OK so I have been prepping for a huge dog event we're putting on in mid July so my riding is haphazard at best currently. With the new saddle revelation, I took my first dressage lesson in forever now that we were able to actually DO the things we'd been working here and there on. I've been doing lessons with Amanda too and that's helped sooo much with Katy and myself (yay basics) but I wanted a real dressage lesson in my real dressage saddle. So saddle win (y) I think I took like 3 lessons this month from dressage trainer and one from Amanda (see below).
Amanda had ridden Jade in the new Flight and then I followed up with it after she had her go rounds with the great nonforward horse. The saddle felt like it tipped us both forward and I was a bit disappointed. On Katy it felt great, on Jade meh. Jade didn't seem to care though as she had to deal with crazy riders whacking on her to go forward. Saddle fail (sort of)
I contacted Shea about coming back out to refit and she was heading down already and tacked us on no problem. Basically they'd fit the saddle to Katy with the idea that I'd use a pad with Jade. I was like noooooo make it fit expensive horse please so it was done. So basically, find a saddle fitter that returns your calls AND knows what they're doing. SO MUCH NICER. And no, I still haven't heard from Saddle Fitter A. Seriously, how do people stay in business? Ugh service industries are chapping my hide something fierce!
At this point I had no real idea what to do with Jade (she'll go forward after a few minutes and then... unno what to do as our instructions end there) so with that and my cray schedule, we haven't done much in July. I HAVE worked on her ground work which has begun to change her from a pushy obnoxious (but sweet) big girl into one that's more compliant. We'll see what we need to tackle under saddle as we get to that.
Oh and the saddle is back to being wonderful now and works for both horses so yays. Now to do this big event and then get to riding and all the things some more!
I'm so behind on this writing thing due to lots of things going on, so this is written (again) way after the date. I am however glad to write about this after the fact. Also, sorry for lack of pictures, but well... there's not much I'd be able to post about this photographically :/
So this was the week we euthanized Nigel.
I don't feel bad about my choice and even though I can question things leading up to it, in the end it was unavoidable even if what led up to it could have been prevented.
If you're keeping track, in the past month or so, there's been 2 different MAJOR blow ups with this horse that resulted in him seriously injuring himself. By whatever grace you believe in, he's managed to not injure himself or anyone long term but I know its just a matter of time unless he's really got his crap together.
And after the trainer, it really, really seemed like he did.
If you recall, when I picked him up, his legs were huge. Cellulitis +10000 of course. He hadn't been treated or seen and kept in super muddy conditions for 2 weeks before I got him. A normal horse would be dead right? Not Nigel!
When I brought him home, I took him to the barn and he got a stall across from Jade. I knew he'd need rehab and this was the best way to do that, add weight, and hopefully get to riding him to decide on all that future things. We took him to the clinic the first working day after I got him back and once again, he managed to pass all tests for infection, joint injury, and whatever else he should have had but inexplicably didn't. They wrapped him from coronary band to knee/hock on ALL FOUR LEGS. he was at the clinic for THREE days and I should tell you, he was a lamb. From the moment we picked him up from the trainers, he was a dream boat.
I'd begun thinking maybe, just maybe this WAS my event horse! But I also recalled I have Edison in the wings that will be a much more trustworthy one probably. So I put on my businesswoman/trainer hat and got to work with Nigel. At this point, I'm not trusting his tying and since he's BEEN getting tired FOREVER at the trainers, I tie him to a secure area near where our stalls are and leave him tied about 30 minutesish while I do my chores for each of those days and can keep an eye on him the whole time. NOTHING that went past him ever phased him and I'm tentatively thinking this is going to work. He was hand walked every day until the bandages could come off 5 days after bringing him home. I never ONCE saw "Old Nigel" but I also wasn't going to take it for granted. Also, I can't have him deciding to "untie" himself and trash his legs AGAIN every 6 months... so we needed to test out how good he was at this tying thing and so we did. On the 5th day of rehab, I cross tied (OMG RIGHT?!) to remove the bandages. I knew this would/should test him but instead he was super quiet, happy, and just a little silly (in a friendly way) as I managed to removed the LAYERS AND LAYERS of wrappings on his legs without so much as bandage scissors (totally blanked on bringing them).
