Sunday, October 26, 2008

Updates 10/26

Here's an update copied from my main blog:

"Pandora is still doing very well. Her weight-gain has kind of stalled a bit -- grr -- but I think it's because the barn owner ran out of orchard grass and switched to (not the nicest) grass hay. It's a constant battle - that horse could probably put down 3x as much hay as she's getting, and she's getting like 8 flakes a day. I realize the barn owner can't afford to feed her as much as she can eat, which would probably amount to a bale of hay per day. So we added some beet pulp to get some more fiber into her.

At this point I'm considering just buying some of our own hay. Unfortunately that would add up really fast. But if I have to do it, I have to do it. What would be nice is if we could arrange for her and McKinna to be in a paddock (there's a big one out front that's got jumps in it now) with round bales that we pay for, but unfortunately McKinna would probably become a big fatty on that much hay. Not to mention that I think most of the paddocked horses come in during the winter anyway.


I know we can put more weight on by adding more concentrates like grain, or adding alfalfa or oil. But it's very very hard for me to do that when I know that she needs more hay and would put more weight on if she had as much as she could eat.

I should figure out if it would be more cost-effective to feed her lots of beet pulp, or to just buy hay. Is beet pulp comparable to hay in terms of fiber benefits? I know a lot of people feed it as main fiber source to older horses without much in the way of teeth. I could go to hay cubes, but I imagine that would be more expensive than hay itself.

Argh. Okay, maybe I will just talk to the barn owner. I know she will suggest adding more beet pulp, but Pandora finishes her hay within a couple hours of feeding time, and that's just not good enough for me. When she was getting 3 flakes of orchard grass, they were BIG flakes and they took her a long time to work through. Plus it was super nice green stuff."

That's basically all I've been up to with her. I haven't been riding much because I want the chiropractor to come out first -- he's going to be out on Tuesday, so it's not that much longer to wait. In the interim we've been round-penning her quite a lot, which has been very good for her. This way we can do a lot of canter work, which she needs. As she warms up she really moves out nicely, and it seems like she can canter forever without getting sweaty. Typical TB blood, I suppose.

After she's adjusted, I'm going to start riding her fairly intensively -- we need to get a lot of training and schooling done over the winter so we can hit spring and summer shows with a bang. Once she's built up a little more fitness I'll start taking her to the Friday lessons for Pony Club. She's just not fit enough for a 2-hour lesson right now, but once she's adjusted I will feel comfortable asking her to work harder and longer to improve her fitness.

She's still as polite and sweet-natured as ever. Pokes her head out her stall window whenever you walk by, always happy to come out of her stall or out of the pasture or wherever you want to go. I've noticed that she doesn't take a sore step on gravel at all anymore, so her trim seems to be holding up super well. She's still a little tender riding over gravel but judging by her improvement in walking over it, I think that may go away with time.

Overall things are going well, if a little slowly. But we have all winter to work hard, so another few days won't hurt anything.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Schooling Show II

Pandora did awesome today. Two trot-a-pole hunter classes. 6th in the first class, 1st in the second. First class was nervous, champing at the bit, reverting a bit to the head-tucking behavior (to be expected since pretty much all horses have a 'fallback behavior' that they go to when they're stressed out), rushing, pushing against my leg. Second class was way better - steady, smooth, calm. I was quite pleased!

Overall she behaved herself very well. Once her turn was done and I was riding McKinna, Pandora just stood quietly at the trailer and chowed through her flakes of hay, then proceeded to eat almost all of McKinna's too! She was quite calm.

She has put on a lot of weight and is looking SO much better. She's all shiny and wonderful, you can hardly see a shadow of her ribs, and her topline/hip area has way filled out. I will do a picture-only post of her soon, I have a bunch of pictures saved that I need to upload.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I know, it's been quite awhile since an update. It's been pretty hard to muster up the energy to do homework after a full day of school and barn, let alone post!

All is well in Pandora-land. The head-fussing nonsense is almost completely gone at all three gaits, which pleases me very much.

She had a vet checkup yesterday --- kind of the vet-check-we-didn't-get-before-we-bought-her. I'm happy to say that she passed with flying colors!

