Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strangles scare

Well the afternoon was commenced with a work on Missy. I had intended to take her out on the trails but our roundpen liberty work ended up being carried over into riding and I just felt it more appropriate to continue our session in the roundpen than on the trails. Her groundwork was ok, with her coming in to me regularly, but her draw was not strong enough to circle me or such - if I asked her to move out, she was gone. Yet when I asked her to come in, she would come in, though she was not as in tune with me as say Cody was yesterday. I'd have to make it very obvious to her that I wanted her in, as she was somewhat focused on the great outdoors outside of the (outdoor) roundpen! Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating! I think next roundpen session I will work her a little harder to get her attention, but this time I took it a little easier on her - w/t/c though (and she picked up the correct leads!). I figured it out too after watching the Parelli Lead Changes DVD; horses will often crossfire because they are not balanced sufficiently and are not wide-stanced in their hindquarter. Linda explains it much better than I, so I'll have to go over my notes, lol. So when a horse is injured or such and cannot have a wide stance, they will also crossfire. Though Missy is not really "injured" and she certainly was not lame on the leg she banged up awhile ago, I could tell - because I knew her movement, that she was slightly off on that leg. So my theory is that the injury did have an effect (which I had been suspicious about) - she wasn't standing wide because she didn't want to bear so much weight and impact on that sore leg and thus was crossfiring. It wasn't noticeable, except for its effects - the crossfire. Anyways, as her leg heals, she seems to be able to pick up her leads easier as well. Much of it is likely just a balance issue as well. Not that we've been working on it much, but I have had her canter on the ground a bit and she has been picking it up alright lately. She is starting to balance herself a little, though she is still having issues balancing herself with the weight of a rider. Anyways. Under-saddle she was ok at first, but it took a bit for me to earn her respect before she was really responsive. At first she simply walked through my aids, but we trotted (transitions, point to point, etc) and did a little canter, really working on impulsion (in the trot), and eventually she started responding beautifully, to the point where I didn't have to use reins to direct her or have her transition. It was beautiful! It took a lot of painstaking work to get there (lol) but we did it and ended on a good note, with her sappily snuggling into my arm for a rub, as usual (*roll eyes* mares, lol). Turns out she was also in heat (which I figured out later as she waved her tail at Cody), so I guess I can forgive her a bit for her unresponsiveness and grumpiness at first, especially if that is the worst she is going to do, particularly while working outdoors, where it is already more challenging to keep her focus, lol.

Ah, so I picked up Cody out of his pen while taking Missy back to the barn, with the intent of feeding him while I worked Link, seeing how he would likely miss dinner if I worked him after Link. This way though Link would get back in time for dinner, which he really needs, but Cody could be fed both before and after his session, so he'd get a pretty full meal. I left Cody tied long in the barn, eating out of a pile of hay, and dropped off Missy, retrieving Link on my way back to the barn. He seemed pretty mellow, maybe even a bit lethargic, which set of warning bells for me...on the other hand, I wasn't sure if he was just relaxed and in a better frame of mind since all our ranch work? He'd lost a bit of weight though and his eyes somehow didn't seem as expressive. To top it all off, we'd noticed what seemed to be perhaps a swollen vertebrae the other night after my lesson; not only was it still there (I don't think it's been there before? I have such a terrible memory, especially if I deem something irrelevant, lol), but his throatlatch was 'swollen'. Not under his throat, like in the lymph nodes, but at the side of his head, directly behind the jaw. Of course Strangles was my first thought, so I called the vet out. I wasn't sure if it was an emergency or not, but I had rather be safe than sorry! I immediately sequestered him and started disinfecting everything, including myself, before I would have anything to do with Cody. I told the barn owner and asked if we could keep him in a stall, isolated, for the night if we thought it was something contagious, and she agreed. The vet came out though and within minutes determined it was almost guaranteed not to be Strangles. He wasn't sure why both areas were swollen, but though Link was slightly sensitive in both areas, he was able to turn and even shake his head and neck easily. Also, Link lacked the snot and feverish temperature of a horse with Strangles (though I knew he didn't have the snotty nose, I figured maybe it could be because the Strangles was only just starting to manifest). The vet felt his throatlatch would be much more swollen should it have been Strangles (and his lymph nodes should have been enlarged); he showed me how it was actually his salivary glands that were enlarged. Apparently they (vets) have no idea why this happens yet (it is suspected to be an allergic reaction to different grasses, or the result of a feed change, etc etc). Oh goody. I did not work Link (it was getting late by the time all was said and done and I wasn't sure how he was feeling) though and the vet said just to watch the swelling and make sure it didn't become enlarged. We stalled him away from the other horses though just in case. Tomorrow evening I will be in and I'll exercise him and make sure he is ok - if so, I'll turn him back out with the others. I was looking forward to some liberty work with him though! I'll try to do some with him would be nice to get some under-saddle time in on him too, since I could be away for a couple of days prior to our next lesson on Friday.

