Sunday, 31 March 2013


Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all having a good holiday.

I came home for the night to spend Easter with my family, but I'm going back to check on the pony today. He seems to be in good cheer, and the vet will be out on Wednesday to take another blood test and re-evaluate him. When I was at the barn yesterday, the outdoor arena was almost melted, and if this good bout of weather will keep up, we should be able to ride out there in a week or so. I'm so excited that when my baby is feeling better, we can actually go outside. He'll be wild!

In other news, we got three new ponies at the barn, one of which is an adorable little mini! She is so cute. I'm totally going to put her in the back of my car and take her home some day!

Other than that, I have a quick question for everyone. I got a Greenhawk gift certificate, and I'm thinking about buying a new pair of breeches for the summer. I'm not the biggest fan of their Elation breeches, although I have 3 pairs, but they have a few new brands that I'm interested in trying. Has anyone ever tried these Baker Elite breeches or these Ariat Prix breeches? Or for that matter, anything on this page? All I want is something comfy to wear in the summer while riding. I'm not too worried about showing.

In fact, on that note, I don't know what our plans for showing are going to be. I originally thought I'd do the first show at our barn in June so that we could try some crossrails, but ever since Walker got sick, I'm worried about rushing him to that goal too soon when he needs to put on some weight and build back up his immune system. Even if he's physically fit enough to compete then, I will probably not have much of a chance to practice my own position, which obviously needs A LOT of work. Oh well. Health comes first. I'm not the biggest fan of showing anyway.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Idle Hands (and Legs and Feet and Body)

Since Walker is on an extended break from being worked, I've decided that I need to do something to keep myself fit for him.  Frankly, it's been a month since I rode extensively.  I was away over March break, and Walker got sick after that.  I rode him lightly for the first two weeks, but now of course, he is on stall/arena rest.

The other night when I rode Coal, I thought I would not be tired since he is much more forward than Walker, but I quickly found myself panting and sweating after only a few minutes.  Oh the joys of getting older!  You can't even take a break for a few weeks before you start to get lazy again!

When I'm finally cleared to ride the pony again, I think I'm going to develop some sort of fitness plan for him.  He has lost a lot of weight in this bout of sickness, and I want to make sure that I work him slowly and let him gain back some weight.  In the meantime, there's no reason I can't stay fit!  There's absolutely nothing wrong with my immune system, other than a case of the couch potatoes.

I hate to jinx our good weather and everything, but I think that Spring may have finally arrived.  On that note, I may try running.  Really, I don't know why I'm even admitting to it because I say the same thing every year around this time.  And every year, I pretty much give up after the first day it rains.  However, perhaps the idea of keeping fit to be worthy of Walker will keep me motivated.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  We'll see.  If I never mention it again, you'll know why.

By the way, Walker is no longer allowed to be turned out in the indoor arena without a halter.  Apparently, it took my trainer and her husband quite awhile to catch him this morning.  He didn't escape.  He just decided to have a fun time running from them when they tried to bring him back to his stall for breakfast.  The arena isn't very big, but he is a master of evasion when he wants to be.

We also got some new ponies this weekend, including one adorable mini. I can't wait to play with them!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Bad Pony is a Pony on the Mend

Reflexes like a tiger.  I swear
I'm not going to jump the gun and say that the pony is completely on the mend, but the meds are definitely starting to work.  He has stopped swelling up since we started giving him the anti-swelling meds on a regular basis, and I think the iron is starting to give him some energy back.

Case in point: he escaped this morning.

Apparently when my trainer went behind this metal gate contraption to look after the horses back there, Walker decided to join her - and also totally freak the horses out back there, who are in a tight confined space.  This is essentially their stall after all.  He wasn't wearing a halter of course, and when my trainer went to grab him, he made a break for it - out the metal gates, through the indoor arena door, and trotted off like a madman down the barn aisle, insisting that my 35 week pregnant trainer would not be able to catch him.  Luckily for us all, the doors to the barn happened to be closed, and he was returned to his [very large] cage.

That's mommy's boy!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Vet Rant

I don't know if I explained this before, but my barn owner is very close to Walker's vet.  I mean, they are actually friends in real life, and she texts him on a regular basis.  In many ways, this is a great thing for me because it means that anytime I have even the slightest question, she can get a hold of him and ask without me paying an arm and a leg to get him to come out to the barn.

However, my barn owner is also one of those "my barn, my rules" types, and in fairness to her, she deals with a lot of children, parents without horse knowledge, and people that don't pay their bills.  I am none of these.  In fact, I am the only adult at the barn who owns a horse.

Anyway, as it turns out, my vet and the on-call vet do not particularly get along all the time.  I'm told it is an ego thing, and the problem is simply that the on-call vet is a large animal vet whereas my vet is an equine specialist.  Naturally, I need to defer to my vet, but the on-call vet continued to contact me all week, including today.  Since I have never had any problems with Walker before, I didn't realize the procedure.  Apparently the on-call vet is supposed to hand over the case to the vet in charge as soon as the work week begins, but instead, the on-call vet continued to check lab results and contact me.  I mean, it is not a bad thing to have him so enthusiastic about Walker's case, but obviously problems have arisen between him and my own vet.

