Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Training for what we CAN do

So it’s Wednesday, and even though I just posted the week update last night, I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to post again until next week so I figured I’d journal on today.

It was still too wet to do much at the trot in the pasture without being very careful to pick our spots. So I got creative! We lunged at the walk for a few circles and then I started driving him along the long side of the pasture down the fence. It tends to be dryer there and I thought if he could get the hang of it we could trot it. He questioned the shape of our lunge circles at first but got the hang of it. Then we changed the location a bit and I drove him up the slope on a similar elongated circle. Which was good for getting some of his hill walking done. So I was able to pretty much chose the driest, flattest, straightest paths, it wasn’t a crisp and clean process, but it was a success in safe and controlled trotting! This was a really good lesson on transitions since I was asking him to pick up the trot for only 5-10 strides then come back down to a walk. Plus it made him pay a lot more attention to me, so he was keeping to a slower pace than usual too.

After he got some trot exercise in for the day, we tackled the ground poles. I’ve got them set up in different spots in the pasture going different directions, and there are a variety of shapes and sizes so he doesn’t get bored of them very easily. Then we went back up to the upper pasture and got to work on the trail course set up there. There is a schooling show in a week and a half that is very close. I’ve been wanting to take him to a show just to have the crazy show grounds experience and this one has a in-hand trail class. Since most of the shows limit the in-hand classes to under 3, this may be one of our last chances to try it. (That and I’m sure I won’t care much about an in-hand trail class when I can RIDE a trail class instead!) So taking out the days where I won’t be able to get out to see him, I’ve got days of training to prepare.

Although he knows how to pivot and back and side pass from the ground I am guilty of not cueing very subtly. This week we will definitely be working on him responding to just my body instead of taps, pokes, and rope swings. The other goal is getting him to stand square. This problem is totally my fault. I am pretty sure the breeder made him square up whenever she stopped him because he seemed to know it when I got him. Of course as we started working on bigger and better things I got sloppy about enforcing this. Then with the injury and all the hand walking we re-evaluated his manners while leading in general, but I wasn’t about make him stand on all four feet when one hurt. So now that he’s standing on all feet again it is time to start asking for square halts again, but it is SO tedious. Ugh.

It is fun to have a goal though, it keeps me more accountable try to improve everything he does and not just maintain the level of “he sort of does it”! At the very minimum it will give me an arena to lunge in, and a whole new experience for him. Who knows, maybe we’ll even place, it’s not a very big show! ;)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sometimes "Not Limping" does not equal sound, but today it does!

As dvm2012 pointed out to me in the last post, a horse is not sound unless he's sound at all gaits. So after my video from last Monday of him demonstrating the crazy manoeuvers that made me second guess allowing him to be turned out, he was "not limping" at the walk. Which is not sound, I know, but even though he had run slipped enough to make himself sore he was trotting out so nicely the next day that you couldn't notice a problem unless you knew where to look for it. So barring anymore crazy slips or antics in the pasture, he's officially on the mend! Here's his progress for the week:

Thursday, Friday, Saturday rain rain RAIN!

Sunday, was clear finally but still very wet all around. I picked the driest flattest spot in the pasture and trotted him out to see how he was doing... not limping! So off to a good start. I went ahead and tacked up both horses and I rode the old mare and ponied him all tacked-up. He was certainly walking out big today with all his pent up energy after three days of rain. We went down the back roads for just over and hour. He did really well passing the two goofy pet cows that always charge past bucking and kicking whenever they see us (first obstacle), he did spook slightly at the horses on the dirt road (second obstacle) which is something he's fine with normally but one of them shot out of his stall into his run when he heard us coming, so that's fair enough. We got through the gate perfectly (third obstacle and one that I'm very proud to say I do on a regular basis, I can open the gate and get the two through without getting off!) We passed by the less friendly cows and crazy donkey pasture (fourth and usually final obstacle) and he was just fine. Then we came to the point where I normally turn around. Bear has seen the llamas once before, and he wasn't a big fan! So I was cautious approaching the first llama gate. They were really far off so we missed the two in the south pasture, but the majority of them are in the north pasture and we'd see them 1/4 mile later when we got all the way around the property. On the way we came across 6 arabs turned out in a pasture on the other side, and the all ran around like crazy! He did well, he just got a little quick and excited. Then came the llamas!!! He might have been fine to stop and stare at them if it hadn't been for the fact that another horse came galloping up to the fence line on the other side of the road. So we were sandwiched in between the terrible long necked creatures and the crazy bucking horse that kept hitting the fence and spooking him! Then my old mare starts squealing! Yep, she's one of those menopausal mares that has weird emotional heat cycles with no reason. But after circling a few times the other horse stopped harassing us so we could get down to some good staring! So we past them a few times, then turned around to go back. Final test was stopping and having to stand quietly so I could talk to a neighbor for 10 minutes while his dogs ran all around. Bear had no problem, but the old mare kept reminding me it was time to go home! We passed everything just fine the second time, and made it home safe and sound. I love having this route when its wet because after the 100ft of main road (which is still a rural road), I turn down a side road its totally safe and very remote roads after that. Plus from a conditioning stand point there are some pretty good hills.

