Monday, January 31, 2011

Covert Muffin Drop

A mighty blizzard is forging its way toward my city. This is how it will look by nightfall. I decided to take preemptive measures and whip down to my office to grab some work for the next few days. On the way, I swung by to see Saxony. After all, I had five German Horse Muffins left.

I'm used to Saxony recognizing me by now. I think she knows the sound of my Pathfinder. She'll always lift her head and either watch, waiting for me to come out to where she is, or move to the fence line. But the other horses have also wised up about the fact that I pretty much always have something good to eat, so they tend to crowd around us. I didn't have a lot of time, so I didn't want to have to manage a mini-mob. Instead, I went into the barn to access the paddock from the back door. I opened the door, closed it softly behind me, and then whispered, "Saxony. Sax. Come here." She was watching me from the turnout shed. Absurdly, I waved her toward me, gesturing with a cupped palm. She came, slowly and deliberately, but casually. I couldn't help but imagine she understood this was to be a covert muffin drop.

I gave her the five muffins one a time, scratching her ears and face in between bites. It was so good to see her. Fat snowflakes in fairytale shapes landed here and there on her seal-thick coat. I lifted her muzzle between my hands and scratched the sides of her mouth. She rested her nose on my shoulder and I felt her warm breath glow across my neck.

Just this one little moment to cheat the coming storm left me feeling renewed and happy enough to have come out today.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cosequin ASU - The 90-Day Trial, Update 1

German Muffins?
My vet's notes from the day we did all the X-rays of Saxony's hooves and hocks included the following finding: Saxony is much improved since starting Cosequin ASU. Her right hind was much improved - bit stiff, but otherwise sound.

At that point, Saxony had been getting the loading dose (which means double dosing to prime the pump, so to speak) for two weeks. I think it's interesting that my vet could see a significant improvement in her after such a short time. But when I thought about it, I realized that I might have been seeing a response even earlier when I wrote here about a moment that happened just one week after she started the Cosequin.

Now that she's completed the loading dose, she'll be getting SmartPak's one-scoop maintenance dose for the next two months. My vet returns at the end of February to extract Saxony's wolf teeth, so I'll get another assessment of the Cosequin then.

I just need the greatest barefoot trimmer in the world to materialize in front of me right now. Or any barefoot trimmer. Not a pasture trimmer, but a barefoot specialist who believes in such a thing as the balanced foot. The search has been frustrating and makes me understand why some people give up and learn how to do it themselves. I feel Saxony's toes growing like nails on a chalkboard, and it's making me cringe.

Sidebar: Lately, it seems Scout has been on my mind more than Saxony. And she has been, just in a different way. Laying around working on getting better leaves me with time to ponder (kind of, druggily) and Scout somehow presented herself at the outskirts of my mind and then wandered up close. Right now she seems to stand for me as some sort of proof, in the mathematics sense, which, according to my  huge old broken-backed dictionary, means a sequence of steps, statements, or demonstrations that leads to a valid conclusion. Yes, I think that's the exactly the way I mean it. Now I just have to figure out what that "valid conclusion" is.

Eight-minute rides are best, I find.

Ten days of not seeing either of them has been really rough.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eff You, Blogger, But Thanks Anyway

Blogger ate the final paragraph of my last post, about three sentences' worth. Because fever also bends the mind, I don't remember the words precisely as I wrote them. I'll just try to assume for now that they were smart, incisive and confidence-building. Why not.

But I do read what I write, and, looking at that post today, I mined from it these two things:

   1 - All the other horses were outside and she was ticked off. 
   2 - Scout mindful that all the other horses were inside. 

The one was the catalyst of her blow-up, the other the keeper of her calm. And this started me wondering: If Scout got everything she wanted, would I be able to ride her no-drama confidently? What would that be like; I mean, what parameters would Scout set? Well, I'm just fever-warped enough to try thinking about it from her point of view...

Hi, Scout. Hey, pony. Let's go riding tonight.

I am busy happy being with the horses right now, thanks.

