Monday, February 3, 2020

The Curious Case of Inappropriate Poop

Horses are not dicks on purpose people. Dogs, cats, horses and animals in general don’t do things out of spite. If they’re mad, they tell you right away, end of story. Then they’re back to themselves, and they might like you less, but it’s a constant dislike. Not plotting. Horse dynamics within the herd are swift and severe, and then it’s over.

I mean, this totally looks like Sophie is going to kill me in my sleep. But alas no, she is simply tolerating my shenanigans.

Around the time we switched to day time turnout, I started getting reports about my horse being an asshole because he was pooping in his water bucket. Then it was his feed bin, NIGHTLY. I was racking my brain to figure out what was wrong.

It all started with Eli pooping in his water, and barn staff complaining they had to dump it every morning. It took me a couple weeks to work out that he was leaning on his buckets while he slept, and then horses are horses, so he pooped where he stood… which happened to be in the water bucket. The staff tried moving it all over his stall, and without fail, every night he’d find it and poop in it. We tried “poop training” him by putting another horse’s poop in the stall where we wanted him to poop (and his too). It worked for one night only.

When he switched stalls due to an unhealthy attachment to a turnout buddy who also lived next to him in the barn, he started pooping in his feed bin. This cause a bit of an uproar. Inexperienced staff wouldn’t check the feed bin before dumping grain (something ALL STAFF should do for EVERY HORSE anyway), he’d eat half his own poop, and I’d have a shit fit come evening when I found poop mashed around in his grain bin. I was not kind. Everyone said my horse was just being a dick. I kept saying he liked to lean on things while he slept and he was simply being a horse, pooping where he stood.

One particularly bad night where he got all 3.
Horse people really like taking pictures of poop don't they? 

The solution was a gate feeder (like for outside horses) for AM feed after the night in the stall. This worked well and my brains stayed in my head. Poop was removed when the stall was cleaned after breakfast, all was well other than Eli was annoying majority of the staff.

The other odd thing I’ve been fighting is a hock sore on the right hind that just wouldn’t go away. Eli was reopening it every day it seemed, and had been for months. Nothing I did got it to close. After the stall move, a new sore started on the back of his left hock, right on the point of the hock.

Partially healed hock sore that no amount of bedding would stop from reoccurring.

On a completely different (but I promise related note), the Mary Wanless GP trainer I saw in December expressed some concerns about Eli’s hind end. I dutifully got the work ups for lyme and EPM (no spinal tap, just blood, I know it’s not the golden standard), and had a lameness exam and neuro exam. The most we got was he clear on EPM and lyme, was very tight in his lower back, and lazy behind. Both MWGP and my vet suggested chiro work. I had used “adjusters” in the last few months (they aren’t vets and basically did glorified massage and stretches), because I hadn’t heard from my favorite equine vet chiropractor in ages. He is older and travels from Michigan to Western PA to see us, and I assumed he wasn’t making the rounds anymore.

I called his office and got a, “Why yes he’s still coming around! He’ll be in your area next Wednesday!”

Brilliant. Adjustment day came. We joked with Dr W about Eli being a big horse, he’ll need a bigger step to do adjustments. Dr W said, nah he can’t be that big.

First thing Dr W says is, “That is a BIG horse.”

Second thing Dr W says, “This horse’s hind end is a mess.”

Note higher right top of the hip up high in this poor photo.

Basically, Dr W thinks Eli fell at some point in his adult life, most likely before he came to live with me because he's been pretty much the same moving behind since he arrived. He said it wouldn’t take much, since Eli is just so big it’s a lot of mass coming down. His back wasn’t flexible and springy, and what I thought was a small misalignment of the hips (the right sits slightly higher) is actually a bad misalignment.

Eli did not enjoy his hind end adjustment. A friend held his head, I put hands on his left side to keep him from moving, and Dr W adjusted the right side from above (and yes, he thought a 4 step block would have helped!). Eli tried to bite and kick Dr W, all while hitting him with his tail. As soon as the adjustment was made, Eli switched gears and became a sleepy puppy that wanted to snuggle Dr W.

Dr W was super pleased with the adjustment, gave him B12 injections all over his SI and hip areas, as well as the left shoulder since that was also adjusted, and thought we could have it sorted after 3 or 4 more visits (every 8-9 weeks).

Guess what happened?

No, he didn't magically love tarps because of his adjustment. But he doesn't care about tarps anyway.

