>Julie Videos!

May 9, 2011 10 comments

>

Look at this trot!!
(sorry about the photo quality, it’s a still from the video)
Enjoy the videos – I certainly enjoyed spending mother’s day with my little one!

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Categories: Julie, video

>My Horse’s Conditioning Program for Returning to Work

May 5, 2011 2 comments

>Tucker got his chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture on Tuesday morning and his pelvis and lumbar area needed several adjustments, particularly on the right side, so that explains why he was relunctant to stretch his back and why I was having such a hard time keeping him straight (he was traveling with his haunches to the right).  Man am I glad that Dr. L came to see him!  She is a miracle worker.  He felt so great last night, forward, but not tense, so much straigher, and he wanted to stretch down at the trot, which was a great feeling.  He is still weak behind and has trouble staying engaged for any length of time.  He really pushes for a few strides, then he overdoes it and wants to get this big huge trot, and then a few strides later falls behind my leg because it’s too hard, so we still have a lot to work on. 

Apparently, after Dr. L treated him on Tuesday, he took himself for a little gallop in the field (feeling a little too good, birthday boy?), so evidently he doesn’t realize that there is an actual rehab plan in place.  I thought maybe it would be a good idea, then, to set one down.  Tucker is an avid blog reader (he even comments sometimes).  Hopefully he’ll read this and understand that I’d rather him not gallop around like his tail’s on fire for at least a few more weeks.

Grey Horse Matters offered me a link to a very helpful post that she did, where she outlines her program for bringing her horses back into work in the Spring after being in inconsistent work all winter — go read it!  She uses the British Horse Society as her guide, but modifies it to suit her needs, and I think I’m going to do the same.  Below is my modified plan.  The BHS standard is in in black, and my modified plan is in in green

1st WEEK
Walking exercise on the level. Half an hour on the first day, increasing to one hour by the end of the first week.

My plan:
30- 45 minutes total walking undersaddle in the ring, alternating between working walk and loose rein, increasing to 45 minutes by the end of the week.

2nd WEEK
Increase walking up to 1 hour by the end of the week.

My plan:
30-40 minutes total walking, alternating between working walk and loose rein, with 2-3 brief intervals of trotting, begin walking over poles, start doing easy lateral work at the walk, and by the end of the week add in walking over cavaletti and small cross rails and cooling out outside walking up and down hills.

3rd WEEK
Slow trotting, starting on the level, together with walking up and down hills.

My plan:
30 minutes – 1 hour of riding total, increase the number and duration of trot sets (as Tucker allows), with as much long-and-low trotting as possible, continue easy lateral work, cavaletti, and small cross rails at the walk, and by the end of the week start trotting over poles on the ground.  Cool out outside up and down hills, as weather permits.  If horse’s brain allows, begin riding outside on weekend. 🙂

4th WEEK
As third week.

My plan:
Same as above, maintaining whatever number and duration of trot sets achieved by the end of the week, and start asking for brief periods of working trot in between long-and-low trot during a couple of rides.

5th WEEK
1 ½ hours exercise a day, to include some trotting up hills and short, slow cantering on good, level ground.

My plan:
40 minutes – 1 hour of work, begin trotting raised cavaletti and cross rails, start asking for a little longer periods of working trot between long-and-low trot, start asking for easy lateral work at the trot, add in some brief intervals of cantering in each direction.

6th-8th WEEKS
1 ½ hours exercise a day, to include trotting up hills and longer cantering periods. School work may include jumping and canter circles.

My plan:
6th week:  40 minutes – 1 hour of work, increasing duration of canter intervals.  Add in a couple of days with slightly more demanding working trot sessions, including a little more lateral work and some collection and baby extended trot.  On the other days, long-and-low trot and canter only. Continue cavaletti and cross rail work at the walk and trot.

7th week:  Same as above.  By the end of the week, canter cavaletti and cross rails.

8th week:  Same as above, continue cantering cavaletti and cross rails during the week, and take a jumping lesson at the end of the week.

It feels good to have a plan, doesn’t it?  Now Tucker, let’s get with the program please.  Galloping is more like Week 6 or 7.
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Please note:  In case you’ve found this post through a search engine, Tucker is not coming back from a soft tissue injury, but rather a wound that was stitched and required 2 months of stall rest.  I think it is best to consult with your vet if you’re bringing your horse back from any kind of soft tissue injury, to prevent any further damage.  (Just trying to be a responsible blogger!)

>Happy Birthday Tucker!

May 4, 2011 10 comments

>Happy birthday big brown horse!

You are my best friend, the love of my life, and better than even the most wonderful horse I’ve ever dreamed about.  I love you more and more as each year goes by, and I am looking forward to many more years with you.  I am so, so thankful to have you in my life.

I remember very well the first day I met you, nine years ago.  You were 2 months old, and you ran up and bit me in the stomach while I was petting your mom, the beautiful Savoire Faire.  I spent more and more time with you that year, and eventually when I was starting law school, I just couldn’t leave without you.  Everyone thought I was crazy, because you looked like a giraffe crossed with a goat, but something in my gut just wouldn’t let go.  I will never regret the decision, no matter how many times I am running short on time, money, and energy to make it work with you.  You and I are meant for each other. 

Happy 9th Birthday Boo-Boo!  I love you so much!

Categories: birthdays, Gratitude, Tucker

>On Our Way Back

May 3, 2011 3 comments

>Tucker and I are slowly but surely working on getting him back to show ring fitness, with the hopes that we will be showing again by mid-June, if all goes well.  He got a bath on Saturday because the weather was so nice, and I pulled his mane and clipped his legs and his jawline/muzzle, so he is looking a little more like a show horse instead of a backyard pet. Now we just need to work on helping him regain a topline, get some strength and stamina back, and put on some weight.  Here’s how he looks right now:  nice and clean, but otherwise definitely not at his best! 

We’ve upped his grain slightly to assist with his weight gain and muscle building. He is now getting 4 quarts per day of Omeline 500 (split over two meals — he was previously getting 3 quarts), plus plenty of forage: 5 quarts of beet pulp (with his grain), 4 quarts of alfalfa, soaked (at night check), and I’d guess about 8-10 flakes of hay throughout the course of the day. He’s also out on grass, weather permitting, for about 5 hours per day. As for supplements, you can read all about what’s in his SmartPak here.  He’s also getting SmartCalm right now, just until he’s back to full work.

As for exercise, based on what I’ve read and conversations with fellow horsewomen, the general rule of thumb is that if your horse has had extended time off, then it should take the same amount of time he’s been resting to re-condition him.  So, since Tucker has had two months off, I’m estimating it will take two months to get him fit.  I haven’t found any particular exercise program that I thought sounded really good (though if you have suggestions, please post them in the comments).  I’ve just been trying to let Tucker tell me how much he can handle — maybe that’s best anyway.
 
The first week, we just walked undersaddle for 30-40 minutes.  This past week, I started trotting again.  At first, I could only do 2 sets of about 2 minutes of trotting before he’d be winded and breaking a sweat.  By this weekend, I was able to do 3 sets of about 4-5 minutes of trotting.  In between, we walk over lots of cavaletti and little cross rails, do some bending exercises, and work on straightness with lateral work.  At the trot, I just want him to loosen up and stretch his back out, which he has been a little relunctant to do.  He is also flipping his nose up and walking with his head in the air after several minutes of work at the walk, which is either a sign that he thinks the working walk is stupid (possible) or that his back is sore, or even just allergies/post-nasal stuff.

To see how his back is feeling and help him loosen up, Dr. L is coming out to adjust him and do some acupuncture this morning, and then he’ll get turned out for the afternoon.  We texted back and forth when the stall rest was ending, and she said she’d rather work on him after I had done some trotting work so that he had a chance to stretch a little on his own before she worked on him.  Makes perfect sense.  I have to say, I feel so lucky to have such wonderful professionals helping me with Tucker’s recovery.  Everyone — from my barn managers, to my vet, to my chiropractor, to my trainer — has been completely accessible, communicative, and helpful.  Tucker and I have a great support team!

