Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday season.

I am unbelievably busy at the moment so poor Fox is being a bit neglected. I haven't started anything new training wise but I have been going over the stuff we've already done for a few minutes each day. Fox is keen as ever for treats but I think I'm going to have to come up with a new delivery method as he seems to have a bit of trouble differentiating from treats and fingers. Putting the food in a bucket works for some things but not others so we'll see.

It's going to be a strange Christmas this year. My dad is unwell so won't be able to make it which is very sad. We're all just hoping he will be right by his wedding on the 28th!! Family are all scattered no one can be in the same place at the same time but I'm hoping we'll manage to see everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Second Session

After Fox did so well during the first session, I decided to work on grooming at liberty. I got him to target my hand a few times which he remembered then his nice green brush. He cottoned on pretty quick. I raised the brush up to his neck, he stood so I reinforced. As I moved down his body giving him a nice groom his head kept peering round trying to find more treats LOL. He only got the reinforcement when he was standing calmly facing forwards though. We had great success. I was able to groom him all over on both sides at liberty with no sign of Fox wanting to move away. Best of all we got all kinds of lip smacking, chewing and yawning for which he got lots of reinforcement.

Since I have problems picking up Fox's feet, I thought I would have a crack at training him to get better at this. I gently ran my hand down his leg and asked him to lift his front leg. I got a shift in weight, so I reinforced. I asked again, the leg came up so I reinforced. I put the leg down and asked a couple more times before Fox was very willingly lifting his foot up. It was great. The best part was once when I had let go he kept holding his leg up by himself looking for treats. Much hilarity ensued, cheeky monkey. I tried the other leg and Fox straight away lifted his leg up and started contorting himself into odd shapes to get the treat. At one point his head was upside down right down between his front hooves. Is there such a thing as being too motivated?

I'm feeling really positive about this. I've only done two sessions and already we've made so much progress. This way of training is also heaps of fun. There is no frustration or anger just lots of smiling and laughing. Next session I think we'll try targeting a moving thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Experimenting

Last night I had a quick go at using some clicker training. I got Fox targeting his food bucket with no trouble LOL. So he touched the bucket, I clicked and dropped treats into it. We did it side to side, high, low, all over the place. I guess because that is something that Fox associates with good things already it was easy for him to make the connection. I tried a bit of getting him to target my hand, I probably should have gone to the car and got something else but never mind. It took a bit longer to associate touching the hand with getting treats. When he touched my hand, I clicked and dropped food in his bucket. Before he got his feed I also made him target my hand.

Our handwalk yesterday was not particularly pleasant. Fox kept wanting to eat. He would take a couple of steps then try and eat, a couple of steps and try and eat. It got very frustrating so tonight we're walking on the road! He was a lot calmer though so maybe this weekend I might brave a ride.

Another thing I have noticed is that Fox isn't particularly keen on being with me while I'm grooming or even massaging. He tries to pull back, stamps his feet and generally looks a bit pissed. Before, I passed it off as impatience but after reading all that stuff yesterday, it took on a new meaning. I think I will try some work at liberty using the clicker training and getting him wanting to be with me.

I'm really missing the long hacks we used to go on at the moment. Not the schooling or the jumping, just the nice relaxed walks we used to go on. Those times are the times of the most peace and happiness. When the joy seems to radiate from your soul. I know, that's a bit sappy but it's the best way I can think to describe it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interesting times

First of all, I think I've found a new resource. After doing my Psychology paper learning about conditioning and learning and my Canine Behaviour paper with an assignment on positive reinforcement, I have been wondering how this would fit with training a horse. This site has all the answers and links to many more.

http://paintinghorse.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Kim at Enlightened Horsemanship for the link!

The stories Cheryl has about her horse DaVinci, whilst more extreme than Fox, follow along a very similar path. The fear, the hyperreaction to pressure, the dislike of certain places being touched and certain actions. This also would explain why our float loading was successful. Ok, I wasn't using clicker training as such but I was using asking, letting Fox make his own decision and positive reinforcement.

Previously I've been put off the thought of clicker training by the clicker itself. I am not that coordinated at the best of times so adding a clicker into the mix of interactions was bound to be a disaster. However, Cheryl mentions she uses mouth clicking. That I can do!

So I think I will experiment with the Something Wonderful concept tonight, see if Fox gets it.

Fox has been moved back to where his old buddy is. The reaction to seeing Al for the first time was priceless and totally validated my decision to move back. His ears pricked, his eyes focused and he let out a soft whicker. They had a wonderful time saying hi to each other after their long separation.

On Monday, the evening was fine for a change so I decided I would have a quick bareback ride. I gave Fox a quick groom and massage, put his bitless bridle on and prepared to mount. He was very impatient and wouldn't stand still, I eventually managed to get my leg over and settle in. He seemed very eager to go but when we were going past Al's paddock he got 'stuck'. He seemed nervous of something ahead but it may have been him acting slightly herdbound. I urged him on a bit and he walked a few more steps before spinning, bucking and running back towards his paddock. And I stayed on. Self preservation can make the body do wonders.

I thought I would have another go. This time I just let him work through his fear of the spot and he walked off on his own accord. But a bit further down, he took exception to something else and we had a repeat performance. This time I didn't stick. I think I am a good lander, so no injuries. Gave my head a bit of a whack which means a new helmet is on the list of horse related things I need.

No I didn't get back on. We went for a nice handwalk instead LOL. Fox remained 10 foot tall but he remained calm and there were no antics.

Last night, winter had returned so I only went to feed. Fox was in a mood, maybe the cold air and rain had refreshed him. He was running and kicking and bucking like a lunatic. He seemed to be having a great time. It was fun to watch until I went to feed him and some of those kicked seemed to be aimed more than coincidentally in my direction. Not close by any means but definitely some direction. Not sure what that was about so I made him back right off. Once he was calmish he got his food.

So I have a horse who is full of beans that I am reluctant to ride with a saddle and now ride at all. Lunging is not a good idea for his pelvis or leg so it will be handwalking. Lots of it until we get some sanity back. I mean it's nice to know he's feeling good again after so long being depressed but sanity is better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bad Me

Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been flat out trying to keep up with everything.

Fox and I have continued to have short gentle bareback rides. We will have the saddle fitter out next week to make sure everything is ok before I start riding with the saddle again. My seat is improving again thank goodness. I was a worried for a bit.

Fox's chest is healing really well, there is going to be a mother of a scar though. Lucky he's not a show horse LOL.

Fox's tendons are up and down still but still on the way down. He can't wear his boots at the moment because they have given him a bit of chafe after getting wet in the rain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Final Results

Got my final results back today. I'm so happy, two A-'s, four B's and a C+!!
Which means I have achieved the B average I need. Have to keep it up for two more years though!

Fox has settled in well. Already he's eating his hard feed again with his normal gusto and generally looking chilled and happy. The swelling has been up and down but still on a downward trend which is good. He looked a bit stiff through his pelvis yesterday so I gave him a good massage that seems to have helped.

Looking forward to doing some more riding but the weather gods have not been kind. Where oh where has Summer got to?

On a completely unrelated note, I am shaving my head tomorrow for the Child Cancer Foundation so if anyone is keen to donate let me know.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving Again!

Back to the old place.

I was pretty nervous about the move or more particularly, getting Fox into the float. My wonderful boyfriend once again gave me a hand. Well he didn’t do a huge amount, he helped me hook up the float to the ute and then mostly just sat in the ute. He did come out on the odd occasion to give me a hand though. He’s also my driver as I’m still learning how to tow.

Two and a half hours later after trying every method I had found in my trawling through the internet, we had gotten Fox mostly in a couple of times. We decided to call it a day. Despite not having an ‘outcome’ as it were, we had actually made a huge amount of progress. I had discovered what doesn’t work. Anything that involves ropes, whips (including the Andrew McClean tap tap method) and pressure of any form. Pressure on his head causes head throwing up, fast reversing and half rears. Pressure from behind causes panic, so too does anything to do with a whip.

What does work is the in out method encouraged by carrot treats. Fox stays relaxed and calm (so do I for that matter). He isn’t frightened because I’m not trying to force him in, I’m asking him to come in. I know some people disagree with the use of treats but I’m of the mind that whatever works – use it. I also discovered a kind of pressure that Fox is ok with. It’s a very light tug tug tug on the leadrope. As soon as the pressure becomes constant, his eyes start to roll and his head goes up. But the tug tug tug works. So in light of this new found knowledge we decided to try again the next day.

The next morning we decided to work with Fox for half an hour then put him away and try again in the afternoon due to the All Blacks vs France game that started at 8.30 my boyfriend wanted to watch. At 8.15 after 15-20 minutes of work, Fox walked calmly onto the float all in one go. I looked at my bf, he looked back at me. I said, ‘sorry but we have to go. I can’t guarantee he’ll go on again.’ He sighed, did up the bum bar and the back and off we went. Fox travelled really well but at the other end a bit keen to get off the float. He waited until I had given him a back signal and then charged off. So obviously lots of work still needed but I felt really proud of what we had accomplished.

