August Catch Up

Sorry for the delay in posting. Things got busy after my last post from Toronto.

Show jumping ended up with a jump-off for the medals and in the end, McLain Ward and Rothchild got the gold. I love that little horse and it’s McLain’s first medal. I somehow knew it would be his weekend when we got there and I’m glad I predicted right! I also got my second COTH cover ever out of it!

I had half a day to tour Toronto, so I went on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour of the islands and to see the skyline. I wish I’d had more time, but I got a great view of the city for next time. I think a vacation of Canada’s biggest cities is now on my bucket list.

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Before I left for Toronto, I had a great gallop/cross-country school with Oh So that Sunday, but by the Wednesday before I left, he felt off. My trainer confirmed my fears when she tried riding him while I was gone and promptly asked my dad to take him to the vet at Morven Park.

He was diagnosed with some stress/wear and tear on his left deep digital flexor tendon sheath, so they injected it. He also flexed off on his right hind, even though he’d had hock injections 10 days before. They elected not to pursue the right hind until I got back.

We gave him two weeks off while I was gone and when I got back I walked him for a week up until Sunday when I tried trotting. He felt pretty good, but on Monday my trainer thought he still felt off, but maybe from the right hind. I rode him again tonight and I felt right hind also. Not bad, but it’s there.

I’m a little unsure right now as to what I should do. I think I’ll probably keep working in more trot work for a week or so, and if it’s not getting better by then, I’ll have to have the right hind checked out.

I think he aggravated the deep digital flexor with the gallop. He’d had a mysterious lameness back in April where we ultrasounded and saw some change in that area, but it was never called an actual injury. We gave him two weeks off, he came sound, and went on to do a dressage show and Waredaca, as well as a couple of gallops and cross-country schools.

I’m starting to believe that this is the beginning of the end for him, unfortunately. We tried so carefully to bring him back from his right front issue and had a few good months before little things kept happening. I’m not sure why he can’t keep it together, other than that he raced until he was 7. He’s the type of horse that seemed like he would go into his 20s, but his body is just not holding up.

It’s really hard for me to accept it because he’ll be my only horse once Bear is sold. If I have to do dressage for the rest of his career, I’d be OK with that, but I don’t want to give up jumping and I really don’t think he wants to either.

I thrive on having goals and achieving those goals through showing and it just doesn’t look like I’ll ever be able to make plans with him again.

I’m trying not to be a Debbie Downer about it all, but with each day that passes, I lose a little more hope.

Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.
Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.

As for Bear, he had a shoeing change while I was gone and is really feeling great about himself! He’s been quite forward and even a little 5-year-old-ish, which is kind of funny.

We took some glamour shots for his sales ad and he’s officially on the market. We took him to Gordonsdale for a cross-country school on Saturday and had the first person try him. I thought it went well, but’ll see what happens!

I’ve got a fairly quiet August until my vacation in September, then it’s full steam ahead with the AECs, moving myself and my horses and then Fair Hill. I’m hoping to enter Bear in another event for fun, maybe Marlborough in September, but it will depend on how everything goes.

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Crazy wall jump for Pan Am show jumping.
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Pachi the Pan Am mascot.
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Pan Am flame in Toronto.

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A Last Minute Switch At CDCTA Dressage Show

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Bear at the show.

I was excited to get Oh So out for his first dressage show back since his injury (I’m not counting our failed attempt at Morningside in July) at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds, ironically on the exact date of his diagnosis a year ago.

That is, until he was holding his right front foot off the ground in the stall that day! Why oh why did it have to be the right front, and on such an important day?

We had a very good lesson the night before and I was feeling prepared and confident, but his shoe was barely holding on that morning, so I had to get the farrier out on the day of the show. He went ahead and did all four feet since he was due and less than an hour after he left, my mom noticed Oh So was holding his right front off the ground and resting his toe. He would put weight on all four feet, but then he’d rest the right front again.

He seemed a little short walking back out of the stall but looked great on the lunge. I frantically called the farrier, who turned around and came back to test all the nails. He had no reaction anywhere on the foot, which made me worry even more. What if he’d done something to the tendon again?

By dinner time, he appeared to have stopped resting the foot, but I didn’t want to take the risk and decided to take Bear to the show at the last minute.

Oh So was sound yesterday under saddle and had a great jump school/cross-country school today, so I think maybe the shoe felt “tight” on his foot? Or, as my farrier said, he just didn’t want to go to a dressage show! I’m hoping it’s behind us now, but he’s never been sensitive after getting his feet done, so it was a bit alarming.

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.
Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

So, I memorized Training Test 1 and 2 really fast and put Bear on the trailer. He was good about taking everything in. The ring is near a busy road and there were tents set up for a future show, a grandstand and a park behind some hedges that he could hear noises from, but could’t see.

