Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boring update, but happy horse

Well the Previcox seems to be making Fawkes a very happy boy.  He had a test trainer ride over the weekend and word is that he felt great.

He was also rock star for the farrier yesterday.  I had told the farrier to not even bother to do hinds if he was awful because I didn't want a repeat of last time.  However, he just stood there and dozed the entire time.  Farrier was able to do a full set and front pads in record time.  Phew, I won't get fired as a client this month at least.

The radical behavior shift really makes it blindingly obvious we are dealing with some sort of pain issue.  Off drugs he couldn't hold his hind leg up long enough to get a shoe on; on pain medicine he basically sleeps through it.  Not that I doubted he was hurting, but that drives it home more.  Oh, and still no return of any stifle issue.

I am kind of perplexed on next best steps.  My trainer has mostly been dealing with the vet to date since it is not my normal vet and they go way back, but I think it might be time to insert myself in the process.  I am adamantly opposed (and so is my trainer) to keeping him on meds and riding him if it is just masking a bigger issue.  I want him to feel as good off the Previcox as he does on it, if that is possible.  Or if we need long term meds and a different work strategy, I would like to know what is causing that.  So I think it might be time to amp up the diagnostic efforts.  Good thing those are so cheap!

Mostly I am a little frustrated at the moment because I am in back to back work meetings all day and then have social obligations in the evenings this whole week so I probably won't get to move on anything or spend much time with Fawkes until the weekend. But my horse is currently happy and comfortable so I am trying to be patient.  A few more days won't change anything.  And maybe I can get the chiro visit in this week so we will have that evaluation complete.

Just keep plowing ahead, right?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Off Topic - Crested Butte, CO

Well, since Fawkes is relaxing with his Previcox right now, J and I loaded the dogs in the car and took a road trip to Crested Butte for the weekend. This was the sunset as we were going to our hotel for the night.

Mt Crested Butte 
It is about a 4 hour drive from our house with no traffic.  However, the words "no traffic" don't really apply to metro Denver and we stop to let the dogs out, eat, etc, so it took us about 5 hours to get there. Jasper is awesome to ride with, he picks a cozy spot in the car, nests the everloving hell out of it, and lays down.  He is all "wake me when we get there."  Maya, special little snowflake, is a bit more of a challenge.  She spent most of the drive as she does all car rides.  That is, bashing her head against the window as she tries to attack/herd cars going in the opposite direction.  Or even stopped cars that we pass because even genius border collie mutts don't understand relative motion.

They are good at balance beam tricks though
There is nothing quite like hearing your dog's face THUNK against the window over and over for hours.  If you put said window down, even a little, she runs to the other side of the car and curls in a protective ball for about 5 minutes before resuming her game. Or herding cars on that side.

But in spite of that, we had a relatively easy drive.  Crested Butte is like many other CO mountain towns - beautiful and outrageously expensive to live in.  For example, just for fun we looked up the price of an 1800 sq ft log cabin (adorable, btw) on 0.1 acres in the town.  Asking price?  1.1 million.  Yowza.  And the only jobs are industry - hotel, skiing, restaurants so I guess only fabulously wealthy people can really afford to buy houses here.  For tourists though, it isn't terrible.  And fall is considered the off season even though this is prime leaf viewing season.  This is my first time here and after 5 years of living in CO and quite a bit of world travel, this place is still pretty spectacularly impressive.

These aspen aren't even close to peaking yet.
Today we took the dogs out and ended up doing about 9 miles total.  First, a quick 1.5 mile jaunt to a lake that I promptly fell in because I am an idiot and do stupid things like trying to balance beam on a slippery, unstable log.  There are no photos of that - J believes that photographing my failures is not in the best interest of our marriage (he is wrong about that, I adore mocking myself) - but I was wet up to mid thigh.  Yay for low humidity and quick drying gear.

Then we went over to a place called Horse Park Ranch and hiked amongst the changing aspen.  Lord of the Rings geek that I am, I kept imaging I was wandering the woods of Lothlorien.
Maya and I climb a fallen tree for no other reason that because it is there

Maya likes to help plan hikes.  Probably why we get lost.

Jasper has other priorities

I even have an elven name chosen, Nimloth.  Which way to Middle Earth?

