Guess who turned a whopping 16 yesterday?!
Yup, this girl!
She got many carrots, a good grooming and lots of face rubs and pets and some more alfalfa. I think she’s looking great. She’s sound, she’s alert, her weight is wonderful, her topline is strong and she’s getting muscled, and she’s still enjoying work. She’s now been with the family for 12 years, and I think we’ll have many more years with her (honestly I think she’ll get close to 30 lol). But we didn’t really do anything special for Whisper’s birthday lol.
Other than that it’s been very non-horsey this week. I’ve only gotten to ride Tuesday because Wednesday it was windy and I wanted to pack/go through some more of my things, Thursday I didn’t get to ride because it was windy AND rainy, today I won’t get to ride because it’s windy and I work late, and then I’m working the weekend to grab some extra cash (and weekend will be freaking windy, too). The carpet is getting replaced, so all I need to do is grab a few books, and sit there and read while the carpet gets replaced. Not a bad way at all to earn a bit extra. But since I can’t ride I’ve been grooming, and Amber is losing tons of hair. Yay shedding season.
So now I’m left with continuing to chip away at all the things that can be boxed or thrown away. It’s a process, but it’s coming along! Happy Friday all, and I hope everyone has a fun-filled, horsey weekend!
While this post is going up as a “review Wednesday” post and will appear on my reviews list, as with every other product I’ve tried, this piece is merely my opinion based on my experiences. Supplements are extremely difficult because what works for one horse doesn’t necessarily work for another horse, and many times you won’t have the same results as someone else. But this is my experience with magnesium, and I hope it gives you guys additional information.
I will freely admit that I’m not the best researcher, and I don’t necessarily like researching things – except most things pertaining to horses. That I WILL try my best to research until I can’t research any more. I’ve gotten better about researching companies and products and finding reviews, and actually taking the time to wait for feedback on potentially polarizing subjects. But maybe I wasn’t Googling correctly or something, but I couldn’t find any veterinary published pieces that were recent (2016 – present). Most were blogging posts, and perhaps the closest I found was Kentucky Equine research and this article by Fox Den Nutrition that really went into how magnesium affects the body (although that was published in 2010 so….perhaps a bit dated on how it affects horses?). Of course please do your own research and speak with your trusted equine pros and don’t just take my word for it!
I feel that magnesium is sort of an understated necessity. In my nutrition classes and other equine college courses, I remember the calcium:phosphorus ratio being very important. Which don’t get me wrong it is very important, but I don’t remember going over magnesium a lot. It’s a little puzzling to me that we didn’t, considering all the things magnesium does. I liked these three articles explaining magnesium, though this one actually said what it did – “Calcium is in charge of contracting the muscle and magnesium looks after the relaxation or release of the muscle….. When a muscle cell is triggered, the cell membrane opens, letting calcium in and raising the calcium level in the cell setting off a reaction and the muscle contracts. When the contraction is done, the magnesium inside the cell helps to push the calcium back out of the cell releasing the contraction. When there is not enough magnesium in the cell, calcium can leak back in causing a stimulatory effect and the muscle cannot completely relax. This can put the body into a continually stressed state. Low magnesium makes nerve endings hypersensitive thus exacerbating pain and noise. Magnesium is required for proper nerve and muscle function.” Which….that’s pretty important.
(She was sooooooo itchy and happy a bunch of her hair was coming off!)
Leading up to buying magnesium, both Amber and Whisper were showing increased stress at our previous barn. Both were a lot more reactive than normal, so we began asking around – vets and other horsey folk in the community, and magnesium was a topic brought up a lot. At that point both Amber and Whisper were on an electrolyte (electrodex – they LOVE the cherry) since it was a million degrees and we didn’t have the lightest rides. Since we only wanted to supplement with magnesium, we found the regular Smartpak magnesium pellets since Amber will eat anything pellet but not always powder.
Within a week we noticed that they were much better. Amber was back to her usual self, and while Whisper was still a bit agitated at times, she too was much closer to her old self. Amber was less nervous, and whenever I’d put my leg on her she was also less reactive. For about 2 or so months, that worked really well for the both of them. They were much better on the magnesium. At the end of those 2 months we moved them to our backyard, and the rest of Amber’s nervousness dissipated. Amber liked the open spaces as did Whisper, and the barn was calmer. Whisper would still get agitated at things, but not like before.
