Last Thursday I went to ride my horse. The jump arena was a little soggy, so we headed to the dressage arena, since the footing was a little more packed.
Aaaaand, he tripped. Twice. Whole hind end out from under me for just a split second, but it was enough.
It was a real bummer because we were supposed to head to Trainer B’s the next day for the first time literally forever. Ok, maybe not literally, but it sure seemed like it. So I texted him to let him know what happened and that coming up there would be pointless, and we agreed that working P until he goes back to the vet wouldn’t do any good.
So more easy days, I guess.
At this point I’m going to just go ahead and prepare for injections. We saw the vet on August 2nd, and since then P has pretty much had the whole time off. Between it storming every afternoon, to me just not being able to make it out, he’s maybe been ridden with purpose 3 times since then. So there’s still something wrong. He goes back next Monday, so fingers are super tightly crossed.
Friday I went to the barn to just hang with him in the pasture. I plopped myself under a tree with a book that I actually wanted to read. P was having none of it.
Saturday I went to Windridge to hang with/help/cheer on Trainer B and the rest of the crew. I was quite sad to not be there competing, as I really love the venue. And they changed up their XC course from even a month ago, which looked suuuuper fun.
Though I was a little startled to see this, when we were walking the courses:
Sunday, Baby Noah, aka the Tiniest Dictator, requested to ride P. I’m never one to say no to that. P is so gentle with him, and puts his head down for Noah to halter him, then follows along wherever he goes. Despite not having been ridden in 4 days, he stood at the mounting block, and plodded along around the arena for a few laps. It was a bit boring in the arena, so I suggested we head to the pond. Noah at first didn’t want to because he “didn’t want to go underwater,” so I hopped on with him:
P’s been on Roaxin for the last 6 days. Well, not Robaxin, exaaactly:
I’ve ridden him a little bit, but it’s stormed here pretty much every afternoon, coinciding exactly when I get off work, so nothing extensive. Trainer B wanted him to take it easy for the first week or so anyway, so it all worked out.
Plus we had things to do, videos to make.
Let’s take a closer look at P’s face:
Naturally we were filming an Asmar video, this time with the Combined Driving theme. Our original plan had been to have BO’s big dog (the one in the raft above) pull her smaller dog in the raft, but the smaller dog wanted nothing to do with that mess.
So we broke out P, since he’s pulled the raft before, and settled the pooch in.
Aaaaand, it ripped the anchor out and deflated the raft right away. Boo.
But we weren’t to be deterred. Can’t keep us down.
First of all, let me start by saying thanks to each and every single person that commented and texted me after my last post. I have like a dozen draft posts that I had started to write from those 2 weeks I went AWOL, but just couldn’t finish or publish. When I finally finished the update post and hit Publish, I had no idea of all the support that was headed my way. So seriously, thank you all so much!
Tuesday I had a vet appt for P to get his teeth checked and for the annual x-ray I get of his enlarged front left knee (which has never had any changes, but I get x-rayed every year anyway). The vet I use for that stuff is not really a lameness expert, but I asked him if he could look at P anyway, and see if there was something there.
The vet watched P walk up and down the aisle a couple of times, then started with flexions. On the left, P jogged off just fine after having both the fetlock and hock flexed.
Then the vet went to his right leg, and started with the fetlock. While not lame, there seemed to be a little something.
Then he did the right hock and there was no reaction.
So he went back to the right fetlock and while less than the first time, you can see a slight hesitation and him sort of swing that leg out in a circle.
Still, though. The vet said he couldn’t even really call that a 1 on the lameness scale, just that it was more than what he saw on the left side. Sigh.
Then he took scissor handles and ran them along P’s back. On the left side, nothing. On the right side, you can see P flinch away, indicating some soreness behind his right shoulder.
Of course I immediately started internally screaming “saddle fit…nooooo,” but the vet said not necessarily, that it could be secondary to something else.
Then he had the assistant walk P while he pulled on his tail. And when he came back said, “I don’t want to alarm you, but this is something we do to test for neuro signs.”
