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

Confidence

Truth.
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.

Self-Confidence:

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!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Insecure

I need some hive mind thinking blogosphere.

Eli has been doing well in his new turnout group, not bonding overly strongly to any one horse... he's bonded about equally to all of them. 🤦‍♀️

I'm not sure what to do here. We can't keep shuffling his turnout because we're going to run out of fields and it's bad to keep disrupting the herds. He's fine when he's out with them. I can go get him from the field (he's starting to walk towards me when I'm close enough), and he's well behaved in the barn as long as I'm with him. I check his leading manners sporadically when I'm bringing him in/ turning him out/ walking to the indoor/ walking around the indoor in hand, making sure he's actually paying attention to me and not searching for his  friends. 

In the cross ties, I've taught him he is to stand without fidgeting or pawing, and for the most part he's pretty good and listens to the word "stand" when I walk away. It's been pretty effective for personal space when the cookies are out too.

Not intensely watching as I disappear around a corner, which is good.

Problem: He screams and worries, a lot, when he thinks he's "alone." I put alone in quotes because very rarely has he actually been alone. When I go out of sight, whether he's alone or not, he'll call for me. I had him call for me when I walked away to get his fly sheet and there were two people and a horse standing right in front of him. One tried to give him attention but he had a head tossing tantrum instead. He also screams for several hours when the horses come in. He'll look out his window or scream to herd mates who are in the barn (thankfully none of them answer). He is in a barn full of horses, yet he feels alone. He's starting to stall walk. Every few days, he's a spooky shit coming in from the field and at 17.1, a handful of the staff won't handle him (mostly the ones who don't have a ton of horse experience).

Eli is pretty insecure. He's happiest turned out with his herd or with me. I'm not sure what to do here, aside from keep going with his schedule and hope with time, he'll figure it out. Putting him on field board isn't an option- he'd spend half the day 1:1 with a single horse and become super attached to that horse. It's having a minor effect when riding him. He's become spooky and nervous, however when I remember that I can in fact ride properly (thank you Mary Wanless), he settles right down and relaxes and swings through his back. I've been riding him alone and long lining him so he continues to build confidence being alone. Food doesn't seem to prevent it- he comes into a stall with grain and hay and screams anyway. He's happy one on one with me.

Maybe he needs his own critter. Like a cat. Not these cats though, they're my confir creatures. Maybe a goat.

Ideas? Has anyone had this kind of attachment issue?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

First Farrier Trim (plus video)

I opted to use Liam's farrier for Eli as well. He's not as experienced a farrier as some (he got into shoeing post-army), but he's very into continuing education, corrective shoeing, and forging. He's very into showing owners where imbalances are, the good and the bad, and can read hoof xrays and work with a vet to solve issues. He has developed his eye and takes his time to make sure corrections are right. He also happens to own the farm I board at, which is also good!

So... here's the before pics.

Top row is the front left, bottom front right. 

They're super rough and I cringe looking at them. The angles on all 4 of his feet are different. On his hinds, the medial aspects have shorter walls than the lateral aspects.

I REALLY loved riding Eli when I tried him out, which made me want to overlook his feet (and after all this shopping, I would have bought Penn all over again too knowing what I do now). I absolutely xrayed the shit out of those fronts (hoof to fetlock, all the angles) to make sure the insides were ok. The insides are pretty good for being toed in. The hoof wall, albeit very poor quality, is very thick. There's a ton of excess toe. He has a neutral palmer angle and very thin soles. The bony structures seem ok, joint spaces clean, and no side bone. The vet who did the PPE thought he went through a period of very poor farrier care based on the hoof wall and excess toe.

Multiple vets looked at his xrays and thought since he's sound now, these feet are entirely fixable.

We already overhauled his diet to a 19% NSC feed, but I'm working with BO to put him on a 13% NSC beet pulp based feed since he seems particularly sensitive to environmental changes. His original feed did not have controlled sugars and starches, and was much higher NSC than what we switched him to. I'm also giving him 40mg of biotin and 400mg of keratin twice a day. Human pills worked on Penn, (I take one a day too, my hair stopped falling out and my nails stopped breaking), so I'm hoping it'll work on Eli too.

I get human pills from Sam's Club and spend around fifty cents a day feeding 8 pills. Overkill? Gosh I hope so. But for that price, I'll throw 80mg of biotin at him every day and not lose a bit of sleep over if he's peeing some of it out.