I decided to shorten his warm up to about 35 minutes and that seemed fine. He was a bit distracted, understandably, at first but settled into his work.

The first test he was a little distracted and I wasn’t completely accurate in my figures, but we got it done! I tried to push out his free walk, but he lifted his head and jigged. We haven’t practiced the stretchy circle diligently at home, so he has an idea about it, but I wasn’t expecting it in the ring.

His halts and trot-walk transitions are still a bit abrupt because when I start sitting, he thinks it means stop. We scored a 62% on that test with mostly 6’s and 6.5s and a few 7s and an 8. Our collective marks were 6s and 6.5s with a 7 on “harmony between horse and rider.”

The second test was a bit more accurate with a few more 8s and 7s. I was kicking a bit by then, so my rider score suffered, as did the impulsion score. The judge suggested spurs, which I will definitely use next time. He’s been a pretty forward at home recently but I do wear spurs most days. He’s been kicking out a bit at them in canter if my leg isn’t totally quiet, so I wanted to keep things quiet at the show, but now I know better!

We scored a 65.89% on that test. I’m not sure where we ended up in the class, but I was just happy we made it through! I’m a planner, so last minute changes are not my thing, but I’m proud of us both for getting it done.

I’m going to try to enter Oh So in the September show before his first event, which will be Seneca Valley!

Two Steps Forward

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Things are quietly turning around for Bear since my last post. Once he got his shoe back on, he seemed fairly sound. I had Nicky come over on Saturday for a lesson with Oh So and she lunged Bear and walked him around under saddle.

She thought he was still unsound on the lunge, perhaps a little stifle-y due to a growth spurt in combination with a little leftover soreness from the bruise, and suggested I have a different vet look at him with a fresh set of eyes.

I could barely tell on the lunge and when I rode him today, I just couldn’t feel anything. I had my dad video us to show to Lisa today when I took Oh So to his first jump lesson since his injury.

She thought he looked fine, but still advised I get a second opinion before we start up jumping again, so I’m going to try to make an appointment for this week.

As for Oh So, we had a nice flat lesson, focusing on keeping his neck out at the base and starting to think more about test riding.

Today I took him for our first jump lesson since his injury. Lisa hasn’t seen him in person since last August, and she thought he looked good in his weight, but noticed he’s lacking a bit of strength from behind when he tripped a couple of times upon landing.

We didn’t jump more than 2’6″ since I’m still in my dressage saddle, but Lisa actually thought my position looked pretty good!

We just focused on keeping a steady pace and cantered over some hunter-type lines. I found myself riding him a bit like he was Bear, slow and steady, and he actually waited in most of the lines. He almost got me “making a move” a few times, but I tried just to stay relaxed.

I’ve found that riding Bear, who is very “hunter-like” over fences, makes me wait with my upper body and let the fences come to me. It will be interesting once he gets going again to see if I can continue to let that positively influence my rides on Oh So.

The plan now is to keep working on Oh So’s fitness by working on some hills and continuing to raise the fences. My new jumping saddle should be here this weekend, so that will be good to get back into a proper fitting one!

I’m taking it one day at a time with Bear, but I’m hoping we’re over this bruise and that we can continue on to the fall season. I’m excited to hopefully have two horses to compete.

EDITED JULY 9

Bear is sound! I took him to another vet who specializes in racehorses today and after a 10 minute lameness exam he determined he looked great, so we’re ready to go full steam ahead again.

Now to start picking out competitions…

Scratch That

The last week has not been a good one for me horse-speaking. Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to give you a sign? Maybe it’s just shit luck, but I ended up scratching Bear from the starter trial at Waredaca today due to a series of issues that cropped up this week.

It started last Sunday when he was being a bit spooky during our jumping warmup in the ring at a lesson. He jumped well but was spooking at external things- basically choosing that day to act like a 4-year-old. OK, fine.

We went out to school cross-country after warming up and he was especially silly, but focused when it came to the jumps. “A new side of Bear,” I thought.

We came around to jump a fence before the water and on the way to the turn, he spooked right and I went left, landing on the ground in the process. I think he was surprised, so he ran off and almost came when called, but decided to gallop back to the trailer, which was down a narrow gravel road probably half a mile away.

After trudging after him and getting some help from another of Lisa’s students who ponied him back towards us, I got back on and just worked a little on the hill. I was mad at myself for not having my leg enough in front of me, mad that Lisa was telling me the obvious and frustrated that my saddle has been slipping right on him and was clearly not working.

