Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and better new year. ❤

The year was strange and hard, but man, I'm really loving Eli. This year forced me to keep him home and take the work slowly. 2020 wasn't all bad!


Monday, December 21, 2020

Gait Updates & Holiday Wishes

Poor sad blog, it's been pushed to the side this year. I haven't made many updates, especially around the one year mark when I wanted to. I got some great video from this weekend, so I'm doing the one year gait review today, instead of back in August/September when I wanted to. Enjoy some video I made a few months ago, and then the one from this past Saturday!

Eli's canter from my first ride on him. This may not be a fair comparison because it was my first ride on him, but it's pretty accurate. I was being taken for a ride, and that continued through winter 2019-2020 and spring 2020.



This is almost a month after the 1 year mark, but he didn't come home until 8/13/2019, so it's pretty close to 1 year:



And then finally, from this past weekend. I spent a long time this past year with a grounded, slow trot because Eli struggled to keep his balance with his poll up and his nose out. I've been able to establish better straightness recently, so I've been experimenting with adding power back to the trot... and suddenly this horse appeared! There's still some work to go: better reach, better suspension, eliminating the bit of BTV that's going on here, and steadying the poll. It's just so much better!



If you're in the same boat, don't despair. The horse will get there when he gets there, and not a moment sooner. (Also, lessons with A Enter Spooking help a lot!)

Since I'm not sure what's going on in my life or when the next update will be: I hope everyone is having a healthy and safe holiday season. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

One Year Comparisons: Hooves

I diligently took pictures of Eli's front hooves after every trim and reset. I didn't do the same for the hinds since they weren't as drastically bad... but they've both evolved so much.

I need to talk about the hind hooves first, because they influenced recent changes we made to the fronts. Forgive me, there's some history to go through before we get to the comparisons!

Hinds

At the beginning of summer, Eli was struggling with his stifles. He has struggled with toe catching behind ever since we put hind shoes on him last fall, but it started getting a lot worse once we started working outside on the harder outdoor arena. He started catching the toe more often and harder, wrenching the stifle in the process. I know his stifles turn out and he'd prefer not to track straight, but it's been getting better. I did my due diligence and had the vet out for a lameness exam even though he's not really lame, and to take xrays of the stifles.

He was due to have his hind shoes reset 2 days before the vet came, so I had the farrier pull his shoes so the vet could take whatever xrays she wanted. He did a slight trim so Eli wouldn't chew up his feet  but left enough hoof to put shoes back on. In those two days, he didn't catch his toes once.

The vet did a thorough look over and we xrayed the stifles to check them for bone malformation. Everything looked good on that front- no hooks! He did have some inflammation, which considering the struggle bus his hind end has been on, didn't surprise me. She recommended alternating rounds of Adequan and Legend every 3 months (which I'll do once I sort out a few things), and keep doing what I'm doing.

Long blocks of text need pictures of good boys who walked (under saddle) by themselves on the trail for the first time... after happily leaving the main group to head home alone! This was a few weeks ago.

That's all well and good, but I didn't have a content feeling on why shoes caused Eli to catch his toes. Farrier and I agreed that if he'll stay comfortable, we'll leave him barefoot behind since he's not wrenching the stifle. Eli got a proper barefoot trim and was happy.

That lasted about 3 weeks before I noticed some significant issues: footsore behind led to footsore on all 4 feet, despite pads and packing in his front hooves. He stopped walking comfortably out on the trail, even on soft dirt footing. He stopped pushing from behind to go up hills, not that he pushed much anyway, but he was clearly uncomfortable and pulling himself forward with his chest. He was standing more square on the concrete aisle, but everything else seemed touchy.

I had been talking to Penn's owner about hoof boots, but I was struggling to find a boot that was long enough for Eli's hooves, but narrow too. Eli's hind hooves are quite narrow, and more than one company told me their products wouldn't work for him. I was paroozing Easy Care's website when I saw they have a shoe specifically for hind hooves in their EasyShoe range. We measured Eli's hoof, and the shape of the shoe was right for his hoof, so I ordered Eli's first pair of EasyShoe Versa shoes!

From Easy Care's Website

The day finally came to put them on (we had to wait for enough hoof growth), and getting them on was an absolute shitshow. My farrier has put similar shoes on several horses over the years, so none of what happened was his fault. Eli was in serious pain. Farrier did a normal trim, and we found bruising arching with the white line for several inches along both hind toes.

