Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I have to say that I had a pretty good weekend, even though I didn't do too much with Walker.  On Saturday, I went out to the barn to lunge him, but I arrived about 5 minutes after he had been grained.  I was going to wait until he ate, but ever since March, he has been very slow about eating his grain.  He was just taking his good ol' time so I ended up leaving without working him.  We did do some of his new stretches though and I'm pretty happy at how he is trying.  Of course, he'll do anything for a treat!

On Sunday, I actually got up relatively early (!), went for a "run" (go month-long bootcamp!), and lunged him all before noon.  His canter was a little more strung out than previous times, and he was full of energy.  He had a few meltdowns which included some bucking and galloping, but we're finally at a point with his soundness where I don't feel bad working it out of him.  I managed to push him through it without him getting hurt, and I know that we're finally on a road to recovery. 

Mmmmm... chocolate
I have to admit, for a pony that is huffing and puffing while he jogs, let alone canters, he sure is determined to push himself.  He could barely breathe, but he was 100% the instigator.  I had to make sure to walk him for a nice long cool down even though we only lunged for maybe 15 minutes. I wish I had that kind of stamina.  

Other than that, I ended up taking a day trip on Sunday where I went to an aquarium and a chocolate factory - both exciting for different reasons!  Most of my weekends have been so busy that I really haven't been able to just relax like this.

Unfortunately, this week is busy enough that I won't be able to see Walker until Thursday.  I'm sure he won't mind, but then I will whip his butt into shape at the end of the week.

I stalked this seal forever to get this picture

Saturday, 27 July 2013


As riders, I think that we are all acutely aware that our horses are athletes.  We condition them slowly and pay careful attention to their overall fitness.  Time and again, we tell people that our sport involves two athletes when in fact most of us probably place more emphasis on the equine athlete than we do the human one.

the trail I'm using to go for walks/hikes
I have said before that I'm not really big into fitness, and by that I simply mean that if I did not have a horse, despite all my best intentions, I would never work out.  Walker is how I stay fit, and every muscle I have in my body is in some way related to riding.  In fact, it really wasn't until recently that I would have even considered myself an athlete.  I'm really not the athlete type, and I'm still surprised every time someone thinks that I am.

Unfortunately, all this time while I've been moping during Walker's time off, I was just letting my own fitness deteriorate away.  I've become wildly obsessed with Walker's conditioning back into work.  I have a billion schedules for him - his progression on the lunge line, under saddle, etc. - but up until this point, I didn't actually bother to think about my own transition back into work.

I decided pretty much this weekend that I have been a fool to let myself get so unfit.  Now, instead of achingly bringing Walker back into fitness, I have to bring both of us back into fitness, which will only slow down our progression even more.

So I'm instituting a month-long boot camp for myself.  For the next month, while Walker gets to play with all the other ponies and only get lunged a couple times a week to maintain his current fitness (and hopefully add a little bit to it), I'm going to put myself through the ringer.

For the first time ever, I can actually say I'm in training for something.  I'm in training to be worthy of my horse.  We expect them to do so much for us and it simply is not fair if we don't give the same back.

Below is a short video I took of Walker lunging.  It is only 10 seconds long so don't blink or you'll miss it.  It turned out to be super difficult to lunge AND videotape AND keep him going because he really likes to take advantage of me if I'm not on his case.  This is the only 10 seconds in a row I could get.

Obviously he is still really stiff, and he's really not reaching under himself, but hopefully I can use this video as a good comparison for later work.  I must say that I wish I had videotaped him cantering because where his trot/jog on the lunge line wasn't anything to write home about, I was pretty impressed with his surprisingly bouncy, cute little canter.  He was like a little coiled spring.  That's got to count for something, right?

Thursday, 25 July 2013


Walker bit me last night.  The massage therapist told me that when she is massaging them that sometimes the endorphins cause them to be nippy.  Well, I don't think it was the endorphins.  I think he was just getting cranky that we had him standing there for over an hour, and he tried to take a chunk out of my arm.  I was less than impressed.

Other than that, the massage went pretty well.  Walker was super stiff.  She could tell within seconds of me walking him down the hall so she really had her work cut out for her.  She is going to come back again in two weeks to see if she can help improve him some more. 