We finished the lesson with the decision that I needed a new saddle ASAP because we both thought my Albion was causing some kind of issue.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I had the saddle fitter come out to look at one I’d found at the Middleburg Tack Exchange and she took one look at my Albion and said, “Do not ride in this.” There had been a piece of metal popping out of the pommel area, but just barely. I’d hoped I could get it fixed while I’m gone for a couple of weeks in Italy, but apparently it was an important part of the head plate and was causing the tree to spread open and become wider every time we jumped or cantered. I never felt it, but I think he was and it added up–he’d been fidgety when tacking up and mounting and now seemed overly playful on cross-country up and down the hills. Sorry Bear!

I felt horrible. It also dawned on me quickly that we had no jump saddle for our eventing debut in a few days.

On Thursday I brought Bear out for my flat lesson and saw that his right hock was swollen and quite painful. It appeared he was kicked or knocked himself in some way because there was a light scrape.

Bear's hock on Thursday night.
Bear’s hock on Thursday night.

I went ahead and did a lesson with Oh So, who was quite good actually! But I was pretty discouraged at that point. We started him on Bute and Dex and I Furasone-wrapped it the next day. He never appeared very lame thankfully.

By yesterday, it had gone down significantly, but I decided to scratch because he could be bruised and I hadn’t ridden for a couple of days.

So, here I am today, totally bummed not only about losing $110 (hey, at least it’s not a recognized event I guess!) but also because there’s really not much in the way of quality starter horse trials until Loch Moy in September. I was looking forward to Bear’s eventing debut, even if it was 2’3/Elementary. I want to see what he’s made of! And I’m itching to get back out there myself considering it’s been almost a year since Oh So’s last event.

September feels like it’s so far away. I know there’s plenty of combined tests and dressage shows to do and maybe if he’s ready, we’ll come out recognized beginner novice in the fall, but it would be nice to have a low-key event first.

So the plan now is to find a saddle that fits first and foremost, then I’m hoping he’ll feel better by this coming weekend to do a jump lesson. Lisa wants me to do some of the recognized event schooling days like Maryland Horse Trials in July, but that requires taking a day off of work, so I’ll have to plan accordingly.

That's one happy horse!
That’s one happy horse!

So, with nothing to do today, I decided to take Oh So out for some hill work at Wingreen. This was his second time off property since his injury and he acted like he hadn’t missed a day! There were two large groups schooling, which I was worried might rile him up, and he was definitely strong, but not acting silly.

We must have looked pretty crazy in our cross-country boots, dressage saddle (now that I don’t have a jumping one!) and martingale (so I don’t get my nose broken), but we worked up and down the hills in trot and did a little canter before splashing through the water at the end.

So now I’ve got two weeks before I head off to Italy for vacation and I’m hoping I can regroup, find a saddle and figure out a schedule for summer combined tests!

 

Back In Business

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I got the best news I could have hoped for last week when the vet cleared Oh So to start jumping!

We jumped our first cross rail on Thursday and he was a wild man as expected. It’s hard to describe my feelings after jumping him for the first time in 9 months. I’m overjoyed that we’re back to doing what we love and his enthusiasm clearly hasn’t waned!

It’s been a long, and sometimes frustrating recovery and rehab, but I’m thankful it’s gone according to plan so far with no setbacks and very strong healing according to the ultrasound.

Of course, it’s going to take some getting used to on my end after jumping Bear, who’s pretty quiet and prefers to lope over show jumps. Maybe riding him will help me wait with my upper body on Oh So!

Oh So is also allowed to start trotting up and down hills, so that will make our hacks a little more interesting. He needs to regain the strength in his hind end, so we’ll be working on that over the summer.

If all goes to plan, the vet said we could be back competing in the fall. My goal would be to  do some dressage shows over the summer, maybe by July, and my trainer Lisa wants us to start back by doing a novice or two (Haha! That will be fun holding him back), then we should be able to end the year with training. I don’t want to push to get to prelim this year.

I also took Oh So off property for the first time this weekend. I went to one of my dressage trainer Nicky’s student’s farms about 45 minutes away. He hasn’t been off property since I took him to get his PRP done in September, but he walked right on the trailer and was very well behaved for our flat lesson.

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He was a bit tense, as to be expected, but I think he was happy to be out and was practically grinning the whole time.

So now life starts to get a bit more complicated as Oh So starts to come back in full work and Bear starts competing a bit more. I’m going to try to get Oh So out every other week or so, but I don’t think it’s a good idea right now to take them both together, so my weekends will be full!

I’m preparing to take Bear to his first real event at the Waredaca starter trial on Sunday, so that should be exciting!

Staying Motivated

The past two days have been the worst kind of winter days– frigid, damp and cloudy. It’s been hard to stay motivated when even winter breeches, a heavy coat and gloves doesn’t stop the bone-chilling cold.