Farrier thoroughly dried the hoof using a heat gun, slathered glue, then nailed the shoes on... one f-ing nail at a time. Eli would snatch the hoof out of his hand at every single nail. Funny part was, the nail going in didn't bother him as much as the hammer pounding near the hoof. Eli caught him once and the whole process had to stop while Farrier bandaged his hand up because he was bleeding everywhere (no good horse discount, I went and bought Farrier beer).


I was a schmuck and realized something the next morning: I should have packed Eli's hinds with magic cushion when Farrier was done the night before. I went out after work that day and packed his feet. He was still a bit sore when I brought him in, but post-MC and about 30 min later, he was already tracking better and bigger behind.


Since then, Eli has felt great! We're in our second cycle of Versa shoes, and I'm happy to say the second set went on a lot easier. Farrier has devised a great process for getting them on, and it's so great that he struggled briefly to pull them off. They were still adhered VERY tightly after 6 weeks in dry summer.

6 weeks of toe wear.

Eli wears size 138mm, but might have to go to 140mm in the next few cycles because his hind feet have started to widen! We can always grind off some of the length if needed when the time comes.

Fronts

With the polyurethane hind shoe experiment being a success, this past week we put on these front shoes:

EasyShoe Performance N/G

I originally wanted to put on Versas, but the shape of the front shoes wasn't correct for Eli's fronts. I also wanted to keep the bar shoe shape with frog support. After a lot of discussion with Penn's owner, I added supporting the bony column of the hoof and leg with a frog support wedge. If you recall, Penn's owner is a corrective farrier who leans towards barefoot and alternative shoeing. She dislikes the impact of steel shoes, and won't put steel shoes on unless she's doing pads and packing under them for shock absorption and frog/sole support.


The Performance N/G fit the bill. Definitely click the link to see the shoe flex independently. Eli wears a size 4, which is snug in width and JUST long enough.

These went on just as nicely as the hinds. They fit very snugly before they were glued and nailed on, so fingers crossed they stay on as well as the hinds have!

While I don't have a verdict about these as far as function, they appear to be doing the trick. Eli seems happy in them, and he's using his shoulder well and seems happier. I thought I had video, but my Galaxy s10 fell victim to the most recent Pivo app update and I had an error happen while recording Eli going in his new shoes... so no video.

Hoof Condition

In the last year, the quality of hoof has gotten a lot better all around. Eli's hooves were crack free until summer started, then all of a sudden got a bunch of small, minor cracks. The quarter crack in his left hind is gone though!

Eli kindly ripped his shoe off in turnout, pulling a chip out in front of the crack in this pic. Farrier trimmed a wedge into the bottom of the quarter crack to discourage it from continuing up the hoof. We packed it with keratex hoof wax after the shoe was back on. I couldn't find a real before pic of the crack, but it was another cm or so higher when he came home. 

Of course I didn't do proper pictures of the quarter crack, so this was the best I could find. The small cracks are all remnants of his time barefoot, plus a dry summer. But it's almost gone in this pic!

A reminder of where we started with the fronts. These are at least 4 weeks into their trim cycle since his fronts were pulled at his vetting in early Aug 2019.

Almost exactly a year later. Still more to go (come on hooves, PLEASE GROW HEEL), but they're still so much better. We're still chipping away at the toe, a bit more to go there too.

And without further ado, a video of the last 12 months of front shoeing!


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Gotcha Day, Year 1!

Today is Eli's gotcha day!

I wanted to have comparisons and such to put on here, but alas, work and life combined with Blogger's dumb new format makes it super difficult to post from my phone. I'll hopefully have some 1 year comparisons next week!

I rode this morning before work with a plan to be at the barn extra early to be down at the outdoor with 10 minutes or so extra time so I could use the selfie feature on my Pivo... Eli was not down with that plan.


I arrived at 5:55 and went to get him after pulling out brushes and tack. Found him napping. Note how dark it is.

So tired! Face smushed into the grass, snoring.

Getting a wee bit dramatic, snoring and groaning while sleeping.

Wait there was a noise!

Don't care, I'm exhausted.

He started getting up and stopped. He also started grazing and stopped. And stayed like this. Note how light it is.


When you kill almost a half hour trying to fetch the horse on Gotcha Day, this is the kind of selfie you have to settle for!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Eli's Eggplant

There's a bunch of things I've wanted to write about lately, but this is simply hilarious so I'm going to write about it first... and use your imagination when I say "eggplant." I'm not calling it anything else so I don't land in the wrong type of search engine!



