Thursday, 30 May 2013

Graduation and the Jerk Horse

My new beautiful bracelet
I graduated from law school today.  It was a whirlwind couple of days.  We had a grad dinner last night just for the faculty of law, and then we had our graduation bright and early this morning.  Needless to say, there were quite a few surly law students this morning after staying out late at night drinking!  I can now say that I have a Juris Doctor, which is just a fancy way of saying I have a law degree.  And I get to add more initials after my name.

My parents and godmother came to the ceremony, and my parents got me a few lovely gifts.  First of all, they donated to Walker's College Fund, and I'm pretty excited (and not just because I have to pay for Walker's new boots!).  They got me one of the bracelets I mentioned in an earlier post, this bracelet from Pinklette, and they also spoiled me with this lovely necklace that I have been lusting over for a very long time.  For those of you who aren't famaliar with Pyrrha, it's a company based out of Vancouver who use old wax seals to create bronze or silver cast talismans.  I also have my initial, and I think they're so unique.

Onto the jerk horse.  He is, well, a jerk.  Now that he is out of the woods, I don't have to feel bad about being impatient and unimpressed with his behaviour.  He is giving me a HORRIBLE time with his bute and other medicine.  This horse will let you do just about anything to him, including give him an injection in the hind end without a halter on to hold him with.  But he will NOT let me give him his bute in an oral syringe.

It is starting to get worse and almost to the point of dangerous.  Once I get the syringe in his mouth, I'm good, but you have to get to his mouth first.  He throws his head in the air, and he almost broke my nose the other day whipping it up so fast.  It literally took me an hour today to give him his bute, and since the other medicine is not necessary (I bought it to see if I could help with his neck), I didn't even bother.

Does anyone have any tips for how to administer oral syringes to untrusting and jerkface ponies?  Unfortunately, because he's still lame, I can't lunge him or discipline him in that way because I risk him hurting himself.  I tried to make him move his feet as much as possible in his stall when he wouldn't listen, but I realized it was just adding stress to his hooves instead of letting them heal up.  I tried to be assertive with him, making him back up or giving a snap on the leadline, and I tried being super sweet, letting him smell the syringe, rubbing him all over with it, not forcing it on him.  Neither worked.  I pretty much just sneak attacked him like I did yesterday, and I didn't end up getting all of it in anyway.

For the record, he has no qualms about the actual medicine.  I mean, I'm sure he doesn't love it, but it's apple flavoured and he would lick it off my hands.  I can always put it in his grain, but I want to make sure he gets it all.  Besides, I don't want to avoid the situation just because he doesn't like it or else he's never going to learn.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Dainty Princess

I'm a worried person by nature.  Horse ownership is probably not the best thing for my nerves.

I once said that I wished I could just wrap Walker in a bubble.  And I mean it.  The stress of every little nick  bump, or bruise weighs on me tremendously, and the more serious stuff pretty much beats me into the ground.

I find it hard to treat the dainty princess as anything but, especially after he has had so much stall rest.  I mean, I'm a big proponent of the "go be a horse" mentality, but we all know that horses don't exactly have their own best interests in mind 100% of the time.

Take turnout for instance.  I've really got to formulate a game plan for that one.  I can picture it now: Walker, finally sound, allowed to go outside.  He takes off across the field at a full gallop.  Next day, he's lame.

I know.  Because he did it a week ago!

And because when the vet came, he was severely lame, and he still tried to break away and run across the arena.  I mean, really, Walker?  He practically hobbles from the stall to the arena, but does he believe he can gallop and buck across it? Oh yes, of course.

Although I'm on a financial diet and am supposed to be saving up for horse expenditures via Walker's College Fund, I fell off the beaten track last night.  It turns out that there was a Memorial Day sale on Horseloverz, and there was no shipping.  Needless to say, when you have to ship to Canada, no shipping is a big deal.  I got the call from A at about 10:00 PM that she and another fellow equestrian were putting in an order (and I had until midnight to decide).  At first, I resisted, but it took me all of 10 seconds on the website to cave.

I got Walker a pair of Professional's Choice Sport Medicine Boots since I'm now a nervous nellie about his legs/feet/general wellbeing.  They were actually cheaper than on the actual Professional Choice's website so it's a pretty good deal.  I got him a pair in turquoise because blue is his colour and I would hate for him to look bland at the new Western barn where, needless to say, coloured boots are "in".

I was going to get him a pair of Back on Track Exercise Boots (since L.Williams swears by BOT everything), but with an hour to make a decision, I couldn't figure out what size he is.  Apparently I can get the BOT boots at my local Greenhawk, so I imagine that I will be trying them out in the near future.

I imagine that this is how horse people end up with ulcers.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


First of all, I'd just like to say that I'm extremely impressed with my new vet who was very kind and thorough.  Especially considering Walker decided to be a little jerk about the process.  Even though he was lame as chewtoy, he was mad that all the other horses were turned out and he had to stay in.  When we went to the arena to try jogging him on the soft sand, he just about ripped out of the vet assistant's hands and almost reared, the little hooligan.  I was so embarrassed especially since he normally gets rave reviews for his complacency and manners.

"What do you mean I don't get treats for almost running
over the vet assistant?"
Secondly, I'm sad to say that his neck is not going to improve.  The new vet says that the lumpiness of his neck is not simply leftover scar tissue, although it's similar to that.  The neck has formed itself in that way (for lack of any medical terminology), and although I bought some products from her to try and break it up a bit, she said that it may simply come back.  So needless to say, Walker's halter days are over.  Not the worst news in the world of course, but it's disappointing since he was bred for it and he usually kicks all the other quarter horses' butts.

