Well Finn got his first acupuncture treatment last Wednesday. I thought it would go something like this: stick tiny little needles in my horse's back that he can't even feel while he stands on the crossties for half an hour and falls asleep, while I chat to the vet. But this is Finn we're talking about. The second he saw the vet he pinned his ears and started dancing around. She tried to put one needle near his withers and he practically jumped through the roof. We couldn't tell if he was in THAT much pain, or if he was remembering/anticipating the back injection attempt from the week before. She gave him a teensy bit of sedation, her assistant put a towel over his eyes, and the vet was able to get about 8 needles in-- not even the full amount that she usually uses. Once he had the needles in he did completely relax, and melt his head into her assistant. She is coming out again on Wednesday for another course of treatment. This past week we also had the farrier out to change the angles on his fronts slightly, as per vet's instructions post x-ray, and the dentist out on Sunday. The dentist said his teeth looked awesome, and it only took him about 20min (as opposed to the 2 hours it took him a year ago) to get his chomps looking perfect. All of this maintainence that will hopefully lead to a happy and sound horse...someday!


How do you know when to let go

After the hell that was last week I got in touch with the MSPCA. They gave me a few options. I could:
1. Try to figure out what was wrong with him, and keep him
2. Write up an ad, they would put it on their website, and he would stay with me until he found another adopter
3. I could return him to the MSPCA, and if he couldn't get adopted/fostered out/treated they would have to euthanize him

I went up to the barn the day after and Finn was trotting and cantering around, rearing up with one of his buddies, and playing halter tag. When he saw me pull up to the barn, he stopped, and trotted over to the fence from the other side of the paddock, ready to come in. He licked my jacket, pulled the zipper down, and searched my pocket for the treat he knew was there. As I was leading him in he put his chin on my shoulder and nuzzled into my neck. So, of course, I called the vet. The vet was out yesterday and spent 3 hours with us. First she watched him trot in both directions on the lunge. She noticed a little off-ness in the right front, which I wasn't noticing. Then vet's assistant trotted him out on pavement, and lunged him in the driveway. She still noticed the slight off-ness, now in both fronts.  She flexed his fronts, and it was still very slight. She decided to do a heel block on right front. He lunged 100% after heel block, and I definitely noticed an improvement in his stride after the block, which also made me noticed the bit of hesitation on the other side. It wasn't like he was lame, just a bit short strided, a little more careful to put his hoof down. Then we flexed the hinds, and she said eventually (years down the road) he would need his hocks done, but it wasn't a concern now. She checked his back, and he was SORE. Basically from his withers to his hips. She believes it's muscle related, and says it seems like he pulled something in the paddock, or, from all the recent training and learning to move and use himself correctly probably for the first time in his life he is most likely sore from that too. Before doing anything to his back she wanted to take x-ray's of his fronts. His x-rays look fantastic, and new farrier has made such drastic improvements in his hooves and angles. His soles have also increased a ton in thickness. Vet believes he is exhibiting a bit of heel soreness because his toe is still a bit long, and she wants farrier to take off even more toe, and set the shoe/packing back further on the heel, which should make him more comfortable. Farrier and vet are going to work together to get his fronts even better. Vet then recommended back injections, while he was sedated, and I was on board. Her assistant prepped him, and doped him up a bit more. Vet started trying to inject him and Finn said NO in a big way, popping up, kicking out, swishing his tail, and bending all her needles. His back started twitching. Unfortunately he is so back sore and tight right now that we are going to have to wait to do the injections. She put him on high doses of Robaxin and an NSAID for 10 days, she will come back next week for acupuncture, and then the following week we will try the injections again.
      She does not think there is anything terribly wrong with him, other than some super tight muscles that need some help. She feels that all of his behavioral issues are absolutely stemming from his back pain. She also recommended keeping his BOT sheet on at night, lots of long and low trot work this week, and treating for ulcers again. We also pulled blood for lyme. If nothing comes from this course of action, then she will refer me to the vet hospital for a bone scan. On a very positive note vet said that after we get his back muscles strengthened and comfortable, she sees no reason at all as to why he couldn't jump again, as his hooves look great.

I know I said that I was done, and I couldn't do it anymore. And I really couldn't. I am so fed up, but for some reason when the MSPCA said euthanasia, I just couldn't. Not after seeing him run around the paddock with his buddies. He's just not there yet, and neither am I.


Between a rock and a hard place

Things were going okay, until they weren't...As it usually is with horses, or at least my horse. Trainer was working Finn five days a week, and I was lessoning one. As is posted in my last post, he has had a bit of an attitude, but nothing that's been unmanageable, just an "eh, I really don't want to work today". When I moved Finn back to his barn, and put him into training, in my head I had made the decision that if he comes up weirdly lame again I really needed to find a horse that would stay sound for more than a month at a time. Then, yesterday, I get this email from her:

Hey, I'm thinking Finn may need the chiro he was really bad yesterday and today. He is fine when I am not asking him for anything but as soon as I ask him to step bigger or go into shoulder in etc.... He slows down and gets all choppy and when I push at him he squeals again and tries to be naughty:( Yesterday I got off to lunge him first and he was just an ass so we worked on being a good boy. But today when I got on he was good for like 5 min and then was like nope not going. So when I got off his back was sore mid back on both sides of his spine. Also.... His poll was really tight to the point where every time I touched him up there he freaked out??? So I think he needs a chiro appt. if you work him tomorrow I would lunge him first or when you get on don't ask for a whole lot! It's so frustrating. I feel like we take 3 steps forward, and 5 steps back.

