Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

Because of all the issues we had in 2010, we were glad to welcome 2011. It was an interesting year, full of ups and downs, and even a few surprises. Before we welcome 2012 and all it has to offer, here's a review of what happened in 2011.

We started 2011 at the barn from hell. Lilly was on stall rest because she was in the middle of a series of three shock wave treatments to try and repair the damage from her inferior check ligament tear back in October 2009. We were also keeping an eye on her hoof, which had abscessed back in August and was now growing out with a giant hole in the hoof wall. At the end of the month, Lilly had one final ultrasound to see how successful the SWT had been. She was given two thumbs up and I breathed a huge sigh of relief!

She's cute, but she sure is high maintenance!
We started February at a new barn with a cautiously optimistic outlook on our new beginning. I was happy to be in a new place, my mare was happy to be turned out like a normal horse, and I was able to ride again for the first time in months. Things went well for the first week or so, but then we started having a variety of issues. Lilly was wearing special shoes for her abscessed hoof and low heels and constantly needed to be seen by my farrier because she kept ripping them off her hooves. I was having feed issues with the barn owner regarding Lilly and my gelding AJ, and if that wasn't enough, I was having issues with all of my saddles not fitting Lilly properly. To resolve the saddle issues, I took Lilly to a saddle fitter and purchased a new Pessoa saddle after selling all four of my other saddles.

Here's Lilly at the saddle fitting barn.
After a few sleepless nights and a lot of consideration, I decided it was in AJ's best interests to retire him in Michigan at my parent's place. I knew my parents would take excellent care of him and my dad's horse would be great company. On March 1st he left North Carolina for the long trip to Michigan. It was really hard to see him go, but I knew he would love where he was going.

I miss you, Boo Bear!
Lilly and I were feeling adventurous and decided to try a couple shows. Both of them were a disaster, with her screaming and calling to her pasture mate during the entire show. She was really attached and I tried a variety of tactics to squash the unhealthy obsession she had, but they all failed. Because it was so out of character for her and I was having food issues anyway, I decided to make a big change and take her off grain completely hoping it would help her relax.

Despite all my efforts, Lilly was still obsessed with her pasture mate and I decided to call in the big guns. My friend Alex came out to spend a day with us to work on some of our issues and it was a huge success. She showed me how to use Lilly's overactive brain against her and throughout the month of April we had some great moments together. We showed again and Alex came along with me for moral support and to provide her services. It was a fantastic day!

Using those haunches!
We did a lot of riding in April and Lilly celebrated her 11th birthday. I took a vacation to the beach... boy did I need one!

After I was unable to work out some significant differences with the barn owner, I decided it was time to move Lilly once again. We moved to a barn that was only three minutes down the road, but it felt like a whole different world. Lilly seemed to love it as much as I did, and we spent most of the month settling in. She has a lovely stall, her very own pasture for turnout, and I have peace of mind. We are very happy here.

Breaking in the new pasture!
June was a pretty uneventful and quiet month. Alex came out to visit us again, which is always wonderful, I obsessed over saddle fitting (as usual), and we did quite a bit of riding.

Ready for a ride!
July is the month were I began to ponder what it would be like to have a barefoot horse. My farrier shot down the idea, but I decided to investigate on my own. I posted pictures of my mare's feet and you were all horrified by her underrun heels and tiny shoe size. An outstanding education came shortly after that post by 3 barefoot trimmers, as well as all of you.

I can't bear to look at these...
August was definitely a memorable month. I was able to fly to Michigan for a nice vacation with my family and a great visit with AJ. Shortly after I came back to North Carolina he was diagnosed with Potomac Horse Fever and I was terribly worried about him. Thanks to quick action by my parents, my vet, and a friend of my father's, AJ was able to pull through and was back to his happy self in no time. August was also the month that changed Lilly's life... we took off her shoes! The first couple days were tough for her, but she rapidly made progress and I started to see all the wonderful changes that being barefoot would bring.

A happy barefoot girl!
September brought more saddle woes and a sore right front hoof for Lilly. She was more sore on her right front than her left front and I was worried she had something going on in there that might need attention. The left leg is the one with the repaired ICL tear, so we thought perhaps it had an impact on the right hoof. X-rays were scheduled, but thanks to a pair of hoof boots, we were able to enjoy some wonderful rides together.

