Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tarrin Teaches, Louisa Lessons, and Hurricane Harvey

Tarrin came up for lessons the weekend of August 4th. I had an early morning lesson with her on the 4th, right before Frank tanked. I love my lessons with Tarrin - they are always SO helpful. She really has helped me with Dylan more than I can say. She is always able to isolate the exact body problems that Dylan needs to have finessed out.

The arena was too wet to use, and all the obstacles had been set up in the grass outside of the arena. Tarrin has set up some ground poles in an exercise that looked like this:

So, the exercise started out with cantering up to the L shaped pole (going either left, or right), transitioning to a walk, and sidepassing over the L. It was clear that Dylan preferred one side over the other - instead of crossing over going to the right, he quick steps and shuffles over. This translated over into his lead changes, which is interesting because it seems to switch sides for me. When I'm doing exercises like the double slalom, my changes from left to right are way easier. During everything else, my changes from right to left are easier. I'm not quite sure why that is, but I guarantee it's all me.

Once we started the L exercise, Tarrin had me straighten him more, which almost felt like haunches leading to me. She assured me they weren't, and that straightening him actually made him cross over better. We then moved to something much more complicated - I would walk up to the L shaped poles and enter between the two of them (see orange arrows), then halt. We would back up, then trot directly off, leg yield either to the left or right about three or four strides, then go through the other pole corridor and change bend. When we had that more organized, we would enter at the walk, halt, back up, then canter off in either the left or right lead, half pass about three steps left or right (depending on what lead we were on), straighten through the pole corridor, and do a lead change between them. That was CRAZY hard. It was almost no time at all to prepare, and I had to be super precise, but by the end we were getting it. The half passes really engaged him right before the changes, and the pole corridor insisted that we do it straight and accurately, both things that count enormously in WE. The pole corridor was maybe two and a half feet wide, so there was no ability for him to move sideways in any kind of evasion. It was super hard, but super helpful. Accuracy is everything in WE.

It was a great lesson. Of course, Frank's death completely ruined any kind of enjoyment I had gotten out of the morning. But, I won't forget the day, ever, that's for sure.

Whoa wild stallion!! I got him a broodmare collar recently, and he has been living in that instead of in a halter. I love that I can leave the halter off him, but can still catch him. He can be INCREDIBLY hard to catch!

I've been hacking him regularly, riding him at Willow Draw, and now have also started taking him to the local Aquatread to try and get some pounds off of him. There are several ATs in our area, and this one is closest - it's one I hadn't been to before. Dylan was absolutely stupid the first two times he went into the corridor - he got down into the water without issue, but then folded up his legs and sank. Once he realized he was sinking, he started thrashing around, and had to be taken out and put back in a few times before he started to understand that he could actually *touch* the bottom. The third time he finally started to get it, and walked on the treadmill for about 10 minutes. From here, the time will go up, and the speed will increase to high speed trotting. He has to work up to it though, of course! I hope it will help his fitness level, which has been really hard to maintain in this weather. It's been SO hot and humid, and he really struggles with that. Not to mention he's a fat lard.... but, details.

Yes, he looks like a beluga in the water

Staring at me. "This is definitely YOUR fault lady."

We've also only been able to fit in one lesson with Louisa this month so far, which is fine although I would prefer to do two a month. Normally her lessons are on Tues and Thurs, but I recently realized she also does Sundays. I usually work on Sundays, but I managed to fit in a morning lesson last Sunday, and then worked in the afternoon. I don't usually like to do that, but sometimes you do what you have to! We had signed up for the HDS Laborious Day I and II shows this coming weekend in Houston (or well, Katy, which is basically in Houston), as another All Breed Awards score at Third level. We also signed up for our first time at Fourth level, giving 4-1 a try on each day. I told Louisa I wanted to try running through the test to iron out any of our problems, and she agreed. First though, we warmed up with some trot and canter work, doing some 10m circles at the trot and canter before switching directions (and leads). The changes all came clean, so we moved onto test work before Dylan ran out of steam, and the test actually ran great. I need to make sure I pay particular attention to geometry, especially in the first few trot movements - aside from the mediums and extensions, there is half pass to a 10m circles and then a shoulder in down the centerline. That's all good and fine, but if you're not precise with it, you'll not only overshoot the 10m circle but you'll completely lose your track on the shoulder in. Which is the point of it really, to prove you can be precise in every way.... which is hard.
Everything else ran off very smoothly. The canter mediums are good, the canter extensions are not great yet. We just haven't worked on them that much. If they don't get rushy, they also don't show a whole lot of difference between the mediums. The line of three changes also went very well, although I can't always guarantee a perfectly counted amount of strides between them. We're not ready really for 4-3, but 4-1 shouldn't be a problem, and 4-2 probably wouldn't go off poorly.

