Atlas Shrugged

I have never hugged my horse more in one week than I have these past seven days. The Sunday before last, Trainer Elise’s horse colicked. It started Sunday morning. She text me that the vet was at the barn but that the first reflux test came back clear. The vet thought it could be impaction but they gave him IV fluids and laxatives. Some 9 hours later, I got a very different text. They were on the side of the road, truck problems, trying to get to MSU. She wasn’t sure he’d even make it there.

But he made it and he went in for emergency surgery. She bravely blogged about it (warning: some relatively graphic photos, don’t click this one if you are squeamish). He pulled through. He never lost the sparkle in his eye. He took one step forward then another back but he never lost the look of life in his eye. [Check that last link for amazing photos of the two of them together]

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The bucket was so he couldn’t mess with his stitches or the tube in his nose

I went to see him on Saturday. They tried one more antibiotic to jumpstart his GI motility. I spent all day with Elise and her family at MSU.

On Sunday, Elise made the decision. They had done all they could do. His body was simply giving up. His spirit never did.

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They laid him to rest today. He was surrounded by friends and family and I know he got all the bananas they could find. I cried at my desk at work. As their appointment time approached, I watched the clock and felt ill. I physically felt so sick. I cried when I hugged Nibbles. I cried writing this.

Atlas seemed invincible. He was Elise’s once in a lifetime horse. They had each other for eleven years. He would turn 19 this year.

Elise gave me my horse back. She helped me get back in the saddle, something I couldn’t do on my own. And her horse was cruelly taken from her. I’m devastated. It’s not fair.

Hug your horses, guys. They are way too fragile and life is way too short. My heart is so broken for Elise and Atlas Shrugged. I know he isn’t hurting anymore. I just wish I could take my friend’s pain away.

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Sound

I didn’t make it to the barn on Tuesday because we were getting blizzard-like weather and roughly a foot of snow. It continued until Wednesday afternoon and they had all the main roads cleared. BO told me they had plowed the road the barn is off of but I know they usually don’t salt or plow it more than once. One does not simply leave one’s lame horse at the barn for more than 24 hours if there’s a chance your tiny car can make it.

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I made it.

Nibbles met me at the gate and we walked through 3 foot snow drifts into the barn. She wanted to stick her head in the snow on the way on. Memories of growing up on the snowy hills of Montana? Idk.

Got her in and right away I notice her legs look much tighter. Thaw out my hands and brush her off. Check her legs: no heat. I try not to celebrate. I haven’t trotted her out yet.

The vet told me I should be hand walking her given her tiny turnout space (which is intentional until he sees her). So I threw her cooler on and brought her in the indoor. After a couple laps at the walk, I took a deep breath for the moment of truth and started to jog….

And she was completely sound.

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Begging for carrots. Notice the lips hahaha

Angels sang. Or was it my bank account? Either way, I did it again. Still sound.

Hallelujah!

Of course, I’m firing off texts to my mom and friends I’ve been lamenting to. (Everyone does that, right?) I guess I was paying too much attention to my phone because Nibbles nipped my hand and gave me the Mare Stare. Princess hadn’t had enough pampering yet I suppose. That or she takes her hand walking very seriously.

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Sorry for the blurry boring photos, such is February hand walking

I’m definitely keeping the appointment for Monday and I’m going to play it safe and continue hand walking only until then. God knows I can wait a couple more days to make sure a professional declares her good to go. Best case scenario, he signs off and chiros her. Crossing everything he doesn’t see something that makes me gulp.

 

Murphy’s Law

Alternative Title: How a dirtbike makes my horse go lame

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So grateful to have this nose to kiss

I’ve calmed down since Saturday when it initially happened. I had a pretty icky ride on Thursday and intended to ride Friday… only we ended up having 35mph winds so I didn’t. Our lesson that night was canceled. I was definitely riding Saturday, although a series of unfortunate events prevented me yet again from seeing my horse in the daylight and I made it out there at almost 8pm. I was supposed to have a lesson Sunday to make up for the miss on Friday.

