Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricanes and Vacations

Hurricane Irene "ripped" through my area early this morning and we're still getting a lot of wind and some rain but we didn't suffer any major damage here. We never lost power but a lot of residents in this area did. I checked on Lilly and she is happy as a clam inside the barn. We decided that was the best place for the horses but the BO promised to put her back outside as soon as she thought it was safe.

I've been walking Lilly up and down the driveway at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes to harden the soles of her feet. I haven't had her boots on since we went for a ride and she seems to be doing really well. The BO said she saw Lilly running around out in the pasture on Thursday, so that's a good sign. I spoke to Rebecca about the chipping and the fact that her boots weren't fitting very well because of it. She had me send some pictures to her so she could see what type of chipping Lilly was having. She reassured me that it's all around the nail holes and it's to be expected. She also poked at me again about learning how to smooth out chips and rough edges between trimmings. She said it'll help keep the hooves from being damaged and it'll ensure her boots fit like they should. She said she might even be able to get me a used rasp so I don't have to purchase one. Cat is next on the list to come out so I'll see if she's willing to show me (I know she'll say yes) so I might be learning how to keep things looking nice here shortly. GULP

Rebecca also said that walking on the driveway will harden the sole, but walking in sand and even in her boots with the Happy Hoof pads will help increase blood flow and encourage the sole to grow. I was thinking the boots were more for helping her if she was sore, but I'm going to start rotating then into the rehab program as well so she can grow lots of hard sole!

In other news, tomorrow the BF and I are heading down to Miami so we can catch a ride on Majesty of the Seas for a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas (assuming they're still there when we get there). We're very excited and can't wait, even though it'll be the last real vacation of the summer.

I hope everyone has a great week and stay safe if you're in Irene's path!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Quick Ride

Yes I took hoof pictures today... no I'm not going to bore you by posting them because they look a lot like the ones I posted last time. They are starting to chip a bit, though, and I've put in an email to my trimmer to see if that's okay or if I should try to schedule something before my next appointment. She told me early on that chipping would occur (especially because of the nail holes) and it isn't a big deal, but since we're trying to train the new growth, I'm not sure if I should be concerned or not.

There's a new horse at the barn (an OTTB, I think) and he was occupying the round pen area, so I took Lilly for a ride in the arena today. We still went bareback, but I put the bridle on just in case. The arena hasn't been dragged in a while, so I rode her in the boots and she did really well. We mostly just walked, but I couldn't help myself and we trotted some too. She felt really good and not off at all!

After I was done riding, I hopped off at the far end of the arena and walked her back to the barn without boots. We had to walk across a variety of footing so I thought it would be good for her. She's doing really well on the rocks around the barn too... she still has a difficult time, of course, but she improves each time I walk her across them.

Barefoot is going well!! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Going For A Walk

I can see it now... you guys are going to get so bored with me. "Oh look, MORE pictures of Lilly's feet! Yay..." It's been almost a week and even though I'm taking way too many pictures for myself, I'll try to only post pictures of her heels and soles, and anything else that I find interesting, so I minimize the number of boring hoof pictures.

That said, here are some hoof pictures. :)

Left Heel
Left Sole
Right Heel
Right Sole
There's an area about the width of a normal driveway covered with stones that she has to walk across to get into the barn from the pasture. Usually she has her boots on already, but if she doesn't, I put them on. Today, though, I left the boots off to see how she would do. We went very slow and I allowed her to choose the path. Her right hoof seems to be more tender than her left but she did about as well as I expected. Cat had mentioned that it would be good to walk her on the stones a bit, but to let her go as slowly as she needed to, so that's what I was trying to accomplish today. If I don't subject Lilly's feet to anything but soft, sandy pastures, her feet won't adapt to the more challenging surfaces.

I went to the barn today with the intention of riding Lilly. I was going to use her boots and ride her around bareback in the round pen. I planned on mostly walking, but thought I might throw in a little bit of trotting if her feet felt good. I really just wanted to get her out and spend some time with her. My plan changed from riding her in the round pen to riding her up and down the driveway without her boots. The driveway is concrete and since walking her around on different surfaces is good for her during the transition, I thought we would benefit more from the harder surface. In the end, though, I decided just to take her for a walk so I could keep a better eye on her feet. I also felt guilty about adding extra weight to her already "heavy" frame. (She's not fat!) :)

The driveway is nice because it goes uphill a bit, and I could tell it was more difficult for her coming back down. She seemed to do really well for the most part except when we had to turn around or if she happened to step on a rock.

During our walk we encountered many scary monsters. Farm equipment, boats, piles of dirt, a doggy pool... she was terrified of all of them. She tried to be brave and never spooked, but they all got the evil eye and a good snort, just to make sure they didn't snort back. True to form, though, she didn't care at all about the other pile of dirt that was covered by a giant, blue tarp that was flapping wildly in the breeze. Nope, that's not scary, but watch out for the doggy pool!!

After I got her used to the doggy pool during the first lap, she insisted on stopping by the second time around. She didn't know the doggy pool was filled with water... water is fun!! She splashed and drank and played... she was definitely having a good time.

I thought it would make a super cute video, so I took her back into the barn to get my iPhone. When we went back out to the doggy pool, she was over it.

Typical... Anyway, here's where we took our walk.

That's Luna in the picture. You can see she's very casually making her way over to the pasture where she found a nice spot in some tall grass to get in a good scratch. After getting up out of the grass, she walked over to the horses' water trough and jumped in! Forget the fact that she has her own personal doggy pool and a giant pond in the back yard... water troughs are way more fun!

As soon as she noticed me, she quickly hopped out, but not before I could take a picture of her being a bad dog! Wait until I show her mom!

She is SO busted!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

She's Trotting!

I went to visit my sweet girl today to remove her hoof boots for a while. I'm really hoping she'll be sound in the pasture without them and I can use them for activities outside of her pasture instead. I've asked the BO to keep a close eye on her tonight and let me know if she seems uncomfortable.

When I arrived, she was way out in the far corner of the pasture. I called to her but she just looked at me and then went back to grazing... so after walking the entire length of the pasture, I finally reached her and she very politely asked for the "hello carrot" she knew I had for her. I fed her the carrot, sprayed her with fly spray, and then removed her boots. After giving her the "goodbye carrot", I started walking back toward the gate and she followed me. After walking together for a while, I decided to start jogging, and she followed suit. Before long I was running and she was trotting as fast as she could to keep up with me! She started tossing her head and even jumped around a bit before we got to the gate.

My girl's feet must be feeling good! I hope after having the boots off all afternoon she's still feeling that good tonight. :)

Here's another random observation I've made about Lilly since Rebecca pulled her shoes... she's resting her hind feet a lot. Lilly has never been one to rest and I find it interesting that she's started doing that. In my very uneducated mind, it seems like she would want to keep as much weight off her front feet as possible, but yet I see her standing there resting her hind feet all the time now. I'm intrigued!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Barefoot Day Four

I haven't been updating Lilly's barefoot adventure as much as I'd like because I've been so preoccupied with AJ, but he finally seems to be back to his normal self. He ate dinner with gusto, his manure is back to normal, and his feet aren't hot or showing any signs of laminitis. I'm so glad we caught it in time!

This post will be a progress report for Lilly since her shoes were pulled and then I'll be all caught up!

Saturday: Her shoes were pulled, she was lightly trimmed and then turned out without her boots. She didn't show any obvious signs of discomfort when walking but we could tell her right front was bothering her for some reason.

Sunday: The BO called to let me know that Lilly was really sore and she gave her some bute with breakfast. I went over to the barn, put her boots on, complete with pads, and walked her into the barn for pictures. She was markedly better with the boots but she was still quite ouchy when I walked her across the gravel to get her into the barn. I took some pictures of her feet so I had to take the boots on and off a couple times and she was very resistant when I needed her to pick up her feet. It also became glaringly obvious how important it is for barefoot horses to keep moving when I took her out of the cross ties and walked her back out to the pasture. She was VERY sore when she first started walking, but was walking better and better the more steps she took. I turned her back out in the boots and she got more bute with dinner.

Monday: Lilly received some more bute with breakfast and was still wearing the boots. When I got to the barn I noticed she was standing in the corner of the pasture snoozing. I remember thinking, "Nooooo, you can't stop moving! Wake up!" When she saw me, though, she came walking over and she didn't walk gimpy at all. I was surprised! I took her boots off in the pasture so I could clean them and decided not to put them back on. This time Lilly was more than happy to pick up her feet so I could remove the boots. Quite a bit of progress in just 24 hours! I went back over Monday night and put her boots back on because she still seemed a little uncomfortable without them. I also changed her pads today to the white ones. Except for the dose of bute I gave her, she was a very happy girl.

A happy barefoot pony!
Today: She didn't receive any bute this morning and I don't think she'll need any other doses. I try not to give bute any more than I have to, so hopefully she's over that hump. I wanted to take some more pictures of her feet and when I walked her across the gravel going into the barn, she walked across it like it was nothing. She was wearing her boots, of course, but it's still progress and I was definitely glad to see that! After I took the pictures, I turned her out with the boots on.

Here are the pictures I took of her feet today.

Left Front Hoof

Right Front Hoof

(I need to change my aperture a bit so I get a better depth of field for next time... oops!)

The plan for tomorrow is to take the boots off after breakfast and see how she does in the pasture without them. I think I'm seeing a little bit of rubbing with the right front foot, so I want to give her feet a break from the boots.

Oh yeah, and a random observance I find interesting is how the pads in Lilly's boots are wearing. The toe part of the pad is MUSHED and the heel part of the pad is still quite squishy. I take that to mean she's still walking on her toes, but I hope that changes soon. Once the boots are off I'll just have to try and watch how she walks since I won't have the pads to tell me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

AJ Picture Spam

AJ finally seems to be improving! For the first time since this all started, he's shown an interest in his grain and ate about half of what he's normally fed. He's still drinking really well and keeping himself fairly hydrated and his manure is starting to look a lot more normal. So far there's no heat in his hooves and no other indications of laminitis, so I hope we have avoided that. He got his last dose of injected antibiotics tonight, but he'll be on the SMZs for 7 more days. Thank you so much for all the well wishes you sent his way!

Some of the people we have spoken to who have dealt with PHF said their horses lost 200-300 pounds before all was said and done, but AJ is keeping his weight so far, which I am very thankful for. It took so long to get weight back on him that it would be quite a setback to have him lose it all again.

When the vet was out Saturday night she had to double check with my dad that AJ was really 25. She said she thought perhaps the paperwork was supposed to say 15 instead of 25. She couldn't get over how good he looked for his age. He looks amazing and my parents have been able to cut back the amount of grain he gets.

I'm finally starting to relax a bit, so I thought I would post some of the pictures I took while I was home visiting. Doesn't he look fantastic?

It's amazing how well AJ and my dad's horse Justus get along. Sure they pin their ears at each other here and there, but for the most part they really enjoy being with each other. When I had AJ out to ride, poor Justus was upset that we were taking away his buddy so he kept a close eye on AJ all the time.

My dad's horse, Justus.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

She's Barefoot!!

All of this has been a little overshadowed by AJ being sick, but yesterday was a pretty significant day for Lilly. The fourth and final barefoot trimmer stopped by to give me her opinion. She and I had been emailing for quite a while prior to this, and she's the one I consulted about two years ago when I first started noticing issues with Lilly's legs. It was great to finally meet her in person!

We chatted for a while about some of the things the other trimmers mentioned regarding Lilly's feet and then she had me walk and trot Lilly up and down the barn aisle. She went around from hoof to hoof examining each one, concentrating on how they were being worn and looking at how balanced (or not balanced in Lilly's case) her feet were. She pointed out something to me I hadn't noticed before... when we looked at Lilly dead on from the front, it was very clear that her right knee was at least a half inch higher than her left knee. Taking a closer look at her feet, I could see that her right hoof was actually quite a bit taller than her left, causing the difference in knee height. No wonder she seems to be having back/shoulder issues! Her legs are different lengths because of her feet! Ugh...

After some discussion about what to expect and whether we thought the shoes would make it until the 8th when Cat is scheduled to come out, I decided to go ahead and pull the shoes now. Originally I had wanted to wait until September because then I'd be done with all my traveling, but I still have two weeks before I leave for my cruise. We thought even if we pulled them now she would have enough time to adjust before I leave. She said we'd know in a couple days how Lilly will do and if we need to do something extra before I leave, we'll have time to get it done.

When Cat was out, she commented that she thought Lilly was a little short strided on her right front and when Rebecca was pulling the shoes and trimming her feet, Lilly seemed really uncomfortable standing on that right front. Heel pain or something else? I don't really know but it's interesting to me since that's the leg with the taller hoof.

Rebecca brought some boots with her to fit Lilly and we ended up going with the Easyboot Trail. She's not as big a fan of the casts as Cat because they can get wet and could cause issues that way. With the boots, I can take them off as necessary and since chances are she'll need them for riding for a while, I'll be able to dual purpose the boots. She assured me that she doesn't think Lilly's feet will change enough to need different size boots later, so with any luck, these will be the only pair I need to buy. The boots are also nice because of the pads that can be placed inside them to make things more comfortable for Lilly. She left me with a couple different pads, each with a different firmness to use inside the boots.

After pulling the shoes, we walked Lilly around a bit to see how she was going to walk. It sounded like she was in slippers! She was also stumbling quite a bit, so it's going to take a while for her to get used to walking without the shoes on. She said Lilly's hooves were a lot more balanced just by taking the shoes off, and after looking at the shoes we could see that the heels of the shoes were different thicknesses and one side was slightly higher than the other. Rebecca did a little trimming on all four feet, but it was mostly just to shape them up and balance them a bit. She thinks Lilly has too much toe, so she brought it back a bit and did just a little work on the bottom of her hoof to remove any bumpy spots that could cause Lilly to be more sore.

While Rebecca was trying to trim, a nasty rain storm blew through the area. Lilly was also clearly uncomfortable after being without the shoes and from standing on the right front, so I didn't really get a chance to take pictures. Once we were done with her feet I wanted to get her outside to the pasture so she could walk around. Rebecca took a bunch of before and after shots with her camera, but I went back and took some this morning when I checked on Lilly.

These are about 24 hours after the shoes came off. The shots of the backs of her heels look a little funny because she is leaning and putting as much of her weight as possible on her booted foot. In the first set, she's leaning right, and in the shots of her right foot, she's leaning left.

Left Front Hoof

Right Front Hoof

This is just a better picture of Lilly's sole. I want to post pictures of it as time progresses so I can see how much it changes.

And here's a shot of Lilly's new boots.

She's in a size 2 and has medium soft pads inside. She seems to really like the boots and I think they fit her quite well. I'm watching closely to see if they rub her anywhere, but with the design of the boots I don't think they will, at least not now while she's only walking in them.

The BO said Lilly was pretty sore this morning so she gave her some bute with her breakfast. Her pasture is all sand and grass and they're just feeding her outside so she doesn't have to walk across anything hard. She hadn't been wearing the boots, but when I went over there this morning I put them on. She isn't terribly sore, and she seems her normal, happy self, but she was walking slowly and gingerly before I put the boots on. After the boots, she walked really slow and then realized her feet felt pretty good and started walking more normal. I was planning to take the boots off tonight but Lilly is about 75% better in the boots, so I decided to leave them on. I'll probably have to put a new pad in tomorrow, but at least she'll be comfortable. She got some more bute with dinner and the BO will give her some more with breakfast. It seemed to help quite a bit.

