Last week I had a fitter out to try new saddles on P. Due to Husband’s nonstop traveling mid-September through mid-October, P has been severely on the back burner- having a measly 4 rides in that 30 day period. But I’d already rescheduled with the fitter twice, so if I wanted to try new saddles, it was then or….not then.
And in saddle #1 (which P clearly liked), we made it through trotting both ways and the left lead canter with no issue, but the right lead canter had him bunny hopping a few steps.
And I…well, sorta freaked.
Because while that certainly could mean something as simple as weakness, it ALSO could mean suspensory. So naturally I went with the theory that HIS SUSPENSORY HAS DEGENERATED AND LOOKS LIKE SWISS CHEESE.
If you read my post The Meltdown, this won’t have surprised you at all. For newer readers, I have this weird love-hate relationship with P where I routinely wish him death and misery, then when he blinks funny I rack up emergency vet calls.
I had the vet out. Who watched him race around the pasture, fancy as could be, then watched closer as he w/t/c on the lunge and then gave me his official prescription—
Yes, that’s right. After a solid year of injury after injury, where I had to do everything from hand walking to bandaging feet to putting in eye meds (not to mention chauffeuring him around the state to get ultrasounds, shockwave and eye surgery), a vet is telling me I need to ride my horse more.
The look on P’s face was priceless:
So I’m trying my best to fit more time in on him- right now he’s learning how to steer and stop off just the neck rope (and bareback because saddle fit woeZ), in anticipation of my December 2nd surgery. And then when we do “real work,” it looks an awful lot like the rehab protocol we followed last year.
And in a little over a month he’ll be my sole focus, because Leo is heading to Florida for the winter with Trainer B since I’ll be out of the saddle for awhile.
It goes without saying that P is obvi back on suicide watch. We’ll see how this pans out.
When the decision was made to enter Leo into the Windridge HT, my biggest dilemma was deciding who would ride him. Trainer B opined that I could do it just fine, but if I wanted him to do it, he would. I hate making decisions like that. I’m no good at it. For being as decisive as I am at home and in my job, when it comes to these horses, man, I can’t make a decision to save my life.
In the end, I decided it would be in Leo’s best interest to have a pro ride for his first competitive outing. Leo’s a bit of a ball of nerves and I didn’t want my ammy nerves expounding his- I want him to find outings to be as positive as they can be. That tends not to be the case when you have someone who’s competed once in the last year to be sitting on you while vibrating with adrenaline.
Ad I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still suffer a bit from haunting memories of horse trials past.
And the final reason was because of my hand. I’ve mentioned this issue sparingly in some posts, but I finally have a diagnosis (after nearly 2 years of MRIs, nerve tests, injections, therapies, etc) for why my right hand/wrist/fingers are failing to cooperate with me. And that’s because my radial nerve has decided it no longer has a reason to live and is choking itself on some scar tissue and, ya know, dying. In other words, I have a suicidal nerve. I’m now past the point where there’s hope for anything other than surgery to stop the degeneration, and while I canwill still ride until then, the uselessness of my right hand doesn’t make for the most stellar rider.
But the plan HAD been for Trainer B to pilot Leo around HT #1, then for me to take the reins (literally) for #2. So to prepare, I brought Leo along on my excursion to Carolina Horse Park the week after Windridge. I was already going to support and help some friends who were competing, and got Leo a stall so we could participate in the schooling day on Saturday. Our instructions were to trot all the Green as Grass (18″) and Maiden (2’3″) jumps and work on downward transitions after each fence.
And he was, in a word, AMAZING.
He was just so game for everything, yet so rideable, that I never wanted to get off him. Even fences that backed off other horses with much more experience than he had (this was his 4th time seeing XC fences) he took without so much as blinking.
AND we jumped his first (flagged) BN fence AND cantered into water for the first time. It was so hard to call it a day, let me tell you.
So two days later, when I was staring at the Rider blank on the entry form for the upcoming HT, I couldn’t understand why I found myself in the same dilemma as before. Leo’s already done a HT, we JUST had an incredibly successful XC schooling, he’s never stopped at A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G….there seems to be no reason why in the world I was still hesitant.
But I am. And it’s ridiculous. I’ve done 99% of the riding on the horse, and 99% of THOSE rides are outside of lessons (aka, unsupervised). I clearly haven’t messed the horse up yet, and doubt one weekend would do that, even if I were to ride like a total monkey.
And it also makes no sense that I would be more nervous to show than to school. Schooling at CHP, which I’ve done twice now with Leo, is not exactly a chill environment. It’s actually fairly insane, with hundreds of horses/riders of all levels congregating at one facility and schooling the same 50 or so jumps during a single 6 hour period. That schooling day has made even PILGRIM melt down. If Leo & I can handle that atmosphere, we should be able to handle anything.
So in a nutshell, I KNOW I’m blowing this way out of proportion, but I seemingly can’t do a thing to stop myself.
And after talking with Trainer B about it, I decided he’d ride Leo again. Then I hung up the phone and immediately felt sad. I almost called him right back to go, “NEEEEEEVERMIIIIND!” but figured I’d sit on it for awhile longer. And after getting home and staring some more at the entry form, I finally submitted it under Trainer B.
Then I went upstairs and tried on my show clothes.
Let me tell you, it’s SUPER fun being Husband right now.
That’s right y’all, Leo is a newly minted event horse!
I’d decided to have Trainer B ride him for this first one, to give him the best first outing possible, and while I kept waffling back and forth about the decision (even packing my show clothes and gear), I’m so glad I stuck to it, because it could not have gone better for the horse. He came out of each phase looking more and more confident in his new job.
Leading up to the Big Weekend, I was a nervous wreck that he would hurt himself. Thanks P, for the PTSD. So last Monday (T minus 5 days til showtime) when I tried to curry off what I thought was mud but turned out to be a gash that blew up his leg, you can probably imagine my reaction.
And then when he had an allergic reaction to fly spray (of which I’d bought a gallon of), I pumped him full of Benadryl and physically stared each hive down.
BUT we made it to Windridge intact, Leo settled in nicely, and Trainer B hopped on him to hack around the show grounds….then promptly got chased down the street by loose dogs.
So the next morning when it was time to go back that way to get to dressage, Leo was understandably a bit nervous to return to the scene of the crime and required a lead into warmup. Windridge’s dressage arena is quite a bit spooky, as it’s plopped in the middle of the woods, and while there were some moments where Leo couldn’t contain himself, Trainer B is such a quiet and patient rider that he was able to get some really nice work out of him before heading in.
He scored a 36.9- the lows being the canter transitions (5.5 for the right lead unsurprisingly), the free walk (he jigged, which earned him a 4.5), and the highs being his medium walk (an8!!!!), the canter circles (7 for the right, 7.5 for the left), and the left trot circle (7.5). The rest of the scores were a mixture of 6’s and 7’s, and collective marks were 6.5’s across the board, with the comments mostly noting bend and tension.
A few hours later we headed up to SJ. I was an absolute wreck by then, as Bette can attest to (thank you SO much for coming and cheering!). I couldn’t manage to properly ask her to hand me the girth, as I’d forgotten how to pronounce “girth,” and then I put his open fronts on backwards. One would think I’d be less nervous with someone else riding, but in fact, I was MORE nervous. I’ve had the horse for 4 months and Trainer B had ridden him maybe 5 times at this point. 99.999999% of everything has been done by me, so if he sucks, it’s on me. If something were to go wrong, you couldn’t even blame pilot error, like you could if I’d been aboard. And Leo hadn’t jumped for nearly 2 weeks at this point, as we’d focused solely on flat work at home and at Trainer B’s leading up to the show.
And Windridge had decided to change SJ up. They typically hold SJ on grass, but this time they’d decided to hold it in the middle of the XC course. So there was A LOT of terrain and A LOT of things to look at. Leo was a little excited to be jumping and tried to run off upon landing for the first few warmup jumps, then put in a few solid efforts and we hung out and let him watch the commotion. Well, Trainer B hung out, which chilled Leo out. I fretted and tried to stay away from the horse so I wouldn’t pass on my insanity.