He was a saint and calmly but alertly checked out the farm goings on while I did this.
Then we did a bath because he was covered in rain rot (of course). With that all done, he grazed, hand walked and then we tied in the same place as always. Remember, he's now used to being tied for like all day so this wasn't excessive in any way for him.
So I start doing barn chores and the horse stands happily. Calmly. No big deal.
I think when "it" happened was when I finished up cleaning the stalls. It wasn't very much but as I went by with the wheelbarrow, he was watching me more wistfully than before. I was letting his legs dry before rebandaging them as well. After dropping off the wheelbarrow, I came back to him and touched his hind leg (nbd) and then his front leg and I just felt the change in the force. It wasn't an OMG WHOA moment, but once you're around cray horses long enough, you can practically smell something changing.
And so he pulled back once I was out of the way.
And thought about things.
And then JUST when he was about to look at me for assistance, he got his NOPE EFF THIS SHIT and he began his "thing." Gosh if I could have begged a horse to check in with me, this was that moment.
Its hard to explain this in any way that's going to make anyone truly understand when you've not dealt with "broken" horses but basically... he systematically and methodically tried to figure out how to break the halter or the rope. Its not a simple pull back and freak out scenario. I can do that in my sleep. This is calculated, calmly done, and very independently driven with no regard for what humans are doing or physical pain to himself. All I did was keep people back and wait it out.
The most popular approaches he liked to use are putting his feet on things to push OFF them for extra leverage as well as putting his front feet ON things to push UP on them. Since he had a lovely pipe fence, he spent most of his time trying to utilize those to accomplish his goals. Problem was, my stuff dun break and he also managed to twist the rope over the safety knot so I couldn't let him go. Best I could do was keep people away and calmly wait for him to check back in with reality. It was all very slow motion, calm, no flailing, and I even went up to him in this 2 on, 2 off position to move his front hoof away from the rope so when he came down on his own, he wouldn't be caught in it. It was that calm and he was that aware of what he was doing. Basically, no self preservation coupled with him doing this sooo many times that he knew what he was doing.
People asked me if it was a trick I'd taught him. I said no.
I checked my phone to kill time while I waited for him to give me something to work with.
About 20 minutes later, he completely and calmly gave up, checked back in with me like "hey, human, help me out." and I untied him easily and my lamb of a horse was back. He'd blown out something inside his right hind leg badly and when I started assessing him, he's also managed to grind his right front pastern down to the tendons and seisomoids so I knew this was it.
I gave him a final meal and lots of pats (while explaining to onlookers that he was walking the green mile and why). I called the clinic and made the arrangements. I knew I had to get him loaded before his adrenaline wore off so I headed home to get the trailer at 9pm. My brave, never say die boy unloaded 2 legged lame at the clinic but alert and completely cooperative. 80% awesome 20% deadly dangerous *sigh
I could doubt tying him THAT day in THAT way all I wanted, but honestly... this is also the kind of horse that will "wing it" out on cross country when he wanted to. He was athletic as all get out and sooo bold, confident, and clever that he'd just make that decision to leave a stride or so out in front of a huge table or hang a leg. This is the horse rotational falls are made of. I couldn't resell him knowing that. I couldn't push forward and ride him myself and know that. I didn't want someone less experienced dying from him not wanting to be tied today, yesterday is fine, but not today. None of this mattered as he manged to mangle his legs beyond reason and didn't seem to give a shit that any of that had just happened.
I did contact the trainers I work with and they completely agreed that this was the right choice but I also knew it the moment I saw the look in his eye when he decided to be clever that evening. There was never a doubt in my mind at that moment or since. I'm sorry for Nigel, but I'm upset about the people that made him this way and allowed him to learn this deadly game. While I spend my time with Jade and Edison, I'm realizing that that's where I want to be at this point in my life... helping "new" MY horses reach their full potential and not destroy myself over fixing other people's mistakes. Its sad for me as I've done it to long, but I just don't think I can keep doing it. I had my cry over my big red boy and I'll channel that energy into moving forward. I guess you really can't save them all but this was my first time with that and it sucks.