For instance, today the on-call vet called me to prescribe a drug to treat against ulcers, since ulcers can be a cause of anemia.  After some extended conversations about me being a nervous wreck about Walker's swelling, I convinced him to also prescribe me the medication we used the night before to bring Walker's swelling down.  Several hours after I shell out over $100 for all of this new medication, I get a text from my barn owner saying that she talked to my real vet who prescribed the anti-swelling medication and some other antibiotic, different from the one for ulcers.  I immediately messaged her back and explained what the on-call vet gave me.  Apparently, my vet was livid, and also happens to be the on-call vet's boss.  He told me not to give Walker the ulcer meds (goodbye money) and he would "deal with it".

All this hullabaloo has left me extraordinarily slightly perturbed.  First of all, what if I had went to the barn and administered those meds to Walker, and my barn owner had went out and gave him the other stuff.  I mean, can all three even be administered?  What if we had overdosed on the anti-swelling meds?  I don't care if the vets have drama.  Work it out among yourselves!

Secondly, I feel like my barn owner is overstepping her bounds.  I will preface the following rant by saying that she knows how crazy worried I am about Walker, she knows I want the best for him, and she knows that I am also depending on her to help me with all this (I happen to have a severe phobia of needles, which is making giving him shots kind of wildly impossible).  However, I am the owner of the horse, and I feel like I am the person who is the most out of the loop.  I don't care if my vet tells her things.  I want her to know.  But why the hell isn't he calling me and telling me!?  I mean, he prescribes Walker the meds, my barn owner picks them up, she tells me about it, and then she administers them to him without me being there (and of course, I now owe her money for them).  She did tell me about them before she administered them, but I did not expressly give her permission to administer them (or buy them!).  And then I find out that he was very difficult to give one of the meds to, and it took four of them to essentially hold him down.  Ummm.  And why wasn't I there?  Why was all this going down without me?

The problem here is that my barn owner is a controlling person (as am I, to be fair), and she is used to dealing with everything at my barn.  One of the horses this week got into an argument with another one and needed stitches.  She called the owners, and they didn't show up for two days!  So it's regular course of business for her to have the vet tell her what she needs to do and then for her to look after other people's horses.  But I'm not like that in the least.  The problem is that she also takes offense easily, and if I confronted her on all this, I would not be surprised if she simply refused to help me anymore.  I can't afford for this to happen - phobia of needles, remember (hereafter, called "the bad thing" since it bothers me to even type the word).  So I clearly have to tread lightly on the matter.

I think tomorrow I am going to have a heart to heart with the vet and try to gently explain to him that he can tell my barn owner whatever he wants, but he has to let me know too.  I don't want to hear it from her.  I want to hear it from him.  And more importantly, I'm afraid that someday I am going to do something (like decide to administer the drugs myself) and she will do it too.  I shouldn't have to check with her if it's ok for me to administer drugs to my horse.  It should be the other way around.

Anyway, that is the end of my long vet rant.

The main thing is that Walker looks better tonight.  He was still swollen a bit and moving kind of slow, but not nearly as bad as last night.

I rode a horse named Coal in the lesson tonight. He is about 14.3 hands, jet black, with a huge barrel on him.  He's a quarter horse, but more the ranch style horse who is quick on his feet and turns on a dime.  He was great fun to ride.  And when I say quick on a dime, let's just say that I may have run us into a lot of obstacles throughout the evening - including my leg into the wall.  And when he canters, he's got a quickstart kind of canter.  He really rockets off his haunches.  I actually thought he was bucking at first!  I think he will be fun to ride in the hiatus while Walker gets better.  Although, of course, I miss my big boy's floaty canter and gentle jog.  :(

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


You know, I'm trying to be brave but I'm finding it very difficult. I thought Walker was improving because he was starting to eat his grain, although slowly, and the swelling had decreased since Sunday.

And then I went out to the barn tonight. When I got there he was slightly swollen but the vet told me to expect that. There was a lesson going on so I went into the lounge to chitchat with the parents, and an hour later when I came to turn Walker out in the arena, he was even more swollen than when I got to the barn.

At this point, I was trying not to panic, since it was well past 9 at night again. I decide to take him to the arena at which point it's obvious that he can barely walk again and seems like he's going to fall over from the sheer exhaustion of moving. I took this video of him in the arena mainly for records (and possibly to show the vet), but I had to shut it off because I was too afraid he was going to collapse in front of me.

Apparently one of his tests is back and the vet is going to call me tomorrow. I will voice my concerns tomorrow, mainly that I realize the swelling will continue to return until all the medication starts working, but this type of swelling is simply too severe for comfort. I need to know if I should be administering the drugs we had to give him tonight on a regular basis. I am extremely lucky that my barn owner is friends with the vet, is well versed in giving medication in all forms, and simply that my vet gives her the medication which is technically for veterinary use only.

