been able to fix it...and I can't fix it this time. No matter what I've done thus far, her leg hasn't really gotten any better. It has been one week today since she did it and the swelling has BARELY gone down. A whole week and despite the cold hosing, hand walking, bute, poultice, wraps...everything I've tried hasn't made a difference at all.

That's what worries me. The thought that maybe this isn't working because it's something I've never dealt with before...and out of the list that the vet gave me, the only things I've never had her do is break a bone and get an infection.

Let's hope these SMZ's work.


P.S. Keep and eye out for an update about Johnny soon. I have to say I've been neglecting him a bit (as far as riding and training goes, not general care!) between the rain and Emmy being hurt :(

Monday, May 17, 2010


Last night I left the wraps off Emmy's hind legs, although I still did poultice it with a gauze sleeve to hold the poultice paper in place. This afternoon it wasn't really any better, but after 20 minutes of ice and a 45 minute walk some of the swelling had gone down a bit. I jogged her again and she is 100% sound. Temp is still normal, no heat in the hoof and no digital pulse. There is however, still heat just under her hock on the inside of the leg. The rest of the leg seems to be cooling a bit, but no swelling has gone down anywhere else. She is eating fine and seems perfectly normal. I'm still not sure what to do...I've had two outside opinions chime "bone bruise" already, but after two days of 2 grams of bute, ice and cold hosing, wouldn't you think that the swelling would go down a little more? The fact that I can't get the heat or swelling out concerns me. I think I'm going to give it one more day and then call the vet if there is no improvement...tomorrow would be the 4th day (including Saturday when I found it) that is has been swollen.

Here is a photo update from today. Again, sorry for the poultice chunks. The area of concern to me is just below the chestnut on the inside of the hock. You can see the swelling there. It is firm swelling with heat. This photo also gives you a nice comparison of how big the leg is compared to her left hind.

In a little brighter news, I took Johnny next door and used the neighbors outdoor ring to school him last night. He was actually quite good despite being in a new place and wanting to watch everything going on outside the ring. I admit that I did ride him in ear puffies yesterday just to help him didn't help a whole lot lol.

We did however, have much better canters on both leads, including simple changes across the diagonal :)

Of course it has rained all day today, so no more riding for a while again. Omg spring....s

Keep your fingers crossed for Emmy still :(


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bad to Worse ::PLEASE READ::

Yesterday was my day off and I went up to the barn in the afternoon, planning to ride Emmy, turn in and feed the horses, eat dinner myself and then ride Johnny after. This is my basic daily routine with them. I went out to the pasture, got Emmy and brought her in and put her in cross ties. She had rolled on one side, so I started on her muddy left side with the curry comb, just like always. I worked from her face, down to shoulder and front legs, across her back and down her left hind leg. I groom in a funny pattern...starting on one side I groom from top to bottom (head to hind leg) and then I will circle around to her other hind leg, groom that and then start back up at the other side of her head and work my way back down. I don't know why I do it...but that's how I've always done it.

Yesterday, I went down her left hind leg, scrubbed the mud off her heels with my mitt and then reached back up to the right hind

and froze.

Her entire leg, from her hock down was HUGE. I immediately dropped the mitt and started running my hands over it...there were no cuts, no scrapes, no sign of outward trauma to the leg itself (such as a kick or a cut) except for a small scrape on her OTHER hock which was fresh that day. The entire leg was completely swollen and filled in, but the most swelling is below her hock. There was heat there also. My heart sank as I straightened up and grabbed her lead rope "Emmy...what did you do?"

I walked her out of the barn and onto the pavement outside. She seemed to be walking fine. She was perky and happy. I asked a friend to trot her up the driveway for me. He took her to the end, turned her around and started jogging her. I held my breath.

Emmy trotted up the drive and past me, happy as a clam. No head bobbing, no limp, no off step. Nothing.

What? With so much swelling how could she not be lame?

I asked him to trot her again. Still nothing.

I won't lie, I was freaking out a bit. After dealing with her suspensory injury almost 4 years ago, the sight of what looked to be a similar injury with no outward cause was enough to make me almost call the vet right away (and I NEVER call the vet...) for an ultrasound.

