Lesson and life lessons

Finn has had since last Friday off due to his SI injections. Before having the vet out last Friday I had scheduled a lesson with my old trainer for today. I was supposed to ride him and test the waters on Monday but that plan didn't work out. I was pretty nervous hopping on him today, after injections, four days off, and two days in due to bad weather. But....he was great! I don't know if it was the time off, or the injections kicking in, but I felt like he had sneakers on. He was floating.
    Trainer showed up and I guess I didn't remember how difficult she was! We learned so much in just half an hour, and I really, really need to work on my half seat because my lack of strength was painfully obvious. I tend to come way to far forward, over the front of the saddle, rather than staying centered over the motion. Actually using my body correctly felt so OFF. Trainer also mentioned that she thinks the best way to motivate me is to set a goal (our first show) and in the coming months do everything we can to prepare for said show. I think I've decided on June 9th at Green Acres http://www.greenacresstables.com/classic_green_004.htm for our first debut. They have a summer event series, and the Elementary 3 phase will be right up our alley. This was the first time trainer had met Finn and she absolutely loved him, and thought he was perfect for me. She asked what we've been doing this past year together and it was very difficult to say...well, nothing. I told her that he's had some issues, and my own paranoia on his health stalled us a whole lot this past year.
     Then I started thinking about why I'm so paranoid on his, well...imminent death. Seriously, I think about him dying all the time. My 8 year old, healthy horse, dying. I think about him colicing and dying, crashing into a fence and breaking his legs, a paddock injury that kills him.... Is that weird?
    My husband and I have house rabbits. Those cute, cuddly, little furry faces that you normally see in backyard hutches. Although ours live in our living room, enjoy free range of our house, are litter box trained, and are the smartest animals I've ever had the pleasure of calling mine. We currently have five of them. Three years ago, while we were living in New York we had a little lop eared rabbit named Bailey that we got when he was 12 weeks old from a breeder in Buffalo. He was the cutest, silliest little guy, and we loved him to pieces. Then, he got sick. It started with some sneezing and drooling while he was eating. We took him to our local vet, and after getting his teeth done (much in the same way a horse gets his done), and onto some antibiotics, he didn't get better. We took him to so many local vets, and then finally to Cornell to be seen by an exotics specialist. After having a CT scan done the vet found an inch long tumorish something in his nasal cavity, surrounded by veins, that if severed, would kill him. Surgery was impossible. We opted for daily penicillin injections to try and shrink it. For about seven months I kept him alive. My husband was training for a job where the training was based out of state, I was living in New York with no family, I was pregnant, and in the process of moving back to Boston. I packed up the entire house in two weeks, and moved all of our things and our rabbits back home with the help of Matt's brother. Bailey was extremely ill, had lost a ton of weight, but I persevered in keeping him alive. Every night he would lay next to me, rest his head on my arm, while I looked into his sad little eyes. At around 35 weeks pregnant, while I was at a doctors appointment, Bailey passed away. He passed away in pain and I will never forgive myself for not doing the right thing for him.
     I am still not over his death. He wasn't even two years old. Now, I am obsessed with something being wrong with my animals. Every time my horse takes a misstep, or looks a little off, I think there's something wrong. Only recently, in the past few months or so, I've realized that the point is not dwelling on our animals short lives, but enjoying them, loving them, and giving them the best lives while they're here with us. I have to remind myself of this all the time, to just enjoy the now, but it's finally getting a little bit easier.

