Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shoe pulling fail


Being able to pull a shoe is, in my opinion, a skill that any able bodied horse person should know how to do because inevitably there will be that time when you've got a shoe half on, half off that needs to come off now and could potentially cause damage if left until the farrier can get there.  Really, it's easy, well in theory at least. What I do is first rasp the clinches off, then I pull the shoe off a little to loosen the nails, give it a pound which frees the nails from the shoe allowing me to pull the nails out individually.  Once only two, maybe three nails remain I can simply pull the shoe off the rest of the way.  It takes me about 15 minutes per foot as the strength (and thus efficiency) of a farrier I have not.

Never before have I NOT been able to get a shoe off, until Cash.  Granted, in the past the horses I've worked on have always been good about their feet, or were at a point where they had become good with their feet and would happily stand patiently still while I did my business.  Cash, however, does not dig the farrier or anything to do with farrier work.  The first time my farrier ever trimmed his feet he danced around like a jumping jack on puppet strings, screaming his head off because he was not with his buddies.  This elicited the muttered comment from the farrier of "I bet you had a margarita to get your feet done on the track".  Over the past 10 months or so he's gotten worlds better, but still requires a firm hand and he will still squirm and jump from time to time.

I got as far as getting the clinches rasped off (and to my farrier's credit, his to date have been the toughest clinches to get off of any shoe I've pulled!  They were in there good), but as soon as I got his leg in between my knees and started working on that shoe it didn't take long for Cash to figure out what was going on.  I quickly gave up on my endeavor when A) he started leaning incessantly on me to the point of almost loosing his balance and B) when that didn't work he started fidgeting and jumping around, attempting to yank his foot away.... UGH.  He got a good reprimand for that, and then, since Baby K was starting to fuss (she hangs out in the heated tack room office and I carry a baby monitor to listen to her), I decided to give my farrier a call instead.  He'll swing by on the 8th when he's in this part of town and pull the shoes for me. 
Beautiful Colorado snow - a main reason for getting rid of the shoes! I hate ice balls...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

That Coveted Yellow Watch


I think that there needs to be an official term for the hangover like syndrome that happens after Christmas... All that hype and anticipation, planning and gift wrapping, baking, entertaining of family members (both wanted and not), which climaxes in a dramatic tearing open of presents which lasts maybe half an hour. And then, it's all done... or is it?  My house has been in a post-Christmas state of chaos ever since, with mounds of new clothes, toys, gadgets, and should I mention the now empty wrapping supplies??? Two days out post-dewrapping and I've only managed to half tame the beast.
The view Christmas evening after it was all said and done

This year things were a tad tight for us, so we focused on getting gifts for the kiddos above all.  And, I would say, they came out pretty good... lucky kids, I never got stuff like that as a kid... Anyway, of the two (or was it three?) gifts I got, the prize jewel was something I've been coveting for years, that iconic eventing symbol: the big, yellow faced, Optimum Time Event Watch!!

Thank you Mom! She had asked me for some things I wanted for Christmas, I poked around, came up with a list... and then, on eBay I spied an auction for a barely used Optimum Time Watch at half the price they sell for new.  I promptly emailed her the link and said, "This! Want!"  And, well, I was very very happy to open up that lovely watch on Christmas morning! 

Previously I've been using a cheap, $10 digital watch from Wallyworld, not very stylish but it worked fine--although it would only count up, not down.  So, I certainly can NOT wait to get out there and use this bad boy!

But first, Cash is getting his shoes pulled.  We had a beautiful white Christmas, and more snow is on the way, so that means the ground will be soft-ish and I feel comfortable taking those shoes off to let his feet get a rest.  Plus, I can't ride in the snow with shoes on, but I can with them off (read: ice balls).  I will be taking them off myself this afternoon, so we will see how he does soundness wise. I fully expect him to be a bit off for awhile, but who knows, maybe he'll surprise me.  I discussed it with my farrier a few weeks ago, and we are going to try and keep his feet just a smidge longer than we were--he just wasn't comfortable, especially in the toes. Maybe even go to 9 or 10 weeks inbetween trims/shoes, especially in the winter. 

In the mean time, I've having a little too much fun working with one of the ponies at the barn, I'm getting him back in harness so that he can pull this adorable little farm wagon they have.  A post about him will be forthcoming.

I'll leave you today with a Christmas Baby picture, because I think she's too adorable not to share :)
My little snuggle bug

Monday, December 17, 2012

Issues with Selenium


In the last 4 months or so Cash has really started to have a notable problem in one of his front feet with the hoof wall just deteriorating around the nails whenever the farrier tries to set a shoe.  This was surprising and concerning to me as when I first got him I instantly put him on a ration balancer to provide a balanced mineral supply to his diet.  The product I choose was Ranch-Way's Defiance Vital Edge Pelleted Mineral.  I'd used this product before with good results (or so I thought) and it was a better price than the other option in my area (Enrich 32) plus I liked that it had Biotin in it (yay! no extra hoof supplement needed).  In general, I expected it to help him out overall, with visible improvements in his coat, hair, physical appearance, and hoof growth.

Well, I did see a difference in his coat and (for the most part) his hair.  When Cash shed out in the spring I was very pleased with how his coat looked, it quite literally would blind you:

Physically he was gaining weight and muscle.  His feet were looking good, and we were making progress with correcting some poor angles he had.  But the new horn growth coming in didn't look any better than it had before.  I brushed it off as a result of the incredibly hot and dry summer we were having.

In September I took Cash off the Vital Edge, not really because I wanted to but because I was starting to pinch pennies for my upcoming maternity leave and unfortunately extra fancy grain for the horse was not a luxury I could afford--after all, horses have survived thousands of years without special supplements.  His weight was good and he was on a really nice, rich hay so I wasn't worried.  In hind sight, I am really really glad I did this, as if I hadn't taken him off it I might not have made the important connection that I will now explain.

Right about this time the horn growth that started way back in February when I started Cash on the Vital Edge was reaching the ground and being actively engaged by the farrier and thus shoes. This is when the issues with the flaky and shelly feet started.  My farrier noticed the difference right away and made an offhand comment wondering if he had a mineral deficiency.  I said I didn't think so and we left it at that.  However it got the wheels to turning in my head.

Fast forward to December.  Looking at his feet you can see that the lower 3/4 of the foot is this weak, cracking mess, the upper 1/4 (post Vital Edge) that is growing in is stronger looking, less cracks, and in general, healthier.  I pondered this, why would horn growth look better without a mineral supplement than with.  So, I sat down yesterday with the feed tag from the Vital Edge and did some research into mineral requirements for each ingredient listed.  As I went down the list and did my research one article pointed out that Selenium is a mineral that is often over dosed and that very little can create toxicity in horses.  I found a couple great articles from Kentucky Equine Research.  The first, Selenium - How Important Is It? told me that the minimum requirement is 0.1 mg/kg of diet per day, which for a horse consuming 10kg (2% of body weight) equals 1 mg per day.  Toxicity can start around 2mg/kg.  Another article, The Many Phases of Selenium stated that toxicity levels start at 5 to 40 ppm in horses (ppm is equal to mg/kg).  This wide range is dependent on the amount of exercise the horse is getting along with other minerals in their diet that can off-set the Selenium such as vitamin E, sulfer, and copper.  Well, the Selenium amount in the Vital Edge is 2.2 ppm.  Based on the first article, this is right at that threshold where toxicity can start.  A little more digging yielded that it is common for hay in Colorado to be naturally high in selenium (Merek Veterinary Handbook, Selenium in the Equine Diet), and hay alone can cause toxicity without additional supplementation.  Uh oh.  I learned too that the first signs of selenium toxicity is loss of hair in the mane and tail along with weak, cracking hooves.  Essentially what happens in the horn wall is that the excess Selenium replaces the sulfer in the keratin bonds, this weakens the hoof wall and will result in weak, flakey, and soft feet.  If the Selenium toxicity is high enough it can even cause the entire hoof to slough off... YIKES.  On the flip side, selenium deficiency can cause white muscle disease, myositis, and Exertional Rhabdomyolisis or "tying-up".

Based upon that research, and what I was seeing (which included a mysterious loss of hair around the dock of his tail--which at the time I had assumed was again, due to the dry conditions and I guessed he was rubbing his tail to relieve the itchiness) I have determined that Cash was suffering from a mild Selenium toxicity.  It is safe to say that I will never feed the Vital Edge again, bummer, because aside from the Selenium it really provided a wonderful balanced mineral supplement. 

So, now I'm on damage control until the compromised portion of Cash's feet grow out.  I've ordered some Keratex Hoof Hardener which is a product that chemically alters the molecular bonds of the hoof structure, resulting in a physically stronger hoof wall.  This is fantastic for helping a horse that has currently weak feet and needs help now and can't wait the 6-12 months for a new foot to grow out.  The reviews on it are great, plus it is a Horse Journal editor's choice.  I'm excited to try it!

Secondly, as soon as I start getting paychecks again I will be getting Cash on a hoof supplement so that he can get that Biotin back in his diet, which, without the excess Selenium, should be able to actually do it's job.  Research has shown that while a horse really only needs 1-2mg/day of Biotin, when supplemented between 15 and 20 mg/day it will therapeutically help to improve the quality of horn growth.  So, while you do see those hoof supplements that boast 30, even 40 mg/serving of Biotin, it's really a waste of money, you just don't need that much, it's excessive.  I compared ingredients and selected Grand Hoof Pellets.  It has great levels of Biotin, Methionine, Lysine, and Zinc--all of which are vital to hoof growth (though the methionine is kinda a moot point, it's an amino acid that is created when protein is broken down, so really if the horse is getting an adequate amount of protein already this isn't truly needed... but I digress).  The other thing I like about it is that it contains 5,000mg of MSM which helps with joint issues.  I was wanting to get Cash on a supportive joint supplement anyway so this works until I can actually add in a real joint supplement. 
Well, so I guess that is that.  I feel better now that I've located the issue and can actively proceed with fixing it.  I've gained a whole new respect for carefully analyzing the feed tags that come with your grain.  I obviously cannot feed a grain high in Selenium, and will thus be very picky about what goes into my horse's diet from now on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Making Goals


"Plans are always made in pencil but writing down your goals makes your dreams achievable."
- Sinead Halpin

I just don't think I could say it any better, everybody always tells you to dream big, and sure, we all can imagine we are millionaires with a lovely huge mansion and a barn full of expensive ponies... but, how do you get to that point?  That, my friends, is the million dollar question. 

The above quote was written by one of my Eventing idols, Sinead Halpin.  She narrowly missed out on a trip to the London Olympics but rebounded with an amazing second place finish at Burghley that I'm sure had selectors regretting leaving her off the team... anyway, I digress.  Today a post was put on Eventing Nation about a new syndicate she is putting together for her current 4* horse, Tate, and a new up and coming project horse.  Sinead outlined the plans for both horses for the next few years, but summed up with the above statement.  Essentially saying that no matter the plans you lay, you never know what fate will throw at you... something she got a big taste of this past summer when she was left off the Olympic squad after an amazing season.

It really struck home to me, I've always dreamed big, as a kid I fantasized about riding in the Olympics and had a whole plan in place to get there.  But as I grew up reality began to take hold, I learned that horses cost money, and Olympic horses cost a LOT of money, and that dream of riding in the Olympics has since down graded to simply competing (and completing!) in a CCI* event--something that I know is more than achievable and not just wishful thinking.  That I now have a horse who is physically able to perform at that level makes that goal and dream all the more attainable!  And to be honest, I can't wait.

So here we have it, this is my plan for the next few years with Cash, penciled in of course ;)

2013: Start the year introducing him to showing with a few schooling shows before debuting in the eventing world at the novice levels in May, compete at Novice through the summer with a move up to Training in October.
2014: Continue at Training with the goal to move up to Prelim over the summer, focus on getting qualifying scores at Prelim which will set him up for...
2015: The CCI* event at the Colorado Horse Park in June. Continue at Prelim and try to compete in another 1* event and contemplate a move up to Intermediate the following year.

There we have it. Ambitious? Perhaps, but do-able? If I put my back into it and devote the necessary time and energy (and money), it is absolutely 110% do-able. This of course is assuming there are no lamenesses, accidents, or natural disasters to contend with.

It will be interesting to look back on this blog in a few years and see how far I made it.
In the mean time: 2013 here I come!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Confronting the Spook


At what point do you determine that a horse is genuinely scared of something versus just being naughty?

Do you soothe the horse, letting him know that it's OK? Or do you discipline him in hopes that he learns he will be corrected should he act up again.

