2012 show season · abscess · show planning · valinor farm

Onward, Upward

Tristan’s slowly, slowly getting better. The leg is down a bit; the hoof is a bit more stable, but still draining. Per the vet’s advice, I put him on the longe line: sound at the walk, iffy at the trot to the right (when he had to put more weight on his RF).

I soaked for an hour (two 30 minute sessions with water as hot as I could get it), then iced the leg and gave him a gram of bute. I’ll do the same tonight. I can see the path and the destination, but I don’t quite know how long it will take to get us there.

I sent in my withdrawal to King Oak today. I’m holding off on a decision about Valinor until Thursday; I still have hopes that we’ll be able to go and do a dressage test, though I may just cancel it altogether and focus on something like, say, the October Beland schooling show. There’s also the possibility that the barn will go to the October Hitching Post schooling show, where we had such a good run in the spring, and there’s the Groton House Fall Classic. Then there will be a multitude of hunter paces for experience in that regard.

New goal: finish the fall on a high note, getting him out and running around, and re-focus on some specific improvements that I want to see over the winter in our dressage. I have half-seriously said in the past that he will probably never canter on the bit, but I would like to improve his canter, to improve our transitions, and overall get him more consistent in the bridle.

2012 show season · abscess · adventures with the vet · valinor farm

Best-Laid Plans

Things have been happening so quickly I haven’t updated. To recap: last Thursday Tris was a bit off. I blamed the crack in his RF, and scheduled him to get shoes on Friday.

Wednesday morning, he came up quite lame in the RF, and stayed inside. Thursday night, I went down to check on him/ride, and he was very VERY lame – and leaking copious amounts of pus from an abscess that had burst through his coronet band, in line with the crack. His leg was also quite stocked up. I am about 99% sure this is the same abscess we dealt with some months ago, that just never quite blew out before.

Friday morning, the farrier saw him, put shoes on, and said he was getting near to done draining, but to keep soaking his foot. So I’ve been doing so. There has been some reduction in his leg, but it is not cool and tight. The area around his coronet band where the abscess blew is still open, still hot, and I believe still draining a bit. He’s also still got a clear pulse in the leg, so: still working through.

He went back out for the full day on Sunday, and I was hoping the leg would go down with some walking. No dice. It also didn’t get worse overnight, so there’s that. I checked in with Mass Equine, and they weren’t worried just yet. Tonight, I’m to put him on the longe line and see what he looks like at the trot, and bute him for a few days to help resolve things. I’ll check back in with him for a few days.

I don’t feel comfortable putting him back into work with his leg blown up like that. If it continues through the middle of the week, we may have to scratch Valinor this Saturday. With everything that’s been going on, we’ve fallen behind on our prep. If his leg isn’t magically better tonight, tomorrow morning I’m going to scratch from King Oak.

I’m an odd mixture of heartbroken and zen. I am pretty clear on my options, and pretty clear in that I don’t think we’re ready for King Oak, and even if he were magically better tonight we’d be hard-pressed to get ready. Scratching tomorrow, on the closing date, gets me a refund to re-direct toward hunter paces and schooling shows in the fall. Then, who knows? The possibility of getting to a recognized event diminishes greatly if I scratch King Oak, but it doesn’t vanish. We’ll keep working.

2012 show season · barefoot · farrier · shoes

Welcome back, have a crisis!

I was already a bit nervous about being away for two weeks on a road trip. It had been a complete mental vacation: certainly I missed Tris and I missed riding, but we were so involved in what we were doing that I wasn’t planning and fretting constantly like I usually do, so I felt behind the ball.

My nervousness was not helped when I pulled him out of the stall and looked at his RF. He’s had a small toe crack there for a little while now; I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and had asked the farrier to come check it just before I left. He did so, and took the toe down pretty far, but there was some crack left. While I was gone, the crack moved aggressively. There was some flare on the right side of the hoof, and a bit of a bulge at the coronet band in line with the hoof. None of which I was a fan of.

Crack in RF, with a bit of flaring all around, worst on the outside.
Side view. If you look closely, you can see a bit of a bump near the coronet band, about where my car’s tire is.