Bailey bunny


MY horse

My entire life I was the girl that wanted the horse. I remember drawing pictures of horses at the age of eight, and religiously reading The Saddle Club books. I remember being so jealous when the girls at my lesson barn growing up would take their horses out on trail rides while I rode different horses in group lessons and watched them headed down the trail, giggling. While I am thankful for growing up riding so many different horses and learning so much, I remember being so very jealous that my parents wouldn't get me a horse of my own. I read books on horses, I took as many lessons as I could, went to shows, watched everything horse related, went to pony camp, leased lots of different horses, and wanted to spend my whole day at the tack store. I was obsessed. The obsession waned a little bit through college and my early twenties, but it was still there.
    Almost a year ago (we celebrate our one year together next week) the dream became a reality. And I think, the first six months or so, I was still that little girl who got her first pony. I'm normally a very realistic person, but at the time I was not thinking about pre purchase exams, about training an ex-racehorse, or vet bills, or what farrier I would use, or what I and my horse would need, or how it would really be having a horse, a baby, a job, and a husband.
    In a lot of ways I am still that little girl who doesn't have to stare wistfully after the girls as they go out on the trails with their horses. Afters years of lessons, camp, hands on horse experience, years of doing everything to be around these animals, nothing can prepare you for actually owning one. Owning this big, delicate animal, who requires your constant care, love, and attention, and basically the ability to read their mind and figure out what they're feeling.
    I think the reality of ownership sunk in the day I had my first barn manager/former friend's farrier up to shoe my horse. The farrier that hated thoroughbreds and told me over and over that this wasn't the horse for me. The rainy, summer day with the monster mosquitoes as I stood in the fog, in the heat, in the drizzle, lunging my horse for an hour as I got eaten alive by mosquitos, and my horse was a hot mess. As the farrier told me that Finn wasn't done yet and I needed to "run him more" so that he could shoe him. Those first six months I would have believed anything you told me about what was best for my horse. I believed that this horse was too much for me, that he wasn't right for me. I let everyone in my horse life control the decisions about my horse. I let the vet do a crap job on my horse's teeth until I had a real dentist out to fix him. I had the asshole farrier shoe my horse and tell me how horrible he was as I held, and pulled, on the chain around his nose. I had the barn manager tell me I had to do SOMETHING with this horse before he KILLED someone. And then, the trainer who we worked with for six months and made zero progress with.
     And then, two days ago, I had the vet tell me how wonderful my horse's feet look. How amazing this little guy was, how he was the most behaved horse they had seen all week. And I watched Finn look me in the eye, as I held his head while he was sedated. As he chomped his teeth and buried his head under my arm. All I could think was-- I love this horse. I love everything about him and it sure took me long enough to help him out and be his person. I think about all the stuff he's been through-- from growing up in Florida, to being a racehorse and racing his way up the east coast, to ending up in a rescue, to being adopted to a home that didn't want him, to ending up in the MSPCA, to ending up in multiple fosters for two years, and then finally ending up in my hands, and then moving to three different homes in under a year, all the while thinking I didn't want him either. I think about how he feels about his life, and if he's happy, constantly.
     I didn't know, couldn't know, what owning one of these animals would be like. It is not like owning a dog or cat. It is much deeper, much crueler, than that. It seems to go from incredible highs to incredible lows. Watching him free jump and sail over a 3.5ft fence, to dealing with a swollen hock/three weeks of stall rest from a paddock injury and thinking he will be lame forever. It took me so long to realize that this is my horse. My horse that I am not leasing, not just riding in lessons, that no one else's opinion matters but mine in terms of his health and welfare. I'd like to think that I'm doing everything right-- massage, chiropractor, vet, farrier, trainer, friends. All of these people that want to see us succeed and not fail. The most important lesson my horse has taught me this year is to stand up for what I believe in, and what I feel is right for him and me. He makes me be the person I want to be.




   Well judgement day ended up happening a few days later than scheduled. Our appointment was supposed to be Wednesday afternoon but the vet called and said she was running an hour late. No problem, it happens. Then she called an hour later and said she was just called into a colic emergency. Also happens. We ended up rescheduling for this morning.
    I asked barn manager to leave him in this morning so he wouldn't be filthy for our 8:00am appointment. I got there early, and tried to give him a good brushing. He was so mad that all his buddies were out running around with out him that he was basically piaffe-ing on the crossties. I didn't want him to be a complete maniac for the vet so I decided to let him play in the indoor for a bit. Usually if I let him play in the indoor it's a quick once around canter and he's good. Today he ran for a good twenty minutes before settling down. I've never seen him acting and feeling so good and I'm pretty sure everyone in the barn thought I was nuts for getting a lameness exam on him. Ha!
    Vet showed up and I really, really liked her. She did flexions, his front legs look fantastic (even though I was concerned about some old, small, scarring on his knees), and he trotted off a little positive on both hind legs, but she said the change was SO small, that it was not something to worry about, and he could just be sensitive to the flexions. She didn't recommend xrays of hocks and stifles because she felt that they wouldn't show anything. She felt around his back and he was visibly very sensitive over his SI joint, which is exactly where we had the issue with his back last fall (per two chiropractors and massage therapist). Everything I explained to her-- poor impulsion, reluctance to engage the hind limbs (especially in the canter), and difficulty holding up hind legs for farrier for an extended time, point to SI. Although none of these things were really horrible and noticeable, I always felt that he was protecting his hind end a bit by overusing his front end. After reading more about the SI, it makes perfect sense. We decided to inject to help the inflammation. After getting sedated and injected, he is spending today in his stall. Tomorrow he can go back out, and he can return to work in 3 days. After coming home and reading more about injecting the SI there's a lot of positive experiences out there, and very noticeable differences in their horse's comfort/way of going. The only negative I found is that without using an ultrasound to guide the needle deep into the SI there's speculation whether the steroids even reach the SI, if given by just another equine vet. The vet I used is one of the top lameness vets in the area, and does lots of SI injections, so I definitely trusted her judgement. I guess I will know within a couple of weeks if it did anything. Here's hoping!
Sleeping pony
Vet and her assistant preparing for injection

