Back to our regularly-scheduled Thoroughbred

Howdy had his fourth eye appointment at ISU (wheeeee!) and needed to have more eye treatments, three times a day.  We decided to take him with us to the Flint Hills of Kansas where we were joint meeting with several other Midwest foxhunts.  Foxhunting is always very serious business.


Um, ok, maybe not always serious…

I rode Bravado on the hunts during the weekend and he was great.


Jay is riding Annie, the grey horse and I am to his left on Bravado.  Our friends MFH Monte Antisdel and HRH Diane Antisdel are to my left.

Meanwhile, Howdy hung out in his stall while we hunted.  He was completely unfazed by the other horses leaving their stalls and getting on the trailer.  He looked up from his hay, watched the other horses walk away, mumbled, “Have a good day at work, suckers!” and put his head back in the hay.

Much to his surprise, despite the fact that it was snowing when we got home from the hunt, it was his turn to go out for a hack.Howdy

It was a beautiful snow, with huge flakes and no wind.  We went out with our friend Holly Barrett and her horse.  They gave us several leads through creeks and Howdy did fine.  He led, he followed, he left the other horse, he stopped well, he went forward well and just didn’t have much of a problem with anything.  What a fun horse!

Our goal is the RRP in Kentucky in October, but the next outing is the Iowa Horse Fair next weekend.  I’m speaking there and he and Bravado will be demo horses.  Gonna be a good time.

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.

First cookie and there’s an app for that

Earlier this week, I wrote the MS blog that I’ve been wanting to write for, oh, about five years.  After getting that out, I just sort of went into a writing stupor, and now, dear friends, I am back.

Howdy’s eye continues to improve and the thrice-daily (ooooh, getting Biblical!) treatments continue in earnest.  Though I have ridden him, I am spending a lot of time on lunging because he needs:

  • the help in going to the right
  • more ground work in general
  • to stop overreacting to every cluck or kiss

A little back story I got from his trainer at the track – they sent Howdy to a guy to break and condition him.  The guy was supposed to be galloping him under tack but it turns out that after he broke Howdy, he was just ponying him from another horse for conditioning.  When they raced Howdy, he didn’t have the under-tack fitness to do well and his owner said that it broke the horse’s heart to lose so badly to the other horses.  It was so profound to hear this gentleman say that – so dear to see how much he loved his racehorses.  He said Howdy never made him a dime, but that he also didn’t like to see the horse’s heart broken.  <sniff>

So now Howdy hasn’t had much success in his life, and I think that horses know when they are “successful” by human standards.  They read us better than we read each other. (Have you ever had a horse not like somebody that you thought was just fine and later you found out they were not?)  At any rate, if a horse hasn’t had much of a feeling of success around people, it may take a while to help them understand that the game is fun.

6_pyramid_training-300x169He skitters at a cluck and jumps in the air into a canter depart at a kiss.  Some horses just do this. I’m not blaming anybody, in fact, I don’t think it is all bad.  At least we have forward.  Alois Podhjasky would approve!  But we want him to go forward in relaxation.  Why look, that is near the bottom rung of the dressage training scale.

I have no problem spending the time to get him to settle and to learn that everything we are going to ask of him he can absolutely do.  It may seem like I have been just “chasing a horse around in circles,” doing eye treatments and paying vet, farrier, chiro and feed bills with this horse so far, and I suppose, objectively, that is true.  But just like it is winter forever until one day it is spring, all of this time and attention to detail will put things over the tipping point, and the sun will come out and the birds will sing.

He’s getting there.  Today was the first day he ate a cookie from my hand.  That’s a good sign.  And now he can do big circles to the right in a trot on the lunge.  He even cantered a few times today to the right on a right lead of his own accord.  Yay.

Tomorrow the chiropractor comes out to see if we can get him more comfortable going to the right.  I’ve had some good experiences with having horses adjusted.


These are my big silly Bravado ears

Meanwhile, two other items of note: Bravado did his second hunt on Sunday and represented himself pretty well most of the time.  There might have been a small anxiety rear once or twice, but he was much better at staying in trot when he should have been (horses new to hunting tend to want to canter rather than trot to get from point A to B, but honestly, most of hunting can be done quite well in trot) and he stood at checks pretty well.

And the other thing is that I found the coolest app and I hope it will be really helpful to me in my meal planning and execution.  Maybe you are looking for something like this too.  It is called  Mealime and basically it provides recipes and the corresponding shopping list for four meals at a time (you can also choose different numbers of meals, but four is what I chose).  Brilliant!  You can choose how many people you are cooking for, whether you want Traditional, Easy on the meat, Vegetarian or a couple of other options.  You can tell it what ingredients not to include in your recipes and you can sync your phone to the online app.

Not having to think every day about what is for supper?  Smashing.  Eating healthy without stressing over it?  Brilliant.  And absolutely horse-related.  Did I mention it is free?  Double bonus technical merit points from the West German judge*. A rider who is not worrying about what is for supper is a happier rider.  Nom, nom, nom.  🙂

*an obscure reference to ice-skating judging in the 70s.  Those West German judges were so cranky!


“Void of Speed”

There’s this thing called Equineline, which is a website run by the Jockey Club (JC, the studbook for thoroughbreds in the U.S.)  On Equineline, you can buy race reports for every JC-recognized race run in the U.S., pedigrees and a whole bunch more stuff.

So let’s take a look at Howdy’s race report:screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-8-30-36-pmIt has a bunch of cool stuff on it, no?  Owner, trainer, year, DOB, color, breeding, earnings, length of race and a whole bunch of stuff I haven’t figured out yet.  What I do know to check is the penultimate right (Ok, I love the word penultimate, it means “second to last” and is just so British, that it makes me giggle, so please just humor me.)  Anyway, the comments column way on the right.  The most recent race is on the top of the list, so the last race he ran he was “outrun.”  Before that it was “inside, no bid,” then “outrun,” “never menaced,” “retreated,” and in his first race, “void of speed.”

Now “void of speed” is a turn of phrase!  I might have to see if that name is available for USEA registration for eventing.  Can’t you just see it?  Ok, well, maybe not, but nevertheless, I think it is hysterical to say that about a race horse – it is basically the racing equivalent of the mountain climber sailing off the end of the cliff on The Price is Right .  Just, “Aint gonna happen, thanks for playing.”

At any rate, a horse with comments like this is just the kind of horse I want to work with.  He’s had some training, he’s galloped a bit, he’s been in a start gate, he’s trailered, he’s seen a thing or two, basically.

Speaking of seeing, Howdy has seen exactly how the flash works on my phone and he knows how to time his blink so that I get images like these three different takes:

Ha!  I did manage to get one half decent but out-of-focus one, but I think that is going to be it for using the flash.  The good news is, I think it is a sign of his pupil actually responding to the atropine and really opening, so bright lights are not comfortable – so I’ll let him alone about it.  This is the best one I got and it’s actually quite useless.  Ha! Howdy eye day 15

But I did shoot one without the flash and I think you can see that the eye is starting to look a little less grey.  Go steroids.


Meanwhile, we had a stellar session yesterday when he relaxed and decided it was perfectly ok for me to be on his right side, and got right lead canter on the lunge four times  in a row.  I think his new friend Bravado told him that if he is good he might get to do this cool thing called foxhunting where you get to see all sorts of new things and meet new horses.  And now that Howdy has a friend, he has all those endorphins that will help his eye healing.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, anyway.

img_8952And finally a bit of, “hey, that’s not a bad trot” for the dressage geeks in the group.  I suppose the galloping, sliding stop, and rollback won’t go over as well, but we take what we can get.  LOL:

Eye treatments and Bravado’s first hunt

The story with Howdy is all about eye treatments.  Four times a day to be exact, so we are seeing a lot of each other.  This is pretty ok.  Oddly, I’m learning that he really doesn’t like to be handled from the right side.  I mean really objects to it, so you know what I am doing – handling him from the right side as much as possible.  I lead him from his paddock on the right side, I fuss over him on the right side and on an on.  Despite the daily treatments, the eye has not changed much and I admit I am getting a little frantic about wanting to see a positive change.  The steroids should help and it has only been 3 days.  I have faith, but I could use a little show for encouragement.  Here’s your daily eye picture:

Howdy eye day 13

I’ve been continuing to work Howdy in-hand and on the lunge.  Much work to the right.  It is coming along.

Meanwhile, Bravado, the other 5 year old OTTB went on his first hunt on Saturday.  (Technically hunt number 1.5 because he did one a few weeks ago but it was cut short due to baby horsie Bravado becoming a bit overstimulated.) Here is a picture of his ears on the hunt. Jay is the guy in red on the bay horse – and the bay horse is the magnificent Eddie:


The fact that I was comfortable enough to be riding one-handed snapping a picture is an indication that things went pretty well.  That is not to say that there were not some exciting moments.  For instance, at the first real check, he was behaving beautifully, just standing and being relaxed – enough that I decided to have a beer from the whoopi wagon.  Apparently, I have never opened any sort of beverage while near him as he found the sound of the popping top quite alarming and sort of ballooned from a relaxed halt to a moderate canter in about 5 strides.  I had taken a glove off to pop the top, and now I had a loose glove, an open beer and the buckle end of the reins in my hands and the 17-hand OTTB was ramping to something close to a gallop, and the conditions on the wet gravel road were most decidedly fast.  So I ended up unceremoniously jettisoning the glove and the can in order to get my reins in order, and hopefully get him back.  This took a little while, so Bravado covered a good bit of ground on the gravel road before I had much influence.  He was pretty relaxed, he just happened to be cantering, of his own volition.  My friends were car following, parked at the check, and saw the whole thing and mused that it brought to mind the OJ Simplson car chase, “I think she is getting run away with.  Or is she?”  “I can’t tell, he’s sort of just cantering along…”


Thanks First Whip Bre Orsborn for the photo!

If you look closely at the picture, you can see the awesome sticky velcro strip on the top of my helmet.  I meant to wear the helmet cam, but the chance of rain argued victoriously against it.  The OJ Simpson Mini-bolt would have been great video.

On Sunday after I worked with Howdy, in-hand, I introduced Howdy and Bravado to each other, and the budding bromance came into bloom.  Not one squeal, and two minutes after I set them loose together they were mutually grooming each other’s withers.  It was darling.  You may want to light some candles and play some Barry White while you view the following pictures:

img_8952Howdy and Bravado

And then an afternoon of hay munching and sharing the run in.  Awwwww…

Howdy and Bravado