Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's always something in this everchanging life

Haven't had much to say about riding this past week.  I had a lesson on Fawkes on Saturday and he was really good.  My trainer has upped the game even more on riding every stride.  Boy isn't allowed to look around, giraffe, or have much loose contact.  She basically said that he hasn't earned any trust yet and until that happens he doesn't get freedom. Also known as: you want to be the one in charge of thinking in this relationship.

Trying to break it down, it appears the situation is:

1. Fawkes doesn't trust that his rider will take care of him.  He thinks he needs to take care of himself.

2. This is exacerbated by dropping contact.  The more you are "there" for him, the more he relaxes.  The less you are there for him, the more he worries.

3.  Of course this is a balancing act where just hanging on his face isn't beneficial either.

4.  Once jumps are part of the equation, hands up, eyes WAY up and he stays confident.  Otherwise, nope.

So in a very subtle way, I am riding him with excessive direction.  We are trying to figure out ways to get me more lessons in during the week since these really small changes and reactions take awhile for me to pick up on.

In summary, lots more boring stuff in our future.  I did get a new cribbing strap, that is super exciting.  And Fawkes got his first bath of the year.  Per usual, I ended up at least as wet as he did, but somehow not as clean.  The weather has been stunning so really want to get out and ride more!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cat Health Woes

Warning: No horse content, more just lamentations about how I feel I have been unable to help out my cats.

Maintaining two old man cats is actually a lot of fun most of the time.  They are both very sweet with humans and are old enough to have zero tolerance for BS from the dogs.  They get into slow fights with each other where they sit and lazily bat at each other.  They get more enjoyment from a well placed sun beam than I do from almost anything.  However, the health issues and the limited options available for treatment can be really frustrating.
He loves when we snuggle

Aragorn is generally in amazing shape for his age.  He will turn 13 this summer but looks like he is about 3.  His only issue is food allergies/IBD/something wrong with his digestive system.  As you can probably guess, problem A is diagnosing what is truly wrong.  IBD is a diagnosis of exclusion, but I have had a hard time getting vets that really think it is worthwhile to run extensive diagnostics. Traditional treatments like prednisone have actually made him worse.  I have been encouraged to just play with his food.  Fine.

After more reading than I ever wanted to do on species appropriate feeding, I wanted to get him off of the prescription food he has been eating.  It is kibble (apparently not great for cats, not that I am judging anyone whose cat is healthy eating it) and the ingredients are crap but more importantly, he was only doing so/so on it.  Still sick sometimes.  I tried a novel protein (duck) kibble and sent him into a total IBD meltdown so that didn't work.

A nutritionist suggested really high quality wet food.  You know, one where the first ingredient is the same as the name of the meat on the label.  I armed myself with Hound and Gatos lamb, chicken, beef, and pork and headed home.  So proud of myself and the ridiculous amount of money I am willing to spend to make my cat healthy.


Epic fail.

You would think I was trying to poison him.  He wouldn't go near the pork for anything, same with the chicken.  For about 35 seconds I was really excited I had a winner with the beef as he ate that with gusto.  And then promptly vomited it EVERYWHERE.  Guess we found a trigger food.  The lamb he ate for nearly a week.  He was the healthiest he has been in a long time.  I went and bought a bunch more, excited.  And he rejected it, full stop.  He went on hunger strike for 48 hours and my vet has cautioned it isn't worth the risk of fatty liver disease to push farther.  I cooked chicken for him and he wouldn't eat that either.  I cried.

I caved and let him eat his prescription dry for a few days while I regrouped.  I read that dry food cats tend to be carb addicts who can struggle to transfer to wet food so to start by feeding him whatever he will eat.  That basically Hound and Gatos is like trying to feed a McDonald's fed kid fancy organic greens or similar.  So I pulled out the McDonald's of cat food and he is currently eating wet Friskies.
He has no shame

He gobbles that shit down.  You know what the first ingredient is?  Water.  And no matter whether it says salmon or beef the second ingredient is usually chicken byproduct.  And he loves it.  Unfortunately, his digestive system isn't fully accepting of this so now I need to try to step him up to the middle ground.  Because he is still rejecting the high end stuff.  Sigh a million times.  I want to get him to raw but at this point that would take a miracle.

And then there is adorable Griffin.  Who was once morbidly obese (9/9 BCS when surrendered to the shelter) and whose joints have had a rough life.  He has arthritis in his back/hind legs.  No point figuring out exactly where because do you know how many arthritis treatments are available for cats?  Effectively none.  You can get a fentanyl patch but those have their own issues and my vet is hesitant to prescribe at this time.  The severity of his pain varies but he almost always minces around and occasionally gets really lame and won't move much.