Thirdly, I am happy to report that he does not have laminitis, which the farrier and vet initially thought it was.  "Happy" really doesn't even explain the feeling of extreme joy I have in knowing that.

According to the vet, essentially the toes are so long and the sole is so thick that it is causing an upward tipping of the coffin bone which is resulting in a pinching effect.  The farrier simply needs to trim them back.  Once again, words cannot describe how upset I am that his feet are so bad even though it has only been 6 weeks.

Although I am generally happy with the news, I'm sad to report that Walker is showing some mild/early navicular changes, in which case she does not think he is suited to be a jumper.  Now, don't get me wrong, my Western Pleasure Quarter Horse was never going to the Olympics, but I was pretty excited to do at least some low hunters with him.  But that's ok because 5 days ago, I was afraid he had foundered and there were going to be more devastating results.

It is my understanding from her report that by "mild changes", she means that it's not something to be worried about right now but that it is simply something to be wary of for the future.  I am going to have a conversation with her on the matter.  From my quick 10 second research on navicular, I've read that it really helps to shift as much weight back onto the hindquarters as possible (as in, most dressage maneuvers and collection).  Luckily for Walker, he is now about to go become a little dressage pony with the lovely help of Jane Savoie (book version, obviously!).

While there is obviously some disappointing news sprinkled into the report, I think that the overall result is positive.  Last week I was balling thinking that my horse had foundered and would be unrideable (if not worse), and I was really imagining that best results would be severely dim.  We have clearly rode a rainbow over this disaster, and now we'll just get ourselves some new dreams.

As I already told Julie today, this is just an excuse to buy Walker a brother - a nice little Warmblood jumper.  When I win the lotto.  And if I'm going to win the lotto, I might as well buy myself a horse for every discipline.  You all can have one too.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Reason I've Been Absent

I wanted to post earlier this weekend and say how deeply sorry that I am for L. William's loss, but unfortunately I was in the middle of my own crisis that was a little too close to home.  The sentiment remains though and hit me particularly hard since on Friday, my farrier called and told me I needed a vet to x-ray Walker's legs because he was afraid he had laminitis.

I called the vet on Friday and she made an appointment for Monday.  My farrier assured me that Monday was ok, and when I told my barn owner about it on Saturday, he kindly calmed me down saying that if the farrier had been super concerned about a current episode of laminitis, he obviously would not have waited two days to call me (he did Walker's feet on Wednesday after all) and he would not have said Monday was ok.

After he calmed me down on that point saying that it may have been an old case of laminitis manifesting itself, he then proceeded to work me back up again saying that Walker was severely lame (which I knew) and that if it was his horse, he would call the vet immediately.

So I called the vet, who promptly explained to me that she could come out, but she couldn't have the x-ray technician until Monday.  If she came out on the weekend, she was simply going to have to come out again on Monday, and as far as we were all concerned, this was something that was going to need to be solved with x-rays.  She was very kind to me, however, and we talked over his symptoms - severe lameness in both feet, evident even when he walks in his padded stall, but not a complete unwillingness to walk as he would come to the stall door if I opened it.  He also wasn't rocking back on his haunches to shift weight off his front feet or laying down in his stall, refusing to get up.  She urged me to call her if this last thing occurred.

Frankly, I have spent the weekend alternating between balling and being through-the-roof angry at my last farrier. It's obviously not his fault for Walker's current lameness (nope, I'm pretty sure I did that by letting him run in the indoor arena), but if there was anything wrong with his feet, he either should have trimmed them appropriately or else notified me.  I mean, the farrier told me that the horse had an old abscess in BOTH back feet which would have obviously been discoverable had the old farrier been trimming them.  I know that I too should be able to suspect abscesses but frankly, Walker spent 3 months on stall rest so I never noticed any lameness issues.  The new farrier found them in 10 seconds, and presumably the old farrier could have found them too.

I don't know about you, but I rely 100% on the equine professionals in my life - my farrier, my vet, even my barn owner.  I am not a horse expert, and I expect that these people are.  If I tell my farrier that I think Walker's feet aren't trimmed enough and he tells me this is the way they should look and in fact, this is the way all the other horses' feet look like in the barn and I have never had any other farrier, obviously I am going to believe him.  Run-on sentence intended!

So now I am on pins and needles, going to the barn several times a day to check on Walker who, luckily enough, is in his normal good spirits.  Pursuant to my research, I would say he is a Grade 4 lame (out of 5) because it is noticeable at the walk.  He has been lame for a week, and frankly, I would have called the vet earlier if there had been a different series of events (lame on Monday, called farrier for Wednesday, but farrier didn't call me again until Friday, and now it's the weekend...).  My mind has been cycling through every possibility - laminitis/founder, some form of navicular, broken/torn muscles or ligaments, etc.

I just want the best for him, and this weekend has really made me appreciate L. William's strength this last month.  It has only been two days since Friday and already I am in a fit of despair.  I don't know if I can make it to Monday at 2:30.  And I'm seriously afraid that my next post will not be a happy one either.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Walker's College Fund

In light of Walker's eighth birthday the other day, I thought I should tell everyone about the college fund I started for him.

Because I'm dirt poor (so poor, that I now start to identify with the girls from 2 Broke Girls - horse included, minus the rich father), I decided that I needed a better way to save money for all my Walker-related extravagances.  I have a savings account which I use for Walker, but I've noticed that it quickly becomes depleted.  I believe it's easier to have little to no respect for an online bank account than it is to have respect for actual cash.

So I started this: a BIG bowl of money where I throw in all the change I can scrounge up anywhere I can find it (my wallet, floors, donations, etc.).  Every few months, I intend to sit down, add it up, and then deposit it in the savings account with great plans for its use.

