Tuesday evening diary – Team Braveheart for the win.

First ride in 6 1/2 weeks

6 1/2 weeks…

After 6 1/2 weeks – 2 injuries to 2 different feet, I am so happy that Alfie is healed, healthy and ready to ride. Driving to the barn today, I was excited and a little nervous, would Alfie be ready to ride, what if I get on and one of his feet bother him? Excitement and nervousness – emotions I know all to well when it comes to Alfie.

While tacking Alfie up tonight, I can see the excitement in his eyes as I get the saddle out of my tack closet. His eyes get wide and he automatically moves a few steps closer to me as I get into position to put the saddle on him. I get him bridled with ease and we are off. He stands at the mounting block perfectly still. I get on and he decides he would rather walk backwards – a move he’s done before, one that used to fluster me, but not tonight, I just kick him forward into the arena. A few adjustments to my saddle are made and our warmup begins.

As we approach the wall of the arena and turn left, Alfie breaks into a trot – easy there buddy, not yet lol.

Power walking

I slow him down just a tad, and we power walk through the entire warmup. Our circles were good, not completely circular but they were fluid, and balanced. We crossed our diagonal and worked some more circles and even did a spiral in and out. We practiced some leg yielding and some shoulder work. All at that amazing forward walk pace. It was now time to trot.

My diagonals were off, I couldn’t get the rhythm but sometimes you sacrifice small things like that for the bigger picture – Alfie was moving, and feeling good.

Working on the 20 meter circle

Something I’ve learned about Alfie – when he gets tired, he breaks out his dramatic head toss. This made an appearance about 20 minutes into the lesson. I than began a nice 10 min cool down. I didn’t want to push him too much since this was his first ride in 6 1/2 weeks and we spent the majority of the ride trotting lol.

Our ride ended and all I have in my heart is happiness mixed with relief. Relief that he’s healed and happiness that I’ve got my dancing partner back. Team Braveheart for the win.❤️🐴

Team Braveheart

Sunday Evening Diary – horses – a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Last Wednesday I went to the barn to work with Alfie. My boy was feeling frisky and energetic so I free lunged him in the arena – basically, he gets to run around and do whatever he wants. He cantered, he bucked, he even jumped a 2ft jump that was set up. My 27 year old horse was acting like a 5 year old. It was an amazing site to see.

After his free lunge session, we are both all smiles.

On Thursday evening, I’m driving home from a visit with my mother when I get a call from Regina, the barn manager, telling me that Alfie was very lame again – this time, it was his back left foot. My heart sank. I asked if he needed the vet that night and she said it could wait until the next day. So on Friday morning I called the vet and was able to get Alfie seen that afternoon. The vet checked out his foot, nerve blocked his foot to confirm in fact it was his foot causing him pain, and finally resorted to taking some X-Rays to try to figure out what was happening with his foot. The vet even checked to see if possibly it was an abscess but all the usual diagnostic steps to check for an abscess came out negative.

Getting the X-Ray

The vet took a look at the images and saw nothing wrong. So the diagnosis was – he didn’t know. He felt he had slightly injured his coffin joint while playing in the snow. He recommended pain medication and stall rest for a few days. After hearing this, I cancelled the farrier who was supposed to come and change out the shoe on the good foot. This was the weekend we were going to ride after 6 weeks of healing/rest. I couldn’t believe how he was perfectly fine one day and literally crippled the next. My poor Alfie.

I got to the barn yesterday morning and my boy was feeling better, the pain medication was helping. I gave him a kiss and told him I was gonna have a lesson with Martini but we would hang out after I was done.

My lesson with Martini went very well. It’s been a long time since I rode him, and although I was a little rusty in the beginning, we ended on a high note.

Getting some kisses
Me & Martini

After my lesson, I took Alfie out of his stall to walk him in the arena. The vet said he could be walked if he was up to it. Well, he was up to it. As soon as we got into the arena he started to trot. I promptly stopped him and told him that we are only walking because his foot needed time to heal.

I left the barn feeling very down. The last 6 weeks of worry over Alfie’s foot have really taken its toll on me. Just when the issue with his front foot got fixed now there’s a new issue with one of his back feet. Even though the vet didn’t seem overly concerned, not having an actual diagnosis for what was wrong was upsetting.

Curled up on the couch with my cats, watching TV, my cellphone dings. It’s a text message from Regina. She asks me if I’m sitting down. Now, with Alfie, this can really go either way, good or bad. I text her back and anxiously wait for her message to come through. Staring at the 3 blinking dots – indicating she’s typing her message – my heart starts to race and I feel my anxiety level jump. And then the message comes through. I just stare at it with such disbelief.

ABSCESS…ABSCESS…ABSCESS…

It was an abscess in his back left foot. It popped open, gunk and all. I turn to my husband and just start crying, it was an abscess, he didn’t hurt his coffin joint, it’s not a soft tissue injury, he shouldn’t need a follow up visit with the vet for an ultrasound, it was just an abscess.

Relief and shock, and a bit of slight irritation as the vet visit was extremely expensive, and all it was – an abscess. An abscess that hid itself so well as to avoid detection by the vet and the vet’s tools. A sneaky abscess indeed.

I texted the farrier to let him know it was an ABSCESS and he, like me, was super relieved to hear that.

I got to the barn today to see my boy was in his paddock with his friends. I went to get him and he eagerly and soundly walked through the snow to greet me. We walked to the barn, me looking at him putting full weight on the foot that only the day before he was crippled, my heart starts to smile.

Once in the barn, with the help of Regina, she lifts up some of his hair and sure enough, at the base of his coronary band, there is a slit, about 1 inch long, with 2 holes where the infection burst open. The wound is clean, and looks good and is draining so no wrapping of his foot is necessary.

We head into the arena and do groundwork, trotting, walking, some light lunging, and he is happy to be moving. I tell him we are gonna ride as soon as the farrier comes.

An action shot – he was walking

I left the barn tonight feeling good. The farrier is coming tomorrow, which means, Alfie and I can ride on Tuesday.

Horse ownership. It’s not only a financial investment, it’s an emotional one. I often refer to myself as Alfie’s mom. And in a lot of ways I am. Owning a horse is a multi role function. Sometimes I am “mom”, other times I’m his “partner”, other times I’m his “friend.” No matter how you identify your role with your horse, the one emotion that should be constant is love.❤️🐴

❤️

Sunday afternoon diary – almost ready to ride!

It’s been 5 weeks since Alfie hasn’t been ridden, and it’s been the longest 5 weeks ever. Ok, slight exaggeration there but still, 5 weeks, it’s a long time.

Alfie had a wonderful session with his massage therapist during the week, and she agreed with my plan of ground work before I get on him to ride. It’s nice to know that I am becoming more independent when it comes to Alfie. I always seek out the opinions of more experienced horse people, but now I find that my ideas are very similar to theirs and that’s really gratifying.

Today, I decided to tack Alfie up for our groundwork session. I ran my idea by our barn manager Regina, and she agreed it would be a good idea, to see how he handles the weight of the saddle. If he is off with just a saddle, he would be very off with the weight of the rider.

So, it’s business as usual. I get Alfie from his field and I give him his lunch. I then get him all tacked up. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that his weight is the same, these last 5 weeks of no work haven’t added on any pounds which is good. Weight gain is a concern for any horse but especially Alfie given his age and foot issues.

We approach the mounting block. He stands perfectly still, it’s nice to see that the mounting block isn’t an issue. I climb down the block, and we walk into the arena. We start to walk when Alfie decides he’s ready to go and he breaks out into a trot…not a stroll type trot but a full on forward trot. Of course, my muscles aren’t warmed up yet and I feel the pull of my hamstring and ouch..ouch…ouch..ummm Alfie, no, I’m not supposed to be getting hurt while you are getting better.

I catch my breath, rub out my leg and soldier on. We ran around the arena together trotting over poles, large circles, changing directions, finally ending our session at a nice walk. The final verdict – Alfie is ready to work. He is 99.9% sound. The farrier is coming back to trim and give him a new shoe on his good foot next weekend. After that, he should be 100% sound.

Riding other horses these last 5 weeks has made me appreciate Alfie even more than I already do. I can’t wait to get my teammate back.❤️🐴

Let’s rock and roll mom!
My Alfie ❤️

Saturday Evening Diary – trainers, they are not all cut from the same cloth.