Eli stopped pooping in his water buckets and feed bin. Sure, he still gets it wrong sometimes. But we have more good nights than bad (I get weekly report cards from the experienced staff and the barn owner). His hock sores are almost healed over, 3 weeks after his adjustment. He also swings better through his back under saddle, but that’s not the point here. Whatever is going on in his hind end meant he wasn’t comfortable sleeping standing up without leaning on something.

You know what else happened? Some of his more neurotic attachment tendencies inexplicably declined. He can be in the barn by himself without having a screaming meltdown. Is he 100% comfortable by himself? Of course not. But he's doing better. It could be that he's getting better quality sleep, which helps his brain function normally, and he doesn't stress as much (I don't see why it would be any different than when humans don't get enough sleep). He's not on any calming stuff anymore, by the way. I pulled that more than a month ago.

I expect it all to get worse again by the mid to end of February when he’s due for another adjustment, and then to be better than now after his next adjustment.

The lesson everyone? HORSES ARE NOT DICKS ON PURPOSE. It just takes some sleuthing to understand what’s wrong. I just happened upon on the correct solution, and you bet I won’t forget it.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Wrap Up

I'm combining my 2019 goal review and 2019 wrap up into one post, because well, we're out of days in 2019 for me to post them! And I almost missed the last day to post this!

Let's see how we did with the goals:

1. Get Penn settled in his new home.

CHECK! I hear from Penn's new owners multiple times a month and he is fat, hairy and happy. He's also sound again! It took until July, but he's back doing low level dressage with the family's youngest daughter and trail riding with everyone else. He lives out 24/7 now and is doing well. I haven't been able to bring myself to visit him, but I will next year I think.

2. Find a new horse.

CHECK. This was a bad year, sorry guys. Finding, then losing, Liam was terrible. I basically horse shopped from January to August with a 3 month break from April to June. That was also terrible. At least I have Eli now! He's such a great boy, and is exactly what I needed.

3. Stay on top of my own health (treat asthma appropriately, de-stress to lower my blood pressure, continue to lose weight or at a minimum don't gain back what I've lost).

Ehhhh... well de-stressing didn't last long, I've been horribly stressed for most of the year and generally unhappy. I've also been plagued with health issues that meant not only did I not ride often, but I also didn't bike. I gained back the 30 pounds I lost last year and spent the last quarter of the year struggling to lose anything. With the weight gain and lack of cardio, my asthma is starting to act up, despite daily medication.

4. Bike from Pittsburgh to DC.

Nope. This got derailed quickly as the group I was going to bike with slowly disbanded and it's not a trek I'm about to make by myself. I also didn't have the vacation time to spend on the trip after Liam's trip to OSU and his death. Hopefully Husband and I will ride the length of the GAP trail next year.

Next is a month by month run down of the year, because a lot did happen that never made it to the blog.


I started horse shopping.

Went to Canada.

Austen came to visit me and took WONDERFUL pictures of me and Penn. Seriously. Love.

Penn went to his new home and settled in beautifully.


Back at the end of 2018, Kate and Megan schemed for me to travel to CA for the Mary Wanless Instructor Workshop. That happened at the end of January/ beginning of February and was seriously a huge turning point in how I rode. For the first time in a long time, I felt secure in the saddle. I've always felt pretty laterally secure in my upper body in the saddle, but I struggled with longitudinal security, and I've always struggled to stay plugged in. Megan drove me around and Kate graciously let me borrow horses to ride, and gave me a lesson before I went home that came with a breakdown of everywhere my position was failing. I went home and worked on it! I spent almost a month at the walk at home, running through my check list!


I spent most of the end of February and all of March horse shopping. Failed vettings occurred and one sale horse dumped me hard. I got back in touch with Event Trainer to go see Liam.


Liam came home and we did all kinds of baby horse stuff like leading, yielding, standing to be groomed.

Husband and I go on a whirlwind Vegas/Phoenix/Grand Canyon adventure for our anniversary.


I took Madonna to two Mary Wanless clinics where Mary helped me get my posting trot more effective and my core engaged. I loved my lessons. Madonna did not, she started acting out under saddle and rearing when I tried to get on, then bolting.


The veterinary disaster month. Liam was eventually diagnosed with Wobblers and was put down June 27.


