Sunday, October 26, 2014

Suki and the Glory of Pursuit

I've said it before....horses are predictably unpredictable!  Early last week J parked a hay elevator outside next to the barn.  Naturally I assumed both Suki and Nikki would find this new addition as scarily objectionable scenery to encounter on the way to the arena.  Working Nikki first, out the door we went.  She glanced in the general direction of the elevator then continued her walk.  Same reaction on the way back.  Surprising, but not TOO surprising since Nikki doesn't usually pay attention to extraneous objects.  Suki, on the other hand has a history of dramatizing things (post meltdown.  pre meltdown she didn't seem to care as much).  Walking out the door I kept slack in the lunge line to prevent unnecessary anxiety.  Suki didn't even glance in its general direction!  And it was pretty impossible to miss.  On the way back she looked at it casually.  It's all good!

Monday, October 20, 2014
Cold morning at 29F.  I am glad that I had decided to dress Suki and Nikki in heavier clothing last night!  Because the temperatures keep fluctuating it is difficult to adapt.  But that's what extra layers are for.  Between the day off yesterday and the frigid morning I figured that I was in for an active morning in the arena!  I grabbed my bag of supplies (bottle of water, extra gloves, baggy with chopped carrots...what's in YOUR bag?!) and walked toward the barn.  The welcoming sound of the deep nicker of the girls made me smile as I opened the door.  Is there anything better?

I always wonder what the horses are thinking.  Yes, of course I know that they do not have the ability to reason, but I do believe that they have emotions.  I try not to anthropomorphize but I think we all do a bit of that.  Nikki hates having her belly brushed.  I use the softest brush possible and often just the buffing mitt.  She makes her opinion known by pinning her ears and swishing her tail.  Unfortunately this morning she has dirt stuck to her belly and manure.  So the grooming must be more aggressive out of necessity.  Nikki is not pleased!  She is sometimes cranky in the morning.  Does she absolutely hate working before breakfast every day?  Once we are in the arena she is fine.  But the grooming and tacking up part do not appear to be to her liking!  Post ride she LOVES to be rubbed down and pampered.  Then she happily munches hay in her stall until it is time for her breakfast.

This morning's cold air did not have any effect on her behavior.  I take the lunge warm up a bit slower on cold mornings when she has been in her stall all night.  In spite of the cold air Nikki works well.  My goals for now remain simple.  Light off the leg, soft in the hand.  Sharp transitions between and within gaits.  Mix it up with lateral work and my own patterns using the entire arena.  I am currently working on a collection of exercises which I will share.  No, I am not an expert, but I have learned what works for my horses and how to keep it fun for all of us.  Winter is closing in so my goals must be realistic as it is possible with the potential of having to shut down due to snow and ice.  Maybe we will have better luck this year.

Suki was raring to go after an apparently good night's sleep, evidenced by the shavings in her mane and tail!
From the moment we stepped out of the barn Suki was on the go.  She lifted her head and nickered as we exited the barn, with Nikki letting out a loud whinny in response.  I asked her for several halts on the way to the arena to give her focus and something positive to transfer that energy to.  Suki listened and we had a lovely walk to the arena.  I could see her right ear twitch on occasion, knowing that she wanted to misbehave, and was so proud of her for listening to me instead.  Out on the lunge was a different story, at least at first.  Suki gave a head twirl and launched into her big trot, turning to grab the lunge line in her mouth.  Since I had not asked for the trot, I brought her back to walk for a few strides then right back to trot.  She needed to expend that energy but also needed to remember that I make the decisions not her!  After a few more head twirls and a grab or two at the lunge she settled a bit.  We moved on to transitions between walk and trot then I asked for the canter.  The response was a squeal and a buck, so after twice around at the canter I brought her back to trot and asked again.  This was met with a few head twirls, so again, a few trips around then back to trot.  The next canter transition was perfect and she settled completely after that.  Some days are just like that.  I always go out with a game plan.  The plan, however, is not inflexible.  It is critical to gauge the athlete each day and adjustments need to be made.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I could hear the rain as soon as i opened my eyes this morning.  The rain that was not supposed to start until later.  Uggh!  I want to work the girls today because they will be getting fall vaccs this afternoon.  Both suffer a little soreness after that (even with bute) so I always just do a light lunge the next day.  It's chilly this morning so if the rain is too heavy I won't take them out.  Heavy sheets are necessary because of the temperature so a very wet horse will not work!  I dressed to ride hoping for the best.  The rain subsides as Isaiah gets on the school bus so I am once again, hopeful.

