Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Dissecting the Seat - Part 5: Deep Seat vs Light Seat by Dr. Thomas Ritter




What is a deep seat?


You have probably all heard that one of the qualities of a good seat is that it is deep. But what does that mean? For me personally, a deep seat is a seat with a low center of gravity and the largest possible area of support. This lends the seat stability and it allows the rider to feel the horse with her entire body, which is why the old masters used to say that the rider should sit “in” the horse, rather than “on” or “over” the horse. A seat with a high center of gravity and a small support base, on the other hand, is unstable and doesn’t allow the rider to feel the horse very well.

A low center of gravity and a large support base also allow the rider to connect her weight through the horse’s legs to the ground. The seat is then secure and balanced, which leads to a sense of feeling at home on the horse’s back and to relaxation.


Heavy seat

One potential pitfall is that perhaps some riders think that in order to sit deeply they need to ride with extra long stirrups or that they need to sit very heavily on their seat bones. However, stirrups that are too long overextend the rider’s hip, knee, and ankle joints so that they can no longer function as shock absorbers. The support base becomes smaller when the legs are too extended, the rider feels less stable and less independent in the saddle. The femurs tend to rotate outward, and the hip joints tend to lock up. The rider is then no longer able to allow the horse’s back and rib cage to move freely in all directions because she herself lacks the necessary freedom of motion in her leg joints.

When the rider sits heavily on her seat bones, she will prevent the horse’s back from lifting in the long run, which prevents the hind legs from engaging. The horse breaks into two pieces and falls onto the forehand. The connection between the hind legs and the bit through the spine is then severed. The rider’s pelvis and legs need to be able to accommodate the movement of the horse’s rib cage in all directions and to shape it by increasing or decreasing certain movements at any given time. So you could say that the seat has to be deep AND light at the same time. Sometimes it is necessary to create a small space under our pelvis and our seat bones so that the horse can lift his back and engage his hind legs more, which leads to an increase in roundness and throughness. This requires the rider to get support from below the seat bones, i.e. the inner thighs and knees in addition to the bottom of the pelvis and the seat bones.


Hovering seat

The opposite potential pitfall is that riders may want to sit lightly at all times and end up in a permanent 2-point seat, or hovering above the horse. This usually leads to the horse extending his hind legs and pushing the croup up, so that he ends up dropping his back and falling on the forehand as well. Sometimes these horses step under their body with their hind legs, but they don’t flex them. As a result, they may lean onto the bit or invert. If they are short backed or a little croup high, they may forge or the hind legs step on the heels of the front legs because the overloaded front legs don’t lift up in time to get out of the way of the landing hind leg. When the hind legs flex under the weight, the front legs have enough time to lift and make room for the landing hind leg.


Biomechanics of the stride

In each stride the hind legs lift off and swing forward, touch down and flex under the weight, and push the body mass forward by extending their joints. The rider’s seat has to allow all three by flexing and extending her hip, knee, and ankle joints to allow the wave like up and down motion of the horse’s back. In addition, the pelvis has to be able to move in all three dimensions in order to accommodate the movement of the horse’s rib cage and back in all planes. In a neutral seat the rider’s joints flex and extend exactly as much or as little as the horse’s back and rib cage move up and down, forward and back, and left and right. The rider neither increases nor decreases any aspect of the stride.

A heavy seat, in which the entire body weight of the rider bears down all the time, accentuates the flexion of the grounded hind leg at first. But it also keeps it grounded and makes it return to the ground as soon as possible. This has the effect of slowing the hind legs down and preventing them from lifting up and engaging, so that the strides become shorter and the hind legs no longer support the back. The back collapses under the rider’s weight, and the horse inverts or shortens the neck.

A hovering seat does the opposite of the heavy seat in that it never asks the hind legs to flex. On the positive side, it allows the back to lift, but on the negative side, the hind legs become stiffer because they stay more and more extended. This results in rough gaits because there is no shock absorption by the hind legs if they don’t flex, and the back won’t lift and swing if the hind legs don’t act as springs. It can also result in forging and injuries to the heels of the front legs. But it can also lead to tripping or short, minced strides, if the toes of the hind legs drag on the ground.


So what do I do?

