Saturday, June 24, 2017

Working in Rehab

I'm officially on summer vacation and so hopefully my life will start to mellow out so that I'll have more time to ride and write blog posts. That being said, so far summer has not at all been mellow. I've been busy doing things every day.

My rides with Casey have been mostly uneventful. We've finally gotten to resume our 10 minutes of trotting at a time (thank goodness) and it'll be another 4 weeks of that before our next vet recheck.
So many trot circles
This last week the major issue that we were dealing with was Casey's bad attitude.  I don't know what came over her, but she was really being bratty for a few days (Trainer thinks she must have been in heat).We spent an entire ride one day just spooking from one spot of the arena to another (and she does't normally spook - she was just being a jerk). She's since come out of that attitude and now is back to being her sweet self.
Working at that trot
We've been working on translating leg yielding into more complex maneuvers like shoulders-in and haunches-in with some minor successes. At this point, Casey is now responsive to my leg, but she still lags a bit when I ask her to move her booty over. I've taken to starting our rides with a dressage whip, since she is always the most sticky at the beginning of our rides. If she starts to get really laggy with her back end, I just nudge her butt over with the dressage whip. I think part of the struggle is that Casey really only thinks about her front end when she is moving. This is why she gets so heavy on the forehand when I ride her and why she is kind of klutzy in her paddock. So this is something we need to keep working on.
Working at shoulder-in
Working at haunches-in
The other big thing that we've been working on is trying to get lengthening and back-end-power in the trot. On Wednesday, when I was riding Casey, I went into two-point for a couple of laps at a trot (just to strengthen my core a bit). I noticed though that Casey started to really lengthen her stride and started pushing off her back legs. When I encouraged this I got the most powerful feeling trot that I've ever gotten from her. Of course I wasn't recording my ride that day, and every day since I've been trying to recreate that trot, but haven't been able to get it again. However, we are getting really close. Her stride is lengthening, but she's getting heavy on the forehand, rather than really using her butt. We're going to keep working on this, but that fact that she was able to do it once makes me hopeful that she can do it again.
Trying to get that powerful trot
In addition to those things we are continuing to work on the basics of bending, responsiveness, and trying to use the lightest possible aids. Gotta say, at this point in rehab I'm super bored. All I want to do is canter and jump things. I feel like we can't get anywhere in our progress with just 10 minutes of trotting - we'll be working at something, like lengthening, and will just be getting somewhere when the timer goes off and we have to stop. So frustrating.
She's so photogenic!
Even though I'm starting to get bored, I also have been so grateful for Casey. A year ago is when I first started working with her and when I think about the things that we are doing now versus where we started, it's mind-blowing. She was so green and so wild, so the fact that we can be working on complicated questions, like lengthening and leg yielding, is really exciting. We've gotten so in tune with each other, we can read each other's actions before they even happen. That's amazing to me.
Love this mare

Horse Personality Quiz

In my opinion there are very few things as mind-numbingly entertaining as taking personality quizzes. I love to just sit down with trashy magazines and see what the pointless questions can tell me about myself. So imagine my joy when I discovered that there is such a thing as a horse personality quiz! I was hopping around on the blogosphere and found out about this through Olivia at DIY Horse Ownership.

There is a website called Horse Personalities Inc that features a horse personality quiz. My understanding of this website is that it is the website for the book Is Your Horse a Rock Star? by Dessa Hockley (by the way - this is the perfect horse book author last name).

After answering a series of questions about your horse, the quiz tells you what personality type your horse is. Casey is apparently "The Rock Star" which is defined by the following personality: "The Rock Stars are confident and charismatic.  They are expressive and strong minded. They love to show you what they know but are hard to get to focus on the small details of the task. They are found in many competitive arenas, usually at the top of their field." (Horse Personalities Inc).
Image of "The Rock Star" Horse

In addition to a brief definition of your horse's personality type, they also include a preview of the chapter from the book that correlates with that personality type. This gives even more information about your "type" of horse. Reading through the Rock Star horse chapter, I noticed that most of the description was pretty accurate for Casey, however not all things really fit.

