Wednesday, May 15, 2024

What's Up Wednesday


We've completed our first full week at home, and while it's not all sunshine and rainbows (obviously, you can't get rainbows without rain) things are going well. I'm working on getting barn chore fit because I can tell you, I lost a lot of that over the winter! Though to be fair, the hay I have right now is weirdly heavy. It's very nice hay, much nicer than last years, but so heavy! I was worried it wouldn't be good, sometimes heavy hay is... I don't know. Just not good. This is. But sheesh. I am not strong enough for heavy hay. And the sweeping! I have rubber floors, so it's definitely an arm workout sweeping those. Hopefully this means I'll be all toned and ready for hot girl summer... Ha. Kidding. It's HORSE girl summer. Duh. But I wouldn't complain if my arms get nice and toned. 

I am not used to this many steps.

Anyway, let's chat about the horses shall we? I tend to take it easy on them the first week or so at home because the footing is so different. I mentioned that last week. Also, we've had a lot of rain so the ring has been pretty wet which also impacted what we could do. Which is just a preface to explain why we haven't done anything terribly exciting yet.

He's been working very hard. His choice. 

Let's start with Al because I always have the most to say about him. I'm not sure I will ever really understand how this horse's mind works. He's just so different all the time, and what works one month might not work the next. He started out really wonderful at home. The first couple of days were lovely. But working in my favor those two days was the weather. It was in the 70's and one of the days was even sunny. Al is a significantly more relaxed animal when it's warm and nice out. After those couple of days the weather deteriorated and so did Al's confidence. Also, the neighbor was not helpful. He literally has mowed his lawn every day since we've been home that I rode. (Except today because it's been raining the whole day.) And when he would finish with the mowing he would bring out the weed eater. And some days he took the hedge trimmer out and attacked the trees along our shared property line. Which happens to also border my ring. And Al's stall window looked out to this area too. Al would be in his stall just staring out the window and snorting for most of the day. I was hoping he'd settle, but finally I switched him with Eros who was on the other side of the barn. He seems to be more settled on this side of the barn, but today was the first day, so we'll see if it lasts. 

He's been very reactive under saddle, spooking at everything, lots of attempted spinning. I tried what had worked all winter which was just staying soft and trying not to add too much additional pressure while he was feeling insecure. But it really wasn't working. He wasn't getting over any of the scary things. The last two days I've tried something different. I'm still not adding too much pressure because I've learned that with Al it makes it worse to "be tough" with him. So the last two days, I put him on a lunge line and just worked him at the trot in a very calm, no pressure way around all the scary parts of the ring. I just kept him trotting until he took a breath and seemed to calm down. Then we'd move to a new area. Wash, rinse, repeat. Yesterday I hopped on after this for just a few minutes to see if it would translate, and it seemed to. We trotted and cantered around a couple times each way, no pressure. Not in a frame. Not even in a real working pace. Just nicely and calmly worked our way around. He never worked very hard, but he was out there trotting for quite a bit of time, so he was tired when we were finished. My goal is not at all to exhaust him. I just want him to take a breath and relax. But right now, I think he may have to be a little tired to do that. 

Today, I hand walked him around the ring both ways like we always do before getting on. He seemed to be in a good place. But once I was on, it wasn't translating. He got tense, head in the air, frozen in place. A few times I was able to coax him forward, but he didn't relax at all. Then he did a full 180. Fortunately, we were at the walk, so I stayed right with him. I turned him around and had him walk past what had startled him. And then I hopped off and repeated yesterday's exercise on the lunge. It didn't work quite as nicely today as it did yesterday, but it did still help. When I got back on, he was still pretty spooky, but we were able to get some work done, and this time I rode him longer. I didn't want him to think that spinning meant he could lunge and then have no pressure and then be done. He never fully was a relaxed horse today, but he trotted and cantered around the ring both ways, and popped over some raised cavaletti here and there. Which I think gave him something to focus on other than the monsters. In his defense, it was a miserable day. It was raining at a pretty good clip while we were out there and it was just barely 60 degrees. None of the horses were especially happy to be worked today. But it's supposed to rain all day tomorrow too, and I expect the ring to be too wet to ride. I didn't want them having two days off in a row. Anyway, not to make excuses for Al, but something he regularly spooks at is glare. Like when the sun hits the shiny finish on a jump, or bounces off a puddle. He doesn't seem to understand that. And even though it was raining out and there was no sun, there were a lot of shiny wet surfaces to spook at. He was very clearly surrounded by demons today. 

I ordered a tube of Ulcerguard to experiment with. I had given all the horses a tube for their move. A quarter of that tube each day for four days. I started it Saturday, moved them Sunday, and they finished it on Tuesday. So I'm not sure if Al was good because maybe he's ulcery and that helped. But I've treated him in the past with no positive results so I'm not convinced. We did do that poop test on him this winter when he was acting this way and it came back negative. We have a vet appointment at the end of the month, so I'm going to ask if he thinks we should scope, just to rule it out. I don't really think this horse has ulcers just based on past experience. But I do think something's not quite right with him, the way he gets so unhinged. I just don't think it's "normal". Jamp could be spooky but not the way Al is. I don't know if it's because Jamp was older and had learned some coping skills by then or what. But it's not the same. I'm starting to think maybe I'm the problem with all these spooky animals I've had. But I haven't messed up Eros and Shiny as much, so I dunno. Could be me. Might not be. Horses are hard.

