Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finally, Starting to Get It

At the last clinic I attended of Peggy's, she noted that our horses should stop in their neutral position. That is, with a lowered head and weight on the rear. However, most horses learn that they stop on their forehand and therefore their heads come up when stopping. She used a couple of examples in the connected groundwork with the student on different "spots" you can apply pressure (level 1 or 2, examples of this given in her book) to help the horse stay connected and telescoped as they transition down to the halt. At the clinic I didnt get a clear shot of those three different locations, and have since been fumbling with my attempts to work on our neutral halting with Milo on the ground.

So at the end of my last lesson, I asked Sarah to demonstrate the different positions for me. One is pressure on the cheek just underneath the side piece of the halter. Another is right in the center of their neck, and for this location its your entire forearm. Sarah showed me with her arm grasping some mane, and from wrist to elbow making a steady contact against Milo's neck perpendicular. A good visual for me was it was right between two spots on his neck. She said Milo would probably respond the best from this location and she showed me how tight he was at that point in his neck.

I experimented with these two locations as I worked on our groundwork at home. I also incorporated more combing the line to help Milo find connection again, as well as combing the line above my head. Milo was taking the line and connecting, and I would encourage him to become more active in his hind end by increasing the energy above his croup with the lunge whip (only tapping Milo if no response above). As we would move downward in our transition, I combed the line gaining some until I was right at his head with the line drawn like a bow. With my inside arm, I tried the press on his neck as shown by Sarah. At first, Milo tensed up, but eventually stretched forward into the connection of the line and allowed his neck to relax. However, this did not seem to be the spot for him to stop in neutral posture. Instead, even with the connection on the line and a telescoped neck, he would stop heavy on the front and raise his head.

So I repeated our forward and instead tried with my inside hand to apply pressure to his cheek. This location too allowed him to stretch forward into contact, and as I slowed my body and breathing down, we soon crept down to a halt in neutral position. It took a few rotations, however, but I remembered Peggy demonstrating it on horses at the clinic, and mentioning that it can take time for them to learn how to stop in this new position. So I would allow Milo all the time to process to allow his body to stop balanced. I repeated this whole process on the other side as well. I always find it so surprising that by the end of these groundwork exercises, how complacent and content my horse is. No longer grabbing at the halter or bridle, or looking around at others passing the arena or riding in it. He gets that "zen face" I showed to you before, and licks and chews, totally happy with himself and his surroundings. If that is all we get out of any of the groundwork exercises we do, than I am pleased with that.

Another exercise Peggy demonstrated at the clinic, and one I described in that post, was moving the shoulders around. Excerpted from that post:

"Another good reminder was to stay soft in our bodies, and Peggy demonstrated an exercise I have read from her book, but didnt quite know how to apply it. For horses who are stuck in their front feet (the good majority of handled horses, Peggy commented) this exercise is to help them unstick their feet and bend through their neck. She would apply cheek pressure (and by pressure, its more just touch), and with equal consistency with her "active" right hand (applying the pressure) and her "outside" hand (those are terms I just came up with to describe with), then with her body she would ask the horse to move away and unstick his feet. This was not pressing the horse over, it was opening the possibility for the horse to do so, and if he chose not to, she brought his head back towards her, then tried again, or walked off as necessary. In this exercise, Peggy made an excellent comparison to that "outside hand" as being that consistent support the horse needs, much like an outside rein when riding. This really hit home for me, reminding me the importance of creating consistent connection on that line."

Typically, it seemed, if the horse wanted to stop on their front with their head in the air, usually their shoulders were stuck "with drills from their hooves into the ground" as Peggy put it. I experimented with the same exercise she had shown by encouraging Milo to move his front feet as I encouraged him to turn from the standstill. I was surprised to find how readily my horse moved away. There were a few moments of a slight stick, but I would bring his head back to straight, and try again. I was pleased to find that my horse was not as stuck on the front end as I had anticipated.

