Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Liquid Gold

After much thought, I have decided that the best approach to managing Star's arthritis is to give her an oral supplement, increase her daily MSM (which she was already getting in her hoof supplement), and start her on monthly Adequan injections. 

Monthly injections are an off-label use of Adequan; it is actually marketed for a loading dose of 7 injections over the course of a month, or for intrarticular injection (in the specific joint).  However, many people have been using Adequan as an intramuscular injection monthly with success, and this is what my vet recommended.  The hope is that we can extend the time needed between knee injections.

In the end, I chose the monthly IM injections not only because that was what the vet recommended, but for a few other reasons, as well.  The loading dose was skipped because A) Essentially, the knee injections were a loading dose for that joint, B) Star isn't expressing discomfort to the point of needing a systemic loading dose, and C) The loading dose is cost-prohibitive.  An IM injection will also have a systemic effect, unlike an IA injection, which will affect only that joint.  If Star has significant arthritis in one knee, it is not unlikely that she has issues elsewhere, as well, so choosing something with a more systemic effect seemed like a good idea. 

I do believe I made the right choice.  I've only ridden Star twice since she received her first Adequan injection.  One of those times was prior to starting on her oral joint supplement, and both of those times were post-knee injection.  The difference has been amazing.  I honestly do not remember the last time my horse felt so good.  Even the times I rode her after her knee injections, she didn't feel like this.

My usually-somewhat-fast-and-definitely-strong-and-on-the-forehand-at-the-canter horse can now canter at a reasonable pace, in a snaffle, without getting strong, heavy, on the forehand, or unbalanced.  She can use her back end like she's supposed to use it.  Her upward transitions to the trot, while still not a prompt as I would like them, are no longer draggy-shuffley-I-don't-really-want-to-trot transitions.

What I had, for years, chalked up to a training issue and some proper foundation work a bit lacking, has probably not been that at all.  My horse was uncomfortable, and doing the best she could to do what I asked while minimizing her discomfort.

My horse has heart - a LOT of it.  And even if we can't make it to the Grand National this year and bring home another title for it, that is what makes a true champion. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's Official Again, But In A Different Way

The deadline for the 2011 Morgan Grand National has come and passed.  The show secretary received no entry from me.

As soon as Star went lame, I knew we weren't going to the Grand National this year.  The money that would have been spent on entries instead is going to the vet.  And that's fine.  I would FAR rather have a sound horse.

But that doesn't keep me from being bummed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Very European Taste in Bitting

 I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that I think I'm pretty good at bitting.  Star is something of a special case, and I still don't have quite the perfect bit for her (well, actually, I think I have found it, but more on that later), but other than that, I think I'm pretty good at finding the right bit for a horse.  However, I have recently come to the conclusion that I must have a very European taste in bitting.

Let me explain:  You see, in my head, I think up these bits that I think would be great to have around... just useful sorts of bits.  And then I decide that I want one.  And so I go looking for it.  And I can't find it.  Apparently, the bits I dream up are imaginary.  That is, until I happen across a European website (usually a UK site, because my German is not too good anymore, and I don't read any other languages), and lo and behold, there is my bit.  And this has happened to me not once, not twice, but several times.

Now of course, I could just buy these bits from Europe, but herein lies the problem: it's a pain in the ass, you have to wait forever, shipping is more expensive, and I'M CHEAP!  I don't want to pay full price for any of these fancy European bits.  But apparently no one else in the United States wants them (or doesn't want them and are therefore selling them cheap to me).  So I'm stuck.

So my list of European bits I want goes something like this:
Swales Pelham
Eggbutt Bradoon with lozenge mouthpiece (OK, technically available in the US - for $200!)
Cheltenham Gag with lozenge mouthpiece
JP Korsteel Oval Mouth Full Cheek (I mean, really?!?)
Mullen Mouth Baucher (though I did cave and buy this one)
Happy Mouth Cheltenham Gag (again, really?)

It's not as though any of these are particularly severe bits, or particularly uncommon mouthpieces or cheekpieces... it's just the particular combination that isn't common here.  Now the one exception to this comment might be the Swales Pelham (pictured above).  The Swales Pelham is unique in that it is a Pelham that applies little to no poll pressure.  Great for a horse that needs a little curb, but at the same time, with poll pressure will get strong and heavy on the forehand... like, say, Star.  I am dying to try her in a Swales; I think it might be just the ticket for her.

Maybe I just need to open my own tack shop or bit shop: "Nicole's Exotic Bits."  Whaddya think?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Horse Is Not That Fat... Well, Actually...

I really can't afford to buy it right now, but I had the opportunity to try another saddle on my horses.  I had previously tried a Black Country Quantum X on my horses that was a no-go.  The "X" means the saddle is built on a hoop tree, which is more of an upside-down "U," rather than the more standard "A" shaped tree, and is therefore often more appropriate for broad-backed horses.  Horses like mine.  Because there is more room in the tree (due to the shape), hoop trees often fit a bit larger than a standard tree.  So a wide hoop tree is kind of more like an XW standard tree.

The Quantum X I originally tried was a wide tree; it was a no-go for a few reasons.  Oddly, though the saddle was really too narrow for my horses, it did this funny thing where I felt I was going to get pitched over my horse's shoulder.  Odd.

The saddle fitter with whom I had been working recently contacted me, saying that they now had an XW Quantum X in stock; did I want to try it?  Well, it doesn't hurt to try, so I said sure.  And to me came a lovely XW Quantum X.  So now, we're talking like an XXW standard tree.

And it still didn't work.  The sweat patterns on my horses' backs were more even than I've ever seen them, but still not perfect.  *I* felt pretty good riding in it to start out - very centered and balanced, though the flap was still not quite forward enough - but that feeling of nicely balance and centered kind of faded as I continued to ride.  The reason?  The saddle slipped way forward onto my horses' shoulders!

I took some pictures of how the saddle fit, and sent them to the saddle fitter.  The verdict?  The XW is still too narrow!  So, while I could try an XXW Quantum X (yes, we're in XXXW standard tree territory here now), it's not a stock item, so to try it would cost me $$$ beyond shipping, whether it fit or not.

So I've been referred to Duett saddles.  Duett specializes in fitting broadbacked horses.  Horses like mine.  So it's time to take some new tracings and send them off to Duett.

My horses are not that fat.  Well, actually... they're not.  They are, however, very broadbacked!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shorty Is All Tired Out

The Sparkplug is all tuckered out.  Three days of "boot camp" did him in - but one of the great things about a Morgan is that if I asked him to keeep going, he would.  Day Three of the clinic was a bit less exciting than Day Two.  The day started off with a bit of a "confrontation;" as we were warming up, Greg had me jump Sparky over a Liverpool that had been folded in half length-wise, just to get a measure of where Sparky's brain was.  Sparky did not hesitate in the least and went right over like he'd been jumping Liverpools his entire life.  The Liverpool was then unfolded, and Greg had us jump it again.  Again, Sparky didn't even blink.  This confirmed what Greg was thinking: Sparky is essentially a very brave horse... he's just a jerk.  Jumping a coop was also on the agenda for the day, so Greg had me present Sparky to the coop to see what he would do.  He seemed a little unsure at first, but then decided that maybe it wasn't so bad, and actually moved up to a trot as we were walking towards it.  "That's not a bad reaction," Greg said.

Day Three was, in some ways, a repeat of the previous days.  We were still working on correcting Sparky's right shift over the jumps.  Our course to jump for the day was the coop, followed by the roll-top, a four-stride line, and the diagonal line from the direction opposite of what we had been jumping it the previous days.  Overall, Sparky did well.  In the course of the day, he stopped four times, but only once (again, at the roll-top) was it an, "I'm a jerk" stop.  After beating his butt, he went over the roll-top no problem... and actually also bucked less and threw less of a hissy-fit than he had the previous day.  He other stops were all "honest" stops - he really was surprised by the jumps.  In the case of the coop, it was likely still some hesitation about the type of jump, but for the pink oxer, it seemed to mostly be a matter of it not even occurring to Sparky that he was supposed to jump it from that direction.  Once he went over each of them, he didn't have an issue again.

I almost wonder if I haven't caused Sparky's issue of shifting right over fences.  When he ducks out, it is almost always to the left, so I probably tend to use more "stay to the right" aids... which may have ended up causing that shift to the right.  It's quite possible, and so is therefore something about which I must be cognizant.

Taking Sparky to the clinic was DEFINITELY a Good Idea.  It was a great experience, and I now have some very specific things to correct and better ideas on how to correct them.

Love me some Greg Best!