My drive home from the barn on Saturdays is when I start to gather my thoughts on what my diary entry is going to focus on. Instead of giving you the play by play of my fabulous lesson with Maestro, or how great Alfie is doing with his new shoe, I wanted to focus on my horse trainer, and why she is the perfect trainer for me.

I started riding 5 years ago. My first trainer taught me so much, and she is the one that brought Alfie into my life. She taught me how to groom a horse, she explained the different brushes, she taught me how to tack a horse, and she taught me how to ride. Over the years, we became friends but when I lessoned with her every weekend, our friendship took a back seat and the teacher/student relationship was formed. With her trainings, I learned enough about riding to go on lots of amazing adventures with Alfie, from cow sorting clinics, long trail rides to even camping with him. As that chapter closed for Alfie and I, a new chapter started with my current barn and trainer.

Alfie and I started out in the Western world. Shortly after changing barns, I decided to change disciplines. I sold my Western saddle and tack and purchased a beautiful Dressage saddle as well as a beautiful English bridle. I will openly admit, I wanted to switch to Dressage for the simple fact that the saddles were lighter than the western ones, and my concern was Alfie’s back. But I knew nothing about Dressage. It wasn’t until Alfie and I were months into it that I fully understood the amazing physical benefits to both the horse and rider.

Changing disciplines was scary, different type of saddle, different style of riding, different everything. It took me almost 6 months before I felt confident enough to saddle Alfie on my own without asking my trainer to double check my work. But as scary as all of that was, I had the support of my trainer.

Not all trainers are cut from the same cloth. Some trainers are really great at teaching kids to ride, others are best geared for adults. It’s very hard to find a trainer that can teach both adults & kids.

Adults & kids – yeah, learning how to ride a horse is so different if you are a kid. First off, most kids are fearless and feel they are invincible – adults, yeah, we have fear, and we break, and getting seriously hurt not only can affect us physically but can sideline us from working and supporting our family.

The first thing my trainer Kari told me when she first met me was that safety is her number 1 priority. She told me she would never ask me to do anything I didn’t feel comfortable doing and she also encouraged me to tell her when I was scared or nervous, so she could help me through it.

I know what you are thinking, you are all thinking safety, yeah, all trainers focus on safety first, right? WRONG!! Having been in the horse world for 5 years, I’ve seen and heard horror stories of trainers who’s lapse in judgement have resulted in both adults and kids getting seriously hurt. The truth is, injuries from riding are going to happen. You can’t hold it against a horse if they spook and their rider falls off. If as a trainer, you know two particular horses can’t be in the arena at the same time because they do not like each other, it is the trainers responsibility to make sure those particular horses are never together, for the safety of not only the riders but the horses. That is what separates the good trainers from the not so good trainers.

I am fortunate that my experiences with trainers has been such a positive one. Many of my friends in the horse world have not been so fortunate. Entering the horse world at the age I did was scary. My trainer Kari has made sure that I have a rock solid foundation of knowledge & skills to help better prepare me in the event that something does go wrong, whether it’s a spooking horse, or a loose horse that gets away from their rider/handler.

So if you are sitting there wondering if something happened today which prompted me to bring this topic up, the answer is no. It was a perfect day. A trainer who is focused on safety first, will always come out on top.❤️🐴

Maestro!!!
After our groundwork session, Alfie was a little tired
Another peppermint please!

Monday Evening Diary – it’s time for a new shoe Alfie

Driving to the barn today was very surreal. My logical brain believed what my farrier Bill & barn manager Regina thought – that something had changed in Alfie’s foot which required a new type of shoe. But as I’m sure many of you have experienced in life, sometimes the emotional aspect gets in the way of the logical. That’s been my issue ever since I first met Alfie.

Our bond is very strong, and the love I have for him only gets stronger with each passing day. So my emotional state feared the worse. Something catastrophic and unfixable must have happened to his foot.

But Alfie’s will is strong, and that emotional state of doom quickly disappeared when I arrived to the barn and saw him running in the arena. He was off, but not badly lame. Removing his shoe the second time had definitely made a difference. And after almost 3 weeks, I felt the heavy weight of my heart begin to lift.

Bill the farrier arrived about 30 min before the vet. We chatted about the weather – more snow is in in the forecast, and he started cutting pieces of metal to begin making Alfie’s potential new shoe.

