So it's been quite awhile since I last posted... nearly 4 months and a lot has happened since then!
No, due to finances, work (I've been working steady since June - home only one week per month since August!), and a myriad of other reasons (thrown in with the occasional excuse), I was unable to show. At all this year... which was a bit of a disappointment but at the same time, I was not overly bothered because I still accomplished a lot on my horses, all considering. This next year is shaping up to be another tight one but I am hoping I can at least get in a few shows, then come 2012 my goal is to really be able to dedicate myself to my equestrian goals. By then Link will be hitting 8 and Soraya, my other up-and-comer, will be hitting 5. The other reason I have been relatively content taking it slow was that I am not overly eager to push my horses, particularly when it comes to jumping in particular. Fusion of the horse's back is not complete until (approx) the end of a horse's 5yo year, so I would rather take it slow until then and not commence the real focused jumping until the 6yo year. Which allows time to build strength in muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc; it also allows for further development in general, both physically and mentally. I have much to catch up on personally so taking it slow is beneficial also in that sense.
So as far as the horses themselves go!
Despite my working so extensively, Link has been worked fairly regularly between me and a good friend who is also riding him, though granted not to a level that has brought him much physical condition. That said, he is consistently on the bit now when I ask, is straightening and balancing himself out, increasingly working from behind, etc. He picks up his "off" lead, his right lead, regularly now, usually on the first try (though obviously we still struggle with it, hence its mention!), and we have even done a little flying change work. We have much much more to accomplish yet before we can claim proficiency, but we are getting there! Transitions are getting cleaner, lateral work, back-up, etc are all being polished. His mind is really focused now and even on the days he is a little mentally challenged (haha!), he is easy to bring back - in fact, he usually comes back of his own accord and if he's bulging etc I can correct him and bring him back onto the aids immediately and without issue. The best part is that we have started jumping with more regularity and focus! He is PHENOMENAL. He's got power, scope, is balanced and sane, and most importantly, seems to enjoy it :) Hopefully I can get some vid and photos of us to better assess both of us, and better yet, some lessons. Either way, we will benefit a lot from some gymnastics and I have some great books to get us started. First time we jumped I kept screwing up atop him - clearly I can't jump the 3'+ I used to ;) So I had to bring things down a notch but once I did and got into the flow of it myself, I was able to raise the jumps back up to 3'. He actually started stopping on me after I had screwed with him a number of times (not with his mouth or anything, just in my position up there), but once I got with the program, he would even make up for my errors between jumps :-D He has a good eye we can further develop and really seems to enjoy the work. MY focus will be on improving my position over the jumps (I cringe to say this, but I am actually doing this in a dressage saddle, too, since it is what fits him best; it is not such an issue at such low heights, but I honestly realise a jumping saddle will help - that will hopefully be my springtime purchase!) and on building my core and general fitness, which will aid the preceding. While I focus on myself, I will start teaching him via gymnastics and hopefully the two of us, with some instruction, will start shaping up into something! I am pretty excited though - the feeling, when everything goes right, is pure bliss. Working a horse from bottoms up will be of great benefit to me I think, though sometimes I wish I could get on a schoolmaster from time to time so I could focus on myself without worrying about the horse. Link is really amazing though and is really good thanks to all the work on the flat we have done thus far - he keeps his head, is cool as a cucumber, puts in a lot of effort and honesty into his work, and is naturally athletic and good at what he does. Bringing him up from the bottom though is re-instilling the confidence I used to have in jumping as well - where, due to my absence from jumping regularly and at height, I was formerly intimidated by even the 2'6'' jumps (sounds so silly!!!!), I am quickly gaining confidence with him, back to the point where 2'6'' is nothing. I feel secure on him as my trust in him increases and I just learn to let go. My job will just be to stay out of his way and not inadvertently ruin him - if I let him he will take me up. The man has so much power, LOVE it! Last I rode him it had been about 3 weeks since he was last ridden, so tons of beans under the saddle! He was bulging and spooking and generally being silly, though I got him on the aids and kept him there pretty well; even so, I could feel all that power beneath just waiting for an outlet. Finally I decided hey, I can let him out down the long sides I guess... well all I did was think the word and open my hands and BOOM he eagerly powered forward. He literally LEAPT forward, tossing in a gleeful buck. Lmfao. WHAT a character, haha! I let him play a little more (he's pretty careful in his play to not act untowardly and unseat me or such) before asking him to work once more. We focused a lot on getting him lighter and really responsive to anything and everything I might request, including doing some rollbacks and such, which required a lot of emotional discipline and fitness from him. We ARE getting