And did I mention how great my bf is? He missed half of his rugby to help me xxx.

Friday, November 27, 2009

First Ride Whoot!

On a whim, I decided to have my first ride on Fox last night. I got out my long unused helmet, bitless bridle and boots. Fox was a bit fussy with the bridle, tossing his head around. I led him into the arena and over to the mounting block. I slid my leg over his back expecting at least a sidle but he stood still as a rock until I asked him to move off. I don't know what I was expecting but definitely something more dramatic than what actually happened. Fox was totally relaxed, his eyes were soft and he strode out with no encouragement. We tootled around on the buckle a couple of times on both reins then over some poles set up along the centre line. Nothing much, took about 5 minutes but it was such an amazing feeling. Feeling the warmth and the movement. The power underneath me. Wow I've missed riding!

But I am not in any kind of riding shape. My back feels tight, my hips feel closed and my legs high. It's going to take quite a bit of work for me to come right again I think. I will start adding some hip opening yoga poses to my workouts which should hopefully help and really focus on relaxation when I'm riding.

On another note, a friend of mine that I used to think knew everything about horses is having problems with her horse. We have had a serious parting of ways in terms of horses once I started getting my shit together. The first thing is her horse is stumbling a lot. The first thing I notice when I look at him is how long his toes are. Try to mention this to her and she doesn't listen at all just starts on about how good her farrier is. Um, well he isn't. Shortening those toes will do a whole lot to help. Second thing is he moves really strangely. Like his back end isn't working quite right. He isn't lame or sore but his movement is definitely odd. Try and tell her and she doesn't listen, she used to work at a top level dressage barn in the UK, she has ridden more horses than me, she knows more than me, he is fine blah, blah blah. Someone else said the same thing and was shut down as well. Whatever. Now her horse has started chasing her. She thinks he is being playful. Right. Should I tell her what I would do? It involves a big stick and giving him a good whack and chasing him instead. Maybe I should let horsie have a bit more fun first LOL.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Horse

Well not really. But Fox has finally started to cheer up. His coat has got a bit of its shine back and his movement is fantastic! He is still off his feed so I'm going to try and get some funugreek which apparently helps. It is such a huge change from Saturday when he looked old and tired and sad. It was really worrying.

Good news, farrier agreed that barefoot is the best thing for him at the moment. If he does get worse there are some fancy schmancy pad things that work with the digital cushion to improve circulation but they are quite expensive.

And even better news, Fox has been cleared for light work! Yay! The filling in all four legs has really gone down in the last couple of days. Not sure what it is, the increased movement, the homeopathics, the equissage machine or a combination but whatever it is it's working.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feet Quandry

The physio came out today again. She is starting to lean towards the notion that a lot of the swelling especially in three of the legs is lymphatic congestion and maybe some of the swelling in the injured leg is the same.

The main thing she had to say today was that she would like me to put shoes on Fox. He's been barefoot for the last year and a half with no problems. Her horses are shod so I'm thinking that she is a firm believer in 'Conventional Wisdom'. The reasons she gave me for putting shoes on is to give support to the leg with the injured tendon, improve his circulation and to help with the slight footsoreness Fox has developed. I have been feeding Fox molasses to get him to eat his hard feed and I think it has caused his soles to drop. From a week ago when his soles were nice, hard, clean and concave to dry, crumbly, flat, horrible looking things which is causing him to be sore.

I have the farrier coming on Monday and I will discuss it with him. My instinct is to keep him barefoot but obviously the physio is a lot more educated than I am despite perhaps being a believer of CW. I'm very confused. I really hoped to avoid putting shoes on Fox but the physio is really pushing it and I want to do what is best for Fox.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Injury Updates

Fox’s chest is healing well. He has had a mild infection but all under control with antibiotics. Only problem is he is still off his food so I have to make it into a paste and drench him which he hates! I get to take his stitches out tomorrow which should be interesting!

His leg on the other hand isn’t getting better. All the running around he has done with the week and a half of fireworks has really put our progress back and to make it worse, there is now quite a bit of filling in the other hind leg. Before the chest injury, things were progressing along so well so I’m super frustrated. It’s been about a month since he did the initial injury and he’s still confined to a smallish area and still no handwalking. I get to start Fox back on the homeopathic remedies that I had to stop while giving him others for his wound on Sunday. I’m hoping that will help things get back on track.

Fox has been ever so patient, he has started going to sleep when I hose him, it’s very cute. He has started enjoying my massages too. It took a while but now he relaxes and we get lots of nice yawns/releases.

I have been given the go ahead to move back to where I was before. There is plenty of grass now so management issues should be down to a minimum. I just have to get Fox on a float!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guy Fawkes Rounds 2 and 3

After the drama of Thursday night I decided that it would be best to stay with the horses to make sure everything went ok. I even managed to persuade my partner to come and keep me company.

Everything was quiet, we had just finished eating tea, it was getting late. Surely by 9.30 people would have started letting off fireworks if they were going too. We were contemplating calling it a night. Then all hell broke loose. We had fireworks coming from several directions. One place was only about 50 metres away from Fox’s paddock. In the flashes, I saw his head come up and he started to run. I ran over to try and calm him. It must have been awful for him as he was confined in a small area for his leg. He was trapped, nowhere to go. So he started charging the fence.

When he had crashed into it a few times, I panicked. I was on the wrong side of the fence trying to keep him away from it. Stupid I know, but I wasn’t about to stand by and watch my horse go through a fence. He managed to get through the tape that kept him enclosed. He was running around in the dark. I couldn’t see him. Then he started coming at the fence again. By this time I was crying, and so, so afraid. It’s hard to describe the terror I was feeling. I was still trying to get in his way, to keep him away from the fence. My partner was trying to undo the fence so Fox could get into the relative safety of the post and rail arena.

He charged again and knocked me down. I saw stars and felt bits of tooth in my mouth. Apparently I said ‘Shit, shit, my tooth’s gone, I’m all fucked up.’ Stupid, stupid me. The knock and my partner sorted me out and I grabbed a standard and jumped to the other side of the fence. I ran up and down waving my arms and the standard shouting back, back, back whenever he came close. My partner managed to get the fence undone and opened the gate of the arena.
Now Fox wouldn’t come through. I herded him through the gap and into the arena. His little pony friend ducked under his tape and went through with him. Fireworks kept coming and they kept running. They did stay away from the fence though so I figured they would be safe. Then the car lights started to die. My partner ran to try and turn the car on before it went flat but too late. I tried to check the horses but couldn’t see anything except for moving shapes. I completely broke down and sobbed and sobbed.

We had to try and push start the car. After a couple of failed efforts we got it going. The horses had settled a bit and there were no more fireworks. I was exhausted and my partner wanted to get me home.

At home in the light I saw my tooth wasn’t too bad, about a third of the bottom was gone and it wasn’t one of the front ones so I was very relieved. I collapsed into a chair. Then I saw my hand. It was covered in blood. I looked at my partner and said ‘that’s not my blood.’

So we went back. Using a torch we had collected on the way I could see Fox’s white sock was red. I tried not to have another meltdown. He wouldn’t let anyone close but I got close enough to see a huge at least handsized wound on his chest/shoulder. It was mostly superficial with a big flap of skin hanging down. There were however, a couple of deep bits. I held it together and tried to ascertain the seriousness of it. It wasn’t bleeding anymore, looked pretty clean and the deep bits weren’t too deep. He also wasn’t going to let me or anyone anywhere near him. There was nothing I could do to help him. It was the most awful feeling leaving him there like that.

It was after midnight when we got home. I spent a sleepless night tossing and turning. I went out first thing in the morning and called the vet. She couldn’t make it till 9.30 so I waited and waited and made Fox as comfortable as I could. We had his pony friend in the next pen to keep him company but he was still very nervous and jumping at everything.

The vet finally arrived. We had a bit of an audience by this time, all the other people who have horses there had turned up. If you didn’t already know, Fox hates vets. With a passion. Poor lady couldn’t get anywhere near him with a needle. She gave me an oral sedative to give him. It took forty very long minutes to work. Vet tried again to get near him. Nope, he wasn’t having a bar of it. Out came the deer stick. An intramuscular injection isn’t as effective as a IV injection but it was all that could be done. He got a quick jab in the neck. When he was nice and sleepy she tried to inject the area with a local. But no, Fox wasn’t having any of that. So another intramuscular injection with the deer stick. He still wouldn’t let her inject any local into the area. We managed to tie him tight and get a dose in IV. He was so, so sleepy. The vet said that this should make him go down. But no, I, apparently, have a super horse. He swayed a bit but mostly just ate. We waited some more and nothing. We gave him another IV stick. ‘This should definitely bring him down,’ the vet said. No it didn’t. He swayed a bit and looked sleepy but carried on eating. Fox had now had a large dose of oral sedative and four times the normal dose of the other sedative and nothing. The vet decided to bring out the big guns. Diazapam and Ketamine. That dropped him. Rather hard too. He rolled around and his eyes were filled with panic. It was horrible.

We had to prop him up as he had landed on the wrong side. The vet got down to business, cleaned everything up and started stitching. He needed internal stitches as well as stitches for the big flap. She was just on her last stitch when Fox tried to get up. We managed to keep him still enough for her to finish. In half the normal time, Fox was trying to stand. There was nothing we could do to keep him down an longer. But he hadn’t got full control over his muscles yet and fell and flailed and twisted himself into hideous positions. It was so bad I could hardly watch. It took a long, long time for him to gain enough control to stand.

Once he had control over himself, everyone left. It was just me and my poor horsie. I felt very alone and very frightened. I didn’t know how to keep him safe. We had at least another night of fireworks.

Late in the afternoon I finally felt safe enough to leave him for an hour. I tried to rest but I was so anxious. I couldn’t decide where he would be safer. The round pen, which is small and enclosed which may freak him out but safe with nice high walls, or the arena where he could run all he wanted and be with his pony friend but low walls. I finally decided on the arena. It was his anxiety at being away from other horses that did it for me. So I went back and moved him into the arena, gave him water and hay and moved his friend in with him. I left again to try and have some food.

After not being able to eat anything, we went back at 8.30. I had planned on giving him another dose of oral sedative but fireworks started just as I was about to get out of the car. It wasn’t even dark yet. They ran a bit, then it slowed down to a trot and finally a huddle in the corner of the arena with some other horses from across the fence. We waited until the fireworks had pretty much finished before we left with the horses all safe and sound.

It’s now Thursday and we have had fireworks every single night. I put them back in the arena on Sunday night just in case. They will go back in there this weekend as well. We are expecting more.

Fox won’t go back into the paddock he was injured in. He is now living behind his pony friend which is a pain getting in and out of but he feels safe there. I’m looking for new grazing. My partner who has only been there once before and didn’t get out of the car, started pointing out how badly made this place is. What Fox hurt himself on, a bolt that was used to make the arena and left sticking out, was an accident waiting to happen. I can’t believe I didn’t see it. All the bolts are cut off now but there are so many more hazards. Some of them aren’t that noticeable, but I am on high alert and don’t feel safe there. I am even considering going back to where I was before I’m that desperate to get out!

Fox is healing well. His wound is getting cold hosed three times a day and he is finally eating his antibiotics after they are mixed with apples and carrots and lots of molasses. Very bad for him but better than him getting an infection.

I do have photos but I haven’t even looked at them. I don’t know that anyone else would want to see them either but I’ll post them if anyone requests.

My tooth is all fixed too. Thanks ACC.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guy Fawkes

I forgot all about Guy Fawkes last night till I heard the first fireworks go off. I hope everyone’s horsies got through it all ok!

I went to check on the horses at about 10.30. Fox and his pony friend were fine, though in the morning I saw Fox had a hole in his boot. I’m very glad he had them on otherwise it would have been a hole in his leg I think. I’ve had to fix it with good old duct tape for now.

I had to rescue one of the other horses who’s cover had got all tangled. She was running back and forth with the cover only around her neck and dragging underneath her. She was a very good girl though and stood pretty still for me to get it off. I checked her over as best I could but couldn’t see anything. She was also quite distressed as she was a ways from the other horses and I was a bit worried that another fright would send her into the fence. I called the owner of the facility as I didn’t have a number for the girl who owns her. He didn’t really seem that interested. A bit peeved that I had interrupted his sleep in fact. It was quite late when I called but that’s what you get when you own a boarding facility. I mean she was ok but I would have thought he would have called her owner to let her know. Initially I felt a bit bad and then I thought no, I did the right thing. It’s what I would have wanted someone to do for me if that was my horse. The owner thanked me in the morning.

One of the other horses had also done a bit of damage to a healing wound on her leg. Looks like the scab has come off so there was a bit of blood but nothing major. I didn’t see that till the morning.

Grrrrrr fireworks. I can’t wait till they’re banned!

Back to Fox. The swelling was up again in the afternoon but not nearly as much as it had been previously. The physio said it was looking really good and if the swelling is still down on Saturday I can give Fox some more room. She also said we should be able to start doing stuff soon. Yay!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Back!!

Sorry for the really long delay in posting. I have been so busy with exams and Fox that I have just had no time. But exams are all done now (phew) so I had better give you guys an update.

Fox has been just so patient. I am super impressed. He does have the odd moment when he stamps and tosses his head with impatience. He’s right, it does get bloody boring. We are still not handwalking so the only exercise he gets is his walk from the paddock to the hose. No fun for a big active horse like Fox.

Our current routine goes like this.

Mornings: Cold hosing 20 minutes
Homeopathic remedies: Ruta, Rustox which we are stopping tomorrow and Argmet
Handgrazing if I’ve got time

Evenings: Tennis ball work, massage and stretches. We do front leg stretches, lateral neck stretches and belly lifts.
Handgrazing
Homeopathic remedies: Arnica, Calciflox and Symph

He wears his Back on Track boots all the time now. They get swapped to his front legs during the time I’m there and then back on the hind legs.

The farrier came on Monday. He is an amazing guy. Talks and talks and talks in really technical terms so I struggle to keep up. He also is Scottish so that doesn’t help with the understanding. He diagnosed the damage as being to the cruciate ligament which is part of the stay mechanism in the fetlock joint. I’ve tried to do a search for a pic on the net but can’t find anything. (Before you ask why I trust this guys diagnosis, he’s a highly qualified farrier from the UK who specialises in remedial work. He trained with some of the top farriers there who write books on anatomy. He also went to vet school.)

Fox’s feet were a mix of good and bad. The old farrier had given them an ok shape but messed up the balance. Especially in that left hind. New farrier said we could try and keep him barefoot for now which I was really pleased with. Though if things don’t progress like they should, we may have to resort to shoes. New farrier rolled the toes more and really worked on that left hind to bring it level. The front hooves look completely different and the left hind looks so much better. I will try and post the pics in the next few days.

We also had our second appointment with the physio on Tuesday. The first thing she said was ,wow, he’s looking much better. His muscles weren’t so tight he wasn’t nearly as lame and his bum had levelled out a bit too. It was so good to hear feedback that what I was doing was making a difference cause sometimes it really doesn’t feel like it does. She worked Fox all over and boy did he enjoy it! She found a spot of tightness along his back on each side, Fox would stamp his foot and turn round as if to point to where it was he wanted her to rub when she wasn’t going hard enough. We both had a good laugh he was so cute. He tried to give me a groom too when she was massaging him. She then got out a vibrating machine thing and worked on the fill in his legs. It helps to release the lymph fluid and increase circulation. We have another session of that tonight.

This morning Fox was feeling GOOD! He did some airs at the end of the lead, freaked the dogs out. I swapped his boots to the front legs and went to hose the injured leg. Normally the swelling is so obvious I don’t have to think about which leg it is. This time I couldn’t tell. There was absolutely no sign of any swelling at all. Nothing. His legs felt tighter that they EVER have. I cold hosed anyway. The swelling has been up and down (not this much down before) so I’m trying really hard not to get my hopes up. But it means we are on the right track. We’re doing the right things and that is so good to know. I’m hoping that the swelling will still be down when the physio comes tonight cause I would really like to get her expert opinion on what’s going on.

So I’m feeling excited but trying very hard not to!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Has Your Horse Taught You?

I have realised over the last week just how much Fox has taught me.

Fox has taught me patience, the importance of awareness and openness in communication with horses. Commitment, focus, the importance of goals but at the same time, the knowledge that things sometimes don't happen quite the way you want them too or as quickly as you want them to and being ok with that. He's taught me more practical things, especially this last week about physiology, anatomy and function. He's propelled me on a learning journey probably unmatched by anything I have done before. And most importantly that I have SO much more to learn (especially about feet, I never want to go through a bad farrier again!)

He's been a hard, demanding teacher at times but sometimes that's what it takes to wake up someone stuck and content in their old ways. He has slowly grown to trust me and this has been a huge reward all by itself.

This last week, with nothing to do with him but cold hose and rub him with tennis balls has actually been rather nice. The pressure is gone. It's just you and your horse, hanging out not demanding anything of each other. Fox will stand patiently while I hose his leg, something he never used to do. He stretches and yawns as I massage him with a tennis ball. In some ways it's far more enriching than what we used to do. It takes up far more energy and requires much more of a focused approach. It's a carefully thought out routine of handgrazing, massage, cold hosing, booting and administering of various potions and powders.