I started riding a gentle school horse with a good amount of motion in her ocean to get used to riding again, and to canter again for the first time in months. I went to see several more sale horses and then saw Eli. I started biking again.


My new horse trailer arrived!

Health issues abound! I gave myself a concussion and my blood pressure was spiking. I had to stop biking after the concussion.

Eli came home! I had my hand held through our first few weeks of riding as I was afraid to even trot him because my body was not responding like it used to. I had a few lessons with the German Dressage Trainer.


Husband and I took advantage of the long holiday weekend and went to Canada together: Niagara Falls and Toronto.

Eli and I continued to get to know each other.

I went to Dressage at Devon and finally got to meet Jenj!


I spent a lot of October hating my job and extremely stressed about it. I got my crap together and updated my resume and practiced my interview questions. Nothing comes of the brief search and phone interviews, which only added to my stress levels.


I signed up for a program to get over my irrational riding fear. Immediately, I was able to stop lunging Eli before riding and able to redirect my anxiety so I could cope long enough to get going under saddle. Still lots to work on, but I was excited to ride again.

The month of lessons! I had a lesson I hated with German Dressage Trainer. My barn hosted a clinic and I had two good rides with that trainer, and even cantered a little.

With some of my nervousness and anxiety handled, I took Eli to see GP Trainer finally. She had freshly broken her hand so she couldn't ride him herself, but her staff gave Eli two very badly needed schools that really set the tone in a way I couldn't because of my fear. I rode too! We worked on small goals that were quite reminiscent of GP Trainer's small goal confidence building methodology for green horses (achieve a small task and send then back to the barn glowing with pride in themselves).

I went home from that weekend with GP Trainer with my hair on fire and SO MUCH more confidence than before.


I kept working Eli and became increasingly frustrated that my half halt didn't work and I couldn't seem to get him off the left rein. He constantly looked right (both directions) and I'm aware of my pulling left hand, so I had no idea what to do to fix it that didn't involve pulling my left rein. He'd look left and pull/run through my half halts.

I went to see Cob Jockey's GP Trainer (who I'll call JT), who we met in May when she hosted Mary Wanless. She rode Eli and went over a ton that I want to write another post about. Hopefully I can get that out first thing in the new year! We did two lessons that started with her riding and then a short lesson for me. She helped me feel like I was in more control as I gained more influence over Eli. At the end of my second lesson, I cantered a full 20m circle in some semblance of control and structure, something I haven't done since I tried him in July (and that was like cantering a freight train).

I've had very good rides since I've been home and I'm slowly using the entire indoor at home (even the scary area by the back door). And we've ventured to the outdoor on the handful of warm December days!

And lastly, I want to thank everyone for sticking around and coming by to read and comment on my ramblings. It means a lot that you're coming back to read my sporadic posts this year. I started this blog in May 2014 and it certainly chronicled an exciting part of my life. For the longest time, I wrote to myself, but slowly picked up the greatest friends I have now. The people I've met and talked to through the blogosphere have greatly influenced my life.

Remember when we were kids and our parents told us "Don't talk to strangers on the internet?" I'm so glad to have ignored that.

Here's to a healthy and happy 2020 for all!

Monday, December 30, 2019

2010s In Photos

I'm jumping on the bandwagon for this challenge! Thank goodness for Facebook and this blog to find the old photos. I know I'm supposed to keep to one picture a year... but for a couple of the years I just couldn't help it.

I started eventing again after a 6 year break.

Mikey and I did a lot of hunters and jumpers in prep for our first recognized horse trials. While there are other pictures that more adequately show what we did, this is my favorite picture from 2011. My in laws had a drawing of this picture commissioned after Mikey's death, and I still tear up looking at it.

The highlight of the year was doing the long format beginner novice at Full Moon Farm. A great place with incredible people and I had an incredible time.

2012 (again)
Couldn't help adding a second picture. This is from my first novice, that I rode with a sprained ankle (visible side).

This was the year I started showing dressage only. That's not the highlight from the year though. Husband took a series of silhouettes one evening, and they're still among my favorite pictures.

Mikey and I kept showing dressage, riding 2nd and 3rd level as I tried to clean up his changes enough to finish my bronze.

Mikey had surgery for a fracture bed in his hock. He recovered, we showed 3rd level again, and a month later he died. Our 11 year relationship ended in a flash.

2015 (again)
Penn entered my life shortly after Mikey's death and provided a healing balm.

