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!