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 :)

Friday, May 15, 2015


At the JFI event on Saturday I randomly entered a raffle at Berkshire Hathaway's table (I may have been browsing leaflets on available horse properties and doing a little dreaming), and lo and behold I won!

Dan says there are enough treats there for about a year....I think we'll be lucky if they last a few months, haha, Charlie loves them!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jersey Fresh International - May 9, 2015

This weekend was the Jersey Fresh International 3-day eventing competition, something I have been looking forward to attending for months! Lucky enough for me it was held at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, only about an hour from my apartment. I got up bright and early Saturday morning and met Maddy ( and Wendy there right when the gates opened, and together we spent one glorious day watching some serious equine competition. Here are some highlights:

This was my first time seeing high level eventing first hand, and it was mesmerizing. I wish I could've gone down on Friday to see some of the dressage, or had been able to stay for show jumping on Sunday, but I was most excited for the cross country portion anyway. These horses are such athletes, and their strength, determination, and focus are inspiring.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A field walk and some little logs

After giving both myself and Charlie a day to recover, I am ready (both physically and mentally) to get back in the game.

Today was a hot one, around 81 by the time I got to the barn late morning, and I happened to wake Charlie from his mid-morning snooze when I arrived. I was planning to lunge him over some small poles/jumps in the ring, but the poor guy hasn't had time to adjust to hotter temperatures yet and he was already sweating when I pulled him in for grooming. Standing in the middle of the ring in direct sunlight wouldn't have been fun for either of us.

So, change of plans, we'll work in the field. I put Charlie in his rope halter with the extra long lead and off we went. It was so beautiful and relaxing! After meandering through the woods, in and out of shade with a light breeze to keep things cool, we entered the small field out back. We stopped there to look at some deer, then headed off toward the hay field to the right of the property.

Along the side of the property, paralleling the driveway, there are probably 15 natural jumps set up at various heights and difficulty levels. Some of these jumps go up to 2'6"-2'9 with a pretty big spread, but there were three or so that were no more than a log or two on the ground that I felt would be the perfect way to practice distances with Charlie without him feeling the need to overjump. Basically, it's exactly what I was going to do in the ring, but out in the field over a natural jump instead. By doing it in hand, I could also see how he reacts, rather than just relying on what it feels like. So, after some light lunging in the shade of the huge evergreens, I asked Charlie to extend his circle and trot over one of the small log jumps.

It went really really well! In the past, when I've tried to hand jump Charlie he is often resistant at first and would fling himself over the jump and get excited on the opposite side (or he'd just step over it and refuse to jump lol). Today, I was pleasantly surprised by how little encouragement it took for him to get the idea. He did jump pretty big the first time and flipped his head a bit, but then, once he knew I wasn't going to hang on his face, he got the general idea and took everything in stride. I had him trot and canter around me in that circle a few times, each time asking him to find his own distance to the jump and each time getting better and better.

So as not to make him bored or to be too much like a drill sergeant, we took frequent breaks, switched directions, and he got rewarded with grazing when he stayed calm. Eventually we made our way up the driveway to some of the other small jumps. The split rail fence below is one Charlie had flipped out over before, but not today. I asked him to trot it a couple of times in each direction and he was great. When he realized he barely had to lift his feet and decided it was easier to walk over, we called it a day.

I am so glad that our ride the other day doesn't seem to have had any lasting negative effects. I was really beating myself up, afraid that he would be hesitant and carry on in reaction to me having not been secure up there. But Charlie actually seemed really happy and excited to jump. He wasn't backing off of them at all.

I think Charlie really enjoys jumping, and we'll just have to work through the initial over-jumping pop, now that I know to expect it. We'll work on lots of low things to build confidence, and I'm sure once we get back in the swing of things we shouldn't have a problem. Now that Charlie has proven he can be calm and competent in the field, I'm excited to try these jumps from his back. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A humbling jumping experience

I am going to hurt tomorrow. In fact, I can already feel the tightness beginning to settle into my arms, butt, and upper back.

No, I didn't fall off. But Charlie and I attempted jumping for the first time in a very long time and I realized how sorely (pun intended) out of practice I am. I may be able to ride around bareback or stirrupless, but apparently my jump form really needs some TLC.

For today's ride, I decided to take Charlie into the turnout field adjoining the ring. I was looking for something different to do and the other horses were penned near the barn, so I decided to give it a shot.

