I need answers

I know I probably sound completely, diagnosabl-y, bipolar when it comes to Finn. Last week after the horrible day I had with him I had a heart to heart with my trainer who basically told me that if I felt I was done, then be done. It's not worth the time and aggravation I am putting myself through if I wasn't having fun anymore. And that's what this is supposed to be, fun! But then she also said that she really does like Finn, thinks he's a good horse, thinks he really hates the winter, and that he is just going through a phase. She said that he's a smart ass and knows I'm afraid of him. But she also said that she can help me.

She rode him most of last week and last Friday we split my lesson up half and half with her riding the first half. All the horses were being brought in for dinner, it was about 15 degrees out, and there was just a lot of commotion. He spooked a few times, and I said to my trainer that Finn was all hers. She said put your helmet on, and GET ON!

Got on, and at first he had his head in the air, looking all around and I felt like he was a second away from either rearing or bucking. She told me to loosen my contact, talk to him, and scratch his neck. As soon as I started having a conversation with him, and laughing, his head dropped, he started chomping lightly on the bit, and sighed. We worked for about 40 minutes, mostly at the trot, changing directions often, and collecting and extending his stride, letting him stretch out his back. He felt phenomenal.

And for the past week, he's been pretty good. My trainer has been riding him quite a bit. This afternoon I had an early day at work so I headed up to the barn. The cold has broken a bit, and it was a sunny 30 degrees (feels like summer compared to 0 degrees). Brought Finn in, let him chill in his stall for a while in case he had to pee (I didn't want a repeat of my ride from two weeks ago). Put him on the cross ties and he was calm and perfect. Brought my saddle out of the tack room and he immediately started prancing around and pinning his ears. I could barely tighten my girth as he was so upset. I didn't even bother with a bridle and stuck him on the lunge with just his saddle. He was nervous and prancing on the walk to the indoor (a horse that was FINE 10 minutes before), and as soon as I let out a little bit of line he TOOK OFF.  A totally accurate description of how he acted was that he looked just like a bronco- rear, buck, rear, buck, over and over. He was not listening, he had this crazed look in his eyes, and he was moving so quickly that I was getting dizzy. He was making this horrible noise that sort of sounded like a squeal/groan, and from the center of his panic around me it sort of looked like his outside hind leg (right) was coming way far out from his body, when he would settle and canter it looked like his hind legs were cantering together, then he would kick one hind leg out and start cross-cantering again or racing. It was crazy.

My trainer says, always says, that he is testing me. This is not testing me. This has to be pain. Or am I crazy?!!!
1. This is a horse that is on ulcer maintenance/treatment. I also give tums pre-ride/lunge.
2. His grain was cut in half two weeks ago.
3. He is turned out 8 hours a day in a giant paddock with buddies.
4. He gets good quality forage all day long.
5. Coat and body condition look great. He has even muscle tone throughout his body.
6. He is on SmartCalm Ultra and has been for three months now.
7. He is in slow, top line-building work six days a week. He is asked to work long and low at least 30 minutes a day, with tiny bits of collection thrown in, and a small amount of cantering 20m circles both directions.
8. I had my saddle reflocked and refit two months ago, and get it done every three months.
9. He just had his teeth done two months ago.
10. He was just tested for lyme.
11. He had a massage last month (done monthly), and chiro 3 weeks ago.

I would think that being in this much work, in a frikken program, on little grain, and on SmartCalm Ultra he wouldn't be completely mental unless he was in some sort of pain, right?

