Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Drama King

On Friday, my trainer was lunging Fawkes over some jumps, which included a small picket fence.  Apparently at one point in time, he stopped in front of it and then tried to step over and ended up banging his right hind leg on it pretty hard.

She checked him over and besides a couple scrapes he seemed fine, and he moved off sound.  I rode him that night and he was 100% fine, actually really good.

Care to guess where this is headed?
Saturday morning I was supposed to have a riding lesson so I arrived at the barn early, just as a small blizzard was starting to move in, and went to get Fawkes.  The 3 inches of snow that fell overnight were undisturbed in his run, showing he hadn't been out to get water in awhile, but that isn't overly surprising.

I put his halter on and tried to lead him from his run.  His response?  To throw his head up and refuse to move.  I clucked and he jumped out into the snow, dead lame.  Forget 3 legged lame.  He couldn't figure out which hind leg  to limp off of so he sort of hopped around in back and alternated which leg he held off the ground.  You would have thought he had two broken legs and several severed tendons.  I tried for 15 minutes to get him to walk and he would spin around on his hind legs but would not move forward.  He had some swelling on the right hind, but nothing awful looking.

Trainer R came out and had to resort to some serious tough love (including some snow puffs thrown by me) to get him into the barn.  By the time we got him inside, it was nearly an hour after I arrived, it was getting colder and snowing harder, and I was ready to trade my big baby of an equine in for the real thing.  Trainer R was very glad I had ridden him the night before because she said otherwise she would have been panicked that something was seriously wrong with him.
Don't pity this face

After dragging him around the arena a couple times, he was totally fine.  The swelling in the leg worked out and he was happily plodding around.  We gave him bute and antibiotics to play it safe, but this isn't my first experience where Fawkes determines his death is nigh and plays the fool, so I wasn't overly worried.

I haven't been able to ride since then through scheduling issues and continuing crap weather, but he is all healed.  Maybe I can squeeze  ride in tomorrow.

Also, I was calling him princess horse but my riding buddies determined that girls deal with pain much better than Fawkes does, so we shouldn't grace him with female pronouns.  So Drama King it is!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A visit from the Gatos

Fawkes has been having a good week although we had a funny interlude last night.  I got to work after a rough day and apparently was still giving off a weird energy because when I walked up to his pen he immediately spooked hard.  I walked in and he kept snorting at me and backing away.  The quarter sheet I was carrying became a monster that was intolerable and must die.

Silly cute horse
It took about 20 minutes to get him to realize I was indeed not about to murder him.  During this time some other things that were terrifying: a broom, the crosstie rack, another horse walking towards him, a brush, the tack box.  Things that weren't scary: Carrots.

Luckily he settled down for a great ride.  He has become practically a metronome at the trot, his canter transitions were reasonable (little head toss, not a full lurch) and we did some poles without a reaction.  Hoping for a lesson this weekend but the weather forecast is quite snowy so we will see.

A jumping effort commensurate to the fence size?  What?
Anywho, J took pictures of the cats last night so I thought I would share a few.  Aragorn has been fighting a flareup of IBD and I seriously should start a journal of our food experimentation successes and failures so I can figure out what he reacts too.  This is a glamorous life I lead, trying to convince a damn cat to pleasepleaseplease eat his super expensive food and then maybe not vomit it back up or develop raging diarrhea.  Jealous? I thought so.

Perching atop the giant scratching post

Old man Griffin is hanging in there.  I have learned, much to my dismay, that there aren't really any pain medicines for cat arthritis out there.  So we are trying a supplement, Dasuquin, to see if that helps.  It is a powder we sprinkle on wet food for him.  He started Jan 13, no sign of improvement yet.

He can't really reach his hind end to groom so he ends up getting matted and we have to cut them out.  Getting old sucks but holy hell he is adorable.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

A horse of a different color

This is definitely not Fawkes

My good friend was out of town for the weekend and let me ride her Shire/TB cross, Tonka.  He is an eventer who has been there, done that, and is phased by almost nothing.  In other words, a nice change for me so I can focus on myself instead of the horse.

