Monday, April 25, 2011

Spreading the word

A few years ago I decided I should be wearing a helmet every time I ride. I didn't used to wear one, but once I had kids I thought it was just the smart thing to do. Now I gently question people who don't wear helmets just because I think it's a good idea to wear a helmet, even on a horse you consider to be "bomb proof."

Well, here's another good idea. Riders 4 Helmets. It's a great organization, and they are giving away some great prizes in this contest.

From their website -

"The popular helmet awareness campaign has partnered with generous sponsors to offer the largest ever giveaway of riding helmets with a combined value of over $6,500, in addition to a highly sought after iPad2. Visitors to the Rolex KY 3DE (April 28-May 1) may visit the Riders4Helmets area in the “old” indoor arena to register for the giveaway, receive helmet safety literature, and, have the opportunity to participate in helmet fitting demonstrations (times available online). Equestrians who are unable to attend Rolex may register for the giveaway by visiting this link. The giveaway closes midnight on May 1st, 2011."

So either stop by their booth at Rolex or visit their link to enter.

Also, go buy a helmet! And wear it, for goodness sake.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Home again

We made it home from the show. It was only a three day show but I'm really super tired. I'll give all the details when I have the energy to write them down. Macey took a nap on the way home from the show, so right now she's in "play with me!" mode. Luckily Daddy has the energy not only to unload the car (major points there) and is playing Crazy 8's with Macey.

For me it's a shower and bed. But overall it was a great weekend. She wants to go to more shows, so I think I'm going to have to start teaching her how to really ride. This kid has talent and desire. We shall see where this takes her.

Nothing is better then attempting to share your passion with your daughter, and finding out that she has talent and passion for it also. I'm so proud, and blessed.

I love my family. And my friends, old and new, who made this possible. You guys are awesome.

Very tired now, so it's the shower for me. Lots of pics of the show on Facebook, and if you friend me you can see them! . I might eventually move them here but that will take more time and energy than I have right now. So let me be lazy and friend me if you want to see them NOW. Or wait and don't whine. Your choice. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

On the road

I haven't really talked about this yet, but today I'm leaving to go to a horse show. It's an all Arabian show that has Sport Horse Under Saddle classes, but no dressage. I'll be showing Lee in the Half-Arabian Sport Horse Under Saddle Amateur class, as well as April in the Purebred Arabian Sport Horse Under Saddle Amateur class. It's going to be a lot of fun, since I haven't shown at an Arabian show in a non-dressage class since Kaswyn was five!

It gets even better though. Macey is coming with me. As you know, she is all about riding and loves horses. Lily, her older sister, thinks horses are stinky. This is weird coming from Lily, because she's anything but a girly-girl and is more like a tomboy with her love of Legos, Bakugan, and video games. But she's too prissy for horses. Go figure.

Macey, who is all about princesses and plastic jewelry, loves horses and doesn't mind getting dirty. When I found out that my friend Tracey from the barn was bringing her five-year-old daughter to the show, I thought it would be great fun to bring Macey along. Then I found out that Tracey's daughter would be showing in the Lead Line class, and I knew that Macey would be super upset if her new barn buddy was showing and she didn't get to show.

So I sprang into action, and with the help of some good people, secured a horse for Macey, as well as a complete hunt seat outfit for her. It's going to be great. I don't know the horse we will be using but I've been assured by more than one person that this horse is fantastic and will be a perfect gentleman for the class. I'm really looking forward to it.

If you think I'm excited, you should see Macey. This morning she was practically vibrating. I'm leaving work early to pick her up and then we'll drive three hours to get to the show. I have to show Lee in the evening session tonight so we need to get there by 4:00. Then I'll show April Saturday morning, and Macey will show in the Saturday afternoon session.

I'll post pictures on Facebook if I can. If you haven't already done so you can friend me at and see what pictures I manage to get. It might be a totally crazy weekend, because there will be five little girls going with our group. Yikes!

Send good horse show ju-ju our way!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Searching for the feel

Kaswyn and I have been working really hard with the things that the biomechanical/massotherapy horse lady has been helping me with. She's not telling me anything that I shouldn't already know, but I'll admit that I'm not as good as I should be about being able to recognize when a horse is crooked or not. I can tell of they are totally whacked out in one direction or other, but I miss the subtle things.

I know it's just a matter of practicing and getting used to evaluating the straightness of a horse. I really blew off that part of my dressage training, and now it shows. I'm getting better at being able to feel and see it on other horses, but with Kaswyn it's almost impossible for me to tell.

Here is the thing - I've been riding this horse for 16 years. He's always been crooked to some degree. So that feels okay to me. Sure he's had periods of being straighter than others, but I think in general I was always very bad at getting, and keeping him, straight.

Also he's very sneaky about being able to be on the bit but not using his back at all. Massotherapy Lady called me on that BIG TIME. So right now our two main areas of focus are - get him to move his shoulders left and haunches right in order to straighten him out, and get him to use his back all the time without cheating.

That's the hard part. She wants him to be using his back and abdominals with every step. I'm not always good about catching it when he drops out from under me a little bit, so I'm not sure if I'm doing it right all the time. She wants me up off of his back, like you would a very young horse, to allow him to bring his back up. It's really hard for me NOT to sit down on him and drive him with my seat!

I think we are making progress, but it's so hard to tell. I'm trying really, really hard, and I actually think his back is looking better - less swayed and more muscled and filled in. He certainly is happy about being ridden, so that is a plus. When I have someone there to watch me they say that when I get him straight (no small feat there) that he looks sound and even. It's really hard for me to tell how he feels, since the way I'm riding him is such a huge departure from what I'm used to. I don't have my seat to give me information, because I'm posting and I'm forward almost in a two-point position. So I'll get tips like "Haunches more towards the wall" or "Shoulders more to the left" and I'll do that, and they say "Now that's better" but I can't FEEL it. And that is frustrating. I mean, I thought I knew how to ride? Argh!

On a more positive note, his left front pastern is not as sensitive as it once was, but he still objects when I rub it with the lavender oil. I think that if I keep massaging the area that it will break up some of those adhesions and maybe make it less sensitive.

The good thing is I use the lavender oil after my ride, and it have a very pleasant scent. So if I have a frustrating ride at least I come out of it in the end smelling nice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Biomechanics and Lavender Oil

Last Friday the equine massotherapist/biomechanics lady came out to see Kaswyn. I gave her a quick rundown of his past injury history, and that's really all I told her. She got to work first by checking his neck, shoulders, back, and haunches, and didn't really find any significant soreness.

Then she went to the left front leg, and when she got down to the pastern of course Kaswyn picked up the foot suddenly, as if it was painful. She gently palpated the area, and then began rubbing it. She started making faces and saying " yuck.." So I said "Does it feel bad in there?" And she said "Well yeah, it feels really terrible... yuck..." And then she started gagging.

Now, the other gals who had worked with her told me that she was very empathic with horses, and people, and it was almost eerie how she could read your feelings. So I said "Are you okay?" and she said "Yes, I'll be fine. It just feels so bad in there that it's making me gag. Don't worry, I'm not going to throw up, but it makes me feel just awful. You see, I feel energies coming off of people and horses, and the energy right here is pretty awful. Hopefully I can get him to release and just let go of all that yuckyness." After a minute or two Kaswyn lost that worried look on his face and softened his eye and started to lick his lips and chew his mouth. Then she said "Ahh, that's better. It's not gone, but it's better."

Then she said "It's weird, I'm getting a feeling from him that I don't usually get from horses. I usually get it from people. It's like when a person breaks their leg during ski season, and they feel like they are missing out on skiing. That's what I'm getting from him. He's sick of all of this and he just wants to go back out and play with you. He feels like he's missing out." Weird, huh? That made me almost cry.

She continued to work on his pastern until he felt better, then said "Okay, we're done with that. Let me get out my coil." So went out to her car and got a tub of equipment, and pulled out this coil thing. It looked like copper tubing coiled around into a giant hot-dog shape. It's called an Acu-Vac-Coil and you can check them out here. They are supposed to be able to pinpoint pain energy and alert the user by a vibration of the coil. She positioned the coil all around his pastern and was shaking her head. Finally she said "I'm just not getting that he has pain here. Let's see you ride him."

Since I had been riding him bareback I got on without a saddle but with a bridle. She watched us walk around a few large circles and said that Kaswyn is not rotating the forward most thoracic vertebrae to the left. These are the first vertebrae where the withers are and they sit right in front of the saddle. He will rotate them to the right and take a normal step with his right leg, but then will not rotate them left when he steps with the left leg. This is causing his shoulder (or withers or upper back/neck area) to inhibit the full motion of the left front leg, so that leg is taking a short stride.

We then worked on having him walk on a circle to the left and rotate the shoulder to the left and take a full step left and forward. She was coaching me through it, but for the life of me I could not feel the difference when she said "Now you have the shoulder!" and "Ok, you lost the shoulder." I just couldn't feel it. I wanted to, but I could not tell the difference. At one point she got on him, and I could SEE when she was able to get him to take a big step with the left leg and use his shoulder. But then when I got back on do you think I could feel it? No, I could not. And that frustrated the hell out of me.

I know she was asking me to do things I had never done before, in a different way. And I was asking Kaswyn to do things in a different way than I ever had before. But this horse is trained up the wazoo. Sure, he's out of shape, but that boy is an upper level dressage horse, is on the aids, and I should be able to put his body where ever I want to. Shoulders in, haunches out, turn on the haunches, whatever. But I couldn't do it. I was losing the haunches even when I was trying to keep them tucked, and I wasn't able to get him to just move the shoulder without moving the haunches, even at the walk. My frustration was palpable.

She told me not to worry, that I'd get it, and he would get it too. She said I need to work him in a saddle, and make sure that I get off of his back and not drive too much with my seat - which was a really hard thing for me NOT to do. She said I need to treat his back like he's a young horse and keep off of it and not drive so much. Then she said to put shoes back on him, because within six months she thinks we'll be back to training. She also said to buy some lavender essential oil to rub into his scars. It's calming to the area and will help the scars on the skin soften and not be as bad. She said she's not always right, but about 85% of the time she is. Once he had shoes back on she'd come back for another session (He has shoes back on now so she is coming this Thursday).

The gals at the barn that have used her have seen her do some pretty amazing stuff, and I personally have seen what she's done with one horse. Ivy, who used travel really close behind (so much so that she'd interfere pretty badly behind) and couldn't relax her back, is now traveling straight and wider behind. She looks great. The trainer at the barn said that she's gotten horses that have come to her labeled as "lame, total lost cause" and this lady has been able to help them and make them perfectly sound.

So I'm going to give this a go. She's not asking me to do anything weird, or harmful, to my horse. It's mostly just walking and bending and asking him to use his body a certain way. No needles, no strenuous work, nothing damaging. It is all a little bit ethereal and non-conventional, but honestly I don't care. If she told me to wave a dead chicken over Kaswyn's head and that would fix him, I'd totally do it. It's just foreign to me, but that doesn't mean it won't work.

I mean, dressage was once foreign to me, and that worked out pretty well, right?

If anyone wants more information on this lady, shoot me an email - and I'll give you her name and phone number. I don't know if she travels, but you can ask her!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Always in a rush...

Lately I just don't know where my times goes! I'm super busy and don't have time to do a full update, but I'll give you a hint. I think this whole thing with Kaswyn is going to work out. I'm trying a new thing that has worked on other horses at our barn and I'm hopeful. I want this to work! More details later. I have to run to the barn right now - Kaswyn's getting his shoes back on and I don't want to be late! (Not like my blacksmith has EVER been late... haha!)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New things to try

I haven't posted in awhile because I don't have good things to report and I hate being a whiner. I wish I could say that Kaswyn has been getting better and better. But that is not the case. He's not getting worse, but he's just not consistently sound.

On his good days he has no swelling behind the pastern, but he still flinches slightly when I touch it. He is hardly able to contain himself when I hop on him (always bareback, and usually in a halter). But he is a bit off in the corners by short striding the left front leg, and sound on the straight line. I love those days because all he wants to do is work and he feels fantastic.

On bad days he has a swollen pastern, which he ever so slightly tries to avoid putting weight on. Those days he does not want me touching the pastern at all. I will still walk him and he will feel off at the walk. But bless his heart he still wants to work through the pain. I hate those days. I usually cry quietly a little in frustration as we walk. He flicks an ear back and he know I'm upset so I talk to him and tell him I'm trying the best I can to fix him.

Tomorrow I'm having a massage therapist and biomechanics expert look at Kaswyn. Maybe she will see something she can make better. Maybe the short striding is not only due to pain but also from some muscle or alignment issue. If that doesn't work I have an appointment with Dr. G to inject that area around the pastern - NOT the pastern joint. Maybe the area just needs meds to cool it down and allow itself to heal. Maybe the combination of both will help.

I still have horses to ride, and even show, and I'm very grateful for for that. But the horse I want to ride, and show, most of all is Kaswyn.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr