Friday, November 2, 2012

Really dude?

So frustrated... the "new" pocket of abscess still has not burst.  Alex is buted and therefore walking around on/standing on his foot, but still reactive to hoof testers in the same place opposite from the first part of the abscess that burst through over two weeks ago.  I've used the Animalintex pads since Monday night religiously changing every 12 hours.  He's been soaked for 20 minutes each night.  He's had Thermacare (really Walgreens brand) heat wraps stuck to his Animalintex in his night time bandage for three nights now, and still we wait. 

Yesterday, I  thought we were going in the right direction... pain seemed to be increasing even with the bute.  He refused to put the necessary weight on the afflicted foot, that would allow me to pick his other front foot.  His temperature had increased.  I was very hopeful the damn thing would burst through in the next 24 hours. 

This morning, nothing... in fact his temperature had dropped and he very willingly lifted his right front so I could pick it.  Still he is reactive in the same area to the hoof testers... So I diligently changed his Animalintex pad, wrapped his foot back up and put him out. 

Further complicating this issue, is that I have to go out of town tonight to pack up and move my mother.  I won't return until Sunday afternoon.  A friend has very graciously agreed to take care of Alex in my absence, but I really just want to be here... I know I'll be obsessing about it in my head until my packing moving duties are over.

Maybe...just maybe... I'll get a surprise when I go to soak/wrap him tonight before leaving town.  The other side of my brain says "yeah yeah, you've been saying that for days."

I'm off to stock up on supplies... we're out of Animalintex, duct tape, diapers and baby food for mixing his meds.  You should see the strange looks I get when I leave the Wal-Mart with diapers, duct tape, Epsom salt and baby food... people probably think I'm a serial killer. 

This has to end soon, right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Baaaack!

On Saturday, Alex went out into the field bucking and leaping and I thought "ladies and gentlemen, we've got a sound horse!  He finished his SMZs on Sunday, on Monday I called my farrier and told him Alex was ready for a shoe...

On Monday night everything crashed... I went to get Alex out of his paddock and he was only lightly standing on his foot.  I tried to dismiss it, but when I started leading him to the barn there was a familiar limp.  I cursed to myself and went to find the hoof testers.  Sure enough, he was sensitive on the other side of the same foot.  Just like the monster in a horror movie, this abscess just won't die!

So we're back to soaking and wrapping with Animalintex poultice pads.  I'm hopeful that this one has been caught earlier and will therefore burst earlier.  I've also thrown it a curve ball by putting a Thermacare heat pad under the Animalintex tonight, to see if I can bring it to a head.  We'll see, I'm using all my tricks in the hopes that we can kick this thing's ass once and for all.

Oh the joys of horse ownership!

Monday, October 22, 2012

October... month of the abscess

Well it's been a long journey since my last post... believe me, no one knows this more than me! 

As mentioned in my previous post, Alex had his shoe pulled Monday (10/8/12).  When I arrived at the farm to meet the farrier, they had put Alex out in his paddock.  I went out to get him in the dark (it was early in the morning) and found that he had decided to lie down.  I patted him on the face and clipped the shank to his halter.  Gently I tugged on him to get up... he put the bad foot out and made a slight effort to get up... I tugged again, and again he rocked but didn't offer to get up.  Finally after a moment he laid down on his side legs straight out head flat to the ground as if to say "Mom, my foot hurts SOOOO bad, I'm going to die, I can't get up, just leave me!"  If it hadn't been dark, I'd have taken a photo of him because, although I felt horrible for him, it was so funny!  Finally after some more prompting he managed to get up and began hopping on three legs toward the paddock gate. 

After Alex had his shoe pulled on Monday (10/8/12) we started soaking and wrapping his foot.  Poor guy wouldn't bear ANY weight on the afflicted foot (left front).  I wasn't sure how he would react to having his foot soaked.  I have had horses who didn't care and horses who literally tried to run me over the moment their foot touched the water.  Alex it turns out was quite the model patient.  With limited fidgeting/protest, he tolerated having his foot soaked and wrapped.  Since he wouldn't bear any weight on his foot, he stayed in from Monday to Saturday, which meant I got the particular joy of not only soaking and wrapping his foot each day, but cleaning his stall twice a day, before and after work.  Monday to Friday continued in this fashion.  As Friday night came and went, I was starting to think this damn abscess was never going to burst!

Saturday morning it FINALLY burst through his coronary band over the right heel bulb.  He experienced immediate relief, finally offering to stand on the foot.  I felt relieved too :-)  This also meant that he could start going out in his paddock, so that the abscess would continue to drain.  And drain it did... for nearly seven days!  In the mean time, Alex was also started on SMZs to really deliver the knock out punch.
Foot in the tub
Alex patiently enduring his foot soak
The Monster Abscess!  To the left is where it burst. (no worries, he has white feet and he'd
 just been soaked, he's not red because he got burned!)

The finished product, not too shabby if I do say so myself :-)
Over the last week while the abscess has been draining, I've been changing his bandages and wet poultice pads twice a day, but thankfully not having to clean his stall since he can go out during the day.  We've gone from very gingerly walking on the foot to walking sound; from a hot foot to a mildly warm foot; and from a swollen fetlock and pastern to no swelling.   It has been a LONG road, but I think we are finally getting there.  Tonight was his last Epsom Salt soak, as I haven't seen any significant drainage for 24+ hours and I've switched him over to dry poultice dressings. 

Hopefully after this week and giving the hoof time to dry out and harden up, if he's completely sound, I can get his shoe put back on.  Not sure how long it will take the abscess drain site to heal up, but he will have to remain wrapped up until it does. 

Although this has been a long, trying and at times thoroughly frustrating experience, I will say one thing for it... Alex and I are now very bonded.  We've spent a lot of hours staring at one other, sharing nuzzles and hanging out waiting for his foot to soak.  He's endured soaking his foot in a tub, in a soaking boot and even having a trash bag duct taped around his leg while following the protocol for CleanTrax as well as having his meds administered orally and he's done it all without much complaint while he endured the pain of what I think must have been a monster abscess.  Now he knows I am going to take care of him and I know he's going to let me.  So although I would much rather have been riding, it's still been time well spent.

More updates as things progress!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Unexpected Hiatus

Well it's been entirely too long since my last post and the only excuse I can give is things have been really busy!

My best synopsis of the last couple weeks, is that Alex has been doing really well with his training.  We tackled the indoor while it was raining, which brought out a little bouncing around, and we started trot poles which brought out some confusion.  Then things came to an abrupt halt... Alex came up lame this past week after having his feet done and I thought it was probably a hot nail, but then things went down hill in a hurry.  My poor boy is now three legged lame with what I am sure is an abscess... had his shoe pulled and now we start the soaking and wrapping... oh joy... I get to train my super sensitive OTTB about being treated for a hoof abscess :-)  More updates as things progress.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Era of Good Feelings

Things have been moving right along since my last post. Actually here's a hint, things are always moving right along... if I could get like three extra hours in my day, I'd use them all easily and probably still have stuff to do! 

Alex had last Friday night off, mostly because I felt like poo and had to leave work early, but also so I could make an appearance at dinner with my brother and sister in law.  After a cold-medicine induced good night's sleep and another morning dose, I was ready to hit the barn.  Of course, like clockwork, when I arrived, they were running the bobcat moving shavings from where they are stored in my barn, to the other barns on the farm.  Usually this elicits terror in Alex, but this time he seemed to mind a little less.  I decided it was probably best to tack him in his stall so that the constant to and fro of the bobcat wouldn't bother him.  This turned out to be a good decision.  Saturday would also be one of the first times (if not the first, I can't remember) that I intended to get on and ride Alex after a day off, without lunging him first.  Wouldn't you know it, he was great, which was good because my brother and sister in law had come out to watch and it really wouldn't do to get bucked off/run away with/insert naughty horse behavior here____ with them watching ":-) 

Sunday, Alex was rewarded with another day off... no, it wasn't really because he was good, it was because I had my sister in law's baby shower to attend and unfortunately it just wouldn't do to arrive late and smelling of horses...

Alex and I had a really good ride on Monday night, again I ditched the lunging and went straight into the saddle.  No mass chaos, a little fussiness in the bridle, but basically a workman light performance.  Lots of stretching and even some bending.  Overall a very pleasing experience, which is, after all what we are aiming for!

Tuesday morning Alex had the joy of getting his teeth floated.  Did I mention that Alex really likes drugs?  Ok, before anyone gets all bent out of shape, my horse is not a habitual drug user, and I am not a habitual drug pusher, but in this instance, he was given a little tranquilizer to make the experience less alarming.  Turns out that Alex has a mild case of "parrot mouth" (an overbite) coupled with not much room in the back of his mouth and he gets big "hooks" on his back teeth... poor guy.  This means (unfortunately for my bank account) that he needs to have his teeth done every 6 months.  I know he's had his teeth done at the track, so it shouldn't be that big a deal, but he really was good, I was proud of my big man.

Fast forward to tonight (Tuesday he was off because he got his teeth done and yesterday he was off because I was having dinner with friends).  A lesson was in full swing in our preferred arena, so I decided we'd work in the indoor.  I was all set to lunge him, since it had been two days since I'd been on him, but then I got lazy and decided to "see what happens."  Wouldn't you know it, two days off, big scary indoor and all he was REALLY good.  The work on his teeth seemed to make a noticeable difference, in that he wasn't fighting the bit nearly as much as he had on Monday night.  We also cantered for the first time in the indoor, which was a big first; the indoor is narrower than the outdoor and so sometimes he has a hard time cantering smaller circles as he's not quite strong enough yet.  Although he was definitely looking around, there was no spooking, hopping, head shaking or bucking, I was amazed and thought to myself... "are we growing a brain?" 

So we have had some really great productive rides over the last few weeks... and those who know their history might recognize the reference in the title to this post, but I thought it was appropriate given the last weeks' occurrences and my general history nerdness... see Alex and I really are made for each other... he's a guy with an overbite and I'm a history nerd... it's a match made in heaven.

I have new pictures of Alex and I in action... I'm going to try and post them this weekend :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hard Work = Rewards

So again I've had a lapse in my posts, for which, I apologize.  Hopefully I am not disappointing my one follower :-)  For any you who are reading my posts, but are not yet followers, please feel free to join and make me look a little less pitiful!  At any rate, there's lots to write about since my last post.

Last Friday was a rainy, windy, coldish day, but I was bound and determined to get another ride in before I had to leave for yet another weekend.  When I got Alex tacked and ready to go, the skies opened up into a light rain and I cursed quietly.  Of course there was no rain on the radar (yes I am one of those people with the weather radar on my phone so I can keep endless track of what is happening) so I decided to wait.  I wasn't set up to go into the indoor and hadn't turned on the lights.  After about 10 minutes the rain subsided and I decided we'd better get going.  Of course in true "week of adversity" fashion, literally as soon as I started to get something done, they started turning horses out for the night and Alex lost his concentration.  Fortunately, he did not turn himself inside out despite extreme excitement, wind and a little cold.  After we survived the horses going out all around him, I decided to call it a night.

Alex had the weekend off as I was off helping my mother organize for her move.  Never underestimate how tiring it can be to organize someone else, especially when you have a little over 24 hours to do it... it's exhausting.  On Monday, all I wanted to do all day was go ride my horse, but sadly it was not to be, as the "real world" was calling and I had a late night at work... damn.

Tuesday, Alex and I had a big day and not just because he'd had THREE days off (much to my chagrin).  While I was lunging him and he was doing a little playing, we got some company in the arena and although I was inwardly groaning about all we wouldn't get done since Alex was SURE to turn himself inside out, I was actually happy, because sooner or later he's going to have to get over being around other horses.  When I got in the saddle, there were two other, thankfully quiet, horses in the arena and I was prepared for the worst.  Fortunately, Alex was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  He did throw in a few hop/leap/head shakes and get very giraffe like, but he eventually reverted to stretching and seemed to calm a bit.  We didn't try any passing of other horses, as I figured I'd better not push my luck.  For having three days off and it being a cooler, windy (although thankfully not rainy) day he really did amazingly well.  He's always full of surprises :-)

Wednesday, I decided to ditch the lunging and just get on and ride.  Alex started off being quite stiff, but finally relaxed.  I decided we had better start trying to work on our bending.  He was NOT a fan of this... I think partially because he was like "woman, how am I supposed to go forward if you keep making me turn my head!" and also, because I think he needs a good teeth floating (that is hopefully going to happen soon).  Despite his dislike, after some protest he did as I asked.  He also didn't buck at all cantering to the left, which is a first, since I started riding him! 

Tonight is usually the night there is a lesson going on in the big arena, but for whatever reason, there wasn't tonight.  I decided to try Alex in the rubber gag to get a little more leverage and help getting him to bend.  He was fantastic!  After his normal early stiffness, he was stretching and bending, just pretty much happy as a clam :-)  I am so happy with his progress, it has already been so rewarding to be a part of his retraining.  Unfortunately for Alex, he got rewarded with a mane pulling, but in my defense, I had to do it when I had help (he's not so keen on having his mane pulled) which happened to be tonight.  It took a lip chain, but we managed to get it done. 

What a week!  I feel like so much has happened and it has all been fabulicious :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alex and Tequila make me crazy

Ok, so you'll just have to take my word for it on the Tequila, because this post isn't about that :-) 

Alex had Saturday thru Monday off while I was in St. Louis on my girls trip, so on Tuesday I was all set to go back to work, after such a stellar night on Friday.  I got to the barn a little later than normal so there was already a lesson going on in our normal arena.  No biggie I thought, I'll just use the smaller arena.  By the time I got him all tacked and ready to go, someone decided to ride in the small arena too, so we had to wait.  Finally we got into the arena and started working on the lunge.  Alex was a little rambunctious, but nothing that bothered me, so I decided to get on and ride.  Literally, like one minute after I got into the saddle they started turning horses out.  Alex went immediately into giraffe mode and I could feel the explosion coming.  First there was a leap buck.  Then as the mare that had just recently been turned out started running around screaming for her friends that weren't out yet, Alex went into his pièce de résistance, the leap-buck-spin... repeat...repeat. 

Once we hit the ground, I decided this situation wasn't going to get better with me in the saddle (and that I might just leave the saddle if I wasn't careful), so I had better get off and keep lunging him.  Alex has a bad habit of "cutting in" on me (when being lunged in a circle) when he is wound up and/or distracted.  As he did this, I chased him away with the lunge line in my right hand and he kicked out at me with his hind foot clipping me in the wrist.  Thankfully, it's just a slight sprain and and an ugly bruise, because there was definitely a second where I thought "oh shit, I've just broken my wrist."  Not one to be deterred, I continued to lunge him until he calmed himself down.

In the barn, I think Alex realized he was in trouble, because normally he gets kisses and pats and love after a ride... there was none of that, just a bath and a trip to his stall. 

Tonight, after another day off (I had a much needed massage on Wednesday, a must for all riders in my opinion), Alex and I went back to work.  Tonight I hustled to get Alex ready and get into my arena of choice.  Thankfully there was less commotion around the farm tonight.  He was almost lazy on the lunge, so after pushing him a bit to see if I could get the "wild man" to come out, when it didn't, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle.  Of course, in true Alex fashion, the switch had flipped and he was nearly perfect. 

This used to happen with Gryff too... I think I've just kinda forgotten.  Here's my thought for the last couple days... baby TBs are like bi-polar people, on any given day you just never know what horse you're going to get :-) 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Alex likes long and low

Just a quick post tonight, or rather this morning... Alex was wonderful tonight.  I think he is really getting the "long and low" concept, he wanted to do it all the way around the arena at all three gates.  I was even able to push him forward a little more and got to feel more of that nice trot I think he will have.  Only a few baby bucks at the canter to the left tonight, which is a huge improvement over our last few outings.  He was so calm, relaxed and confident, I still can't really believe it.  Tonight was the most confident I have ever felt riding him (so far at least).  I am over the moon. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Alex is full of surprises

Alex has been a very good boy the last two days.  Yesterday we had a lovely ride in the outdoor arena that included lots of stretching and moving very forward.  I think I may have actually felt that trot I think is in there somewhere.  There was less bucking/hopping/screwing around cantering to the left which was nice.  He even managed to "keep his shirt on," although he did go into giraffe mode at first, when someone rode by the arena on another horse while we were trotting.  This is a major improvement over last time when he was bucking, hopping around and squealing.  There was none of that this go round, just highly attentive and curious, and that is OK. 

Tonight we had a major first, which was our very first ride in the oh-so-scary indoor arena.  Our indoor is not your normal indoor... this used to be an Arabian farm and next to the arena is a stage where horses were led across during sales, and where people sat to watch the horses shown in the arena... in one corner hangs a giant red curtain that, I suppose, used to separate the stage from the arena.  Add in the fact that he is an OTTB who has probably never even been in any type of indoor arena and it all makes for a VERY scary situation.  Since we'd had a storm right before I went out to ride and both the outdoor arenas were full of water, I decided maybe it was time to tackle the indoor.  I will admit, I wasn't very hopeful that I'd be able to do more than lunge him.  Of course, as usual, he proved me wrong, but in a GOOD way!  After a few normal baby antics on the lunge, I decided it was time to get on.  Other than being very "alert" and a little nervous around the end with the curtain, he really was VERY good.  We walked and trotted and even did a little stretching.  Alex is really getting into the stretching, and not just as a means to act like a turd.  I hope this means he's beginning to trust me, but either way I'm ecstatic! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Goals

I am totally guilty of neglecting my blog for the last week.  I was really busy!  Why is it that when you're looking forward to a holiday weekend or a vacation it always feels like a marathon to "get ready" for it, but then it flies by? 

Alex and I continue trying to become partners... I really think people underestimate the amount of time it takes to build a relationship with a horse.  But honestly, it takes more than months, it takes years!  I think Alex is slowly starting to trust me, but even in his moments of worry or panic, it takes him a while to actually listen to what I am telling/asking him to do.  Those moments are so important, because it's those and not the quiet perfect moments that build the bond... it's the trials and tribulations you face together and overcome.  Case in point, last Thursday, we were working in the other outdoor arena, when another boarder came riding by out towards to exercise track.  This was the first time I had ever been riding him while someone else was riding another horse less than 20 feet away.  You would have thought the person was galloping by, to see Alex's reaction which was to start hopping around, bucking and making all kinds of fun noises. Of course, I was thinking what fun it will be the first time I have to ride him in a busy warm-up arena :-/  We managed to get through it and he actually reverted to stretching, which was a huge victory, because that is exactly what I want!  I feel like even on the days we might take a step back, we make a little progress.  That's all I can really ask for at this point... I mean, it has only been just short of 3 months since I put him back to work. 

This week I'm hoping to start trotting some poles and get a little further with transitioning the canter/gallop to the canter.  Despite his ADD, he's really starting to get the hang of stretching at the trot and even some circles.  I think now it's time to start asking for a little more bend, for stretch and more forward.  We will see how much of that we're able to accomplish :-)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Moving right along

Alex and I have had a productive few days.  Overall, I think he is getting more confident in his new role and starting to understand what I am asking.  He is really taking to the stretching and is very enthusiastic about it when he decides to stretch!

Sunday night my mom was in town, so she came out to watch us work.  Alex treated me to stretching at various intervals right from the start, which was a big first.  We made some nice circles and even a serpentine (he was a little confused about that one).  There was even stretching at the canter to the right!  It was more canter than gallop for once :-)  But of course, you know how it goes, the young ones always have to throw you at least one curve ball, just to see if you're paying attention.  So the canter to left was more buck than canter or gallop.  I don't know what got into him, but I was definitely treated to a few small cracks of the back and nearly lost my stirrup which is always delightful :-/  At any rate, after a few tries, we managed to get a buck-free fairly steady canter/gallop before calling it a night.  I can't believe how fast he is catching on to stretching, I am such a proud mommy!

Tonight we didn't work, because Alex got new shoes... and not just your average shoes, but big boy shoes!  His first set of clips... another step in making the transition.

Another piece of good news is that it looks like Gryff can finally go back to work, his wounds are nearly healed, so he will start back lunging in side-reins this week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More progress

So again it's been a few days... but at least it hasn't been a week! 

Monday was another good day.... Alex and I had a big first, or at least I like think so...  he STRETCHED a little bit at the trot!  Ok, so I know for some this is not a big deal, but considering the fact that most of the time he has no mouth and carries himself like a giraffe...this is a BIG deal.  Of course he did a little playing and resisting as he normally does at the beginning of the trot and canter, but still, the fact that he stretched, let out a breath and relaxed just made my day.  It was also nice that he didn't go tearing around the ring at the canter/gallop :-)

Tuesday Alex got the day off, it was my day to have a massage (which keeps me sane and saves my husband from having to listen to me whine about my back), plus he had been pretty darn good for 4 days in a row, so I thought he deserved it.

Today we went back to work.  After a few minutes in side-reins on the lunge, I was back in the saddle.  Alex was highly focused on the person lunging their horse in the next arena and then he decided to do what I like to call resisting/jacking around where he tries to see if he can bully me a little.  The length of time that he does this is getting smaller every time, which is a good sign.  Today he pulled out the big guns right away and was soundly defeated before deciding to get with the program.  The we had another first!  He stretched his nose ALL THE WAY down to the ground several times to both the left and right at the trot!  This is a big deal... he might be starting to figure out how good it feels to stretch and relax.  The to add to the good night, he canter/galloped, under control both directions and even offered to stretch down a bit there too! 

I can't begin to describe how happy this makes me... this is why I decided to adopt a thoroughbred and start it on my own... moments like this.  It makes all the frustrating moments fade into the background. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A weekend of baby steps

The weather here in Kentucky has been absolutely gorgeous this weekend.  It has been a welcome respite from the weeks of 100+degree temperatures.  After sticking it out and getting through our ride on Friday night, I was really looking forward to getting to ride Alex two more days making it three days in a row.  Saturday, I decided to just get right on and see what I had. After walking a few steps I urged him into a trot and after a few more steps got some head shaking/rein ripping for which I growled and yelled at him (yes, I know this sounds stupid and I am sure anyone else on the farm who hears me, probably thinks I'm insane, but it works!), kicked him in the side and smacked him with the dressage whip.  This of course pisses him off, but he also keeps going!  So after we'd gotten through a few temper tantrums both directions at the trot, I decided to let him canter.  Now first off, let me explain, there is actually no canter with Alex, at least not yet, there is only GALLOP!  Cantering to the left, Alex was bouncing around, throwing me a few little bucks the first few strides, so I just tried to stay off his back and wait for him to settle, which he did a little bit.  To the right there were no bucks and actually we just had a few nice gallops around the arena.  Slowly we came back to the trot and then to a walk... I was very encouraged.

Sunday, I was anxious to see if Alex and I could take another step forward, so again, I got right in the saddle.  After walking around the arena, I urged him into the trot and it was actually kind of nice even if he was still trotting with his head up like a giraffe :-)  To the left there were NO temper tantrums, I couldn't believe it!  As I crossed the arena to change directions and go right, I hoped he'd reward me with the same good behavior, but he had to throw in a little head/shake rein ripping just for good measure... no matter I did my little growling/kick/smack of the whip and we continued trotting around the arena.  Still encouraged and emboldened, I decided it was time for a canter/gallop.  Alex did his usual bouncing bucking routine the first few strides to the left.  Saturday, after a little wildness he had settled into a nice gallop around the arena.  I hoped for that today, but no dice.  Alex turned on the jets and was tearing around the arena.  Greeeaaat!  I tried to let him keep going hoping he would settle, but not today.  Heaven help me the first time I have to take him cross-country!  To his credit, he was a little better to the right, so at least I know it's in there somewhere :-)

All in all, it has been a great weekend.  I know it is going to be a long journey, but I'm encouraged and that's all I need right now.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just get through it...

This time it has been even longer between posts... I'm totally guilty, but it has been a really busy week!  So last Thursday I got on Alex again, this time by myself.  We went into the "scary" arena and boy was he a ball of nerves!  To be fair, there was a lesson going on in the other arena, someone riding on the track, geese in the field next to us and a horse grazing across the way.  Still I don't like excuses, so I knew we just had to get through it.  Alex was tense and head up in the air like a giraffe.  He spent a lot of time trying to shake me loose.  I growled at him, urged him forward and smacked him in the shoulder with the crop trying to be confident and tough.  Same routine going the other direction.  I let him canter a few strides and he behaved himself, so I called it a day. Then after all that work, I had to go out of town :-(  I really wanted to stay home and keep working, but my grandmother's 85th birthday was beckoning. 

Monday I was so hopeful we could go back to work, but unfortunately my real job demanded a late night, so Alex would have to wait.  Tuesday night I arrived at the barn, ready to go and found my horse with two very swollen back pasterns and fetlocks....great.  Long story short, I had just added some alfalfa pellets to his feed and he was allergic to them!  FINALLY on Friday, all signs were go.  So after a short lunging, I was back in the saddle again.  Alex was not as tense, but definitely still trying to shake me loose.  He was also adding some bouncing and a few attempted bucks to the routine.  One thing I can say, our rides are never dull :-)  So we got through it... and that is what I think we're going to have to do for a while... just get through it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Asking for Help is GOOD!

So it's been a while since my last post.  On Friday last week, I worked Alex in the other "scary" arena.  He was pretty much an angel on the lunge line and I thought, "this is promising."  So I decided to get on him (I'd never ridden him in this arena), and was pleasantly surprised when he walked around rather calmly.  We changed directions to the right and more of the same.  I was headed for the gate and just about to call it a day when he stopped in the corner and refused to go further. I clucked and urged him forward and I got a small rear in return.  I asked again and got another small rear and we started to go in circles. When he stopped there was anothe small rear.  Awesome.  So finally I reluctantly dismounted and proceeded to hand walk him around the arena.  He spent the entire time trying to bite/chew on me which was fun.  By the time I got him untacked and bathed, I'd had enough. 

Saturday, I lunged him in the same arena and had Stephanie as my ground person to help walk us around.  Alex spent the whole time looking around bug-eyed and trying to bite/chew on her, for which he definitely got popped in the nose a few times.  At this point I had pretty much decided I needed help, someone to get on, boss him around a bit and get him moving forward.  I had also, after lots of research and consultation, decided that Alex was most likely suffering from an ulcer or ulcers and this was contributing to the decline in his attitude.  So he started his first dose of UlcerGuard on Saturday and I am revamping his feeding regime.

Monday, we were back at it after Alex had a day off.  I lunged him in his "preferred" arena and then got on him.  He walked around fairly calmly at the walk and I decided to call it a day before I ruined what I considered progress.

Tuesday, a rider from the track, who had been recommended by a friend came out to help me with the beast.  He got right in the saddle and definitely let Alex know who was boss.  Other than a few moments where he had to get after him, Alex was a saint.  No rearing, no nothing... that damn horse.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that it's something that isn't permanent and appears to be not much of a problem at all, but it's always humbling, when you realize, the problem is most likely you.

Wednesday we were back at it.  The rider from the track got back in the saddle for a bit and then I climbed on board.  Actually, I wasn't nervous at all... we trotted and even cantered/galloped around the arena both directions.  I got some pointers on how to ride in a manner that Alex is a little more accustomed to, until he gets more comfortable with me in the saddle. 

I'm SO glad I got some help.  I am normally a confident rider but this rearing thing really had me spooked.  Now I know what I need to do, to get him going and discipline him when he acts up.  I feel like I can speak to him in a "language" he understands and I feel a lot better.  It was so frusterating to feel helpless.  Tomorrow, I will try him on my own and see how he does.  Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Horrible to Perfect... Whaaat?

Alex decided to be pretty much perfectly horrible yesterday and today he decided to be perfectly wonderful.  I was all prepared for a battle, I had my game face on and everything.  Alex was a little less grouchy, even perhaps, dare I say it, contrite? Today we went back to our normal arena (no, I am not cheating, I said we were going to start rotating back and forth every time we work) and still I was prepared to battle, prepared to not even be able to get on him.  Apparently someone flipped a switch after yesterday... he was PERFECT on the lunge in both directions at all three gaits.  I didn't even go easy on him, I worked him hard just waiting for the bad behavior to come out, so I could pounce... NOTHING.... horses.... geez.  So then I decided it was time to try for another ride.  I think he still isn't sure about me being in the saddle and he definitely suffers from severe ADD about what is going on around him.  We walked both directions, he was tentative, but good to the left.  The right is more challenging, there were several stops, where I had to urge him forward and reassure him.  He did not do any rearing, but that doesn't mean he didn't think about it... I could feel it.  So a successful day, where I had expected trials and tribulations. 

Tomorrow we go back to the other arena... we will see what that brings.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Today was bad...

Today was bad... there is just no other way to describe it accurately.  Alex had been off for two days since I had to work late Monday and had dinner plans yesterday.  I should have expected the worst, but naively thought all would be well.  When I got to the barn, I was tired but enthusiastic about another ride.  Alex actually seemed to be in a good mood and so I went along my merry way getting ready to work him.  We had to use the other arena, as there was a lesson going on in the one we normally use.  Right from the start, Alex was only interested in "extra-curricular activities."  He was either bucking, kicking and racing around or pretending that he had forgotten how to go on the lunge.  Usually this stops when we change directions, but today it continued and actually got worse.  Finally when it appeared that he had given up a little bit, I decided to try and get on him.  He was an absolute beast, trying to bite me, rub against me and run over me.  When I put my foot in the stirrup he went backwards and slightly up.  So I moved the block and tried again, this time he turned around and tried to bite me, then literally just tried to walk over the mounting block.  By this point I had decided there was no getting on Alex today and I had better cut my losses. 

To say I was frustrated, would be a total understatement, but frustration won't get us anywhere.  So we are still having a battle of the wills.  This means a new plan. 

1) I'm tired of this freaking out every time we change locations (one arena is literally in sight of the other, it's not THAT big a change), so we will alternate between arenas every other day until he gets over this thing he has about change in location. 
2) As much as I don't want to, when he's bad, I'm going to have to demand absolute obedience.  I have to win every time, or he will be unmanageable. 

So tomorrow we will try again... whoever said patience is a virtue sure wasn't kidding.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Last Week

So it's been an exciting week in my land of horses... on Saturday, Alex and I had our very FIRST RIDE!  We started out with lunging which went very well, with minimal "extra-curricular activities."  So after putting on my helmet and vest we headed over to the mounting block for my first mount.  Alex was a star and stood perfectly still.  Then, my friend Stephanie, my helper for the day led us around the arena in both directions.  Alex, like most every Thoroughbred, has ADD so we spent a lot of time stopping to look at everything or "smell the flowers" as I like to say.  Eventually, I felt confident enough to have the lunge line removed and just have Stephanie walk next to us.  After a few trips around the arena, I had Stephanie move to the center and we were truly on our own for the first time!  Alex was a star and we even had a few trot steps ( I couldn't help myself).  Overall, our first ride could not have been better!

Sunday Alex and I were at it again.  Same routine, except this time, no helper.  Lunging was great, possibly the best ever in full tack.  In the saddle things went well, so well that I decided to get brave and trot both directions, which went well, although I could feel that Alex was quite tense and hollow.  Finally coming through the corner at the right, Alex decided he needed to liven things up, so he picked up the pace, hopped around a bit and tried to rip the reins out of my hand.  "Ok," I thought to myself, "this is how you want to play."  So I went back to walk and spent some time trying to get him to bend.  This irritated him a little bit, particularly to the right where he decided he'd had enough of me and reared.  It was a very slow rear, but very short.  The whole thing was over in a second, but happened in slow motion to me.  I thought myself "shit... am I going to fall off?"  Instinct took over as I sat very still, leaned toward his neck and made sure not to pull on the reins.  Back on the ground, I gave a little cluck and he walked forward again.  Crisis managed.  After a little more walking I decided to call it a day.

In post mortem with my mom, she agreed that I had been his mouth (which is at the moment non-existent) too much and I need to focus on forward for a few weeks before I focus on anything else.  So our next ride will be forward, forward, forward... and hopefully, no "extra-curricular activities."

In other news, Gryff will be starting back to full flat-work on Wednesday, yay!  His wounds are still healing and will likely need a few more weeks, so that means little to no jumping, but at least we can start working back towards being ready for Jump Start Horse Trials and another outing at Novice.  So happy the Gryffster is healing... I hate seeing him hurt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back Among the Horses

Saturday night I rushed out to the farm to see my boy, after a whole three days! He had (gasp) a cut on his right hind pastern and was quite literally growing out of his front shoes (good thing the farrier comes this week).  I had a little moment of guilt for being gone, which is...yes...sad...I know, but he did seem genuinely happy to see me.  This does not mean, however, that he had given up on being mouthy, leftovers from being a stud I suppose, but it has earned him the nickname "shark." 

On Sunday, Alex went back to work after what I am sure was a glorious 4 days off.  Since I had been gone a few days, we went backwards one step into the surcingle and side reins.  He was actually a good boy considering this was his first little vacay from his new training regimen.  A few little hops kicks and a buck... well I mean he has to do a few, just so I know it's him! 

On Monday, Alex got worked a little harder in the surcingle and side reins.  Again, he was actually quite good and I am hopeful that we can return to full tack on Wednesday without too much fuss.  Remember, I said "hopeful" not absolutely sure :-)

Also on Monday, after nearly a month, I FINALLY got back in the saddle... ok so it was wearing shorts and only at the walk, but Gryff and I are starting the road back to where he was before this rather unfortunate interlude. On Wednesday, I may allow him to trot, we'll see, I don't want to disturb his wounds.  I could tell he was happy to be doing something though... he was quite agreeable for a horse that's been off almost a month.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Days Without Horses

It's been a little strange to be away from the horses for a bit... I keep feeling like I should be going out to the farm to make feed, groom, work or just visit Alex.  This is a fun trip, but I can't wait to get back and see/work my boys.  I suppose some time away is good, because then I have a chance to think of new approaches to the things I am trying to teach them.  And you know the old saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder."  This is certainly true of me and the ponies.  I'm also missing my pups, but I know they are having a big time playing with the dog sitter's crew.  It's funny how you can get so used to having your pets around, they really are like family.

Next week I'm looking forward to putting Gryff back to work.  I have not been in the saddle since June 30th and I just know my legs are going to be jello after the first few rides.  I hope the weather is not too terrible in August, I'd really like to get Gryff out to another schooling show, before it is time to take him to his next event. 

Well I'm off to enjoy the day, tomorrow it will be time to fly home and back to my fur-babies :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Victory!

Today's work was so much better!  No antics at all to the left, except a few hops. To the right, Alex only had one little "moment"  which was more likely brought on by the stirrup that had slipped and was banging against his side.   For the first time in days neither of us returned to the barn drenched in sweat.  It was a small victory.  Too bad now he will have 4 days off while I'm in Minnesota and will probably turn back into a beast upon my return.  Oh well...

Gryff's legs look much better tonight, I can't help but think the dousing of Betadine shampoo and slathering of Corona I gave him on Sunday, really helped.  His scabs look much tougher.  Still some swelling in the right hind fetlock, but that's the leg that was the worst.  Next week, he's going back to work, even if it's just walking... he's bored and turning back into a terror!  You'd think at 18, he'd be thrilled to have a break, but not this horse, if he's not being worked, he finds other ways to amuse himself.

Tomorrow night it's off to Minnesota... I am nervous leaving Alex for the first time, but I know Stephanie will look in on him and he will be fine.  I will miss him though!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Up Down & All Around

Saturday we got rained out and Alex had an unexpected day off.  I opted not to try the indoor again, until I felt like he'd had a chance to "reboot."  Sunday we were back at it again.  All was calm starting to the right until about 5-10 minute into his trot he threw out a series of bucks.  This was interesting since normally he waits for the canter to throw spice things up.  If I thought it was a one time thing, I was in for a rude awakening as he had several more "episodes" in store for me.  All of this was brought on by who knows what, bugs, activity outside the arena, near slips or getting almost to the point of submission... take your pick!  For his finale he spent a brief moment standing on his hind legs.  Unfortunately for him he looked more like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum than a menacing beast.  And we hadn't even gone left yet!  Finally he gave up and did what I asked, so I let him go to the left.  This direction was not nearly as action packed, but he did throw a few bucks in just for good measure, before finally giving in or getting bored or whatever.  Finally we went back to the mounting block and practiced standing while I put weight in the stirrup which he tolerated fairly well.

Then I went out to see Gryff and give him a bath.  He decided that he felt REALLY good and proceeded to demonstrate that by running all over his paddocks and generally being full of himself.  I think most of this was to get my attention... he is the funniest horse.  I'm glad he feels good, because his cuts still look awful to me, better but still awful.  Hopefully next week I can get on him and at least start walking.

Today, the arena was full of water on both ends so the only choice was to lunge Alex in the middle.  We started out by walking around through all the puddles, which he did without complaint even stopping and pawing like he wanted to roll in one... goofball.  Again we started to the right, but this time, it took 15 minutes for the bucks to come, they were less frequent, less intense and resolved much faster.  More of the same to the left AND he even cantered through a puddle!  Dare I say it?  Could it be progress?  We will see what tomorrow brings, as it will be our last before I have to travel up north to Minnesota for 4 days.  It's an inopportune time in this battle I am fighting for supremacy, for me to be gone, but it can't be helped.  I will miss my big man though, it will be the first time I've gone out of town since he arrived :-(

Friday, July 13, 2012

One Step Up

Tonight, Alex was better and I think we gained back about 1 step of the 2 we took backwards yesterday.  Lunging was much more calm, except for cantering to the left where I think he was panicking about falling and so kept throwing his head and fighting the lunge line.  With time he finally went relatively calmly, so I let him change directions and he went really well to the right.  At the mounting block he was a little impatient, but eventually did allow me to put my weight in the stirrup.  He's not too keen on standing around a long time afterward though :-)  This biting thing has to stop though... I've gotta get tougher about that.

Perhaps tomorrow, we will start to the right, and maybe he will be a little more relaxed by the time he has to go left.  I only want him to have good experiences... that always has to be my goal, at least in these first months together.

Frustration to Understanding

Alex and I had a rough work today... I made the mistake of thinking I could just up and lunge him in the indoor arena (which admittedly is pretty scary and narrow compared to the outdoor).  Originally I had thought Tuesday's antics might be in reaction to having too tight a girth, but today the girth was absolutely not too tight.  Today's "baby moment" was equally as bad as Tuesday except that I let myself get frustrated and then I got mad at myself for being frustrated.  Makes total sense right? 

Once I had time to process, I realized how stupid I had been to totally change up the routine for the 3rd time in three days and especially to think he would just be fine in the scary indoor having only been in it once since his arrival.  Then I got mad at myself again for being stupid...

Today I learned something valuable...Alex responds to fear with bucking, hopping and kicking... sudden change in routine elicits fear. The routine is important. 

"The horse will tell you what he can handle, and quite a bit about yourself ... if you'll listen." -- Buck Brannaman

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally... a first post!

So now that my OCD about getting this blog set up has subsided, I can finally make my first post. 

Alex was a good boy tonight, which is good because yesterday he had a 30 minute long "baby moment" while working on the lunge line.  This "moment" was complete with bucks and kicks and hops.  At one point, he bucked, lost his balance and went down to his knees falling on his side in the sand.  He and I both had a moment of "shit!" and then he got up looking a little embarrassed and trotted off.  That pretty much ended the shenanigans and he finished up relatively quietly. 

Training horses, especially Thoroughbreds, is kind of like the weather in Kentucky, if you don't like what it's doing, wait a few hours, it will change.  So tonight the "weather" changed and Alex was much improved, no bucking, kicking or hopping and relatively good stretching at all three gaits both directions.  It would appear he learned his lesson...that Alex he's a smart cookie!  AND we worked with the mounting block, where he stood mostly still (except he was turning around and trying to bite me in the thigh/butt, until he got a good pop in the nose, which ended that nonsense) and I put all my weight in the stirrup before laying over the saddle.  Success! "No big deal, " says Alex, "but just get this damn tack off me, it's hot out here and I am itchy!"

This means I might actually meet my goal of getting on him for this first time on Sunday, yippee! 

Went out to see Gryff, poor guy his stifles are still looking a bit like a special effects creation from a horror film, but they are healing and the swelling is down.  He enjoyed the grooming, kisses and treats... he's such a ham :-)