It turns out that he has natural bad posture.  He stands in his stall (and in the aisle and whenever no one is asking him to move) in a way that relieves some pressure from his back but in fact just makes it worse.  Kind of like my own bad posture.  Apparently we have that in common.  My massage therapist calls it "parking".  He just parks himself.  I guess you don't notice these things when all you see every day is the same horse, but this explain why my old barn owner always said that he seemed to stand weird.

She also suggested to me that he might always have soundness issues due to his conformation and breeding.  Great. 

She showed me a few different stretches, some of which were ironically in EventionTV's new video this week.  For some reason, Blogger is being fussy and won't let me embed it in the post. 

As for the barn search, I'm still working things out.  I haven't been able to find any other barns that have openings (or are decent) other than the one I mentioned already.  Depending on a few different things, we may even end up staying at our current barn for another month or so, but at least it will be an informed decision. 

Today the massage therapist tasked me with lunging Walker to encourage him to move correctly.  I'll be interested to see what kind of effect the massage had overall. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lungin' and Loungin'

I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to take my barn owner's offer regarding 24/7 turnout.  Before Walker got sick, I probably would have thought that was a great deal, but the last four (going on five) months have been a roller coaster with Walker spiralling from one thing to the next.  Now that he is finally getting better and I've been working with the farrier and vet, I really want a situation where he will be watched very closely.  I'm not prepared for our next disaster.  I've had my fill.

The other thing for me is the complete lack of any place to work him.  Even though I'm giving him some more time off, I've been lunging him every couple of days.  I want to help speed along his attitude adjustment, so I'm laying a little groundwork in now.  He's sound, just uncomfortable when I'm riding, so this is the best of both worlds for us.  While I lunge him, he gets a mini-workout without too much stress, and when he comes back to full work, he will have a nice little foundation.

I was out to the barn yesterday afternoon to lunge him.  It's the first time that I got him to canter on the lunge line.  It was interesting to watch how he moved to the right.  It's his right front which is giving him trouble.  When he trots to the right (which is normally his best direction), he is completely turned to the outside of the circle as though he's making every effort not to bend in and place pressure on his foot.  He breaks stride doing that obviously, but when I asked for the canter, he was able to do it just fine.  I will definitely be keeping an eye on everything, and if he starts to work out of it, maybe I'll be on him in a few weeks instead of a month.  Who knows.  One day at a time.

This week, we have a massage scheduled for him.  I think that he could really use the little pick-me-up, and I do know that he's pretty stiff.  I also suspect that he has a little back pain.  Hopefully he will enjoy it.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

New Development

I got in touch with my barn owner to tell him that I was debating moving Walker and explained to him that it was mostly a money situation.  He asked me about Walker's recovery, and when I explained that I decided to give him another month off, he proposed the following situation.

Apparently he has a 2 acre pasture at his house with a run-in shed.  He was thinking about moving his horse there for the remainder of the summer because he doesn't have time to work him, and for a variety of different reasons, he doesn't get turned out much.  I assume that this would obviously be a much cheaper board situation for me, and my barn owner's horse is a doll.  Walker and him share a wall and I actually do think that they would get along fine.

My mother came to visit and bought me this:
a couple magazines and my first ever polos!
This would solve a couple of my problems (although not all).  Walker would get turned out with lots of pasture (one of the reasons I debated leaving), and I would get cheaper board. 

My only concern is the 24/7 turnout situation.  I mean, he has shelter, and I know he's a horse, but he was just sick for 4 months.  I don't know if I'm 100% comfortable with him being exposed to the elements 24/7 without any chance of bringing him into a barn.  It's one thing if he lived 24/7 outside with a barn right there so that I could even bring him in some days.

It also means I absolutely cannot work him.  Even if I change my mind and decide his time off is over.  There is obviously no arena out there, and it might put us in a relatively stagnant position.  I'm sure Walker would love his time off, but then where would we be when he was done his month off?  Are we going back to the barn and back to the increased board price, or after him looking after my horse personally for several months, am I going to say thanks and take off to a new barn?

It is quite the offer and very kind of my barn owner.  But I really need to think it through.  While it sounds like a Walker dream - 24/7 turnout on pasture with a buddy - it might not necessarily be prudent. 