Here’s the setup to help explain the situation and what I think happened.

Nibbles has been in a tiny quarantine pasture since she arrived on 2/12. That’s standard protocol for 10 days which I appreciate. Temperatures were actually above freezing last week which means the ground became extremely muddy extremely quickly. Not ideal, but I figured she only had a couple more days left and she’d be introduced to the small mare herd.

On Thursday, Nibbles was completely sound. I always check legs when I bring a horse in and she was clean and tight. On Friday, I didn’t make it out but the farrier trimmed her and I’m assuming he would have noticed if she had heat/swelling in any legs. I suppose that’s a big assumption but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me…

On Saturday, it was 55 degrees and sunny. Lately, if it hit 35 degrees, that’s considered a heat wave. One of the barn owner’s children (their family lives on the property) decided to ride his mini dirt bike around the horse pastures.

Let me stop there. Does anyone else have an issue with that? Because I  do. I understand, you live there, your kids want to play outside… but in what universe is it a good idea to ride a dirtbike in and around horse pastures?

So apparently the barn hands saw this and saw Nibbles running around her paddock. Mind you, this paddock is tiny so she really couldn’t canter more than 4 strides fenceline to fenceline. Again, we have several inches of mud. What’s more, the kid continued to ride his bike and my horse ended up slipping and falling in the mud. No one called me, no one checked her as far as I know.

I get there at 8pm and bring her in to the cross ties. At this point, I have no idea about the dirtbike or running or slipping. No one has said anything to me. She was a little sluggish but not lame so no alarms were going off. Like I always do, I check her legs. Three legs are warm and have minor swelling. No bows or malformations but clearly inflamed. It’s at this point the barn hand (who is a young girl, maybe not even in high school yet) tells me about the dirt bike and the slipping. I’m dumbfounded.

My husband came with me to the barn so I had him trot Nibbles out for me. She was sound albeit a little pokey. It was cold at this point and there is no indoor washrack so I opted to rub her down and have them bute her. Needless to say, I didn’t ride or even lunge her. I put her back out in her tiny pasture although I wasn’t happy about it.

I go out on Sunday afternoon after an extremely busy morning. I bring her in and her legs are slightly cooler and definitely less swollen. So much so that I honestly thought maybe I’ll do some in-hand/lunge work today because I didn’t come dressed to ride. I bring her into the indoor to hand walk and my heart sinks. She has a head bob. Not bad, but you can definitely see it. The BO was in there cleaning up and agreed with me; she saw it too.

I’m bummed and unwilling to put her back out in the mud. The BO says I can put her in a different quarantine pasture. This one is bone dry, has virtually no grass, and has no run-in. Not ideal but was better to me than 6-8″ of mud. I slathered her in Sore No More and put her back out (mind you, she’s on 24/7 pasture board). I asked them to give her another gram of bute with her breakfast and explained I would be back out on Monday after work to check her. I told her that if she was still off, I would be calling the vet.

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LF on Monday. Do you see swelling? Click to enlarge

On Monday evening after work, I check her again. Swelling is almost non-existent, head bob is gone at the walk but present ever so slightly at the trot. I slather her once more in poultice and decide to go ahead and call the vet. I highly doubt she’ll even be off by the time he gets here next Monday but I explained the situation. I wanted to have him out to adjust her anyway so I need the appointment even if she’s sound by then.

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LH on Monday. Tiny bit of swelling in the suspensory IMO. Click to enlarge

Obviously, this puts a dent in our riding plans, hopefully only for the short term. Mostly I’m just glad she’s gradually improving and there doesn’t appear to be any acute injury. I can pick up all four legs, stretch them, flex her joints – no negative reaction. Long story short, she’ll be fine. (knocks on every piece of wood)

Am is it unreasonable to think dirtbikes should not be a thing in close proximity with horses? Of even if they are, if you see horses running, shouldn’t you be stopped by the adult who should be supervising you?