A year showing at recognized first level. And a hug for Penn at the end of our championship test.

Penn helped me finish my bronze medal!

A tragic year for Penn's soundness, we did one major fun thing and checked off an item off my bucket list... sorting cows!

PC Austen
I realized I couldn't manage Penn's rehab and gave him to a friend who could. Austen was so generous in coming to take beautiful winter photos of us.

2019 (again)
Beefcake Liam came and went from my life in the blink of an eye.

2019 (again again)
Eli came into my life and reminded me that horses are fun, and riding is fun too.

May the 2020s have as much fun and joy as the 2010s, but please, with a lot more soundness and good health for all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hoof Update

Since Eli has come home, we've had 4 trims at some odd intervals because he's lost a front shoe (or both) before his next appointment. Despite how bad that sounds, he is keeping his shoes on much better than the original set he came with. All of his list shoes revolved around him doing something dumb outside at the 4ish week mark in the cycle. We're aiming to do his fronts on 4 week cycles to keep the shoes on, and his hinds on 5 to 6 week cycles because they seem to be in better condition.

Dirty because these pics were actually taken 2 days after his trim. 

The visible changes aren't as drastic anymore, but we still have plenty to do. We're still dealing with the shape of his hooves at the very bottom, which is from when his toes were allowed to grow way too long so the angle is messed up.

Hooves are a long road, but we're getting there. It'll be interesting to look at these with a year's worth of pictures!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Farrier Friday (Weekend) Clinic/First Dental

Eli did get to partake in the farrier clinic back on October 12!

Eli ended up being the only horse shod on day one of the clinic. Day 1 was supposed to be theory, cadaver investigations, and gait analysis. After a bunch of theory in the morning, the farriers moved on to gait analysis and ended up shoeing Eli because he came in with a lost shoe.

He was at 5.5 weeks in his cycle at the time of the clinic and he really needed reshod at 4 or 4.5 weeks because I could hear him clinking. I jokingly told him "You need to keep your shoes on until the farrier clinic!" Well he did EXACTLY that. He had the shoe on when he went out that morning and it was off an hour later.

The farriers spent ALL DAY on him. They discussed his diet, supplements, hoof quality, movement. They were appalled at his hoof quality and it took them a hot second to understand what they were seeing is BETTER. They all immediately agreed that the packing we did the first time around was insufficient due to how thin his soles are (yay xrays), and recommended leather pads.

The master farrier (MF) himself shod him with a different type of shoe with hand forged customs:
  • Eli was hot shod for the first time.
  • MF hand pulled the clips on the front shoes to be bigger and take pressure off the nails since Eli's hoof quality is so poor.
  • Leather pads with poured packing underneath (holes were drilled in the leather pad to squirt packing in once the shoe and pad were nailed on).
  • Glue at the rear of the front shoes.
  • He recommended leather pads on the hinds for at least 6 months or more, but didn't put them on this round.
  • The lateral aspects of both hind shoes were made to be a little taller to better support his hoof and encourage correct hoof landing.
  • He recommended putting hoof heal on his hooves between farrier visits.
  • All of the farriers also recommended farrier's formula double strength, but I know he was on that before and it didn't seem to be doing much... so I'm going to continue with the balanced diet I created on FeedXL with my barn owner (we're changing barn feeds and we had a long chat about what to change to) that also uses a human biotin/keratin supplement.

Getting his pads filled.

Best part is my farrier was there and took copious notes so he can continue the plan. We're at 3.5 weeks now, and his shoes look much better than they did last time at 3.5 weeks. I'm sure part of that is just two better shoeing jobs and better nutrition since he came home, but it's nice to see his shoes are still firmly attached to his feet.

Left front on top, right front on bottom.
I took my own reset pics a few days after the farrier clinic... I asked for these pics from that day... and well, I always know who is a blogger and who isn't based on how they take this kind of picture!

After we added hind shoes the first time he was shod here at home, his stifles started to stick a bit. The amount of sticking dropped to none after this shoeing, but has slowly been getting worse again. I think this might be tied more to him using himself better and simply being tired and sore.

The other thing that happened in October is I had the dentist out to see Eli. I missed the appointment (it was a choice of an appointment during my working hours in October or wait until December), but another barn mate did a live play by play for me via text.

