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The Exciting Exploits of Katherine and Duchess
Katherine is a 1993 OTTB. She's high strung and sensitive, but exceptionally willing. She doesn't much care for dressage, but is so responsive and lovely. She loves to jump, and she loves to gallop. Duchess is a 1990 OTTB. She's got a calm, easygoing temperament and is tremendously good with beginners. While I've been unable to ride due to back problems, I've been teaching her to drive.

Both are off-track Thoroughbred mares. I bought them in 2001, and in 2002 I took each to her first horse trial. I unfortunately developed several health issues and had to stop riding until about August 2003. We three trained Fall 2003 and were about to start back competing in December 2003, when the health issues struck again. Frustrated at my inability to ride, I have been keeping the horses fit with lunging. I have also been teaching Duchess to drive.

It is now March 2004, and I am cautiously starting to ride again.

(Added on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 @ 03:28:12 PM)

Training Log

Kieffer Points

This Kieffer saddle came in to have the foam in the panels replaced with flocking, and to widen the panels. (See "Courbette" or "Thorowgood" entries for examples of replacing foam or widening panels.)

When I dropped the panels on this Kieffer, I discovered that the points didn't match:

As a horse moves his foreleg forward, his shoulderblade rotates backward under the saddle. The points of the English tree help to guide the shoulderblade under the saddle. They are rounded and flexible, and so are able to help the shoulderblade slide without banging into it.

If the points aren't symmetrical--or worse, have sharp edges or corners--then the horse's shoulderblade will not slide as easily. Instead, it will encounter interference with each stride, each time the shoulderblade has to rotate backwards.

I removed the points, made leather ones to replace them, and attached them:

(Added on Saturday, August 13, 2005 @ 02:18:29 AM)

Modifying the Cashel Soft Saddle

The problem with most bareback pads is that the girth is narrow and quite forward on the pad. When you tighten the girth, it drags on the wither--even on some pretty wide, mutton-withered horses, it'll drag on the wither. Since there's no tree or other stabilizing factors, the girth has to be pretty tight to keep it in place; that makes a serious pressure point across the horse's wither, dragging directly on the tips of the vertebrae.

The Cashel has somewhat the same issue; it is, however, thick foam. I cut a bit out of the foam at the wither. Actually I cut all the way down the spine, but removed most from the wither area. This allowed for a little less drag all down the spine, and much less drag at the wither.

The girth originally connected to the saddle quite forward, and had a single strap going across the back.


So I also modified the girth placement so that it is more like centerfire rigging. It doesn't drag directly on the wither now, and the cut out area leaves some room for the withers. Instead of a single narrow band that goes across the wither area, the girth now attached to a band crossing the saddle at the front AND a band crossing the saddle at the back.


In the process of modifying the rigging, I also added a couple of billets that I had sitting around, and now my Cashel SS uses a dressage girth.

With the modifications, I find it a quite useful little tool.

(Added on Sunday, May 15, 2005 @ 03:19:30 PM)


Fantasy and I have been walking (leading) up the street and back. We're doing this to help Fantasy understand that going out of sight of the other horses won't kill her, to work on her leading skills, and to help her learn to accept what a human asks calmly.

The first trip was a nightmare. Rearing, plunging, screaming, foaming with sweat. Poor kid thought it really was going to kill her. Let me add that this street is about .2 mile, if that, and she could see the other horses if she stood still and looked.

Second trip was hyped and freaky, but all right.

Third trip, she's starting to get the idea. Walk a bit, stay calm, get invited to have some grass. Walk again when instructed, stay calm, have a bit of grass. She got a touch tense when we were on the way back, but overall did really well. After we have another of these, I think I'll start on trailer loading again.

Looking over the log, it seems I didn't include an entry about Fantasy's second surgery and the trailer loading. I'll do that now.

She had an injury that chipped a vertebra in her neck. She had surgery to remove the chips. They were hesitant to be aggressive about digging out the chips, because it was close to the spinal cord. Apparently they missed one.

She was very good to load for the first surgery. We'd been working on it for several weeks--the discussion of this is in her archive, I'm pretty sure.

So I went to refresh her memory about trailer loading when we were planning the second surgery. First session she walked about halfway in, looked VERY uncomfortable. I went ahead and ended there; didn't want to push her past that into panicky. Second session, she walked all the way in almost immediately.

Unfortunately, she then managed to hook her halter over a bolt in the door at the front. It "trapped" her, she fought to get free, and seriously panicked. Poor creature. I managed to get her loose, but getting her willingly into a trailer wasn't going to happen again any time soon. It was 3 days to the surgery. So we tranq'd her for the trip. Gah, I felt guilty. Poor baby was trying to cooperate and do things right. Wasn't her fault she got stuck and scared.

