Tuesday, 30 November 2010

At least the snow covers up the apples.......

With a cecum full of hay Grace doesn't seem to feel the cold.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Crabby Apples

Lami paddock............... or not

I find I haven't posted about Grace for two months! Horrors.

Been having fun picking up the crab apples from the lami paddock. (Not) with the shorter days I now have to play hunt the apple in the dark. They have been falling for over six weeks.

Grace though is doing well - having the winter off and loving the mud! :-)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Trying so hard to please

Grace had a tough day yesterday. Gave lesson to someone not familiar with riding by weight and got horribly confused.  Poor love gets very upset if she thinks she has made a mistake  It doesn't matter if actually everything is ok, if Grace thinks 'it' is wrong then she has a bit of a panic.  But full credit to rider for not flipping out in every sense.

Today, lunging to warm up prior to a quick pootle round the yard she got her legs out of sequence, and naturally (for her), because she had made a mistake, she had a little panic.

I find it terribly sad that this bright, intelligent, very able little horse gets so worried.  I can't help but feel it must be a learnt behaviour.  We are working very hard to help her unlearn it, and she is getting better, but it is still very sad.

On a happier note she is enjoying her little hacks and even the sessions in the arena.  Still completely hooked on milk thistle, so we go out for a walk every morning so she can stuff herself with it.

My dearly beloved previous horse taught me very well that I had to stay in balance and 'walk the hips' or she wasn't going anywhere.  Very polite, but firm, she just stood until I had literally got my 'rear in gear'.

Grace is benefiting from this education - I know I get a lot of funny looks as I do my best rice pudding x jelly wobble, but it keeps Grace happy.  As Stunt Man has commented, she is a little ball of india rubber, bouncy, flexible and full of life.  Too much talent to try and bottle it with a rigid back and stiff hips.

Grace conditioning her hooves on limestone chippings

Friday, 10 September 2010

One more step in the right direction

Grace is pretty relaxed in the indoor school.  But I normally only take her in there on her own, for a bit of a loosen up and a roll.

We are cautious about using any school with other horses - not because of the horses, but because if the handler of the other horse gets aggressive Grace gets very upset.

Today Grace, Stunt Man and Aunt decided to give a bit of ridden work in the indoor a whirl.  And there was another horse in there too!

I am happy to report that all went well.  Grace as always really got into the work and focused on what she was doing.  One day, hopefully, she will understand that if one of her 'Trustees' is with her we won't let her get hurt (if we can help it).

All three finished the session, slightly sweaty, but smiling :-)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Six weeks round up

So big lesson - stick with what you know and don't let your horse down by not following your instincts.

Made Grace very poorly by trying out new 'wunder' products on her. Learnt the hard way that Grace does best on the plain EPSM diet she has been on for months. I think the products themselves are actually very high quality and probably fine for an 'easier' horse though.

So the poor love has had about 4 weeks of misery and then two weeks of recovery. But she has come back bouncing and in a forgiving mood.

The 'Stunt Guy' took her for a bit of a blast today and they both came back grinning from ear to ear, so that made us all happy. Grace is great, you can really let her rip and then she will come back to a quiet walk as though she is really a beach donkey. Mind you with some of the things she does with her ears, she sometimes looks like a donkey.

Video below - not the best as taken on my phone, but I think you will get the idea :-)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

More progress and a numpty moment

Today, under saddle, Grace cantered to the right. I think this is the last of the 'can't do's'. At least the ones that I know of.

We still have lots of things on the 'To Do' list mind. But it is nice to get past the history.

Oh and super 'numpty' moment the other day. I have a somewhat eccentric dismounting style which uses momentum and gravity..... Well got carried away and M&G saw me flying off into the wild blue yonder - only my arms were still on Grace. So I ended up swinging underneath her neck like a rather bald chimp! :-)

And no she didn't seem to mind a bit.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Canter work; working canter; canter is working...

Work has now progressed to longish canters up a moderate slope - a bit of a pipe opener, nothing too drastic. Grace loves it, but comes right back when asked and can be ridden away on a long rein. (press play on video below for a sneaky peek)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Bitter Sweet

Please note - we have a photo without the obligatory dorky ears :-)

Friday, 16 July 2010

A post from her ladyship

This is me next to the mounting block. They are not edible.

This is me taking Phil for a walk over the hay field. It is edible, but I'm working.