For instance, currently on the list is:
- an equine massage
- lessons!
- dare I say, maybe even a horse show...
- a pretty saddle pad I saw at the tack shop the other day

It's sadly exciting because there is much less temptation for me to use the money for other matters since I will have to sit down and roll it all before I can even use it.  Unfortunately, it's going to take a lot of dimes to get me a new saddle.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

My new best friends

The farrier and my barn owner are my new best friends.

I wasn't able to get a hold of my new farrier for a couple of days, and because I was really starting to worry about Walker's feet, I started to panic.  I called my barn owner and asked if he had the number of another farrier.  Instead, he managed to get a hold of the farrier he always uses and he came out TODAY to check on Walker.  Now that's service!

Walker giving Clinton some kisses
I was really impressed with the new farrier.  Once I got to talk to him on the phone, he was very diligent about asking for a history of Walker (everything from his current feet troubles to his last few months on stall rest for unrelated illnesses).  He even suggested I contact a vet in the area if he was unable to determine the lameness.  Because my schedule is so crazy, he even told me he could come back tomorrow if he needed me to go to the barn and I wasn't available today.

This is going to sound so stupid, but I never actually talked to my last farrier.  That was one of the problems I had with the old barn.  The barn owner was so integrated into everything that went on there that most things (farrier, vet) went through her.  That's not to say that I couldn't call the farrier myself, but there was less of a chance she would hold Walker for me and it always made the most sense for her to call since she would be getting a bunch of her horses done at the same time.  Unfortunately, this led to a lot of problems, including my dissatisfaction with the job I was paying for and inability to get a hold of him to fix the situation myself.

The set up at the new barn is much more professional, with a healthy side of helping hands.  My new barn owner is more realistic, but he cares about horses and so he's willing to help me out when I need it.

I went out and checked on Walker immediately after work, and I'm thrilled with his feet.  Let me just say that he took off probably a few inches on his back feet and almost completely cut out the frog in the front feet (which was another problem I was having with the old farrier - not cutting the frog back enough and me being unable to really clean out his feet properly).  I should have taken pictures because the job is like the Ultimate Makeover.  It was so shocking, I didn't even know what I thought of it at first, but of course I've only ever had the one farrier so my eyes have been opened.

As for lameness, he's still lame, but it's more of a "I just got my manicure done and I'm letting my nails dry" kind of lame that he gets after the farrier comes.  We shall see in a couple of days what he's like.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Training Itch

Do you ever get the itch to pick up a young (or youngish horse) and start them yourself?

Maybe I'm alone in this, but every so often, I really just want to start my own horse, whether that means getting a foal that I'm able to really work with from the beginning or a 2 or 3 year old ready to start some groundwork.

Let me also preface this conversation by saying
1) I am too poor to afford a second horse
2) I am not so confident in myself to believe I have the skill to do this

My friend A is getting to start and work with a few babies this summer, and I have to say I'm a little jealous.  She got back into riding at the same time as me, and she managed to convince her barn owner to get her a project horse.  So her barn owner went out and got her three... three project horses that A doesn't have to pay for and can work under the supervision of the barn owner and her daughter, who have both trained numerous horses.  Ummm.  Yes.  I'm seeing a little green (and no, I don't just mean green horses!).

Soon I will free him from his dungeon
In truth, I believe that horse ownership is a lesson in training on a daily basis.  Walker may be professionally trained, but I "train" him every day I ride him to understand my own personal cues and work through any issues we may have.  I think that when you own a horse, you quickly realize how much is left up to you to fix yourself, and I really relish the challenge... even when it's not so successful...

In fact, Walker's return to riding and his new Jane Savoie program is going to be a chance to do a little "training" on  my home since although I'm sure he'll remember how to do loads of things, he will probably not be physically capable of many of them for awhile.

I'm also intrigued by the Clinton Anderson program (yeah, yeah, I know I said I wouldn't go down the rabbit hole...), but I got to see my new barn owner with a young colt the other day.  Although I just saw him briefly, I really got the impression that he knows his stuff and would be helpful should I decide to go that crazy route some day.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to hover annoyingly around every time he or his barn manager are working a young horse so at least I can soak up some knowledge while I dream about Walker's future brother.

In reality, I just want to ride - anything, anytime, anywhere.  Just get me a horse!!!

Eight Years Old

My baby is growing so fast!

Today is his eighth birthday!

I went out to the barn to give him some apples, and I wish that I was able to ride him.  He is much more content in the wing with all the horses, and he even has a new friend, Clinton, who likes to stick his nose out as much as possible for Walker (or anyone really) to pat or touch.

Speaking of Clinton, I've figured out that my new barn owner is a fan of Clinton Anderson.  Besides his horse named Clinton, I was starting to suspect he was a fan of Clinton Anderson's methods just by little things I saw at the barn, trinkets and hardware that I've seen in Clinton Anderson books, etc.  Anyway, the kids at the barn confirmed with me today that they are all on Clinton's programs, and I must say I'm intrigued.  I'm not abandoning Jane Savoie just yet, but it's nice to know that I have some other interesting options to try once we're back in work.  Needless to say, I'm impressed by a teenager who can take Clinton Anderson's method and turn a crazy thoroughbred horse who used to buck and gallop around the arena into a Western Pleasure horse, so they must be doing something right!

Clinton - the horse, that is
I also got a chance to take some photos of poor Walker's feet, which I've included below.  I called the farrier today but I haven't gotten a response yet.  Even though I may have to just get my barn manager to hold Walker for me because of my crazy schedule, I would rather have Walker's feet done as soon as possible rather than wait a few weeks just so I can meet the farrier.  I'm sure I can meet him another time.

