Monday, October 27, 2008

How to save $100

I went to my vet's office today and bought a one dose vial of Legend, which is 4 ml. It was $92. If I go through Smart Pak and buy a multi dose vial with five doses it works out to $70 a shot even with the shipping costs. Of course buying five doses at once sucks, but if I save $20 a dose over five doses that's $100.

So my advice? Order Legend in bulk from Smart Pak if your credit card can handle it.

Oh, and I went to the barn right afterwards and injected my boy with it. He stood perfectly still and I hit the vein on the first try. Yay me! Hopefully I'll see a little difference tomorrow when I ride him. Although the weather has been really crappy here today and will be crappy tomorrow, so he won't be going outside. Consequently he might be a little fresh for our ride. We'll see. As long as he's just energetic and not disobedient it should be a fun ride.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Legend time

Today I decided to lunge Kaswyn instead of riding him. Almost every time I go to the barn to work him I ride him, but today I wanted to watch him go just to make sure everything looks like it should. Unfortunately, I think Kaswyn looks stiff and a bit uncomfortable. He's not lame, and he certainly willing to work, but he just doesn't look as loose and flowing as he should.

So I think it's time to start him back on Legend shots. Legend is a monthy IV injectable joint supplement that increases the overall joint fluid, increases it's viscosity, and decreases inflammation in the joint which can cause damage. It's much less invasive than injecting medications directly into the joints, which really helps any hock problems but is costly and carries a risk of infection. I got his hocks injected last year, and while I don't think he's at the point where he needs them injected again I think he could use a bit of help in the joint department. I really don't want to go into his hocks and inject them unless I really have to, and it's not a critical situation yet so I'm just going to go with Legend. Also the Legend will reach all of his joints, where hock injections just address the hocks and nothing else. Usually after I give him a Legend shot he looks like his joints are all greased up, and I can tell when I ride him that he feels better.

Kaswyn used to be on Legend shots but I stopped that when he was lame and in recovery from his various injuries and incidents. I didn't start up with the shots again until now because they are SO expensive. They are like $80 a shot and you are supposed to give a shot once a month. I found that I could get away with one every six weeks during the winter, and once a month during heavy show months of June - September. I think that will be my plan this time around since it seemed to work well in the past. However with his advancing age I might have to go once a month. I'll just see how it goes.

So it's off to the vet's office Monday after work to pick up a vial of Legend. I know some people are nervous about giving intravenous injections to their horses, but Kaswyn is a champ about it and I can usually hit the vein on the first try. I've been out of practice, so I hope I don't have to poke him more than once!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bad connection

My training with Kaswyn has been coming along slowly but surely. I've been careful not to push too hard because I don't want to have an injury or make him sore. Everything was going as expected until a few weeks ago. He warmed up very nicely, but then after the warm up he would not make a good connection at the trot. He would pick up the trot fine, but after two or three strides he would back off the bit and jiggle his nose in an out, making it impossible for me to establish a connection. Since Dr. Tooth was just out, I know it's not his teeth!

When he did this he would also hollow his back ever so slightly. I knew he wasn't working over his back, so I went back to the basics to try and fix this. I tried lots of transitions first. This worked for a day or two, but then he returned to the "back off and jiggle". Next I tried lots of changes of bend, starting with serpentines then expanding to heading down the centerline and doing a half circle to change direction. When that stopped working I tried some lateral schooling, doing shoulder-in to haunches-in on the 20 meter circle. During all of these exercises I was able to get him to connect and work nicely, but the moment I asked him to just go straight at the trot he would always back off and jiggle after four or five strides. There were none of these issues at the canter at all.

I was starting to get really frustrated. I had gone back to the basics, worked on releasing and making sure my hands were soft and not constricting, and Kaswyn felt stronger than ever. I was beginning to think that I'd need a lesson ASAP.

Yesterday I finally had enough. As soon as he started the back off and jiggle, I said "No.", quietly but sternly and tapped him firmly with the whip. He leaped forward into my hand with a renewed connection, and I said "Good boy." He took a second to process this development, and then backed off again. Before he had a chance to jiggle his head, I said "No." and tapped again.

Now, Kaswyn is not a horse that likes to be in trouble. If he thinks he's in trouble for something he will try his hardest to get himself out of it and back into my good graces. Sure, he's lazy if he can get away with it, and he'll always try to take the easy way out if possible, because if I'm okay with it and it's easy for him, then everyone wins! So he was confused about what was going on. We were just trotting forward. I wasn't asking for anything - no changes in bend, no half halts (until he leaped forward in response to the whip), no lateral work or transitions. So what was going on here? What was with all the whipping??!!

He started to get himself a little uptight, so we went to the canter, and I praised him for making such a nice connection and working over his back, then it was back to the trot. Of course, out of habit, he backed off after a few strides and got another whip tap. After a few more cycles of trot-canter-trot I think he finally got the idea, so we called it a day.

Today when I rode him I only had to remind him twice not to back off and break the connection. I'm hoping that this trend continues and that we can get back on track. Ah, so nice to have a thinking, learning horse!

Albert has been steadily coming along also. His main issue is still his tendency to raise his head up and tighten his back if he feels pressured or scared in any way. He's really doing much better with that and today we were able to do some very nice leg yields at the trot. They were so nice in fact that I thought I'd try some half-pass, which he did with no problem. We also did some beginning collected canter work, but it's still challenging for him. He tends to have a quick tempo at the canter and gets a little bullish about the half halts, running through them and bearing down in front instead of lightening the forehand. Now that I can put pressure on him without him coming above the bit and blocking in the neck I'm able to get some lightness in the front end and more weight behind with my half halts at the canter. He gets fatigued quickly so we can't do much of it, but I can certainly see improvement.

Now I just need a lesson on each of them, and some kind of plan for a show. It's so much more enjoyable for me to ride with a specific goal in mind, such as "Gotta get ready for the show in Janauary!" or something like that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Everything old is new again

I tend to use horse realted equipment well past it's functional life. This stems from the fact that I have always had to operate my horse activities on a tight budget, and why buy new things if the old ones still work? However, since I got some gift certificates for my birthday, and found a gift card that I didn't know I had, I decided that three of the items that I use every time I ride needed replacing.

Here is a picture of my old boots. Believe it or not, this is as clean as I can get them. I've had them for probably seven or eight years. I love Ariat boots, and wouldn't even cosider getting anything but Ariats to ride in. Even my show boots are Ariats, and I think they are fantastic. anyhow, the old boots...

Notice the lovely holes in the sides. While the water tightness was comprimised, the holes provided some nice air flow while cantering. Also the soles (which I had already replaced once) were starting to separate from the toe.

But finally, the old boots had to go, and were replaced by these snazzy numbers. I went with zippers this time, and I'm not regretting my decision. I was afraid that the zippers would not be tight enough around my ankle, but they are working just fine. And they are faster to get on and off, which I like very much.

My old gloves. I obviously wore the crap out of them. When my fingers starting sticking out through the many giant holes I decided it was time for a replacement pair.

This is actually the second pair of new gloves that I got. The first pair split at a seam in the finger after I had been wearing them for only twenty minutes. They were promptly exchanged for a new pair, which so far have not sprung any seams. These are SSG gloves and I am enjoying them.

This is a shot of the end of my old whip. I had it for about a week when I accidentally propped it up against Kaswyn's stall within reach of his constantly moving lips. He chewed the end and I've been using it for almost two years that way.

And the new whip. Since the lash is intact it's longer than either one of us expect it to be so we're getting tons of jump when I give just a little tap. Yay for responsiveness!

I feel so spoiled with all my new stuff!

The one where I own up to something - Part 2

Part 1

On Saturday Z picked up Kaswyn and I and we went to the SCA event. We parked our horses in stalls and went to check in. Then we got our ponies ready and headed over to the arena. I got Kaswyn used to me carrying a weapon and swinging it around while I was on his back. I let him see and sniff all the equipment and then we were ready to go.

Here is Z on Henry.

And here is me on Kaswyn! Dig his funny pony clothes!

The games that we would play in the SCA with our horses that day were -

*Behead the Enemy aka "heads"
*Tilting at Rings aka "rings"
*Pig Sticking

All of these games are meant to train the rider to have skills needed in combat, like maneuverability for heads, accuracy for rings and pig sticking, hand eye coordination for birjas, and strength, speed and courage for the quintain. I got video of both Z and I doing the games with our ponies, but they might be hard to see because they are kind small and far away. But you'll be able to get the idea.

To do "heads", there are fake heads or round foam pieces on top of posts which are set in a straight line. Your job is to weave a slalom course down the line and knock the heads off the posts with a sword.

Here is Z, and then me, doing the heads with our horses.

For rings, the posts have crosspieces that have rings dangling from them. You ride your horse down the line and try and spear the rings, which are of different sizes. Smaller rings get you more points.

Here is a pic of me tilting the small rings, then doing a game with bigger rings and a sword instead of a sharp pointy lance.

And here are two videos - Z then me doing rings.

Pig Sticking is where you spear fake styrofoam pigs on the ground using a sharp lance.

Just me doing pigs, I didn't video Z.

The birjas is where you take small stick and throw it through a ring and then catch it on the other side without knocking the ring off the post. This is a picture of me just after I caught the stick, and you can see that I knocked the ring off the post.

Videos of Z, then me with the birjas.

Finally, the quintain is a shield on a cross arm on a post that swings around. You gallop towards the shield and then hit it with the lance to make the shield spin around as many times as possible.

Here are Kaswyn and I running at the quintain.

Videos of the quintain, which is a whole lot of fun!

Both Kaswyn and Z's horse Henry were awesome. Kaswyn was a bit excitable and wouldn't stand still between games, but he adapted well and was a complete star. We ended up winning the challenge course, which was where you run through all the games for points and who ever gets the most points in the quickest time wins. I was shocked, and even got a little prize out of it. Also everyone who rode was really nice, and even though it was a competition there was much cheering and supporting everyone.

We also tried mounted archery, where I had to ride Kaswyn down a roped off lane, drop the reins, and then shoot a bow at a target off to the side. He, of course, was wonderful, but my aim sucked and I missed the target entirely and hit the side of the barn. Oops.

The best news is that Kaswyn didn't get hurt! I did, however. As I was dismounting the end of my belt (which has a very heavy metal end) came flying up over the saddle and hit me right below my eye. It was bleeding and everything, and now I have a bit of a black eye. Better me than him, since my black eye will not generate any vet bills!

All in all it was a great time and I'm certainly going to do it again because I had a lot of fun. Provided, of course, that the footing is safe and that I can afford the gas it takes to get there. I think Kaswyn had a good time too, which is important. I would not go again if I thought he was really stressed out or too upset by the whole situation.

So now that I've outed myself about the SCA geekiness, be prepared to read more about my dorky hobby. Especially since Kaswyn is now a big dweeb too!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The one where I own up to something - Part 1

Everyone who reads this site who actually knows me in person knows that I'm a science geek. I dig science, and while I'm certainly not the smartest scientist there ever was, I really dig things like bugs and molecular biology and zoology and anatomy. I also like geeky men. Craig is a real geek, and has gotten me into comic books and other geektastic things.

There is one very geeky thing that I do I have not admitted to, because it's really dorky and is something that many people make fun of. So I keep it as a dirty little secret in an attempt for co-workers and new friends not to think I'm a dweeb. However, this "thing I do", as of this weekend, now involves my horse, and so I feel compelled to write about it.

Okay, deep breath.

I belong to a medieval recreation society called the Society for Creative Anachronism, or the SCA. It's historically based medieval reinactment, kind of like the Civil War reinacters, but since it's historical we don't do fairies and dragons and elf ears. We do actual research into the period of 600 to 1600 AD and try to recreate those times in all ways, including knights, warfare, arts and sciences, and everyday life.

There are equestrian activities in the SCA, and at one point I was in charge of all the equestrian activities in our region, which is called the Middle Kingdom. Yeah, I know, really geeky right? Believe me there are plenty of geeks in the SCA, but some of my best friends I either met in the SCA or introduced them to it, so it's a very social organization.

Anyhow, I was the head of the equestrian stuff for a while, but then it got so political and sucky that it just wasn't fun anymore. So I stopped doing horse stuff and started doing other things, and was much happier. This was nine years ago. Just a few weekends ago I went to an event and a friend of mine convinced me to ride at an event again. I did it and decided that I'd like to give it another go, and actually bring Kaswyn to an event.

Now, years ago I had decided that it would not be a good thing to bring Kaswyn to an event, because what we do at events with horses are games. These games are similar, or in some cases exactly like, the training exercises that knights used to prepare themselves for mounted combat in war. I didn't think that Kaswyn should be in intensive dressage training and going to shows, but then go to an event and be able to play with in the pony games. I said for years that he would NEVER go to an SCA event.

Then I changed my mind, and decided that I'd like to at least try him at an event. I thought, well he was a very experienced show horse, a very smart horse, and he should be able to switch gears and go from dressage training to SCA horsie games without blowing a gasket or blowing a dressage test. I talked with my friend Z and she said that she would being her horse, also a first time SCA event horse, and she could pick Kaswyn and I up and take us.

It was on!

Would Kaswyn be the intelligent, thinking animal that I knew, or would he turn into Crazy Arab Boy and dump me into a ditch? Or worse yet, live out my husbands worst fear and injure himself at the event and blow our next show season or force himself into early retirement?

Part 2 - has pictures and videos! Oooo!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dr. Tooth

On Tuesday Kaswyn saw a new pony dentist. He had been having hand floats all his life, but in April had his first "power float" with sedatives and power tools. I wasn't around to see it, so I wasn't really sure what all it entailed. I had seen pictures but never seen it in person.

I definitely wanted to be there for this tooth visit, considering all the eating and tooth issues he has been having. I ended up calling a new pony dentist who is a vet and does only teeth. He has a website and the bio on it was pretty impressive, so I made an appointment. He was a little late but was a very nice guy. I had explained to him on the phone what Kaswyn's issues were, and he asked all kinds of questions.

Of course, Kaswyn ins now not only eating normally but is Dipping and Sipping with his usual gusto. So I couldn't demonstrate to Dr. Tooth what the problems were. He sedated Kaswyn (and added some Banamine too so Kaswyn wouldn't be sore) and put in the mouth speculum and did the exam. He showed me everything that he came across, which was helpful because I got to see it all before he did any work.

Kaswyn did have a slight wave mouth but it wasn't anything that was bad. The tooth in question that might have been cracked wasn't loose or painful, so Dr. Tooth said he didn't think it was cracked. It does have a little discoloration on it, but nothing else. What he did find was a tooth on the lower left that had a large hook on it that was pressing on the lower tooth and causing a problem. There was also a tooth on the lower right that had a pit in it, probably from the upper tooth have a sharp spike on it that had essentially poked a pit in the lower tooth. Yikes.

Dr. Tooth got all of his equipment ready and showed me everything he was setting up. I told him that I had never seen this kind of float before so he just kept talking and explaining while he was working. And he answered all of my dumb questions without rolling his eyes, so he gets points for that too. He showed me the grinding instrument, which looked kind of like a laser gun with a huge rectangular barrel. The end of the barrel had a spinning disc on it that was abrasive.

Here is what it looks like (taken from the Flexi-Float literature here)

He started it spinning and told me that I could touch it with my finger and it wouldn't hurt, which I did and he was right. He told me that it makes a lot of noise but it's not nearly as destructive as it sounds, so not to worry. When he was ready to start, he put Kaswyn's head up on a stand, and asked me to put my hand over his nose to steady his head when he started.

Here is Kaswyn in the mouth speculum with his head on the stand.

Dr. Tooth doing the exam.

Using the mirror to see the sides of the questionable tooth

Starting to grind the teeth

More grinding

Here are two videos. They really sound bad but I'm here to assure you that the grinder really can't hurt him!

He kept stopping to point things out to me, and show me how much better it was once the work on that area was completed. He stopped three times to give Kaswyn a break and allow him to close his mouth for a bit, which was very nice. He did quite a bit of work and said that Kaswyn should get Banamine the next day also because he'd probably be sore. He said that the wave mouth is simply a function of Kaswyn getting older and having the growth rate on some of his teeth slow down. He would like to see Kaswyn in six months just to make sure that he fixed all of the issues, and then seems to think that we can go once a year. I asked if he was sure that we didn't need to do every six months and he said "Well I'll come out and do him every six months if it will make you feel better, but honestly you'd be throwing your money away." That's nice to hear.

I was very pleased with the whole experience and Kaswyn was a star, like always. I had always been scared to let someone go in my horse's mouth with power tools, but now I see that it's really no big deal, and nothing to worry about if done properly by someone who is experienced.

On Dr. Tooth's orders I gave Kaswyn a day off after the appointment and then rode him yesterday, and he seemed just fine in the mouth. Today is bath day cause that pony is filthy!! I'm going to give him a few more weeks and then I think I'll try for a lesson.

I also started riding Albert again yesterday. He had torn up his leg in his stall and had a few weeks off, but he's ready to go back to work. He's great but he's gotten into the habit of being a bully with his neck when he gets tense. He tightens up his neck and just pulls, and for a little horse he is very strong. We're working on doing hard things, like downward transitions and a little counter canter without him making his neck into a solid rock and trying to pull me out of the saddle. He's getting the idea but when I challenge him his first reaction is to work his neck instead of work through his back. Maybe I'll get to show him next year? I hope so, cause he's a lot of fun to show.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr