Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Penn Update!

So what's Penn been up to?

Well, he's been walking. And walking some more. And then walking. In between walking, he lives in his stall or the dry lot.

The frustration levels have sometimes been high for both of us.
Sorry bud!

It was rough to start; I started picking at the walk because that's all I could do. Be on the bit, don't lean on my hand, repeat endlessly. I figured if I could get him off the forehand, all the better for his front right leg. I quickly found myself constantly fiddling with the reins. I popped on draw reins so I could encourage him to be off my hand with my leg and he wouldn't be able to lift himself off the bit too much and stare around. So much doh.

Eventually it dawned on me that I was riding him poorly. I wasn't putting my leg on, I wasn't sitting up, I wasn't using my core. I wasn't riding him like GP Trainer wanted me to- from leg and core. I was treating him like a fragile horse when in reality, the tendon hasn't separated that much and hell, he's allowed quiet flat turnout and up to 25 min of tack walking 5 days a week, and he doesn't need to have standing wraps on 24/7. He can certainly work on holding himself up properly!

He has been super happy and chill in his tiny private turnout!
He also will not eat the grass in there, he will only eat the hay that's put out for him.
And he will only eat it up by the gate where it is in this picture. I tried putting it down the fenceline, closer to the grass, to help not beat up the same spot on the ground. Nope. He ate like 3 bites then walked all over it and wasted it. Facepalm.

So first, I bought him a Nathe bit. I'd been wanting to play around with one for a while, so why not now? (for the record, I need to pop his Korsteel oval loose ring back on and see if there's a difference) He does seem to really like it (he takes it very easily btw, not that he was bad before, this is just better), but I'm not thrilled with it's durability.

It looks sharp though with his ombre browband and silver noseband piping.

He chewed through the plastic down to the steel cable core in a single 20 min ride 4 weeks after I put it on his bridle. Smartpak was great and gave me the benefit of the doubt (apparently that's a COMMON occurrence for Nathe bits) since I only had the bit for 4 weeks, and they sent me a replacement. If it happens again, I'm going to try the Herm Sprenger Duo, which is apparently slightly less flexible but more durable.

Umm, that's a chew mark down to the core. He figured out he can suck on it, which pulls it up into where his teeth are, then he chews it. I was not happy- the bit ad explicitly states it encourages chewing, so shouldn't it hold up to chewing?

Next, I rode him properly. The same way I tell all the ladies who are learning their dressage basics: have a steady following contact on both reins in the walk, with elbows in and at your side but not rigid, and inside leg on as the swing of the horse's barrel goes out. Catch the motion with your outside elbow, and voila, like magic, the horses are generally seeking the bit and trying to lift their shoulders. I hadn't been practicing what I preached. If all those ladies can stomach the fight on their OTTBs/QHs at training level, I should be able to work it out on my 3rd level horse! It was hard, but I did it. So far it's been 8.5 weeks of working on the connection in the walk, but we did it. I also made sure I did it without gloves (so the rubber lining of the rein bites my hand when there's too much weight) and without spurs (make sure I create the impulsion correctly, without resorting to simply spurring him on).

Basically, I spent a lot of the last 8 weeks remembering how to properly follow the walk, and how to properly put a horse on the bit without constantly nagging them. I even got a couple rides in on a reluctant OTTB who led a rough life as a lesson horse, and is relearning all his dressage basics. He is deeply offended by the leg (nagging children riding him), and would rather be hit with the whip (sad face). His owner has trouble motivating him to move any faster than a snail, so it was quite educational for me in following the walk/trot/canter properly and timing the aids correctly to create happy impulsion, which led to prompter transitions, and a less offended horse.

I've also been biking A TON. I've logged quite a few 16-20 mile rides on days I don't ride.
I almost fell on my ass a bunch of times getting this picture, lol!
I also bought the Finntack ice boot that's been plaguing me with ads on FB and IG. I figured I religiously iced Mikey's old bowed tendon after jumping, and his hock for months after exercise after his surgery, so logically I should ice this too.
Overall, I'm super happy with it. It's very flexible and stays cold for a long time. The downside? They come in SINGLES. As in, not a pair. It was $40 FOR A SINGLE BOOT (I got mine from ebay, I didn't price shop properly!). Though, I'm happy enough with it that if I still evented, I would probably buy a second one. (Though let it be noted, if you don't want fun colors, Big Dee's sells them as a pair in black)

We also had a small back scare- he grew a palm sized oval of white hair. I called the saddle fitter, sent her a picture, and scheduled her to come back as soon as possible to make sure my saddle wasn't bothering him. The saddle still fit, but she and her office manager discussed what could cause that kind of mark. Since he was so dropped on the right side earlier int he summer (May to mid-June, before he got his new shoes and his right side lifted back up), the saddle probably pulled on the left side every time I rode him, creating that white mark. We decided to try an experiment with their Concept saddle pad. They did pressure testing on it during the R&D phase of its creation, and it showed a large reduction in pressure when compared to a regular saddle pad. Sure enough, 2 weeks after starting to use that pad, his white spot is almost completely gone.

7/5/2018 on top, 8/3/2018 below. Only difference was a saddle pad change on 7/20/2018.
I despise the shape of this pad. I could live with the flank cut out, but the forward sweep of the front makes my skin crawl. But alas, pony likes it. He's gotten a lot less bitey when saddling since I've been using it.

When the fitter was out, she noted that he has gained a huge amount of neck and whither muscle, enough that if he keeps going, we'll need to change his tree. Great. New saddle at the end of March, horse went lame for spring, we rehabbed for most of summer, and she's been out twice to check things. She'll be out again before the year is out, I'm sure! But we both seem to still love the saddle, yay!

That neck topline muscle is really coming along!

So how about some news about where Penn is at soundness-wise?

It took a long time for him to start feeling sound again at the walk. When we did the second round of new shoes, Farrier made the bar on the medial side of the right front even wider and we saw an immediate increase in soundness at the walk. That was about 6 weeks into the walk rehab. He had his 3rd, and hopefully final, shockwave treatment that week too.

I had Husband out this past weekend, so he grabbed a little video for me.

Video #1- Penn shows the most unevenness when he walks away from the block. He's always been that way- shuffling around until he gets going. This unevenness he shows in this video is far less than anything he's shown recently.

I don't know what happened to the video quality from this video and the next. It was super humid, so maybe that's it... or maybe there was something on the lens. Who knows, but I apologize for the low quality!

Video #2- After about 10-15 min, he's generally working well. He was a bit fussy the day I had video taken, his forelock kept getting in his ears and he hates that! I also realized how much my outside leg hasn't been doing anything... I'm losing the hind end!

Video #3- Since we were 8 weeks into the rehab, and Penn spooked at nothing and ran off with me the day before, I figured a short controlled trot around the outdoor wouldn't hurt him. Plus I was DYING of curiosity to see where he was soundness-wise at the trot. He's very heavy in my hand in this video, but I wanted to see where he naturally went in the trot, and I didn't want to interfere with his gaits. The dude gets a break anyway, he hasn't trotted in 8 weeks. I was really happy with what I saw- he's much more comfortable with his front end in general, he's still lifting the shoulder even if he's laying hard on my hands and falling down (if that even makes sense? he's not as down in the front as he would have been a few months ago if I left him to trot on his own). He is of course still lame, and it really shows tracking right on the curved line.

He goes back to VEI on Aug 16 for his recheck, and we'll discuss injecting things at that point too. I have a feeling we're going to get another 4-6 weeks of walking though. This tendon seems especially slow to heal, and it needs to be done right. No more trotting!

Obligatory, cherry picked screen grab! I need to remember to sit up!


  1. Rehab is so tough and so slow ugh. Penn does look really good tho and I’m glad you’re seeing improvements in both his condition and his soundness levels. Fingers crossed your next check up goes well!!

  2. I'm so glad he's doing well and being a good boy during rehab. I giggled about his pickiness re: hay piles in his turnout. What a dork!

  3. Still shiny and gorgeous though!

  4. For a horse that's "only" been walking properly for 9 weeks, he looks FAAAAHHHBB!!! Fingers crossed for good news on the recheck!

  5. Thanks for the reminder that all parts of the body should be following. I feel like one part of my body gets stuck at the walk. I'm glad that Penn is improving and that neck is amazing!