Just a slight drizzle as I begin to tack up Nikki so I get the job done as quickly as possible.  Then it begins to pour.  So we wait.
All dressed up with no place to go
And we wait....
Napping on the cross ties
Finally the rain slows and out we go!  A quick lunge to loosen up and I get on.  The rain begins to get heavy again, but we continue to work, as we are both already wet!  It was a short ride, but effective and pleasant.  I jogged Nikki back to the barn as the rain continued.  Of course about 3 minutes later the rain stopped!  I threw a mesh cooler on Nikki then a polar fleece on top.  She dried quickly.

By the time I brought Suki to the cross ties the rain was heavy once again with no real sign of slowing in the immediate future.  So after a good grooming I worked on some stretches with Suki and called it a day.

Sunday, October 26, 2014
I have a report to work on today, so both Suki and Nikki will just get lunged.  Judging by the wind that could be pretty exciting!

I didn't see the girls at all yesterday, and honestly, they seemed to have missed me!  I know I missed them.  It was tempting to stop in and see them on my way home last night but I still had a lot to do there as well.  When I opened Nikki's stall door to give her the morning treat she pressed her face into my chest BEFORE she took the piece of apple!  I rubbed her ears and spoke softly to her.  Of course she started banging on her door as I walked down to Suki's stall!  She too, rushed to the door to greet me, looking to my pockets for extra goodies.

In spite of the wind, Nikki worked beautifully through trot and canter poles.  She didn't even scoot this time when I ran beside her as she came through the trot poles.  Nikki has been a little pushy while being led so I worked on leading exercises after the lunge session.  She wanted to step ahead when I first started the halts, but after a couple of reprimands it was all fine.  I don't think she likes that work the way Suki does.

The wind was really strong by the time I brought Suki out, but she worked like a champ.  Even when Amy left with Bear and walked up the driveway, one sideways glance was all she did but I brought her right back to focus.  She floated through the trot poles.  First trip through them as canter poles she jumped them, but not with anxiety....just for fun.  We finished with 5 minutes of leading exercises and went in.

Both were anxious to have breakfast and get outside.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue.  The wind added a nip of crisp autumn air.  Suki tried to be pushy on the way to her pasture but a quick correction and she was fine.  She knows that with me it is important that she waits to be turned around and unclipped before moving off into her field.  So after gently taking a treat she quietly turned then galloped away.  Nikki looked up as Suki raced past her, then resumed grazing.

It is always important to keep things in perspective.  The goals.  The path.  The journey.  The JOY.  Take each goal attained and revel in its own glory.  Yes, we pursue glory in this sport.  Lately my glory comes in baby steps.  But after reading Courtney King Dye's book I am once again reminded as she was told by George Morris to savor the glory of the pursuit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Suki and the Mounting Block

Sunday, October 4, 2014
When I looked out the window at 6AM the air looked still and cold.  From the windows in the front of my house the mountains were a kaleidoscope of color, a sure sign of autumn's arrival.  The house held a slight chill compared to other mornings because temperatures had fallen to the mid 30'sF over night.  I hadn't put on the heat because I love when the house is a little chilly.  Sleeping is more comfortable, and I can always pile on more blankets.  To be honest, the temperature in the house was actually one degree higher than what we set the heat at, so it wasn't actually cold.  It just felt different this morning.  Fortunately I had washed one of my heavier barn/riding jackets yesterday so I was fully prepared for a chilly morning at the barn.

The temperature dropped from 36F to 33F as I drove into the hollow at the farm.  That's pretty typical, but it still caught me a little by surprise.  I was glad that I had dressed appropriately!  Suki and Nikki began calling to me immediately.  I slipped my hand under each sheet to see if they were warm enough.  They were nice and warm in their heavy sheets over night!  I checked the arena footing to see if it was crunchy.  The rain Friday and saturday night had made the arena footing wonderfully soft, but the low temperature and moisture in the ground can produce a layer of slightly frozen footing.  It seemed fine so I set about my morning routine.