When P was standing still and the vet pulled on his tail, P braced to stay upright. When he was walking and having his tail pulled, you can see is hind end get pulled out of place. The vet wasn’t convinced that was a weakness, though, or a positive sign for a neuro disorder; he said P was such an easy going guy that he seemed to be more “whatever” about letting the vet pull his hindquarters out of place rather than it being something he couldn’t control. So. Not confusing at all.
He then told me there were a million things we could do, but he wanted to stay conservative at first. So he recommending putting P on bute (and GastroGard) twice a day until Sunday, with no riding until then. Then coming back next Wednesday and bringing my tack to ride him. If there seems to be any more NQR-ness, the next step would be to x-ray or ultrasound that right hind fetlock.
After talking with Trainer B, he wanted to get a second opinion and some body work done. I’ve had P chiro’d before, but never saw any major changes come from it afterwards. He wants to combine that with acupuncture, which P has never had, to see if that helps as well. So he set me up with his vet for that.
So Thursday I hauled P off to another vet appt. Without me saying anything, she noted P looked short on his right hind, and that he was dropping the right hip more than the left. Flexions didn’t make it worse, and he still wasn’t lame, but you could see the unevenness.
We brought him in and she started adjusting him. She noted he was pretty sore over the SI area, and spent some time popping things back into place. Then she started the acupuncture, and it all kinda came to light.
P’s muscles were so tight that there were places she could hardly get some needles in, and when she removed the needles, a few were literally twisted from his muscle tightness. She noted he was most sore over the SI area, and then pretty much his entire right side.
So she has him on Robaxin for 2 weeks: a high dosage for the first week, then cutting it in half for the second week. We’ll go back to see her in 2 weeks for another round of chiro + acupuncture, and if he’s still sore like that, she wants to inject the SI. In the meantime, no jumping for at least the next 2 weeks. Which means no Windridge next weekend.
Sad, because the closing date has passed, so even more $$ wasted, but if this gets us back on the right track, then of course it’s worth it. She said when he’s cleared to start jumping again to back him down and start small, until he realizes jumping doesn’t hurt, before bringing out the big fences again.
And the barn has a reputable saddle fitter coming out on the 20th, so I put P on the list. Fingers crossed that dear Volty gets the all-clear, because I seriously love that saddle.
But while it fit him when I bought it a year ago, he’s definitely filled out more and gotten way more muscular, so it’s possible it no longer fits.
Now who knows if this is the cure to stopping, but the vet definitely knew her stuff and works with jumpers all the time (she does the 1.30m jumpers herself), and said that with the level of soreness he was exhibiting, she wasn’t surprised he was stopping. I told her it just seemed so random, and sometimes we’d go days without stopping, and she attributed that to him being a stoic horse who tried, but sometimes couldn’t bring himself to jump since he probably knew it would hurt. And she said that could explain why he was stopping at the very last second- that he was going to go, but then really just couldn’t make himself.
Which may be true, but also maybe it’s not and he’ll feel 100% and still stop, and which in that case, it’s time to part ways. It definitely made me feel like crap, though, when I think about all the times I’ve punished him for stopping and then made him jump anyway, if it is due to pain. Thanks to Bette for the long conversations to make me feel better about that!
So good news is that I’m not crazy and there maybe a physical cause to the stopping. Bad news is only time will tell and I’m not very patient. Good news is that there’s no major injury like a fracture or torn muscle. Bad news is I’m still an impatient person and would like a crystal ball, please and thank you. And a million dollars.
P.S. If you read this and have a blog of your own- please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know where to find you!
Work has been crushing me- seems like the summer, which is typically a slow period for me, was over in the blink of an eye and everything needs to be done RIGHT. NOW.
Not too much has been up with P. Just, ya know, getting eliminated on cross-country at a “confidence-building” HT, going an entire week not stopping at a thing (including his first ever Training trakehner), then getting a chance to redeem himself where he goes clear over a super spooky stadium course, then on XC gets us eliminated again…at jump 3.
He almost didn’t make it home at all. Driving home after the 2nd one, there lots of huge fields with horses and I thought quite seriously about pulling over, unloading him, and setting him free. His lip tattoo is difficult to read- it’d be really hard to trace him to me at all. Only half kidding.