I do miss riding though. I know Fox is going to be a far better horse after this process is finished. But I miss it. My dad suggested maybe finding another horse to ride while Fox is out. I'm still toying with the idea but am leaning towards the conclusion that another horse would either take valuable time away from Fox or would be neglected while I focus on getting Fox better. It's a tricky one. Maybe I can find someone that will let me ride now and again.

Back on track now. There is a somewhat common view that every horse has something different to teach its person. Anyone out there had the benefit of an equine teacher? What did it teach you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bad News

We had our appointment with the physio yesterday. Man did she have news for me!

I already suspected tendon/ligament damage. She confirmed this. Damage to the deep digital flexor tendon and possible the suspensory ligament as well. He has severe pelvic tilt and damage to his hip/femur joint. The current theory is that he slipped over and crashed onto his hip. On a positive note his sacral iliac is nice and stable, she was very surprised.

More than this though is the news that my farrier has been fucking Fox's feet up in a way I couldn't even imagine. His feet are all out of balance with too steep lateral walls causing misalignment of his legs. This is not just one leg but all four. When she pointed it out to me, it was so obvious I can't believe I didn't notice it before. This has also contributed to the likely hood that he has degenerative joint disease as well. The hind leg he has damaged has the worst trim which the physio believes contributed to the tendon damage. He has thickening of the tendons in both front legs too.

He has chronic wasting in his hamstring and gaskins. Where there should be muscle, there is none. His neck is out, he has clicking in his right femoral joint from his weight pushing through on impact. He has also got scarred muscle across the top of his jump where he's had a major impact probably trying to rush out of a float and making contact with the bum bars. My poor poor horsie. I will try and scan the chart she gave me. I don't think any part of his body is unaffected. We're looking at 4 months plus for rehab.

Our plan of attack

1. New farrier - he will sort out Fox's feet make them level and probably put a remedial shoe with a pad on that back foot with the severely steep lateral wall that is causing the crushing to the outside. He is also apparently excellent at diagnosing tendon damage.

2. Cold hosing - 20 mins twice a day.

3. Confinement - Fox now only has a small corner of his paddock by his pony friend to stop him running around

4. Pain relief - Devil's claw, no bute!

5. Back On Track boots that I am ordering tomorrow (pay day)

6. Supplements, supplements supplements - my list includes chelated magnesium, MSM and glocosamine on top of his toxin binder and mineral mix.

7. Homeopathic remedies - have a high success rate of helping treat inflammation and helping tendons recover.

8. Tennis ball exercises - these are exercises given to me by the physio that I do for 20 minutes every day.

9. Physio - She will see him once a week for the next few weeks then every three weeks.

10. Ultrasound - this will happen when his leg is a bit more stable as the closest one is a 40 minute float ride away.

11. Hand walking - when the farrier has sorted out Fox's feet we can start handwalking. 5 minutes the first week, 10 the next etc.

It's going to be a long road to recovery but the physio's prognosis is optimistic. She doesn't think there is anything we can't fix with the right treatment. Except of course the DJD that I have my fingers crossed we are only treating as a precautionary measure. Unlikely, but one can dream!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lameness

We has it.

I arrived to feed Fox on Friday evening. I noticed straight away. He wasn't tracking up, looked like he was almost walking on tippy toe, and didn't like putting any weight on it. Worst of all his fetlock made a strange almost popping movement every time he put it down. Checked all the way up and down his leg. He had a puffy fluid filled just above his fetlock. It was warm to the touch but not painful. He also has some extreme sensitivity on his back around the point of hip. Very bad :(.

I cold hosed his fetlock for 20 minutes and saw an improvement in his movement. I put him away for the night to re-asses things in the morning. Vet's here are unfortunately a bit useless when it comes to horses here. I read Andrea's Eventing-A-Gogo blog with envy at the resources.
The next morning, Fox was moving a lot better he was tracking up a lot better, putting more weight on it and best of all the horrible popping movement was gone. I cold hosed him again which seemed to help again.

This morning I cold hosed again and by the evening the puffiness was pretty much gone his movement was almost back to normal but still resting it quite a bit. Which leaves the soreness of his back/pelvis. I am calling a physio first thing in the morning. Hopefully she will be able to figure out what's going on.

As there is two points of soreness, it's hard to figure out what's actually causing the lameness. The hip, the puffiness above the fetlock which could be tendon or ligament damage or a combination of both. I will keep cold hosing in the meantime and hope the physio can come very soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Update on the fire

It turns out the fire was caused by some little punks smoking and drinking. Not the smartest thing to be doing in a hay barn!! The police know who they are but I am not sure how much can be done. Grrrrr.

The owners are also uninsured. They will rebuild but not sure when.

As mentioned in a previous comment I lost a bag of chaff, an old canvas cover and a neck cover that clips onto my light cover. It could have been worse though. Normally all my covers are in there but both the good ones were hanging over the gate in Fox's paddock due to some very inclement weather we've been having. So maybe only $100 worth lost instead of $500+.

We got there at about 10.15pm and the fire fighters didn't finish up till nearly 3am. The nature of a hay fire means the tiniest spark left in one single bale could reignite the whole thing. Every single bale needed to be pulled out and thoroughly doused to prevent any flare-ups. Good job fellas!

Exams!!

I hate the damn things! I have four coming up for my course at the end of the month. Two on the same day even, the bastards!
As such I am not going to be getting much riding done as all my waking minutes seem to be studying but I will try and keep up with the groundwork. It's a shame because both Fox and I need to go out and ride. But afterwards I'll have all the time in the world. Until I need to find a summer job that is :(.

I'm trying to keep focused on my goals to keep myself motivated. Which isn't easy when the sun is shining outside. The dogs are clamoring for a walk and I can see my saddle from where I sit. Maybe I should hide it! I'm trying to get a Bachelor majoring in Psychology. I have to pass with B's to get my Masters after which I hope to do a postgrad in Clinical Psychology followed by several years of practice till eventuality...... I hope to open and run an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Centre for young adults. Big dreams huh!

On to horse related stuff. we did some groundwork on Tuesday. Fox was so good. It's still surprising to me that he behaves. We played the friendly game which is being so helpful for him. He let me touch him pretty much everywhere, even inside his ears. We had a bit of a breakthrough when touching his nose too. He let me run my hand down to his nostrils and keep it there for about five seconds. It was brilliant. Simple things! He was a lot more relaxed. Just stood calmly, with only the occasional tail swish indicating resistance. His head was nice and level, a clear indication he was chilled as when he gets tense, the first thing that happens is his head comes up.

The Tellington-Jones book arrived back at the Library today so I'll be perusing that over the next few days. Hope to give you some feedback soon. From the quick flick through I had, it looks interesting. Not sure about that bit though. The shanks!! I couldn't see what inside the mouth looks like and I think the rein attached to them is supposed to be loose but still. They're pretty scary!

Onwards and upwards!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Aftermath

Here are some pictures from the day after the fire.


Whats left of the shed

The melted bits on the tractor

300 bales of burned soaking useless hay

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Three Types of Training

This is probably the best conformation pic I have Fox.

It seems to me that most of the training methods I have found that could be useful to Fox and I follow three very different paths.

The first: Tried and true practical horsemanship. The guys who have been around horses their entire life, know their ins and outs. Tough and firm but fair.

The second: Science a la Andrew McLean. Methods based on scientific studies of how a horses brain works, why a horse reacts the way he does in different situations and how a horse learns best.

The third: Spiritual. I'm not sure this is the right word for this but it follows the lines of Linda Tellington-Jones and a man named Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. This is the genre I've probably done the least research on and I am desperately waiting on a Tellington-Jones book to be returned to the library so I can find out more about her methods.

The key thing here for me is that I am probably using bits of all three in varying degrees of competency. But can I keep mixing and matching all theses styles? Will I end up confusing Fox which will negate my aim for open honest communication? Am I thinking too much into how much it will effect Fox? It seems to be working so far but I really do tend to overthink things!

All I know is that by changing the way I think when I am around my horse and being aware of every little thing I do with him has changed Fox's behaviour considerably. He is still a little too ready to invade personal space and other bad ground manners and we have yet to tackle float loading but the improvement is major. From a stubborn obstinant horse, I now have one that I like hanging out with.

Monday, October 12, 2009

FIRE!!!!

Well had a very interesting weekend! Driving home from a friends place, I glanced over towards where Fox lives. Obviously wouldn't have been able to see anything since it was dark but you still look. I was totally surprised to see a big orange glow. I was positive it was where Fox lives. I couldn't see any fire trucks. So my partner and I raced there. The hay shed was fully ablaze! The guy who lives over the other shed was madly trying to move his vans out of the way of the flames. We had both called the fire brigade by this time. There was a tractor next to the hay that we tried to save. My partner had a fire extinguisher and the other guy and I took turns manning a hose until the fire trucks arrived. Here are some pics.







Thursday, October 8, 2009

Catch up

Well the weather has been great and both Fox and I are feeling good.

