Excitement!

Yes, it has been a month since I’ve posted, whoops, sorry.  A lot has happened.  So I’ll catch you up in bullet points and then we’ll move on to the details of the RRP next week!  I am right excited.  We might be having almost daily updates over the next two weeks, fair warning.

Since we have last chatted, Howdy:

  • went to the hunter pace at Catalpa Corner in mid-August and jumped everything, but acted kind of goofy and more tense than he should have
  • went to a xc schooling in Kansas City where he was VERY tense and jumped crooked and oddly (though it should be noted that he did jump everything).
  • inherited Betty’s lovely bridle, which he looks smashing in

Howdy Betty bridle

  • cut his left front pastern deep enough that he should have had stitches, but I found it too late for proper stitching, so I cleaned it out and treated and wrapped it every day for 3 weeks and, thank all that is good, it healed beautifully.  He was never lame on it.
  • had a good eye checkup – stable again!
  • started ulcer medication
  • subsequent to ulcer medication, started being less tense under saddle
  • schooled xc in KC and was much better than last time
  • completed a one day event last weekend – dressage, showjumping and xc – and finished with no jump faults and in fourth place.  Whoop!
  • changed his bit to a mylar snaffle with tongue relief, which he seems to like better than the french link

So, after that whirlwind of activity, we are looking forward to the RRP next week!  We actually leave for  Burwell, NE this week to foxhunt.

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Bravado showing off his appreciable “standing like a boss at the check” skills

Howdy won’t be foxhunting, but will be going along so that I can work with him every day on his working ranch skills.  I can’t think of a better setting to do it in than at the Burwell Rodeo grounds!  All that history, and the footing is perfect.

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Nebraska’s Big Rodeo Arena is going to become “Howdy’s Big Working Ranch Arena” this weekend.

They posted the reining pattern!  It has rollbacks, flying lead changes and spins, oh my!  My ride time for Working Ranch is 11:03 on Thursday 10/5.  I am hearing rumors about a live feed on the internet, but I don’t have details yet.  Will post them when I do.

The following day, Friday 10/6 we basically do a one day event.  The dressage test is considerably more sedate than the reining pattern.  It has um, walk, trot and canter.  Woot.  LOL

Then we go on to showjumping, followed nearly immediately, the schedule implies, by xc.

If the show was tomorrow, we’d do acceptably.  Two weeks ago, I would not have said that because he was very uncomfortable with his ulcers, and thus acting like a goof, but the treatment appears to be working and things are looking up.  The next week we’ll be putting the finishing touches on things.  “Finishing touches” is a relative concept as we are talking about a horse who was racing on the track about a year ago, so we aren’t yet to the finer point of splitting frog hairs here, rather making things flow a little better.  In Working Ranch at the RRP, you can ride in a snaffle or a curb, with a shank length limit of 4.5 inches.  Right now he is going pretty well in his mylar snaffle, so I might not mess with that.  The next week will be all about him allowing himself to be “willingly guided” as the reining horse rulebook says.

Regarding the eventing phase training, they’ll be on hold until after Working Ranch.  He knows how to jump the bright poles and do banks, ditches and water and he won’t forget that if I change the topic for a week.  And as far as dressage goes, reining done right is just western dressage, so no time wasted.  The spins do not translate at all.  Nope not one bit, and a rollback looks an awful lot to me like a refusal without a jump, but I’ll not mention that to Howdy.  😉

 

 

 

 

Jumping a course!

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Summer morning hacks are worth getting up in the dark!

I’ve been endeavoring to ride Howdy six days a week, even if for only 20 minutes, if that is all I have.  The Thoroughbred Makeover is five and a half weeks away!  I may be getting a little jittery.

Howdy, however, doesn’t seem to be.  The western skills are coming together at times (a quality lope is a fleeting thing for us and over-reaction to leg aids is pretty common).  But it is definitely an improvement over where we were a month ago.  I thought I had video of some western work, but not so much.  I’ll work on that.

