BIG Changes

Some monumental changes are coming down the pike for EquiNovice and her trusty steed! We are taking this show back up to the Northland!!!

Next month Bravo and I will be leaving southern Indiana and moving up to Minnesota. I somehow managed to get a new job during a pandemic and although the risk of change was great, I am very excited to take on a new challenge.

 

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I have been out of the twin cities horse circle for nine years now and a lot has changed but I have found what I hope is a great new barn for Bravo with opportunities for training that weren’t available to us currently. Somepony is ’bout to go to bootcamp. Maybe he can think of it this way: we will both be starting new jobs together! I’ll be learning how to be a Product Manager while he is learning how to be a RIDING horse.

 

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Logistics have been quite tricky during this time and I am still trying to pin down shipping for Bravo. I called Brook Ledge and they just said they couldn’t do that haul. Bummer. I’ve been in contact with some more local shippers- one up in Minnesota and one from Indiana thinking they might consider a point-to-point trip where they can at least pick-up or drop off at home base. Shipping Bravo might be the thing giving me the most anxiety in all of this, so any happy success stories would be very welcome!! Bravo hasn’t loaded in a trailer in a year and with the limited contact I’ve had with him for months now because of Covid-19, he’s reverted to some not so great ground manners. He’s not terrible, but he’s not easy anymore. There’s also the fact that long haul shipping is in big semi trailers and my barn can NOT accommodate that rig and the main road to the barn can barely accommodate a vehicle of that size so I am wringing my hands trying to solve this puzzle of where I could trailer him and have the shipper pick him up. And, of course, how I am possibly going to coordinate that with my own move. Sigh… much anxiety.

 

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It will be sad to leave my friends and my barn mates here. Made worse by the fact that I can hardly say a proper goodbye and am forced to tell even my closest friends my news via zoom. In many ways I feel like I’m leaving in secret in the middle of the night but that’s just how it has to be right now. I try to let people know as I have all of my “lasts”. Bravo had his “last” chiro adjustment yesterday and in a couple weeks will have his “last” farrier visit. Moving is crazy in general, or maybe I’m just kind of oddly sentimental, I think about how the same person has cut my hair here for the past nine years and I guess I’ll just have to call and leave a message for her? She, of all people, has faithfully listened to me bitch about job frustrations or how bad I am at dating for almost a decade and I can’t even book one last appointment to share my news!?!? grumble grumble.

 

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First world problems abound! Mostly, I am excited, hopeful, and grateful. Getting through this next month will be stressful but then it can start to feel like opening a new chapter. The best thing about the blogging community is that we can keep in touch with each other wherever we are! I can’t wait to share Bravo’s travel story and new digs with you all when we both get settled.

 

 

 

 

Back in the Game

Bravo has been knocking it out of the park lately in so many ways. A few weeks ago we hit a snag due to some less than ideal pasture conditions, an excess of energy, and too much lunge line exuberance. Multiple fixes helped smooth out these issues and even though nothing could be done about the pasture conditions, we have been reaping the benefits and really making progress since making some changes.

I returned to our roots with a groundwork refresher, per Tracy’s suggestion, and closed down the barn a few nights so I could allow Bravo some free time loose in the arena. He responded well to the groundwork but surprised me by not getting wild at all when I turned him loose in the arena. There were much less theatrics than he had been delivering on the lunge line.

 

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Fun with props

 

Heeding Austen’s advice, I have completely omitted lunging and took a chance that he would keep a better lid on the crazy while being ridden. It worked!! He has been perfectly well behaved ever since. We can revisit lunging when the round pen finally drains (probably sometime in June…at the this rate). Can’t say that I miss it from our pre-ride routine but I do want him to know how to do it and behave. We did make it out to the round pen one day when there wasn’t standing water and I got to take another update shot. I love looking at these and seeing how he is changing.

 

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1 year difference, top is most recent

 

He saw the chiropractor and I think that may have helped make him more comfortable while working. It feels so amazing to have the “problems” that we have now under saddle. He has always been great for the walk but had been pretty resistant to trotting and we hadn’t cantered since I bought him. Now, our “go” button is working much better and he only takes exception to being asked to trot the first time in the ride. His resistance is nothing major- a head toss or running out through his shoulder. As his strength improves and he adapts to consistent riding, I’m confident this will fade, too. The newest issues are leaning and running through his shoulder while trotting and not yet understanding a cue to move laterally. We are cantering a little but he is lacking strength and coordination. He has been stumbling behind occasionally especially in the down transition so we will take this slow.

