Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stephen Colbert Learns Dressage, Part 1

How Did Barisone Keep a Straight Face? For those not in the USA, Stephen Colbert is a late night comedian who does a lot of political satire. Since Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife is part owner of Olympic dressage horse, Rafalca, Colbert has declared dressage the "sport of summer." He never does things halfway, so in order to research, he took a lesson with Michael Barisone. Part 2 will be aired tonight.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Dressage Training Pt. 1
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I Am Captivated

I admit it. every time the Olympics come around, I get glued to the TV, and this year, the computer.

Of course, I am always rooting for the US teams and athletes in everything, and the horse sports are my number one interest, but it goes much further than that.

I find myself cheering on competitors of every nation and in nearly every sport I see. This year, I was rooting like anything for the Japanese rider who held the lead in the 3 Day eventing.  As much as I wanted our riders to win--they are in the middle of a very elite pack right now--how cool would it be for a rider from Japan to actually medal in such a field of riders from countries with long histories of success in equestrian competition?

Or how about a 15 year old swimmer from Lithuania who won the first ever swimming medal for her country, beating my world champion from the US, Rebecca Soni (who happens to be from here in New Jersey, living within 20 miles of me!) in the 200m breaststroke. Surely, I wanted Rebecca to win, but what a triumph for Ruta Meilutyte and what a delight to see her reaction on the medal stand. 

I love the unlikely winners, the unexpected performances from the "non-favorite" athletes who somehow reach for the best in themselves and snatch the gold medal.

Whoever they are, and from whatever nation, nearly all of these competitors have trained, struggled, and worked for, at the very least, four years to make their Olympic teams. They have put their lives on hold to strive for that elusive dream of an Olympic medal. 

I know it sounds corny and cliche to be so caught up in the principles of the Olympic dream, but it's so much fun to watch and in particular, to enjoy the whole experience. 

In the Three Day cross country, one of the best things was hearing the massive crowd watching the course cheer on Yoshiaki Oiwa as he galloped along. And what a groan of disappointment as he slid out of the saddle at the drop fence, ending his Olympic dream. There were thousands of fans there, most from every country in the world except Japan, and yet, they were behind the unexpected leader as he tried to go for the gold. 

Wouldn't it be great if more than once every four years we could all support each other like that? 

PS: So far this year NBC TV here in the US broadcast about 4 dressage rides from the three day and perhaps 75% of the cross country--4 hours worth--on the regular television. Live stream on the Internet has shown everything and since I have cable TV, I can access it. 

Looking foward to the dressage. This time, for a change, there are strong teams from many countries including Britain and more than just one or two fabulous horses. It's going to be a strong and amazing competition. 

Sorry about the strange post format. I accidentally reset the background color for my text and there was no way I could get it back to how it's supposed to look....blogger has its limits......

Thursday, July 26, 2012

So Far, So Good

Thank You, Fellow Bloggers

Gray Horse Matters suggested Stud Muffins to get Toby to eat his pill.  So far, so good. He has twice taken his meds stuffed in a muffin. I give him a "pillless" one first and then the pill.  I don't know how long this will work, but so far, so good.

I'm not sure I see any difference in his attitude since he started on the pergolide, but he does seem a bit more interested in things and has been "asking" for his feed more than in the last month. Then again, we have also had a number of cooler mornings and evenings, so perhaps that might also be a factor.

At any rate, I have all the rest of your suggestions to follow should the muffins fail, so I thank you all for the good advice.

I mowed the lawn yesterday and today, I used my DR Trimmer to trim at least part of the front bank and the weeds along the other side of the driveway.  The sun came out midway through the effort and I was dripping with sweat by the time I finished. Despite a shower this morning, it is supposed to be another super hot day.

I took a cool shower when I came back inside, as much to cool myself off as to soap off any possible poison ivy residue from the trimming. I noticed, a bit too late, that I was mowing right into a patch of the noxious weed.  The DR is more like a hand mower and doesn't quite through up weed residue like the hand string trimmer does, but there were still bits of weeds on me and my clothes when I came in.  Hopefully the shower and good soap will keep me from any issues.