Monday, took him for a walk in-hand for about an hour. We pretty much did the an abbrieviated version of the route we did on Sunday due to time. He walks quite a bit faster when he has to keep up with the mare, so the half hour mark came up fast and we ended up stopping before the llamas. He was very well behaved today, and only spooked at the flock of ducks taking off from the pond. So over all great! Still trotting out fine for the little "tester trot" at the beginning and end of our workout. Its just still too wet to trot him out for any sort of exercise.

Tuesday, off to class! I tacked him up and lunged him walk-trot-canter and he looked great! Not just not limping... he was sound! Hurray! So I at least got on him and walked him around for a bit then got off. He felt just fine. Of course we're not ready to start trotting again or anything like that, but the soft indoor arena was going to be the best place to get on again, so we went for it. The great thing was that despite the fact that he's not been ridden for a month, and really he's had less than 30 rides on him total, he was better behaved and more in control than half the horses in there! It is a training class, and I shouldn't compare him, but he is awesome.

Well tomorrow I plan on either lunging if its dry enough, or ponying off the old mare. I figure I don't want to push my luck by riding on uneven or slippery surfaces just yet. So I might try it again Saturday, but most likely will end up waiting to get on again until next Tuesday at class, till then we're back to the regular schedule!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And we're back! I hope...

A little taste of his frolicking... he's putting on quite a rodeo. TURN OFF YOUR SOUND! My camera make's a weird clicking sound and records it!

Hurray! So its almost exactly three weeks since he injured himself, and he's been sound for two days in a row!

I mentioned that last Saturday I ponied him around the trails and started him back trotting a little bit at time. He did really well that day, then had Sunday off. When I went out for lunch on Monday he was harassing the old mare and trying to get her to run. He probably galloped around for a good 10 minutes solid, bucking, kicking, rearing galore and of course he slipped and tripped and stumbled (being a clumsy awkward teenager). I caught the last bit on video. He finally got the old mare to move around with him, but the despite how crazy he looks, the major part of his rodeo was actually already over. I did catch his "I'm hot and sweating and I SO need to roll" move, he does it all the time. Just a little bit in he totally slips and it makes me cringe every time I watch it. No wonder he can't heal! So with all that I really thought it was time to put a stop to this and keep him confined if he was just going to be silly and hurt himself, but although you can tell he still looked off when he was trotting, and it looks like cantering was easier, but he just was fine walking afterward. By the time he was done with his shenanigans he was puffing and dripping in sweat. Silly boy... what am I going to do with him? So I took advantage of a hot horse on a surprisingly warm day, and gave him a really good hose down. Then his rehab for the day consisted of 20 minutes of walking until he was dry.

Dun, da, dah! Tuesday he was sound, even at the trot! YEAH! I took him to class and trotted him out for the two trainers. One said, "Which leg is he lame on?" The other guessed it correctly based on a slightly shortened stride on that side. So I lunged him walk-trot and I could barely even see it, and wouldn't have noticed a thing if was looking for something to be wrong.

Today, he was perfectly sound again. I lunged him for 20 minutes walk-trot (well mainly walk-trot, he did burst into a gallop a few times... and did a lovely leap into the air! grr...) but he looked great. So we are on the upswing of things. Hurray!

I'm hoping for a week solid of progressive trot conditioning and continued soundness. I'm so relieved to have a happy healthy horse again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

One step forward, two steps back...

The rehab continues, and clearly Bear has no intention on following my schedule for healing! Its been two weeks since I last blogged... at that point I was all sunshine and rainbows. I made a very optimistic plan for his recovery knowing that it may not go that fast, but at least looking at it with a best case scenario gave me some courage to not keep thinking that my horse is broken forever! Our plan helped my emotional processing, but hasn't worked on his leg.

