Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Reaquainted

Jean and Stu left today for their new digs.  Their new location is about an hour and a half away.  The distance is not so great that there won't be opportunities to get together in the future.  She doesn't have an onsite trainer, so I gave her the book 101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill.  She seemed quite enthused with it.

* * * * *
Gem and I have been making up for lost time!   I have to say though, that after not riding him for almost two months, my muscles (what few I have) have had to go through an adjustment period.  I had forgotten how big he is and my inner thighs have been reminding me! 

We have participated in two lessons now and we have been out on a few trail rides.  Because of the varied terrain, I believe the trail rides have helped him to get back on track physically.  He has been awesome out on the trail.   As I mentioned before, I think we have turned a corner in our relationship and I am feeling much more confident in him and in me.  Oh, he still gives me the business on occasion just to keep me on my toes, but I seem to know better how to bring him back to reality.

LA took me out on a trail ride last week.  It was a beautiful day.  Gem and I were the leaders.  Of course, because we were leading, I tried to avoid the areas that made me nervous.  :-)  No such luck.  LA instructed me to go to the dreaded creek.

Me:   I heard the bugs were really, really bad in the forest.
LA:  All the more reason to keep moving.
Me:  I think it will be really slippery because of all the rain yesterday.
LA:  Let Gem pick where he wants to step. 
Me:  The swamp area mud will probably suck those leg protectors off of your horse.
LA:   Let's go. Move it.

Off we went.  Yes, it was muddy.  Yes, it was a bit slippery.  But going through the forest without incident eased me into facing the black horse-eating mud around the creek.  The mud was coronet band deep and it did get a bit close - the bush was overgrown and really tight.   At one point, Gem refused and started to dance a little and back up.

Me:  Holy crap!  Holy crap! 
LA:  Push him on.
Me:  I can't see where we are going!!!
LA.  There is a path.  Trust me.  Move forward!  Be decisive!

Well, I somehow convinced Gem to carry on.  Then came the dreaded creek.  I have to admit that it was a shadow of it's former self in the Spring, but it was still a creek.   I took a deep breath and then Gem and I crossed. Yipee!   And, leading LA and her mount back through the muddy path to the forest was....well....fine.  WTH?!  :-)  The rest of the trail ride was awesome.  We went through brush, mud, the pond and open spaces.   Last year, my heart would have been fluttering, but not so much this summer.  :-)

My last couple of lessons have been interesting.  Having gone from school horses back to Gem has been an eye opener.  The horses I rode in lesson had training as reiners or in dressage.   Over countless years of training riders, they are very responsive to what is being asked.  It's easy to ride them and it helped my confidence tremendously.   Gem is sometimes stubborn and lazy, but he is much, much better than he was a year ago.  He and I are so much better, in fact, that our new project is to learn how to do a lead change while doing a pattern at a lope!  Cool, eh?  

This week's lesson was very good.  Gem was a bit frisky - head tossing and the occasional little happy dance -  but it didn't interfere with what I was asking him to do.  He made me laugh.  In addition to the usual work, we incorporated some of the trail obstacle course into our lesson.  Gem LOVES when we do stuff like this - he is easily bored with the usual lesson routine of walk, jog, lope.  He's actually pretty good at backing up through the "Z" pattern of logs!  It's a great exercise for rider, too.  Your horse has to trust that you know where to go because they can't see behind them and you have to be able to communicate to your horse where to place their feet, when to start turning, etc. etc.  Gem's feet hit the logs regularly, but he didn't move any of the logs out of place.  This is one exercise that I am going to continue practicing!  Side passing over a log - not so great; Gem rolls the log up his leg, puts it in his mouth and then starts to carry it.  Sigh.  We jumped/stepped over a cavaletti a number of times at a trot and crossed over a bridge without incident.  Then LA said we were going to the Loping Field.  Gulp.

The Loping Field is a small field that is completely surrounded by trees and bush.  It is a natural circle, so of course it's the perfect place to learn how to lope in the open.  As we walked over, LA suggested that I lope the field.

Me:  Are you mad?? 
LA:  You will be fine.
Nervous Classmate:  Do it!  Do it!
Me (to Nervous Classmate):  Easy for you to say.  Listen, I will lope in that field when you do (knowing full well that she never would).

I had just about convinced LA and Nervous Classmate that loping was not going to happen when DH's Mom, out on a trail ride, joined us and put in her two cents worth.  Sigh.  I agreed to lope in a straight line first.  And you know what?  Gem and I did it!  I queued him and he responded right away.  We loped at a very even, gentle pace in a straight line, turned and loped back to the group.  I couldn't believe it!  Everyone was cheering.  Then I decided to go the full circle!  We repeated our performance and you know what?  My butt was pretty much in the saddle the whole time!  :-)  BTW, Nervous Classmate did not lope the field.