Since then, they’ve stayed on the magnesium until the beginning of February this year. This winter though has been bad for Whisper. She paces a lot, and is a lot more nervous than we remember her being for the first 10 or so years that we had her. We personally think some of it has to do with our previous barn – we’d get bad winds and storms and most of the time she had no good protection from the wind. Wind storms are tough for her, but her pacing has worsened over the winter. (We think it has more to do with insecurity and sleep deprivation, as this article here seems to describe her to a T). I do think it is important to note that when Whisper seemed especially worried/nervous/agitated, we would actually give her more magnesium. So my mom had my vet, Dr. W, pop out for a visit and assess her. It’s really nice to actually have so many people interconnected. My vet and farrier went to school together, and my trainer is my vet’s assistant, so I feel I have a good network of good, knowledgeable equine pros.
After asking a lot of questions and Dr. W listening to my mom talk about Whisper’s differences, he suggested to take her off of the daily dose of SP magnesium as well as her joint supplement. He began explaining that there’s been a conversation recently amongst vets that too much magnesium may be negatively affecting horses. Unfortunately there isn’t an article I can reference, but I thought this was a very interesting concept. So that magnesium said to help calm horses, can actually end up potentially making their nervousness or anxiety worse? A lot of the articles I perused would say that what the horses didn’t need, they would pee out. But what if instead of “peeing it out,” it was affecting horses?
Well, the only way to know was to wait. I kept Amber on her supplements, but within about a week, Whisper was noticeably different. She wasn’t anxiously pacing. She was still pacing, but it was more a leisurely walk instead of the trot/canter/speed walk/trot that she had been doing. She was actually beginning to stop herself and stand still to sunbathe like she used to. We also noticed that she was a lot more herself during rides: she wasn’t as quick-moving and was willing to go slower, and she was also much less reactive when I’d put my leg on her. She actually felt lazy! Which is actually normal for her – I think we’d just gotten used to her being keyed up (for her anyway) that until she was “lazy” again we hadn’t realized something was different. While we don’t think the magnesium was the sole cause of everything, I can absolutely see that taking her off it has really benefited her. Storms still upset her, and while we will be trying different things in the future, it was really crazy to see how taking her off of the magnesium helped.
Huh. So interesting, right?! This stuff really fascinates me, and after Whisper did so well off of it, I took Amber off. She’s been off a month or so now, but I haven’t really noticed much of a difference in Amber. I think she is a bit better, but hardly noticeable for her. Not like the improvement with her going on the magnesium. She’s also in light to no work, so I don’t think the magnesium is really as needed as it was during the summer. Plus, not having her on that saves me some money, and any of her “problems” (kicking and whatnot) I think was due to her missing work rides and not the magnesium (since we’ve been “riding” more she doesn’t kick as much). As I’ve mentioned before, Whisper has more TB influence than Amber, but she also has a tendency to be more nervous and insecure than Amber just because that’s her personality, so maybe that has something to do with it as well. Personally, I do think personality has a bit to do with the pros/cons considering the different reactions we’ve noticed in the two girls. However, if Amber does go into slightly heavier work come summer, I’ll probably put her back on the magnesium, except at a lower dose every few days. I think it really helped her last summer, so I want to continue with that.
And while Whisper isn’t my horse, I do think that when she starts working harder and sweating in summer she should go back on magnesium a day or two a week. Especially with how hot it is here and how sweaty horses can get, I think the magnesium certainly helped last summer, but in the end it’s up to my mom what she’d like to do for Whisper. I just wanted to also say that while Whisper is so much better off of it, I would personally use it again for her in the dead of summer.
I hope this gave everyone some food for thought. This has been a very interesting subject to get some more information on, and I am eager to keep learning about it, too. I wish there were an article about the vets’ conversation, but when I asked Dr. W, that’s what he told me – no articles, just conversation. I’ll have to pick Dr. W’s brain next time I see him about the vet conversation and hopefully be able to repeat it and share it on here. It’s especially cool to me to compare and contrast our two horses – even though they’re the same breed, their bloodlines, personalities, and ways they were raised are different and create two very different horses.