Secondly, I'm worried about his weight. In my opinion he has lost a lot of weight, which makes sense when you consider that he has barely eaten in two weeks, but frankly, he does not look good. I need answers.

Also, I just wanted to apologize if I have been snippy with anyone lately. I did not mean it! Although, I will be honest that I may have tore a strip off someone at my law school today who frankly had it coming and picked the wrong week to poke the bear.

Finally, all the talk about riding ninjas had me looking up other cute riding-themed apparel. I found this sweatshirt that I really liked, and it reminds me of Walker because obviously Western Pleasure is his thing. I will admit that I wanted to learn to jump, but if he'd just get better, he can do whatever he wants for the rest of his life!

It's Raining Hay

I talked to the vet, and it turns out that it does in fact have to be that supplement that I use, which is perfectly fine by me.  Apparently it helps to stimulate his red blood cells or something along those lines, but the vet doesn't think that I will have to have Walker on it forever.  I think once he is feeling better, we will reevaluate and I'll get the vet to pick a supplement I can keep Walker on regularly.  Like I said, I never had any problems with Walker's mineral/vitamin levels before, but buying a supplement is an easy fix.  I also think the vet and I are going to have a lengthy conversation about feed and which one would maximize Walker's health and performance.  While this whole anemia thing and all the consequences and other weirdosities seem to be because of some bug or flu or temporary fluctuation, I have been debating individualizing feed for a long time now.  This gives me the perfect opportunity.  For one thing, I definitely want to add some flax into his feed because I'm finding his coat a little lackluster, which, for the record, is also a symptom of anemia and a by-product of Winter, but I want to make sure it goes back to that beautiful shine we had going on in the summer.

Until Walker feels better, I am not to ride him, which makes sense since he has to build himself back up.  I am going to turn him out in the indoor arena all night to avoid any further swelling or stocking up, and then try him in overnight for the weekend to see if it comes back.  In the meantime, I intend to visit him daily because I love him, but also because I will probably take him for extended walks around the property - check out the scenery, get a little exercise, see if spring has sprung.

Because I'm out there in the evening to put him in the arena, I've been helping the trainer's husband do a bit of the late night chores.  He likes to throw hay down from the loft at night so it's all ready for him to feed in the morning.  I had already put Walker in the arena, and the hay gets thrown in there.  I figured that he would freak out when a giant bale of hay came tumbling out of nowhere and hit the ground with a thud but not Walker.  He becomes immediately gleeful and saunters over to where the hay is.  Now he is standing directly in the path of the flying hay, and I'm going out of my way not to hit him.  Even though they are pretty much in a semi-circle around him, he is not spooked in the least, and happily munches away at each bale, testing them out.  He must think it's some blessing from on high - food delivered from the sky!

And because apparently we can't catch a break, I missed a sale on breeches at Greenhawk. :( They got a bunch of different kinds in and I wanted to try some out. I have my eye on some online at Dover, but frankly it's so much easier to buy in Canada. Anyway, I meant to buy them online Sunday night, but that was the night Walker got sick and we called the vet. I checked and now they are no longer on sale. :( Sigh. I'm ready for some good news now

Last but not least, I entered a contest for  a ninja shirt on SprinklerBandit's blog.  Because who doesn't feel like a ninja while riding? :)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Answers... Kinda

I checked on Walker this morning, and he was doing much better.  Most of the swelling was down, although there was still a bit in the chest area.  He was also happy as a clam that he had been turned out overnight in the indoor arena which has a giant mountain of hay.  He was smack in the middle of it by the time I got there.

I talked to the vets a couple times today.  I must say that I am very impressed with their bedside manner.  The on-call vet called me several times to update me, and my actual vet called even though he had been out of the city all day and hadn't really spoken with the on-call vet.  He just wanted to check in.

Anyway, apparently Walker was severely anemic, and he was particularly low in some of his vitamins/minerals.  Both vets have absolutely no idea what would cause this in an otherwise healthy young horse, especially since they've ruled out any bacterial or viral infections.  I brought them a fecal sample so that they could rule out parasites, but he was just dewormed in January with Quest (one of the stronger dewormers we have around here).  The vet is really just checking parasites as a formality since he doesn't think that's what it is.

I got a lot of questions that make me wish I had more information from his previous owners.  They asked if he had ever had gastro-intestinal ulcers (don't know - assume not) or any other similar history.  I can readily admit that this horse has never been sick for a second the whole time I have had him until a few weeks ago.