Today I'm off to check out a horse show at a barn where the board is twice as much as I pay now.  Obviously, we're not even considering that one, but that doesn't mean I won't enjoy creeping the fancy barn!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Distance Doesn't Love Me

I checked out the barn that is currently the farthest away at 37 minutes. I can honestly say that it is a nice spot and has a lot of wonderful features:

- any kind of turnout situation I want (day, night, 24/7, etc.)
- max 4 horses per turnout
- automatic waterers in the turnout, even in winter
- several different turnouts, all with grass
- when the grass runs out, they will cart in round bales so that the horses are never without food (they are fat and happy)

- a crazy large indoor (like twice the size of my current indoor and probably 4 times the size of my last indoor)
- no bathroom but I can use the one in the house
- access to trails
- heated locker room and good size lockers

- feed choice of beet pulp, fat and fibre (which Walker is on), sweet feed, oats, or anything I want up to the price of fat and fibre
- will feed supplements obviously
- horses must be wormed every 3 months

- outside coaches welcome
- barn owner teaches lessons for low price (privates the cost of group lessons) - Note: she's a nurse and her husband is a paramedic and they have a 4 year old.  I got the impression that they are super busy and she kept saying "but you can have outside coaches too" which I suspect would simply be easiest for them

- board is $100 cheaper than my current board
- she has a working boarder option that would decrease board by $50 more if I worked only 5 hours a month
- currently the barn owner has 5 horses of her own and only 2 boarders; they are generally all on 24/7 turnout

- very private, which can be both a good and bad thing.  It means I get my privacy (and access to the rocking indoor arena any time I want), but no one around to help me as much
- because of its privacy, I worry about little things like who will deworm Walker (because I can no longer accomplish that after his bout with oral medicines...)
- lessons - I can take them with her but she seems busy which means that I might have to get a trainer in. This would probably be costly because she'd be travelling a long distance just for one person.  I was also hoping to take lessons on other horses while Walker is getting better and I simply doubt that's an option there with the setup
- it is up a hill - the road will be somewhat slippery in winter and I know it will be freezing at that time of year (they even said as much)
- the distance

I think it is a great facility with very accomodating owners.  I think it would be great for someone looking to retire their horse or someone who is very advanced and doesn't need the instruction or else is looking to bring a trainer in to further their instruction.  I'm not saying I won't take it, but I worry slightly that with the distance, I may not get to see Walker as much as I used to.  The upside is that it might be a chance to take lessons at other barns because obviously this lady doesn't care in the least.  I could try out a jumping barn and get to do some of the things that I can't with Walker.  Because of the reduced price, I could probably afford to join a lesson program at any barn I wanted on horses doing some other disciplines and afford to take a few lessons on Walker with the barn owner. 

I think that if it were closer or I lived a different lifestyle that didn't keep me at work late at night sometimes, I would jump at it.  For the meantime, I've contacted a couple other barns to put some feelers out there.  They might not have any availability, in which case I'll probably take this one (because I could always leave later), or I still might take this one even if the other ones are available.  I would love to have Walker out and settled in by August, but I may be pushing my luck on that one since I haven't even talked to my current barn owner...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Preliminary Barn Stalking

I've been doing a little preliminary barn stalking - mostly a few good drive-bys to get an idea of the places before I decide who I should call for a visit and who remains a waste of my time. 

There has been a slight reshuffling of the list since that. First of all, I've clocked number 1 at exactly 33 minutes from my apartment and number 2 at 37 minutes. I'm nothing if not thorough! In a way that slightly changes my perspective since one is only 5 minutes farther away than the other when I pictured a longer distance.

Number 2 is nestled in an episode of Little House on the Prairie, but for all the reasons it's beautiful - at the top of a valley, secluded, fields for days - it would also be fairly treacherous to get to in the winter - windy roads, steep incline, etc.

Number 1 is brand new - as in, I checked out pictures online of them building it within the last 2-3 years. The barn is small but quaint, and they seem to have a decent-sized indoor arena. The owner of this barn is an equine massage therapist so I have asked her to see Walker and asked her about her availability - win win.

In all this hullabaloo, number 5 shot up to number 3. I drove by it and there is plenty of pasture, 3 outdoor arenas and an indoor, and it is closer than the other 2. The other factor that moved it up the list was lessons. Even though 30-40 minutes isn't that far away, it may be too far away for me to take lessons because I may not get to the barn at a reasonable hour. If I'm not taking lessons, I figured that I might as well throw this one back into the list because the facilities seem nice and I guess if I'm moving, I'm moving for Walker.

