Thursday, January 25, 2018

Celebrating a break in the winter weather by riding outdoors


On our most recent rides Bestie and I have enjoyed a loop or two around the paddocks. On the first ride about a week ago, the indoor was in use, and although it would've been ok to go in and share the space, it seemed like a better idea to stay outside. After our early January frigid temperatures, mid-month the temperatures had warmed up and felt positively balmy. So refreshing to shed a few layers and take a deep breath without freezing your lungs.

Yesterday's ride was a replay of that earlier ride, except I decided right from the beginning to stay outside. We did two loops around the paddocks, which takes about 20 minutes - sometimes longer if she's in a moseying mood. Yesterday we did one loop pretty quickly and the second loop at a moseying pace. Again, it was in the 40s, warm enough but with a bit of a brisk breeze. The air felt fresh.

Heading out on this route outside is such good exercise for Bestie because on each loop we encounter two uphills and two downhills. I can always feel her working on the uphill portions. Although it's hard to tell from the photo above, the little hills are just steep enough to give her more of a challenge than walking or trotting around in the indoor. And she seems happier, taking in the scenery. Maybe she feels like me - I always feel a bit stir crazy at this time of year - too much time on the treadmill indoors leaves me craving fresh air.


What better way to end the day than coming back to a plushly bedded stall and a waiting mound of hay?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bye bye 2017


This past weekend I went through my 2017 calendar in order to transfer any nuggets that needed to be inserted in the new calendar. I came across a few entries like the two above. For a while I had done a quick synopsis of my rides in the pages of the calendar - maybe for about three weeks. Reading these cracked me up. Such an illustration of the ups and downs of riding. (And that word, "mowed." That little word represents at least an hour, maybe more, of mowing on that day - as part of a weekly or biweekly total of hours and hours of mowing to get all 10 acres at the house taken care of. But I digress.)

Lessons learned in 2017 (some relearned)

You can worry all you want when moving a horse, but if all the ponies look happy at your destination and your gut tells you the people seem like good people, everything will be all right.

Winter ends earlier in Virginia than Vermont. Bestie moved in at Joe London Training Center on February 9, and wore a blanket a few days that week, and then winter was done.

Winter can appear with a vengeance in Virginia, just like Vermont. Witness the current stretch of temperatures from the low 20s into the single digits that started after Christmas 2017.

Winter will appear with a vengeance when you have decided not to blanket your horse. In consultation with the barn folk, I had decided to try not blanketing Bestie. It's a bit of a challenge because the barn gets closed up at night, and the horses warm it up. The few days last winter she had a blanket on, she got sweaty. She has grown an appropriately fuzzy coat, and I am monitoring her during this cold snap.

Clover (actually a fungus on it) will make horses drool. A lot. This was a problem early in the summer when the clover first bloomed, but it became a veritable Ripley's Believe It or Not amount of drool late in the summer. It seemed that Bestie found every single patch of clover left in the field - she was the chief drooler in her gang of mares. Worries about dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Me holding her Himalayan salt brick for her to lick, because if it was left in feed bucket she'd go to town and stock up from the salt. Just a little Horse Mom-ing.

No matter what is going on around them, horses will find something "not to like." See the first entry above about the bathroom construction. A few days later, we had a nice ride and the same exact activity was going on in the construction area. Until she became irritated by sharing the arena with the much speedier Walkers.

The ride following a non-relaxing ride will usually be a good one. Usually.

When a mare has been inside for a day due to extra cold temperatures and is a little irritated by that arrangement, do not walk her down the paddock lane between the two fields of geldings. If I read the situation right, there were some "hey baby" messages followed by a lot of "get the f--- away from me" responses, and my hand muscles clenching the lead rope paid the price.

When your farrier tells you that something feels tight on your horse, listen. In this case, it was Bestie's left hind, and a couple rounds of massage and Reiki fixed her right up.

When it's super cold and you fill your horse's bucket with lukewarm water and they drink it right up, then blow happily and return to their hay, you'll feel good too.

When you're riding in the outdoor ring and your horse goes bananas, don't doubt there's something there. Yep, to her eyes - mountain lions. To my eyes - minutes later - two barely visible horses tucked into the shrubbery. We went in the indoor and had a nice ride in there.

Love you, Bestie Best. Looking forward to what 2018 brings.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bits of this and that

Whew - where did the last few weeks go? Just a few thoughts to bring this up to date:

Back on daytime turnout: With the shorter and cooler days, the boarded horses who were on nighttime turnout have been switched back to daytime turnout. After taking a week or so to adjust, Bestie seems good with the new routine. Although, when I arrive in the afternoon and take her out to graze, she does sometimes pull me toward her field - her friends are all field boarded, so are still out there, and she seems to be thinking, "Hey, wait a minute..."