Just so you all know, if you are exposed to poison ivy, you need to wash off with cold water, not hot. The hot water actually makes the urushiol, the irritant in poison ivy, get absorbed into your pores.  My Grandmother used to make her own "brown soap" that she used every time she came back in from a walk in the woods and she swore by it as a way of avoiding a poison ivy rash.  There are washes on the market, one by Technu, that supposedly clean the urishiol off your skin.  

Hopefully, my precautions will save me a week or so of rash and itching.  I've managed to kill most of the poison ivy on my property with a brushkiller, but I never thought to look in this particular patch of weeds. And, as some of you may know, poison ivy is a hardy, determined invader that will simply take over if left to grow on its own. 

I've been keeping up on my swimming regimen, managing a half hour to forty minutes of laps every day the pool is open. I have, however, missed a few days during the last week due to the threat of thunderstorms which causes the pool to close.

Hope I get my swim in today. I need it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Medication Meanderings

How to Get A Horse to Take a Pill

Pergolide is apparently very bitter tasting. So, the problem is, how do you get a smart, sensitive horse to take his daily dosage?

Toby is not a good eater to start off with. He will stop eating if he's upset or if I put a supplement in his feed and he decides it "tastes different."  He is not what I call a "stomach horse,"  meaning that food and treats are not a great motivator. If he's decided he doesn't want to be caught in the paddock, a treat will not lure him in.

So, how do I assure that he gets his daily half tablet of Pergolide? Please note, the pills are very small. A half tab is perhaps a 1/16" long and half as wide.

Suggestion number one, from a friend who has a horse on her property on Pergolide, is to stuff the pill in a mini marshmallow. All well and good provided the horse in question likes mini marshmallows.  Toby is not so sure. I lured him into complacency with three minis, unspiked, and then gave him the mini with the pill. He ate it, but that was that. He refused the next offering of "untainted" mallows and hasn't offered to eat once since.

Scratch off the marshmallow alternative. On to the bananas. This was my vet's recommendation.  I'm a little leery of this one too. I gave Toby a sample slice of banana, and he wasn't too thrilled. I still have several bananas left, so I will try again to see if he will begin to like them more, but until then, I'm not going to stuff a pill in one to see if he will eat it or spit it out.

I have, for the time being, resorted to the old tried and true method of applesauce and a dose syringe.  Melt the tablet in the applesauce, spoon it into a syringe and give it as you would a paste wormer.  Bit of a mess and a little worry that perhaps all the medication is not getting into the horse as it's spread throughout a couple teaspoonfuls of applesauce. But, I decided to put the dissolved pill in a little applesauce in the syringe first followed by more applesauce to push the medicated stuff into his mouth first. It works, but isn't exactly the most efficient method when you consider I will have to do it 365 days a year.

Some other suggestions have been to stuff the pill in a chunk of apple, but I have to wonder.

And, my friend said that all the methods she tried worked for a while, but eventually the horse caught on and stopped accepting the various treats she offered.

Surely there is an easier answer somewhere, but for now, the jar of applesauce, the syringe, the pill, Toby, and I will be companions.

Some friendship, huh?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Toby, Toby, Oh Dear....


Just got a call from the vet. Toby's blood test was positive for Cushing's. Apparently, this is the cause of his "almost lamitintis" of being footsore. He has also lost some weight and muscle, although he does not show any of the rough coat symptoms. In fact, his well shedded summer coat is shiny and healthy.

Cushing's is essentially a malfunction of the pituitary gland and is very common in older horses. (He's 22)  According to one article I read, some 70% of horses develop Cushing's as they age.

Dietary controls are important in the treatment. Low starch and low sugar feeds are recommended along with low sugar forage.  The feed I've been using is alaready a high fat, low starch/sugar mix, so that's OK. The hay?  I don't know if my supplier has tests on it this year, but last time we checked, it was pretty good too. The only regular variable is the grass around here.

