Saturday, January 31, 2015

Soonie is getting "deployed!"

One of the personal ties to the blog's new name is my profession.  Soon is about to be a "war horse" of a different type, in a way.  Given that I am spending the next several months working at another installation on "deployment," and after much debate, I've decided to take Soonie with me.  It's actually only a couple hours down the road and to another fairly horsey area, so the adjustment should be easy for him.  There are several nice farms I'm considering.  These stateside deployments are rare and I'm fortunate to get one and to be in a situation where I can still enjoy my horse.  Having him close and continuing to ride/train normally will be a huge benefit, as the job I'm doing is legitimately very stressful and difficult emotionally.  Any help I can get in keeping myself grounded will be appreciated, and I am grateful to be in a position to have my boy with me in this.

I was out of the area all week so I didn't get to see him.  Between him bouncing himself around on the lunge line, getting his feet done, and the healing process on his hock wound, he had a day or two during the week where he was pretty sore.  Thankfully he bounced back from that well (many thanks to my incredibly generous, thoughtful barn friends!).  I stopped in late last night to check on him and he walked out of his stall sound (his leg is looking good!!).  I got on him today and he was still slightly foot sore from the farrier, but he was comfortable enough for some walking and trotting today under saddle.  He felt good, rode very well and no extra energy or exuberance during our ride.  Afterward, we walked around on a long rein outside with some buddies.  For the first time in a couple of weeks, it really felt like I had my horse back.  It was such a wonderful feeling to be around him today, I missed him terribly! :)

My absolute favorite view :)

He makes my whole heart smile

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Find Your Way

I saw this incredible video posted to Horse Nation's website and thought I'd share this, too.  For those of us who have turned to our love of horses, and even had a special horse in our lives to help us get through something tough, this is especially meaningful. 

"Go on like you’ve never been hurt before
Hold on, stick it out and hope for more
Believe in *angels* and they will come
They’re gonna teach you how to fly"  <3

True War Horse Hero: Dandy

I saw this Horse Nation article about the Canadian WWI war horse, Dandy, and wanted to share. Wonderful story and a lovely read.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Blog Title and Injury Update

Yep, The OTTB Blog is now War Horse.  Those that know me also know that I see "OTTB" everywhere and it drives me nuts now...that's what I get for choosing a blog name after a loooooong hiatus from the internet horse world.  I've been searching for an appropriate title and corresponding URL for awhile, and I finally decided that "war horse" is very fitting.  Why?  Soon is considered a Thoroughbred war horse for his 50+ starts at the track and years of racing.  It has a personal connection for me as well, and thus we have decided to turn this blog into War Horse.  Ta-Da...

Soon's accident with the paddock fence on 13 Jan has been a giant pain in my ass.  He had his check up with the vet after six days of cold hosing, cleaning, wrapping, and stall rest.  He got the green light for the bandage to come off and to go back to turnout (and I got complimented on my wrapping skills!), but that only lasted about 24 hours before his leg got huge, hot, and painful.  I expected swelling, but we ended up going back to the wrapping and cold hosing for another five days.  He has looked awesome the last couple of days, even got lunged a little the last two days.  Today he got the wrap taken off again, and now that the wound is more closed up and probably in a better position to be exposed, I'm hoping we don't have another set back.

Progress as of 23 Jan
On the riding note...THIS HORSE IS A SAINT.  After 11 days of stall rest with only hand walking for exercise (last two days featured short lunging sessions of walk/trot), I got on him today without lunging and he was very well behaved, all things considering.  There was some extra snorting, some excess energy and one jump/spook out of a corner, but that was it.  That was it!  We just did some light walk and trot, lots of lateral work, and focusing on getting him forward into the contact.  He did feel full of it and was very forward compared to how behind the leg he normally wants to be, but he felt awesome and very elastic.  That extra energy really helps him feel even more uphill and through, so that was a nice little treat.  He settled down after the first 10 minutes and worked pretty well.  I even got a couple circles of good, polite stretch at the end, which I considered a miracle after 11 days of stall rest!

