Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Exciting Surprise!

So.... I have been keeping a surprise from you all! I'm bringing another horse home!
Now, don't get too crazy excited - this is a project mare for resale. She's a 7 year old Selle Francais with some training issues that I am picking up for dirt cheap and will be able to make a very nice profit on when she is ready. I wasn't looking for a project horse, but just happened to stumble upon her, and saw a golden opportunity. She's sound, friendly, adorably cuddly, and has some serious raw talent - she's going to be great once she gets going. She's been allowed to rule the roost for too long, so she'll be getting some serious bootcamp manners, and then her butt will be back in work!

Her name is O-Ren, and I have only a few pics of her so far (none of which are good, seeing as she only wanted cuddles and snacks during picture time):

Obviously, she has some training but no manners. She was jumping around 4' last year, but was bombed around on by some idiot trail rider who tried to teach her sliding stops (read: galloped her and then hauled on her face until she stopped) and now doesn't want to go forward. We'll have her back to that in no time!

I'm picking her up tomorrow!! Super excited for this one!! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Awesome Immy

Phew! It has been a crazy, crazy month. I am tying up the last loose ends of my schoolwork, my practicum in Wisconsin has come and gone (yes, it was really, really snowy and freezing cold), and things are slowly making the move back to a normal pace. I should be fully complete with my schoolwork by the end of the weekend (I hope)... it has been a very long 2 years but I am finally at the end!
The mares had most of the past two weeks off - I was simply too busy with my practicum and schoolwork and a million clients to do. I lunged Immy here and there, and sat on P once or twice, but it was all I had time for. Thankfully, I flew back from WI on Sunday night, and the girls were put back to the grindstone on Monday. 

Immy is definitely starting to get the idea of the sidereins:

She is stronger going to the left than to the right, but she is gradually releasing on the right side. It just takes time and muscle memory! 

And she's starting to look pretty sexy if I do say so myself!

Spring is finally showing up in our neck of the woods (sheesh it took long enough), but we still are having a few nights here and there that are way, way cold. Most of the time the girls have been naked, but there have been some nights that were outrageously cold. I was complaining to S that all of my blankets are a smidge too big for her, but that I hadn't gone out to get new ones because I was having a hard time justifying buying a whole new set of blankets when they were only just a little too big. She and her hubs own a mobile tack store, so she pawed through her used blankets and found a 76 (all of mine are 78s). The problem? It was a closed front blanket. How in the hell was I going to get THAT on?

As it turned out, it wasn't hard at all.

She put her head up and backed into P at first, but stopped and let me toss it on. Once it was on, she just looked at me like, "oh... well, okay." It has been on and off a few times since then, and there was no more muss or fuss about it. 

She says, "lady give me more cookies!!" The closed front blanket isn't waterproof, so I tossed a sheet on over it, just in case. Also, it was in the 20's that night... in March, in Texas. I know.

Tuesday night was date night with Mo, seeing as I've hardly seen him in the past two weeks (and we needed to install our new washer and dryer, how romantic!), so the mares had it off again. On Wednesday, I got a text from S saying that her auntie and uncle were in town, and that her auntie wanted to go with us on a trail ride. She asked if she could ride P, and then her auntie could ride Rue and I could ride Immy. Immy has only been out on the trails once before, and that was when S ponied the two of us off of Rue.... it didn't go very well, seeing as Immy was way too hyped up to mentally deal with it.
I wasn't sure that it would go well, but S is a good/bad influence on me, and gave me her usual "just do it! She's a different horse now, she'll be fine!" So, we went for it. I had S pony us off of P to start, but once we had to go through out first gate, I had her let us go for a minute to see what would happen. To my great surprise, Immy marched right to the lead, and off we went. She never spooked, never faltered, never hesitated  and never gave any indication that she hadn't done this a million times before.

Look at her leading!!!

I look kind of like a goose with my leg sticking out in front of me (being defensive, and also partly crippled), but as you can tell I was pretty damn pleased with her. She even crossed a little stream! 