I immediately put her on ice and continued to look for the cause.

My dad came up later to help me flex test her. Maybe a funny step as she stepped off, but other than that she was totally fine. She did not however, like me picking her foot up at first. We flex tested her twice with almost not result. After that, he held her while I cold hosed it. I poulticed it and wrapped it for the night. "It will be better tomorrow" I thought, "she must have just bumped it."

This morning I went up to the barn early before work and took the wraps off to find her leg completely unchanged. I put it on ice again while I got the horses breakfast ready, left a note for the barn owner to leave her in today, and wrapped it back up again.

Since I only work a half day on Sundays, I went back to the barn around 1:30 when I got home. Took the wraps off again to find still no change. Hand walked her for about 20 minutes on the trails. She was bright eyed and eager to go, occasionally prancing beside me and trying to trot off. After our walk I checked it again. Still no change. I cold hosed it again for 20 minutes and let her loose in the yard to eat grass while her leg dried. No change.

What could possibly be going on with her? She has no temperature, no digital pulse...other than the fact that it's a swollen balloon she seems totally fine, although she does pick it up when you first touch it, but then she sets it back down and doesn't mind. The swelling is firm and fills in her entire leg. My biggest fear is that she has injured a tendon or ligament (not all soft tissue injuries cause lameness) although a few friends have suggested different things. My one friend's horse had the same kind of mysterious swelling (also in the hind leg) and ended up blowing out an abscess 4 days later, but if it was an abscess, wouldn't there be a pounding digital pulse? Another friend suggested a bone bruise...I'm not really sure what to think! As of right now, we are going to play the "wait and see" game for a couple days, with the number 1 priority being to get the swelling out of her leg. I started her on 2 grams of bute, cold hosing and walking 3 times a day, and poulticing without wraps at night. My old trainer thought it would be better to leave them off so that they don't hold heat against her leg. I suppose if she's sound she doesn't need the wrap? I'm still concerned for a tendon/ligament injury, but my old trainer suggested that I don't jump to conclusions and take it one step at a time. I suppose she's right, because a vet wouldn't tell me to do anything other than what I'm doing and with the leg being so swollen, you wouldn't be able to get a good ultrasound anyway until the swelling went down.

Still, I'm very concerned.

Here is a photo that I took today on my phone...sorry there is still some poultice on that I hadn't curried/washed off yet. See how swollen the inside of the leg is below the hock? It's also filled in all the way around...totally stocked up. Does anyone have any ideas? It looks worse in 3D...

Please comment if you have an idea/suggestion... I'm kind of at a loss!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Frustrated. Please Help.

The sun peaked out again today long enough for me to hack both horses out on the trails behind the barn. Emmy started out light but dropping her left shoulder, which she was reluctant to correct and in turn tried to hang on the bit and "pretend" like she had picked it up (sorry Emmy, the rouse is didn't work lol) Her canter started off ok and then went down hill a little when she started pulling again. We fixed that right up though with some canter-walk-canter transitions and then went a step further to a left lead canter-walk-right lead canter simple changes all down the path. At the end, I got up into my "hunter seat" and asked her for her hack canter. She stretched out lovely, stayed light in the bridle and came right back to a walk when I sat down and told her
"woah." It's refreshing to ride her after dealing with Johnny's quirks...

...And speaking of which, I'm starting to get frustrated with both him and myself. I took him out after dinner and hacked the same route that I did with Emmy. Our trots weren't bad except that he couldn't focus to save his life going away from the barn and kept cocking his head sideways to look at something, where in he would then trip over his own feet and almost fall of his face. I tried my best to keep his attention by working the bit softly in his mouth and keeping him between my legs, but when he tunes you out, man does he tune you out...and it doesn't matter what you're doing, he will just blow through your aids with no regard for anything. In the end, our trots were pretty good, until I asked him to trot through some puddles on one side of the trail and he FREAKED out and would swing his hips and leap out of them every time. Seriously Johnny? How many times do we have to walk through the tiny puddle, stand in it, back through it, leg yield through it before you he can just trot through it straight? About million, that's how many, and the only thing I ended up accomplishing was a semi-straight walk through the puddles. Honestly, it's maybe 2 feet long and an inch deep....he's not afraid of water, he's just being ridiculous.