A good strategy is to start with a neutral seat that is deep, balanced and supple, not fixed in any one position, with all joints flexing and extending just enough to accommodate the horse’s natural back and hind leg movement. Observe the quality of this movement. What do you notice most? What is good about the walk, trot, or canter that you are riding? What would you like to improve? Is it elastic, springy, round, energetic, or jarring, hard, flat, lifeless? If you are not sure which aspect to change, you can always experiment by accentuating one of the three phases of the stride and observe whether the horse feels better or worse to you. In lessons I often ask students how the horse feels before and after an exercise. Many riders find it very difficult to put their feelings into words. But if you try to describe precisely what you are feeling, you train yourself to feel more clearly and to reflect on what you are feeling. This becomes a very valuable diagnostic tool.

You can accentuate the liftoff and forward swing of the hind leg by not merely letting the horse lift you up, but by supporting yourself more with your knees for a split second and letting your pelvis swing up a little higher than the horse would lift you if you were completely passive. This can be further supported by driving with your lower leg on the side of the hind leg that is lifting off. If you drive a split second before the hind leg lifts off, you can accelerate the hind leg if it’s too slow.

You can accentuate the flexion and weight bearing of the hind leg by letting yourself sink down more and sending your energy and your weight through the flexing hind leg into the ground. This creates shorter and higher steps during the release of the seat aid. If the horse is rushing, you can stay down a split second longer before you allow the horse to lift you up again. This will slow the tempo down. It can be further supported by stepping into the stirrup on the side of the landing hind leg and/or by a half halt on one of the reins.

You can accentuate the extension of the grounded hind leg by engaging your back muscles, sending your weight and your energy down into the ground through the extending/pushing hind leg. You can give a brief push with both knees when the hind leg is on the ground behind the vertical. I also let my pelvis swing up and forward when I want the hind leg to push more. That way I don’t suppress the lifting of the horse’s back in a lengthening and I direct the energy upward as well as forward so that the horse doesn’t fall onto the forehand.


Conclusion

One important thing to keep in mind is not to do everything at once, all the time. But to select one aspect of the stride that you want to improve, accentuate it for 2-3 strides, then return to neutral and observe the effect of your aid. Based on your observation, choose another aspect to accentuate, or repeat the last aid, if it wasn’t enough yet. Sometimes it makes sense to build sequences of aids, e.g. accentuate the lift off/engagement of a hind leg for 2-3 strides, then accentuate the flexion for 2-3 strides. This creates more elastic gaits.

Or accentuate the flexion of the grounded hind leg for 2-3 strides, then accentuate the lift off/engagement. This will lead to shorter, higher, more energetic strides, which can evolve into a passage over time.

You could also engage a hind leg for 2-3 strides, then accentuate the extension of the grounded hind leg for 2-3 strides. This creates more powerful strides and a more solid connection from back to front if a horse tends to hold himself back.


Dr. Thomas Ritter
www.artisticdressage.com

Monday, September 27, 2021

That time of year, Laminitis edition

~ Riding at Equestrian Park, amongst the cross country jumps ~

 I don’t know if you can even say that this blog will revive again, as it seems I manage about an average of one post a year currently…

However, I have been missing writing down my horsey adventures and guess what? I have been riding, like, a lot. A-lot-a-lot!

Since moving to Illoura a year and a half ago, Copper and I have really settled in. We’ve had some hiccups along the way, the first winter was really rough on Copper as a lot of paddocks were still recovering from the drought and there was hardly any feed. His arthritis hit him pretty badly and he was loosing weight like crazy until I figured out that he is actually pretty old now and needs a cozy warm rug on throughout the coldest months of the season (as of 2021, he's 20 years old!).

But thanks to some adjustments I made to his diet the following spring (2020 still) he’s really bounced back in terms of physical wellness. I added Mitavite Performa 3 oil, as well as MSM and Glucosamine powder to his daily (or almost daily) hard feed and that’s knocked years off his joint aging and those additives together have made his joints supple and flexible again, as well as reducing all the swelling. He wasn’t stiff this winter (2021), can move freely and isn’t in so much pain anymore when he has to be yarded or does some hard work.

Oh yeah – yarding. That’s a whole thing.

We had a too close a brush with laminitis previous spring of 2020 ~ the grass and clover was absolutely bonkers with non-stop rain. Copper got very, very well padded so quickly, I really hadn’t noticed how much weight he was gaining. It was SO even all over, but you could still feel rib!

But I realized belatedly that he was suffering from sub-clincial laminitis – all the symptoms where there:

- He had non-stop abscesses in all his feet for months

- His white line was starting to stretch out in his forefeet particularly, but the hinds where also experiencing that as well.