Needless to say, I spent the next few days writing P’s “For Sale” ad (to sell him as a reiner), and stalking horse ads for my replacement mount, until Trainer B ruined it all by talking me off the ledge.
I’m tired of talking about P stopping. I’m tired of thinking about P stopping. I just want to jump jumps and be happy.
Because I’ve made every excuse in the book to explain his stopping.
This is no longer true. No, he doesn’t have a ton of eventing experience, but he’s done it enough that he knows his job. When I point him down centerline, you can literally feel him become a professional. He knows when he’s pointed at a jump, the intent is for him to go over. And he’s been over enough jumps enough times to know that he’ll be fine. He also has stopped enough that he knows he’ll be disciplined and still have to jump it. Yet, the punishment is worth it to him and I have no idea why.
I’m not that good of a rider. If I were better, he wouldn’t stop.
Again, not something that’s true any more. No, I’m not suddenly God’s gift to riders, but I’ve come SO FAR this past year. Never have I been more confident, secure and balanced in the saddle. And P doesn’t even seem to appreciate that, or give any indication that he notices (how dare he, right?). There have been jumps where I’m literally pulling on his face, flopping around trying to get my stirrup back on my foot, and he jumps. And there have been times where the stars have aligned and everything is perfect, and he stops. There’s no rhyme or reason for either to happen.
I have a few trains of thought going here. I’ve talked to Trainer B at length about this a couple times over the phone while he’s been gone, and his take on things is that P believes his job is negotiable. He knows how to fake me out, and what buttons of mine to push to get me to back off (throwing his head and flailing around in the canter, stopping and spinning) so that he doesn’t have to work hard. I can see his point of view, and 95% agree.
But I also can’t push down the thought that perhaps something is going on with P physically. While he’s not lame and he doesn’t look or act like he’s sore or off, he occasionally will take a step that feels like his hind end has fallen out from under him, usually at the trot, sometimes at the walk. He always carries on like it didn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen often, so I’ve been just attributing it to weakness that MOAR hillwork will help fix. The other thing that happens is that occasionally in the downward transition from canter to trot, he gets all disunited in the hind end and has to come down to the walk for a second to get reorganized. Again, doesn’t happen often and he always carries right along, so I just thought with more fitness that would fix itself.
The other reason I sort of think it might be physical is because it’s hard for me to believe that this is his personality. We’ve all seen the crazy things this horse does for me, right? He obviously trusts me enough to put himself into whacky situations, but doesn’t trust me enough to hop over a log?
We were supposed to go to Windridge in 2 weeks for our recognized debut together at Novice. It would be my first recognized HT *not* at the starter level, and P’s 2nd. But after the last 2 weeks, I decided no, let’s not have the first entry on my record be “E.” I was going to scratch, but Trainer B offered to take him so he’s still going to go, and hell, he’ll probably jump it all. Of course I’m incredibly thankful for Trainer B because it’ll be another notch in the experience belt for P, but I want to compete my horse. Scratch that. I don’t want to compete him, but I want to WANT to compete my horse. Big difference right now.
If he needs a 4* rider to get around a BN course, then clearly I’m all wrong for him. Because…never going to happen, kid. I try my best every ride to be correct, but I’m an amateur with limited time and will, quite frankly, never be at the skill level of Trainer B. He’s so ammy friendly in every other way, I just can’t figure this out.
He’ll be seeing the vet in short order, to see if there’s something that has been previously missed to explain this behavior, and then Trainer B and I will plan from there.
So there’s my doom and gloom for the day. Now I’m going to catch up on everyone else’s blogs (feels like forever since I read anything from anyone), and hope you all had a much better week than I did!
Awhile ago I reached my WP storage limit (had no idea there WAS a storage limit until the thing turned red) and had to buy a “plan” to increase storage, and along with that plan came a custom domain name.
I’ve never been sold on name “The Pilgrim Chronicles.” When I started this blog, I just couldn’t think of another name because were were still in the very beginning stages of riding/training and I had no idea what we’d end up doing.
But now that I’m 100% sure that I want to event, I decided not to waste my free domain name on a name I didn’t love. I wanted something eventing-related, and naturally the one of the first things that popped into my head was the familiar saying, “Red on right, white on left, insanity in the middle.”
Didn’t really care for “Red on Right,” since there’s no funny joke behind it. “Insanity in the Middle” was what I was leaning towards, then Husband made a joke about being manic in the middle, messing up the line. Buuuut…it had a good ring to it, so I tweaked it to “Mania in the Middle,” and here we are! Husband is even in the middle of drawing me a logo. So official.
Pretty sure you can get to the site using the old address, but really have no clue how all this works. The new address is maniainthemiddle.com.
Hope everyone has a great weekend! I’m hoping to get caught up on everyone’s blogs soon- this past week has been a doozy.
I’m a classic overthinker so it should surprise exactly no one that all I’ve thought about since Sunday is the XC schooling, uh, experience.
Focus on the good. DO IT. DO IT NOW.
The highs of that day definitely outweighed the lows. By FAR. P used to have pretty much a 95% stopping rate at new jumps, and even familiar jumps were 50/50. He’s never jumped ANY of the Novice jumps at Windridge, so those were all brand new to him. And I estimated we jumped about 60 total times, since many of the jumps we repeated multiple times. He refused 2 separate jumps two times each, for a total of 4 refusals. That’s a 6% stopping rate. Yes, I did the math.
So why can’t I stop dwelling on it? I’m not sure. Maybe because I just can’t figure him out when it comes to this issue. He was so bold over the first couple jumps, then the spook at 3 was somewhat understandable. But the spinning and bolting like that at 4 was really uncalled for.
Was it because it was the first time we were heading away from the other horses?
Was he angry that I used my spurs when I felt him wiggle?
Was he legit scared of the stupid, plain rolltop?
Was it because he stopped at the previous jump, even though he ended up jumping it, and just felt like being bad?
I. DON’T. KNOW.
Living the dream.
This is where I try to lighten up. First of all, I have a horse. Do you know how many years I wished for a horse? Literally decades. My kid-self would dropkick me from here to outer space if she heard me complaining about my horse.
It’s really happening.
Back in January, I wrote a post about a dream I had, where I accidentally walked a Novice course instead of BN, so Trainer B made me do that division. I told him about it because HA HA, and then his response was this:
When I saw that, I laughed out loud. Because sooooo funny. But the joke was on me, because we really did it, 5 months later. Yeesh.
Jumps are looking doable.
Yesterday I went to Trainer B’s for a lesson. His wife told me that B had talked to the owner of Windridge after we schooled there, and the log we took going uphill? Training. I said, “But it had a white number!” But apparently it’s only Novice if we had jumped it the other way, from flat ground. Jumping it uphill bumps it up to the Training division.
And the last combination we did- the half coffin to log thing? It didn’t have flags, Trainer B assumed it was Novice (he’s not allowed to have opinions on jump levels anymore), but yep, that was Training, too.
In Trainer B’s words, “Look, you were schooling Training and we didn’t even know it!”
Don’t get me wrong- I still look at some Novice ones and my initial reaction is, “Yikes,” but for the most part, P is making them seem possible. Like the bench jump that he skipped over without a second thought…when I say that jump, for whatever reason, crept into all my thoughts of Novice, I’m not exaggerating.
And I even found myself watching Trainer B and his working student jumping the (flagged) Training jumps, and going, “Hey, that’s not so bad.” Shhhh, no one tell him.
Sharing the Fails.
I don’t really hold back on this blog. I mean, I write it for me and no one else, and the purpose of this at the end of the day is to detail our training (and to have a place to put all the hundreds of videos and pictures of my usually-adorable horse), and the fails are part of it.
That being said, I went through a recent phase where I would sort of mention failures, but wouldn’t post associated media, mainly the stops. My reasoning was that I didn’t want to see it myself. I didn’t want to dwell on the stops, and just wanted to post perfect pictures/videos. Kinda like most everyone’s IG account.
So when I was writing the post about XC, I had a block of text about the refusals, then videos of our successes. I hadn’t even looked at the footage of the stops at that point.
But you know what? Not posting it doesn’t make me forget it, as much as I wish it did. And maybe a year from now P will have never stopped at anything again (hush, I can dream, right?) and I can post the gif of the insane stop/spin/bolt move he did and laugh at it.
One of my favorite blogs to follow is Tales from a Bad Eventer (seriously hilarious…and oh-so-relatable), and I appreciate blogs like that because it’s honest and gives me some hope. No one is perfect 100% of the time and it’s ok to show the uglies, too. Plus, the fails are funnier.
Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy working with Trainer B?
Seriously, I can’t believe where we are now vs a year ago.
In June 2017, I went XC schooling with Bette at Windridge (same place we went this past Sunday). Except last year not only did P refuse pretty much all of the tiny starter jumps and need a lead over for many of them, those tiny little starter jumps looked enormous and daunting to me.
It’s pretty incredible, really, and I owe it all to him. He never gets upset, he never makes me feel less-than, he’s just so methodical and well, genius, that I know we really lucked out. In all my years of re-riding as an adult, I’ve never felt more secure in the saddle, more confident on my horse, and more equipped to deal with (most) issues that arise.
I live in the Charlotte region of NC, and our summers are long. And hot. And humid. Having grown up in Chicago, I’m STILL not used to the humidity here. It’s icky and it’s awful. I sweat so much I literally carry a towel around with me when I do anything outdoors. Walk down the driveway to get my mail? Get ready for some water works.
Given that it gets hot here in May, and stays that way until the end of September (or October, some years), if we want to do things, we need to suck it up. But there are a lot of differing opinions on that.
We have those that ride super early in the morning or super late in the evening. I can do neither of those, thanks to the little monsters called my children. If I want to ride, it has to be after work and before after-school care/camp/daycare pickup, giving me a window between 4:30-6 PM every day.
Then there are those that only ride when the temp/humidity is under a certain level. In July, our average daily humidity level is 72. Which, when combined with normal average temps of 94, sucks. So if I were to go that route, I’d pretty much never ride.
My normal lesson time with Trainer B is 1 PM. That’s about as awful as you can get, but it’d be hard for me to get there earlier and each time I’ve gone there later, traffic has been bad on the way back. 1 PM ensures I don’t have to rush in the morning, and can have a smooth trip back after. So 1 PM it is.
I’ve caught some flack for that. I’ve heard I’m putting my horse in danger, it’s cruel, unfair, etc. I’ve done the research and there are definitely some sources that agree with those viewpoints.
I don’t control ride times at shows. At CHP a couple weeks ago, our SJ time was 1:03, with XC right after. It was 92 with some insane humidity. It was gross.
This is how my horse finished XC:
He was still full of himself when I pulled up, and by the time we got back to the barns his breathing was normal. Within 10 minutes of being back in his stall, his temp was regular and he was happy to suck down a bucket of water and start munching his hay.
He had the next 2 days off, and he showed zero signs of being anything but perfectly fine. And when I got back on after 48 hours, P showed me exactly why he should never get a full 48 hours off.
So. The horse is pretty fit.
Now, if you normally ride when it’s cool out, or if you give your horse the day off when the temp reaches a certain point, I think it’s pretty unfair to then take that horse to a show (or anywhere) and demand it work in conditions it’s not used to.
My typical schedule usually includes:
Day 1: Dressage arena work. I usually pick a test and run through it and then work on specific elements that sucks.
Day 2: Hack 20-30 minutes around the farm. One of the hack days is always very low-key (more like wandering), and the other includes marching up/down hills in the pasture, lateral work around pastures, trotting up the long hill then galloping down the gallop lane, etc.
Day 3: Jump arena with lots of ground pole work. Have started adding gymnastics to this day.
Day 4: Hack 20-30 minutes around the farm.
Day 5: Lesson
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Usually a goof-off day. Bareback/bridleless/riding in costume/playing with weird objects/filming videos/giving kids pony rides, etc.