When I finally got half of the response I wanted at the puddles I quit with that and decided to canter him to clean his head. His left lead canters were utter crap...flat and sprawly and didn't matter what I did, he would just hang on me an pull into his hideous Standardbred trot. He wasn't listening at all. In the end, I ended up doing canter-walk-canter transitions, a few times where I had to really sit back and tell him that when I ask him to walk I MEAN IT the first time...not 2039821083209 strides of pulling later. (Surprisingly he threw the right lead multiple times and those canter were quite good for a bad lead)  but in general, it was a really frustrating schooling session today. I don't know if part of this is just the lack of suitable riding ground, the lack of work, or the lack of my skills as a rider? We can essentially rule out physical problem because there's nothing wrong with him and it's not like he's working any harder now than he was before. Nothing at all has changed except for being home where he doesn't get ridden as much. Regardless of what may be causing it, we are hitting mental road blocks which were never in the way before. I used to always say that I loved having a gelding now (I'd always had mares before Johnny) because he came out of the stall the same way every day and he got better and better with each ride. Having never owned a gelding, I just assumed that's how they all were but anymore, Emmy is the one being consistent here and Johnny is flying all across the board. I almost want to just turn him out for a little while and start over, but my gut feeling tells me that we've finally come to that point in his training where he's either going to work through this and it's all going to click and get good, or we are going to give up and stay mediocre forever. Turning him out or giving him time off wouldn't help that situation, because eventually, he'd get right back to the same spot again.

Has anyone else had this problem with their STB or even just their normal horse? I don't even know what to do with him right now. I think I'm going to bite the bullet and take him next door tomorrow to use their outdoor ring (say goodbye to $15...) to try and address the issue as best I can...even though their ring is on a hill.

Please help!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Short Break

I took advantage of today's weather (cloudy and cool but not rainy) and rode both Emmy and Johnny today. I took them both down to the park for a good hack and a gallop. Emmy was even more perfect than normal and cantered like a pleasant little princess through the park and along side the road without pulling at all! I think a lot of it is that when I sit and relax my elbow and follow her mouth better, she has nothing really to pull against so she doesn't. It's when I tense up my arm that she a hangs on me! Her left lead was better than the right, but that's always been the case with her.

Johnny on the other hand was fresh, fresh, FRESH. He's so fit now that being stuck in his stall all day yesterday with the horrible thunder storms was way too much sitting for him, despite the fact that he was out all day today. With Johnny I worked on keeping the trot temp slow and consistent without getting the "Johnny hop" on the right diagonal. I work on keeping his canter a little loftier and not so flat, which was really difficult in the beginning but got better. I even got his right lead every time I asked him and we GALLOPED for a good long stretch on the bad lead! It's funny because his "bad lead" actually produces a better balanced canter than his "good lead." Weird huh?

Between work and home I rode 4 horses total today and I'm tired! My knees hurt from galloping! I'm out of shapppeee!!


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Cold Weather Creaks

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post! If anyone else has any thing to add or any comments or suggestions please feel free!

The past few days have been quite cold here in Northeastern Ohio, not to mention the ENORMOUS amounts of rain which have left the riding field sogggyyyyy. Today the temperature barely hit 60 by late friend at the race track told me today that it was 33 during his morning gallops! Emmy and Johnny aren't huge fans of cold weather. While Johnny prefers it to be a little cooler because he sweats a lot, both of them get pretty creaky when the cold comes, especially when we went from 80 to 50 in the matter of a few days!

Today I only worked a half day because the barn where I work is closed to clients on Mondays. It was so nice to get out early! I stopped at the barn on the way home to clean my stalls and say hello to Em and John in the pasture and then I went home for a nap! I've just felt so sleep deprived lately! I slept for about an hour and a half and work up feeling refreshed, went back to the barn and brought Emmy in from the field to clean her up and take her for a ride. Even though he was still outside with the group, Johnny was behind the barn screaming for her for like 10 minutes after I took her away. Does he really like her that much? I don't think so...I think she's just the only horse in the herd who likes him! She's his only friend!

