Bringing up Bravo: Ramping Up

Bravo’s new diet is going well and he seems to be a little less on edge. Despite the ridiculous weather around here the past month, Bravo is sound. So, it’s time to get back to work training this little guy to become a trustworthy riding horse!

 

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I have only been able to free lunge him in the round pen one time in the past two months due to weather and he was pretty distracted and unruly. A friend of mine offered to help me out with Bravo and even ride him in some of her lessons. She is a very talented rider but does not have her own horse so it is a great exchange with mutual benefits. I wanted to get together with her and tag-team ride Bravo at some point so she could get an idea of  where he is right now in his training. I was open and honest about how green he is and left it up to her to decide if it would still be worth it to her to ride him in some of her paid lessons.

 

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We met up at the barn last Friday and I reminded her how feral he was so we decided to play it by ear. I started out lunging him and he was WILD. Staying in a circle around me was not a concept he was familiar with anymore. He played a bunch and every time I asked for a trot he would ramp himself up to a canter and threaten to bolt away and squeal and buck. Eventually, he settled a bit and held a nice trot and started listening to my commands. My friend asked me when the last time I lunged him was and I told her that I haven’t lunged him in the arena in at least two months. We both agreed that given that scenario, he really was being quite a good five year old. She was definitely still game to get on so we got everything adjusted and she climbed aboard. It’s a lot of fun watching your horse be ridden by someone else- nerve-wracking- but fun. He had one moment as they were starting where he thought about playing while under saddle. He didn’t really do anything but he squealed and she just calmly urged him forward and he knocked that shit right off. I breathed a tentative sigh of relief and realized I had been holding my breath.

 

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She handled him so well and we kept it light and easy. He is still a very green bean, unsure in his rapidly changing body, but he tried hard and took care of us both during our rides. He’s quirky and wiggly but I know with consistent riding he’ll improve quickly. I’m super grateful for the help and I am also committing to ride him more consistently this year. Even though I know there will be a whole lot of ugly to ride through, I was bursting with pride watching my friend ride him. I can see flashes of the horse I hope he grows up to be when he really learns to carry himself.

 

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Mr. 211 in 2020

I celebrated Christmas 2019 in traditional fashion with a festive holiday ride. Bravo was still riding the bench healing from his latest hoof abscess and also too young to be reliably counted on to participate in such a wild event. My friend graciously offered her retired dressage pony, Duke, and he made a perfect Max to my Grinch.

 

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With a big smooch on the leaf, I bid Bravo a warm farewell right before the holidays so that I could spend ten glorious days with the rest of my family a few states over. His Christmas gift to me this year was to remain abscess, illness, injury, and trouble-free for those entire ten days. THANK YOU, buddy, I really needed that. Of course a solid portion of my trip home was spent thinking about Bravo but, in contrast to my trip home over Thanksgiving, none of it was spent worrying about him.

Despite 2019 being my first year as a horse owner, it was rough. I arrived back in Indiana eager to welcome 2020 and instead promptly got clobbered by a sinus infection/cold the second I stepped off of the airplane. I spent my New Years Eve snoozing on my couch rousing briefly from my cold med-aided slumber during the countdown.

I’m emerging this week feeling much better and finally ready to start 2020. This year will be BIG and there are some major changes afoot. I can’t elaborate as my defense mechanism prevents me from getting excited about things that can fall through, but regardless, change is inevitable and young horse development is always exciting.

Bravo is continuing to thrive and looks so much better than when I got him, but winter has presented a few challenges when it comes to sticking with training. The weather this year hasn’t been particularly cold but the constant rain and mud has not been helping. The fields are complete mud wallows and the horses don’t move around much during the day in the slop. Add that to an unusable outdoor arena and water logged round pen, and it means all of the boarders at my barn are sharing a 60X150 arena. Not exactly conducive to training a young horse. I have to try and avoid lesson times and busy riding times so I end up closing down the barn at night a lot. For a while I got a smidge of seasonal depression and made mental plans to just restart him again when the weather got nicer and stop beating myself up over not feeling comfortable riding him in the arena with 5 other horses. I’m feeling a little better about things now, and I’ve started working with him more during off times. Rider traffic and wet weather are still ever-present hurdles.

 

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In other news, I gifted myself a FeedXL subscription so that has been a lot of fun. After noticing that Bravo has been spooky and hot lately as well as catching wind that he is starting to get a bit of a reputation with the staff for being difficult to handle, I’ve been overhauling his diet.

These are the current facts:

  • He is no longer underweight
  • Slippery pastures mean he’s moving around less during turnout
  • Abscess recovery, weather, holidays, and arena traffic has equated to a two month long break from work
  • The barn feeds a very high alfalfa content hay
  • He has been on a rice bran supplement for weight gain
  • AND he was getting about 5lbs of grain a day

To summarize:

Bravo has been getting roughly 150% of his energy requirement everyday and doing no work. No wonder he’s hot and amped all the time.