Whoa wild stallion!

When he's clean... he GLOWS!

Like father... like child. 

Hacking with no hands.... because he's the coolest. 

Dylan telling Cregga that he's DONE with her nonsense. 

So this weekend was supposed to be the HDS show right? I was excited, because not only was I going to see my friend Sarah from college who has recently moved to Houston, but JenJ was going to be there and I haven't seen her in a good long while, and some other friends were going to be there too.

Ride times were posted early in the week. We were excited! We all were texting back and forth our plans for the weekend, and were busy prepping to leave on Friday.

Then we noticed something questionable on the radar. A small tropical depression was over Mexico, and there was some talk that it might become a tropical storm over the weekend.

Whatever, we though. We laughed, and bought a lot of beer. Beer makes everything fun right?

Yesterday, there was some talk that the storm, called Harvey, would probably make landfall as a tropical storm, and we would probably get pretty wet at the showgrounds. We talked about it some, as I had also agreed to move Sarah's horses to a new facility for her while I was there. I wasn't too worried about it. What's a little rain?

Then today happened. Harvey suddenly exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. This is common enough during this time of year - the Gulf is hot as bathwater. What isn't common is the fact that two low pressure systems are going to collide with and then squeeze Harvey once it hits land. It went from tropical storm with a possible landfall as a weak Category 1 hurricane to a strong Category 3 and maybe even Category 4 hurricane. This will be the first major hurricane to strike the US in almost 12 years, and the first hurricane at all to hit Texas in 9. For reference, the last hurricane to hit Texas was Ike - if you remember, I have a little story about Ike!!

Not surprisingly, the show cancelled. Harvey is going to bring potentially devastating and life threatening conditions to the state, and so we're all staying home. They are trying to reschedule for next weekend, which I could absolutely make happen - but we will have to see. In the meantime, keep everyone on the coast in your thoughts - there have been mandetory evacuations in several areas, but for those who are staying in the non-mandatory areas, it's going to be one rough weekend.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

End of July Analysis; August Goals

Thank you all for sending your condolences.... it means a lot to me. I'm still a little bit in shock over it to be honest with you. Just doesn't seem to be real yet. And it's awfully lonely without him banging on my gate every night. Obviously I haven't been around for my goals until now, already in the middle of the month. 


O-Ren July:

1) Continue being a good momma horse!
Success! Not hard to do though... she is a wonderful mother.

2) Get back to work.... start riding again! And driving again? Depending on the tiny brat child and how unhelpful she is... I don't need the kid climbing into my carriage. 
I actually stalled out on this one because taking O away from Dylan and Cregga was causing some major drama. Not from her, and not really even from her child, but from Dylan. The stress of her being on the other side of the fence - where he could see her - was causing him such enormous distress that he would go off his feed and get diarrhea after every ride. Normally I tend to lean towards "suck it up and you'll get over it," but with a hyperemotional horse like Dylan who does not need to be giving himself ulcers or hurting himself while running like an idiot in the pasture, I decided it's just better to not work her for now.
So we will have to see what happens over the winter. In theory I would love to get her back between the shafts and show her some in the spring, then breed her like before and pull her from the show string mid-year just like last time. It worked out great. It will depend on Dylan's show schedule though! He's still the biggest priority at the moment.

Cregga June:

1) Continue learning about leading, brushing, feet handling, bathing, and clipping!
Success! It's mostly just a continuing process.

2) Finalize registration papers - if the stuff ever gets here...
Success! She has been microchipped and her DNA hair samples have been sent off. Now, we just wait....

3) Learn a bit more about walking/trotting in hand and standing still, like she would need to do for a show
Success! I was starting to do this with the idea that I might take her to Nationals. More thought put into this has made me decide not to pursue it this year. She'll be 8 months old at the time of Nationals, and god knows 8 month old babies can be REALLY ugly. It's also a time when their immune systems are still super vulnerable. It's probably just not worth the risk. She does trot in hand now though!

Dylan June:

1) Regular lessons and clinics! Both dressage and WE!
Success! I lessoned/cliniced with Tiago and Louisa in July, and just did another one with Tarrin on Friday, which I will be writing about.