My reply:

Hey, welcome to the past two years of having Finn. It is ALWAYS 2 steps forward, 5 back. I looked at my calendar and I had the chiro out September 9th, just over a month ago. I'm not sure if at this point I should just get the vet out. Honestly, I don't know what to do with him anymore. He is not fun, and I'm sick of trying to figure out the next thing wrong with him....It's like we go a month- 6 weeks with him being okay, and then it's another issue. He has been lame more than he's been sound in the past two years. I will most likely be up there tomorrow in the early afternoon. If things continue like this I think he might be headed back to the MSPCA. I don't feel like we ask a whole lot of him, and it just doesn't seem like he can handle it.

Her reply:

Yeah I totally agree, it's not like we are asking him to do anything really hard! I don't know how you have done it for two years!!! Bless you! I would think the next step should be the vet if that is a direction you want to go in. I just don't think something is right with him he shouldn't be so sensitive to everything you know? Maybe he has some sort of arthritis in his back which makes him so sensitive to every little change?? Who knows. You can check him out tomorrow and see what you think. Please please wear your helmet if you lunge him first!! He was really bad!!!! Yesterday at one point he tried to charge me because he didn't want to walk off after I changed direction. So please just be careful.

I can't do it anymore. I just can't.

If this was a horse I have had for 10 years, if he was 10 years older, I would have no problem with the maintenance, with everything. But, Finn is 8, I have had him for 2 years, we haven't done a single thing together, and he has been off more than he has been sound. And it's not like my trainer is asking him for a whole lot....He is asked to trot around for 20ish minutes (with walk breaks), and a 20m canter circle in each direction-- and he will not stay sound. I have seen ALL the vets, ALL the chiropractors, injected, x-rayed, gave time off, tried different supplements, corrective shod him, treated for lyme, treated for ulcers. I had his saddle fit checked, with thermographic imaging last week. I have spent a little over $25,000 in medical treatment in two years on a horse I adopted for $1,000, not including board, supplements, shoeing, chiro, etc. The next step would be trailering him to a clinic and getting him a bone scan, as I feel he has a multitude of issues that are beyond even the best local specialists. But honestly, I just can't do it anymore. I understand that horses require maintenance and big money, but this is ridiculous. I have done everything I can, and now I cannot. I can't keep throwing money at this animal who is miserable and giving me nothing back. I feel extraordinarily guilty and depressed about this whole situation and I just have no idea what to do.


Plugging Along

Still alive... Haven't been riding much, but trainer has been riding five days a week. Man your riding really suffers when you only ride once a week. Finn's also pulled two shoes this past week. He's literally walking out of them and thankfully not damaging his hooves. I swear he's just trying to get out of work. Finn's had a major attitude problem lately. Trainer seems to think it's just a phase. He's never been in this much work probably since he left the track five years ago. He is cranky and stubborn and not really enjoying his job very much. Boo. :( He is very sound though, really for the first time since I've had him! The dressage saddle search continues. The saddle fitter let me try a County Connection that according to her thermographic camera fit him perfectly. It was insanely comfortable! My trainer rode him the night I got the saddle and he took off bucking. She thought it was just an attitude thing, and not bad saddle fit. The next day I hopped on him for my lesson and he felt like he was going to explode the second I got on him. I got off, and trainer hopped off. Took a short video of her riding (see below), and he would not track up and lift his back. Trainer thinks that because he is short backed, I'm going to have a difficult time finding a dressage saddle that fits him and me comfortably. Luckily I still have my jumping saddle that's a perfect fit. In the rides I've had on him lately he's mostly been shaking my confidence with some unpredictability, especially in the canter. The barn's getting a 2'6 packer soon that I'm thinking of part-leasing to build my confidence while trainer continues to work with Finn. Me and Finn are also signed up for the barn's schooling show (walk trot classes) coming up on October, 27th....guess I should start riding more!!


In a slump

Been pretty quiet over here. I had a terrible stomach bug for almost two weeks and didn't make it up to the barn once during that time. Luckily Finn is practically in full training and has been ridden a lot lately by my trainer. She rides him all week and then I ride him on Saturdays in a lesson. After two weeks of not riding my lesson this past weekend had my legs feeling like jello. On the other hand Finn felt AMAZING. He feels so forward and for the first time ever...comfortable! His canter still has a lot to be desired, but I think that's more in part to my canter anxiety. I watched trainer canter him at the end of my lesson and he had a super stretchy canter that I just can't get him to do yet. He's also getting super hunky and building a top line again. He really feels 110% sound...the best he's ever felt in the two years I've had him.
    I've been in a pretty big slump in terms of my personal/professional life and where I see my life going outside of the horse world. Hopefully things turn around soon. It's certainly really nice to not have to worry about my horse, and know he's getting some quality training in while I'm not there. Will post some photos and videos tomorrow.



Well, the dressage saddle we tried didn't fit. It actually fit Finn really well, but for me it was uncomfortable, pitched me forward, and my legs didn't feel supported correctly. Finn still looked pretty cute as a dressage pony though!