Since then, I have left the trailer alone and been working on bonding stuff. Getting her to calmly accept what I tell her, even when she is scared (such as walking up the street). She's getting better at it.

So as I said, I think after another trip up the street we'll take up strailer loading again. Start fresh and ignore what's gone before. Just do what I tell ya, little girl, and we'll all be fine. ;)

(Added on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 @ 01:45:56 PM)

Stubben Edelwiess Evaluation/Repair

Click the pic to see the whole sordid story.

(Added on Wednesday April 27, 2005 @ 01:03:04 PM)

Another fun trail ride

So Kat & I went on another trail ride. Terrific fun. Went out & rode with another horse owner up the dirt road where her horse is boarded. Rode along the trail for a long ways, then into a pine forest. Whooo, the pine forest was interesting. Kat was VERY uncertain about the footing, and didn't want her feet touching the ground. So we did a parade ground prance for about 20 minutes solid.

I think she's forgiven me now, for taking Duchess somewhere in the trailer, and for sitting on Fantasy briefly :) She's such a funny mare...so precious, so precious.

Incidentally, when we first got there, she had a total FIT about the cows one field over. She is just terrified of cows. She wouldn't even stand still to let me get on (totally out of character), and was agitated for a while until she couldn't really see them anymore.

After her workout in the pines, though, she was much calmer on our return, and even stood quietly to be untacked and then hand grazed. Poor little thing. What have cows ever done to her?

(Added on Saturday, January 29, 2005 @ 01:03:04 PM)


Guess what WE did today?

First we put the bareback pad on Fantasy (she's well used to it by now)...

Then I put on my helmet and my body protector...

We led Fantasy to a pile of hay and put a sawhorse next to her...

Then I climbed up and put my hands across her (been doing a lot of leaning over her at mealtimes & such, so this was nothing new)...

Then I leaned way over, but still keeping most of my weight centered below me...

Then I slid my leg across (this is the point where she becomes part of my support, and if she flips out, I will fall)...

And sat!

And scratched her forelock

She was very, very good. I'm so proud of the Little Bit.

Please excuse the angle of the pictures. The photographer was also the holder/helper, and what a good job he did, too.

(Added on Friday, January 21, 2005 @ 08:23:37 PM)

Trail Riding--More Excitement than Planned

Today Duchess was going with me on a trail ride. At least, that was MY side of the story. Duchess usually loads fine and is well behaved under saddle (if a bit pushy when she can get away with it). So it was very surprising when she flat out refused to go with me in the trailer.

Part of it was a lack of foresight on my part. Kat stands so well that it's easy to lead her in, drop the lead and say "Stand," then run around anf close the trailer door. Duchess kept following me back out. After two tries, she didn't want to go into the trailer anymore (probably thinking "something's not right here," and I don't blame her). And it would just be stupid to tie her before shutting her in from behind. I'm going to have to work something out there.

Eventually just turned her back out (no point in making her more upset than necessary) and waited for John to get home. He got home, we got her loaded (minimal fuss), closed the door, and off we went. John came along to help get the trailer closed up again when we were there.

Now, part of the problem was definitely that Duchess did not want to leave Fantasy. Duchess has gotten very maternal about Fantasy. So even though we got her into the trailer, she was NOT happy. She kicked--a lot--for 15 minutes! Yikes. But the idea here was to convince her that leaving is okay; want her to realize that when she goes, she's going to come home. That she should be calm in the trailer, because the world isn't at an end.

Then for 10 minutes she was pretty much fine. We got to the park, let her graze a bit...tacked up and rode out onto the trail (John walking alongside)...She jigged and jogged a lot. Poor baby just didn't know what was going on, was scared.

After a little bit, she started to relax. We went back to the trailer. (We passed by a group who had arrived as we were leaving. I'm sure that they had some interesting comments about us leaving so quickly. Ah well.)

She loaded into the trailer first try, but dumb Mommie forgot to unlock the escape door, so Duchess had nowhere to go when Mommie stopped. Oops. Quick-reverse and exit. Unlocked the doors--she didn't want to go in. Showed her the lunge whip, she went right in. Closed her up and took her home. Nothing of note on the way home at all.

Hopefully with this experience under her girth, she'll be happier about future travels. I want the sweet girl to relax and feel secure.

Want to make a quick comment about the lunge whip. I want my horses to respect it, but I don't want them to fear it. Duchess was in a situation where it was likely she could get worked up. I didn't want her to feel very frightened or threatened when the whip came into play. She when I got it out, I rubbed her with it around the chest and loins while muttering soothing noises. Yes, yes, of course she's seen it before...I just wanted to be sure that it was not a surprise, and it was not interpreted as a threat. And things were fine.

(Added on Friday, January 21, 2005 @ 08:22:05 PM)

Trail Rides!

Kat and I went on a trail ride several weeks ago. She was great to load (by myself)--walked right on, stood like a little angel while I hopped out, ran around, and shut her in from behind. Both heading out and coming home. While actually on the trail ride, she was rather jiggy for the first few minutes, but then settled down and was just PERFECT for the rest of the ride. Hard to remember that this is my unpredictable little loon--she's been SO GOOD since my back problem got so bad in Dec 2003/Jan 2004.

Since the trailer trip/trail ride she's been a very cheerful little sweetie. She's been quite jealous of Fantasy ever since I started working with her; sometimes she stands between me and Fantasy, sometimes I just get the cold shoulder. But she was quite happy after the trail ride; I suppose it reinforced something or other that made her feel more secure.

Unfortunately, this past weekend she colicked. She colicked for 3 days. We know what the problem is; it's an ongoing one. My beloved little rocks-for-brains stops drinking in chilly weather. Oh yes, we've tried to combat it--fresh clean water, warm water, flavored water, water in her food...So far nothing has worked. Last year at this time, it got so bad that she had to go to a hospital for IV's (and she was tubed something like 3 times before she finally got over it). This year, she got over it with one tubing and lots of sloppy bran mash--and one other thing.

I decided to stop attacking it from the direction of making the water appealing, and go for making Kat want the water. (Salt in the food hasn't helped.) Since she stops drinking when it's chilly, I decided to make her hot.

Since I started blanketing her at higher temperatures, she's been drinking more regularly, and overall seems more comfortable. I am much relieved. I think we may have a long-term solution to this ongoing problem.

But since she colicked--impaction from dehydration--so recently, she wasn't the one going out on the trailer today. I believe she was offended. She usually walks up to me when we come into the pasture, and stands to be cooed over. Tonight she walked up to *John*--and when I walked her way to pat her, she turned her butt to me and trotted away! Oh dear, I think I'm in the doghouse.

Soon it'll be her turn again. I did so enjoy trail riding with her.

(Added on Friday, January 21, 2005 @ 12:35:55 AM)

Fantasy and the Medieval Barding

Well, it isn't barding really, but it certainly looks like it:

Doesn't she look like she's wearing decorative barding, or armor, or some such? (She is, of course, as cute as ever.)

Fantasy and I are trialling Cashel's new product, the Bug Suit. Apparently part of the design is that it is intended to help protect sweet itch sufferers. So I was contacted and asked if I'd like to test it out, since I have a "horse" (for very small varieties of horse) who has sweet itch.

Unfortunately there was a mixup and it arrived without the instructions, so I spent quite some time playing around trying to figure out how to put it all together. You can't see it in the pic, but it's got about 7 different pieces, including pieces to protect the underside of the belly.

I was *so* proud of the little girl! She pretty much just stood there and let me play around. She even dealt with it just fine when I picked up her forelegs, and slid the foreleg coverings on over her hoof. She was great.

About a week and a half ago, Fantasy got to be the model for a number of shots for my upcoming book. She was very very good for that also, and eventually figured out that for SOME strange reason, we wanted her to stand just so and not move. I think she's a natural model ;) I suppose that goes well with her cheerleader personality.

(Added on Thursday, January 20, 2005 @ 11:09:21 PM)

Sacroiliac issue progress -- utterly thrilled

My beloved Kat is a fabulous horse. All the go in the world, intense desire to please, sweet and lovely.

She's also off-track, with lots of visible and non-visible body issues stemming therefrom.

One of these has been that she ALWAYS bucks going into canter. She needs a nice kick out once or twice in each direction. They're usually off to the side, occasionally backwards--it looks like she's "popping" her spine. Once she's managed a few good bucks, she's happy for the rest of the ride. I got around this by simply free-lunging before riding, to allow her to buck as much as she liked.

A while ago I learned that this is a symptom of a sacroiliac problem--certainly makes sense. A horse who needs chiropratic self-adjustment with every ride probably has something going on in her back, right? Well, I've been working hard on her muscle issues (lots of scarring/adhesions around the spine, particularly the SI, also muscle wastage and tenderness). I'm making progress in many other areas; she's now calm to groom (used to be too ticklish), her muscle damage is filling back out again, the adhesions are slowly going away.

I went to lunge before riding a little while ago, and she didn't buck...whoa. I was concerned that perhaps she just hadn't been awake/alert, and might buck under saddle...decided to ask for cantering anyway. No bucking. Thought perhaps it was a fluke...then in yesterday's ride, we got a lovely smooth canter transition with no bucking (and no lunging beforehand at all).

This is astounding. I am too delighted for words. I could cry; I'm so happy that she's feeling better. This is such a long-standing problem--clear evidence that SOMEthing wasn't quite right. I've been trying so hard to make her more comfortable and make her life easier. It looks like I am definitely making progress in that area.

(Added on Monday, December 06, 2004 @ 01:39:09 PM)

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