"Smile! It keeps your brain from falling out when you're frustrated!" - Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship)

"They say boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger. I say I never grew up, my 'My Little Ponies' just got bigger!" - Me

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in the saddle!!

With all the wedding stuff going on, I've hardly had time to feed my horses and clean their feet out for the lasts three or four weeks, let alone ride them.  But the wedding was fun, had a nice week off work, and a short honeymoon, and now back to the daily grind.  And back in the saddle again toinght.  Well, sort of, if you can call riding Lady bareback as being back in the saddle!  LOL!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Small, Medium, or Large?

The running joke with my horses.........

Would you like Small, Medium, or Large?

Wayne, Lady, and Cody

13.2 hands, 15 hands, and 16 hands

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Dun Got Class" aka "Cody"

Ok, hopefully this is the last oober long ones......but then all three of my horses kind of have a unique story behind them......  So here's Cody's......

Cody as a 2 year old.
"Dun Got Class" aka "Cody" belonged to the owners of the barn that I moved Wayne and Lady to after I left Scheid's barn. The big 16 hand Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse cross mare, and the prettiest red dun I had ever seen! She used to be one of their show horses, shown heavily western pleasure, and showmanship, and some hunter seat.

Like much of the stock horse world, at 9 years old she was considered "one foot in the grave", so her shoes were pulled and she was tossed out to pasture. And while she is registered with the Buckskin registries (and has since been registered with the new American Appendix Horse Association), she was not for some reason registered with the AQHA, so she was worthless to them as a broodmare. I had talked to her owners about possibly leasing her for a year to breed, either to Wayne, or if I had the money, to a Friesian stallion or a black and white Dutch Warmblood son of Art Deco that a friend of mine owned. I was looking for my sport horse foal to raise and eventually start in dressage as Wayne got older. But, like everything in my crazy life, things didn't quite work out as planned.

Cody as a 3 year old.
Going from a stall kept show horse, to part of the herd in the pasture didn't go over very well for Cody. It wasn't long before she tried to kill herself, literally. Lady needed her vaccines for the year, so I called the vet out for that. Since we didn't have Lady in the barn yet when the vet got there, we decided to just walk out to the pasture and give her shots out there. Just as we're getting done with Lady, the lead mare decides to scatter the other horses standing around, and as the other horses all take off, there stands Cody, head down and dumpy acting, not moving, and left hind leg completely covered in blood and torn up flesh.

So we carefully got Cody into the barn so we could get a better look at her leg, and things didn't look good. The pasture was high tensile fence, and Cody had stuck her leg in it. Everything on the inside of her hock joint and front of her canon bone was gone, from just above the hock, all the way down to pastern. The bone was exposed, the joint was exposed, and she had lost a lot of blood already. The vet said if we hadn't found her when we did, she would have been dead in another hour from blood loss alone.

So needless to say the prognosis wasn't good. If the joint didn't get infected, she might be ok and should at least be broodmare sound, but with the way the joint was exposed the chances of it getting infected were very high. The best thing would be to send her to MSU and have the joint surgically cleaned to make sure infection didn't set in. Otherwise, the only thing we could do was clean it, wrap it, start her on antibiotics, and if she survived the night, check the wrap in 2 days, and if there was joint fluid on the bandage then the joint was damaged and most likely infected and she would probably have to be put down. If there was no joint fluid on the bandage, then there was a chance she might pull through and be broodmare sound, but the chances of her being rideable sound ever again were slim to none.

We called her owner to see what they wanted to do, and their response was basically, put her down. Basically it wasn't worth the effort to save an old worthless broodmare. I was blown away, but then I've learned over the years that there are definitely two schools of thought on horses. Those that view horses as pets, and those that view them as a business investment. Those that will do everything they can to help and heal their injured horse, and those that either put them down and go get something new or toss them in a stall with little to no care and hope they heal up fine, often ruining the horse in the process. I definitely fall into the first category. Unfortunately, I know too many people that fall into the second category, and while I can understand a few parts of their views and reasons, that doesn't mean that I personally agree with it.

So I was torn. Here's this big beautiful 9 year old mare (which didn't seem old at all to me, considering I had ridden plenty of horses well into their teens and twenties and currently owned a 17 year old stallion). The perfect blend of her two breeds, a nice long legged TB frame with just enough QH bulk, and that amazing light peach red dun color. And a decent pedigree behind her. I couldn't help feeling like she at least deserved that two day chance. So I called her owners again, and for cost of vet bills, I bought Cody. Her papers were signed over and she was mine.
Cody a few days after her injury. - 2003
Shipping her to MSU to have the joint surgically cleaned out just wasn't an option for me due to cost. But I was at least willing to give her those two days and see what happened. If she didn't make it, at least I tried, and if she did make it and was broodmare sound, she could probably produce some nice sport horse foals, which was the direction I wanted to go anyway. So the vet did everything she could for her and cleaned and bandaged her leg as best she could. She told us not to be too surprised if she didn't make it through the night, because she had lost so much blood and just didn't look good in general, but if she did make it through the night, then she would be back in two days to check the bandage.

Thankfully, Cody made it through the night, and seemed to have perked up some by morning. And when the vet came back out the following day, there was no joint fluid on the bandage! She wasn't in the clear yet, but her prognosis looked a wee bit brighter, and with proper care and cleaning, she might pull through. So I got a list of instructions, a pile of medicines, lots of bandaging supplies, and a crash course on bandaging and giving shots, and she would see us again in a week to see how Cody was doing.

So I learned how to bandage a leg. Learned that bandaging a hock is a nightmare and that elastikon is your best friend, never be without it! I learned how to clean a wound without getting your head kicked off. I learned what proud flesh was, and how to defeat it and then prevent it. I learned that Cody was an opinionated pansy about needles to begin with, so penicillin shots twice a day was likely going to be my death sentence, since the vet said it was best to give it in the rump just because of the sheer amount of penicillin she was getting. I can't blame her for protesting, that needle was huge, and I have a needle phobia myself, but I learned that she could cow kick like no other, and was probably going to be the death of me. After having my life flash before my eyes after a few failed attempts to give her the shot in her box stall, I learned that standing stalls are a handy tool in situations like this! I could tie her in the standing stall, give her a flake of hay, go in the stall next door and give her the shot over the wall, she kicked the wall, I lived, she got her penicillin.

I learned that Cody was a picky eater, and if you put pills in her grain, she would eat around every one of them. If you crushed the piles and mixed them in her grain, then she just wouldn't eat the grain. If it was in a dish, she'd flip the dish over and stomp it in her bedding. If it was in a bucket on the wall, she'd just leave it till you finally cleaned out that contaminated grain and gave her some fresh medicine free grain, even if that meant that contaminated grain sat there for a day or two, under no circumstances was she going to eat it. So we had to do it the hard way, and I learned how to crush pills twice a day, mix them in a syringe, and shove them down her whether she wanted them or not!

I learned that a busy TB minded Cody and stall rest didn't mix very well. Yes, she was used to being stalled all the time having been a show horse, but she was not used to having no way to relieve her energy, like getting worked hard daily, and hand walking definitely wasn't cutting it. So Miss Busy Body became a handful as she started feeling better! I learned she was a chronic pawer, and ended up having to have my farrier put front shoes on her just to protect her feet from her self manicuring.

I learned that Miss Busy Body was also anti-social when it came to humans. Every time I opened her stall door, she turned her butt to me. You tried to get around her to get a halter on her, and she'd turn and shove you out of the way with that rear end. She wasn't mean about it, but definitely made her point that she wasn't thrilled about you being around. Guess I couldn't blame her, since I was the one sticking her with needles twice a day, but she didn't do this just with me, it was anyone that tried to handle her. But then, she'd been a show horse, and some of the training methods among the stock horse world don't exactly put humans into a horse's good graces. Cody needed to learn that not all humans were bad.

I learned that hand walking said TB Busy Body was a complete nightmare. Apparently she missed the "walking" part of that, because our hand walks were more gymnastics and airs above the ground as I held on for dear life at the other end of the lead rope getting dragged all over the place going "You can come down any time now please!" And praying she didn't rip her healing leg all to pieces again, and trying to get the barn owners blue heeler to stop "helping" since his antics were only making matters worse. I'd survived the penicillin shots, but at this rate it was going to be death by hand walking for me, trying to keep 16 hands of explosive TB energy in line! So after several failed attempts at hand walking, I finally took a hint from the racing industry for dealing with silly TBs, saddled up Lady, and ponied her for her hand walks! Why didn't I think of that sooner! Lady's quite nature helped calm the beast some, and though we still had some explosions from time to time, Lady's weight and a dally around the saddle horn at least helped even the odds a little, and eventually we got the walking part right! So Cody got ponied around the fields and trails once or twice a day, though of course having been an arena baby, everything outside of the arena scared the bejesus out of her and we exploded again.

