Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back In The Saddle

Well, I caved. Spider has been desperate for attention lately, so I got him out to lunge last night. And then I thought, "By the time I get him ready to lunge, I could have saddled and bridled him and I only have a few minutes anyway, what's the point if I can't even do a full lunging session? Besides, I should really find out where we stand, training-wise, so I know what to work on when I'm lunging." It's amazing the rationalizations we can come up with when we want to do something that we know we probably shouldn't.

*Disclaimer- I am an idiot. No one should ever ride a horse two weeks after an abdominal surgery, EVER. So don't be stupid like me, follow your doctors orders and wait the appropriate amount of time before resuming physical activities.

Okay, disclaimer finished, back to my ride. It was GREAT! We only walked. OK, we trotted a couple twenty meter circles, just because he was feeling fresh, but other than that it was only walking.

So, where do we stand training-wise? Forward needs a lot of work. We're both in pretty poor shape, which makes forward difficult. I was pleased with his responsiveness and enthusiasm, though. And I was able to get a pretty good working walk out of him. The ride only lasted about twenty minutes, and most of that was warm-up on a loose rein. We worked on moving off my seat and half-halts on a loose rein. Half-halts aren't really there, but that's to be expected I suppose. I did just have abdominal surgery. I could get a decent half halt when I picked up the reins, but I know I was relying on the reins too much....a very bad habit to get into. So, what's the plan now?

Well, it's hot right now, August hot and it's only June, so there probably won't be much of a plan until this heat wave passes. I'm doing some light yoga twice a day to tone up my abs and loosen up my muscles and joints. Hopefully by next week the weather will be back to normal and I'll be a little more fit. When that happens, my plan will be to lunge in tack, then get on to cool him out. For the cooling out under saddle we'll be walking on a loose rein, working on half halts, steering and my position and seat. The goal is to be back to where we left off by the end of the summer.

By the by, Spider's feet did break up some more, but they chipped evenly all around and now actually look great. I think all the farrier will need to do is some balancing and rasping of edges. It seems I panicked over usual.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Introducing The Newest Member Of Our Herd

Friday, June 11th, we welcomed the newest addition to our little herd, a little boy! Stephen was born weighing 7lbs 13 oz and measuring 21 inches. He was a cesarean section, as was my first, so my recovery will be a little longer. We're all still adjusting and recovering right now, but I'll hopefully be back in the swing of things soon.

With my first I was riding again after 4 weeks. I feel better this time around, but I'll still probably wait 4 weeks before getting back in the saddle (if I can hold out that long). I'll start lunging again as soon as I feel up to it. Walking is an excellent low impact strengthening exercise, and lunging certainly requires a lot of walking. Next week I'll probably start the exercises I learned in physical therapy, the really easy ones I did right after breaking my back to strengthen my abdominals. I must admit, I'm beginning to get a bit stir crazy. I'm generally a very active person, a week of resting up does not suit me at all.

Spider is bored as well. Pretty much all I'm doing these days is dropping their feed and hay twice a day, then a quick pet and it's back to the house to meet the demands of a a newborn and toddler. I can tell Spider's as ready to get back to work as I am. All in good time. These things can't be rushed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Everything Worth Knowing Leaves Bruises"

I happened across this statement recently and had to laugh. I'm not sure exactly what the author was referencing, but the quote seems tailor made for horsemanship. I have had countless bumps, bruises, scrapes and breaks in my riding career, and with every one of them came an important lesson in horsemanship.

The concept that sticks out most in my mind for being learned the hard way is "forward". Forward is truly a vague term. Most people tend to think "faster" when they think "forward". I used to. I still remember the day I learned what forward really meant. I also still have a dent in my thigh from learning that lesson.

The concept of forward came courtesy of a naughty little Oldenburg I used to ride. He was small, less than 16 hands, and built like a bulldog. He was also a master of being behind the leg. My instructor at the time was always yelling at me to send him forward. So I would kick him, and his stubby little legs would churn faster and I would think that I was really doing something. Did I mention that he bucked? He bucked like a rodeo bronc.