2) Continue working on pirouettes and 4-tempis as usual
Success! The pirouettes to the left are really coming on nicely. The better I sit, the better it goes. To the right, not so great but they're coming. The tempis are actually coming along a lot better than before, since I put him back in the double. The double seems to give me a level of finesse that I struggled with in the snaffle - where I can really get him straight and accurate at the same time. In the snaffle, it's sometimes one or the other and he can be strong and bargey when he thinks he knows what's coming. We are - *gulp* - going to attempt 4-1 at the end of the month and see how much of a disaster it is. In 4-1, there are no pirouettes and three flying changes of lead in a row that aren't technically tempis even though they unofficially are.

3) Compete in the Haras summer show... as a prep for the actual Haras Cup!!
Well that was a bust... but only because the show got cancelled! Ohhhh well! The next Haras B-rated show is the same weekend as the Pete Ramey clinic which I will be attending.

4) Ride in a clinic with Tiago Ernesto!
Success! I wrote up about it here. 

Frank June:

1) Pony some babies - maybe! Trails if it's not too hot!
We did hit the trails! I will be writing out our last trail adventure together. I'm heartbroken that there will be no more of them. He was so, so good on our final one and it's so weird to think there will be no more.

Pangea/Pax/Uma June:

1) Grooming/trimming every 2 weeks 
Success! Babies are all doing well, aside from Uma getting injured on the 4th of July. Crap, another thing to write about....

Zu June:

1) Go off property with Dylan for lessons
I've been debating about this one, because I WANT to do it but I don't fully trust the two of them together in the trailer. They're both very aggressively male sometimes, even though Zoodle is gelded, and I can see a fight breaking out if they get a little too close. It's hard to trailer anywhere in company when you have a stallion. Not sure what to do about it either except for take Zoodle separately.

2) Lunging with harness
Success! And we did a little bit of long lining too!

3) Wearing bridle
Success! I have a full bridle I need to put on him now too, since the baby bridle is just a strap of leather with a bit attached. He flipped his tongue over the bit when we were long lining - tongues really seem to be a problem with these mules, I've had trouble with both him and Sriracha doing that and never once have I ever had a problem with a horse baby doing it - but raising the bit way too high helped stop it. Still, it's not ideal. 

Sriracha June:

1) Lunging - walk and trot
2) Wearing bridle
3) Wearing harness
I fully admit I did absolutely nothing with Sriracha this past month. She got her halter off in the beginning of the month and that little creep has not let me catch her since. What I need to do is put some panels into the pasture and run her into them, then get her catch halter back on, then start over. She's so great once she's caught, but my god you can NOT catch her if she doesn't want to be caught. Little stinker... she definitely has lived up to her name! She'll be an awesome driving mule but man she is not all that fond of humans. Not like Uma and Zoodle, anyway. 


O-Ren August:
1) Continue being a good momma horse!

Cregga August:
1) Continue learning about leading, brushing, feet handling, bathing, and clipping!

Dylan August:
1) Regular lessons and clinics! Both dressage and WE!
2) Continue working on pirouettes and 4-tempis as usual
3) Compete in the HDS Laborious Day I and II shows at the end of the month 
4) Get two more All Breed Awards scores for Third Level... and *gulp* try 4-1 for the first time!

Pangea/Pax/Uma August:
1) Grooming/trimming every 2 weeks 
2) Uma: Start to do a bit more learning about lunging!

Zu July:
1) More long lining! If I have help! 
2) Lunging with harness
3) Wearing bridle - full bridle with noseband

Sriracha July:
1) Lunging - walk and trot
2) Wearing bridle
3) Wearing harness
4) All of course contingent on catching her feral little ass again!


I have a plan for the rest of show season. At the end of August is the HDS Laborious Day shows I and II, which gives me two chances to get more scores at 3rd level for All Breed Awards. I'm also going to *gulp* attempt 4-1 at each. We're ready for it but not for 4-1 or 4-3 yet. The pirouettes are coming along fine but I can't always reliable count in the tempis. That's the last thing that really needs some hard work.

The reason why I wanted to get out and try 4-1 is because there is a lingering question of IALHA Nationals. I've been griping about it for awhile now - they used to have a super saver fee for the little guys, where you paid a flat fee and then got to show in as many classes as you wanted. That made Nationals affordable. Now they did away with the super saver, and it's just per class. It's VERY expensive - you're over the super saver money limit in just four classes. People could show in a dozen or more classes before.
So, I wasn't going to go. IALHA awards don't mean a ton to me as the organization is really separate from my real interests. They also did away with working equitation at Nationals this year, which made a lot of people really upset. They had their reasons but I didn't think they were great ones.