Today we had our first lesson back with our old instructor. The lesson started out with Finn stiff, resistant, evading the bit, swishing his tail, pinning his ears, and his head practically under my chin. I told trainer he's been going okay since we've been back, but that he is just so tense, which, in turn, makes me so tense. We started out long and low on a 20m circle, switching directions, and picking up a little bit of contact every so often, while still making him work long and low. After about 20 minutes of me riding as quietly as possible, trainer had me pick up more contact. This made Finn lift his head, swish his tail, and led to about a 5 minute argument of a battle of wills. Trainer then asked if she could hop on him to figure out what I was feeling. I told her I was just feeling so stuck. She's never ridden him before. It took her about a minute to get him soft, relaxed, forward, and using his back. She rode him for about 20 minutes and then I hopped on.
     Quick backstory... I've had a lot of trainers in my life, and very little consistency in terms of trainers since I've had Finn. In all of my time riding I've never been taught the concept of inside leg to outside rein. I've read about it, and heard about it in lessons but never really understood how to utilize the concept.
When trainer explained what I need to do...push him with my inside leg to my outside hand...I literally yelled out HOLY CRAP. I suddenly had a horse going straight, soft, forward, round, and using his back and hind end. There have been times when I've thought he was using himself correctly. I was so wrong. I may have had his head down, but I didn't have that true contact I felt today, and a straight horse. It was a really crazy feeling to feel your horse move the complete opposite of how you've felt them move for TWO YEARS. It all clicked. I've been riding him wrong for nearly two years. It was a huge breakthrough, and a concept that I suddenly got, and was able to maintain throughout the rest of the lesson. Maybe now we can build that top line!! After our lesson I hosed him off, let him eat a little grass, and Back on Track'd the hell out of him (I should buy stock in BOT...). Such a great day, love my horse, and so happy to be back at our barn and with our trainer. Trainer's also going to do a training ride on Monday night, then I have another lesson Tuesday night, then we have a dressage clinic this weekend. Woohoo!


Farrier update and saddle search

On Saturday our new farrier came out to work on Finn. I couldn't have been more impressed! First she watched him move in both directions for quite a while on the lunge, then explained what she hoped to achieve in working with him. First and foremost was to get him comfortable. I told her I didn't think he was super comfortable, and that he's been tripping and bracing a bit-- like he's been protecting his front feet. She pulled his fronts and let me see the bruising on his heels, and a bit of a seedy toe on his right front. His toes were so long, at not even 4 weeks out since our last farrier worked on him. She ended up trimming him up a bunch, and putting steel center fit shoes on him, like these, with a hard plastic natural  balance frog pad underneath, magic cushion extreme underneath that, as well as sole support impression material to protect his heels. She looked at his hinds and said they really don't need to be done quite yet, and **gasp** she said he had such great hinds that we can most likely pull them for the winter. Finn also LOVED her, which says a lot. She was very gentle with him, and he was the most patient I've ever seen him. The part that sold me though was lunging him after she had worked on him. He moved like a totally different horse: tracking up, head low, using his back, totally extended, and gorgeous!!! In the nearly two years I've had him I've never seen him move so comfortably.
Right front, before and after. The whole angle of his leg has changed!

After the farrier came I gave him Sunday off. On Monday the chiropractor was scheduled to come. I rode him in the morning and worked on cavaletti and trotting poles. He was moving so well he felt like a different horse. Chiropractor worked on him-- he was out throughout different parts of his back, as per usual, especially his left SI/hip area. Chiro recommended a long walk after her treatment and because it was such a nice day out I decided to hand walk him down the trail. I've never done that with him before and he was awesome. I only had my tall boots, but next time I want to do that I think I'll bring hiking clothes and we can both get a workout in. Finn can tend to get a little spooky on the trail alone and I think hand walking may help him to be able to go out alone without being so spooky.

I've also started looking for a dressage saddle for Finn. I had an awesome Niedersuss that I sold a while ago because there was no hope of it ever fitting Finn. I want a deeper seat, more comfortable saddle for trail rides and our dressage lessons. I tried a bunch of saddles at the local consignment tack store and wasn't really impressed with any. Then my dressage trainer told me she was selling her Windsor Greenline dressage saddle. She left it up at the barn tonight and I'm welcome to ride in it all week and in my lesson this upcoming Saturday as a trial. I'm really hoping it's comfortable and fits Finn. It's a great price for a higher end saddle. 


The battle of bad feet

I feel like I'm a very proactive horse owner. Finn gets the best feed, lots of hay, very regular vet care, every vaccination, regular teeth floating, chiro, massage, and I supplement everything. So when this whole laminitis episode hit us this past summer it really hit me hard and made me so depressed. I felt like I had failed my horse. But really, my horse has terrible feet, and he always has. He has long toes, under run heels, crumbly feet, a left front hoof that doesn't match the other hooves (flat and pancake like), weak hooves that have a tough time holding shoes, and very thin soles.
       My farrier has done his best. We've tried all different sorts of shoeing techniques, all sorts of pads, all sorts of packing, I've used durasole, keratex, and every other hoof hardener/ointment on the market. I have him on SmartSox ($$$) and SmartCombo Ultra ($$$$), and no matter what I do his hooves still suck.
      When I moved my horse back to his old barn our farrier said he'd continue to shoe Finn, but that it would cost us practically double because it was so outside his current market. This made no sense as it would cost me nearly $1000 a month between just board and shoeing (Finn gets shod every 4 weeks), not even including his SmartPaks, lessons, or anything else. I've also been getting a little nervous with my current farrier as Finn's right front hoof has started to look more spread and pancake-like, and his right front has never had any issues. I started to think, even before my farrier said he really didn't want to go back to our old barn, that Finn's messed up hooves might be above his level of expertise.