By the time I finished tacking up Nikki I had shed a layer and the air felt wonderfully cold on my cheeks as we walked out to the arena.  Nikki walked out of the barn quietly next to me, our breath making steamy clouds in the gray morning light.  I expected her to be silly on the lunge because of the temperature change but she worked well without even a squeal!  A flock of geese flew overhead, but they were heading north, so apparently they are not yet ready to jump ship!

I felt bad that I had not brought a cooler for Nikki because it was still quite cold when we finished!  I threw one of the fly sheets over her back to keep her muscles warm, which seemed to help.  My original plan was to turn out Nikki naked and Suki with her fly sheet because temperature was supposed to go to 65F.  Then I would go back in late afternoon to dress the girls for the over night cold.  But it was still overcast and a breeze had picked up so I put Nikki's sheet back on planning to check to see if she was too warm when I finished with Suki.  She was comfortable when I finished so the girls went out with their sheets on  The day remained overcast, breezy and chilly and night temperatures are expected to be near 32F with scattered frost.  The horses will be in over night so I did not have to fret about my decision!

Suki used to hate working in the wind, but seems to have overcome that!  In spite of the cool air and very breezy conditions (the wind had picked up a bit more by the time it was her turn) she worked well and focused.  Today I asked her for walk-canter, canter-walk transitions.  Started off a little rough but then became much sharper.  That made the trot-halt, halt-trot transitions better as well.  Suki gave a nice neck stretch while walking out to finish with a nice long stride and swinging back.  Tail bouncing happily.

Monday, October 7, 2014
Cold morning, at 34F, but I will most certainly look back at this morning and consider it a warm one once winter sets in!  I turned my face to the sky allowing the cold air to hit my cheeks.  I wanted to linger outside for a moment but I could hear eager voices calling to me from the barn.

I did a basic work out with Nikki and some stretches with Suki.  It is going to be warm today so back to fly sheet for Suki and naked for Nikki.  See what I mean?  The blanket dance!

Check out those pink bell boots!  Nikki has a history of pulling shoes while playing in the field so she wears bell boots for turn out.  We have gone through a few pair....well actually singles from a few pair, which became mismatched pairs.  The velcro finally gave on one of the last mismatched pair so I had to move onto the very pink Davis bell boots.  I bought them earlier this year, but they looked too large.  Nikki wears extra large in most bell boot brands, so I assumed the same for the Davis (she had a pair of black ones which must have been large, not extra large).  I was desperate so I put them on her.  While they are somewhat large, I don't ride her in them so I think they will be okay.  VERY PINK though!  If she gets one off in the field it will be easy to find!

Tuesday, October 8, 2014
Today was one of those wonderful training days.  Nikki was sharp through the trot poles so I jumped off to increase the distance between them.  The first time through at that distance she pricked her ears SO far forward then floated through which a huge stride!  Very cool!

On my way back to the barn I thought I saw the resident Blue Heron come in for a landing.  Once I untacked Nikki I grabbed my camera and went out into the field to get as close as I could without scaring her....unfortunately I was not able to get very close.

While I was grooming and tacking up Suki for her lunging session (no, not the saddle, still the surcingle) they came into the barn to feed.  Nikki is used to working while the others are being fed, or being out in the arena when the feed buckets are going into the barn.  Suki, not so much!  She was actually quite well behaved and only paced slightly while on cross ties.  Outside she got right to work.  I put her through the cavaletti also, and at that distance I REALLY had to run to keep up.  Suki clearly loved it giving a head twirlie after the first time through.  Seeing such obvious joy in her is such a thrill for me, having come so close to losing her.  

Friday, October 10, 2014
Today I did something with Suki that I have not done in over five years.  When we were finished with the lunging session I walked her up to the mounting block.  She kind of gave me a look, but stood quietly while I climbed to the top.  It was a bit high for what I wanted to do so I moved her back near the steps and stood o the middle one.  From there I leaned against her by the surcingle.  Suki turned around and looked at me but continued to stand quietly then turned to face forward again.  I patted and praised her then gave her a sugar cube.  Next I leaned partially over her, patting her other side.  Again she turned to look with a calm eye and back forward again.  More praise, and another sugar.  I made a huge fuss over her which of course, she enjoyed.  But apparently I had forgotten to give her the sugar while we stood by the gate, so she gently tapped my pocket as a reminder.