Anyway, by the time all this was said and done, I didn't really feel like riding Cody and was running short on time, so I resorted to simply doing some liberty work with him...I actually recorded it on my camera :) Cody was not quite in sync and responsive to me today as he was yesterday - yesterday his entire focus was on me, whereas today I had to work for it a little (I know, poor me - so spoiled, lol) by having him move out some or disengage, etc. We played the circling game though at liberty, with his circling in close proximity to me at the walk going in one direction - going in the other direction though I tended to "lose" him. That's ok though; even though we didn't achieve as much as yesterday, it is still a lot, especially coming from him! We built up draw too as we worked and he began to sync up more with me. We also did some friendly game at liberty (just with the carrot stick) as well as driving game. After that, we attached ropes and played the sideways game, yo-yo, porcupine, and more circling. I finished his session by teaching him to lead by his forelock, mane, front legs, back legs (back-up) and tail, as well as to porcupine his head down. He is such a quick study! He couldn't get the tail thing, so I started by playing the yo-yo while standing at his shoulder. I gradually worked my way back towards his tail until I was standing almost directly behind his tail and yo-yo'ing him back towards me. Then the next step was just to pick up his tail and apply gentle pressure; if he didn't respond (which he didn't at first; he had no idea what I wanted, lol), then I yo-yo'd him back to help him figure it out. Within a try or two he was moving back by light tail pressure without my having to use the yo-yo game. It was awesome! While I might question how much someone has taught him in other areas, I think I can pretty confidently say that no one has ever taught him to ever lead by the tail and thus that his quick progress today was a result of his thinking and intelligence rather than previous knowledge, lol. He is so responsive though; for example, even when I picked up the tail the first time (very lightly - only about a third of the hairs or so and only lifting, not pulling), he was already starting to ask questions and trying to figure out what I wanted. Leading by the legs, he picked it up as if he'd been doing such thing for years, lol. He had a little trouble figuring out how to lead by his hinds, but he got it in short order. All this makes me question how much he really was taught. For example, all our arena work yesterday - maybe he really didn't know thing such as leg aids and hard stops on a light mouth but had simply learned, over this past month of quality trail riding, how to read me and put together the rest with his smarts! I can recall my first ride on him, just trying him out to see how he was, he seemed to have absolutely no idea of what leg aids were, he had a hard mouth (ie. directional) and was not all that responsive (ie. to weight shifts or such). My first time taking him out on the trails (ie. looking for, and herding, cattle all day) he grew lighter and lighter within moments it seemed, until he had a light mouth and was responsive to my weight changes. He didn't seem to fully understand leg aids, though it seemed he had a bit of an idea of them (I've been using them a little when I ride) and when we actually worked on them yesterday, it seemed to just click with him, like he was thinking "oh, so that's what that meant all those rides ago - now I understand!!" And *boom* like magic, he had leg aids. Lol. So I'm leaning more towards the "he's just plain smart" theory, lol. All our horses are brilliant and are great partners and individuals, but this horse just never ceases to amaze me. I think I'm falling in love, haha. Not to put down Link, Silver, or Koolaid though. They're all so different and great to work with and each has their unique talents, just Cody is not only willing but he is so light and responsive too! From Link to Silver even (who are both very light and responsive, just as much so as Cody), I still have to work (even if just a little, as in with Silver) to get that willingness to work with me, but it's like Cody just hands it to me, on a silver platter. He's so focused in on me and waiting to do what I ask. And despite all he has (obviously) been through. It's beautiful!!

The hope tomorrow is to get in as much as I can, but I am not sure how much I will get in... busy schedule with a course to do and a new job to start over this week. I'll be back Friday though for Link's and my lesson :)

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