For now, the doctor prescribed Vita-speed, which is essentially liquid iron to help bring his blood back up, and a supplement called Maximize.  Actually, he prescribed another supplement, but they didn't have it at the clinic so his assistant gave me this instead.  It is particularly pricey at $50 a container, especially since after I bagged it, I only got 17 days out of it.  :S  I talked to the vet about that, and he said that I may not need to have Walker on it forever.  Don't get me wrong.  I buy my cat $50 cat food because the vet thought he was looking a little chubby so I would definitely buy Walker supplements if it means he wouldn't swell up to the size of a balloon.  It's just that most supplements last longer so I would prefer something like that, especially if it's going to be long term.

Other than that, we're just waiting on a cause, but we're dealing with the problems.  In all my conversations, I actually forgot to ask if it was ok that I ride, but I am going to assume light exercise is a good thing.  The on-call vet said that the swelling would probably still come back for a few days until things equalize out, and exercise has seemed to help with that.  Also, I would kind of assume they would've mentioned that, but I will ask my barn owner (who texts my vet like crazy) and she is bound to get a response.

Here's hoping he ate his grain tonight because I put his liquid iron on it, and if he hasn't eaten it by the time I come back, I may have to shove it down his throat.  Oh Walker.  Now is not the time to be modest about your eating habits.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Worst Weekend Ever

This has been the weekend from hell.  And also the reason I haven't posted in so long.  To make a long story short, my law school had an event on Friday that I helped organize as a member of the law students society. I spent the entire day preparing for this thing only to have the law students pretty much trash the venue.  I mean, they broke a toilet.  Actually cracked a porcelain toilet.  Ripped the soap dispenser off the wall.  Tore down signs. Made an utter mess.  And I mean, these are future lawyers.  Now, we are liable for the cost of the repairs (somewhere in the vicinity of $500), and because the event was a charity, we can't take the money from the profits so we are simply going to have to take it from the society's discretionary fund (of which I'm the treasurer).  I didn't get home until 1 AM even though I was there from 1 PM in the afternoon, and I was less than impressed.

Then I wake up on Saturday to go apartment shopping with my mother for a new place that I need in a few months time.  We searched all day and found nothing.  This is extremely disappointing because 1) I had about 3 hours sleep before we left, and 2) I could've been writing my paper instead of wasting my time looking at apartments that were either too small, very old, or simply looked like crackheads lived next door.

Trying to bring the swelling down under his face
So after 3 horrible days off from my pony, out I go to the barn.  And he is stocked up.  And when I say stocked up, I don't even really think that is an adequate term for the amount of swelling in his legs.  And now just his legs, but his chest, and his neck, and his chin, and his face.  At which point I panic because he looks like a giant oompaloompa, and we call the vet.

While we wait, I cold hose his legs for 40 minutes and then walk him around the arena.  I also vetrap an icepack to his chin to try to bring the swelling down there.  Ingenious, I might add.  After hand walking (and hand jogging) him around the arena for 30 minutes, I feel like the swelling in his legs at least seems to be going down so I return him to his stall while I help bring in the other horses for supper.  Literally 10 minutes later, I return to find that all the swelling is back.

The vet arrives and at this point there are quite a few people around all trying to tell their version of the story.  In some ways, this was helpful because my instructor showed up at one point and mentioned that Walker was doing some weird stretching after we rode in the lesson that she thought was odd, and to be truthful, I didn't notice it.  D was also there and was able to give her account of events over the March break, which would've been immediately before he got sick with the cold and probably when he was starting to get sick.  And of course, my barn owner was there to explain what she's noticed throughout the day.  I made sure to do my best impression of a crazy delusional horse owner and tell him absolutely everything I noticed, which in some ways, I really think is helpful.  I mean, no one knows this horse like I do.  I can easily confirm that he has never in the whole time I've owned him ever stocked up, even a little bit.  And I can easily explain that although everyone thinks it's great that he's still eating, his appetite is still diminished.  Because Walker is a gorby guts, and if he doesn't try to devour his food in 10 seconds flat, there is something wrong.

Also notice that he has only 1 fuzzy left on his halter.
I'm going to have to buy those things in bulk.
So the vet prescribed overnight turnout in the indoor arena so that he could stretch his legs until he got the results from the tests tomorrow around noon.  And because the indoor arena isn't heated, I finally got to use that winter blanket that I have been holding onto all winter.  I just wish it was under better circumstances.

The only good that came out of this weekend is that I went shopping at Greenhawk during the sale and got Walker lots of great loot.  I wanted to buy him a first aid kit but I was rather disappointed at the selection they had.  I could barely find gauze and vetrap, let alone the more complex stuff.  However, if you spent $150 (which was easy to do), you got a saddle pad half off so I got Walker a green one to try something new.  And my mother spoiled him with a lovely half pad with memory foam that I think is really going to do wonders for his back.  I was going to try it out today but, well, you know, other things got in the way.  :(

Walker's loot... and there may be some stuff in there for me

Chester is not impressed that we got him nothing

Tried on the new saddle pad and half pad just to see how it looks.
I think I'm going to like green on him

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


Today is my one year anniversary with Walker, and I'm happy to say that he is finally starting to feel better.  He ate all his grain, and he was playful and alert when I arrived. His legs were a little stocked up though from all that lethargic standing around in one place in his stall.

I'm happy to say that I actually got to ride my own horse in my lesson on our anniversary which didn't look too promising earlier in the week.  Although he was still coughing a bit and not 100%, he managed to give me his all - at one point, he was coughing while we were cantering, and although I was perfectly content to stop and let him cough it out, he just kept cantering until he coughed so hard he tripped himself.  Then we rested in the middle for awhile!

Looking back on our first year together, it has been quite the ride.  Walker helped get my confidence back (ironically by being bad some of the time!), and we spent much of the first year just getting to know each other and our capabilities together.  We showed Western, and we started jumping.  I was going to make a list of goals I want to accomplish over the next year, but to be perfectly honest, I do not have a set discipline and I like the flexibility of my all-around horse who is willing to try everything (even if he's only mostly talented in Western Pleasure).  I can have a short attention span at times, and I like that Walker will pull out all the stops to be my Western darling and the next day he will make a conscientious effort to pick it up and move out if I want to jump instead.

My number one goal with Walker is simply to keep him happy and healthy.  Even though I sometimes look at other horses online, I realized especially when he was sick that he is my number one man.  If tomorrow the vet told me I couldn't ride him again, I can guarantee that he would continue to live a wonderful life under my immediate care because it matters more that I'm with him than that we accomplish a bunch of amazing things.  In terms of his health and fitness, I really want to concentrate on getting him to use his body correctly, to really collect when I ask him, to stretch out, to strengthen those muscles of his.  This past year wasn't so much about strengthening and posture as it was perhaps about cardio.  That needs to change.  I want to do right by him and now that we are fully acquainted, there's no excuses for not taking that fitness to the next level.

Things don't always go the way we expect them to.  I will be the first person to tell you that Walker wasn't what I intended for my first horse, and the level that we're at is perhaps not as far as I had hoped it to be.  But Walker has been a learning experience that I simply would not have gotten if I had bought some old school horse who never puts up a fuss and simply does everything perfectly the first time around.  Because I work hard for every single step, I feel like we earn our accomplishments, regardless of how mundane they may seem to others.

And I love him of course.  He is an absolute goofball, a mare-magnet, and a social butterfly.  What can I say?  That cute face is just too hard to resist!

And whenever I'm having trouble of any kind, I simply remind myself: shoulders back, heels down, chin up.

Attempt 1 of the Anniversary shot
I can't wait to celebrate more anniversaries with him

Monday, 18 March 2013

Dinosaur Bump

Since I was occupied with the first aid clinic on Saturday and deciding to give Walker Sunday off as well, I went out to the barn today just to check on my sick pony, knowing full well that I'd have no time to ride.  But since he's still sick, I thought he might enjoy a thorough grooming and some of those new stretches I've learned.

Apparently two days off was too much in terms of shedding.  He was a shedding machine and I'm pretty sure that I didn't get it all out.  :S  While I really like the back tension massages (I could visibly see some muscle twitching), I had a hard time stretching out his hind legs.  I think it's a combination of his not being overly flexible and also being untrusting of what exactly I want to do with his back legs.  He was holding onto them pretty tightly and pretty much refused to let me pull them out.  Oh well.  We will work on that.

After I finally decide that my pony is still sick but at least somewhat more stretched out and clean, I notice this lovely bump on his nose, which, for the record, I did not notice when I first arrived and which looks exactly like a dinosaur's snout.

Needless to say, I dove into a panic assuming that he was having some sort of allergic reaction to god knows what.  While my barn owner assured me that it could very easily be the case, it was more likely just a bump.  She reassured me (and I confirmed) that there was no fluid in the bump, and it wasn't stopping him from munching on his hay.  I know that my barn owner is very knowledgeable and I know that she is honest with me, but sometimes I worry that she under-reacts to things, whereas I, of course, over-react to everything.

After I put some ice on it to little effect, I convinced myself to just leave it and go home.  My barn owner said she would come down to the barn later in the night and check it out.  If it was still swollen, she would call the vet and get his permission to give Walker something for it.  

The pony can't catch a break!
If Walker were scaley and green, he would look like this now

Stretches Part 3

After stretching the front legs, it's important to stretch the back legs. These exercises seem to be the hardest for Walker. I don't know if its a matter of him not being flexible back there or if he simply doesn't trust what I'm asking him to do!

Step 3: Back Legs

Stretch: Back Leg Back

Take a hold of the back leg and gently stretch it straight back and down diagonally. Be careful not to drop the foot. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Stretch: Hoof to Hock

Move the leg forward so that the hoof touches the other leg's hock. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Stretch: Queen's Wave

Put yourself in a sitting position with your back up against the belly of the horse. Taking the back leg, hook it over one of your own like it was sitting on your knee. The clinician called this one the when's wave because once you hook the leg over your own, your hands are free (so she did the queen's wave). Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Stretch: Back Leg Forward

Finally, take the back leg and stretch it forward and down diagonally. Don't force the horse's leg, but a horse should be able to stretch their back leg to reach their front legs. After all, a horse can scratch his ears with their back legs!

