Friday, May 31, 2013

Cuna Update

Well, we're back from the vet. Cuna has been off the bute all week so that it couldn't mask anything when he went in to see the vet. I know it had to happen, but he was completely miserable and unable to get comfortable. I barely slept and he's lost weight. Wish I lost weight--the stress diet (ALL THE CARBS) probably isn't helping anything.

Yesterday morning, I enlisted our longtime photographer Ellie to come to the vet with me for moral support. We hooked up the trailer and I pulled it to the front of his stall. He hobbled in because he is a really, really good boy, but he could barely walk. Once in, he actually protested a little that he was going to have to go alone, but he didn't feel good enough to keep it up.

Once we arrived and checked in, I backed him off the trailer and just waited. He didn't want to move and I didn't want to make him. Our farrier came over and said hello, then the vet came by.

I'm used to watching lameness exams--the vet tech jogs the horse out on a straight line, then does circles either way. If it's subtle, they then to flexions and move on to blocking to find more specific information.

Not so with Cuna. The vet talked to us a little. The tech took his lead rope, and could barely get him to walk. We moved on to taking his digital pulse (rapid) and checking his feet (hot). Poor Cuna did everything he could do to keep movement to a minimum. He rested his front feet as much as possible and did anything to avoid putting weight on his right front especially. Next step was xrays. 

Thankfully, Cuna is still the best horse ever and he was led into radiology with no drama. He stood perfectly still and they get excellent pictures. We discovered that he has excellent sole depth and his coffin bones had zero rotation, which mostly rules out a navicular/laminitis scenario.

The vet asked my farrier a series of questions about his shoeing, as far as what he's working on correcting and how Cuna has responded. They pulled in another senior, well-respected farrier and consulted over hoof testers. Cuna was as good as he could be, but he was shaking.

They stated by pulled his shoes. Cuna fidgeted constantly, unable to stand in a way that didn't hurt. After many careful fittings and lots of input from both farriers and the vet, my farrier went to work. He had to do Cuna's right front first, because he wasn't able to hold weight on it for more than a few seconds at a time.

Cuna visibly relaxed after the new shoe was on. He was able to stand on his right front and allow our farrier to work on his left. He started licking and chewing when the second shoe went on.

Interested in the world
As our farrier got ready to add the finishing touches, I took the first picture of Cuna that I've taken in a week. He's been so miserable that all I could think was, "I don't want to remember him this way." Finally, his demeanor changed.

Check it out
It's not the end of the road, not yet. After they put his new shoes on, the vet came and walked him up and down the aisle and did shallow serpentine loops. Cuna was still hobbling, but the vet pronounced him, "Better than I thought he would be". When I asked why he thought that, he explained that Cuna's got a lot of heat and inflammation in the soft tissue in his feet right now. His soles are tender from having pads on. He's going to take time to recover, but he's walking more freely and able to make tight turns now.

He's also weighting both front feet, which is a huge step forward.

So much perkier
After some final touches, Cuna was ready to go home. He was already beginning to express himself again. He was sick of me hanging all over him and it was lunch time.

Team Cuna at work, minus me and the vet
He isn't sound, but he looks significantly better. I was really glad Ellie was able to make time for us. Because she was there to help and stay with Cuna, I was able to follow the vet and farrier around and ask lots of questions. I feel like I have a better understanding of what we did and why and I'll be more able to monitor him through the recovery process.

Mischief face is on
Due to the timing of the barn remodel at our trainer's place, Cuna is spending the next two weeks recovering at a friend's place in a lovely giant stall with huge pastures that he may or may not be able to use (we have to keep him SUPER DRY so his feet can toughen up). Regardless, the old man is much happier and I hope to see continued improvement in the weeks to come.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sad Day

Happier times
The old man horse is not doing well. His on/offness has turned into entirely offness, even with the snot drugged out of him. We're scheduling a visit with the nearest vet hospital ASAP, but I do appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and pagan sacrifices. 

