Monday, February 22, 2010

Conversation with the Enemy

Well not exactly the enemy, this woman happens to be a friend of mine who generally is a 'good person' but our views on horses couldn't be more different. I try and avoid the topic of horses when we are together but since we both have them it can get a bit tricky.

I happened to see her over the weekend and almost every thing she says I disagree with. Doesn't make for an easy friendship that's for sure. Bear in mind though that I used to look up to her as a horsewoman so she is quite accustomed to me drinking in all her words of wisdom. Oh my how things have changed over the last few years.

A lot of her attitudes are everything that I think is wrong with a lot of the horse world. Again, at the very low end of the scale but I still find it incredibly hard not to rip her head off.

1. I am too attached to my horse. Sure, I will concede that maybe I am a bit, but her attitude to Fox is that I should just sell him. Over my dead body. And even not then. My partner has instructions on what to do should I die before Fox does. She doesn't get attached. She could sell her horse tomorrow and not really care where it went or what happened to it.

2. She treats horses as nothing but a commodity which is not the bad thing, it is her attitude that they are disposable. Her horse wasn't cantering properly and she couldn't fix it. Her thoughts were that he may as well be dog food. I told her that I would take him before that happened. She thought I was crazy. Thankfully her horse improved. When Fox initially hurt himself and I said how long the recovery would be, she said "but what if it takes longer?" I said "then it will take longer." "What if it takes two years?" "Then that will be how long it will take."

2. She is so, so rough with a horses mouth. She tried to tell me that a horse has hardly any feeling in its mouth and that I could pull harder and harder until he did what I wanted which at the time was forcing him into a frame.

3. She rides her horses front to back. As above she forces her horses into a frame. Her recommendations for Fox's recovery were that I start lunging him in side reins and getting him nice and round again. Um no. That when I start riding, I start forcing him into a frame again. Um no.

4. She ear twitches. Bad bad bad! If a horse isn't standing still enough to brush or plait etc instead of teaching it to stand still she just twitches it, neck, nose or ear.

5. She thinks I am absolutely mental to be riding bitless. Again not the problem I'm fine with people using bits but her arguments for using a bit are a little shoddy. I made a comment that I didn't ride in a bit at all anymore and said the only time I need it by regulation is when doing dressage or showing. She was very surprised that you could use it for x country and then seemed to think that it was just a backwater NZ rule but I gladly put her straight saying no those are British Pony Club rules. She seemed quite miffed. I went on to comment that I thought it was bizarre that they let people go x country but not do dressage bitless. She got all up in arms and said "but you can't do dressage without a bit." I asked her why not. She said "because a horse needs to be on the bit and accepting the bit." I said "the term on the bit is just an expression for the outline of a horse when he is collected and yes accepting the bit. But if your horse is properly trained, he shouldn't need a bit or even reins to hold that. It is called self carriage. If your horse can't hold that frame without help he isn't properly schooled or ready for being in that deep a collection." She seemed to grudgingly accept my point. Can you imagine what her poor horse would do if she asked him to carry himself?

6. Harsher bits are the answer to everything. Her horse has started leaning on the bit, I wonder why? Her solution - "I need a bit with more bite to it to teach him not to lean." When I was abusing poor Fox under her instruction, her answer to him not wanting to put his head in a frame was "you need a stronger bit to get him to listen." Thankfully I never took that bit of advice!

7. She wouldn't have let me buy Fox in the first place. Ok so this one is personal! I did everything right when buying him, I asked a million questions, rode him, had him on trial, got several experienced horse people to have a look at him. How was I to know that the seller had basically lied to me. And she seems to forget that the first time she saw him, she approved of him also. The injuries Fox has had could have happened to any horse I bought, we're just having a really bad run at the moment. And knowing her track record with behaviour problems it is highly unlikely that she would have noticed Fox's. And you know what, I would probably bought him anyway.

She is everything I don't want to be in a horse person. I guess in that regard I have her to thank for giving me such a strong role model of what not to do!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Verbal Diarrhea

I definitely had it yesterday! It's the times when there are so many thoughts swirling around in your head and they need to come out somewhere.

After reading it today I think I was trying to make four points. Though the way I did was almost incoherent!

1. I want to train ethically
2. I want to be Fox's leader but not dominate him
2. I think that play is important for horses
4. I want to introduce play into the relationship that Fox and I have

There! Much clearer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Horses and Play

These are just some thoughts that have been going round and round in my poor little brain.

In terms of my training, my number one priority is for it to be ethical. My standards of ethical, which are probably different than other peoples but by no means at the extreme end of the scale. Also, that is not meant as a judgement. On some people and their forms of training definitely. Rollkur anyone? But on your average person no. I just want to do things differently.

I want my horse to enjoy what he does. I want to feel that he has a choice. I want to be his leader but I don't want to dominate him. When I say I want him to have a choice, I want to be able to ask my horse to do something and him want to do it. This is a huge distinction in my mind from telling and forcing a horse to do something. I'm sure a lot of people will read this and laugh and think I'm out of my mind. That's cool. But I really hope that there are some that think along the same lines as me.

This brings me back to horses and play. In a wild setting I am unsure how much time a herd would have to play seeing that they're busy surviving and all. I'm not going to glamorise wild horses, they have a rough hard life that I'm sure most of our domestic horses given the choice would refuse. However foals play even in the wild and I know for sure horses kept in a herd out at pasture will play. The sight of horses running and bucking just for the pleasure of it is one that always gives me a big grin.

I think it is important for every horse to experience play and to experience it with their human too if possible. So much of the interaction between human and horse is purpose driven. I feel very sad for the horses who live boxed 24/7 with hardly any contact with other horses. The ones that are pulled out and worked like machines and put away. This is the complete opposite of how a horse is designed by nature to live. There is no spontaneity, no play. I do think that people are becoming more aware of this though and there has been a definite change. More and more people are just hanging with their horses. There are more and more trainers who are advocates of play and fun with your horse. So I'm having a look at what I do with Fox and seeing what I can change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Blog

I've started a new blog. It is a photography blog to help me start taking more photos again. Photography is another passion of mine and I'm hoping to hone my skills enough to start making a bit of extra pocket money. We all know how expensive horses are!!

So go on over and check it out. There will be lots of horsey pics and it would be great to get your feed back and constructive criticism.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All Fixed

I've just had the guy out to sort Fox's stifle out. Went very well and I'm super pleased. Initially Fox danced around a wee bit and was very reactive when the guy found his sore spot. Which incidentally wasn't the stifle but just above at the point of his hip. He said it wasn't in it's socket properly and felt mushy around it. Which is consistent with Fox's very first accident when he crashed onto his left side popping that side out of place. The physio had said all that but not noticed or treated the out of joint hip. Fox stood like an angel when the guy got down to business. His leg got lifted up and kind of popped. Really hard to explain but it put the joint back into it's socket properly. Fox had no reaction to pressure around the area afterwards so hopefully all is well.

He's on Ruta (homeopathic remedy) for four days which will help with all the strain of his tendons and ligaments being in a different place all of a sudden. No work for a few days till the joint and surrounding tissue settles back into itself then light strengthening work on the ground is all good. I have to keep an eye on it to make sure it stays in place but fingers crossed!

So back to the energy healing, whilst the place she said wasn't exactly right it was pretty damn close. This lady is still learning which is why I'm getting the treatment cheap, Fox is her guinea pig. I feel like I'm in a tricky position, part of me really wants to believe and I do have evidence that something is going on. First of all was the relaxation of Fox's back end which let us find his sore point. Second is the fact that after the second lot of treatment, Fox let me pick up and hold his foot up with no problem at all. This is significant because that doesn't normally happen and I've been trying to decide if the reason he doesn't like his feet being picked up is because of pain or behavioural issues. What ever she did changed something. And lastly Fox loves it. All it looks like she is doing is standing there with her hand on various parts of his body but Fox relaxes completely, and has lots of releases in the form of yawning and licking and chewing. But part of me I guess is still a sceptic and I'm having a hard time attributing these things to the energy healing. Really it can't be anything else, I haven't done anything different apart from this but still.

In the next few days I will see how Fox improves and work out a new rehab schedule. Will include a lot more ground work I think and lots more handwalking before I get on again. But feeling good again, and Fox is a happy chappy so that's awesome.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Black Dog

It has found me again.

After being so high after the healers visit, I've just sunk down into worry and stress and sadness.

We moved Fox and his paddock mate Al to some new grass last night. Normally Fox likes to have a good run round when he gets somewhere new and this paddock is lovely and big. He tried, he tried his little heart out but it is obviously hurting. He tried to canter and have a few bucks but he obviously couldn't. In the end he settled for a wonderful extended trot before settling down rather quickly to eat.

He's tracking up fine, there is no head bobbing lame, no heat, no swelling. He's just really really stiff. I'm hoping the Devils Claw will start making a difference and I will be bringing him some willow branches to munch on too.

I'm thinking all the same old thoughts again. What if it isn't fixable? What if I won't be able to ride him again? Will I have to retire him at the tender age of 14?