Enjoying a nice ride together.
We received the results of the x-rays and it was determined that the cause of Lilly's discomfort was simply thin soles (5-6mm). Thin soles were definitely to be expected, so we made plans to work toward getting them thicker. Hoof casts were applied at her second trim and she seemed much more comfortable. Lilly also found herself on a diet. Everything was cut out of her diet except hay and vitamin supplements.

Ride, rides, and more rides!
I started noticing a huge change in my horse around this time. It was as if I had a new horse. It was the horse I always wanted, and the horse I knew I had, but I was never able to figure out how to get her past certain issues that were always a problem for us. It absolutely must have been hoof pain/heel pain/back pain... the shoes are off and now she is SO happy and SO relaxed.

We decided to try another show this month and had a wonderful time together. We won our showmanship class and placed in a few riding classes, but we were most proud of how much progress we made since the earlier shows. She was calm, happy, relaxed and I couldn't have been happier with her. We have a lot of work to do for next year's shows, but we are certainly off to a great start!

A  much happier show mare!
I started investigating the possibility that Lilly has Upward Fixation of the Patella (UFP) after feeling her "get stuck" numerous times at the show. It is something I'm still investigating and will be looking at closely next year.

Lilly needed a trim and due to some scheduling conflicts, my trimmer was unable to come out so I decided to try my hand at hoof trimming! It went rather well and is quite addicting... it's a great feeling to be a part of your horse's hoof care routine, especially after all my horse's hooves have been through. We had some more great rides this month and look forward to many more!

Such a sweet girl...
Lilly and I hope you had a great 2011 and hope you have an even better 2012. She and I are excited about all the possibilities and hope you are too!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Happy Pony

Because of the unhappy horse I had with my friend's western saddle the other day, I guess Lilly is still having some issues with saddle fit. She hasn't shown any discomfort with the hunt seat saddle, so I'm thrilled about that, but the western saddle search might turn into quite an adventure.

During today's ride I had my friend ride Lilly a bit so I could watch how she's moving and how the saddle looks on her back. The back of the saddle was rising up off her back a bit when she posted so I think I'm going to remove the extra wide gullet and replace it with the wide and see how the saddle looks then. I only used the extra wide because she was still showing some discomfort and I thought it was because it still wasn't quite wide enough. It might be a tad too wide now, though. I also got Lilly a gel half pad to try and cushion her back a smidge more.

The arena is still really wet and I didn't feel safe cantering, but the walking and trotting we did was outstanding. I rode her both with the half pad and without, and when she was wearing it she was extra lazy. Without it, she was a bit more forward... I'm not sure what that means, but there was a distinct difference.

She is being such a good girl these days... just a happy girl, happy to do whatever I ask, and without fuss. She is also getting the hang of rating her speed at the trot/jog and I often have a difficult time getting her to move out. I'm loving every minute of it!

After our ride, my friend and I let our horses stand together and they were like two lovebirds. Her horse, Music, was grooming Lilly and giving her kisses and she looked to be in heaven. I think she misses having a buddy in her pasture but none of the boys at the farm can control themselves around her and things get wild. She has to be happy with friends over the fence for now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Good Rides

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Our Christmas was great, and Lilly and I got some really nice gifts that I can't wait to use! Now that Christmas is over, though, I'm ready for spring!

Despite my lack of posting, I've actually been quite busy with Lilly! I rode on Monday and then again yesterday and we had a great ride both times. I was able to ride with two other riders both days, which was a nice change. Usually we ride alone! There's also another boarder coming to the barn today, assuming her horse arrives from Canada on time. She's a veterinarian, so I'm thinking that could have some perks!

Our ride on Monday was great. Lilly is doing really well on the things we've been concentrating on, which include staying round, getting off her forehand, and rating her speed. We worked on some transitions and I've been working her off the rail quite a bit. She gets a little drunk when she doesn't have the rail to follow, but she's been improving a lot.

A boarder friend of mine let me borrow a western saddle she's had for quite a while. I decided I'd try the saddle on Lilly and see how she does, hoping it would fit so I'd have something western to ride in until I find a saddle I want to purchase. When I put it on, it looked like it fit, but I knew I'd have to ride in it to know for sure.

Tuesday it poured rain for most of the day and half the arena was under water, so Wednesday we moved one of the horses into the barn and rode in his pasture. The pasture is a pretty good size, but it's also a bit sloped, so I thought the hills might be a bit tiring for Lilly. I tacked up with the western saddle and off we went.

