Saturday, February 25, 2017

Explaining Colic To Non Horse People

Mom and I are fortunate to have long time employers who know how much our horses mean to us. They know if we call out or leave early due to a horse call that it is major. They also try to understand our worry, but sometimes who can just see the question in their eyes.
Peggy and I had this discussion about how to explain colic to non horse people. I think when they hear colic, they think about cranky infants.

They really cannot wrap their heads around the depth of fear that comes with saying colic. I told Peggy that for horse people colic is equivalent to hearing "cancer" in the people world.

Just like cancer, colic can vary in severity, require surgery, be easily fixed or result in death. And no matter the type, just saying the word in conjunction with you or yours brings fear. It elicits a feeling of helplessness, but also a deeper hope that this to shall pass. It is not choosy in its victims. There is no rhyme or reason.

Am I blowing this out of proportion because I have lost 4 horses to colic? I had the same feelings when we lost my grandfather to cancer and a close friend too.

Anyone else have to explain horse problems to non horse people?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Still Lost, But Some News

I still can't do his last post because I am not ready. I'm not ready to put his blankets away. I'm not ready to change his status of current to past. It is too soon. We are all still lost in the thoughts and memories. I nearly cried at a picture of a pony and horse with a leg raised forward on Facebook. Poor Rosemary is definitely missing her night buddy even though we have her with the older guys. I know how she feels.

I really appreciate every one's support during this time. That is a definite benefit to being a blogger.

And now I am changing the subject with some news before I get teary again.
Monday, after a day working all the Cobs, I saw another notice for Dressage Camp. I immediately messaged Peggy and she asked if I was taking Roscoe again. As much as I would have liked that, Winston's vet bill from last month left no extra. So Peggy told me she would pay if I ride Comrade. That was definitely okay with me. I can't wait to see what they can do with Comrade.
This time I will be on vacation the two weeks before and will have ridden more. Hopefully Comrade will be in better shape by the end of March when the camp is happening. He has been working really well and the other day he gave me one of his best canter transitions.
Camp will be something to look forward to.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Loss of All Heart

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram know what is coming. This morning as I left for work I grimaced at the drop in temperature. The horses were naked due to the warm weather last evening. I immediately thought of Winston who hates to be cold.

Then almost three hours later, Mom called and said it was bad. Larry found Winston down and rolling covered in sweat. He got him up and put a cooler on before starting laps while Peggy called the vet. Mom and my sister already on the way, floored it. My Mom's voice warned me this one was not one she thought would end well. I told my boss I had to leave and headed out. Nearly there, my sister called and said the vet confirmed it was not good. It looked to be a colic similar to Sherman's, a strangulation colic. Either caused by bands or fatty lympomas. The vet was not ready to give up yet and proceeded to pump fluids into him.
Unfortunately, as the sedation wore off his pain returned and not his gut movement. The vet said he was stoic and that settled our decision. One more palpation confirmed he was not improving.
The best ears ever
After 11 years we were losing Omnis Cor (All Heart), with everyone who welcomed him into the herd around him. Roscoe stood sentinel at the fence line, giving Winston and us his strength. Of course even at the end he was a challenge. We wanted him to lay down, after hours of telling him not to, so he stood firm. When most horses fall back, he came forward knocking the vet down. Winston always did have his own style. DaVinci was really upset so the vet told us to let the horses say goodbye. Rosemary breathed into his nose, then moved down his body. DaVinci too touched his face and legs, but added a squeal. I don't think he appreciated being left in charge of the girls. DaVinci thought hard about leaving Winston. He wanted to stand by him, but soon followed us back to the sacrifice area.
By 1:15 he was resting peacefully in the field, under the trees. Bless the back hoe guy who Dad said treated him like a Viking king.
I nearly lost it when I saw his food bowl with his container waiting inside. He was such a big personality and presence in the barn. As Peggy says, he is still around, just not in sight.

The out pouring of support online is always appreciated. Carly made my day by saying she loved his posts the best. His memorial post will come soon.

Funny Photo Fail

This weekend was a full one and I will write about it later. For now I give you a photo that was  supposed to be cute.

We drove up the driveway to see Rosemary and Dottie on one side of the run in and the Red Boys on the other with Ember sleeping at Roscoe's feet. So when we parked and I gave hay to the girls and Grey Boys, I attempted to take a shadow shot of the boys.

First Roscoe walked in front of Ember.

Then both Red Boys relaxed and "dropped."

So instead of my cute picture of baby sleeping with the boys...

I ended up with Sleeping baby with the boys "hanging" out.

I guess they knew they had work ahead so took the morning slow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ember's Independent Study

Fuzzy Wuzzy...
During January the horses basically had a vacation. So I was not sure what to expect from Ember the first time I took him to the round pen. I was pleasantly surprised to find the defiant baby who got stuck at the gate and another point was not there. He was focused on me and not distracted by what was happening outside the pen.