This is me having a roll and maybe a snooze in the sand school. This may be edible........... tastes sort of nice, but a bit gritty. (And I'm not really allowed because it's bad for my tum.)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Red Letter Week

03/07 was the anniversary of meeting Grace and our first hack. Tomorrow is the anniversary of Grace's arrival home. Today is the first time I have ridden her since she has been restarted.

We've grown out the traces of lami and touch wood the EPSM is under control. There is still some mystery flare, but all in all Grace's health is not too shabby.

Grace canters, jumps and does everything a 'normal' horse does, except eat lots of sugar and starch. :-)

Saturday, 26 June 2010

By special request

Shiny rather than usual grubby photo :-)

Friday, 25 June 2010

Dorky ears but we're loving it :-)

July 09 to June 10

One day at a time, step by step, Grace is now happy and healthy. Grace loves to work and we love to work with her.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Magic pills

Well I don't know what exactly has wrought the transformation in Grace, but there is something in the mix which is going in the right direction.

It has always been the case that first thing in the morning Grace is a bit stiff. Only now she isn't. (Cross fingers touch wood etc ).

Is it the evening hedge browsing, the total no no on grass, the extra Vitamin E, the boots, the 3X daily work sessions. The extra long soaked hay, switching from seaweed to D&H Surelimb?

I don't know, but I'm not going to change anything. Right now, regardless of the less than ideal environment etc Grace is the best she has ever been. Long may it last. Please repeat all the finger crossing as many times as it takes. :-)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Those boots were made for walking......

So that's just what we'll do,
We'll tie those boots to your saddle
And walk along with you..........

All part of the process....... going along nicely. Grace will happily carry a dummy, a bag of Calmag or even a chap lying across her.

While you're here - just check out the left hind.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Starting again

I know Grace has been ridden - I've done it myself and didn't have any issues. But I know she hasn't had a good 'start' and I know that probably most of her brief time under saddle has been complicated by EPSM and human failure to understand.

So we are starting again.

I guess we really started the process last year. For me it's about more than the tacking up and riding out. First I had to try and understand a bit more about Grace. Get a bit of two way communication going and help her to be happy in her skin.

Only in July I didn't realise just how unhappy in her skin she was. Now she is on the EPSM diet she can properly relax for the first time in who knows how long.

As for most things Grace takes having a saddle on her back for the first time in months in her stride. And what a stride :-)

Monday, 19 April 2010

But I want to play on the swings........... (pout pout)

It's been fun packed few days. Can you hear me gritting my teeth and smiling all at the same time?

Grace has a lami paddock which she shares with one or two others depending on what they are up to.

If it is just the one companion Grace decides that she has to patrol the borders. I sat and watched her and she matches every minute of munching with another of stomping round the fence line. A rough measurement has her completing at least 1000m every hour, probably more. So somewhere in the region of 3-5 miles per day.

When she has two companions; lets call them A and B, they have to be kept at opposite ends of the field, which is long and thin. No sooner has she got A corralled at one end then she peeks over her shoulder to find that B has moved from their alloted space. So she stomps over and sorts them out only to find that now A has moved out of position. I can't measure the mileage for this - but it must be fairly high and requires much bossiness. Apparently you can hear her snort in frustration from the yard.

It's only been a few days but the effect on her feet has been fantastic. Her bum is in better shape too, but oddly she still has a stomach a whale would be proud of.

Grace now feels so good she can pogo on rocks and doesn't appear to feel a thing. Of course I am pleased for her, although a pogoing horse is a bit of a challenge...........

She is feeling so good that on the way in from the field she puts on a RADA worthy impersonation of a shuttle on the launch pad with all engines firing. Not a missed step, unlike the shod horse in my other hand which is slipping and tripping all over the place despite playing at snail.

Going out in the morning presents a completely different challenge. Grace is a bit stiff from having been in overnight. It's not good for EPSM horses but I don't have a choice at present. But stiff or no that doesn't stop her from diving off at every opportunity to go and see her best friends; the ducks. I have even tried changing our route to the field to avoid going anywhere near the duck pond. No good though, Grace knows every possible little alley that she could dive down to get to them.

I did try taking her to see them in the evenings, but this just feeds the addiction. She will stand for a considerable length of time mimicking their head/neck movements and just totally transfixed. She will come away when I ask but I feel sooooo mean!

I so feel like the Mum in the park with the pouting toddler that is stomping their feet and whinging about wanting to play on the swings. Only 1000lb is one hell of a toddler.............