Anyway, back to his feet. Farrier thought there was enough hoof wall to get nails in, which would allow him to put pour pads in.

His goal, realistically over the next year, is to keep bringing the toes back while (fingers crossed) good quality hoof grows out, ideally bringing some more heel with it. He's encouraging the sole to be concave instead of flat. He's also trying to coax the hinds to grow bigger.

Eli's breeder said he was good for the farrier... and well, he was... not great. Still manageable, but threw head tossing tantrums and ripped his feet out of Farrier's hands. I think his feet hurt somewhat, and standing barefoot on concrete was a bit too much for him. He was also itching for Julius, had a few days off beforehand, and was testing us a bit.


Farrier got his fronts trimmed and reset, and the hinds trimmed before calling it a day. Eli was so over it. We reconvened the next day for hind shoes to go on, which went quite quickly because Eli was quiet and behaved himself.

Eli wants to land toe first, and his front end can be quite stabby. The leg will reach from the shoulder, and the reach stops at the knee and he jams it back down. He also paddled quite a bit up front. He's built nicer than he moves. Just one round of shoeing mitigated a lot of that and he's already moving better under saddle.

The corrections Farrier made behind have Eli struggling a bit. He wants to land on the outside of his hoof and the trims are now encouraging him to land in the middle, so he has to learn to move again. Every so often he takes a misstep behind where he catches the toe or loses the stifle. I'm just taking everything super slow and easy with him and I'm being super careful not to overdo any of the work we do. His musculature has to change, which will take time.


There's a ton of training issues in that video that need to be addressed, but I'm super pleased with his progress. My big concern was to keep him forward thinking with no curling. Above the bit was a ok. I want to start to develop some thrust, so he'll develop push, so he'll find real connection and come up off his forehand. He thinks that's a bit silly and would rather root the reins out of my hand or lean... because guess what? I put him back in a snaffle! I used a GP Trainer trick to help him not find purchase on my hands, and a Mary Wanless trick to keep me out of his mantrap (the hole at his whithers), and keep his rooting from dragging me forward.

We walked outside after schooling in the indoor.
It's a small thing I know, but a huge victory for my confidence to be comfortable leaving an enclosed area for the not fenced in outdoor. #smallsteps #smallvictories

As I said above, Farrier is very into continuing education. As such, he participates in "Farrier Fridays" where more experienced farriers meet with newer ones and with vets, and they tackle a topic or two. One of the events they're doing in a few weekends is a weekend long clinic with British Master Farriers (sorry, can't remember any of the group names) and local vets, at our barn. Farrier asked if they could use Eli as a demo horse. Eli will have a ton of farrier eyes analyze his movement, conformation, and hooves. If the farriers want, the vets will take xrays (free of charge to me), and the group will discuss. They'll make a plan, and do the first shoeing cycle of that plan (also free-ish of charge, I'll probably have to pay for materials, which is cool). So duh, I said yes. Eli is a solid guy, a crowd won't bother him, and he's got some issues that I'm thrilled to have those eyes on! Best part is, Farrier will be very involved in the case and will easily continue after the clinic!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Buddy Sour

Eli came home and settled in very nicely. Quiet, well mannered. And he made friends that liked him back!

Within 48 hours, he formed a super close bond to an OTTB named Julius that was a turnout buddy, who also lived in the stall next to Eli.


You can see where this is going.

Within a few days, I started getting bad reports cards: "Eli was pushy at the gate this morning." "Eli tried to walk all over us at the gate and we had a coming to Jesus." "Eli was super spooky coming through the indoor to his stall."

I had issues with spookiness in the evenings and with him calling when I lunged him. I thought he was spooky about the arena doors since he wasn't normally worked in an indoor. I thought the calling was because I was disrupting his normal work/turnout/feed schedule (he was always worked in the morning after breakfast at his breeder's, not in the evening at feed time or later when he should be turned out). I rarely had problems on the weekend when I was able to ride him in the morning or early afternoon.

I thought it was all part of him settling into a new routine with strangers, and I wasn't giving him strong confident rides to deal with his spooky issues in the indoor. I was concerned the horse I brought home was actually different from the horse I tried and bought.

Looking for Julius with zero care for the other horses.

It was made abundantly clear two Saturdays ago, 9/7, what the problem was. Julius's owner came out before breakfast to work with him in the round pen, near Eli's turnout. By the time I was done with stalls and mixed and dumped breakfast grain and went to get Eli's herd to bring them in, he was a pacing mess at the gate. Keep in mind he had only been separated from Julius by about 20' and Eli could still see J.

I got Eli haltered, but he jigged into the barn, hot tempered and anxious. I put him in his stall, where he proceeded to whirl around screaming his head off instead of eating his breakfast. Keep in mind, this horse LOVES FOOD. No breakfast. Must have Julius.

We got the horses in and immediately created a plan to break up this bromance.

Eli's stall originally moved across the barn, but ended up moving back and next to his original stall (one horse between him and J).

For turnout, we swapped him to a field next to his original field, but therr was a path between fences. Oh boy was that not enough.

I hung out all day (had a nice ride though) and agreed to watch all the horses to make sure they got along with their new friends. Eli got outside and immediately became unglued and had one of the biggest meltdowns I've ever seen. He met his new friends, said "You're not Julius" and galloped the fenceline. For a half hour. I had to take off his fly sheet because he foamed through it.

So sweaty. So foamy.

There was serious concern that he was going to jump out of his field. 17.1h that knows how to jump and is body checking the gate and getting light in his front end as he tests it? Very serious concern that if Julius appeared across the path that Eli would jump out to be with him, or worse, jump out but not get his knees over the gate and have a rotational fall.

1300 pound horse galloping at you.
Non horse people: Get out of the way.
Horse people: *twirls lead rope* You shall not pass!

The decision was made to further disrupt the gelding fields and swap J with another gelding so that J would be out front and rarely visible from the back field Eli was in.

J settled in with zero screaming and zero worries. He gave no shits that his BFF Eli wasn't there.

Eli would not be so easily deterred.

After wearing out his 3 friends in his half hour of galloping (2 OTTBs who thought the running was fantastic and a draft cross who thought the one down and back was enough), he called them wusses, attacked them every time they tried to come be friends, and kept trotting. I watched him for 4 hours that day, until it got dark. He eventually walked the fence or stood at the gate, and he studiously scoured the field opposite of him for J. He screamed. He got a second wind 2 hours in and started galloping down and backs again.

"None of those horses are my Julius."

At the end of 4 hours, he was head down trudging the length of the fenceline at a slow walk with periodic screams. He did find the water and get a drink.

Come morning, Eli was still walking or standing at the gate. I hung around until turnout again and watched him for another 3 hours.

Day two, he ran for about 10 min, screaming but not threatening to jump out. Then he went back to walking the fence. By the end of hour 2, he started to test the grass and visit his new friends. Ever affable OTTB Teddy was there welcoming Eli with open arms. Eli would spend about 5 or 10 min with his new friends, lose his mind and gallop back to the gate to look for J.

Eli, Teddy (bay), Goose (gray)
I love how Eli just body slams through them, Goose is interested but a little worried, and Teddy is like "Hi, I'm Teddy! Erm...uh... how rude!"

Both times I watched him, I ended up getting a chair and sitting by the barn and watching from afar, otherwise he'd stand by the gate with me as his security blanket.

Apparently day 3 of turnout was similar without the running, and by the end of last week he was going out and eating right away. He is still distracted in the barn when J walks by. Eli gets bright eyed and excited and calls when he catches sight of Julius.

This pic makes me laugh so much. The 3 boys just wanted to chill and be friends, and Eli was having none of it. 

Eli's behavior went back to normal puppy dog behavior a few days after he was separated from Julius. I felt icky last week, so I started Eli on the long lines instead of trying to ride him in the evenings, which really gave him solid direction and confidence about the arena doors. He's been lovely, and we had two good, solid, no shenanigans rides over the weekend.

We're not sure what caused him to bond so tightly to Julius. He's so chill that we didn't expect him to be so insecure. Frankly, we expected Julius to be the one with a problem since he seemed to be the one doing the following and is easily influenced by other horses' behavior. I can only guess it was the complete upheaval to Eli's life when he left his breeder and came to live with me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Meet Eli!

As you saw in my previous post, and if you follow me on Instagram or are my friend on Facebook, you'll know that my new guy, Eli's Coming BHF, came home August 13th!

Eli's Coming BHF
2013 Black Hanoverian Gelding
17.0+hh
Pedigree for the folks who are interested.
I got to add him to the All Breed Pedigree website, and then went down the wormhole to add his mom to find the right lineage for him!

It took me about a week after Liam's death to start shopping again. I couldn't decide what I wanted, but I knew I wanted it to be fun right away... No 2 year olds, no promise of future fun. The next horse needed to be ready for fun now. They also needed to be safe and sound over talented.

One heck of a horse shopping weekend. Leave Sat morning at 7:30am, come back home Sunday at 9:00pm.

I found Eli on my 1200 mile sojourn to Canada and back to outside Philadelphia. The horse I saw in Canada was my favorite for the weekend based on the videos. I thought Eli might be too hot or have a buck in him and I wasn't fond of his advertised height (17h). After the Canada horse turned out to be not as I expected, I was pretty sad and didn't have high hopes for Eli. When we arrived and I walked in the barn and met Eli, I was like, "Oh hell no. This horse is massive and not for me. It's going to be like riding in the clouds. He's just too big."

Uphill build, not an accurate representation of just how big this horse is. Seriously. He's wonderfully proportionate and is MASSIVE.

And then I rode him. And I was in love. He doesn't ride like a big horse. He doesn't feel big and wide (because he isn't wide), he doesn't feel tall unless you look directly down at his shoulder, he turns like a normal sized horse instead of a tractor trailer. He's responsive. I felt like I was sitting around him instead of on him, and he's just plain comfortable to ride! He's also the perfect size for me. We look well matched.

A bit down in the trot
Up in the walk-canter transitions!

He does want to curl behind the vertical in the walk and trot, and he doesn't have much cycled power from back to front... which shows in that he wants to be down in the front. It doesn't seem like anyone has really asked him to pick his front end up and use his hind end. He's just been allowed to pull his weight down his front legs. Somewhere along the line, someone held/pulled him "in frame" so he got heavy in the bridle. They've been working him in a pelham since then to lighten him, but I think that has made the curling at the walk worse.


For the record, I rode the canter very poorly. It all kind of squirts out the front, he wants to be down in the head/neck/shoulder, he's unbalanced and big strided, and I'm rusty and out of shape. A perfect combination!



He has some good training and some stuff to fix, but the general base his breeder gave him is really good. He already knows how to go off the outside rein. He jumps, trail rides, goes XC, travels, loads, stands for the vet and farrier, is mostly polite (he's got a very itchy head that leads to rudeness), and LOVES face rubs and snuggles and hugs. If I was braver, I could have taken him straight to a show and he would have been very green, but well behaved.

From Aug 13, the day he came home!
Such a sweet, kind face.

His breeder is a lovely lady who tries her best to breed quality and good tempered Oldenburgs (GOV only) and Hanoverians, and then handles them from birth and gives them the biggest education she can. Eli has spent time with her under saddle, as well as with a hunter trainer and dressage trainer. She puts a bunch of different riders up on her horses so they get used to a variety of people riding them. He's been to Devon for the Young Hunter class (no place, but that's big show with lots to look at!), and he's been to hunter/jumper and dressage schooling shows, as well as schooling with Boyd Martin at Windurra. He jumps beautifully!

I learned about hanoverian brands after he came home. The hanoverian H and 13 for the year he was born. I didn't expect his brand to be so visible.

I had a rather extensive PPE done (26 x-rays) and he had acceptable confirmation faults and acceptable findings, so we moved forward with buying him! The vet that did his PPE called me after the physical and flexions, after each set of xrays (fronts from the fetlock down, neck, hocks), and after everything was done to chat. He said Eli won him over with his personality and unflappable demeanor, and he made a point to note that in the PPE notes. A massive thunderstorm rolled in while they were shooting his front hooves and the wind whipped through the little barn, the tin roof made a ton of noise, and he didn't even flinch. The vet didn't need to sedate him to take any of the xrays.

I have my own Black Beauty!
Or my own moose. Take your pick.

We're going to make some changes to his shoeing, based on the PPE vet notes, xrays (they showed the insides were still good!), and the look over he got from the farrier when he came home. There must have been some time period where his nutrition changed for the worse, because the bottom 4" of his hooves are rather fibrous and have some waves in the walls, where the top inch is pristine hoof. The fibers have made it almost impossible to keep nails in his front shoes, so we're most likely going to switch to glue ons until his good quality hoof wall grows down. The fronts also bulge near the bottom, indicating at some point his toes were allowed to become quite long. He has rather thin soles, so he's probably going to need pads, but we're not going to do that just yet. His frogs are massive, especially behind. It's to the point where the frog hits well before the hoof wall on his barefoot hind feet, to the point of bruising. Last Saturday he came in with a large piece of hoof wall partially broken off, so BO Farrier decided to trim his hind feet and start removing the flares. He took off some of the frog since it was taller than the hoof wall, and there were bruises underneath. The medial/lateral balance of each hoof is a little off (especially behind, where the lateral aspects are lower than the medial). He doesn't land heel first up front, so we're going to address his needs with some careful, frequent shoeing and a low sugar diet with as much biotin as I can stuff in him (40mg am and pm) to get that nasty bit of hoof to grow out as quickly as possible. I think making those changes will really help him with his front leg action below the knee so he's comfortable reaching forward through the whole leg, and it should give him a better hoof to sit on behind.

He is the biggest horse on the farm now. And significantly bigger than this stall's past occupants.

I know he's not the most gorgeous moving thing on the planet. His trot is weak but is the easiest gait to improve, and his canter and walk have a good footfall pattern to build on. What I really love is his brain and how he's constantly thinking about what I want, and checking in with me. He's on task and has been taught to learn. I don't think he's going to lose his shit and put me in the dirt (knock on all the wood, haha). He is not intimidating to sit on. To be honest, his gaits reminds me a little bit of an OTTB- short trot and unbalanced canter. It'll get better with training and time. He's put together decently, so we should be able to improve his gaits and add expression.

Making new friends. He doesn't look big until you put him next to a 15.2h paint and 14h (ish) pony. 

I know he really needs to transition out of the pelham into some kind of snaffle to really teach him to go to the bit, but I'm just not there yet mentally or physically. I can only do about 10 min of walk and trot before my head waves the white flag. I'm not having the same vertigo issues as I was a week ago, but as I get warm exercising, my head starts to misinterpret what my eyes see and I'm not 100% on my balance game. I'm lunging him before riding even though he doesn't need it, because I can't risk falling off at the moment. If he were a big moving warmblood, I wouldn't be able to ride him at all. I'm keeping the pelham as a last resort e-brake if needed. He has great from the seat brakes, so I've been riding with generous loop in the curb rein.

He knows how to use a run in! I shouldn't be excited about that, but I see so many geldings who just stand out in the weather when there's a run in available.

Eli had a training ride with the local dressage trainer last Wednesday (the day after he came home). She had him going and reaching in no time, much better than any of the videos of me riding him. She'll be helping me out at home with him, especially as he settles into a new routine and as we get to know each other. She loved him and thought he was an excellent find. She rode him on a similar long rein with little curb contact, and stressed that whoever schools his canter for me needs to keep it just as big as it is now, with leg on, as they work on balancing him. She wants to encourage his inside hind to keep stepping forward, and shortening his stride won't do it. She did another training ride Monday this week when she hauled horses over to participate in a clinic at our barn.

He's a character!

I finally got to ride him myself last Saturday and Sunday! My head got worse last week so I went back to the doctor. She prescribed new meds for some newly popped up health issues, and my head cleared almost immediately. My rule is, if I can't drive myself the 45 min to the barn, I can't ride. I was able to do that after new meds, so I did! I tried him on July 28, hit myself upside the head July 30, and didn't ride again until August 17 when I rode him for the first time at home, so judge the videos below lightly. I'm mostly concerned about staying balanced and with him, and keeping him upright with the inside leg. Nothing else. I'm actually pretty happy to see him come above the bit and in front of the vertical since he wants to curl and be down.

In the videos below,  I rode him after the clinic was done for the day Sunday, and everyone was sorting out dinner. The clinician was so kind! She hung out in the ring to see him go and did some hand holding with me for the 10 min I rode, even though she had taught all day and I wasn't on the lesson list. Hopefully I'll feel better by October and I'll be able to have a real lesson. He definitely plods like a lesson horse in the videos... but I rather like that right now. I need a bit of plodding at the moment, and I know he can be jazzed up too.



So there you have it!

I'm now hunting down new tack and equipment for my moose horse. I'd peg him at 1300# minimum, and probably 1400 to 1500 by the time he's done growing... because his breeder warned me that her babies usually grow until they're 8. I don't expect he'll get much taller (I think he'll be 17.1 or 17.2 when he's done), but he should widen a good bit. Luckily, my saddle fits him well enough with a wider tree, and should be perfect after the fitter comes out to adjust the flocking. I had to order a new bridle (flexible fit oversize in all pieces except the nose), a new girth (32", but I suspect a 30" would be ok), a new fly mask (oversize), new fly sheet (the one I want runs big and he should fit in an 81"), and I need to order all new blankets (87"). Ha. Hahahaha. He does fit in an 84" right now in the Smartpak Ultimate line, but if he grows much wider, he's going to need that 87... so I'm just going to cut to the chase and get the 87" so I'm not replacing blankets next year. Thank goodness I got the trailer I did! Saddle and trailer don't need to be replaced, just everything else!

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Trailer!

When Liam came home, it was obvious he was going to be a big boy, bigger than my 7' high, 6' wide trailer was going to be able to handle. I knew I'd need a new one soon-ish... but the real kiss of death was when I took my trusty Bison to the shop for frame repair and got a phone call instead. It needed a three to four thousand dollar repair, not the thousand we expected. What was supposed to be a quick partial frame rail repair turned into a repair where all 3 main frame rails would need to be replaced. To do that, it spiraled into thousands in labor to remove the fenders, all trim, peel back the steel skin inside and out, take out the floors... all to get to the frame to cut it out and replace it. Not to mention the thousand plus to put the paint, floor, and trim right.

All hooked up for the Bison's last drive with us.

So I started the hunt to see what used oversize trailers are out there. My base criteria: steel frame, aluminum skin, ramp, 7'6"+ tall. My hunt took a positive turn when I got some inheritance and was able to look at new trailers. I was originally interested in rear facing trailers, but found them to be too expensive. Sadly, I also ruled out gooseneck trailers. I am uncomfortable hauling one with my short bed, 3/4 ton, gas truck. I ruled out companies that I had to contact a dealer for specs like "how tall is the trailer inside" and "what is empty weight". It's just bullshit that that information isn't easily accessible. Eventually I found Hawk's bumper pull 2 horse straight load with side ramp, complete with Hawk's online brochure of specs. I fell in love with the size of the Classic model and all of the windows (4 extra) in the Elite model.

We had a photo shoot in a Hoss's parking lot. #notashamed

I set about finding one already in existence (the Classic Elite model), but only found one with some interesting custom options I hadn't thought about in OR. I contacted the dealer to inquire about shipping, and they said it would be cheaper to have one newly built for me and shipped directly from Hawk than to buy the in stock 2018 and have it shipped. So I started looking closer.

Ramp down. The passenger horse does have to be a bit smaller and more flexible to use the ramp, but the driver horse has plenty of room (the head divider swings to allow the driver horse to leave).

I did my homework: contacted Hawk for MSRP who also told me the dealer should knock a significant amount off MSRP, got things rolling with a dealer near me, disliked the prices they were quoting me because they seemed to be full MSRP minus a pittance, considered dropping custom options I liked, took the advice of a friend and contacted another dealer almost 5 hours away who quoted me almost $5000 less, so I took that quote back to the first dealer who honored it. Woot!

The driver side has the dressing room door and an escape door, while the passenger side only has the side ramp.

I put that first dealer through the ringer. Constantly asking about different custom options (would you believe there isn't a book of upgrades or even available items you can add on?), constantly asking what was standard vs not (because you know I managed to find things that weren't on that spec sheet), constantly changing my mind, and making last minute changes. The woman I worked with was delightful and took everything I threw at her in stride. Her office now considers her the "Hawk Custom Option Expert". I'm sure there were some exasperated sighs in her office when I'd email her!

One of the late customizations was the full rear doors and extra long exterior ramp.

When I went to the dealership to sign the papers to order it, they had a gooseneck model of the the Classic Elite on the lot and took me to see it since I had yet to see my trailer in person... I may have drooled on it. I wanted that gooseneck model so badly! But I hadn't come prepared to haul that kind of trailer or bargin for that model.

Not to rag on the dealer who sold me the trailer, but my Hawk spare tire cover that came with the trailer magically "got lost" and "oh no problem, we'll put one of ours on there!" I'll be ordering a replacement Hawk cover.