I hope she's feeling better soon. I don't like having both of my babies feeling bad.

At this point, you might be wondering, "what about Cat?" I'm going to play it by ear and see how things go with Lilly. Rebecca was my trimmer of choice but I thought she was too far out (and so did she) but as it turns out I'm pretty close to one of her other clients and she comes to my area every 2-3 weeks. I'll get in touch with Cat and see how she feels about it, but I'm thinking perhaps I'll utilize both of them. Depending on how things progress with Lilly, she may need trims every 2 weeks, which might be too often for Rebecca, or perhaps Cat is busy during a time when I need someone to come out but Rebecca can. Rebecca said she was good with that suggestion and I'll check with Cat too... then it'll be up to Lilly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hugs For AJ Please!

**8-15 Update... AJ finally seems to be improving! For the first time since this all started, he's shown an interest in his grain and ate about half of what he's normally fed. He's still drinking really well and keeping himself fairly hydrated and his manure is starting to look a lot more normal. So far there's no heat in his hooves and no other indications of laminitis, so I hope we have avoided that. He got his last dose of injected antibiotics tonight, but he'll be on the SMZs for 7 more days. Thank you so much for all the well wishes you sent his way!**

**8-14 Update... As it turns out, AJ wasn't vaccinated for PHF. I looked back through all my records and my horses were never been vaccinated for it here in NC. It isn't recommended for this area but I was sure both of my horses received the vaccine. My dad's horse didn't get a PHF vaccine in the spring either because the vet didn't recommend it to them either. We've all decided both of the boys will get a vaccine next year. Even if it doesn't help prevent them from getting PHF, maybe it'll minimize the symptoms at least. My parents have had horses at their property since 1991 and none of the horses have ever had PHF. I'm surprised we made it this long but I'm upset that it happened to AJ when I can't be there with him!

There hasn't been much of a change with AJ since last night. He's still not eating and has extremely wet manure, but he's not as cold as he was last night and doesn't seem to be dehydrated anymore. I imagine it'll take a while for the antibiotics to work enough for him to feel better but I was hoping we'd see a bit of improvement in him this morning. He'll get another small dose of Banamine around noon and hopefully that'll help him until the meds can really kick in. I'm a bit more worried about him now that I know he didn't get the vaccine in the spring but hopeful he'll be feeling better soon.**

**10:30 Update... the vet is quite sure AJ has Potomac Horse Fever. AJ received some Banamine and a 60cc dose of double antibiotics. He'll get two more shots of double antibiotics and is on SMZs twice a day for 10 days. The vet thinks we caught it in time and she thinks he'll make a quick, full recovery. I'm concerned about laminitis, but she thinks we caught it in time, although it'll be important to keep an eye on his feet for the next couple days to make sure. A great lady my dad works with at the horse farm is going to horse sit while my parents are gone. She agreed to take care of both horses, give the shots and SMZs, and keep an eye on AJ while they're gone. It's tearing me up that I'm here and he's there with such a potentially serious situation, but hopefully he's feeling better tomorrow and on the road to being his normal self again. I'll get an update from my dad in the morning... hopefully it's a good one.**

**8:30PM Update... the vet is coming out tonight. Possible diagnosis is Potomac Horse Fever. He was vaccinated in the spring, but apparently the vaccine isn't always successful, especially after 6 months. Send hugs to AJ please!**

Original Post:
I'm back from Michigan and I had a really nice time. It was great seeing my family and friends, and I think AJ was happy to see me too. I want to post some pictures of AJ and my trip, and I also have some other news to share, but something odd is happening with AJ and I wanted to give this topic its own post.