It’s hard to tell if it’s freshness or tightness that is making him feel a little tense, my guess is a combination. If he still feels like he doesn’t want to stretch on Wednesday night, even after his acupuncture, I may try giving him a tiny bit of Ace on Thursday, in case the stiffness is just because he’s fresh. Even though he’s been an angel and hasn’t done anything more than a head shake, I want to give him the opportunity to work in a relaxed way without making himself sore. I have a feeling that containing his energy and excitement because he’s trying to behave could be making his job harder than it needs to be at the moment.

Again, if anyone has suggestions for good ways to recondition your horse, we are all ears (literally, Tucker is pretty much all ears):

>Happy Horses

April 27, 2011 5 comments

>Sorry about the lack of posts last week by the way, busy week at work.  So now for the updates:

Tucker has been turned out for a week now, and is definitely starting to feel like himself again.  He’s been a much more pleasant horse to be around.  The first few times he went out, we gave him some Ace just to make sure he wouldn’t go bananas and hurt himself, but after that he was content to graze and visit with the other horses across the fence line.

I’ve ridden him four times now, and that is going well too.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on my horse again.  It was like my whole body breathed a sigh of relief as soon as I swung my leg over and looked down to see my favorite view:

I can’t explain it really, but this horse just feels like home to me.

The first three rides were at the walk, and I did my best to make it interesting for him.  The first two times, I gave him a 1/2 cc of Ace just to take the edge off, and realized the second time that I didn’t really need it, but I just wanted to be sure — again to avoid injury (either to him or to me).  During our walking rides I alternated between working walk and moseying along on a long rein, extended walk, collected walk, leg yields, serpentines, spiraling in and out circles, etc., just to try to keep his mind busy and get his parts moving.  He pretty much thought this was a complete snooze-fest, but complied nonetheless.  I thought I would be bored too, but surprisingly 30-40 minutes went by in a blink.  Amazing how much I missed riding my horse — it’s been two months since he’s done much more than walk, and almost three weeks since I’ve sat on his back.

Last night we trotted for the first time.  We did about ten minutes at a working walk, then trotted two or three times around, with a couple of circles thrown in,  then back to the walk for ten minutes, then trotted the other way, and then cooled out.  Believe it or not, he was huffing and puffing after just this little bit of work, but it was really warm last night so I’m sure that had something to do with it. 

He feels great.  Nice and relaxed, forward, not too stiff (though he was pretty stiff the first couple of rides at the walk), and very, very happy to have a job again.  I had a crazy moment right before I started trotting where I got worried about whether or not he was sound… but of course he is, and I was just being paranoid.

I have never met a horse that looks more pleased with himself after he works. I hope I captured it well enough in these photos, but my horse was downright cheerful after our ride last night. He absolutely loves having a job.

(Does this expression remind you of another photo?)

He’s getting nice and shiny too, which I love.  Guess that’s what happens when all you can do is groom for two months!  He looks so darn skinny though, I hate that.  He definitely lost muscle in his neck and his topline, and probably dropped a little weight just from the stress of stall rest.  He is a hard keeper and drops weight really fast.  All this nice spring grass will hopefully help take care of that though.

His leg is looking really good, it’s healing a little more every day and doesn’t seem to bother him at all.  Here’s the progress:

Much better than the way it was before, huh?

And Miss Julie is doing well too.  We wanted to quarantine her since she came from so far away, just to make sure she wasn’t sick and wouldn’t be bringing any foreign bugs to the other horses.  So, she’s been a little cranky about being stuck in a stall, but she’s starting to go out now, so that should settle her right down.  She’s been very well behaved about hand-walking and grazing so my guess is she just doesn’t like the idea of being stall bound (can’t say I blame her).  I helped Allison groom her last night and she seemed to enjoy it, although she needed some gentle encouragement that the show sheen bottle was not going to hurt her.  She got over it quickly with some patting though, and appears to be very smart.  She is very affectionate and likes to groom you back when you scratch an itch for her, which is very sweet.  Here she is greeting me when I pulled into the barn last night:

Sorry about the bad photo quality and the glowing eyes, but I thought her expression was too cute not to share.  I have some better ones on my camera from the night we shipped her in, so I’ll post those soon. 

All in all, two very happy horses… I must be doing something right!

>Fluffy Gray Cat: Free to a Good Home

April 25, 2011 6 comments

>No, not really.  But when I got up at 6:30 this morning to discover what Sterling had done during the night, he would have been free to the first taker. 

It’s never a good sign when the first words out of your mouth in the morning are:  “What the #$%^* is THAT?”  It’s the kind of morning that only a pet owner can truly appreciate. 

At one point during the night I half woke up to the sound of a loud crash, but figured he was just tearing around the apartment like a crazed lunatic for no reason at all, as per usual, and had knocked over a picture frame.  Given that my usual one-hour drive home from my grandparents’ house took a solid 3 1/2 hours with traffic (including an entire hour spent creeping across a bridge), I was tired, so I did not get up to investigate.  Big mistake.

This morning I discovered that the loud crashing noise was Sterling knocking the screen out of the window, through which he spent the night carrying earth worms into my apartment.  Yes, I woke up this morning to find several HUGE slimy, filthy, stinking worms creeping and crawling around on my floor.  One of which he had previously ingested.  I’d have to say, on the list of “Worst Possible Ways to Spend the First Five Minutes of Your Day,” peeling earth worms off your carpet is right up there at the top. 

The cats of course spent these minutes trying to trip me and howling because the arrival of their breakfast was delayed during this process.  Which caused me to look up at them in complete and utter frustration, as I scrubbed worm guts out of my carpet, and ask of their desparately starving (overly plump) faces emploring me for food like the children who are actually starving on those info-mecials, “WHY do I even HAVE YOU?”  An hour later on the train, I thought to myself “Did I really spend the morning cleaning up worms?  How can this possibly be my life?”

I try to provide a nice environment for my pets.  Plenty of cushy pillows, cat beds, and comfy perches.  A ridiculously large collection of cat toys.  Things upon which one can sharpen one’s claws (of course, they still prefer my couch when I’m not looking).  Plenty of food (though they will tell you otherwise).  A nice clean litter box.  Regular grooming.  And THIS is the thanks that I get.  It really makes me question why on earth anyone would want a cat.  When I see their sweet little faces greeting me after work tonight, I’ll probably change my mind.  Until, of course, one of them does something else completely unnecessary and disgusting.

Anyone have any ideas for how to keep a cat away from a window screen?

Categories: cats, humor, life, Sterling

>An HP in DQ Land: My Dressage Lesson

April 18, 2011 8 comments

>Since Tucker is still out of commission (though the vet is coming to check him today — cross your fingers), I have been looking for other rides on the weekend.  I’ve been curious about dressage for a while now, and figured now would be the perfect time, especially since I’m boarding Tucker at a barn run by a dressage instructor (Cindy), who graciously offered to give this hunter princess a dressage lesson. 

I have to admit to a bit of naivety here.  I’ve probably spent a collective 20 minutes in a dressage saddle in my lifetime, occasionally hopping on in someone else’s tack to help a rider get her horse past a spooky corner or something of the sort.  So going into the lesson, I figured how different can it be?  My stirrups will just be longer.  I can adjust. 

Haha.  Haha.  Ha.  About the time I picked up my posting trot, the mare I was on was probably quite confused, and thinking to herself, “You seemed to know your way around tacking up… but… clearly you have never been on a horse before?  Are you okay up there?  Are you having some kind of seizure?  If not, can you please get your feet out of my elbows?”  Cindy had to walk over and put my leg back where it was supposed to be a couple of times.  It didn’t stay there.  In fact, I pretty much lost all communication with the lower half my right leg and couldn’t tell you what it did for the duration of the lesson.

Now, to state the obvious:  Dressage is completely different.  The seat is different, the leg is different, the hands are different, the posture is almost the opposite of how I normally ride.  My hip angle usually stays closed.  My weight is down in my heel.  My hands follow, all the time.  My shoulders are angled a little forward.  I close my leg with the back of my calf.  I send the horse forward by sending my hips forward.  All this: out the window.

I had the hardest time finding my balance.  And quickly learned that the aids I normally use were close to useless.  It sort of felt like I was speaking Spanish, and the horse was speaking French, and occasionally we’d hear a word that sounded similar and be able to communicate for a brief second.  Then we’d lose each other completely again.  But, thankfully, this mare was very tolerant of my complete incompetence and for the most part tried to understand what I was attempting to tell her, in my bumbling, yet earnest, kind of way.  I did have moments at the trot where I “got it,” and they felt lovely.  Brief, but lovely.

Highlights of the lesson:  Upon my first canter depart, I did what I normally do, which is slide my hips forward.  This resulted in ramming a rather sensitive area into the pommel of the dressage saddle, which, er… took my breath away, so to speak.  I then spent the next ten strides or so trying to figure out where the tack had gone and why I was sort of floating and swinging along like a piece of driftwood.  I wondered whether it looked as bad as it felt.  Glance to my left… instructor laughing hysterically.  Excellent.  It looked worse than it felt.  I then tried desperately to find someplace to sit.  Whenever I found it, the mare would break.  I could not for the life of me correct this problem (Cindy explained it was because I was sitting with no strength coming from my chest/core.  Makes sense now).

Then there was the downward transition.  Where I got run away with at the trot.  This is the point at which I realized my position would have been excellent… had there been skis strapped to my feet and a boat in front of me.  Sadly, that was not the sport in which I was participating, and was rather ineffective for the task I was trying to accomplish.  Eventually, the mare got sick of speed-trotting in circles and decided to walk of her own volition, for which I was quite thankful.  Cindy had been trying to get me to move the horse right to left and regain her balance and focus.  I finally accomplished a few steps of this once we had come back down to the walk.  After looking down to verify that my right leg was, in fact, still attached to my body.  Since my brain had apparently completely lost contact with it.

What I learned:  I learned a few things that I can definitely apply toward my hunt seat riding.  First, I tend to twist my torso, so that my right shoulder is always forward.  Cindy advised me to look at the wall whenever this happened (tracking left), and voila – fixed.  Something I am going to continue to do to keep myself sitting straighter.  Second, opening up my chest.  By stretching taller instead of hunching my shoulders, I gain more strength in my core, which gives me more stability and leverage.  I used this on the equitation horse I rode on Sunday and it definitely helped.  This is not a new critique — instructors have been telling me this for years — but I did get the feeling a bit better sitting in that dressage saddle, since I basically lost all control when I hunched forward.  Third, the half halt starts from the shoulder (my shoulder).  I love this.  I haven’t really thought of it this way, but it makes sense, and I think will provide a more subtle way for me to increase a little pressure on the rein for my very sensitive horse, and I’m always trying to find a way to be more subtle with him.  It also keeps me from breaking at the wrist, which is a terrible habit of mine.  Fourth, my hands need to be more still, steady contact, instead of fidgeting with the bit.  Hard habit to break, but something I definitely need to work on, in any discipline.

Things that are really sore right now:  The tops of my feet (!), my shoulders, the sides of my torso, and especially, the outside of my hips/thighs.  I really don’t use these muscle groups when I ride.  I suppose, arguably, I do use my shoulders.  But not quite in the way that I used them on Saturday.  And I definitely don’t use the outside of my thighs.  Holy cow.  The first word out of my mouth on Sunday morning was “OW!”  Followed closely by “I’m coming, I’m coming,” as I hobbled slowly toward the cat food.

All in all, definitely learned something, and definitely had fun (despite the pain).  How many of you have taken a lesson outside your discipline, and what did you learn?

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p.s. — I’m not holding out on you… Julie’s travel plans shifted a little, so she won’t be home until Tuesday night.  I’ll take lots of pictures, promise!

Categories: BCEC, dressage, injury, Julie, lessons, Tucker