All vitals normal (HR 28 RR 10 GI normal). "Excellent feet. No abnormalities of limbs noted." (Except a small old splint on her left hind, which she said could be years old and neither bothers her nor will bother her). "Moves stiff on RH in round pen - not lame, just stiff." She also said that she thinks the stiffness would probably go away with more fitness across her back and butt muscles, especially since the stiffness goes almost all the way away after warming up.

Negative flexions (woohoo!). Very good thing.

Has had recent, good quality dentistry.

She recommended some chiropractic work (which I was already going to do) and highly approved of the guy I'm going to call. Going along Pandora with her fingers, she showed me how she's got a lot of pain up in her neck/head area -- hardly surprising considering her history -- especially right behind her poll and in her upper neck. She has one spot on her back that's a little sore. Oh, and she pointed out to me how Pandora's jaw seems slightly out of alignment: her teeth, instead of meeting up straight, are a little off sideways (top jaw closes slightly to the right of straight-on). In addition, the muscle on her right forehead is slightly bigger than on her left. She said this also indicates a misalignment that could be fixed with chiropractic work.

I noted her hind-end tenseness to the vet. She just tends to travel like she's got her butt tucked, and she's always got her tail clamped. The vet said that it could simply be the way she travels but that too would probably resolve with chiropractic work.

Eyes were fine, feet great, everything good, and Pandora was wonderfully polite all throughout the process (even through mouth inspection and tongue-grabbing!). She got a booster for her spring shots and was good to go!

Oh, and the vet also endorsed the farrier we were thinking about calling (we're out of our old farrier's range now, sad face) and said he does very nicely with feet.

So everything is all set! I'm going to make the chiro appointment today, call the farrier this evening, and all should be well. After the chiropractic work, I will feel just fine about really asking Pandora to ramp up the workload - I have issues with asking horses to work hard when I KNOW that they're in pain, you know? I know she'll do it, and it's not like I'll stop working her, but I have a hard time convincing myself to truly work on her fitness when the whole thing would be a lot more pleasant for her after an adjustment. Not to mention that if she's compensating for something, she might not build fitness correctly.

That's all for this update!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

First Jumps

Took Pandora over a couple fences last night. Nothing big -- very low-key, just hopped on her at the end of my schooling session with McKinna since we were out in the front paddock with fences.

To be honest, hopping over three fences in a relatively small paddock with small rocks here and there in the footing is not the most accurate way to assess a horse's jumping ability!

She was fine, though. Hopped over the first time, kinda dodged out the second but it was my fault for dumping the reins. She jumps smoothly. Really rounds her back as she goes over. Her canter WILL be smooth once she is more fit, but I can definitely tell that she needs some canter fitness.

Pandora has settled in nicely to her day-turnout, night-stall situation. I think she enjoys having her food all to herself in her stall! I am hoping to see some noticeable weight gain by the end of the week.

Not much else to report. Going to do a schooling ride tonight.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Updates 10/7

Everything is going super well!

Starting last night, Pandora is staying in overnight and going back out to pasture in the morning. She is also getting an extra flake of orchard grass AM and PM, bumping up the total to 6 (big) flakes per day. Will add another 2 if necessary. Since she's getting grain in two feedings now instead of one, she's also getting 6 scoops/day instead of 4. REALLY need to weigh out the grain to figure out exact poundage.

All of that combined should help her gain some weight.

Took her to the dressage schooling show on Sunday as detailed over on my regular blog. She was fantastic! Totally relaxed, very easygoing, moseyed through our Intro A test for a respectable 62.5%, blue ribbon, hi-point Intro level, hi-point Junior. Not bad :)

Her and McK got along great at the show. A few nasty faces made here and there when they were sharing each other's hay bags (don't ask me why the OTHER hay bag always tastes better) but no true badness.

She is looking a little off to me - Mom thinks it is footsoreness. I can't tell if it's her hooves or maybe a stiffness in the shoulders. Either way it's pretty minor and you probably wouldn't notice it if you didn't think about the fact that she should move out more willingly and freely. Have a call in to a new farrier (since we are now outside of our old one's range), so perhaps we will go to shoes next trim. Argh. Also going to call a chiro soon and set up an appt to make sure all is still going well with her physically, so between those two we should have it covered.

I figured out the behind the vertical thing!

Since it's a lengthy topic I think I will write about it on my main blog -- will link to it once it's posted. To summarize, I was reading and thinking about being quiet and responding to the slightest try when riding. I was extra steady and quiet with my hands, looked up instead of at her head, and rewarded the slightest try (e.g. forward response when I squeeze) by cessation of the aids. The head-fussing was gone and remained gone. She's still prone to tucking, of course, and it will take lots of work before it's gone completely, but we have reached a new stage of communication.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Eurgh, frustrating ride tonight. Due to a lot of factors, I suppose.

Weather was cold and rainy, so all the horses were very on edge, even McKinna who is usually pretty mellow. I longed Pandora a little just to settle her down, so after some trotting and cantering she chilled out a little. Tacked her up and rode.

Nothing horrible, just more bit-mouthing and chin-tucking nonsense. Just needs patient, forward riding with steady hands, that's all. But it does get frustrating when I constantly see that little arch in the top of her neck where she's tucking her jaw and dropping her poll below the whatever vertebrae they are.

Sigh. Time and patience, time and patience.

On the plus side, her bending is nice and I got some nice cantering. We'll work through the BTV silliness eventually, I know. She just needs to learn what I want.

She's going to start staying in overnight starting Monday. Her hay will increase 2 flakes/day so that she gets 3 flakes (and they are big flakes) AM and PM, and her grain will get split up into two feedings. Hopefully this will kickstart some weight gain, otherwise it's increased grain and/or added fat to the diet. We will see!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Rode Pandora last night. I can feel my ankle getting stronger but I still can't handle much flexion in it -- thus I ride with really long stirrups, which certainly isn't doing any wonders for my leg position. Nevertheless, I can actually feel my right calf muscle when I poke it and I can ride somewhat effectively.

Pandora was quite good. It was our first real schooling ride, lasted about 20 minutes. Her walk is coming along very nicely, she's taking up a light contact without overbending, her poll is at the highest point, etc. She's willing to move off the leg in leg yields but sometimes resists on turns and circles if I'm not paying attention.

At the trot is where we get most of the behind-the-vertical nonsense. I'm very patient with her, because it's incredibly clear that this is what she thinks I want. Therefore, I just keep her moving forward, bend through serpentines and circles, and ride her steadily. I don't think fussing with my hands is going to do much good, so other than pushing my hands forward when she really tucks back, I'm not fiddling with the reins much.

I rode her canter for the first time. She is definitely more fit than when we went to look at her -- that day, she took a lot of convincing (at a very quick trot) to pick up a canter, and it was hard for her to hold it. Last night, she picked up each lead the instant I asked, and didn't seem to have any issues holding the gait. She's got a really nice forward canter, very smooth, which will be nice for jumping. Definitely a sense of power. Will obviously need to work on getting her together, because she's quite strung out, especially to the left. Stiffer to the right as could be expected.

Nonetheless it's great raw material from which to work. She will have a beautiful canter in no time. I love it when they make my job easy!

Will continue with the light schooling rides for awhile as I build up my strength and position. Also need to continue longeing her over cavaletti and possibly start some free jumping.

She's still looking skinnier than I'd like. Nothing too bad, but still needs some more over her ribs and topline. The mares in the pasture are on orchardgrass hay as of last night, so that may help. Don't want to increase her grain until she's in for the night and gets 2 feedings. We're pondering what to do. We could buy a bale of alfalfa and feed her some when she's in for her grain, or add a little oil to the Ultium. I have a feeling that by the end of the month they'll be staying in overnight, and then it won't be such an issue.

She's getting the night off tonight, or I may longe her over cavaletti if we have time.

Schooling show on Sunday (not Saturday, my bad!) so I'm excited for that. I have a feeling she will be pretty looky and possibly do a really good giraffe imitation, but other than that I think she will probably put in a pretty good ride for me. The only way to know is to find out, I suppose!