As you can see from the photos, his feet need a trim, and I'm angry to say that they have looked like this for awhile because my farrier didn't do much of a trim the last couple of times and I could never wrangle him to fix them afterwards (i.e. the problem with my old barn owner being an intermediary for everything done at her barn).

In particular, take a look at the white line area, which is difficult to see in pictures.  I'm just worried about it being brittle because I think that it's contributing to the "expanding" of his hoof (that's really the only way to describe it).

Also, notice the white spot on the sole of his hoof.  Any idea what that might be? It's almost like a hole there with this white stuff, dare I say a fungus, that I can scrape away but never really make go away.

This picture makes his feet look longer than they are for some reason, but they are still long
Notice the white line area.
In my opinion it's slightly too crackly (for lack of a better word)

Two comments:
1) Notice the white area on the hoof.
2) The bottom of this picture makes it look like there's a
giant hole in the wall of his hoof.  Also deceiving.  It's just dirt.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bad Tootsies

I'm worried about Walker's feet.  He was back in the main part of the barn today, and he was even in a nicer stall - bigger than the first one he had and on better ground.  So I intend to pile things on the door as fast as I can to make it mine.

Unfortunately, he was definitely lame today.  I brought my mother and godmother to visit him, and after we gave him some apples, I decided to pick his feet out in the hall where there was better lighting (I often just groom him in his stall these days).  I noticed almost immediately that he was lame, and I have to say that it is probably 100% my fault.  Sure, let the horse who hasn't been ridden for two months and is acting like he's on crack gallop around the arena.  Great idea, Natalie.  Great idea.

In fairness to me, he has been turned out for a couple weeks now, and he was going to be turned out with other horses this week.  So frankly, it he didn't run like a lunatic yesterday, he was going to do it tomorrow or the next day or the day after that.

However, I'm also concerned about his back feet.  I find that they are expanding, if you know what I mean.  The white line area seems brittle, and while I don't think he has white line disease or anything, I just don't like the look of his back feet.

I'm kind of mad at my last farrier because the last few times he has come, I find that he has done little to no work on his back feet.  This is not to say that my old barn owner didn't have quite a few of her lesson horses with feet like this, but Walker is no pack horse, and crackly feet worry me.  I could also be overreacting because frankly, I obviously can't remember exactly what Walker's back feet looked like this time last year, and it is his first few months out on hard ground after a long winter inside.  His feet may simply need time to adjust, which is the song and dance my last barn owner tried to sell me on.  Perhaps she is right, or perhaps I should listen to my own instincts for once.

Needless to say, I'm simply going to call my new farrier and see what his opinion is.  Walker goes barefoot on his back feet, but I will of course shoe him if my farrier is actually concerned.  Here's hoping that the lameness goes away by tomorrow or the next day.  I'm pretty sure it's just from his mad romp in the indoor arena, but if it persists, I will start to associate it with his feet. Unfortunately, I can't leave just any day this week from work to meet the farrier because I have a few meetings, so hopefully we can work something out before too long.  I could get the barn manager to hold him, but I would really like to meet the farrier the first time and explain the situation.  Oh well, whatever works, I guess.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Blow off a little steam

I don't know if I mentioned, but Walker is currently on quarantine.  I guess the second morning at the barn, he sneezed and had a runny nose, and the barn manager swiftly put him in another wing of the barn.  I can't say that I blame them, since it's a new horse to the barn and they knew he was sick for two months, but frankly I think they may have overreacted.  When I went out that night, he had no runny nose or a cough, and he hasn't had one since.  If you ask me, it was just a case of the morning snuffy nose.  Everyone gets that!

Anyway, Walker isn't taking to quarantine well.  Mostly because there are no other horses in the wing with him, and he doesn't like being alone.  I find him really anxious, pacing in his stall, calling out to anyone who will listen.  I feel really bad for him.

So today I asked the barn manager for permission to let him run free in the indoor arena.  I guess they don't normally let horses in there because they dig holes and chew on wood, but I promised that I would be watching and that it would just be for a few minutes.

Well, needless to say, I think it helped blow off a little steam.  I'm pretty sure he galloped for 4 minutes straight - around and around and around the huge arena.  Then he showed off his beautiful extended trot and some flying lead changes.  He even did some beautiful serpentines for me.

I think it really did the trick because not only did it exhaust him, but I think it's the first time he has been "turned out" since arriving at the new barn.  He only got to be with the other horses for one day before being on quarantine and only from in his stall.  He took the transition to the new barn quite well, so it's such a shame for him to be anxious and cooped up now.

Since he hasn't coughed since, the barn manager plans to put him back with the other horses in a day or two, and by next week, he should be getting regular turnout.  Today showed me that perhaps he has more energy than I thought, despite the weight loss, so although I don't want to rush it, we may be able to work him up faster than I thought.

He grabbed his grooming tote and threw it through the air for me

Also, quick question, but for those of you who post photos from your phone to the blog, are you finding lately that the quality is a bit distorted?

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Rundown

The new barn concerns me, as all new things tend to concern me.

For one thing, it is a Quarter Horse barn.  For instance, check out this bumper sticker on one of the stalls:

Now may not be the best time to tell them about my love affair with Jane Savoie.

In many ways the barn is bother better and worse than the old barn.

Ironically, Lauren just posted on this subject the other day.  I would say the following regarding her list of 6 important criteria:

1. horse care - superb; they are very diligent.  Yesterday Walker had a slight cough and a runny nose, and I got a call by mid morning.  They put him on quarantine, checked his temperature, and kept me updated.  I've since learned that the barn has several different feeds to choose from, and he seems more than willing to find what's best for Walker
2. price - the best I'm going to get in the area, but unfortunately the lessons seem a little pricier than I'm used to
3. facilities - 50/50; built on a grander scale, but still old in some ways.  Walker's stall is bigger than his old stall (although my barn owner has stalls 3 times that size which make me drool over them in lust).  The indoor arena is bigger, and there is a great wash stall.  Unfortunately, there seem to be less paddocks over all, and although Walker's stall is bigger than his last one, I don't actually like it that much.  It's on straight ground (as in, no mats or anything underneath) and the ground itself is uneven.  I suspect that it was once used for storage.  Time will tell if I can get over those things.
4. training - great... for quarter horses... who want to show quarter horse
5. location - perfect
6. people - they seem nice, although admittedly it is a quieter barn than my last one and I like a good social atmosphere

Thus brings me to my biggest dilemma: training.

I like my new barn owner who is also the trainer.  I think he's knowledgeable, but he's also in the Quarter Horse world.  I've heard it once explained that there are three types of disciplines: English, Western, and Quarter Horse - and I think that's an apt description.  Quarter horse people who want to show Quarter Horse do things in a completely different way, and frankly, while it is the world that Walker knows best and would work best with him, at this point in our life, it's not what I'm looking for.  Even hunt seat and jumping is done completely different, and while I think my new barn owner will have lots to say to help me with the foundations, I don't want to get led down the rabbit hole.

Secondly, I'm concerned that he thinks I'm there either for training or lessons.  I am, of course, if I can scrape together some money, but primarily I am there for board.  I need a place for my pony to live, and while I want to learn, I just can't afford it all right now.  He seems anxious to get going, and because I'm awkwardly avoiding the conversation, I'm lucky that Walker still has two weeks of vet-sanctioned vacation before we're back to work.  I intend to put it off until he just stops talking about groundwork.

For the meantime, I'm just taking it all in.  First impressions can be deceiving, and perhaps I have just worked some things up in my mind which just aren't true (i.e. training).  Time will tell, but in general, I like the new barn and people, and I'm happy Walker and I are reunited.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


After doing a lot of research regarding sweet feed, I'm trying to decide what's best for Walker.

On the one hand, I understand why my new barn owner feeds it to his horses because obviously it helps give them more energy for the tasks ahead, but Walker is coming off a two month sickness and still getting no work. Once he starts work, he will be working only lightly. I've become wildly paranoid about anything that could so much as make my horse feel off, especially after our recent hiatus and HYPP scare. 

On the other hand, my new barn owner has also offered fat and fibre for a slight increase in the board price. As I'm sure you can imagine, for a horse that is bred to be heavyset, I'm slightly worried he'll end up the size of an elephant. If I were returning us to the Western world, especially as a halter horse, this would be perfect since, frankly, fat horses win halter competitions. But alas, Walker is going to be a jumper (*enter hilarious vision of fat pony jumping here*), and I'm seriously not against buying him his own grain to best maximize his performance based on a number of factors (breed, purpose, etc).

So this brings me to the question portion of this post: What feed do you give your horses (brand and type please so I can research and compare) and why?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Walker's New Home

I'm pretty sure Walker could adjust in a hurricane.  I was worried that he would be a little nervous or freaked out by a new location and new people and horses, especially since I wasn't there to meet him (rant to come), but from the moment he arrived, he pranced in like the big stud on campus and calmly made the place his own.

I think I will chew this because that
will make the new barn owner really like me
As usual, he put on a great show for all the new kids who came over to meet him.  He stuck his head out of the stall, let them love him all over, and they were particularly impressed with how friendly he was.  Well, kiddies, don't be fooled by that face.  I promise you that if you leave the door open unattended (or even attended), he will eventually make a break for it and you will chase him down the highway.

Anyway, today turned out to be quite hectic and left me a little cranky with my old barn owner.  She told me on Monday that she was thinking about bringing him at 4:00 PM on either Wednesday or Thursday.  When I checked with her on Tuesday, she said that she was leaning towards Thursday.  I don't know about everyone else, but I'm a planner and I'm a very busy person, and nothing drives me crazier than plans that aren't concrete.  Besides, I wanted to be able to tell my new barn owner so he could, you know, have a stall ready.

She then texts me this morning at about 8:00 AM and tells me she's bringing him today.  That's fine.  I manage to get a hold of the new barn owner and all is well.  I remind her to bring Walker's special food (fat and fibre) which she graciously gave me for free because her horse won't eat it.  At about 10:00 AM, I get a text saying that the woman covering for her trainer this morning fed ALL of the leftover fat and fibre (which would have been probably the majority of the bag) to the 35 horses in the barn mistakenly thinking it was normal food.  Not only was this wildly dangerous since most of those horses aren't on that type of food and were getting it in the quantity of their normal food, but that meant that there was no more for Walker.  Great.

By 4:00 PM, I'm considering skipping out of work early so that I can rush home, grab some supper, and be prepared for when Walker arrives at the barn.  After all, I've only met the new barn owner once, and I have never met his barn manager.  I text my old barn owner and ask her to please text me when she leaves the city.  Her response: "Sorry he is there now."

Umm.  What?

Thanks a billion.

So Walker was pretty much dropped off in a strange barn with no one there that he knew, and then she proceeded to tell the barn manager all about him - his turnout, his feed, etc.  Well, frankly, I don't think that's her place since I could very easily have said I wanted to change those things.  So then I had to get a hold of my new barn owner and go through a rundown of everything I actually wanted.

AND it turns out that at the new barn, Walker will be getting sweet feed instead of the pelleted performance feed that he was getting before (anyone have any experience with that, by the way?) and the hay is higher in nutrients as well (perhaps, it's haylage - I never really got a straight answer out of him on that).  The point is that the food is all higher in nutrients than he was getting so my new barn owner, god bless him, wants to transition Walker over slowly and was asking me if my old barn owner brought some of his old feed with him.  Well, I hope so, but I still haven't heard from her so god knows.