Finally,  I have had another "Aha" moment for the stop, and actually for most any use on a line as well. Peggy says in her book to think "up" with the wrist. I have read that and heard her say it many times now, but never really got what she meant by that. The other day I was leading Milo in the barn aisle and as I went to halt him, my hand came down wanting the head to come down. This only created resistance and Milo's head came up, planting his front feet. I backed him, again with my hand thinking "down" but suddenly realized that that was only encouraging his head to go up. I remembered back a few months ago when my farrier said that he moves with the horse when they move. If he tightened up against them, it only creates more tension. So I led Milo down the aisle way again, and this time, thought "up" with my wrist. Wouldnt you know, Milo stopped balanced and with his head down. I backed him, still thinking "up" and he backed with his spine elevated, and his head down.

It's funny how you can read or hear something so many times, and not fully understand or practice what you keep replaying in your head. But then the moment comes where it clicks and makes total sense, and it's like your horse takes a deep breath and says, "finally, she gets it."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Really Feeling What Balanced Is

At the end of my lesson on Saturday, Sarah noted that the rear quarters of my saddle (right where the two sections come together, and you can see the two sections clearly next to one another) were a good indication to pay attention to after rides, to determine the balance of your seat when riding. Sure enough, they proved a clear story of my balance, with the right quarter lower than the left, indicating that I was more heavy on my right seat bone. I have mentioned before, and Sarah has made me aware of through my last few lessons, my difficulty in finding my left seat bone. I believe I have gotten better (even Sarah mentioned it at last week's lesson on Wesley) thanks to the running I started, which is helping to free up my hips. Also being aware of the "problem" helps keep me actively assessing my riding position.

After seeing the rear quarters of the saddle, Sarah asked me to bend over and touch my toes. I did, then she placed a shim (same neoprene shims she uses for saddle fitting) under my left foot and asked me to try again. I just barely reached my toes noting that it was much more difficult and my lower back was strained. So she swapped the shim to my right foot and as I bent over again, with her keeping her knowledgeable hands just above my hips, I found it much easier. She noted that my right hip is "out". She further explained that our bodies, when trying to compensate for something uneven, will tighten or loosen certain areas to allow ourselves to stay stabilized as we move. This meant that my right leg was shorter, causing my hips to be uneven, and subsequently, the right side of my torso to "collapse" to compensate for the unevenness.

This made so much sense. I remembered back to when I broke my leg as a five year old, and believe that that substantial injury must have effected the continued growth of my leg. As I grew and began walking again, my body began to compensate for it's shortcomings. Now I have a lifetime of uneven holding patterns that we need to figure out how to unlock undersaddle.

To begin, Sarah adjusted my stirrup length on the right side up one hole. This will allow me to keep my hips even as I ride, and begin to loosen the collapse that I have in the right side of my torso. She advised that the next time I ride I simply ride without thinking about the changed stirrup.

As I mounted for the first time after the lesson, I honestly forgot about the stirrup change until a few minutes into the ride. I was amazed by how balanced and centered I felt. I didnt have to work hard continuously to find weight in my left seat bone. Instead, I was naturally balanced on both hip bones, and it felt great. It was definitely a moment where I, for the first time, realized what it felt to be balanced between both seat bones. I didnt fight the saddle tilting one way or another, and could now focus on my core stability and just ride.

And I had a great ride. I reinforced some of the exercises and concepts I learned at the last lesson, and Milo moved beautifully. He had a little trouble on the counter canter to the left, as we had at the lesson, but this time it only took the second attempt and he counter cantered continuously. Balance, such that I have felt when working on it with Wesley, will come as strength and stamina build for Milo. But the stepping stones are in place. Oh and you know what else? We finally have a planted foot for a spin. Could it be the strength building exercises we have been working on for his hocks? Or could it be the balance in my hips now? Probably both. But I should have taken a picture of the hole Milo's foot dug into the arena dirt. Priceless.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Change in Seat

We arrived at my lesson with Sarah slightly early, and with her previous appointment a little late. Milo, fortunately, was not worked up about his meet with Diego, and stood tied to the trainer sleepy-eyed and quietly. I tacked him up, and Sarah said I could begin warming him up as she addressed the saddle fitting with her other appointment. I started him off with a little bit of groundwork, encouraging him to lift his back and reach laterally with his hind end. After a little while both directions, I fastened the headstall onto him and climbed aboard.

