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?


  1. I think maybe you're on to something with the routine. Maybe you could do a side by side comparison of what his life is like vs. before and see if anything stands out.

  2. (hug) Oh, don't I know that feeling. It happens to me, oh, maybe every two weeks or so, LOL! But you are right, part of it is just horses -- and it never gets easier. You bomb along, yay yay yay yay yay, then, oh shit, THE WORLD IZ ENDINGZ!

    I think you are right too about the other part -- you did find your Solo, but he is very similar to Solo: my buddy just turned 17. I know if I put the time and $$$$ in I could get him back into shape, but after training him for six years, I know VERY well the limitations of his body. They have all the heart in the world and will try their hardest for you, but EVERY horse hits a point where his body can't keep up with his heart. Every. Single. One. And as my beloved Dr. Bob says, you find the management level where you both are comfortable, and that's where you live.

    We are all getting older (omg, I feel 904) and arthritis is a bitch. With Solo, even when he was at his peak, he canNOT work every day. Before a horse trial, he would get 3 solid days off so his body was fully rested and that would allow him to give his best performance. He was kept moving in the pasture 24/7 which made a huge difference for his joints (listen up, Mr. I Hate Turnout Fish!). And sometimes, he just needed a break. A couple week to do nothing but eat and rest with the occasional slow hack.

    My BFF once said, very accurately, when I just had Solo, I rode the bejeezus out of that horse. We went all over the state, did lessons, mountains, schooling, conditioning. They just get flat wore out and need a vacation as they just don't have 7-year-old horse magic anymore.

    I would take a deep breath, give him a good, restful break for all the microtears in muscle from work and body soreness to heal, maybe throw him some nice yummy fat like ricebran for his coat (Encore ALWAYS sheds like crap, he looks like a mangy rug), and let him have his horsey space. I have yet to see them NOT come back better after a good break.

    All athletes need their downtime and all bodies get worn out. What you can do for him is give him that space to chill -- he has had a lot of hard work lately. I'm probably repeating myself, but yeah, that's my specialty. Feel free to shoot me an email too if you have questions. I am a bona fide expert in OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING MY HORSE IS BROKEN FOREVER SOB. Ahem, guilty as charged, sigh.

  3. I agree 100% with Solo's mom, maybe he just needs a mental and physical break. We all get burnt out in our jobs, horses are no different, especially the BTDT older ones.

  4. I think you're a good horse mom for tuning in and wondering how to can best accomodate his old(er) man body and also keep his (young) brain satisfied. If it correlates with your barn move I think that's huge. And while I'm pretty sure training/first level dressage isn't wearing on his body, his brain might not like it as much as the gallopy, gallopy jumping (which might wear on his body more..)

    I'm with Solo's mama - maybe a short vacay (which mandetory horrid turnout) and then see if there's a difference? I know you'll find the right balance for both of you. :)

  5. Such is life with the golden oldies (although I refuse to acknowledge the fact that my horse is older). I fully agree with Solo's mom, as well as Niamh. They are creatures of habit, maybe your old barn habit really just clicked with him? Maybe downtime and adventure hacking? Of course, you would know him best.

  6. I know you will do the right thing for Cuna. As others have said, maybe he just needs a little vacay. Also agree with looking back at your former schedule and comparing with the current.

  7. It's not an easy road since I'm walking it right now. It's emotionally tough, but know you don't walk it alone.

  8. Are you sure he's actually feeling worse this year, versus whether your expectations have changed? I've been lurking for a while -- I obviously don't know either of you, but it does seem to me that you're a very different rider now than you were when Cuna came into your life -- in a good way, but also one that may be less okay with those stiffnesses and such?

    Or maybe that's not it at all. I wish you (and Cuna) luck, in either case.

  9. 2013 is a hard year for everyone. And I know this is might not be what you want to hear but, sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do for an older horse is give them 1-3 weeks off. I know this is frustrating since your just starting our your season but maybe Cuna just needs some time to himself. Let his body catch up.

  10. Have you tested Cuna for Cushings? It is very common nowadays in older horses. Symptoms vary. Some horses do not shed well. Others show signs of laminitis. Some do not gain weight well or seem as "robust" as they once were. There are medications to treat it. It's worth the effort to test him.

    Dressage, done well, is excellent exercise. My vet always commented that my old horse looked good despite his age and attributed it to all the dressage he had done. Another trainer I know liked lateral work for older horses as it helped keep them limber.

    Is Cuna on a senior feed? You might look into one if you've not done that yet. (Can't remember.) 18 is not THAT old, but you might be wise in backing off a little in the jumping. Cut it back to once or twice a week and see if it makes a difference.