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Someone forgot to tell Grace

My wonderful vet contacted Grace's original vets to find out some info about her for me. Very very kind of him and I really appreciate it.

This was in the early days and the news was discouraging. One of the litany of problems was inability to canter.

Only someone forgot to tell Grace. My equally wonderful helper/trainer is having quite a bit of a challenge persuading her that it is possible to exercise without cantering. And she does it beautifully too.

On a more sober note - a bit worried today because she has a new field mate, and they had obviously spent a lot of time cantering up and down. Grace came in extremely sweaty and svelte. But when I left her post more unintentional cantering she seemed fine. Cross fingers and touch lots of wood!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Climb every mountain..............

Working Grace in the school today. We did a tiny bit of loose jumping (all of a ten inch cross pole).
As you can see Grace was totally unfazed by the artificial climbing wall which was hydraulically raised and lowered in the background as she was working.
Just how often do you get to train for that?! This yard is great :-)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Dietary changes

The EPSM diet so far (touch wood) is going well. I don't understand how Miss Fussy Boots Princess can stomach the stuff, as it's a thick slimey, oiley mess. But just like a puppy she is licking her bowl clean.

The canine transformation is evident also in a new 'field behaviour'. At bringing in time when I catch her and her pal she holds her pal's lead rope while I put the headcollar on. It gets given back to me when all is secure.

I have no idea what is driving this, but she is happy, pal is happy so I am happy. Don't mess with what works!

All this time we have been quietly working on Grace's feet, which are Frustration Central. I have no solid evidence, but I am pretty sure that tying up episodes have a negative impact on their development. Growth appears interrupted and the soles drop just a little. The horn however is still granite hard.

So hard that it continues to make mincemeat of my tools. I really must make the effort to soak her feet for a bit before I try to trim them again. Anyhow I was showing someone a few things today and using Grace's feet as a teaching tool.

It only struck me on the way home that just a couple of months ago this would have been almost impossible. Two people in her space were bad; two people in her space with her feet being messed with just wouldn't happen.

Today though she was totally chilled about the whole deal, even letting me hold her feet up for extended periods of time so we could get a proper look.

You know what - I think I'm rather falling for this horse :-)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A hard lesson learned (I hope)

It is time to start Grace onto the next stage of her journey. I must ensure for her own future that she is comfortable being handled by different people and that others besides me understand how to best faciliate a healthy productive relationship and future with her.

So I introduced a really nice professional trainer to work with me while we get Grace rebacked and enhance her education. Unfortunately he got a little over enthusiastic and Grace tied up. Really badly. Poor guy was a bit shaken. I think he now understands that EPSM is not to be taken lightly and that I am not a fluffy wuss that fusses unnecessarily over my horse.

We have another trial run tomorrow. It may be walk only because Grace was still very sore today.

On the more positive side we had a very interesting experience with geese this morning. I was taking her for her consitutional and she practically dragged me down a particular track that leads to a lake. There were geese on it and she just had to go and inspect them.

The curious thing was how she spent a minute or two aping their head and neck movements. She soon gave that up but she never got bored with watching them. In the end I did so we moved on. It seems the bigger the bird the more interesting it is - I wonder how she would take to ostriches?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Touch wood

Grace got a compliment today. Someone was observing me trim her feet and they remarked how good she was/is. I didn't know whether to wet myself laughing or beam with pride :-)

But yes she was very good. How things have changed. I just point my rasp at the relevant paw and up it comes and away we go. Wonderful - so pleased with my girl :-)

Also they remarked how she stands on two legs while being trimmed....... well she is not the only one that does that, but she is probably the most well balanced (excepting the old grey mare who was fab). Grace cheats a little by leaning on the wall but is remarkably steady.

To be honest so long as the horse is properly 'set up' on the diagonal and doesn't have any physical problems then it matters not a jot to me if they do this. If however they are wobbly or physically impaired, then I don't encourage it because they end up using you as a prop, and they are too heavy for that. With Grace I barely know she is in my hand. Super super horse, I really don't know why anyone ever had a problem trimming her feet. It certainly doesn't seem to come from Grace.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Magic moments

Glass half full or half empty? Grace has got a bit too enthusiastic with her work and pulled something. Fairly sure it's related to the inelasticity of her pecs - although the strain is somewhere along the lower edge and rear half of her trapezius.

Her backside is incredibly powerful - a full on dressage horse is in there somewhere, but her front end is too weak (from injury not conformation) to sop up all the energy created despite her obvious desire to really perform.