The magnitude of those moments did not hit me until I was driving home.  How many times had I stood by the mounting block next to Suki preparing to ride.  Seems like a hundred years ago.  She calmly accepted this next step with confidence.  And then the tears came.

Sunday, October 12, 2014
After yesterday's chilly rain, today started with 34F.  I admit, I was a bit cold when I first arrived at the barn, but anxious to get started with the girls.  Fortunately the rain ended early enough yesterday for the horses to get out a bit.  Suki apparently had a good old time running about.  She loves to kick up her heels!  I expected both horses to be covered with mud this morning but although it was evident that they rolled, they were kind enough to do so in the grass.  It was also evident that they had both been flat out in their stalls last night; covered head to toe in shavings!

Nikki was slow to move out of the barn but once we were in the arena she was eager to work.  All of her work today was light and forward with smooth transitions from behind into a soft hand.  It was awesome!  Nikki was pretty pleased with herself.  She knows when she has done well.  While I unlatched the gate she leaned her face on my arm.  Not looking for treats.  Just leaning.  Such a sweet moment....I love that girl!

Suki, as usual was not thrilled that everyone else was out while she waited for her turn to work.  Nikki was relaxing in her stall, but would soon begin to demand breakfast.  Suki should have been least her breakfast had not been delayed by work!  Surcingle on we walked out to the arena.  Suki is in heat so she called to a few horses and walked out to the arena with her head held high (I felt very small, indeed!).  She wasn't nervous or anxious just lit!  I think the cooler temperature (although it was probably up to 40F by then) and the horses in the fields were making her a little high.  In spite of all that she walked to the arena without a misstep, another sign of her renewed confidence.  Once I moved her out on the lunge, however, she gave a head twirl and launched right into a canter.  Not a panicked, quick or unbalanced canter. But I always have her walk around a few times especially now that they are in the barn over night.  Suki came right back to walk when I asked her to then walked quietly, though distracted, until we started the rest of the work.  She lunged really well in both directions with great energy, amazing length of stride and suspension.  When I asked her to slow the gaits and shorten the stride she did.  However, she was a wee bit distracted the entire time.  Nikki called to her once or twice and Suki started to answer back but stopped when I growled at her.  Likewise, when I told her to focus she listened.  But I was really pleased with her.  And her breathing came back to normal quickly.  I carefully check Suki's back after each session that she wears the surcingle.  No problems so far.  We are really on the right track.  She is a special horse in many ways, but her courage and attitude continue to amaze me.  I am lucky to have her in my life.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Suki Loves to work!

As daylight hours become noticeably shorter, the leaves are beginning to change color and fall to the ground.  Ah, autumn.  My favorite time of year.  I love the cool, crisp air, the colorful trees and of course, pumpkins!  We have been having a bit of a warmer trend right now, but temperatures are expected to drop again below 40F at night.  The lightest weight blankets have been cleaned and repaired, but I suspect Nikki may have grown out of a couple of hers.  It may be time for her to move up to the 84's.

This year I chose not to attend Dressage at Devon.  For the past several years I have shared a box with a good friend and another friend of hers (we each paid for 2 tickets).  I actually rarely used the box except for a few times during the day and there was never anyone else in there.  Early Sunday morning Michael and Isaiah sometimes joined me, but again no one else was even in the box at that time.  In fact, the other two box holders were probably barely awake! B said this year she was only going to sell me one ticket because she wanted more control over her box and there were often too many extra people in the box.  There was only one occasion over the past 4 years that I was in the box with anyone who was sharing the box!  I declined a ticket, which is what I assumed she wanted me to do when presented with that option and reasons that I was never made aware of until that moment.  Yes, I could have bought the box seat out of spite, but I simply couldn't be bothered.  I am more bothered by whatever it is that I must have done to this person, whom I last saw when we had a very nice lunch together in July.  Likely I will never know, but I think it is always a bit sad when a friendship ends.

ANYWAY! Events from the Dixon Oval were being live streamed on the USEF Network, although I do enjoy (for the most part...) watching the 4th level tests that take place in the Gold Ring.  I also love to watch schooling...the good, the bad and the ugly.  And the sometimes very lovely!  But I prefer to go early in the morning for the start of the day and stay until about 3 PM.  This year that would have meant missing a couple of days of riding because weather had taken out an additional day.  There is still a possibility that I will go on Sunday.