I saddle Emmy and took her for a hack in the woods. We warmed up with some trot sets up and down the drive and then cantered through the apple orchard and up through the back field. She was hanging on me pretty bad, which is mainly because I just haven't ridden her all that much since she's been home. The weather hasn't cooperated much and there's only so much I can do with her out on the trails while I wait for the riding field to dry again. We did some leg-yielding back and forth across the drive and then I worked her hanging in the canter by cantering short sets, bringing her to a walk and then asking her for the other lead (on a straight line) essentially she was doing simple lead changes down the road. It did help her get lighter in her shoulders and it also helped when I reminded myself to use my body to ask for the downward transition before the reins. I brought her back mildly sweaty under the saddle pad, which is good for her because she's not much of a sweater.

Johnny was next. After I brought the horses in, fed and let him digest for a while I cleaned him up and took him back in the riding field. The ground was still pretty soft, but along the fence line was good so I did what I could with him. At first, I thought he was lame he started so stiff and wonky, which is really unlike him. The footing may have been a small factor, but he worked out of it so who knows? He also had a mysterious swelling on the right side of his neck today. It pretty big and hot and starting to drain down and form a little pouch under his neck. I think he may have gotten kicked, because it's too big to be a bug bite. It didn't seem to bother him to ride so I kept on going and after we cantered his trot got better. We worked over a couple cavaletti, worked on some bending in the trot and then did a few simple lead changes on the diagonal. He was very good, but I see some of our old problems starting to come back (bulging the shoulder, dropping the shoulder, heavy on the forehand, hips not staying straight...) It's really hard to keep up with his training when I don't have an arena with level footing, or at the moment, even dry footing for that matter. The barn next door told me I could pay to use their outdoor, but even their outdoor arena is still on a hill, which doesn't solve anything but the footing problem and if I wait a week my footing will be dry and I can ride on un-level ground for free. What a predicament huh? I talked to C and as soon as I get paid we are going to haul the horses to the polo fields and ride in the rings there. Maybe we can get something actually accomplished?

The weather man is calling for rain all week. Gahhh.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Life After The Life After

Since being home from school for the summer, something has really been weighing on my mind.

My dad brought it up the other day when he mentioned that I was not half way through my college years and headed towards the real world in just two more short years.

The question that I have been pondering so hard these past few days is "what am I going to do with Johnny when I graduate?"

Emmy isn't going anywhere. She was my first horse; my 13th birthday present. She is currently 23 years old and will be 25 by the time I graduate college. She's with me until the day that she dies.

Johnny on the other hand, will only have just turned 19 when I graduate (funny how I say "ONLY 19 like that's a good thing...) and will hopefully have long years of use ahead of him. Selling him isn't really an option...well it is, but it isn't just because I would hate for him to end up getting bumped around from place to place. I don't like the thought of selling horses which are older and not as sought after as younger horses because, generally speaking, they end up getting bounced around from place to place and treated improperly in the process. I want to know that, wherever he ends up, he will always come back to me if that person can't take care of him anymore. I know that you can write first right of refusal into a sale contract, but let's face it, Johnny just isn't all that sale-able. He'll never vet clean because of his front leg splints and his conformation is a little wacky. He's not fancy enough to be a hunter and not quite athletic enough to be a "real" jumper (aka: show at the 3' height)  Plus, I don't know anyone who would want a 19 year old Standardbred.

Then again, you never know where he might be in two years. Maybe he'll be going 3'...maybe he will be broken (I hope not on the latter!). Two years is an eternity yet goes by in a flash, so I want to start preparing for it should I prep this horse to make him successful for someone else in the event that I get a job somewhere and can't keep him anymore?

E made a suggestion first semester as we were playing around with Johnny in Maplebrook's indoor. Somewhere between me pulling a tarp over his body from head to tail (while he stood without a halter) and E hanging hula hoops over his neck and off his ears, did she suggest that Johnny might make a great therapy horse. "He's super quiet, he's easy and he's not afraid of anything" she said. Therapy was something that I had never considered for him. The thought had briefly crossed my mind with Emmy when I was getting ready to go to college as a freshman, but I quickly shot it down when I thought of a) all the little quirks Emmy has which can make her difficult/intimidating and b) how unhappy I thought she would be in a super-controlled program, not to mention that fact that she responds totally differently to different people. She's very much a one person horse and therapy horses get handled by different people all the time.