He was reluctant to go to work, but not off, and he is reluctant to go to work on the best of days. I did not ride particularly well, and was second-guessing myself quite a lot, wondering if I should pull him up. He took some off steps, but he was never lame, and when I pushed, he moved quite nicely.

Nevertheless, as soon as he settled back into his stall I called the farrier. We’ve had this conversation before, when he had his abscess: he’s working with more intensity than ever before, and wearing down his feet much harder. The quality of hoof is still great and rock-hard, but the quantity is lacking. I’m sure that contributed to the aggressive growth of the crack. He’s certainly chipped away at his toes before, but he’s never had a crack move like this before.

It was pretty clear to me that the crack wasn’t going to heal without help. After almost seven years of going barefoot (save for one cycle in which we tried to support his heels with absolutely no difference in his way of going, so pulled the shoes), he’ll get four shoes all around on Friday, with pads & packing in the front to support. I am a bit sad; I really though we could make a go of it. Perhaps somewhere I could control his turnout environment completely, and check him every single day, and work with a farrier who specialized in barefoot trimming, we might’ve. I can’t help but feel like a bit of a failure – either because I’ve pushed him too hard or because I haven’t managed his gorgeous feet well enough. All those conflicts are internal, though. I’ve always said that I would get him shoes when he gave me signs that he was no longer comfortable barefoot. We’re there.

He was pretty pleased to get some extra hand grazing time while I got my camera.

The cherry on top was the call this morning from the barn that he was sore on his RF, probably from riding last night. So I feel rotten about that. He’ll be on stall reset until Friday, when he gets his shoes. I’m not quite sure what to do about the XC school we have planned for Saturday. It may be that he just needs the support of shoes, and he’ll be totally sound. It may be that he needs some time off to adjust.

Going forward, however – we are entered at Valinor on Saturday following, and King Oak after that. King Oak closes on the 21st of August, so he needs to show significant improvement by then or I might consider scratching him. I’d be heartbroken to get so close to our goal of going recognized and have to cancel it, but – that’s horses, I guess.

2012 show season · lesson notes

Lesson Notes: #$#!@ Outside Leg

Balance, balance, balance: between forward and supple, between solid in my aids and position and soft and forgiving, and of course the good old-fashioned kind.

Some nice moments, but overall inconsistent. We touched on consistency a few weeks ago, and haven’t climbed back up that mountain. He’ll swing and get soft and round…and then fling his head up and lose it five minutes later. I’ll lock in with my seat and have soft hands…and then he’ll jut his shoulders out and I’ll get a bit out and it spirals down from there and ends up with a rock-hard and static left rein.

I’m fighting some unevenness in my own body right now, too. There’s something slightly odd going on with my left hip that I need to overcome that’s making it more difficult to keep my left leg really wrapped around. I can’t quite nail the feel of a solid outside rein while tracking left.

In all? Productive lesson. Good lesson. Once again more proof that if I could just ride, if I could just be in the right place and give the right aids, he would be going so well, but when I break up my own fluidity it just…disintegrates. It’s like juggling fifteen fresh eggs and as soon as I drop one the rest go splat, and then I have to walk all the way back to the fridge and start the juggling routine again, one egg at a time, before we approach that level again.

Tuesday night was my last ride for nearly 2.5 weeks; I’m away for two weeks for a long-awaited and long-planned-for vacation. I arranged for the best barn kid ever (which could so honestly apply to half a dozen kids at our barn, which is amazing) to sit on him during that time, and deeded over my two missed lessons to her. Probably I’m going to have to eat crow when I come back and she’s improved him dramatically in just two weeks, but – I’m okay with that.

When we get back, life starts to fly fast and furious: XC again at Scarlet Hill, followed by Valinor at Elementary, followed in short order by King Oak. Home stretch!

2012 show season · horse finances · not-so-quiet-freakout


This was never going to be a week conducive to rest and relaxation. I’m leaving for a long-planned vacation/road trip on Friday night, and there are dozens of small details I still have to arrange before then. Work is work. I’m facing up to some major changes in my life going forward.

However, two things right now are particularly heartburn-inducing.

The first is that I just mailed my entry to the King Oak Farm Fall Horse Trials. This is it. This is what we’ve been working toward all summer: our first (and likely only) recognized USEA horse trials. I’ve obliterated any semblance of budget I may have had as well as a few savings accounts to get us to this point, fretted and stressed and worked hard in every single ride I had available to me, shunted all other commitments to the side. After all that work, I’m still not sure we’re ready. Oh, we’ll be safe. Tris will go around. We certainly will not be competitive, but then my goal was always to complete, not to compete. But will it be a good, positive experience for both of us? Will I embarrass my friends and my barn and my trainer? (I worry a bit as well about embarrassing myself, but I’m more or less used to that.) I wish I didn’t feel so sure that this is our one shot, and I wish I didn’t feel such pressure to do it right. I wish I could be one of the many hundreds of people who surely enter willy-nilly and without carrying so much baggage.

My secondary panic is tied to the above: I’m stretching every bit of financial give I have. I had planned out the summer carefully but not allowed enough of a buffer, and I’ve had to dip into some savings accounts to round out the edges, and that stings. Last month there was the vet bill for the abscess; this month, my jump saddle needed billet repair, the truck needed new brake calipers & hoses, and my car insurance came due and increased in price. I spent the first three weeks of July running under budget and in the last week went $1k over. I am by nature a financially cautious person, which is at odds with being a horse owner. There are plenty of internet jokes about the expense of horses, but the hard truth is that owning a horse? Is a really, really poor financial choice. That becomes apparent to me in very dark moments when I realize that many other life possibilities are closed off by horse ownership, especially when I rely 100% on myself for all of my plans – buying a house, having kids, doing any sort of traveling that doesn’t involve my tent.

Most of the time I cope. This week, on top of all the other planning and figuring out and anticipation, it’s got me nearly constantly on the edge of a panic attack.

2012 show season · beland dressage schooling show · training 2

Beland Dressage Schooling Show

On the whole, I was really, really happy with how we both did.

I got to the barn Saturday night and rode. Remembering my day-before ride from Groton House, I really pushed us both to get to a place I wanted – supple and forward. I may have pushed a bit too much, as it was hot and humid and he took a long time to get his respiration back under control. Then I hosed him off for a long time, killing many awful greenhead bugs, and spot-scrubbed with shampoo. I packed up the truck and went out for a sub for dinner and spent a lovely evening snug in the back seat of my truck, reading and relaxing.

I woke up bright and early the next morning to see everyone else head out for a XC school, then had a leisurely breakfast and finished packing the trailer, hitching it up, and getting ready. Tris was cranky and nervous when I arrived at his stall so close on the heels of breakfast, especially with all the other activity – he knew something was going on, and he didn’t want his Sunday routine ruined. He paced his stall, and whickered, and wouldn’t stand still for me to groom him.

We ended up leaving quite a bit earlier than planned, and made good time getting there. I settled in by checking with the secretary and laying out all of my clothes and his tack, and then ran into another friend who used to board with us, who was there coaching one of her students. I watched her and her student and explained some things about the show to the student’s parents, and then it was time for me to get ready.

One thing I would change was that I got ready way too early, especially with the temperatures as high as they were – mid-90s all day, with minimal shade. I was doing mostly okay, but Tris’s energy was not great, and there was only so much warmup I could do I got him where I wanted him, but we were way too early, so we went over and stood beneath a tree and rested for about 10 minutes, then did a few canter circles to get revved up again.

First test was…eh. We hadn’t settled back in like I hoped, and I completely and utterly blew the left canter. Botched the lead twice, and as a consequence blew the whole geometry of the figure. He just didn’t have enough oomph for the transition, which is in a tough place in the ring for us anyway. We did much better with the right lead, and I was really pleased with a couple of points, namely our stretchy trot, which has come a long way.

We walked back to the trailer and pulled off his bridle and shucked my show coat. He drank nearly an entire 5-gallon bucket of water, which for him is HUGE. He’s not much of a drinker off-property. That told me a bit about how hot he really was, and for the rest of the day I offered him water every time he stood still. We rested for a bit and chatted to the people in the trailer next to us, who were very nice and knew of T. and Flatlands. Tristan fell asleep – actually asleep, closed his eyes, cocked a hind leg, and jumped when I went over to put the bridle back on.

