Isabel: Chronicling 2013
I've been reading other folks' journals lately and thought it would be good for me to start one for Isabel. It seems every day I'm at the barn, I think of at least 2-3 threads I'd like to start on the forum for advice, but I think that would be a little tiresome for people, since I know the questions I have are basic things that come with the territory of owning your first horse.
The stuff I need to work out with Isabel, is primarily related to my own inexperience, as she's generally an uncomplicated, easy-to-get along with girl. Her "major" problems, which aren't really that major, are mostly related to the fact that she's going to be 19 this year.
Major worry for today: Feet
Problem #1-I don't like the look of her right hind foot at all. This foot is most concerning. She's been thrushy back there for a good month now, and some days, it looks like the frog is just disintegrating- really, everything from the back of her heel through the point of the frog looks simply shredded. I'm putting a rotating list of thrush treatments on daily, and her feet are picked daily. But I haven't seen any improvement regardless of which product I try. It's really getting me worried, although she shows no signs of being sore (no limping, no heat, doesn't mind me messing with it). I've read all I can on thrush treatments, but I don't know that I can manage wrapping the foot in a diaper right now because I think it would just get pulled off in the snow- but, I'm starting to think she really does need some sort of protection to keep the medication packed in there (although if I packed cotton balls, I think they would just freeze right now, and I wonder if that would cause more harm than good?). I need to get some pictures so I can keep track of how much worse it's getting, as it's hard to really see changes day-to-day.
Problem #2- Snow build up/weird wearing. Snow is deep, and it's cold (-2F today), so she's getting really hard packed feet. Worryingly, in the past week, she's worn her front feet almost straight across- they look square on front. This came out of nowhere, as they certainly didn't look like this until we got two back-to-back storms.
Problem #3- Feet are growing seemingly faster than normal, and farrier wants to put more time in between winter trims (saying growth should be slower in the winter?). I need to start taking pictures before and after each trim to better document this, but I swear her feet have grown at lightning speed since last trim, which was the week before Thanksgiving. Technically, she's not overdue yet, but the farrier doesn't come again for 3 more weeks, and her bars are too long, her walls are too long, and she has the weird toe wearing problem. Over the past year, I have found myself being too freaked out about health stuff and calling the vet/farrier too quickly, so I'm going to go against my better judgement and not have him come early, I'm just going to wait for him to come (which will put her at the 8 week mark, vs. the typical 5-6 week mark, for her trim).
The last couple of days, her feet have been my most prominent worry. Will have to keep tabs on that.
And since this is the beginning of the journal, I suppose some pictures are in order. Here are some winter pictures to capture how much snow we've had recently.
In the 2nd one, I love how wide her mouth is open to gobble up that hay- she looks like a pyrranah!!
So, two things today.
1. R hind still looks funky. When I put thrushbuster on yesterday (got deep into the cracks), it was the first time she showed me it hurt. Lots of tail swishing and quickly jerking the foot up and down almost like she was chasing away flies on the leg. Cleaned it with warm soapy water and more thrushbuster today, but tomorrow I'm going to start the Pete's Goo and see how that goes. It seems like I've tried every possible thrush treatment so far, and that's the only one I haven't done yet. Maybe it will be the one that works. As I was thinking though, I really do believe she's had at least one thrushy foot for almost the entire year- I need to research more how diet relates to thrush and see if there are any changes needed there.
2. Bad ride today. It was the first dreaded day of snow sliding off the roof. She saw some come down within the first 2 minutes I was up, and her mind completely switched off.
I will say, though, that I was at least a little proud about how we handled it, because I remember last year, the second she saw the snow, she would just simply refuse to go forward and start backing up across the arena.
I think I'm just a lot more confident in dealing with her reactions this year, as I kept her moving (albeit doing about a million ten meter circles to keep her bending and moving her feet) for a good 20 minutes. There was some balking, some drifting towards the center, some major attempts at avoiding the corner where you could really see the snow sliding down, but I was able to keep her moving.