Once I got him back in the aisle, on the cross ties, and saddle off, he was still tense but not as bad. Brought him back outside, and called the vet while sitting on one of the rocks in the paddock. Once I let Finn go in the paddock he never, ever comes over to me. This time he walked away and then decided to come back to me and hang out with his head draped over my shoulder. He is not a bad, mean, or angry horse. He is a sweet boy and I honestly think there is something wrong with him. I talked to his vet for about half an hour about what to do next. She will be up next week for back x-rays. Possible things that I've mentioned to her are:
1. Kissing Spine-- he seems to have all the symptoms. Unpredictable, explosive, difficult to girth, unwilling to work.
2. Cervical arthritis- neck arthritis? This is not something I know much about or have researched a lot, but some of his strange symptoms also seem to line up with this.
3. Hock or stifle issue-- with how his leg has been swinging out he may have something going on with his stifle, although it never looks like his stifle is actually locking. Hocks- last time he flexed 1 out of 5 and vet said eventually he will need them done. I really don't think it's his hocks, seems higher up.
4. Hoof angles- Finn's always had great hind feet (yay for something!), and I don't think his angles are off, or it is a hoof problem, as it does seem to originate higher up.
5. SI's-- maybe he needs his SI's injected again? Symptoms also line up with this. This time around though I will get his SI's injected with ultrasound assistance. Last time we did not inject using the ultrasound.
6. Ulcers- I have never gotten Finn scoped for ulcers. I have him on SmartGut Ultra, and have treated with 30 days of ulcergard. Could his ulcers be so bad that he needs more than what I've done? His symptoms seem more extreme than ulcers though.
7. EPSM/RER- Also something I don't know a lot about. I know that it causes extremely tight muscles (which Finn has throughout his entire body), but he's never experienced, to my knowledge, an episode of tying up. I also don't think this would cause his unpredictability/explosiveness.

Another strange thing that both me and my trainer have noticed is that he doesn't sweat. This entire winter, even after tearing it up on the lunge for 30 minutes, he won't even be warm. After a ride, his chest won't be warm or sweaty. It has been very cold, and he doesn't have a long winter coat this year, but he has always sweat before.

 Hopefully next week we actually get some answers. I know I posted this a few weeks ago....Finn on the lunge with my trainer before a ride. Notice the strange way he bucks/squeals. And, this was a good day. This is how he "warms up" every day. I don't mind a horse that bucks, acts a little naughty on the lunge when the weather is cold, when they've been stalled for a while, to get the sillies out. What Finn does though I feel is on a whole other level. He will buck/rear for 20 minutes while I say over and over whoaaaaaaaa. He is just SO nervous and SO on edge.



"Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins". -Charles Stanley

I got up to the barn today, a beautiful January day, the sun was actually out (it hasn't been out in what seems like forever), the snow has melted, and it was a warm 45 degrees. I had every intention of taking Finn on a short trail ride and hack around the property. My trainer said he was fantastic last night, she did a lot of canter work with him, and he is getting strong and confident. Usually when she rides the day before, I have a fantastic, willing, light horse the next day. I was really, really looking forward to this ride after a long week. 
    He was out in the paddock when I got there and he pricked his ears from the other end when he saw me. Brought him in and he was a rockstar on the cross ties, not dancing around and pawing like he usually does. When he saw the saddle, he pinned his ears. AND IT WAS ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE. Girthed him, and he tried to cow kick me. Brought him in the indoor and he kept trying to cow kick, and was prancing around at the end of the reins like an idiot.Tightened my girth, tried to get on, he stepped away from the mounting block a few times, finally got on. Walked a few 20m circles, with his head in the air. He would not relax. Thought that maybe if I picked up the trot he would settle. Pressed lightly into his sides, no response, pressed a little more. After what felt like a lot of urging (not typical), he broke into a trot. BUCKED, SQUEALED, and tried to get me off. Just like that. I knew something was wrong. This was not my horse. This hasn't been my horse since June. 
     Walked him back to his stall, untacked him in there, and he immediately peed like crazy. I am hoping that he just had to pee...He will only go in his stall or out in the paddock, and he has cow kicked and acted like a jerk before when he needed to go. At this point I already had him untacked from thinking he was lame so rather than tacking him up again I decided to bring him in the indoor and watch him move. 
     Let him go, and he took off like a rocket. Galloping full force around the indoor for 20 minutes. This is a horse that is in work SIX DAYS A WEEK, is on practically NO grain, is on SMARTCALM ULTRA, and has ALL DAY TURNOUT in a giant paddock. Seriously, Finn, WTF?!!!! I don't get it. I just can't explain him anymore. 
    I have a horrible feeling that neurologically there is something wrong with him. I have had him tested for lyme very recently, which would be the first thing I would think of. It's like he will be totally fine and calm and willing, then a switch flips, and he loses his mind, and I can't get him back. 
    I'm terrified of my own horse. I don't enjoy him. I couldn't wait to leave the barn today. I spend two hours driving back and forth to see him and work with him and it just feels like a huge waste of time. I don't know why or how we lost our bond, but it's not there anymore. I have had vets, farriers, X-rays, chiro, massage, acupuncture, blood work, saddle fitters, thermography, feed changes, supplement changes, barn changes, ANIMAL COMMUNICATORS (crazy much?), everything for him and NOTHING that I've done has helped. All the while, thinking, shouldn't it be a little simpler than this? I know horses are a lot of work, and time, and care, but this just seems extreme. Is it? I've done everything aside from taking him to a clinic and getting a bone scan, which I just don't know if I want to do. 
    He wasn't like this when I got him. He was a sweet, willing horse that I could canter around no worries. Now, I won't even canter him. Ever. My trainer does, but I won't. I used to jump him 2'6, in the outdoor, with his ears pricked, and tell him he was a good boy when he cleared over 3', as his ears tilted back to me, and then forward, eager for the next jump. I can't even bring him outside anymore. I close the doors to the indoor when I ride. I used to take him down the trail and talk to him the whole time about everything, while he listened and looked back at me as if to say, yep, mom, I know exactly what you're saying. He was my escape. From work. From my toddler. From everything. He was a friend, and fun, and my confidence. He made me feel strong, and loved, and happy.  
    But now?
I dread seeing him. Because I know that it will be the worst part of my day. 



Every so often I start to think that I am not doing everything possible for my horse. I feel guilty that I haven't taken him to the vet hospital to really figure out what's going on, or consulted more vets. And then a post like this pops up on my Facebook feed about an owner who did NOTHING for their horse. The picture is what caught my eye:

An emaciated little horse who looks to be...napping maybe? But no. This is a two year old appy filly who was found FROZEN TO THE GROUND for an unknown amount of time in Utah. Her mother, also emaciated, was standing nearby. The two were rescued and brought to Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses. There aren't any pictures or updates on Elsa on their website, but there is an option to donate by paypal on the bottom. Their Facebook page is regularly updated: Dust Devil Ranch Facebook.

This story just breaks my heart, and seeing all the volunteers and workers holding the 300lb horse up, as she can't stand up on her own, breaks my heart. How can people in this world be so cruel? Especially to animals. How could it have gotten to this point? Please go to Dust Devil's website and donate if you can, you can specify whether you would like your donation to go towards Elsa and her mother, or their general fund. Hoping the best for this little girl and that she gets to enjoy the carefree and healthy life she deserves.


Gift horse

With all the ups and downs I've had with Finn I've been reflecting a lot on our relationship, as we are soon approaching two years together. When I was looking at a horse to buy I looked at two horses. Yep, I test rode two and picked Finn. Horrible I know. I had been looking around online for a while and didn't see anything in my very limited budget that I was interested in going to see in person. I first went to a OTTB rehab farm in New Hampshire and tried out this giant 17h bay on a super cold day in February 2012. He was wild. I think he had been off the track since the previous season and wasn't getting ridden at all. He was very cute, and sweet, but much too much horse for me.

Barn's exercise rider rode him first

Then I rode him...

He kind of looks like Finn?? Maybe I have a thing for dark bays with little stars!

Mid February I went to meet Finn, who was living about an hour south of me at an awesome eventing barn in a foster home. He was the only horse there that looked totally non-eventer. He was skinny, furry, and filthy, standing dejectedly in his small paddock. The awesome girl from the MSPCA who came to meet me pulled him from the paddock and I got to know him, brush him, tack him up, and watch her lunge and ride him first.

When I tried Finn I thought he was perfect. At the time I thought I knew a lot about horses. I had lessoned for most of my life and gone to horse camp. I soon learned that NOTHING can prepare you for horse ownership like horse ownership can. I have learned more about nutrition, spotting and treating injuries, hoof care, reading x-rays, bandaging, dental care, finding the right vet, farrier, massage therapist, barn, chiro, etc. then I ever could. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Finn arrived at the barn I was boarding him at the time the day before my 27th birthday and I don't think I will ever get a better gift in my life.
The day he arrived

Video still from the other day, he's such a beefcake

Trial and error

Individual turnout was a total FAIL! While he seemed to be okay in the beginning, after a few days he went crazy. Barn manager thinks the mares on one side of his paddock were feeding his (already inflated) ego. He didn't have the large amount of space to torture his buds all day run and frolic, and I'm pretty sure he spent a week standing around. Then we had two days of ice/snow/hail, and he spent them inside. THEN my trainer went to go work with him which led to this:

He looks horrible, stiff, and miserable here. My first thought was oh my god, call the vet, inject everything. But, my trainer, ever the voice of reason tried to work him through it. After about 30min on the lunge he did settle, although all of his gaits still looked very stiff, especially through his hind end. She hopped on him after he settled down, trotted off, switching directions often. He was stiff and crooked. After about 15 minutes he did drop his nose and stretch a bit.

