Tag Archives: perspective

Using What I Know

Things with June continue to progress quite nicely. I have to say, under saddle, so far, she has been amazing. We’ve been riding at the trot on our own quite a bit and I am getting more and more comfortable with all of it.

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We had a wedding at the barn this weekend, which essentially just meant it was completely chaotic there. I wanted to ride June one of the three days that the wedding prep was going on, so decided I would take her out to the field and ride her in the jump school corner. I figured I would see how she was on the lunge line and take it from there.

Well, she was perfect on the lunge, even with the new footing that had been put down and the fact that all the jumps were askew around the edge of the footing. After about 15 minutes of calm lunging I decided to hop on her.

Now, keep in mind that we are about 100 yards from the barn, there isn’t a fence, and I still ride June in a side pull, so if she wants to bolt back to the barn there is really no stopping her.

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She enjoyed the view

I hopped on and we calmly walked around for about 10 minutes. She was so calm I decided to ask for the trot. And we trotted around calmly and happily, changing direction and having a grand old time. Baby horse exceeded my expectations for sure.

So, while our under saddle and ground work seem to be solid and moving in the right direction, June’s ground manners are pretty horrific. Specifically when I have her tied and am grooming or saddling her. She seems to think that any time a person comes up to her it is to give her treats, so she immediately throws her head at you. (I rarely hand feed her treats, but her owner/breeder was basically nothing more than a treat dispenser to her, and she has not forgotten that people=treats.)  I can’t groom her without her throwing her butt and/or shoulder around and pinning me between the post and her body. She can’t JUST STAND. And she’s not much better on the cross ties. She moves constantly and will move backward and forward the entire time. Ironically, she is great to bathe. Stands there perfectly, but she cannot stand still otherwise.

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The beginning of the temper tantrum

I understand she is a baby. And Sarah has even said that as she grows up she will become more patient. But yesterday she pushed me past my limit. I tied her to the rail while I cleaned up and she began pawing. Hard. And then kicking out. And throwing her body left and right. Once I was done cleaning I knew I couldn’t reward her by un-tying her, so I hung out while she had a temper tantrum. And it got worse and worse. I hid just outside the indoor arena to see if it subsided if I wasn’t in view, and it didn’t POUND, POUND, KICK, was all I could hear.

So, I came back inside, untied her and made her move her feet. Re-tied her. No difference. We did this a few more times. She was now lathered in sweat, and it had been about an hour. All she had to do was stand. But she was giving that a big fat nope.

I got her to stand quietly for 5 seconds, called it a day, did ground work the entire way back to her pen and left über frustrated.

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She and Stella did go for a nice walk together though!

And then, that night, I awoke at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. And that’s when it came to me- an idea to work on June’s behavior while tied.

Clicker Training.

This is not a new idea to many of you. So I won’t get into all of the theory behind it. But I will say it is a GREAT way to mark a behavior you like and get animals (and people!) to understand what you are asking. Maybe June just needs to understand what I want, as well as get rewarded for when she does something correctly. Now, my one hesitation is that I will have to hand feed her treats. But, she only gets a treat post click. She only gets treats when she does what I ask. She will soon learn (I hope!) that she doesn’t get treats just becuase she mugs me for them. I’m a bit nervous about this, but I think it’s worth a shot. I have a clicker, plenty of treats, and I think small increments of training this way may be super beneficial. And while no one would say my dogs are incredibly well behaved, I did clicker training with both of them, and it worked well. I could eventually wean them off the clicker, and treats, so maybe I can do the same for June.

I’d actually love any thoughts you have on the topic- am I setting us up for success? Or for complete disaster?

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Fraggle Friday:When Life Hands You Lemons

Oh man. Life threw me a curveball that has kinda rocked my world.

Two months to the day of Stella’s back surgery, she had her second seizure.