 

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Momma! Look! I’m 5! Look, Momma! Look what I can do!

 

I stopped the rice bran and trimmed his grain down to 3lbs per day but he was still getting waaaaay too much. I am going to be trying him on a ration balancer and getting rid of most, if not all, grain especially for the rest of the winter.

He used to get:

  • ~18-20lbs 70% Alfalfa/Timothy and some mixed grass hay
  • 5lbs of Tribute Kalm n EZ
  • 2lbs of Max-e-glo Rice Bran Pellets
  • 2oz of Vitalize Alimend
  • SmartDigest Ultra
  • 2 scoops Farrier’s Formula Double Strength

He’s going to get:

  • ~18-20lbs 70% Alfalfa/Timothy and some mixed grass hay
  • 2lbs of Tribute Alfa Essentials ration balancer
  • 1-2oz of Vitalize Alimend
  • SmartDigest Ultra
  • 1 scoop Farrier’s Formula Double Strength
  • mayyyybe a Mega Mag or SmartVite vitamin supplement, if he’ll eat it

So we’ll see how he adjusts to that. Hopefully he will eat it. FeedXL is fun but definitely makes you feel like you’re a horrible horse owner when it displays your horse’s folic acid level as woefully in the red. I think some important things to remember are that many of these “daily values” are estimates and unless you are testing your hay or pastures on a continuous basis, the rest is just an estimate as well. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. I do think approaching a minimal grain diet would potentially be a good thing for this horse. Everyone must evaluate their own horse’s needs. We’ve dealt with a lot this year and I’m still trying to find the best formula for us. If this new diet works for him, it SHOULD help balance out the extreme excess of energy and hopefully level off some of that excess hotness and spooky behavior. We will pick back up with work as soon as we are able!

Bravo thinks that my next post should talk about the overhaul that needs to happen with MY diet 😉 Don’t worry, I’ll spare you dear readers those details, but rest assured Bravo buddy, we’re in this together!

 

 

 

 

 

Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange 2019

This equestrian blogging community we have built is pretty great. Tracy at Printable Pony has been carefully orchestrating a Secret Santa gift exchange for several years now and I have thoroughly enjoyed participating. It is so much fun trying to pick out gifts- I don’t always nail it every year but I sure try hard because everyone that gets my name seems to go above and beyond for me, too.

 

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Without fail, every year I have participated, I have discovered new-to-me blogs that I add to my reading lists. I’m not the most outgoing person so the number of bloggers I have met in person is very low, but this international network is still a huge comfort and a wonderful resource. I can’t even tell you the number of times in daily conversation at my barn or with local friends that I preface a statement with, “I read number of blogs and a fellow blogger mentioned…” I have learned so much about other disciplines, general horse care, training, and how different the experience of owning a horse is depending on where you live! It is a joy to come together at the end of the year and share a little bit with each other.

This year my “Santa” was Ashlyn at Pembrokes and Ponies. A “new-to-me” blog that I am really enjoying reading. Ashlyn stuffed my gift box full of treats and wrote the sweetest, most thoughtful note to explain all of the goodies!

 

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This wasn’t even all of it, but I absconded immediately with the candy and EQluxe magazine she included.

I can’t wait to put the rest of the items to good use in the coming weeks. Ashlyn read on my blog about how much Bravo loves to get dirty- she sent along a huge helping hand in the form of Sport Horse Essentials Waterless Shampoo!

 

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This will be such a huge help for the rest of the winter. I have been keeping a sheet on Bravo to save some time when I come out after work to see him but even with that he manages to get completely filthy.

Along the same lines, she send a brush/grooming tool cleaner that will be put to use this spring. My brushes get so grungy from dealing with his majesty all winter.

 

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Since we all know that the act of grooming a horse is merely the process of transferring dirt from horse to the groomer, Ashlyn teed up a spa experience for me as well!

 

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SO pumped for those.

 

The gifts just kept coming. I’m very intrigued with the all natural wound treatment from Rein Naturals. Bravo goes out with a group of playful geldings and although he is the boss, the others always get in a few good knocks. I’ll be trying this serum out on some recent bite marks.

 

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And, as if ALLLLLLLL of that weren’t already enough, Bravo will be the lucky recipient of some Stud Muffins that her horses, Izzy and Diablo, were kind enough to share! He is going to have to be an extra good baby to get ahold of one of these tasty morsels.

Thank you SO much, Ashlyn, for spoiling Bravo and me this year with your generous gifts. Thank you to Tracy for organizing again, especially while she’s deep into the process of “printing” her own little “pony”!

Bravo and I hope you all had a lovely Holiday!

 

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Bravo’s Abscess Obsession

Should we take bets if Bravo will make it a full sweep in one year? He has now produced abscesses in front left, left hind, and right hind hooves so all that’s left is front right and we….win?