He went in and had the first rail down (because trot fences are hard when you have spider legs), which upset him, but lots of transitions by Trainer B and he went around really nicely for his first real jump course ever (that was more than 3 jumps). Cantered some, trotted some (had one more rail at another trot fence), and ended the round just looking pleased as punch with himself.
The next day I was even MORE nervous, which I hadn’t thought possible. We’d walked the course the night before and the biggest unknown was going to be the water. While he’s gone right in both waters at Carolina Horse Park, he wasn’t so confident about the water complex at Trainer B’s (which, in Leo’s defense, is dyed TURQUOISE), but then when we were headed up to SJ, you have to pass by the water and Leo was definitely giving it some serious side eye and a wide berth. While there was an option to take a jump instead of go through the water, Trainer B wanted to go for the water, since it’s usually NOT an option. So he made a plan to try to get him in the water on his way to jump 5 (the water was flagged as 10) to get his feet wet.
Husband had thankfully driven up that AM and of course I’m lucky to be a part of the best team ever, so between Husband and I, and Trainer B’s wife and another client, we all scattered on XC to get as much of the course as possible. And besides only one uncertain fence where he didn’t seem to know where his feet were and how to coordinate them, Trainer B piloted him around, uh, like a pro (duh) and Leo finished his first horse trial looking like a real event horse.
Which, even with the 2 rails and the time penalties, landed him in 4th place and he got his first ribbon!
So here’s hoping I have the same success when it’s my turn!
I’ve been on the blog struggle bus for some time now- reading and writing. Husband, who told me when he took this job that, “it’ll be a night or two traveling some weeks,” has spent approximately 2 days at home in the last 3 weeks. That means I have 1.5 hrs at the barn after work (a TRAVESTY) before I have to get kids, get home, microwave them dinner, do reading with the kindergartner, attempt math/science nonsense with the 6th grader, etc. The upside is my house remains sparkling clean because we aren’t home enough to mess it up.
P has been a pasture puff since his diagnosis of thin soles until he gets pads next Tuesday. because 1.5 hours is simply not enough to get both horses tacked/untacked/ridden, and there’s no point in risking a bruise. Let’s be real- if I were to put a saddle on him, he’d likely find the pointiest rock on the way to the arena and pierce all the way up to his coffin bone. So we trick him by using a bareback pad + the Tiniest Dictator. Works like a charm.
Leo has also been on his own set of adventures, such as jumping all the BN/N XC jumps at Trainer B’s, his first oxer, and…AND….the rolltop that haunted P’s nightmares.
But Leo gave it no more than a cursory glance the first time over it, and then the second time didn’t even blink. He didn’t stop at a thing or even try to, not even the big coffin ditch.
And at home when a horse at the barn refused to go over this tarp repeatedly, Leo was all, “What’s the problem?”
But the last couple rides he’s been a little more reluctant to go forward, even on Monday after having THREE DAYS off (I totally wore sticky breeches and they totally weren’t needed). No lameness, just a little fussy about staying in the trot/canter. So the vet was out today to do shots/Coggins for everyone and I asked her just to do a general check to see what she thought. And after watching him go around the lunge line, felt he was a bit stabby with his hind legs, likely indicating sore hocks. So he’ll be getting hock injections in short order. I also had him on a 30 day trial of a joint supplement, and the not-so-stellar rides happened after he’d run out and been off the supplement for about a week. So he’s starting back on it tomorrow to see if that helps any as well.
Much like a recent news cycle, it happened. Shortly after coming off of suicide watch (obvi way too early), and being left alone for longer than he should’ve…
…Let me back up a bit. After P’s trip to Trainer B’s on September 2nd, the next day we went for a relaxing hack around the farm…where he, of course, twisted a hind shoe off (HOW?).
So that got him out of work on September 4th, then he had his tootsies done September 5th and later that day I rode him in the jump arena for 45 minutes, where he was perfect. Then September 6th he had his teeth floated, which earned him another day off. Leo & I went to Trainer B’s September 7th, which got him another day off, as I had familial duties to attend to when we got back. September 8th I didn’t ride at all, so when I arrived at the barn after work on Monday, September 9th, I was ready to tackle riding both horses that day and being productive.
The vet came out yesterday and blocked his feet, which instantly improved everything, so she took some x-rays of his feet and declared him thin-soled and needing pads stat.
Then she made a comment about his hind end and asked which leg it was that had the injury. And when pressed, said the possibility of reinjury was in the back of her mind because he seemed sore. But then said of course he could be sore because of THIS:
That’s where Leo decided to kick P this past Sunday afternoon, after spending 30+ minutes in the arena alongside each other with no issues. Why? No idea. P was literally minding his own business with Husband and Leo turned himself 180 degrees specifically to kick him. So then I had to hand Leo his ass because sorry, I don’t do kickers. P has never kicked a horse a day in his life and (for once) did nothing to deserve it.
So P is on Bute for a couple of days with walking under saddle, and getting pads next Monday. And then we’ll re-check the hind to make sure nothing is amiss there. So in the meantime, I’ll be mildly freaking out. NBD.
I’m running like a week behind here. The struggle is real right now.
When I was at Trainer B’s a few weeks ago, I mentioned my saddle fit woes with P and that I was concerned that perhaps it didn’t fit Leo either. I showed him how I put the saddle on- up pretty forward, then pulling it back until it settled, and he noted that it was still sitting too far forward on Leo’s shoulder and to pull the saddle back even further. Since P has massive shoulders as well, he said to try it with P and see what happened.
That’s the first normal trot I’ve gotten out of him in a year.
Almost like he was trying to tell me something with this:
Yeah, I suck.
So we had normal rides all that week, which led to him getting on a trailer to Trainer B’s with Leo on Labor Day. His first trip back there since July 2018.
Leo went first, while P stared at us from the stall at Trainer B’s that we stuck him in, weaving back and forth like a psycho. Apparently he thought all my threats to leave him with Trainer B had finally come to fruition, because when it was his turn, he turned into a looney toon while Leo walked away and into the stall without so much as a backwards glance at P.
He leapt besides me as I led him up to the arena and turned into a giraffe when he spotted people, yes, PEOPLE, daring to also be on the grounds. When I first got on, I felt like I was on a ticking time bomb, as he was so jacked up.
He started off just trotting around like a jackhammer, and we worked on flexing him one way, then the other, to get him to use himself properly so he could start to rebuild some muscle.
And while his canter is not nearly as smooth as Leo’s, at this point I will take P’s canter transitions over Leo’s.
But I’ve always had to work pretty hard to sit P’s canter. He’s a great galloper and it’s so easy (and fun) to just get in half seat and zoom around, but sitting always has me feeling like I’m being tossed around like a salad. For the longest time I thought it was me, until I started riding other horses and having no issues. Sorry P, it’s not me, it’s you.
I’m sure much to P’s sadness, he won’t be frequenting Trainer B’s as often as before, but it was great to have someone who knows P evaluate him and give me some homework. P’s quite a bit more advanced in his training than Leo, but not in as good of shape as Leo is. So both horses are doing a bit of the same thing for now, with P just a few steps ahead.
And Leo? Leo got to go work in the big boy dressage arena and start to put together elements of a test.
And while there was some giraffe-neck happening, he tried his best to cram his long, gangly body into 20(ish) meter circles, though he was sure to let us know it was VERY VERY HARD.
Then the next day, both boys went out on a 40 minute hack- Leo went first and we had an uneventful time. After riding sure-footed P for years, who has always handled changes in terrain like a champ at any gait, Leo feels so awkward and gangly, and definitely struggles a bit more. So I try to get him walking and trotting up and down the hills in the pastures at least 2x/week.
Then P went out for his 40 minutes and at some point torqued his hind shoe off. Hands up if you’re shocked. No one? Yeah, me either. After taking him to Trainer B’s, BO and I put him on suicide watch , though, so I guess this was nothing in the grand scheme of things.