Walker and I share the same level of flexibility: zilch

Stretches Part 2

After you relieve muscle tension in the back, you move on to stretch the legs.

Step 2: Front Legs

Stretch: Hoof to Chest

Ask the horse to lift his front leg and collapse the leg so that hoof is touching the top of the leg or the chest.  The leg will almost look like it is folded in half.  Hold for 20 - 30 seconds.  Do not drop the leg at any point. Simply move from this stretch into the next stretch.

Stretch: Hoof to Chestnut

After stretching the leg hoof to chest, gently bring the hoof down and out laterally so that the hoof is now touching the chestnut.  This will mean the horse's leg will be stretched inwards to the side.  Hold for 20 - 30 seconds, and as with the other stretches, never simply drop the leg when you are done with it.  This stretch is especially useful if a horse has cast himself as you will need to be able to grab the lower leg and swing it towards the inside to help uncast the horse.

Foreleg Forward
Stretch: Foreleg Forward

After stretching hoof to chestnut, gently bring the hoof down and out in front of the horse so that you are pulling the leg forward.  Don't ever pull farther than the horse will allow, but a flexible horse should be able to stretch their front legs out almost perpendicular to the ground. This will particularly help loosen up the shoulder area as well.  Hold for 20 - 30 seconds and then gently put the horse's leg back down on the ground.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Stretches Part 1

Since Walker is still sick and even light riding does not seem to have a good effect on him, I decided to give him yesterday and today (and probably tomorrow and unfortunately Tuesday off!). At first, my instructor and barn owner thought light exercise would help but he has held onto the virus longer than some of the other horses at the barn so I've decided that like with a human virus, he needs more rest than anything else.

Instead, I decided to explain some of the cool exercises I learned during the first aid clinic. I was really impressed with a lot of the exercises because I believe they will really help with aspects of our riding as well. After all, how can you expect a horse to stretch forward in an extended trot if you can't even stretch your horses leg forward?

Get your stretching on
The whole routine involves massage and stretching.  I've decided to break it up into three posts, since I won't have many Walker updates anyway

Step 1: Massage Tension

Body Part: Back

First you run your hands along the spine slowly to feel for any heat.  Using the plastic end of a hoof pick, slowly press into the muscle along a line from withers to butt about an inch to the side of the spine.  If you do it slowly enough and push hard enough (obviously don't push too hard!), you will see the muscle twitch, especially in the area where there was heat.  Going around to the other side of the horse, dig your fingers into the muscle along the spine on the first side and press in, using a technique our clinician called "piano fingers" where you simply press into the muscle like you are playing the piano (alternating different fingers).  Do this especially in any spot where there was heat and twitching.  Then pull the muscle towards you (and the spine).  Repeat on both sides of the back.

Body Part: Belly

Identify the belly button of the horse.  Starting several inches from the belly button, press into the muscle from this spot in a line towards the groin.  Be careful not to push too hard as there are organs in the belly.  The horse should physically arch their back up away from the pressure, thus stretching the back.  You only do this once because you are going down the middle of the belly, not to either side.

Body Part: Tail

Grabbing a firm hold of the tail, pull back to stretch the back.  You can put all your weight into the pull, but make sure that the angle of the tail to the ground is no higher than which the horse normally holds his tail.

Fact of the day: a horse's tail can support twice it's body weight.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Boots and First Aid Clinic

Walker's ankle boots.  Yes.  I know these are on incorrectly.
Or at least I know this now!
My friend, A, came to visit Walker and me this weekend, and she also brought Walker's new jump boots with her!  We placed an order together, and so she has had them now for a few weeks.  It was pretty hilarious having the two of us - both used to Western horses with no boots, let alone open-front jump boots - try to figure out how to put them on.  Let me just say they are not as intuitive as you might think!  At least the back ones.  Our biggest indication that they were on incorrectly besides them looking absolutely stupid was Walker who adorably held his back leg up in the air and out to the side in an aggravated but surprisingly willing to put up with us kind of way.  Luckily, we were smart enough to know that we had them on wrong, so we took them off before we rode him!  Now that I'm pretty sure I know how they actually go on, I just need to check with my instructor that they fit him well because they felt a little tight, but what do I know!

Checking out his  "jump gear", i.e. English saddle and boots
After that we rode him for about an hour, which was longer than I would've liked since he still had the cold, but it was the first time that A has seen him in months.  We only cantered him a few circles in each direction, but he's still pretty sick.  A also got some pictures of us which are probably the first pictures of us riding since we showed.  Unfortunately, I pretty much let him go and didn't bother with any collection so he doesn't look too good in them.  A and I did spend the evening discussing collection and rounded backs and everything that the video I posted the other day mentioned about toplines.  I've been wanting to work on that more and more, so I think I have a good project for the summer!