So needless to say, the whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm just glad that Walker is such a trooper about everything.  Frankly, nothing bothers him and his stomach is a rock so I doubt he will be bothered by all the new food.  But he is a horse coming off a sickness after all.  

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Walker's Big Move

It looks like Walker will be moving this week after all.

I guess he doesn't need any more shots, and he's all ready to get better for realz.  I haven't talked to the vet myself yet, but that's what my barn owner told me after the vet came out to the barn to do yearly vaccinations and teeth.  I hope to talk to him tomorrow, but in the meantime, it will be nice to finally have him here - although, I have to admit from a lazy mom perspective that it's been kind of nice to come home from work and know that I have absolutely nothing to do!

my desktop at work :)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Last Lesson

I didn't realize that in all the hullabaloo, I forgot to write about Wednesday night's lesson which was a doozy, let me tell you.

First of all, it was my last lesson.  On my end, it went freakin' fabulous.  I rode Coal again and we were doing all these lovely canter patterns over poles (like our own little jump course, minus the actual jumps).  I was even cantering through the little chutes my instructor set up without being irrationally claustrophobic about it, and we were cantering 90 degree turns like nobody's business.

Unfortunately, H had a not so great lesson.  She was riding Ash who is the most unbalanced horse on the planet.  For a reminder about how downhill he's built, check out this post of mine - although the picture doesn't nearly show it.  H has told me before that in order to ride him, she needs to physically lean back in order to not be tipped forward because of his conformation.  Anyway, he has no idea what to do with his legs so when he'd come in awkwardly to a pole, he would do a kangaroo hop over it - all four legs off the ground.  

So when she was doing the pole pattern, he cantered over one, bunny hopped over it awkwardly, but then bucked out of nowhere because a horse in another paddock scared him.  This threw H onto his neck, and she would have been alright if he didn't decide to slam on the breaks.  Unfortunately, she flew over his neck (from about 6 feet in the air since he is a very tall horse) and landed on a pole.

So then she couldn't walk.  And because it was the end of the lesson, we all promptly (and rapidly) got off our horses.  I had to go drive her down to my car with the gator (which the kids jokingly called the "barn ambulance"), and she had to go to the hospital afterwards.  Luckily, she was just bruised.

All this on top of the fact that it was my last lesson and no one told my instructor.  So my instructor is crying because I'm leaving, H is sitting in my car immobilized waiting for me to drive her home, I had to untack mine and her horse, and meanwhile there are also a bunch of kids at the barn who wanted to say goodbye to me.  While all this is going on, D gave me a lovely gift with a picture she drew of me and Walker.  It was very sweet of her.  She is such a lovely kid.

My camera didn't take a very good picture unfortunately
Needless to say, my last lesson at the barn will forever be etched in my mind!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

New City, New World

Just a few of many that were packed and unpacked
I've finally moved to my new apartment, and not including a few miscellaneous items, everything has found its place out of the boxes and into my new world.

Unfortunately, Chester did not handle the move as hoped.  It was all fun and games while there were boxes to play with, but once the movers pulled everything away, he promptly freaked out.  Then he went into that glassy-eyed kitty land where it took much lovin' to coax him out of.

Although I'm glad to finally get here and settle, the move doesn't quite feel final without Walker.  I went back to the old barn to visit him today since he is still getting injections.  Tomorrow the vet comes to do his teeth and yearly vaccinations, so he is going to check out his neck and let me know when he will be off the injections and ready to move.  His neck is still swollen, but I'm hopeful that today's injections will either be the last or at least the second last ones.

Happy kitty in a box
Unhappy kitty in another box

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Reteaching yourself

A lot of riding is about reteaching yourself. You learn to do something, and then you go back and learn to do it correctly.

I feel like Walker's sickness has really given us both the chance to start from scratch and do it all right this time.

When I first got Walker, he was professionally trained, and I subsequently went about untraining him in a bunch of intentional and unintentional ways. I learned a lot of bad habits while improving a lot of bad habits. Now I know better. I know what I want, and I think we can have it.

Since Walker is coming off an illness, he has lost so much weight that it will be a slow process to work his body back up to his earlier level of fitness.  Of course, I don't want that level of fitness.  I want better.

Jane Savoie's book is going to get us there because its broken down into lovely steps that we are going to be forced to follow anyway. He won't be cantering from the start. We will be walking, and if all we're going to do is walk, we're going to do it correctly! This can only lead to other great improvements (notice my positivity!).

I think I'm most excited about finally trying to get Walker in front of my leg.  I'm tired of being tired when I ride, and although part of Walker's laziness is his training, the other part is probably due to my initial lack of fitness and need to keep squeezing just to get him to go forward.  Jane Savoie thinks my horse should be light off the leg, and by golly, we will be!

I'm also intrigued by the walk.  I know that sounds rather boring of me, but of all the gaits, I think the walk is the hardest to change.  I have extended Walker's trot and have done everything from a lope to a nice canter, but Walker only has one walk - and yes, I'm aware of the irony of that sentence.

According to Jane Savoie (and you will hear me say that phrase far too frequently),
...the walk marches, the trot swings, and the canter springs.
That's what I want.  Instead, our walk plods or moseys.  Because Walker can literally jog slower than some horses can walk, any amount of leg pressure usually results in a jog, not a faster walk.  So as ironically as it may seem, I'm considering the walk an advanced maneuver to be worked on later!

