Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cheap Date and Less Furs

So I am way behind on what is going on with Fawkes, although nothing too unexpected has happened so that is good!

Wednesday I got out of work early and went to the barn to visit with Fawkes and do his Keratex treatment.  I was greeted with a drugged out pony just finishing up his clip job.  The vet said she gave him a normal horse dose of tranquilizer and then instantly regretted it since he nearly fell over 3(!!) times before steadying.  They apparently had several people balancing him and holding his head while R2 quickly shaved him.  He is definitely a cheap date with the drugs.  And he is also flipping cute when tranqed - snuggly and sweet and all sorts of nice that he doesn't have time for under normal circumstances.
Busy tasting the rainbow or whatever it is drugged horses do

Since he was already under he also got his teeth floated, hopefully preventing another episode of mouth abscessing.  I think he looks pretty good properly clipped instead of the embarrassment of last summer, but I just noticed I don't have any full body photos.  Will work on getting those.

I still sigh at this

One intriguing note, when he was getting clipped by his ears, we uncovered some white scarring.  It doesn't show when his fur is grown out.  My guess was the scarring is from the cribbing strap, but the vet said she didn't think so.  Her guess is that he had some sort of traumatic injury - like flipping over while being worked in a chambon.  I don't even know what a chambon is and as far I know, he hasn't been worked in one since I got him, but a) I guess it could have happened when he was a racer and b) it is possible something happened during a training session when I wasn't around with one of his previous trainers?  A moot point now, I guess.

Left side

Right side
The temperature was dropping so we gave him an extra blanket and put him away.  Thursday I was able to squeeze in a quick ride before Thanksgiving with friends.  It wasn't a very noteworthy ride except for to say that he was really good, responsive to the leg, softening, not being spooky or overly resistant.  Right leg response continues to be a work in progress.  We just did basic W-T-C, small leg yields, turn on the forehand, and many transitions.  I put him out in a different turn out to let him play and he had kind of a meltdown.  Orange horses really don't like when things change.  I have a mental note to try and put him there more often to expand his universe.

Fawkes got Thanksgiving carrots and promised to think of all the things he was grateful for :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In which Fawkes makes an appearance

Although there are no under saddle pictures because I haven't been able to get anyone out to take new photos (ahem husband who sometimes reads this).

I have been trying to batch updates because there is just not that much to go on about.  Fawkes gets plenty of trainer rides and gets glowing reports from teacher.  She reiterates that he is not going to start respecting my right leg over night with no relapses so we need to take the small victories.  Interestingly, she is also getting a bit tough love with him and commented that it is time he learns to accept correction and discipline without over reacting. That was one of our main goals - basically to desensitize him - so I am glad she is already able to start incorporating that.

On Thursday, it was new shoes day.
Can you feel the excitement?

I wanted to pull his hind shoes for winter and get rid of the pads but we decided to go conservatively and leave the pads on for one more cycle since he was so flinchy at the hoof tester.  And I don't want to risk him being sore when I go out of the country for two weeks over Christmas.  In January, I am more willing to lose a week to footsoreness.

His feet have taken a bit of a beating lately including the still freaking growing out crack from stepping on himself 6 months ago and from pulling a shoe on the other front last cycle.  However, while they look a little bit rat-chewed, on the whole they are doing ok.  I took pictures before the new shoes went on:
Left Front

Right Front
His hinds are now barefoot and I am doing a round of Keratex to try and keep them from cracking too much.  Within a day they started flaking below the nail holes but hopefully the Keratex prevents too much damage.

This morning we actually had a riding lesson!  Amazing this riding your horse thing.  It was a really good ride.  I apparently have developed a lovely new habit of shoving my foot forward (noooo) so we got to work on that.  And with Fawkes it was more of the same old: marching walk, not meandering, outside rein, moving off whichever leg, and transitions within the trot.  He is spectacular off the left leg and there are some improvements off the right.  I know he used to be able to do this which makes me speculate how much he was compensating for his hurt back and for how long.  Anyways, sticking with the here and now, we also re-introduced canter transitions and going forward immediately after the transition.

I can't really think of much he did wrong during the flat work.  A couple times he inverted but was correct much more often than not.  Most of the attention was on me and my equitation flaws (post softer, tuck your butt, elbows do the transitions).  Then we moved onto poles and even some cross rails.  Getting him straight with my right aids (tracking left) to the poles/jump is still insanely challenging but going the other way was easy peasy.  And I noticed one small change that may or may not be significant.  Because he is Fawkes, he always jumps even little cross rails.  Usually he gets really close and takes a sort of trot chip step.  Today, he left that chippy step out and confidently jumped from farther away.  I got left behind over the smallest jump imaginable the first time because he has never done that before.  Something to keep an eye out for.

In other animal news, we took on a foster dog for a local border collie rescue.  This is Gizmo:
He showed up on Wednesday with a collar, some vaccine records, and nothing else.  Not even a name.  He is an intact-for-not-much-longer male border collie mix, maybe 18 months to 2 years old.  Sweet and easy, I don't expect it to take long for him to get a home.  He might have to get shaved down to deal with numerous mats and he is pretty shy, but he has already come out of his shell some.  It makes me happy to be able to help a dog find his way to a new and better life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Leg Stretch

Between the continuing miserable weather and the evil cold virus I am fighting, it was a really quiet weekend around here.  I read two books (Life After Life and King's Dragon), spent an inordinate amount of time drinking tea and snuggling various animals, watched bad tv, and played old school Nintendo emulators.  Do we know how to party or what??

Oh yes we do
My awesome husband visited Fawkes to continue removing ice from his water trough, but that was the extent of horsey activities.  Also, Maya is about to die from sheer boredom. Border collies don't care if you are sick and it is frigid.