Today, A and I participated in a First Aid Clinic at our barn, and that was also pretty interesting.  We learned how to do a lot of stretches and massages, as well as how to wrap and treat different types of wounds.  I was most interested by all the "cowboy remedies" that the clinician (and my barn owner and some of the older people in the clinic) had for treating remedies.  I'm a firm believer in old wives tales when they work.

Western Pleasure Walker - the sicker, less collected version (in English tack, of course).

We also tried Walker out in A's horse's hackamore
Thank God this horse is so good-natured

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Video 2

This video I got from KMequestrian and apparently today is the day to steal videos!  Mostly I'm posting this one for my own benefit so that I don't forget about it when I am looking for it later.  I'm pretty fascinated with the idea, mainly because it flies in the face of what a lot of Western trainers teach (mainly the idea that you should drive your seat down).  It also interests me because Walker, as a Western Pleasure horse, naturally carries his head very low.  He always stretches it out, right down to the ground most times, but I'm not necessarily convinced that by doing so he is rounding out his back.  I tried to watch old videos of our rides but it's hard to see since the videos aren't that great.  The other problem is that he when he stretches his head out like that, we are usually jogging, not trotting, so he's not really reaching under himself the same way he would if he were trotting.  When we are trotting, he usually lifts his head a little bit.  Either way, I'm thoroughly intrigued by this.  I think that my instructor would be as well.  Perhaps we'll discuss it next week.


I'm sure that many of you already follow Hillary but she posted this great video that I think is sweet so I thought I'd post it again here.


I went out to the barn to check on Walker and he still has the sniffles. Luckily, he still doesn't have a temperature, but one of the older horses in the barn who has it (and the horse I suspect gave it to Walker) had his temperature spike so both the barn owner and I are keeping an eye on Walker. Luckily, the vet was out to check them all and said not to worry. He didn't even prescribe anything for the older horse with the slight temperature. He said we just need to see it through. That comforts me. And it's also comforting that my barn owner is so close to the vet because he has looked at Walker a half a dozen times in the last couple months for minor things and has yet to charge me. :)

If Walker were one of the 7 dwarves...
I was going to hop on Walker bareback since I just wanted to give him some light exercise and fresh air. He didn't get out with the other horses today because the vet did suggest keeping the sick ones in, for obvious reasons. But besides not eating his grain and sneezing, he seemed more perky than yesterday or Tuesday so I threw a saddle on anyway (and also because there was a pony in the ring and I was afraid that Walker would decide to use the last bit of his energy to get rid of his rider and go at the pony). I only ended up walking and jogging though.  He was too sneezy to canter. Every time I got started, he would start sneezing and stop. I was only going to canter a circle or two anyway but decided to just leave it. I did do a bit of side passing though. I was happy with his performance at that, but he could've did a little more crossing over. I left it though because he is a sook and I am a sucker.

I tried to convince him to eat a handful of grain but he refused. He did eat the apples I brought for him. Of course he wouldn't give up on the idea of treats, no matter how sick he was!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Like Wildfire

So apparently the virus at the barn is spreading through the horses like wildfire. Quite a few of them have picked it up. It was pretty funny because the minute I brought Walker into the ring, my instructor was like, "what's wrong with him?" It's so obvious that he's sick, and if course, he's usually so misbehaved that even the spectators made some comments about how down in the dumps he was. We would be jogging along and every so often he would just come to a full stop for no reason whatsoever despite my continued encouragement to keep moving.

Needless to say, it wasn't too intense of a lesson. We pretty much did a spiral in and out exercise for the entirety of the lesson, helping our horses use their haunches while spiralling in and letting them relax while spiralling out. We didn't do it at the canter but that's because we simply don't have the room (and I maintain that will never be possible anyway!). My instructor thinks that we might be in the outdoor arena in a few weeks already because of the crazy amount of rain we've been getting to wash away the snow. You should've seen the look on my face when she said that. I was heartbroken! Don't get me wrong, I love riding outside and having the space, but at the end if Fall, Waller was just so immensely bad behaved during Wednesday night lessons that I don't want to go back to that. We're finally learning how to jump and if he decides to go back to being a jerk who bolts for no reason other than he doesn't want to work, our instructor will greatly limit my exercises, including jumping. :( The only solace I have is that we have been together for much longer now and we have much more of a bond. I'm also hoping to nip that behaviour in the butt immediately this time whereas in the summer, it took me too long to start reacting to it.