- He was foot sore, even on soft ground (Although he wasn’t lame)

- He had digital pulses on and off for ages

So I discovered even into the summer, he needs a lot of management in these paddocks as pretty much all the paddocks but two have been re-seeded in the past which means they are no longer native grass. The land used to be farmland for dairy cows – aka, the grass is EXTREMELY rich, designed for making fat! It really could have been a total disaster if I hadn’t caught it in time.


~ Mr. Very Not Impressed With Being On A Diet ~


Copper also had to get used to a muzzle for the first time in his life – two words from him – NOT IMPRESSED – but we are using the Green Guard muzzle, which is miles better than any other muzzle on the market. It's breathable, yet tough, with a nice open design that doesn't make him sweat too much, while also doing an excellent job of restricting his grazing.

However, this spring I’ve had to take him off the grass as much as possible – even with the muzzle. The sugar content is very high again, probably worse than last year simply because this winter, the grass never died but just. kept. growing. and. growing.andgrowingandgrowingandgrowing….

Copper started showing heat and swelling in his digital pulses very early this year – it was the end of winter before spring really even started. I just went – it’s not worth the risk. So he’s in a diet yard with low sugar teff, soaked lucerne and daily hard feeds except for either one day a week out in the paddock with a muzzle on, or if it’s raining and cold he’ll be in the paddock without the muzzle.

He’s also been on Kohncke’s Trim for a good six months or longer, which has turned out to be another crucial component to his diet as I think that’s helped him metabolize the rich grasses a lot better. Having him on that supplement has helped us to keep the paddock as option when necessary.

It’s not ideal to turn out on grass when dealing with sub-clinical laminitis, but being in a basic agistment situation like this, you have to work with what you’ve got. The yards get extremely muddy and slippery in the wet and Copper injures himself every time he’s left in there during the rain so out he goes.

He thankfully hasn't reached the sub-clinical laminitis stage this year. So far, the extra yarding and management has worked well – his pulses have stayed right down, he’s been much sounder than last year, and his hooves are far healthier – indicating good things. He also quite trim and not really as fat - he would tell you he's simply withering away to a skeleton of course, but I think he's at a good weight right now and I aim to keep him there if possible.  

But now that he’s in the yard, he needs daily exercise or he gets stiff and sore which means I have been riding A LOT! I’ve also been learning a ton of new things and I can’t wait to write about all of that which is why I’m back again.

Until next time – see ya,

bonita  

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

It’s 2020 and everything’s strange..

I’ll try and keep to the tldr version. A lot has happened since I last posted on the blog, but then again, not much has happened at the same time – ya know?

Let’s see…

2019: we move back to Australia in the middle of winter – we arrive at the end of June and we are back for good.

August: the property Copper is being kept at goes up for sale, and I can’t find anywhere to move him to as Australia is still in a really bad drought.

October: we are told we have two weeks to move him out by, but I still can’t find any place to put him in; EVERYTHING and I do mean EVERYTHING is closed to new clients. Thankfully a listing pops up on Gumtree – it’s for a paddock with a dam and fence and that’s literally it, besides being HALF an HOUR away from our city. At this point, I don't care at all. We are taking the spot.

Nov-Dec: I get a bad kidney infection that lands me in hospital for two weeks. We also buy a house, and have to move our house, plus my in-laws are also moving while I'm in hospital.

January: Still getting back on my feet from the kidney infection. Copper is chased over a fence by his paddock mate – a brat of a pony that bullies him around and bites him all over.

His leg is injured; he’s got a chunk out of his offhind – the outside of his cannon half way between his hock and fetlock.

It’s not terrible, but he’s lame as and needs a vet. Then he ends up on penicillin twice a day for six days – which is an HOUR drive there and back again each time.

It’s a LOT. I don't even have a HOSE to clean his wound down - I have to carry enough water out with me to wash down his leg every time.

February: finally the rains start coming down. Copper and his paddock mate have been living in a dust bowl since the end of November – there is ZERO grass in the paddock, so they’ve been on hay rounds, but we finally have some real grass popping up.

March: Copper is already growing in his winter coat, it's going to be a cold winter. Although he's been doing better than before as his leg is finally healing, I can see that having a brat for his only paddock companion is really getting to him. He's starting to become very withdrawn and depressed. I am seriously stressed and worried - not just about his state of mind, but also with the burden of winter coming - feeding and rugging will be an expensive nightmare. It's costing us $12.00 just in the petrol to drive out there!