When the vet arrived, Alfie was given a mild sedative – just something to make him super mellow. To Xray a horses foot they have to stand on a small block and hold their position. So the sedative is just enough to keep him still.

Standing nicely
So proud of him.

The X-rays showed that the fallen coffin bone has been stabilized and actually looks like there is some improvement – it will never be perfect but improvement is a very good sign. Also, his foot is nicely balanced, meaning the trims he receives each time he gets his new shoes are being done correctly, so that’s another great sign. Now comes the question – is this an abscess? The answer – NO!

Remember when I mentioned Alfie had a small crack in his heel and we didn’t know if the crack caused what we thought was the abscess or if the abscess caused the crack? Well in this case, the crack caused the swelling in his heel.

Basically what we are dealing with is his foot has changed – for the better – which means that the shoe with the 3 degree wedge lift is no longer needed!! Alfie’s new shoe on that foot now has a smaller degree wedge – only 1 degree, and a cut out area for his heel. Alfie is going to be just fine.

I won’t be riding him until he is completely sound in that foot, which can take a few days or a few weeks, but I can resume light ground work at a walk with him and he can go back outside on regular turn out with his friends.

I am so blessed, Alfie and I are literally surrounded by incredibly skilled and knowledgeable horse people who truly adore him and want nothing but the best for him. After Alfie’s new shoe was put back on, I took him for a brief walk in the arena, and he wanted to move. He picked up some trot with a lot of forward momentum. I can already tell that heel is feeling better.

Alfie’s feet were a disaster before we met, I have a better understanding of why he was just discarded at some point – the cost of shoe’ing a horse like Alfie isn’t cheap. Sometimes people’s priority’s are out of whack – spend a few hundred bucks every 6 weeks on special shoes for a horse that is very safe to ride or just sell him. Well, in this instance I’m really glad that they sold Alfie. He found his way to me and that makes me the luckiest horse owner in the world.❤️🐴

Alfie and Martini saying hi to each other today.

Saturday Evening Diary – Wakee Wakee Eggs & Bakee!

So, I’m not even sure if I spelled that correctly but it’s what I say to all the horses I ride when I feel that they are moving to sluggish. It makes me laugh and it gives me a boost of confidence right before I ask them for a little more effort. 😊

I want to update everyone on Alfie and his foot issue. The farrier came back the other night to remove his shoe again. The abscess – well what we believe to be an abscess is still there but so is a crack in his heel. Because of Alfie’s condition in that foot with the fallen coffin bone, we decided to call the vet and have X-rays taken of the foot, just to see what else may be happening in there. So the vet is coming Monday.

After my very good lesson with Maestro – yes Maestro and I had another “date” today but we didn’t need a chaperone like last weekend – more on that in a few – I spent time watching Alfie play with this enrichment toy. It’s a ball like object that you put grain or treats in and he knocks it around with his nose to get the food out.

Alfie playing with his toy.

Alfie played all day with it. When it was out of treats he would kick it out of his stall, so I would fill it again. I also gave him a good grooming session complete with lots of massage especially on his legs. Alfie enjoyed the fun day we had together. I’m so relieved that the vet is coming in 2 days.

I’m so handsome 😍

My date with Maestro – it was lovely. Because I’m older, and it’s winter, and after last weekend’s spooks that Maestro had, I asked my trainer Kari to just hop on him first, just so I can see if he is nice and calm, and in fact yes, he was normal calm easy going Maestro. Hence the WAKEE WAKEE EGGS & BAKEE 😂😂😂.

While Kari was setting up some poles for us to walk over I took Maestro around the ring at a trot – all by myself. It was the first time I really rode him independently.

So we kicked up our lesson a bit and worked on trotting over those poles that were in an L shape. Our first few attempts weren’t bad, but Maestro kept breaking at the trot. And then I realized why. I was losing the contact with him. What I’ve worked so hard at not doing with Alfie – throwing away the contact, I broke the contact with the bit by letting the rein get a little too loose in my right hand. So I broke our telephone connection . I stopped and told my trainer I lost the contact. Sure enough, she had been taking some pictures and yep, one of them showed me where I clearly lost the contact. So on our final attempt at trotting the pattern, I concentrated on not throwing the contact away and guess what – Maestro kept trotting. A great moment for both of us.❤️🐴

Trotting!
Trotting like a champ!
Me and Maestro

Sunday Evening Diary – kaboom!!