Her trot was a crazy, out of control racy mess, so most of what we did was walking. Not sure if that was right or not, but it didn't seem productive to let her keep going at a wild trot when I couldn't really get her responsive enough to moderate her rhythm for more than a few strides- but maybe that's what we work on tomorrow. The best moment- the one we ended on- was when she finally relaxed enough to walk through the "scariest" corner without being all counter-bent and high headed, and gave me a real 10-meter circle in that corner. I let her stop at that point, even though it was probably only a 15-20 minute ride. Hope that was the right thing to do. Though I really am not quite sure of the best approach for this.
Better ride today. Wanted to see how much my own anticipation of the sliding snow affected her, so I returned to the age-old technique of singing while riding. I sang every raunchy sorority pledging song I could remember, and it really helped both of us! There were two loud snow slides, and she didn't even bat an eye. Guess my tension might be causing more of the problem than I though. We'll continue to see if this helps.
Pete's Goo applied to right hind today. Am eager to see if it leads to any improvement.
Great ride last night.
She was very cranky being groomed/saddled because everyone else was being grained and poor abused pony had to get ready to work instead. But, we entered the arena and one of the other boarders was in there riding too. It doesn't happen that often that there are multiple people in the arena at the same time, and I've never ridden at the same time as this particular person. Isabel was being a big time show off for the other horse, which I found hysterical.
What it taught me was that she can be really forward and impulsive, she can do a canter depart on the long side rather than in the corner and still get her leads, and she can ride through the "scary" part of the arena without batting an eye. Sure, she was a little excitable and very interested in the other horse, but she was fun again to ride, for the first time in awhile, because I didn't feel that I needed to nag her every step of the way, she just moved right on out like she always used to do. Now I think the trick is to reproduce that when there isn't another horse in the ring making her show off, and getting a little better concentration on me vs. the other horse when we're not alone in the ring.
One other thing this makes me excited about is the prospects of riding out on trails this spring with another horse. I think she will be much more willing to go out in company, and a much more fun ride if her mind is a little more interested because another horse is around.
A bit of a frustrating and confusing weekend. I know horses will test to be sure you're still the one in charge. But this weekend, out of nowhere, it seemed like Izzy's behavior reverted back to the stuff I really didn't like about her two years ago when we met.
Things started on Friday. Was at the barn for a volunteer training, and Isabel's "neighbor," Reba was taken out for horse leader practice. Isabel about lost it in her stall- for almost two hours, I heard her calling and calling for Reba, shaking her buckets, just generally making a racket. Now, when she first came to the barn a couple of years ago, was horribly herd bound and couldn't be anywhere alone. After a month or so, she got over it, and it's been forever since I've seen her act that way. I wrote it off as an isolated incident, the schedule was weird, a bunch of horses got pulled out of their stalls to be worked after feeding, etc.
Then, Saturday, went to ride. Brought Isabel up from the field, put her on the same cross-ties she always goes on to groom and tack, and she was dancing all over, refused to stand, kept craning her neck around as far as she could to try to see the horses behind her out in the pasture. She was terrible for grooming/tacking- again, behavior she used to show years ago. She absolutely refused to stand for mounting, I had to try to get her to stand 4 or 5 times before I could scramble on. This is something she was terrible about years ago (may have even been my first post on the forum!!) but it's been a long time since she's given me a problem. During our ride, she was really on edge, would randomly call out to other horses (she couldn't see any horses, but she would nicker every time a person walked by). She was also spooking at everything in the arena, a pole in a new place, a new sign taped on the wall, she would just get bug-eyed, go all counter bent, and lose it. I did a million circles, direction changes, etc. It took forever for her to settle. And just as she did, of course, snow slid off the roof!! Not our best ride. At the end, I made her stand for mounting 4-5 times, and while none were perfect, she was better than she had been.
