A chilled Filly

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A very quick update

I have to leave for work in a few minutes, but we have had an update from Nic at Rockley farm. It's well worth a look

4 week update

Seems like all is going pretty well apart from the abscess. But then who knows how long that has been in her foot ? The fact it has come out can only be a good thing.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A visit to Filly

On Thursday I finally had time to go and pay a visit to Filly. A long drive in some very very heavy showers, but the reward was when I got there.
After parking the car just outside the yard I walked towards the house. Then I heard the most enormous whinny from the stable block. I thought all the horses would be out so hadn't checked in there but recognised that voice. Filly was in her stable and had recognised the sound of my foot fall. I poked my head around the door to be greeted by an alert little face with ears pricked. So I had to say hi before going to the house. Within minutes she was used to my presence again and went back to her friends. Horses are like that and live in the moment. It probably just took a short time before she forgot I had even been away. But that's fine I had had my reward already.

I then went to the house to meet up with Nic and she took me out to see Fillys' feet. The first thing to say is that a huge abscess had blown out of her front left coronet band. If you remember that was the foot that was extremely lame just before she went to Rockley, so I guess it had been cooking for a while. Apparently she was lame again on it for a few days before it came out, but became much sounder once the pressure was relieved. Nic said it absolutely stank :( .
Once we had discussed that small problem we looked at her feet. I have to say I was amazed. They don't look like the same hooves. I had expected to see badly chipped hoof wall, but what I actually saw was hooves that looked like they had been manicured. OK, the very edges were a little uneven but no sharp chips at all. I also noticed that the frogs looked much much neater and, even to my inexpert eye, stronger. Due to the abscess I did not see her moving about outside the stable but she should be out again as I write this. In fact Nic is hoping to take her long walks on Exmoor soon being lead as Nic rides one of the other rehabs.
We then had a long cup of tea and a chat about all things hoof related and horses in general.
After tea I went back out to just spend some time with Filly in her stable. Nic went for a ride leading a couple of other horses while Filly and I just chilled. And I have never seen Filly so chilled. The atmosphere on this yard is so conducive to being relaxed that leaning over the door next to Filly I nearly nodded off and she definitely did.
After an hour or so it was time to face the long drive home. Bad rain again, but I was feeling so happy knowing that Filly was being well looked after mentally and physically. It was much less stressful than the last drive home. Trusting someone else with your horse for 12 weeks is a bit difficult but having got to know Nic over the last few visits I now feel very relaxed about it.
Nic has shared a few videos of herself riding and that just reinforces my view of her. She doesn't "do" Parelli or any other NH training, but watch these videos and I think you'll agree that that is because she is already there !

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Box Exercise

As Filly is away I've been doing a fair bit of riding on Bonitao. I've spent a lot of time recently getting him really light with forequarter yields or direct rein. He will react to just a weight shift now most of the time. If that fails then just moving my outside leg forwards a little will get those front legs crossing over nicely.
At the same time I've been balancing this with getting the indirect rein lighter. This is asking the hind legs to cross over. He'll do this mostly from just my inside leg going back a touch, but occasionally still needs to be reminded with the rein.

For both of these I'm not talking about Level 2 Parelli type of feel, we are going way beyond that. I'm trying to see how light I can get the aids to be without them becoming over reactive. What I mean by this is that with my intention turned off I should be able to squirm around in the saddle, look at the view and have Bonitao not react to those feelings. I only want him to react when my intention (martial arts "ki" if you like) is turned on. To achieve this I've also being doing lots of "friendly" game in the saddle and on the ground both stationary and in motion. I also try to be very clear as to when my ki is on or off.
I don't think ki is a mystical thing by the way. But using it as a model in my mind effects the tension and intention in my body. It changes the activation of muscle groups causing my core to engage or relax. But we are straying of into martial arts training here.

Having got these basic yields very light I now wanted to get transitions much lighter. Not the traditional ones of walk, trot, canter, halt but ones between forwards, sideways and backwards.
I look to many sources to get inspiration for training sessions and so I came across this on YouTube Box Exercise . This was exactly what I was looking for, but how to make it as clear as possible to Bonitao ? Bruce does a great demo of the exercise in the video, but I want to do it from the ground first.

I like to teach a new pattern on the ground first if possible. I needed to make the pattern obvious to me which will help my focus and convey the pattern to Bonitao. Well the obvious solution was to place 4 poles on the ground in a box and move Bonitao around the outside of them with his nose always pointing in the same direction, say south. So we walk forwards along one side until his hind feet are just past the sideways pole. Move sideways right along that pole with his hind legs just in front of pole. Backwards down the other side then sideways with front legs just behind the other side pole. Simple.

