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Recent News From Katherine:

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)

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)

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)

Teeth and riding

August was a rough month; I started a new fulltime job and my riding time has been restricted. I've still been playing around with Kat's Courbette, trying to get it just right. For a while, I was having some difficulty; she was having absolute fits when asked to flex to the right.

Her teeth were due to be done, so had the vet out. Vet showed me that Kat has a bit of "slant mouth": she grinds her teeth down such that her front teeth end up slanted. So when she chews or otherwise tries to move her lower jaw, the jaw moves a little up and down as well as left and right. Vet says that this will definitely affect ability to flex--and considering the direction of Kat's slant, would make right flexion a real difficulty. Vet straightened her out; hopefully this will make a difference.

She's also trying out being barefoot. Our new farrier is shaping her feet differently, and my goodness--they're GROWing! Last time she was done, he said that her hooves looked like they were growing healthily enough that she might be able to go barefoot. It's been about a month now, and she still seems fairly cheerful with it.

She had her teeth done and her feet done this week, so I gave her a couple of days to get accustomed to it. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to ride this evening and see how she's feeling now. I'm still waiting for the new flocking in her saddle to really bed down, but so far she seems to be responding quite well to it.

Cheerful day so far.

(Added on Saturday, September 18, 2004 @ 04:10:52 PM)


Massaging tonight, I observed that Kat's getting so much looser in her hind end; at the walk I'm noticing some more of her super-flashy hock movement coming back. It's so disgustingly hot out that she's not doing a lot of trot while wandering around, but I'll probably lunge her or scoot her on sometime in the next couple of days to look at her trot. This is delightful.

And I really am quite excited about her interaction with Fantasy last night. Kat's always been SO repressed; she's been touchy about her body, she's uncertain about things like mutual grooming. She seems to be learning a lot from Fantasy. The last time I gave her a thorough grooming (yesterday morning) she looked like she was trying to figure out how to groom me back. She put her nose on me while I was brushing, and wiggled her upper lip just the tiniest bit.

Then, last night, she reached out and rested her nose lightly on Fantasy's back. So terrific. So wonderful. My girl is learning how to be a horse :)

(Added on Saturday, July 24, 2004 @ 01:34:06 AM)

Courbette--Test Ride

I'll add more on this later, but I've worked on the Courbette some more. After Kat's back changed so much in just six weeks, I decided that trying to futz around manipulating those foam panels was just too awkward. Since she's changing so fast, I really need something I can tweak on a regular basis.

So I opened up the panels, pulled out all the foam, and stitched it up again; then I flocked it. The panels are shaped for foam, though, so tweaking is a little more difficult than it might otherwise be (the foam was narrow and flat, whereas the flocking is thick and rounded). Too, Kat's last ride in this saddle was uncomfortable, so she anticipates discomfort--and hollows her back. A saddle which fits perfectly will bridge when the horse is dramatically hollow.

So I need to over-emphasize the contour of her back, and make it extra rounded, to fit when her back is *hollow*. Then, as she relaxes, I can gradually shape it back to her more normal curves.

Two rides so far; the first showed me that I need to exaggerate the contour--and it felt stranger than rider her ever has--her back was so tight, that the saddle was really unstable.

The second ride was to test to see if I'd gotten the exaggeration enough; I haven't, but she was more relaxed, and I felt less like I was perched on an unstable hilltop. I think if she continues to relax, and I do a little more adjusting, we'll meet in the middle :)

(Added on Saturday, July 24, 2004 @ 01:18:16 AM)

Bad, bad, BAD me

Ooooh. I, of all people, should not have had this problem. I feel SO guilty.

On Sunday, we rode. Got out the saddles and everything. Kat was *awful*. Boingy, bolty, resisting...I thought she was a bit sore from being silly on the lunge line the day before (she had been Most Energetic, though all I asked for was a trot...)

Got off, pulled off the saddle--PATCHY DRY SPOTS! PATCHY DRY SPOTS ON MY HORSE!

I only just flocked the saddle out to fit her exactly, about 6 weeks ago. She has changed that much in just six weeks. Wow. And oh, do I feel bad for not realizing why she was so anxious.