I placed my order on Memorial Day (May 27th), and my trailer was ready for pick up August 3rd! Apparently several customers tried to buy my trailer while it was out on order because it sounded so great and it showed up in the stock list.

I can't pull through parking spaces anymore, this trailer is 4' longer than my Bison. The trailer is 19'6" long, just a hair shorter than my truck.

I opted for quite a few custom things:

  • Upgrade 3500# axles (7000# GVWR) to 5200# axles (10400# GVWR, derated to 9990# for inspection and registration purposes)
  • Oscillating fans on remote switches in the horse area
  • 2 LED lights on each ramp
  • Bulkhead window
  • Full rear doors with extra long (4' vs 3') exterior ramp
  • Tubular head and shoulder dividers
  • Retractable screen door for the tack room (and removal of the dressing room door brush box)
  • Spare tire mounted to the outside of the trailer

Seriously, if you have the option of doing a bulkhead window, do it. You won't be disappointed. It lets in SO MUCH LIGHT.

Reasons:

  • Upgraded Axles: The trailer weighs almost 4000# empty, and with a 7000# GVWR, that's only 3000# of cargo. The trailer is built for oversize horses, so I could easily fill it with 3000# of horse, and we'd be overweight as soon as we put hay, tack, and other items in it. I would never ever do that out of kindness to my truck, but I plan on keeping this trailer for 10+ years, so it seemed silly to put a limit on it now. I expected Liam to be 1400-1500# when he was done growing, so this upgrade seemed reasonable. I will say, the brakes on those axles are beefier and despite this trailer being 500# heavier than my Bison, we towed it home on a lower brake controller boost rating.
  • Fans: Duh, it get hot and fans are fantastic.
  • Ramp lights: Duh, it gets dark and lights are fantastic for loading and unloading in the dark.
  • Bulkhead Window: This was one of the items I considered dropping since it was the silly notion of "I might be able to see my horses from the truck." I am SO GLAD I didn't drop it. It's divine to look through and lets in even more light.
  • Full doors/Exterior ramp: Do you know how many times I've been kicked by the horse already on the trailer while trying to load the second? How many horses I've watched try to back out over or under the butt bar while their friend refuses to load? Not anymore! Shut their rear door and they're in.
  • Tubular dividers: For increased light and airflow.
  • Screen door: I don't want to take barn cats to new farms. I've shooed cats many times, and my old screen door always ensured I didn't take anyone home with me that shouldn't go home with me!
  • Spare tire: in the original floorplan, the spare is mounted in the tack room. That's a huge no for me. Non-rectangular tack rooms waste space with odd angle corners, no reason to add to the waste by putting a spare tire in there. I had it moved to outside on the passenger side of the trailer.

There's a tiny step up where the ramp attaches to the back, but it's no worse than some step ups into a barn aisle.

I am beyond thrilled with it. I LOVE it. When it got home to the barn, I gave several tours through it. Love love love it.

Husband and I brought it back to our house before taking it to the barn to put my stuff in the tack room and to change some of the decals. He and I... don't care for dealer stickers. At all. He made the dealership remove their sticker from his Camaro when he bought it. And he expertly removed the dealer's stickers from my trailer... all THREE of them. One of which was very crooked and made his eyes bleed to look at it, and another covered key weight ratings on the tongue. Completely obnoxious.

Husband is good with decals, so he removed the dealer ones and added our own!

Also have to say, it was so cool to haul it home and it had never been driven around. It shipped on a truck from WI where it was made with several other trailers, so it literally had zero miles on it when I picked it up.

The fans are visible in this pic. The trailer came with triangle managers, which I don't think I'm going to use except to catch hay from hay nets. Right now they're water jug holders until I can get everything organized.

I haven't driven it around yet because of my head/health issues that are causing eye strain/fatigue/motion processing issues. Husband went with me to pick it up and has been the only one to drive it so far.

A good shot of the dividers. I love tubular ones!
The air flow in the trailer should be really good- all of the windows open and the rear doors have windows (a huge selling point of the Elite model for me), and there are roof vents that swing two directions as well.