But the thing about giving discipline for naughty spooking is this: some horses are looking for that confrontation. They want you to get against them, they want to fight back, they want to get into that battle with you. So, giving them discipline is in fact just adding fuel to their fire, they will continue to spook (and spook harder) over and over again knowing that they can egg you into a fight.

As the rider it is so important to just ignore the horse and not do anything. At all. To just ride out the spook and shrug your shoulders and go "no big deal" and continue riding and doing what you were doing. To the naughty spooker this just bursts his bubble. He doesn't get the reaction he wanted from you and instead has to continue on with whatever it was that you were working on. Eventually he looses interest in spooking and becomes rideable.

But the problem with the rider is emotional attachment.  This is your horse, your friend, and you have great expectations for your horsey partner and want them to succeed so badly, so every little miss-step is a huge deal to you. You get upset that your horse is not performing and become flustered and frustrated. The horse picks up on this and it just snowballs.  I think the single hardest thing when working with a spooky or naughty horse is remaining emotionally detached. Especially with a horse you know and love. It's not easy, it's hard.

So, my plan for Cash is this: essentially stay away from that "stupid corner", work in areas of the arena that I know he'll behave in, and really focus on the core elements of his training, of staying in front of the leg and moving off the aids. Once I feel that he is more solid in listening to my cues we will readdress the issue of the spooky corner. As much as I want to push him through his spooking and try and correct it, I know I need to fix the underlying issue before I can even think about correcting the spook.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stupid Pills


Some days... I swear Cash must eat stupid pills for breakfast. Arrrgg!

He has this corner, that he can, and will be, just plain stupid about!! It seems like it's every other day too. What's frustrating is that you can walk him over there, you can lunge him in that corner, and he's perfectly behaved. But... when you ride him all of a sudden it's full of horse eating boogey monsters and must be avoided at all costs.  Sigh.

At least you can feel it coming a mile away, he may have a spook in him, but it's so very predicable. Thank goodness.

I know what the root of the problem is: he just plain doesn't understand leg-into-hand yet. He doesn't even fully understand staying in front of the leg for that matter, he wants to suck back and dink around with his hind end unengaged, and when that happens he can spook and spin. He's also still learning how to move off the leg, well more specifically how NOT to fall in on his inside shoulder instead of standing up around the turn. So he's against my leg, behind my leg, and no where near to being on the bit.

Really, I need to completely ignore the spook and that corner and just focus on those training basics listed above, but I have a haaaarrrrd time not wanting to get after him for acting so stupid, especially when I know he's not truly scared, he's just playing a game.

I think I really just need to back off, stay away from that end of the arena for while, avoid that conflict, and work on those training principles, and when he's more solid we can confront that stupid-horse-syndrome inducing corner.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Back to riding!


Well, it's been a looooonnng time since I've written in here! Being very pregnant and not getting to ride at all really put a damper on my enthusiasm to write blog posts. But, thankfully we are past that now! My little bundle of joy arrived on October 15th and I've officially been back in the saddle for 2.5 weeks!!

It really didn't feel like I hadn't ridden a horse in over seven months, it just felt like I was getting on a strange horse and learning his buttons. The first couple of times I just walked, then walk/trot. And then my old trainer, who is also a good friend, came to visit and she gave me an impromtu lesson. WOW have I developed some bad habits over the past several years - I probably haven't had a lesson in over 3 years. I really need to start riding with someone. Anyway, she drilled my butt, and made me realize how stupidly out of shape I was.  I may not have lost any skill, but I sure lost a lot of fitness! However over the past couple of weeks I've really felt like that fitness is quickly coming back, core strength though is still lacking.

As for Cash, I quickly determined that he had a good basic set of skills as far as bending, transitions, and steering go, but the connection and engagement was quite lacking.  I've thus been really working on that connection, getting him on the bit and pushing with his hind end, which is no easy task--for a thoroughbred he's lazy!!

I'm also starting to get him out of the arena, I took him on a trail ride with a friend a couple days ago, we went down the road to a neighbor's place where there is a small galloping track dragged in the pasture and we walked/trotted around that and came back. He was SUPER good! Well, aside from the scary horse eating mail boxes, he was terrific. They have some large logs sitting out in the field (read: cross country jumps!!!) that I need to ask the owner's if I can have permission to jump them.

In short, this horse is SUPER FUN and I am so excited to be riding him again!