So bright
We had planned to do a 6 mile loop but got pretty lost at the inadequately labeled trail junctions.  When in doubt, wander until you get tired and then head back the other direction.  Especially when the last trail junction has nothing but a shattered wooden sign on the ground.  We think we ended up doing 7-8 miles on this portion, took about 4 hours.  And just beautiful scenery.  The dogs had a blast running around.  Jasper is "fully" recovered from his TPLO surgery in April but when he runs and runs and runs for hours he pays the price later so we try to keep him on leash for part of the hike.  He doesn't appreciate that and screams bloody murder.  Passing hikers said they thought they were hearing some Amazonian monkey being eaten by a jaguar.  Accurate description of the sound he makes.  Fine dog, run your damn leg off.

This place will be even more beautiful in another week, but we can't really complain.  Dogs are tired: Jasper is upside down and unconscious and Maya is looking at me with the sad face that says "what is this "tired" sensation and why am I feeling it"?  Hopefully can get another short hike in tomorrow before heading back to reality and a horse that (pleasepleaseplease) is on the mend.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Well, after a great jumping lesson on Saturday:

Fawkes is now back-sore again.  We have been off of the meds for over two weeks and he was going so well in his Ecogold.  Sigh.  That is what I get for talking about it, I suppose.

The last couple days he has been coming out of his run with what R calls "his old man shuffle."  He works out of it but I don't want to keep pushing it until we have a better idea what is happening.  The vet first rechecked all of his legs and confirmed that there is no issue there.  Whereas he definitely has back pain.  So she prescribed Previcox and an equine chiropractor.    After that we will probably be looking at x-rays, hauling to the clinic and other things that make me check book weep sad, sad tears.  I am not freaking out yet since the vet told me not too, but I am starting to get concerned something more serious is going on in there.  However, since we haven't gone the chiro route yet, I will let that happen before initiating the Overthinking Machine that is my brain.

Little plank jump don't scare us.  I look like a giant on him in this photo, makes me laugh.  
Vet is in love with my little man, always complimenting his conformation and oddly, his demeanor.  Considering he tried to bite, kick, and eviscerate another vet *while sedated* during his sheath cleaning, I assume that his back doesn't hurt that much, she has a really gentle touch, or he thinks she is some sort of deity and her ministrations are to be politely tolerated.   I personally prefer the last one.

So, Fawkes gets another vacation and we get to play Mystery Diagnosis horse version again.  Heal up buddy, things have been going well and we have lots of do yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ecogold review

A part of me really wanted to be convinced this pad was overhyped and not that great because I absolutely hate spending that much money on a saddle pad, but sometimes you just need to suck it up and listen to the horse.  Fawkes seems VERY happy in his Ecogold (Memory Foam Triple Protection™ Half Pad Jumper, to be exact)

Current set up: smartpak baby pad, Ecogold half pad, equipe expression saddle
Let's start with aesthetics, the least important to me but always a nice touch.  Overall, I think it is a decent looking saddle pad.  I really do like the brown color.  If I am being picky, I would want it a smidge darker, but I was just happy there was a brown option.

Fit: I was really worried it would impact my saddle fit, but that fear was unfounded.  At least, the saddle is still riding really well with even sweat marks-I have not had it professionally fitted.  The addition of this pad did, however, change the fit of my girth.  Which was already a bit short with the shorter flaps on this saddle so that is not surprising.  I am experimenting with a baby pad right now, which allowed me to get the girth on.  But I am apparently baby pad impaired.  This smartpak pad doesn't have any indication of the middle and I am not smart enough to get the thing even without help.  Is this all baby pads?  Or am I just incompetent?

Anyways, the length of the pad fits my 17" saddle perfectly.  My friend is going to try it with her 18" because I am curious if it is too short for that.

Quiet eye

Price: At $175 with shipping to the US, I only picked one up because they offer a 30 day money back guarantee.  Who really needs a saddle pad that expensive?  Apparently us.  Also, I think this one is middle of the road pricing compared to some others I have seen. One bonus, the 175 is Canadian so it only ended up costing me about $160 US.  Score?