To top it all off, back at the barn she solidly walk-trot-cantered for me... what a champ!!!!!!

She was understandably tired yesterday, so we settled for a nice lunge in sidereins. She actually stopped outright and braced outwards against the sidereins at one point, likely because she was tired, but a little encouragement sent her back forward again. We kept it short and sweet - no need to push. A little bit of stretching and forward movement did her some good, and we ended with a nice full-body rub down and a whole lot of cookies. It's funny, I'm not normally a cookie-giver, but I am pretty liberal with the snacks when it comes to Immy. When treated too much, P turns into a giant butthead, so I don't give her more than the occasional cookie, but with Immy it helps to relax her and get her thinking positive thoughts about everything that is happening to and around her. When she's not in the mood to play with me, she clamps her mouth shut and won't take anything I offer her, so any time she readily takes a cookie from me is a good day in my book.

Today was swim day! I wanted to ride, but I figured that it would be good for her to loosen up her body in the pool.

She's really putting on some muscle, is she not? She is looking awesome!!!

I am exhausted, and there is more to write about... but not tonight. Tomorrow I have a huge announcement to make.... stay tuned for that!!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We're not dead, I promise!

I'm up in Wisconsin for the weekend, and I'm not dead, I promise! School is finishing, I'm working through my third practicum, and life has been total chaos in the interim. The mares have been worked with some sort of regularity in the past 2 weeks, sort of, but I have had literally NO time to write about it. Literally, none. Thank god I'll be back on Monday, and the mares will be back to work too!

In the meantime, please go read and share about my buddy Kat's mare Bonnie. She's looking to rehome her beloved girl, and wants to find her an awesome home. If you know of anyone looking, please do pass it around. 

We'll be back on Monday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

I have been forgiven!

Hooray! I have been forgiven for my deworm-y trespasses. No longer am I the Evil Scary Dewormer Lady... I am now just the regular old Nice Lady that I was before. Last week was a bit of a nightmare, and unless another situation like this arises where I feel like a PowerPac is really needed, I'll be sticking with moxidectin for my encysted strongyle needs. As it stands, the PowerPac did exactly what I needed it to do in this situation.

Following her PowerPac, she went through a few days where she was hard to catch, then when caught she refused to do more than just pick at her grainfoods. Part of this may be due to the fact that she was out of several of her important herbs (note to self: my herb supplier is REALLY SLOW at getting orders to me, so order them sooner than I think I will need them... when I run out, my order will NOT be here in time!) The missing herbs did include the marshmallow root and slippery elm, so potentially her belly was hurting after all the worm die-off and several days worth of chemicals, and she didn't want to eat grainfoods. She is also extremely picky though, and perhaps she just didn't want to eat the foods since they tasted different without her regular herbs. Who knows. Either way, she is now back to completely gobbling down her food, even more so than pre-PowerPac. (This is a huge relief for me... I fret about this like crazy!)

She lost a few pounds in the past week for sure, but will likely gain it back quickly. With luck, our Omeprazole will be in shortly, and we can do a test trial with it to see if it makes a difference for her or not. If it does, great! If it doesn't, then I will have lots of Omeprazole handy to dose her before any sort of major stress or travel. 

It stormed like crazy here last night, so everything is mushy mud, and the mares are both completely encrusted in mud. Immy is enjoying her bit of downtime while her body recoups, and she is back to being her regular old self. 

She was not amused to see the blanket being hauled out AGAIN. It is supposed to be 29 degrees tonight, which is absolutely shocking for nearly mid-March in Texas. I don't even know what to do with myself... this winter has been SO long and rainy and cold and crappy! All the little flowers keep trying to come out, and then they die again because everything keeps refreezing. Ugh!

Winter! Just GO AWAY!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Great Deworming Debacle

I am pretty sure that deworming a horse who is deathly afraid of dewormers ranks as one of the most horribly unpleasant horse things to do in the history of top-rated unpleasant horse things to do. Seriously, it is right up there with bean-picking, rectal palpation, and scraping foal-heat diarrhea off of baby butts. I'm serious!