In desperation I start reaching out to equestrian complexes again trying to find him a new paddock. Unbelievably, I manage to catch a popular complex in the ACT at just the right time, and we get offered a spot in a group agistment set up.

It's run by the same people when we were at Rose Cottage, so there's nothing super grand, but it's seven minutes from our house and as basic as the facilities are, it's a huge step up from what we currently have available.

April: We are settling into our new paddock and it's great. We have yards, a common area for tacking/feeding, a wash bay, a very small sand arena that's 40x20 and tons of trails to go out on!

He's finally fat again after loosing way too much weight and muscle over summer, and is much, much happier. I'm also so ecstatic to have him so close - I'm able to feed him his supplements everyday/every other day without too much stress. It's easy to take care of his leg as it's still healing. I'm having fun exploring the new trails with Copper, and everything is finally going so well.

It's been a journey to get him back into a good situation for us both, but it's so worth it to have him back with me. I've missed my pony like crazy the years I was away, and I'm just soaking up every moment with him.

And yes, through it all COVID-19 has been a thing. We social distance at the yards - it's very busy as there are a lot of invested owners. Pretty much everyone who has a horse or horses there is out everyday to feed/change rugs/ride so it's like grand central station sometimes.

It's also in the middle all these suburbs and has a lot of public access and I don't know about you, but EVERYONE in our city is out walking/bike riding/taking the dog(s) and kids for walks all day, every day just about! So there are also a LOT of random people walking into and through our yards and trails.

I gotta say, it does make it a bit tricky when you are trying to avoid people like they have the plague (which, they might!!) but we are all doing our best I think, and so far it seems to be working.

I'm so grateful to have Copper - he helps me get out, and makes me laugh everyday. He's such a goof, but I love it.

Next post will have to just be about all the funny things he's done lately!

See ya,

bonita

Monday, February 19, 2018

It’s been a Year

….And this is the next instalment of why my pony is still the bestest pony ever...

Hanging with his bud

- Hanging with his best buddy -

The last time I posted on this blog, we had gone on an amazing trail ride, and had the best fun. So what did we get up to the rest of the year of 2017?

Well, I packed up the family and we moved overseas to Thailand.

Yeah, you did read that correctly!

We left on the 24th of April 2017, and I was going to write more about it while we were over there, but I got pretty sick due to not being able to access my treatments for my hypothyroidism - oh hey, I haven't written about that either! - so it never really happened.

All the cute

The short story is: I didn't want to sell Copper. I've tried to do that before, when I had both Joey and Copper. (remember Joey? He broke my elbow in four places... But he was smart and cute when he wasn't being a brat)

Back then I had had a lot of interest in Copper, and on paper he sounds like an ammy rider's dream. The problem is, he is in every way except under saddle.

He's got impeccable ground manners, he is an excellent doer, he's got rock solid feet, he travels like a dream, and he's quiet and reliable. He is brilliant no matter how long you throw him out in the paddock for, he will come back to you and try whatever you ask of him. He doesn't break himself very often, and rarely needs a vet.

But he's not an easy ride. He is gentle, and can't buck, won't rear. But he is sensitive. He will take off on you if you ride hanging on to his mouth.

 Who me?


It's funny how many people get on him and can't ride him for nuts. And yes, there was this one time that a lady tried him out and he came so close to bolting on her. She was literally balancing herself on his mouth right from the beginning. He hadn’t even gone two steps before he started to panic. I had to teach her how to do an emergency one rein stop right then and there.

The downside is he is also nowhere near educated enough for an experienced rider to take him on. He'd need a super special home and to be honest, I really just couldn't bear the thought of him going somewhere that wouldn't love him for what he is - an honest horse, who is willing to show up do whatever you ask (within reason of course!).

So that left me with a huge dilemma! What to do with Copper while we spend two years or so in South East Asia?

Thankfully after a lot of agonizing, I found an amazing agistment/spelling place that would take him under unusual circumstances, i.e. - his owner is going away overseas and won't be able to check up on him at all!

So we moved him out Yass way. It's an hour out of Canberra, in the middle of nowhere, but it's cheap, and he has taken to the change like a total champ!

I finally got to go out and see him on the weekend, and I was sooooo happy when I saw how good he was looking.

Conformation shot: Feb, 2018.

- Just look at those muscles tho!! He looks so, so good! -

He has been a bit weak and untoned since his bout of stringhalt in 2016 - he lost so much muscle on his hind quarters, particularly around his gaskins. They literally withered away with muscle atrophy.