I arrive at the barn today and it’s still just as cold as it was yesterday, except – no sunshine today, so the bitter cold is sincerely in force.

The horses have all been turned out except for Alfie, he is enjoying the entire arena all to himself. He hears my voice as I’m chatting with our barn manager Regina and the knickers begin. I peak my head in and notice that he is walking better than yesterday.

My trainer Kari arrives, so together we go in to see how he’s doing. As he’s walking it’s hard to tell honestly which foot is bothering him, so we stop walking, and Kari removes his bell boots. She tries to pick up the bad foot and he eventually lifts it up but is reluctant. She looks down and says, “is this blood”? I tell her I’m not sure I haven’t gotten a good look at the heel of his foot but I didn’t notice any blood on it yesterday. I call Regina into the arena and there we are, 3 women bent down looking at Alfie’s foot. Sure enough, there is a small hole and a little dried blood right above his inner heel…it was an abscess, and it finally popped.

So, I’m new to the world of abscesses. In the course of my relationship with Alfie we’ve dealt with lots of injuries and medical issues. There was the time he stepped on an old rusted roofing nail, oh and who could forget the raging diarrhea he had for years until we figured out it was ulcers, stress and hay that was the cause. And oh yes, the time last year he ate a bunch of acorns and spit out the bigger shell pieces where I thought he was crunching on one of his teeth! Tendon issues, a fallen coffin bone in his hoof, ha, all child’s play compared to this abscess.

The normal progression of an abscess – lameness, heat in the effected area. I was told by everyone he would get worse before he got better. Well, he didn’t get worse he got better. The heat in his foot disappeared. The shoe was put back on and he was doing ok but then yesterday he was walking with a limp again and his hoof was warm. I had discussed with Regina giving him one more week to see if the bruise or his sore foot would improve on its own before calling the vet. Thankfully it looks like this is just an abscess so no vet visit needed.

I put a drawing salve on his heel to help draw out the infection. I groomed him, did some massage and a few stretches with him, gave him a bunch of cookies and mints and a kiss. I sang to him and told him once the abscess has completely drained he could go back outside with his friends.

The foot that the abscess has occurred is his bad foot. It’s the foot where the coffin bone which is inside his hoof has collapsed, causing stress on his tendons. Because of the coffin bone issue, he requires 3 degree lifts in his shoes, to help ease the tension on his tendons. Yes, Alfie wears tendon boots or polo wraps every time we ride and during this abscess issue, he has been turned out in the arena with them on as well. With the issues that the foot and leg have, walking on uneven frozen ground with a painful abscess isn’t something I or Regina are willing to risk him possibly suffering further permanent injury. I feel badly that he is missing his friends but a few weeks of being stuck inside where the ground is even and soft, is frankly a no brainer.

This horse. This incredibly special horse who now understands if something is bothering him all he has to do is tell me, and I listen. This big guy, man, there just aren’t enough words to express how deep my love for him is. And I can honestly say, I will sleep better tonight knowing that all that is wrong with the bad foot, is just an abscess.❤️🐴

My heart.

Saturday Evening Diary – Brrrr, it’s cold – a chaperoned “date” and a patient still in the medical ward.

Winter. It is winter. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be cold. But this is like Alaska cold. Ok, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating but when you wake up and it’s 10 degrees outside but a real feel of 1, it becomes Alaska cold lol.

Because of the blast of extreme cold, the horses haven’t been turned out in a few days. Instead they have enjoyed time in our indoor arena to stretch their legs. Some horses handle this type of turnout just fine, others, not so much.

My lesson today was with the magnificent Maestro. I take him out of his stall, groom and tack him up. I hand walk him into the arena before getting on, something I’ve always done with Alfie, it helps the horses relax. I get him lined up at the mounting block when something spooks him. My trainer Kari and I really aren’t sure what it was, but he jumped, kicked the mounting block with his front left foot and then jumped again. I give a quick look to Kari who’s got a firm grip on the reins, while I tentatively get on. We walk into the arena, with Kari still holding onto the reins.