Bonitao has done a lot of sideways with poles so I thought this would be pretty easy on the ground. Unfortunately it turned out he had only really done sideways with the pole under his belly or in front of his front legs. Rarely with the pole behind his hind legs and it worried him. This was the first problem to overcome. So we did a session of just going sideways in front of a pole, using the end of the pole as a place of rest. This is a bit like doing the point to point pattern to get impulsion except the impulsion was sideways and the points were each end of the pole. The ends of the pole were a destination, if you like, where he knows he will get a rest.
I also discovered that he was great going to his right, but going to his left was harder. In fact he would try hard to avoid going along the pole to his left at all, but was ok going left sideways when away from the pole. Approach and retreat to get over this problem by not asking him to go sideways with the pole too close behind to start with.

Once this pattern had become acceptable on the ground I tried it ridden. Backwards was good, but we had trouble transitioning from backwards to sideways. He wanted to keep going backwards. This was overcome with putting a long pause between the directions. Sideways to forwards was pretty good as was forwards to sideways. But we still have trouble with sideways to the left with the pole behind the legs.

All of this is very much work in progress, but the video gives me a vision of where I want to get to and now all I have to do is separate out the elements, get them good on their own and then recombine them into one beautiful flowing movement.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

2 weeks at Rockley Farm

Filly has been at Rockley Farm for two weeks now. I missing here terribly. But the reports from there almost make up for this as she seems to be doing very well. The latest blog post about her is here Filly update
I spoke to Nic at Rockley today and she says she is really chilled and has integrated to the herd very well. That makes me feel much better.
I've been riding Bonitao a fair bit but that will be the subject of another blog post

Monday, 28 July 2014

Rockley Farm

Filly in now away on her holidays in Exmoor. She'll be away for at least 12 weeks which is a bit hard to bear. It's a 4 hour drive each way to visit her, but the area is very beautiful so we can make mini-breaks out of them.

Getting her to Rockley was challenging. I had decided that for this special journey I would give her some sedative to help her stay calm. But she hates having a syringe put in her mouth so administering it was going to be a problem. To get her used to syringes we tried filling them with apple sauce and apple sauce with mint and other tasty liquids. None of them worked. We finally found that she loved mashed banana and the problem was solved to the extent she was biting the syringe and didn't want to let it go.
So when the day came, last Monday, we mixed mashed banana with ACP and she ate it readily.
This did not have the expected result. She fought strongly against the sedation and became very agitated. I took her to the indoor school and she went nuts. Putting the travel boots on was not fun.
Trailer loading was actually pretty good and after a short time we were ready to go. Trailering was not good. We had picked a Monday lunchtime to depart to avoid traffic jams. We got stuck in 3 jams in the first hour. Two accidents and road works. During the road works a kind lady got out of her car two cars ahead of us to make she we new our trailer was rocking about. Sitting in a very rocky car we assured her we did know, but there was not a lot we could do about it. So long as we were moving Filly was actually ok, it was when we stopped we had trouble. We made the decision to not stop at all and arrived 4 hours 30 minutes later at Rockley farm with our legs firmly crossed. Not easy when you're driving !

She unloaded really calmly and slowly and was soon installed in a stable to let her settle for a whilst we had a visit to the loo and a cup of tea.
We then went back out to see her and Nic (the lady who owns the yard) took loads of photos of her feet in shoes. She then took close up slow motion video of how her feet contacted the ground as I walked Filly up and down the yard. This gives Nic a baseline to work from for Fillys' rehab work.
Then very very carefully Nic removed Fillys' shoes whilst I and Ritchie stood on horse fly swatting duty. I was very impressed with the calm attitude Nic had as Filly was pretty difficult and the shoes were effectively glued on by the residue of the gel pads we had tried on her.
With that done she had her tea, which included loads of mineral ingredients which Nic prescribes to re-hab horses and was put out on the first track area which is part of the rehab treatment. She had company of another re-hab horse and one of Nics own horses, both chosen for their calm manner. There was one minor altercation and then everything settled down really well.
With that done we left for the night to find the hotel we were going to stay in.

The following morning we arrived to find Filly still with her friends on the track area. She came over to say a brief hello and then went back to her friends and hid around the back of the barn in an area we could not see. We did not go into the area as we did not want to disturb the herd that was forming and so reluctantly left her and set off to go for a walk on Exmoor, followed by the long drive home.
If you wish to follow Filly's progress as Rockley then take a look at the Rockley farm blog that Nic writes to keep us all up to date with progress. Here is the link Rockley Farm blog

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Touch all over

On James Roberts plan the second item is "touch all over". And he means all over. There should be no "yeah but" spots.
It has taken me the better part of a year to get to the point I could literally touch Filly all over and am I glad I took the time now. The difficult spot that took most of the time was the flank up to her teats. I got badly kicked at one point when trying and nearly passed out with the pain. Folks at the yard were a little derisive that I spent so much time getting to the point I could handle her teats relatively easily. But it has now paid dividends.

Filly starting lactating yesterday. I was gently playing with her and was more than a little shocked when a stream of milk came out of her teats. A quick phone call to our vet, Ben, and he reckoned she could be having a little phantom pregnancy brought on by the changeable weather and the fact she is on box rest. But he stressed that to ensure she did not get mastitis it was important to clean her teats.
A year ago that would have been an extreme sport, but because of the touch all over from James it was relatively easy. To be honest she was not wild about me using a wet sponge (maybe I should have used warm water ) but she was fine with my hands. She had a lot of nasty gunk there so I was pleased to be able to get it clean and reduce the infection risk. The last thing I need when she is about to go away for 12 weeks for rehab.
So a question to ask is "can I touch my horse ALL over, even in those slightly embarrassing bits, or am I going to find I can't when a medical emergency arrives?"

Filly is a lot better

For the last 4 or 5 days Filly has been much much better. She can now walk on concrete with only a little lameness. Where she used to dip her nose almost to the ground when her left front foot touched the ground she is now much more even. I can only assume that the equithane pads we had tried in her shoes had put too much pressure on the sole and had bruised it. Once the pad was removed it took a while for the bruising to heal.
Despite the improvement I have taken the descision to leave her on box rest. There are two reasons for this
1) We cannot afford for her to run around the field and pull a shoe off. To go barefoot at Rockley farm they want her brought there with at least 4 weeks of good hoof growth
2) When she had the tildrum and hrydro cortisone injection the vet was keen that she had at least 2 weeks box rest to give the injections a chance to work

So the problem has been to manage her on box rest. To be honest she has been much calmer than in the past and pretty easy to deal with. I've groomed her twice a day partly to get the dust off her and partly to give her main muscle groups a good massage. She started not liking being groomed at all, but now actually seems to enjoy it. This enforced rest has actually been very good for her. She's had a lot of attention and has become much calmer being handled. Possibly because I have been on leave from work and able to give her a very consistent way of being handled.

I played with her a little today. Just getting her to back up over a pole one foot at a time, then come forward one foot at a time. And by one foot at a time I mean pausing for at least 30 seconds between moving each foot. This is to prepare her for getting on and off the trailer. If you remember her big problem is getting her feet over the lip of the trailer onto the ramp, particularly the back ones. So this acts as preparation for that.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

To lighten the mood

After the last, slightly depressing post I thought I would recite a few little stories from the last week or so.
Before Filly was confined to her box we were letting her in the indoor school for a leg stretch every day. The yard owner Rick did this last week. After a while he went to check she was ok. He found that she had pulled the mounting block out into the school and had sat on it. She even had one of her hind legs of the ground as she rested her bum on the top of the box. As he said all she needed was a cigarette coming out of the corner of her mouth and she would have looked very cool and chilled :) .
We always make a point of handling our horses legs a lot. This includes wrapping a rope around them and teaching them to yield to the pressure when we pull on the rope so that we can literally lead them by the leg. I had heard that is helps to prevent injuries if they get caught in wire, but was always slightly sceptical this would actually work.
The other day I was in her box chatting to the vet on my mobile. She started lifting her right leg and pawing at the haynet. I wondered what she was trying to do as she was doing it over so gently. In the end she managed to rest her hoof on the net and started chewing her chestnut ! She was using the hay net as a foot rest. Unfortunately this net was one with large holes and her foot slipped through into the net so she got stuck. I quickly finished my phone call as she looked at me very calmly but was clearly saying "Oops. Help please". She did not struggle once. I just lifted her leg and with a bit of fiddling managed to get her hoof back out of the net. I then dumped the hay on the floor and left a note not to give her a hay net again, just put the hay on the floor.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A painful journey

I know it has been a while since I posted. So much has happened I hardly know where to start.
The slight lameness Filly had when cantering finally lead us to consulting a vet. A vet I really trust and like. He came out to assess Filly several months back and decided to have her into the clinic for a proper check up. The finding was that she was sore in the right front foot. X-rays were taken at that point and hydro-cortisone injected into the hoof. After a couple of weeks of rest she was assesed again, and whilst a little better she was not as good as was hoped.
It was then decided to take her for an MRI scan. The result was that both front navicular bones were chipped, and the front right deep flexor tendon had a little damage. As a result of the chips some of the soft tissue in the area was a little inflammed.
The recommendation was to have more hydro cortisone and a new drug called Tildrun administered. To help with circulation on the hooves we then re-shod her with some equithane pads in the shoes to activate the sole of the hoof and the frog. After around 5 days she became very very lame on the front left hoof. The shoes and pads were removed to make sure there was no infection in the hoof, and then reapplied again. She remained lame.
It was then decided to remove the pads in case they were causing undue pressure on the soles. My heart lifted as she immediately walked better. Feeling much happier I left for the UK gliding national championship. This takes place over 9 days. On the morning of day 2 my wife rang me and said she had called the vet as the right leg was now hot below the knee and she was still lame on the left. I felt I could no longer remain at the competition and so hurried home to nurse Filly.
During all that time I had been investigating what we could do to help Filly recover. During that search it was recommended I look at Rockley Farm which specialises in rehabilitation of horses with navicular problems. This resulted in a 4 hour drive to Exmoor to see the place. I'll write a longer post about Rockley when I have more time, but the basic premise is to take the shoes off the horse and allow natural movement on a variety of surfaces which help to remodel the hooves to a better shape. After consulting with my vet, who had already heard good things about the farm, we have now arranged for Filly to go to Rockley on the 21st July. She will be gone for 12 to 14 weeks and she'll be 4 hours drive away. This is going to be tough and put lots of miles on my car. But it's worth it for the chance we can make Filly happy on her feet again.
Whilst there she will have her own blog to keep me in touch with what is happening. I'll share the web address of the blog when I have it.
So my focus for the next two weeks is to keep her in a condition where she can travel, a journey I am not looking forward to. But this is a journey for Filly and Filly alone. It is not for us to go on holiday together where I sometimes wonder if the trauma of the journey is worth it, it is to give her the best chance I can to get better.
This is an abbreviated version of all the ups and downs (which included many tears) we have had over the last few months and I hope helps explain why I have been a little quiet.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Back to the vet

As a result of the recent MRI scan Filly had to go back to the vet yesterday for more injections. They couldn't be done at Manor farm as one of the injections, Tildrun, is adminstered slowly via a drip. The drug can make horses colic so it was felt that being under constant observation at the vet was a good idea.

She had to be there be 08:30 which meant an early start. Trailer loading did not go as well as in the past. Purely my fault. I should have left more time and even though I tried to be calm and patient I must having been giving off hurried signals. The result was trailer loading took longer than if I had left more time and been more patient. Her problem is still getting her hind feet over the junction between the ramp and the trailer. She finds this mentally very hard to do and lots of patience is required to give her confidence.

As usual the journey was not good. She arrived at the vets very sweaty. I can't sedate her on the way to the vet as they will be doing that there for the procedure and a double dose would not be a good idea. I always try and let her calm down before letting her off. I'm looking for her muscles to relax and for her to start eating hay in a calm, not frantic, manner. Then I let her off, but almost immediately ask her back on again. I want her last memory of the trailer to not be escaping it after a bad journey, but quietly walking on to it and eating hay. This makes the next loading much easier.

I left her in the very capable hands of the vet and his assistants and went to do other chores.

Returning at around 1pm I was told it would be wise to wait a little longer as the drugs had caused her mild colic. So I stayed and had a lovely cup of tea with one of the equine staff chatting about natural horsemanship. She was very open minded and interested.

Once Fillys' stomach had settled it was time to load her again. With as much time on my hands as I wanted my personal energy was very different. As a result so was the loading. Very patiently I waited until she was ready to put those hind legs in the trailer, then I asked her out again. She actually did not want to leave the hay net so reloading then went much easier.

The journey home was again difficult, but maybe not quite as bad. I took my time over the unloading, again reloading her repeatedly until she walked calmly on and ate hay. Job done for the day I tidied up and went home to prepare for my evening of aikido training. A very busy day :)