But I swear he looks better than he ever has - except for the time I was riding him regularly and we had a great lesson program, his topline was perfect then... But anyway, right now, despite not being touched for a year, he looks so good.

He doesn't have that lovely topline, but he doesn't look like a pregnant land whale, so I am incredibly chuffed to see how well he has done.

And of course, I had to ride him!

I started first with a little bit of groundwork to see what he remembered (all of it – clever boy!) and to gauge what kind of mood he was in - willing to try!

So I hopped on bareback and toodled around the arena. He felt strong and well shaped underneath me, but stiff. Oh, so very stiff! We had to remember that yes sideways *IS* possible and you can move one foot over at a time. Hah!

Big grins

- Best Pony. Happy Face. -

That's to be expected, and even though he wasn't anywhere as responsive as he normally is, I couldn't stop grinning. Man, I love that horse.

We even did a bit of trotting on a 20m circle, and finished the ride off after about twenty or so minutes. Not a long ride, but so satisfactory.

I can't tell you how good it's been to be home, but it’s been made even better seeing Copper again.

If it was any other horse I wouldn’t be able to do this with him. I just wouldn’t. There’d be no point as the horse would either break themselves in the paddock, or need extra feed, or go mental being left to run wild for that long. But it’s Copper. There’s no way around it, he’s special.

He takes it all in his stride and is still a brilliant horse!

The difficulties of taking selfies with your horse. Still smiling though

- The difficulties of taking selfies with your horse’s giant mug. Still smiling though!! -

I hope to visit him at least once more before we fly back to Thailand. It's a long way out to see him, but it's so worth it.

I also have to make sure his teeth and feet checked over before I leave so that gives me a good reason to get out there, and you better believe I can't wait to ride him again.

ACS_0074

- It surprised me to see Copper bossing about the ponies! He is usually the lowest man in the herd, so this was interesting to me. Guess he figured out that he’s bigger then they are! -


See ya,

Bonita

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My horse is AwesomeSauce

I know, I know… Everyone thinks that! And maybe you don’t think that we have accomplished anything to epic from this story but for reals, he’s the best.

What did we do?

IMG_3050

- Running braided his mane as it was hot and sunny and I’m glad I did; he was sooooo sweaty by the end! -

Oh, just go on a trail ride.

Only – here’s the thing…

Copper has been chilling in his paddock for the last six months – I’ve been riding every once in a while when I can, but honestly, at this stage that’s happening once every two to three weeks – sometimes even longer than that between rides because I’ve been so ill with my Hypothyroidism.

But as we have never had the chance to ride together (we were going to a Working Eq. clinic together but that’s when Copper got stringhalt… TT ^ TT!! ) my friend K and I decided to go out on chill trail ride, just walking around for a while at the National Arboretum. We decided that we needed to float out so that it wouldn’t take so long and the ride wouldn’t go for hours. So on New Years Eve, we went riding!

I pulled Copper out of the paddock at 8:00am and he just walks right on to the float. (He’s such a good floater - last time he floated out it was our move over a year ago to our current facility.)

Then we get there an find a spot to park and saddle up. He was just  standing there, chilling at the float. He’s just soooo good.

IMG_3043 IMG_3044 IMG_3045
- Selfies with the unimpressed poneh -

I did need my friend to hold him so I could get on… That’s his worst re-occurring fault – if I don’t ride him in a while, he can never stand still for me to mount the first time.

But he let me get up okay and then we where walking! We crossed a road and where walking along the fence line of the Zoo & Aquarium. We had to cross a small rain drain that had a cage on top of it. It was on a really steep bit at the bottom of gully with blackberry brambles trailing everywhere – scary stuff! Haha!

Copper stood and looked at in for a minute or two and then was all like – “Charrrge!” He just put his thinking cap on and walked right across. I did my usual defensive mode which is slip the reins and grab a hunk of mane! (Never going to cut his mane – haha! It’s my Ohcr*pstrap)

We have an understanding - I let him negotiate the tricky bits and even if he gets a bit of momentum and has bit of a run after, or jumps a puddle, my job is just to stay with him and keep my balance so I can help him if I need too, and he takes me with him! Haha! It works for us.  :P

As we were going up the side of the gully, a golf cart came trundling down the hill on the other side of the fence, and Copper scooted past it. We almost were able to stop and wait, but then another, nosier –flappity, flappity – golf cart came past and Copper scooted up the hill away from that one too.