He also was respecting me by giving inside turns. Which means he turned toward me when he changed directions rather than turning toward the fence. Before I had to work awhile before I got one inside turn. It was amazing to watch him work. I think he took the month to do an independent study of what we taught him. He thought about it and figured out it was not torture.

Trotting by his previous  #1 sticking spot

At times when we started working with him, I thought he was not ready. We did not start working Roscoe until he was a yearling. Goes to show horses definitely have their own way of working sometimes. Ember is such a good boy. 6 days later he did another session with the same focus.

We also began to work on him trotting next to me, which he found to be very weird. Then after the round pen work, Mom helped move him on and off we went. I was good until he relaxed and opened his stride. Let me tell you, my 5'2" legs to not go far when he does that. When I worked him later on by myself, he was able to trot next to me without the additional encouragement. Hopefully I can do him justice in the show ring.

Ember and Roscoe were doing crazy Cob laps today providing us with lots of entertainment. I missed getting the good stuff on camera, but here are a few shots.
Wee! Airborne

Cob turn around

Just before he took off again

Monday, February 13, 2017

Continuing Ripples

One of the other parts of camp was a chat with a vet. During which my Mom asked about feeding a stallion, a pony one at that. We noticed that yet again Roscoe dropped weight in January. Every year we try to stay ahead of his stallion cycle, but we missed. The blankets tend to hide the slow loss. Anyway we bumped his rice bran up just before camp to help. In talking to the vet we found out that breeding stallions are part of that high work category on the feed bags. Since he is a pony we would need to increase his fat intake rather than carbs. He recommended different oils, but we will stick with the rice bran even though it has the carbs. I don't think we feed enough to cause an issue in that area.
Looking good, but on the lighter side

That said, Roscoe has been on the higher fat now for just over a week and we can see a difference in his energy level. Both trainers remarked about his fitness, which I was well aware of. Hopefully with this energy boost he will be able to increase his overall fitness. Under saddle he is quicker off my leg and seems happier doing the work. I really like taking lessons where the exercises are ones I can recreate at home. Plus, the more relaxed with less distractions environment of home means that I get the answers quicker. The ten minute battle of the final lesson, was down to like a minute at home.

My new Pony who listens :)
I swear the Cobs take time to think about what we do with them in between rides. More than once I have seen marked improvement by the next ride. I told Mom I feel like I am riding a new pony. It is like he matured over that weekend. We knew he was ready to move on, but I needed the reassurance that the ugly giraffe impression and stomping feet were a natural progression. What I still was not sure about after the weekend was whether I would be able to get his canter consistent. We did not work canter at all, which I was glad in one way, but worried they thought we could not. I seriously dread asking him to canter. I work too hard to get too little. I started to wonder how much a training ride would be so someone could break through. I figured I reached my limit to doing things myself.

But I underestimated the continuing ripples of the weekend and changing his feed. My third ride after the camp was with Mom mounted on Comrade. She helped me figure out when he was going behind the vertical since his stallion neck is a different view. Then she pushed me to try his canter. The dread settled on me as I expected the ugly transition ahead. The ugly never came. He picked up right lead with little additional encouragement and maintained enough I could actually work on his frame. He did not fall in and I did not lose my stirrup. In awe I changed direction to his bad lead. He did need a smack with the whip and he was not as put together, but he was moving under his own steam. I seriously felt like I could ride my horse and there was hope for three gaits.
Roscoe needed gas in the tank. Stallion cycles and playing with your son burn way too many calories. Now we know and can keep track to see if he needs another bump.

Check out DIY Horse Ownership's Valentine day Contest! Great prizes are available.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lesson three, Sprieser Sporthorse Adult Camp

After Saturday anything that came on Sunday would be icing on the cake. We had to get up at 4am so we could leave the barn by 630. I had a ride time of 8am.
Sprieser had Roscoe fed and ready to be tacked up by time we arrived. Mom and Peggy put him in the aisle while I went to get ready. I had a surreal moment when I came back out to find Lisa cleaning Roscoe's stall. Never before had my instructor cleaned my horse's stall, especially with me standing right there. I did not have time to ponder though.

As the first rider the indoor was quiet and the lights still off. I had a quarter sheet on Roscoe since it was still cold and we enjoyed a quiet warm up. I was pleased to find I had more pony left then expected. Which turned out to be a good thing.
This was a lesson about boundaries and come what may, Roscoe and I were on our way. Lisa had me set my hands low, like side reins and push Roscoe forward. I had to stay that way no matter what drama Roscoe threw at me. Head ringing, foot stomping and suddenly stomping on the brakes were all his evasions. I had to take the quarter sheet off so my whip could be effective before carrying on the battle. Ten minutes, people. It felt like so much longer. Roscoe softened and began to move easier.