 

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Always up for a walk

 

The best part about all this progress is I think we are officially ready to start taking  lessons together! He has been ridden by my friend in three lessons so far, but he and I have yet to take our first lesson.

For documentation purposes, here’s a list of what’s going well and what needs work:

What’s Working

  • He’s so chill- he doesn’t spook at the crazy arena pigeons
  • Doesn’t mind the radio playing in the arena
  • He reacts but doesn’t overreact to the whip
  • Forward and responsive to the leg (most of the time)
  • He did really well with three other horses in the arena, multiple times
  • No bolting, bucking, or ear pinning
  • Swinging, forward walk is default

What Needs Work

  • Standing still at the mounting block (he doesn’t walk away, he moves his hip away)
  • Lunging
  • Focus- very short attention span
  • Whoa (a bit swap helped, but I want him to react to my seat/tone)
  • Accepting contact
  • Beginning lateral work- moving away from one leg
  • Steering
  • Shoulder control- bulging and leaning everywhere
  • Balance especially in transitions

 

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The magnesium supplement seems to be helping, too

 

My diligence and patience with him is finally paying off right now. We feel ready to consider the next level, which, in our case, is actually tackling some of the things listed above! What fabulous “problems” to have, all things considered…  YOU GUYS! We have RIDING problems to fix. 😀

 

 

Lunatic Lesson Pony

My friend C took her first official lesson on Bravo last week and although things started out rocky, they ended very well.

 

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I lunged him before her lesson and he was insane. Our trainer even left the arena for awhile because he was so ill-behaved on the lunge line. He bucked, squealed, bolted around and mostly ignored the small, unimpressed human clinging to his face via a kite string from the center of the arena. He’s completely forgotten how to lunge like a normal horse.

I am having to sort out some facilities issues at the moment as well as balancing training philosophy. I wouldn’t say I’m juggling these two very well and half of me still thinks waiting until spring to get going again is just fine for both of us. The main issue is that there are way too many horses at my barn. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in barn traffic which would be totally fine if everything else about the facility remained consistent. The horses are turned out everyday, rain or shine, and the paddocks are like an acre for 4-5 horses. Naturally, these paddocks are complete mud pits this time of year and we have had a very mild, wet winter. The horses mostly just stand around all day in mud halfway up their cannons and then come in to their stalls at night. The past several times I have taken Bravo into the indoor arena he has been a completely unruly fire-breathing dragon.

 

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Uh, I’m sorry, you want me to run around in this!?! 

 

I totally get it- but I don’t know what to do about it. There is one spot on the entire property with footing dry and safe enough to allow a horse to move and that is a 60×150 indoor arena shared by all boarders and haul-ins. This is frustrating when you are trying to train a young horse. I do not want him to keep bolting around and playing on the lunge line but there is no other option. The round pen and two outdoor arenas are completely waterlogged and unusable for the next 3 months and he may as well be standing in his stall all day for all the movement his turnout allows. It is against the barn rules to lunge when there are people riding and it is against the rules to turn your horse loose in the arena if anyone else is even on the property.

These rules and conditions seem to be literally only working against me because everyone else who is able to ride their trained horses rides whenever they please. I’m not particularly interested in climbing aboard an out of control, 17.1hh greenie, just to have to weave in and out of four other horses in the arena every night.

Thankfully my friend C is not as much of a weenie and despite being a full witness to Bravo’s lunge line antics, she still chose to go through with her lesson. They worked on steering and getting Bravo to balance himself better into turns. She rode him quite well and he did behave much better under saddle than he had on the lunge line. She is either really brave or really desperate because she asked to ride him again this week in her lesson.

 

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I’ve popped him on a calming supplement hoping that might take a little of the edge off, but I really don’t have a good fix for my current situation. For everyone’s sake I need to be able to give him an outlet for his energy without him picking up the notion that arena=always be crazy or lunge line=free for all.

Any ideas?

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.