Charlie warmed up great and felt nice and loose. He was a little on the peppy side but not pushy, and he was picking up both leads nicely. I've noticed a lot of the leaning and resistance that had been plaguing his right lead was gone, so that is good. We even went over the few of the ground logs in the field with no issues.

Since I'd been wanting to try some jumps for awhile now, and there is a nice low 2-footer log jump out between the far fields, I figured today was as good a day as any to try. The only problem is you have to either go back down to the barn and through three gates to get there, or jump the taller set of logs dividing that field from the one we were in.

The larger jump, with the smaller one in the background
These taller logs are about 2'3"-2'6" at their highest point. Though Charlie and I have jumped that height before, it's been awhile so I was a little nervous about starting with something so "big" for us. However, he was nicely warmed up and listening well. And I only planned to jump it once to get into the far field.

What I didn't take into consideration was that Charlie is not a seasoned jumper. He doesn't have a well-developed eye yet, and he tends to get a little excited and "launchy" when jumping. After two missed approaches (which were my fault for first staring at the base of the jump and then just sitting there without telling him what I wanted him to do), he locked on to the jump and I knew we'd be going over.

We went over alright. I almost went all the way over his head! He flung himself way over the logs, I flailed, and when we landed I was all up on his neck and missing a stirrup. Thank god for good balance and a patient horse. Charlie was pissed, don't get me wrong, but he kept his cool. He let me know he was upset, grunting and pinning his ears as we cantered away, but that's understandable. I deserved it.

As I navigated myself back into a seated position and regained my lost stirrup, I felt like an idiot. What the heck happened? I mean, it certainly felt like he launched himself high enough to clear the top rail of the real fence, and maybe he did, but I still should have been able to sit that. Or at least been prepared enough for the possibility to make a decent attempt. Then again, I haven't jumped anything of substance in almost a year.

I continued to beat myself up a bit as we circled in the field, my trainer's mantras running through my head: "Sit UP!" "Heels down!" "Wait for the jump!" Then I decided I shouldn't base everything on one failed jump, especially the first one, which was larger than we were intending to practice on anyway. Charlie seemed to be feeling fine on the flat, so we moved on to the much smaller jump. And it happened again. Not nearly as drastically, but GOD.
The smaller jump. Charlie has stepped over this before.
About a 2.5' spread, but only around 2' tall

We trotted back and forth over that set of logs a few more times as I tried to pull myself back together. Each time was a bit better, but not great. I remembered to raise my stirrups halfway through, and that helped a bit, but as much as I wanted to be able to help Charlie through the jump, I couldn't seem to get my body to remember how it was supposed to handle a jump. Every time I ended up jumping in front of him or looking at the ground or catching him in the mouth.

It really wasn't worth continuing to try, in my opinion, if all I was going to do was screw it up every time. Charlie was locking on to the jumps every time, eager to go over them, but he is still in the learning stages. I don't want to make him or myself sour or sore about jumping, and I felt that's all I'd end up doing if I kept flopping around up there like a sack of potatoes.

As we headed back to the barn, via the gates this time, Charlie got lots of apologies and "thank-you-for putting-up-with-me" pats. I vowed that until we can both learn to judge our distances/heights a bit better and practice our form we won't be trying that again. I think its time to find some cavallettis.

He doesn't seem any worse for the wear

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Conformation 5/3/15

Here are some conformation shots of Charlie from his birthday photoshoot today. I am really happy with his weight right now, and I'm pleased at how well he's starting to fill back in along his topline. He still needs a bit of bulk to his neck and butt, but it's coming along...and spring has only just begun!

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Today was Charlie's 8th birthday! It's hard to believe how quickly time flies...

Emily was here visiting from MD this weekend, so we spent some quality time with Charlie, making sure he got the full spa treatment and lots of love and treats on his special day.

All that hair....
After an in depth grooming session (complete with mane pulling, fetlock trims, and lots of conditioner) we spent some time having a bit of fun in the ring. 

After a little while, I even hopped on for a quick bareback ride. Initially Charlie was very preoccupied with trying to sidle over to the grass just outside the ring, but ultimately he avoided the temptation and was very patient and well-behaved. 

Can you tell how happy I am?
In the end, we opened up the gate into the far pasture and turned Charlie out for a nice graze. The other horses were staying cool in the barn, but Charlie was relishing the fresh green grass. He was one happy horse, and this was one perfect Sunday morning :)

Special times with a special boy