Johnny on the other hand, might be perfect. While 19 is fairly old for a donation (most places accept horses up to 20 years old) it might just be the best place for him. I researched some qualities which are sought after in therapy horses to see how he compares. Here is a list:

  1. Height vs. weight carrying ability:  (Johnny is 16 hands and rock solid. He's a Standardbred for goodness sake!)
  2. Temperament: He's got the best temperament I've ever seen in a horse...he give and gives and gives no matter what you do to him.A dressage judge/trainer once told me that he has the kindest eye and he never gets frustrated. He just keeps trying to do what you want.
  3. Training and train-ability: Although he doesn't have a whole lot of training under his belt right now, he's sharp as a tack and smart as can be. He learns faster than any horse I've ever ridden. The Standardbred breed is known for being highly train-able.
  4. Soundness: Most places recommend that the horse be sound in at least the walk and trot. So far, so good on this one. Plus, his canter is so smooth that he would be perfect for someone who's learning or has a disability.
  5. Conformation: This refers more to the horses actual weight carrying ability than anything else. Johnny's conformation isn't super correct, but it doesn't hinder his ability to carry taller or heavier riders.
  6. Health: We don't have any chronic health issues other than a seasonal cough and a runny eye (which might be the beginning of mild Uvitis...I'm not sure how that would affect him later in life, but right now it's not a problem. He wears a fly mask for turn out on sunny days and that's it. His hooves are good and strong. He only wears front shoes and he grows good hoof.
  7. Movement: Lets face it, Johnny isn't the world's best mover because of his breed. This is the only thing we might have a problem with because his trot to the right can get a little wonky...but who knows where that might be in a couple years? Like I said before, his canter is smooth as silk.
  8. Spook-ability: We've got this one down pat. See above about the tarp. He's not afraid of anything that would spook a normal horse.
  9. Age: 19 is near the top of most program's cut-off ages, but if he's got everything else going for him and he's sound, maybe this won't be a huge problem?
So what do you think? Sound like it might be a plan?



Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Long Week...and a LONG Post!

(This is a SUPER long post...but bear with's a good one)

I started back up at work this week and it's been an overall long week. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but there is no real easy way to ease back into the hype of a national level hunter show's like a river, you just have to jump back in and hope that the current doesn't sweep you away!

This morning I was up at 4:00am to head over Chagrin for the horse show. We've had 10 horses gone all week, but yesterday we shipped out 8 more ponies to add to those ten which were already at the show and so an extra hand was needed! Last year, I spent the entire summer on the road grooming, but this year I've stayed behind to help out at home. There are pros and cons to all of this really, I LOVE having set hours to my work day at home, and I get to ride more, but I really also love the atmosphere of horse shows! I love watching everyone, I love getting the horses ready, I love setting fences and polishing boots...when people ask me why on earth I would want to be a show groom (its so much work!) I tell them that a) it pays well, b) I get to meet all sorts of amazing people and professionals in the industry and c) I just really love horse shows! Most of the time it doesn't feel like a job!

Today was just a tiring end to a long week. By the days end, I had cleaned 22 stalls, groomed/unwrapped 17 horses, ridden two ponies, set feed and fed dinner. Whew! The stalls was what really got me, I don't mind cleaning them at all, but at Chagrin, the manure pit is allllllll the way outside the other end of the barn (and it's a BIG barn) The worst part (and the most time consuming) was just walking there! Not to mention the fact that it was POURING rain and horribly windy (up to 70 mile and hour gusts at times!) Chagrin is usually all indoors (like I said, its a MASSIVE facility) but for the rated shows the fill up the indoor warm up and arena with stalls and show in three big outdoor rings, which are fabulous on a nice sunny spring day. Unfortunately, today was not that day. The show rings themselves weren't too bad, but the hunter warm up ring was under water and we almost scratched all of our entries until we got clearance to school with the jumpers. The jumper warm up is on higher ground and isn't nearly as wet. Because of the winds though, the entire show became a little bit about "survival of the fittest" or in other terms, who can get around the jumps without their horse freaking out as the flower boxes blow over. All of the pony classes got canceled and moved to tomorrow. As wise decision really...our ponies are great but we really didn't want any of our short stirrup riders dying!

In other news, Emmy and Johnny have both been really good this week! Johnny was HORRIBLE the first time I rode him after we got home from school and I layed into him pretty bad. It wasn't even that he was bad to be ridden...he was just FREAKING out about everything (not in a scared an I-don't-want-to-leave-my-friends kind of way). I brought him in from the pasture to ride him and he was screaming his head off and trying to spin around in the cross ties (to go where, I don't know...) I don't mind him whinnying and I tried to be nice at first and soothe his frazzled nerves, but the situation eventually went from ruffled feathers to down right rude and dangerous. When I went to lay his baby pad on his back he REARED in the cross ties while whinnying to Emmy (who wasn't helping because she was whinnying back) and then tried to spin in circles again. When he couldn't because of the cross ties, he reared again! WHAT THE HECK? He's never EVER been like this before! I barely got him saddled before he CHARGED out of the barn, nearly knocking me down, and then I had to practically do a running mount onto his back because he was rearing at the mounting block. I took him on trail and thought that he might calm down once he was away from everyone, and he did stop whinnying, but he was jigging something awful so I let him trot almost immediately and before I knew it we were full out running down the back drive. I let him do it, thinking that we would run once and be done, but nooooo way....I held on while that horse for half an hour back and forth until he was quiet, brought him back to the barn dripping with sweat, only to have him start the same stuff once we were back by the other horses. Trying to hose him off was a nightmare...he was trampling me and spinning in circles some more. He was completely ignoring me...he could have cared less that I was mad at him. I finally just gave up and took him for a walk out on the trails. When we got into the field behind the woods he practically ripped the lead rope out of my hand diving for grass. I yanked his head back up, shanked him and backed him up and then made him stand until I let him go, and then I just sat down and cried.

I've got all the patience in the world for horses...I'm never mean or aggressive unless I have to be, but never in all my 12 years of riding have I ever felt as frustrated and angry as I was that night. I cried until Johnny was dry and the sky was turning dark, then I took him back to the barn, fed him a cookie and groomed him until his coat was glossy, told him he was rotten, but apologized anyway for being mad at him, put him away and went home, deflated, dejected and in a terrible mood. What do I do? Make both of our lives easier and just not ride him when the other horses are out? What is that teaching him though? That he can get away with being bad, right? But trying to work him when he's in a tizzy gets us no where either...what a double edged sword this one is, huh?

The next day the weather-man was calling for storms. The rain held off all day, but by the time I got home from work, the dark clouds were gathering and thunder was starting to rumble off in the distance. M was in the barn mixing feed for dinner and I told her to hold Johnny's because we had some unfinished business. I brushed him down as quick as I could, wrapped his legs and put on his surcingle. We went up to the top part of the field where the ground is flattest and the footing is the best. The air was thick and heavy with the approaching rain but I Johnny and I had to work this out. He took off trotting before I even had my lunge line organize. After a few warm up laps in each direction, I stopped him, attached his side reins and sent him off again. I've always kept his side reins pretty loose to avoid making him feel trapped (I knew a girl who put side reins on her horse for the first time and didn't adjust them properly. Her horse hit the end of them, freaked out, reared and flipped over into the arena wall (which was cinder block) hit his head and was instantly neurological. He lived for three days.) since working on the contact is still fairly new to him. For the first time ever, he got mad when he felt the side reins, he took off bucking and leaping for a lap before stretching into them. We lunged both directions for almost 30 minutes (wayyy longer then I ever do) until the first streaks of lightning shot across the sky. When he wanted to stop I drove him was essentially round-penning on a lunge line. When I dropped the line he turned to face me, ears pricked, nostrils blowing.

He's been a perfect angel ever since.

The next day I rode him again and this time set up a jump to work some more of his energy out and to let him do something he really enjoys. The second he saw it he wanted to charge at it, but I made him wait when he wanted to go long the first time. I set the warm up fence as a small cross rail, but finally got off and made it a vertical, probably around 2'3". He jumped it perfect every time! (See my previous post titled "When In Doubt") It seems that our problems are behind us for the moment. I gave him yesterday off and the rain has unfortunately kept up all day today, so he might be super fresh tomorrow...we will see!

Yesterday I did the same exercise with Emmy. She was also raring to go and was FLYING over the jumps! I love riding her because she and I have had so much time to build a relationship that we are just so in tune with one another...I can get whatever distance I want on that horse; short, long, perfect...whatever I tell her she will do. It's such an amazing feeling! The thing people have trouble with on her, is the fact that you HAVE to tell her where the distance is, otherwise she makes up her own (especially when she's fresh like she was yesterday) and it's not always very pretty. I'm sure that, if she were jumping loose without a rider, her distance would look beautiful and her form would be perfect no matter where she chose to leave the ground from, but it's us riders that screw her up. We make our horses jobs harder!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I've got the day off work...but not really. Lol. I still have to get up and change my horses blankets before they go out in the morning, then come back later and clean stalls and hopefully take Johnny for a hack if it's not too muddy? For now though, it's time for bed!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

When In Doubt

I started work again this past Wednesday, so I'm going to make this quick because I'm SUPER tired...

Today at work our assistant trainer (AT) was telling a story about one of the clients lessons earlier in the morning. The AT was talking about the progress the client had made, because when she gets nervous or doesn't see a distance, she gets round with her shoulders and leans at her horse, which always makes the jump uglier. AT had worked with her this morning, getting her to sit up when she was nervous instead of collapsing forward. "When in doubt," the AT said, "just sit still."

I put this into practice today with Johnny. We were cantering some low 2'3" jumps out in the field. One time we came to the jump and were about 4 strides out and I wasn't sure how the distance was going to come up. The AT's words rang in my ears, "Just sit still." And that's exactly what I did. Wouldn't you know that our distance came up perfectly? It was there all along, I was just riding too far ahead to see it. This seems to be the secret with Johnny...just sit still! We didn't miss a single distance all day!

More tomorrow


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

South Farm Photos

As promised, here are some photos from the South Farm show. Unfortunately, I only have dressage pictures because C had to go get her horse ready during my Stadium round :(


Sunday, May 2, 2010

South Farm Combined Test - Results

The rain stayed away today long enough for us to have a good show outside at South Farm. C and I took the horses up for a Combined Test (dressage and show jumping.) It was Johnny's first combined test ever, as well as his first time showing Dressage and just his second time in the Jumpers (the first was less than successful if you remember my previous posts about it...) After a great warm  up, we headed over to the dressage ring. C warned me that John might be "looky" at the "judges booth" which was really just a horse trailer backed up to the ring with the ramp down and the judge and scribe sitting at a table inside. I waved it off, thinking "he'll be fine...its just a trailer!" We had the chance to walk all the way around the ring before the bell rang to start the test, and wouldn't you know that Johnny was TERRIFIED of the trailer. Poor guy! Since the show is held outdoors in the heart of (what I call) "Amish Land" there were LOTS of buggys going pasting the show ring all the time. Sometimes, horses are spooked by the carts, but not Johnny, he just thought they were FASCINATING and must have been re-living his race days because every time he even heard one he wanted to spin around and STARE at the buggy. Needless to say, about 6 of those buggys came past during the course of our test, so his paying attention factor was functioning some where around 10%, which showed in our test. The judge, however, was more than generous and even though Johnny did multiple pacey-hopy-cantery steps, she still gave us 5's and 6's and a 7 on our last centerline halt, which is far more than I would have given us! Most of the movement comments include things like "head high," "distracted," and "irregular," which were things that I already knew. Our free walk was "active but needing more stretch" and our last trot circle had "improving connection." For our final center line halt she wrote "slightly above the bit but square." Our collective marks had a very nice little blurb which read "A little distracted to really show movement today, time and experience will iron out inconsistencies. Kindly and gently presented by the rider." Our further remarks section read simply "Beautiful head!"
See? I always knew he was pretty! LOL

After our little dressage disaster I was still calm, but less than pleased with Johnny and he was now whinnying his head off and walking ALL OVER me. Now folks, I am a very patience person when it comes to horses. I don't ever yell at Johnny, or hit him or really punish him all that much for things like this at horse shows because I understand that he's nervous or worried...but running into me, bullying past me and spinning in circles when I ask him to stop? After I walked the course and changed for Stadium he almost shoved me over at the mounting block with his head and finally, I'd had enough. I took my stick and smacking him square in the chest. His eyes just about bugged out of his face and his ears shot forward so far that I thought they would fly off his head. Instantly he was perfectly still and didn't move again. His manners were much improved after that!

I had check the dressage postings before walking the jump course and we were 4th out of 6 after the dressage phase. Our Stadium warm up went very well, with him landing balanced and beautiful on the right lead. I didn't do a whole lot because he's one of those horses where you can easily leave your best ride behind in the warm up ring if you over do it. We trotted a cross rail and a vertical both directions, jumped a brick wall jump with ivy, and then cantered the cross rail and went to watch a few rounds. Johnny is so funny at the in-gate. He actually stands there with his ears perked and watches the horses go around the ring. His head follows them and everything! Finally it was our turn and in we went! The only jump that really concerned me was the second fence, which was a vertical with black, orange, yellow and bright green rails. It was quite the color combination! Plus it was one of the larger jumps on the course, probably about 2'3".

The whistle blew and I asked Johnny to trot. Spooking a little at the end of the ring, we came completely counter-bent through the start timers and he was already peeking at the first fence. I clucked and pressed him up over jump one. He landed in a heap on the back side, half running-trot half cantering back down towards the in-gate. I turned him up the diagonal towards fence two and felt him totally suck back. His left shoulder was bulging and he was completely set on running out. I could see it already, a total repeat of the LEC jumper show....over my dead body was that happening again! I opened the right rein, dug down in my heel and got mad. Kicked him off the left leg and growled at him, to which (as usually) he completely over-reacted to when he realized that a) I was angry with him and b) I meant BUSINESS. He leaped forward the last two strides and launched over the jump. From that point on, it all just came together. His ears shot forward and suddenly he was in it to win it. We rounded the end of the ring for fence three and he charged at it, leaped over and landed on his right lead. Three to four was a line and (although I was praying a little because we don't jump a ton off the right lead yet) I dug my heels down, sat back and held on. Johnny FLEW over fence four, we made a tight turn for fence 5 and got a beautiful distance, a beautiful jump and landed balanced on the back side.  He was galloping now, all the way down the diagonal and around the fence 6 and 7, another line, which he attack with so much vigor that I actually found myself pulling the reins to fit in the last stride. From there it was another left turn to fence 8 and a bending line to fence 9, which was the only oxer on the course. I thought he might look at it, but he sailed over that one as well, landed again on the right lead and was galloping so hard back towards the in-gate that I thought I was going to have to circle to pull up. I was literally along for the ride this time! He came out of the ring to a burst of applause from the in-gate crew! He was blowing and jigging out of the ring, lit up and so excited and proud of himself! It was really cool because the announce your horses breed when you go in for your round, so lots of people were looking at him after that!

It was the first time we've ever cantered almost the entire course (save for fences 1 and 2...and briefly in the turn to 3 where we also trotted to re-balance) and the first time I've just sat back and let him run to them. He never got flat or sprawly...when it got ugly, he figured it out and by the time we were to fence 5 he wasn't letting it get ugly...he was fixing himself!

In the end, we had the third fastest Stadium time with pulled us up into 3rd place to finish off! Third out of 6 at out first combined test! I'm so proud of him!!!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

A New Form of Exercise

My new method of working out the horses when I only have time to ride one! The horses came home today and I took Emmy our for a ride with Johnny tagging along side us :) I've ponied them before but never out on the trail. They were both so well behaved and it was really good for Johnny who had a hard time keeping up with Emmy at first. He would shuffle and then trot, then fall behind and then trot to catch up. After we did some trot work he kept up much better! It was good for both of them!


Photo from: