Posts tagged: jumping


So, once again, bad blogger. A lot’s happened since my last update…

First, I rode in a clinic with David DeWispelaere in April. I really enjoyed it, and intended for a long time to write about it — but less than a week after the clinic, Poe came out of the pasture lame. NOT HAPPY. I’d taken him out back for walking and trotting hill work on Tuesday and had a really nice jumping lesson on Wednesday. He felt a bit sluggish by the end of the lesson, so he got Thursday off. Then Friday, lame. LAME. I called my friend Lennie, who happens to be one of the most knowledgeable horsepeople I know, and she graciously came out to the barn to watch him jog. It was definitely left hind (my eye for lameness is terrible, but this was pronounced enough even I could see it). He didn’t seem to want to place the foot, so Lennie felt it was an abscess brewing, and best thing for it would be chuck him back out in the field and wait.

The next Wednesday he was still about the same, maybe a touch better than that first day. The vet was coming out to float his teeth anyhow, so I called ahead to ask that he watch Poe jog, throw the hoof testers on him, etc before doing his teeth. The vet kindly squeezed it in. He saw the same left hind lameness, but couldn’t find any reactivity with the hoof testers, no heat, no swelling, no difference in pulse between the legs. He didn’t have time for further diagnostics and couldn’t tell anything based on what he’d seen. So I set up an appointment the following Monday (soonest I could get someone), and put him on a couple days of bute.

Monday the second vet watched him jog on and off the lunge, did the hoof testers, and did some flexions. Poe was a total brat about flexing his left stifle. He wasn’t fantastic about his right either, but worse for the left. No real heat or swelling, and no difference in the jog before and after the flexion, but he also wasn’t able to hold it all that long. Inconclusive. We were set to do nerve blocks next, but Poe was a bit fried and refused to have the twitch put on, and reacted rather violently to the vet’s attempt to get the needle in without the twitch, so we scrapped that. He is usually an easy horse to handle so the whole exam was a bit disheartening. Much moreso because we were no closer to an answer than we’d been last week. The vet advised I give it another couple of days, and set another appointment if there was no change, possibly bring him in for x-rays.

By Wednesday there was no difference. I don’t have a truck and trailer, so hauling him up to the clinic was not a great option. A third vet was able to schedule to see him on Saturday. He’s the one who usually handles emergencies so they don’t schedule him, but I was very flexible about when I could see him so he worked me in. He repeated everything we’d done Monday, with a bit better success on the flexions, since Poe was feeling more cooperative. Same result: he flexed fine. Back in the barn the vet pulled out the hoof testers — and voila! Tenderness in the left hind. It was the first time Poe had reacted to them, but there was a definite, repeatable reaction. Probably a stone bruise. And a huge, huge relief. The vet had also brought out the thermography camera, so he had a look at both of Poe’s back legs with that. Really cool little device — and also a relief to see no difference in heat between the legs. The vet felt there was a small amount of swelling in the left stifle, but nothing super alarming.

He prescribed a 3-week course of bute (2gm twice a day for three doses, then 2gm once a day for 10 days, then 1gm once a day for 10 days), and said I should ride him. Nothing super strenuous, stick to large figures, no jumping — but he felt the bute would address any inflammation, and that moving would help him strengthen/loosen whatever he’d tweaked, and things would either improve and be fine or get worse so we might have a clue what else was going on. We discussed other options too — injecting the stifle, taking him in for x-rays — but we both felt this was the best next step. So, after over 2 weeks out of the saddle, I got to climb on the pony-face again! It was a fantastic feeling just to walk and trot him around the arena.

That was mid-May. I honestly feel like we’ve still been getting back into work since then, which is kind of pathetic since it’s been 2 months and he wasn’t out of work that long. I feel like he’s had good days and bad days, though. He’s consistently more comfortable on the footing in the indoor, but sometimes he feels pretty great in the outdoor too. We went back to jumping a month ago. We haven’t done a lot, but he is SO so excited and happy every time we do.