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Siri does her best trying to comfort her

The fact that it was her second was significant. She had her first seizure 70 hours prior. We were on a walk and she fell over and started paddling. Stopped, sat up, and then got up. The seizure lasted maybe 5 seconds? We walked slowly back to the house and she slept most of the day. After speaking with her surgeon (who I literally have on speed dial) there were a couple of possibilities. 1) Hopefully it was a one time event. 2) She has some deficiencies, and we can see if calcium and other levels are low 3) She has a brain tumor.

So, when Stella had her second seizure, after going to the vet and her blood work being absolutely perfect, we’re left with really just one option.

I cried all day Tuesday. I tried to go to work and was just a blubbering mess. I kept apologizing, but was unable to talk about why I was crying, so basically I was just super awkward and super unprofessional. Fortunately, I work in animal welfare, with a bunch of caring, compassionate people, so they handled my blubbering mess well.

And while that Tuesday was horrible, and I know my time with Stella is limited, here is the lemonade part of this story.

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We started her on Keppra, an anti seizure med, and she is like a new dog. She sleeps through the night, she eats all her meals, she gets up to greet me at the door, she drags me down the road for walks, and yesterday, when I took her to the banks of the river, she wanted to play fetch.

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Momma throw sticks?

The meds made her a bit more unstable initially (and gave her serious diarrhea, but that has resolved), so walking hasn’t been as easy for her, but now that she seems acclimated to the meds, she is really feeling great. Like, pre surgery great. For weeks before her first seizure she would get up one hour after I went to bed and begin to pace. The pacing got worse and worse and lasted longer and longer. And it was after a particularly bad night that she had her first seizure in the morning.

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Searching for sticks…

I think Stella hadn’t been feeling right for a while. And I’m not an idiot. A brain tumor is not a diagnosis anyone wants to get. I know my time with her is limited (they say it is a rapidly growing tumor and if lucky I will have 1-2 months with her). I know that one day she will probably stop eating again. She’ll start pacing. And while it scares the crap out of me, she will probably have another seizure, and it could be far worse than the last two.

So, I’m literally enjoying every moment I have with her. I’m so thankful I get to see “normal” Stella again. I’m so glad she feels good. I love that she drags me around on walks again. Knowing the end is near gives me anxiety and I’m so sad, but instead of dwelling on it, I try to focus on the now. And how lucky I am to have had this dog in my life for nearly 15 years.

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And taking lots of naps. She still enjoys that!

So, be prepared for lots of Stella posts, she’s pretty much going to rule my life for as long as she possibly can.

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On Being a Laid Back, Type A, Personality

I am fully aware that my title contradicts itself.

But it’s truly who I have become. Especially when it comes to “show season”

When I was riding Georgie, I would have my show season set by January. I knew what I needed to do if I wanted to qualify for the 3 day,  knew what clinics I wanted to participate in, and had a good sense of exactly how my season would go.  Planning gives me a sense of peace and relaxation.

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Also peaceful and relaxed

But then Georgie injured herself, and ever since I have not had a single plan work out.

The plan to compete Macy at a recognized event fell through at least twice.

And more recently, my FEH plans with June have gone askew.

But I think one of the most important things Macy taught me, in preparing for a baby horse, is to throw all plans out the window. And somehow, this lesson from Macy (like many others) is absolutely invaluable.

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Thanks Macy!

I am so incredibly laid back about all my June plans it’s like I am a different person. (But still the same person, because I love MAKING plans. I’m just okay with said plans not being what actually happens)

This laid back attitude reaches from my daily training of baby horse to future of baby horse and everything in between. When I found out that the Spokane event wouldn’t be holding a FEH 4 yr old class this May, (where I planned to go watch so I knew what I was getting into for Rebecca), I re-routed myself to NY to see family and deliver Peekaboo to her new home. When I found out Rebecca Farm wasn’t holding any YEH or FEH classes this year, I felt relief, as I could now speak at a conference and not have to figure out how I would fly there from Montana and get June home without me. And, even when I found out that the FEH class that I was hoping to attend this fall was happening AFTER championships (therefore making qualifying for championships obsolete as it’s not like I can go next year), I kinda shrugged and while bummed, knew there is a good chance I won’t qualify for champs, so no big deal.