Things that hold true for Casey:
- "They perform to the absolute utmost of their ability." Casey doesn't give half-effort on anything. She commits to whatever it is she is doing at the moment. This isn't always a good thing however, because sometimes her commitment is towards something that I don't want, like spooking down the barn aisle...
Loves to perform her job - jumping all the things
- "Has a strong ego, bordering on cocky, but personable and charming enough to endear them to you." She has a HUGE personality. She is also very endearing, like how the other day, she came up to cuddle me when I was filling her water bucket.
Casey cuddling me the other day
- "They have endless energy, which is most often positively expressed." She loves to run and jump and will do these things for as long as I will let her.
Loves to move
- "Always eager and ready to go to work, they will meet you at the gate most days. They are curious and outgoing, definitely not shy, and will tell you how they feel about most things." 100%  accurate assessment of Casey. She is highly opinionated about all things and not at all shy about expressing those opinions. She is also very curious.
Very curious, especially about Eden, but he is terrified of her.
- "Getting bored easily." This is so true. Casey is always getting into everything, investigating, because otherwise she gets bored. Nothing is worse, in her opinion, than having to stand quietly. It's boring.
Bored Casey sticking her tongue over the bit
- "This is not the horse that needs to be told where to put every foot." Casey gets pissy with me when I try to micro-manage her.
What happens when I try to micro-manage her

Things that definitely don't match my horse:
- "They tolerate all the fussing that goes with getting them ready for the show, whether it is braids or bathing." Casey doesn't tolerate me fussing over her. Getting groomed is her least favorite thing. She's terrible about haircuts and so my guess is would be even worse about braiding. She's ok-ish about baths, but isn't a fan of them.
Casey putting up with a bath

Things I'm unsure of:
- "They love the competition." I haven't taken Casey to a competition yet (stupid rehab).
- "They are near the top of the pecking order with their herd mates and expect to be there with you as well." About most things Casey is top of the pecking order. She bosses her BFF Ava around constantly. However, we don't have herds of horses at my barn, when Casey lived out in pasture it was only with one other horse, Ava. In addition, two winters ago, Casey was really losing a lot of weight, because she would let Ava eat all of the food, which is more consistent with a lower-pecking-order horse. So not so sure about this.
Beating up Ava
- "If something startles or scares them, they will almost appear embarrassed to have jumped or acted flighty like those other lesser herd mates." Casey is not really a spooky horse, and when she does spook it's not out of fear, she's doing it to test me and try to get away with crap. So she's not embarrassed by her spooking, if anything it's a middle finger to me!
The highly annoying spook from this week

Overall, this was really fun. Not everything has to be accurate, but it was a good way to waste some time!

DIY Horse Muffins

Since my mare is the pickiest of all creatures and rejected my Pony Poptarts, I was in search of a new horse treat recipe. I found a bunch of recipes online that I wasn't a fan of, either because of all of the added sugar, unnecessary ingredients, or because of ingredients that I knew my picky mare would reject. So I got fed up with looking for recipes online and came up with my own! Thank goodness for all of my prior baking knowledge, because my recipe turned out really well! It is simple, quick, and apparently delicious.
Casey testing the treat
Casey shoving the treat into her mouth

Not only does Casey love these muffins (she scarfed down about six of these in one go), but all of the horses that I tested these on really enjoyed them. Not a single horse rejected them! Eden also tried the muffins and I think that he was a fan of the taste, but not the texture. He would nibble at them, but didn't actually chew and swallow them. He didn't like how chewy they were, which fair enough, they are pretty chewy. Since he's a dog and these are horse treats his opinions don't count for much...
Eden spots the treat
Full open mouth attack!
Eden nibbling at the treat
Please try out the recipe and let me know how your horses like them!

Horse Muffins Recipe
Yields: 48 mini muffins

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
3 cups grated apple (3 small apples or 2 large apples, any kind, I used Fuji)
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (oats, flour, grated apple).
3. Mix in molasses and water. Texture should be sticky, but not wet. If the mixture is too dry, add water. If the mixture is too sticky or wet, add more flour/oats (flour will make it more sticky & oats will make it less sticky).
4. Once mixture is the right consistency, drop the mixture in the mini-muffin tin. Press the mixture into each muffin spot so that it condenses and sticks together. Alternately, if you don't have a mini-muffin tin, press the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and put on a cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 20 minutes (or until golden brown and firm to the touch).
6. Let cool before putting in a storage container.
Step 7: Shove muffins into horse's mouth

Potential Adaptations
- Replace grated apple with grated carrot.
- Replace molasses with peanut butter.
- Add crushed peppermint pieces.
- Add 1/2 cup brown sugar for added sweetness (I didn't because the apple was sweet enough).
- Add ginger (joint and digestive system support) or cinnamon (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).