Come on. Just a short ride, nothing fancy (like we ever do fancy.)

Don't want to, but it's not like I hate you or anything. I love you, bringer of carrots. Say, could you pull those bits of ice off my whiskers?

We could both use the exercise, you know. 

Yes, you could. I see that. Well, you can ride me right here in the dry lot, then. It will be nice to walk along the fence. You can have your "ride" and I can monitor my herd. 

In here? I thought we'd ride to the south pasture, just over there.

Why would we you do that? I can't see the herd from there. I'll jig, you know, and scream out. I'll go spooky on your ass. I'll have to rush and brace. Here is best. We can even trot a little, k? I do like that bendy-stretchy thing you do. My neck gets heavy reaching down to eat all day.


So I'll keep noshing hay while you get the grooming box and the saddle and bridle. I love that grooming, by the way. K, an hour for grooming, 10 minutes tack up, and then food time at six means hey, we've got, like, eight minutes. Yay! Let's go riding! I'm so glad you asked.

( . . . )

( . . . )

And I'll go take my temperature now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fever Bends the Mirror

Did I See It or Just Dream It?
Only once, a long time ago, did I ever get seriously sick. It lasted a week or so. I've never been hospitalized, but I probably should have been then. I didn't know what sickness I had, but I was  tempted to imagine it was some rare, exotic malady, Dengue fever or the like. It felt especially foreign and intriguing because it threw me into a sustained, fitful delirium, where I stayed for days. I remember thinking a lot during that illness, or thinking I was thinking, anyway. One thing I seemed to obsess over was that Hitler had been to the United States. Friends who came to visit me still remember my asking them When did Hitler come to the U.S.? That's what I asked: when, not if. I was convinced that he had been here and that I had missed the precise details in all my reading about the two world wars. I still recall the certainty of those feverish Hitler thoughts; it's as if the baking happening to my brain seared them into brands. (It did: When I was better, I still had to go check the Hitler business with H.G., who wasn't my lifetime mate yet, only someone I was selfishly flirting with.)

Here, now, I've been thinking of one particular incident with Scout during the past few days. The recollection weaves through sleep and wakefulness, pushes into the foreground, then recedes into the background. What is it about it that caused it to flower in the over-rich Petri dish that is me in a flu-state? I don't know.

Back in early 2008, I kept Scout at an expensive semi-private barn for a while. I put her there because my trainer's new horse was there and the indoor arena was huge. I was willing to scrape together the board in pursuit of the answer to the question about whether Scout and I would ever be able to partner. This barn wasn't elitist or smug, but there were a few expensive horses there, no matter that some of them seemed rarely to be ridden or even visited by their owners. It all motivated me to ride through the winter months, and I was in a regular lesson schedule with my trainer, as was Scout, who even played a role as a walk-trot school horse once a week.

I have to define "lesson" in this context. E always worked with me on my riding, but she also worked with me on how to ride Scout, in particular, and additionally worked with me on how to train Scout as I rode her. A three-layer sandwich slathered in patience. A four-layer sandwich, actually. E had to manage my fear, as well.

During a lesson one cold morning in March, Scout began to crow hop as we rode on a 20-ish meter ovally circle to the left. All the other horses were outside and she was ticked off. The crow hopping terrified me. I could hear E calling instructions, but her voice was drowned out by the rush of fear in my head. I quickly fell off. E was never judgmental about things like that. Calmly, efficiently, she checked on me, reminded me to breathe, and then went to fetch Scout.

I knew I would have to get back on, and I did. As I settled into the saddle and gathered the reins, E stood at Scout's head and repeated the instructions I had been unable to follow. She told me Scout would do the same thing, only this time I could be ready for it. Meanwhile, the tears were building up; my emotions had really seized. I could only nod. We walked on. We made it almost all the way through a wobbly, misshapen circle before Scout blew, and then she did. I was crying. Like a robot, mechanically, I followed E's instructions, and they worked. Scout crow hopped and I stayed on. I pushed her forward, I made her work. All of it worked. But none of it worked. I nodded, crying, while E pointed out everything I had done to bring Scout back to me. I got it, I understood, but I didn't care. My fear was just oozing out of me, it was what was defining the moment. And this was nothing like the fall that had led me to consider divorcing Scout in the first place.