What's interesting about Nationals is that they're held in Katy, and they start one day after Regionals and SW Championships are held, which are also in Katy and which I am definitely attending. They're held at the same facility. Literally I would already be there. I am definitely going to Regionals/SW Champs, which are all held together in one show. Most likely, I will just show in the Regionals class and the SW Champs class, so that I can go easy and just focus on those and not have to worry about other classes. Do we stand a chance of winning anything? Absolutely not but we might place! A top 10 finish and a score I feel good about would be great for me.

So I had an idea. The dressage classes for Nationals are held on the opening day of the show, Tuesday the 10th. Regionals ends the 8th. I had a hairbrained idea. I'm already qualified for Nationals at 3rd level, which is easy to do - you just need a 58% for a test at your level. So, technically, if I manage a 58% or better at 4th at the Laborious Day show, I could show both 3rd and 4th at Nationals on that same Tuesday to make it worth my while. On my day in between, I could take Dylan to the famous Galveston beaches and go for an amazing ocean ride.

Sounds like a super amazing fun times vacation to me.

It will depend, of course, on how well the Laborious Day shows go.

And of course, the biggest thing to me is Haras Cup, at the end of October. THAT is my biggest goal of the year.

So. One show at the end of this month, nothing in September, Regionals/SW Champs and Nationals and Haras Cup in October, then two small WE shows in November, then we get MARRIED, then one final WE show in December, then he goes on rest through Christmas! Man this year is crazy. But it's worth it, every second of it.

Pax and Frank

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Goodbye Frank

Of all the posts I expected to be starting today, this was not one of them. I was going to write about August Goals. I was going to write about my lesson with Tarrin. And I was going to write about my first off-property trail ride with Frank, and how much fun it was, and how much I was looking forward to hitting All The Trails with him this fall.

But I'm writing about none of those things, because Frank is dead. 

There is no way to be less blunt about it. He's dead and I'm still reeling a little bit. I did not expect this. I could not have guessed this would happen. I never would have  thought he would be the next to go. Sure, he was an old man, but he was the healthiest of the oldies. I thought we might lose Pmare this year due to how poor she's handling the heat. But I thought Frank would live forever.

It started yesterday morning. The night before, Frank had eaten his mush, was snacking on hay at night check, and had his usual cookie instead of a carrot, because he was deathly afraid of carrots for reasons only known to himself. In the mornings, he always got another bowl of mush, so he was usually waiting at the gate for me. Yesterday morning, he was not. 

I called to him. I could see where he was, on the far side of the pasture on top of the hill, standing with a leg cocked. It looked like he was still asleep. I was up early because I had a lesson with Tarrin that I was locally trailering out for, so after waiting for a few minutes, I went up to see what he was doing. He wasn't doing anything really, just standing with a leg resting. He looked at me like nothing was wrong. "Well, okay then," I told him, and tossed out their morning flakes of alfalfa. Once in awhile he was a little slow to come down the hill, so at the time it wasn't altogether alarming. I headed out to my lesson, figuring he wasn't acting outright abnormal, and I was only going to be gone for a short while anyway. 

I had a great lesson with Tarrin, which I'll write about later. But when I came back, to my surprise Frank was still on the hill, only he had moved into the shady bushes and was hiding. Now I was more concerned. Definitely not normal for him to be hiding. 


I put on his halter and walked him down the hill, and gave him a heavy dose of Banamine. He still wasn't acting colicky, just... wasn't really himself. No classic signs of colic, no pawing, no kicking, no rolling. Just not eating. I put him in the small pen to monitor him and see if he was pooping. 

One thing about mules and donkeys though is that they are incredibly stoic. They do NOT want you to know they are sick. By the time they start to show any signs of anything being wrong, they are usually already in dire straits. So I was concerned, even without the theatrics normally involved in a colic. 

He laid down to rest in the grass for a bit, and I got a very sweet picture of him with all his very concerned nursemaids hanging around on the other side of the fence. Dylan has always been surprisingly fond of him, though I'm not sure why. He doesn't really talk to any of the mules like he does the horses, so perhaps they smell strange to him. 

I monitored him for a few hours, waiting for something to change to tell me one way or another where we were headed. Nothing. No signs of anything. He just stood there in the corner with a foot cocked, while we waited to see if there was poop (there was none). His vitals, however, started to make a downturn in the afternoon. His heart rate went up to 56, his resp went up to 36. Both of those are pretty high for a very slow moving old mule. He had almost no gut sounds. I had a terrible feeling that this wasn't going to end well but up until that point was not sure what to do. That changed in one moment when he suddenly dropped his head, and reflux and green sludge poured out of his nose. Any horse would have been on the ground thrashing well before that point, but not Frank. I pulled out my phone, called the vet, hooked up the trailer, and off we went.

