Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An August Fly-By

How is it September already?? I guess being busy is good, especially since it means I'm getting paid and money is a necessary commodity (especially when planning a wedding!). But, honestly, where has the time gone?
My mom's a doofus. Can't even keep track of time!

I've been working 2-3 days a week at the animal hospital. Those days when I'm not there I am working either on illustrations (currently on my 3rd large project for Paint Horse Journal in the past five months) or authoring online learning content for Sapling, which I've been doing for almost a year now. It's actually been working out really well in terms of being able to see Charlie. I'm able to go to the barn first thing in the morning on my days off from the hospital, when it's not so hot. Then I work from home the rest of the day. Teching days are ten hours at a stretch, so they're kind of a waste for getting anything else done, but I love being back at an animal hospital.

Charlie is doing pretty well overall. He had one weird bout of lameness last week that is still resolving, but otherwise not bad. He is getting a little beat up a bit from playing with the babies over the fence, and we've sacrificed two fly masks in the process, but I don't care about small bumps like that. He's just being a horse.

Here is a pictorial rundown of this past month:
First weekend in August: Dan's cousin's wedding up in RI
Cow desensitizing was a main goal this month

Got to see some up close and personal
Even the big ones aren't so scary anymore, they're just funny looking horses
Super awesome gift arrived mid-month in the mail from Maddy :)
I also got a lot of opportunities to play with random jumps and pole combos
It's nice to be at a barn with jump supplies
Of course, I'll make a jump out of anything
One day I decided to work on walking on different textures

Charlie thought the mat was food. Weirdo.
You mean I is not supposed to eats dis? Den whats the point?
Looking particularly regal and handsome :)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Seeing improvement, bit by bit

Charlie seems to be settling in nicely to his new home. The first week or so was a little rocky, he was anxious and unfocused, but he has since gone back to his mostly mellow taking-in-all-in self.
Straw may be hard to clean, but its very comfy for naps
Enjoying a cooler afternoon in the sun with his old buddy, Nic
I've been able to ride about 2-3 times a week, which is pretty good considering I now work a 10+ hour day two days a week and we've been out of town or had visitors every weekend.

Charlie's stiffness has really dramatically improved over the last few weeks. His range of motion still is not where it used to be, but he's steadily loosening up and taking longer strides and, little by little, his stamina is increasing. I wish we had trails; that would be the perfect rehab. Prior to each ride, Charlie gets a thorough curry/massage, and afterward I slather on the Sore-No-More. He especially loves his back massage and will yawn and often try to groom me at the same time.

Time for a massage and cookies?
It initially took some strong convincing on my part to push Charlie through his stiffness and discomfort under saddle, especially since he was distracted by all the new goings on around him. However, once we settled into our routine things began to improve. Whereas I initially couldn't get him out of giraffe mode at all, now I can achieve several strides at a time before he loses it, and I can fairly easily get him to put his head down and try another stretch right away. I focus on not touching his mouth and just pushing him forward. Then, when he's got a good rhythm, I pick up a slight feel and "tickle" his mouth and he'll drop his head. Yesterday, almost our whole ride was at a neutral head position, not down but not up either. I consider that a win.

"long and low" is hard when there are (distant) demon cows in the field
For the most part we just walk and trot. Once a week I'll canter for a little bit, because that is an easy and relaxing stride for Charlie. P.S. Cantering in the new saddle is heaven! For the first time in a long time I can easily sit the canter :) Each day I'm asking him for a little bit more, and each day he's giving it to me. As of yesterday we've worked up to a steady 6-7 minutes of trotting, versus the short 1 lap stints we started out with.

Every ride is split fairly evenly between ring work (with lots of big circles, serpentines, shoulders/haunches in, and poles) and exploring the property. Though I'd prefer some steeper hills for a better workout, there are small rolling hills throughout the new place that are good for slowly strengthening Charlie's hind end.