As you can see, I'm just brimming over with excitement to start working with my pony again.  Here's hoping that the vet will clear him by the end of the week.  *fingers crossed*

these days we don't march, swing or spring - we just munch

New Digs

The first thing I moved in :)
I got the keys to my apartment on Monday, and although I'm getting movers to bring the majority of my stuff, I decided to move Walker's stuff in that day since some of it is fragile.

I'm pretty happy with my new apartment.  It's a two-bedroom, but it also has a little storage room that I have turned into my tack room.

It has a galley style kitchen, but it's open concept in the sense that there is a giant window ledge from the kitchen to the living room.  I'm not going to lie.  I specifically bought the apartment for that window ledge.  It's pretty and I know that my cat will love it.

I'm going to turn the second bedroom into a mini office, since the room is much smaller than the master bedroom, and I think I'm going to have plenty of room for all my stuff.  In fact, I think I need to get my hands on a bit more furniture.  I only have one couch now, but the set up in my new living room really demands a second couch.  I think I'm going to get a futon to use as an extra bed since I'm turning the second room into an office.

All in all, I'm kind of excited to move and get a fresh start.  I move on Friday, and Walker moves sometime next week - to be determined based on whether or not he still needs injections or vet care.  My barn owner has graciously said that he can stay as long as I need, even though she currently has 35 horses and only 30 stalls!  She has been very good to me, I must say.

Storage room - to be organized later
Chester's window ledge

Beating Myself Up

We riders are pretty hard on ourselves, and I think it's safe to say that most of us are perfectionists.  It just seems to go with the business, the constant need to better ourselves and the nagging feeling that we're just not there yet.

I get this way a lot, especially when I dream about buying a second horse.  Whenever I think about buying a hunter/jumper or something similar to make up for Walker's lack of talent in some areas, I usually end up in a funk thinking that even if I had the money to buy a second horse, I probably would just ruin it.

I used to think I ruined Walker.  He's not as light in the mouth as he used to be, and sometimes I worry if he's spur-dead because of his training or because of my riding.  In fairness to me, I actually do think his training contributed much more than my riding, but I do know that he's not as light in the mouth.  This is for several reasons, one of which is simply that we don't ride in big bits anymore and he was never that light in the mouth in gentler bits anyway.  But still there's that nagging feeling that goes on in the back of your mind.

In the Dressage book, Jane Savoie is all about positivity and self-fulfilling prophecies.  She's right of course.  If we don't believe in ourselves, we probably will fail.

Last night I also watched Buck again.  I've been in a horse-themed movie watching spree, probably because I have been in a horse-themed book reading spree and because I have no horse to ride.  Anyway, I realized that Buck is a pretty positive person too.

I also found this article the other day and realized that successful people just need to be happy.

Horses are about kindness - kindness to horses, kindness to others, kindness to ourselves.

There is no room for negative thoughts.

Stupid Question Time

Ok.  So I got my new Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter breeches (sooooo excited), but I have a stupid question.  Are they supposed to be this short or do I simply need to buy long?  All the breeches I have ever owned have been long enough at least to go to my ankles, but these ones remind me of capris.  If this is normal, by all means let me know.

I also learned that I am probably a size smaller, but with a belt, the size thing really isn't that big of a deal.  However, if the pant length is ridiculously short, I will probably just send them back and get the right length and size.

Otherwise I loves them.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Body Condition

I actually think Walker may be improving in his body condition a little bit.  I'm not going to go crazy and say that he's now plump and fit, but he's starting to look less like a skeleton on hooves.  Maybe it's just my wishful thinking, but I think that the fat and fibre feed that he's getting (plus unlimited hay and his normal grain) is starting to help.  The change is only miniscule, but it is an improvement nevertheless.

He's definitely still skinny when you look at him from the front,
but his chest was never that big to begin with

He looks best when he's grazing and stretches out that back of his
otherwise you can tell that his topline is completely gone
I actually think his butt is improving a little bit
You can still see his spine but not as dramatically

*Note to self: a sick Walker loses A TON of weight

Quick Pony Lovin

Walker's boo boo
I spent the weekend at my friend's house because she graduated on Saturday.  I only saw Walker on Friday with the vet in the morning and then not again until tonight.

I just popped in to give him a bit of quick lovin and also to brush him and check his feet.  My barn owner had her son fill in all the holes in the driveway, but in dragging the lane, he ended up unearthing a bunch of rocks.  So now every time I go out to the barn, Walker usually has a stone caught in his feet. Because that's exactly what we need.

Because I wasn't there to take his halter off like I usually do when he's in his stall, his halter gave him a bad rub on his cheek.  I always use fuzzies on his halter to make sure that doesn't happen, but because he broke his old halter, I hadn't switched the fuzzies over to the new one yet.  Sigh.  Could be worse I guess.

I usually use Fiske's, but I decided to try out the new
multi-purpose ointment I got for my first aid kit instead
Then I took him for a quick graze but the flies were eating me alive.  Apparently it's that time of year again.  Poor Walker.  He was pretty much lapping up the grass but I only let him stand out there for about 5 minutes before I thought I was going to scratch my own face off if one more mosquito flew past me.

I also brought a bunch of my barn stuff home.  I figured that I won't be riding any time before we leave for our new barn so there was no sense in everything taking up room in my locker.  I brought home his bridles and saddle pads, but I left my English saddle just in case I use it to ride another horse.  I also left his first aid kid, shampoo/cleaning bin, grooming kit of course, and my helmet.  Other than that, I'm almost all cleaned out.  I'm going down to my new apartment tomorrow and I may bring some of down to get it out of the way.

I also think that my Western saddle is going to become "equestrian decoration" in my living room...

Friday, 3 May 2013


No. I don't drink coffee. I mean breeches!

Yes, that's right. I finally found a company to send me some Tailored Sportsman breeches, and I chose the colour Espresso - not too boring, but not too wild for my first ever pair.