there, slowly but surely. My work schedule is the real hindrance - if I could be working him 5-6 times a week, we'd be far further along than we are now. That said, I suppose taking it slow is not really hurting us and he is improving in leaps and bounds. Another recent ride we rode through the fields with a friend, including through some huge belly-deep snow drifts that, in the past, would have caused panic in Link but this time he just took it all in stride. My goal is to be off the road and working from home come June, at which time my focus will be on getting him super fit and accomplished. Even if we did not show this year but were ready to hit next season with a bang, I would be pleased. I would like him Training or First season after this, and jumping 3'+ consistently. I would also like to fit in some further Parelli groundwork in there, as well as teaching him some of the funner things such as to lay down on command ;)
I'm not sure if I noted it yet in my last posts but she is here in AB now! A ride panned out for her end of September, so she was toted through the mountains and to Edmonton, where the SO and I picked her up. To be honest the little girl is a bit of a witch haha but she is progressing. I have only worked with her a couple of times, and very very briefly. She likes things her way though and is constantly questioning and challenging! My SO had some great insight as well and really further pounded into me the need to just spend time with her to turn her around into a willing partner (this, from the guy who is new to horses, aren't I lucky!). I have a number of things planned for her, including getting her started with long-lining and ponying if possible. She's had a pad on her etc but no saddle yet. When I return home from work (permanently) she will be started under-saddle, albeit very lightly. Otherwise, she is shaping up to be a good horse - she's gorgeous and has the mind I wanted... I can see her being absolutely phenomenal once I have earned her partnership :)
Buddy is currently leased, and has been for over a month now, to a young girl doing everything with him that I used to do, so he's positively on Cloud Nine!!! He's fed hot mashes, is blanketed, has a little heart shaved into his butt (haha!), is fit as a fiddle, and is getting all the love a horse could possibly ask for. S, his lessee, has been doing everything with him from bareback riding to jumping to even playing with barrels a bit and using him in 4H. Their focus though has been team penning - they recently won the jackpot against a number of adult riders who have been penning extensively!!! I am pretty happy with the home and hope everything works out that he can stay there awhile :)
My little grape koolaid man is still doing well though is not being used as much as previously...he is still teaching his lessee's fiance and is a really good confidence-builder. His lessees are taking great care of him though are probably going to give him back up in March or so, so I'll find a new lessee for him at that time - which should not be hard given what a great horse he is.
Continues to do well though my time with her has been sparing. I admit I've sort of let her sit after really trying to sell her a few months back. Prices are down though and unless I practically gave her away, she wasn't moving, despite being a great mover, having a wonderful mind, and being very talented. She has some very minor confidence issues still yet though so I'd like to knock those off (which will not take much) - with those gone she will honestly make the perfect kids pony or hubby/beginner horse. I have been contemplating sending her to a trainer come next April and May while I am still at work, so that when I am back in June she's got a really good head start. My thought has been to send her to either a feedlot or a NH trainer who will work her on cows - give her a job to do that will instill confidence. Then I can take her back and will just have to polish her up to sell her. I'm told too her build etc makes her an interest to barrel racers, though I am not sure she would have sufficient speed? She would make a great hunter though or just an all-rounder. She is solid on the trails (alone even is a non-issue), is a packer with beginners, is very athletic, and just has a great mind (pure honest willingness, NO fight in her whatsoever). Her flatwork is solidifying though her leads are still to come, particularly to the left, so we have work to do in that area. Her conformation though lends her to carry herself naturally balanced (when she is fit!), correct, and straight - love it! I have started her over jumps a little, for the purposes of marketing. While she requires some general confidence building, she is doing well over small x-rails and verticals. So if someone were to put a solid 60 days on her putting her to work and giving her a job, then I took over to polish another 30 days and took her to a couple shows to put some accomplishment under her, um, girth (lol), I am hoping her value will be more what I originally had wanted for her. What an economy though when you cannot even sell a young, talented, promising mare who is never marish and needs very minimal work. She's virtually bombproof in general, is not spooky, is willing and sweet, moves like a dream... what more could you want?? Lol. Ah well, as long as she goes to a good home, I'm a happy camper! Next project horse we buy in the winter when prices are low, work over the winter, and sell in the spring ;) I have had quite a bit of interest in her though, so we'll see what transpires either now or in the near future!
Continues to do well ridden by his intermediate riders 3x a week with a lesson once a week - they still love and dote on the man, so I couldn't be happier :) Only thing left to do is get my mom up there on him more, which will come in due time, haha.
