Frustration

I wrote this post, walked away, and wanted to delete it. However, I want my blog to be honest and real, not some Mary Sue version of my journey. This one in particular is barely coherent in some places and wildly mellow dramatic in most places. But hey, honesty means hitting publish. Thanks for following along ♥


 

And just like that it’s March. How do I feel about March one week in?

Arggghhhhh!!!!

 

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My sister and I have been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix during her visit

My last post about Nibbles was that she was sound and we were waiting on the vet to come out and check her and chiro her. That check happened on Monday, February 29. The vet declared Nibbles sound on trot out without further flexing or examination. But.

The chiro exam was not a little of this, a little of that – badabing – she’s ready to go. He checked her poll and neck, both apparently in excellent shape. The massage therapist who worked on Nibbles back in September said she thought she was out at her C5 but I didn’t mention this until afterwards and he said she wasn’t (he neck flexibility was too good for her to be out). When he got to her withers, things fell apart. Ok, that’s dramatic. Things didn’t fall apart but it wasn’t a good report. I need to get a written report from the vet still because he had his assistant make notes of the exact vertebrae but the gist was:

  • She was very sore at her withers
  • She was sore around and before the T18
  • She was very out in her right SI

Starting with the last one and, in my opinion, the least frightening. Lots of horses are out in the SI but his comments was she’s really out. He made some adjustments and you could see the visible relief on her face, she immediately reacted positively. He thought she could have done that in the slip/fall in the mud incident but of course there’s no way to say for sure. I’ve worked with several chiros over the years; this vet is the first for me in this area since we’ve moved. I had a hunch she was out because I knew she was sore (some simple tests for that).

But her withers and her back. Anyone else hear withers and around T18 and immediately go, “Oh God, the saddle….”?

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I knew the saddle was never a perfect fit for her. I’ve been trying to get it looked at for over a year now and I’ve had three saddle fitters tell me they won’t reflock it. One told me she wasn’t sure how because it didn’t have the “loop” in the stitching to get into the panels. Another told Elise that she thought it was not wool flocked at all but foam (again, didn’t open it up). The one saddle fitter I was present for that actually looked at the saddle on her was last April and she thought the fit wasn’t bad but it could use a reflock (this is the one with the loop thing).

My saddle is nice. It’s ~$3,000 new. I’m the saddle’s second owner although it’s older (I don’t know the exact year). It’s a monoflap without huge gussets which I love. I originally bought it for a horse I’ve since sold so Nibbles inherited it. I’ve tried contacting the company who makes it with no luck (it’s smallish).

The vet didn’t take a look at the saddle on her but he made notes to put me in touch with a fitter he knows of (that apparently travels to northern IN from Maryland? $$$$). He did some acupuncture around the T18 as I think that’s where she was the most sore. He also wanted to see Nibbles again two weeks later to check and adjust her again. She was really, really sore. Two weeks later will be today, March 8.

Not gonna lie, I am feeling guilty. But I’m sort of moving past that to frustration. Nibbles got almost two weeks off because of her injury and waiting for the vet to see her. Then he sees her and says she’s one of the most sore horses he’s seen in a long time. How did I miss that? She’s not a super stoic horse; I’ve written before about how sensitive she is.

He told me to ride her, though. He said to keep it light and easy but to definitely put her back in work and see how she did.

So naturally the next morning I woke up feeling like a Mack truck hit me. Flu. I made it through a day and a half of work and had to wave the white flag for the rest of the week. Which meant Nibbles did not immediately get back to work. In fact, I’ve been so sick, she didn’t get to do anything until this past Saturday.

In the meantime, I contacted the closest saddle fitter I could find. They’re out near Chicago and don’t come this far but offered to help me via email as much as possible. So I drug my husband to the barn and had him help me take photos and measurements.

The assessment from the fitter via photos: the saddle doesn’t fit. It too narrow and too long for her back.

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Cue despair. As a little girl, getting a new saddle sounds like the most exciting wonderful thing in the world. But we know better, don’t we adult ammys? Here, take all my money. I don’t need it anyway. Especially right now with what’s going on in my personal life, I really can’t afford a big purchase.

I’m waiting to hear back about her tracings to see roughly what size saddle we should be looking at. I know it’s much more than tree size, though, which means I have got to find someone who will come to the middle of no where to help me and look at us in person.

I have a second saddle but it’s 15 years old and tiny (it was my saddle when I was 12). It’s a wide, though, so I decided to try it on her just to see. The width was an improvement (my dressage saddle is a medium) but it bridged a bit in the middle. So I did what I thought was a good idea and tried riding her in both saddles to see how she reacted.

On Saturday, I kept the dressage saddle on her for her first time back under tack in two weeks. I lunged her for 25 minutes and she was great. I did keep having to move the saddle back because it almost immediately climbed up her shoulders (3 times in half an hour). I wasn’t planning to ride her the first day back but I couldn’t resist hoping on to at least walk around. And she was super – we walked around on the buckle for 10 minutes happily. I was thrilled! My pony didn’t lose her brain in two weeks.

Then Sunday came. It was sunny and warm (about 55* which is incredible) and I was in a fabulous mood.

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Do you see where this is going? Sigh. I tried the close contact saddle. When I went to put it on, she flipped her lid and crushed my foot (before the saddle even made it to her back). That hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid – I was so shocked I dropped the saddle. Maybe I should have seen this as a sign. On the lunge, the saddle didn’t move forward or backward – it stayed where I placed it. But Nibbles was distracted – like anything but extreme looky and counterbend was not, in fact, a thing. She even kept looking in the side reins which is normally when she gets into work mode. I commented to my sister who is visiting and was watching that maybe she had to pee. Argh! I opted to take a step back and do some ground work. This seemed to really help. I popped her over a small crossrail someone had left up and she walked over it nicely like she does this all the time. We worked on yielding the quarters and even had some nice sidepasses. It seemed like the gerbils were coming home. So I decided to hop on and see.

I saw… her poll repeatedly try to smack me in the face. Man, I have a flair for the dramatic today. But  it wasn’t pretty. As soon as I sat down, all that quietness left and she was a coiled spring. I sent her forward and got a “no, thanks.” I asked again, “nah, I don’t want to.” Finally, after I asked much more firmly, she moved off into the tiniest most tense trot. Sometimes when she’s tense, it helps her to just move out and start more in the canter. So we tried that….lol.

The canter wasn’t better.

I never felt in danger. She wasn’t being BAD – she was just utterly and completely tight and refused to let go. I rode around for 10 or 15 minutes and when we had a couple of nice transitions I hopped off. I talked to her the entire time, calmly telling her what a good girl she was, hoping I could coax her off the ledge.

Does this sound like a horse in pain to you? Because it absolutely does to me. I’m extremely frustrated because I just got my horse back and it’s like I have the opposite of the Midas touch – every horse I touch magically falls apart. I know that’s not true but I’m having a hard time.

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I’m sending the massage therapist who worked on her before video of her on the lunge. After watching it again myself, she is definitely NQR. I’m working on getting that up for you guys to see too. Maybe one of you with a better eye can give me ideas.

Bloggers, coax me off the ledge. My dramatic self dramatically thinks things will never be good again and my horse is crippled for life and I’ll never be able to buy another saddle and and and….

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?