So the search for a farrier began.....
    After reading a lot of reviews on local message boards and talking to a few vets I found a farrier. I emailed her (YES a woman farrier!! how cool!), and she got back to me right away. She wanted to see lots of pictures of Finn's hooves, his x-rays, wanted to talk to his vet, and our last farrier. I was so impressed with how thorough she was through email-- much more vet-like, than farrier-like. This is one of the emails I got from her
Thanks for the photos!  I think I can do a lot of work on his long toes.  I like the pad he is in BUT I think he needs more caudal support to get him comfortable.  Will you let me tweak things and use some supportive hoof packing to load the back of his foot and get the tension off the front dorsal wall?  We can do it over time but I think we can get him comfortable and supported. 

What is he getting for food/diet?
Are you riding him?
Does he get chiro or massage work?
Ill check my schedule and get him in this week.  :)  I'm looking at a EDSS or a PLR aluminum shoe system.  Reduce leverage off the toe and reduce tension off the flexor tendons and get pain reduced and a comfortable stride.  

Very cool. I'm nervous and excited to work with her. I have her coming out either this Saturday or sometime early next week. We are only 3 weeks into our current shoeing cycle, but Finn's toes are already growing over his shoes and there's lots of cracking. He's also been tripping, and just doesn't seem 110% comfortable. I'm hoping and praying that she can help him. Here are the pictures I sent to her (3 weeks into current shoeing cycle), hopefully I'll have some pictures to post tracking positive changes after she works with him!!


What doesn't work

On Wednesday night me and Finn had a lesson with the barn's new trainer. I am not usually the type of person that takes a lesson with a new trainer without meeting her and watching her teach a lesson first, but everyone else in the barn loves her and I thought she'd be great for us too.
   We started the lesson walking on the rail and trainer commenting on how stiff he is. He is very stiff, but he has only been ridden 5 times in the past 3 months. I told her that I wasn't sure if we'd ever jump again, and that we'd hopefully be working to a future in dressage. She said that Finn will never be a grand prix dressage horse, that his conformation will really limit him, and that he is built very downhill. I understand that Finn will never be grand prix, and he is not a 17h, gorgeous mover, warmblood, but I do feel like he has potential for something. This trainer made me feel like he has potential for nothing. 
     After walking on the rail and talking to me for 5 minutes we were called into the center of the ring to work on "softening" Finn. I am very stiff through my upper body/elbows, which is something I've always struggled with. To get Finn to soften we stood in the center, I would completely let go of any contact on one side, and then I would turn him in tiny circles while putting my hand behind my thigh, with Finn's nose on his shoulder, or practically touching my saddle........for 45 minutes. I think I trotted all of a minute. Our entire lesson was spent in little, spinning circles, to get Finn to soften. Every time Finn would sigh she'd say "that's good! he's giving in!" I wanted to be like no, he's pissed...while he's grinding his teeth. There was no forward motion. There was Finn resisting and getting more and more confused. I think the final straw was when she told me to "not let him be a little dick", and "I don't care if he falls on his knees, just get him to soften". ........UM WHAT?! This is just not the way I do business with my horse. After 45 minutes of this, into what was supposed to be an hour lesson, she told me to "get off NOW!!!" I literally flew off Finn. She told me I need to get off when he gets the concept we've been working on. Pretty sure neither of us "got it". 
     Luckily we will be working with our old dressage trainer next week, and also have a few dressage clinicians out to work with us. I am all about brutal honesty, but at the same time, 45 minutes of spinning in circles, left both of us dizzy and confused. I want a trainer that will be honest, but also see potential in my horse. After that lesson I spent a long time hanging in Finn's stall and he kept coming over to me, nuzzling my neck, and breathing in my face. It was like he was asking me "mom...what was that?!" I've given him the past few days off, and tomorrow we're taking it easy and going out for a long trail ride-- exactly what we both need!

Cavalia Odysseo

This past Tuesday me and hubby had a date night at Cavalia Odysseo, which is similar to Cirque Du Soleil, but has horses! 

We had VIP seats, which included, dinner, open bar, a beautiful program from the gift shop, dessert at intermission, awesome seats (we were 6th row, dead center), and a stable tour after. It was beautiful, magical, and so extravagant. The horses were phenomenal, and I fell in love with a few grey arabians. What surprised me was how small most of the horses were, a lot of them were under 16h, and much closer to 15h. After the show, which ended in a flooding of the stage and a gorgeous grey piaffing his way through a few inches of water (gorgeous!), we headed backstage to meet the horses. While we weren't allowed to touch any of them, we were able to take pictures and see them up close. I think the coolest thing was that this entire world was housed under these tents: the show, the gorgeous VIP tent where we ate, and the stabling. 