Monday I didn't have a lot of time so I decided to try lunging. Wow, what a difference in attitude from Fox. Not sure what has brought about the change, maybe the groundwork, maybe me not letting him get away with stuff. He was responsive to all my voice commands, walk, trot and whoa. He was attentive and his ear was on me the whole time. He switched directions calmly and smoothly and best of all no stink eye not even once!!! I set up some trotting poles and a little cavaletti jump to make thinks a bit more interesting. Fox calmly trotted around, stretching down nicely over the poles. He did do quite a big jump over the jump that was probably no more than 20cm high, silly horse.

Did an hour of schooling on Tuesday. Started with stop go signals. Fox responds really well to light aids from my legs to go but stop signals need a lot of work. His head pops up and his mouth gapes even though I'm not asking in a very strong way. So lots of work on that. Did some steering and figure of eights for suppleness. Fox felt like he needed a blow out so I let him have a canter around the outside of the whole arena. He leans something wicked on the corners and is bent all the wrong way so we probably won't do too much cantering until he is a bit more balanced. Because he was so good, we finished with a few jumps which Fox was a bit keen for. Another thing to work on.

Wednesday was more schooling and a quick hack. We worked on transitions, mainly on getting that stop signal lighter and light so Fox doesn't feel he has to gape. Did some serpentines and circles again for Fox's suppleness. He is the most stiff horse. Had a nice little hack down to the estuary. I let Fox have a bit of a paddle but he wanted to splash so that was the end of that!

He has a couple of days off now and I'm going to try and go for a nice long hack in the weekend should the weather cooperate. I also need to pull his mane, trim his tail and rasp his hooves. He's a bit of a wild beastie at the moment.

I have the number of a qualified horse chiropractor who has been recommended to me. With Fox still so stiff I'm sure there must be something going on. Still need a saddle fitter too. To my inexpert eyes it looks ok, no rocking, no light, lines up with his shoulder, lots of clearance along the spine and no dry spots. But maybe I'm missing something.

Needless to say, my partner thinks horses are great!! All this money being put into a giant poop machine!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stretches

I've started doing some stretches with Fox. He really seems to enjoy them especially the front leg ones I do every morning. And as an added bonus, he doesn't mind his front feet being picked up any more.

I haven't had any time to ride this week. the weather has been rotten and we're going away for the weekend. Meanwhile Fox is getting fat in his paddock. Hopefully the worst of the weather has passed and next week I can rip back into riding.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Weekend

It fined up for the weekend and in spite of the busy schedule we had, I managed to squeeze a ride in. Daylight Savings through everything out of whack, so I didn't get up till 9. Luckily that meant it was only 8 o'clock temperatures so Fox wasn't too hot when I got there. Mucked out as I do every morning, but the wheelbarrow was broken so I had to use a sack. Nice.

Fox seemed keen to get out and about so I decided to go for a hack instead of school. He only lifted his leg three times when grooming and for three of his feet he was great, the fourth he slammed down a couple of times but there was no evasion or nastiness. He was perfect while I was saddling up. I've had to change his gullet size again as he's put back on all the weight he lost over winter. Still need to get a saddle fitter out. Damn renovations sucking up all our money!!

Fox was eager to get going and sidled all over the place when I was mounting. He doesn't have a lot of patience for standing around. I've not been for a hack around here so I thought I would just cruise around and do a bit of exploring. Fox was on high alert. There was a bit of snorting and blowing going on but he wasn't too spooky. The road faded away as we reached the estuary which Fox looked at all wide eyed. I could see the road reappearing over the other side of the channel which looked shallow enough for us to cross but there was a whitebaiter fishing pretty close. I didn't want to make him angry, some have a pretty mean temper if you disturb their fishing.

I turned Fox and we walked down the side of the channel. It was muddy going in a few places but Fox coped ok. He had started to jig a bit so I was working quite hard to keep him to a walk. When we couldn't go any further we turned around back to the road.

I decided to have a bit of a trot to stop Fox jigging. It was a huge power trot and he wanted to canter which I wasn't comfortable doing on the side of a road. He did a couple of little bucks so we went back down to a walk. When he was calmer we tried a trot again and got something that was slightly more in control. The grass ran out far too quickly though so we were forced back to a walk. I am really missing the orchards of the other grazing right now. The most annoying thing was of all the cars that passed us, only one slowed down. Fox is fine with traffic but it still makes me angry.

Fox had worked himself up a bit so he was covered with sweat even though we hadn't done a whole lot of work. He's obviously feeling good so I think we can step up the workload a bit. The weather isn't cooperating though of course. It has packed in again and won't clear till Thursday according to the forecast. But with Daylight Savings here I should be able to squeeze some more hours in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where we're up to

First I want to make some changes to the last post. I'm not going to be a bitch, but I will be firm. I am probably soft with Fox but if I get too hard, he is going to fight. Definitely not what I want.
So, I will be firmer, but not too firm unless Fox goes way over and does something like try and kick me again.

Fox has been back in work for three weeks now. The first week was just handwalking for 20mins three times a week. During the handwalking we worked on his responsiveness to whoa and go and stand which doesn't work so well yet.

Second week I rode once, went for one handwalk and did one session of groundwork. The first ride back was fantastic, I'd forgotten how much I missed it. Fox was an angel, responsive listening, no rushing. He was however a total prick when I was saddling up. He started threatening kicks and tossing his head and evading. Next time I groomed him I carried my dressage whip and every time he lifted his back leg, he got a flick. Not a hard one but enough to know it was there. He stopped very quickly and then stood nice and still. The groundwork is going well too. And after a session, Fox is much better with his feet.

I think when I found out he may be sore, I gave him a lot more slack than I should have and he took full advantage of that. Now I know he isn't, he's got no excuse.

This week so far we have done one ground work session and one ride. The groundwork is getting better and better. He will move back, forward and sideways with only a small amount of pressure. He will also drop his head with poll pressure which is awesome as he normally hates this. Doing the 'Friendly game' we also discovered that he LOVES his ears being rubbed. His eyes rolled up and he stretched his neck out, it was so cute. He will also follow me, which he has never done before.

The ride was ok, lots of rushing at the trot and falling in especially on his right rein. We did have a good canter around the outside of the arena. Fox is feeling good!! I was riding with no stirrups and was sore for two days afterwards LOL. But good for me.

I probably won't get much more work in this week as the weather has packed in and it is freezing!! Fox has his winter cover on again. I had even put a salt block out which is now half dissolved.

The key thing I need to work on with Fox is his basic responses. Go, stop, left and right so I will be working on those before we start real schooling.

We also really need to go on a nice long hack and do some exploring. Hopefully we'll be able to find a place that Fox can have a bit of a blowout. He needs a good run.

Working with clear goals in mind is definitely improving our relationship. Instead of just riding, I'm working towards something. Everything I do around Fox now, has purpose. I'm more aware of every action I do and every reaction from Fox.

We are also on the hunt for a proper barefoot trimmer. Fox has been without shoes for over a year now but the guy doing them is a farrier as apposed to a trimmer and maybe hasn't been doing the best job. It'll be interesting to see what happens with that!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mean Bitch

This is what my farrier recommended me to be. The guy who helped me load Fox last week also said I handle Fox too 'soft' I found out today.

The fact that Fox tried to kick me on Saturday is making me think all theses things through again. Behaviour like this needs to be nipped in the bud. It is not acceptable in any way shape or form. So if I have been letting Fox think he can get away with this it's not good and I really need to change.

I think I'm going to have to try and find a happy median between these two roads until Fox has got it into his little brain that stuff like this is not ok. Lots of ground work trying to instill basic manners again following the way I originally wanted but if Fox pushes it then I get to channel my inner bitch. Not lose my temper though. He's a smart cookie, it shouldn't take him too long to realise that if he pulls that crap he's not going to get away with it.

On another note, my farrier who I found out yesterday is also a body worker checked Fox's back end and it's all fine. So it's back to behavioural problems for his feet. He does have some issues with his front around his withers though. Which means it's probably time for another saddle fitting.

We also got to see how Fox's crazy brain works especially well today. The farrier who uses rubber mallet thingies to treat the problems did one little tap on the top of Fox's withers. Before this Fox was standing peacefully but when this happened he just went into total panic mode. He just absolutely lost his mind in a split second. This is such a good indication of how his brain is wired, along with his pressure to resistance. He is such a hard horse to work with sometimes and such an easy one at others. He's my big conundrum.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bad Day

Fox was especially difficult today and I had an especially short fuse for some reason. As such, I lost my temper. No excuse.

I was trying to pick his feet out and put the copper sulphate for his thrush on. On and on and on it went with him evading and pulling his feet away. If he is sore he does have some kind of excuse I guess. But then he hurt my elbow and I started to get pissed. Then he tried to kick me and I lost it. He got a massive crack on the shoulder with the leadrope. He was better after that though. However, that's not the way I want to communicate with my horse.