He was a tad bit "up" for our lesson :)
 First was the adjustment to a 17.2 hand horse.  Or something like that, he is tall.  Tacking up involved some stretching exercises.  When posting his trot, I felt like I had time to react between strides because there was actual air time.  That took a little while to get used to.  His canter is lovely and just so adjustable.   He is very honest and I had to de-Fawkes my brain.  For example, since Fawkes isn't very response to the right leg yet, I clearly overemphasize that aid.  Sweet Tonka was all, ok, I will move sideways quickly!  Whoops, better soften that up.  He is also easier to straighten so I was able to apply what Fawkes and I have been working on.

Jumping is very exciting even tiny, tiny things
 We only jumped small, but it was good.  I will likely borrow him for future jumping lessons if my friend is cool with it and I don't want to use his legs up on me.  I don't need a ton of height, I just need the ability to work on my body without worrying if the horse is going to jump.

The first time or too he didn't bother to jump the tiny cross rail in and out exercise.  But as he warmed up he got more excited and once even tried to charge in.  Silly boy.  The next time through I focused more on holding him to the trot and he settled back down.  Some more photos of the lesson below.

This is a pole.  Tonka takes his job seriously.

My poor husband hates both the indoor and taking photos of tiny jumps.  But I think he did pretty well.  And in exciting news, I generally think my equitation was solid.  I mean, it should be over this level of stuff but I think my confidence had a long way to come back from this summer.  And I have to work hard not to jump ahead no matter the height so this is progress for me.

It was also really fun to get on a horse that has some spirit but is experienced.  Tonka will make you ride but if I make small mistakes it won't mess him up and that makes it easier for me to relax.  Hopefully we will be able to do some more of these.

I also rode the red beast, and he was very good too.  But I think I will save that for another day, I hate using up all my pictures at once!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Good week in horse world.

Sometimes I think not having a lot to say is a good sign.  Fawkes has had a good week, been very well behaved under saddle.  I think his chiro visit last Friday made a noticeable difference in his movement.  Which is excellent since it justifies the painful cost of the chiro/laser/acupuncture trifecta.

Our lesson last Sunday was great - not much in particular stuck out but he was willing and forward.   The canter is still a bit of a challenge.  Our transitions aren't great yet in that he tends to fling his head upwards, but they are getting incrementally better.  The canter itself is just hard to hold.  He either wants to break or just run.  He is learning to hold the rhythm but it will take awhile for him to be strong.

The best thing was how he was moving off my right leg.  I was able to get him to bend around the corners and we were able to actually make tight turns with outside shoulder control.  Not sure if it is the chiro, training, or most likely, a combination, but we are getting a much more adjustable horse.

We even did some jumping- which I have largely been avoiding -and he was fine.  He looked at one fence but I didn't react except to add leg and he quietly went over.

We had a few hacks this week and he was equally good.  I like riding Thursday nights because the other jump trainer always has crazy things set up in the ring and that stresses Fawkes out.  He does not like when his environment changes!  But it lets us work on our skills. He is no longer allowed to sight see at all.  If he is getting distracted, he gets put to work.  That used to cause his behavior to escalate, but now instead of getting upset, he settles into the work.  Sort of a Pavlovian response that has been trained in.  So we start trotting around, he gets snorty and tense at all the jumps and poles, and we work on bend, counterbend, leg yield, stretching down and back up, and relatively quickly he is relaxed.  I love it, and I hope we never go back to the old ways.

Wednesday I was even able to ride outside for about 20 minutes.  We haven't been in the outdoor in about forever because weekends have had mostly crap weather and there is no light during the week.  So I wasn't sure what to expect.  He was a little more looky, but still was willing to listen.  We did W/T/C and poles, all were good.  Not noteworthy mostly, which is the best thing about it.

In general barn life news, Fawkes got moved to a new run due to some horse dynamics.  Nothing he caused, I am not actually sure why he was moved but whatever.  From what I can tell, he cares not at all about the change and has a better view of the neighbors now.  Horse TV and whatnot.
Our first jumping lesson at the new barn last Feb.  