But I do have video of last night’s adventure, which was our first attempt at a real course of jumps, rather than the grids we had been practicing.  We are preparing to do a combined test (dressage and jumping) on Sunday at Maffitt Lake Equestrian Center.  We’re pretty fired up for it.

What a good man!

Two hundred!

Howdy

It started back in late December.  You might remember when I went to look at Howdy and talk to his owner about buying him, Howdy looked at me like this.  If you look carefully, his left eyelashes are pointing a little more down than his right – he was having some pain in that eye.  I picked him up the first week in January and his eye looked like this:

Howdy eye day 0

That is no bueno.  The grey is water/inflammation on the eye, and the pupil is totally closed.  An open pupil looks like this:

Howdy eye day 13

You can read much more about the journey of his ERU diagnosis and the protocol we followed here, but the gist of it is that the brilliant ophthalmologists at ISU helped diagnose and work with me on a treatment protocol.  They took a fluid draw from his eye and his leptospirosis titer was 1600!  Very high.  We treated him with intraocular gentamicin, and systemic baytril and doxycycline.  The eye looked good after that, but we couldn’t tell what was going on with any objective measure.  I wanted to do another eye fluid draw to see what the titer was after the treatment.  They said we had to wait three weeks for all the antibiotics to totally clear.  Three weeks after the last antibiotic treatment was last week, so in he went for a checkup and to have another fluid draw from his eye to check his leptospirosis titer.

First, his eye exam went well.  In fact, this well:

Howdy

That thar is some great news.

So for the eye fluid draw, first they had to sedate Howdy.  He stands beautifully for his eye exams (he’s certainly done enough now), but he needs to be stock still for the fluid draw from his eye.  I mean we’re talking about literally “stick a needle in my eye” stuff of childhood nightmares.  Moving during that process would be a Bad Thing.

So first the drugs:

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Getting dozy here and yes, that is a crutch underneath his chin because horse heads are heavy!

Then anesthetizing the spot where the needle will go in.  Just like your dentist does before she gives you the shot of novocaine.

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Then put the nasty metal spreader underneath his lids to keep them open.  This process made me wince.  Thank goodness Howdy had pretty much left the building mentally:

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The syringe is a half cc and they drew out that much.  The volume of fluid in a horse eye is 6.5 ccs.  Afterwards they gave him a shot of banamine for the pain the needle caused.  They submitted the fluid to the lab and I learned the results today.

Dr. Foote told me that the results had come in last night but that she needed to discuss it with her colleagues.  My heart sank.  If it needed several ophthalmologists to discuss it before disclosing to the client, I was sure it was going to be a bad thing.  Then she said that his titer was 200.  I had completely forgotten all my science and I thought we were looking for zero and I was a little disappointed.  She explained that 200 is a normal titer for a horse that has had leptospirosis.  The titer is the level of antibodies in the fluid.  It is good to have some antibodies  to ward off any future attack.  Two hundred is in the normal range.  This is great news!

The downside is that they are still recommending his twice daily diclofenac eye treatments and twice monthly atropine.  The diclofenac may be for the rest of his life.  But he tolerates the treatments well, they apparently work, and they are not prohibitively expensive, so I am grateful for that.  Next check up is in two months.

Meanwhile we’ve been jumping and working on Ranch Horse skills.  More details on that in future installments soon.  Here’s a picture of the team, with Howdy still half in the bag and me with a new haircut and the freakishly long fingers of my left hand accidentally doing Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper” sign.  Dr. Foote on the left, Dr. Sebbag on the right, vet tech and students in the middle.  They are really delighted with Howdy’s progress.  It takes a village to get Howdy well again and on the road to the RRP.  I love my village.

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The Three Caballeros Get Ranchy

Since about May I have been looking forward to going to the Craig Johnson Ranch Horse clinic in Marshalltown.  Craig is a Hometown-Boy-Made-Good.  He is from Shell Rock, Iowa and he has won a bunch of stuff nationally and internationally in the sport of reining.  He still competes and now does a lot of clinics.  In fact, some pretty high-level clinics:

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(Image-finding courtesy of my friend K Dub who is like a dog with a bone when she wants to find something!)  Yes, that image is from 2014, but the clinic includes George Morris, so, for Iowa-boy Craig to be included in that company is pretty major.