I warmed up working on some squares, trying to establish straight definitive lines and even, lifted shoulders through the turns. Milo was working well, and Sarah noted too that the work looked good. Appointment now done, we were able to officially begin the lesson.

Sarah had me work on large figure eight circles, much the same as I had been doing with Wesley, at the trot. Encouraging lateral movement from the hips out of the circle, establishing straight again through the circle, and again laterally on the new circle direction. Milo was doing well but it was quickly discovered that it was much harder for him to step his hip laterally going to the right (hips to the right, tracking on a left circle). Sarah encouraged me to torso twist from counter to center. Coming to center was where Milo really started to "bog down", so we tried the twisting with a little more nose to the inside, making it easier for him to swing his hip out. Finally, we were getting some nice lateral steps at the trot, and it showed back on the straight-of-way.

A few pounds heavier and only his third ride back into work after two weeks off, Milo now needed a break, and Sarah brought to light a new concept to me for lifting his back. She had me try simply squeezing with my inner calf, and while holding my lower leg lightly on him, making sure that my seatbones came more up and away from the saddle. This was not me lifting myself entirely out of the tack, it was engaging my inner leg to lift my weight up off of him and sit really tall and light. Instantly, my horse lowered his head and lifted his back. I now could make sense of all of those instances where Sarah told me to lighten my seat to allow Milo to lift up underneath me. But, it was hard work.

She had me experiment with it at the walk, tightening my inner thigh and allowing Milo to come up into the tack, and only asking with my spur if there was no response. But it was totally evident that there was a significant response to just my leg. We picked it up to the trot, and Milo moved beautifully. There were some instances where he needed my spur again, but even Sarah remarked how freely his hips were swinging. It was clearly beneficial for him, just taxing work for me. Just another thing to think about now! Sheesh! I know, I know, in time it will become second nature, much like my neutral position now.

Sarah then had me stop Milo, back up while taking my weight off of him and sitting up tall, then transfer that same lift and elevation into the outside rein, loading the outside hock, then walking off again. "See where I'm going with this?" she asked. I did - we were going to work on lope departure. I find it slightly amazing that I get a level of dread thinking about working on it, but at the same time know that it needs to be worked on. It is just difficult to piece all the information together and allow my body to allow Milo's body to move properly.

After a few repetitions of the back exercise, Sarah instructed that when that moment was right, and Milo was on the outside rein with hock loaded, to ask for the lope depart. The first time wasnt horrible, and wasnt phenomenal, but good. I had serious issues with getting him to round up and keep moving forward. He tried to take my spur direction as one to slow down, not to lift up. But naturally, the problem was coming from me as I was unengaged in my own core, and not riding with that lighter seat, allowing Milo to lift into the tack. Once that was addressed, and I worked my abs and thigh, Milo started to come up over his back.

We then took this into the counter canter work to start developing him for the lead change again, and building strength in the hock, while suppling it and his spine. This was the same work I had been working on with Wesley, so I now knew what the correct feel was that I was aiming for. From a balanced canter circle, I would drive him straight into the new outside rein, then torso twist in my body as needed to encourage him to stay on the counter canter. The first attempt was difficult, but soon we both started to get it, and as I allowed my horse to come into my light seat, we had some nice counter canter work, with lateral hip steps as well. I sat deep for a stop, which wasnt perfect on my part - too much of the lean back and braced back again. But Milo stopped deep and down, Sarah even said his hind feet were almost tracking ahead of the fronts. And thats the angle of his leg placement, not the length of a slide. Thats a pretty deep stop!

Sarah let us both have a walk break, and we both needed it. Once we caught our breath, Sarah had us develop the new outside rein and repeat that back exercise as needed to prepare Milo for the lope departure work in the new direction. It was difficult for the both of us, and Milo would brace his jaw against the bit and bulge the outside shoulder out. Sarah instructed me to counter bend him by taking his nose to the inside and bump with the inside spur to encourage him to step his shoulder laterally away. It took multiple tries until finally I quit collapsing my side, and Milo finally opened up his shoulder and stepped it over his outside leg. We repeated it a few times, then got back to preparing for the lope departure. With the much needed shoulder awareness, I felt we were almost ready for the lope work.