I am really disappointed with myself, I normally have a huge amount of patience and I've only lost it with Fox once before this.

I was planning on going for a quick ride but that went out the window, I didn't think it was fair on either of us to ride him.

It's days like this that the thought of selling Fox crosses my mind. I never will but it would be so nice to have an easy go of things for once.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Move

I ended up getting a local horse guy to help me move Fox. This proved to be very enlightening. The first thing he and his wife said when they saw Fox was ‘do you have trouble with his feet?’ That is an obvious yes. Then they asked ‘how is he to canter?’ He’s fine on a straight but on a circle he has some real issues. They ended up telling me he is disunited in his back end. I must have looked a little confused so he said, ‘he’s out somewhere and it’s probably making it uncomfortable to do some things.’ YAY just what I wanted to find out. Apparently one side of his butt is bigger than the other too though I couldn’t see it even when I stared at it for ages.

The loading was really interesting to watch. The woman who is a Tellington-Jones fan had Fox’s head and the guy was behind. They noticed pretty much straight away that Fox had no yield when pressure is applied. So yay, I got something right. It took a bit of back and forth and Fox got a few cracks on the butt but eventually he was going in and out like a pro. I have yet to try if I can repeat this.

When we arrived at the new place, Fox blew up, arched his neck and flagged his tail so much that the woman asked if he was part Arabian LOL. He was also pulling me around so the guy took him off me. He was quite fierce with Fox but it did sort him out. We put Fox in the round pen so he would be safe in case he decided to be an idiot. He calmed down quickly so he got some dinner and hay to last the night and that was it. Not too eventful at all.

So now I am faced with trying to sort Fox’s back end out. They recommended a massage woman but I’m going to ring around all the local horse ‘fixers’ and find out what they have to offer before I make a decision. I feel a bit bad that I didn’t notice but neither did 2 farriers, 3 instructors or other horse people who have seen Fox. All it took for the people who helped me was to see Fox walking towards the trailer.

Which means Fox’s behaviour problems may in fact be partly due to him being uncomfortable.
We will see how this pans out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Woohooo!!!

Two lots of good news.

It only took 11inutes to treat all four of Fox's feet tonight!!! He's not spazzing out so much when I pour the liquid on and he's letting me pick up his feet quicker afterwards. He is however trying new things to avoid me holding his feet up. Today when I had one of his front feet up he stretched back until he was almost in a bow trying to get that foot away. Unfortunately I had to let go because I was laughing too much. Cheeky horse!!! But 11 minutes woohoooo!!!!

Second bit of news is not horse relating but I feel like telling everyone. I got 94% for my last assignment!! I am so stoked. Especially so because I was really worried about this one.

Go me!!! LOL

Things To Work On

The first step in creating my training program is to clearly identify what it is that we need to work on. Here is what I have come up with so far.

On the ground

Fox: As he pretty much needs a total overhaul in this area it is hard to pinpoint things but I've found a few

1. Respecting my space.
He is terrible at this and until I realised that it wasn't such a good idea, I've been letting him get away him crowding. This also applies at feeding time.

2. His issues with being touched in certain places.
This includes particularly his feet and his nose. Both of these are highly inconvenient as they interfere with trimming and drenching.

3. Lunging.
I mentioned in a previous post that Fox can get aggressive when lunging. This is a real no no and has kind of put me off lunging so this is something we will probably work up to as his other ground manners improve.

Me:

1. Consistency
I think this is the most important thing for me to work on as Fox will find it very difficult to learn if I am not consistent in my rules.

2. Calmness
This means no anger, no fear, no frustration. I am getting better at this already but it still needs some work.

In the saddle

Fox:

1. Rhythm
Regular rhythmical strides without me having to push and without him rushing.

2. Balance
Staying balanced through transitions and within gaits. No falling in or out on circles.

3. Impulsion
Really getting his big butt working and getting him off his forehand

4. Suppleness
Fox is still quite stiff so getting him to really bend throughout his whole body.

5. Collection
This is really the ultimate goal. I want this to be natural and unforced. I want Fox to carry himself.

6. Sideways movements
At the moment Fox doesn't really understand and the aid needs to be quite forceful. This is something that can be worked on from the ground too which should help.

7. Light aids
Getting Fox to respond to a nice light aid

8. Relaxation
Fox can get quite tense and when he does, his back hollows and his head pops up.

Me:

1. Aids
One aid at a time, either leg or hand, not both at the same time as it confuses the horse.

2. Lengthening of leg
I want my leg to be nice and long and no chair seat which I sometimes slip back into especially when Fox starts to rush.

3. Hands
My hands are often too low so learning to keep a straight line from my elbows to Fox's mouth.

4. Stop riding defensively
When Fox starts to rush, I start to tense, my chair seat appears and my hands get too hard.

5. Light elastic contact
Not too hard, not too soft. No pulling!

Wow that's a lot of stuff to work on!! I'm sure I've missed some out too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goals

Short term - from now till the end of summer

1. Get Fox on a float!! More than this really, get Fox consistently going on a float.
I think this will be my biggest challenge as it involves so many elements of training. Getting his groundwork and training his responses is really going to be key, as well as heaps of time and patience.

2. Get rid of his thrush
Keep persevering with the treatment. It needs to be done and it won't go away by ignoring it as much as I would like it too.

3. Work at least 4 times a week with Fox whether riding or groundwork.
This may have to wait for daylight savings but that's not too far away. I haven't decided on a riding/groundwork ratio yet. He needs a lot of work on the ground but I don't want to give up riding either.

4. Make a training program
Have a clear focused approach on what I want to improve and the ways in which to improve it for both Fox and I and both groundwork and riding.

5. Have fun over summer, no pressure.
Just that, have fun, go to the beach, the river, long hacks and hang out.

6. Go to a fun showjumping day
I know there is one in Jan/Feb that would be great to go to. Fox and I both love jumping and would be great to meet some more people.

7. Join local Adult Riding Club
Meet more people, do some different stuff and have some fun.

8. Go on a competitive trail ride for fun
I did one of these a couple of years back and loved it. Fox isn't the right kind of horse for it but as long as he's relatively fit we should be able to do the Training course.

9. Find an instructor
I have heard on the wind that there MAY be a classical dressage lady willing to come over this way and teach. That would be awesome but need to find out more. And need to find money to pay her LOL.

For next year

1. Compete in the Winter Dressage Series - all four
I did the first two this year before study got in the way and had a blast. Will have to make sure my study is a lot better planned next year.

2. Do some more eventing
Did one ODE this year and LOVED it. Fox and I had a blast! We had a terrible dressage but our show jumping was magic and once Fox figured out what he was doing with the Cross Country we had an amazing run.

3. Compete in the Winter Show Jumping Series - all four
This is new for this year but I couldn't make it due to study. Will really need to get that sorted for next year.

4. Have a crack at showing
I'm not sure that this is really my thing, but I want to have a go. Not sure whether Fox is a hack or a hunter, I prefer the idea of a hunter but if he's not that's cool. Will need to get a height certificate and learn heaps more about workouts and turnout and such.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Andrew McLean

The boys in the danger paddock. Even though we taped off every hazard we could find I am still grateful neither of them got hurt.

I've heard his name bandied around forums and such but kept forgetting to research him. I finally Googled him the other day.

Wow, now this is what I'm talking about. Here is a man who's training principles are totally synchronised with what I am wanting to achieve. And I said I would never drink the Koolaid LOL.
The website that I have linked to is for his facility in Australia so a lot of it is not really relevant training wise and he is selling DVD's and books but hey, you can't win 'em all. Check out the article page though. Loads of information on training principles and it's free!! Eat that Pat Parelli and Linda Tellington-Jones!! Nothing makes me more frustrated then trying to find out about a particular practitioners theories and methods and coming to one of these sites. Pretty much the only way you can find anything out is by paying money and I actually want more information before I part with any hard earned cash.

Here's what Andrew McLeans principles sum up as:

The AEBC approach is unique in that it combines classical training with a strong emphasis on scientific understanding of animal psychology and horse behaviour.

I think the really key thing here is that his training is based on horse psychology and behaviour and that the welfare of the animal is paramount. (Though the picture of him with Anky Van Grunsven is a bit if a downer, I do not like that lady!) There is no point training a horse in a way that it doesn't really understand so I like the fact that he has thought about how a horse thinks and acts which makes a lot more sense than some of the other garbage I have read.
Best of all, he does clinics in NZ! Not that I'm going to have any money to go to one anytime soon but it will definitely go on my wishlist. And I'm going to put his book 'The Truth About Horses' on my birthday and Christmas lists. LOL he's really got me hasn't he!!! Well just take a look for yourself and you'll see why :).
On another note, I've been treating Fox's thrush with copper sulphate out of a drink bottle. Boy he hates it. It's a real struggle to get it onto his feet. To do all four I'm looking at at least 40 minute at the moment. My process is pick up the foot, clean it out, very gently squirt liquid on then wait while he has a spazz then try and pick foot up again which takes ages. And once I've done the first one, he's leery of me picking up any of the other ones. It is so exasperating. I've tried squirting it on a cut of mine and it doesn't hurt so I'm not sure what his problem is, maybe the sensation. I'm hoping after a while he will get desensitized.
I'm also hand walking Fox a couple of times a week now in preparation for finally getting some riding done and to work on his leading. Because his legs are so long he does have a tendency to leave me in the dust even though I'm a pretty fast walker myself. This is frustrating because one of the things I'm trying to teach him is where he should be walking and that is definitely not pulling me along!! Work in progress though as everything is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Moving

The move is all confirmed for Monday.