The truth of the matter is, I could handle my own unhappiness at the barn but Walker does not seem impressed with turnout. The horses beat him up, there's no pasture to graze, and he just stands out there depressed. It breaks my heart because turnout is his favourite thing in the world. I still may not find us another barn, but I will at least give it a try for his sake.

Now I'm just waiting on the owner of number 1 to tell me the situation before I message the other ones. I want to know my chances there before the others because I'm leaning in that direction. And, it seems to be a dressage barn so maybe Walker will learn some new tricks from the giant warmbloods who will hopefully be nice to him.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Five Horses

I stole this idea from L. Williams, but I have decided to make a list of the five horses that have influenced me. She had them broken down into lovely categories about horses you've bonded with, connected with, who have influenced you the most. I will admit, pretty much every horse I've had any amount of interaction with has been a jerk to me (including Walker some days), so mine will be more of a string of horses that have done me wrong but were important to me all the same. If you ever wondered why I put up with some of Walker's antics, here's why:


One of the first horses I ever rode. He was a cantankerous old paint that you had to kick and kick and kick to get moving. He was the first horse I ever jumped on (in a western saddle no less, and never jumped again for 15 years). He unceremoniously dumped me after the fence. He also hated ponies, and if there was a pony in the ring, he would go immediately from old and slow to old and homicidal in 2.0 seconds. He's probably dead now which is a shame because I'd love to have him.


The horse that would not canter. She was 3 years old and I had just gotten back into riding. Naturally, it's a good idea to put a child getting back into riding onto your green broke filly. She charged me once while free lunging her in the arena. I used the whip as a sword to keep the beast away. When you asked her to canter, she would buck for the remainder of the lesson like a bronc.  She never tired.

Crazy barrel mare

I don't remember this horse's name but her image will forever be burned into my heart. She was my instructor's barrel mare who had not been worked all winter long. The gate was open, there were barrels in the ring, and my instructor said, "sure you can lope her!" She took off around the barrels like a pro at a 45 degree angle and I can distinctly remember being able to reach down and swipe the sand in the arena with my hand. As she finished her pattern, she saw the gate, and being a very rational performer, decided it was now time to gallop full speed out of the arena to get a good time after her run. A lovely gentleman had to leap in front of us to stop her. It was also the day I realized the importance of long socks in boots.


Hollywood was the horse that I leased at the barn before I bought Walker. He was a 17 year old old man of a horse. When he didn't feel like working, he would do some lovely rapid turns on the haunches or else back up around the arena at a top speed instead of going forward. He hated other horses and is the only horse I've ever seen buck my instructor off.


The love of my life. He can sometimes be a weird amalgamation of all the other horses that have influenced me, but with 10x the personality and loveability.  And I mean, really, personality trumps behaviour any day.  Right?

Horses keep you humble.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Barn Comparison

I'm still not sure if Walker and I are moving barns, but we've started by getting a little information from a new friend on the barn situation in the area.  I trust this girl because:

a) she looked at all these places when she was looking for a place for her mare
b) her mare has chronic lameness issues and so she's obsessive about footing and care
c) she's from the area
d) she travels to many of these barns on a regular basis with her job

I managed to take her list of 8 and whittle them down to 5, which I have listed "in order", although admittedly the order wouldn't necessarily stick based on a few factors:

1. So Great There's a Waitlist

- great facilities
- better price
- the owner is an equine massage therapist and a saddle fitter (got to be handy)
- not sure about rules of outside trainers (but I get the impression it's ok)
- BUT there's usually a waitlist

2. Distance Doesn't Love Me

- great facilities (including "the most beautiful indoor in the area with perfect footing")
- once again not sure about rules of outside trainers but seems ok
- working boarder option to help reduce the already reasonable costs (which is a nice perk)
- BUT it's about 40 minutes away (which could be a problem with my job since I can work late nights and weekends)

3. No Indoor

- no onsite trainer (which is fine by me because then I can get whoever the hell I want)
- customized care (they apparently have a lot of older horses which they take great care of)
- BUT no indoor (so definitely not a long term plan for me with Winter and all that jazz)
- AND outdoor is used as a turnout so the footing is hard and packed down