Riding Journal: Feb. 14 – Feb. 18, 2016

I’m taking a page out of Austen‘s book and taking a stab at journaling my rides. After writing about my lesson with Elise in depth, I know I want to capture what we work on in this blog. Sometimes they may be long, sometimes short. Perhaps I’ll play with formats. I suppose that’s the way of the amateur rider blogger.

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Blurry iPhone pics for everyone yay

Sunday, February 14th

Had it’s own post here.

Monday, February 15th

Nibbles was much less tense and so was I. My goal was to reduce my tension, stay in the middle of the saddle no matter where she went, and send her forward. And that’s exactly what we did. Lunged for 25-30 minutes WTC both directions. Side reins still not short enough in spite of the new holes. There were ground poles out so I left them and let her navigate them; completely a non-issue although she wasn’t super confident cantering over them and wanted to break to a trot afterwards.

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

I rode with a whip. Mounting, she wanted to walk off right away and we practiced standing. She’s fine as soon as I tell her no, you’re waiting for me. Right away I set off in the trot, wanted to see if I could get her on my aids without the serpentines and lateral work. It was OK but she preferred to stay above the contact. Again, much less tense this time. With the whip I wasn’t afraid to really send her forward and make absolutely sure she was in front of my leg. It got a bit rushy at times but when I gave her contact to move into, we had really nice moments. Also cantered, felt great, not super through her back but 20m circles were nbd. Shoulderfore was nice, leg yields a struggle. She was wiggly. I’ll take wiggly over tense for our second ride “alone.”

Takeaways:

  • Forward is always the answer
  • She wants to counterbend tracking left

Thursday, February 18th

That was a learning experience. I showed up feeling confident and determined to be less tense. And I thought I was until my big fat tattle tale of a horse told on me. Lunged for 30 minutes WTC both directions, side reins with second set of new holes worked much better. She is going much better to the right than the left; to the left, she really wants to counterbend. She took a solid 20 minutes to settle in. The barn had a horse tied in the corner of the arena and he was trying to dig his way out through the arena wall which basically made the loudest banging known to man… nonstop. Nibbles no likey but she eventually began to care less.

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Blogging honesty: this was what the low point looked like

I rode with a whip and spent the first few minutes with a crop behind my back and through my elbows. Woah, that was tough, I clearly normally stretch them way out in front of my torso. Nibbles was being fussy about the contact so I ditched the crop because I felt like I was really bracing. I rode for about 20-25 minutes and all but the last 5 minutes were a pretty hot mess. Nibbles was very spicy and, as Elise would say, demonstrating her “yoga in action” moves. We were above the bit 95% of the time in the trot and canter. Cantering to the left she even had a couple of baby bucks which is uncharacteristic for her. I think she was protesting to me sending her forward any time she tried to fuss. Overall, I’m proud of myself for riding through her sillies but I was definitely disappointed that we struggled so much. I didn’t think to put her on a 15-20m circle until the end of the ride and I think establishing that bend really helped get things back to earth. I had been trying shoulder-fore and leg yields which only seemed to create more sassiness. I walked away disappointed but definitely not angry, saying “Well, tomorrow is another day.”

I think part of my tension comes from weakness in my core. My legs are pretty strong from lifting weights for a few years now but I’ve never focused on my core. I think this really shows. I’m hoping that as I get stronger, I will be able to brace less (even when I don’t realize it) and really open up through the crown of my head. If I can be patient with Nibbles, I can be patient with myself.

Takeaways:

On Friday, Nibbles had her toes done.

On Saturday, I went to ride only to discover my horse had heat in three legs. More to come

To Pull or Not to Pull

silky

silky

At least once every year, I get the itch to pull Nibbles’ mane. There are a few considerations for me:

  • How easy is it to maintain?
  • How does it look every day?
  • How does it look braided?
  • How hard is it to braid?

Those aren’t necessarily in order which is sort of the hard part. Longtime readers will know I started riding on Arabs (before moving on to an OTTB’s and others) so I’m used to long manes and running braids. But I was also showing on the Arab circuit back then and really didn’t know much different.