I did a full template of her back, and learned: the angles (side to side) are all still exactly perfect. However, as her constricted muscles around the wither relax and build up, the curve of her back (front to back) has increased a lot. The saddle sits higher at the wither, and must curve lower to get down to her back. Since the saddle is now inadequately curved, it bridged over that area, and put pressure points on the sides of the wither. I feel so guilty...but now I *know* to check her against her templates before I put the saddle back on, at least as long as she is changing so rapidly.

I've been having a rough week with my wrists, so I haven't been able to work on the saddle any. I've hopped on bareback a couple of times, but I will have that saddle fixed before it sits on her again. In the meantime, I think I managed to fix any damage I may have done with that one ride, and have actually seen a bit more noticeable change as I continue regular massage. (I'll take her templates out and do a quicky comparison before I alter the flocking.)

The change in her templates is amazing, incidentally. I think she's a half inch wider on each side of her wither.

(Added on Saturday, July 03, 2004 @ 10:31:56 PM)

Whoo! Soppy grin

I've mentioned that my TB's are socially undeveloped, as horses go. I attribute this to a lot of time on the track, without a chance to interact with other horses. They almost never even touch each other.

Now they've got a "real" horse in with them: Fantasy, who *does* know more "horsey language"; I used to see her and Lucky grooming each other frequently, and wished that mine understood the concept. I think she's been trying to use more physical interactions with them. Poor girl ends up spending a lot of the day ostracized, at least at the moment, as Duch & Kat try to get away from her clingyness. But she does go up to them and try to express herself more physically than they are used to; I think they're learning more.

Tonight, while grooming and also massaging a few muscle issues, Kat stopped me and stuck her nose in my chest. She's done this before: she'll stick her nose in my chest or her muzzle on my shoulder...then look away. Tonight, instead of looking away quickly, she left her nose there for several minutes. We even whuffled at each other a few times--she's never given me whuffles before. It's the sort of moment that leaves me all choked up and happy.

Another first from tonight: when brushing her, she did not tense up. At all. Not a bit. The absence was very startling. Since I got her, she's tensed any time I go to touch her body; the tension has been a lot less energetic since I started using massage on her, but it was never entirely gone. I've never known exactly what the difficulty was (muscular tension? pain somewhere? social tension? after all, she & Duch don't touch)--I wonder if having little Miss Touchy-Feely around has helped with this too.

I also rode after the grooming session; it was another interesting ride with Fantasy staring for a while, then charging up to Duch or Kat to try to figure out what they were doing. We have our new gate in place--next ride, she gets shut in the other field! Aside from the excitement with Fantasy (which Duch & Kat take very well, btw), it was a boring ride...I'm apparently still a bit sore from the last one, and I've been feeling ick all day. No energy to ask for much. Kat was a good girl.

(Added on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 10:31:52 PM)

Enough with the whining

Okay, I'm getting fed up with not being able to do anything. My back hasn't had any major flareups in...probably about 6 weeks, but it doesn't feel *good*, either. The only times it does feel pretty good is right after riding, when I've been really following the movement with my lower back (mmm, yummy). So I decided to try a little more today, and see how it affects me. Right now I feel pretty good.

After long stretching and some on-the-bit work at walk, we proceeded to trot. Kat, being out of shape, stuck her neck out. Once we got the neck back in, we first did some nice circles, opening and closing a little. Then I asked for a little shoulder in in both directions; got some pretty nice work :) I also got a really nice half-pass to the *right*, her bad direction! I was unable to get her to flex just a bit to the left, while continuing to move forward, in preparation for left halfpass; I think that was my fault, my dominant right being stronger. I didn't fight for it.

I was proud of my Katiemare. She tried very hard, put in some very nice work, and was even able to focus while Fantasy was snuffling around Kat's bridle, trying to figure out what it was. (We are putting in another gate so that we can close off one field to ride in; should keep that from being a problem in the future.) She's such a good girl :)

(Added on Sunday, June 20, 2004 @ 10:04:41 PM)

Trick Training

While I've been unable to ride so much, I developed an unfortunate habit of handing out treats just because horses were there. Kat started getting grabby, which of course is unacceptable--but I didn't want to go cold-turkey on the treats, either.