First, though, so you can see how sweet and precious he is, here's a picture from Thursday when I took him for a quick ride. :)

I flew home on Sunday and visited AJ shortly after arriving and all was well. He looks incredible too... my parents have done a fantastic job with him. He was eating and drinking normal, sucking his tongue, and seemed like a happy boy.

Everything seemed fine until Wednesday night, when AJ didn't finish his grain (he gets Equine Senior). He seemed slightly lethargic but nothing seemed really wrong. He was still perking his ears up at things, eating cookies, and he was eating hay, grazing, and drinking the same as he always does. I've been having so much trouble with Lilly not eating her food that I wasn't too worried about him because he seemed pretty much normal otherwise. We left his food in his stall and I went back out later to check on him and the grain was gone. It's possible that my dad's horse got to the grain, but AJ was happily chomping on hay. I went out one last time that night around midnight before going to bed and he was still eating hay. (My dad feeds them a ton of hay...)

My dad fed the next morning and AJ ate all his grain except for maybe a mouthful or so. I went out a little bit later to saddle him up and go for a ride and when I called to him from the barn, he came running up from the pasture to see me. I saddled him, rode him, and put him away without noticing any issues. Other than seeming a bit cranky when my dad's horse was close to me, he acted like normal AJ.

That night, however, he wouldn't touch his grain. He tried to steal Justus' grain, though, (he gets Equine Adult) and I had to push him away so he wouldn't eat it. He was still eating hay and we'd seen him out grazing, but he still seemed a little "something". He wasn't off enough to make me worry, but I could tell he wasn't quite normal either. We started to wonder if maybe he was tired of eating the Equine Senior since he seemed more interested in Justus' food, but he didn't have a big interest in cookies either and wasn't sucking his tongue after eating them.

Friday morning, my dad said he didn't really eat much grain again and just went over to his hay instead. My plane was leaving that afternoon so I flew back to NC and waited to hear from my parents about how dinner went that night. My dad called before dinner and shortly after I got home to let me know that AJ now had some pretty bad diarrhea. He's never had solid "road apple" type manure, but now he was passing what looked like cow patties.

I was really starting to get worried so I hopped online and started doing some research but didn't really find much information other than things I knew it wasn't (change in diet, dewormer issues, etc). We had decided for dinner we would try giving him a little bit of the grain Justus gets to see if changing it up would help, but when my dad called, he said AJ still didn't want his grain.

I had my dad run out and take his temperature and it was 100.6 degrees. On the high side of normal, but still normal so I suggested we take away the hay and limit AJ to grass only for the night. For breakfast I didn't want him to have any hay or grain either, just grass.

When I called this morning to see how things went, my dad said he still had diarrhea but he offered him a handful of grain and he gobbled it up. He gave him a couple cookies too and AJ sucked his tongue after, which was the first time he's done that since Wednesday morning. He went all day without hay at my request (they have a really nice pasture with good grass to eat) but tonight at dinner he didn't want the small bit of wet Senior my dad offered him and his manure was still really wet. He ate a couple handfuls of grain that my dad fed him by hand but never sucked his tongue and became disinterested in the grain quite quickly.

As weird as it sounds, he seems better in the morning and then gets worse during the course of the day and by evening doesn't have much interest in food. I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out what could be going on. He has access to his stall and the pasture 24/7 and he's with Justus the whole time too, and Justus seems to be his normal self.

Anyone have any idea what might be going on? Slightly lethargic, no appetite for grain, diarrhea, but still grazing, drinking, eating hay, and acting perky at times? No elevated temperature, respiration, or pulse and there hasn't been a recent change in diet or hay either. I looked in his mouth in case maybe he was having a tough time chewing, but I couldn't see anything and poking and grinding things didn't seem to get a reaction either. I even checked him for a bean in case he was having trouble that way... that was before the diarrhea showed up, though.

My parents are leaving for vacation on Sunday and they have a fairly horsey neighbor that looks after the animals while they're gone but we were hoping he would be feeling better by then. It's a terribly inconvenient time for him to be feeling under the weather. Vets are virtually non-existent in their area, but I may have to try and find one to come out and do blood work or something.