Horse happiness = priceless.  I am not always the most observant person when it comes to subtle changes.  When Fawkes got front pads, my trainers oohed and aahed over his improved movement and I couldn't tell the difference.  So far with this half pad?  It is noticeable even to me.  The most obvious difference for me is how much of his resistance immediately dropped away.  We have struggled with canter transitions where Fawkes sort of stalls out and then leaps into the canter.  It is not a thing of beauty.  Second time out in this pad, that was 50%* improved, by yesterday it was 75%* improved.  I am pretty certain the last 25%* is training, but it is a big improvement.  His back is also lifting in his canter more and his trot has more expression.  Hard not to credit the saddle pad since he recently came off meds so if anything I would expect some rebound soreness.
* estimates of improvement only, not scientific measurements.

I know I am super late to this party - perhaps the party is even over since I hear much noise about Ogilvy these days  - but I am very happy with this purchase.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Progress, even just a little

Thank you for all the support on my last post.  It was much appreciated since almost everyone at my barn was like, "it ended fine, why are you upset?"  They mean well, they just genuinely didn't understand.  Interesting contrast there.

I took your great advice and took all the pressure off for a few days.  Monday we went on a "trail ride."  Since we are on VS lock down and can't leave the property, I tacked him up and just walked around on a loose rein, socializing.  Was able to geek out with a fellow rider over Portal (I may sing Still Alive in the shower) and the October Daye series of fantasy novels, which I really want to read more of.  Fawkes was a bit cranky at the start and I think meandering around while not asking for anything was good for his brain too.  He really started walking out instead of his normal slow turtle walk.  Then I groomed him and put him away, no muss, no fuss.  Just a nice evening with friends, because my horse is definitely my friend.

The barn crew recently re-wrote the stall plates and apparently renamed
my horse "Flakes."  Love it.
My trainer and I decided to leave my lesson on for tonight, with the option to cancel if I wasn't feeling it.  It was a beautiful sunny 83 degrees out and we don't have much of that left, so I opted to do an easy jumping lesson.  Trainer R had to leave so I got to ride with her daughter, R2, which was great.  R2 is the most laid back horse trainer I have ever met.  She knows her shit and is excellent at helping you while also just letting you do your thing.  While warming up, Fawkes was very spooky in the corners, who knows what monsters he thought he saw.  There was a hunter course set up (lines along the rail and singles on the diagonal) so we did almost the whole thing as poles, then moved them up to low verticals and cross rails.

End of summer sunflowers
Fawkes was being very good at listening.  And we had a nice confidence breakthrough moment.  We trotted up to a vertical and I got tense and defensive since there was a gate next to it he had been giving the hairy eyeball.  He had every excuse to stop since he hates to jump when I am tense, but he just ignored me and jumped it nicely.


I guess we are ok.

He even did the line in 5 and jumped out the other side just fine.

Then I relaxed and just enjoyed the rest of the lesson.  Trusted him to go over everything - which he did.  He was still strangely spooky in the corners but in a weird way that was a good thing because he didn't carry that spook to the jumps.    Fawkes was happy, I was happy, exactly what we needed.

While I am sure my barn funk isn't entirely over, it has been great to just reconnect with the good parts of riding and horse ownership.

Duh, this face draws you back.  Now, cookie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


To start with, Fawkes is fine and the other horse seems to be ok.  I, on the other hand, have been pretty freaked out.  Also, I never intended this blog to be a diary of my feelings, but whatever, it turns out Fawkes can't make much progress when I am all PTSD.

Thursday night we dropped in on a jumping lesson with the barn's other H/J trainer, just to try something different.  There were 4 horses in the lesson.  It was going really well.  The trainer had us jumping an equitation course with lots of interesting questions.  Besides taking a few tries to get over the mini-fence/gate thing, Fawkes was a rock star.  The course started with changing diagonal over some trot poles, then a bending line (6 stride to 4 stride) with the last jump being a skinny.  Next, back to trot over the gates, then a single vertical across the diagonal, followed by two bending lines up the middle.  That might not make much sense, but point being, there was a lot going on so I was proud that Fawkes was listening well and being pretty brave.

Near the end of the lesson, my friend was taking her horse over the course and he kind of stalled out in front of one of the gates.  Because the gate is low, he sort of tried to go over it like a cavaletti.  He miscalculated and put his left hind directly down into the slats at the top of the gate.  You can see the holes on the top of the gates in the picture below of Fawkes jumping them last winter.