What about you guys? Have you used magnesium with your horse, and if so how has it gone? Have you noticed negative affects on your horse or have they remained the same? Have they initially improved and then gotten worse or stayed improved? I’d love to know your thoughts!
This title of course has nothing to do with Amber. Unless it’s me selling a kidney due to vet bills but thankfully, nothing horse-related went wrong this weekend. No, this was a specifically non-horsey weekend. The news I was going to tell you guys last week?
I got a new apartment!
That is, my best friend and I decided to room together. This has been a pretty gradual process, starting from when she moved up here from Phoenix and we actually planned to make this step December of this year. As things started to work out – or actually, they DIDN’T work out – we realized that rooming together earlier would be beneficial to us both. Those hectic weeks of little blogging and little riding were due to apartment/house hunting, until we randomly decided to pop into one place on a whim and it was seamless. So, we put down a deposit, and planned. Our walkthrough was just last Thursday, and it was gorgeous. We both loved it. It’s on the second story, but it has vaulted ceilings, a gas fireplace, a cute little patio, and bedrooms with attached bathrooms and walk in closets.
We’d planned to drive down to Phoenix to get my roommate’s things from storage, and had everything planned. And about 2 hours down the road we realized that I’d forgotten my overnight bag. Everything basically went to shit from there. The rest of the drive was great – my truck was her usual badass self (I mean, only using a half tank in 6 hours? I just love her). But we get to the U-Haul, and suddenly realize that though their website said they had trailers with ramps, something somehow got mixed up and the size we were looking at didn’t have a ramp. She has a super cute upright piano that we were going to move – no way in hell were we going to be able to move that thing into a trailer without a ramp. So about an hour and a half later, we manage to find a Penske which had a truck with a ramp available – for half the prices U-Haul was quoting us. Great – we head over. Only, they don’t have furniture dollies. Back to the uhaul to rent utility and furniture dollies.
We’d made the drive in good time, getting there around 2:30 as was our plan, but getting everything worked out meant we didn’t even get to the storage unit until about 6:30 in the evening. By this point both of us stressing because the hotel we’d reserved was all the way back in Kingman – about a 4 hour drive from Phoenix. The piano itself was the first thing, and it took us a solid 45 minutes to load that thing. But let me tell you – us two girls loaded it. A 400+ lb piano and we were able to get it up that tall-ass ramp and into the truck. We were basically prone on the floor but hey lol. From there, everything else was easy and took us about 2 hours. I made a Walmart run to grab us some energy drinks and water, and considering I didn’t have anything for overnight bought a few items and a shirt that defined the whole trip to that point (it said Nope across the front).
We finished packing the whole thing by 9:00 pm. Then the lock we’d brought didn’t match the key, so back to walmart we went to get a lock. While there, we were updating the hotel again and letting them know that we’d be there pretty late – probably 1 in the morning. The lady then proceeded to cuss out my roommate on the phone even though we weren’t obligated to let the hotel know when we would be checking in. We wanted to make sure someone would be there to let us check in around that time, and she wasn’t giving us straight answers, kept cussing us whenever we’d try to mention getting in very late. And we even had a credit card on file and she basically refused to let us come in so late, so we cancelled the reservation.
We then spent the next hour finding a different hotel room. We must’ve hit the one weekend or something but EVERY hotel was booked. It was ridiculous. We guessed it was partially because it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but are thinking it was more spring season/practice (something to do with baseball and it’s apparently very big). We FINALLY found a room – one with a king bed that we’d share. And the bathroom tub was atrocious. Like, dirt, hair and whatever else backed up from the pipes. There was trash still in the room. I mean, wow. I have never had a hotel room that was that bad. By the time someone came to clean it and we were actually going to sleep, it was 1 am.