Anyhoo, being me and  hearing he lives in northern Iowa, even before the clinic I went to with him this last weekend, I Facebook-messaged him and told him about Howdy’s journey to the RRP in October. I told him I don’t know anything about Ranchhorse (essentially true), but that I’m a professional in another sport (true) and Howdy is a serious quick study (also true).  He responded and said he was interested in my project and he’d be happy to be involved.  Awesome.

So we  (my husband Jay and my friend K Dub) went to Craig’s Ranchhorse clinic.  Jay and K  Dub were doing this on a lark to amuse themselves and because they are sweet.  So there we were, the three caballeros:

Howdy CAmie Kristen Jay Sammy

Howdy wins the prize for highest head, which, interestingly, they don’t give prizes for at western events.  Huh.  K Dub’s hunter mare Willow was so relaxed and K Dub had such a cool groove that by the end of the day we were calling them Western Barbie and Nugget.  Jay was apparently born to ride western as he has that strong, quiet, capable air about him and our horse Sammy just classes up anything he does.  I’m not even bragging there, that dang chestnut is just a born badass.  His nickname is BA.  All three saddles and breastplates are borrowed from K Dub’s roping, rodeo boyfriend, Coach.  He also took this picture.  Thanks Coach!

Everyone was asked to introduce themselves to Craig and he spent a lot of time listening to people’s stories and hopes for the clinic, which was nice of him and pretty interesting.  When he got to K Dub, the first in our group to speak, she let the cat out of the bag by saying that all three of us were western-wanna-be’s from another sport and every last bit of our tack was borrowed.  Blew our cover right off the bat, but I suppose they were going to eventually notice that our horses were relatively gargantuan compared to most there, our lopes were a tad quick and that there was not a curb bit among us.

The morning was spent in bending and lateral work.  Much of it things that we would do in dressage.  Howdy was especially antsy because there were 18 of us in the pretty decent-sized ring, but people were working on steering and neck reining and they were every where, changing direction and backing up.  Howdy was thoroughly Not About It, but I did learn, among other things that morning, that you CAN neck rein on a snaffle and it isn’t that big a deal to teach a horse to neck rein if you have properly taught it leg aids.  I also learned that it is much easier to keep a horse straight while neck reining, which Jay also said he noticed, and that neither one of had us anticipated.

Then we had a lunch and learn hosted by Lifeline.  I have been considering becoming involved with the company since I have heard some friends and clients say it has helped their horses.  With the help of a friend, I approached the company a few months ago and got some of the product and tried it on my horses.  In particular, I have a huge 17h OTTB, Bravado, who was just not doing well.  Rough coat, tripping, hard to keep weight on, pinned his ears when asked to canter; so I thought I would try him first.  I didn’t change anything else in his feed routine.  After two months, he looks and performs like this:

After the lunch, we tacked back up (western saddles are heavy!) and went back in.  In the second session we did more cantering, much to Howdy’s delight.  We did a very interesting weave on a circle exercise, which was unlike anything I have ever seen in the english world and I think pretty dang useful.  We also did halting (major thing in western of course, and doesn’t hurt for english horses) and spinning.  It cracked me up when he asked us why we thought we do spins in reining patterns.  After no one knew, he said, “Mostly because it is fun!”  Ha!  It kind of is.  I had put the ground work for this on Howdy at the clinic at The Horse First, a month ago, so I just used those basics and added the tools he gave us and I thought Howdy was spinning pretty well.  I didn’t think much of it and was about to let him quit when Craig goes, “Camie that is AWESOME!”  So I guess he was spinning pretty well.  We weren’t fast like you see on Youtube, but it was correct.  At the RRP at most we have to do one spin in each direction, so yay, we’ve got a good start on that.