He should be going outside in his big field tomorrow, so hopefully (fingers crossed) that life will return to normal.  I'll be heading out for the next six months to another work location a couple hours away - right now the plan is for a friend of mine to ride him during the week and for me to ride on weekends.  We'll see how that goes and adjust as necessary!  I'm sad to not see him everyday, but I have some awesome, much appreciated barn friends who will help keep an eye on him and keep him busy for me while I'm gone.  :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Damage Report, 18 Jan 15

Soon's been on the mend since Tuesday's paddock accident.  He was very lame the following day, on both his right front and hind.  Since then, he's been making steady progress and has been walking sound the last two days.  The daily regimen is stall rest, paired with some hand walking and hand grazing.  I cold hose his right hind every day for 15 minutes, followed by cleaning the wound and re-wrapping.  Then he gets tucked in for the night.  The wound itself seems to be healing well; there was minimal swelling in/around the hock all week, and today there didn't appear to be any inflammation at all.  The check up is tomorrow morning, and we'll get an idea of what the next week or two looks like then.  Fingers crossed.

15 Jan 15, pre cleaning, some hock swelling

This is a fun look...

16 Jan 15

Happy boy

18 Jan 15, pre-cleaning

18 Jan 15, post-cleaning

He also has a pretty impressive contusion on his right front forearm....


Poor boy is an excellent patient!  :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Thought I Might Lose Him

I got a call from the barn owner on Tuesday afternoon...every boarder knows that an unrequested phone call from the barn almost always means something bad happened to your horse.  Basically, this happened:

- Soon was out in a smaller paddock behind the barn, not his usual big field, and got caught in the electrical cord fencing
- We don't know how long he was down, but barn staff heard him screaming and found him laying stoically in the mud, waiting for someone to free him
- Was initially non-weight bearing on the leg

So I left work (many thanks to my awesome boss who is a horse husband and understands the nature of horse emergencies), called the vet, and rushed to the barn.  On my way I skipped all levels of rationality and went straight to Worst Case Scenario.  I was worried he could have broken something, or sliced soft tissue, or was bleeding profusely, or was in shock.  I think I was probably most worried about him being in shock, actually. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for some of the worse scenarios in horse ownership and I was a real wreck in the car.  I got my game face on when I arrived though.

I got to the barn and found him in a stall, eating hay, bearing weight on the leg and looking a little worse for wear, but generally ok.  His vital signs were within normal limits, and his gut sounds were good.  He did have a good laceration on his right hind in front of the hock and was very painful in that area.  I asked the vet before she arrived if I should go ahead and hit him with 10cc of Banamine to help the pain; she agreed, so I gave him his IV painkillers and started to rinse the mud from the wound.  We x-rayed the joint and the vet did not see any damage from the wound.  She scrubbed him up well, wrapped it, and I'll clean and rewrap every day until Sunday and see what we have on Monday morning when the vet returns. 

13 Jan 15

He's terribly sore from the ordeal and the leg obviously hurts like hell, but he is his normal cheerful self, has a good appetite and is drinking well, and is using the leg just fine, albeit lame.  I looked at it today, it looked like it was starting to heal well, so hopefully we're on the right track.  He's also not as swollen as I thought he might be.  I am very concerned about infection with the hock joint being right there, so I'm cold hosing and cleaning it like a crazy person every day.  He's good on his tetanus booster and is on SMZs for the next 10 days, so fingers crossed this is the worst of it!

14 Jan 15

14 Jan 15

I do secretly love first aid, take it way too seriously, and I'm glad I have world class wrapping skills.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dressagin' in the rain

Soonie and I made the most of a wet weekend with some dressage out on the bluestone track during a light rain/mist.  I can't stand being stuck in the indoor any more than necessary; while an indoor is a gift from above and lets us ride year-round, when the temperatures and footing allow, I need to be outside!  :)

We had a very productive little flat school, and followed it up today with a 45 minute walk around the property/track to stretch his legs.  He was inside again with impending rain, but we got in a good hack to get him stretched out and moving around. 