This week's raised pole exercise
Last week I started raising some of the poles in the ring. By yesterday we had worked up to an exercise where every other pole in a set of five was raised. That worked out really nicely. It took a little while for Charlie to figure out his rhythm, especially to the left, but I like how it made him think and it did get him to tuck himself together and pick up his feet. After a few turns in each direction he started getting tired so I stopped, but I think this is an exercise we'll continue over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The new barn

Charlie has been in 7 different barns since I've known him. In three years. Three in PA, one in MA, one in RI, and now two in NJ. That's not to mention the barn he was at when I bought him, the one he moved to with his first owner in TX, and the one where he was born in KY. This horse is a traveler! Hopefully one day soon he will not have to move any more....

This new barn is nothing like the one he was at before, which (in my eyes) was the perfect situation. That said, I think it will work well. Though kind of a more rustic approach, the stalls are big. The grass may not be as manicured, but the turnouts are large and the girl who manages things seems like she is right up my alley in terms of horsemanship.

The new stall
Charlie's new barn is one of three on a very large post-TB-breeding facility. He has a nice big box stall that is very airy and open, which he shares with several resident chickens (he doesn't mind them one bit).
Chickens as roommates
The woman who owns it is married to a dairy farmer, and so there are cows on the property. Charlie isn't so sure what to think about them yet.

Is that a COW?!
Charlie stays in during the day and is turned out by night, which isn't the ideal come-and-go-as-you-please scenario that I would prefer, but he's done this before and has done well. Although there are no trails nearby, there is a ring (with jumps this time) and an opportunity to go to paces and clinics with the property owner. Plus, there is a trainer on the premises if I want to lesson here or there. I think it was the best decision for us right now, and I'm looking forward to the next few months!

Barn #7, and soooo many other updates

Wow, I've been crazy busy and only just realized it's been almost a month (a month!) since I last posted. So many things to update! I just started a new job as a veterinary assistant and have also been doing a ton of illustration work on the side. Busy busy!

Early stages of an illustration series on conformation
Here's the lowdown on my life as it relates to Charlie:

The property where Charlie was stabled has sold (booo! double booo because I never got a chance to jump the awesome XC jumps) so we had to move. Again. Charlie should be accustomed to this by now, but it still doesn't make it any easier. I found a barn about 15 minutes away, though, and the woman who runs it is about my age with a lot of interests similar to mine. I'm hopeful we can go on hunter paces and to clinics together in the near future.

Off on a new adventure!
Charlie has been experiencing a kind of relapse with his fall injury from the winter. Remember when the chiropractor came out a little over a month ago? He was doing better and then all of a sudden stiffened up out of nowhere, was dragging his hind end, and was darn near unrideable. Wouldn't move forward, biting my leg, that sort of thing. So I had the chiropractor out again, and she said he was actually much better than the previous visit, but his hamstring was super tight. She thinks he pulled it when he fell and its stiffness contributed to his previous neck and back issues, which were actually much better this time around. She showed me how to massage his back and hamstring, and said it will just take some time to fix whatever he did to himself, but she doesn't think it is anything serious. But it will take some slow and steady work to get him back to normal. *sigh*

Porcupine Charlie
I also got a new saddle!! Thanks to my friend, Emily, I found a used Devoucoux from a friend of hers for a great price and it fits Charlie perfectly. It's *slightly* too small for me, but not enough that it doesn't fit. And it's more saddle than I ever thought I could afford, at a great price, so I couldn't pass it up.

The new Devoucoux. Eeee!
More details about everything to come later! I promise!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Some days you've just gotta run!

I love freshly mowed hay fields
Charlie was having one of those days where he couldn't stand still and would rather jig than walk. I don't know what got him so worked up, but the other horses were looky too so it must have been something.

I'm a big fan of making a horse's feet move more if they refuse to stand still or listen so, since serpentines weren't quite cutting it, I used the big newly cut hay field to my advantage. Twice end-to-end at a working trot and once at a canter (a fast, happy, bucking canter at some points) was enough to get the ants out of his pants. Charlie was quite happy to walk around calmly after that, and when we got back to the barn he got a cool liniment bath. All in all, it was a nice change of pace (haha pun intended). What's more fun than a wide open field?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

....On hold....