The new place is the same price, has a lot better facilities and is closer. I should have moved a long time ago but I really did like it where I currently am.

Only problem is that means I have to put Fox on a float. That's going to be fun!! I've got a friend coming to help me so we should be ok. At this point it will be just about getting him on there and I'll work on his float problems when I've got a whole day.

The owner seems ok, bit of a negative guy but fingers crossed there will be no problems.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Funny Video

Check this clip out. I was looking to see if people who practised Parelli actually rode their horses.
The commentary is hilarious!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwJNrui2v5c

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Riding

I think I had better explain the type of rider I am. I have been riding since I was little, on leased and borrowed horses and ponies. I went to Pony Club for a year or two when I was seven or eight, got my D certificate somewhere along the way too. But I never had any lessons. I mean someone must have taught me how to ride but I don’t remember any lessons as such.

Because of that, the way I ride and the way I think about riding is very unstructured. I can ride and can sit a buck and most spooks but I’ve missed some of the really basic things. Trotting on the right diagonal for example. I didn’t even know what that was until about a year ago. Using your legs to ask your horse to do things other than go...huh?

So despite the fact that I can walk, trot, canter, gallop and jump I am essentially a beginner.

When I got Fox, I realised I didn’t want to just hack out and muck round like I had in the past. Here I had a horse, that whilst unfit could actually do something.

So I started getting lessons with a local instructor. We started very slowly, getting Fox fit and bending. He still isn’t the most supple horse but that’s a work in progress. We also worked on my legs, me learning how to use them to keep Fox on a circle and to prevent him falling in or out. That didn’t last too long as I decided to move Fox somewhere closer to where I live.

It was tricky finding another instructor but I did eventually. We worked on lengthening my leg, my hands, my posture, pretty much everything but that only lasted for a few lessons. She would cancel lessons at the last minute, change days and generally just muck me around. And through it all, I got a huge sense that she just didn’t want to be there which was awful. Eventually I just couldn’t really be bothered with all of it and stopped organising lessons with her.

Then friend of mine came back from England and she gave me a few lessons. We progressed hugely until it came to asking Fox into an outline. It seemed like Fox hadn’t really been asked to work that way before, so essentially we were starting from scratch. Her method was to pull one-two on one rein one-two on the other and getting harder and harder until Fox listened. I had a bad feeling but didn’t really know what about.

Then she moved away and we stopped the lessons and I started my quest on the internet. I realised what I had been doing. I had been forcing his head down when he wasn’t ready. According to a more classical approach, he should be collecting by himself before you ask him into an outline.

So this is where we stand now, I have one approach that is hard and heavy on my horse and doesn’t sit quite right with me but does work. Before I came to my realisations, Fox was starting to go really well. The other way seems better, kinder, more in keeping with the style of riding I would like to achieve but slower and I don’t really know very much about it and don’t have an instructor who can teach me this way.

In the end it’s an obvious decision, the longer, better way is the way we will take. I want a horse that is willing to work, not one that is sour from harsh pressure. It looks as if I will be doing LOTS more research and trying to teach myself this new way.

But it is the right thing to do. The right thing for me and the right thing for my horse.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Grazing

The place I've had Fox for the last year hasn't really worked out unfortunately. A lot of the paddocks were resown and we completely ran out of grass. So we've been moving from paddock to paddock some more suitable than other but this last one really takes the cake.

We were told the only hazard in there was a old post hole. The day we were to move the horses, I walked the paddock and got the shock of my life.

Machinery, wire, pipes, posts with tin around them, pretty much anything you don't want in a horse paddock was in there.

Here is just a sample of what I found:

Pipe, just right for hooves getting stuck and legs cut.


More wonderful leg slicing materials
Warratahs freak me out after hearing a local story of a horse getting a fright in a storm and impaling itself on one of these. It had to be destroyed.

And best of all

Let me give you a close up of that blade.


NICE!!!

So this and a few other issues including arena being constantly closed but only for us, nowhere to put our tack and feed but other people have places, our horses not being allowed in paddocks by the owners horse but other horses are fine and having to remove our poo from the property ourselves WTF..... means I'm having to look for new grazing.

The problem is that the only other place that has a decent facility, the owner is apparently a bit of a knob. I really don't want to move from one place I have problems to another place I'm going to have problems. But I may not have any other choice because I've had it with paying good money for a terrible service and ridiculous passive aggressive tactics.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sad News

The storm I spoke about the other day caused this:

http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/mp/5866480/horse-crashes-through-windscreen/

So I guess I had good cause to worried about my fellow.

Condolences to the owner. Very sad sad news.

Koolade

I like to think I don't drink the koolade of anyone. That is that I don't get hooked on one way or think this one person is the be all and end all of training. I want a more eclectic base for my training. Take a little of this and a little of that and see what happens.

For example I will be starting to work through the 7 Parelli games with Fox. I think these will all be benificial for him and his trust, touching and respect issues. But at the same time I'm not going to stop riding my horse and do purely groundwork. I like riding and Fox I think enjoys being ridden. I'm also not going to stop talking to my horse. I know some people say its a big no-no but I like telling my horse he's a good boy. And I'm not going to be buying some fancy schmancy carrot stick when I'm sure my dressage whip will do just fine.

I've got all these things I'm itching to try but time and weather seem to be against me at the moment. I realised that it's been nearly a month since I had my bum in a saddle (even longer since I've been in Fox's saddle) and I've not even had time to give Fox a good groom this week. Bad me. I am still picking his feet up every day though but now Fox has thrush so I'm worried that me treating it will put our progress back a few step.

I've posted some links on my blog now. These are all blogs or websites that I've found hugely helpful.

Mugwump Chronicles - Good sense training techniques and wonderful stories.

Horsetalk Forums - Lots of wonderful people dispensing advice on a multitude of topics.

I Will Jump Sweet Jumps - Great insight to a showjumpers world and some good jumping tips.

Eventing-A-Gogo - Not so much training as such but gives some hints and I really enjoy following Andrea's progress. Go the barefeet!!!

FHOTD - Learned so much about conformation and breeding from her early posts, not so much now but credit given where credit is due.

Go-Lightly Fiction - Interesting perspective on riding and the horse world.

The Barb Wire - The way she trains her horses seems to be similar to what I want to acheive.

Horseproblems Australia - This guy has some good articles and tips. Keen to try his float loading technique.

Glenshee Equestrian Centre - Some really good tips and stories.

Enlightened Horsemanship - Interesting news articles and training theories. Will be doing a bit of research into this T-Touch stuff but this could be bordering on a kool-aid thing I'm thinking. Also love her motto which is 'Mindfulness in horsemanship'.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Storm

Fox on a miserable day last year
(I'm having to use old photos as my USB cable has ben stolen by my parter for his PS3 and now he's gone and lent it to his friend grrr)

We had a major storm last night. We got hit with everything, wind, driving rain, thunder and lightening. I spent half the night worrying about Fox and thinking this is a time when it would be really nice to have a warm, dry, safe stable to put my monster in.
Of course when I got there this morning he was fine, but still I'm sure every horse owner can relate to the worry. It's still pretty windy today but the rain seems to have cleared off which Fox seems thankful for as it means he can be naked again.

He was fully uncovered by September last year so I'm hoping it'll only be a couple more weeks before I can leave his cover off for good. He's still a bit on the light side so covering at night seems to still be a good option till he's put on a little more weight.

I'm hoping I'm going to be able to start riding again next week but after all this learning I've been doing, I think that is going to need a whole overhaul as well. Some of the things I've been doing I don't think are quite right. And now that there are no competitions that I can actually do, there is no pressure and we can start from scratch and work on this trust based training in the saddle too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Breakthrough

Fox in his winter woolies last year

Yay we've had a major breakthrough!!! Two even!!!

As I mentioned in an earlier post we've had a few problems with Fox and picking up his feet, especially for the farrier. He will step, shove his foot down, resist and generally just be a rotten little man. Well big man really. So I've been picking up and picking out Fox's feet daily in preparation of the farrier coming to do Fox's trim.

