Sunday, March 25, 2018

Winter Woes

It has been a while. My bad. Life is really busy when clearing land, trying to figure out building a house and barn, putting utilities on property, etc. Who knew? (Everyone).

Things have also been really quiet on the riding front. Mort and I have had a pretty tough winter.

It started with the ulcers. We got those cleared up and his energy levels are great again.

He had a strange spot on his eye that never took dye and didn't respond to traditional treatment. I took him to the vet and spent some monies when a second small spot appeared. After scraping his cornea and more intense treatment things seem to be going well. Essentially he must have had the tiniest of objects on his eye that wouldn't come off with flushing/ointment/etc. He now has a permanent small scar but he seems happy and comfortable.

The last month or so he's been on-and-off lame. He got a hot nail the last week of January. We flushed it, soaked it, and put him on antibiotics. He got sound again fairly quickly and things seemed fine. I rode him a handful of times and he felt 100% sound. But several days after I thought we were in the clear (and had the OK from the vet) he went almost 3-legged lame again. Another call to the vet and back on antibiotics and we were heading back uphill. After some time I was, again, able to ride him and he felt 100% sound. Then it all happened again. I put him back on antibiotics (for the third time). We put in a call to the vet for anther appointment (third one in less than two months so please pity me).

After hoof testing, a lameness exam, blocking the hoof, and x-rays we found the culprit. He had a small gas pocket in his hoof. We had been hitting the bacteria with antibiotics and it would help, but nothing could fully relieve the pressure he was feeling. He got it dug out and we got instructions for taking care of it. After a week of stall rest and soaking/wrapping it every day things seem to be looking up. He's got shoes back on and he is 100% sound. I got to ride him for the first time last week and he was wonderful. No lunging and no porpoising into the canter. I even hopped on him bareback on the second day back while a giant machine was pushing down trees across the street. Most importantly though, is that he seems to be comfortable and happy.

Now, of course, Missouri has decided to turn into a puddle and we're getting rain dumped on us in very large quantities. So while I got to ride him twice last week, I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to ride this next week. But I'll spend time hand-walking him, grooming him, and playing with in-hand stuff. I'm just glad that my boy seems to be back on the right track and I can't wait to get us both back in shape.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Onward & Upward

Mort is back to his normal self. The combination of switching his grain and being able to actually exercise him has put him back to being slightly on the lazy side of life. Now that we’re getting back into a regular routine I can start to assess how much fitness and training he’s lost over the last several months. It’s amazing that it’s been since mid-October since I’ve been able to really ride and train him. I feel bad that it took so long to diagnose the ulcers, but I’m glad we’re back on track. Hopefully the weather doesn’t derail us again.

His fitness is definitely not where it was. Counter canter seems to be much harder than before and we have less time in our rides before I start to notice him getting worn out. All of this is fine and I’m doing my best to keep the rides short while still pushing him enough to improve his fitness. I sure know how bad sore muscles can feel trying to get back into shape too quickly.

I spent some time in our ride on Sunday figuring out what we needed to work on right now. I think that my immediate goals are to work on counter canter and lateral work. They seem to be our biggest areas of weakness. They both take balance and strength and the lateral work takes some mental effort on his part as well. I’ve made sure to put in counter canter in each ride since Sunday and I am already seeing improvement. I love the bigger arena at the new barn as it makes counter canter so much easier with all the space.

Last night I started trying to play with more than just a couple steps of lateral work. It wasn’t wonderful. I think that I started it too late in the ride and he got tired quickly. I also think it’s just hard for us. He and I are both crooked and out of shape. So, I am going to try to go back to basics and move up from there. Each ride will have a certain lateral work “focus” mixed in with our regular work.

I’m hoping to devote a ride to turn-on-the-forehand, including walking-turn-on-the-forehand. The next ride I want to do some very basic and baby leg yields. When those are second nature again we’ll move on to more complicated and steeper leg yields. Then shoulder-in, and you already get the picture. We’ll move through lateral work quicker than the initial training since it’s all in there already, but I really want to make sure that I’m not rushing either of us. Pushing an out-of-shape horse (and rider) is a quick way to create a sour or injured horse.  

I think we do have something good coming out of all our goofing off over the last several months. I feel like Mort’s transitions are better. I especially notice it in the walk to trot transitions. We spent a lot of time bareback. We spent a lot of time just playing around at the walk and trot. I think maybe the very low-pressure environment helped him get a little more relaxed in those transitions. He still throws in an exciting canter transition every once in a while, but I’m not really sure that will ever go away—maybe when he’s 20.   

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Weekend Updates on a Wednesday

The weather this weekend was wonderful, so I had two full days of barn time. Mort was pretty much back to his normal self with only a little extra added sass that’s to be expected with so much time off.