Before I brought Bravo home I had never encountered or had to treat a hoof abscess. Sure, I had heard about them and several of you fellow bloggers have posted about them over the years but I thought they were a fairly rare phenomenon that seemed to only be an issue for thoroughbreds. I specifically shopped for NOT a thoroughbred for no other reason than they seemed to be higher maintenance creatures and I wasn’t all that skilled in horse doctoring. I patted myself on the back when I found Bravo because although he is a big boy, he had what I thought to be nice big legs and big hooves. When I got him home to my barn and got a better look at the work I had in front of me to re-feed his underweight, still growing body, other people at my barn would even comment that “at least he’s got good hooves.”

Joke’s on me, I guess, because he isn’t a thoroughbred and although his feet are large and decently shaped, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface and it’s too soon to tell if this going to be a chronic issue for him or if better care/nutrition can make the difference.

Every horse owner should know how to wrap a hoof so at least I am now quite adept. My vet even commented on the high quality construction of my handmade duct tape boots. Bravo came up hopping lame on Monday, November 18th. I was slightly perplexed because I had ridden him on Sunday evening and we had what I thought was a pretty good ride. He stood quietly at the mounting block and acted like a pro despite a very full arena. Sure, he was a little behind my leg and balky- that seems to be his thing starting out but we worked through it and he was going around just fine. We definitely don’t have power steering yet, but we didn’t look half bad. Some of that reluctance to go forward could have been that brewing abscess all along.

 

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My barn owner managed to drag him back in from his field and I came out that night to poultice and wrap his hoof. We DON’T soak. He barely lets me futz with it enough to wrap it and loses his mind if anything resembling a bucket, water, or a bag go near his back legs. I filled a diaper with Epsom salt, warm water, and a splash of sore-no-more sauce and very quickly wrapped that on him. After a couple days of re-wrapping and poulticing, he was still barely willing to put weight on it, was all stocked up, and feeling pretty sorry for himself so I called and made an appointment with the vet.

This vet appointment was freaking traumatic for both of us. As soon as the vet hit a sensitive part of his foot with the hoof testers, Bravo started to lose it. He just wanted to peace right out of there and didn’t care if I was holding him or what else he would be plowing through on his way out, he was just DONE. It was all too much for his baby brain. Four days cooped up in his stall, the scary vet who makes his foot hurt- nope. bye. The vet had to sedate him. And then it wasn’t enough so he had to sedate him again. Meanwhile, by this time he had dragged me around the barn, nervous pooped and then trampled it with his freshly dug out abscess foot, knocked over a bucket of water the vet was going to use to clean his shit foot, tried to kick the vet, and nearly brought down the barn careening into walls to get away. It was unpleasant…

The vet proclaimed Bravo to be a big baby considering the abscess he found and drained wasn’t very big. We got it poulticed and re-wrapped and I gave him some bute while the sedation was still wearing off. Our pastures are mud pits right now but he needed to move so I had him turned out the next day. He came in without the wrap, hoof coated in mud, but in a much more sane mood. I washed, disinfected, and re-wrapped his hoof for five straight days. I figured we were in the clear- the fill in his leg dissipated, he was serviceably sound again, and the abscess site wasn’t draining anymore. I stuffed some hawthornes sole pack in the cavity on that Tuesday and left town for Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving I got another dreaded text from my barn owner that Bravo was hopping lame again on the same foot. uggghhhghh I asked her to keep him in until I got home. I was supposed to fly back home on Saturday morning but then I got stuck in the midwest snowstorm and had to change my flight to Monday. He mostly stayed in until I got back on Monday and I went straight to the barn from the airport. I arrived to this:

 

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Monday, Dec 2nd

 

Well that explains the very short-lived “recovery” and probably also explains most of the theatrics from the vet visit. Is this horse a pansy or maybe was this massive gravel in there the whole time making things rather uncomfortable for him? I cleaned him up and started the process of poultice and wrapping all over again. I took photos to see the healing progress over the week.

 

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Wednesday, Dec 4th

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Thursday, Dec 5th

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Friday, Dec 6th

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Monday, Dec 9th

 

Tuesday night after I rinsed the mud and picked the hoof, I notice the original abscess hole on the bottom of his hoof has re-opened and was draining again. Sigh… The coronary band blowout is looking much better and with fairly little maintenance seems to be healing alright. I don’t know whether this abscess tract is through and through or if these were separate pockets, but now I’m back to flushing the bottom cavity with banixx and then packing it with dry animalintex. Needless to say, the past four weeks have been exhausting. I really hope my buddy comes through this tough abscess so we can start back over with training, again, for like the hundredth time.

Word Wednesday

I basically need this tattooed on my forehead in order for it to sink in. I am settling for keeping this passage available for reference at regular intervals especially during tough times in training or moments of anxiety. Time can either be my greatest ally in this process or a source of pressure- the choice is mine.

 

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-Jessica Jahiel, The Horse Training Problem Solver