DIY Horse Muffins

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Post Hock-Injection Rides

Since Casey got her hocks injected on Monday, I had to wait a few days before I could ride her again. She was on paddock rest + Bute for four days and I hopped back on her Friday and rode again today.
I don't think she minded the days off
She got a hair cut today so no longer has this crazy mane
So far I'm having trouble telling what impact hock injections are having on her. She's moving a bit strangely (it feels like she's moving more bouncily than normal) and I can tell she isn't totally comfortable.

Trainer said that it could take Casey a while to start to get used to the new feeling in her joints, so I'm assuming it's just that. Another boarder also thought that it could be that now Casey's hocks feel good, so it could be making her more sensitive to other things. I'm not really sure which theory is more accurate, but am not stressing about it either. Since the vet dialed down the exercise regime for the two weeks following the hock injections, I'm assuming this is why.

All in all our rides have been pretty boring. It's been raining a ton so we've been stuck in the indoor arena, which is smaller and I have to ride while other people are riding. We've been focusing a lot on leg yielding. I think that Casey gets the idea now, but doesn't commit to it. She's starting to cross her legs, but barely-barely... This is still better than where we were before though, because when I first bought her, Casey thought leg could only mean go fast.
Leg yielding - her butt is falling behind, but her front legs are crossing, so progress!
The most interesting part of the past two rides is that Casey spooked! I'm not really sure what she spooked at (another horse causing a ruckus in their paddock?), but we were just walking along and then all of the sudden we were cantering. She stayed pretty level-headed for a spook though and I was able to get her under control within seconds.
The spook
Other than moving a bit strangely, Girlie is doing great. No more mauling herself and she's being fairly calm. It's nice when your horse doesn't act like an evil Satan creature :P

She's cute :)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Narcolepsy in Horses???

On Sunday, Casey did the weirdest thing I've ever seen her do (which I think is saying a lot because she does weird things on a regular basis).
She's a weird one
I gave Casey her injectable joint supplement (Polyglycan) and 1 CC of Ace (because she can't be free-lunged and is a dangerous wack job right now without the drugs). After all the shots I took her into the indoor arena to let her roll, which is our normal routine. She plopped right down and rolled on one side, then got back up before dropping to her other side to roll that way as well. That's when things got weird.

She was just laying on the ground with her body and head upright when all of the sudden she fell to the ground flat, her eyes fluttering, and her legs twitching. I freaked out, because to me it looked like she was having a seizure and I didn't know what to do. What can you really do when a thousand pound animal is convulsing? I called to my trainer and started recording what was happening (because I figured it might be short and I would need to show my trainer what had happened). By the time my trainer got into the indoor arena (about 1-2 minutes later), Casey had stopped the weird thing and got up to her feet. She seemed really amped afterwards and was trying to pace around me while I was holding her lead rope.

I showed Trainer the short video (thank goodness I took it) and she did not think that it was a seizure, saying that seizures are a lot more violent and involve the whole body convulsing, not just the legs. Since she has experience with seizures, I assumed she was right. I then asked what she thought it was and she told me that she thought it could have been a narcoleptic episode. Narcolepsy is a condition in which people/animals fall asleep at random times.

She thought that Casey fell asleep and that the legs twitching was her "running" in her sleep, similar to how dogs will "run" in their sleep at times. Her reasoning for this was:
- A new horse had arrived the night before and was neighing all night, thus keeping the other horses awake.
- All of the horses had been tired that day (due to the new horse issue).
- Casey seemed perfectly normal before and after the weird event.
- Casey had been lying down and so it would have been easy for her to just doze off.

She didn't say this, but I was also thinking that maybe the double dose of shots could have made her more tired, or they could have had a weird interaction perhaps.