That was Tuesday morning. Thursday night I went back to the barn. The fall had jarred me and I was sore. I did something I hadn't planned at all. I took Scout out of her stall, groomed her painstakingly as I like to, clipped my double-ended lead rope to her halter and led her to the arena. It was well lighted; it looked beautiful that night. From the mounting block, I slipped onto her bare, fuzzy back. There were people around, and a couple of them must have known about my fall. The barn owner did, I'm sure. She was a kind person. E finished brushing down her big mare, and then she and the barn owner stood leaning in the doorway. They weren't watching me, but they were being near, and I understood that. I lifted my knees and rested them against Scout's withers and then hunched low over her neck, stretching my sore back. Gently, she shifted underneath me, so soft, so easy. "I needed to sit on my pony," I said. I was really comfortable, familiar with me in my jeans, sweatshirt and scarf, wearing battery-powered hot socks, and familiar with Scout warm underneath me, comfortable to feel me, carry me, ready to dawdle on forever. Scout mindful that all the other horses were inside.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Time Not to Write

When living in a fever dream like the one that caught me on Thursday. Then I went to sleep for some 24 hours and woke up mired in a muddy, viscous molasses of weariness, my head hovering high above me on a spiderweb string. Throat closed, ears ringing, inertia, chills and sticky sweat. Sick days are days of nothing to me. I hate the sensation of hours evaporating, free time I didn't earn and haven't the energy to use. I've taken this flu badly, worn myself further by fighting it, not fighting it, fighting it some more.

I read horse blogs much of Saturday, if only to be up out of bed. So many words and ways given to trying to understand them, given to trying to know them. The varied accounts spooled into a stream of consciousness, into one pulse, heavier than mine, quicker than mine: the horse, the horse, the horse. I'd give up a lot to know that any horse understood me, never mind that I thought I understood any of them.

I tried to spend some time studying the anatomy of the hoof. I have research to do for Saxony, another farrier to find. Feel bruised thinking that when it was my turn to find a new farrier, I brought in one that ended up doing on hack jobs on our horses. Learning what's not the right thing doesn't point the way to what is the right thing. How can I ask Do you know what you are doing? when I don't know what they are doing? Trying to learn what they are doing becomes impossible when words and images wave and ripple before me on the screen, like cramming for a calculus test at the eleventh hour when I don't even know basic math.

I watched two of my favorite football teams make it to the Super Bowl, but it happened in a haze, barely breaking through the indifference that illness sometimes brings.

I have an awareness of the cats during this confinement. They claim me, sleep on me, surround me, carry on with their lives. I like them all, like how they assume I am there to suit their needs. Sleeping dully beneath their weight, I feel glad they are getting something useful out of me.

I can see through the windows it's a lovely day, my kind of January day. The grey flanks of the winter sky lay soft, enclosing, sheltering, windless against the snow. I want to be out, like a horse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Saxony's Feet

A recent visitor asked me, after reading about Saxony's X-rays here, if I could put up some pictures of the bottoms of her feet. As it happens, I had snapped a couple of shots a few weeks ago because I was struck by the different colors of her soles. Black soles on the black legs, white soles on the legs with socks. So here you go, June. These pictures were taken on December 29th and they were the only two that came out in focus.

Left Front

Right Rear

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Barn Chores, Scout Chores

I had PM feed/clean chores tonight, so I went out early to pace myself in the ridiculous cold. I like it that I can manage the bitter cold despite its insistent edges. In the end, it doesn't matter. I can still settle in to do the chores, appreciating the beginning, middle and endness of the task. I love to take care of the horses.

They were way out in the north pasture, snug in their blankets. After getting set up to clean the stalls, I went out to check the water troughs. In the absolutely flat stillness that only dry, bitter cold can create, the horses heard the grinding squeak of the sliding door. They came running, hoofbeats dulled against the snow. I always pause in my very being to watch them; I can't help it.

Scout and Keely led everybody into the lot next to the barn. They passed me as I was walking back from the trough in Lot 2. Idly, I extended a gloved hand and dragged it along Scout's neck on my way back to the barn. She turned her head to meet my fingers, so I stopped beside her. She lifted her muzzle level with my nose, offering it. I knew what she wanted because she taught me last night. Icicles form on her whiskers, and apparently she loves how it feels when I pull them off. Using my index finger and thumb, I peeled the icicles off one whisker at a time. She made minor adjustments to her position so I could keep sliding the bits of ice free. When her whiskers were clean, I cupped her muzzle in my hands. There she stood, sighing, motionless. There we stood.

There's no picture of this, no lens to capture the silliness of it, but charms like this made the horse standing before me in that moment the most wonderful horse in the world.

Remember Slam Books?

When I was in junior high school, there was the thing called a Slam Book. Someone would grab a blank notebook, tear out half the pages, and then write a question at the top of each of the remaining pages. The notebook would be passed around and anyone who got it had to write answers to the questions. Kind of like what goes on below.

First, the setup. I had my reasons for starting this blog, one of which appears here, but it was, and is, just a journal to me. The fear I felt of my mare, Scout, was deeply troubling to me, so I wrote about it. It's harder for me to buy into self-serving, evasive personal mythologies when I'm confronted by them in black and white the next morning.

The writer Henry Miller once said, (loosely paraphrased), If you write for an audience, you'll never write the truth. So I didn't, and I haven't. But it did occur to me that there were other horse owners out there who could be struggling with confidence. I thought maybe they could help me. They have.

Four different bloggers in the ether decided to give me an award. I'm not sure what to say about that, so I'll just assume Denali's Mom, On The Bit, Dock Start, and A Process of Learning have found something useful in my journal. If so, I think that's wonderful.

This little award (which I put on my sidebar) comes with caveats, however. I've already taken care of the first, which was to thank and link back to the person(s) who gave me the award. The second is to offer up seven things about myself:
  1. Seven is actually my favorite number.
  2. I will never be able reconcile myself to being called "Ma'am" for the rest of my life.
  3. I value being an adult because no one can make me eat anything I don't want to. 
  4. I knew even as a young girl that I never wanted children.
  5. My idea of hell is to be trapped for all eternity in a public women's bathroom.
  6. People think I'm strong and outgoing. I'm not. I just know that the best defense is a good offense.
  7. I'm still missing my calling.
The third directive was to bestow the same award on 15 newly discovered bloggers. My list is shorter because some I would have passed it on to have already received it.

Two Horses - After reading one post just last week, I went back to the beginning and read all of this well-written and insightful blog. Don't be too jealous of her life, it's hard work.

Sofie Learns Dressage - I've enjoyed following this young writer's journey as she attempts to persuade her cranky $750 former trail horse that she too can learn to love dressage.

My Life With Rescued Horses - Jay's strong love of horses and his belief that all of them have something to offer are enchanting.

Confessions of A Struggling Dressage Rider - She's candid, often funny, and always helpful. I love the role unvarnished truth plays in how she describes her rides. She offered the best advice for achieving a workable sitting trot I've ever heard. I tried it, and she was right. It worked.

Solitaire Mare - The blog is really called A Good Horse, but this is how I think of her. I like her bluntness as she writes her way through some really rough turns and searches for the new horse she will surely find.

Hoofbeats for Heartbeats - This blog used to be called K is For Kiki. I've found much to compare in her story of working with one of those "chestnut mare" types and I admire her for her guts.

Equine Insanity - A recent discovery, I find this a rich blog to mine, really well written. She takes the time to capture her thoughts in depth. I'm willing to read a three-page post, no problem.