Now, at this point in my riding career I had been around the block a few times. I'd ridden Schoolmasters and I had felt what forward was like on them. But, on the non-Schoolmasters it was still a little hit or miss. I was getting the concept, but sometimes lacked the feel to really get the quality of forward from a horse...especially a horse that was still learning. Sometimes when I was thinking "forward", what I was really getting was "faster". Not the same, as I was soon to learn.

So one day I was riding the little bronc wannabe and he started throwing a few bucks at me. But of course, I *knew* that a horse that's forward can't buck you off. So, I kicked him and he stopped. For about three strides. Then he started up again. So I kicked him again, and he bucked faster. Obviously, something was not working. But, I have a stubborn streak and a sticky seat, so I kept kicking and we went around bucking and cantering for about half the long side of the arena. Somewhere along the way I sank down into the saddle, sat up straight, grabbed the outside rein and really kicked the crap out of him. And then, suddenly, I had it.....forward. He sat down on his haunches, his forehand lifted and he was really, truly forward. I had control of him, real control. I knew that there was absolutely nothing naughty he could do at that moment because I really, truly had control of his body. It lasted about a minute, then I lost it and he bucked me off. As I fell, the little bastard kicked out at me in a final act of defiance, catching me in the left thigh, right above the knee.

As I lay in the dirt, watching the horse run back to the barn and wondering if my femur was broken, I cemented that feeling in my mind. Not just the pain of getting kicked and the humiliation of getting bucked off, but the feeling right before that. The feeling of forward and exactly what I had done to get it. I cemented all those feelings in my mind because I never wanted to be laying in the dirt, watching a horse run back to the barn and wondering if my femur was broken again.

I have no idea whether my leg was actually broken or not. I could walk on it (sort of) and since those were the days when I was still invincible I didn't bother going to the doctor. My whole thigh turned black and I walked with a pronounced limp for about a month, but it eventually healed up. Except the dent. To this day I have a perfect half-moon shaped dent in my quadriceps muscle, right above the knee. And I have never forgotten what forward really feels like.

P.S.- Still no baby. Eviction is scheduled for Friday morning. ;)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

My good fortune with having a barefoot Thoroughbred seems to have run out this week. I had removed Spider's front shoes in December and he was doing brilliantly. His hoof wall was growing beautifully, his feet were expanding and his feet just looked gorgeous. I was so pleased! Then the heat and dryness of summer hit, and our ground turned to concrete. Literally, concrete. We have sandy soil mixed with rocks, great for drainage if the weather's wet.....bad for moisture if it's not. I started to notice a few superficial cracks in Spider's feet, then they began to chip. This week they started really breaking up. Of course, I panicked. Visions of lameness and abcesses danced through my head. He's still sound now, but what if the feet break more? I'll be having a baby soon, there's no way I can take care of a lame horse immediately after having a baby! What a nightmare! So I called my farrier. Lucky for me, he's an absolute gem and was happy to indulge my neuroses. I took some pictures and emailed them to him for a consult. Isn't technology grand? I can bother my poor farrier without him even having to come to the farm! Just when he thought he was safe from crazy clients, we invade his email. *L*

His opinion was that, while he didn't like the looks of it, there wasn't a whole lot that needed to get done right now. Spider was just trimmed three weeks ago, so there isn't much hoof to work with. Putting the shoes back on now is pointless, too, since the damage is already done. So we're taking a "wait and see" approach. Spider will be out of work for at least the next three weeks, no riding or lunging...just turnout. That will put us at six weeks from the last trim and we'll re-evaluate then. The farrier does think that this is just a minor snag, and Spider will be able to continue going barefoot. I certainly hope that's the case, his feet really were looking great without the shoes on. We shall see.


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