Spring Fling Combined Driving Event

We’re having a little time out from the Howdy blog to cover a trip to Florida for the USEA Instructor Certification Seminar in Ocala Florida.  Since I was coming to Florida on Monday for that, I called my friend Denise Loewe to see if I could hangout with her in her big ol’ camper that is parked near Buck Davidson’s barn in Ocala.  “Absolutely,” she said, “and you should come down a few days early and groom and navigate for me at the Spring Fling Combined Driving Event.”  What fun, I’m in.

So I flew in to Orlando SFB late on Friday night, forgot which rental car agency I made reservations with through the airline, figured it out by playing it cool and just following a lot of other people on my flight to Alamo, (thank you God, that worked), got my luggage and car and drove two hours to Orlando and went straight to sleep when I got there.  (And if you believe that last part, about going straight to bed after seeing my friend again after almost a year hiatus, you are having a silly moment.  We might have stayed up talking and drinking wine until 1.  Might have happened.)

Up early on Saturday to walk the obstacles on marathon.  I was completely overwhelmed, to the point of losing my ability to speak because of these thoughts tangling in my brain:

  • How do people remember all these gates?
  • Do people know that these wooden objects will not move when hit with a carriage/horse/human?
  • And  wait, only time in the obstacles are penalties, the rest of it is basically working trot?

I was with Debbie Egan and Margaret Shenker and Denise walking the course.  Debbie and Margaret are very experienced combined drivers, Denise is moderately experienced, and on Friday I didn’t even know that drivers cantered (for god’s sake!) through the obstacles. Me walking the course with them reminded me of one of my favorite sketches on Sesame Street – one of these things is not like the other.

The learning curve was daunting as a cold, granite cliff face, and I was a babe wandering barefoot and sleeveless in the foothills.  My climb involved many questions after I recovered my ability of speech.  Some frantic Youtube searching, an important sheet of times for each section given to me by the benevolent Margaret, who saw my need before I even knew of its existence, and a little zen time alone with the obstacles completed my ascent to feeling somewhat prepared to navigate marathon for Denise.

The days were happy, long and exhausting  (and I didn’t have access to wifi, horrors!), so I didn’t make a blog entry Saturday and Sunday night, but I did make this video compilation that will give you a good idea of the gist of how the weekend went.  Crazy fun.  If you find an opportunity to go to/volunteer at/groom for/navigate at a combined driving event, do it! So fun!

Looking like a real horse and the Big Trip


I leave for Florida tomorrow for a week to go to the USEA ICP Seminar, the Young Event Horse Symposium, the Retired Racehorse Project BBQ at the Ocala Jockey Club, to groom and navigate for my friend who is driving her horse in the Florida Spring Fling Driving Competition at the  Florida Horse Park, and to see my nieces who are riding with the big dawgs in Ocala.  This is gonna be fuuuuu-un, and I’ll share the highlights and the inevitable funny things that will happen as I stay with my friend who has a big camper that she parks at Buck Davidson’s winter complex.  Yes, I know.  Ridiculousness.

If you want to catch it all, you can subscribe to this blog by putting your email address in the box on the upper right of this page.

Meanwhile, I put a saddle and a bridle on Howdy who said, “Ho hum, I did this at the track.” I lunged him in loose side-reins and I’ll be darned, he looks like a real horse at times.  Here’s some video with our dogs occasionally barking in the distance.  If you listen carefully, you might hear a coyote howl.  Home on the range in dear old Iowa.  I am not vain enough to think you might be interested to see the whole 7 minutes of this video, but if you scan around a bit you can see all three gaits in both directions.  Should be good for comparison down the road.

Things are looking up


I had Doc Schaefer out to see Howdy.  She is a DVM who does horse chiropractic.  We started out with her watching him move.  I walked him away from her and then walked him back while she watched.  She had a thoughtful look on her face when I got back to her, which is usually not a good thing.  She asked me to walk him away and back again.  I did, and when I got back she had the same look.

I’ve learned not to ask vets questions when they have this look, and that served me well this day too.  She started working on him and found that one hip was down.  Then she went to the other side and found that it was down too (no, I don’t know how that is possible either, but there it is.)  She started working on the second hip and her quizzical look went away as she figured out what she was seeing when I was walking him.  She said that he wasn’t uneven, but that he wasn’t coming through correctly.  Usually she can see that one side is out.  Howdy, tricky man that he is, came up with a completely novel way to present.

She was able to get that and his right shoulder adjusted.  The club foot is on the right, and maybe that shoulder being out/stuck/whatever it was, will prove not to be a coincidence and part of the club foot problem.

Then she worked on his neck where he had a few minor issues that they worked out.  Doc Schaefer clearly really likes horses and Howdy at least, likes her:

Here is the sheet from the exam.  No, I don’t know how to interpret it entirely, but it is pretty cool and useful.


Doc Schaefer made it clear to me that now that he was adjusted, he needed to be worked equally to the right and left, rather than focusing on the right with short breaks to the left as I had been doing.

I worked him the day after the adjustment and the result was both encouraging and mystifying.  Encouraging in that he wasn’t so resistant in going to the right; mystifying in that he now couldn’t hold the left lead (or either lead for that matter) for more than three strides without breaking to trot or switching leads in back only.  I thought about it a bit and surmised that he probably simply didn’t have the muscle development to move for very long in the new way that he was allowed to move after the adjustment.  So I did about 10 minutes of walking on the lunge and ended for the day.

img_9098Meanwhile, it was time for his checkup with ISU ophthalmology.  Two DVM ophthalmologists and four DVMs-in-training had a look at the very patient Howdy’s eyes.  That’s Dr. Wehrman in the white coat.  She’s an silken-voiced angel, and Howdy loves her.  Of course sedation was involved, but he was still tolerant above and beyond the call of duty.  The consensus was that they were very pleased with how the eye looks.  The ulcer has healed entirely and the conjunctivitis has improved markedly on the front of the eye (where I am applying the steroids) and has improved on the back of his eye (which the banamine is addressing).  I was sent home with a much less rigorous treatment regimen and a checkup in a month.  We seem to be out of the woods, but we need to stay the course to get it healed all the way.  This is excellent!

I worked him a few more times over the next week, doing a lot of walking and trotting and really not pushing for canter – just letting him get stronger and figure out how his hips/lower back are supposed to work, and then today, I asked him to canter again.  This video, complete with me wearing what looks like a Mr. Rogers sweater but is actually the inner layer of my winter coat, documents his improvement.  The things I really like to see are that in walk, his overstep is quite generous – about 8 inches – whereas before the adjustment, he just barely tracked up; that he can apparently quite easily hold his canter lead (in both directions, but this video only shows right); and that he is somewhat less resistant to the idea of going right in general.  In the beginning of the video and halfway through, you can see where he really doesn’t want me to get on his right side.  This is mild compared to his earlier objections, which makes me very happy.