But I don't like to be all negative all the time, especially with Al. So here's a positive. He is my best housekeeper. When I went to clean stalls Saturday morning, Eros' stall was a big mess (as usual, he's a piglet), and Shiny's was mostly neat, though she likes to pee in two spots which is annoying. But Al's? Al's was so well kept! He has one pee spot, and all his poop was in one (albeit it very large) pile. What a guy! This is why you cut them late. Stallions are good housekeepers. If you wait long enough, they keep that.

Look! This was what it looked like first thing in the morning!
What a guy!

That one rare day we saw sunshine

As tricky as Al is, Shiny is the opposite. She's just the same pony all the time, and it's so refreshing! She took full advantage of the re-entry period and "forgot" how to travel properly for a hot minute. In that, I asked her to work from behind, lift her belly, and take the contact, and she was all "What? I can't hear you. Lalalalalalalala" which was hilarious because she knows what I was asking for and eventually complied. I was hoping to jump her around a little today, but the pouring rain was just so uninviting. We did hop over some raised poles, but jumping will have to wait. Maybe this weekend. We shall see what the weather and footing does. 

Something interesting of note, she's barely tripped at all since she's been home. Once or twice a little one here or there, but nothing major. She was VERY trippy at the other barn this year, even after the EPM treatment. This isn't a new development, as she's generally less trippy in the sand than she is in the fancy GGT footing, but I feel like the difference is a lot bigger this year. Maybe due to the EPM meds. Who knows? Regardless of why, I'm happy it's happening!

I really can't stress enough how much I got rained on today

Eros seems to be doing pretty well. We're still in that same place where I can't really tell if he's sound or not. He's not actively limping, and the longer we go for, the better he feels. So I'm still thinking it's probably a maintenance issue more than a soundness issue. Looking forward to that vet appointment to get a professional opinion! Eros has been a good boy though. He's definitely a little sassy, especially with how chilly and windy it's been. But he's a responsible adult and hasn't acted on his lookiness. Thank goodness. I don't want two spooky warmbloods to deal with every day. Technically we could have started cantering last week, but I made him wait until this week just to be on the safe side. And I gotta tell you guys, the canter feels pretty good! Also, when we go back to trot after cantering, that also feels better than how it starts. So positive steps for sure. He was really funny today. I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but Eros HATES water. He thinks baths are stupid and riding in the rain is pure horse abuse. And don't get him started on PUDDLES! The horror. (Mind you, he will roll in a good muddy puddle, but not walk through one if he can help it.) So today. I rode Eros last, and honestly, I almost didn't get on. I was so soggy and when it was his turn it was absolutely pouring. But then it slowed down so I went ahead and did the thing. Anyway, I wasn't sure what I was feeling when we first started. He kept taking these funny steps. And then I realized what was happening. He was trying to avoid the puddles. Which was a really silly endeavor because there were puddles everywhere. Eventually at the trot he accepted his fate, but cantering left he insisted on trying to jump over the puddle by the gate. Which he couldn't do, because it was very large, and then he'd get mad that it splashed him. Thankfully we only had to pass by there twice at the canter. He's not supposed to be jumping! Especially imaginary things.

So that's where we are at with the horses. Still waiting on some nice warm springtime weather. But I'm sure it's coming. In the meantime, we are plugging along. AND we got to see the Northern Lights on Friday which is very not normal around here. So that was exciting. To the naked eye, you couldn't see that much really, but iPhone came through for me and I got some pretty shots:


  1. Al is definitely a puzzle. Not sure if this is helpful or even encouraging but as far as Carmen has come she’s still herself. Which means that days are just not great. I am a better rider so we work through it. But also, I’ve learned that a lot of her behaviour is work avoidance not fear. So my approach can be different

    1. I actually think of your progress often when dealing with Al, and it's very encouraging! I know some days are bad days, and I try to give grace for that. I just start to worry when so many in a row are not good.
      I'm really trying to just be patient and not let my own emotions get involved, because that does seem to help him best.

  2. charlie always seemed to be a bit more 'trippy' in the fiber based footing at his first boarding barn... maybe it's just a thing for some horses?

    anyway, good luck with Al. Doozy isn't spooky, but she is definitely reactive in ways that make me reassess some of my methods and processes. some of it is definitely in the riding and training -- figuring out when to push, and how, and in what direction (notably, doozy matures in leaps and bounds with each off farm field trip)... but there are definitely also physical considerations too. and mental... like, sometimes her quarter just runs out. it's just hard to know the 'right' answer sometimes!

    1. So much this! In some instances I really have to make myself give Al the reins and let him know he's not trapped. But then in other instances, that's the complete wrong answer and he gets upset that I've abandoned him... It's tricky to figure out which he's looking for sometimes. But we keep plugging away and hope we figure it out eventually.
      Al really loves to go and jump in new places. I think maybe he hates being in one place too long. Too bad for him! Haha!
      And yes, agree about the fiber footing. I find my barefoot horses get kind of caught in it more than the shod ones. I read somewhere about the fiber footings having a lot less give to them, which might be why we're seeing so many more tendon injuries. Which also tracks with the tripping in it. They just get kind of stuck to it.