Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Return of the Queen

Finally, finally, FINALLY! I got a semi-warm day, semi-dry footing, and a semi-sane mare.  I even got off of work early. Which almost never happens on a warm, dry, sane-horse day.  The Horse Gods smiled down on me from somewhere and I soooo took advantage of it.

I did carve out a few minutes pre-ride to play with my three year old English Bull Terrier Jasper.  He's still recovering from his last emergency surgery which was number three.  This last one was particularly hard, and my vet keeps telling me my dog is a miracle because he should have died many times over.  He's not completely well. The vet says that he has scarring on his lungs from all the surgeries so if he gets really excited he goes in to this almost dizzy, going to pass out, looks like he's going to have a coronary sort of stance.  It totally freaks me out and scares me blind.  So I tried to spend a little time with the incredible eating machine before my horse obsession kicked in to high gear.

The Queen was horribly dirty in the spots not covered by her turn-out sheet. So I spent a little extra time with her grooming, trying to tame her freakishly thick and wild mane, disparing over her tail that once was huge and thick, and is now a quarter of that size from having lived the life of a mostly outdoor pony, and inspecting with the precision of a gymnastics competition judge all four of her hooves.

Before I put any tack on her,  least the tacking up be in vain, I lunged the Queen to check her level of soundness.  I stared, I squinted, I turned my head this way and that but I couldn't see any unsoundness so on went her tack, and my gear.

I wasn't going to jump, the footing was iffy, and even though it had been warm and sunny most of the day I just didn't trust the footing in my main riding area enough to chance it. And just so I wouldn't be tempted I left my jumps down in the disarray the last rain storm had left them in.  I wanted to work mainly on our transitions. In a word they weren't great. I don't know if I need a sharper bit but she doesn't understand the meaning of the word whoa, or stop unless of course she thinks its the end of the ride then she'll stop on a dime.   She's not bad moving from walk to trot, but back down is harder for her. And I don't even want to talk about the ugliness of our trot to canter transitions.

I actually got some decent trot to walk transitions but the trot to canter still needs a lot, lot, lot of work. And probably some professional help. Seneca just gets so wound up and goes in to her giraffe impression when we start trying to go from trot to canter. I'm sure I'm transmitting tension some how and I just need to relax so she will relax. It's a work in progress.

But the crowning moment didn't come while we were in the arena.  After we were done with the flatwork I rode Seneca out of the arena and down our driveway to go over the big open field that actually belongs to the neighbor behind out property but they let me use it and even let me fence in pieces of it for more pasture.  It's such a blessing to have neighbors willing to just let you use their land for your four legged mowing/fertilizing machines.

I had planned to just walk around the perimeter of the pastures. There is a big water filled ditch that seperates the two largest pieces of the pasture. Usually I can cross where the four wheelers cross, but our neighbor had brought his tractor through there earlier in the spring, gotten it stuck and now that crossing was a little too trappy looking to cross, and the sides too steep to think about jumping it.

I eyed the big water filled ditch that stretched down towards the woods that separated my property from the neighbor who owned the field. The ditch further away from the four wheeler crossing was an easy width, but water filled and Seneca had always been a little apprehensive of ditches of any kind. She would go over usually but needed a lot of encouragement to do it.   I had never jumped this particular ditch, dry or wet, but ooooh I wanted to.  As another eventing blogger described I had a mad, burning, jump lust for that ditch.  I had not given in to the jump lust until today.  I'd ridden near that ditch for over a year, eyeing it, drooling over it, but not quite ready to just go for it.

Today, I don't  know what got in to me, or why I decided today I was going to let the jump lust have its way with me but I pointed Seneca to a fairly easy width with a good take off point, and landing point.  I actually anticipated having to encourage her but she went for it and jumped right over like a four star pro.   I couldn't believe it.  We had conquered the Horse Eating Ditch Demon!  Holy cow.  Just to test this theory I rode over to the ditch that runs along the long drive that leads to my neighbor's house.  I pointed the queen at the ditch and yet again she popped right over not the least little flick of an ear.  We popped back over in to the field and even went on a little mini-trail ride through the woods on a four wheeler path my neighbors had created.  I would have ridden over to their house but I could hear my neighbor running his tractor and I didn't want to push the Queen's sanity.  So we turned around and rode home quiet as you please.

