Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sometimes It's The Little Things

You've probably noticed that I don't blog as much as I used to. I've been pretty sick the last two years. Nothing new, just my usual auto-immune disease rearing it's ugly head. I've been more consistently sick the last two years than I have in the entire 10 years I've had my diagnosis. 

Auto-immune diseases are assholes like that. You go through periods of remission where you feel pretty normal, and then your body rebels, the meds stop working, and you're right back to being sick. 

My particular auto-immune disease is Crohn's disease. The usual treatment is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as maintenance, and steroids when things get out of control.

Because my disease was getting out of control all the time, the doctors would try courses of steroids to get the inflammation back under control. If you're not familiar with steroids, they tend to make you swell up. Especially your extremities. If you've ever worn a pair of dressage tall boots, you know there is just no room for swelling in those things. 

Since I was taking steroids so frequently, my tall dressage boots haven't fit me in a long time. Because of that, I haven't shown in a recognized show in over two years. I suppose I could have just bought a new pair of boots, but I'm cheap and I refuse to spend my money on a new pair of boots to fit my steroid-swollen legs. It's much easier to just say, "I'll show when my boots fit again."

A few months ago my doctors decided that my disease had advanced to the point where the standard NSAID treatment would never be therapeutic. I was steroid dependent, in that it was the only way to get my disease under control. So, they went for the big guns: Immune suppressants.

Not gonna lie, I was scared. The immune suppressant drugs have some pretty rotten side effects. But, Crohn's has even worse side effects, so maybe the drugs aren't so bad.

I'm a few weeks into my immune suppressant treatment, and so far I'm OK. I haven't noticed any side effects from it, but I'll have to have routine bloodwork for the rest of my life to make sure the immune suppressant drugs are behaving themselves. 

The best part: I'm a week and a half steroid free, and my tall boots fit again.

They need a serious cleaning, but at least they fit.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Back To The Snaffle

I've never been one of those people who gets all into equipment. I'm sort of old school. I can remember when saddles only had two sizes, "regular" and "fat school pony", and every horse had to make do with that. There weren't six pages of bits in every catalog, because the bits were just bits without different "anatomical" mouth shapes or crazy alloys. Things were more one size fits all, and we made do. Now the equipment has as many variables as a graduate calculus course and is just as confusing. Do I need a specially shaped snaffle made of pure unobtanium alloy? I don't know, and for $300 I'm not going to find out.

Years ago I found that Spider preferred to go in a curb instead of just a snaffle, so he's been ridden in the double bridle since. It's not a "forcing the head down" thing, I ride with the curb rein loose. He's just more willing to seek the contact when the curb bit is in. I never put much thought into the "why", it works so I went with it.

Jack, being an ex-racehorse and a mouthy baby, likes to go in a mullen mouth bit. (I hesitate to call it a snaffle, because doesn't "snaffle" refer to the joint in the mouth piece? I don't know. Discuss.) The lack of a joint gives him less stuff to dick around with in his mouth while I'm trying to teach him to take the contact, which is why many people start horses in bits like this.

Yes, Jack's bridle is dirty. Go call ASPCA.

The other day I had taken Spider's double bridle apart to clean it and hadn't put it back together. Because I was feeling far too lazy to put the bridle back together,  I grabbed Jack's bridle with the mullen mouth bit off the rack to ride Spider in instead.  What's the worst that could happen, right?

Spider went like a million bucks. I mean, he was just *BOOM* in the contact. Like a damn Schoolmaster. I was floored.

So, I rode him in it again. And then again and again.... and every time he went perfectly. It was as though he actually did know how to do this dressage thing and had always been resistant because of the bit. I had always assumed it was lack of training or fitness or simple rider error.

The big test was riding him in front of my trainer in the mullen bit. My trainer was just as impressed.

Why does Spider go better in this bit? I don't know. I'm no bitting expert. You might as well ask, "Why do some people feel more comfortable in sneakers and others prefer flip-flops?" I think some of it just boils down to a personal preference and there's no reason a horse can't feel the same about bits.

I do know that Spider has an overbite (aka "parrot-mouthed"), so maybe the joint in a snaffle does something with that. I know he goes worse in double jointed bits than he does single jointed, and he goes best in no joint at all. Feel free to discuss this in the comments.

I did decide to change up the bit in his double bridle based on his love of the mullen mouth. They make curb bits with a mullen mouth, and I found this one on Amazon for $40! And the eggbutt bradoon was included!! And it was on Prime, so I got free shipping!!!

Pretty sweet.

Here's his old curb compared to the new curb:

Yes, it's dirty. Call ASPCA.

I haven't actually tried the new bit yet because I'm kind of lazy and changing bits is a pain. Plus, he's going so well in the other bit that I might just keep him in that forever. You only need a double for CDIs now, and it's unlikely we'll ever compete in a CDI, so there's no pressure. Right now I'm just enjoying not fighting with my horse about the contact. 

If only there were a bit that would convince him to do his changes when I say to do them, not when he thinks he should do them......


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