My solution has been to make her earn the treat. I've been teaching her a few tricks. She knows 3 tricks consistently: a hug (wrap neck around me when I am standing at her shoulder); a kiss (touch the tip of her muzzle to my cheek); and a nod ("Katie wanna cookie?")

For a little while she would cycle through the three tricks when I asked for one; she has reached the point where she can consistently give me the trick I ask for. She's also progressed to the point where she has to figure out that she gets treats when she performs tricks--but ONLY if I ask for the trick. Poor kid! She hasn't quite figured that one out yet. She'll get it eventually.

I like it. I get to keep acting as a treat dispenser ;) without feeling that I'm turning my horse into a mugging machine.

(Added on Saturday, June 19, 2004 @ 10:33:12 PM)


Since our last update, I've been trying to ride daily--either in the early morning, or in the evening. About all I can usually manage is a few minutes; I hate this.

Earlier this week we did tack up and ride up the road (maybe 3 city blocks, if we were in a city) and back.

It's very discouraging that that's the best I can do.

(Added on Saturday, June 19, 2004 @ 10:14:41 PM)


A few days ago, I noticed that Kat was striding short on her left hind. Today, when her hind shoes were pulled off to be re-shod, she was tender in both hind feet.

The farrier has changed the type pf shoes on her back feet, since she seems to be striding differently than she should (sliding her hoof down, instead of stepping heel-toe). I'll be attending a small seminar on Thursday at which he's speaking, and will have a chance then to discuss any changes in Kat over the next couple of days.

(Added on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 @ 08:05:32 PM)

Happy day.

I've continued to feel fragile on and off, which restricts my riding.

Still doing lots of playing with the horses when not riding, and have also been "practicing" on the some. I'm working on their muscles (mainly their backs) for practice and also because they need it. I'm also working out methods for measuring for saddle fitting, practicing on them, and they generally come out of these sessions looking a bit confused. "What WAS that?"

Most of those sessions are coming right after dinnertime, because that's when I'm out there & doing stuff. Today we wanted to ride right after dinner (a quiet walk around bareback, so no concerns about working them hard enough to upset their digestions). We finished up in the barn, then went out with halters in hand. Kat gave me a very suspicious look as I came closer ("NOW what??") and looked like she was on the edge of moving away. I said, "Want to ride?" Oh, MAN! Made me happy--she walked right over and stuck her nose in the halter.

Eh, nothing much more than that. Pretty much we just tried to stay out of Duchess's way, because she was being possessive ("MY human! Get away!") No major work on anything...just walked around on my horse :) goofing off.

(Added on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 @ 08:20:50 PM)


Again it's been a litle while; I didn't post about a few short bareback rides. Nothing interesting; bareback, halter, walk/trot (a little), maybe hopping over the teeny jump.

Well, yesterday I decided to see just how well I'm doing. I needed a few pics for one of my articles, and figured that I could probably get them. I know from past experience that I can do more with the saddle than bareback, so figure I was good for 20 or 30 minutes of riding. Tacked the horse up, put on the body protector, and off we went.

I used to lunge Kat before riding every time, to allow her to buck. I think she's got tension of some kind in her back; she used to always, always buck the first time (or first couple of times) I asked for canter, any ride. She's been all right with the light work we've been doing, so I thought maybe she had gotten better... I was wrong. Yesterday I eventually had to get off and let her run around and buck. When I got back on, she was much better, but by then I was really tired, so I just asked for a little bit and was done. I didn't get the pics I needed. I'll have to try again--and this time, let her buck herself silly BEFORE I get on.

I really wonder what the problem is...or if it's just exuberance. I don't think so, because she was really trying very hard not to buck me off, but she was really tight throughout the back when asking for anything more than a slow trot. I'm sad...I feel bad, both that she had such a rough ride yesterday, and that it is even a problem at all. She's a good girl and she tries hard for me.

(Added on Friday, April 23, 2004 @ 08:36:11 AM)


We were doing a lot of yardwork today. I'd been hoping to have enough energy left over to get out the saddle and do a little "real" riding--no such luck. We did have a quick bareback ride though.

Bareback, halter and lead rope. Rode around, circle right, circle left, a couple of little serpentines...rode under the big old oak where the vegetation changes due to the shadow (no grass, all bushy shade stuff--it's shading a half circle about 25' radius into the field). Apparently this is a very spooky unexplored place, because Kat gave three "wierd!" snorts as we went under. (laugh) Funny mare.

Turned up the field back toward the jumps, did some leg yielding in & out of circles around the jumps. Then I moved back along the fenceline and asked for a little bit of shoulder-in (this is bareback in a halter, remember)! Got it really nicely (for being rusty) to the left; took a fair bit more work to the right, but we got it eventually. What a good girl :) I did a flying dismount (not too hard, from a walk) after she got a few steps of shoulder-in to the right, and gave her a cookie. Such a good girl.

(Added on Sunday, March 28, 2004 @ 08:41:21 PM)

Massage and Riding

Went for a ride today. Got out the saddle and everything ;) I have been pretty well pain free (without provocation to my back) for several weeks now. I tried a trot. I got a couple of circles in each direction! before I figured that was probably enough. I was getting tired. I think for some time I had better make sure that I don't work to the point of fatigue; if I get fatigued I may well put the wrong kind of pressure on my back.

I'm halfway through a course on equine sports massage. I am really impressed. So far it's essentially been a crash course in equine anatomy, accompanied by discussion of what can cause particular tension in various muscles, and how to relieve that tension.

Now, I *know* that Kat has been carrying tension around for as long as I've had her. She doesn't like to be touched; no grooming, no patting, stroking, etc. For three years now I've tried everything I could think to get her to appreciate being handled. But all she does is tense up when I go to touch her.

Don't get me wrong; she's affectionate. She'll take her nose and put it in my chest and lean, or put her muzzle on my shoulder. She's perfectly happy for me to rub her head, and even to stroke her ears. She just doesn't want her body messed with.

I am on a serious high right now, from delight. Last night I went at Kat with some of what I've already learned thus far. Having some idea of what she looks like under the skin has made all the difference, I think--knowing what is where and where each muscle is likely to be tense, and what to do about it. While I was working on her, he stretched her neck all the way out, 'till her nose was on the floor. She was really into it! She was *enjoying* it! Oh, oh, oh, oh oh...I just can't express how happy that makes me. She works so hard, tries so much, for me--now I have something to give back to her.

(Added on Saturday, March 20, 2004 @ 08:29:08 PM)

Nice ride

I'm managing to do slightly, slightly more each ride.

The horses looked up as we went through the gate. They were a field and a half away from the barn; I called out, "Kaaaaaaatherine, want to go for a ride?" And they headed our way :) Feeling very relieved; I think we may have gotten over resentment. Don't know if that means it will be safe to lunge again--probably if I ride afterwards, it will.

Today it was gusty when we went out, and one of the neighbors was running...something...that every so often made a huge VROOM (dirtbike, lawnmower, something). Kat was a bit tense and jumpy as a result (but hey, so was I; that thing was LOUD). But she was listening, and I think she was making a big effort not to actually jump. She just tensed up. Sweetie :)

Shortly after we mounted (John was riding Duchess), the mare from next door came galloping our way. She acted like she thought we were leaving her. (!! We were riding in the field right next to hers.) Kat was calm and attentive. Good stuff.

I spent most of today's ride asking for flexion again, one way and the other. A little leg yielding. It's a bit hard to make riding interesting for rider and horse when the rider isn't capable of much. She was a good girl.

(Added on Saturday, March 13, 2004 @ 10:45:38 PM)

Nice ride

We had a nice, short ride a few days ago. Nothing since until yesterday. Kat was still being a little standoffish; I think she just really doesn't like being solely lunged.

Yesterday she didn't come up to me as I came into the pasture, and turned away from me when I went to get her. I felt really bad...she should enjoy the time she spends with me.

We brought them up to the barn, got our helmets, and hooked up lines to their halters. Bareback ride. She seemed to relax quite a lot after I got on. I spent a little while testing my strength/tolerance by asking for flexing & yielding back and forth as we moved along. She was soft and cooperative.

After a few minutes I could tell I was reaching the limit, so I figured "one more thing then I'll get off." One of the things I taught Kat when teaching her to yield to the bit was "Tuck." "Tuck" means, essentially, tuck her nose in towards her chest a bit. When I first got her she fought the bit something awful, and I wanted a way to teach her to relax against contact, not brace. So with "tuck" I simply asked her to flex at the poll and relax her jaw, nothing more. I eventually started combining "tuck" with leg aids, asking her to get onto the bit.

Yesterday I asked her to "tuck." What did I get? She lifted her poll, lifted her shoulders and got more active behind! Oh, what a sweetie. All I wanted was to make sure that she remembered a trick... And that was all the riding my back could take, so I dismounted, gave her a "cookie," and took off the halter. Good girl was trying to get on the bit bareback in a halter.

Today, when I came out to the field, she turned and walked up to me. I was touched...she wants to spend time with me again. All the evidence suggests that she really *likes* to be ridden. And she tries so hard.

(Added on Friday, March 12, 2004 @ 07:02:59 PM)


Today, for the first time since November (just before my back flared up in December), I got out my saddle & rode. Happy!

It's funny, but I can brace my back--and ride badly, but without moving my back too much--more bareback than I can with my saddle. So I knew I was going to take more of an impact from this ride than I have bareback, but I thought I was up for it. And I am pretty sure that I didn't hurt myself.

Kat snoozed while I groomed her and even while I put the saddle on, but she got really excited when I got out the bridle. She started trying to stick her nose in it while she was still cross-tied in her halter. What a sweetie...she really hasn't approved of being lunged but not ridden.

She was terrific to ride, being very steady. The only time she jigged at all was when I accidentally pointed her at a 2' wall jump--and I turned her away & apologized...

All I really did was what would otherwise be a walk warm up; I could tell as soon as she'd gone about 3 steps that I wouldn't be able to handle any trotting. I just asked her to flex both ways, to leg yield in and out. I'm delighted to see that her break from riding has not let her slip back to excessively left-sided again; she was pretty even.

Then I walked her over the 6" half barrels and got off. I miss jumping.


(Added on Sunday, March 07, 2004 @ 02:43:46 PM)

Brief Lunge

Lunged briefly today. Had an unusual experience; Kat walked away hen I got close with the halter. I think she's a little sore from yesterday. That's actually why we were lunging, to veeeery lightly work the muscles she used so hard yesterday.

Went around about twice in walk each direction, then about twice in trot each direction.

(Added on Thursday, March 04, 2004 @ 10:20:27 PM)

Lunged & Rode

I have been doing some clipping of the horses this week; it's in the 80's and they're sweating just standing around. I can only do a little at a time, though, thanks to my back.

Today I got Kat a fair amount clipped. I think she appreciates the airflow :) I came out later, and took her down to free lunge her; she just went berserk. Ran and ran and ran. Looked like she was enjoying herself. All I did was make sure she went in both directions.

I walked her for a while to cool her some, then climbed on bareback again. We walked for about half a minute or so. Ah...it feels good to ride.

(Added on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 @ 06:27:02 PM)

I Rode!

I've been missing riding so much.

I've been lunging Kat to keep her...well, more fit than she would be if she were a pasture potato. Now, Kat *likes* the be ridden. Usually I lunge her before riding; recently she's been trying to cut lunging sessions short and come right up to me. It's like she's trying to insist that weget on with the actual riding, please.

It had been a whole day since anything set my back off. Stiff, but not painful. I was feeling brave. I grabbed my helmet, hooked the lead rope up as reins (best way to ride!) and climbed on from a sawhorse. I didn't ride for more than a minute, and certainly didn't do any more than a walk. But I think both of us are miles and away happier :) The short walk didn't set off my back either. I am pleased; I think I'll be riding briefly every few days now.

(Added on Monday, March 01, 2004 @ 04:56:50 PM)