Suffice to say, this has not been the best week ever. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

On the Ground

We're taking things slow, but that's just an opportunity to spend some time developing my eyes from the ground. When I'm back in the tack, I hope to be more prepared and ready than when we started this little break.

Last night, Cuna and I set fences for another boarder and her horse. It was pretty fun. Not only is her horse a giant barbie (17h palomino, say what?), but he's super cute and honest and she is an excellent rider.

I got to practice walking distances, evaluating each performance, and reviewing verbally with our friend.

Cuna got to practice making bored and/or cranky faces while making snide comments about the relative usefulness of barbie horses.

What can I say? When you're 18, you can be grumpy too.

Not impressed by teeny jumps.
He is looking magnificent. His coat is it's rich summer red and his neck is amazing. We're still fighting with random hair loss/stocking up in the early summer warm, but I sort of think that's just a red tb thing. We'll survive.

As much as I want to be back in the saddle, I am enjoying this perspective. I don't get to watch a lot as a general rule and people are very receptive to having eyes/hands on the ground when jumping.

Who else is having fun out of the saddle?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Life of a Cuna

We aren't doing much exciting unless you count turnout.

Obviously, Cuna does not count turnout. This is what he does. Well, he doesn't drink the whole time, but usually he just stands at the gate and flips his head. Doesn't matter if he has acres of grass to roam or a buddy or a drylot.

At least he's cute. 

Very, very cute.

Also cute? Meet Ms Song. She belongs to another boarder who had an accident and won't be able to ride for a few weeks.

I'm stealing all the rides I can get. She's absolutely the opposite of Cuna, so she's very, very challenging for me, but she is a super cool horse and I am enjoying the opportunity to learn from her.

That said, I want Cuna back PRONTO. He is best.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Never Take for Granted...

Not without precedent
I thought we'd pinned down Cuna's on/off-ness, but on Wednesday he was not doing well.

I came out Thusday after work. It was hot enough that changing into stretchy pants didn't sound like  fun, but cool enough that I did want to check and see how he was feeling. I pulled his wraps off, threw a bridle on, grabbed my helmet and hopped on bareback.

Or at least, I tried to.

My leg was halfway over his back when the turnout horse galloped STRAIGHT AT US and the wind picked up. Cuna took off leaping and bucking through the barn area. I stayed semi-on for about three jumps and was unceremoniously deposited in gravel right in front of some guys doing work on the barn. Cuna made a few more leaps, then stopped to eat grass.

Guess I sort of deserved that.

I walked up to Cuna and caught him after convincing him that I hadn't, in fact, fallen from the sky and it was ok to let me close. Of course everyone in the immediate barn area had seen him rocketing around and they all came running because it was sooooo not a Cuna thing to do.

I was deemed "too unwell to jog" so my trainer jogged Cuna out. He looked oddles better than Wednesday (ya think?), but still not sound. She handed him back to me as I spit dirt and sand out.

"He's old and smart enough that he didn't learn anything from this, right?" I asked.

"Yep," said my trainer.

"Good. I still don't want to change and put tack on."

The rascally rapscallion!
We made a plan to move forward with and I fed Cuna cookies.

Yes folks, I just got bucked off my lame geriatric horse.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ammy Hour: Meet Carly!!

It's time for another round of Ammy Hour, wherein we meet the coolest and most hardworking people in the horse industry--the adult ammies who make it all happen on a budget. This week, we meet Carly of Poor Woman Showing. She's always been one of my favorite reads--if you think her horse stories are fun, you should look up he account of the incident with the Christmas lights. I was rolling. At any rate, here's Carly! 
1) You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself?
You should all know who I am because it's printed on the paper in front of you. However, if you're an illiterate farmer, I am your local Farm Bureau secretary. All in favor of skipping this meeting and going straight for the complimentary food, say, "Aye"

2) But what you really meant to say was this:
You should really be paying me for this job.

