Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Long Road Ahead

Kwik and I had another dressage lesson with P on Sunday. It was one of those lessons that leaves you completely humbled, slightly overwhelmed, and hella determined. We started out asking Kwik to work over his back and into the connection while keeping energy and forwardness in the gait. I felt like we mostly just meandered in circles. I wasn't feeling any connection, I certainly wasn't feeling any forwardness in the walk, and Kwik lost focus a couple of times when horses came and went from the trails. We tried a little trot work. P really got on to me about my position, which is great-I desperately need to get my basics back. I still ride tipped forward with my butt out of the saddle, my leg creeps too far back, and I need more bend in my elbows so my hands can maintain an elastic connection. I think a lot of this is the newness of the partnership. Hopefully in another couple of months, Kwik and I will know each other a little better, we'll be more settled into a rhythm, and maybe even start to gel.

Then P hopped on! She spent a good 15 minutes introducing the idea of connection, and the light bulb went off toward the end. They had some really nice moments! She talked me through correcting some of his "things" (throwing his shoulder to the outside while overbending to the inside), and then I got back on. I noticed a difference right away- he was focused, the walk was more energetic, and I could feel moments of elasticity when I asked. I even noticed I was sitting taller and deeper in my saddle, and we had improved rhythm and balance at the trot. In the grand scheme of things, I'm sure, it was a very minute improvement, but it felt like a world of difference to me.

Here were my thoughts after the ride:

1) I have completely lost any and all of whatever dressage basics I used to have.

2) Kwik has no basics, but he is willing to learn and is starting to understand the meaning of connection. Also, at this point, I probably don't have the experience/skills to correctly bring him along on my own. We need lots of lessons and training rides.

3) Both him and I have an an incredible amount of work to do, and I'm feeling a bit inadequate.

4) Above feelings of inadequacy will get us nowhere, and I'm determined to take lessons and work extremely hard.

So there you have it. Am I feeling a bit overfaced? Yup. Am I hella determined? You bet!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jumping with Anne

Instead of riding in the show jumping clinic last weekend, I took a lesson with Anne on Monday (yay for no work on President's Day!). We started off with some work over ground poles-asking him to do different tasks on the approach (leg yeild to the rail, come to a halt and then move off with energy). Then Anne set up a ground pole course so we could work on steering. I really liked this exercise- I could feel Kwik focusing on me, waiting for direction, and this extra focus really allowed me to concentrate on maintaining the rhythm at the trot.

Our ground rail course

The next thing I knew, Anne had put the ground rails up to tiny verticals, and she sent us back through the course, ommiting the middle jump in the inside line. I wasn't quite sure how this would go, but he hopped right over everything on the first try, and for the most part, we were able to maintain a relatively steady trot rhythm into and out of each jump. He was pretty proud of himself after the last line, and it took a few victory laps to bring him back to the trot, but we did it!!!! Anne changed up the order, and we went back around.

I was grinning from ear to ear by the end of the lesson! This was Kwik's first time jumping at his new home and our very first course! He didn't refuse anything, and I think I gave him a pretty decent ride for the most part. Anne explained that we can improve our rhythm, focus, and steering for jumping just by doing flatwork over groud rail courses so we will start incorporating variations of that exercise into our flatwork.

I decided to do some work on the lunge line with side reins on Wednesday. Up until this point, I've been on the fence with regards to side rein effectiveness. The last thing I want Kwik to learn is to curl his neck away from contact, but he really seemed to respond well to them. I made sure to keep him moving forward with engergy, and by the end of our session, he was stretching down and out, reaching for contact. I don't want to do too much lunging, but I think work like this for 15 minutes once a week will really help him. Overall, good things happening! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stupid Mistakes and Seromas

Why do we go against our gut feelings? One of the girls at the barn asked me if I wanted to join her for a walk/trot trail ride on Sunday afternoon. I explained that Kwik hasn't done much trotting in the fields/in the open, and I wasn't quite sure if it would go well. She said let's give it a go, and I was so appreciative for the invite I figured what the hell. What I should have said was, "thanks so much, but we'll probably just stick around here and do some arena work and finish up with a short walk around the farm."

The ride started off fine. Kwik was relaxed and seemed to be enjoying himself. When we reached one of the fields, my friend suggested we try a little trot. We managed to make it to the other end, but at that point I was ready to just walk since he was pretty strong. We attempted some more trot work in a circle with some suggestions from my friend, but I could tell this wasn't going to go well. I was quite happy to do some stretchy walk work while my friend finished up her flat work, but she offered to hop on. She's an experienced rider (way more experienced than me) so I said sure, and she immediately put her leg on, sent him forward, and attempted to put him into a frame. I could see the wave of confusion and frustration wash over poor Kwik's face- he had absolutely no clue what she wanted him to do, and he answered with some strong bucks, a rear, and some more porpoise bucking. My friend ended up coming off, and Kwik took off back to the barn.