Walker Summer '12
Fat and doing what he loved best - eating
4. Across the Road from Current Barn (Apparently)

- great turnout
- great facilities
- BUT barn owner only has time to feed horses once a day (which means I either risk Walker colicking or I find the time to go out every morning to feed him half of his meal instead)

5. Quarter Horse Barn

- small indoor
- large outdoor
- BUT might not take boarders
- AND they're Quarter Horse people (which you'd think I'd like since I have a QH, but this probably means that we don't share similar disciplines or views on training - QH people can be harsh, and not in a good way)

The other three barns got cut off the list because they had bad conditions and one outright doesn't take boarders (which, unfortunately for me, was the lady I met at Greenhawk and was most interested in working with).  There are also a couple super expensive ones but they're so expensive that she didn't even bother to put them on the list (like $900/month for just basic board kind of expensive)

August '12
Notice how he could care less about the camera
In case you're not catching the pattern, he likes his pastures with grass
I'm sure that you can tell from my list that I'm leaning towards the top 3, but every single barn on this list is cheaper than my current barn.  If I had to make a quick list of the qualities of my current barn, they would be:

- big indoor
- small outdoor that's unfenced (and a Walker-disaster waiting to happen)
- turnout without pasture (and ponies that pick on my baby!)
- phenomenal care from the barn manager
- some training methods and emphasis that I'm not necessarily all about (but could grow to love and do result in some lovely well-manner ponies)
- expensive
- no outside trainer (nor probably outside instruction of any kind)

So there is the list!  Like I said, I'm still mulling everything over in my brain and trying to decide if we should just give our current barn more of a chance or we should hightail it while we can.  Decisions, decisions...

Radio Silence

I think I may be going silent for a little while, not for too long, probably just a few days since I have company coming and a wedding to attend, but I also probably won't have anything to report.

After further discussions with my vet, she has agreed with the farrier about the elevated pad for his shoe. Well, "agree" meaning she thinks it won't be too horrible as long as its mild. I was already leaning this way anyway so I'll probably give him the go-ahead.

As for Walkers time off, I've decided to give him some unofficial time off for the next couple weeks while I continue to monitor his progress, which may include lunging but not riding. Probably. 

A new friend of mine gave me the rundown of all the other barns in the area which, for the most part, are cheaper than my current barn and some of which are actually similar quality. I'm going to puzzle it over in my brain for the meantime, trying to decide where Walker should be if I go ahead with official time off, if I end up doing lessons, etc etc etc.

On the lesson front, my current barn owner still hasn't gotten back to me about availability. He offered me a lesson time but he clearly missed my "it needs to be as late in the day as possible because of my job" tirade. Since refusing that time, I haven't heard from him. So who knows what will become of lessons. If that doesn't work out, I probably won't be taking lessons until (or if) I move Walker to another barn.

I will take this one brief moment to be Debbie Downer and say that the future is bleak for my riding career. Based on my finances, my chances of improving my finances, Walker's situation, and my career path (or potential lack thereof), I really don't know where this will leave us come this time next year.

For the meantime, I'm focusing on Walker. He was a little down in the dumps himself last night, standing listlessly in his stall even though I had the door wide open and he normally likes to make good-natured attempts at escape. 

Also, completely random thought but there was a carrot in Walker's stall last night. I don't mind if people give him treats, but I'm a little perturbed that no one asked me first. I mean, sick horse on stall rest could have had allergies, people! I would never treat a horse without its owner's permission, and even then, I don't want to be responsible for the potentially bad behaviour that will follow. I just thought it was a little bold.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Walker Update

Today's Walker Update is brought to you by: Walker's farrier and vet, duking it out over his right front.

Last night Walker didn't appear off, or at least not noticeably off (I'm not the best for judging these things once they become subtle). I tacked up and hopped on, and other than a few major arguments, had a pretty good ride.

Although he still gets winded a little, he broke into the canter a couple times, which makes me hopeful that we'll be cantering again in no time.

That is, once we fix his right front.

It took me awhile to figure out the pattern but I noticed that Walker would throw a hissy fit every time we circled at the trot to the right or rounded a corner. He was good on the straight, just bad at those damn corners.