Grace has developed a way of very clearly telling her idiot human that all is not well. I hold up her head collar and she curls round like a roll mop herring on legs; holding her head away from me and tucked into her body. I got this writ large this morning and again at lunchtime. Having realised that even the most innocuous school work is putting too much strain on the whole front end we agreed that for the morning and lunch exercise we could walk around the yard and car park. By this evening Grace had figured that I had learnt my lesson and wasn't going to take her to the school, so she happily offered her head.

We spent a very damp and cold fifteen minutes quietly walking around. Even with enormous hailstones hammering our heads she radiated a calm contentment that reminded me so much of my old grey mare. It was blissful. And what was especially nice is that as her feet improve she is getting the hang of walking quietly walking by my side rather than her old habit of darting round like a rabbit on a chemical high. And she can still do puddles! Even without ducks.

Despite us both being rather wet I brushed her off as best I could. The quick groom confirmed that she is very sore. I can brush everywhere, even the tickly bits, but got a strong negative reaction from the site of injury. Again, I am impressed - Grace has gone from a horse that was pretty tight lipped to one that will communicate loudly and clearly and not hold a grudge. So having 'told me off' for touching the sore spot she instantly relaxed and forgave me when I moved to a bit that didn't hurt.

I am truly blessed. Grace may not be winning any olympic medals any time soon or ever, but that doesn't detract from the fact that she is pretty special. And she has hooves of granite as my wrecked tools will testify. Am I the only person in the UK with a very tiny part of me wishing that their horse's hooves were a bit softer..........

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Here's licking at you

Definitely need a pair of tame ducks. Since receiving an escort through a puddle last week Grace hasn't worried about a puddle since. I'm not saying she chooses to walk through one if there is an easy option to keep her feet dry. Just that she no longer goes to great lengths to avoid walking through one. This picture shows Grace happily wading through the flooded end of the big outdoor arena.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Pectoralis Descendens or Swiss Cheese?

I have been having a discussion about the injuries to Grace's pecs over the last few days with a few people. Largely because I needed to think very carefully about the impact the damage might have on her ability to perform properly; any pain or distress it might cause her and how/if I can do anything to help fix it.
When Grace arrived her pecs were largely mushy/liquid. I knew they were injured but not how. As the area has healed a large hole became evident and I was thinking some sort of head on collision with a pole maybe. So to answer a query I took a photo. Oh the joy of technology - with the photo as my guide I 'hands on' counted five/six holes, some bigger than others. Can you spot them on the picture?
Anyway Grace is having some difficulty with the whole front end stability, stretching and suspension 'thing'. Unfortunately I am being pretty P. poor at managing it very well and she has strained herself to the extent that she now finds it hard to hold her feet up for more than a few seconds - and they desperately need trimming. And I have to keep exercising her daily to keep the EPSM under control. So although I want to do various stretching/suppling exercises for the front end I am going to have to keep to straight lines for a while until Grace is more comfortable. I am very wary of feeding bute, but I will give her some if it means I can get her feet done.
I think some finger crossing and positive vibes are in order if you have any to spare please.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Puddles - have we got them quacked?

Grace doesn't 'do' puddles. No way no how, bribes, leads from other horses - nope she would rather perch on a really dodgy, narrow bank than get her feet wet. There is a puddle we have to cross several times a week. It is never more than four inches deep and usually under two, but Grace takes H&S very seriously and is aware that it is possible to drown in less. :-) And of course water has monsters in it that bite your feet off.

Today I led Grace and friend to the field as usual. Only to find Mr and Mrs Duck investigating the contents of the puddle. 'B****r!' thought I. If they take off suddenly Grace will spook and I could be in real trouble. But I decide to advance anyway. (No fool like an old fool!)

Closer and closer we march up to the deadly puddle and its ducky occupants. I'm convinced they will take off soon. 20ft, 15ft, 10 ft, nada, the ducks are still there. 'In for a penny.' and I put on my best brave face.

The ducks at 6ft decide not to fly, but to waddle off. And Grace follows them - through the deadly puddle as though nothing was there. Naturally she stops and plants afterwards, but still I am gobsmacked.

So a further thought - if we ever get to hack out or compete am I going to have to carry a couple of ducks in my pocket to whip out at opportune moments whenever Grace needs a lead?