Loping on grass instead of sand feels completely different.  I am going to end every trail ride with a lope around the Loping Field.  It will help my balance a lot.  My goal is to get my confidence up to the level where I can lope straight through one of the larger fields.  Oh, and I think I am ready to walk around the field next to the paddock solo.  Yep, you read that right - solo!   :-)  Giddy up!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There's Good News and Bad.....

Bad News:  There were some abnormalities with some blood work I had done for my 13-year old Cairn Terrier.  Her liver enzymes were elevated.  In addition, a small growth was found near her hip and the biopsy indicated that it was cancerous.  It was decided to do an x-ray to see if there was anything else going on with her liver - unfortunately the results were inconclusive.  An ultrasound was done, showing that there were some tumours on her liver.  My vet booked an appointment for us with an oncologist.  Initially, we talked about using ultrasound to guide a needle to her liver to collect material for a biopsy.  I explained to him that I wanted a definitive answer on whether or not she had liver cancer.  We decided that while she was knocked out to have the little growth removed from her hip, that he do some exploratory surgery so that we know what we were up against.
Good News:     The doctor removed the tumours on her liver; they were benign!  Yipee!!!   The small growth has been removed and sent to pathology, but he is quite hopeful that all the bad stuff has been removed.  Yay!

Gem's version of free lunging.....
Bad News:   Gem's recovery from his abscess was slow.  I took him out of his stall last week and he was still limping!  I free lunged him or walked him as recommended whenever I saw him.  I was starting to worry.  My vet was on holidays, so I decided to wait for his return and have some x-rays done. 
Good News:  LA mentioned on the weekend that he looked fine during turnout (running and bucking), so I saddled him up on Sunday and rode him at a walk for 20 minutes.  He was actually happy(?) to be doing something, I think.  He had a spring in his step and was enjoying being out.  With LA's permission, I took him on a lovely trail ride yesterday - the first real ride on him in 6 weeks!   He was amazing.  We walked through some really muddy patches, without issue.  I know!!  Mud!  It felt so good to be riding him.

Bad News:  The flies around the barn are horrific.  Gem's stall is located at the end of the barn, next to the back door.  Under normal circumstances, it's a great spot; sun, fresh air, nice view.  However, flies multiply in the manure pile around the corner.  I have a fly trap at his stall, but it has not had much of an impact this year.  When I took him out of his stall over the weekend, his left eye was a bit swollen, red and gunky; conjunctivitis brought on by the flies irritating his eyes.  I picked up some eye ointment and he has been wearing his fly mask. I hope there is some improvement soon.
Good News:  The fly spray I have been using has been doing a really good job.  Neemella not only smells nice, but it seems to keep the flies away for longer than the traditional sprays.  And, even with the billions of flies around, Gem does not seem to be suffering with bot eggs like previous years (knocking on wood as I type that).

Bad News:  Jean and Stu will be leaving the barn soon.  Jean's husband has been transferred so she will be leaving at the end of the month.  Back in June, Jean had another fall off of Stu.  A few of us met on a Sunday to go out on a trail ride.  Her lessons had been going fairly well, and Jean felt she was ready to try Stu out in the open.  Jean, RO and I were walking our horses around the paddock, waiting for DH's Mom to join us.  Jean was at the far end and all of a sudden, RO and I heard "whoa!  Whoa! WHOA!"  We turned our horses around to see Jean basically lying flat on Stu's back pulling on the reins with all of her might as he cantered out of control.  We had (stupidly) left the gate leading to the yard open, thinking that DH's Mom wasn't far behind us and Stu took advantage of the opening and raced through.  Fortunately, Jean fell with a thump before Stu ran into the barn - she would have hit the top of the barn door and sustained major injuries if she had stayed on him.  DH's Mom was still in the barn and was able to calm Stu before he hurt himself or another horse.  She made Jean get back on him (unlike the last time she fell) and she held the bridle and walked Jean around for a bit before she got off.  Jean is not exactly sure what it was that set Stu off; it might have been her boot scraping the side of the fence.  Unfortunately, Jean has been sort of reluctant to ride Stu ever since.  She will be going to a very small boarding facility that does not have an instructor or arena.  My fingers and toes are crossed that she will push herself to improve Stu's (and her) confidence and abilities in spite of the limitations at her new place.

Good News:  The weather has been decent and I am looking forward to riding my boy this week!   

Hope you are enjoying your summer!