At first I mistook his disobedience for his attempt at escape. There are doors at the corner, and I simply thought he was trying to be done with me.  Then I realized that we weren't having those same arguments (to that extent at least) going to the left. In fact, every time he broke to the canter, it was going to the left. You may not remember but the left is his bad lead and generally stiffer side.

This morning when I finally tracked my farrier down to see when he thinks he should come tackle the mess that is Walker's back feet, we got into a conversation about Walker's right front. He pointed out that although the elevation of the heel is much improved in his left, his right still appears low on the X-rays. 

He thinks we should put a pad with elevation on that foot only, but my vet thinks that his hooves are improving. She thinks that based on his conformation, elevation may be too much for him.

I must say I'm torn. Who does one believe - the medical professional or the man whose sole purpose is to fix pony's feet? Based on my observations of Walker's discomfort, I must say I'm leaning towards the latter. 

I'm also slowly toying with the thought of giving Walker the whole summer off, maybe even moving him to a pasture-turnout style of living. Although it breaks my heart to even consider giving up my summer, maybe I'm not helping the situation. I am waiting for the vet to answer one of my 1700 emails and I may flit the idea past her. Right now it is just an idea in its beginning stages which may quickly be squashed, but perhaps it is the right thing to do for Walker's longtime health.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


I have written this post ten different ways today, but I have decided to be 100% honest.

I'm worried that my barn doesn't give me enough bang for my buck.  I think that the board and the lessons are well worth the price, but it's like a cowboy taking lessons from George Morris.  It still isn't worth it.

Then I decided to stop being so judgey.  After all, did I not just have a rant about others judging me like two days ago?  I haven't even seen a lesson, let alone ridden in one.

I want to jump and do dressage.  I would like to do cross country too, but I have mentally lumped that into the jumping category because if you can't jump in a stadium, you aren't going to do so well out in an open field.  These are my current interests.

But the sad cold hard reality is that I just need to ride.  I have been out of the saddle for 3 - 4 months (give or take the occasional ride), and I spent the last year and a half getting out of my flopping around like a beginner stage.  I'm by no means an experienced rider (or perhaps even an intermediate rider), and my riding needs streamlining in every way.

Matchey matchey - his shoes match his dress :)
The one thing I love about my current barn is the barn manager.  She is awesome - completely understanding, flexible, helpful, attentive.  She is the hidden gem at this barn, and tonight I watched her give a lesson.  I must say that I was thoroughly impressed.  Her lesson was diverse, not just your wtc kind of lesson that some barns give, and she had them constantly doing something different.

So I decided to enroll myself in one month's worth of lessons at the barn.  I get to ride and decide if I like the program (and it seems like the barn manager is not so obsessed with The Program as my barn owner, which is a plus).  If I do like them, I can use this time to get to a happy place in my riding.  My barn owner has since assured me that they do teach jumping, and even though it's mostly small stuff, I can barely jump a crossrail so who am I to judge.  If after time, I'm ready to move on, Walker and I will simply move on.  If I don't enjoy the lessons, then we will move on sooner.

And who knows, maybe it's simply a matter of establishing myself at the barn.  At my last barn, I got off to a slightly rocky start, but by the end, I could have burned the place to the ground and no one would have faulted me for it.  Maybe with time, I can have the best of both worlds - I can stay at this barn and convince my barn owner to let me bring in other trainers or lesson elsewhere occasionally.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Right Barn

Finding the right barn is a hard thing.

And finding the right barn for your horse does not always mean that you have found the right barn for you.

I really like my current barn. The facilities are pretty nice, Walker's care is phenomenal, I love the barn manager who has been soooo helpful, and the B.O. seems pretty knowledgeable. It is the right barn for Walker.

But I'm not necessarily convinced its the right barn for me.

I've mentioned before that my new barn is heavy on the Western with a particular focus on quarter horses. Now, there are thoroughbreds and standardbreds and lots of kids ride English. But when you get an impression, you simply get an impression. It is definitely no hunter/jumper barn, nor have I even seen anyone do dressage. 

About a month ago now, I went to a Greenhawk function and met this lovely barn owner from another barn about an extra 20 minutes from my current barn (making it about 35 minutes from my apartment or so). They have a cross country course at her barn. The kids do jumping, dressage, the works. And while that's not the barn for Walker, I think it would be a great place to take lessons while I slowly transition Walker back to work.