3) Tell us about your horse:
MightyBobbyMagee, or Bobby, is an 8yo. OTTB who has a rather suprising aptitude for eventing given the fact that he often gazes at you with his classically vacant expression.

4) How did you meet him/her?
Bobby was bred at my alumnus SUNY Cobleskill for our Thoroughbred program. Because of his excellent temperment, he was excluded from the yearling sales and kept to be a training dummy for some of our equestrian classes. He was eventually syndicated and raced for two and a half years before being donated back to the program. I bought him in December of 2010, but I've known him since day one.

5) What have you done together?
We have competed through the stadium phase of Novice in eventing. A thrown shoe ended our season with an early retirement on cross country in our first attempt at that level. Overall, I try to keep things interesting for both of us. I would consider Bobby an eventer that just so happens to participate in such malarkey as skijoring , ponying questionably obedient horses out on trails, and learning to drive once the weather is nice enough.

6) Where are you going together?
This year I'm playing with the idea of moving up to Training in the fall. My end goal is to compete at Preliminary. I think Bobby will probably max out at that level, and since I currently have to flex my mental muscles to not pee my breeches when leaving the start box at any level (It gets better as I start jumping, really.), I don't see myself wanting to go any higher.

7) How do you finance the addiction?
My fiancee finances my addiction. It's far from the ideal situation it sounds like. I battle both bi-polar disorder and anxiety--I have for most of my life--so interacting with people can be challenging for me. The infamous "Hubby" and I have been together for years, and it's a situation that works well for us, though it  probably wouldn't work for many other couples.

8) How often do you ride?
I try to ride at least four times a week, more in the summer when we're showing, and noticably less in winter when I don't feel like driving thirty miles in snow and ice and generally miserable conditions.

9) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals?
I'm an extremely competitive person, and the sorest loser you'll ever meet. There's nothing that gets me more motivated than someone telling me, "No way."

10) If there was one thing you could say to people getting ready to join the ranks of riding (or re-riding) adults, what would it be? 
What took you so long?!

11) Bottom line:
Make sure you enjoy your horse first and foremost. Everyone gets into fights with their partners, but if you dread swinging your leg over him or her, what's the point? I struggled for a long time connecting with Bobby after losing my last horse, but I had so much history with him, I knew we just had to find some equal ground. Now I'm just as happy plodding along on a trail ride with friends than I am when he's pulling me around a cross country course. It's all about being teammates.

Many thanks to Carly for participating!! Remember to check out her blog (if you haven't already) here. There are so many different ways for adult ammies to be involved with horses after the parents are done paying bills.

Want to participate? Know someone who should? Contact me through the contact page on this blog or in the comments section!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Update and PICTURES!!!

Thank you all for you comments and feedback on my last post. Cuna got the weekend off, had some shoeing changes, and I'm all crazy-go-nuts with a bottle of mtg. We'll see how things go.

I will say--the thing about a turnout-hating tb is that if he has two days off, even with turnout, his hind legs look horrible on the third day. Nothing like pulling him out for the farrier (AFTER cold hosing and scrubbing) and saying, "No, really. It's a front end problem." Har.

Regardless, we have pictures from the dressage show!
Owning the sparkle browband look!


Dressage stuff

Totally in tune
Totes did that, bitches.
It was a fun experience to be there. The next show dressage show I was planning to hit is apparently recognized, and I flat out refuse to pay to join organizations so Cuna can do dressage. He hates it, I'm not a fan. We'll see what we come up with.

In the mean time... anyone else's horse have his own way of saluting the judge?

Friday, May 10, 2013


Still the cutest
I really and truly hope I'm writing this because I'm stuck in this weird emotional/hormonal funk. Really.

But I just don't know what to make of what I'm seeing. This year has been hard on Cuna. He was miserable in the wretched January weather. He tied up early in the spring and came back really slowly. His coat isn't coming in well. He's been really stiff/off lately. I had some bodywork done and that helped some, but I'm wondering if I'm asking too much and pushing too hard.