The muffin man is doing okay right now... I am a little disappointed as he is currently unsound and has been since his arrival home. I am betting he came out of his last race pretty lame but am giving the benefit of the doubt to his previous owner/trainer. I could feel he was "off" when I first purchased him however it was nothing note-worthy and not even anything overly noticeable on the ground, though you could (barely) feel it under-saddle. I figured he simply needed a bit of time and only rode him lightly a couple of times; I thought it could be chiro, or because I had just pulled his shoes off, or something minor. But after two months it wasn't clearing up and he needed his teeth done anyway, so into the vet we went! I expected the vet to tell me it was something minor like a stretched ligament in his stifle. He seemed to be off on his left shoulder, but his right hock also seemed not quite right. Well we got there and the vet felt his stifle ligament was fine - so we ended up doing a full lameness workup from flexions to blocks, though no xrays as per the vet as we were already sitting at $600 and our initial treatment at the time was likely going to be the same irregardless of xrays. Initially my vet had trouble seeing anything but Phoenix was reactive to hoof testers on both fronts and when we did flexions and worked him on really packed ground, we could finally see a head bob on that left front. With blocks, we determined it to be the left front fetlock joint and as that lameness cleared up with the block, we were able to also see a lameness in his right hind - possibly his hock but also possibly higher up. My vet felt though that the right hind lameness (if you can call it that, as it was barely there) might simply be a result of the two legs being diagonal pairs and thus that we should focus on the LF and then see how the RH fared after treating and clearing up the LF. SO, the plan was to inject the RF and see what happened. If he remained sound for a year, we were probably simply dealing with arthritis (he HAS run hard and long, after all), but if he became unsound earlier, it was more likely he had a bone chip or other such injury and we would need to do xrays at that time. Btw Phoenix was phenomenal with the vets, putting up with our shaving, flexions, forcing him to work on hard ground - everything. He didn't complain no matter the extent of our poking, prodding, and generally causing him pain. Well, Phoenix seemed much improved after the injection. For a couple of days. I came home from work to assess him and took him out for a ride - he clearly did not want to be ridden but humoured me and went with it. Walk I could feel him off a little, trot he was a little worse, but canter he was FINE!! Brought him back down to a trot though and he was DEAD LAME. Head-bobbing lame. I had ridden him a MAX of 10min and he was so sore he was not only reluctant to walk when I got off, but he was pointing his left front. I apologized profusely to him (though I had needed to know how he was and u/s had felt like the best way to assess him so I could compare to his last ride), untacked him, and let him be. I think he was a little miffed at me for sure, as next day I went out he acted a little PO'd. Some mash though definitely went a ways in making up for it though and I was back to being his best friend in a matter of days ;) While I was away he had dropped a substantial amount of weight too, despite his teeth having JUST been done, so we've been since shoveling the feed into him and he does seem to be picking up; in addition to the beat pulp and senior feed he is also on a roundbale 24/7 and by himself so no one can pick on him. We went through a good couple weeks of temps that dropped into the -40C's though too, so he is now blanketed too in an effort to keep him warmer and put those calories to good use. Vet says we are likely looking at a bone chip, a bone bruise, a fracture, or something of the like with that left ankle. So right now, Phoenix is on Previcoxx (an off-label variant of Bute, though one without all the side effects Bute has) until spring. At that time, we will pull him off the Prevacox, re-evaluate him with xrays, and see what we can do. Fingers crossed I am hoping that it is something simple we can fix for under a few thousand. If so, we'll do everything humanely possible to make him sound again - he's too good a horse to lose so early!! I am hoping it does not turn out to be something requiring euthanasia however I suppose we will see.
As I blogged on my sister blog The Perfect Horse (here), Cody unfortunately had to be euthanised back in September. It was a hard blow, especially since I was at work at the time, with no option (or reason) to come home. Due to a freak pasture accident, both tendons and arteries in his hind leg were severed. When the vet called me, he was bleeding out and going into shock, despite their best efforts. He had no use of his foot and we did not know how long that foot had been without circulation. Surgery would have been risky with a poor outcome at best, especially considering we had no idea whether or not the foot could even be saved with circulation restored, and it was pricey. The vet felt the best option was euthanasia so I made the call to end his pain and suffering. I wish I could have been there to tell him it was okay, but he had some really good friends (the barn owner and barn manager both were there with him) to comfort and love him in his last moments. They say it was all pretty peaceful. We lost a great horse that day. The vet walked the pasture with the BO and BM and failed to find anything suspect - she told me it is the safest facility she has been to (all round board pasture, board shelter, nothing inappropriate in the pasture). Both the BO and BM felt terrible but as I pointed out, there was nothing they could have done different and their actions at the end went above and beyond. My SO happened to be working in the area though and had positively seen a cougar pouncing around the field next door both the night previous and a couple days later, so we wonder if that had something to do with it? The vet felt it was not a cat-related injury (large cats usually go for the withers or throats) however the entire herd was pretty riled up that morning apparently; it is possible the cat was hanging around and Cody spun and kicked at a striking cat, whose claws ripped the tendons and arteries (no easy feat)? A human could never have approached Cody like that and there is nothing in the pasture he could have caught himself on, plus Cody was the smallest and thus perhaps easiest target there at only 14.2hh or so. We'll never know I suppose, sometimes those things just happen!
So, both good and bad news, but we carry on through. Hopefully next spring I can report that Phoenix is successfully on the mend or that he is sound, and I will strive hard to accomplish what I want with both Link and Soraya this year. Wish us luck and I will try to post more regular updates! In the mean time, feel free to enjoy some recent photos of Silver, Soraya, and Phoenix (respectively).