And, because I don’t have media of it (which sucks, because it was SO.GOOD.), a quick recap of Leo’s trip back to Trainer B’s this past Saturday where two things happened:
I fell off him for the first time. I’d been dreading falling off him because he strikes me as the type who’d get freaked and run away. So as I’m falling, all I’m thinking is NOOOOOO, because Trainer B’s arena isn’t fenced in. Clearly I’ll never catch the horse. Imagine my surprise when Leo just stood there like a statue, looking perhaps a little perplexed. What a relief THAT was to get out of the way. And I clambored back on, then we continued on with great success (and I sat up when we turned after jumps after that).
We jumped 2’6″ jumps over and over (Leo’s first time jumping a vertical over 2′ and anything over 2’3″), and it was all over the crazy fillers that P would’ve (and definitely has) stopped at.
Including THE gate…want to know how nervous I was trotting Leo up to the gate? You might ask: why in the world would a plain, nondescript tan gate have me so twisted up inside?
So Wednesday morning I gushed about Leo, right? Was it just Wednesday? That day is sort of a blur. Because at 2:18 that day, I got a text.
P and Leo couldn’t be more different in pretty much every single way. So seriously- a right eye injury? At least P had the common sense to wait 4 years into our relationship before injuring himself. Leo has been here exactly 3 months. I don’t love ya that much yet.
Luckily my vets love me (probably because I’ve paid them a TON of money in the past year):
2:18: I get the text and sit in disbelief
2:21: I call the vet office and start packing up my stuff at work to leave
2:25: Vet calls back, confirms it’s really NOT Pilgrim she’ll be seeing, says she’s on the way
2:55: I arrive at barn
2:58: Vet arrives at barn
The first thing she did was stain the eye while I waited to hear the words “puncture” and/or “ulcer” and/or “needs meds every 6 hours.” The surrounding tissue was so swollen that she could only see about 90% of the eye, BUT she said that the eye itself looked normal and asked me if he was allergic to anything.
She said it’s most likely an allergic reaction, the result of himself whacking himself, or a sting. We’re leaning towards whack or sting, as BO reported he looked normal when he came inside that morning and she took off his fly mask. Plus he had nothing out of the ordinary- hay, water, feed was all the same. So the vet gave him some Banamine, a shot of Dex and said just to be on the safe side, treat with the triple antibiotic eye ointment I still had from the days of P’s eye…but thankfully only 2x/day.
By the time I left the barn about 4 hours later, his eye was still a little puffy, but not nearly as bad as before.
And the next AM, I almost couldn’t look when BO texted me again, but…
And then I went out there that afternoon and lo and behold…definitely normal.
P was definitely relieved it’s not more serious, as Leo being out of commission means P becomes the focus. Since I was low on time after work, Leo had a real ride while one of the other boarders toodled around on P bareback. And being back in work is HARD.
Since then Leo has had 23 rides at home and been to Trainer B’s 9 times for lessons, and in my opinion, has come such a long way. But the real test was going to be heading back to Carolina Horse Park for the War Horse schooling day/horse trial, because there’s A LOT going on there.
Friday morning we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson (in which he was perfect), then left straightaway for CHP. My friend was showing there with her trainer and another client, so I stalled with them, and we had another friend coming in to help out, so a really fun group of day drinkers support.
Leo settled in nicely, then I went to go hook up my trailer in the campsite with the plan of hacking him around the grounds when I got back. Of course as soon as I got back to the barn the heavens opened up and it poured and stormed for about an hour, and I saw my chance of riding slipping away. I was sort of desperate to get on him, though, as I figured my best shot at a calm(ish) ride would be that evening when 1) It wasn’t super crowded, and 2) He’d already been worked that day. So as soon as it stopped downpouring, I tacked him up and we headed out.
It was still sprinkling, there was a bunch of lightning and thunder, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, but the horse was PERFECT. A little tense, but didn’t put a foot out of place, even when someone came cantering head on towards him. We lasted about 20 minutes before the storms came rolling back in for real and it became a little insane to be out there.