At the vet, he had a bit of his old mule stubbornness when he refused to walk into the barn, then refused to walk into the stocks, then tried to actively coon jump out of the stocks. I have no doubt he would have made it if we hadn't blocked him. We drugged him, then drugged him again when he refused to get sleepy. Even then, the barn hand had to actively hang onto him while twitching him - he thrashed and put up a big fight about a nasogastric tube. He was NOT having it. 

The vet pulled a ton of sludge out of his stomach. It was all just chewed up and eaten food that had nowhere to go, so it just sat there for a long time. She also got quite a lot of reflux out. She did a rectal, and found nothing to note. Everything she could reach - and he had a giant cavernous body, so it wasn't too far in - felt soft and normal. So whatever it was, it was further up. Impaction, torsion, lipoma - who knows. We'll never know. And it doesn't really matter now anyway, and didn't matter much then, because a nearly 30 year old mule isn't a surgical candidate anyway. The vet tubed him and made sure he was good and loaded with meds, then we walked him out to try and wake him up a little. The fluid he had been tubed with poured out his nose every time he stopped moving, and the vet said his esophageal sphincter was loose, most likely from the drugs. She handed me a couple of syringes, one with Banamine and one with Dorm. The plan was to take him home and see if anything worked itself out, but neither of us were too optimistic. My last words to her were, "well, I'll probably see you later." 

Not quite two hours later, Frank had blown through his drugs and meds completely and was uncomfortable again. I called the on-call vet, since it was now after hours, and put her on standby. We agreed to give him the syringes as the sort of "last ditch," but I told her she would likely be hearing from me again shortly. I gave the Dorm IM in the hopes that it would last him a little longer, and the Banamine was of course IV - but it took me ages to find a vein. His blood pressure by that point was so poor that I had to stick him 5 or 6 times to even find the vein at all. I even gave him a little knot, which I've never done before. I've given a million IV shots before no problem. His skin was sweaty and warm on his body, but when I felt his ears, they were icy cold. He started refluxing out his nose again. I knew then that he was going to die. 

The Banamine took immediate effect, and got him to stand still right away. I had that little window of time to prepare myself for what was coming, although it was little comfort to me. I've never been quite able to tell which is better - to plan for a euthanasia and then have some days to prepare yourself and wait, or to not know it's coming and be blindsided by it? I had to deal with both in that moment. I knew he was going to die, but I was being forced into a choice right then. There was clearly only one choice to make. There was no picking a date for the next week like the last 3 I've euthanized have been. It was now, and that was that. 

The drugs didn't last long. He gave a few lurches around the pen, and I frantically called the vet, frightened that he might die of his own volition before she could get there. True to Frank form, he righted himself, parked his butt in a corner, and stabilized, reflux pouring out his nose. It was dark by that time, and the vet pulled him and strapped on her headlamp. She examined him briefly - he still had no gut sounds, his heart rate was still at about 58, and his gums, which had been slightly pale but still pinkish up until this point, were starting to take on that faint blue tinge. He was teetering on the edge of shocky. This vet, who is a fresh youngster new to the practice, was one I hadn't worked with before, and she told me that if I wanted she could tube him again and we could see about doing a few more things to help him, although you could tell what she was really thinking. My usual vets know how I feel about that, and I told her that no, to me it was very clearly time. 

As I led him up to the spot where we were going to euthanize, his stomach gave a loud popping growl, and he stopped dead. I'm quite sure it had ruptured in that moment. It made it all the more clear that it was time, right then. 

There was a smile to be had in his last moments though. The vet heavily sedated him, but instead of getting really sleepy, he just put his head down and started eating grass. I'm sure the pressure was off his stomach, and he felt just gorked out enough with the drugs to think he was hungry. He refused to get sleepier than that, and just kept eating. It made me feel a little better to think that after all that, at the very end, he was able to eat a few mouthfuls green grass and enjoy it. 

His blood pressure was so low that the vet also had a hard time finding the vein, and it took him a minute for the euth drugs to circulate, but once they did he sank very peacefully. Just like when Gogo died, when I went to pet him for the last time, he had a strong reflex the moment I touched him. Gogo only reflexed that one time and that was it, but Frank reflexed several. Even in death, that old bastard was fighting. 

Frank truly has left a Frank-sized hole in my heart. I am truly, truly heartbroken to lose him. I don't even know what else to say right now. It was so sudden. He was very old, but other than his teeth he was in wonderful health. It certainly could have been the teeth that ultimately took him down, but we will never know. They took him up today to bury him alongside Gogo and Darby. 

I feel terrible. Just terrible.

I'll miss you so much, my floppy eared friend.