While I was struggling to get Copper to stop, the others were struggling to get past the rain drain; both their horses where like “Nope!” but I think when they finally figured out Copper was on the other side they both crossed in a hurry.

Then we had a super low underpass to go under, and the other girls with me decided to hop off and lead their horses because they had had trouble with that rain drain. I decided to stay on – I knew I’d be safer as Copper is brave enough to go through, but I was not at all sure I’d be able to get back on him okay!

Again, I let the reins droop a little, twisted my fingers into a hunk of mane, and he took a moment to stare, then marched right through. He did have a little spook on the other side when we got out into the sunlight, but I think that was a “just in case there are scary monsters hiding that I couldn’t see” spook – rather than one where he was actually scared!

Then we where in the grounds of the Arboretum, with wide fire trails to ride on, lovely smooth dirt roads with a light dusting of small gravel that cut between the swathes of tree plantations.

Copper started out really well, with his happy trail walk which is relaxed and forwards – but then, he started to feel – off…

I was worried it was his saddle – he’d gotten so fat that there was every chance the gullet could be pinching him. I was worried it was his boots – his feet needed doing and I had to really jam them on, so maybe they were rubbing?

I just couldn’t figure it out – he was trying to turn around and go back which he NEVER does unless it’s been like 3 hours! Copper loves trail riding, and I knew something was up, but I couldn’t figure out what.

It got so bad as we were riding up the hill that I hopped off, checked his saddle and took off his boots.

I gave them to my friend as she had places on her tack she could strap them too, and walked up the hill most of the way. Then I had to get back on Copper ‘coz I was dying! … So unfit!

We rode up to the “Wide Brown Land” statue, and hopped off for bathroom break. Then we decided to go around the holding pens on the other side of the hill so that we could leave the horses there while I ran and got us some cold cokes from the cafĂ©! (It was really hot!)

IMG_3019 IMG_3015IMG_3017 IMG_3023IMG_3037 IMG_3038IMG_3039 IMG_3041
- Up on the top of the “Wide Brown Land” hill. That view between those ears…! The best! -

I decided to lead Copper to the pens (which were much further away than I had thought… Urgh! Unfit!), and I took off his saddle and bridle when we got there, but left his halter on. (I was riding with his halter and lead rope just in case)

Then two of us went to get drinks and one of us stayed with the horses. Apparently, when I left, Copper started spazzing out and being a real hoon! He was racing around the pen, cantering, bucking, farting and being a total silly boy… He also pooped four times.

My conclusion?  He had a tummy ache… 

Horses.

Because when I tacked up to go again, he was perfectly fine after that!!

I was so glad he got that all out, because then we could actually settle in and enjoy the rest of the ride.

IMG_3042 IMG_3046
- Friends on horseback are the best kind of friends for a day out exploring! -

Of course, he still walks too fast for the other horses, so I end up in the lead on my own again. I always ask myself why I bother going with other people when I end up walking by myself for the whole ride! But no; there are lots of other fun moments and times to chat, so it was good. It’s just a little bit annoying that Copper just can’t keep his stride in check so that we can be with everyone else.

We went through a super hilly bit next where it was tons of steep slopes up and down ~ of course, that’s always fun, so I let him trot up those pretty quick, and the others would chase us up at a canter.

Copper figured out that his fast trot is just as fast a canter, so he mostly stuck with that, and I just stuck with him!

IMG_3063 IMG_3065
- Go pony, goooo!! -

Then we where on the stretch home, and by this stage, we were both pretty pooped. For the first time ever, Copper volunteered to drop from a trot to a walk all of his own violation! Haha!

I was pretty happy when we made it back around to the underpass, and I think he was too. We were miles ahead of my friends, when I realised they’d stoped to take photos of the tigers at the zoo.

As we where passing by, the tigers had smelt our sweaty horses and were trying to jump the fence and get at us! Of course, they couldn’t, but they were pretty riled up about us just standing a few feet away from them and smelling delicious apparently.

It took a little bit of convincing Copper to turn around up the hill to be with the others, but he suddenly realised they were up there, and he did it. Then we continued on past the storm drain back to the floats.

When we had made it past the drain, Copper stopped at the top of the hill and his head was hanging, and his legs were shaking. Poor boy was so tired!

I said – Right, I don’t care what the others think of me, I’m walking him back! So I jumped off him and loosened his girth. And he perked right up again after a couple of mouthfuls of grass.

Haha, always thinking of his tummy…

We had a bit of a ways to go, but they did think I was doing the right thing, so I was happy leading him back to the floats.