I recommend all of these blogs for anyone committed to deepening their relationship with horses -- and with people, for that matter. The fears I face with my horses must always live in me, musn't they? It's just that horses expose and touch them quicker than humans ever can.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Me-worthy If Not Seaworthy

Conclusion No. 1:  I think I may have spent more on her yesterday than I did the day I bought her. It underlined in stark terms how I feel about her. To invest in her is to invest in me, and that's what I'm going to do.

Conclusion No. 2:  I should probably change her name to "Stax." Her front ankles look like Roman ruins, stones stacked unevenly, ancient mortar all but vanished.

We took a dozen X-rays, starting at the left front. They were good, clear images. I couldn't help but be startled once again by the delicate architecture with which these creatures are designed. We were looking at a thin tower built of just three bones; to me they seemed ill suited to support the 1,130 pounds standing patiently above them.

Saxony inherited some crookedness between the fetlock and coronet band. Her foreleg pasterns are uneven front to back, though normal in side views. She has really good joint spaces. We X-rayed the naviculars in two views, from above and below, and they're both normal. This is good news. Her right front shows more crookedness than her left, though only her left front shows an offset. Dr. B pondered that a bit.

By the time we had finished up with her front end, I knew it was worth it to me to keep going. I felt determined; I wanted to see all of her. There's no such thing as an imperfect horse, but how imperfect is mine? No, that wasn't the question at all, actually. The question was: what is her normal, and how do I maintain it, support it, help her thrive?

Images of her hind legs, both hooves and hocks, showed  normal anatomy in her ankles -- no crookedness or offsets back there -- and two teeny tiny bone spurs in her right hock. Her left hind is the star, the exception that proves the rule, I suppose.

We moved her out before doing the X-rays. Dr. B pointed out a striking improvement in how Saxony goes. She attributed it to the Cosequin ASU.

What does all of this mean to me? We did not take any X-rays of Saxony's heart or mind; they were plain to see. She stood like a statue for all the pictures, let Dr. B place her feet, one by one, just so. Once, she gently lifted my braid between her teeth while I was kneeling beside her right knee, assisting Dr. B. Any of those German muffins around? Just wondering.

My vet, who I trust, has told me there's little I can't do with my mare. There are no arthritic changes other than those two bone spurs. She traced Saxony's right hind hitch (now almost gone) to bracing against the left front crookedness.  She doesn't recommend taking her over four-foot jumps or into Grand Prix Dressage. She does recommend trying shoes up front, and she told me to think of them as orthotics. The anatomy in Saxony's ankles causes her to wear her hooves unevenly. Dr. B thinks shoes could help protect her joint spaces from compression and stave off arthritis. We agreed any experiment with shoeing should wait until the spring. My homework now is to think about that, and see if I can find a way to get around my bias against shoes. 

I think my other homework is to figure out how I feel about the vulnerability built into my girl. Right now, I feel like it's just reality. I think I'm sobered, but I also think, so what? She's the one.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Too Much Information, Not Enough Knowledge

At the little barn of paradise, we've been searching for a new farrier since this time last year. I've given up one horse (Dar) and acquired another (Saxony), and still the quest for a farrier has dragged on. We met a new farrier on Sunday. He stopped to look at Saxony first, who's just down the road. I led her in the barn, money in hand, and told him about her arthritis diagnosis, assuming it was pertinent information. He startled me by telling to me to keep my money so I could apply it toward the cost of shoes in front for her. Shoes, rim pads and drill tack, to be precise.

I've never owned a horse who needed shoes, ever. It's not a problem for me to learn about it; I'm always forward leaning when it comes to understanding my horses and their needs. What threw me about this, though, is the skull-press of conflicting opinions. It's one of the hardest parts of owning a horse, I think. I only ever want to do what's right for my horses, but how can I know what that is when my skill-set is not infinite?

Backstory. I had a prepurchase exam done on Saxony. The vet who handled it detected something in Saxony's right rear pastern during the flex tests. She attributed it to a touch of arthritis. Nevertheless, I moved on and bought the sweet, sane girl. Several weeks ago my regular vet met Saxony, something I wrote about here.