Needle in



   I've had a couple of great days with Finn. On Saturday I rode him for about an hour and a half and he was still ready to go-go-go! A far cry from six months ago when I needed a crop, spurs, and a whole lot of leg. On Sunday Michelle rode him and he still had energy to spare. She worked on lots of flat work, lots of over bending and getting him off her leg and more supple and less racing forward. She also set up a crossrail on a 20m circle with 9ft placing poles on either side and jumped that, focusing on the quality of the trot coming into the jump. I think the jump on the circle helped to keep his back up and keep him in the outside rein. He ended up trotting in really nicely with made his jump better, and his canter after the jump way softer. Finn got, and deserved, Monday off.
    Today I was up at 4am to go into work super early. Luckily my schedule is extremely flexible...then I was up at the barn by 8:00, and on Finn at 9:00. Finn spent most of the day in yesterday due to bad weather, and I made barn manager keep him in this AM because I knew I'd be there shortly after she would have turned him out. I decided to put him on the lunge line and was afraid I didn't have much of a brain to deal with. He was a complete maniac on the lunge, bucking, rearing, squealing, coming into the circle, hollering at his buddies outside. Luckily there wasn't anyone else riding in the indoor!! I tacked him up as he pranced and pawed on the crossties, hopped on, and he was an ANGEL. I think I'm starting to realize that his sometimes negative ground behavior pretty much never transfers to how he acts under saddle. He very rarely acts poorly on the ground, but sometimes he gets so distracted that he just completely forgets I'm there. It only ever happens if he hasn't been turned out yet. I'm actually thinking that I'll keep him on 24/7 turnout this summer, as a few other of the geldings in his paddock are out all night. I think he'd really appreciate that, as long as the bugs aren't too bad! He also started day 1 of his 21 days of omeprezole today. I was able to distract him with a carrot, hide the syringe in my pocket, shoot the meds in his mouth, and give him the carrot. It all happened so quick he didn't know what hit him. I didn't realize that the liquid is a bright blue, which has stained his lips a lovely shade.
    After a quick ride, the chiro showed up. When I first met the chiro about 5 or so months ago I really didn't take to her. She is a little rough around the edges, and called my horse parrot mouthed (he is slightly...), and that she wasn't sure if there was anything she could do to help him because she didn't have her Jesus shoes on at the time. Yikes. After a very long adjustment, which helped, she said she didn't know if he would ever be quite right. This was after his paddock injury, recently after we had moved, and I was in a very fragile state about my horse and his capabilities. I vowed never to use her again... Well, 12 weeks later I did end up using her again after Finn started picking up the wrong canter lead. She said he looked so much better, and two days after the adjustment, he was cantering just fine. I am STILL skeptical about chiropractors, but I do think she is helping him. Today, she said he looked fantastic and felt like a completely different horse. She said he was out in his C6 and C7 vertebrae (I think), and after a couple of loud pops, he breathed a big sigh of relief, and rested his head on her shoulder. My husband thinks the chiro is pretty much witchcraft, and I'm just not sure.
    Tomorrow afternoon is Finn's lameness eval and radiographs. Because I have the best farrier ever, he's also driving up in case the vet suggests we do anything different with his shoeing, or if she wants his shoes pulled for radiographs. He's been moving so well lately, but I definitely want to make sure there's nothing going on his hocks/stifles so that he's very comfortable as the work continues to increase, and I can stop being paranoid.
   Finn will get tomorrow off, then I'll be up there Thursday-Saturday, riding depending on possible injections, and then Michelle will be riding him on Sunday. I think hubby and I pretty much have our schedules figured out so that I will be able to make it up to the barn more than twice a week, it will just mean a few early mornings on my part. Not an issue to me, as long as I get to see this cute face:


Life, riding, trainer updates

Well, I haven't been riding much. I think I've ridden 3 times in the past two weeks or so, and seen Finn probably about 5 times. I have a whole bunch of excuses...
First, hubby crashed his car coming home from work a week and a half ago. Thank god he was totally fine, but the car was totaled. We thought it could be repaired, as it was just the front end, but the insurance adjustor said it was nearly $13,000 worth of damage. We bought this car last April and ever since we bought it it's been nothing but bad luck. I've never gotten a flat tire in my life, two days after owning it, I got one. We also got another flat tire, and a cracked windshield in under a year of ownership. Neither of us ever liked the car, so in some ways it was a relief that the doomed car was gone. We financed it, and after all was said and done we pretty much broke even on it and luckily didn't owe any money on it or a deductible. In fact we're receiving a WHOPPING $68 check. Rather than financing another car right now hubby and I have decided we're going to try and get by with one car. We work at the same place, and work opposite schedules, so it's not difficult to pass car and baby back and forth. It is, however, difficult to get to the barn often! Good news is, we're going to save up and get a truck and trailer...which I am so excited about! And, today, after all this stress, hubby's parents told us that they will pay for the three of us to come down to Florida to visit them for a week at the end of March. I'm pretty sure hubby almost cried. We need a vacation THAT much.
    We were also hit with a monster storm last weekend making it even more difficult to get to the barn. It sure was a lot easier plowing the driveway with only one car in it though.
     The few times I've ridden Finn all we've done is work on the basics. I've also decided to stop using the barn trainer for lessons and training rides. Every time I've had her do a training ride all she's basically done with him is trot him in circles for half an hour...barely any canter work or anything else. When she rides him I also have to tack him up, warm him up, cool him down when she hops off, and then untack him. If I wanted an exercise rider I'd pay one of the barn kids $10 to do so! Our lessons also haven't been progressing. I talked to Amanda, as she also takes lessons with former trainer, and she felt the exact same way and has also stopped riding with her. I love the barn trainer and think she's a wonderful person, and accomplished rider, but I'd rather save my money if we continue to not progress.
    One of the other girls at the barn, Michelle, who is an amazing rider/eventer/jumper and trained her young warmblood agreed to hop on Finn one day. After watching her ride and seeing how well my horse took to her, and then having her give me a little mini lesson on Finn, she's agreed to help me out with him. She's been riding him 2-3 times a week and JUMPING him which I'm so excited about. The other night he did his first grid. She's also been working a lot on strengthening his canter. I also don't have to be up there when she rides him, so he's still getting that exercise when I can't be there, and then when I can get up there he's not a hot, uneducated mess. I also get full updates and videos from Michelle after her rides. I'm very happy with my decision and think Finn will really start to progress from working with her. I noticed after I rode him the other day how responsive he was to my aids, and his canter was so much more relaxed! Yay!
     Finn will be getting a chiro adjustment this upcoming Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday afternoon I scheduled a full lameness evaluation and possible radiographs of his hocks and stifles. I've decided to use a very well known sports medicine vet that works with a lot of top sport horses in the area and is supposedly very good at pinpointing any issues. Finn is not lame, but I've always been a little paranoid that there's a little something going on and that he's not quite right. Not sure if it's a bit of arthritis in his hocks, a stifle, or SI issue. I want to get radiographs done and know if there's something we need to treat, especially now that he's really in work.
    Finn's been super girthy and crabby on the crossties so I ordered him a month's supply of omeprazole from www.horseprerace.com. I was a little concerned about ordering off market medicine, but I know a lot of people who have had no issues ordering from them, so I really hope it helps with his girthyness/grumpiness!
   I'll be headed up the barn tomorrow morning and hope to do a few crossrails with Finn and work more on his canter.

Here's a video of my munchkin doing his first grid!