Then Milo realized for the first time that someone was sitting in the viewing porch next to the arena. He had been sitting there watching the entire time, but now moved slightly and Milo was entirely aware of his presence, now side stepping away from him and puffing, quite concerned.

It did effect our performance in the right lead now, because not only was Milo anticipatory of that length of the arena, but I was now becoming tense in my body, and tired, and was not allowing him to lift up into the tack. But we worked through it, and were finally able to get a balanced lope on the outside rein. Milo was tired and as we attempted the counter canter, he repeatedly tried to break or change leads. Sarah addressed me again to soften my seat and instead of driving my spur into him, to just tap it.

Preparing for another balanced canter, then across the figure eight and into the counter canter, I torso twisted, lifting my body and staying soft on my outside rein, lightly tapping Milo's hip out from my spur, we finally got an entire counter canter circle without break downs, or excessive driving from me.

As always, the softer I stay in my body, the more I engage in myself, the better my horse performs. Who knew riding was so difficult. But those Aha moments and the feel of a balanced and beautiful lope sure make it all worthwhile. Just tell that to my sore body now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Milo Get's a New Pasture-Mate

It is well known that Milo lived in a pasture with another boarder's horse, Jake. They have happily enjoyed each other's company for the last year. When one would leave, the other would call to him. They formed a close friendship. But there were some downfalls - we constantly had to monitor the grain intake Jake was getting. It was important that Jake get all of the medications in his grain, and Milo would not consume it. But Milo regularly got far less grain per day than Jake, so naturally he would finish quickly, and Jake, not one to defend the grain he did not desire so much anyways, always relinquished the excess grain to Milo. We always seemed to work around this, be it through adjusting when they each got fed, standing there and warding off Milo until Jake finished, or feeding Jake separately outside of the pasture. Needless to say, feeding was always a hassle and we never seemed to get it just right.

Most recently we all discovered, that Jake is insulin-resistant and can no longer live on the lusciously sugar enriched grasses of the pasture. We tried making sure he was getting a 24 hour muzzle kept on, but he was depressed for it, and even more finicky on drinking water with it on (a problem he already had). Finally, with vet recommendation, it was decided that he would have to be moved to a dry lot. At his age he certainly couldnt stay in a stall and run, but who would give up their dry lot for him? There is no abundance of them at the facility. It was decided, however, that one would, and so Saturday morning was the date we could all get together and make the introductions.

Meet Diego.

Clearly, Milo still wants to remain top-dog. 
Diego is owned by Painted Valley (he was my friend Heather's barrel horse some time ago), but is now full leased by someone and kept at the facility. Diego is a big boy, as you can tell from the following photos, and is being ridden with dressage principles in mind. He shares a personality much like Milo - big and goofy. I think they should get along fine. But here is how it panned out.

A brief introduction over the fence, and Diego was then led into the pasture, and halter removed. We let him trot around for a while, taking in his new home, as I held Milo with a halter and lead. Milo was highly interested, but remained firm next to me. Finally, I unclipped the lead line, and Milo trotted straight away at Diego.

An initial touch of noses, then Milo veered to the rear of Deigo. Diego responded by double barrel kicking out to Milo, but made no contact (to my relief - Diego is fully shod). Milo was absolutely taken aback by this manner, and he snorted and pranced around the pasture, disbelieving that his rein of King of the Pasture could be over. The trotted out more, bucking and leaping for more good measure. I missed the best theatrics on camera, but managed to get some.

Mom, who is this horse in my pasture?

Haha - you can barely see Milo behind Diego. He certainly has size on Milo. 
A good-bye to Jake before leaving to our lesson. 
I was nervous that the excitement in the air would carry over to our lesson. But fortunately the half hour drive seemed to relax Milo, and he was quiet and calm as we arrived at the lesson (more on that in another post). But when we returned home through the back driveway, now where Jake was located, they let each other know the other was there, and Jake trotted the fenceline with us as the boys called back and forth to each other.

With time, they should dissolve their attachment to each other. It took a while initially for Jake to get close to Milo after Covergirl left for the school year last September. Hopefully Milo and Diego can form a friendship together soon, and an agreement over dinner-time. I suspect that they should do fine.