The dentist wasn't outright appalled by Eli's teeth... but he said they were bad. More than standard wear since whenever his last appointment was. I told him that Eli is heavy on the bit when he's not hiding behind it, heavy on the forehand, and can be difficult to bridle so I'd appreciate anything notable about his mouth to maybe find a different bit if needed.

The dentist report if you're interested.

He said that the way Eli's teeth were worn (ramps) would encourage him to be on the forehand. He corrected Eli's teeth and then checked my bit and bridle. He bridled him and unbridled and bridled and checked the shape of the bit against Eli's mouth and found no reason to worry. He really loved the bit I had picked (Herm Sprenger RS Dynamic Bradoon with lozenge), because the shape matched Eli's mouth and fit well, and should be gentle for him.

The difference in this horse guys. WOW. I was never so thrilled to have a horse be off the bit and a giraffe. We've changed from working on not being behind the bit and down, to not rooting and pulling the rider out of the saddle or off balance. He's learned he can knock me off balance a bit. When I remember to open my hip flexors (or lead with them if you will), keep my core pressure up, and then keep my right knee up and right back butt area down, he can't ruffle me at all.

From 10/21/2019, I buckled down and rode, paying attention to my dropped right knee that Mary Wanless pointed out. Eli is still a little stabby, but so much better and not plowing into a hole to China.

The next two are my barn mate T riding Eli. Normally I'd never share video of someone else, but I'm sharing because of how she's able to ride him uphill like he is built to move, and she gets a bit more reach out of his fronts than I do. She really did a great job schooling him for me.

Really big improvements for Eli! Feet and teeth are very important!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


On today's episode of "what can I damage next", I went and did something nasty to my back at the end of October, right between the shoulder blades. It had me popping painkillers and trying to find old robaxin tabs. Husband was enlisted to rub BOT's Limber Up Liniment on it... and he HATED how it smelled and felt. But he's a good guy and did it anyway. Btw, that liniment seems to work!

Eli's Insecurities:

I started Eli on Total Calm and Focus after my last post. He's a pretty chill dude, but he seemed to be struggling to adjust to life where he wasn't on 24/7 turnout and being "alone". The distraction started flooding over to our rides, where I am more than capable of riding out whatever he gives, but I'm also trying to mend my broken confidence. Me being hypersensitive to what can possibly spook Eli so I know it's coming really discourages Eli from having confidence in me. I'm trying to set us up for success: I need to feel good about him so I can relax, so he feels good about me and relaxes, and then we spiral upwards. So, Total Calm it is.

So far so good. He doesn't panic when I leave him in cross ties. He still watches me move around the barn, but he watches with mild interest, not intense focus. He is still upset if he's actually alone in the barn (valid I think), but he's not too upset when he's "alone" in the barn. We ended up swapping his field again because he was playing too hard with his new friends, and he made the swap easily with no drama.

I do try to ride with a friend. I think we both feel better with company- I have moral support and Eli has an equine shield. One of my barn mates has a very sensitive mare that has the same tendencies as Eli, albeit much more dramatic. Since I went to see Mary Wanless back in Jan/Feb, and have ridden with Mary twice now, I've brought a lot home that has helped her manage her mare's tendencies. When I hurt my back, I asked this barn mate if she'd like to take Eli for a spin since I knew he wouldn't scare her... she did a FABULOUS job riding him and it gave me a ton of confidence in riding him myself. She can articulate back at me a mix of Mary sayings and first hand riding experience that really help me feel more secure and effective.


I've been struggling with my confidence ever since I started horse shopping. The fall I took off one young horse really rattled me. I don't think the fall itself rattled me, because the very first horse I looked at dumped me too. I was able to rationalize the first fall into a cause and effect. I have no idea what caused the second fall, I have it on video and I didn't see or feel the naughty behavior coming... aside from a general lack of forward and tension. The horse actually felt like he relaxed and then had a meltdown. It doesn't matter, because something in me snapped and "fake it til you make it" isn't working for me like it did when Penn came home. Eli is getting more and more spooky, and I'm 99% sure it's my fault. Today, I signed up for an online course series to help myself get over it. The course focuses on NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to overcome fear by getting to the root of it and then moving forward. I know brain rewiring works, so I just need some help to get mine fixed up. I'll review later on if I think the program has been worth it.

That's all I'm sharing in this post. I have a bunch of stuff I want to share though, so stay subscribed friends, I actually sat down and wrote some posts! Next up will be the farrier clinic and the dentist!