I waited longer to tack him up for our second test, and after a little bit of trotting and making sure our bending was still accessible I stood up off his back and urged him into a bit of a hand gallop. Beland has these big gorgeous fields to warm up in, and it was late in the day, so there was plenty of space. I did get some stares, but opening him up did exactly what I wanted it to, even made him a little hot. We stood still for a few minutes, then opened up to trot around again when the person before was finishing her test.

This test went much, much better. I had more energy, more accuracy, and felt better overall. We nailed both canters. The stretchy trot wasn’t quite as good, but the free walk felt great. I was pleased with several of my transitions, and with my ringcraft – knowing when and where I could look less than perfect but be more effective in getting him back together. The judge smiled and asked what breed he was after our test, and he was tiiiiiiiired walking out of the ring, happy to stop and stand still when I dismounted and chatted to a woman after the test who was really, really excited to meet a mustang. I gave her some advice about picking one, and gave her the name of Tristan’s rescue to go check out for some more gentled ones.

Tris wanted very badly to eat grass, but I wouldn’t let him, not as close to hard work as he was. He drank another half bucket and got sponged off, then a bit of a walk around the parking lot area to make extra sure he was cooling out appropriately. He went back on the trailer with a relative minimum of fuss. I’ve tried a slightly different technique to load him by myself: standing on his right side and half-walking on the trailer with him, then sending him up the rest of the way and doing the butt bar with my left hand, standing on the right side of the divider. That seemed to work rather well.

Then there was a whole lot of hanging around, reading a book, eating a few handfuls of animal crackers (no food vendor meant I hadn’t eaten since a bagel for breakfast!) while he ate hay. It took forever for our class to finish and to get pinned, and then we headed home. 5th in Training 1, 7th in Training 2, but I was especially pleased to see a 61% and change for the first class, and a 66% and change for the second! Exactly what I was hoping for.

The drive home was tedious, because everyone and their cousin was driving home from the Cape and 495 was bumper to bumper. Rather than overheat Tristan by standing in that, plus getting home even later, I took semi-back roads and got a little more stressed by constant red lights than I wanted. Then settling him in, unpacking, cleaning out the trailer, parking the trailer (about which more later), driving the truck back to my parents’, throwing in a load of laundry and taking an incredibly long shower, ordering half the menu at McDonald’s, and getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic…didn’t get back to my apartment and in bed until 10:45. Whew.

2012 show season · beland dressage schooling show · training 2

Holy Cushy Times, Batman

I am wavering between confidence – I am an adult! I have been handling horses for many many years now! – and nervousness – I’ve never shown 100% on my own before – about Sunday. It’s too late to rope in a barn kid. The boyfriend has expressed his lack of interest in ever being at the barn. It’s just going to be me and the pony, with possibly a friendly neighbor’s helping hand if he flat out refuses to self-load.

I just got a shot in the arm when I checked the Beland Stables website to find my times – Training 1 at 2:12 p.m. and Training 2 at 3:32 p.m. Wow! Maybe some kind of karmic repayment for being the first person to go all day in my ring at Groton House?

This is much, much better. It means I can leave at a semi-reasonable time in the morning and still have plenty of time to groom and tack up at the show itself, without feeling rushed. I figure I’ll plan on getting there about noon to allow the butterflies to settle, to really lay everything out and get it done slowly and methodically instead of rushing.

We had a good prep lesson on Tuesday night, as Tris gave me another reason to love him when he didn’t bat an eye at the neighbor’s fireworks party. We ran Training 1 and T. liked it, giving me a few good pointers (if I think I’m over-correcting for the bulge of his left shoulder down the center line, then I’m right on) and pronouncing it overall a fair representation of where we were. Which is really what I’m aiming for. I figure there’s not a huge need to ramp up a training schedule for a straight dressage show. I, like many people, shed months of work when I go into the ring, and cramming the last few days won’t change that.

I do have a goal for Sunday, beyond not screwing up, and that is to be braver/more forthright about my warmup. To date, I’ve gotten nervous about really putting my leg on in the warmup ring, and allowed his nervous flailing to substitute for forward, which then (predictably) fizzles out when we get into the ring. I’d like to bring more of our actual training level into the ring. We’ll see!