This is not to say that I wouldn't take lessons at my barn once Walker is fit, but until then, I really don't feel like shelling out money to ride my unfit horse at the walk in a lesson, or worse, focus 100% on groundwork because Walker doesn't roll over and play dead like a well trained golden retriever.

Here's the crux. The horse world is small, and to make a long story short, I would simply feel bad about taking lessons elsewhere. You can't keep it a secret (although i have totally done that - story for another day), and for some reason, I just feel like my current B.O. would not appreciate it. It has been my experience that barns tend to be wildly protective of their students, and since everyone does things different, everyone thinks they're the only ones who do things right.

As the wise Ursula once said, "Life's full of hard choices, innit?"

This is pretty much how I feel about the situation

Sunday, 7 July 2013


On Saturday, I decided to drive up to my old barn and watch a horse show there.  It turned out to be a great day, even though it was blistering hot.  I stupidly forgot to put sunscreen on so now I have a very painful sunburn on my otherwise Casper-white skin.  :(

It was really great to see all my old barn friends though, and they seemed to be pretty happy that I came.  When I arrived, I was walking down the hill towards the barn, and I heard, "It's Natalie!"  A bunch of people turned around and starting waving.  When I got to the barn, my trainer's husband was there, and he said, "You'd think a celebrity arrived!"  It's always nice to feel special!

I helped out a bit with some quick tack changes, talked to my old barn owner, trainer, and instructor, and I even went out to supper with all of them afterwards.  They told me all the gossip since I was gone, and as usual, horse gossip is always the best!  Apparently my old B.O. got a bunch of new horses in.  She had one of the older kids ride one of the ponies for a couple weeks to test drive him, and all was well.  On Friday night, a little girl about 7-8 years old came out to try him.  I guess he bolted with her on him, stopped at the fence, changed his mind, rocked back on his haunches and leapt the five foot arena fence from a standstill.  He clipped the fence on the way over, tore the whole thing down, landed on his knees, and sent the girl flying, who apparently managed to hold on all the way until he landed on his knees.  That's one tough little kid!  Needless to say, that's one pony on his way back to wherever the hell he came from.

Today, I went out to see my own boy and met up with my new B.O.  He asked me if I was going to ride, and when I said yes, he said that I should definitely lunge Walker first since he's been on stall rest for so long and all that jazz.  When I said to him that I always do and that I had in fact been riding him for a week or two now, he said, "Yeah.  I know.  That's what worries me."

Umm.  What?  He has never seen Walker worked or me on a horse.  The impression I got from the conversation was that he had either been talking to someone who gave him the impression that I was incompetent (or else my horse was a maniac) or that he decided to pre-judge me before getting to know me.

But, don't worry, he said to me, if I decided to ride, there was a 16 year old girl at the barn who could help me if I needed her.

I wonder if she could hold my hand too?  Lord knows I love to be babysat.

While I understand the heart of his concern (i.e. riding a horse who had been on stall rest), I simply didn't appreciate the lack of faith.  Nobody knows that little jerk like I do, and in fact I opted not to ride in the end.  A combination of the extreme heat, his sassy attitude on the lunge line, and simply not wanting to stick around the barn after all that.

So I'm feeling the burn - both of them.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Vet Results 2.0

The vet finally got back to me about Walker's x-rays, and so I have some results.  Kinda.

First of all, the x-rays look SO much better than last time.  Below are the comparisons with last month's x-rays on the left and the corresponding x-rays on the right:

Left front
Right front
You can see just how long the toe was when you compare these two.  She also gave me the navicular views, but unless you're a trained medical professional, there's not much to see on them.

She didn't really have much to say when all was said and done (so it was a pretty expensive visit considering).  She said that there was nothing on the x-rays to suggest that I couldn't work him, and in fact, if he's feeling a little off, I'm still allowed to ride and try to work him out of it.  I did that last night actually and found that it helped a bit, but I might just be thinking that since she told me to try.

I told her that he had another bad day a few days after she arrived, and she said she would check him out when she is at the barn this afternoon for another horse.  She said that if he continues to have extremely sore days, we can consider putting a pad on the soles of his feet, but my farrier will probably want to put one on with elevation and she doesn't think that is necessary.  Based on the conformation of his feet, she thinks it will really tip him too far upward.  These x-rays make his hooves look normal, but when you look at them, they seem very upright.  Elevation will just make them more upright, and already with the trim you can notice the improvement in the angle.