During that visit, Dr. B mentioned that Saxony was slightly offset in her front left leg and that she paddled a bit. "Offset" and "paddling" were words new to me in the context of horses. Naturally, I pulped my brain to mush doing way too many internet searches in the following days, where wildly divergent opinions ranged from rendering plant prospect to Grand Prix Dressage candidate.

Information: 1, Education: 0

Here comes this new farrier, then, who bluntly informs me that Saxony needs shoes up front, that she may not have arthritis at all. And he seems to know his stuff, if only because I don't know his stuff.

Information: 2, Education: 0 

All of it started me hamster-wheeling to the enth degree, swinging dizzily from I bought a lemon! to There's nothing this mare can't do!  Yikes. I made some calls. The first was to another farrier, one who'd trimmed Saxony for her previous owner. I was hoping he'd give me a second opinion. "There's nothing wrong with that mare," he said. "No horse is perfect." I know that. I completely do know that. What I want is to not do anything to hurt Saxony or worsen her "condition," if she has one.

Information: 3, Education: 0 

I called my vet and told her about the shoe-happy farrier. I told her about the other farrier. I jabbered about winging and paddling and defect and floating the heel. She was very kind to me. That's why we pay them the big bucks. "Let's take some X-rays and see what's there," she said. Bingo. I'd rather spend my money on education than a bottle of Loon-A-Way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Aftersmoke

I came to smoking late and I probably won't stop early. I don't think smokers exhale as deeply as they inhale, at least I don't. You get duped by seeing the air you are releasing. But if you bear down and exhale again, you'll see a little more smoke, the stuff that was just hanging around in there. You should get it out.

That's what happened to me today, when I learned that the jousters had given Dar away. It's as if all of me clenched for a second, bore down on my heart. There he was again, lingering in front of me like smoke. Now the path I sometimes still crazy-dream is gone. Will I never forget him?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who's the Demographic?

The brand new Hyundai Equus. Really? Does it come with tack, or no?

Friday, January 7, 2011


Saxony floated today.

I took a good, good friend to meet her this afternoon. We brought her into the barn for a once over. I picked out her feet and brushed away what little dirt she'd collected. For a horse who is outside as much as she is, unblanketed, munching hay all day and many nights in a large dry lot, she stays remarkably clean.

While I worked on her, she mugged shamelessly for treats from my friend. Someone gave me a bag of Gold Label German Horse Muffins for Christmas, and Saxony has lost her mind over the rich concoction of molasses, oats, sugar, beet pulp and who knows what else packed into the dark, dense muffins.

Though the cold was snapping at us, I decided to put Saxony on the longe line in the riding ring. The footing was packed hard under shallow snow and the ground was level. Saxony was ready to play. I sent her out on the end of the line, letting her set the pace, encouraging her to find her footing. Steps into the trot, she bucked and squealed, reared and twisted. I so wanted to let her go, but the fencing around the ring is too low to be sure of. I wouldn't want her to sail over it in an exuberant moment. 

And that's the word for it. She was exuberant today, snorting and prancing, high-tailing and peanut-rolling. Heading into one of the corners of the square riding ring, she lifted into a floating trot, beautifully rounded, natural and forward. "Wow," I heard from behind me. At first I thought it was an echo; it could have been, because I had thought it myself.

So, squeal. She squealed and I squealed. I realized in that moment how much I've worried about Saxony's diagnosis of arthritis, like it was the end of the world. But there's a horse under there, not just another problem. She was there, floating easily and happily through the bend. I caught myself in the act of making problems where they don't need to be by making them bigger than they are. We aren't destined for the Olympics, we're just destined for each other. I really enjoyed watching her playful antics for the rest of 10 little minutes on the longe line.

Afterward, we loaded her with muffins and turned her out. Leaving, I looked back and blew her a kiss. Somehow it was easy to imagine she returned the gesture.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Horses in Their World

Because I have to practice not rushing, I didn't head straight down into the barn for chores tonight. I stood outside first, surrounded by falling lake-effect snow. Just like Scout.

She was very curious about what I was doing, and kept close by, even though I wanted a distance picture.