Saturday was an easy ride. I mainly just worked on getting him straight and calm. I had a couple of exciting canter transitions but nothing outrageous. Once he was going like a gentleman I called it quits. I figured he was sore from his craziness Friday on the lunge line and short happy rides are always better than long tiring ones. We ended the ride with a walk along the gravel road. We probably only went a mile or so, but it was fun to be out there with my horse and pup enjoying the warmer weather.

Sunday was even warmer, and Mort was happy to walk on a loose rein from the moment I got on him. He still had a little sass in some of the canter transitions but that’s not unusual for us a lot of the time anyway. Other than that, he was really fun to ride. He was forward but listening. I need to sharpen up the lateral stuff after all of our time off and the time before that just spent goofing around. That will most likely be my project over the next couple of weeks. I want to get him sharper sideways and get his canter transitions better. I also have some plans to do a little bit of counter canter work to help strengthen that hind end again.

After my ride yesterday, I did some much-needed catching up on other barn activities. I deep-cleaned my bridle and girth. I’m hoping to get to my saddle sometime this week, but it’ll depend on how long this furlough lasts. I pulled his mane and clipped his bridle path so he doesn’t look like a hobo anymore.

A lot of my goals for the winter have had to go on hold with the ulcer, moving, and weather. One side of this is kinda disappointing but that is life with horses. We’ll see how long it takes us to get back in shape and start working on goals again. At least he and I have gotten time to enjoy each other with all the trail riding and general hanging out. That’s never a bad thing to do with your horse.

Friday, January 19, 2018

One Hot Potato

     So, I'm sure you're all aware that the weather has been pretty darn cold in these parts. This means that we've been stuck with a lot of time off--or short walking mini trail rides. Normally Mort is a fairly easy guy to handle with some time off. He may not always want to come right back to work, but he is usually is steady enough. Last night was a bit of a different story.

     It started out innocently enough; he was fine for grooming and tacking. My plan was to hop on bareback and stretch his legs. The ground was still frozen, so doing more than a walk was not in the cards. Nobody told Mort that.

     I got on and we started with a baby rear and the inability to stand still. I told him to march forward and he was jiggy, but started out OK. After a few minutes of me trying to get him to relax via lateral work he did another baby rear. He was constantly asking to go, go, go and I wasn't letting him (because rock solid ground and all that). A few more minutes of trying to relax he tried bucking instead of rearing. I decided quickly after, that I would walk until he stopped jigging and jump off. I tend to operate under the mindset that it's better for me to get off than to be gotten off--especially while bareback with no one else at the barn.

     I didn't want Mort to end there so I tried to do some hand walking. I figured it would get some of the edge off physically and mentally. After a while--and a few more rearing episodes--I wasn't as confident. He kept playing a "fun" game of trying to bite the reins as we walked. One of the times he got my thumb. I was frustrated and he was nowhere near ready to relax or settle, so we called it quits soon after that.

     The entire time he never meant to do anything in a mean or aggressive way. Everything he did was just because he had so much excessive energy and nothing to do with it. I think the evening would have gone a lot differently if we had been able to do more than walk. TBs do well with that forward, productive stuff and all that.

     Anyway, he's on a higher energy food at the new barn that we are now switching him off of. It was supposed to be super easy on his tummy, but clearly not a great fit otherwise. We'll see how the new food does. I'm sure it wouldn't have been as dramatic if we'd been able to ride regularly but maybe catching it early is better. Who knows.

     Tonight the ground was much better! The majority of the arena was good to w/t/c. There were only a couple of really big puddles that we had to avoid. I started with lunging with his shenanigans last night. He was definitely still amped and enjoying the warmer weather. We had several moments of porpoising and some minor explosions, but he did his best to stay with me on the circle. After more than a few circles he was finally relaxing and stretching down and being a good boy.

     I hopped on for a super short ride. We did a few figure eight trot circles and one canter transition each direction. He was a complete gentleman and we did some good long-rein walking to cool him down. Poor guy was just too hot to know what to do with himself before he got some exercise. Hopefully with the change in food and the promising weather forecast we'll be back on track. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