Trainer said that I should still ride Casey and that she thought Casey was fine. I was a bit doubtful, but mare did seem to be very awake. I did end up riding her and she acted perfectly behaved and wasn't being weird in any other way.
And then she was totally normal for our ride
The next day the vet came out and Trainer asked him what he thought about the weird event and he also agreed with her that it could have just been a narcoleptic episode. He didn't seem at all worried about it and didn't want to do any testing or anything so that's reassuring I guess.
Why does she freak me out so much!!!
I'm still a bit worried about it, because it was freaky in the moment, but unless it happens again I'm going to discount it as a one time thing. Have you ever had a horse do that? Or had a horse with narcolepsy? What do you make of the video?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Vet Call Recap - Suspensory Injury Update

Today the vet was finally about to come back out and re-evaluate Casey's proximal suspensory ligament injury. This was supposed to happen a month ago, but stupid mare got that stifle scrape and messed up our plans. Since I have been out of work a whole bunch this month due to being sick I couldn't afford to take another day off to be at the barn for the vet visit. Of course then I was not at all productive at work because I was stressing the whole time...
Casey wanted all of the cuddles today
According to my Trainer, who is the one who dealt with the vet call for me (thank you!), the vet said that Casey was much improved! He started out by doing a lameness test on the lunge line. Casey apparently was able to canter in both directions (although on her difficult canter lead, she picked up the wrong lead behind and had to swap, which indicates that she's not 100%). That was good to hear, because I haven't messed around with the canter at all.

After doing a general lameness test, he apparently did another set of ultrasounds (and will be e-mailing me a copy of them in the next week). Trainer said that Vet noted that if he didn't know that there was a tear in the ligament, he wouldn't have caught it in the ultrasound. That means that the tear is really tiny and so is almost healed. Yay!
Trying to sneak-attack-cuddle me
The vet also thinks that the little hitch that I can feel when I ride (the lack of full extension in the injured leg) might be caused more by hock stiffness than the ligament giving her pain. We were planning on doing hock injections and so he went ahead and did that. Apparently when he entered the needle into the joint, watery liquid came out, which means that she did indeed need hock injections.

I'm hoping that the hock injections will make Casey a lot more comfortable. As a downside of the hock injections, Casey now can't be ridden for a few days, so when I get back on her I'm sure she'll be a hell-demon (magical-good-feeling hocks + no exercise in days = CRAZY MARE). She's super stiff and uncomfortable today and so she needs some time for her body to acclimate to the hock injection stuff. She's on Bute though, so won't be totally miserable.
Pretty eyes
The exercise plan was updated to reflect all of this new information, so Casey is going to have four days off to acclimate to the hock injections, then two weeks of 10-7.5-10 (walk-trot-walk), then four weeks of 10-10-10. After that we'll do another recheck. Although the vet had great things to say about the injury, his recommendations err on the side of cautious, because he really doesn't want Casey to re-tear the ligament. I think that it is good that my vet is cautious, because it means that he's really doing everything in his power to make sure Casey comes out of this as good as new. Another factor that determined this exercise plan is that Casey is going to need time to adjust to the hock injections. My trainer has had a joint injected on herself before and says that it is really uncomfortable at first and feels like a pressure type of pain. So Casey might need to adjust to that before we can move on to other things.
Kisses for the sweet one
All of that puts us at July 21st for the recheck, so it's looking less and less likely that I will be able to do any jumping this summer. In fact I'd say at this point I could probably hope to be jumping by October, but any earlier than that is probably a hopeless dream. This is a bummer and I felt a little bit crushed with that news, but at the same time I need to think about the long-term picture, which is that if I follow the vet's instructions Casey will be back to normal and will be able to have a jumping career still. If I get too impatient and try to rush things I could end up with a severely broken horse who can do no jumping at all. It sucks to be patient though, as it is the quality that I most struggle with.
I also loved on Ava a bit
When I got off work I sped to the barn (to get all of this information) and I also checked in on my girly. She definitely looked sore when she walked up to me, but other than that seemed to be good. She was being super affectionate; giving me cuddles and licking me all over. It was nice to just have quiet cuddle time with her. Since she is on paddock rest for the next three days, I'm going to take that time off too and not go out to the barn. I might cave and go anyways just to see her... We'll see...