I went to the barn tonight to at least get on Fawkes and move him around, keep the old digestive system working.  It was not a pleasant start, everything is icy and there was a cutting wind.  BRRR.  But once we got to the indoor and moving it was good.  Fawkes wanted to spook and run but we weren't there for shenanigans or getting all hot and sweaty and he held it together.  We did some trots sets but mostly just walked.

I was proud of him for being obedient when he so clearly needs a run. Sorry kiddo, you are way too fuzzy to run around the indoor for 20 minutes.  Soon.

In an attempt to get more flexible and stronger in my core, I have found time to implement some yoga/pilates type activities into my evening.  While this eats into my doing nothing time and I greatly resent it, I have already felt a difference.  Not a huge one yet, but I can plank for longer and I can get into a real warrior pose.  So hopefully that helps the riding.

I basically look exactly like this.  HAHA, does that person have bones?
Oh look, my tea is empty, time to refill!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


It has been so damn cold here that I can barely bring myself to leave my layers of blankets, dogs, and cats.  It dropped 35 degrees in an hour on Monday and went downhill from there.
Jasper says, "wake me when it is spring."
This morning when I woke up, it was -3F.  Yesterday topped out at 7 and today might have made it to 15.  Screw that.  I have turned into some sort of crazy bag lady, wandering around the house wrapped in a blanket.  Jasper and Aragorn snuggle up with me and the husband while Maya runs around like a nut job, bored.  Griffin just watches the whole thing, wondering what odd place he has landed at.

Maya says, "this weather is awesome!"
All horse activity has come to a screeching halt.  Fawkes was supposed to get clipped yesterday but that would have been cruel.  He has spent the last few days wrapped up in blankets of his own, eating.  I didn't even want to turn him out in the indoor, get all hot, and then have to blowdry him before putting him back out.  It was too dark to get pictures when I saw him tonight, but he seems quite content. 

I, on the other hand, flirted with hypothermia breaking ice up in his water trough and fishing out the chunks.  It is a special kind of pain.

Jasper a few weeks ago, just because he is adorable.

Maybe, just maybe, it will get warm enough tomorrow that I can ride my horse.  That will be an adventure for sure.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Baby steps

After our train wreck ride, Fawkes has been excellent and we have been getting some really good work.  Good thing too because the weather forecast for the week is awful.  Cold front swings in tomorrow and then it doesn't look like it will get above freezing all week.  Fawkes will therefore not get clipped this week and will also likely not work because, eff that.

Cannot complain though, the last few rides have been great.  We clearly have a long way to go in relationship repair and de-confusing the horse, but things are starting to work some.  For example, when I ask him to move off my right leg and he gives me the middle finger, my trainer has me halt and do a turn on the forehand off the right leg.  The idea being he is going to respond to that leg or work harder, plus the turns on the forehand are just good for him.  It will take awhile to break established habits but I can already feel some difference.

Such hard work
Today we had a lesson and it was pretty basic, moving off the legs, getting straight, listening to cues.  Lots of transitions within the trot gait.  It is engaging his little orange brain, at one point he offered me a walk/canter transition which is not something he generally enjoys.  It is like he got so into listening to what I was asking for and trying to give the correct response...and willingly.  This is kind of new for the horse who generally does things somewhat begrudgingly.  He still is leaning on my right leg and R told me to just be patient about that, it won't go away over night.  We did trot poles and a cross rail.  Literally all we are working on is being straight and me riding well. I cannot get away with anything sloppy on Fawkes right now (maybe ever) so I need to up my game.   Time for all those lessons and hours to pay off.

I don't think we will have much exciting to discuss for some time but I am hopeful for the future.  His trot today was booming!  Hopefully I can get video soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Rode Fawkes last night.  It was probably inevitable that it was going to be flat atrocious.  I haven't ridden in a week and my trainer called Monday to tell me just how amazingly awesome Fawkes had been for her while I was out of town.

So, it shouldn't be surprising that he spent the whole ride spooking and being an ass and I rode like crap, right?

Fat pony is fat! Not looking so bad here
On the plus side, as can be seen in the photo above and below, we are making some real progress getting him to step under himself with his right hind leg.

And then the resistance shows up.
I am trying to stay out of his face since we are all about self carriage and relaxation.  However, when we come off the rail to circle (someone was lunging at the other end of the ring) he immediately gets all stiff and resistant.  And strangely, while he is stepping under himself he is still trying to bulge against my right leg with his body.  However, all that is just stuff to work on.  It got really frustrating when the lunging horse had a wild moment and Fawkes just melted down.  Spooked halfway across the ring and then stood there staring

Scaredy cat
He never really came back to me.  Once lunging horse left and we tried to use the entire ring, and he just spooked and spooked at that end.  He never once ducked his shoulder and spun out so there is some improvement but he would come out of the safe corner onto the long side and immediately tense looking at the spooky corner.

There was a lot of this.  Tension much?
It sucks because I am supposed to stay out of his face but if I don't maintain a pretty good contact, he uses that opportunity to spin.  But if it the contact is too strong, it just adds to his tension.  I haven't figured out how to toe his very thin line so I default to the defensive ride and it annoys him.  We got a little bit of decent work to the left and then I got off.  I stripped his tack and he took off running and bucking like a crazy horse.  He has been in routine work so I imagine that was just him shaking off our crappy ride more than an actual need to run.

Happy to see him open up a little.  I think he looks positively fabulous here, we need more of these moments!
Anyways, this is why he is in training now so hopefully these kind of rides happen less frequently soon.  Trying hard to just focus on the positive for now.