I gave Bear the day off on Saturday after two good days in a row on Thursday and Friday. In our lesson on Friday we worked more on walk-trot transitions on a circle, making sure to keep the hind legs in the same rhythm.

Today, I was finally able to get my dad to come to my jump lesson and do some video. We went to a new place for Bear which has an indoor that’s enclosed on two sides. He was impressed at the vastness of the place when he got off the trailer, but settled into work when I got on.

The ring is quite narrow, about the size of a large dressage ring, and it tends back you off. I fell victim to that and rode a little conservatively, falling back into some of my bad habits. Lisa wants me to ride Bear nice and forward and not touch the reins and I took back a bit and got a little in my knee in the process.

I was also leaning a bit into the turns and using my inside rein too much to turn him, so I need to work on that. I’m going to try to simulate turns over poles this week at home and work on staying centered.

As a result, I screwed up a couple of distances for him, but he was nimble and figured it out and thankfully didn’t hold it against me!

The jumps were teeny tiny, but we cantered our first bounce and one stride. We also cantered a two stride, I’ve strides to a vertical. For the circumstances and my bad habits, I thought it was a good lesson overall.

I bumped up Oh So’s walking to 40 minutes today (and nearly froze my butt off in the process!) and I’m crossing my fingers we’ll be able to trot after his next ultrasound on Wednesday.

I’m off to Florida on Friday for eight days to cover some dressage. I’ll be thankful for the warmth, but I wish I could take my horses with me!

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I’m currently enjoying a week off from work and spending lots of time outside and riding.

I had the best Christmas present I could ask for on Monday when the vet came to re-ultrasound Oh So. The tear on his accessory ligament and the minor blip on the suspensory were barely visible. I asked her to give me a percentage number so I could quantify it in my head, and she said that while technically an injury will never be 100 percent healed, he’s at about 75 percent.

I was hoping I might be able to start trotting, but she wants him to be walking another 6-8 weeks until he’s up to 40 minutes (he’s at 20 right now), then I can start to introduce it before his next ultrasound.

She also agreed to let him start staying out on all-day turnout in a small paddock on Ace. Today was the first day I’ve let him stay out the whole day and so far, he seems to be content and quite. We really don’t want him trotting or cantering, but I know I won’t be able to stop it. I’ll be around this week and my dad will be around next week to monitor him, then after that I know I’ll start to get a little nervous.

A couple of weeks ago he got a large lump on his neck, most likely a reaction to an injection, and his entire next has been stiff ever since. I feel so bad, but he really can’t go 1DSC_0898out without sedation of some kind, and giving Ace orally isn’t very effective on him. I’ve been putting Surpass cream on his neck and giving him some Previcox for a few days and  he’s now able to lower his head and graze, so that’s good.

I’ve starting giving his injections in his chest and the vet showed me where to give them in his hindquarters too, although that’s playing with fire!

Bear has been getting very consistent in his lunging with the rope and has even started to do some walk-trot transitions where he doesn’t stop and turn in, which is definitely progress.

I had a lesson with Lisa on Saturday at a ring he hasn’t been to before and after some initial vocals, he settled in and we trotted some flower boxes, a green box and a one-stride with no issues.

Lisa said he’s definitely smart and understands and retains concepts quickly, so we don’t need to drill him, as much as I need drilling to work on my jumping position. It’s a little frustrating only getting to jump once a week, but he really shouldn’t be doing any more than that.

We had a conversation about teaching him to jump on a fairly loose rein and “canter around like a hunter”, because when we do sell him, who knows where he might go. When I bought him, I assumed we’d be selling him to an eventer because I know Lisa can find someone who will be a good match for him. We won’t know whether he wants to be an eventer until we take him cross-country schooling for the first time, but I guess I just 1DSC_0933hadn’t entertained the idea of selling him as anything other than an eventer.

Other than working the minis and riding, I went to see The Hobbit with my dad, which was great, save for the abrupt ending.

My brother and his fiancee came down on Christmas Eve and we went to church, then went out to eat, which was a fun new tradition I hope we can continue.

This morning, we opened presents and I rode Bear and took him for a solo walk down the driveway. He was a little hesitant, but it’s a short walk, so we made it there and back in one piece. I got a new pair of half chaps, Oh So got a new jumping bridle (since Bear took over his) and I got a pair of Premiere Equine magnetic wraps that I’m hoping to use on Oh So.

Tonight we’re all heading out to see Elf at the Kennedy Center which should be fun. Other than that, I have no plans, which feels a little weird! I’m heading down to Wellington, Fla., on the 30th and will be spending my New Year’s covering a George Morris clinic until the 4th. I got a last minute call up to do it so I’m excited to spend some time in the warmth!

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