VIP tent


Happy to see that nearly every horse had standing wraps on

Wash stalls...in a tent? Crazy!

One of my favorite grey's

After each show all the horses get their manes braided

Well deserved nap time


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming

I know I haven't blogged in a long time. I haven't wanted to go up to the barn much, or really even ride, these past few weeks. I was gearing up for Finn's big move on September 1st, but yesterday the woman who trailers him asked if he could move today instead. Because I was out of state today I really didn't think I'd be able to get all the pieces in place. Somehow we made it work and Finn was trailered back home today, without me even being there to move him! This morning I got a text from BM that Finn had arrived safe and sound and was happily munching hay in his stall. He went out in turnout with his old buds around lunchtime and it was like he had never left. There was no galloping, or whinnying. He went up to his old BFF and started playing halter tag. When it was time to go in at night BM told me Finn tried to take her to his old stall. It's like the past few months didn't even exist...and I really wish they didn't!
   Me and hubby visited him on our way home tonight and hubby turned to me and said "it's like his whole expression has changed....he's happy again!" Even though the hour commute really, really sucks, the peace of mind I get from knowing he's happy and cared for is worth it. I won't have to worry about him getting his meds and supplements, hay, the correct food, getting turned out, etc. He'll be back to his old routine, and my horse really needs his routine. It felt so great to see my barn family again. The barn also just got a sweet new trainer, and I can't wait to take a lesson with her, as well as work with my old dressage trainer too. First ride tomorrow-- get ready for lots more posts, pictures, and a possible show in October!



"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else." ~ William Cavendish 

    It took me all of about two weeks to realize how good me and Finn had it at our old barn. There is nothing wrong with our current barn but pretty much since I've gotten there I've felt like we don't belong. We don't belong with the owner/barn manager, and her very young lesson kids, and although I've enjoyed working with the hunter jumper trainer a lot, and riding Ben, I know Finn would not mesh with her super intense program at all.
   The past few weeks I've thought a lot, probably a little too much, about what is best for my horse, and myself. Two weeks ago I had a jumping lesson on Ben. The jumps were set at 2'9, and I probably haven't jumped 2'9 in 10 years. There was an oxer set at 2'9, with a pretty decent spread, that gave me the hardest time. Ben sensed my nerves, and jumped awkwardly the whole lesson, because I was basically in fetal position the entire time. For some reason, to me, the gap between 2'6 and 2'9 jumps seems VERY significant. I left the lesson upset, not confident, and kind of...hating jumping. The next week, because it was raining and I had to ride indoors, I basically had a flat lesson, with some gymnastics at the end. AND IT WAS FUN! 
    It suddenly clicked. I love flatwork. I like cross rails, and gymnastics, and cavaletti, but raise those jumps up to 2'9 and ask me to jump a course, and I just freeze. Then I started to feel guilty because I realized I didn't want to, or like to, jump. But that's crazy, because this is a hobby, and it's supposed to be fun, and why would I jump if I didn't enjoy it?!
    In between lessons with Ben I've been walking and trotting Finn. He feels wonderful, is soft, responsive, light, and using his back/hind end better than he ever has. It is strange to get back on Finn after riding Ben so much. Ben is tight, stiff, and has a very heavy mouth. I want a horse that uses his body correctly, understands and likes his job, and stays comfortable and sound for many, many years. 

The big news is.... we are moving back to our old barn September 1st. Crazy right?! We are going to go back to working with the dressage trainer there that we were progressing with before we moved. She will take us to shows when we're ready. I will still pop over the occasional jump, but more than anything, I want Finn to be comfortable using his body correctly. If anything were to happen to him again, the price is practically reflective of retirement boarding, and I know he'd be safe and cared for even if I couldn't visit him for a week or more. 
     I have looked at other barns in the area and nothing compares to the care, amenities, and super individualized care of our old barn. For the price, it doesn't get any better. I am paying a whole lot more for fewer amenities now, than I was to have him further from home. I feel like the people at our old barn are family, and we fit there. I will never complain about the drive again!!


Quick Update

Big, exciting changes are coming... Haven't had a chance to update, and time seems to be going by way too quickly. Will update this week with some important life decisions.
In short...Finn is SOUND. 100% sound, back on half day turnout, and back to being ridden!

Love my little bay!

My boys



These are Finn's new shoes! After getting the all clear from the vet about going back into slow work after shoeing, my farrier ordering his special pads, and him getting shod today, I am psyched to be able to tack him up tomorrow and ride him around at the walk to see how he feels. My farrier trotted him out after his appt. today, and although he said he still looked a little off, I thought he looked pretty good and pretty sound. He is in aluminum shoes up front, with flapper/combi pads, and regular steel shoes behind. Farrier said he could pull hind shoes because I'll basically be walking/trotting for a month, but I decided we're better off just keeping him in shoes. I will walk him tomorrow, and if he feels good I will attempt a bit of a trot. I also put him on SmartSox, after reading lots of great reviews about it increasing hoof circulation.

I've been riding Ben a lot, and he's a total blast. Every ride is consistent, and easy, and just fun. He is the packer I can take out on solo trail rides. He's the horse I don't have any nerves with. He's the horse I can jump a 2'6 course on and look good doing it. I don't worry about anything when I ride him.