Me and trainer decided to keep him working throughout the week and hopefully loosen up those muscles. We are hoping his stiffness is due to standing in the individual, the insanely cold weather, and being in his stall for two days. We also cut his grain a bit, as he's looking a little plump ( and acting a little high). She rode him Sunday (he was great), I rode him Monday (he was great and so quiet and well behaved), she rode him Tuesday (he did buck when she pushed him into a bigger trot, but mostly well behaved). Today he had off-- it was 8 degrees today. Tomorrow and Friday she is riding, and then I have a lesson on Saturday.

On Saturday I am also have a chiropractor out for an adjustment and laser therapy. I have been kind of meh about chiropractors lately, but I am willing to try again before calling the vet to suggest injections (stifles? SI's again? hocks?). Another horse at my barn recently had chiro and laser therapy from this guy and she literally moves like a different horse. If the bucking and general bad attitude don't go away soon then I'll absolutely be calling the vet AGAIN to discuss what could be going on. It's been so frikken cold here lately, even in the indoor, and I'm sure Finn is not enjoying it at all. At the same time I want him to move to keep his joints loose, even if he's not working hard.

Pony love



I can't believe that a few months have passed since I've last blogged. The holidays really did fly by and I also can't believe that it's a new year. Since I last posted regarding acupuncture Finn had a few more acupuncture treatments, a few shoeing adjustments, equioxx, robaxin, and regular massage. Since the back injury, which we can only assume happened while he was playing rough in the paddock as he has recovered, I've decided to make a few changes in his lifestyle. He no longer has turnout and he spends his days locked in his stall covered in back on track gear from head to toe and bubble wrap.... Just kidding. But, as of January 1st he did move into individual turnout and he is doing great in it! Although the turnout his smaller he still has room to stretch his legs, run around, play with the horses (who happen to be mares) over the fence, and throw his jolly ball around. He seems a lot less tense and worried since moving into individual even though I have noticed that his energy level has increased a ton since the change!

 Another awesome thing that happened in the month of December was hubby landed his dream job!! I love seeing him go to work every day with a smile on his face and working a 40 hour (as opposed to 60 hour) work week. We still haven't established a rhythm of passing the baby back and forth so that I can get up to the barn, but I'm sure we'll get there. I've also been working a lot more lately, and hoping that things will slow down in the New Year. Finn's been getting a bit of a vacation this past month as the weather has been absolutely freezing (really wish our indoor was heated!) and only been getting ridden 2 times or so a week. Next week trainer is going to start riding Finn 3 days a week, and I will be lessoning 1 day, and hopefully riding 1-2 more times a week. Looking back at our 2013 goals...we didn't complete a single one of them (complete an event, hunter pace, get off property). All we did was get off property to move to a different barn which ended up being a total disaster.
My goals for 2014 are:
 1. Become a stronger rider. This is absolutely my #1. I've been going to the gym, running, lifting weights, and doing yoga and barre classes. This has made a huge difference in my riding, confidence level, and stickability. I used to not ride for a week, get on my horse, and feel like a beginner. Since starting to work out more I find that if I'm not in the saddle for a while I still feel strong when I do ride.

 2. This is practically tied for #1-- KEEP MY HORSE SOUND AND HEALTHY! I know that this is not something I can control, but I feel like in the nearly two years I've owned Finn I've had my fair share of injuries. Just let him stay sound and uninjured!

 3. Work on both mine and Finn's confidence. Start exposing Finn to more so that we are confident partners.

 4. I'm going to put this out there. I want to go to one show! I don't care if it's a schooling dressage show, or an on property schooling show, just something!

 5. Jump my horse again.

 Here's a short video from a couple week's ago of my trainer riding. He's the little bay trotting. I think he's looking much better!!