Be free Fancy Boy <3
So in an effort to NOT have the racing red baby horse at the vet clinic two weeks after our first check, I decided we HAD to do something about halter breaking this man. I laid him down twice as mentioned before and the second lay down, I also rubbed the halter all over him, put it on, took it off, etc until he was like whatev.
I took a few days off and then I went in and wrapped the rope around his chest and bum to pretend I'd have SOME control and then went to halter him. Instead of a rodeo, he was like yeah. This thing again. Whatever. We worked on leading with the butt rope and I was like sweet! vet visit won't be insane again!
Two days later we tested it and honestly, Piper loading like a turd (CANT SEE EDISON OMG) was the highlight and didn't last that long. I gently shoved Edison into the trailer and he was like oh yeah whatever. We did the ultrasound much to everyone's shock about my awesome baby horse and as we were loading Piper, Edison had grown tired of this pushing junk and just loaded himself.
Baby horses might really not be that bad (or I might not be that bad with them as I thought I might be) :)
Oh and here's some ultrasound type pictures:
OK, update time!
Edison is awesome. That's about the short version of it. We're learning so much and like everything else, I'm getting more confident. I really wanted him to learn to be haltered and lead onto a trailer (in case he needed to go to the vet at some point) as my only real goals this year. Aiming low, I know.
So I ditched putting them in the stall once I trusted I wasn't going to kill him. They're in a paddock 24/7 and much happier (less stall cleaning for me too!). People come and go all day and the little bugger gets to see all that. Its a good thing. He's unfortunately in love with using the fence in a million different ways: sleeping hammock, rubbing post, foot holder... Its not completely driving me nuts but I really don't want him to get tetanus or something horrible I've read about all my life.
He's also gone to the vet with his mum because she needed her 14 day post check up. I was worried about how to wrangle an unhalter broke foal and its doting mother onto the trailer alone. We managed it and made it to the vets. The ultrasound was fine (I don't have any pictures, sorry), but as soon as we went to the trailer he was all LOLS NO!! and ran all around the parking lot happily. I ended up tackling him after he kept running through nice people that tried to help and loaded/dragged him up.
My shoulder was not excited.
So we got home and began our journey for more training. I've been taking a slight Schiller break (unfollowed the group as its HUGE now and people drive me nuts asking the same dumb things), but recalled he had some foal videos about laying them down and reviewed them. It didn't seem THAT bad and Edison is NOT getting smaller. I chose a quiet evening and laid him down (it wasn't that bad in reality) and literally the next day he was super chill and cooperative overall. I laid him down on the OTHER side a few days later and he practically folded down without any issue. Now that he's soooo chill with me (and everyone else apparently) I think that's where he's not caring about the fence or other things. I'll just have to hope for the best and keep after his little dings from being lazy!
There's not too much to report really. My saddle is amazing, my horse is learning things, the other horses are doing fine, its all fine really. Jade is working on her forward and I'm working on being more confident with her. Its not too bad really as I'm getting used to the idea that she's not dangerous like I've gotten used to and I'm finding some nice inner peace. No, she's not perfect and she's stomped my feet in 1300+ lb baby horse enthusiasm once, but we're working on things and she's SOOO smart and lovely. We'll get there and knowing that (without any reservations) is soo worth this journey.
She also likes food. Like. A LOT.
I read a lot online and take things with a grain of salt. Many times I don't like reading about people's lives because I either can't relate or I end up wanting to go LIVE LIFE! rather than sit in an office all day. Lately though, I've discovered the small group of Texas bloggers that write about their journeys with their horses. Some I can relate to, some I can't read more than a page or two and shut down, and some make me feel like I might possibly not be the only crazy person doing ALL THE THINGS at times.
The other thing I've REALLY enjoyed is learning about other people's tack and clothing. Buying these items hasn't ever been a reality for me nor a desire, so I'm a bit behind the curve on these things. Sure I KNOW of Devoucoux and I've probably ridden in one (I have), but that doesn't mean I want one. Not that I know of. With the revelation that a saddle can "cure" my aging ails and "make" my body suddenly "get it" I'm much more into the whole idea that the right gear can make a HUGE difference.
Especially when you already have skills.
So first up was finding a bridle for Jade. Normally I scrounge up a Dover sale bridle and that's worked fine for me. When I was a teenager I saved obsessively for a Courbette USDF stamped dressage bridle and it was... fine but never worth what I paid for it when my Libertyville bridle worked perfectly fine everyday. I worked for a dressage trainer too and rode in LOTS of nice tack but nothing caught my eye. With this new "found" money though, I know I need to make smart purchases that will last a while so I'm poking around to see what's out there. I decided to take a chance on a forum find, and ordered a nice bridle from Flexible Fit. The bridle arrived within 14 days (from Australian) and was super nice with medical grade gel in all the pressure point areas. The leather was strong but much more supple than I was used to so I'd consider that worth it. It also look fabulous on Jade.
The Flexible Fit thing was off the COTH forums so I don't really count it as a blogger thing per say. Jeanette has a blog and posts it on Facebook regularly so I was like ok, I'll read that. Once I saw her thing, I dug a little more and found The $900 Facebook Pony. This girl can shop. She has taste, likes things that last, and is frugal when it makes sense and not when it doesn't. Sure she has a penchant for French things, but I've never faulted anyone for that before.
So far I've bought socks from Sock It To Me, belts from Mango Bay, and I really want something from PS of Sweden but can't decide what nor have a need. Boo. Also watching her bring her horse from "nothing" to a fun eventer is a wonderful transformation. I like that she's tackled broken horses in her past and dabbles/d in various sports along the way.
There are many other blogs and again, I like watching the people over time but some of the people I'd gut punch if I met them I think. Also, many of them are hunter/jumper types and its sooo hard for me to relate to their issues most the time. I know this is one of the reasons I'm always liking eventers and come back like a moth to the flame.
In a super awesome good way!
So Jade's been in Texas about a month and it was quickly apparently that in order to ride her, I'd need a new saddle. I hate shopping and I JUST bought my new M Toulouse Marianne in JANUARY, so the idea of shopping AGAIN was toe curling. I also knew deep down I couldn't ride my $$$ horse in a $ saddle and expect any sort of greatness. Also, Friesians are not an off the shelf kind of horse in really any form so I began the horror that is dealing with saddle fitters.
I guess the lucky thing about coming off buying the Marianne is that I had a good feel for what would work for me at least so I started with that. I read online. I looked at Jade. Basically there's ONE saddle fitter that's recommended in my area and she also deals in Albions which used to work well for me so I sent her an email. I got a call back that day but hashing out the actual appointment has resulted in one response email and NO followup calls for an entire month until now (more on that later).
Looking around, the Custom Saddles are getting good reviews and USDF has them as their official saddle and Steffen Peters rides in one, yadda yadda and the rep for Texas comes to my area regularly. I figured it couldn't hurt so I contacted her. She was prompt, helpful, and we were set to meet roughly this weekend. The last week heading into it I had heard nothing so I contacted her again and after a little communication lag, I knew she was coming Saturday PM. I live like 2 minutes from the barn so whatever. I also let her know I would ride KATY so I could work the fit for me and fit it for JADE.
I'm sure she thought I was nuts but whatever, right?
I won't go into huge details about it but basically she showed up on this day with one of the Custom Saddlery company owners (omg, right?!) and he proceeded to dump thousands of dollars of saddles on the ground and at me. I had studied extensively online and knew that the Icon Flight was most likely to fit ME but I said to just give me whatever and we'd try it out. I didn't want to know much about the saddle, just go and ride, go and ride.
Katy was a little keyed up at first and I was very wham bam about the whole thing so that didn't help. We plopped saddle #1 on her and I headed for the nearest field. Very little warmup and we walk trot cantered to the right and came back. Saddle swap and repeat. Always to the right so I can compare better. I'd rate the saddle when I got back and we'd go again. After about saddle #2 though, Katy was sooo relaxed. She eagerly cantered (which is not something she's been doing so hot at for the past.. forever) and I could lift her back and she started using her shoulders.
WHO KNEW SHE HAD SHOULDERS?!?!?!
By the end she was so relaxed and so bendy that I was sold. On a saddle for Katy. Derp.
In the end, the Icon Flight was our saddle hands down. It was like the skies opened up and the sun shone down on us in that moment. All my struggles with my right hip, all Katy's struggles with her canter, gosh it was all gone. Even more shocking, I didn't want to get off! I just wanted to ride and ride and ride and ride. It was soooo comfy and soooo awesome I just knew it was the one. Shea sold me the demo there on the spot and we fitted it to Jade but it turns out Katy's back is more a wider type like Jade's so I get to use the saddle on both. Sorry about all those medium trees Katy! lol.
Shea and the company owner were in love with Katy by the end as she was sooo patient and well behaved for the whole order. Not bad for Miss Craiglist Special! And thus ended my saddle search and onward to riding Jade. *gulp
Oh and that other saddle fitter? They LITERALLY contacted me the day I got this saddle. I was all well, I'd be happy to still try and Albion but I do have a Custom on trial, not sure what the etiquette is with that but I'd be happy to compare. *radio silence
So Nigel has been at training and for the most part, his legs have healed up and he's been getting trained. Aside from some typical OTTB things, he's been doing fine.
Its like he refuses to get this no matter how step by step things go. He's fine then... not. And he's just chill about wanting to NOT be tied. Except that he keeps hurting himself in the middle of his bizarre tantrum.
I've also told the trainer to get him going well and sell him and he's glad to show the horse to people.
So trainer calls me and thinks Nigel needs some time off to heal his legs. I'm assuming its from the original issue at the vet school so I'm like ok, that makes sense. I'd just gotten Arthur back from Shane and despite falling in love with him again (he's SUCH a good boy!), I know the right thing is to have trainer sell him to someone that will let him just be a big hunter dope (sorry huntery people).
I take Arthur out to the place and after DRAMA getting in and miscommunications, I see Nigel. He's tied. Calmly and happily. His legs however are all the size of elephant legs. I take a deep breath. And another one. He's also thin. All my months of feeding him and he's... thin. I'm trying to process. Trainer is trying to flail around to stem off the impending rage he's sure I'm going to throw at him.
I'm still breathing.
I decide to assess with my hands. Aside from his legs looking horrific, they don't feel terrible. His weight loss could be logically from all the riding he's been under so I'm all "ride him for me." It's been hella wet, so he rides him in the round pen and overall, Nigel rides fine. He's a little gimpy on one side but it's not bad.
I feel a bit stuck at this point. (Literally too as my truck and trailer was stuck in mud at this moment as well) *sigh
I don't know what else to do so we load up Nigel, I hope Arthur is in the best hands and ask for how to get unstuck. The trainer is a bit fluffered out because I'm not a normal psychopathic horse person that should've yelled by this point, so he offers to get us unstuck. I'm thinking tractor or something else saner, he's thinking rodeo the shit out of my truck and trailer (remember Nigel's in it still) and ends up jackknifing my trailer into my truck's back window shattering it and leaving a dent.
But its unstuck.
This is a great analogy for us. We both get the job done, I just don't like leaving shattered glass. In his defense, sometimes glass needs to be shattered (Nigel). I just wish it hadn't been my truck. :/
We took Nigel home and he had ZERO issues with being a psycho in the trailer this time and we even stopped at Which Wich to eat lunch without hearing so much as a peep from him. I have more faith in Arthur not being so "special" and I can only draw on the thought that lots of people I know have sent their $$$$ warmbloods to this guy and rave about him.