Being the neurotic freak that I am about gastric health, it was absolutely guaranteed by the universe that I would end up with a sensitive mare who has probably been gastrointestinally fried for most of her entire life. Longtime readers will remember her huge, swinging, pendulous belly long after she had given birth to the Red Pest, and all along I have been saying that I have suspected ulcers/digestive issues/worms. Here we are a few months later, still trying to perfect the issues - while her last fecals were shown to have only the most trace amounts of strongyles in them (so few that the vet called it a negative fecal), the likelihood of still having encysted strongyles is pretty high. If she does have them, they are likely causing ulcer issues. Deworming can also irritate ulcer issues. What is a girl to do?

Well, fecals will never tell you if your horse has encysted strongyles or not, so much in the way that you still need to hit for tapeworms (which also don't show in fecals), you usually just have to go for the big guns if your horse has suspected issues with encysted creepers. Your two legitimate choices are a Panacur PowerPac, or Quest/Quest Plus. The PowerPac is a huge pain in the butt, a 5-dose pack of megawormers that need to be given once a day for five consecutive days, but it gets all encysted stages of parasites. The Quest does not get Stage 3, but it is only one dose. As I understand it, fenbendazole (PowerPac) is a cousin to omeprazole, the drug used to treat ulcers, and is a slightly milder/safer drug than moxidectin (Quest), and so therefore can be usually given to a somewhat ulcer-prone horse relatively safely. (Or so I hear.... ulcers can be aggravated by pretty much everything in the world, so who knows.) Everywhere you turn, somebody is going to tell you that their horse responded beautifully, or it made their horse horribly ill, or it didn't work, or it was a miracle, or whatever. Sometimes, you just have to go for it and stop listening to what other people have to say about it.

As we all know, Immy is a picky eater. Anything weird in her food, and she won't touch it. If I so much as keep her favorite cookies in my pocket for too long, she thinks they taste like pocket, and won't eat them. (Cookies fresh out of the bag are ok though.) She won't eat apples, carrots, mints, or most types of cookies at all (barring those horrible rock-hard Manna Pro cookies... she loves those!) Getting her to eat nasty things is not a lot of fun. I have had success in the past with mixing a dewormer into her food, but that was before I owned her and she was still on a junky sweet feed. That sugary goodness concealed the taste of the small dewormer, and voila! Down the hatch it went. The last time I dewormed her I had success with the same method, and figured I would shoot for it again this time, seeing as she is SO bad about being dewormed.

Well, so much for that idea! One taste of her dewormer-filled meal and she spit it out and turned up her nose. I convinced her to get about half of it down, and the other half at dinnertime, but she was not happy about it. The next day, I mixed the next tube in with her breakfast, and she refused to touch even one bite. I couldn't even get a bite into her at dinnertime either, so I gave up and decided to just paste her with the next tube. What a horrible nightmare that was... I essentially had to back her up into the corner of a stall and hang on for dear life while she flung dewormer in every direction, getting it all over her face, all over me, all over the walls, and generally everywhere but down her throat. Of course, following this I tied her back out next to her dinner, and came back to find that NOW she was eating it. (She only ate a few bites, but still. Mares.)

Now, of course, I am Scary Dewormer Lady. She did not want to be caught this morning, but I managed to get her so that I could pull her blanket off and offer her up a completely dewormer-free breakfast. She turned her nose up at it, and refused to touch a single bite. Adding insult to injury, she needed her next dewormer tube, so another battle to get it into her ensued. (She was better today, and I got the entire tube in, but no matter how quiet I was about it, she still trembled all over and snorted at me like I was the boogeyman. She is absolutely terrified of dewormers!)

Four tubes down (well, one party consumed...), and only one to go tomorrow. Will we make it through this saga? Is she burning up with ulcers? Am I going to give them to myself as well? Who knows, but I quite imagine that whatever the dewormer is killing in there is making her feel pretty crappy, so she may have a few days off, depending on how she is doing. She is snarfing up her hay like crazy, as usual, which is great... if she starts to turn her nose up at that I am going to kill myself. Either way, despite ALL that I have done for her gut health, I am probably faced with an upcoming ulcer treatment.  I know she's a picky eater, and I know she's a nervous personality, but... I can't not fret about it. I've never had a picky horse who turned away from food before, I can't NOT think ulcers automatically!

Our trial of blue pop rocks is ordered, so now I just have to wait for them to get here... in the meantime, there is UlcerGard to get us through. In terms of other supplements aside from all of the herbs and calming things that we have tried or she is currently on, she is already on EquiShure but someone suggested that I should try RiteTrac or Egusin... has anyone used these? They are not cheap, so any input would be appreciated! I definitely think the EquiShure has helped, but it isn't enough.

The girls getting ready for a ponied trailventure the other night:

And out on the trail:

Immy had to cross a few creeks, splash through mud puddles, and trot alongside P for quite a long ways. She was SO GOOD! (She jumped most of the water crossings instead of just going through then, but she got over them! It's a great start!)

So in reality, it isn't all bad... it is just very, very hard to get all the puzzle pieces to come together properly. We'll get there!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

End of February Analysis; March Goals!

I am SO glad February is over! It did NOT go according to plan at all! Hopefully spring is coming, and we can finally get the ball rolling with Immy's saddle work. Winter is the worst time to try and start a young horse, especially with no arena.

February Goals:

1) Take her to the AquaTread once a week
Fail! She only went once during the entire month. Granted, I made that choice on my own, due to the fact that the work farm has been full to the brim, and we had no open paddocks to keep her in during the day. The only other option was to keep her stalled in the barn, totally alone, all day long. Not gonna fly! I plan to redo this goal this month... hopefully a paddock or two will stay open so she can be left outside all day with companions next to her.

2) Trailer out to other places once a week, whenever possible (even if just ponying, lunging, groundwork, etc.)
Again, fail. I honestly just didn't thinks she was ready, with what little work we got done. (Not to mention the fact that when it rains, my trailer gets bogged down in the mud if I don't preemptively pull it out. I have to plan ahead for these kinds of things!)

3) Ride 3 times a week (or 4!) and alternate with lower-key things
Total fail. With all the rain, mud, dentistry, and light days for the sake of her mental state, I only managed to squeeze a few rides in here and there. She needs consistency in her saddle training, and a few rides here and there just aren't doing anyone any favors. Hopefully, spring is arriving, and we will have better weather, warmer days, and less mud. I plan on making this a March goal.

4) Be going comfortably w-t-c on a loose contact by the end of the month
See above. I plan on redoing this one as a March goal as well!

5) Continue desensitization to bridling
We've actually come a long way with this one! I had to alter the actual bridle itself to just make it into a simple headstall with only one piece of leather, and totally nix the browband, noseband, and throatlatch for the time being, but it has REALLY helped. I still can't pull it over her head, but bridling is no longer a horrible ordeal for her. We still have a LONG way to go, but we'll get there!

6) Continue desensitization to clippers
We only worked on this once, when she was heavily sedated for the dentist. It woke her UP, and even through her drug-induced stupor, she managed to bolt across the stall and run herself into the wall. I got the running clippers to touch her shoulder and neck on her left side, but I left it at that, and didn't pursue it again. We have more important thing to work on besides this... we'll pick it up again in a few months. I'm not all that concerned about it... it's a low priority, compared to everything else!

7) First trail ride (while being ponied)
Success! It wasn't terribly great, seeing as all she wanted to do was bulldoze the pony horse over and go charging ahead, but she kept it together for a lap around the field. She's not ready for another one just yet, I don't think, but we might try again this month!

8) Standing quietly tied out
Success! She has gotten much quieter over the month. It helps if she has other friends around, and she does tend to get fussy if P is loose and she isn't, but she had stood solidly and quietly while tied in various places like a good girl, and I'm happy with it.

Basically, March's goals are a total redo of all the goals we never got to complete in February.

March Goals:
1) Pool once a week (and Eurociser - some weeks will be twice a week)
2) Ride 3 times a week (4, some weeks)
3) Being going comfortable W-T-C by the end of the month on a light contact
4) Continue desensitization with bridle, head - do massages with daily groomings
5) Second craniosacral appointment
6) Set up a daily/weekly/monthly calendar ahead of time, and stay with! (I always do this, but last month I hardly stuck with anything I had pre-planned!)

I think that's a good place to start, don't you?

Our best-case scenario monthly plan goes like this:

Monday: Lunge/Groundwork, or Off
Tuesday: Ride
Wednesday: Pool (with possible Eurociser)
Thursday: Ride
Friday: Off
Saturday: Ride, or Pool/Eurociser (alternate ever other week)
Sunday: Ride

That gives us 3 or 4 days of riding, interspersed with less complicated things. Obviously, we won't be able to totally follow it to a T - some days she will need more mental down time, some days will be wash-outs due to weather, etc. - but I have something to shoot for.

As per this schedule, Friday was supposed to be her off day, and Saturday was a swim/Eurociser day, but I decided to add some extras in on both days. Instead of having a day off yesterday (since she already had Thursday off), I lunged her in sidereins. She was very good to the left, and pretty stiff and resistant through her neck to the right, much moreso than usual. If I had to take a guess, I would say that her traveling crooked in the pool (while she tries to look at her friends in the washbay) might have caused that. She is learning to travel straighter, and will get straighter and stronger on both sides of her body the more she goes in it, so this should be a shortlived issue.

We had a few momentary issues when Rue decided to bust up into our space. I closed the gate behind us when we went into work, but didn't bother to latch it, seeing as the boys always leave us alone. Apparently not that day, though... I had to stop and kick him out!

(No Rues or Immys were harmed in the making of this blogpost. They love each other, so the worst thing that happened was that Immy stopped to snuggle.)

I'll have more updates shortly on the pool and riding, but for now, I need some SLEEP!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bucking Broncs, Craniosacral Capers, and more Immy Swimmy

I finally have a few seconds to sit down and write! Unfortunately, I had to be half-crippled in order to do this... my left hip, sciatic nerve, knee, and shin are all screaming with sciatica, bursitis, splint pain, and general crappiness at the moment. I opted to rest and blog versus ride for the evening... not the choice I wanted to make, but I really didn't have an option. I need to remember that on days when I have to ride other horses, I should just forget about working my own - sitting in western saddles that don't fit me well and jar me around horribly just KILLS me. I hurt so bad right now that I just want to die! (Sitting in my own saddle doesn't hurt at all, for comparison.)

Anyway... we had quite a week! It didn't go entirely the way that I wanted it to, but that is the way life works, and the weather as well. After another productive lunge session on Saturday, I opted to hop on relatively early in the morning. It was very chilly, and everyone had a bit of a wild hair that day, but I lunged her down in sidereins for quite a long time, and decided to go for it. She, of course, was still feeling extra spunky despite it all (you really can't tire this mare out... she can go FOREVER and never get tired!), and the moment I got on and asked her to walk off, she exploded into a series of bucks which took us halfway across the pen. She then followed this up with lots of jigging and a high powered bolt when she didn't steer away from the railing and my stirrup clanged into the metal pipe. FINALLY, she settled down, and we got a little bit of decent walk/trot/steering/whoa in, but that was all I decided to work on for the day. I figuree that not dying was a pretty good goal for that day, considering what I had to work with. Hotheaded mares...

Sunday I had planned on another ride, since the weather was so glorious, but she had other ideas, and didn't want to play that day. At this point in our relationship, if she doesn't want to come to me andintereact, I leave her alone for the day. There is no point in chasing her around until I corner and catch her - she will only be totally wired for sound and frightened when I finally get ahold of her, and no productive work will come of that. Instead, we worked off of my number one rule: if you don't want to come to me and be caught, that is fine, but you don't get to eat dinner. (They have loads of hay, don't worry... they just don't get fed their grainfoods!) She wanted to be near me when I was fussing around in their pen, but didn't want to actually be caught. I left it at that, and pampered P for a bit instead. (P of course promptly rolled and got filthy as soon as I put her back out...)

Monday ended up being a complete wash-out, seeing as by the time I got to the barn in the afternoon, it was 30 degrees and sleeting sideways. It had been in the upper 50's in the morning when I left, so I had left the girls naked for the day... poor things were frozen when I got there! I bundled them up, fed them, and had some drinks and dinner with S instead. Winter, just GO AWAY already, will you?

On Tuesday, the craniosacral therapist came! I hadn't ever seen a cranio therapist at work, and it was very interesting. (A bit more on craniosacral therapy here, if you aren't familiar with it.) The first thing Immy did was practically fall asleep the moment she started to work on her... she wasn't relaxed enough to actually zonk out, and kept forcing herself back awake, but she was very relaxed. She didn't like when the therapist reached up to work on the top of her head, of course, but once she was up there she didn't object. She had a horrible TMJ issue and was biting her tongue, had compression issues on her right side that were causing her some issues with vision (which resolved once she was worked on.... her right side is her spookier side, and that makes total sense!), and was in general completely locked up and tense throughout her entire body, right side especially. The therapist even noted that the way she moved the right side of her body was stiffer than the way she moved the left side. 

(Time for a trim too... those toes are way too long!)

Look at the difference in her posture! That is just wild. I'm going to try the recommended magnesium therapy on her and do the stretches and massages that she showed me, and we'll see how she is doing in three or four weeks. If all is going well, and this is helping, we'll schedule another appointment then.

On Wednesday, it was pool day! She completely surprised me by walking on the trailer with no hesitations or issues whatsoever, all by herself! This was leaving home AND leaving her screaming maniac sister, who is in heat and absolutely losing it down in her paddock. YAY! Progress, thy name is Immy!
Once at the pool barn, in her paddock, she was a total whackadoo. She trotted around screaming her head off for three hours before I finally got tired of it, and when another horse went into our Eurociser,  I put her in there too. If you have that much energy mare, you need to get it out!

That was of her at a slow trot. The program we usually do is a varied one, and they go both ways at a walk, jog, walk, trot, canter, and walk again for a 20 minute cooldown. The entire thing takes about 50 minutes. While I am not usually one for putting them on circles for long periods of time, she is strong enough, flexible enough and fit enough that the benefits outweigh the negatives. She didn't so much as break a sweat, and kept up with the front panel the ENTIRE time. Thankfully, back in her pen, she had just enough fizzle taken out of her that she was finally able to just stand still and eat her hay for awhile.

After an hour or two of resting following her first unintentional workout, it was pool time! She delighted me by walking right in like a big girl (last time she fussed quite a bit... it was only her second time, and that is pretty standard. By the third time, they almost always 'get it'.) She worked out VERY well, and is starting to go MUCH straighter! (For comparison, look at how crooked she was last time.)

Go girl!!

She STILL was wired for sound when I first tied her out to dry....

.... but FINALLY, she started to yawn and relax. She yawned a LOT during her cranio work... she yawned a lot after her swim.... she yawned after she ate dinner yesterday.... and I realized that up until she had the cranio work done, I had NEVER seen her yawn before.

(She wasn't really tired... she went back in her pen and trotted around screaming some more!)

Thursday I was way, WAY too crippled to do anything with them, so I used it as a rest day. We'll see how badly I am feeling today, but since we are in a new month, I'll at least be assessing our goals and looking to see what is in store for March... so glad to leave February behind!!