I'm tempted to fly back to Michigan so I can be with him while my parents are gone!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Heading Home

Tomorrow I head home to Michigan for the week. I'm very excited to finally be able to visit in the summer, as opposed to the cold winter! I can't wait to see AJ and spend some time with my family. The BO has assured me that they will take extra good care of Lilly while I'm gone and love on her more than usual.

I hope everyone has a good week and I'll share some pictures of AJ upon my return. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another New Book

I received this book as part of an early birthday present from a non-horsey friend. She said she gets a lot of horse catalogs in the mail these days. I think it's really nice when my non-horsey friends buy me horse related gifts. :)

I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and go through the exercises or content in the book, but it received really good reviews on Amazon and I love that it has a lot of pictures. It looks really interesting!

This book is packed with information, including specific problems horses experience with certain body parts, for example, the upper end of the triceps muscle. The book goes into detail about where the muscle is, signs and symptoms that the horse is having trouble in that area, and then the treatment. It also goes into detail about certain types of horses and areas of the horse's body that are stressed by that horse's lifestyle and breed.

There are chapters on stretching exercises, kinesiology, massage routines and techniques, anatomy of the horse, and a whole chapter on the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).

It looks like this book is an updated version of an old favorite of many horse owners. I'm anxious to really get into the book!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Ride Update

I haven't posted about an actual ride in quite a while. Granted, we haven't been doing a whole lot of riding because of the heat, but I haven't had the saddle on Lilly's back since June 15th when she started showing discomfort again. When I do ride, we just kind of play around inside the round pen bareback with only a rope halter. I've pretty much given up on the 2011 show season so I don't see any reason to work her hard ahead of pulling her shoes.

She's actually doing quite well in the rope halter. I only have one rein (the lead rope attached to the halter) so it gets tricky steering and communicating, but that's half the fun. I have to use my body to communicate rather than relying on the reins. I know it helps being in the round pen because she can only go so fast, but she's really learning how to get soft in the halter and I'm sure that's going to translate interestingly when we do put the bridle back on.

I've been working on getting her to allow me to get on from the gate. I sit up on the gate and ask her to come up really close and stop without swinging her hip to the inside of the pen. She is really good when it comes to the mounting block, but the gate thing is a bit perplexing for her. She would prefer to stand with her face in my lap and just enjoy each other's company. :)

I've been doing the same thing when I get off... park close to the gate so I can step off and use the gate to climb down, but she refuses to get close enough to make it easy for me to dismount. I can ask her to sidepass all day long and she complies, but she lets me know when she thinks we're close enough to the gate. That's what we worked on mostly today and I finally got her to get really close and stop. That's when I got off and we went back to the barn.

I've been doing quite a bit of cantering bareback and I can finally say I'm getting better. I think Lilly is getting better too and that works in my favor as well. Her transitions are beautiful (even though I know I look like crap up there asking for them) and she just steps right into the canter without fuss. I still ask for the canter from the trot, but it makes things easier for both of us until I've got a better bareback seat. She rates her speed pretty well and doesn't do a lot of speeding up and slowing down, which is always helpful, and she's been a good babysitter by slowing, stopping, or moving to the inside if I start to get unstable up there. Today felt really good and we did quite a bit more cantering than we usually do. :)

In other news, I made an appointment with Cat for September 8th to pull Lilly's shoes (yay!!). The fourth trimmer will still come out on August 13th to give me her opinion, but she's too far for me to use as a regular trimmer, especially if we're doing 2 week trims to start. Lilly's shoes will be at about 8 weeks by then, so hopefully they stay on and there will be some hoof there for Cat to work with. I'll also be done with all my August vacations and can dedicate whatever time and attention Lilly needs during her transition. I haven't told my current farrier yet, but I'm working on my speech and it's almost done.