All by her lonesome: With the change in turnout, I go later to the barn and don't see anyone. It was odd to get to the barn a few afternoons this week and discover that Bestie was the only horse in the main barn. Apparently they decided to keep the geldings out because the nights were pretty comfortable temperature-wise. The other horses who come in for the night are in the other barn, and with the doors closed to that wing, Bestie was pretty much flying solo. I found her alone two nights, and she seemed a little out of sorts. Tonight when I went, all the horses who typically are in for the night were in, and she seemed much more chill. I mentioned it to Sue, and she said that they could bring another horse in to keep her company if the geldings stay out again.

Newfound energy: Bestie is full of energy, and I'm guessing it's thanks to a combination of the cooler weather and the two Reiki/massage/stretching treatments that Marie did for her. Those treatments were definitely successful in alleviating whatever discomfort the farrier had noticed in her back end. During this most recent visit, farrier Monique remarked that Bestie was much better. Horace even mentioned that he saw her and Sweet Pea running around the field with their tails up in the air. Over the summer she was pretty complacent under saddle. In the last few weeks when I've ridden, her timer goes off sooner and she has started her old trick of speeding up. She's also been a bit obstinate when I've asked to go back to the barn one way and she wants to go another. Or when I've wanted to go around the field and she's apparently not feeling it. Part of that is if we have our ride before grain is served, she has one ear on the barn so she doesn't miss the all-important dinner hour, which means she isn't very focused on what we're doing. I asked Sue today if she has availability for a lesson. I think that every so often I need another set of eyes and brain power focused on our relationship and whatever the latest hiccup is. :)

Horse tale: There's a new horse in one of the fields, a fuzzy white gelding. Apparently he belongs to someone who lives down the road, but he decided on Thanksgiving Day to pay our barn a visit. He walked through his fence and strolled down the road. Amazing he arrived in one piece. His owner had bought him for trail riding, but he is older than she was led to believe and not sound enough for trail riding. So, he is hanging out until she finds him a retirement home. As I left the barn today I watched him ambling across his field, nibbling at the grass. He looks like he thinks his break-out was a pretty good decision.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Beautiful fall days deserve a few photos

This fall has been beautiful; warm and sunny for the most part and perfect for a few rides outside, more lawn mowing, and some hiking. The great weather sort of lulled me into a false sense of "this will go on forever," a sense that was abruptly shut down when the temperatures dropped from 70 to 40-something overnight early last week. We've since had a couple hard frosts. Ugh. So, at this point, I'm looking back wistfully at these shots from late October and earlier in November.

This was the fall decor at the corner of the road and the barn's driveway.


I took this photo on a quick run to the barn to give Bestie a good-bye kiss on our way to Tennessee for a weekend trip. It was hazy in the early morning, but the fall tree color was still beautiful, especially combined with the glassy silver pond and blue sky.


And last but not least, on another gorgeous day, I caught Bestie (on the right) hanging out with her pasture mate Sweet Pea. The brown specks on the grass in the background are Canadian geese who were aimlessly drifting around the pasture and irritating the mares with their crowding and lack of respect, ha ha. 





Monday, October 23, 2017

Feet and flexibility


Given the photographer error that produced the lopsided shots above, one might think I'm writing about the barn footing, but no, I'm actually writing about Bestie's feet. 24 days without rain led to dry hooves with little chunks missing along the edge, as seen in the top photo. She had started to get ouchy again on gravel. Farrier Monique worked her magic last week and Bestie's feet are back to smooth and healthy again; in fact, Monique said her foot has expanded and that her heels are better developed and not so short. That's the good news.

The bad news was that as Monique was trimming her, Bestie seemed to have trouble lifting and extending her left hind leg. Monique remarked that she seemed pretty stiff. So part 2 of this post is Bestie's appointment with Marie Corcoran, who offers Tune Up Therapeutics including Reiki and massage to ease the ailments of stiff horses.

The appointment was scheduled a week after the farrier visit. First, we took a walk in the driveway while Marie watched Bestie's stride - she wasn't tracking up.

Back in the barn, with Bestie on cross ties, Marie started at Bestie's head and worked her way toward her tail. Right away she noticed that Bestie's hyoid bone was not in correct placement, which can lead to TMJ. I had never heard of the bone before, and in fact, I wrote "highway bone" in my notes. :) To adjust it was a matter of getting Bestie to work her tongue to the left. A fix that took a few minutes.

Next Marie practiced Reiki for relaxation and healing along the bladder meridian, holding her hands just slightly above Bestie's coat from her neck and slowly moving along her spine to her tail and down her rear legs. It was interesting to watch Bestie relax and zone out. 

After the Reiki came massage. On Bestie's left side, her tricep was tight. Marie also discovered a lump in front of the girth, inside Bestie's left front leg (more on that below). Bestie reacted to pressure along her topline, showing a bit of discomfort along her top line, basically from the midpoint of the saddle point, to where the pad ends. She also was quite tight in her hamstrings. Marie described the muscles as feeling like "hard plates."

Her right side basically mirrored discomfort in the left side, although not to the same extent. On both sides, her tricep, deltoid and scapula area were very tight, compensating for the tight hamstrings.

The final treatment was a stretching session, one component of which is shown in the photo below. And ewww - that puddle on the floor below Bestie's head is all drool from the field clover.



It was great to see Bestie loosening up as the stretches were held and repeated, and at the end, when we walked again, she felt much more loose and looked more comfortable. Of course, toward the end of the session, her timer had gone off so she was READY to get back to her hay. But overall, during the appointment, she was very relaxed and occasionally turned her head to check out what Marie was doing. We have a follow up in two weeks.

So, the lump. There was some talk that it seemed like a fatty tumor, age related, but Joe happened to notice it a few days later, and he thought it was a hematoma. Connected to the swelling in her lower front right leg - who knows? She's the senior, or maybe I should say Auntie Bestie, in a field with the little girls now - the three youngsters - so it seems unlikely that there's been some altercation. Boo-boos are always such a mystery with horses. The good news is that the swelling has gone down. I gave her two days off after her treatment, and then rode a couple times later in the week, keeping our pace to a walk to give her leg swelling a little encouragement to reduce. We've had some nice relaxed rides, combining the indoor time with a loop around the fields.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Treating the creeping crud


For a few weeks I've been finding rough spots on Bestie's back legs below the fetlock joint on the front or side of her legs. Little dime-sized rough spots. Luckily, one day I happened to be scrubbing her in the wash stall while barn owner Joe was treating a horse in the wash stall across the aisle. He asked me what I was doing, and I admitted defeat - "I don't really know ... trying to clear mystery spots that I think may be the result of tick or other bug bites." He took a quick look and identified them as scratches.

Scratches as dime-sized circles? Who knew? A) Bestie has never had scratches before in her life. B) My familiarity with scratches was from Dude, who periodically got greyish/blackish crud spread/sprinkled like pepper on the back of his hind legs below the fetlock.

Joe swears by the MTG for treatment, so that's what I've been using. And it is pretty amazing. I scrub her legs with a cleanser, rub just a little dollop of MTB into the affected area, let it soften the spots, then pick off the rough crud, and the next day - the spot is gone, there's no noticeable hair loss, the skin feels smooth. Honestly, the most time consuming part of the entire process is washing the MTG's bacon-ish smell off my hands.

Today she had another little spot, but that didn't come as a surprise since I haven't used the MTG in a few days because she's been clear. Hopefully the spots clear for good once the weather cools. After a teaser week of fall weather, it's been horribly hot and humid. Seems like perfect weather for creeping crud.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Girls just wanna have fun


Thank you, Cyndi Lauper. :) 
Going back to my *many* hours of MTV video-watching with that title! 

It's true of riding, though - I just want to have fun, and assume that Bestie does, too. But sometimes I don't feel like trotting in circles, or doing serpentines, or figure 8s, or any of the other patterns Bestie and I typically do in the ring. That's when we take a leisurely walk around the perimeter of the fields.

We lucked out one day last week with something new and different. Seems the barn hosted some sort of training and left all the little features set up. The arena was filled with them. It was fun working our way over the ground poles and colorful pool noodles, through the barrels and the little cone path, and winding around the line of vertical poles. Day 2 was even more fun because a team of drywallers doing finishing work in the adjoining new addition had Latin music blaring (and they'd occasionally belt out a tune). That gave our ride a festive feel.

The only "feature" that Bestie took a second look at was the grouping of four plastic pink flamingos laid out to form the corners of a roughly 20 foot by 20 foot square in one corner of the arena. Kind of funny. We did one round of backing between them, but I was worried about horse hoof meeting plastic, so we didn't do too much in that area. 

Today I swung by the barn later than I typically do and found that she had already been turned out. I went out to feed her the apple I'd brought and spotted bot eggs on the inside of her legs and on her chest. After getting the safety scissors, I put her halter on her and scraped them off while she stood quietly, with her mare gang clustered around watching. At one point Bey Bey started lipping my hair while I was crouched down. Too funny! Bestie seems pretty patient with her, I guess because she's a youngster. Hoping to ride tomorrow.