But now, considering I want to show USDF, I’m tempted to polish my button braiding skills and pull that sucker.

Muddy mane

couple years ago…are you kidding me

How easy is it to maintain?

Long manes are sort of a pain in the butt in that they get dirty and tangled (see post-mud-roll photo above). Nibbles isn’t took bad about this but witches knots are super annoying. They try my patience to pull them apart slowly rather than take a pair of scissors to them. I can afford pretty sparse boarding amenities at this point so it’s been several years since I’ve boarded at a barn with an indoor washrack that had heated water. This means, in the fall/winter, the long mane gets a brushed and detangled and that’s it. It can get pretty gross.

Pulled manes have a whole different set of needs. They don’t get near as icky as long manes but you have to keep pulling them or at least touching them up. I haven’t had a horse with a pulled mane in like 9 years so maybe I don’t appreciate how annoying it is to have to keep up with but it sounds awfully good compared to the long mane right now.

How does it look every day?

Long manes are something I think you either love or hate… unless you’re me and you can see the case for both. Ha! Pulled manes look very tidy and sporty which I love. It’s annoying when they flip and they also look really junky too long.

How does it look braided?

This is the one where pulled manes get a solid point in my book. I love the look of button braids. I love the different styles of braids for pulled manes.

hearteyes

hearteyes

For long manes, I don’t mind running braids…done really well. There’s nothing sloppier looking to me than a loose or poorly braided running braid. Frankly, I don’t really like long manes done any other way. Personal preference but I just don’t.

4.27 No Show

nice and tidy braid on miss nibs

How hard is it to braid?

This is the one that gives me the most heartburn. I’m really good at running braids. I can french braid anything, standing or squirming, tall or short. I love braiding. Therefore, with a long mane, I know I can whip up a nice looking braid without much trouble or even time.

It’s been almost a decade since I had to do anything but a running braid (where did time go omg). While I dream of a pulled mane, what if I can’t braid the dang thing? What if my button braids look like crap? What if it comes show time and I can’t get them right and we look like crap going down the centerline and the judge laughs us out? Oh wait, that’s not really a thing? Oh, well… but what if we look sloppy? I don’t like sloppy.

Drying in the sun. Not bad for just shampoo and elbow grease.

can you imagine this with a pulled mane?

What do you think? Pull it or keep it long? What advice do you have or what factor am I not considering?

She’s Home!

After being postponed once last week due to weather, Nibbles arrived home on Friday afternoon. Home, of course, being the boarding barn about 30 minutes south of my house/work where Joker and I have been hanging out. Although this winter has been mild for northern Indiana save a few dumps of snow, it’s apparently decided to make (hopefully) its final stand just in time for Nibbles’ return to me. On Friday, it was about 20*, snowing and quite windy. Perhaps not ideal weather for transport but the roads were not slick so the switch was made.

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fresh off the trailer

I didn’t get very many pictures because my phone dies almost immediately when it gets to be about 20* or below. Wimp. But Nibbles walked on the trailer without batting an eyelash I’m told and hauled like a champ. She unloaded fine (after deciding she’d like to stay in the warm trailer just a little bit longer please), hopped off and walked inside like nbd.

Took off her wraps and took her for a few laps around the indoor. A couple of snorts and that was it. No spooking, no silliness, just taking it in. We put her out in her quarantine paddock and she walked around a bit after we tucked her in. We left her to grab Joker which she didn’t care for much and started screaming a little. I got her a few flakes of hay and that was the end of that.

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nom

Joker hopped on the trailer pretty quickly and off he went. He’s going to be spending some time in bootcamp with Elise at the barn Nibbles was at in Michigan. He’s been on Ulcergard for about 6 days now so hopefully he starts to get some relief.

Saturday was brutally cold and windy with a frostbite warning. I had them keep Nibbles indoors all day because, even with her blanket, she just doesn’t have much of a coat this winter. It was a good decision because the roads were bad and I couldn’t make it out.