The vet came back in a week and gave us the thumbs up. No joint infection so we were probably in the clear on that, so now it was a matter of seeing how good we could get that wound to heal, which was healing nicely, but was going to take MONTHS to grow back in that much flesh. Three months later when we started having some issues with her stocking up that even long hand walks a time or two a day weren't helping like they used to, we finally got permission from the vet for limited turnout in a small area as long as she didn't do anything too silly. So I put her in an individual turnout, took off her halter, she stood there for a moment, then exploded, bucking the full length of the turnout like a bronc at the National Finals Rodeo, then turning race horse as she raced back up the turnout. She didn't get very far though before it finally hit her that "damn that leg hurts" as she proceeded to try to run on three legs, then after nearly wiping out, finally decided walking is the better idea and was fine after that. But every turnout started exactly the same over the next couple weeks; rodeo, race horse, "damn that hurts", three legged race, on second thought I better walk. Eventually I finally started leaving her turned out, unless it looked like rain, since a soaked bandage was the last thing she needed. It was also right around this time that Wayne got injured and was on stall rest, so here I was playing vet for two of them. Thankfully Wayne was an angel about the hand walking thing compared to my red dun holy terror!

So after the rest of the summer and most of the winter, Cody was finally free of the bandage! She still had an almost fist size chunk of flesh missing on the inside of her hock that was still healing, but otherwise, her lower leg had healed over beautifully and the inside of her hock was looking good as well! And amazingly she was showing no signs of lameness at all! So the vet gave me permission to start riding her lightly and see how she did, she might be rideable sound after all! So I started riding her at the walk in the arena, eventually adding a little western jog. And a month later, I got the all clear that she was sound, and could go back to riding or training or showing. How awesome was that! Yes, she still had a nice size wound over the inside of her hock, but it didn't seem to bother her at all, and it would continue to heal, though very slowly because it was over a moving joint! It was around this time that we realized that Wayne would never be rideable again, so I was pretty excited that Cody would be rideable! Forget breeding her for now, I wanted to work with her and see what we could do in the show ring!

Cody and I had a lot of issues together under saddle at first. This was one sour mare. Opinionated and defensive like no other. Her busy TB brain just didn't gel very well with your typical stock horse training methods, and the more they fought with her, the more she fought with them, and while she won a lot in the ring, she could still be a handful to train, and apparently she thought I was just like them, and was more than ready to pick a fight with me at the drop of a hat, or get defensive and turn into a bucking bronc the minute she thought you were going to get after her for something. But then I guess if you're always told when you do something wrong, and never really praised when you've done something right, you could get pretty defensive. Needless to say, I hit the dirt quite a bit at first (when Cody bucks, she usually means business rodeo style), until she finally realized, I wasn't going to get after her all the time when she got something wrong, we would just try again and she'd get praise when she got it right. Slowly the bucking bronc went away!

I was still taking dressage lessons, so eventually I started taking Cody with me for lessons. Being spur trained, she was pretty dead to my leg, and my little english spurs didn't phase her much, so I rode with a dressage whip, which she had a very strong opinion about. The first time I touched her with it at our first lesson, she lashed out with both back feet, to which my instructor said "tap her again", and again she lashed out, "tap her again", and she lashed out, and so it went for almost a whole lap around the arena, tap and kick tap and kick tap and kick, until finally she didn't kick, and she got to have her head and relax and lots of praise. We still had a few arguments over the whip, but each one less severe than the last. Though we still get a wring of the tail every once in a while. lol!

But Cody started doing well under saddle, and seemed to have lost much of her ring sour attitude as she adjusted to my riding/training style, so for fun we went to our first open show. She warmed up great, but the minute we stepped into the ring, Miss Ring Sour returned, and I thought she was going to kill me, and she knew there wasn't a whole lot that I could do about it, she's a little too smart for her own good sometimes! She also knew the rail class routine way too well and anticipated terribly!

Ok, change of tactics, forget the open shows, our next show was a dressage show! Our first class was Dressage Equitation.....another "rail class" in her mind, and as we entered the ring at the trot on the rail, she started to getting all pissy and tuning me out, but when the judge asked for a change of rein across the diagonal, that sour attitude turned into obvious confusion, this wasn't the way a rail class worked! A 20 meter circle came next, and I guess she decided she better pay attention, and she quieted right now and listened and relaxed, and we won the class! She was awesome for the rest of the show, and we came away with a first place in both Training Level Test 1 and 2, as well as High Point Champion for Training Level, and Reserve High Percentage Champion for Training Level. Not bad!!!

Dressage was definitely a good change for Cody. It kept her busy TB mind from getting bored and coming up with things to do to entertain herself under saddle, helped her relax, she seemed to enjoy it, and she seemed to enjoy showing again! Though I had to be careful and work on the tests in segments, because she's good a memorizing the tests and anticipating! So we did a few more dressage shows, and eventually I was able to start doing a few open shows here and there with her again as well.

Teaching her to trail ride was a trip. Everything freaked her out. And she got herself so worked up all the time. She looked and acted like a charged up race horse most of the time. I had a lot of white knuckled rides as she threw a temper tantrum over this and that, and there wasn't much I could do but hang on until she finally cooled down enough that she could be reasoned with again. Deer? OMG! Pheasants? They're going to be the death of me someday! But with a lot of hard work, she learned to relax on the trails, and ponying Lady along beside us from time to time helped as well, and thankfully Lady was always pretty patient, standing there and waiting while Cody had one of her hissy fits.

I started doing parades with her, flag breaking her so I could ride her carrying the American flag while mom walked Lady behind us as the riderless horse in several local Memorial Day and 4th of July parades. Cody was great about the parades, nothing really bothered her, except one little thing..... Cody wouldn't be Cody if she didn't have some like quirk in everything she does! And when it came to parades, it was the white paint on the streets. There was no way on earth she was going to put one of her feet on that white stuff. She would neatly jump over the white stop strips at intersections, and walk very carefully between the N and the L in the word ONLY.

Job problems brought our showing and any ideas of breeding her to an end for a few years. Between 3 layoffs and long stretches of unemployment in between thanks to Michigan's rotten job economy, it was all I could do to hang on to my three horses let alone try to show. So trail riding became our main pass time. Eventually I got a new and secure job, and we all made the move to High Point Stables. With indoor and outdoor arenas, we got back into some of our arena work, kept trail riding, and starting dabbling in the Clinton Anderson training videos just for something to do, even started working on the beginning of his bridleless series! We even managed to participate in the barn's yearly dressage show last year! Was fun to get back in the show ring again after so long.

So Cody has some a very long way since I got her back in 2003. She's discovered her QH brain and learned to relax and be level headed, instead of always using that busy TB brain. She still has her TB moments of course, but then Cody wouldn't be Cody if she didn't. Her "split personality" is one of the reasons I love her. She keeps me on my toes! But we've learned a lot together and have come a pretty good team. And Cody's learned that people can be pretty cool after all, and has become quite the love bug when it comes to attention. It's really neat to see how much she's changed and what a nice horse she's become with just a difference in handling and training methods!

Unfortunately, my now legendary style of bad luck, and Cody's knack for finding ways of reminding me that I should have been a vet instead of a computer engineer, has struck again. Cody got kicked in the knee by another boarder's horse out in the pasture one day back in February of this year, and has been various degrees of lame ever since. Took forever to figure out what exactly was wrong with that knee, and months of trying everything we could think of, until it's come down to the final option being surgery if I ever want to ride her again. Which left me in the heart breaking position of having to make the choice between paying for the rest of my wedding, or paying for surgery on my horse. For obvious reasons, the wedding had to come first. It's two weeks away now, and hopefully Cody will hang in there till after the wedding and I can come up with the $2,000 for surgery then.

I hope and pray anyway. I haven't ridden her since January. This summer has just been heart breaking and not being able to ride Cody, and that I might never be able to ride Cody again, has been really hard on me. Especially after what happened to Wayne, and now to have it happen to Cody too.......

So here I sit with three horses that mean the world to me and we've been through so much together, and I now have two with ruined knees, and one that's only marginally sound due to arthritic hocks. Such is my crazy life I guess.