News on the Mort Front

Folks, it’s been a busy month. Blogging is pretty much always the first to go on my schedule. A quick update on life then I’ll try to get back into regularly scheduled programming—just not as often as before.
New job with the USDA is going well. I think it’s one that I will be at for a long time. The new schedule (8-4:30) is something I’m getting used to. I now run in the mornings before work. The later end-time put me driving out to the barn after 5:00. This was putting me home after 8:00 most nights. I know there are a lot of you out there who have it much worse than I do when it comes to commute, but coming home that late every night wasn’t something that I could sustain. Spending only about an hour making/eating dinner and seeing the husband wasn’t good, so Mort got a new home last weekend.
I was sad to leave the people at ACS, but I already feel less stressed with Mort being closer. He’s now at a barn that’s about half as far away. It’s a small and cozy little farm that’s set out in the woods. It’s got two outdoor arenas and some trails that we’ll check out in the future. He was a bit nervous the first couple days but seemed to be settling in well by day three.
Mort has one more day of his ulcer meds. I’ll then be starting him on SmartPak’s SmartGut Ultra. It’s one of the few supplements that has actual clinical research behind it regarding ulcers. I’m hoping that will keep him a happy camper. He’s also got alfalfa cubes on board and a change in diet.
The GastroGard seems to be doing its job well. When it’s not been unbelievably cold, Mort’s personality under saddle has been back to normal.
Day one at Avalon Farm I just brushed Mort and went over his care instructions with the barn owner. If I can help it, I generally try not to ride the first day or two at a new place. Obviously, this can’t work at shows or clinics, but I do follow this rule when I move barns.
On Saturday, the weather was above 20 degrees for the first time in a couple weeks, so I couldn’t resist jumping on him. He hadn’t been ridden in two weeks—and hadn’t been ridden regularly even longer. It was cold. It was a new place. Naturally, I decided to hop on bareback. He was wonderful. It was an energetic ride where he was happy to go faster any time that I asked but also came back to me with little complaint. What a good boy. We kept it short and sweet and easy, just a little walk and even less trot.
Sunday had some bad weather in the forecast, so I tried to get out there before it started. The rain started right before I saddled him, so I opted for lunging instead. The rain stopped shortly after we started lunging. I decided to hop on and he was great. We did w/t/c and while he was a bit sticky on the sideways aids he really put forth a good effort with everything else.
We rode with a saddle and such on Monday and Tuesday evening before the temperatures dropped (again). He did really well. I had to make myself get off because he was just giving me such good effort. It's a good problem to have, convincing yourself to get off your horse and not push him too hard because you're having such a good time. 
We did a couple short, bareback trail rides this weekend and he handled it all well. 
I’m hoping to get back into a routine now that his tummy feels better and the weather seems like it’s going to cooperate (mostly). He’ll get a few weeks of easier/shorter work to get both of us back into shape. I’ll mainly be focusing on those never-ending concepts of straightness, transitions, etc. After that I hope to get us working toward the move up to second level.

Here’s hoping I’ve got more than five minutes of free time to work on the blog between work, Mort, running, and the new property. We’ll see how that goes…

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Busy Life

     Hello all, it's been a while. I've started my new job and I'm definitely getting used to the new schedule. Emma-pup is sad that she can't go in with me so I'm trying to spend extra time running with her and taking her on lots of walks. I'm sad that I will only be able to see Mort in the daylight on weekends and that my new job doesn't put me near the barn on my commute. But, I'm very happy with the new work environment, pay, benefits, distance from home, etc. It'll all be worth the change but it's definitely an adjustment.

     Steven and I have finally gotten the land we're looking at surveyed. It's just about exactly 20 acres. It's got blacktop road frontage. It's got about 8 acres of woods. It's got a small pond and an adorable little creek. We're very excited to get started clearing and knocking down brush to hopefully start building in the spring. Lots of work ahead of us there, but we couldn't be more excited.

     Mort has been better on the ulcerguard. This is great news to know what is bothering him and that it's a very fixable issue. It sucks that fixing uclers is so expensive. It also sucks that my poor guy had a tummy ache for the last month. It's been overall good to have my normal sassy boy back and we'll get him fixed up in no time. I'll also be talking to my vet for future management changes that will hopefully prevent some future issues.

     He got a bath yesterday and today he's getting another trace clip as so much of his hair has grown back. He's a fuzzy beast. It's been ridiculously warm for this time of year, but it's looking like next week we'll finally be getting real winter weather. Good thing Mort has a lot of blankets to keep him warm.

     This post has been all over the place, as has my brain lately but overall we've got some good things on the horizons!

Thursday, November 16, 2017


     Hello again all. It's been a minute. I am no longer working at my previous job and I don't start my new one until after Thanksgiving (I gave a vacation to myself) so I've not been on the computer lately. Mort is still struggling with being his normal self. We've done a couple of light lunge and bareback hack sessions. I don't want to really work him until we get whatever is bothering him figured out. Our next route is ulcers since his little head bob went away.

     Ulcers makes sense since studies have shown that about 80% of competition horses have them. Mort is on an ulcer supplement, but obviously most of those don't really have scientific studies behind them. We started noticing his changes soon after our show in the beginning of October, which could have been the trigger. Who knows?

     I've got a couple of tubes of Gastrogard on order. We'll give him a quarter of a tube/day. If his behavior goes back to normal with that masking the symptoms we'll have a good idea that ulcers are bothering him. Then I'll dish out a million dollars for a full treatment and research management for helping prevent future troubles.

     Other than that Mort is living the life of a spoiled pony. He gets cookies and love more than anything else. I've been super enjoying my time off with lots of pup and pony and TV time.