I was a little cranky when I found an American company that could ship then for $35 (in that magic flat rate box you were all telling me about) which is definitely not $120! However, I actually found a Canadian company to ship them which means less overall cost and quicker shipping.

I'm very excited for them to show up and I hope they fit! I paid for courier shipping because I am the most impatient person on the planet and for $4 more, I could have them several days quicker. If they got, I may order a second pair later in the summer. Hopefully I can convince myself to wait three days and just get standard shipping. But I doubt it.

I love shopping!

Ice Cream

First soft cone of the season - couldn't even
wait long enough for the picture before I took a bite
Nothing makes life better than ice cream.

And trust me.  I know my ice cream.  I used to work in a frozen food department selling ice cream to ice cream stands all over the province, so I know everything from a long list of their weird ingredients to their kooky French names.

The vet was out to check on Walker today.  I'm sad to report that he says that Walker's neck is slightly more swollen than it was before we left the clinic.  Sad face.

I'm not surprised though.  Although I had him calmed down about the oral meds towards the end, he was making a valiant effort to spit as much of it out as possible.  It's also simply possible that the oral medication doesn't work as well as the injection so now he is back on the latter.  He got one shot today and he'll get his next on Tuesday.  When asked if he would need a third, my vet looked at me with that vague twinkle in his eye and said "perhaps" that suggests "probably" in my mind.

Although I've been helping out with the barn chores all week (and spent the entire day there yesterday without riding a horse), I decided to mosey on home after my appointment and mope with my ice cream and my new Jane Savoie book.  I will warn you now that I will be quoting that woman like crazy for the next few months.  She is my new hero, and I feel like such an idiot reading things that my instructor has been yelling at me for a year and half now.  Oops.  Now I just need a pony to practice on and all will be well.

the good life: pajamas, a good book, and a good man

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Simple Lead Changes

There's something surprisingly so complex about simple lead changes which just makes me enjoy them so much.

That's what we worked on last night in our lesson.  I was riding Coal, one of the horses I rode about a month ago.  He is a very stiff horse, so stiff that when I last rode him, my instructor actually had me get off so she could confirm that he in fact can't physically do a turn on the forehand.  He also felt wildly unbalanced, so much so that I had to keep my inside leg latched onto his side just so that we didn't tip over and die.  Luckily, someone seems to be doing him some good because he didn't feel that unbalanced last night, but he's definitely still stiff.  Needless to say, canter transitions can be difficult on a horse that resists the bend.

He does have a lot of good qualities though.  He's short and compact, and he uses himself pretty well.  Last week on Harvey we worked on downward transitions and getting the horse to use their hind end, but I realized (quite by accident) that Coal is already pretty good at that.  He has a lovely kick-start canter (when you have him bent) so that you know he's really using that hind end of his.

Anyway, I am a big fan of simple lead changes.  In the Winter, I was working on both simple and flying changes with Walker (although being much less successful with the latter in our tiny arena - there was simply not enough room to execute a flying change without me running us into the wall).  But I must say I like the simple changes better.  There is so much more involved.  You have the downward transition where you really need to make sure that the horse doesn't simply dive forward or slow down more than necessary.  You have the change in the bend, which for stiff horses, is a very important component.  And you have the upward transition which you of course want to be more balanced and less strung out.  With a flying change, you have none of these transitions, and while they're not simple by any means, in some ways I would argue that there's less involved.

I have to say that I was pretty proud of my work with Coal.  I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself and say that we were getting them every time.  This is a horse who is difficult to get to pick up the canter from the beginning, let alone switch canter leads.  We started out quite lovely and were getting our changes each time, but then, of course, I started to let my guard down.  I stopped exaggerating the bend like he really needed me to do, and then as I got more frustrated, all my old bad habits came pouring out.  Isn't that always the way!  So we took a little break and when I came back, I was able to get my brain working again and we ended on a pretty good note.

Speaking of bad habits, I have to start looking where I'm going.  I mean, I'm getting much better, but for some reason, I never look that far ahead of where I'm going.  My instructor (who knows me so well at this point) set up a chute in the middle of the arena with two poles so that when you made a figure eight, you should be trotting through that chute.  I don't think I trotted through the chute once!  I was always to the left or the right of it.  We simply blaze our own path, I guess!  Stuff like that makes me feel too confined.  Probably not a good thing.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

My 1000 lb puppy

One of puppy's favorite chew toys
I have a friend who loves dogs, and he thinks it's hilarious that I call Walker my 1000 lb puppy.

In fairness, Walker is a lot like a puppy.  He hangs his head low and loves to get in your face.  He comes when I call him and follows me in the arena.  He plays with EVERYTHING, and thinks every other puppy at the barn wants to be his friend.  He is loyal and thinks I exist to be his (wo)manservant.

Since I've been so bored at the barn lately, I've been helping to do the barn chores in the morning.  While leading some of the other horses around, I realized that most horses are like puppies or dogs in some way or another.  Some are more small and active like terriers (the ponies of the universe) and some are large and clumsy.

Walker is the golden retriever of horses.  According to this handy website, golden retrievers display the following familiar characteristics:

- they are a sturdy dog that loves water (have I ever mentioned Walker's fascination with puddles?)
- they are moderately active outside and need a large yard
- golden retrievers need to be exercised daily, and they believe that the leader leads the way and the leader is the human
- golden retrievers (like quarter horses) are one of the most popular breeds today and are good for all-around activities for everything from household companions to working animals
- "they are lovable, well-mannered, intelligent dogs with great charm"

If Walker were a puppy... and a blond

What kind of puppy is your horse?  I seriously can't be the only one to notice the comparison!