Then we all sat around eating chips, grooming the horses and trying to convince them to drink the water.

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- Chilling with the mates after the fun; chips for the human beanz, pine cones and grass for the ponies –

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- When he literally wants to go home and stuff his face…. -

Copper ate pine needles, hoovered up the grass and tried to eat a pine cone!! It was absolutely the funniest thing I have ever seen him do!!

He was standing there with the dopiest look on his face, the pine cone hanging from his teeth, flapping his top lip like he was trying to figure out how he could actually get it into his mouth!

I cracked up, but of course he dropped it before I could get a picture…  :/

When they were well rested and completely cooled off, we loaded them back up and took them all back home.

Copper was very happy to see his girl friend, who was neighing a greeting to him, then he got down to the serious business of putting back on all the weight he’d lost from that exercise.

Horse, you are all stomach at this point – you could stand to loose some! 

And that is the long and somewhat boring story of why my horse is awesome and I love him the bestest.

See ya,

bonita

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Facing Reality

It has been one of those years.

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I know that it’s been ages since the last update and for good reason.

I have been so overwhelmed by all the drama going on that I just could not cope with riding, or anything more than feeding and grooming him. And sometimes, even that was a difficult stretch…. Yeah. It was that bad…

I really can’t go into the details, also, I really don’t want to revisit it. But in my last post (aptly titled Barn Drama), I was relating the problems we’d had at the beginning of this year with our new paddock arrangements. I thought we had gotten through it, and I had been feeling cautiously optimistic that we may have found a workable solution.

Turns out, not so much.

The subsequent incident that exploded on us in July was far worse than the one at the beginning of the year, and left me with very few options to work with. Suffice to say, we did manage to find a spot for Copper at the paddocks, but the consequences of the whole event affected him and I for months after. I didn’t ride for months, and even now, it’s not a sure thing that I will ride just once a week.

The fallout is still affecting us daily.

I don’t know if next year I will still be able to keep my horse. That’s how bad it is… It breaks my heart to even think of selling him, but I can’t see how we will get around it when winter comes.

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So for now, I’m not thinking that far ahead.

I just can’t.

I can’t keep thinking about the whys, the hows, and the what-do-I-dos of keeping my horse. I’m just taking it one day at a time.

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Every chance I get to ride is the best day ever, and I’m not thinking any further than that.

See ya,

Bonita

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stringhalt Attack – Part II: Barn Drama

It wasn’t enough for Copper to come down with string halt and basically be completely broken and mostly unrideable for the next twelve to eighteen months, oh no….

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Unfortunately, his string halt diagnosis brought on a whole pile of barn drama that had to be dealt with as well, and that was a saga in and of itself!

The set up with the private paddocks at our facility work like this:

Someone buys into the paddock with a $2,500 deposit and now “owns” the rights to the land. They are responsible for all interior fencing, and the care and management of the pasture, barring weed spraying. They are allowed to buy and set up any structures they may like to within the guidelines; this can be as simple as a garden shed to hold tack, to a stable, muck heap, hay shed, yards, etc - the full she-bang.

The owners of the private paddock are then allowed to host a “guest” to help defray the weekly cost of agistment - or rent on the land.

I moved into a private two horse paddock as a guest, and well, ended up with a homeless horse.

It’s a long and involved story, but it started earlier than the stringhalt. Previously, there’d been a few issues as we were settling into the shared arrangement – things like the owner moving horses around and not filling up water troughs properly, not telling me when the worming was happening so the worming didn’t happen simultaneously on both horses like it needs too, gates getting broken, (Copper apparently tried to jump a gate and bent it! But must have scrambled over somehow…) – incidents that can cause problems at the time, but honestly, I thought we’d moved past all of it.

When the problems occurred, I’d done my best to communicate clearly and fix any issues my horse had caused. In short, I’d done my best to hold up my end of the bargain and be a responsible guest.

However, when the vet said that Copper absolutely had to be kept off the the flatweed and needed to be penned/yarded for as long as necessary, all hell kind of broke loose and we were basically threatened to be kicked out of the paddock. I had to let Copper back into the paddocks (because someone else down there had said that would be okay to do… Um, what?! Since when do we veto vet’s orders with a random’s “advice”?) or move him out in three weeks. The situation came down to the fact that it was inconvenient for the owner to let him stay in the only yard area that was suitable, and she wasn’t happy that he had to be in there.