Freshly trimmed mane and the beard is gone!  Small victories

Friday, January 2, 2015

Things I need to do over this long weekend

- Clean and oil my saddle  (happy CWD!)
- Trim horse's mane because it's too thin to pull, but he's looking a little pony-ish
- Bang tail again
- Bathe in unseasonably warm weather
- Go back and forth feverishly about whether or not to re-clip and pros/cons
- Re-clip
- Cry a little at all of that

Sunday Update:
Yep, the bath and the clipping did not happen.  The bath probably should have, but I was hungry (hangry?) and wanted to get home.  I decided that while I probably could clip Soonie, he doesn't really need it yet.  He hasn't grown it back as quickly as he did last year.  See?

Scruffy last year, 1/5/2014

So I guess that's what happens when you go from the frozen Midwest to the not-so-frozen Mid-Atlantic.  "Cold" here means brief stints of temperatures in the 20's (which have barely happened!), where last year it was well into the negative temps and that was without the windchill.  Soonie survived just fine outside in -30 degree windchills out west; this is like a tropical paradise by comparison.  I'll roll the dice and see if he can make it to late March, when I'll give him a full body clip to skip shedding season.  If he has to get the clip freshened up before then, so be it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

First ride of the 2015

Today was a lovely 40+ degrees and a great day for a quick jump school in the field to start off the new year.  Soonie was great as usual; I rode like a blind monkey on a couple of occasions, but he jumped from wherever I placed him.  He had some good moments where he really waited when I asked and showed patience, and nothing was a fight like earlier this summer.  We had good rhythm and when I rode that rhythm (instead of checking out mentally or trying to adjust), we had several lovely fences in a row.  We also had great flying lead changes both in the flat warm up and during the jumping exercises, when I focused on changes from the leg on a straight line (I won't lie, I was inspired from the flat/gymnastic sessions of the George Morris Horseyship Thingy and their flying change schooling).  Soon's changes have always been very good, and he learned fast early on with the leg yield off the new inside leg into the new outside leg for the swap.

It is supposed to be good weather tomorrow, and I'm resisting the urge to jump again.  He did everything I told him today and was perfectly happy about it, so tomorrow we'll go for a short hack instead.  He has worked hard this week, so tomorrow is a good time for a light ride.

Very excited about working

Took some photos after the ride as well (shocker!) with the sun setting and Soonie looking at the pretty Fjord lady out in the field:

I thought this was pretty

Such a handsome boy!

"Mmm.  I just pooped."

I love his eye

Allegedly, it will be in the mid-sixties and rainy on Sunday, so if the horses are likely to stay in and it's warm enough, then I'll bathe Bubba and reclip him.  I wasn't intending to redo the clip this early, but the weather is giving me a window for bath time, and I feel like capitalizing on it.  I'm not looking forward to it, but he'll be good to go until late March/early April when I do a full body clip and save myself the misery of shedding him out again.  NEVER AGAIN.

In other news, a couple of screenshots from Sunday's indoor review of the "arrowhead" exercise (aka our mounting block V-jump):

Why I appreciate (but do not worship) George Morris

'Tis the season for the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session!  I love this annual, five-day clinic from Wellington and all this has to offer the general equestrian community.  Click that link to see all the sessions on the USEFNetwork webpage.  Each session is available live or later on demand if you can't see it real time.  Sessions include flat schooling (basic dressage principles) as well as gymnastic and jumping exercises.  Beezie Madden did the flat demo this year, which was great.

Inevitably, though, this event comes with a lot of controversy online because it seems like George Morris is one of those very polarizing figures in the horse world.  People either seem to worship him like a "god," or despise him.  I see more of those extremes than moderate opinions.

I've heard everything from:
"He’s a sexist body shaming pig"
"uses abusive language to belittle his students" 
"He's just a mean old white guy"
...and just generally that's he's a bully that can't ride anymore, to:

"He's a GOD!!"
"OMG he's so great he doesn't even need reins, he can stop horses with his mind!"
...and lots of the Chuck Norris (he can do no wrong) phenomenon.  Hero worship at its worst.