The poor horse couldn't get his foot out and initially freaked.  Fawkes clearly doesn't have the capacity to watch a horse spooking with a gate attached to his foot and lost his mind.  Started flying backwards and sideways and then spinning, completely ignoring my pleas for him to calm down since he wasn't the one stuck in a freaking jump.  The other horse stopped pretty quickly and stood there with his left hind raised and the jump partially dangling from his leg and partially on the ground, just waiting for someone to come help him.  It was terrifying to see.  His rider managed to hop off while the trainer ran over to try and free the stuck leg.

The other two horses in the ring were watching the scene, but not reacting, thankfully.

Fawkes was still flipping out but I was able to get off the still going sideways animal and get the reins over his head.  I wanted to get him out of the ring and help my friend or something, but the drama was going down near the exit and Fawkes was not exactly cooperating.  I was really scared that he was going to break away from me and cause the other horse to start running again so I had a death grip on the reins.  The trainer had zero luck prying the board off the gate and after about 5 minutes, the horse had just had it and bolted, breaking away from his owner, dragging the gate.  He and Fawkes, who are the best of friends, started screaming to each other in a panic and of course, the gelding came running our way.

He briefly got tangled with one of the other horses in the ring, his reins ensnared her crop and actually snapped it in two.  The mare, bless her, wasn't scared and just body checked the frightened gelding who redirected back towards Fawkes.  Somewhere in that mess, the gate FINALLY broke away from his leg.  The poor thing got to Fawkes and stopped dead, heaving a big sigh.  While he is scraped up, a bit swollen, and looks sore, amazingly, he seems ok.

This guy is fine too. Thankfully.
I am so relieved but for the last several days I have been, well, traumatized.  I have never really had this kind of reaction to a traumatic event before so partly I am wondering what is wrong with me, but another part of my brain is like, no, that was awful, this is appropriate.  So I don't know which is right.  I haven't wanted to ride or even be at the barn and I can't get the images out of my head.  I wouldn't have been able to get to the barn Friday or Saturday anyways, but I was actually happy to be too busy to go ride.

I did go ride this morning and take a lesson.  I had no desire to jump at all, and trainer R said that was ok.  So we trotted and cantered poles on the ground, and worked on transitions.  Really simple stuff and I could barely get it together enough to do that.  I mostly wanted to get off and go home, I just felt very sad.  Fawkes was excellent, maybe a bit sluggish to the leg, but not spooky or reactive which was just what I needed.  I am still not sure why I feel this way.  My horse wasn't hurt, my friend's horse seems to be recovering well, no humans were injured, and I understand that freak accidents happen.  I am definitely grateful at the outcome, but why is there this sadness associated with it?  Very confusing.  However, whether it makes sense or not, we obviously have to deal with reality.  Which means taking is easy until my brain is finished processing this.  Hopefully that isn't too long.

Still very, very grateful for a positive outcome to what could have been a horrible ending.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Action plan

So I do sometimes ride my horse.  We had a light ride Monday and he was very good, and we also had a flat lesson tonight.

Still no horse pictures, so here is a cheetah!
After doing some rides on him while I traveled, trainer R agrees we need to sharpen him up off the leg which is a true story.  So we focused on that and did some canter figure 8s overpoles.  Fawkes prefers to change after the pole instead of over the pole, which, ok.  His changes were clean and easy, nothing to complain about there.  

I had a small epiphany about outside rein and shoulder control.  I mean, I already knew the outside rein controls the outside shoulder but I was processing that I need to not lose outside rein contact when turning to prevent him blowing out that way.  So I am paying closer attention there and while we still aren't fully straight coming off the rail to go to poles, it is improving.  I think he is bored with not doing so much jumping lately because he was practically dragging me to the poles and then jumping them.  I love the feeling of a horse locking on and taking you to the jump.

And a panda :)
Which leads to our overall action plan.  Starting in October - to make sure his back is fully healed - Fawkes is going into trainer boot camp.  He is going to get at least two trainer rides a week to hopefully give him his own confidence over fences so I can stop feeling the pressure to make no mistakes.  Let's face it, I am not ever going to be a perfect rider so he needs to know that if I mess up, he is still fine.  I think the trainers can make that happen . Hopefully it improves our relationship and helps us learn to trust each other.  If not, well, that is valuable information too.  I am pretty excited to get started on that, but it makes sense to not start until his back is 100%.