I wanted to cry. There is absolutely no excuse for that kind of behavior, and truth be told, I'm a little concerned he has that in him. At the same time, I couldn't really blame him. I knew he wasn't ready for trot work in the field, and he was absolutely clueless when my friend hopped on. We were lucky no one was hurt, and this incident was completely my fault. From now on, I'm going to stick to my guns about taking things slowly with Kwik, only adding new elements when I feel he's ready, and choosing our trail outings wisely to ensure we only have positive experiences.

On another note, L and I took some photos of Kwik's maybe-hematoma and sent them to the vet. Dr. P was quick to resond, and she thinks it is a seroma (similar to a hematoma but more serous-sanguinous than straight blood). The plan is to treat once a day with DMSO tempered with nitrofurazone and see if the body will reabsorb the mass. Obviously we'll never know exactly how he got this, but I'm thinking he got kicked a day or two before we moved to Ashland since he wasn't turned out with anyone after we moved until last weekend.

Kwik and I had an amazing lesson with Anne on Monday that included some jumping (proof that he is not, in fact, a bucking, rearing, crazy horse)! Details coming soon!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


A day or two after I moved Kwik to our new barn, I noticed a little swollen area on his left hindquarter above the stifle area, probably about the size of a quarter. It honestly just looked like he got bit by something (unfortunately we still have mosquitoes here from time to time since this winter has been so mild). It got slightly bigger the following week, and I pointed it out to the chiropractor. He thought it looked like a bite as well and said I could treat it with witch hazel. There was really no change last weekend, and it rained the majority of the week so I didn't make it out until Saturday. When I pulled his blanket off, I met with THIS:

It's about 6 inches long and filled with fluid- feels like a water balloon. You can see it jiggle when he moves (gross), but he didn't appear to be bothered by it at all. He was not off, and after consulting with the BO and a few of the boarders, we decided it was probably a hematoma and a weekend vet call was not necessary.

We went for a short, light ride (he was absolutely amazing, mad-crazy wind and all!), and he was his same perky self afterwards. Naturally, I raced home to research hematomas. It definitely sounds like what Kwik has going on is presenting like a hematoma, and while I read it can take months for them to resolve, the body usually reabsorbs them on its own and the horse is usually not physically affected. I did read that in some cases, they have to be drained, but most sources say that is not recommended initially. I read several times treatment with DMSO/furazone is helpful, but I'm going to send some pics to my vet to get her recommendation. In the meantime, I'm thinking I should let Kwik take it easy. Bummer! We have a lesson scheduled with Anne on my Monday day off :-(
Anyone have experience with something like this?

The Best View


Cookie plz?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It is Fat Tuesday Afterall...

...so lets talk food. My goal for the next couple of months is to get Kwik settled into a routine- nutritionally and training-wise.

I need to figure out what feed/supplement combinations will best work for him. At the old barn, I opted to keep him on the same program he was on before I arrived on the scene, which from what I understand, was a scoop of a high fat, high fiber texturized custom blend feed, 2 cups Advantage 30 ration balancer, 1 cup rice bran twice daily with 4 oz dac Oil in the AM. My new BO has been great about working with me to design a feed program for Kwik. The goal was to start him on something similar to what he's been eating (mixed with his old feed), and then make changes as needed. As of now, he is receiving a scoop of Seminole Wellness Show and Sport (12% Protein, 12% Fat) since it was the option most similar to his old feed in addition to dac Oil and rice bran. BO and I are a bit worried the Show and Sport will make him hot since he's not in strenuous work, and truth be told, I have noticed he's a bit more up than usual. Granted, he's still settling in, but the plan is to gradually switch him over to Perform Safe (12% Protein, 8% Fat) and keep the rice bran. I'm a little unsure at this point whether or not to keep the fat supplement- Kwik definitely needs to put some weight on, but I don't want to add unnecessary calories. I'd also like to put him on a digestive supplement to see if he can maintain his weight a little better with some probiotic/prebiotic support.

I've also been in a perpetual state of confusion surrounding joint maintenance. My vet strongly recommends injectables for long-term therapy in horses with no to mild joint disease, and many of his clients have seen great results with Acetylglucosamine. I had just about made up my mind to go solely with AGS until SmartPak's lil magazine came in the mail last night. I was intrigued by the two papers Dr. Gray referenced that found that consistent use of oral glucosamine/chondroitin supplements decreased the need for joint injections to maintain soundness in a cohort of show hunters/jumpers and that consistent use of oral MSM may help to protect against oxidative and inflammatory exercise-induced injury (from jumping, etc.). I will pull the papers and read them in their entirety, but it was nice to see some science supporting oral joint supplements. At this point, I'm going to start two doses/month of injectable AGS, and I may add MSM to Kwik's SmartPak.

Yikes, as a nutrition newbie, there are so many options out there, and wading through all of the information is overwhelming. It will take some time, but I'm determined to educate myself so I can get Kwik going as his healthiest self. Any comments, suggestions, advice are welcome and appreciated!

