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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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)
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
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
(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
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)
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
(Added on Saturday, March 13, 2004 @ 10:45:38 PM)
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
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,
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
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)
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
(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'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.
Monday, March 01, 2004 @ 04:56:50 PM)