So now thinking about a suitable saddle bag for the pair of ducks I will obviously need to carry if I ever get to hack Grace out. :-) And will I get eliminated from competition if I get the ducks to swim the water hazard ahead of us? And what about 'Ducks in Dressage?' - could this be a new sport? Instead of a Pas de deux we can have a Pas de ducks? :-)

PS On the return trip Grace was brave enough to walk through the water on her own! :-)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Keep your fingers crossed

After yesterday's hefty work out I fully expected Grace to be stiff this morning but she was fine - positively keen.

I lunged her again this evening - without the drama this time. A bit of bounce but she soon settled to her work. I am really pleased - let's hope this upturn continues.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Spring loaded

The modified EPSM diet seems to be working. If you measure recovery by how many caprioles your horse can pull off consecutively then Grace is somewhere in the region of 10. Yes TEN, and that doesn't include all the other 'airs above ground' performed tonight.

Fortunately it was all about showing off and not at all scarey. Although I must admit the other horse quietly left the school which was a tad embarrassing.

Her feet are so good she can stomp around on tricky ground with all four - or tonight just the hinds........... the fronts were too busy frisking the night air. So I am figuring she is feeling pretty good.

I did think with all this high energy activity that she would tie up, but there were no signs when I put her to bed. Somewhat tired, but not locked up. I fully expect her to be very stiff tomorrow.

I have to leave her for a week in April, after which, so long as she remains in good health, the backing activities will start in earnest.

Oh and her feet are now so hard that she killed off my new mini rasp with just one foot.........

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Here's looking at you kid

Well in truth in the first photo Grace (03 July 09 - the day she arrived) is transfixed by geese, and in the second (13 Feb 10) sheep, no lambs or baby goats.
Pretty sure she has EPSM, am going the diet testing route. Not going to ruin our developing relationship by pulling out 20 plus hairs with roots for DNA testing.
We've had quite a few minor tying up episodes now. All preceded by proximity to a farrier, which generates much anxiety, squitting and rushing about. At first I thought the main problem was the squits which would drain her of electrolytes (and this may still be part of the problem). But now I think the main issue is her muscles run out of energy so she comes to a shuddering halt, just like a car running out of gas.
So, the strategy is to soak the guts (sugar/starch) out of her hay (which I have to do anyway because of the laminitis) and replace any calorie requirements with protein or fat. I am also giving her breakfast to help her maintain her energy levels and to ensure that when she turns out she is not hungry.
So far so good, but with Grace I have learnt to take every day as it comes and just be grateful that we get through the day without drama. We celebrate our successes no matter how small and we try not to fret too much about things that don't go so well.
I hope you like the pictures - how many changes can you see (not including absence of hunky man in second photo).

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Tying Up - Again

Four weeks almost to the day - Grace has tied up again. Not as bad this time but still very worrying.

Refused to eat all her bute and sedalin. Lets hope she has had enough.

Insert expletives of your choice. :-(

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Stranger Danger

Grace has always come across as highly intelligent. To the extent I find that she is very capable of differentiating between individuals even if she barely knows them.

At the yard yesterday a really nice man 'offered' (ok was roped in) to have a brief chat while in her space yesterday. Grace completely ignored him. She recognised this man as 'safe' even though he drives the slightly alarming golf cart.

Once, when due to slightly odd circumstances Grace was in the last batch of horses to be brought in, she let a strange man lead her and made no fuss at all. (If I'd known I'd never have allowed it!) But this guy is a sweety - very quiet and quite shy - just as Grace likes them :-)

But last Saturday, she started having a significant panic. Calling out in distress and doing that jiggy tap dance/swinging about horses do when upset.

I couldn't figure it out - it was just another quiet Saturday, same as every other. So I tied Grace's friend up nearby - but Grace was still distressed. I feared another 'tying up' episode so I decided to put her and friend out, at least for a while.

On the way to the field with the pair of them we came across a man I have seen hit Grace in the past - August 09 I think. She has only met him just that once. It must have been the sound of his voice that alarmed her, because he was just chatting to someone. At the time of the panic attack he was out of sight, on a different yard and quite some distance away. Grace appears to have great hearing and a great memory.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Dance in the Dark

Grace's sire is Catherston Dance in the Dark. Well we were doing a little 'dancing in the dark' tonight. Although to be totally honest it was actually walking.

But I was surprised at how brave Grace was. We were looping round the livery premises in near darkness, notching up 20 minutes over a variety of surfaces. Grace managed very well on hard core/road planings, but she still struggles with the odd loose stone on concrete.