Yesterday (Sunday 8/18), it went to my local truck/trailer/tractor/diesel guy to lose its delightful new trailer smell. To avoid the issues I had with my Bison, he is undercoating it while it still has under 200 miles on it to stop it from rusting outside in, and packing the steel frame with grease to prevent it from rusting inside out. This is the first brand new vehicle I've ever owned, and it will probably be the last, and I want this trailer to last for at least 10 to 15 years.

Safe at home :)

Oh wait, who is this?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Happenings

Ok, enough of having Liam's sad post as the last post on this blog. I may have fallen off the blog wagon, but let's have a change of scenery. It's long overdue.

My garden is at it again this year: Sunflowers, green bush beans, broccoli, piquante peppers, cantaloupe, and butternut squash.

Horses have been rather sad and confusing for me. I took a month off from working at the farm (but offered to pitch in 4th of July weekend when BO looked short handed and didn't want to ask me to come in). I liked not having an obligation to go to the barn. I liked choosing to go out there, and choosing to ride or not. Going because I wanted to, not because I had to work, do wound care, do meds, monitor healing, monitor exercise etc.

You definitely only drive 1200 miles in one horse shopping weekend because you want to.

I've been borrowing a school horse because Madonna both went to her new home (her owner bought a farm to keep her horses at her house) and became super super strange to ride (head flipping/shaking, body twitching, general weirdness). The school horse is a dutch mare in her 20s that has enough attitude and motion to keep you working but is totally safe. She is doing wonders for my confidence... one of the sale horses I saw in March destroyed my confidence and I've been having trouble getting it back ever since. An almost year of tack walking doesn't help rusty skills that are very rattled.

Went to Canada again! Love visiting Canada.

I've been looking for a new horse, and I went to see one twice before ultimately deciding he wasn't for me. I also realized I have an inability to go with my gut when shopping for myself, despite being able to do it for others. I'm having a lot of difficulty finding something I like in my budget, so it probably also has something to do with "if I pass on this horse, I'll never find another" when in reality that's not true. I have another in the works that was so out of budget but went to see him anyway and I LOVED riding him.

I ADORE our set up this year. Husband bought a small farm tractor this spring to help with some projects around the yard (regrading to help yard flooding issues, see the seeded area to the right) and building some retaining walls. Since he had the tools, he tilled a section of the yard to grow corn and pumpkins, because why not and the neighbors already know we're crazy.

I've been battling what seems like depression. Sure, Liam's death caused "surface" unhappiness. Of course I'm going to be sad and upset. This whole last year has been incredibly sad and disheartening. I think I finally understand what they mean when they say "you don't enjoy the things you used to." I went to the barn the other week to maybe ride and to talk to people and all of a sudden I just wanted to go home. I didn't want to be there anymore. I didn't want to go back ever. It was a lot deeper than not wanting to be there because I don't have a horse anymore. However, I have no idea what to do with myself besides horses and I have no interest in developing a new interest that is just as time consuming (I already nurture a liking for gardening and biking). I've had that feeling several times, but more and more time inbetween so I consider it "getting better", but I still like to keep to myself when I am at the barn.

The squash have taken over on the right and the beans have taken over on the left. It's a jungle in there, and the squash are trying to escape out the door!

That feeling combined with confidence issues have definitely held sway in what I've been shopping for: fun, safe, sound, sane have been number 1 on the list, followed by dressage ability/movement.

A solid hit to the head, courtesy of clumsiness and an iron beam.

Of course everything has been slightly derailed by me getting a concussion last week. It wasn't even horse related! Pure clumsiness. I went out to get breakfast at work downtown, and as I was focused on stepping down off a curb then crossing an alley while walking around a tall bed construction truck, I walked directly into a rusty iron beam sticking out the back of the truck. Didn't even see it. I scraped the top of my head to the point of bleeding, so I went up to the PCP/health services in my building to have them make sure there wasn't metal in my head, that it was just a surface scratch, and to get a tetanus shot. A week later and I'm still dealing with side effects- mild headaches that happen when I look at screens for too long, motion sickness, ear pressure issues up and down hills, and eye strain. I'm not driving very far these days because 10 minutes can sometimes cause eye strain issues that make it difficult to focus. I'm just driving straightforward roads to the bus stop and back. I'm obviously not riding, nor am I driving myself to the barn. I started biking again, which I've had to stop again.

Life continues to be exciting, despite a lack of horses. I have some very good things going on, but I think I've earned the right to express, "ffs, why is it always me?"

Anywho, more to come.