Now as much of a beginner that I am, I can tell when a horse is nervous and anxious versus when they are totally relaxed. A relaxed horse feels loose and comfortable, a nervous horse feels like you are sitting on a spring coil that is seconds away from springing open. That is what Maestro felt like. He was on edge, jerking from side to side, even with Kari holding onto him. I did my best to not be scared but I was. I tell Kari I’m nervous and the second I say that statement out loud, I think of Martini, I can always get off Maestro and get on Martini – my old familiar friend that I trust. My old familiar friend that will take care of me. And just like that, I push that thought out of my head, I’ve got to ride out my fear.

With Kari holding onto the reins, we walk around the arena in small circles. Before I knew it, Maestro started to relax, and I began to relax. After about 25 min, I was confident enough to not have Kari be our chaperone anymore. I was able to ride Maestro around the arena, over poles, we even got some trotting in.

After our ride, Kari tells me how proud she is of me. She didn’t think I would get on him after he spooked at the mounting block, but I did. Than she thought I would get off after he spooked once we entered the arena, but I didn’t. I did tell her I was afraid, but I worked through it.

All smiles after our epic ride.

Trusting these animals with our lives is not easy. Having them trust us is equally hard on them as well. When they are nervous and then the rider is nervous they feed off of that like crazy, they are wondering what big monster is going to eat them. When they are nervous, as a rider you have to be calm to help get them calm. With Alfie I’m really good at staying calm when he’s nervous or anxious, we’ve been together for over 4 1/2 years so I know what his spooks are like. I still don’t know Maestro well yet, so this is uncharted waters. But today, he took care of me when he realized I needed a bit of hand holding. And in return, I was able to get his mind focused enough on me, that the arena monsters weren’t an issue, and he came away with knowing I’ve got his back.

So an update on Alfie. The farrier came back last week to put his shoe back on. There wasn’t any abscess that we could see, the farrier believes Alfie injured himself by stepping on his foot with his other foot. Even though Alfie wears bell boots to help protect his feet and shoes, accidents can happen. Although he isn’t lame anymore, he’s not 100% sound. I walked him around the arena today and briefly trotted him so I could see how off he is. I’m hoping in another few days he will be better, soft tissue injuries or bruises can take time to heal. My fingers are crossed that he starts to improve more so that we can avoid a visit from the vet.❤️🐴

I love this horse so much.

Wednesday Evening Diary – shoe is back on!

After 7 days, Alfie’s hoof is doing better. There is no evidence of a popped abscess, and his foot is less sore. The farrier came back today to put his shoe back on.

Alfie isn’t 100% sound yet but he also isn’t lame. The farrier is now convinced that Alfie most likely stepped on his foot with his other foot causing a soft tissue injury or bruise. Since he’s improving and he’s got his shoe back on he can now be turned out in the arena.

Alfie – photo taken on the weekend as he wasn’t in the mood to pose today

Keep the good vibes and prayers coming. Physically he’s feeling better but mentally he’s missing being turned out with his friends and he’s getting “cabin fever.”❤️🐴

Sunday Afternoon Diary – cleaning tack and waiting for an abscess to pop

You all know that expression – a watched pot never boils. Well I can officially tell you the same is true for a hoof with an abscess. Today, I stared at Alfie’s hoof whenever I walked by him, trying to will the abscess to break open. I was excited to have the dressing changed to see if maybe it had popped.

I walked Alfie around the arena, a little longer than yesterday, he was so excited to be “working.” I watched his strides and at a walk, he is moving pretty well. I bend down and lift up his foot to see if I can feel if it’s still warm. The part that was slightly exposed from the wrap was in fact still warm. Regina gets the next diaper ready complete with Epsom salts and antibiotic wash, she bends down to remove the old dressing and sigh…the abscess still hasn’t popped. So she puts the new diaper on and it’s back to his stall.

Still wrapped – come on abscess just POP already!

I spent the earlier part of my day cleaning my tack, and in the afternoon I groomed Alfie. As he quietly munched on his hydro hay, I have one of our heart to heart chats with him. I tell him all the wonderful things we are going to do once his abscess is healed. We do some leg stretches and neck stretches and of course a nice head massage. He nuzzles my shoulder as if to say, it’s ok mom, I will be better before you know it.

My ❤️

As I’m sitting here writing, our barn cat Moo comes to snuggle. Have I mentioned how much I love being surrounded by all this pure love these animals give every day? A beautiful way to end the day. ❤️🐴

Me and Moo