The Grand Prix qualifier for the freestyle took place on Friday evening (26 September) so I did watch a good portion of that on live streaming.  Interesting...there were only 12 entries.  Six from Canada, 4 from the US, 1 from Sweden and 1 from Australia.  Nearly all riders wore protective head gear.  Scores ranged from 69% to 62%, so  all twelve will be riding this evening in the freestyle.  I applaud all of them for qualifying and putting themselves out there to be judged under the lights at Devon.

My first observation was the crowd.  Well, the lack of crowd.  Usually during the late afternoon the crowd builds in anticipation of the events of the evening.  Not as much as for the freestyle, but the qualifier typically draws a reasonable crowd.  Most years the evenings can be quite chilly since it is early autumn, but tonight is an exception.  The air is warmish and the pumpkins, mums and cornstalks of fall almost look a little out of place.  But the venue is always beautifully decorated.  Sometimes one can almost forget that developers have encroached on all of the land surrounding the show grounds.  I try to envision what it looked like 100 years ago.  Watching spectators moving about I almost regret my decision not to go earlier today.  But I had a lovely ride on Nikki and Suki worked beautifully on the lunge, so that is the trade off!

As I said, I applaud (and envy) those out there this evening.  However, I was somewhat disappointed in what I saw.  Several of the horses look unhappy.  Wringing tails, necks cranked in, stiff backs.  What is missing?  Where is the joy?  Even Isaiah, who is just eight years old, can see this.  After pointing out a few things regarding the movements and what is to be expected, he too, is commenting about the negatives.  He was also able to point out the correct ones (the obvious ones, anyway).  There were some lovely rides tonight too, though, and the differences were obvious.   We watched some Spanish Riding School videos to remind us how beautiful classical dressage is.  There are certainly people who continue to train this way, but unfortunately many look for the quick rise to the upper levels so the horse can be sold, or the rider can compete at FEI to develop a "name" in the show ring.  But if what we see in the show ring does not look correct, then what does that say about the trainer, and his/her methods?  That's all for my arm chair quarter backing.....

The wonderful thing about riding in the early morning is that although some of the days became quite warm, temperatures in the morning were typically in the upper 40s-low 50sF.  Cool enough for a sweatshirt that can be removed for the ride!  I feel like both Suki and Nikki are working well so we continue to gain momentum.  Last week I worked both girls in hand to get a few piaffe steps.  It's not super easy to do alone especially with such big horses, but they did well.   I was really pleased with their responses and willingness.  It was a nice change for them as well.  Next time I am considering going along the outside of the arena on the path to do the in hand work.  We can use the arena fence as a guide.  I suspect I will get a bit more animation too!

Sunday, September 28, 2014
I like to ride early in the day for several reasons.  First, it leaves the rest of the day to do whatever I want or need to do.  Plus it is usually pretty quiet with no one else riding.  Today as I was finishing tacking up Nikki (around 8:20, because I got a late start) and one of the new boarders pulled in!  I know, they have every right to be there, of course, but I love the peaceful mornings!  It actually worked out fine, because I was finished riding Nikki before she came out to the arena.  Nikki worked really well, doing some lovely shoulder in then pushing off into a medium trot.  Horses are such creatures of habit.  After I did that twice, Nikki pushed out on the third shoulder in.  Even when I alternated between asking for a medium, versus a half pass or a 10m circle, I could feel her hind end really engage.  I used that to my advantage!

By the time I brought her back into the barn ANOTHER boarder showed up!  I usually comment about how surprised I am that no one ever shows up on the beautiful weekend days....... Most people come later in the day.

Suki had a short lunge session because I needed to give her a good exfoliation/moisturizing.  Plus her white socks were a bit dirty.  Once again her regained focus came into play.  While we were in the arena two people came down the driveway on horseback, then continued along the side of the arena.  Suki pricked her ears once but that was it.  She continued to listen to all commands and work well without any sign of nervousness.  Suki really loves going through the trot poles.  Because they are on a straight line I have to run next to Suki holding the lunge line and try to match her stride as she glides through the poles.  I imagine it is quite a sight; me at 5'4', trying to match Suki's very large stride and her 17.3h size!  My jog beside her seems to give her extra energy while she pushes off from behind, ears forward.

