Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hippity, hoppity, spring and training!!

Monday, April 14, 2013
Busy day.  Vet and dentist.  I have my horses checked by the dentist every 6 months.  Sean was here in October and Nikki was ready to have her teeth done again, after having them done in April.  Suki was checked and no work necessary.  Sean is very patient with the horses and takes time to explain to the owners what he is doing, and shows us what is going on in our horses' mouths.  Suki has to get worked on first because she gets nervous while other horses are being worked on.  The vet arrived at 10 and Suki was first up.  It is important to scratch her withers while the vet gives the injection in her chest.  This, we have discovered is the most successful route.  The girls received the first half of their spring shots a few weeks ago so were due for PHF and botulism this time.  I didn't really get a good scratching position because I felt like Suki was about to leap out of her stall (I had the lead rope with chain over her nose).  We got through it but she was tense.  Nikki barely acknowledges the situation.  Sean, the dentist arrived less than an hour later and once again, Suki was up first.  When he approached her in her stall, Suki actually reached toward him with her nose.  No anxiety.  Two previous visits with his calm, kind manner were enough for Suki to offer her trust.  Something she does not offer easily.  I was relieved.  She needed to have her teeth done this time and was relaxed (as relaxed as one can be at the dentist) and calm.  She has come so far since the fire.  Nikki also needed to be done (my every 6 months girl) and was less nervous this time.  She started to become somewhat unraveled near the end, but patience and kindness persevered!  Phew!  Due to warm temperatures I let Suki be naked in her stall while waiting for the vet and dentist, dressing her in a fly sheet prior to turnout.  She and Nikki were thrilled to be released into the sunshine.  Hello grass!

Having already lunged the girls prior to the day's events I headed home to work on my book for a couple of hours.  Sometimes I struggle with how to address the back story of Suki in my book.  In fact, I have a separate file with the back story and notes throughout the book as to where to interject the bits and pieces.  I don't want it to be choppy, but it is an important part of how we got to the point of our partnership at the time of the fire.....

April 15, 2014
Rain.  In spite of that I managed to get a 15minute lunge with Nikki while the rain took a break.  Snow/sleet was predicted for Tuesday night into Wednesday, so I wanted to get some work in.  I am anxious to ride!  Once again my concerns about Nikki being hyper were unfounded.  But just before we stopped working last December, she was being a little wild on the lunge.  Of course the stall rest and paddock turnout for 3 weeks due to mystery hock injury and onset of the winter from Hell certainly had something to do with that!!  But Nikki worked well and happily.  Her neck did not seem sore from the vaccinations on Monday, but I chose not to use side reins just in case.  I do like to give bute the day before and after vaccines, which does seem to help.  It was still quite warm so I had to leave Suki in her fly sheet and Nikki naked.  Toby changed the girls into mid weight blankets for me in anticipation of the plummeting temperatures and wintery precipitation.  Jack Frost needs to check the calendar!

April 16, 2014
Snow on the roof, ice on the deck.  Yuck.  My plan was to groom the girls and go home.  The arena had some frozen patches and it was damp and cold.  Suki and Nikki were happy to see me and toasty in their blankets....Thank you Toby!
When I returned home my mother, who has been staying with me since February, had fallen while I was gone.  I helped her up and moved her to the family room.  She said that her arm hurt but did not want to go to  the doctor.  Ultimately we ended up in the emergency room where we learned that she had a fracture in her right proximal humerus.  Ultimately she had to stay after 7 hours in the ER because her afib was not controlled, and her pain was extreme.  There will be a long recovery because of the fracture location and her age, but she is improving.

April 18, 2014
I admit, it is difficult to juggle everything.  But I managed to lunge Nikki and work Suki in hand.  My beautiful girls keep me sane.  Louise will get Nikki started being ridden for me early next week.  yes, I am being a weanie.  Many apologies.  But I am fortunate to have someone that I trust, who has the same training philosophies to help me with this.  I am doing the prep work by lunging.  Nikki is a good girl and I know she will be fine.

I am reading Netochka Nezvanova for balance.  Yes, I adore Russian literature.  I read War and Peace for fun, as I ador Tolstoy, but Dostoyevsky is really my favorite Russian author.  This is my first go at Netochka Nezvanova.  My dream is to read all of it in Russian......

Mom is improving but it is clear that she will have to move to a rehab facility before she can return to my house.  After working with the girls I spend a few hours at the hospital with mom, then back home. My wonderful husband visited her tonight to give me a breather and enable me to get "stuff" done.

April 19, 2014
Suki and Nikki were both WONDERFUL today!  Both focused on work and seemed relaxed and happy.  Nikki was in full equipment and I feel is now ready to be ridden.  I should probably just get on tomorrow.  Suki was sharp and attentive, working through transitions.  She seems so ready to move forward in her training.  Spring.  New beginnings, hopes for the future.  One day at a time.  I thought about that today....hope for the future.  When Suki arrived from Canada I had so many plans, hopes and dreams.  One day can change everything.  But I still hold onto those dreams with Suki and Nikki.  If you can dream it you can achieve it, right?

Tomorrow is Easter, so of course the bunny ears came out!  Nikki just wears the ears and tolerates it.  But as soon as I go to take a picture she puts her ears back!!
Then they flopped forward....still she does not care!
Suki is notoriously difficult about things around her head, but was quite cooperative this time.  I think she was a bit cocky after her work today!  She strutted back from the arena!
So while I am a bit fried with everything that is going on right now, my beautiful girls give me peace.  Mom continues to improve, Michael has been helping by visiting, Isaiah is the light of my life, and we will all get through it.
Off to read The Chronicle. Tom Selleck's daughter Hannah does an Ariat ad??

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Training is finally underway! First step toward bringing Suki back under saddle

Well, I finally don't have to say "maybe next week" to start training.  The arena footing had finally improved enough but weather and mud kept Suki and Nikki either inside or in small paddocks for turnout.  While I am grateful that they can at least get outside for awhile, the paddock does not leave enough room to get out 1400 lbs of exuberance.  There was a bit of passaging and some jumping, but not enough wide open area to really let loose.  Of course this did not deter Suki from rolling.  The mornings were cold and crisp so one of my concerns with getting Nikki out for the first time in awhile was too much playing on the lunge line in only moderately good footing.

Earlier this week I decided to bite the bullet and get Nikki out.  Snorting a few times on the walk to the arena I expected an explosion once we got started.  She was a little lookie but not super high so I asked her for a quiet trot to loosen up.  For the first time out in 32F and breezy I kept the trot slow and even in both directions.  It was a good first outing.  I decided to wait with Suki.  Perhaps I am treating her too much like fine china, bringing her out only in the perfect moments of life. I am super protective of her, but I am with Nikki as well.  It is just who I am.  This could be due to having a horse injured in a trailer accident (Jenny), a horse critically injured in a barn fire and losing a horse to colic (Jenny, at age 20).

The next two sessions were similar but on Thursday we kicked it up a notch.  The geese on the far side of the creek apparently had the same idea.  Is it mating season for Canada geese?  There was certainly something going on.  Sometimes a few would open their wings really wide and puff up, honking loudly, while the sun hit their light chests giving off a glow.  Nikki looked up once or twice but was otherwise unmoved.  Urging Nikki into a more forward trot, she became more interested in her work, stretching down in her neck and lifting in the back.  The canter transitions were smooth, but I only asked for a good forward pace once in each direction at that gait.  Sadly out of shape after several months of snowy weather and no work, I was happy to see Nikki stretch out at the walk to cool down (after a big sigh, of course).

Both girls are shedding like mad so Suki is even MORE itchy than usual.  Most people assume that she is itchy due to the areas without hair, but that is where she is the least itchy because of her awesome skin regimen.  And she has always been an itchy girl, constantly scratching her sides on any surface that would accommodate!  With all of the mud I have had to contend with mud-caked legs and in Suki's case thick dried mud on her neck.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Today's the day!  Suki knew that something was askew this morning because I took her out of her stall first.  Typically I start with Nikki so that I can get out to the arena and back before feeding time.  There are fewer distractions early, so I thought it would be best to get Suki out before any festivities started!  As I carefully wrapped polos on her front legs, Suki snuffled my hair.  While wrapping her hind legs she kept turning around to look at me.  When we were just outside the barn door she stopped, lifted her head to calmly look around, then walked forward once again.  I thought she seemed a little tense as we walked to the arena, but she looked straight ahead to the gate.  Turning her around to latch the arena gate, she started to look around a bit.  As I moved her out the circle on the lunge, Suki tossed her head a few times then lifted her tail and started into a little bit of passage.  Quietly I asked her to move forward and she began to relax.  There was definitely some stiffness to start but within a couple of minutes she appeared to loosen and the stiffness subsided.  Remaining lookie for the first few times around I just continued to move her forward and stay focused.  Although Sammy the pony (who LOVES her) called to her for awhile she only called back once.  To me she seemed a bit tense, but responded to commands without hesitation.  Finally Suki dropped her head and relaxed.  That was a welcome sight!  Looking at her coppery coat shining in the sunlight I looked hopefully into the future.  Walking back to the barn Suki was visibly more relaxed, casually looking around and swinging her tail happily.  It was a wonderful first effort!

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Thick fog blanketed the Oley Valley this morning.  At 39F it was chilly, but the sun was struggling to push through, with the hope of a 70F day.  At the top of the driveway I couldn't see the barn or the arena through the fog.   Time constraints today left room to lunge only one horse if the fog did not lift in time, and that would have to be Nikki.  I started grooming Suki hoping that the fog would lift and I could get her out to the arena to work.  Unfortunately that was not the case so se worked on stretching and moving feet at the light tap of a dressage whip.  I only have to tap her foot the first time around.  After that I can just touch the floor to lift a foot.  It helps the in hand piaffe work.

By the time I finished grooming Nikki the sun had broken through so out we went to the arena. The geese were at it again, but this time Nikki didn't even look in their direction.  Today's work was wonderful!  Fluid transitions, nicely forward in all gaits and ready to work.  I worked more on transitions today for obedience, but increased the intervals of trot to start working on that fitness level!  A few more days of lunging and Nikki will be ready to be ridden again.  It sure has been a long winter!

After Isaiah's lesson (he's starting to get the hang of diagonals!) we headed to Oley Valley feed.  As a treat and a salute to the 67F temperature, I put the top down on my car.  Bright sunshine had the dairy cows sunbathing in their fields, clearly making up for lost time.  Even passing the former Pink Star Equestrian, I was able to smile.  Foals lying flat out soaking up the sun with moms standing nearby.

Spring is definitely in the air, with the appearance of tiny buds on some trees, and fields of daffodils saluting the sun.  After this snowy, cold winter I finally truly feel the lightness of spring and new beginnings.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is spring really here? We are ready to train!

March 30, 2014.  34F.  REALLY???  Rainy, dreary and damp.  Suki and Nikki are back in their Rambo heavies, which have received quite a workout this winter!  Every weight of sheet and blanket is dirty and disgusting, but I am afraid to send anything to be cleaned because I may need them soon.  I also think that almost every one of them needs some minor repair work.  Except the Rambos.  But shhh!  Hope I didn't speak too soon.....

Other years by this time crocuses have begun to make an appearance, and in some places, daffodils.  Not at my house, because our daffodils are in the front of our house which faces north.  They don't appear until later.  But not one brave crocus has dared to poke its green up through the earth.  Of course the soil had been frozen pretty deep up until very recently.  

I keep looking at the weather and saying "next week we will get to start work".  But we have yet to have weather consistent enough to render the arena suitable for work.  It has improved, but the soaking rain over the past few days has kept us from working.  Remaining optimistic, I think beginning Tuesday we may actually have a chance to get it started!  So bridles are cleaned and ready to go, polos, boots, saddle pads.  Saddle needs to be cleaned again (from sitting for the past few months) but I will be starting with a surcingle any way.

I continue to read and watch videos.....this is Bentley watching video of Andreas Hausberger teaching.

I have a new book to read: Ridden: Dressage from the Horse's Point of View, by Ulrike Thiel
Should be interesting.

April 1, 2014
A post on Suki's Facebook page made me take a step back mentally and think about a potential problem with Suki's training.  The comment was regarding the poster's respiratory (sinus) challenges in the rain, asking if the girls experience this at all.  It suddenly reminded me that in addition to Suki's physical scars she may have hidden respiratory issues.  Although Suki did not have any complications with pneumonia, etc. after the fire, the doctors were not sure just how much damage there was to the upper airway or lungs.  There was some concern that during humid weather Suki might have some labored breathing, but this has yet to occur after almost 5 years post fire.  Veterinarians also said that if Suki were back in work heavy exercise may be difficult if severe lung damage had occurred.  I have not noticed any problems in the past few years when Suki has been lunged, but they have been short sessions.  This year will be the true test, but I will take it slow to gradually build stamina.  True, she may never have the lung capacity to be an event horse (which is moot), but I have to consider the possibility of stamina to perform 3rd and 4th level tests, if that were to become a possibility.  Honestly, I don't care if she ever sets foot in the show ring again.  And if I never sit on her again that is fine too.  I knew from the beginning that it was unlikely that Suki would be able to be ridden again due the extent of the burns on her back.  I accepted that.  My main concern has always been that Suki live a happy and healthy life.  Which she does.....I consider her fully recovered.    However, as time marches forward and Suki has been doing some lunging and in-hand work, I see how much she enjoys it.  If physically she is able to work and can hold up both physically and mentally then she should do it.  Ultimately I may find that her capacity is limited to light lunging a couple of times a week.  That would enable her to use her mind and body and give us additional time together.  But my plan is to gradually increase the work, add the surcingle and side reins, long lines and hopefully a saddle.  Suki will tell me how much she can handle.  Together we will go forward with the ultimate goal of me sitting on her back.  We'll see.  The process will be slow because I have seen first hand what can happen when people rush training and push the horse physically past what it can handle leading to mental anguish and meltdown.

I will have a busy time working both Suki and Nikki, but won't that be fun!  I can't wait to get back on Nikki, as I anticipate putting my foot in the stirrup in just a couple of weeks.   I had hoped to get started again today but the horses have been in for a few days due to rain and muddy fields.  So the girls are out today in the paddocks (fields still very muddy) and wearing only light sheets.  There was a bit of leaping and passaging when they first went out then Suki, of course, had to drop and roll.  Did I mention that I had just finished grooming her?  Yes, tomorrow morning's grooming will require a bit of time.  But they needed to get out a bit of that energy so that we can start working.  I brought home Nikki's bridle to clean it again for tomorrow.  It is still in the trunk of my car, so hopefully I will be able to get to it today!

I was contacted a month or so ago by the editor of Andalusian World Magazine who was preparing an article about barn fires, preparedness and plans.  He wanted to include a reference to Suki.  I agreed and requested that he include a photo of how she looks today, so that readers are able see that she is indeed happy and healthy.  Take a look at the magazine.... and what a BEAUTIFUL cover!!

The weather is supposed to remain somewhat consistently in the 50'sF.  I am quite hopeful that I will get to lunge tomorrow morning.......