We are doing this twice a day and will work up to 40 minutes twice a day. Then we will have a rethink.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Tying up - ACP and Bute

We stuffed ACP (Sedalin) and Bute into Grace. The former to dilate the blood vessels to minimise muscle death and the latter to ease her pain. Thank you vet for that and thanks to the universe that we just so happened to have a supply of both readily to hand. Fast treatment is important to minimise damage.

Grace didn't move all night - as evidenced by the pile of pee and droppings all in the same place.

But this morning she discovered when I asked her to move over so I could muck out, that she was feeling a bit better.

By this afternoon I could tell by the mess that she had been moving around. We went for a tiny walk (Grace wanted to bounce but I insisted) and she seemed a lot better.

She has drunk and is continuing to drink loads. Probably to the good as it will help flush the toxins (from the dying muscle) out of her system.

Oddly regular dinner doesn't seem to taste as nice as the special mix laced with medicine.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Tying Up Syndrome

It was all going too well. Down to earth with a bump. Grace tied up today. No obvious cause, although she had received high levels of stress yesterday. More news tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Stretching Exercises and long memories

Grace's pecs, once very mushy from some sort of injury, have now solidified. A bit too much as it would appear that her front leg action is being restricted somewhat. So I thought it would be a good idea to do some stretches. But of course first I would have to show her that I meant no harm.

I decided to wait until the right opportunity arose and it 'felt right' and to introduce the stretches a little bit at a time. This morning that moment came.

So I just started to lift Grace's front leg, as you would do to stretch out the skin after girthing. I'd literally just started the lift when Grace plopped down into a 'dog play bow' with both elbows on the floor and her near fore still in my hand. She looked very happy and I looked gob smacked.

Well, I can't really beat that - she did the stretch and then some and no trauma or anxiety required. Amazing Grace does it again. I've been beaming all day :-)

One down moment. Farrier decided to hot shoe (another horse) just outside her box. Grace was TERRIFIED. I will have to see what I can do, if anything. For the moment we are both swallowing bitter bile over what has been done to her in the past.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Barefoot baby steps

Grace is a very interesting (new word for challenging) horse to work with. At first glance, its' all there. Conformation is good, she is highly intelligent, very willing and a real pleasure to be around.

It's only as you start to unpick the package that you realise what a long road is being travelled, and all in tiny, baby steps.

Look at the first picture - This horse is in agony. She has jammed her front legs under her to try and unload her heels which are sore from long term fungal/thrush infections. But her toes hurt from an earlier bout of laminitis.
All this pain has secondary impact - she is not using her hind end properly because of the pain in her feet and her back has got screwed up with the tension - so that hurts too.

In the second picture Grace looks much happier. Her front legs are where they should be; in a good comfy vertical so she can use her stay apparatus effectively when she needs. Her quarters and thighs are showing the benefit; developing muscle and tone because she can use them properly. And her back, once taut with muscle tension is now relaxed and starting to double muscle.

We haven't done anything fancy or complicated with her. Mostly we have worked on her diet - weaning her off sugar and onto a high forage hay based diet which is supplemented with high levels of magnesium among other things. She isn't even in proper work yet. Just the occasional free school or lunge to check progress.

The videos below aren't great - taken with my phone while I was scooting about. But I think you can see how Grace has improved over time - look particularly at how her back end is working.

And remember this is just removing her shoes, a change of diet and her own pootling about.

I am starting to get excited about what we might achieve with a more structured and regular work programme. But I know she is carrying a lot of damage, so I am trying to remain very chilled and pragmatic.

Regardless though, I am thrilled that this horse which was once so sore is now getting so much better. Next time I will try and capture one of her more spontaneous moments.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chocolate Pony in the snow

Grace showing friend how to dig for hay buried under the snow

Don't leave me behind!

No horses in this one, this is my local countryside. Pretty?

If you click on any of the pictures in this blog they will blow up to a larger size.

Translation required

Because I don't speak horse so well and Grace has a quirk I don't understand.

It's slightly hard to explain so bear with me! Some important things to outline:-
Grace is:

- Used to being led around on her own
- Happy to lead behind or in front of another horse and can cope with them disappearing
- Generally quite brave. She might look or spook at something the first time, but not habitually
- Beta, she will defer to other horses and is freaked out by some people, usually men

Yesterday there was only one other horse out with Grace. We brought them in together. On the way back to the stable Grace exhibited behaviour I have not seen before. Much spooking, bug eyed, bouncing and double barrel kicking out. It didn't matter where the other horse (a friend) was - behind, in front or alongside.