At first, Lilly was quite fast. There were two other horses with us and I think she thought we were going on a trail ride, so she was working hard to get in front. Both of these horses are Thoroughbreds and one of them raced, so she's outgunned no matter how you slice it. You can't tell her that, though! Once we started working and doing circles, she settled right in and was PERFECT.

If you're new-ish to the blog, you might not have read all the stories about what a challenge Lilly can be when we're with a group of horses. She gets very attached and must go where they go, for fear she'll be left behind. If she doesn't get to go, she will lose her mind. I've been working on this A LOT, but haven't had much of an opportunity at this new barn because we always end up riding by ourselves.

The western saddle started out okay, but the more I worked her, the more I started noticing little things here and there. She didn't want to bend at all and she started getting really stiff and heavy on her forehand. I decided the saddle just didn't fit her properly and took it off about half way through our ride. We rode bareback the rest of the time and I was so proud of how well she did.

I was riding her in a western bridle and I was using a dog bone snaffle with shanks. I've ridden her in it before, but it's been a while. She seemed to like it and happily went around on a loose rein and actually jogged around the pasture. We cantered a bit too, and she was such a good girl!

At the end of the ride, the three of us stood down by the water chatting, and when we were done, the two other girls turned their horses to head back up to the barn. I had Lilly's reins draped over her shoulders and I never touched them while the other horses left her. She stood completely still, quite calm, and relaxed until I asked her to walk back up to the barn. I can't tell you how excited I was about that! :)

Hopefully we're back into our routine now that all the craziness is over. She's still pretty out of shape and I want to get back to the exercises we were doing before December came along. She's making so much progress that I'm excited to see how well she does with more consistent work. I wish we had a western saddle, but that will have to wait for now.

In other news, I'm getting information about a trimming clinic in February. If all goes as planned, I'll be taking Lilly with me to the clinic and I am SUPER excited.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Monday marks the start of the "time to get Lilly back into shape and work her consistently" marathon. Her hooves are doing great, she's happy, and the 2012 show season will be here before I know it. We have quite a few goals for next year, but those will have to wait for another post.

I have been extremely busy trying to get everything ready for Christmas this year. I have to work today, but I'm off Christmas day and the next three days after that and I'm really looking forward to some down time to enjoy the family and friends I am so blessed to share my life with.

Lilly and I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, prosperous 2012!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” — Luke 2:8-14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Great Trim of 2011 - Part 3

I worked on her hooves some more, so here are some updated pictures. This was only heel work for the most part because of my hoof knife. I think it's sharp now, so there will most likely be a part 4 with some frog and bar work. Sorry to bombard you with more and more hoof pictures!

Left Hoof:

Right Hoof:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Great Trim of 2011 - Part 2

The Great Trim was originally planned for last Friday, but my hoof knife was so dull it was like trying to cut a tire with a butter knife... needless to say, I had to find a way to sharpen it. I made due with it today after buying a sharpener that wasn't really the right tool for the job, so now the search is on for the appropriate sharpener. I think I just need one of those old fashion knife sharpening V thingies...

Anyways, back to the Great Trim... I learned a lot today:
  • I have never used "hoof trimming muscles" in my life and I dread how my arms are going to feel tomorrow.
  • Even though the temperature says 45 degrees, dressing like it's actually 35 degrees and then trimming hooves is a bad idea. It got a little toasty under all those layers!!
  • Just because I can see that it needs to be trimmed, and I understand how and why I need to trim it, doesn't mean I'll actually be able to figure out how to get my hoof knife in there and make it happen.
  • If I'm going to do this sort of thing with any amount of frequency, I desperately need a hoof stand!
I think things went fairly well this morning, considering. Lilly was in rare form today and definitely not in the mood to have her hooves trimmed. She wasn't "bad" necessarily, but she didn't make it easy on me at all. I begged her to show a little compassion, but she doesn't seem to be in the Christmas spirit yet. I try to be as easy with her as I can, and I give her breaks often... I even boot the hoof I'm not trimming to try and make her as comfortable as possible. When I tried to use my knee as a hoof stand, she couldn't comprehend the concept that I was NOT there to support her entire body weight and I ended up using a small bucket instead. So let's just say I was limited as far as hoof wall rasping is concerned.

Of course I took "after" pictures of her hooves, and now that I'm looking at them, I can see some areas that need more work. It's amazing what you can see in pictures that you can't see with your naked eye. I tried to take a "less is more" approach today, though, because I would much rather have to go back and take more off, rather than have her sore. So without further adieu, here is my handy work! Normally I would ask that you go easy on me, but that's no way to learn!