The Ecogold pad has arrived and tonight was my first ride in it.  It is definitely going to require a longer girth so that is a good excuse to shop.  Fawkes felt great and I suppose that could be the pad, but we will need more data points to be sure.  I am a little concerned it is making his saddle tight, but I feel like I am always paranoid about that so I will just keep an eye on it and let the trainers verify it is ok.

Here is to planning and hopefully success!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thinking, that's all

Had plenty of time to think this weekend, flying across the country, sitting in DC traffic, waiting for wedding things to happen (do wedding events ever occur on time??).

Chihuly exhibit at Denver's botanical gardens.  I am so out of horse pictures
I can get very horse philosophical and like to perform state of the union mental exercises about my relationship with Fawkes.  Problematic over thinker, table for one.  But crazy lady or not (yeah, the former), I personally believe every relationship can benefit from some thought about how it is going.

Generally, Fawkes and I get along pretty well.  I think our biggest flaw is that we are too similar.  We are both irritable types and Fawkes is definitely an over thinker as well.  We are pretty good at freaking each other out.  One of us spooks at something and the other follows suit.

The best way I have found to summarize our relationship is my 90/10 explanation.  Which is that in 90% of the ways that count, Fawkes and I are an excellent pair.  We fit together well physically, we make a good team, we usually communicate effectively, etc.  But the 10%....man, that 10% kills us.  I wish Fawkes would cover for me a little more over fences, and well, I would guess Fawkes feels the same way about me.  We don't have the best trust in each other.  I don't fully trust him to go over a fence and he clearly doesn't trust me enough to just jump the things I point him at.

Pretty flowers too
This leads to the issue of us making progress to a point (when the 90% goodness is dominant) and then crashing and burning and going back to square one when the 10% of badness takes over.  I have repeatedly asked trainers, friends, observers, and hell possibly random strangers if we just aren't a good match.  Or maybe I am not a good enough rider to bring out his best.  The feedback is always the same, that I am good enough to ride him and we are well matched.  But I have trouble internalizing that as truth.

Clearly it is hard for me to be objective, but I don't think there is anything super flawed with him as a horse and I know I am not an awful rider.  So why do we struggle to make consistent progress?  It has been almost three years.  While we have jumped up to 3'3" and done well at our few shows, it can always so easily come apart.  And then it takes a long time to get back to where we were.

Sometimes it stops being fun and I lose motivation.  Having trail rides taken away this summer due to the VS outbreak hasn't helped.  Riding can become just another chore.  I feel so unfaithful to my teenage self who would have done absolutely anything to have more chances to ride when I feel like I *have* to go ride Fawkes.  Another obligation.  I occasionally get asked why I don't sell him if I still have doubts, and that is certainly a possibility I have considered.

Blue flamingo glass?  Awesome
But I don't think I am ready to let him go.   I hope it isn't sheer stubbornness.  Realistically, I am not sure what kind of future he would have: under 16 hand cribber who is spooky and doesn't have a problem quitting at fences....who can also jump the frickin moon and is a hunter dream with snappy knees, clean changes, and a face that every judge loves.  I feel like either he wouldn't sell at all or could end up in a bad situation.  That isn't all that stops me though I have trouble articulating the other reasons.  I guess I just feel like our story isn't over yet.  Time will tell how that pans out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

100 capsules

When I got to the barn after work today, it was close to 100 degrees.  Neither my trainer nor I felt like messing around in that heat (we didn't ask but I am sure Fawkes agreed) so instead we had a very light hack.  Hopefully I can get a real ride in tomorrow night.

The vet wants to try Fawkes on gabapentin for a few days and left a bottle of pills for us.  Actually a bottle of capsules.  Which I then got to open and dump into baggies of grain.  8 pills per serving, 12 servings and I got to open and dump nearly 100 tiny capsules.  This is the life, I tell you.

Hold on sucker, while I think up more stupid tasks for you
It was oddly calming to just do something silly and repetitive.  And I only looked a little bit like I spilled cocaine on my shirt for the drive home.

I did wear my awesome new target socks.  Nerd and Broncos colors = WIN
Work has been hectic and I have been basically exhausted all week.  Friday morning we leave for DC for the weekend for a wedding so Fawkes will get trainer rides.  Hopefully next week returns to some normalcy.