Charlie and I have been kind of on hold the past few weeks. I've been alternating between riding him bareback and in the western saddle, but I'm really missing having an english jumping saddle. The hunt is on for one in my price range, and I have a few leads, but I also have to figure out what to do with the Toulouse....
What's going on up there?
In the meantime, bareback or western it is! I like bareback because I can really feel what Charlie is doing underneath of me and it offers a good workout on my end, but what Charlie really needs right now is lots of work on long and low and trotting with impulsion. Bareback + big trot = not comfortable or sustainable for either of us! I can push Charlie into more of a workout in the western saddle, but it continues to stay hard and stiff, even though I keep oiling it. Neither myself nor Charlie like that so much for long periods of time.

Added the draw reins again yesterday, with moderate success

We have done a lot of little trail rides, even venturing a little bit down the road. There are lots of deer out right now. Good continued desensitizing for Charlie. We saw two bucks on Monday and a doe with her little fawn this morning.

In other news, Charlie the Cat had to have a cystotomy just about two weeks ago. Poor guy had a huge bladder stone :( Luckily we have pet insurance through PetPlan (best decision ever!), so financially it was not an issue. Now he's essentially back to normal, and I've already gotten reimbursed for the bulk of the payment, which is nice.

A "Get Well Soon" card from Gran
Also, my sister got a job in Indiana. Since the start date was less than three weeks from when she accepted, I took a few days off last week and drove out with her to look for apartments. It ended up being quite the whirlwind tour, but all in all we had a great little trip and found a place that I think will be perfect for her.

This weekend I'm heading down to Maryland to cheer on my best friend in an Alumni IHSA competition. I almost signed up for it myself, but ultimately decided I'd rather save the entry fees for something else since I haven't jumped a course in...well...a couple of years (!). I just wasn't sure it would be worth the gamble to see whether I've still got it in me to jump an entire course on a horse I've never ridden, after having so little recent jumping practice. Emily has stayed competitive, though, so I'm anxious to root her on!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chiro and New Shoes

This was a big week for Charlie. Despite being back in full work, he's continued to have intermittent stiffness issues and pain in his back and right side, so I decided to have a chiropractor/acupuncturist come out to evaluate him on Monday.

As I suspected, Charlie's right side was completely locked, especially in his hip and poll. The doctor wasn't too concerned, but she immediately asked if he had fallen at any point, as that's what all his signs were pointing toward. She said when horses fall, they put out their noses like we would put out our hands to catch ourselves, so they end up hitting their hip and wrenching their neck/poll at the same time. According to her, it most likely it was on the ice over the winter and he's just been compensating and making himself more sore ever since. I immediately thought back to that time in January when he spooked in the snowy driveway and went down when I was hand walking him. I'm sure that's what did it. I just hadn't been riding then or I probably would have noticed something a lot sooner.
Porcupine Charlie
Anyway, Dr. Edwards was great. She used both chiropractics and acupuncture to relieve Charlie's tension, and though it was an expensive visit, I think it was worth it. She worked on him for over an hour and as she did you could see Charlie relaxing. The bad news she looked at my saddle too and, after some examination, she said it fit well but the angles were actually a bit crooked. In all my saddle shopping - looking at gullet width and wither clearance and overall shape around his shoulders and everything else - I hadn't thought to look at whether the flaps were angled evenly. So I'm currently saddleless, unless you count the old western one. The doctor said absolutely don't use my English one unless I want to see her again on a regular basis.

Days off are for sleeping in!
After his chiropractic appointment Charlie got a few days off, per doctor's orders, but today I did a light bareback ride to see how he felt. Immediately I noticed him stepping out more animatedly. He also seems much more willing to bend to each side and sidepass, which is nice to see. There is still some stiffness, but I think whatever is left is from atrophy on the ouchy side (and the uneven saddle caused some unevenness in his back muscles too).

After our ride the farrier was out to put shoes on. Charlie's feet are really good and were doing well barefood, but I just think he goes better in shoes when I'm riding more regularly. Not as short-stepped. And over the summer I plan to be out and about and doing a lot more riding, so shoes will be more necessary. Charlie was nosy as ever, wanting to be in everyone's business and see every step of the process, but that's Charlie. :)

Charlie loves watching the goings on

This farrier is really great, and I'm starting to see that more and more. It's so hard to keep moving around and switching people, and I wasn't sure I'd find one I liked as much as my guy in RI. But Dave is honest, fairly priced, easy going, and super good-natured. He knows his stuff and does it right. And Charlie loves him, which is always a plus :)