After spinning practice, we worked on the Ranch Trail skill of going over poles, also known as cavalletti in english riding.  The only challenge for the three of us english-based people was that we are used to trot poles set at around 4’6″.  These were set at 3′.  So after listening to Craig tell us how hard the poles were, we were the first three over them, almost perfectly at the tiniest trots we own.  Then we went and had a beer and watched the western people make it look hard.  Ok, not literally had a beer, but most definitely put our reins around our saddle horns and tried and probably failed at not looking smug.

Then the clinic was over.  We all learned something interesting and I am looking forward to shining up the skills I learned and going up to ride with Craig in a few weeks for more insights.  We all do think that the western people are much more tolerant than english people are about sitting in the tack for long periods of time – six and a half hours for this clinic.  You go, western people!  Wow!

I probably should mention that the day before the clinic I took Howdy xc schooling at a local horse park.  He was quite good, but is still jumping with his head between his knees looking at the jump and trailing his forearms.  This is not the ideal safe way to jump and we have work to do, but he did well seeing new things and cantering by himself in the big new world of another property.  He also went through water and up and down a small bank.  Yay.

Meanwhile, the first day to officially enter the RRP is today, August first.  So here it is:

Dear Camie,

You have successfuly completed your Final Entry Form for Cactus Star. If you are entered for two horses please complete another form for your second horse. Below you will find confirmation of your selections: 

Discipline 1: Working Ranch

Discipline 2: Eventing

Enter Horse in Horse Sale: No

Stabling Choice: Stall

Tack Stall: No

Arrival Date: Wednesday, Oct 4

Departure Date: Before Monday, Oct 9 by 8AM

Other Requests: Not sure how scheduling Working Ranch and Eventing for the same horse is going to go on your end, but I have good help, so if we get the training done in the next two months, we’re game if you are. Ideally we would do eventing first. Oh please. 🙂

If you have questions about your Final Entry selections please contact me directly. Changes may not be made after August 21.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Green

Director of Operations


There’s some question at this point if I am going to get the jumping work done for the Eventing portion of the RRP, but I can always scratch if he isn’t pretty solid by October.  We have jumping grids at home and a couple of xc schooling opportunities so we will intend that it will work!  But if you ask me today, I feel like there is a 50% chance that we’ll be competing in eventing in October.  It would be a pretty cool accomplishment if we did get both done, but I’m not going to put undue pressure on either of us.  If it happens, great!

Grids!

And now for something completely different – grids!  We may enter both working ranch and Eventing at the RRP, but if we do eventing, we need to help him jump with a better, more safe, technique.  He had been getting over cross rails by just jumping UP and dangling his legs.  Not really terribly efficient or safe.  So I cracked out the trot grid this morning.  Thank you, Magee, for setting poles and videotaping!

and just for fun, here is Otto, through the same grid.

“Controlled, Unchanged and Historical”

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Howdy eyes, clear and bright. Photo credit Mark LaRue

“Controlled,” “unchanged” and “historical” are the three best words in the English language, because they were used to describe Howdy’s ophthalmic exam today:

  • Controlled equine recurrent uveitis, left eye
  • Unchanged incipient cataracts, left eye
  • Historical uveitis, right eye
  • Unchanged choroidal pigmentation, right eye

As you know, Howdy has been diagnosed with ERU, a no-bueno eye disease.  What the above says in plain words is that he has no inflammation in either eye and the small damage that had been done is stable.  The “choroidal pigmentation, right eye” means he has a pigmented freckle on the back of his eye.  It may be unrelated and is stable too.  Probably a lot of horses have them.

To date, we have injected the eye with gentamicin (yikes!), given him a course of Baytril, and are finishing up with a course of doxycycline.  About two months ago, he had a leptospirosis titer in his left eye of 1600.  This means that when the fluid from his eye was diluted to 1:1600, the leptospirosis titer was still discernible.  Oy vey!  That implies a very strong immune response.  Meanwhile, he had a titer of 0 in his blood.  This is not an uncommon result in horses with ERU.  In Howdy’s case, it is actually a little bit of good news because we have then a pretty good idea of what is causing the inflammation.

Once the vets had that information, we wanted to go after the infection with antibiotics.  The two antibiotics we used are able to cross the barrier into the eye and kill the leptospirosis organism.  This is actually no small feat, because the eye is walled off from the rest of the body pretty securely.  Not every antibiotic can cross the barrier.  Our sincere wish is that the antibiotics will clear out the infection, AND that the immune response will or has already settled.  But we have to wait and see.  We are going to have a recheck in a month at which point they are going to take another sample of eye fluid (I’m sorry, but still yikes!) and test it again.  If the titer is 0 then, which is my hope and intention, that will mean that the infection is cleared and the immune response has settled.  I will throw a party of gratitude and joy.

What will I do during the month until then?  Finish up the five or so days of doxycycline, get some probiotics in him to make up for all the good gut bugs that were collateral damage to the antibiotics, keep up the topical eye meds as directed, keep riding, and every time I catch myself worrying about it, change the mental channel and envision it ending exactly as we hope – a Howdy with a lifetime of good vision ahead.

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Photo credit Mark LaRue

 

 

Ranch Horse Schooling Show

Finally show day arrived!  The format for the show includes five events:

  • Ranch Conformation
  • Trail
  • Ranch Riding
  • Cutting
  • Working Ranch

You do all five events and the person with the most points at the end wins.  They also place each event, which makes it pretty fun.  You’re probably going to get a ribbon at a Ranch Horse show, so yeehaw!

Though taking a 17h thoroughbred into a ranch horse conformation class is ego-suicide, we were there for the party, so in we went.  I do not own a cowboy hat, (yet) and the rules say you have to wear one in conformation.  So I pulled out my duster’s rain hat and carried on.  It wasn’t pretty in any dimension and we were cellar dwellers in the placings, but I was actually giddily nostalgic to use my rusty 4-H showmanship skills. Howdy stood like we’d done it before, which we had not, and we got that box checked.

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Next it was Ranch Riding, which you can do anytime you are available, just show up at the ring and wait your turn.  I found a time when there was a short line and we did our pattern.  It too, was not glorious, as they are looking for a really finished lope and we have the gallop-come-canter-work-in-progress going on.  But we did the correct gaits at the correct letters and I’ll be danged if our halts were not stock still.  Nice job Howdy.  Dave Currin, the President of the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association had given us a private lesson on Friday, taught us in a group on Saturday and then judged this class on Sunday.  I rode up to him afterward for his comments after the ride, which everyone was supposed to do.  We both had big grins on our faces.  “Well, you know that isn’t going to be the best pattern here today.”  Then he smiled bigger and shook his finger at me with a sparkle in his eye, “But I know what you are doing here and I can’t believe this is the same horse we started with on Friday.”  What a sweet thing to say.  Thank you Dave.

Then I went out to check on how cutting was going.  I learned that I didn’t have that long of a wait before my run, so I found a place along the rail and sat on Howdy and watched.  The cattle were fast. (Or at least that is what they told me.  I have a very small data set to compare it to, so I’m deferring on that.)  We went in and did our cutting and it was about as brilliant as it had been the day before with Stoney.  But I didn’t make a fool of either of us, had some fun and nobody got hurt.  Got that box checked.

Then there was a short line at the Ranch Trail course, so we did that.  Dave was also judging that.  People were kind of nervous about this because it had a deep water obstacle to go through.  It was halfway up Howdy’s forearms.  Howdy has schooled water  in xc schooling for eventing so this was not a problem for us.  The first obstacle was a tippy bridge, like a 4″ teeter totter.  I knew we were not going to get that skill done on Saturday so I didn’t attempt it seriously.  So on Sunday, I put a big smile on my face and approached it perpendicular to the usual line of travel and Howdy neatly stepped over it without touching it.  Dave laughed and we moved on.  Then we had to go up the bank and do some turns on the forehand and hindquarters.  There may have been some accidental stepping off backwards, which Howdy found completely acceptable and just stepped back up with his back feet.  Ha!  Through the water, ho hum, attempt the gate opening, mess it up, smile and move on.  Weave poles, no problem.  Drag the log like a dang champion.  I saw the surprise in Dave’s eyes at that one.  Then side passing in a Z pattern over some poles which we did not make a complete mess of.  Then you had to droop your bridle entirely, put it back on, and then pick up a hoof  Got that done.  Then you were supposed to ground tie your horse and go over there and move a log with your foot.  Dave and I looked at each other and we said, “Maybe not the ground tie part.”  We laughed and trail was over.

Then came the big event: Working Ranch.  The big enchilada, the thing I have been practicing for, the event we will do at the RRP.  In this event, you do a reining pattern then a calf is released into the ring for you and you have to box it, move it down the long side of the ring, and get it past the center marker, turn it back, get in front of it and turn it back again so that you are going the original direction.  Then you are supposed to circle it in both directions without using the fences in any way.

This is beautiful Howdy before the start of Working Ranch:

Howdy start

This picture was taken by my new friend Christine Fortin DVM. Howdy and I were waiting for acknowledgement from the judge before starting our Ranch Horse pattern. He looks so beautiful and so trusting. Our number says it all. He says everything is as easy as one, two, three.

We got acknowledged by the judge and cantered up the center line.  It was pretty wobbly, but our halt was decent.  Then we did our 2 “spins” to the right, which were slow, but not bad.  Surprisingly, to the left, it sort of fell apart.  He’s usually better to the left.  Then canter depart on the right lead for our small slow circle.  Not a terrible depart, just a few trot steps.  Then a wonderful flying lead change to the left lead for the “large fast” circle.  TB fast is different than a lope and I think there may have been some gasping from spectators, but I plead ignorance and fun factor.  Then another great lead change and down the side line.  Not a bad stop and pretty decent roll back left.  Wha?  I was stoked.  I must have impressed myself too much and quit riding because our other stop and then rollback right was pretty mediocre.  But, still I was pretty stoked.

Then I halted and nodded for them to let my calf out and out comes a black calf with his tail up and headed straight at Howdy at a good clip.  Most of the calves come out and run along the fence trying to get back with their pals.  This black furry missile was not Stoney by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m like, “Well, here goes.”  Jeff Barnes, the cow clinician from Saturday was judging the class and helping competitors in the cow portion of the class.  He told me to release that steer and ask for another one.  So I helped get the calf to the wrangler who was opening the gate.  Then they released me a new calf.  Sadly, it wasn’t Stoney, but this one was more suggestible than the first one anyway.

I boxed him on the end of the ring and that went really well.  I stayed off him a ways so he wouldn’t feel pressed and start to run.  Then I sent him down the long rail, got him past the center marker and turned him back.  I was pretty stoked at that, but our turn was pretty barge-rific, so we got way behind the calf.

howdy cow

Butt-high and shoulders down is about the slowest way you can turn, so Howdy and I floored it to get down the fence line to get our second turn.  As we galloped, I wondered what we were going to do when we got there.  At this speed, I was not going to get him to stop and turn.  And then it happened.  HOWDY stopped and turned and I just stayed out of the way.  He clearly understood what we were trying to do and we got that calf turned, and quick.

howdy cow

Images by the outstanding Dr. Christine Fortin, DVM. Thanks Chris!

Here you can see that Howdy’s butt is down and shoulders are up.  He is also clearly tracking the steer.  After this image, we got the right hand circle going.  It ended up big but effective.  We started the left hand circle and didn’t quite get it done.  I raised my hand to signify we were going to end on that.  Howdy got a big pat.

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I went to talk to Jeff after the run and I may have exclaimed, “That horse might have some cow in him!”  We both laughed and he said “He almost laid down on that right hand turn!”  So fun!

I came down off my adrenaline high by untacking Howdy and giving him a bath and fixing his stall as befits Mr. Right Turn.  Afterwards I hung out with my new friends and cheered the winners and got some fun ribbons.  What a weekend!

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