St Anne: Patron Saint of Equestrians
Other than that, I think I may have a dislocated or cracked rib. Because my chest is so sore, I haven't gone to my massage therapist lately and so my back is also sore. I tried to lay on the floor to crack it but stretching hurts my chest. But when I was stretched out, I felt my rib and it was noticeably protruded. I looked in the mirror and confirmed that the rib near the place where my chest hurts is sticking out. Perhaps the doctor and I were wrong about it being muscle related. Using those muscles would push on the rib but perhaps all the coughing has done something to my rib instead of the muscles. This also explains the weird popping sound I heard and felt in Italy which led to immobilizing pain. For the meantime, I'm just going to leave it be. If it doesn't stop hurting, I'll go back to the hospital but I still agree there's nothing they can do whatever it is.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Under the Weather

Sick pony falling asleep on the crossties
When I got back, the first thing I did was send D a message to find out how my boy behaved while I was away.  Apparently he was "bratty" at first, which I have no doubt since he would've had about 4 days off by the time she got to ride him, but then she told me that he went good for her.  She did tell me, however, that on Sunday morning he wouldn't eat his breakfast so she called our barn owner down to the barn to check on him.  Our barn owner assured her that he was just having an off day and she could ride him, which she did.

I went out to the barn excited to see my boy today and got there when my trainer was feeding the other horses.  She told me that one of the lesson horses had a cold, which she thinks he got from one of the new horses who had the cold a couple weeks ago.  He didn't have a runny nose or anything since they are all up to date on their shots, but he is an older horse so he was having a hard time breathing and was also not eating.

Of course, I could tell something was wrong with Walker immediately.  It's not like I was expecting him to bound towards the stall door like a puppy excited to see me, but I expected a little more pep from my normally peppy pony.  Nope.  He was super quiet on the crossties and then the sneezing happened.  I rode him anyway, but when I put him away, he barely touched his supper.  So it appears that my baby is sick also. :(

He is also in the throws of shedding.  I had this naive hope that while I was away, D would happily get all the hair off him for my return, but alas.  I am glad he didn't put on a crazy thick winter coat!

Note to self: never wear black in spring
Some of the glorious hair
It may have just been the lethargy, but Walker was super well behaved today.  I could tell immediately that D had been a good influence on him.  When I asked for a jog, he gave me a beautiful Western Pleasure jog, which I haven't been working on lately since we've been jumping (and which I haven't been successfully getting since we started jumping).  It's amazing how it only takes a few minutes to realize the difference in your horse when someone more talented rides them.  I really devoted my ride today to emulating D's success.  I made sure to really ask for every movement perfectly, especially since Walker was too sick to work hard anyway.  

I have to say that despite Walker's sickness and obvious exhaustion, it was one of the best rides I've had in a long time.  There was no muss or fuss which I really attribute to D, and I let him be a Western horse (in English tack) so that he could really shine.  I'm still thinking about that gorgeous jog of his.  

Of course, just when I start to think I might be able to hazard the jump lesson despite my own chest pain, my pony gets sick.  Jumping is probably out of the question tomorrow but at least I'll try for another sweet ride!
Walker's Justin Bieber hairstyle

Sunday, 10 March 2013


I'm currently sitting in the Rome airport waiting for my flight back home. As much as I don't want to leave, it's always nice to go home.

Unfortunately, my chest pain never went away during my trip, and in some ways, it has actually gotten worse. While walking through the crypts of the Duomo, I coughed and felt something pop. I was immediately immobilized with pain and I had to go back to the hotel immediately. My mother had to help me get my coat off and I quickly proceeded to up my dosage of extra strength ibuprofen to its maximum. I don't take pills at all so this is pretty significant for me.

This means unfortunately that after two weeks, the pain has still not gone away, even though the doctor at the hospital thought it was just a muscle strain/tear from all the coughing. I really don't want to go to the hospital again because I agree that it's muscle-related and I don't think they can do anything about it.

This bodes bad for Walker. I was supposed to have a jump lesson on Wednesday but I think I'll have to cancel. I need to be able to ride him thoroughly on Tuesday so that I can gauge how well he will be on Wednesday. After all, I didn't make D stick to a riding schedule or anything so I won't know until I'm back how often he was actually ridden. With the continued pain in my chest, I simply can't fight him on Tuesday (or Wednesday for that matter), and because we suffer from the Curse of the Wednesday Night Lesson, I know he will not be easy for my lesson regardless.

I'm at a loss because I think it would hurt to lunge him more than to ride him, but I'm also worried about the fact that my side is not improving. Ibuprofen isn't going to cure it. It's simply masking the pain. With that thought in mind, I know I will continue to ride, even if I miss the lesson this week, and its unlikely to get better with such rigorous exercise. :( I just want to see my boy!

Anyway, I will work everything out when I get home. One day at a time. The following are some pictures from our trip in Florence. I apologize to those who already follow me on Instagram and have seen most of them.

Also, check out the medieval spurs. I don't think Walker would like those babies much!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


It's our last day in Rome before we head out for Florence so I thought I'd put up a few pictures of my trip thus far. Because I don't have access to a real computer, I apologize for the jumble and lack of captions.

Also, I don't know if I ever mentioned this but I actually have a degree in Classics and a double minor in History and Latin so this is pretty much the best place ever! Most of the time, I feel like a tour guide for my poor mother since I drone on and on about all the monuments and architecture and art. She just keeps asking me if we're going to see "another ruin". :)