We were golden with the progression of his recovery for a whole three days... then was hobbling about doing the toe walk thing again. So I'm not sure what's going on. I'm not totally confident in the vet's diagnosis, because when he's off it's like there is something catching in his fetlock that prevents him from flexing fully and causes him to step down on that toe but then it will suddenly jerk back to the flexed position. Maybe that's just where I see it, and there is a tendon or ligament catching farther up in his leg but I only see the effect at the bottom? I was determined to wait it out at least a week before calling another vet out for a second opinion, but despite the fact that its like one day he's toe-walking every couple steps, and the next day he's fine, he does seem to slowly be making progress. I'm going to get a second opinion from the two trainers at class this week for starters.

For now, lots of walking! I'm be in great shape by the time this is all over! Especially as we get into the trot conditioning part and I'm jogging next to him for 5-15 minutes! ;) Friday he was limping about again, and I highly questioned forcing him to walk when his fetlock looks like it catching and I imagine the pain he's in and long term damage it could be doing if the vet is wrong in her diagnosis and treatment plan. But when it comes down to it, it seems like he is only off when he's been running around like a looney! So its his own damn fault, and the walking is supposed to help. So Saturday I gave him some bute, mainly to help witht he getting in and out of the trailer and we drove out to a really easy trail that's flat, wide, and relatively enclosed. It was his first time out on a real trail so my sister came along to ride the old mare and I followed behind leading Bear... good for me to get some exercise, but I'd sure rather be on him! He was a star, and we even walked over a bridge! Yeah for continueing training while rehabbing.

Sunday I think I must have just ponied him around the pasture again, and the rest of the week I rotated between ponying him down the back roads and up a big hill, and hand walking him (which was great to take him off the property alone and leave the old mare screaming bloody murder in the pasture! He was fine about leaving, a little more nervous without her but not naughty at all.) I even got all his tack on and used the long lines to drive him around the pasture once this week, and round penned him (at the walk...) once because I didn't have barn shoes with me and couldn't walk around much. So far I'm doing a great job keeping us from getting bored by switching it up each day. Then this Saturday I took the two horses out to the trail again, but solo this time. I successfully ponied him around for a full hour and they both did great! He LOVED being out there, and was clearly glad to have a change of scenery. We even trotted a bit since thats supposed to be the next step in the reconditioning process. Overall he seemed fine all day, but every so often he'd take two or three toe-walking steps, then be fine again... but I still think we're making progress.

Its slow going, but he's looking a lot more sound when he does get running around and being stupid in the pasture. He can still canter both leads (HUGE sigh of relief!) and do flying lead changes. I'll still be doing the class even if Bear isn't really keeping up with the other horses. It sounds like we'll be starting off at a more basic level than I ended on last class. With Training I we got the first couple rides on him, and a walk-trot-canter twice. For the most part we worked at a walk. With this class were going to be doing a lot of flexing, bending and yeilding, all of which will start from the ground. So even he if he takes another three full weeks before I even get on him and walk I think we'll still get a lot out of the class.

Its a work in progress, but its been less than a month. The simple fact that he's not on any pain killers and he's looking happy and more or less sound the majority of the time is a step forward. I just need to make sure I'm wearing my patience pants for a while.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

He seems like a normal horse again!

Bear is trotting out perfectly sound even without Bute this morning. So we'll try the next two days without it and see if he's still good. I am highly suspicious of the vet's diagnosis now. His leg was never locked back like it would be with a locked stifle, and he wasn't taking high kicking steps like if it were catching. He was walking on that toe like couldn't fully step down so it was like something was catching, but I have no idea what. Also he never had any swelling or heat in the stifle area, but he had some swelling across the front of his hock. Who knows… if it happens again, I’ll have the equine sports therapy/chiropractic vet out instead. I should have called him in the first place but I wasn’t thinking straight and just called the general practice vet since that’s the number we have stuck to the fridge.

Anyway, now I’m just thinking about rehab time. He’s been doing about 15 minutes of walking a day, so that’s now bumped up to 20 minutes of walking, and tomorrow we’ll do 25 minutes which will include the big hill. The vet suggested not getting back on until he’s been worked up to 20 minutes of jogging. The trick is going to finding creative ways of slowly bringing him back at the jog when the pasture is too wet, and jogging down the road is just stupid. There a few straight level spots in the pasture where I can trot him out, but they only last about 60 ft! But I guess it’s a start; trot the length walk around and start again. Then I guess I’ll be hauling out to the arena to start some real trot work Saturday and Sunday. It would probably be good for him (and me) if we did some more long-line work, and I never really got to the point where I could drive him at the trot, so that will be the plan. Good for the training, good for the slow conditioning.

