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!!