At my vet's recommendation, he has been on a joint supplement for the past two months - Dasuquin.  No noticeable difference yet and the science of oral joint supplements is not promising.  But I don't know what else I can do for him.   Acupuncture maybe?

I know I am just complaining here and I am actually lucky.  I have lost several cats at much younger ages.  Dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, pancreatitis - getting to help them through elder years is a blessing.  But I feel like when my dogs have been older and sick, I have had more options.  I just wish I could do the same for the cats.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

If I held my ground, would you ask me to change?

I have no idea what to write as blog titles anymore so until I get some inspiration, I think I will go with song lyrics from my favorite music.
What? New pictures?  Inconceivable! Also, fatpony is fat

Horse world has been pretty much the same.  Fawkes has two personalities and both have been making an appearance.  He has been more good than bad, but the jerk did spin out from under me during a lesson on Saturday.  I almost saved it and therefore it was the most gentle fall ever - that moment when you are dangling off your horse's side and realize the ground is closer than trying to claw your way back up there?  Yeah, it was that.  Another reason to love short horses.

What caused this spook?  We were cantering a left circle and a gust of wind made a jacket hanging on a jump standard to our right blow around a bit.  Even though we were going left and the spooky object was right, Fawkes' tiny horse brain decided a 180 to the right would be the safest option.  Idiot.  It was partially my fault in that I didn't have his attention firmly enough on the inside bend, but even my trainer, who always says it is the rider's fault, believed it was uncalled for.

It is a shame, because otherwise he was really really good.

Cantering nicely in some great lighting

Nice and calm.  You can see the offending purple jacket hanging there.  

Using that back end like a boss

Cantering quietly out of the line
Seriously, I am almost ready for the up and coming (in my mind) cross rail equitation class.  I think I would have a good chance of bringing home a ribbon.  We are finally letting him do some lead changes again and we got some really great changes.  He didn't refuse a single jump and was actually very relaxed aside from that one spook.

Still waiting for the magnesium to get here  - should be this week.  It is spring break in CO and several of my horse friends are out of town so I am going to spread the love and ride as many different equines as I can.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jekyll and Hyde

Fawkes has been very inconsistent this past week or so.  Some days he is right there - Sunday during a trainer ride he loped around a jump course outside like a school horse.  Unfortunately, other days, he is a spooky mess.  On his trainer ride Saturday they had to move into the indoor because he was freaking out about the mini horses playing in their pasture.


Monday after I got back from my trip, I went early in the morning for a quick hack before spending the rest of the day with my visiting friend.  I haven't ridden that early in awhile, I grabbed him right after he finished his breakfast.  I wanted to ride outside but the rising sun made that difficult, you can't actually see much when trotting directly eastward in CO during sunrise.  So we went inside.

Well, you would think he had never been in the indoor before.  The jump standards had been moved to a corner and that corner was unacceptable.  As was the corner by the entrance because of the weird morning light.  Oh, and then he saw himself in the mirror at the far end of the ring and started flipping shit down there.  On a positive note, his reactions have generally become less extreme and he is telegraphing more instead of just spinning out from underneath me, but right now I am just so over the horse that can't cope with anything.

Transforming to Hyde
I try not to push too hard outside of lessons since I am trainer dependent but I couldn't let this go. I did 20m circle work in the middle of the ring where he found life acceptable and gradually made those circles bigger and more ovular into the scary corners.  We managed to get all the way into mirror corner, although he was tense, and most of the way into standards/light corner although that wasn't great.

Yesterday Trainer R said he was good under saddle but kind of crappy and spooky on the ground.  So I rode someone else's horse for a break.  Had a nice pleasant ride, which was great.

I ordered magnesium supplements to see if that can penetrate the haze in his brain and my trainer has some other thoughts, but we will see.  It doesn't help that I have some non-horse stress going on.  In a way, it is a relief that he is doing this with the trainers too.  He isn't just reacting to me, something is going on in his head.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Birthday Fawkes!

I was out of town this weekend and missed a Fawkes birthday, oh no.

Luckily, trainers have got my back and he was able to get some birthday training rides and carrots.

Let's hope 11 is our year to go forwards after we spent most of 10 in rewind.

From last year's birthday since I am an absentee horse owner

Thanks for the advice on the farrier post!!  I have decided to listen to you all and stick with my farrier's expertise

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trainer vs Farrier

So, it's not really trainer vs farrier but I am getting somewhat conflicting advice from the two of them and not sure what to do.

Background: I have used the same farrier with Fawkes for all 3 plus years I have owned him.