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the little black dot is Nibbles

Sunday was Valentine’s Day and my husband was cooking steaks for us at home (he’s an AMAZING cook). While he was meal prepping and finishing some homework, I jetted to the barn to see Nibbles for the first time since Friday. It was 15* and – yes, still snowing –  windchill 0*.

I got to the barn to find it deserted. I must be nuts to want to ride in this. Elise said I’m dedicated. Pretty sure I’m just nuts… The barn is sort of off the beaten path and I’m not sure how often the road gets plowed or salted. The main roads are fine but the road the barn is off of is MIA right now – you can’t tell where the road ends and the fields begin. It’s just solid snow. Everywhere.

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Anyway! I was there and super excited to see my horse. In the barn, I got everything ready. Threw the bridle in the heated lounge, dug through my tack trunk from Michigan (Elise sent my earmuffs and shims, God love her), put my stirrups back on my dressage saddle, staged my riding boots. I intentionally ran around getting things together to try to warm up – except my fingers, it was a success. I grabbed her halter and headed back into the tundra to retrieve the beast. She was munching quietly on hay and let me snuggle her before I put her halter on. I had a nightmare that she was a lunatic and bowed a tendon running around in the frozen mud so I naturally checked her legs. Nothing, clean, tight. Phew!

She followed me into the barn and quietly stood on the cross ties like a normal horse – completely alone in the barn, not a single horse in a stall. This is a situation in which Joker would have been doing his very best to be sent to the looney bin. But Nibbles was fine – albeit I could tell she was cold when I took her blanket off, poor thing. I don’t have a quarter sheet so I speed tacked up and hurried into the arena to get her moving asap.

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post ride. insert cookie here

I walked her around the arena a few times in both directions to let her get a look at things. They have a lot of stuff (read: junk) in the arena; only one corner is even open. In one corner they have a ton of jump standards, a tractor and a barrel of…I’m not sure what but it looks like frozen oil.  In another corner they have corral panels, a four wheeler/gator thing, and a buggy. In the other corner, they have (get ready) insulation for the lounge they’re finishing, a ton of wood, a huge stack of hay bales, tarps and two buzz saws. So really it’s an indoor arena/storage shed/pony death trap. I was prepared to give Nibbles lots of time to console her gerbils.

Except for being tense, she was perfect. That pretty much sum it ups.

She looked at things as we walked around, smelled what she wanted to smell, and we went to work. I put her on the lunge with side reins and told myself we would at least lunge properly, even if riding seemed off the table for our very first day. She wanted to counter bend quite a bit and look but settled in after 15 minutes and gave me some really nice stretching and rhythm. It wasn’t on the same level as at the Michigan barn but I didn’t expect that this time. Frankly, I know I was a bit nervous – it was our first time without training wheels (aka Trainer Elise) since last APRIL… like 10 months ago, what the what.

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I really needn’t have worried. Tension was our biggest hurdle – and there were definitely moments when she relaxed over her topline. I lunged her for about half an hour, maybe a smidge more. She was blowing ever so slightly and definitely hadn’t broken a sweat.

So I got on. I was consciously tense and cold so I know I affected her. But she was such a good girl. We walked in both directions and had one spook at the large back door when the wind banged it loudly. Spooking was a crouch and hop then walking on like oh, we’re alive, ok, onwards. We did our tight-loop serpentines but I didn’t add in any lateral work this time. We trotted in both directions and got a few nice moments on the 20m circle. It was a little fussy and tense overall. After a particularly nice trot, I decided to end there – short, sweet and positive. I stuffed her with a few carrots and many “good girls” before taking her back out. I opened the barn door to be literally blinded by snow. Nibbles went back to her hay without any complaints.

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outdoor arena or ice rink?

Had Elise been the one riding her, I’m sure she could have asked for more and gotten it. This ride was just as much about proving to myself that I could do it as it was proving that Nibbles could handle it. I was thrilled with her. If tension is our biggest problem, I feel like we’re in a great position moving forward. She was never silly or ignoring me – just looky and then responding to my lack of relaxation.

What do you do when you know you’re tense come time to ride? Any tricks before and after mounting?