Labor Day Weekend Woes

We had tons of rain toward the end of last week, which left very little options for a Saturday morning ride.  We had dropped our puppy off on Friday, so I figured my mom, the puppy, and Kosmo would take a nice walk up to the American Tobacco Trail (ATT).

For those who do not know, the ATT is an old railroad bed that runs through many counties of NC that has been converted into walking/biking/equestrian trails.  I used to ride on these as a kid before they were popular, jumping over fallen logs, and never encountered a soul: we would even ride our dirt bikes on it when there weren’t fallen logs.  The scene is VERY different nowadays.  To be honest, I hate the new trail, and I know I am one of the minority.

The reason why I hate it?  It’s because it is truly no longer an equestrian trail.  They make it known we can ride along it, but the scene is so unfriendly, you wouldn’t want to be on it.  It amazes me how many people just don’t know anything about animals and how to interact with them.  So it just remains there, tantalizing.  It doesn’t help that it’s so accessible for us.  We figured that since it was a hazy potentially rainy day in the early morning that there wouldn’t be many on there.

We were so wrong.

Kosmo had a meltdown because of the sheer amount of stimuli.  At least 50 people (bikes or jogging) passed by us in 10 minutes.  My normal un-phased at showgrounds and new places couldn’t take it.  When a bike rider dinged her little bell and zoomed on without me even getting a second to acknowledge there was suddenly a bike rider on my butt, Kosmo threw a fit: threw his head down, whirled around and bucked a few times in place.  I hopped off, knowing that might be the best way to keep him quiet and under control.  We jigged our way back home, having several turn around moments to get him to face those coming up behind him.  When I tried to tell him to behave and stop running me over, he met me with mini rears, which I was very unhappy with.  What was the most frustrating was I couldn’t do anything.  I couldn’t make this a lesson or turn it into a positive experience for him, as the people just kept coming and coming.

I hit my boiling point when I was approaching the gate to get off the trail.  These gates prevent motorized vehicles from getting on the trail, and have narrow passes on either side for people to get through.  It is written EVERYWHERE that everyone has to yield to horses.  I am all the way to the right of the trail, approaching one of these gates.  I’m a few steps from it, and all of a sudden Kosmo’s front end swings into me, and I hear a “Woah!”.  I look over my shoulder and an idiot teenager jogger has decided to come up on Kosmo’s right, on his butt, to get through the gate before us.  I lost it.  I cursed the girl and told her that she was an idiot and that she better be happy that her head wasn’t kicked in for coming up on a horse like that.  Her response?  The back of her head as she kept jogging away.

Nothing.  No apology.  No acknowledgement.

I fumed some more to the back of her head and we turned off the trail.  He stood stock still for me to mount back up, and we had an uneventful ride back down our road and into our property.  He was great the ride back… you wouldn’t have even known we had such a problem.  On the buckle walking, head down, meandering like his normal self.  I wasn’t angry at him, just disappointed.  I know it’s difficult out there, having this super narrow space with people and bikes passing in each direction.  I guess the lesson is just what I said earlier: when bikes and people are allowed on a trail, it’s not an equestrian trail anymore, sadly.

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More Riding

Saturday, we rode again in the early morning.  I did not ask to canter (so many days of not cantering it didn’t occur to me), but we did go up the road again.  He was actually a little bit of a butt when a FedEx truck was trying to drive by (quite slowly I might add, thank you driver!).  He just didn’t want to stand still.  Gave me a lot of grief with his mouth wide open, lots of head shaking.  When he got his teeth floated, he definitely had hooks and very tiny sores, but I did not see this type of attitude from him!  Will have to continue to monitor.

With that in mind, switched up our schedule to Tuesday and Thursday this week.  Last night we rode with our Micklem in bitless: he went surprisingly well.  Listened very well, no mouth pain.  Right lead canter was easy, no problems.  Left lead, a bit better: you definitely notice a difference when you ask him on a straightaway (picks it up with no issue) versus on a corner (he’ll fight and crow hop and not want to go).  When he actually does get the canter on the straightaway, it doesn’t feel lame or four beat.  This is quite baffling to me.

My mother believes it is still his stifle, and not his hocks.  I don’t know what to believe, to be honest, and not quite sure what to do.  Do I keep trying to canter?  Do we just continue what we’ve been doing with trot work, poles, and hills?

We have one more week till I need to give the vet an update.

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First Ride Post Vet

We had our first ride last night after our vet visit.  No swelling, no adverse reactions, which was good.  Under saddle, didn’t feel very different at the walk and trot.  He was his happy self as normal.  I teased my mom, asking if he looked like floating butterfly.  Cantering, we started off on the right lead, and it was perfect!  Picked up the lead with no issues, cantered around our smaller ring, was really great.

Left lead?  Not so great.  He did pick up the canter and didn’t try to crow hop me around the ring, but it was definitely a 4 beat not-so-comfortable canter.  I thought it was the ring, so we decided to canter out of the ring.  When he was in a big part going straight, he felt good.  But then of course he tripped on a slight rise and then got angry and crow hopped.  We tried one more time in the open area, and felt good, but as soon as we go to turn, he has difficulty.  BUT!  Need to be positive: before, he wasn’t even picking it up.

We were going to head to Pinehurst this weekend to hack around (and I was going to help my previous barn with all of the horses and students going), but they cancelled it due to lack of entries.  Which was really disappointing: we had already packed the trailer, and I started cleaning my stuff at home.

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Decision Time – Vet Visit

Rode Monday, Wednesday and Saturday again.  No change in routine except for having a lot of fun going down our mile long dirt road with my mom walking beside me to the mailbox on Saturday.  He was a good boy; no issues with cars going by (it’s been a while).  I made the decision on Wednesday to make a vet visit.

That visit was today.  Good news?  I got him to canter no issues whatsoever in the bigger sandy ring.  Bad news?  Vet saw some lameness issues along with the weakness in his hocks.  It’s not terrible, but ever so slightly noticeable.  I am most likely not noticing it under saddle because it’s even on both sides.  First thing the vet evaluated was range of motion in his joints: all super there (another vet from this practice did his pre-purchase and remarked how great it was then; so super that we’ve had just as superb range of motion kept up!).  Jogs sounds on concrete with no flexion tests.  With the flexion tests, nothing on both fronts (both lower and upper), lower hinds negative, but his upper left and right hind were 2/5 (5 being the worst).  This upper flexion test encompasses everything above and including the hock (so includes that pesky stifle!).

Kosmo maintained his 2/5 score both under saddle and on the lounge line.  You don’t know how happy I was that his canter depart was back to normal: I was really worried and apprehensive about it.  I was disappointed that cantering on the lunge line he really had trouble maintaining the canter.  Definitely worse in holding his balance going to the left than to the right.  She also had me demonstrate flying lead changes, which he’s never really been able to get his back (does his skip change).  This is par for the course the entire time I’ve owned him: I’ve really only seen him do a true flying lead change when he’s either booking it in the field, or acting up under saddle (so the flying change usually comes with a buck… heh).

Basically, not LAME, but sore.  Vet believed that if we got him feeling comfortable and no longer sore, he would use himself better, and work out of the weakness.  So I made the decision to do hock injections today.  He’s being kept in today, and turnout tomorrow, and return to our normal program on Wednesday.  She definitely encouraged to keep doing our hill work, raised cavalettis, etc.  with the notion that we should see improvement in a week, and definitely in two weeks.  I’ll probably be a lame-o and not even try to canter at home until that two week mark is approaching more.  But that favorite show of mine is this weekend… I don’t think I’d show in it, but is the money/time worth it to just take him to ride him there and help out?  Hard to decide…

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2nd Week – No Changes

Last Monday (the 10th), rode just fine.  I managed to get my mom to video some of the trot both directions.  But she started the video in portrait mode, then turned my phone and well.. now I have a sideways video.  I think I can fix it when I upload it; we shall see tonight.

Wednesday, no change in routine except doing  a little bit more of everything.  Trotted for a lot longer than usual.

Saturday, no ride unfortunately: I had friends in town and so I just lead Kosmo around all his obstacles and around the hills.  He was truly bored; tried to eat the lead rope as I was leading him around.

He feels so good, it’s so hard to NOT try to canter.  But I don’t want the weakness causing discipline problems.  What if he is still not be up to par to canter continuously, so he refuses to, and then I don’t get after him because I think its weakness related, and then when he IS feeling up to it, he just doesn’t want to do it.  Does that make sense?

We’re coming up on 10 days until my favorite show of the year.  My barn is having a whopping 18 people go, and I have volunteered myself regardless if I take Kosmo.  I highly, highly doubt I’ll even show, but is it worth the money just to take him to ride around?  I don’t know… it’s down at Pinehurst Racing Track, which I love having our own barn to ourselves, and riding around the track and on the grass, and having paddocks, etc.

I have thought about trailering down to our vets place and riding around in their ring and if we DO have issues at the canter, we’ll be somewhere where someone can watch us and see if they see anything or we can take some further action (flex tests, etc).  I mean, he does need his fall shots (flu, rabies, tetanus eee/wee wnv), Coggins, and teeth done… could kill a few birds with one stone.

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1st Week Report – So Far, So Good

I was going to give weekly (or daily, depending on how I feel) updates as to our progress, but for right now, I think that might be a tad tedious and boring… so here’s what last week looked like.

Monday: Pretty much the same routine as Saturday.  We did have one moment where his hind end fell out; we were trotting around and I think he dragged his back toe a little much and caught himself.  It’s those instances I can really feel the stifle weakness.  Riding him otherwise, he doesn’t feel off or abnormal at the trot OR walk.  I see our issues at the canter, which I’m not even going to attempt until we’re at least two weeks into this exercise regimen (it’s so tempting though, cause he just feels good otherwise).  Side note to self: My mom sits out there and watches me each time I ride; I realize I really need to get her to take video snippets.

Wednesday: No change, nothing special added here.

Friday: No ride for today, as I’m heading out after work to meet some non-horsey friends I haven’t seen in a while; should be fun!  Also, I’ve been trying out the Micklem we got for my birthday; so far so good.  He definitely doesn’t “yawn” as much when I take the Micklem off, which is a good sign.  I think tomorrow is a day for trying it out bitless!  Will report back 🙂

Saturday: I forgot to look up how to construct the bridle for being bitless.  Whoops.  Didn’t change up anything today, except a bit more trot in the ring, and we went down the driveway/road and up and down one of the gradual hills a lot more than usual.  It was just so nice out, it was nice to walk around the property for a while.  Tried to trot up towards the barn the one time, and he got excited that he tried to canter, and then protested a lot (head went up and bounced up and down in protest like he does when I ask him to canter).  Silly horse, I wasn’t asking for the canter, that was on you!  So maybe no trotting up gradual hills yet, which makes me sad.  But I need to remember I’m trying to undo months of laziness which is going to take time.

And in true forgetful me form… I never had my mom video us.  UGH.

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Stifle Exercise Journey Begins

Ok, first day in to our exercise routine was Saturday.  It was surprisingly very nice this weekend, with relatively low humidity.  I did us both a favor by getting up in the wee hours of the morning as well (I hate heat).  Setting us up for success, woo!

I think Kosmo was surprised to see me; no matter how much he hates work, he’ll always greet me with his classic low whuffle whinny: I love it!  But usually it’s only when I’m halfway up to the barn; this time, I actually got a whuffle as my car door opened.  It was like “Hey Mom, what.. what’re you doing here?”

My plan of attack was rotations of different exercises: long and low walks, long and low trots, walking up and down hills, and walking over raised cavalettis.  I also attempted to take pictures of his stifle muscles, but I’m an idiot, and took them in the aisle against the sun, and well, they were NOT the best photos in the universe.  I’ll be there today after work, and I’ll try again without having a dumb moment.

Our cycle was: 5 minutes of warm-up walk, 5 minutes of easy trot, 5-8 minutes of walk while incorporating the raised cavalettis (coming from both directions), 5 minutes of trot, and then I’d say about 10 minutes of walking around my parents property (including up and down the long driveway) and all of its hills.  For not having been ridden for a few weeks, he was a doll.  He trotted up with no issues (he’s never felt lame this entire time, just FYI), but wasn’t crazy forward.  Was very brave going around the property by himself (the last time I tried this, Lollie was alive and would keep calling to him, which made him anxious to get back to her).  He also has never tackled raised cavalettis before; the first time through, he promptly toppled the raised ones.  I had to remember to NOT push him through those (as we always have difficulty through trot poles because of his short stride, it’s just habit).  The slower he goes, the more he’s using his muscles, and the better off we are.  He got the hang of it quickly.

I’m sure he was bored to tears, but sorry bud.  I’ve employed my mom to walk him in hand on the off days (Thanks Mom!) either up and down the property hills or over the cavaletti.  So here’s hoping this’ll get him feeling good again!  I debated starting up some sort of supplements (we were on SmartCombo when he was at the boarding barn), but seeing as I don’t think this is a joint/tendon/ligament issue, rather just a conformation general weakness, I think only exercise will help at this point.

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