Monday, November 30, 2015

Anything to See?

Thankful for this big guy

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Mine afforded me some time with the hubby, who ever so graciously came to the barn one day to video bits of my ride. It was a lovely weekend weather-wise up here in the PNW - cold but several days of sunshine. I made the best of it and tried to get Ben out a few times in our bigger arena.

My goal with the video was to get a bit of a "check in" to see how he is moving, as compared to his earlier video when he was in much better shape, under the careful guidance of our trainer- oh those were the days! The theme I've been experiencing with him lately is a an okay walk-warm up, then crap trot transitions, crap trotting with lots of resistances -above, sideways, behind the bit - all seemingly stemming from the hind end. I've been trying to let him do some canter with me staying out of his way, and then when I get that, then I go back to trot and everything there is generally much better. In watching these videos I can still see the fussing, and I can see that he could be taking better steps behind, generally be a bit more forward. I can tell you as the rider, the trot FEELS much better after his canter.

Part of me is wondering if there is a lameness issue- a weakness behind yet to be diagnosed. I am interested in getting our new vet to do a work up, but that is going to have to wait until after the holidays. In the mean time, I am going to keep conditioning because I do feel like that will give me more to go on anyway.

Here are the videos - in sequential order. They are intentionally short bits so the files are smaller.

First Trot:

Canter Left
Canter Right
Trot Left after Cantering:
Trot Right after Cantering:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gain Some (Canter), Lose Some (Trot)

Last week Ben and I finally had our first lesson in ages - well over a year. Our trainer hadn't seen him since before the nose-wiener removal. On the plus side, he was full of it - tons of energy to go go go (YAY for no more breathing problems!) On the downside, he has lost a lot of condition and strength that he had. So all of the suppleness we had worked for was virtually gone, and in its place were new (and old) evasions.

We basically worked on getting clean transitions and a bit more control of the right-side, his weak side. Ben's new thing is to grab the right side of the bit, and GO - especially when rounding the short side of the arena. So step one was to move onto the quarterline as he loves to get sucked onto the wall. Step two was getting him to give us a regular, consistent speed at the walk - no speed up, slow down, chomp chomp chomp on the bit. Third was to give us some flexion on the right - respond to my right leg, respond to my fingers closing on the right rein. OMG total tune-out. "LALALALA I don't hear you!" says Bennifer. Once those things were in place- lets be real - just an exercise to be on my aids, I could then ask him for a trot and get actual real trot steps vs a mish mosh of pace-tranter-to-trot-walk-back to trot.

So yea, that was fun- not. Our homework is, well, transitions. And getting consistent walk. And responding to the aids in turn on haunches, turn on forehand. And more transitions - try to re-establish the transition within the gait, which we were lacking (either TROTTTTTTTTING immediately to the dead-man walk). Oh, and, add in trot-to-canter.

Small list, right? We've been chipping away at it all week...and as it goes some things are great one day while others are sucking, and then the next ride things are swapped the good is now bad and vice versa. For us, it is swapping the quality of gaits - if the trot feels good the canter is crap, and if the canter feels good the trot isn't great. I am hopeful though that one day we'll be able to string it all together and have one amazing ride, LOL.

Now that I think about it, I may know why my canter has gotten better and the trot has gone to the crapper. The past few rides I've gotten on Ben's case about his walk - you know it is so easy to mess up a walk so it is careful going. The problem is that Ben's walk is so lackluster, slow, behind the leg. As if he's asleep. What I am doing, is using a metronome during our warmup. The setting is low, lower than what I'm reading other people use- but my goal is to at least get a consistent rhythm to the walk, and then maybe later see about getting it to be a bit more active. But for now, it is plenty active for where he is at in his fitness level. I'm thinking that since the walk is so closely connected to the canter, that his canter has improved by proxy, LOL. The trot, admittedly, we're working just on transitions- which does improve the overall trot but it isn't like we're staying in trot for huge lengths of time.

And so we go -continuing down the path towards excellence - picking our battles one at a time, and overcoming obstacles in the process. Next week I'd like to start throwing in some cavaletti work but will do so judiciously given his level of fitness. No sense in rushing things - we're in it for the long haul.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Back to this Dressage Thing

Life is never dull when you share it with Ben! I've come to the conclusion that he basically has to have some kind of drama in his life at all times - you know, to break up the monotony of doing actual, real honest to goodness work ;)

So in my last post I mentioned that was back on the job, earning his keep so to speak. Things were going relatively well-  a bit of a saddle fit dilemma but nothing major & easily fixed. Summer eased in to fall and I started riding him more, now with my mare in full training. One week, I started to notice Ben doing something funny when I put him up in his stall for the night. He'd go to the back corner and stretch out as if to pee, but never did he actually pee. He'd stand there, looking at his belly - kind of like the onset of colic. However, it lasted all of a couple of minutes - he'd snap out of it and head to his food waiting for him. So of course I'm thinking he's on the path to death, so I call the vet and explain what is happening. We scheduled an appointment for a few days later, thinking we'd get his annual check up/vaccination/float done and also talk about possible ulcers, as that is what it sounded like, though in my mind I was prepared to be shocked if he had ulcers - as he doesn't seem to fit the "type."

The next day rolls around, and I head up to the barn. On my way up I get a text saying "Ben Colicking, Call Me" I got there and saw that while he was in distress, it wasn't colic, rather, it was choke. However, there was no discharge - just him wheezing and making a donkey-brayish noise. So I called our vet and thank goodness he was about 5 minutes out. We got Ben sedated and got the obstruction cleared. While doing so, we were talking about the behavior that I had been witnessing, and thought that perhaps it was related, in addition to his previous nose wiener issues (does he have damage to his esophagus from a tubing gone wrong?)- the best course of action being getting him scoped to see what is going on in there.

A few days later, Ben packed up for the clinic. I cried my eyes out for 2 days straight, convinced I was going to get horrible news of irreparable, life threatening damage. After fasting all night, Ben's appointment was to be that morning, and the clinic said they'd call as soon as it was done. All morning goes by and I heard nothing. They did say they would have to delay if an emergency came up. Still, by noon, I had heard nothing. I finally decided to give them until 1 pm, thinking that maybe they keyed in my phone number incorrectly. When I finally did call, they told me that they had to delay Ben's scope not due to an emergency, or running behind had to delay it till the afternoon because my horse thought he was being starved and ate shavings through the muzzle, and they were waiting for those to pass.

The were finally able to scope him in the afternoon and found...drum roll please... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Well...they did catch the tail end of the shavings...but no scar tissues, abnormalities, or ulcers. His bloodwork was totally clean. When it comes to his nose, airway, esophagus and stomach - Ben is a picture of health. So the sum of it is-  my horse believes he has to gulp food and eat everything in site. He now lives on his hay and mush wet meals, for life.

That said, after a couple of days off, Ben got back to work. Our trainer finally came down last week for a lesson and gave us LOTS of homework to do that basically all involve some element of suppleness and 1 million transitions between and within gaits. The plan going forward is to lesson once a month. My goal is to be able to finally start crackin' on stabilizing and balancing his canter so that he can keep it for longer. Now wouldn't it be great if next year I could show him at training level again, and maybe even 1st?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fresh Start for 2015

Christmas 2014 Selfie
Hellooooo Blog-o-sphere! Long time no see! I realize it has been over a year since I gave this space any love at all. I'm about to change that :)

Bennifer had a pretty quiet year of some R&R. We left off in 2014 just having had nose-weener removal surgery. Everything went swimmingly, and Ben was discharged from the horse-pital in a week. He then spent a few months with a good friend of mine at her retirement facility - just chillaxin' and breaking the irrigation spouts...then getting scared of the new fountain of water he created and running back into the barn. Fun times, Ben, fun times.
Welcome home, Bud!