Monday, September 29, 2014
Suki worked yesterday, but I will not be able to work the girls Tuesday or Wednesday so Suki gets two days in a row.  Now that they are in at night again I do notice a little stiffness with Suki at the start of her lunging sessions.  The good news is that she seems to work out of it pretty quickly.  I can usually see her back loosen as well.  Suki's tail bounces happily as she moves through the gaits.  Sometimes she  turns her head to make a face at me when she starts to get feisty.  A horse called and as Suki started to respond I growled at her, so she turned it into a squeal, which somehow made her want to do a little leap.  I pushed her forward with the whip and she settled back to work.  It was pretty funny.  She started off with a few head twirls so I was surprised that it took her so long to give a little buck. I know that the playfulness is a disobedience, but I put an end to it quickly.  After everything she has been through I find it heartwarming that she shows such joie de vivre!

Nikki was awesome, and although I find it unnerving when Bo, the dog, charges down the driveway, Nikki is getting much better about it.  He chased her a couple of times when he was younger (he is less than a year old still) so that caused a bit of nervousness.  Bo has gotten much better about that part now that he is growing up a bit!

We worked on serpentines with transitions to walk as we crossed the center line.  I wanted to focus on the sharpness of the transitions as well as softness in the mouth.  This improved after the first two transitions, and she was awesome with the up transition, giving a super push from behind.  Canter transitions were a bit bumpy today with a little bit of tension.  I think I was a little tight in my back, so I tried to be softer which seemed to help.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Foggy start to the day!  I had the girls go out over night since the weather was nice and they had been in most of Monday because of the farrier visit.  When I arrived at the barn they were at the top of the field so I stood on the fence by the gate and started to take some photographs.  Curiosity got the best of them and Nikki started toward me first.

Followed by Suki, who was NOT happy that Nikki was going to get to the gate (and me) first!

Suki came thundering down to the gate!  Unfortunately I did not have my camera set correctly so it was not ready to get those images!  I have now set it on burst.

Yes, the surcingle that I forgot to put rubber bands on came undone...fortunately the other one was crossed over it so the strap was not hanging as much as it might have been.  Last night I realized that I had not added the rubber bands.....

Nikki waited her turn, then came down to the gate.

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Another foggy morning.  But the leaves are starting to brighten into autumn glory in some spots and in others the leaves are falling quickly.  I know that this winter is predicted to be another cold and snowy one, but for now I will enjoy cool fall days and colorful mountains.  While riding Nikki a big gust of wind blew creating a stream of leaves rushing through the arena.  Nikki arched her neck and looked down at the leaves as they blew through her feet, adding a few steps of passage for effect.  It felt giant under my seat, and I enjoyed a brief vision of the future.  She had good energy and was responsive and focused during the lateral work.  When I brought Nikki back to the walk after our stretchy trot she gave a big sigh and stretched down into a lovely walk!

Suki was less than enthusiastic on her way to the arena, balking as we passed the trailers for no apparent reason.  Nikki called to her twice so I had to whack her on the shoulder with the lunge line to keep her moving.  That seemed to do the trick and she marched to the arena with her ears forward!  I worked on interval segments with Suki today to evaluate her fitness level and measure her return to normal respiration and heart rate.  It was a bit of a workout for her, but she did fine, and as her resp rate returns to normal quickly, I have yet to see any potential lung issues from the fire.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014
It's going to be cold tonight so the girls are wearing their heavy sheets.  Nikki was able to wear the Rambo light which I was surprised that she had not outgrown!  Tomorrow will be around 60F and sunny so it will be back to a fly sheet for Suki and Nikki will be naked.  They will need heavier clothing again tomorrow night as temperatures will be around 37F again.  I definitely prefer when I can leave the same clothing on day and night.  But for now we have returned to the blanket dance!

I think that Suki is on track with her steady progression, but I still need to resolve the bridle issue.  I contacted the Dy'on bridle people in Belgium but have not received a response.  I find this to be a bit disappointing.  I will try again.  The bridle is over $500 so I would like to ask some questions before I give it a try!  I am going to put the regular bridle on again tomorrow to see how she responds.  

Suki has come so far, but it has been a very long road.  My greatest pleasure is to see her trotting across the field, happy, healthy and full of life!