Although I'm excited when I get to ride Ben....he is no Finn. I am so, so, SO excited to get on my little 15.3h, no-muscles, neurotic, kinda quirky TB tomorrow, than I ever am about riding the $40k, A-Circuit warmblood.

Finn is full of this goofy, lovable, infectious personality. He is young enough that I can make something out of him. Ben is a been-there-done-that 15yr old warmblood that requires regular maintenance and injections to stay sound. I may not look "good" on Finn, like I do on Ben, but I think down the road we can get there together. I love my little guy and I can't wait to get back on him tomorrow.

Funny story-- vet gave me some injectable sedation for Finn so farrier could do a really great, accurate shoeing on him today, without Finn yanking his hooves away. Sedation more powerful than Ace, and what Finn's dentist usually uses to make him nice and sleepy. Well, I sedate him 20min before farrier is due to arrive...and it doesn't do a god damn thing. Farrier shows up and says... "Leave it to Finn!" Yep...leave it to Finn!

My daughter riding my friend's draft cross


Vet update

The vet came out yesterday to re x-ray Finn. X-ray's looked good, and vet recommended either a Sigafoos shoe, or a shoe that's called a flip-flop, which is basically a thick rubber pad that covers the whole bottom of the hoof, and then half of a shoe nailed to the front of the hoof, over the pad. The vet recommended we try the flip-flop shoe, before trying a Sigafoos. I can't find too much info on them online. My farrier ordered them, and Finn will be trimmed and shod on Tuesday. After shoeing, I can ride at the walk for a few days, then at the trot for a few minutes at a time for a week. If he is sound and going well, I can start to slowly put him back in regular work. Today we walked under tack in the indoor, and then worked on going in and out of the wash stall. He was an angel about everything. He was also very sweaty after a 20 minute walk under tack in the indoor, even though it wasn't hot out today-- someone is VERY out of shape!

OF COURSE he's sticking his tongue out!

I also got to ride Ben today-- my first non-lesson ride on him. I really wanted to work on getting him lighter. He is SO heavy, and the lesson kids that have ridden him have let him be heavy. We worked on a lot of trot-halt-trot, canter-halt-canter, transitions, lots of circles and figure eights, trot leg yields, extending our trot down the long side, and collecting it in the corners. He felt pretty stiff, and I don't think anyone's ridden him since my ride last Tuesday. We also played in the field and jumped a few of the jumps. My next ride, which will be Sunday, I definitely want to work a lot more on getting him to really use that hind end, and release the tension in his head and neck. A few pics from our ride:


Decision made

I am half leasing Ben! It's been riding boot camp with 3 lessons this past week. I got up to the barn today, tacked the hunk up-- everyone calls him "uncle Ben" because he really takes care of his person, I call him the hunk ;)--, and off we went to the derby field. When we got outside I was all:

We started off on the flat in the field, and getting Ben to bend by way of figure eights. It was so, so buggy this afternoon with the humidity and dampness, and Ben kept tossing his head, unable to focus (next time I'll put a bonnet on him). We decided to move it into the ring next to the field. Once we were in the ring trainer had me extending down the long side, and sitting/collected trot through the corners. This really, really opened Ben up and he felt great. Then we worked on two canter poles, down the quarter line, with two strides in between. I really need to work on getting OUT OF MY TACK, and trusting my horse. Then we started working on a little course: trot in, vertical, land in canter, two strides, cross rail, change direction across the diagonal, with lead change, canter vertical on diagonal, after lead change in center, take it back to a trot, trot a vertical down the other quarter line in opposite direction, land in canter. After we worked on this a few times, the first two jumps changed to vertical, vertical, cross rail, with one canter stride in between. I had to stay in half seat through the whole bounce, and look UP, at the trailer in the distance. I have a horrible habit of looking down at the jumps. Really, I have a horrible habit of looking down all the time. This gymnastic really helped me get out of my tack. I'd get in half seat, grab mane, and let Ben do his thing...and he does his thing well!! One thing I really need to work on is not cutting my corners short. Ben anticipates and knows where we're going, and I let him take the shortest route possible. Our last go through the course was definitely our best yet, and I felt like a total rockstar after our lesson. 
     I am so happy to be able to lease him for the month and the improvements I've experienced in my riding with my new trainer in 3 lessons has been more improvement than I've experienced in the past few years. Ben is doing wonders for my confidence, riding, and strength. After our lesson we walked all around the property on a loose rein, and then he got a nice bath, and dinner. There is a show at the end of the month on farm that we're planning on doing, at 2'6, which is what we jumped today. I'm psyched. I'll get to ride him 3 times a week throughout my lease, and I'm hoping I can get hubby to come up later in the week to take pictures and videos of us. 
    After I was done with Ben I moved on to Finn. Finn had already been turned in, had his dinner, and was working on his hay. I bought him SoftRide boots at the start of this whole laminitis episode, and Finn went from unable to walk, to prancing around the second I put them on him. He's worn them 24/7 for the past three weeks, and I can't say enough good about them. They are phenomenal, and unlike any boot I've seen. They're basically like orthopedic shoes for horses. There are these removable gel inserts that fit inside the boots, and for the first three weeks I had special laminitic inserts to help his feet heal. Today I wanted to switch out the inserts to the ones that come with the boots. Finn was 200 times better today than he's been the past week. He is off the Ace, and just his goofy, calm, sweet, self. Barn worker said he was an angel for turnout. THANK GOD! I was able to pick up his hooves no problem, put MagnaPaste on them, and put his boots back on. I didn't even bother with a halter or crossties, I just hung out in his stall with him. Because I've been a bad horse mom and basically ignoring him, I decided to brush him because he was filthy. Then, I looked at the little mohawk growing in on his bridle path and I thought why not, I'll clip his muzzle and bridle path too. Grabbed the clippers, turned them on, and Finn dropped his head to my side while I clipped....WHAT?! He's always been the horse that is somewhat resistant to bridle path clipping, with his head in the air, and I was able to clip him in his stall with no halter, no stool, nothing. It was amazing. I was so excited that I went a little clip happy, and took off about an extra inch of bridle path. He then lifted his head a bit for me to get his muzzle. He had his eyes half closed the whole time. I couldn't believe it. Maybe my horse isn't so crazy after all!
    The vet should be rechecking Finn this week, the next step will be back in shoes, normal turnout, and back to work with barn trainer. I'm hoping after a month of her working with Finn, and a month of me working with Ben, we'll both be much more educated and ready for each other. 