Thankfully, the drive back was uneventful. We made good time, got back to the place by 4:30, and had a few extra hands helping us unload and carrying stuff up the steps. We could finally relax that evening. It took a bit Sunday morning for me to pack some of my stuff into my truck before heading over there and putting together my Ikea bed. Of course I had to use my new Dachshund stuff! It’s adorable and I love it even more off of the hanger.
I’m surprised I’m not sorer from the trip. I am certainly not in good shape, but I really didn’t have hardly any aches or pains – much to my roommate’s annoyance haha. But I’m glad that none of my stuff is really packed at all right now. I’m doing a whole “purge” type thing – going through a lot of my stuff and deciding whether I need to keep it or toss it. Of course most of my horsey things are freshly bought, so those clothes/tack items aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it feels good to get rid of clothes I don’t wear, random papers I don’t know why I’ve kept, old mementoes that I’ve kept that I really don’t want to keep (my 7th grade yearbook? Yeah no I don’t want to keep that lol). I’ve boxed books that I won’t be reading anytime soon but will still be kept whenever I DO decide to read them, and I still have a desk to go through, painting supplies to sort, craft items and a lot of things to go through but so far, my clothes purge has been the most rewarding. Even though Friday was certainly not the day we were expecting, I can tell I was ready for this change. Everything else has been easy, uneventful, and not stressful, so I’m pleased with the move. True, no more free rent, but it felt really nice to sip wine in our own space and watch a bit of Spirited Away before calling it a night.
I got absolutely no horsey time this weekend, which I’m sad about, but I’ll try to ride tonight and I have a few days I’ll have plenty of time in the afternoons to dote on her. She actually looked very pleased to see me Saturday evening, and I scratched her withers which made her happy. I’ll be able to ride soon, though, and now comes readjusting my days/times. I’ll still be going over every evening at least to do chores – hopefully ride depending on my work day, but I’m excited for the change. I’ll miss not being able to see her when I look out my window, but I’m only 8 minutes away so it’s going to be pretty easy, I think. I hope everyone else’s weekend went well!
Alternate title: Collection of reviews for Smartpack products that I don’t really have a whole ton to say about so they don’t really need their own review.
Also, because I don’t have a ton to say about them, these are all in the same category – stuff that wasn’t up to snuff. Because I do have many Smartpak things that I love, there are also Smartpak things that I don’t. This is a 4-item review of things of theirs I’ve tried but haven’t worked for me or that I didn’t like.
SP Harwich padded fancy-stitch bridle w/ long reins – full size
Before going any further on this one, I will say that this bridle is discontinued, which is why I didn’t give it it’s own review. But I still wanted to review it, so here it is. The long reins and fancy stitching were my draw in purchasing this for my hunter show classes. The raised part of the reins softened nicely, but the laces remained stiff. The length wasn’t as long as my Ovation reins, but worked for Amber. However, I didn’t like the very dull, brushed brown look of the bridle. I love how rich the colors in my PS of Sweden and Lund bridles are, and this one was just…flat. Not even matte. Just flat. And it never really darkened nicely, either. This fit more like a true full size bridle than my Ovation, but after a few months the throatlatch strap started to crack. Also, because the noseband was so heavily padded and Amber’s jawline is short and curved, the bottom of the noseband continuously wanted to slip towards her chin which made the top of the noseband tilt back towards her eyes. And it was just bulky on her at times. The reins bothered me, and overall, though I liked it better than my Ovation bridle, I still didn’t like it enough to keep it or think it was quality enough to be worth $150. I think there are better bridles out there for that price.
SP medium diamond deluxe AP pad – navy/emerald
The only thing I really like about this pad is that it’s navy/emerald, and matches my navy/emerald breeches from SP. Other than that, the pad is made of a slick, non-breathable material that Amber always gets overly sweaty from. The pad isn’t really contoured, and I’ve found that while Amber’s withers are not substantial by any means, her roundness requires pads to have that extra fabric a contoured pad provides. Her back and ribcage are so broad that the extra contour keeps the billet holders from actually pushing the saddle back. This pad is always a bit lopsided on her, so I only use it for light hacks. Mostly though, it now just stays on my rack and gets little use.