When I brought Milo back into the pasture, they touched noses...

 And went their separate ways.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meet the Lovely Ladies

I talk of "the girls" in some of my posts referring to Fridays. That's because of a partial work exchange for boarding costs, where I clean the other two pastures that Milo isnt in. There are a total of three pastures in front of the facility which is tucked away behind a treeline buffer from the busy highway. Milo and Jake are in one, and Jake's owner cleans their pasture. I clean the other two which house the BO's broodmares. While only one is expecting for next year, they all get to reside in the broodie pastures. The BO generally never lets anyone board in her pastures, but for Milo and Jake (and Covergirl, Jake's owner's other horse home from college in the summer) she made an exception.

So, since I spend so much time in the pastures with the girls, and mention them here from time to time, I think some proper introductions should be made.

This is Dusty, "A Hot Scene". 
Dusty is a very pretty, sweet mare who was bred for a 2012 foal, but due to complications, now will not.

I love her spots and coloring. 
Oh, Dusty mare. 
Gracefully Impressed, or just Grace. 
Oh, Gracie. An inquisitive mare, but very shy. I dont think she likes me much because I always have the loud and clamoring wheelbarrow and pitchfork, which makes her spook. I also fill the water tub and when I leave the hose in it and clean, she pokes her nose into the filling trough, causing the hose to fly out and consequently dowse her in cold water. She subsequently spooks and bolts to the other side of the pasture. And yet this scenario plays out nearly every week....

Oh, and beware hanging jackets on the fence rail. From experience they get drug into the mud and stomped beyond any hopes of cleaning.

You might remember Gracie from a post back in March, where she displayed her great displeasure to Dusty's visit to her boyfriend.

As I check the water, she checks the manure....and happens to scratch herself. 
I do like Gracie; shes exceptionally pretty and has produced many nice foals for the farm. She just doesnt allow me to give her scratches, which I wish she would reconsider.

Here's miss pretty Lexi, CCR Cando Dynamic
Lexi is the Momma to Milo's girlfriend, Missy. Definitely like Mother like Daughter, in many ways.

Miss Lexi is in foal for a 2012 baby. I dont remember which stud she was bred to here locally, but I'm sure it will be another pretty baby when it comes. I've ridden Lexi once, and it was a few months back now. Shes a nice mover, but shes a little unpredictable under saddle. Great broodmare though.

Finally, this is Covergirl (not sure her registered name, if she is). 
Covergirl is Jake's "sister". They are owned by the same owner. Before Milo was moved to the pasture with Jake, Covergirl had been with him for a long time. But her owner went to her first year at college this year, and took her with her. At first, no one thought Jake could get over it, but eventually he got close to Milo. Not wanting to split up the boys this summer, Covergirl is in the pasture with Lexi across the driveway.

Covergirl is a curious horse, but can be a little timid. Shes a short and thick stature, and her owner uses her for gaming.

So those are the girls of the pastures this summer. Painted pretties!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Beginning of a New Road

So yesterday was my first day at my new job. Thats right! I got a new job! I hadnt posted anything until all things were absolutely official and I had worked my first day. I am a front end helper at Costco. The entry level pay is just as good as I was getting at my last job, and they are willing to give me overtime and additional hours (I was hired on Part Time). I know the Front End Manager through Sarah (her daughter's horse is in training and boarded with her), so she very much has been instrumental to not only landing the job, but helping me get full time hours. I gotta say, helping the cashiers and running carts is tiresome work, but Costco sure seems like a good company to be working for, and they promote from within.

My schedule is not concrete like I was used to for the last year, so I will have to figure out the best times to go see Milo, be that early morning before work, or late in the evening. Either way, it should work out in my favor around the peak lesson times, so thats a bonus.

Today I started early and got off at 2:30, so I was able to go and see Milo after work. I tacked him up and started a little groundwork in the indoor arena. The lesson was taken to the outdoor arena and I was glad for that because I wasnt sure how Mr Two-Weeks-Off would handle himself, but he did well. He looked solidly sound as I put him through his paces. He wasnt as eager to engage from the rear or lift his back, but hopefully those muscle memories will come back sooner rather than later.

With Milo looking pretty good, I decided to get on. Interestingly, I didnt feel as "home in the saddle", and its probably from cheating on Milo with Wesley for my last two rides and lessons. Milo was wiggly and needed a lot of basic schooling. We did work at the walk, trot, and canter, but in brief amounts and in episodes I felt he could handle. I was acutely aware of how uneven I was sitting in the saddle - most likely from my own muscle memory of how I had been sitting on my own horse. I very consciously had to try and find my left seat bone, keeping my core strong.

Milo had a lot of get-up-and-go, wanting to rather speed up from the spur instead of lift and engage his back. After some repetition on that, he then changed to trying to become a spur stop training horse, wanting to instantly stop when I applied my spur. It will come back with time, I hope. I'm just glad that he is remaining sound.

I only rode him for maybe fifteen minutes, and Mr Chub was tired and sweaty (although it was a bit muggy). All he has been doing is eating the yummy spring grass and getting fat - I had to drop his flank cinch by an entire hole! His belly has gotten bigger. I could tell from the sweat marks that he wasnt using himself properly, but I wasnt surprised based on how the ride went. It wasnt a terrible ride by any means, but we have to get our "neutral and engaged posture" back to the consistency we had two weeks prior. Again, it will just take time, and I need to remind myself to find my centered balance on my own horse now.

His blow-site looked more clean as well, but I still "scrubbed" it out and applied some Betadine - theres no way I want any infection creeping back in. Interestingly, it is in the same exact location as the abscess from January, and the blow site is nearly identical. I will have to remember to keep a sharp eye for it in the coming months, as he hoof grows out and the "sole cleft" comes to the end as did the January one, creating a nasty looking split flare.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Milo looked quite sound on Monday when I checked on him after my lesson on Wesley. I led him to the barn and watched him walk and trot behind me. Although looking good, I didnt want to test my limits by putting him in the round pen just yet, so I merely groomed him and put him away.

Tuesday, he was looking just as good, if not even better at the trot - not a single catch I could see from the left hind. He moved smoothly and easily trotting up the driveway with me. I groomed him meticulously, and lifted his hind foot for our regular examination. While there was no heat or swelling same as the day before, I did see something else:

Excuse the blurry dark photo, but you see that on his heel bulb? Looks to me like a blown abscess-site. Now isnt that just interesting? He was tender to my touching it, but not evasive. I washed it out and put some Betadine on it and let it dry.

Deciding he was sound enough, I tacked him up and led him to the round pen with the Peggy halter on. Although his saddle was on, I did not plan on riding. I put the saddle on mostly for Milo to get into a "work mode" more than a goof off one as he did the week before when I put him in the round pen.

We worked on combing the line, walking, stopping, and anything else that came to mind at the moment. Milo was connecting with me - even tuning out the distraction of frisky turned-out horses, crackling voices from the goats on the other side of the round pen fence, and the typical hub-bub of movement at a busy boarding facility. He had a few moments of resistance, but always came back. I always know things are coming along correctly when Milo goes into his "zen-face":

The camera didnt catch the tongue, but you can bet it was peeking in and out. Now compare this to the image of Milo avoiding flies in the cross ties just ten minutes earlier:

(And your eyes arent deceiving you - that IS sunlight in the background of the previous image, and streaking in from the stalls in the barn. It reached 77 degrees and we pitifully were sweating in it. Us Pacific Northwesterners dont seem to know the meaning of "heat" anymore!)

A productive and rewarding few minutes in the round pen made the forty minute commute to Milo all worth it, even if I didnt ride.

Milo gets a drink after our "workout" in the "heat". 
So what was going on with his hoof? Strange that that could be an abscess site considering I never soaked him, or for that matter, even put anything on his hoof to help draw any infection out. But I'm not complaining if an abscess did correct itself without any assistance on my part. I guess it probably was a stone bruise manifested into an abscess - but why no heat? Totally puzzling. But for now, I will continue to cross my fingers that the worst is behind us, and soon we can start working under saddle again. In the meantime, I still cleaned and treated the heel bulb, here's hoping nothing else comes from this!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Milo has a New Friend!

A bouy!!