In August he returned to the West Side and we did a lot of tooling around for the rest of the summer due to my crazy personal life situation. I quickly realized, however, that Ben had some "issues" we needed to work out. Stiff, tin-man-without-the-oil like, maybe even a bit hitchy (you may recall that I had suspected something wasn't quite right the winter prior - which we ended up doing nothing about because we found the nose-weener, which needed to be addressed first). Turns out a tincture of time didn't really do much for our boy. So our vet came out gave him his once-over (teeth, vaccs, sheath, and basic lameness eval). Seriously, this is equivalent to your car's 60k tuneup. What we found was that he was equally sore/off in BOTH stifles, and an old/cold/high suspensory injury on the right front. Would totally explain the right-front-short-stride thing that was happening the year prior. Basically, we were thinking that being out of work and under condition - Ben's stifle issues are more visible, and they exacerbate the loading of the front end, which then sets off inflammation on that old injury on the right front. So, the prescription was: bute for the bad days, pentosan, and most importantly: long, slow conditioning - lots of walk, straight trots... you know, strengthen that hind end. The goal was to get his back end strong again, enough to support and alleviate that front end.

So we had our plan for fall/winter. Lots of walking, Small trot sets. More walking. It was slow, and boring.

Then we met a friend - a gal who started taking lessons with a trainer at the barn. She had asked me if I had an extra horse for her to ride, so she could get more saddle time in addition to her lessons. Why yes, yes I do. He's tall, dark, handsome, and safe, and needs more slow rides than I can offer. So with her help, between the two of us, Ben started to get more of the exercise he needed.

New friends :)

The conditioning, combined with the Pentosan, worked wonders. I've had to reach for the bute only a couple of times when we first began. Ben is now doing more and more trot, and even some canter again. His strength is coming back - he feels quite forward (amazing what happens when a horse can breathe), and energetic. He's ridden 3-4 times a week, and is getting lots and lots of turn out. He is even doing some dressage lessons again. Generally, I think we've found the perfect plan for him.

So, what's next? To be honest, I haven't really given it much thought.I didn't want to dream big and make tons of plans only to have my spirits crushed if he didn't/couldn't get sound again. I also have a super busy life outside of horses and the thought of tacking on more is just daunting. So right now I think the plan is to keep on keepin' on. There really is no need to rush anything. To that end, I'm not really sure how active this blog will be, but I hope to post at least a few more updates this year.

I hope all of you out there are having a fabulous 2015!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mega Update

I must be the worst blogger in the PNW. Soooo many updates, where to begin! This is going to be a bit of  backward post - most recent first :)

When I last posted, I was frantically trying to plan out the logistics for Ben's trip to WSU for the nose-weener removal. I had finally committed to an April 28 appointment, and made plans for hauling - and every time I started to blog about it, I broke down in tears - I was so sure I was going to lose him, I just couldn't write about it. So I pushed it out of my mind, which included avoiding this blog too.

But here we are - May 2014, and I can assure you Ben is fine! In fact, he's better than ever. He spent a week at WSU, during which his nostrils were scoped and it was determined that his nose weener was in fact an old injury - a tear to the false nostril that created a pocket that filled with tissue - plain old scar tissue. So the surgeon hatched a plan to use an electro-cautery device to remove it - which would cut down on the bleeding and not require any stitching. His surgery was done standing, and on local anesthesia and sedative. All told, the nose-weener was the side of a man's index finger.

Pre-op nap :)

Ben never skipped a beat - he was in high spirits from start to finish. He was a great patient, and by doing so saved us a bit of cash (minimal use of sedatives!). Speaking of cash his total bill for the 1 week hospital stay, diagnostic, surgery and drugs was less than $900. Icing on the cake!

 Bright & chipper (and looking for treats) the day after!

So where is he now? Ben is hanging out at my friend's place in Eastern WA for the month. While he's free to be turned out, he can't exercise in earnest for a few weeks - really just to prevent the nostril from flaring and potentially bleeding.

Speaking of work...I never did post about the result of Ben's 2013 show season. As it turns out, Ben ended up being the Standardbred Performance Society Grand Champion High-Point earner! I couldn't be more proud of my boy!  Just before he left for the university, my friend and I cleaned up up and did a mini photo shoot :) I was kind of dreading it, as I felt it was kind of morbid considering I might lose him...but now I'm glad we did it.

Modeling his Grand Champion Ribbon

And then we added all of his high-point and champion ribbons too :)
In terms of 2014, I'm not really sure what we'll be doing. It will really depend on when he gets back home, and how easily he'll resume work and conditioning. I'm excited to have him back, and even more excited that he'll be feeling his best!

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Nose Weener Update

Sorry for the delay in updates! I've been working on a few details regarding what is written below.

Last Friday the vet came out to take a look at Ben's "growth." As it turns out, this tumor appears to be much more serious than I was expecting. Upon proper inspection, the nose weener is GINORMOUS. It is blocking roughly 70% of his right nostril. It is also quite inflamed, and sore.

Basically, "it" needs to be removed. And removed it will be. Unfortunately, though, there are some challenges, because nothing is ever easy when it comes to horses.

  • Location Part I: This is not a fly-by-night routine surgery. It is a delicate deal, in a delicate area. As such, there are not many places that are equipped to handle such procedures. This means that Ben has to go to Washington State University to get this taken care of. Our vet has already talked to their soft tissue surgeon, and they will do the procedure and biopsy.
  • Location Part II: WSU is a 6-7 hour drive. I do not own a truck or a trailer. So I must find transportation. I reached out to my horsie friends and have the return trip taken care of, but not the trip there. TBD on that.
  • Money: This is going to be costly. Enough said.
  • Time: Ben is on immediate leisure time. No more work for him. Gentle walks in a halter, and turnout. He will have a multiple day stay in the hospital post surgery.  From there, he will need some time off to fully recover, but that time is TBD.
 So there we have it. With so much to coordinate as well as the sheer expense of this procedure, Ben's surgery will likely be in April. Travel will be much safer anyway, with fewer storms coming through and causing trouble in the mountain passes. Both the vet and surgeon believe he is okay to wait until the spring.

 I will keep this updated with the actual date, and when the time draws near, I will obviously post about the journey.  Thank you in advance for all the good vibes and well wishes- we're going to need them!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crappy January

Oh January, how much I dislike you. So wet, cold, and windy. You make horse-keeping no fun at all.

Okay, with that little vent over...Ben is doing alright. I'm trying to do a bit more with him, just to get his body moving and in shape again.

On my to-do list for this big guy includes a visit from our vet. I am going to see about putting him back on injections, since they did help SO much last year. He's been getting an oral joint supplement, and I just don't think it is working. For the $, we can do better.

But before I do that, something else needs to be looked at. Awhile ago, while playing with Ben in the arena, I happened to be positioned in a perfect spot, with the perfect light that cast up into his right nostril. Much to my surprise/dismay did I see a giant thing dangling in there - a thing I semi-affectionately call his nose-weener. Ben has always been a bit shy about the right side of his face being touched, and has always been super fussy about his face in general- twirling his head, tilting it when making contact...all of which we had attributed to either training/behavioral issues/body stiffness/soreness elsewhere). At one point I also thought maybe it was his teeth...

While correct training has definitely HELPED him become more steady in the contact while being ridden, it has not resolved the overall problem. Even alone, at play in turnout, Ben swings his head around. I began to assume maybe it was just a quirky thing about him.

But now, having found the nose-weener, I'm thinking differently.  It is time to have it checked out by a vet- as the few people I have shown it to have been also completely freaked out. It could be an old injury...or it could be a growth of some kind.  Nevertheless, we need to know what it is, and how much it is impacting his life. Is it removeable? Is it impeding his breathing (remember me saying Ben is a giant quitter and gets tired quickly...?)? WHAT is it???

Before I go any further I need to know what we're dealing with. Ben's quality of life is first and foremost, and I will do my very best to keep him healthy and living the good, happy life. I am hoping to have an answer within the next couple of weeks, and of course I will post an update as soon as I know something.