If the guy coming on Monday can't sort it out, I have a few more people I can try but I just want him to be better!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Energy Healing

Well I decided to go a completely different direction and try an energy healer. She is really nice and puts up with me bombarding her with a million questions. So far she has seen Fox last Friday and will see him again Saturday and Monday.

She did healing on a number of Fox's old injuries, namely his eye with the corneal scarring and his rump where his two line of scar tissue are. He also had energy blocks. Twelve in fact which is many as a horse can have! Most of them seemed to be around his hind end.

Another thing she picked up on was a problem with his right stifle. Now I have mentioned before he looked stiff but couldn't really tell where the stiffness was coming from. The next day, it looked like his whole back end had loosened up, the difference was amazing and there it was, a really stiff right stifle. So he's back to handwalking and back on the herbal Free Mover blend, which I'm thinking I should have done a bit earlier. I now have someone coming out to check the stifle on Tuesday. Hopefully my partner doesn't notice the money disappearing from the bank account LOL!

She also said his saddle doesn't fit very well so not sure where I'm going to go with that. I may just invest in a good bareback pad for now and deal with saddle issues later. I haven't ridden bareback proper since I fell off last time. It might be time to deal with that too!

Anyway, I'm starting to get a bit more positive about our future. Once we have this stifle thing figured out I can once again rejig my rehab program. I'm expecting a very long rehab process to make sure everything is all good before taking it to the next level. It's a bit two steps forward one step back kind of thing at the moment but we actually seem to be making progress now YAY!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Back to Training

Well this blog was supposed to be about training and I've written bugger all over the last while. But now that I'm on a roll, (been out for a ride for 3 days in a row, yay me!) I think it's time to get back to training.

After my initial burst at clicker training, I let it fall by the wayside. Not because it wasn't working but because pretty much all I was doing with Fox was feeding him, mucking out the paddock and giving him a quick massage. This took all of half an hour. Now that I'm back up to being there for at least an hour and a half, it's time to get serious again.

I am going to use clicker training to get Fox picking his feet up better. Riding has meant more hoof picking out which Fox isn't happy about. Still not entirely sure how to do it with his back feet by myself though.

I'll also use clicker training to allow touching all over. There are still some sensitive spots that need working on.

I want to find a stethoscope so I can get Fox used to them. I am wanting to do a CTR some time this year and the vet check involves stethoscopes. So clicker training will be used for this as well. Though there will still be some doubt about his reaction to an actual vet which I can't do too much about.

Getting Fox on a float is still the big one in my mind. Now that I know a way that works I'm thinking of hiring a float for a weekend every few weeks. First day will be just practice, no going anywhere unless he decides to get in then we might go for a drive around the block. Next day, hopefully the preparation the day before will allow a relatively quick entry. Then we will go places. Hopefully it won't take too long before he's ok without the practice day.

So my weekly schedule is hopefully going to go something like this.

Stage one: While Fox is still building his strength and fitness 4x a week 20-30 minute hack at a walk, 1x groundwork and full massage and anything like trimming that needs doing.

Stage two: After his fitness increases and he remains sound we will build up the rides to 3x 40 minutes to an hour hacks with a wee bit of trotting and some hills to get his butt working, 1x 1-2 hour hack just walking maybe hills, 1x goundwork etc.

Once the arena has been cut for hay, (yes we have a grass arena) I would also like to introduce some pole work, also for his butt. This should hopefully coincide with moving on to the second stage.

I'm currently leaving stage two very flexible and stage three hasn't even been contemplated though I don have some goals for this year. We will just see how Fox's soundness goes. His legs are good, still up and down but never up past a certain point. The cold hosing makes no difference any more so that is once again out. He isn't clicking at the moment which is a sign that his DJD is under control and his back is looking good. He has no signs of discomfort and is very happy to be getting out and about again.

I'm still umming and ahhing over an ultrasound. The fact is, there may not have even been that much damage there in the first place. Fox was completely sound soo quickly. I have been comparing his recovery to the likes of Andrea and Go-go and it happened a lot quicker. But there is still the niggling feeling that I just want to KNOW that everything is ok. Another point that was brought up by a doctor was the fallibility of ultrasounds. I could get one and it wouldn't answer any questions I had. So part of me is thinking I must be a bad horse owner for not doing everything under my power to make sure he is ok and the other part is very conscious of the financial aspect of things. I admit, it's been a bit tight but this ultrasound has been the only thing that Fox has missed out on so I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much. And things are looking up so we'll see.