Left Front Hoof:

Right Front Hoof:

I can see that I left more heel on her right front than I did on her left front. With both hooves, I was trying to keep the heels just above frog level, but I think I need to take more heel off... or did I take too much off the left hoof? I'm also curious about the heel buttress area of her hoof because it seems so BIG. Here's a closeup of her right hoof:

There's that whole flat area that I figured is considered part of her heel, but in the typical horse, is there that much of a platform, or will all of that "migrate" back as her new hoof capsule grows in and we get her heels underneath her?

I also notice that I didn't do a very good job rolling the toe on her right hoof, and I wish I could have backed up the toe a bit. The bucket hoof stand just wasn't cutting the mustard. I didn't touch any part of her sole that I didn't think was bar, and I did nothing with her toe callus. Hopefully the hoof walls are at an acceptable height too... After the trim, I took her outside and walked her around on the concrete. She was very comfortable and not short at all, so I'm hoping this is considered a partial success, with more work to do in the near future.

It took me over 2 hours and I didn't even do a whole lot on her rear hooves! I only trimmed the bars and did a little bit of heel and hoof wall rasping. I guess I'm not ready for prime time yet. :)

I'm looking forward to your comments!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thoughts On Crates Saddles?

As always, I'm shopping...

I still want to get a western saddle that I can use for work and show, and I'm having a tough time finding exactly what I want. The biggest issue for me is going to be skirt size. Lilly is short backed and I'm trying to find something with a skirt shorter than 27". 26" would be ideal, but those saddles seem to be few and far between. If I could get a barrel racing saddle or a saddle with a round skirt, my life would be much easier but I just can't... they would laugh me out of the show ring.

I have only been searching specific brands that I thought I wanted to purchase, but it just so happens that Crates has a line of ladies reining saddles. After seeing this one, I think I'm smitten.

The description is as follows:

Crates Hand Tooled Reining Saddle

We're proud to introduce Crates' Hand Tooled Ladies Reiner--a saddle especially made for a woman. It is a light-weight reining saddle made on the Equi-Fit reining tree, with a balanced center pocket and a very narrow ground seat. Carefully hand tooled basket. Bench made one-at-a-time. Soft grain-out chap leather padded seat.
  • Tree: Crates exclusive Equifit Reiner, Quarterhorse bars
  • Gullet: Med: 6 5/8"; Wide: 7"; 8" High
  • Horn: Reiner 2 1/2" High, 2 1/2" Cap
  • Seat: 15 1/2" or 16", 3 1/2" Cantle
  • Rigging: In-skirt Stainless Steel
  • Skirt: 26" X 13", Saddlefleece lined
  • Fender: 16 1/2" X 7", 2 1/2" leathers, belvins buckles
  • Finish: Natural
  • Weight: Approximately 28 lbs
It fits the bill in nearly every department I was shopping for. I would prefer a 15" seat, but I think the 15 1/2" would work just fine. It's not really a "show saddle" either, but I think it's fancy enough to show in. This saddle runs about $1900, which is more than I was hoping to spend, but it is what it is. It's not like I'm saving for a wedding or anything... oh, wait!!

Crates saddles are still hand-made, one at a time, in a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee which I love! I've never seen a Crates saddle in person, though, nor have I put my tookis in one. Does anyone have a Crates saddle, or an opinion of them?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Less Pudgy?

I hurried to the barn today to try and beat the rain. The clouds threatened the whole time I was there, but we never got rained on. The weather was fantastic otherwise... 68 degrees!

I wanted to do some round pen work but it became clear pretty quickly that I needed to wash my pony's hind end. The supplements don't appear to be working and neither is the hay net. I just don't know what else to do other than continue to scrub and slather on Desitin.

After she was clean, we headed out to the round pen. She was a bit full of herself, so it took a while to convince her that this was serious business and not play time. She always does much better when we're working to the left and there were some really nice moments going in that direction. I'm always amazed at how closely she pays attention to my body, and when I'm not giving her my full attention, she does what she wants to do. I gave up trying to take pictures because as soon as I raise my camera, she comes in from the rail... booger!

I love her color in the winter!
After our workout, I took a couple pictures to compare with pictures I have of her before she went on her "diet". The weight tape I've been using seems worthless, so I figured the pictures might tell a better story.