Now, I certainly do not have lush pastures. But there is some speculation that the changes in weather might impact the sugars in the grass I do have. But, there is no way I could imagine a horse being able to survive on the grass that's available in my paddocks and pasture. There's just too little of it.

At any rate, Toby will be getting Pergolide, the drug of choice for Cushing's and I will be adding some magnesium supplements to his diet. For the summer, at least, he will have shoes.  He has shoes and pads on now and seems quite comfortable.

Not sure what else to do at the moment but I am researching.

On the weather front, it has cooled off considerably over the last two days. I went swimming yesterday bot at the moment, today, it just might be too chilly.

Looks like some riding would be some good exercise!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Singing in the Wish It Would Rain

And Toby Seems to be Doing Fine

Toby is now in shoes and pads. I am still giving him bute twice a day and will do so for a week, then dropping the dose to once a day. I suspect that may be helping as well, but he does look good in the new shoes.

Scott, my farrier, and I had a bit of a discussion about barefoot, mostly because a number of people whose horses have been going barefoot for a long time are getting shoes this year. We speculated about what might be going on, but apparently the heat and dry ground, possibly coupled with rain here and there might be causing some extra hoof issues.  Strangely enough, this does not seem to be an issue in the winter months.

The vet thinks that Toby just needs the extra protection of shoes on the hard summer ground, particularly when he is stomping at flies.

Speaking of, I do not have a bad fly population here. I use fly predators and feed through fly control and it does seem to keep their numbers way down. Still some of them do seem to survive and like to land on the horse's legs.

Why the singing?  I performed two solos in church in the last two weeks.  I was supposed to sing two songs last week, but the minister saw the title of one, "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?" and asked if we could do that one this week because Daniel was the topic of her sermon. So, we did "There is a Balm In Gilead" last week and "Daniel" today instead.

I've tried to upload the files directly,but they don't seem to work.

Here, instead, are direct links to them if you care to have a listen.

There Is A Balm In Gilead

Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?

The microphone is not close to me, so the feeling might be a bit "distant" but you can hear me anyhow. I don't use a mike when I sing.

Now, if it would only rain a bit here I'd be happy. We've had a few showers now and then, but the hot sun really does dry things up.  Then again, if it rains, I really will have to mow the lawn. It's looking a bit "weedy" right now as the weeds are still thriving while the grass gets dry. Not sure if mowing would be a good idea at the moment--at least that's my excuse!  *G*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ah, Well

Chance Plan Aborted

It was hotter than expected. In the morning, when I fed the horses and cleaned stalls, I was soaked with sweat in about 15 minutes.  That put me off for an early ride. So I figured I ride in the evening.

Best laid plans?  I went for my swim early as I had a chiro/acpuncture treatment in the early evening and I also knew there was going to be a swim meet at the pool and it would be closed later.  I swam 20 laps again. Right now, that's about my limit before I start to wear out.

Came home, changed and headed for the chiropractor. Here's where the plan goes astray. Just about every vertebrae in my lower to mid back was out of alignment as well as all the usual ones in my upper back.  My pelvis was out, which may have accounted for all the other issues too.

Why? Who knows? It could be anything. This is one flaw in being too flexible. While it is a benefit in being able to move my seat with the horses so sitting the trot is not particularly a problem, it does make me prone to displacing vertebrae from their proper alignment.

Now, Chance does tend to carry me a bit crooked. With his one uneven hind leg he tends to throw my seat to the right so I continually need to compensate so both he and I are straight.  Riding him after an adjustment would not have been the brightest idea. So, with the heat and that, I opted out.

Or whimped out. Whatever the case may be. Now it's supposed to get hot again over the next week or so. Guess I'll just have to play it all by ear to figure out if I can work a horse or not.

As to Tucker and stretching. If you recall, I got Tuck as a two year old, and broke him to saddle with Kenny's help.  From Day 1, under saddle, I asked him to stretch down and use his back.  By the by, it's part  of Kenny's basic under saddle work--"give to the bit."  In his clinics he tries to get people to stretch their horses all the way to the ground as a relaxation exercise.