Past issues were dragged up again, and though I did my best to handle the situation, I knew it wasn’t going to work any longer. I didn’t want to stay somewhere where I wasn’t welcome and were I couldn’t trust the owner to deal with the necessary management of my horse in a reasonable manner.

To top it all off while this back and forth was happening – Copper developed a lymphatic systemic reaction.

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It started off as a bump above his right eye, and I thought that maybe a bit of dust or hayseed from the round bale he was eating from had gotten in his eye and caused the swelling. I’d seen that happen before, the incident that developed a partial cataract on the outside edge of his left eye. I palpitated all around the eye and couldn’t see any redness, weeping, or tenderness.

The next day I came out to check on him and it had gone down, so I kept a close eye on it. Come the day after and it had drained down under his jaw. I thought that was really odd – was it an abscess that had moved? I put Tuff Rock on it to see if it would burst and drain, like what had happened when he had a possible case of fistulous withers.

Nothing happened so I called the vet – my vet was away on holidays, so I had to call someone else about it, and it was four days after the bump had first appeared. Not-my-vet was concerned it was a case of strangles…. I was like Huh???

Note that:

- Copper had absolutely no discharge from the nostrils

- No fever

- Was bright eyed and eating his food

- Swelling was only under one side of the jaw

Anywho, I then had to remove Copper into an isolation paddock as per the vet’s recommendation.

So we walked him down to the hospital paddock which is near the main office buildings and stables, and set him up in there until the vet could assess him.

Blood test that revealed nothing and a double course of antibiotics later, so – two weeks in total - Copper still had a lump under his jaw and was still stuck in the hospital paddock.

Then the day after he finished those antibiotics, his back legs puffed up like sausages from the hocks down. I took his rugs off to discover he had swollen lumps all underneath his body, and a swollen sheath besides.

I had a chat to the manager and she confirmed my suspicions that the swelling was in his lymphatic system – he had a case of systemic edema. As it was a public holiday when this cropped up, as well as a Sunday (!! Why horse, why??) we decided that we’d see how he was doing in the evening and call the vet out the next day if there was no improvement.

Copper seemed a bit down and quiet at this point, but he didn’t have a temperature, and was eating quite well. So besides being a bit moody, all his systems were functional and his vitals were sound.

I was very relieved to come back that evening to discover the swelling had gone down by half! The next day it was still there, but less and by the middle of the week he was fine again.

Ugh. Horses.

I still have no idea what caused the reaction – it wasn’t bacterial, the vet didn’t think it was viral, so??? Stress perhaps?

My reasoning was this: he has been used to a way large grazing area (up to 10 or 12 acre paddocks), a large herd and a much more “natural” way of living.

Since moving, his grazing has be cut down to 1.5 acre paddocks at most, then he got stringhalt, was yarded in a tiny paddock area and had to be hard fed with round bale hay, and hard feed everyday.

On top of that, he was now separated from his one and only paddock mate, but then even worse, he was isolated for two weeks.

After that reaction, we kept him there for a day or two to monitor him, but then we had to make decisions about whether to move him back to the old paddock where the owner did not want us, or wait it out and try to find a new paddock to move into asap.

We decided to wait it out, and after one failed match up, we finally found a new situation.

Six weeks of living in the hospital paddock, being homeless hobos, and Copper moved into a new home!

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Thankfully, he appears to have settled in nicely at the new place, and he has made friends with the chestnut mare who is more than happy to boss him about.

I’m happy there too – after a bit of stress and hassle getting everything organized at the new place, including a lot of flooding and swamp situations when winter really kicked in and brought buckets of rain (and we still need to sort out the stable, but we’ll get there) – I think everything seems to have worked out well.

Our new host is super lovely, and her mare is gorgeous. Copper is quite content and happy I think (he loves all the extra cuddles and treats he’s getting at the moment  : P ) and we have great facilities at our new home that are proving to be invaluable for winter.

But *whew!* such barn drama!

And to be honest, I am really uncomfortable with the whole owner/guest arrangement now. Yes, at the moment everything appears to be fine, but I had thought that previously, only to be booted out of our paddock over a situation that I had absolutely no control over. You can bet your buttons I wouldn’t have yarded Copper unless I absolute had too, and you can also bet I would have done anything I could to keep him from getting stringhalt, but you just can’t control these things sometimes!!

So while I really do hope things continue to go well with our current arrangement, I am also thinking that we will start saving for our “own” paddock. One day, if we need it, then at least we’ll have that option.

See ya,

bonita

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