It's just FUN...and decisions, decisions

Ever since my lesson the other day I've been thinking non stop about having another one. Trainer was available this morning and I jumped at the opportunity to ride Ben again. By the time of our lesson it was already 95 degrees. I had asked trainer for a flat lesson to work on myself more, but really I did so because my legs were killing me after my first lesson. Ben has a big stride, and a somewhat awkward left lead canter that can be hard to sit to. I haven't jumped other than the ocassional small cross rail in a while, and a course the other day really made my thighs and calves burn. I really, really need to get stronger! Well we started the lesson on the flat, and trainer says she really wants to see us jump again together...in the derby field. A wide, open, flat field with jumps that completely terrifies me. Now I know Ben is a steady eddy, but there is something about a huge field with no boundaries and jumps that freaks me out (why do I want to event again?) So we head off into the field and work on some figure eight canters in the field with lead changes down the diagonal. I have never in my life ridden a horse this fancy, and I haven't ridden a horse with changes in many, many years. Man, it felt good. After getting my confidence in the field we worked on some canter ground poles to start and getting 6 strides in between. We totally nailed it. Jumps were put up and we  did a little course of a cross rail, 6 strides to a vertical, around half the field, change direction over a little log jump, and then back over the two from the opposite direction. I really, really had to work on getting my strides, and keeping Ben focused on where to go, and not drifting. I usually only ride in the ring, and it's amazing how much I relied on the rail as a guide. It's a whole different world in the field! As I was doing an extended canter around the perimeter of the field and looking up over the hill at the tree line on this perfect day, and flying over these jumps that just felt like nothing, I had a smile from ear to ear, for like the first time ever. I felt amazing, and confident, and happy. Trainer said Ben responds so well to me, and that we are a great match. It just felt so right. Ben is for sale, but there is no way in a million years I'd be able to afford a horse as fancy as him. After my lesson I walked Ben all through the fields on a loose rein, thinking. After getting back to the barn trainer discussed a few options with me on what to do with Finn once he is sound.
1. Half lease Ben for a month, while trainer puts in training rides on Finn. Half leasing is big, big money, but something we could swing for just a month...definitely not longer than that.
2. Continue lessons (two or  so a week) on Ben, and put training rides in on Finn. (least $$ option)
3. Put all my money towards a month of training board for Finn, and have no lessons for myself. This would include Finn being worked 6 days a week, and equals out to what it would cost to half lease Ben and full board Finn with 1-2 training rides a week.
4. Return Finn to the MSPCA and full lease Ben for a year. This is my most costly option, but after a year of full leasing, the $$ from full lease would go towards Ben's purchase price if I decided to purchase him at the end of the year. With this option he is essentially mine during the lease, I can move him wherever, and do whatever I wanted with him.

So basically I wish I was a billionaire. Because if I was I would buy Ben tomorrow, keep Finn, and do whatever I could to make him well. Unfortuately, I am not a billionaire.
    I love Finn with all my heart and have tried so hard this past year and a half to help him. And...he just will not stay sound. I feel like if I returned him to the MSPCA it's like I'm giving up on him, and I'm not a quitter. But my fear is I keep treating and treating and treating for everything and he is still not sound. I feel like I'm always walking on eggshells with him.
    I am seriously leaning towards option 1. A month on Ben will do wonders to my riding, and I'll get to go on trail rides, go to a show, jump, and just have fun! Trainer can do some training rides on Finn and I'll be able to get her honest opinion on what she thinks of him. I really like and respect this trainer, and know she'll be brutally honest about Finn. If at the end of a month he is just not going well, and me and Ben really, really click then I'll have to reevaluate.
     I wish I had thought long and hard about the right horse for me before I got Finn, rather than go in with the mentality of need horse now. A 15 year old warmblood would have been much more wiser of a decision than a green 8 year old Thoroughbred. Argh...I don't know. I don't want a horse that's going to take me to the Olympics. I want a horse that will happily plug me over 2ft courses, will compete at BN events, possibly go further in dressage, hunter pace, that I can trailer anywhere and everywhere for trail rides, go to the beach, go to my family's house in Maine and ride the dirt roads. I don't want a serious competitor. I want a horse I can ride now, safely.