I appreciate George Morris because these days he seems to be one of the loudest advocates of classical riding in today's American hunter/jumper world.  A world that seems more and more obsessed with draw reins, leverage bits, and less obsessed with correct, classical flatwork.  There should not be a huge gap between basic dressage and basic hunter or jumper training.  They should be the same, because they all benefit one another.  But it's getting harder and harder to find young folks that know how to correctly school a horse on the flat with nothing but a simple snaffle (no draw reins or neck stretchers or garbage like that).  More young folks need to be exposed to the basic concepts he advocates.  He didn't invent this; he is quick to remind the riders of folks like Bill Steinkraus, Gordon Wright, and others he learned from.  Morris isn't the only one out there, Bernie Traurig has his online resources and clinics; Anne Kursinski is one of my very favorite riders and I love watching her compete or school horses, very classic and correct.  Beezie Madden shows on a regular basis why she's consistently one of the top riders in the world, because of her background and schooling.  Do some of these folks use things like draw reins from time to time?  Yes, I've seen some of them use extra equipment.  But they still use proper fundamentals and can prove that they can still school the horse correctly without relying on that gear.

I can't speak for what the guy is like in person, because I've never spoken with the man myself.  I can't speak for what he might have been like 20 or 30 years ago.  Maybe he was as bad as some people say he was about weight and other topics, who knows.  The clinics I've see and the online Horsemastership series that I've watched the last couple of years do not give me an impression that the man is anything less than a stickler for details and demanding.  Demanding does not make someone evil.  Being tough does not make them a bad person.  It does mean that those that choose to ride with him have to be on their game, mind every detail, and not take little quips personally.  I rode with a no-nonsense lady trainer for years, and she made me a much better rider and horseman for it. 

I think people take things entirely too personally and that society is getting extremely delicate these days.  Morris' comment of "And she's not even a blonde!" after one of the girls jumped the wrong fence this year will surely get taken out of context and offend someone.  Everyone gets a participation ribbon or a trophy just for showing up.  Everyone expects to be lauded with compliments for average work.  People don't or can't handle criticism, because for years they've been showered with praise for minimal effort or achieving minimal standards.  People complain about how sexist GM is, but this year I noticed no difference between his treatment of the boys and the girls.  He was as tough or as kind as he needed to be, based on that individual's performance and effort.

He called Wilton Porter "spacey" and told him multiple times in a very stern voice (and whittling patience) to "get with the program."  Shortly afterward, as he prepared to do a mounted demo, he took one of the girls (Hannah) aside and happily explained the purpose for the billet guard on the saddle, as hers was positioned too high to protect the inside of the flap.  He was perfectly patient, perfectly pleasant, and spoke in a tone that was pleasing and not demeaning.  It was a no-shit, nice conversation with a young lady.

So yes, this guy is clearly a monster. [/sarcasm]   Honestly, like a lot of what we see online, I feel like some folks get a kick out of being the voice of dissent and speaking out against George Morris.  They like the thrill of feeling fashionable by calling him a bully, outdated, or that he rides poorly due to age.  They feel unique and trendy NOT being the person who worships George Morris.  It's edgy.  It's also stupid.  Just as stupid as the people who blindly agree with and support everything George Morris says and does, and worship him like a god.

George Morris is not a god.  He has made mistakes and I'm sure he has crossed the line on occasion, as people are quick to remind everyone of.  He is not politically correct, does not hold hands or suffer fools, but also I have never seen any kind of "abuse" or inappropriate behavior from the evidence I have seen the last few years.  He has an enormous amount of knowledge to give to our up-and-coming young riders and future professionals.  He is a reminder of days gone by, old school horsemanship and an appreciation for classic riding.  I hope these young riders take that forth in their careers and that their horses benefit from this exposure.  At the very least, events like this should remind these riders that there is always more to learn and ways to improve for the horse's benefit.