All in all a really good day.

 The horse eating demon filled ditch.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rain is Not My Friend

K. came out on Friday to give the High Queen the once over.  The good news is there isn't an abscess. The bad news is Seneca may need shoes.  K. is trying to encourage me to put Easyboots on Seneca rather than shoes. But I'm just not sold on them, I'd rather have shoes.

And of course the minute the mare looked sound it began to rain.  The rain is not my friend. A friend to the pastures and the hundreds of pounds of grass seed my husband and I have put out to reseed the pastures but  not to me.  Because I want to ride and the rain turns all my riding areas in to swamps of mud and extra slippery grass.  And of course because the High Queen will not deign to travel in my current trailer I can't ride.

Thus ends my week of vacation that was supposed to be spent prepping for my mare's debut in to horse trials, and instead was spent treating her non-existent hoof abscess and cleaning my house.  Not a total loss, just not what I wanted to be doing either.

Lets see what next week brings. Hopefully a break from the rain although I'm not holding my breath on that one.  Spring in Virginia is nothing if not wet. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Hoof, No Horse

I'm pretty sure the High Queen has a hoof abscess from her little ballet on the drive way a couple of weeks ago. Which is just par for the course and making the Spotted Beast look oooh soo good right now.

But I still need to take care of the Queen even if the court jester is the better option for riding. So on my way home from work I stopped off at my local haven for all things horse. I love that tack store. It's not even the closest one to my house, its just the best. Of course the down side is every time I go in there I just want to empty my checking account.  I did however buy some supplies to treat a hoof abscess and the feed for the month.

It amazes me that a horse who absolutely freaks about getting on a trailer will stand quietly without even a second of fuss when I have to doctor her for any reason.   The first six months I had Seneca she morphed from racetrack princess to the clumsiest horse on the planet.  I know that it was just a racehorse making the transition to being a regular horse who goes out in to a pasture rather than standing in a stall all day but the accidents she had just about turned my hair grey.  In that first six months she got kicked in the chest and got an abscess, she collicked, she ran through the electric fence, she freaked and fell in the washrack, and she gouged herself under right eye, she still has a scar from that.  But eventually the accidents stopped although she was still getting picked on alot by some of the horses where I had boarded her at the time.

Nowadays she is the total ruler of the pasture.  The day we brought the Spotted Beast home then went down to my friends to fetch Seneca she went from being the bottom of a herd of five to ruler of her own domain complete with fawning, adoring younger brother to bow to her every whim.

I've to go give the Queen some more treatments so off with me to do the Queen's bidding.

(Her Highness eating her breakfast while wearing her stylish Gorrila tape poultice booty.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Third Time Not the Charm

For the last three years in a row I have been unable to compete Seneca. The first spring she developed a joint problem. This was due to her time as a racehorse and the fact that she'd been on a joint supplement for who knows how long while she was racing but I never had her on one until she started coming up off and on lame in the back.  So enter Cosequin(after about 500$ in vet bills which showed nothing) and now she's sound.

The year after that I was just returning from my deployment to Afghanistan and came home to find that my regular farrier had taken a break, my husband could not get ahold of the back up, and my horses hadn't been trimmed in a few months. Enter the merry-go-round of farriers.  I finally get the back-up to come out and not only was he rude, but on the second appointment he didn't show up and ditched not only my appointment but my friend down the road, and my trainers whole barn too.  Yeah he was a great guy.  In a panic to get my horse's trimmed I called someone I didn't know, but came with decent recommendations.  *sigh*  They cut my mare too short and she was lame for at least two weeks.  Finally on the third try I got a wonderful farrier, who is patient with my young horse who gets bored easily, and is full of a wealth of knowledge besides doing an excellent job.