My favorite shot of the weekend

Both of us were tiring. Lisa wanted more trot from Roscoe and I literally could not manage more. My pony tried what he could. Amazing the difference even with his lack of fitness. It was way more than I expected to get out of this weekend. I laughed inside when Lisa said I was unemotional and that was good for a young horse rider. That is not something  I attribute to myself. I think the fact that she told me the method and his reactions were okay, allowed me to do what was needed.


We had a walk break and Roscoe saw the next horse at the arena door. Oh boy, did that knock everything we did out of his brain. It seemed we would end with another battle, but I was not sure we had enough time to end on a good note. Roscoe made me wait till the very end before just barely giving in. I'll take it to end soft. Roscoe received positive attention from the trainers and other riders. They said they had joked about starting Sprieser Sportpony and that he would fit right in.

I asked a lot of Roscoe this weekend and he responded accordingly. I loved the fact that he gave me some of his evasions because it gave the trainers a chance to teach how to deal with it. I could not wait to get home and see what kind of pony I now had away from the distractions.

So Tired!
Riding first meant that once Roscoe was settled, we could watch the rest of the lessons. Not everyone in the camp did this, but to me that is another way to learn. Only one horse/rider pair I missed watching each day because she was right before/after my ride. To be fair, the indoor was freezing. The trainers sat in a chair wrapped in a heated blanket while the observers wrapped up in coolers.
It was a great mix of people and was a positive environment. Everything together made $150 a total steal. I would definitely do this again. Plus I am going to try lessons there once a month.
Of course it would not be a trip without something going awry. When the time came to load up and leave, we had to deal with trailers everywhere. Got that figured out and then I could not find my car keys. With no time to search, I used my Mom's and we headed home.

There was quite the welcome home for Roscoe. Lot's of running and checking in with everyone. He was so happy to be home. The next day I made sure to take him for a trail ride and stretch out his muscles. We both needed the mental break. The real work starts now.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Lesson two, Sprieser Sporthorse Adult Camp

For the second lesson I did not plan on any separate warm up. I figured he was tired enough from the first lesson that I could manage just hopping on at the indoor. Natasha laughed at Roscoe's "Pit Crew" (Mom and Peggy), but they were needed since he could not stand still in the cross ties. You may have noticed he did not have wraps on in the first lesson and that was for the same reason. I did manage to get boots on him for this one. Until going places like this gets boring he is allowed some silliness as long as he respects our space.
Roscoe had to call as we walked down the aisle to the arena just in case there was anybody who did not know he was in the building yet. As we waited outside the indoor, the stud came out. I don't know if the horse in the nearby turn out was a mare or if he saw the two in the indoor. So he did a studly piaffe with his "tackle" out and we told him to put it away. Fortunately, that handling is normal for me.

"Why are there lines????"
When we mounted and entered the ring he was interested in the other horses, but he did not drag me to them. As we neared the back mirror I let him stop and look. I wanted to know if it was a scared or interested reaction he was having. Well Roscoe kept poofing up to the horse in the mirror and moved to challenge which answered that question. No more interacting with his reflection, ha, ha. Our group included 1 OTTB mare, 1 Quarab, 1 Arab and the Welsh Cross paint. The trainer for this lesson was Lisa Hellmer who holds cavaletti lessons every Sunday and used to event.
She started us over the outside lines which had two 3 pole sections each. Fair warning the pictures are screenshots since Mom only took video.

Roscoe had to stop and look at each group to make sure the painted lines were not going to eat him. Our poles at home are white or natural so that was a new thing. After the first time, he was good to go. He only had issues if he got distracted by say the horse in front pooping. Then we tripped and scrambled through. The other horses gave him the extra oomph to work, but that withered away the more poles we did. That cold of his did a number on his fitness.

Roscoe's favorite set of poles
I settled as it became apparent he would not charge anyone and he settled as the work continued.

From the outside line we went to a circle to include the 4 trot poles in the center. She put us with the Quarab to do the exercise. All during this I had to try to keep his stride boring and together. Not always easy to do.

Sometimes Roscoe decided that meant slow as sludge and we barely made the poles. At least my position felt better with shorter stirrups. Mom and I still forgot to stretch my hips beforehand.

Lisa moved us on to a figure 8. I was proud of Roscoe standing still while the other three did the exercise around us. On our turn he started to have moments where he would stretch over the poles and his drift was reduced. I did put the spurs on to help with that issue.