I’m still freaked out that my horse is secretly broken, though. Every tiny bobble and misstep scares me. I’m terrified I’m doing wrong by him somehow, that I will ruin him. So, I’m trying to take things in baby steps. Baby baby steps. I’ve launched Operation: Super-Stifle! and am walking him up and down the hills out back at least once a week. It’s something we can do even in this insane heatwave. (A couple weeks ago we had a heat advisory all week, with temps around 100 and insane humidity — so that was a week of a lot of baths and zero riding, which hasn’t helped the feeling that we’re woefully unprepared for anything right now.) This Sunday we’re going cross-country schooling at Steepleview. I’m prepared to quit the minute he starts feeling tired. I’m also using it to gauge whether or not to sign up for their recognized show over Labor Day weekend. Some moments I feel like it would be the most fun thing ever and we just have to go do it — and other moments I remember how showing leaves me wanting to vomit the entire week beforehand, and pretty much every moment during it that we aren’t running cross-country. Still, if I never show the nerves will never get better.

To that end I did a little ride-a-test schooling thing a few weeks ago at my barn. You could pick any test, ride it once for the judge, get feedback and a mini-lesson about how to improve that test immediately, then ride it again. I had the best score ever, and while I was tense I did not entirely lose my mind when we hit the ring, so it was an improvement. It helps that the judge was Jodi, who I used to train with. And she had some awesome advice for us, and some really concrete specific thing we should be working on. Namely: shoulder-fore at the canter, especially on the right lead. Do not let him trick me into hold his head up with the inside rein to that direction. Use the long walls instead of circles until he’s more balanced. We have not been doing this enough — I know it will help us enormously, and need to start busting it out now that the weather’s broken.

Okay, this was a really rambling catch-all, but I think I hit all the highlights of the last couple months. Oh! Except the saddle! I bought a dressage saddle. Update for another time.

Poe walk, July 2012

More 2011 Wrap-Up

Obviously I’ve fallen way behind again. Let’s pretend I wrote about all kinds of things promptly:

The eye recheck: The vet came out the day after my last post; he stained Poe’s eye again, and found the ulcer totally healed, yay! There was a small cloudy spot left, so we moved on to a round of steroids to take care of any of it that was inflammation-related vs scar tissue. Poe will probably always have a small scar there, but it’s just behind and above his pupil, so the vet said it shouldn’t impair his vision whatsoever, and cleared him fully for jumping. Big relief!

Foxhunting: I played hooky from work on a Wednesday morning, and we spent the whole hunt in first field. I was pretty honored (and, I’ll admit, a little freaked out) to be invited there immediately, sitting on my still-pretty-green five-year-old who’s only hunted once before, a whole year ago. When I was introduced, the Hunt Master lavished me with some pretty high praise about my previous horse (who I sold 2 years ago to one of the hunt members). He is a pretty awesome little dude and it makes me unbelievably happy to see him doing so well with his new owner. Anyway, I was a little worried being in first field the entire hunt would be too much mentally for Poe-face, and that our brakes would fail or he would just come apart at the seams — but he was a rockstar. He didn’t stand at checks and the brakes could use work, but I was super proud of him. He was enthusiastic and brave, quick on his feet, and kept his attention glued on the hounds — he figured out fast where all the action was! By the time we got back to the stable he was like a toddler high on sugar and several hours past naptime. Definitely made me grateful that I don’t have to deal with toddlers all the time, and that most of them aren’t 1200 pounds.

The Hunter Pace: We hunted on a Wednesday and the Pace was the following Sunday. I turned him out in the arena once in between to see how he was feeling after hunting (answer: great!), but otherwise left him alone to be a horsey and process all the excitement. When he saw the trailer outside on Sunday, he literally started shaking he was so excited. Lovely. We wound up having quite the adventure getting there. The gathering place for the event is a beautiful private farm in Medina; a front turn-out field serves as trailer parking. Unfortunately, there is a pretty significant swale/dip between the road and the main part of the field. While driving through the gate, over this swale, the trailer (a bumper pull) bounced off the hitch. Just popped straight off. Terrifying! Luckily we were going quite slowly, and surrounded by handy horse people. We unloaded the ponies; we tied Rascal to the fence (such a good boy) and I walked Poe up and down the patch of grass between the fence and the road. He walked and ate and walked and and stared all around while Lennie and a couple other people got the trailer jacked up and put back on the hitch. Thankfully nothing was damaged! A bit shaken, we finally got parked, signed in, and got our ponies ready.