On work days, I’m usually on for about 40 minutes, with lots of walk breaks sprinkled throughout. Then he gets to cool off in front of the fans before going back out to the pasture when we’re done.
So how do you and your horse deal with summer? Do you have to manage them more carefully or do you just suck it up and ride in miserable conditions?
Despite me perhaps not working super hard between lessons, the lesson I had on Wednesday was a great one.
Not as great as the one last week, where we did 2 stride combinations over and over, and not only did P not stop at anything, HE DIDN’T CHIP ONCE. It was a miracle, I tell you. Even when Trainer B stuck the fences up to 3’3″, we didn’t chip. It was so awesome. We’re the stars of the 2 stride now.
Naturally, I have zero media of that lesson. So after we filmed the last contest video, I drug Husband off to my lesson with me to video.
Sidenote: We didn’t win! Boo. Asmar direct messaged me on IG and said that while they loved Husband’s video best of all, they couldn’t let us win 3 months in a row. They asked me a bunch of questions and are going to feature it in an “e-blast.” They’re a great company (with obviously a great sense of humor), and I’ll be doing some reviews of the clothing we won soon.
Ok, back to the action at hand.
We spent the first half hour or so working on the flat. Trainer B is a wizard over fences for sure, but he’s definitely no slouch in the dressage arena either.
P is a pretty stiff horse, and I struggle with suppling him. But he’s also a stubborn lil guy and can be so resistant that I end up second guessing what I do, so then don’t do anything at all. Because that’s always the solution, right? So Trainer B had us w/t/c while flexing him to the right and left using my hand and leg, and moving the saddle around (not really, it was just the imagery used) with my seatbones to loosen him up.
Particularly in the right lead canter, P zoomed around with his head in the air and his jaw locked, and it took 3 laps for him to soften. Trainer B said to think of it like he’s got to go through the dark side to get to the light, so just because it’s not working right away, doesn’t mean I’m not asking correctly. And that each time we work on it, we’ll be stuck in the dark side for less and less time.
And then, “Well, we rarely have a triple in the arena. But here it is, so let’s do it.”
P has not always been a fan of the yellow jump- and is never a fan of when jumps are cross-rail/vertical mixes, so he had us cut in and just do the yellow one twice. P accelerated towards it and I thought, yeah! We got this.
Now, I really can’t tell you what the problem was. Trainer B said the blue jump is spooky and sure, I guess so, but P gave no indication that was the problem. My guess is that he saw that there was yet ANOTHER jump after the blue and panicked. Combinations aren’t our thing, they never have been.
For example, in our SJ round 2 weeks ago, look at how he stops at this boring, plain vertical- it was the jump into the one-stride. He’d just jumped the other 4 jumps super boldly.
And then we reapproach, and he still comes to it way insecurely.
The week before, at the great-lesson-of-which-I-have-no-media, P jumped spookier, and much bigger fences, with zero stops. I think after jumping the yellow super boldly, he saw there were two more fences and shut down. So I’m betting it has less to do with the actual fences, and more about his own confidence in combinations. I’m still not 100% confident in them either, thanks to our history, so we definitely feed off each other there.
But we eventually got through it, albeit, not very prettily. That’s what lessons are for, right? RIGHT?!
Then he sent us through the one stride, and then around to the triple the opposite way. If you have the sound on you’ll hear, “She’s not going slow anymore, that’s good.” SCORE! Self-high five.
And then one final time to boost P’s confidence. And it was pretty perfect. P likes to land and then zoom off around turns, so we worked on softening him after the jumps and having nicer downward transitions, which we nailed.
So guess who’s going to set up a new gymnastic every week to help with our collective confidence? Send me your favorites
Giving pony rides to my 4 year old who has every day since, demanded that we “share Pilgwim.” He spent the 30 minutes ride (longer than my ride on P!) begging me to jump, cajoling P to “go faster,” and pony club kicking. Future pro event rider?
…Is our latest submission for the monthly Asmar Equestrian WEG challenge. This month they selected Endurance as the discipline to represent, and the challenge was to complete jumping jacks in a minute.