My Warm & Fuzzy Trainer Heart

For those of you who didn't catch on to this in earlier posts, I work at my barn on the weekends as an assistant trainer. I primarily teach kids (but have taught some adults) and all of my riders are beginners. I've had probably ten students total in my whole trainer career (two-ish years), because it is just a side-job for me and I don't need to have a huge client base. Some of my students rode only a handful of times and others are going on years now. Currently I have three primary students. I don't want to use their actual names here, so I'll just call them by letters.

I have N, who has been riding with me for about a year and a half. She takes weekly lessons with me.

I have R, who just started with me last month. She's been consistently taking weekly lessons.

And I have G, who is the youngest (and thus the cutest). She's been riding with me for almost a year, but it's not very consistent.

This past weekend all of my students had major breakthroughs in their riding and I am so incredibly proud of them.

N is a good rider in that she really has a knack for it. She naturally has a decent seat and has her basics down. That being said, she's really dealt with a lot of anxiety in her riding. Part of this stems from the fact that her older sister also rides and I think that there is a little bit of competition there. Since she was so anxious, we spent a lot of time working on basics and I would judge her mood and energy to determine what we would do each day. I will push her at times to do things that are outside of her comfort zone (because she is capable of doing more than she sometimes wants to do), but there are also days when I know we will get nowhere if I push her, so instead we go on trail rides or do obstacle courses. That being said, the past six months she has really gained a lot of confidence in herself and she is asking me to do "scarier" things like cantering and jumping. I think that part of the boost in confidence is that she has started riding a different lesson horse, a pony named Dobby. Dobby can be a difficult ride in that he is incredibly fussy with his head and loves to throw it up into his rider's face (so I've been having her ride him in a hackamore with a standing martingale), but he also is a seasoned schoolmaster and is very consistent in his gaits and jumping.
N & Dobby
N's breakthrough this weekend was that she finally jumped her first "oxer"! I put two cavaletti on their highest height (one foot) and stuck two of them together to create an itty-bitty square oxer. N was a tad nervous coming through the first time and fell behind the motion over the jump (because pony took the jump big), but her second time through I told her to grab the martingale neck strap and she was able to stay better with the motion and came out of the jump smiling. I'm so excited to see her confidence grow and am so proud of her!

*Side note: I posted the video on Instagram and someone gave me crap about having a standing martingale on the pony. The jump was literally a foot off the ground and pony didn't get "caught" on the martingale so I don't actually see a problem with it. Also, big-time hunter/jumpers use standing martingales all the time. I replied and explained the situation, but it made me momentarily doubt myself. Thoughts on using a standing martingale while jumping?
N & Dobby
R is fairly new at riding (she had experience at another barn before coming to us, but I'm not sure about the details of her riding there). She not only was able to remember the names of all of the different kinds of jump lines (outside, diagonal, bending, going away, going home), but she also was able to jump her first ever little crossrails! They were maybe 6 inches off the ground, but they were actual cross-rails, not just poles on the ground. There's still a lot to work on, the line was a bit messy, but she had a blast and didn't care about it being perfect. She was just having fun!

My youngest student, G, actually rode in the same lesson as N this week (first time ever doing a dual lesson - it was hectic, but entertaining). She is still pretty little, so the going has been slow with her, but she's finally to the point where she can trot around the arena on her own. She was having a blast trotting around on Willow (the saint of a lesson pony that she is) and actually did a bit of "jumping"! I set up two outside lines out of cavaletti and had her go through them at a trot when they were on the lowest setting. When I asked her if she wanted to go higher, she said yes, so I raised them to the medium height (six-ish inches) and she trotted through those too! Willow doesn't actually jump the jumps at that height, she really just uses them as trot poles, but on the line coming home, Willow actually picked up a canter for three strides and G handled it like a champ. The speed freaked her out a little bit, but she kept her balance and just asked Willow to slow and regained her trot. It was her first time ever cantering (even if it was an un-asked-for canter) and she did awesome with it.
Proof that Willow is the snuggliest
So all in all, it was a pretty great weekend. All of my students were rock-stars and made big strides in their riding. I came home and told my husband that I want to adopt them all and I'm not even joking. I love them and would totally take them home with me if I could! Luckily for them, they all have loving homes, so that wouldn't ever happen, but I feel so blessed to have them in my life.
N & Dobby