The ride was a blast. Each team (usually a pair, though some teams are bigger) is sent out with a map, and is supposed to ride the marked course as close to the optimum hunting time as possible. This optimum time is a secret until everyone is done — the course is ridden before the event by one of the hunt members to set the pace, and the team closest to that time wins. Last year we took home the trophy, and the year before were in 2nd place by mere moments. This year they added some new jumps and ran the course back to front. Poe was awesome! He was very happy to be out, and we even took the lead over some nice-sized brush fences when his fearless leader Rascal balked at them (he was raring to go, Rascal be damned!). That was probably my favorite part of the day: once we got over the third fence, I felt him totally get it; he hunted for the next fence and dragged me there. Awesomest feeling! We clocked along and came in about the same time as we had last year, even though the course was a little longer. When we went to check our time, however, I got a bit of a disapproving look and a warning that they had slowed things down quite a bit this year. Needless to say we went home empty-handed! I thought it a bit strange that they wouldn’t have told people about slowing things down before sending them out on course — but, honestly, we had such a blast I don’t think we would have gone slower if we had known!

Since then: Poe got a little well-deserved time off, then we returned to lessons and dressage work. I had some really nice rides on him, and my trainer had an awesome school with him, but he was feeling just a little funky to me — stiffer than usual. Then I had a ride where felt downright weird, and I panicked a little and made Lennie come out to give her expert opinion. She felt he wasn’t lame, but a bit sore in the hind end, so I hunted up a masseuse for him. She found some really tight areas, but told me to absolutely continue his current level of work, and that the massage should help him loosen up. AND (best part) she said he had one of the best backs of any horse she works on — not sore at all! Since then I’ve had a handful of rides. He definitely feels better, though he’s still taking a while to warm up and start really bending. Last night’s ride was a total disaster — the arena footing is in the middle of an overhaul, so it was really uneven and strange, and he was distracted and belligerent the whole ride, and I was all frustrated, and it was just a horrible combination. I have a lesson tonight that I’m hoping will be MUCH better!

Goals: One awesome take-away from last night came from eavesdropping on another woman’s lesson. At the end her instructor had her drop her stirrups and practice posting. We all had a chat about the importance of stirrupless work, and I have known forever that I would benefit a lot from it. So, I’m going to really make it happen this winter. I want my head back in the game for the 2012 season, and that starts with getting my body in the game. No excuses!

2011 Season

Wow. So obviously I fail at blogging this year. And now the season is over, almost before it began… Behold:

In mid-September, Poe came in with a weepy right eye. A lot of horses had been bothered by a sudden plague of pollen and ragweed, and a proliferation of burrs. (I’m actually surprised there are any left in the pasture after the amount Poe’s brought in via his forelock — but he keeps managing to find them…) I consulted with the barn staff. Verdict: fly mask. It had cleared up other horses’ weepy eyes overnight. (I tried one on him last year, but he quickly started getting rubs, and after discovering several flies actually inside the mask, I gave it up.) So, fly mask.

The next day he seemed no better, and had some cloudiness around the edge of the eye, so I called the vet. He came out and stained the eye, revealing the lovely bright green spot you can see in the picture above: an ulcer. Probably caused by a bit of debris getting in there, and then being rubbed against the delicate surface of the eye. So he got a bunch of meds, and orders to dress as a pirate (to protect the dilated pupil from sunlight).

pirate pony

With one eye covered in strong light, jumping was off the table. We were given the go-ahead for flat riding, with the caution to stay out of dusty conditions. So we concentrated on flatwork, and actually had some really nice rides. I’d gotten lax about leg-yielding, something that was a regular part of our repertoire this spring, so I added that back in the mix. I schooled a lot of simple changes. We continued to improve our transitions down to the walk. When the vet re-stained his eye after four days of meds, he predicted it would be another 4-6 days before the eye was healed. I was optimistic about still being able to attend the October 8-9 Robeke’s Run show at Schweiss Stables. We did a schooling BN show there last year, and I was excited to have another run around their cross-country course.