The BO had this bouy in her personal horse's paddock, and she suggested that we try and see if Milo would like it. She hadnt seen her horse playing with it, but thought maybe Milo would. Its heavy, being a bouy, but that hasnt stopped Milo! He loves it.

It's not a permanent solution though; the BO wants to keep the bouy for her own horse, but we know what Milo seems to approve of now. Plus, its super durable so should last a while when I get him one.

Boyfriend's parents have a boat two hours north at Sekiu, and his Dad will be up there in about a week so hopefully he will remember to grab one for Milo. Boyfriend's Mom said she believed they had at least one of the teardrop versions that they werent using. Hopefully it comes soon because I cant borrow the BO's for too long.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not Sure What to Think

Well, it has been a week now since I pulled a lame Milo out of the pasture. A week, in fact, since the farrier was out and saw a stone bruise rather than an abscess.

Wednesday, Milo looked about 80% sound. He was a smidge off at the trot when lunging him briefly in his pasture to determine if I could lead him to the barn or not. I did, and groomed him thoroughly, then led him to the round pen. I had the Connected Groundwork halter on, and although it was raining, we worked on some of the exercises that didnt require moving around a whole lot.

Well, that was the idea. See, Milo first seemed excited over merely being up at the barn and not being ridden in a week (last time I rode him was last Tuesday). Then that excitement seemed to turn towards agitation by being out in the rain. As we worked a little longer, he soon turned into a firecracker, loping a tiny circle and me trying to get him to yield his hind end all the way, instead of just reaching up underneath himself. Milo had worked himself up that was for sure, and as he stood in the crossties, steam came off from his wet back. I kept the cooler on him for about twenty minutes until he was totally dry, then worried and felt guilty for even bringing him into the round pen.

But my hopes were still optimistic for a steady recovery and as I put him away I visioned riding him in a few days to come. The very next day, Clara drove me to the barn with her and I eagerly went into the pasture to retrieve my horse and see how he looked this next day.

He looked worse. Just as bad as the first day I pulled him from the pasture. I immediately questioned if our little session in the round pen was to blame. But I couldnt find any heat, swelling, and no digital pulse. The only conclusion I could think of was that he aggravated the bruise by stepping on another rock. With no other indications to go off of, both Clara and I thought it was no situation for the vet to need to be called out, and I decided to just keep waiting it out.

Today, I was dismayed to see little to no progress from the day before. He is really irregular on his lameness anyways. One minute hes walking seemingly normal, the next hes just barely putting weight on his toe. One glance I see him standing squarely on all four hooves, and the next he has the left hind relaxed. Still today there was no heat, no swelling, and no digital pulse. Is this still a situation to just wait out and see? Is it possible that his moment of frivolity in the round pen set him back? Could he have stepped on another rock? It seems to me if it was developing into an abscess at the very least I could feel a digital pulse or some heat.

What frustrates me too is I then question my capabilities as a good horse owner. I will always remember hearing my vet tell someone else that if you cannot afford a vet treatment at any moment, you have no business having a horse. While I have savings, my unemployment holds me back from calling him out for a situation where I cant detect anything wrong, aside from the visual. I'm feeling guilty and worried, and I just wish he could get better and I could have some sort of explanation.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


It's true (I believe) that photos tell the story. 

Brown and White Eyelashes! :D

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Evaluating Hair Whorls and Profile

Horse & Rider Magazine posted an interesting article on Horse Hair and Swirl Patterns. It discusses beliefs from multiple trainers on the value of whorls on horses, as well as coat colors. In the article, it mentioned Linda Tellington-Jones as being a forefront trainer in the study. This popped out to me because Linda Tellington-Jones is the trainer who Peggy Cummings seemed to be inspired from, and she takes a lot of ideas and concepts in her work from Linda. In the Horse & Rider article, the title of one of Linda's books was provided, so I went onto Amazon to see if I could take a peak inside. What I found seemed quiet interesting.

Throughout my short life, I have heard many people say how horse color and whorl patterns can be indicative for horse's personalities, but I never knew what each one could represent. Linda Tellington-Jones' book, Getting in Touch; Understand and Influence your Horse's Personality, gives some great images and descriptions of horse facial and body whorls. Here is what I gathered for Milo, although the study is not always completely accurate.