Class is still up in the air. It starts in a week, and we’ll at least go to the first one and see what they’ll be doing and how much he’s capable of. I doubt we’ll do any work the first night since we’ll be spending quite a bit of time talking about what the class will cover. So I’m hoping to go a little early and use the arena to get some trot work in. Which would give me a two-week goal to get back on him for the second class. If things are still going well and Bear is sound still after two weeks of conditioning, I think we’ll probably be safe to start back into slow training. Obviously we won't be loping circles anytime soon! I’ll be taking things cautiously, and we might not be keeping up with the class, but I’ve got a feeling that the class will be starting off really slow as well. So far so good! I just have to be really consistent for the next two weeks, let’s hope for no rain!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Six days after the bubble burst...

So I guess I'll start with a little more details because for the next month or so this will be more of a rehab blog than a training journal.

It was first noticed at feeding time Monday night.

I came out and looked at it first thing Tuesday morning on my way to work, and based on the way he was holding it I guessed stifle. But really there wasn't any swelling or heat there. He didn't want to move much, and I didn't make him, but by the time I left he had clearly moved around while grazing. The vet came out that afternoon, he was really ouchy if walked and pitiful at the trot. Vet said upward fixation of the patella. This could be just because he's growing, and is seen often in young horses with long straight legs. She said bute twice a day, and hand walking at least 10 minutes to make sure he's using it. So I waited until he had the bute in his system and walked him for the first time. He was really off, and stepped down with his toe pointed, and his fetlock didn't fully flex. So he gimped around on his toe for 10 minutes before I gave him some love and went back to work.

Wednesday (and New Year's Eve so I only worked the morning), I had a bit more time to just hang out with him. He trotted up to the gate when I came out, and although he was still dead lame on it, at least he was feeling good. I was feeling lazy and totally depressed about the whole thing, so I hopped on my old mare to pony him instead. Yet again I am so glad that he ponies from other horses. I walked for at least 10 minutes, and he looked much better and his leg was fully flexing with each step. So I let him off, the rope and continued to ride around the pasture for a bit and just watch him. He started running and bucking and playing! Totally unsound and definitely shaking his head out of frustration, but still spunky. Then he just had to roll, and I had taken his blanket off so I knew I would be spending at least 20 minutes scraping the mud off before I could put his blanket back on. When he got up after rolling its like he just sprang right up into a buck. I don't know how its physically possible for a horse to buck from the sitting position, but that's precisely what he did. I was feeling much better that this had been something minor, and he'd quickly recover.

Thursday (New Year's Day so still off work), he was back to walking on his toe, and couldn't fully straighten his leg. Looked that way the whole time I was out there.

Friday I came out midday when someone else could cover the phones for me at the office. It had been raining so they were both in the pen, and the pasture was super wet. So I walked him down the road instead. He's been out there before, but never without the mare. He got all big-eyed and high-headed about the cows and some big green plastic container by someone's barn, but was otherwise pretty well behaved for a pent up energy youngster on his first walk away from his best friend who was dashing about and calling like a crazed lunatic at home! I'm so glad that he's more sane than she is; he's better behaved at 2 years old than she is in her mid twenties! AND HE WAS WALKING SOUND! Yeah!

Saturday, my parents report to me that my horse is CRAZY! He treated them to his rodeo show at it's finest. Bucks, rears, rolling and then bursting into the air from the ground, and all his general let-the-spunk-out routine. Of course when I got out there and got the old mare's hackmore out (yes, she knows which things go on Bear and pose no threat, and which are coming for her) she took off at a dead run with her tail flying like a flag straight in the air, and Bear calmly ate his lunch while she zipped past him each time she crossed the pasture. So you can guess I had a couple retorts about just which horse is crazy, and since officially the old mare is my mom's horse I only claim her when she's acting well trained. Anyway, Bear looked so good while I walked him, that I started wondering if he was off at all anymore. He had cantered off a few times and looked pretty good, stiff, but not lame. So just before leaving I ran back out to make him trot a few steps. He still was off, but definitely better. I'm starting to have hope.

Everything I've read has said that slow and consistent conditioning is the best thing for these things. Long walks, hills, lots of turn-out, and gradual increase of work. First of all he's always turned out since he's on pasture. Second, aside from the once a week Training 2 class, I really was planning on spending the next 6 months doing nothing but moseying along the trail anyway. He's too young to start a ton of collection work or jumping, so this really won't kill my spring. I probably won't be on him for a few weeks, but its rainy anyway and this will give me a chance to tune up the old mare again since she's meant to be my sister's beginner mount when we go out riding together. So a lot more ponying and consistent easy exercise; I'm hoping for the best.