Unfortunately, at two weeks from the original injury, he looked better but not good enough:

The vet advised against signing up for the show, and I agreed with him. There was no way of knowing how he’d respond between closing date and the show — and absolutely no reason to take any chances. I (hopefully) have decades ahead of me with this guy; we’re in no rush.

I feel like we got off the farm so much in 2010. We did tons of baby shows, schooling, clinics, and heaps of trail riding. By contrast, this year has felt like a long conspiracy against productive work: bad weather, personal upheavals, more bad weather, trailering woes, yet more bad weather, and now the eye. We did fit in one recognized show at the beginning of September, however, and it was an awesome experience. We had our usual tense, tense, tense dressage, which landed us in second-to-last place; a fantastic cross-country (double-clear, go pony go!), which moved us into second (which made me want to puke on my boots); and a spotty stadium round, which landed us in third. Which was good enough to help my group take first in the BN Team Challenge!

I was SUPER proud of him overall. The areas we really sucked at were known trouble spots, and he continues to impress me with what a willing, sensible guy he is. We had lots of green baby moments, but that’s to be expected. We did have an uncharacteristic stop at the second fence in stadium. He was unbelievably tense and nervous going into the ring, giving the bug-eye to the speakers, announcer’s trailer, all the fences… It was an honest run-out from a long ways off that I just couldn’t get a handle on, and when I gathered him up and re-presented he went right over it. After that I rode him more forward — which is something we’ve been working on, but which also let him get a bit flat and strung out, so we took a rail late in the course. (Sorry this recap is all over the place. I’m a bit sick and perhaps getting a little incoherent; I should just delete it and do a proper write-up of the whole show, but given my record on posting so far, I think it’s safer just leaving it a bit scattered…)

We still have the Hunter’s Pace and a foxhunt on the calendar for this year. The vet is coming out to have another look at Poe’s eye tomorrow, and I’m hoping we’ll get the green light for both of those. Have to defend our Hunter’s Pace trophy!

Lesson: June 23

I had a really nice lesson last Thursday. We were stuck in the indoor (so much rain); as much as I hate using it in the summer, I do usually get better dressage work there. Fewer distractions for the baby horsey brain. We started with flatwork, lots of changes of direction to warm up, then focusing on good quality transitions. These have improved a lot, but still involve a big element of luck and very precise timing. Unsurprisingly, they’re best when I can get a really good quality gait to start with and stay sitting back while asking for the transition, and keep the bit moving gently with the inside rein. Particularly down to the walk he has the tendency to snatch the bit and do a sort of bad cowhorse imitation, dumping onto his forehand and jamming on the brakes. Both of us are getting better at it, though. Practice practice practice.

My instructor has been talking about doing a bounce gymnastic for a while, and the rainy day was the perfect opportunity. We started with just four canter poles, and started building up from the first element (so we had a little cross-rail followed by three poles, then two cross-rails followed by two poles, etc). He was a really good boy, and I could feel him thinking hard. Every time she changed something he’d come in all Holy smokes something is different! Not bad, just stalling for time. After a couple hairy first trips through I got a little more aggressive and started smacking him when he backed off. WORLD OF GOOD. I do not know why that lesson is taking so long to sink into my brain and actually take hold in my body, but, again: when I ride more confidently and aggressively, he goes better. Funny how that works.

My first fences are pretty much always shit. They just are. Need to work on it, I know. It was nice riding through a grid, though, and getting to focus a little more on my position. (During the three fences after the first, anyway.) I realized the other day that I haven’t actually sat on a really well-trained horse since high school. Some of the ones I tried when I was shopping were further along, but definitely nothing resembling been-there-done-that. Greenies definitely help you improve as a rider, but in a different way. Anyway, I’m (still) looking forward to the day when we can kind of just clock around a course and have a reasonable guess what’s going to happen.

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