She presented her muzzle, adorned with ice crystals.

And she took the time to tell Kee-pad to back off.

She has a way of looking at me that often seems to suggest an imperative. The imperative is treats. I broke up a whole two-pound bag of carrots, tossing them across the paddock in pieces, sending the snow ponies off in search of fresh treasure. It took time, and it gave me time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cosequin ASU - Our 90-Day Trial Begins

Because Saxony tends to be mouthy in the bit, fretting over and chewing my gentle French-link snaffle, I decided to have Dr. B come and check out her teeth a few weeks ago. Since another vet had done the pre-purchase exam, this was the first meeting between Saxony and Dr. B, who will be her regular vet. We ended up doing a full physical so Dr. B could assess her and create her file. I learned two important things. 

Turns out my nine-year-old mare still has her wolf teeth, which may have some bearing on the mouthiness. She's never resistant to the bit, but never quiet and comfortable with it either. She had been ridden in a fat, rubberized or plastic-covered loose-ring training snaffle before I got her, and the adjustment away from that to my Eggbutt French Link may simply be hard for her. Because she didn't need to have her teeth floated, we elected to wait until February, when she will be due for a float, to extract the wolf teeth under one sedation.

Before I bought Saxony, friends pointed out what they saw as a hitch in her right hind leg. I couldn't see it. I am not skilled at spotting subtle anomalies in the movement of a horse. I can see profound lameness, limping and some signs  of stiffness, but I couldn't see any of these in Saxony. Riding her, I felt nothing except the stiffness inherent in horses who are not regularly being suppled and flexed. The vet who did the pre-purchase exam noted something in her right rear pastern, but was reluctant to rate it even a 1 on the lameness scale, offering instead a point five, if there were such a thing.

In the few months I've had Saxony, I've done very little cantering with her. We cantered during the two rides I had on her before I bought her, and I still shiver at the delight and easiness I felt to be riding her, the joy of feeling unafraid. I've realized since then, though, that Saxony doesn't pick up the left lead. Because she needs a lot of suppling and gymnastic strength-building work to learn to carry herself through her body, our canter work will have to wait for some time, but I did want to know whether there could be a physical reason for her refusal to pick up the left lead. "Refusal" may not even be the right word; it's as if she doesn't know there is such a thing as a left lead.

I moved her out on the longe line for Dr. B. After big circles in both directions and Saxony offering a perfect demonstration of cantering on the wrong lead, Dr. B put her through a soundness exam. She found arthritis in both her right and left hinds, with emphasis on the right. I admit I wilted for a second, felt a sharp pulse of disappointment gulp up in me. Dr. B said, "You'll never do a third-level dressage test with her."

That's okay with me. For this horse's mind, her heart of gold, I will trade a lot. I'm not a dressage rider, not to say as much, anyhow. I just value the principles of classical dressage, realizing how they help horse and rider come together in work and then journey forward as a team safely, kindly, and in balance.

Dr. B gave me a container of powdered Bute, suggesting pain management might help Saxony find the left lead. I'll wait on that until spring. She strongly recommended putting Saxony on Cosequin ASU, which she uses on her own horse. I'm doing it via Smartpak, and we started the loading dose today. 

As someone who was born emotionally and intellectually resistant to hooey in whatever form, be it religion, fad diets, new-age gurus, age-defying moisturizers, swimming with dolphins or any of the million other ways humans find to kid themselves, I've embarked on the Cosequin experiment with great interest. If it doesn't work, has no impact, I'll say so. If, on the other hand, it helps my stiff mare, I'll say that too, and then see if Smartpak will make up a dose regimen for me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Note to Self: Rushing

That there is a road ahead is certain. Beyond the bend, there's another bend, and beyond that the horizon, always beckoning. I only want not to rush toward it. I have to learn to stop rushing. Because I see the thing and before I know it, I've blown right by, left whiplashed looking back to grab what was there before it's gone. It's rushing that sees me chasing futures I cannot map while forgetting pasts that could have guided me.

Slow the fuck down.