At least, that’s what it was when I bought it, but it looks like the new title for it is the same stuff. This stuff…. There’s not much product wise that I will say I dislike intensely, but this is one of them. This particular fly spray didn’t seem to work at all for Amber. It smelled like peppermint (which don’t get me wrong I love peppermint) but the smell just seemed to attract the flies in greater number. It was also a sort of peppermint smell that would get stuck in your nostrils and throat and was pretty ick for the whole day. Plus, it stuck to your horse’s fur in a way that attracted ALL the dirt. I mean, Pyranha does that, but Pyranha also works lol. So this product is a huge resounding no for me.
This particular pellet contained apple cider vinegar, which I’d love to pour in Amber’s feed I just…..have no idea if she’ll actually eat it. My mom’s Arab/TB mare loved it when we’d mix her grain with oil and ACV, and I know apple cider vinegar helps to keep the flies at bay. So I grabbed the pellets because Amber will eat any type of pellet, and tried that. I think it worked a teensy bit? I’m not sure. I really didn’t feel like I noticed a difference. It’s a great theory, but probably straight ACV works a lot better than if it’s molded into a pellet. It just didn’t seem to work for Amber or Whisper, so my mom and I stopped ordering the product. Most of the time I try to be on board with these types of products, but if it doesn’t work for your animal then there’s no point in buying it. There are a lot who like it, but again I didn’t notice that it helped at all, so it’s not something I’ll be buying in the future.
It’s only been 2 days, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this much in love with spring forward as I have this year. I got home and I didn’t have to rush to do chores because it didn’t even get fully dark until 7 pm. That makes me so happy. I can actually start to ride again on my long days. It’s not just this huge 10 hr chunk out of my day anymore.
Granted, the extra light must’ve keyed up my body because I don’t think I went to sleep until midnight or later, and had to wake up at 5. Coffee is my friend right now. But I’m still happy about DST for once. I always get more productive and feel better when the days are longer. Here’s to longer days, but we all totally enjoy them because that means more horsey time, right?!
Can you believe it? It actually rained in the desert. And it was a really lovely weekend.
Because of my long work days Thursday and Friday I couldn’t ride, I made sure to ride Saturday and Sunday. Amber was looking a bit upset again Saturday and had some good glares in store for me (thank god not as many as Wednesday) but that went away once her SleekEZ was engaged and scratches were had. Once I started tacking her up, she was ready to go. It had been drizzling intermittently for the morning, and I’d determined to just go out there and grab towels if needed (because yes I love my saddle and don’t want it to get wet which….if I’m eventing I’ll go through water. I know; I make no sense lol). Thankfully, it didn’t drizzle almost at all while we rode.
Amber was definitely happy to be out again. Her walk was a little fast but after a little bit of pushing she had her nice swinging walk. It’s a balance between having her understand that when I put my leg on she lifts her back but maintains the general speed or pace of the walk – she’s just now pushing with a more rhythmic swing instead of hollow and short, speedy steps. Because I’ve trained her western, putting my leg on to have her lift and be soft in her mouth usually also meant rocking back on her haunches to slow the pace. She’s really trying to understand though that I want her still on her haunches but to push more. It’s almost nice just getting to walk/trot. Things that may have been overlooked before because she generally “knew” are now front and center because that’s all we can do.
Either way I spent a lot of time walking, and walking to the left. I really tried to keep my inside rein loose and really just focus on the outside rein and having her push into it. It was super hard for me – I had to keep my eyes on my left hand while trying to feel and pay attention to everything Amber was doing because my left hand just has a mind of its own. It liked to tighten and move and fix things and it was definitely a battle to just not move it. But Amber was definitely venturing into the “mother I’m really confused and I don’t understand why this inverted bend isn’t what you want” so I realized I had to come up with something different. I settled on a western training tactic I’d been taught that I’d used with her – the problem would be for me not to get defensive in my position because it unfortunately encouraged the curling up AND no moving hand aspect I’ve been fighting with.
So I’d put my leg on, and when Amber wouldn’t move her shoulders to meet the outside rein, I’d rock my spur on her side and then bump up softly with the inside rein. She’d push her shoulder out and I’d wait for a moment of contact and release and praise. Then rinse repeat. After only 5 or so times, I’d put my calf on, and she’d move her shoulder out and her nose inside without me needing my inside rein and moved into outside contact herself. I’d ask her to hold that for a stride or two, then release and praise. It added a whole other sense of difficulty to also keep her forward, too. She wants to sit back and slow, which is great because that’s what I taught her, but she’s slowly and surely beginning to understand the push better. Then the lightbulb went off for her, and we were able to get a good 4-5 strides of actual push before I’d release and praise.
We were both feeling pretty good by this point, so I decided to trot. Still lame pushing off, but I asked for contact and she was really really trying to repeat her lightbulb moment at the trot but I could tell it was hard. She kept on trying, though, and was evenly trotting. I’d give her a scratch with my left hand while trying to maintain my outside, and she was really being super. Then it felt like she completely just lost her footing or her leg for that matter, and she pulled up pretty quickly and just kept her RH cocked. I felt pretty bad, and she didn’t respond her usual way when I tried to scratch her. But she licked her lips (which I now realize is where the “grind” sound I heard came from – so she’s not actually grinding her teeth which is a huge relief) as we stood there.
I called it quits for the trot but kept on walking. She got better at pushing into the outside rein and her ears went up happily, so I got off for the day. I rubbed her down with her sore-no-more and put a bit of bute in her grain just in case. Shortly after the rain started in earnest, but it still wasn’t a downpour which is good. It slowly soaked the ground so there was no flooding. (The adorable little ground squirrels know when it’s grain time. They always come by and grab the pieces Amber drops! The one with striping is the one that always comes; we’ve named him/her Scamper)
Sunday I was a bit apprehensive to do more, but figured she’s been doing better so I just needed to monitor how she was feeling and keep going. Since my parents got back the night before, my mom hopped on Whisper and had a nice walk around as I rode Amber. It was even warm enough to wear short sleeves! She was really on top of things on Sunday, and really trying hard to do what I was asking. She had a bit more trouble with the RH Sunday, but I think it was because we were in the bad footing sections of the arena. Once I moved her towards the middle it was easier for her. We did some trotting to the left, and she felt really really good. She was pushing very well – though not she does when going to the right but she was really starting to understand. I changed direction and she lost that RH again, but not as badly so I kept trotting and within a couple steps she was okay again.
To the right she was quick and expecting to canter, so I had to remind her and just try to relax to tell her that we were only trotting. She finally relaxed and we got some great, minimal work to the right. I had a lightbulb moment – she was starting to lift that outside shoulder up but then letting her inside shoulder drop. And she’d lost the really cool-feeling push. It was now a moderate push. Ah ha! Confusion figured out. She thought that she only had to push into my left rein. Now she thinks it’s just pushing into the right rein. She’s nothing if not an overachiever and sometimes tries too hard. But it’s one of the things I love about her. Now we have something else to work on at a mostly-walk-with-a-teensy-bit-of-trot ride. Me especially because my right side is my weak side and it tried to fix that lean like “fuck how do you do this, left side?!”
It’s great to go back to basics, and I think if she can understand (and that I can actually present it to her in a way to understand as well) that each direction we have an outside push, that will make coming back into real work (hopefully) after her stifle and knee are checked (please god let that be soon) that much easier. So while we’re stuck at a walk for a bit again, and a little bit of trot to keep her metabolism up and her muscles loose, we have a PLAN, and something that is actually challenging for little Miss Thang and her ever-active mind. It gives me more ride time to keep my riding position up to par as well and strengthen that right side so it doesn’t fall apart again. I think I still sit a bit forward but hopefully I can remedy that with all this walking lol.
Because of the rain, it got the arena nice and wet – perfect riding conditions and perfect dragging conditions. Because it was also such a nice day, we hooked up my truck to our new drag, and proceeded to test out all it’s parts. It really lifted up the sand nicely and it felt very nice and fluffy when I was done. Just need to keep it dragged more often!
I’m not sure when I’ll have another lesson. This week is going to be pretty busy but I’m definitely going to keep my goal going of at least a lesson a month! I hope everyone else had a good weekend!
Since Amber’s abscess has been dragging, I haven’t been blogging much “real” content lately. There’s only so often you can talk about it, and I don’t necessarily like discussing it all that much because there’s really nothing to say, I’d be really repeating myself, and I just want it to HEAL! lol But things have also been busy. It was a bit hectic for a while, and has since calmed down, and hopefully I’ll be able to share it with everyone by next week!
As the weeks have gone by, I’ve tried to assess a sense of weirdness I’ve felt during the weeks. It’s been strange, and I’ve been trying to figure it out. I’ve just felt really….off. As I thought about it and I would look at Amber, I’d see her get upset, too. I could see a sense of unrest and unhappiness in her eyes, even if I did get her out. She’s been kicking for no reason so much more now (seriously, look at the freaking dents in the door). She’s been binge-eating just about everything, and has just been upset. She just doesn’t seem herself.
The last weekend in February I’d hopped on Amber to see if it was my mom’s way of asking Amber to do something or if Amber was just half-assing things. It’s what helped me decide to have my mom and I switch ponies, but the previous day I’d played around in a bit and she remembered contact. That day, as I started to move my hand up to the notches that were Amber’s “perfect” contact for now, Amber just lifted and pushed into the bridle. It was absolutely like coming home. It felt wonderful. It almost felt as if we’d never been out of work since November.
I sat there the other day thinking of that one moment, that little moment where everything felt amazing, and finally realized – I’ve been depressed. Whisper is a great horse to ride and I still love her, but I miss riding Amber. And not just toodling (which granted I love to do and she’s down for, too) but really riding and working on things. Amber actually likes to be in work and shows up every day. Some days we’re not successful because things didn’t click, but the both of us want to be out there working on things and improving our relationship. We love the toodle days because we’ve also been working. But with her knee and stifle, I know too much more than a walk is very difficult for her. And I’ve missed doing more than a walk on her.
So as I went over that, I started thinking about the way she’s been kicking, very moody, and pushy, and honestly, I think she’s depressed, too.
It makes sense to me. She went from being in a lot of work to suddenly no work. And I suppose the thought is – can horses feel depression? I don’t see why not. I mean, not like a person of course, but I can see where a lot of it is coming from. She isn’t getting ridden with real purpose, we aren’t having as much bonding time as before, and I think she’s confused and upset. I do also think she’s been giving me the cold shoulder because I’ve been riding Whisper too LOL.
Part of my thoughts of this came due to the 3 word blog hop, and I got to thinking what 3 words I’d use to describe Amber. And I realized that those 3 words suited her still, but in other senses she was different. And I think the lack of work is why. Perhaps then depression wouldn’t be the right word to use to describe Amber, but I think the word encompasses all that I’ve witnessed from her for the past month or so. It’s difficult because I want to ride, too, but with her in pain I don’t feel comfortable riding her. But, she also wants to work, so I figured I’d try something.
Since I had short days Tuesday and Wednesday, I made the plan to get out there and do….things. Not just a walk. But not cantering, either, which is hard for her. Just a bit of trot here and a bit of trot there. She looked upset as I tacked her up and had a lot of side-eye going. This was after we had a big grooming session with her SleekEZ to get a lot of her hair starting to come out. Shedding season is officially in, and she was absolutely ecstatic about all of the scratches.
We walked for a bit and I set about reintroducing/reminding her about contact and pushing into the bridle. It took her a little to remember, but not for want of trying or because of her mouth. I could feel her trying to get the right amount of push I was asking for. When she came into the contact and I could feel her stride even out, I found it interesting that she seemed to have less trouble with her knee and stifle.
So I asked for a trot. Pushing into it she took quite a few very lame steps, and instead of letting the reins go, I picked up contact. And amazing little mare that she is she just put her head right into it and stepped up. And it felt amazing. I mean, honestly it really didn’t feel that amazing in terms of what we’d been doing, and she was still off, but definitely not as much. She was pushing into my outside rein, I could feel her moving through her back a little, and so I asked her to walk. Even her walk transition she tried to push into the bridle.
We trotted a little more. To the left she was very quick and uncertain, and I had to remind myself and apologize to her that I was getting defensive again and forced my left side to stretch out and she was better. Not like before because I think that push is hard for her right now. She was also expecting to canter, and I think expecting it to be uncomfortable, but she settled once she realized I just wanted something light. After that we walked for a while and once we stopped I swear she felt happier.
Her mane and tail got washed afterwards, and as I left the barn, she looked to have her usual sparkle in her eye. She was affectionate before dinner and not just food-food-food centric.
Wednesday was cloudy, and she was ready to go. She still was giving me some major side eye, but she didn’t look upset when I started tacking her up. She just about grabbed the bit when I put it in front of her mouth, and seemed quite happy to get out there and start going. I’d noticed Tuesday that I had a lot of trouble getting my left leg to lengthen and I just couldn’t seem to sit straight. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything to try lowering the stirrup again, so I lowered my left stirrup one hole. It….actually wasn’t bad. I felt more able to sit even, but I knew the kicker would be the trot. When I tried it once before it was a disaster, but that was probably when I was unaware of my unevenness.
Her walk was much better starting off, and she didn’t have much of an issue with her stifle. And just felt a lot more steady. Happier if you will. No rushing. Just nice, even steps. I asked her to track right first since that’s her easier side, and as she started off I heard her grind her teeth. She’s never done this so I was a bit worried, but kept trotting for about half a circle. Her trot was good – still off but not as bad as she would have been without contact. In the walk transition again she tried to push forward. I asked her to trot again shortly after – if she ground her teeth again then I was just going to call it quits and get off. But no grinding, and she actually hopped into it pretty enthusiastically. She was initially quick again, but a lot of encouraging words and tone and she relaxed pretty well. I got some good work and let her walk. Then we kept walking for 5-10 minutes, and I worked on having her push into my outside rein. To the right she’ll give me really steady contact. To the left she feels the contact but after only a second she’ll come off of it, then touch it and then come off of it again. Which I completely understand – that’s how I wanted her and trained her to be for western. So for dressage I just have to work on getting her to understand that.
Which makes me feel a lot better actually. We have “something” to work on – it won’t just be mindless walking. But since she was so good and we had a few good moments of contact, we practiced going out of the gate (which she aced – I was so surprised there was no rushing no nothing – like we did it every day) and went on the teensiest walkabout ever. Which was up our street to the intersection (not that far) and back to the house and down the driveway. She very much enjoyed it. She was a bit lit and quick-stepped but I practiced a moderate pushing into the bridle for those long, reaching steps. She got it pretty well by the time we quit.
And she just looked….happy.
It isn’t that I haven’t been getting her out. It’s just we don’t do anything but walk a bit (and that’s really nothing to blog about, either). But I think she was happy to have that purpose again. To really do something.
After my lesson Trainer G and I had a long discussion. It’s really nice that she’s also my vet’s vet tech, so nothing has to be repeated twice. She was actually more apprehensive about Amber’s knee than her stifle in terms of jumping. Her knee did take a lot of damage, and something has been bothering it recently. I’m hoping it’s just in need of an injection like last time, but of course my brain jumps to “there’s still a bone chip in there so maybe it’s moving now – she’s special remember?” But as sad as I am that realistically Amber may not have even a short eventing career, I’d be okay if we only did dressage or western dressage.
This whole thing has really caused me to look at everything going on and really assess what it is I want to do if certain things happen. I want to do English. I love reining and will go back to riding it again one day, but for now I want to do English. I really want to event, but if realistically that can’t happen, I’d enjoy continuing with dressage for her or western dressage. It’d be a better carriage for her since she likes to be downhill and on the forehand anyway, and while we may not go very far in dressage, we may have potential in western dressage. Which kind of defeats the English and “dressage” aspect if I’m doing western dressage, but I’d simply be doing dressage in a western saddle.
It’s a lot of potential planning even if we haven’t assessed her stifle or knee yet, but I like to have an idea or plan of where to go. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst, right? Amber’s always been a good healer, and I’m really hoping for the best with her. There’s just a lot we need to check and a lot of options. Either way, we’ll see how it goes, but man, waiting is HARD lol.