Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New Shoes

Cupid got his pads for his front feet, so we'll give some time to see if that helps.  Right now he's not lame, but still just doesn't seem 100%.  I can feel "something" especially when we're going right.  His attitude has been good, no resistance or reluctance to go forward, no bucking.  So we're being patient, and just keeping things a bit easier for the time being. 

I hope Cupid has better luck than I did - I also got 2 new pairs of shoes for myself.  Same brand, slightly different styles.  One was super comfortable right out of the box, the other totally shredded my feet! 

My summer in a nutshell:
credit: the internet

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mostly Good News

Cupid saw the vet this morning, and thankfully it was mostly good news.  After listening to me relay the backstory (recent tight back and time off, occasional short stride seeming from the LF, recurring abscesses including presently in LF, bucking at the show) the vet started by watching Cupid jog on hard ground, then we did a flexion test, and then trotted and cantered on the lunge good footing.  The vet felt it was all coming from the LF hoof.  He said he could administer a block, but was pretty confident in the diagnosis.  So we pulled the shoe and took some x-rays of the LF hoof.  The good news is there are no changes from the last x-rays 2.5 years ago, no inflamation or rotation, and overall the vet thought the minor trimming changes did yield some improvement in the overall shape.  He also said it wasn't a problem with bacteria entering through the white line. 
4 weeks into the shoeing cycle

Part of the problem is his LF hoof is a bit smaller/more narrow then the RF.  His soles are on the thinner side, but not dangerously so.  The area Cupid was sensitive to hoof testers is on the inside hoof wall by where the clip is.  I had been carefully watching the larger chip in the front but didn't realize the area under the clip was a bit eroded.  I don't recall how long we've been doing clips, we added it a while back since he is prone to pull shoes, but the vet said that the downside of the clips is they don't allow the hoof to expand.  He explained it as a balloon on a stick, and when you push the stick down the balloon expands over the ground if that makes sense.  I didn't really realize the hoof does that!  So the clip creates a bit of a pressure point where the hoof can't expand.

The vet's recommendation is to do some corrective shoeing, and he is going to discuss options with our farrier.  The aim is to increase the load bearing surface.  The vet said we will probably try something temporarily, perhaps a frog support pad, see how that goes, then (hopefully before the winter mud) depending on how things look see where to go.

Others options we discussed: glue-on shoes (very expensive, doesn't stay on, except when you need to get it off they're difficult, but they do give the foot more flexibility); copper nails (they look cool; probably wouldn't help but they couldn't hurt and may have some small benefit); bar shoes (not ideal in turnout); feed through supplements (he's currently on Farrier's Formula, vet said he hasn't seen definitive proof it does anything but again doesn't hurt). 

Once the feet are sorted out we will also re-evaluate and see if there is anything else we need to address.  But for now the vet thought his back and hind end all looked fine.  Teeth were fine too, I forgot they had actually gotten done fairly recently.  Now if only there was a simple fix for my riding!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Where to go from here

Apologies in advance for the incoherent jumble of thoughts to follow...

I'm going to start this by saying I adore Cupid.  If I didn't already have him, in all honesty I would probably look for something different right now since my goals have changed in the last few years. But I can't imagine not having Cupid, and he has a home with me for the rest of his life!  And if he was unhappy with what we're doing then I would definitely change.  Sometimes I worry that showing is too stressful for him, and it's never going to get better and I'm a horrible person for making him do it.  But I've been there before, and last year when we went to a clinic or show 1-2x a month eventually he seemed relaxed and quite content to do it.  We just haven't been very consistent getting out this year, between the baby and his health issues.  And he actually has gotten a lot better overall, whereas before at first he was anxious the moment we got off the trailer, dragging me around, not interested in his food.  Now he's quite happy hanging out at the trailer and very much interested in his hay.  He just gets a little quick in the warmup, and then more anxious in the showring.  Which... maybe it's a me problem.  I no longer feel nervous/sick to my stomach like I used to but I'm sure I still hold a lot more tension then normal. 
Still my #1

So as you might have guests for that introduction, the show did not quite go according to plan.  We had some challenges, taking longer to get to the show then I anticipated, then missing a turn and  having to back up the trailer in an uncomfortably narrow place, and when I finally got there there was some confusion over my late entry that took sometime to get sorted out.  So I thought I gave myself enough time to longe and have a leisurely warm up, but ended up with only 30 minutes to tack up and warm up before my first test.  There was a short delay in starting so we had a little extra time and after a nice long to canter Cupid felt pretty settled.   We headed to the show arena and proceeded to lay down another tense test.  Cupid was a little spooky around a platform with a fire hose (aka snake) outside the arena, so we briefly stopped to investigated it.

No problem I thought, we still had a second test to try again. We went  back to the trailer for a drink of water and to relax for about 10 minutes before we went back to the warm up.  And I thought we had quite a nice warm up and I was feeling optimistic.  Overall the second test was slightly better then the first, but still only about 50% of what we produce at home.  And then, mid-canter near the end of the test Cupid unexpectedly does a giant buck and scoots across the ring.  I got pitched up his neck a bit but pull myself back into the saddle, resume our canter circle, haul him to a trot, turn (apparently widely) down the centerline and halt to a "nice save" from the judge! 

I thought Cupid was being bratty because he didn't like having to do 2 tests.  I didn't want him to think he can be naughty and be done so I took him back into the warmup.  We trotted once around, then picked up the canter and a few strides in he bucked again, slightly smaller this time.  I kept him going in the canter a bit, then down to the trot.  Then we changed directions and picked up the canter again, and another buck.  I kept him cantering, then did some more trot work, then finally cantered with no bucks, and did a few more transitions between the trot and canter and Cupid behaved.  Then we did a little more trot work, no bucking but Cupid did try to break into the walk a few times.  I kept him going, and after a few minutes of nice trotwork ended on a good note. 

So of course my first thought is to make sure we rule out any physical problems, and we have an appointment with the vet.  He wasn't off, the was picking up his leads correctly, but bucking is unusual for him so I want to make sure.  We've had crazy up and down weather, hot a few days then cold and foggy, and a week and a half ago he seemed abscess-y but after one soak and pack he looked fine.  (Update Tuesday morning he was off, and looked like a LF abscess again.)  I had his feet x-rayed a few years ago because of recurring abscess-like symptoms to make sure it wasn't anything more, so it might be worth x-raying again and seeing if there are changes.  Or evaluating whether he needs adequan or other support.  Or is his back still tight, or are his teeth sharp? 

If that all checks out, was he just being bratty because he thought he was done?  He hates showing?  Was I annoying him by pulling too much, since at the last show he kept breaking into the canter maybe I was just being to handsy trying to prevent that?  Is it just my nerves and general crappy riding?  Hopefully I will get the video soon and see if that provides any more information.

Buck aside, all the comments were along the lines of "prompt but above the bit" or "accurate but hollow".  Even though I feel like we've made a lot of progress at home, I am facing the truth that right now we haven't quite mastered the requirements of even training level in a test setting.

At this point Cupid has been a riding horse twice as long as he was a racehorse.  But, he was bred for generations to simply run as fast as he can, even if that means with his head low and pulling with his front end.  Quite the opposite of what you want in a dressage horse! And on top of that, I've never ridden a real dressage horse so I'm not always sure what I'm supposed to feel.  Riding with that level of contact is still unnatural to me.  I really thought this show was going to go well, and was looking forward to hopefully moving up in the fall.  It's getting harder for me not to feel discouraged..

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

In a Rut

I've felt like I've been stuck in a bit of a rut lately.  We've been working on the same things for so long, and though have made some progress it's just been so slow.  Like I've been trying to focus on soft elbows for like 2 years, and it sometimes feels better but then when I see a picture or video it doesn't look better at all.  Then after Cupid's back finally seemed better he had a bit of on and off - not lameness but a bit of a short-stridedness I think we can attribute to a minor abscess.

We went to a show, and it was tense and horrible.  On the bright side our canter transitions were pretty good... all four of them (in a test that's only supposed to have two....)  Our worst score to date, I kind of just want to move on and not think about it.  But Cupid did earn himself a trip to another show this weekend, and possible the next and then a few more outings next month so he hopefully realizes it's no big deal.  Last year after going to several shows, at least one a month, he was doing really well we just haven't been able to go with any consistency this year.

And then yesterday we literally fell into a rut.  Well didn't fall, thankfully but kind of stumbled through it.  We were just doing a little bareback hack around the property, and part of the trail was a little overgrown so I didn't see the erosion until we were over it.  Luckily Cupid kept his balance and got through okay.

We have a bit of a heat wave this week.  Today I just hand walked Cupid and let him graze.  We are supposed to have a lesson tomorrow, though I offered to my trainer that we could go on a trail ride instead since it's her last week off before she resumes classes, and we somehow haven't managed to do a trail ride all summer!
First world problems so I'll quit my whining now =)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Horse Eating Chairs

It's hard to imagine any other sport or activity could be near as humbling as riding.  Cupid is normally very easy going, but every so often he just gets in a mood where it feels like we're pretty much back at square one.  We've had two rides in the past two weeks where I had to throw the lesson plan out the window and spend the entirety of the ride just trying to get Cupid to relax and go around the arena without spooking. 

On both days something "scary" happened before I even got on (related to maintenance work on the property).  Both times I started with a little in hand work to try to get Cupid's focus.  But it wasn't enough when I got on, he would not stay straight on the long side between F and M.  So we would start on a 20 meter circle by A, which was fine.  But going down the rail as soon as we approach B Cupid was start shying off the rail - so we do a 10 meter circle before B, cut across the arena throwing in another small circle, until that was going smoothly.  Gradually we'd go a bit further down the arena, and after about half an hour we can more or less go all the way around, as long as I used a lot of inside leg to keep Cupid on the rail.
OMG it's going to eat me!!
I don't get nervous anymore when Cupid gets like this, because he doesn't try to get me off or run away or anything, but it's just annoying!  I want him to have his attention on me, inside the arena regardless of what is going on outside.  Especially if it's just a chair or mounting block by the side of the arena, which is pretty much always there and he's seen hundreds of times!!!  I guess this indicates that I am not really inspiring confidence and he is not really seeing me as the leader, so that is something I need to work on.  And, the answer is always more leg. 
Who me, misbehave?  Never!
So sweet and innocent
Not helping, when everything is obscured in fog and deer lurk nearby
On a lighter note, part of my original plan today I wanted to work on my arms with the Equicube a bit, but quickly realized that is probably not the best idea.  I can't reach the fence railing from the dressage court, and was too lazy to dismount so after pondering it for a moment I decided to just chuck the 4 lb cube from off Cupid's back.  He didn't blink at that!