Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our December (So Far)

From October...

December has been kind of hard on Sofie. As I recall, this wasn’t her favorite month last year either. She definitely isn’t in terrible shape, but she does have her complaints. I have been riding this month, but only four times so far, and mostly at a walk. Our rides have ranged from completely frustrating and depressing (though that was mainly due to issues in my own head) to (recently) quite fun and hopeful.

Sofie’s feet were trimmed on the 10th. When Annie came out to trim her (sick, to the point of having trouble breathing…I love Annie, she is incredibly, scary dedicated), we told her about Sofie’s head-bobbing lameness issue, and I jogged Sofie for her. Annie checked her over carefully and didn’t find much of anything, except for possibly a little back sensitivity. So she couldn’t really give us any ideas, except for what we already knew about her issues (hocks, chest, shoulder, sternum, oy). At least we got to see how much Sofie really respects (and maybe, just slightly, fears) Annie. She’s been very reactive when either one of us touches/grooms/massages her chest (particularly the permanent divot from when she ran into a barn wall), but while Annie was going over her chest and the surrounding areas she never once put her ears back, and she only turned her head slightly once.

Her feet are still good. They were definitely due for a trim, and it’s nice to have them shorter. The snow doesn’t pack in them nearly as much. Sofie was fairly cooperative for Annie, except in the beginning (she likes to yank her front feet away from Annie when she holds them between her legs). I really hate when she’s bad (she can be pretty bad) because Annie is such a great trimmer. She never resorts to abuse or freaks horses out (except in that slightly mind-blown, good way, like “OMG I’m backing down the aisle at a high rate of speed with this little tiny woman plastered to my chest…how did this happen?!”). And she’s so dedicated to my horse, so it’s kind of horrifying when my dumb horse is an ass while she’s working on her.

Sofie’s been doing better and worse in different respects. She’s moving better overall. She has less stiffness and more fluidity in her hind end. She’s showing more hock action than she has in quite some time. But she seems to be having front-end issues now. This does not seem to be a new or acute thing, but more of the same/ Sofie has a long-standing tendancy of "overuse" type, compensatory aches and pains. When she uses herself properly, her hocks tend to get ouchy, so then she pulls herself around with her front end and ends up with shoulder issues. She has also had sternum issues in the past. And then there’s the muscle damage to her chest from when she ran into the wall trying to fit through a fairly narrow opening at the same time as this other mare. That happened a couple years ago, but it clearly still bothers her at times. Lately she’s been reactive during grooming, and she’s also been quite girthy. And there’s the head-bobbing thing that comes up.

We keep checking her, and she has no heat anywhere, no swelling anywhere. She never really does. Choo-Choo’s legs are funky and have fill all over the place, but Sofie’s have always been tight and hard. I’ve thought about all kinds of stuff, like ulcers, saddle fit (I don’t think it’s saddle fit and I really really don’t want it to be), magnetic therapy, massage (I wish I had access to a good, reasonable massage therapist…most of the ones around here seem to be kind of nuts), rest, should I have a vet out, etc. I’m kind of holding off on making any sudden, dramatic moves. This is nothing we haven't gone through with her before, except for the lameness. I'm not used to her being lame, and I don't like it. I kind of feel like a bad person for riding her right now, but it's not as if I'm making her do anything strenuous. All I'm doing is trying to maintain what little fitness she has, since it won't help anything if she turns into a fat pony couch potato. I wouldn't ride her if she came out of the pasture lame, and I wouuld stop if she told me to, but she hasn't. She’s still trying, she’s still willing. Not that she always has her ears up and perky (unlike a certain toy-like Morgan), but she hasn't acted out or flat out told me "NO WAY." She'll even trot when I ask her to (I've been limiting the trot work to a few strides each direction, just to evaluate her, when I ride). I'm sure she would head-bob her way around the whole arena, multiple times, if I wanted her to. Which is atypical for her. Either she's decided to become a martyr (not likely), she REALLY loves me (I would like to think so, but maybe not so likely), or, as Annie said "It must not bother her too much if she's able to keep working."

She’s gone through crabby phases before, so hopefully this will pass and she’ll feel better. I just want her to be okay. I feel like she will be, and I really hope so.

The last couple rides have been good, particularly the most recent one. I’ve been riding with a friend, and Sofa was really excited to have another horse in the arena (not…she does enjoy making ugly faces at him, though). She’s really starting to “get” poll flexion and respond nicely to the rein aids. I’ve been working on that with her for a few rides now, just little bits at a time, and she was kind of resistant at first but now it seems she’s figured it out, at least at the walk. She did so well with flexion last time. I was amazed. She even reached down into the contact definitively but without pulling, just like Choo-Choo started to do in my last lesson. I swear the two of them have been talking, and Sofie just had to show me she could do it just as well as Choo-Choo. Fine by me. I hope Choo-Choo tells Sofie how to keep her ears up and canter in the arena!

I also worked on moving Sofie off my leg, not trying for any dramatic crossovers right now but just some sideways response. She was pretty light to my leg the last time I rode her. I do need to work on not nagging…I think I give a little too much support with my seat and leg. Not so much that it wears me out, but a bit too much. She’s so light, I don’t want to make her dull. The Jesse lessons have helped me figure out what I need to do with her, and the little adjustments I need to make for everything to be better and more correct.

I did some rein-back the last two rides. She did much better this last time than she did previously. And she was much sounder at the trot. She actually did several trot transitions, and trotted more than halfway around the arena once before she started head-bobbing. I rode without stirrups the entire time, except for the few minutes I rode outside. She was calm yet energetic and seemed happy to be out there. It was really fun, a really good ride for both of us, and it reminded me why I love my horse. Even with all her soundness issues, she’s still trying for me. And much as I love the adorable little Choo-Choo, with her soundness and unceasingly willing attitude, I know I could never have ridden her without Sofie. And don't tell Sofie this, but eventually I would probably get bored with a super-willing, seemingly opinionless horse.

As a super special reward for reading all the way through this super excitingness, I present Our Super Specialty - bad conformation photos! You know you love them. Actually, though, I must say that these are not too bad, by our standards. The hay belly, sickle hocks and fuzziness cannot be helped. The shavings tail fail was a regrettable oversight.

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