Back in the day when I didn't even have a bridle that fit him and he was still barefoot  
I really like and respect my farrier.  He is willing to listen to me and the horse, while having that typical farrier take no shit attitude.  In fact, he is the one who ended up with me finding out about Fawkes' back because he told me he didn't think Fawkes' was being a jerk but was in actual pain while being shod.  Also, in all this time, Fawkes has never had a hot nail, or been trimmed too short, or been lame ever due to his feet.  He did get footsore last summer and we added pads, but that is because of hard Colorado dirt and thin TB soles.

On the other side, I have been riding with this trainer for about 13 months now.  She is the Fawkes whisperer.  She gets him; knows when to coddle him and when to get after him.  Can tell when he is really scared and when he is playing up the situation.  She has been doing this horse thing a very long time.

So what is the problem?  Farrier likes to keep Fawkes on around a 6-7 week trim cycle.  Trainer thinks he is being done too often.  I don't really care as long as my horse is happy.  And I generally just do what the pros say because I usually hire people who know a lot more than I do about this stuff.
Hoof shot from when I was looking at him to adopt

Fawkes does not grow a ton of hoof, never has.  He has been on farrier's formula since last summer with no noticeable difference to date.  Each time the farrier comes he gets new shoes (right now only fronts) and a trim.  I briefly mentioned to farrier once going longer between visits and he sort of agreed but then scheduled this visit 6ish weeks out.  I had to reschedule so we are at 7 now but my trainer is concerned this is still too soon.  Last cycle she also was concerned it was too soon.

But on the flip side, his feet seem to be in fine shape and he seems happy.  My farrier is one of the cheaper in the area so I don't think he is doing Fawkes extra to make more money.  Also my horse is kind of a pain to shoe sometimes (some of it was pain, some of it just Fawkes) so I doubt he would be trying to spend more time with us.
Hoof while being shod last November

What do I do?  I haven't had them speak to each other and I am hesitant to go that route for a few reasons.  Maybe I should suck it up and ask them to do that anyways? Is there anything I can look at on his feet to determine for myself if he is being done at the right frequency?  Should I talk to them both separately and ask them their rationale and try and decide which is better?  Should I just keep trusting my farrier since this is his specialty?  Could I have a more first world problem?  I don't think so but horseland is my escape from reality so I truly hate dealing with any conflict there.

Blech.  Otherwise, things are good.  The chiro came out last week and for the first time said Fawkes' back is in great shape so we can go to every other month adjustments.  Yay says my bank account.

Had a lesson over the weekend with yet another perfect example of the horse training me.  As evidenced in many pictures, when Fawkes gets to a pole/jump, he likes to drop his head and sight see.  Obligingly, I drop my hands and often tip forward too.  Which affects his motion.  These days are now over.  Hands up, eyes up, leg on.  In the lesson he was night and day different when I ignored his request instead of giving in.  Huh, the horse doesn't know best??  Who would have thought.  Sigh, I am supposed to be the brains in this operation but this is why we take lessons!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My horse takes longer to dress than I do

Fawkes is so spoiled at the barn now that they always layer him up in blankets and even found a hood somewhere for him.  It officially takes forever to unblanket and reblanket this creature.

Unpitying horse owner that I am, my basic blanketing philosophy has always been to under blanket rather than over blanket and to only add a second layer in super serious weather, like Day After Tomorrow Style.  And for 3 years Fawkes has somehow survived this treatment without ill effect.  But damned if he isn't lapping all this fuss up like a cat in the cream.  He pokes his hooded little nose out at passersby begging for treats and stands like a statue for the application of his layers.  He doesn't even mind when the hood gets caught on his ears, probably because it makes him even cuter and earns him more carrots.

Deblanketing gets you the death stare and I have started using a quarter sheet (blue camo FTW) since it probably is cruel to take away all that warmth at once.

Additionally, the trainers sometimes throw him in a stall after a ride before taking him back out into the Arctic and they have found his unholy love of rolling in shavings.  So now after every ride he is taken to a stall to get a nice roll in.

And I wonder why he thinks he is royalty?  We really are lucky to be somewhere where he is so loved and cared for.

He does get ridden on occasion.  I rode him Sunday, on yet another wacky cold day where all the horses were nuts.  He was looky and had some minor spooks, but nothing crazy.  He got really upset when my trainer made a cross rail into poles and definitely believed we had planted land mines, but he did ultimately go over them.  It was a bit of a step backwards - he was sucking back quite a bit - but neither of us escalated so not too terrible.

My new goal is to stop falling for it.  When he wants to pull his head down and look at a jump/pole, I tend to feed him rein and drop my hands.  That just validates his reaction, so I need to keep my hands up and leg on.