In other news, we went on a trail ride on Saturday with M and Sherlock and two new horses, one of which was a little on edge. Kwik definitely fed off of that energy- he wasn't bad per say, but he definitely wasn't his usual relaxed self on the trail. I'm thinking, at least for these first couple of months, that I need to be careful about only going out with horses who are familiar with the trails and rock steady so each experience is relaxed, fun, and stress-free. We had a wonderful flat school in the arena Sunday morning (no mach 10 trot!) and a beautiful trail ride with J and Annie, the farm's oldest resident (Kwik was great). Let the good times roll!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Weekend Of Firsts Part. 2

I had my first dressage lesson with P on Sunday, and I learned a lot. Right off the bat, she explained the concept of tracking up, and we followed the progression of his hoofprints as I asked for more engagement in the walk. This has always been a fuzzy concept for me, and it was great to have someone take the time to eplain it. It hardly took any time at all to achieve one hoofprint inside the other! Then we worked on asking him to accept more of a connection at the walk and later at the trot. Kwik was a bit forward at the trot, and I certainly wasn't helping him. He's at the point right now where he's not really sure what speed he's supposed to be going- he knows I'm asking him to be forward but not fast, and he's looking to me to show him how to do this. I know I need to sit tall and deep in my seat, slow my posting, and not allow my reins to get too short buuuuut I can't seem to make my body do any of this at the same time. I know he's not going to take off with me, and we've managed some lovely trot work in the past, so I have no idea what my deal is.

Same story with yesterday's ride. I thought we'd do some work in the round pen to warm up and then do a little bit of work with side reins first before getting on, but he mostly ran around bucking and carrying on like an idiot. I got on anyway, and we managed some okay work at the walk. We should have just called it a day, but I really wanted a few laps of nice trot. Here's to hoping we both chill out over the next couple of weeks as we get used to new barn, new routine, new people, new horses, new feed (he's amost switched over from his old feed), new arena, new everything. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Weekend of Firsts Part. 1

I had Kwik adjusted for the first time (probably in his life) on Friday, and I was pleasantly surprised at what Dr. Jay didn't find. I was half expecting there to be something major going on, but he said that, other than typical racehorse stuff, there isn't much else going on. Yay! Kwik does have some TMJ, but Dr. J showed me a massage technique to help manage this. I'm planning to get his teeth floated in March, so hopefully that will help some as well.

Earlier in the week I learned about a mini cross country clinic to be conducted by Ann Haller at the farm over the weekend. I told the BO I might be interested in participating if there is a green/beginner group. Anne called me that night to learn a little bit more about Kwik and my goals. We had a really nice chat, and she assured me that there is a lot we can do to introduce Kwik to the field and build confidence.

We ended up being placed with M and her horse Sherlock, who is actually Kwik's next door neighbor in the barn. After we tacked up, we rode over to the xc field. Kwik was a very brave boy walking down the trail. When we reached the xc field, Kwik stopped dead in his tracks and gaped at the big scary things lurking in the field. He felt like a loaded spring, so I decided to hop off and walk him the rest of the way. The group before us was finishing up some course work, and Anne gave me a leg up so Kwik could take in the sights as they finished up. Since the girls were coming through the water complex, Anne wanted Kwik and Sherlock to follow one of the seasoned guys on a walk around the perimeter of the water and then circle back so Kwik could see the riders coming through the water. Apparently the horse splashing through the water was pretty scary because Kwik exploded into a bucking, twisting fit which was pretty damn hard to sit. I really thought I had it, but I ended up sliding off anyway. I was totally fine, just really surprised and kind of embarrassed. Kwik was a good boy though and just stood there trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Anne gave me another leg up, promised these kind of things happen with green horses and that they'd all been there before, and stood with us while the rest of the advanced girls finished up.

Thankfully, the rest of our ride was much better! We spent the time breaking up the field into "classrooms" and worked on leaving the group to perform a task, riding uphill, and putting your horse into "4-wheel-drive" for downhill riding. Then we transferred these skills to walking up and down the small bank. Kwik tackled walking up the bank no problem, but he was a little weary about going down. When he finally did step down, I was so proud that he trusted me enough at that point to tackle something like that! We practiced walking over a small ditch next, and then worked on walking through the water complex. To my surprise, Kwik followed Sherlock right into the water (which was actually pretty deep). He started to play in the water, but Ann talked me through riding him safely through, and we did the exercise again without Sherlock. Our last challenge was to leave the group and ride one of the obstacles we worked on solo. I chose the teeny ditch, and Kwik threw a little hissy fit walking down and over but did great walking back up.

M and I had two very tired (emotionally and physically) horses by the end, and I couldn't have asked for a better xc introduction for Kwik. Anne was fantastic - she did a wonderful job challenging us and building confidence simultaneously. Sure we had some meltdowns, but this is all new to Kwik, he's only been at Ashland for a little over a week now, and honestly, I couldn't be more proud. :)

Watching coursework

Me, Kwik, M, and Sherlock 


Right before the rodeo show