So Eli is a ridiculously itchy horse. He's got a hundred itchy spots. It's probably easier to tell you what isn't itchy. I know he has ended up with staples in his face from itching it on inappropriate things a few times (I met him with staples under his left eye, he still has those scars and then some).

On Saturday, I noticed he has some flaking skin on one of his stifles, so I'm going to town on it with a stiff brush and he drops. Mikey was always easy to clean, Penn would try to kick me when I tried, so I was curious what Eli would do.

He had some peeling skin, and I was gently peeling/rolling it off to make sure I didn't get overzealous and pull too hard. He didn't snatch his "eggplant" away from me, so I kept on going because it was good training for sheath cleaning. For whatever reason I looked forward at his face.

He was liking it. A lot. Not in a slap the belly kind of way, in an "OMG that's the spot, KEEP SCRATCHING IT'S SO ITCHY." He really enjoyed it, some of his best "that's the spot" faces.

Umm. I've never met a horse with an itchy eggplant. Belly? Sure. The actual eggplant? Nope.

Sunday rolls around. What does a normal horse owner do? Not what I did I'm sure! I scratched his stifles again to see if I could make him drop to try and itch his eggplant again. The answer is yes, he dropped faster and more relaxed and enjoyed a good umm, scratch?

Eli is weird AF y'all. He kept his eggplant out, apparently wanting more scratches. This horse is going to be rated R if I'm not careful! He also wanted a snuggle when I walked past his face to wash my hands. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ Despite all the weird, I'm filing this under "good training" even though it's sort of gross and slightly awkward. But it's good to know he doesn't need to be sedated for sheath cleaning.

In all seriousness, I got a good reach up in his sheath Sunday to see of he'd kick me. Nope, he won't kick, but he was even more itchy up there and it was super gross. I ended up doing a poor cleaning after a trail ride. I didn't have anything on hand to clean him with other than water, so I did what I could. I pulled out enough smegma to make a ball the size of my fist, and I know there's more in there. For the 5-10 min I dug around hand deep in his sheath, he was making the best itchy faces! He won't drop with water around, so I'll have to look for a bean another day.

Sunrise 8/3/2020, Eli did not want to get out of bed!

Since he's tried to remove eyes while scratching his face, I'm just considering myself lucky he hasn't pulled off his eggplant with inappropriate scratching!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

2020 Updates

Hello everyone! Long time no post. I've been suffering burnout from work since sometime late last year, and it hasn't let up this year. I've had zero desire to get on here and write anything after spending my day frustrated and staring at a computer. Put that on top of it being a bit of a dark time mentally for me, then pile on COVID-19 madness, and you don't have a good recipe for blog writing. Plus like... it was mostly low content times.


I hope you and yours are safe and well in this pandemic, and your life hasn't been turned upside down to an unmanageable point. I'm one of the lucky ones- my husband and I are both working at home 100% since mid March (expected through at least September, if not the end of the year) and it's BAU for us. I fall into a few of the health risk categories, so I'm extremely grateful to be able to work from home.

Our barn didn't close, but we did excessive cleaning with social distancing rules. Social distancing is getting easier as the weather warms up. I still feel safe going out there because of all the precautions I take personally and the precautions the staff takes. I wipe down my trunk, locker, and stall front when I arrive and before I leave. I keep a halter and lead rope for my personal use and leave Eli's regular halter and lead for staff to use. I tack up in my stall using a personal set of cross ties so that I don't have to share community cross ties. I wash my hands when I get there, at least once while I'm there, and before I leave. I use paper towels to open doors. Most of the other boarders do something similar.

This set up actually did a fabulous job of teaching him he's ok alone in the barn. I found he was a lot less worried about things when he was in his "safe space." It also taught him to stay in his freaking stall instead of running out!

As a barn, we've been using the TeamUp app to note when each of us will be at the barn so we can spread out throughout the day. There were some minor tweaks I had to make to my barn schedule, but I'm still getting out there 4 to 5 days a week.

I'm also on staff at the barn, so I participate in cleaning high traffic surfaces as well as the gator, pitch forks, wheelbarrows, brooms, and dust pans. The barn lounge was closed almost immediately to discourage loitering, and was staff only up until recently. Knock on wood, staff and boarders have all been healthy so far and we're going out of our way to protect ourselves and everyone else.
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Eli and I have been trucking along, taking everything slowly because I'm mentally struggling (but getting better now). Instead of seeing the good in each ride, I was only seeing what I hadn't done or wasn't doing because of fear. It made horses not fun, and I didn't want to go to the barn or ride. I wanted to sell everything and be done with horses, but I didn't know what I'd do instead.