Sunday, went out to get her, even though she was first to come in, she was happy to come in from the pasture because I got her around feeding time. Fussy about mounting again. Had another terrible ride where she just refused to concentrate and was gawking all over the arena at everything. Practiced mounting again at the end, still not great, but I did have someone to help me by holding her head so she stood a little better.
I really just don't know where this change in behavior came from. The weather did warm up suddenly over the weekend, and the schedule was a little weird, but I hate to make excuses. The fact is, this is stuff she used to do years ago and hasn't pulled in a long time. On the upside, I do feel much more confident in dealing with it now, but it doesn't mean I like it. And the fact that she pulled stuff 3 days in a row makes me worried that I haven't addressed it properly if she continued to push. We'll see what this week is like.
Here is miss grumpy pants in the nasty, foggy Sunday mist- the pasture was a soggy mess, with January temperatures up in the high 40s melting the snow far too soon:
Isabel met Delia, one of our dogs, today for the first time. I don't know if she's ever seen dogs before (she actually trotted right up to the fence, no concerns) but this was Delia's first time seeing a horse. Her nose was working a million miles a minute, but she was pretty well behaved. She jumped up just once, but otherwise was a good citizen. There was lots of cute nose sniffing, though sadly I missed capturing the moment with my terrible photography skills. All I managed to get was this one
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I am really feeling down about Isabel this week. Her behavior has just been in the toilet the past week. Today, we had gusty, 30 mile-an-hour winds, and the barn doors were rattling quite a bit; both those near where she stands on the cross-ties, as well as the two sets of doors in the arena. She was snorting, dancing around, constantly looking over her shoulder, just all around not listening. No corrections that I tried were effective. It took me about 20 minutes to get her to stand still for mounting (I was by myself at the barn and there was no one to help), and once I finally got on, she was super tense and again, just not listening.
I'm not the kind of person who gets overcome by anger, but today once I was finally riding, after the terrible tacking up and mounting, I really just sort of lost it. I was working on bending, stretching, backing up, and getting zero obedience/cooperation, and just felt overcome by frustrating. I trotted one reasonably correct lap around the arena, and then just jumped off. I felt that was the best decision as my frustration was pretty high and thought it better to just end after getting the right behavior.
I remember her behavior getting like this last year at this time too, and I do tie it back to the weather. But still, I just feel like that shouldn't be an excuse; this petite, mild-mannered little mare should listen to me now just like she listens to me all the rest of the year. I think what ultimately worries me is that Isabel is such an easy horse; if I have a horse more prone to testing in the future, this is making me doubt my ability to get bad behavior under control. Not a good feeling. I'm definitely just feeling really stuck with what to do.
Wow, can't believe what a big break it's been since I last made an entry. The weather has been particularly terrible, some days I couldn't even get out to the barn because the roads were so bad. But, the past two weeks have actually been good in terms of riding. Several good rides in a row, which, looking back to January, is definitely a positive thing.
I think this will be a good place to keep track of when Izzy goes in and out of heat. Poor girl, she's one who "gets it bad" when she goes, and this week has been one of those weeks. Squirting and winking and peeing at anything that moves, particularly her new "boyfriend" JJ, an adorably clueless little pony gelding that is now turned out with the girls because the boys beat up on him.
I've had a couple of good rides despite her being in heat- she actually gets really calm and quiet under saddle, though I can tell she is sore on her sides/flanks (doesn't really like being brushed there either although she's shedding like mad).
Also have to brag just a small bit as I conquered a big fear tonight. I am really self-conscious about cantering in the arena when other people are in there. I know my position is terrible, Isabel is unbalanced, doesn't always get her right lead, we're just messy. I also have these terrible fears of her careening out of control and running headfirst into another horse (these are unjustified, it's just me being irrational). So anyway, tonight we were sharing the arena with someone lunging her horse, and I decided to just go for it- we cantered a few 20 meter circles in both directions, with no head on crashes. She still had trouble getting her right lead, but all in all, I just sat up straight, kept good contact, and asked her to go around politely and stop when I told her. And she did! Good feeling.
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