After 30 minutes of begging, pleading, and swearing Finn finally goes in the wash stall


Highs and lows

I don't feel like dwelling on the horrible things that have happened the past few days, so I will keep it brief. Finn reared up on me in the indoor yesterday during hand walking and came at me with legs in the air. He took off toward the outdoor at a full gallop. I cornered him while he was grazing. Once I got him inside he reared up on me half a dozen times. He lost one of his boots on his victory gallop and it took 45 minutes to find it in 95 degree heat. Tried to bring him in the wash stall, he reared. When I got to the barn today I heard from the young girl working there that he did the same thing to her this morning and took off, almost toward the road this time. She wasn't expecting it and he almost pinned her. I know he hasn't been out in three weeks but it's like the past few days a switch has flipped, and he is just gone. He has this faraway look in his eyes. He is almost acting like he's getting abused, which I know is not the case. He is completely and utterly terrified of everything, like the wash stall. He snorts and backs up like a mad man at something we've never had an issue with. He's acting like he's never had a day of training in his life. Oh, and during his gallop this morning he lost a boot again and no one can find it. Me and Matt spent 2 hours searching the entire area he was loose in. There goes $350 bucks, awesome. I had a lesson on one of the lesson horses today and while I was walking my lesson horse around the field to cool him out, we came up over the hill and I see Finn in his pen, charging the pen with his chest, squealing, rearing, and snorting. He is dangerous. He's going to hurt someone. My god.

So anyways, I need a few days to figure out what the hell is going on and get my head on straight. He'll be aced for turnout for the next few days.

I haven't ridden in a month or so, and between everything, I haven't really wanted to. Trainer asked me the other day if I'd be interested in lesson on one of her sale/lesson horses. My friend Carole, who I moved to new barn with, was taking a lesson, and we could do a semi private. I thought, why not.

Today reminded me why I love horses and riding. I rode a 16.3h, 15yr old Warmblood named Ben who is the total, total packer. He's also a total, total hunk!!
Look at those legs!!
I was definitely smitten with his manners: being able to pick his feet without 20 minutes of begging, fly spraying him without him having a mini heart-attack, saddling him without ear pinning, and bridling him without him tossing his head in the air and being a total pain in the ass.
     Our lesson started with a 20 minute warm up and then it was on to jumping. I haven't jumped, aside from the very occasional cross rail, in a long time. Today, I jumped a full course with a smile on my face. I was able to sit back and just have fun. I was able to work on "me", and count strides, and feel how things are supposed to feel when they're right. It was awesome. My trainer pointed out that I look like a completely different rider on Ben. I was...I was actually confident. Carole kept saying how great I looked on him. This is our first go through the first couple of jumps. I'm so used to basically crouching in the fetal position, holding back, and not releasing with my hands (due to fear), that these bad habits carried over to poor Ben today. Hopefully a few more lessons with him I will be able to just let go.

 This was the first time I've had fun riding, without fearing for my life, in longer than I can remember...which is sad.
     I know that horses like this aren't just made this way, and it takes a lot of training to get them this way. My fear with Finn is that his heart isn't in in. That he doesn't want a job to do. That we will get a month of consistency, only to be injured for two months and start all over again. I know for sure that when he's better there is no way I'm going to be the first one on his back. He is either going into full training here, or being sent away for training.

    Ben doesn't know how much I needed him today. Thanks, buddy.


A night with Buck Brannaman

"Your horse is a mirror to your soul.
Sometimes you might not like what you see,
sometimes you will". 
- Buck Brannaman

You know, sometimes I just don't know where I'm headed. I don't understand why I got a horse to begin with when I have a baby, a career, a husband. I have an incredibly full and happy life with little wiggle room. And then, I see something that just resonates, and it all clicks. I've read a few of Buck Brannaman's books, and liked them. Then, on a whim the other day, I decided to buy Buck's groundwork DVD off of Amazon. Tonight I watched it, and it's like all these holes in my horsemanship training became SO very apparent. I am much more of a "rider" than a "horse person". Watching this DVD made me realize all of the gaps in Finn's training, and all of the things we need to work on prior to riding. I'm viewing this whole laminitis episode as basically a fresh start (think positive!), and literally as a way to start over. I got Finn, and basically thought, here's my next great event horse! And never really thought about all the gaps in his training, and creating a relationship between us. Finn is tense, stressed, and unconfident 100% of the time. And, I do nothing to help him feel better and more confident. Buck stresses giving to pressure. 100% of the time I am struggling to bridle my horse with his head in the air. It is a constant battle. And it shouldn't be. I want a horse that enjoys his job and is a willing partner. Finn is so far from that. I want a horse that trusts me and thinks of me as the leader. Finn does not. I think I make Finn tense and stressed, because 100% of the time I am tense, stressed, and in a rush. I want a horse that I can say, let's go on a trail ride today, when really all I'm thinking is Finn's going to be nervous/bolt/buck/refuse. 

    As soon as Finn is healthy we are going back to groundwork 101.