When I purchased Milo I noticed the interesting, and many, whorl patterns on his face. I always seemed to hear that whorls indicated a good thing for horses and their temperaments, but I didnt know how indicative they really could be. The above photo is hard to see, but Milo has one prominent one in the center of his forehead, and two a bit about it on either side of the white further up his head. They arent completely underneath the forelock, and they are uneven, the right being higher than the left. What might this mean?

According to Linda Tellington-Jones' book, it can mean a variety of things. Lets begin with the center whorl (Image and text excerpted from Linda's book).
"This pattern and position is the standard one displayed by the majority of the horses in our studies and in my observations. It indicates a horse with a generally uncomplicated nature, but there are variations. Sometimes swirls are set a little to one side or the other. 

With swirls set to the left as you face the animal, (as is Milo, but only slightly) the horse will tend to be a touch more complicated but still trustworthy. Horses who have a swirl set a bit to the right of center may be less cooperative than those with the pattern in the center or to the left. 

In general, swirls of this sort are less indicative of character than the more complex patterns."

This seems to hold true for Milo, but as she stated, it reveals less of character than some of the other patterns. Let's visit the next one then.

 "Three swirls close together on the forehead (not up under the forelock): Triple swirls are rare; very few are reported in the survey. However, from my own observations in the ensuing years, I've seen that, in geldings and mares, the triple swirl indicates a complex individual but not an unpredictable one. Stallions, however, are another story entirely - about 80 percent of the stallions I've observed with this marking have exhibited unreliable , often dangerous behavior. 

Those more rare, I have seen cases of multiple swirls on the face, and would venture to say that such patterns would ten to indicate complex horses. Many years ago I was a judge at a horse show in California, and in the line up I noticed a small, liver chestnut mare who had an amazing 16 swirls on her face. 

It turned out that she was a very successful junior jumper, but her owner, a 15 year-old boy, was the only one who could ride her. The young man said she had been very difficult to train initially, but now she was attached to him and would do anything for him."

This seems most interesting to me in concern to Milo. I would certainly agree that Milo is a complex horse with a wide range of emotion. I would also venture to guess that he would have been an absolutely terrible stallion to handle (and I have thought that as long as I have owned him, long before ever reading this). The final story Linda provides feels close to home as well. Milo was a difficult horse to begin working with, who resisted and displayed aggression. However, he soon learned to trust me, and he would do just about anything for me. I have already spoke in a recent blog post about his behavior towards others, which makes this excerpt from Linda's book most interesting, and therefore, more validity in the terms of whorls. 

I havent explored the rest of the book yet, but it has been a most interesting read. I did read, however, on the profile and shape of a horse's head, and I thought it's meaning tied into the swirl markings was most interesting. However, I couldnt seem to pinpoint one particular profile, so I collaborated a few. 
I see Milo being a combination between Profile 1, Straight Profile, and 5, Moose Nose. What?? Moose nose? How unflattering, but in truth. 

 With a straight profile, Linda states, "A horse who is very uncomplicated and learns easily". 

This is most interesting because from the swirl patterns, it seems Milo is a complex horse. But I must add that he is a quick horse, who learns easily, and I have always said this in my four years with him. He is smart and bored easily, but learns new concepts very, very quickly. 

So what about the nose?

"Moose Nose: This shows up as a bulge on the lower part of the nose and usually indicates a horse with a strong character, frequently a herd leader. A horse with a dish face that is complimented with a moose nose will be sensitive, but bold rather than timid."

Ahh, I must agree that Milo is a strong character, who (as we know) displays dominance and leadership in humans and horses. While I dont think his moose nose is as large as indicated in the photo, it still seems prevalent and worth noting, and this description (aside from the dished head) seems to match well with Milo's personality. 

What I find really interesting between the two, are that he "scored" a 1 and 5 for both swirl pattern and profile. Any correlation between the two? Or am I now reading too far into this all? Does this seem just like an old wives tale, or do you think it bears any prevalence to your horse? Check out her book and take a peak 
inside with Amazon and see what you might find. It's an interesting read nonetheless.