As a result, it is often Tucker's preferred way of going. When I put him on the lunge for free work, he will put his nose way down as a matter of course.  He's not always forward when he does this, and he can be "relaxed to a fault," but he is down and round.  When  am riding him, the cool thing is that if I push him more forward, he will connect nicely into the bit and just go long and low.

Toby works that way too, but Chance is still in the training phase.  I should have spent far more time with Chance on that, but he was too much fun to just hack out, so his training is far behind.  However, if I spent a month working him several times a week, he'd have it too.

You can work it in hand. Stand beside the horse, pick up one rein only, and hold your hand up at the same angle the rein would be if you were in the saddle.  Put pressure on the rein. As soon as the horse offers to drop his head, release the rein entirely.  You have to be quick and reward the right response as soon as the horse offers.  After a while, all it will take is a light touch and the horse will drop down.  This is the "give to the bit."

It translates into riding and is great for the warm up. Rather than spending  all that time waiting for the horse to soften, you get softening early on.

Now, this is a little of working from the front to the back, rather then from the back to the front, but it does work.

Lockie Richards used to tell me there was the French way of riding and the German way. French suppled  the front and that allowed the back to come along. German rode the back into the front to get the same result. I guess my riding is a combination of both. I certainly believe a supple horse can become forward more easily, so I often do lots of suppling work when I train.

WHEN I train. That's the operative phrase. Not doing much now, I fear. *sigh*

Addendum:  Lunged the Boys this morning. The arena was in shade and really felt pretty nice.

Chance went well, despite taking off in the canter when Tucker bolted through the arena gate.

Tucker went well despite twice bolting off--once getting away from me--when I guess he was attacked by a deerfly. Those things give a painful bite.

Toby let me hook him up to the lunge line, but after a part circle, I brought him in, put him in his stall and called my farrier.  That call was soon followed by a call to the vet. He was definitely moving like a horse with the start of laminitis. Same time last year. This is very mild, but I do feel a pulse in his foot and he was trying to land on his heel with a shortened stride. That is not at all normal for him.

The vet is on her way.

More later.

MORE:  The vet just left. Toby is sore on both fronts. It may be a bit laminitic, but he may more likely be just sore from being barefoot/concussion with thin soles.  I have a call into my farrier. We are going to put shoes and pads on him. He will be getting some bute for a week or so and needs to stay in at least until he is shod.

Needless to say, he is not a happy camper. Every time Tucker goes out of the barn or disappears from view Toby has a fit. It's going to be a long week keeping him in. But, since it's also going to be hot, it's pretty likely Tucker will be spending most of his time in the barn.

Second time this has happened, so just to be safe Dr. McAndrews took blood for a Cushings test. Toby does not show any obvious symptoms, but it's worth checking into just in case.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tucker Gets a Turn

Cooling Off a Bit

It is a little cooler. Not great, but with the breeze, certainly tolerable. So, as evening started to roll in, I brought Tucker in from the pasture and saddled him up.

This took a while as I put on his Cashel but armor. It is in two pieces and needs to be tied under the saddle and onto the bridle. I did not put the face cover on with it, but used a set of ear protectors instead.  I do need to sort out the bug armor pieces as I have three sets--deals on eBay.  One of them is a different style in front and it doesn't work quite as well as the others.  But for today, the unmatched piece were just fine.

My main focus with Tucker for now is just to get him moving off my leg.  He tends to challenge "forward" at times, but usually, once I tune him up with a few transitions, he's good. What I want to develop is an immediate forward response to my leg. As long as he's not sore anywhere, it should be fixed pretty quickly.  The flies definitely do not help as he is very distracted by them, so the Bug Armor is an essential.

We worked for about 20 minutes or so, walk, trot and canter. I finished up riding a version of a training level test just to put everything together. Had it been in the show arena we would not have scored particularly well. His frame was a bit erratic and he resisted the right canter depart.  His free walk was lovely, though, as was the stretchy trot on the long rein which I suppose some judges would say was "on the forehand."  But he was actually rounding down through the bit, so I was quite satisfied.

After we finished our ride, I handing out carrots all around.  I'm putting Chance on the agenda for tomorrow, weather permitting.

Done riding, I headed over to the pool for a nice swim. I only did 15 laps today--20 yesterday--and two rounds on the Lazy River.  It was getting a bit late and as the sun began to dip it actually felt cool.

All in all, it was a good day at Follywoods and beyond.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Where's Chance?

The other night I went out for late night feed and found only two horses ready to come into the barn to eat. Toby was in Chance's stall and Tucker was wandering about in under the run in roof.

I put the feed in and got the two older Boys into their own stalls.

Chance's stall was still empty. There was no sign of him.

On a hunch I went out to the arena run in shed. In the dark, I caught a glimpse of a white blaze--low and close to the ground.  There was Chance, snoozing in the sand. He made no move to get up, even when I called.

I was a little concerned, as I'm always worried about colic and that's where I found Toby lying down when he had his bout of laminitis.

But all was well. My Chancyman was just having a nap and wasn't really hungry enough to bother getting up for midnight snack.  He finally hefted himself to his feet and walked over to me, got a hug and then followed me back to the barn where he finally went in his stall to eat.

Two good things come from this. First, Chance is completely confident and comfortable in his surroundings. And second, Chance does not at all feel hungry.  Unlike Tucker, he is clearly not one of those "food motivated" horses.

I guess a nap is far more appealing. *G*

Monday, July 02, 2012


Thoughts for a Hot July

It's been pretty unbearable for the last few days. The heat is easing off just a little today, but I think it's mostly that the humidity may be a little lower.  In case you hadn't heard, New Jersey was hit by some pretty severe thunderstorms over the weekend.  Thousands of homes south of here are without power. With wildfires in the West and severe weather here in the East, the US is suffering Mother Nature's wrath for sure. I don't know if all of this is a consequence of global warming, but it certainly does make you think, doesn't it?

I was at an indoor picnic yesterday. I was supposed to be a dressage judge for driving show, but the organizer--my good friend--cancelled the show due to the heat. But, the after show picnic was already planned, so the party still went on.  I met some really nice people--all carriage drivers--and had a long chat with a women whom I knew years ago when I was still competing hunter/jumper.  She had all kinds of stories from "the old days," and seemed quite pleased to have someone to share them with.

Later, my neighbor, whose family reunion in South Jersey had been moved here after the storm devastated the campgrounds where they were gathering, came over with a cooler full of sweet corn husks for the horses.  He brought a group of young kids with him--all cousins--and they had a grand time feeding Toby, Tucker, and Chance the nice green husks.  I did limit the amount we fed the Boys, however, as it's never a good idea to overfeed anything like that.  I've parceled out the rest over the last two feedings, so the Boys have a nice little extra green treat with their hay.

And the hay...My hay man got the delivery of new hay from New York.  It's pretty stemmy as it's first cutting.  To look at it, some of it almost looks like straw.  But, fortunately, the Boys do seem to like it quite a bit. I would like something softer as an ideal, but as long as the horses like it, that's just fine. Since Tucker and Chance are already too fat, they don't need really rich hay anyhow. I do give Toby a bit more as I do keep an eye on his weight. As an older boy--22--I need to give him some extra calories to keep him in good flesh.

I figure I could stand to lose a few pounds--well, more than a few--so I started doing a little research on burning calories.  I found a really cool calorie calculator online that has all kinds of activities including riding and, believe it or not, feeding livestock.  If you are interested, here's the link.
Calorie Calculator

The only depressing part is that in order to lose a pound, you need, according to this site, to burn over 3000 more calories than you consume. Pretty depressing. That means I need to stop eating altogether and either swim or ride for about 10 hours a day for a month to lose enough weight. (Well, a slight exaggeration, but....)

I think I'll start that program tomorrow. *G*