Finally Lisa had everyone do the figure 8 at one time. Right away the third horse rolled the first pole causing the Quarab and Roscoe to circle, which made spacing and timing the crossover fun. I was able to sit and slow Roscoe for the first without him running up on the Quarab. The next cross we had to walk, then pick up trot for the 4 poles. The final cross, the Quarab rider was way to nice and stopped to let all three go first which barely left me room to trot the poles before halting behind her. Roscoe handled it all. That gives me hope I will be able to warm up at a show.

The calvaletti was a good mental break for both of us while still challenging. Mom said people kept asking how big he is since he did not look too small compared to the others. After the lesson I thanked Lisa for allowing me to bring him. She said that he made good choices during the group lesson. He has the manners and now he is ready for direction and refinement.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lesson one, Sprieser Sporthorse Adult Camp

430 am came way too early on Saturday, but we needed to get the barn chores done and horses fed before loading up Roscoe. We managed to make it on the road by 730 and arrived by 830. I drove my car since we were leaving the truck and trailer overnight, so I got to the barn first. I walked in and looked for Roscoe's stall. I passed grooming areas with heater lights, a big tack room, a wash stall, a feed room and lots of stalls marked with Adult Camp, but no Roscoe. I turned back and walked toward the other end of the barn and of course there was his stall.
My first thought was that Roscoe was going to think he was at the ERC (collection center) since the stall was all barred and that he would not be happy at the lack of sawdust. They use the pelleted stuff that barely has any fluff to it and everyone seems to use sparingly. Probably because of the dust factor. Anyway they also put a flake of hay inside all ready for him. I went to the trailer and we unloaded him. He turned tourist, but was still respecting my space. Roscoe was not thrilled that there were no horses at that end of the barn. Plus since these stalls were built for giant warmbloods, he could not stick his head out the back window. All he could do was poke his nose out. I hoped he would figure out the automatic waterer since that definitely was a new thing.
Soon people came to check on us and the "OMG he is so small" and "He is so cute" comments began. We found out he was the smallest one to come to either weekend. Not too surprising when dressage people consider 14.3 to be a pony and that was the next closest size that came this weekend. Roscoe had a few hours to deal with the environment before lesson one. We went to watch the other lessons and freeze our butts off. The other horses were a wide variety, 2 OTTBs (one with no tail), 3 paints (one a welsh cross), 1 Irish Draught, 1 Quarab, 1 Arab, and 1 Oldenburg. The riders ranged from just started riding in October to looking toward Second Level. There were Hunters, Eventers and DQ's. It was fun to watch the lessons over the whole weekend.
Growing up is hard to do
When the time came to get ready for my lesson, I was nervous. Roscoe had been calling and when Mom put him in the cross ties he was antsy. He really just wanted to look around. Going to other barns is still too new for him. I ended up looping the chain through his bit and doing a lunge session in the outdoor to get him more focused. Once he was listening, I took a deep breath and mounted. He was full of it, no question. I had to do some tight circles before being able to walk into the outdoor dressage ring. Fortunately since we rode all the time in an open field at the old barn this unfenced arena was not an issue for me. As I worked through his distractions, I just told myself "I am just riding my pony, ignore the rest." Each time I ride through his drama, it gets easier to believe I can. A little trot with lots of circles and we were ready to brave the indoor lesson.
I had to deal with a bit of stallion/baby drama when he saw a horse in a turn out right by the arena and the one in the indoor, who was a mare. Luckily, his drama is minor and movement helps. Roscoe handled the indoor with very little issue. The horse that kept popping up at points in the arena (mirrors) got him every time. More on that later. So lesson one was with Natasha Sprengers-Levine, the trainer who seems to deal well with the young horses. She got to deal with the super distracted Roscoe and his drift toward the exit. And you all get to see basically the whole lesson. It is a bit of a blur for me.

Oh look he tried a rightward dodge too

I took awhile to settle and just ride. At least Roscoe did not need a bomb to get moving at first. He did gradually get lazier as he realized what work was involved. It was tough to deal with his popping left shoulder. My circles sucked and my tight hips kept causing me to lose my stirrup. But Roscoe and I worked on through it all. I got better about anticipating his leftward dodge towards the exit and the slide away from the mirrors at E and B. We ended with one last resistence before finally finishing the exercise she asked us to do.

The take aways from this lesson:
Persistence and Consistency are key
I can deal with Roscoe's drama
It is time to show Roscoe the boundaries
Time to slow down to move forward
His fancy can come out later
I must remember to shorten my stirrups when I have not ridden often
and the most important... We survived

After the lesson I had a serious question about whether or not to do the group cavaletti. Could I handle his hard drift with other horses in the ring? I thought about it during lunch and watching the first group. I decided to trust in myself. My skills are rusty, but they are there. Bring on the group.
Stay tuned for Lesson two.