In the meantime, I am trying to get a hold of the farrier today to see if he can go out and take a look at Walker's back feet. Although they are self-trimming, I think that maybe he should just clean them up a bit to help him feel comfortable.

I was going to ride him again tonight but I think I'll give him the night off.  It is probably unreasonable of me to think that he can be worked 6 days a week like he used to be, even if all we're doing is walking and light jogging - especially where he's not 100% and it is blazin' hot out.  Last night when I got to the barn, he was sweaty just standing in his stall.  15 minutes of the walk made him drenched with sweat so we called it a night.  No need for the sick lame pony to get heatstroke on top of everything else.  I gave him a nice cool bath, loved on him, and hit the road.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

One Step At a Time: Seat

Still no news from the vet.  No news is good news, right?

I tacked Walker up yesterday, hopped on, but he felt both lame and uncomfortable. The vet said that he would have good and bad days back into work, so clearly yesterday was a bad day.

Because I still rode him around for about 5-10 minutes at the walk just to make sure he wasn't just stiff, I really worked on my seat. I mentioned the other day that my legs, seat, and hands are just a mess these days (all days really!). Because our new training schedule is so heavy on the walk until he's fit and perfectly sound, I decided that now was the opportune time to get it all right.

This might sound stupid but when I actually made a conscientious effort to sit on my seat bones and stretch down into my seat, I could feel an almost immediate difference. You simply don't notice that kind of difference when you do it at the faster gaits. You must simply get it right straight from the walk. It felt so good and secure, and shocker - my leg was 10x better as well. Who knew that if you actually listened to your instructor, these magical things would happen!

I really look forward to working on me for a change instead of always working on Walker. After all, Walker knows what he's doing. It's the idiot flailing around on his back that gets in the way!

"Silly human.  It's like starting from scratch again with you, isn't it"

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vet Visit 2.0

The weekend was fairly successful lameness-wise. As per the vet's instructions, I worked him almost every day. I lunged him Friday, checked him Saturday, lunged and rode him Sunday, and he was turned out on Monday. I intended to ride him Monday, but the weather really perked up for a change.  I figured that natural turnout was much better at working him and other horses do a much better job of giving each other an attitude adjustment!

After all that, he was still sound. Well, not 100% sound. He was definitely still a little stiff and a bit off , but the vet says he is much improved. She expects that returning to work will simply mean some good days and some bad. Last week was clearly a bad day and not necessarily worth the nervous breakdown. But hey, when your horse has been sick or sore for 4 months, you start to err on the side of caution!

She also agrees with my farrier that although his back feet are deteriorating rapidly, they are not bothering him all that much and the damage is mostly cosmetic. The brittle parts simply need to break away so the strong ones can replace them.

He was also 10x more behaved and did not try to run down the vet tech. Dear lord, thank you for making my pony generally sane on the end of the lunge line instead of the wild beast you gave me this weekend. Much appreciated.

Now I simply await the results from the X-rays. We also did a better view to see the extent of any navicular changes this time. I figured I might as well just add it onto the bill. Then I will know what I'm dealing with or maybe (dare I hope?) it will not necessarily be the end of jumping for us. But I doubt it.

Fact of the day: a horse who is sore on their front legs (for whatever reason - laminitis, navicular, general soreness) will often not stretch their head down towards the ground while moving because the weight of their head and neck adds that much pressure to their front. I think this is a super handy trick, especially for a horse like Walker who is generally bred to have a low set head and be a peanut roller. I was happy to see that he had no problems jogging with his head low today.

Girlfriend #1: Zeva
Girlfriend #2: Cheyenne
Watching me as I leave
Notice how his turnout has no pasture and is
quite hard (although admittedly softer at the bottom)
I wish he had some pasture to graze but c'est la vie... for now... 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Canada Day

To all my fellow Canadians, happy Canada day!

A friend of mine posted this video online today that appeared a few years ago when we had the Olympics in Vancouver. I figured that I would post it on here

I am very proud to be a Canadian, and I only wish there was a little more sun to enjoy the festivities.

*Note: I have since decided to add this video too by a Canadian slam poet. I absolutely love this poem, which was also performed at the Vancouver Olympics