My fancy man
I haven't been able to jump much this year, so we're focusing on the dressage. Cuna is doing great, but I do wonder if I'm asking too much of an older horse who just isn't built to do that job.

He's still happy and forward most of the time, but our new routine at this barn doesn't seem to agree with him. I don't know what the difference is. I don't know how to make it better. I don't know what to make of it. Maybe it's just bad luck. Maybe there's something else going on, like the fact that he is 18 this year.

Love this shot
His gorgeous red coat is roaning just a little bit for the first time. He's as much piss and vinegar as ever, but maybe he needs to be piss and vinegar at a slower pace over lower jumps. I love him dearly and will do whatever he needs, but I don't know what that is right now.

Maybe everything is fine and we're just in a rough patch. This is horses, things happen. I sure hope so. I just want to be sure I'm making the right decisions for my old man horse. 

Trail super stars
I don't want to think about it, but I have to face it. He's done so much for me. What can I do for him?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Show

I was hoping to have show pictures by now, what with having two different people taking them and a third videoing, but nada. You will just have to imagine it all.

Early morning Cuna
The show morning dawned bright and clear and Cuna and I were on the grounds with our tests memorized by 8.15. Our show buddy rode an hour earlier than we did, so I busted out the brown rubber bands and started braiding. I was afraid that Cuna would have a meltdown over the rather large amount of bugs, but he was happy and quiet.

In order to maximize Happy Cuna, I hung a hay net for him at the trailer and left him alone for the next 30 minutes. He does like his me time.

The real test was when I came back. I know he'll sometimes hold a grudge, and after the trauma of the day before, I wasn't sure how he was going to come out. I speed tacked him, brushed the hay off, and climbed on. We walked to the warm up ring and I picked up the reins.

I was shocked. He was soft, almost bendy. He moved off my legs and didn't hurl his entire bodyweight into my hands. Oh. Wow. Admittedly he wasn't very forward, but I was happy. I didn't want to piss him off, so we walked around for a few minutes before we went in for our test.

He promptly spooked at the judges' booth. I had trouble containing my laughter as we readdressed it. He definitely noticed the atmosphere difference between the show arena and the warm up. Instead of being soft and bendy, he was a bit braced and against my hand. We battled our way down centerline, braced through the corners and decided against stretching at all. Given that training level coefficients are on the free walk and stretchy trot, it was not the best test ever. Regardless, he did most of the movements and we stayed in the arena. I took him back to the trailer and let him chill in the shade with his buddy for 10 minutes.

At a dressage show
Then it was time to try again. This time S was able to coach us a bit, since she was done riding. She stressed that I needed to work harder in the warmup so that he could be soft when we went to show. We did lots of changes of bend and direction with transitions and really got both of us moving and in tune.

We were using the full dressage arena for our next test instead of the tiny small arena. Cuna and I trotted around it and waited for the bell to ring. I did some bend/counterbend when he wanted to get stiff and we headed down centerline. The advice S gave us was ringing in my ears, "Don't rush your halt. Get it right, then salute."

So we did. I took my time, had Cuna standing on all four legs, and then saluted. I broke the test into pieces and rode each piece like I would a jump course. Cuna blew me away. He was soft and round. I found myself chanting the mantra S loves. "More leg, MORE CORE, shorten the reins." When we turned up the longside for our free walk on two diagonals, I pushed my hands forward and asked Cuna to stretch. HE DID IT. No bracing, coming above the bit, or otherwise pissing off with me.

At our final halt, I couldn't stop smiling. My horse was soft, bending, and responsive. We had put all the pieces together into a lovely test that I was super proud of.

Both S and Steph congratulated me as I rode out of the arena and I explained to the ring steward about how Cuna was the cutest horse OF ALL TIME. I pulled his tack off, gave him a drink, and let him relax at the trailer.

Plus we got ribbons!
Despite our very different tests, we scored a 60% on both. We were dinged hard for not stretching well enough, but I'm not terribly concerned. It was really, really good for us right now and that's all I can ask of him.