  11. I'm sorry, it's not an easy thing to deal with. My only advice would be to give it time, and listen to your gut instinct. You will know what is best for him.

  12. I'm sorry. I don't know what to do for him, but it looks like you've gotten a lot of good advice.

    As far as pushing him too hard... he is an older horse and he was never meant to be a top show horse. His job has been building your confidence and he's done that job fabulously! Maybe it's time for him to have a break? Is there another horse you can show for you trainer maybe? Good luck figuring out what's bothering him!

  13. I think you might be in a bit of a funk, but that's ok because sometimes we need that funk to remind us that the horses can't go on forever. They are not machines.

    If the old man is still full of himself as you say, just wait it out. Do the lower jumps for a while or just hacking out. He will tell you when he just can't do it anymore. We sometimes get so engrossed in the rush and the thrill of the of the ride that we overlook the small signs along the way, telling us to ease off the accelerator. Hard to do sometimes, I know, but we have to. For their sake, because some of them just won't quit or even slow down, even when they need to.

  14. My horse went through a similar spell this winter and she's only just turned 6. I've ended up thinking the routine at the new barn just didn't suit her, not to mention the turnout that was way smaller than she's used to and solo vs in a group. She lost a bunch of weight and generally seemed stiff/sore. I spent a fortune on the vet only to end up moving her and turning her out to pasture. She's doing much better!

  15. I feel your pain. But I would say maybe cut back a little on the dressage,because I know that with Super Kid if I do multiple dressage school in a row, super hard and make her really work. She needs a easy long and low stretchy ride. Sometimes if they don't use muscles then you have them work those muscles they stiff because those unused muscles. I wouldn't give up, if he is still happy doing what he is doing then go ahead. My first horse that I evented was a 25 yr old Welsh Cob gelding

  16. I know you know him best and will do right by him. I am always overly conscious not to over work. Sometimes I wonder if I go over board with it but it seems to work well with steady. I always kind of treat his body like it is older considering he had 75 starts and I want him to last as long as possible. 5 days a week is the most work he gets. I try my best to switch up what we do though most time is spent on dressage and I will only jump once a week if the footing is good. And every 2-3 months or so he gets at least 2 weeks off. His body so far has held up nicely and his work ethic is typically very good. And turn out is huge for me. I would never let him be on less than 12 hours turn out and at home he is on 27/7. It does wonders for his body, mind and spirit.

    1. Jelly of your 27 hour days fo shizzle.

    2. Yeah it's amazing how much more you can get done with 3 extra hours in a day.

  17. You're listening to your horse, which means you're ahead of the game. If you can take some time off from dressage and see where that gets you, that might be a good thing. But he's a good soul and you're a sensitive rider - I think you'll figure each other out and be okay. :)

  18. My horse always has a lower energy level as the weather gets warmer. I struggle to find the right balance of training and rest. Adding in the factor of potential age related issues would make it even more confusing. Sounds like you got some good advice here, for any horse not just an older horse. Hope it goes well!!

  19. Lots of good thoughts, and it's so good that you're in tune with Cuna enough to know that something's not 100% with him. As I recall this time last year, you were doing a lot of hill/trail work. Is it possible that he really loved those outings and they kept him fresh and limber for arena work? Another possibility is feed - has that changed recently, and if so does the new feed have soy protein in it, or a higher NSC value? Soy affects some horses negatively, and higher NSC values can make some horses footsore, even if they've got shoes on. And speaking of shoes, I seem to recall you've been having some issues with his feet. Sore feet can make them sore all over - back, shoulders, neck, SI... everywhere (I dealt with this for three years with Saga). I know you've got a great farrier and his feet are doing better, but it's possible that what was going on earlier this year has affected his body, and it will take a little time to right itself.

    Hugs to both of you... horses are tough, but I'm sure you'll figure it out!

  20. Random assortment of possible helpful hints.

    I don't recall what supplements/Adequan you may or may not have him on.

    If your looking at fairly effective for the price, I think Actiflex 4000 gives the best bang for the buck. From Big D's, you get 5 months for $85 plus shipping. I've had Bif on it for over a year, after having him on the SmartPak's highest level joint stuff, and it's as good if not better. And he has crumtastic cartilage to start with, so...

    Firocoxib can be cheap as $20 or so a month.

    Giving him more "we'll just WALK for 3 miles or so" days and only two work days spread out through the week.

    If he likes handwalks in the world, adding a day of long handwalking instead of a ride, gives you both exercise without overtaxing his joints. I've found that a good thirty minute handwalking before a ride can help warm a lot of older horses up much better than a ridden warmup.

    Some older horses warm up better at canter than trot. So walk for ten minutes, jog briefly, and let him canter for 3 or 4 minutes in each direction before asking for work at trot.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...