I took GP trainer's advice back in March and got in contact with the sports psychologist she used several years ago. The program I was using got me in the saddle and going with Eli, but wasn't enough. I'm still in the early phases of the new program, it's hard but it's working.

It took an obscene number of pictures to get one with his ears semi-forward. He was gorging himself on grass and looked unhappy about it. 🤣

I got to have a great virtual lesson with Megan at the end of March! She really helped me to start bringing Eli's hind legs closer together so he engages better, but we also went over the cues for shoulder fore, and teaching a young horse how to respond properly. Breaking it down into attainable steps really helped in other aspects of riding too.

I also figured out back in April that a lot of my trouble with Eli taking over and pulling me out of the saddle came from him physically pulling the bit forward in his mouth and then leaning hard on it. He's gotten his tongue over the bit a bunch of times doing that trick. I wasn't trusting myself to keep my own balance so I was using his mouth for balance (I know, bad!), so this trick was really effective at destabilizing me.

When I ordered his bridle after he came home, I got a plain cavesson and a drop noseband. I swapped out that plain noseband for the drop. What a difference! He fussed with the bit, trying to take it from me, had a slam on the brakes tantrum when he couldn't pull the bit forward, and then settled into really steady work. Steady in tempo and the contact.



I've been able to pick the fights, and win them quickly, over not leaning, giraffing, or rooting. When Eli can't pull the bit forward, he doesn't get his balance lurching around, which means I have core to spare, so I can shake him off my hand and put my leg on and use a seat based half halt to put him back in contact seeking mode.

I also found a trainer in my area to take lessons from. She's been around for ages and finished her gold medal last year. We've been lessoning every other week since the end of March. Lessons revolve around self carriage with suppleness for Eli and correct position for me. GP Trainer P is forward into the contact and not pulling the horse into it, and she's been very understanding about my fear issues and Eli being a new partnership. (the video above was from our 3rd lesson, the two below are from our... 5th? on 6/5/2020)



I made a few other tack adjustments in the last 2 months:

Changed the bit from a HS RS Dynamic Loose Ring Lozenge to a Nathe. Eli has never been great about bridling (tall horse becomes a giraffe). In fact, I have to be careful he's still tied to something because sometimes he'll turn and leave as soon as he knows the bridle is coming! Penn was never difficult to bridle, but he gobbled up the Nathe like candy. When I put him in a double to take pictures before he went to his new home, he refused to take the bit the next day until he realized it was the Nathe again. I was at a loss of what to do bit wise for Eli. He had a hard, dead mouth, wasn't thrilled about meeting the contact, and evaded being bridled. I tried a cookie after taking the bit to encourage him to go along with it, which helped at least keep him in place, if not head down. He didn't seem... happy. I was afraid I wouldn't have breaks with the Nathe, but I got so fed up one day I just popped it on and thought, "I can always dismount if he's not listening."

Uh, for the first time ever, I had real direct rein steering. I didn't realize it was missing. He wasn't afraid of the contact, in fact he went right to it. We kept it and haven't looked back! He's been much, much happier in the contact. The amount of BTV curling has also been reduced. Sure it still happens sometimes when I get too heavy handed because I've lost my balance (sorry Eli), but he lives on the vertical for the most part.

First or second ride with a new-to-us saddle!

Put Penn's Hastilow Concept Elevation on consignment with the saddle fitter and found a used Black Country Bellissima. GP Trainer mentioned she first saw Eli that she didn't think the saddle was a good long term fit for Eli, but I didn't get a new one at that time because I figured he'd be changing shape and Penn's fit well enough for now. Fast forward to the end of April. Penn's saddle had been reflocked twice, and I'd widened it once already. Suddenly, the panels weren't sitting right and it was both pinching the very top of the whithers causing pressure bumps while being too wide at the bottom points (meaning it was too wide). Making the tree narrower only made the bumps worse (so it's also the wrong shape). When I stuck my hand into the gullet, I found the left panel under the twist was sitting on Eli's spine ever so slightly. I put Penn's old Stubben 1894 on, which is several CM too small, and Eli preferred to have his back squeezed than whatever was going on with the Hastilow. I suspected that he also disliked the flex-tree in it- he seems to enjoy steady, non-chatterbox tack.