There's always room for improvement, but I was absolutely thrilled with how Cuna went and how I rode. We have come so far together that it's kind of ridiculous.

He thought the whole thing was completely asinine. When I turned him out that evening, he galloped around like a wild man and played with his buddy. 

No worries--next time we show, there will be jumps.

PS I will post show pictures when I get them.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Prequel

It only gets better from here
In order to properly recap our show experience, I have to start with Saturday. We kicked off the day with another dressage lesson from S. She had me hack Cuna around outside the arena on the bit for 10 minutes before we even got started. I did a lot of bending and stretching, trying to get him warmed up for our last lesson before the show.

Cuna was very grumpy when we met S in the middle of the ring. Why? She brought tools for us to use. He does hate tools. First we popped on a set of draw reins. Given Cuna's long, stiff self, he's worn them pretty regularly before I got him. I'd been told they were the key to unlocking his dressage, but I am sub par at handling 4 reins, so I'd never gone there.


That is all I have to say. I kept the draws loose and held contact on the snaffle rein so that the tools only came into play when he attempted to evade.

Because he's worn them before, Cuna pitched a MASSIVE fit for about 10 minutes, then trotted around like a good boy. We picked up the canter. S had me drop my stirrups and turn down the longside (eek! not usually a good idea).

I was completely awed by Cuna's balance and softness as we went around the whole arena. Usually, he flattens, tips forward, and hauls me out of the tack on a canter straightaway. Not so! He was uphill, connected, and comfortable. We kept our work in the draws to a minimum because it's asking him to work very, very hard and he needs time to build up muscle tone, but it was a total lightbulb for me. I didn't know he could feel like that.

Then we dropped the draws and picked up a new tool--a makeshift baucher*. S thought the action would help us communicate better, and she was right again.

Cuna and I finished off the lesson with some ~lovely~ transition from all three gaits.

He was a little peeved about the lesson, more peeved that I turned him out after (HATE ALL TURNOUT), and most peeved about the unfortunate incident with the measuring stick that night. I have to admit, I was not optimistic about our chances at the show.

To be continued...

*The rules for a do-it-youself baucher: take a 3 ring bit with your favorite mouthpiece. Put the cheeks on normally, but attach the reins to the large ring. Not show legal in dressage, but it simulates a baucher's action if you want to try on out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Show Prep

Training level, here we come
It's been (another) whirlwind week, but I am busily memorizing my dressage tests for tomorrow. We entered a dressage schooling show kind of last minute, so we're doing Training 2 and 3.

I picked up actual breeches, a show shirt, and a hair net at the tack store with my consignment money. I am choosing which glorious sparkle browband to put Cuna in and making sure all my hoity-toitiest gear is sparkling and clean.

I have to admit--I'm more interested in checking out opening dates for our upcoming jumping stuff than I am in memorizing tests. That said, Cuna is going to be braided. I'll have to see if anyone will take his picture for me. How cute will that be? :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Julie Winkle Clinic Recap (long, but yay pictures!)

This pic from day two. No day one pics need to exist.
The pictures are in, so it's time to properly recap an incredibly educational and informative clinic. 

Day One

The first day we spent a lot of time on pace. It was like learning a new language--I guess I didn't realize that H/J folks have their own words and definitions for everything. In case you are wondering, it's like this:
Walk is 4 mph
Collected trot (is ALWAYS sitting) and 6 mph
Rising trot is 8 mph
Canter is 10-12 mph
Hand gallop is 14 mph

We also had to work on the four different seats:
Light - doing courses, downbeat of post, sitting trot
Half - up beat of post, jumping
Full - walk, canter
Driving - at a sticky fence

Day two, but I love his expression
I'm happy to learn new terms and understand a different world, but then she had us practice. In formation. We had to maintain a set distance between each of us, about two strides as we did ring figures. We were working on precision and decision making as we demonstrated the various seats. I kept having to cut corners to keep the pace with our very aggressive leader.