So this was our year. I was home, on shore duty so I wasn't going to be deploying for long stretches of time, and I finally had my own trailer.  And here we hit the problem. Between my deployment and not having a trailer of my own Seneca hadn't been trailered in a year. So of course when I brought my new trailer home I immediately tried to load her.  *sigh*  The High Queen has deemed my used trailer not up to her standards of transportation and thus will not load.  Her brother on the other hand whom I call the Spotted Beast(He's a flashy Appaloosa gelding) who it took us an hour and a half the day we picked him up as a yearling learned to load himself while I was gone and will load in to anything as long as some sort of food is offered, sometimes there doesn't even need to be food his own curiousity propels him in.

I thought that Seneca just deemed my trailer as unacceptable. That was until I borrowed a big open stock bumper pull. Nope, she's an equal opportunity trailer hater. And of course during the two hours that it took me to finally realize she was not going to get in to that trailer that day Seneca managed to tear up the sole of her right front hoof and we're now looking at an abscess.  Total fun let me tell you.

Our show season is cursed I swear.  Then again there is always the Spotted Beast.  He just turned three and I've been on him half a dozen times. He's good, learns quickly, doesn't forget. And I know first hand that not only is he a very lovely mover (better than the High Queen), he's a mad jumper.  As a yearling he could jump the five foot pasture gates. So maybe some dressage schooling shows this summer,  a little pre-jump training in the fall, rest for the winter and attack this eventing thing from a whole new spotted angle next spring. Unless of course the High Queen will stop injuring herself and get off her silk cushions.  We'll see.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Enter the High Queen

Almost three years ago my life finally settled down enough to have a horse of my own again.  Thus began an exhaustive search to find a horse that fit my criteria.  This included not too expensive, a calm disposition, broke to ride, and moves decently since I wanted to event.  I got most of those things in a bay with chrome package. I also got a drama queen who fully believes she's now living among peasants put there to serve her every whim.

Seneca Wind was a seven year old semi-successful turf race horse who had that spring gotten bumped coming out the starting gate and bowed a tendon.  While she was fully capable of recovering well enough to race again she wasn't that great a race horse and the amount of time the owner and trainer would have needed to rehab her would be far more expensive than finding another racing prospect.

Enter Kim Clark and the race horse rehoming program called Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue Inc. (http://www.goodhorse.org) The program had another name back then but the goal was the same find homes for race horses that either were injured or too slow to make money on the track.  Seneca was listed on the part of the website that even now is my guilty, obsessive pleasure, Looking for a Home. This meant the horses listed on that part of the website were free to good homes for various reasons.  Seneca's injury made her harder to place because many people fear bowed tendons or don't have the time to rehab that kind  of injury.  I had the time, and after a lot of research knew that a slightly bowded tendon could heal to the point that Seneca would be able to event.

Here is how my first audience with the High Queen went.  I made arrangements with the trainer to visit Seneca at the Bowie Training Center in Maryland and then drove the almost four hours in my car.  Which wasn't a big deal I'd done over night trips to see horses previously so a four hour drive was an easy day. When I arrived the Queen was having her bath.  The trainer, owner and I spoke for awhile and then the trainer asked if I wanted to see her move.  Sure.   Seneca hadn't been asked for anything but a walk in months so when the trainer asked her to trot out she was... lets just say enthusiastic.  I nearly had to explain why there was a hoof print on the door of my car.

Even with the flinging of hooves I decided to give Seneca a chance.  I made arrangements to come back and pick Seneca up in a couple of weeks. I went back to see Seneca in her stall one last time before I went home that day.  She was napping in her stall and when I asked her to come over to me she lifted one eye lid gave me a highly disgusted look and went back to sleep.  Strangely, I was hooked.

And thus my three years and running relationship with the High Queen began.

Seneca in the Dec 2010 big snow.