For the first week, I put aside half an hour a day. Before I went near Fox I would focus on being calm and patient, the last thing I wanted to do was get angry which would negate what I was trying to do. I started on his front feet which he is better with. I asked by gently pulling on fetlock until he picked his foot up. If he stepped I would keep my hand on his leg. I kept my hand on his leg till he reasiled I wasn't going to give up and he stood still. If he pulled his foot away, I would pick it up again till he let me hold it till I was ready for him to put it down. The first week was difficult and it took the full half hour. But Fox is a smart cookie and it wasn't long before he realised that just picking his feet up nicely was much easier then resistance.

It only took three weeks before Fox was picking up his feet like he had never had never had a problem. But now came the big test. Would Fox behave for the farrier?

Yes he did. He was an angel!! The farrier was really impressed and said 'Oh maybe he's not such a bad guy after all.'

I was so happy.

Our second breakthrough was not quite as significant but nice none the less. Normally when Fox isn't tied, he doesn't really want anything much to do with me unless I have food. But yesterday after putting his halter on, he stood still and let me brush him with his leadrope just slung over his neck. It was a really nice feeling.

This trust thing seems to be working. Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mirrors

Fox and Al

I’ve been writing an assignment on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for one of my papers and a common thread through them all is the fact that a horse is a mirror. If you approach a horse in way that is angry, fearful or disrespectful, the horse will immediately let you know by his body language that he knows how you are feeling. Even if you try and hide it, he knows. He may turn away, eat, or a number of other things that show he’s not interested in knowing you.

Where is this going? It is how I was feeling and how Fox was reacting. Whenever I went into his paddock even if I would be feeling great, there would be an underlying current of anxiety, some days fear and towards the end, anger. Of course he didn’t want to be around me.

I have been so busy for the last few months with study and renovating the house that Fox has come last place. But for the last few weeks I have been making a conscious effort to spend time with him. There is no pressure, just hanging out. Every day, when I step out of my car I make my mind clear. Today is a new day, a fresh start. And it’s working. I’m calm and happy to be there and Fox is calm and happy for me to be there.

I’ve only been able to ride about once a week but I think that has been beneficial too. I like spending time with Fox so I’ve had to think of other things to do but ride. Some days I just sit in Fox’s paddock and watch him and his paddock mate Al. Other days I just groom him. I’m starting to feel the connection we had when he first arrived.

It’s wonderful.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Options

Fox thinking "What on earth are you up to?"

Everyone who owns a horse has opinions on how a horse should be treated and trained. So there are as many theories as there are horse owners. Which doesn’t make it easy for me. Fox’s problems have propelled me onto the Internet, I read horse articles, blogs and forums, all in an attempt to find the magical button for Fox.

At the moment I think I’ve narrowed it down to four general opinions.

1. If your horse doesn’t want to do something do whatever it takes to get him to do it including extreme cruelty

2. You want your horse to be your buddy and to like you so you must be nice to him

3. Your horse needs to respect you as the alpha animal so you must behave as the alpha animal

4. You need to respect your horse and treat him with compassion and he needs to understand and trust you as an equal (I haven’t explained this one very well but the writers of Glenshee Equestrian Centre and Enlightened Horsemanship have done so a lot better than I.)

Obviously I don’t agree with 1 or 2. I’ve probably been using 3 to some degree but I’m starting to think it’s not quite right. There is evidence that dominance based training doesn’t work and doing my canine behaviour paper and psychology papers made me realise that punishment will teach an animal something to a certain degree but it is much more effective to use positive reward for when they do things right.

Which leads to 4. This is an approach I guess I haven’t really tried and makes the most sense to me at the moment. It will take more research on how I can use this method with our particular problems but I think this is our next step.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Realisations

Fox having a munch

Through all of the problems Fox has remained awesome under saddle. This is what has kept me persevering even though at times I have felt like selling him. On the ground it felt like a constant battle, Fox not standing still for grooming, bad with his feet, aggressive when lunging, super pushy at dinnertime and refusing to get in a float.

But riding has been great, Fox loves getting out and about and we seem to have a really good connection. This has also been part of my problem. I would rush through the hard bits, the grooming and the feet picking and ignore his bad manners to get to the riding. Obviously this didn’t help any of his problems.

My first step to realising that something had to change was after a disastrous float loading session. I was off to a rodeo fun day organised by my old facility. (I know, not the type of thing you normally do with a big warmblood cross but I enjoyed barrel racing even though Fox was terrible at it)I didn’t make it. I was furious and upset. I blamed Fox, I blamed the float, I blamed my partners bad driving the last time we had moved Fox, I blamed everyone but myself.

So I knew something had to change, but I still wasn’t looking in the right place.

Then a month ago we had a particularly bad trimming session with the farrier. Fox would not stand still. He stood looking perfectly relaxed but every time the farrier went for one of his back feet, he would step. Step, step, step. I tried to make him stand still but he just got a look in his eye and at one point his front feet started to lift off the ground. I was so angry at Fox. He had been getting better for the farrier, why was he worse now? I felt like he had let me down.

Then I realised something, it was me. I had been letting my horse down not the other way round.

Something really had to change...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The e-mails

Fox and I jumping tiny crossrails (yes I know, the wrong way)

Here is what she had to say over a couple of e-mails.....

A very bad handler lady had him, he walked all over her and she was scared of him. this made him a very hard horse to handle. 17hh of missunderstanding coming at you.Came to me as he was too dangerous, Just did not understand the rules of engagement. Would attack when he was challenged and was Confussed about people, his face would be hit at every time he came in contact with people.It didnt take long to turn the corner I gave him strict rules and lots of touching,lunged him in a round pen, got him to back off me as I asked, and come in to me when I wanted him.retrained him under saddle and remouthed him.

fox had not been handled well prior to him coming out to me, The owner was very scared of him and he would be sedated every time she went riding or had his feet done or floated or groomed. she would call the local vet and he would go to her with sedative. When I brought him I was given 3 tubes of sedative APC which is illegal now. It came with him. I never used it,

Aaaah that explains so much. Thanks for telling me before I bought Fox.

Headshyness – Check (though that only was a major problem for me when Fox was ill, most of the time he is fine)

Dislike of vets – Check

Aggression when lunged – Check

General pushyness on the ground – Check

Trust issues - Check

Obviously I was upset that she hadn’t told me. I would have probably bought Fox anyway but I would have been much better prepared for the type of horse I was dealing with. I was so sure that I had asked all the right questions, he had been checked out by some very knowledgeable horse people but this is stuff that you can’t find out unless the seller discloses everything.

Don’t get me wrong, the seller cares a lot for Fox and is very glad I have him. We are still in contact and I e-mail her updates on Fox. But I wish she had told me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trouble

Fox a week after his arrival
The first sign of trouble was at Fox’s first shoeing with me as his owner. Unfortunately I wasn’t there, the facility manager was though. Her report was that Fox was extremely difficult. He wouldn’t stand still and apparently tried to kick the farrier. He was fine with me picking out his hooves so I didn’t really understand what was going on. The manager suggested maybe Fox had some trust issues.

The next indication was lunging. Fox hated it. He would turn to face me with a wicked look in his eye and toss his head. I put it down to my inexperience as he was the first horse I had ever lunged so I obviously wasn’t doing it right.

His ground manners left a bit to be desired, he was rather pushy but nothing that I didn’t feel I could handle.

Riding however, was mostly good. Initially Fox tried to evade the bit but soon settled into it. He was a bit stiff but that was understandable after so long out of work. He also had a wicked shy. He didn’t do it often but when he did, it was an impressive 180 degree spin in a split second. I fell more than once from those shies till I learned how to sit them. But generally we had a blast.

Then Fox’s shoes were due again. Again I couldn’t be there but the manager was. This time Fox was such a prick that the farrier couldn’t even put the shoes onto his back feet. He managed to trim them but anything more was impossible. He said Fox was dangerous.

This episode coincided with Fox getting ill with an undiagnosable problem. One of the symptoms of which was hypersensitivity which was attributed to him being so awful about his feet.You couldn’t even put a halter on without him freaking out. It was painful for me to watch him.
It was also when I found out about his fear/hatred of vets. He was especially afraid of the needle. The vet tried to take blood to run tests but Fox fought. He fought for nearly an hour. A twitch didn’t work, Fox would rear and pull it out of the vets hand. He threw his head around and even kicked out at one point. There were three of us, two strong men and I trying to get Fox to stand still for two seconds so that the vet could get the needle in. We had to give up. Fox wasn't going to.
The vet came out again the next day. I couldn’t be there and I didn't really want to see as Fox was put in a crush. Thankfully the blood was taken with no problems. This illness was never identified but was eventually solved by putting Fox on a mycotoxin binder which he has to take all year round. The current theory is that he is highly sensitive to the toxin that casues ryegrass stagger but who knows.

After Fox’s extreme reaction to the vet and his shoeing problems I finally decided to contact the former owner. Boy did she have some surprises in store for me...