I'll be honest. Cuna completely lost his marbles over having horses chase him and all he would do was fling his head and prance on the forehand while trying to race. While an 8mph trot is not normally had for us, we struggled. Badly. And didn't do well at all. I was beginning to question the point of the whole thing, when we finally started jumping.

Cuna was a nutter. His brain was pretty fried from all the "racing" we'd been doing, so pretty much all he would do was dance around and then CHARGE anytime I put the slightest bit of pressure on him. I was hoping we'd jump through a big, built up gymnastic that would settle him, but not so! Instead we trotted over a crossrail, 4 strides to an oxer, 3 strides to a vertical, headed towards home.

I was like, "Well, this is why we're in a clinic. Either she can help us or not." And wouldn't you know, she did. 

Basically, she said that I have to change the rider's balance in order to change the horse's balance. Instead of holding Cuna up and pulling against him, I have to completely let go after the jumps, regain my own balance, and then try to influence his with a big half halt on both reins.Given that I knew I wouldn't screw my horse up if I tried,I gave Julie's way a shot.

Wouldn't you know, it worked. He certainly didn't settled, but I was able to be a lot softer and more effective with him.

Day Two

Giant bit making things smooth
I decided to be smarted on day two and I pulled out the giant jumping bit. I thought she might ask me about it and why I changed it, but I guess that was probably pretty obvious, haha. Forward girl and the nutter horse obviously needed something.

On day two, we talked about releases. I've read George Morris' book on them, but honestly? No one has ever demonstrated them to me, taught me what they feel like, or explained how to do them correctly. The closest I'd ever gotten was being told, "We don't give releases on XC" in an attempt to keep beginners from launching their upper bodies at solid fences on green-at-best horses, haha.

Cantering over the wall
Here's a rundown of the releases Julie had us do:
Mane - several strides out, put both hands in mane. Keep them there until several strides after the jump. It's the most basic and it allows the most freedom.
Long crest - Once horse commits to jump, put your hands about 2/3s of the way up his neck. Keep hands up for several strides past the jump. This allows horse to move up after the jump.
Short crest - Hands about a third of the way up the neck. Less loop in the rein than the first two. This gives control after jump and is the most common release on course.
Automatic - Keep contact with the horses mouth, hands off the neck for upper body balance is independent. This release gives rider the most control, but is the hardest to do.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, a simple change is through the collected trot or walk, 3-5 strides. Only ever. This may have come up. Ooops.

We moved on to courses. Well, actually to a single crossrail. We demonstrated each release over the cross rail and talked about why it would be used, then did them in courses.
Only spooky if you're chicken
First we did a mane release at the teeny brick wall, just to practice doing it. Then we did a long release over a little oxer, to encourage the horses to open up their strides and gallop forward to a green vertical. We did a short release over the vertical because we had to bring them back for a right rollback over a spooky looking jump at which we did an auto release.

Nothing to run away from
The funny part was that Cuna responded SO WELL to what Julie was having us do that his stride actually got way too short. Usually, I can count on him to be a little rushy (since I gun him at jumps) and to get longer and longer as a course goes on. Giving him a loopy rein after the jumps was making him really happy and the teeny jumps didn't scare me, so I didn't rev his engine. In fact, we had to do the last course several times because I was putting five in the four.

Long release over the tiny oxer. My fav shot of the weekend.
I was thrilled that he had this little SJ canter and that we were just loping around and Julie thought maybe we should you know, actually DO THE EXERCISE. The last time we galloped through on a loopy rein. It was lovely.

My take away? I would love to ride with Julie again. I audited the sessions I wasn't riding in, and she taught something different to every group. As an auditor, that makes a clinic 100% better. Different ideas, different exercises. She was direct, but when riders did as she said, their horses improved. She has an excellent  eye and a sympathetic view of horses.

I will say that if you think you're hot stuff and you don't actually want to learn, but just want to show how awesome you think you are, don't bother signing up. ;) Not worth either of your time. If you come to ride and learn, she is great.

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