As we celebrate our one year anniversary at this barn, I think and hope we are on the right path.  There has been more backwards than I would have predicted and our pace now is really slow, but as long as we continue as we are, I have no complaints.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Deep Thoughts

Had a pretty in depth conversation with my trainer last week about Fawkes and thought it might be good to get it all down for future reference.
And back to New Zealand.  This is Milford Sound.  

She knows I have vacillated extensively on the amount of money I am spending, what our actual goals are, and if this horse and I even have a future.  So here a a few things that came out of our talk:

  1. Fawkes has been making really good progress in training.  We were supposed to start in Oct, but we spent a lot of Oct and part of Nov trying to make sure his back would be ok so training really started in late Nov which means we are about 3 months in.  
  2. While it is a lot of money, unless something changes with my work situation (always a possibility), I can afford this for at least 3-4 more months in which time trainer expects him to be a solid, reliable citizen over fences. And even thinks she might have a student identified to start half leasing him then.
    • I am not going to lie, I have doubts about his jumping reliability but she is doing great things with him so I want to be open minded.
    Aoraki Mt Cook.  I could live there
  3. I sometimes lament that Fawkes and I aren't very bonded and wonder what is wrong with me or him or us.  Trainer R is of the opinion that Fawkes is just not that kind of horse.  I guess if he were human we might call him introverted.  He likes people and has manners, but he isn't exactly touchy feely, definitely doesn't snuggle, and doesn't seem to show much concern or emotion in general.  That might just be who he is and not a reflection on our relationship.
  4. Taking all emotion out of it and trying to be very realistic, I don't think this horse would do well on the market.  He is under 16 hands tall, a cribber, has intermittent back issues, and has a hard spook. Ha, that ad just writes itself!  My secondary concern is that I would get a buyer because he is cute, athletic, jumps with snappy knees, etc, and he would end up in a very bad situation.  
  5. So unless someone randomly comes along that really wants him and that I trust, the boy is stuck with me.  If our jumping doesn't come together or his back gets worse, we can just take up trail riding or he can retire and be a horse.  If something catastrophic did happen with my finances, hopefully all this training would make it possible to lease him out until I recovered. 
Some really cool forests to hike through

So that helped us map out the next few months (we had originally only agreed to 3 months of training so this was a planned talk of sorts).  As hard as I try, I know you can't plan for all possibilities but it makes me feel better to try and think about the things I can.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Foster Puppy

Hacked Fawkes last night and he was fine, not too much to talk about.  I did let a potential lease lady ride him but that was kind of a bust.  She is only looking to ride once every week or two.  So while I am open to that, it doesn't really change anything about our life.  He was very well behaved for her and she was a nice rider so that was a positive. It is fun to show off your horse.

One currently life changing thing in our house (nice, sequitur, right?) is our newest foster.  He is some sort of Smooth Coated Border Collie Mix puppy named Jefferson.  At least that is our story for his breed.  As seems to often be the case, he doesn't have much back story.  He was picked up as a stray in Gallup, New Mexico and wasn't doing well at all in the shelter so the rescue sprung him and transferred him to Denver.  We picked him up Friday from transport - well J did while I was flying home - and we expect him to be quickly adopted.

Absolutely obsessed with Jasper
While he might have been shy in the shelter, he is not at all shy at the house.  He is guessed to be 4-6 months old and around 40 pounds.  40 pounds of constantly playing puppy.  Jasper is such a nice tolerant dog, and doesn't mind that Jefferson spends all of his time following him around.  Mean Maya has expressed her disinterest in puppy play and he is respectful of her decision.  Mostly.

First night

He is a good puppy, although he is wearing us and Jasper out with just normal puppy energy.  Luckily he leaves the cats alone.  And the rescue is actively in pursuit of those patient puppy lovers out there that will love him forever.  Pretty sure that this face will convince most people!

Awfully cute

He is a little standoffish with people still but we have already made progress in the 5 days we have had him.

Happy Happy
Next time we might request an older dog, but it is sure is entertaining to have a young, excitable one around!