October 19, 2011
December 16, 2011
October 19, 2011
December 16, 2011
Since I haven't been exercising her much this month, the majority of the weight loss (if any) would have come from calorie cutting... no more alfalfa pellets and no more Ultium mixed with breakfast supplements.

I think she looks pretty good! :) (but I'm biased...)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Great Trim of 2011 - Part 1

Part 1 is the before, and part 2 will be the after...

If you had told me a year ago that Lilly would now be barefoot and I'd be trimming her hooves, I would have laughed hysterically! Then I would have said something silly like, "she can't go barefoot... duh!" In fact, I probably would have had a similar reaction as Lilly did today when I told her I'd be trimming her hooves this week:

Um, you can't be serious! You do know I'm a princess, right? Not just anyone can trim my hooves!
I went to the barn today to take some pictures of her hooves. I want to study them, compare them to other hoof pictures I have, decide what I need to do for her trim, and also solicit opinions from all of you, along with my trimmer. I'm not as nervous about it as I was when I first thought about doing the trimming myself, but I'm still worried a bit because her hooves aren't exactly "easy keepers." The last thing I want to do is make her sore.

She's had quite a bit of growth since her last trim. Tomorrow will be 7 weeks and she grew more hoof this time than she did in the 7 weeks prior to this trim.

Left Front Hoof:

Right Front Hoof:

When I look at her hooves as a "trimmer", I like to look at each part of the hoof and evaluate it by itself first. I ask myself how each piece looks overall, and then how does it work with the rest of her hoof? What do I need to do with each piece to make this a properly functioning hoof... I usually start with her heels (because I'm obsessed with them and I think they require the most care), then move on from there. She has a fair amount of heel that needs to come off, and I would take them down to where they're slightly lower than her frog. I try to keep in mind that the goal is to encourage her to use the structures on the back of her hoof rather than her toes, so I don't want her to be walking around on hoof wall, but I also don't want her too short because she's still in the process of transitioning and all those structures are still developing. I want to give her a nice heel buttress platform so she's bearing weight on the buttress and the frog. Think heel first, Lilly!

Looking at her bars, I would definitely trim them. From what I understand, the bar corium ends midpoint down the frog, so any bar past that area is considered overgrowth. The bars help make up the nice buttress platform I'm trying to achieve, so they need to be trimmed down to sole level too. I would also clean out the collateral groove a bit, mostly near the back of the hoof.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but she has a pretty good toe callus going on. I wouldn't touch the toe callus, nor would I touch the sole of the hoof except to level off any high spots that could cause pressure points. I wouldn't touch the frog either, unless it was flaking off as it did last time. It looks pretty good to me. 

She has some hoof wall separation going on, mostly on the medial side of her left front, so I would definitely do some rasping to remove as much of the flare as possible, and also help shape the hoof.  After rounding the toe, I'd call it a day!  My trimmer might suggest otherwise, but I'm not sure I feel comfortable backing up her toe.  I think her toes are still a bit long, but I'm not sure how much more needs to come off, and I worry about taking off too much.

The hind hooves aren't nearly as complicated. Usually all it takes back there is a rasp here and there, along with some bar trimming, so I only took a couple pictures of those to show.

Hind Hooves:

Left rear hoof...

Right rear hoof...
I only have a hoof knife and a rasp (thanks again, Spazfilly!), so those are the tools I'll be working with. I'm skeered of nippers and I ain't afraid to admit it! I should be able to do everything with my rasp and hoof knife, but maybe eventually I'll buy a pair of nippers.

Maybe I'm seeing things, but I think the casts distorted her hooves a bit. If you look at the areas I circled on her hooves in these pictures, you can see the "dent" that I think showed up after the casts came off. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but I'm curious about opinions on that as well.

Left front hoof...
Right front hoof...
I think it's most noticeable on her left hoof, but I see something similar on the right hoof as well.

And in other news, does it look like she's lost any weight since going on her diet? She's on 24/7 turnout, getting 2 flakes of hay twice per day (about 18 lbs), a vitamin supplement, MSM, and Pro Balance, which is a high potency probiotic supplement. If I'm there during the day I'll sneak her an extra flake of hay too.

Nom, nom, nom...
I'm using the hay net to hopefully help with her diarrhea. Slowing her down and allowing her to have food throughout the day seems to minimize the amount of icky that drips down her hind legs.

I'm looking forward to any and all comments!!