After what seemed an age, (ok not really, 3 weeks and one homemade saddle pad later that relieved the spine interference for the most part), my previously scheduled appointment with the saddle fitter came and we settled on the Black Country Eloquence. I test rode a padded up WXW to see if Eli liked the tree (he loved it) and if I liked the feel (I did not). The main hang up was the saddle I was trying was a half size too small, which made everything feel off. Saddle Fitter did not have an Eloquence in stock in an 18.5 that I could try, and Black Country was still closed from the virus. We talked about having something custom made because I didn't like how the seat felt and we thought I'd enjoy a slightly forward flap dressage saddle (thank you Mary Wanless), but I also wasn't prepared to spend $4500+ on a new saddle. Instead, we did some internet scouring during my fitting and found a few 18.5 MW candidates that allowed trials, and I reached out to them. I took the WXW on trial so I'd have something to ride him in and to make sure he kept liking the tree. I actually found the saddle winner the next morning- a very well used Bellissima. The Bellissima is the same tree and saddle as the Eloquence, but is the luxury model.

From the tack shop's website

I called the tack shop selling it first thing when they opened and it was on its way to me that afternoon! I was super nervous about it not fitting Eli since it looked a little narrow to be a MW, but it fit Eli like it was made for him. It also felt like it was made for my butt! It encourages me to keep my pelvis tilted up, thigh rolled in, core engaged... all those Mary Wanless taught ideas. I still think I'd like more forward flaps, but it will work for now. If/when Eli outgrows this saddle, I'll order a custom Bellissima (because in truth, I love calfskin seats). I just have to save for it!

Eli has felt like he was about to buck for 90% of the rides I'd had on him up to this point. I'd check in with other people riding with me and they'd say, "No, there is no buck in his back." It made me nervous to put leg on or really ask Eli to do things. My friend that rides Eli sometimes didn't register the feeling because her mare feels like that all the time (very high internal pressure mare who does often buck when she feels she's been wronged). That feeling is gone!

Monty Robert's Dually Halter over the bridle with a second set of reins hooked to the rope nose as a sort of emergency brake.

Eli can also walk downhill under saddle. I started trail riding with a Dually Halter safety net and the idea that simply getting into the woods was a victory, even if I got off and led him. The major problem I had was his inability to sit down to go downhill. He'd flail and try to trot off, stumbling and running into the horse in front of us. With the Bellissima, that is gone. I didn't make some miraculous training adjustment overnight... I changed the saddle and he sat like he's supposed to. He likes it better!


Thanks to the change of saddle, I had this first successes on 5/26/2020, when I just "went for it" and cantered outside because Eli felt safe. Sure, I'm super freaking handsy and using him to balance myself, but to get less handsy in the canter I need to practice the canter.

I made the change official on Memorial Day when I drove to the fitter's office to drop off Penn's saddle for consignment, return the trial saddle, and have them vet the Bellissima for soundness. I took a bunch of pictures of it sitting on Eli and of Eli's back without it so they could evaluate balance and his musculature. The saddle needs to be reflocked, but with a shim it'll do until the fitter can get out again.
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In other news, the beauty of the internet has also led me to some incredible strangers. Through Instagram, I found someone who managed to get SoloShot to replace her arm tag because she was sent a faulty tag. I tried to get a new tag under warranty back in Oct 2018 and got no where with them after a month of pestering. This lovely individual, who was a stranger to me and we had nothing more in common than a love for horses and broken SoloShot3s, used her connections to get my inquiry to the right people at SoloShot. I got a new tag about a month ago, and my Soloshot3 has worked almost flawlessly since! It has had a couple goof ups in tracking where I'm not sure what happened, but it has worked well enough for 95% of my rides because I keep it on medium view instead of tight... so videos on the blog will end up a bit zoomed out, sorry! But the bright side is... I'll have new media regularly!


6/20/2020 We love a super boring canter these days :)
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As for the blog, I'm certainly not closing it. I'm also not going to be updating it as much (heck, I've only managed... 3 times this year?). I'll probably do a bit more updating now that the Soloshot3 is working again!


We started cavaletti Sundays back up this past weekend. We stopped them when Eli started bolting through this same exercise and I had to use the 90 degree turns to trip him up and help him not anticipate. I did a bunch of cavaletti on the long lines to let him figure out cantering trot poles like a wild man was not a safe thing to do. Ever since, knock on wood, he's been good!