Now I know there have been trespassers in their field and I know how some people really do alarm her. Mostly men but not always. There were people in the field yesterday and today. The only thing I can think of is that either the stranger danger or maybe a fear of something coming up behind freaked her out.

Anyway, as I said, I don't speak horse that well so I can only speculate and hope that she is never that afraid again. I also hope that the trespassers get more sense because one day one of them might get hurt. (I mean really - tobogganing into the middle of a group of horses - what were they thinking?)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Just who is training whom?

You know how you read in horse training manuals about how you should think of new things to teach your horse and to keep it simple and break everything down into easy steps?

Well Grace has read the book.

And every time she sees the word 'horse' she substitutes 'human'.

But she has gone one better than the book - 'cause I'm getting the training and she is getting the treats!

- This post is inspired by the almost daily new 'tricks' that Gracie thinks of.
This week she has learnt to count.

From the horse's mouth:-

'When training my human I will only accept a maximum of 10 reward clicks before I expect a treat regardless of what I am doing.'

'As my human has a variable speed limit - to put it kindly - I expect a click every 5 strides to confirm that we are still ok for walking.'

Friday, 1 January 2010

Medical miracles don't happen overnight

Oh its so very hard. Grace has improved so much. People who don't know her well don't realise just how far she has come in a relatively short space of time.

We are facilitating Grace's healing, both mentally and physically, but there are no magic wands to be waved. The most serious damage is a mix of mental scars and internal physical damage and what took years to inflict will take considerable time to undo.

It is easy for some to believe that because her external physical scars have healed that everything else is ok. Oh how I wish it were that easy. And some bits are easy, horses are remarkable self-healers and our greatest gift is to facilitate that process (which means no meddling). The biggest parts of the facilitation are patience and a deep respect for the horses' need to be a horse.

Which means living like a horse; with a fibre rich, low sugar diet; lots and lots of movement 24/7 over a variety of surfaces with access to shelter, water and loafing spots as required; living in a stable herd and not being forced to put up with less for the sake of human convenience. (Haven't got there yet with all those things - oh how I long for a PP.)

Her external physical scars are almost invisible under her winter coat. But when I watch her work I can see how her pulverised pectorals are making moving the front end challenging; she sometimes does this kind of weird short stepping skip as the whole area locks up. It is amazing though how generally cheerful and willing she remains.

With regards to her feet, her digital cushions are extremely under developed as a result of life long inappropriate foot care. Her soles are thin, she is prone to thrush and is still recovering from multiple bouts of low grade laminitis. We can do a lot to help Grace overcome these challenges by letting her be a horse. But all of the healing has to grow in; millimetre by millimetre and any screw up in her care sets us back - which is why I am so fanatical about keeping the sugar out of her diet as much as possible. I need to incorporate a lot more movement into her life to help her feet grow healthily - both quantity and quality. Not easy to arrange but I will do my best.

On very bad days we do give her pain relief, but not as a regular feature. You might have noticed from the photos that she was over at the knee in the early days - this is resolving, as are the sore back and hips. But there will be other longer term issues which are still healing and if she gallops about unaware of the various aches she could do herself a lot of damage.

Trimming her feet is challenging. She can only hold a foot up for a short time and her physical/mental limitations mean that conventional methods of steadying a foot are not an option. It took time to teach her that having her feet trimmed was ok. It will take time to teach her that interested onlookers don't mean her any harm. One day I might be able to co-opt an assistant to help support her while I trim. But a few moons will rise and set before that happens.

And finally - most days I get a reminder of just how smart Grace is and just how far she has come and how far she has to go. Sometimes the reminders are just a post-it note, others they are writ large. Today was the latter.

Three things happened; 1) a group of trespassers were in the field with the mares and Grace was very upset and defensive trying to protect the herd. 2) A man she doesn't know well ignored advice and ran his hand over her and moved towards her back end. He narrowly avoided being kicked. 3) I skipped out round her in the stable and put a bale of Aubiose down and did a bit of trimming with a slew of observers and much activity. I'd never have managed any of this when I first got her without being kicked and although tied up she was very good about it today.

So a mixed bag. Some happy moments, thank you friend, family, Grace and Sophie, but much strife (entirely from humans) too.