The next morning it poured some more, so everything became a sloppy, disgusting mess. It was the pre-horse trial schooling day, and my instruction from Trainer B had been to get him into the water complex, and also to get him over a few of the tiniest baby jumps IF he was handling everything well. There was a lot of excitement on the grounds, as it was a frigid 70 degrees after 90+ degree heat for the entire summer, and many a call of “Loose Horse” could be heard around the venue.
So when I got on at the barn and walked him past mucho madness to meet everyone at show jumping and he DIDN’T melt down, I was so proud. He did have one moment when a couple horses came at him, but it was more of a “We gotta get out of the way,” spook than anything else. Unfortunately, my friend’s horse and the other client’s horse were having a rough go at life, so our XC schooling time got pushed back while the trainer could get on those guys for their schooling rounds. I ended up walking Leo across the street and just hanging out, letting him soak in the insanity that is XC schooling, and walking/trotting him around the field. AND HE WAS PERFECT. Yes, this is going to be a theme here, guys.
By then everyone else was there, so we followed along while they jumped, because my main mission was water. He stood still while everyone jumped, and didn’t even flinch when a whole group of horses came charging around the corner and up the hill towards us like the cavalry (with the trainer hollering behind them NOT to do that). The only time he got upset was when we were in a little straightaway with woods on either side and my friend cantered off on her horse. There was much sideways motion and llama neck while I convinced him we weren’t going with them, but once they got back, I decided to trot him over the glorified groundpole that is the Green as Grass jump and he had no issues moving away from our group to do just that.
Then we popped over a tiny coop, and on approach he was much more interested in the flag laying in the ground, and did a little pitter-patter with his tooties before popping right over.
But came right around and did it again.
And the water? Oh…a non-issue.
Then we hopped over a couple more little things:
And then finally strung together a mini course…and he was an angel.
Heading back to the barns, I almost got off to walk him because I figured he might get a little anxious crossing the road and going through the trailers and barn madness, but my curiosity to see how he’d handle it all won out, so I stayed on. And we ended up splitting off from the group with one of the other clients so she could go back to SJ warmup and tackle those jumps again, and Leo this time was perfectly fine with the chaos. I got off him so we could be the client’s jump crew and he followed me around like a puppy dog, and stood like a statue while she jumped. You better believe he got praised like he’d just jumped around Rolex Land Rover for how incredible he was.
He was so good I almost let Husband peer pressure me into entering the actual competition the next day.
And the next day, despite being cooped up in his stall most of the weekend, was perfectly calm to walk around and graze, while I watched some dressage warmup and SJ rounds.
And while I know that there’s still a long way to go, this outing really bolstered my confidence in his brain…not to mention I had SO.MUCH.FUN.
I guess this isn’t technically a blog hop, or at least a new one, but it should be. Amanda has this insanely hilarious post that, if you haven’t seen, need to check out STAT. I almost keeled over in my office chair from laughing. Come back here when you’re done.
It inspired me to think about what characters my own horses would be. I don’t feel like I know Leo well enough at this point to ascribe him to a character, and then I had way too many options with P, because P has many MANY personalities.
But during this thought process, I realized that while maybe P doesn’t have the traits of one specific character, our relationship does have a certain movie-esque theme to it…
P when I insist on bathing or grooming him.
And when he knows he’s done something wrong and preemptively punishes himself.
P when you lead him anywhere and make the mistake of turning to look at him.
When I have a crazy idea (usually for a contest).
My face whenever P does something cute.
Whenever we hang together in the pasture or stall. He’s definitely a cuddler.
When I ride Leo first, then go get P second.
My face when I go out to rehab/bandage/medicate whatever injury P has inflicted upon himself.
P in dressage warmup.
P going into stadium.
Me bribing P to jump all the jumps on XC.
That time I tried to sell P.
After Trainer B rides him.
Whenever we have a great ride (usually the ride after Trainer B).
Vs when he gets us eliminated on XC.
And the next time I see him after said elimination.
Me threatening P before we jump anything.
How others see us.
When a friend of a friend wanted to lease him.
And me after almost going through with it, but ultimately not.
And lastly- the most perfect gif EVER to describe our twisted relationship (again, I’m clearly Ryan Gosling).