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

Saturday Evening Diary – a scandalous 3rd date, a walk around the arena and a diaper filled with Epsom salts…

It’s Saturday. As I pull into the driveway of the barn, I glance over at Alfie’s paddock, he sadly isn’t in it. It’s been 3 days, the abscess on his foot hasn’t blown out yet. Wait, I didn’t tell you about the abscess!

On Wednesday I went to the barn for our groundwork session. I’m walking Alfie around the arena to warm him up. We then start to jog and I notice that Alfie is lame at the trot. I stop, I check his front legs, nothing seems amiss there. I continue walking him and we start jogging again and there’s the limp. I text message Regina, the barn manager and ask her to come out of the warm confides of her house to see what her assessment is of Alfie. After a brief trot where she confirms he’s lame, she checks his front feet. Sure enough, there is heat on the inner portion of his front left foot. I send an SOS message to the farrier explaining that Alfie is lame and asking him to come ASAP to pull the shoe to see what it is we are dealing with. He messages me back and tells me he’s on his way. He arrives around 7:30pm, pulls the shoe off of Alfie and says he’s got an abscess on his heel.

This is really the first abscess I’ve had to deal with. There are a few ways to get the abscess to come to a head and burst or blow out. You can soak the hoof in a bucket of water and Epsom salts or you can wrap up the hoof with a baby diaper filled with Epsom salts and antibiotic liquid and using vet wrap (sticky bandages) and duct tape to secure it. Because of Alfie’s issues with water, we went with the diaper.

Abscess are like big pimples, once they break open the horse is no longer in pain and all is right with the world lol. Depending on how high up they are in the foot, it can take a day or several days for it to come to a head and break open. So to protect Alfie from doing any harm to himself while we play the waiting game, he has been on stall rest – meaning he’s not going out into his paddock with his horsey friends.

Taking a nap

To help keep Alfie calm while he’s stuck inside, Regina leaves the radio on for him all day, tuned to his favorite music station – Country. I caught Alfie actually napping today in his stall – music really does sooth the savage beast.

Since Alfie is out of commission for a bit, my lesson or date today was with Maestro. I went up to his field to get him and he was excited to see his Aunty Judy.

Maestro is very similar to Alfie in he must know what you are doing all of the time. So while I’m brushing him, he’s turning his head looking at me until I finally just let him sniff the brush, and he was like oh ok, keep brushing me thank you 😂.

As we enter the arena to warm up, I feel a difference with him and his balance. He’s still leaning slightly towards the inside but after our lesson on Tuesday I am now better able to help him balance himself.

I know, you are all anxiously waiting to hear how our date turned scandalous. Well I will tell you. We did a lot of trotting today. And it was a nice forward trot. I also was able to get the diagonals correct most of the time.

If you are sitting there scratching your head wondering where the scandal is, well, it’s only our 3rd lesson, I mean date. This is very significant for me. Actually this is HUGE for me. I remember it taking many more lessons with Martini before I felt comfortable in not only my skills but trust in the horse before we even attempted to trot. Here I am on my 3rd outing with Maestro and we are trotting around the entire arena!! Now I’m still in the getting to know you phase but you know what I do know, my riding skills are so much better now, and so is my confidence. I owe so much of this to Martini.

Kari my trainer and me and Maestro
Lots of love all around
Maestro

After our date was over, it was time to take care of my Alfie. I walked him around the arena to let him stretch his legs and then Regina changed the diaper. While she was changing it she noticed that his foot is very hot which is a good sign that the treatment is working to bring this baby to a head. Fingers are crossed that it blows out in the next day or 2.

Alfie my love

Driving home tonight my mind wanders to Alfie, Martini and Maestro. Three amazing animals who have so much to teach us. I’m so glad that I am listening to all of them.❤️🐴

Tuesday Evening Diary – the beginning of a flirtatious relationship.

The majestic Maestro

Tonight was my official 2nd date with Maestro. Riding to me is all about forming relationships with the horse. After all, these animals have the power and ability to seriously injure you if they truly wanted to. To put it in perspective – Alfie and I are like an old married couple. Martini and I, we are engaged. Maestro and I are in the getting to know you flirting phase.

When I started taking lessons with Martini, it took me a long time to build up our relationship. A big part of the relationship is developing trust with each other. So with Maestro, we are taking things slow.

Tonight’s lesson, I mean “date” was mostly at a walk. After our warmup I noticed that while we were walking, Maestro kept turning his head to the inside and his butt was going into the wall. So instead of trotting, I asked my trainer what we could do so I could correct this. So we continued walking around the arena but not directly against the wall. Without the arena wall to help with keeping him straight, it was up to me to give him the proper aids to keep him straight. It was a hard exercise to do, but by the time the lesson was over, Maestro was walking much straighter.

Sure, I know how to trot and canter, so why am I simply walking with Maestro – because this is building the foundation to our bond. I want him to enjoy our time together, I want him to get to know me. I also want to get to know him.

People approach riding in all different ways. Some hop on the horse and enjoy the ride without caring to get to know the animal that is carrying them around. Some are only concerned with their own advancement of riding and believe the horse is a robot, void of any feelings. Neither one of those scenarios is me.

Tonight, Maestro and I learned a little bit about each other. And I can’t wait to get to know him more.❤️🐴

Me and Maestro