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She’d probably have a better chance of qualifying for champs without me…

But, in case you’re worried about who I have become, and worry that I have turned into some apathetic, non caring human, fear not. Sarah noticed there was an event being held in August we’d never been to. It was holding both YEH and FEH classes. After emailing them to confirm they would hold a FEH 4 yr old class, I decided this was the new plan! Sarah and I would go, me with my 4 yr old, her with her 2yr old. Not only do I get to take June to a show, Sarah is coming and we can make it a quick “vacation” of sorts! So, not having plans, may actually work out for the best!

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Still so adorable

And if these plans fall through, that’s ok too. I can re route once again. All plans are up in the air, and changeable. And weirdly, at this point in my life, that’s totally ok.

 

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Before We Move Forward

We need to revisit the past.

This is a post I’ve been putting off, but now that June and I are moving forward under saddle, I think I need to fess up about something in our past.

I’m not going to get into specifics because I don’t want to point fingers, and hey, we all make mistakes, but here’s the gist of it. (Also, negative comments about any party involved will be deleted. Let’s just take this as a learning opportunity, shall we?)

Last October, I had June in full training. I asked to be the first rider on her, and as her time with the trainer was coming to an end, she suggested I hop on her. In my mind, I would hop on her, we would walk around the round pen and it would be a major success.

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Our first ride!

But the trainer she was with starts horses differently than I had imagined. She feels it is important to walk, trot, and canter, in the first ride. I did not know this, and was not prepared when she had June trot. When she told me she was going to have June canter, every instinct told me to say something, to tell her I wasn’t comfortable cantering her, but I didn’t.

Instead, I clamped and stiffened and became a brick on my poor horse’s back.

As you can imagine, June felt this. And she responded by becoming a bucking bronc. She started bucking and hopping and after flying forward and back, all I could think was “I need to get off this horse NOW.”

So, I jumped off and landed on my feet, but I was basically bucked off. And, because we are dealing with horses, I had to get BACK ON and walk and trot again.

The whole experience left me sad and angry. I wish I had trusted my instincts and just walked around the round pen. I wish I had said something. I respect this trainer and feel her methods are valid. But, as we spoke about the incident later, we both admitted that it’s different having a pro be the first ride than it is an amateur who has never ridden an un-broke horse. Having June canter, when I was so unbalanced in the saddle, was a mistake. We can both admit that.

So, now that I have June back, I am essentially re-training her under saddle. The trainer did get some nice rides on her before she went out to pasture, but my last ride, was the one where I came off of her.

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Wait. I did something wrong?

So, poor Trainer Sarah now has to pick up the pieces. I’ve been working so hard on her walk work,(we can turn and woah and it’s basically amazing) that Sarah felt it was time to trot! I asked to work on the lunge line, as I had no idea what was going to happen and didn’t want June to take off bucking. In the first walk to trot transition I was pretty nervous and June could feel it. Her back got tight and she tucked her tail. But that was it. As we started the next one, I was again nervous, but I reminded myself to breathe and the moment I did, June’s entire body relaxed as well. Literally, Sarah mentioned how much calmer she was the moment I relaxed. So, we spent the next ten minutes trotting, working on upward and downward transitions and it got better and better. June was perfect and SUCH a good girl.

It’s amazing how in tune with me she is. It makes sense though. Thus far her life has consisted of following my lead whenever we are together. I need to remember that she relies on me for guidance and support. If I am nervous, why shouldn’t she be?

I told Sarah I still had some hesitation about ever cantering and she assured me we can take things as slow as I want. I really like Sarah’s method of starting horses. There is zero hurry and her hope is one day we will just fall into the canter, rather than make a big deal of it. (And cantering is a LONG way down the road.. if I hadn’t mentioned my fear Sarah would have never brought it up.)

I will say June’s trot was amazing. It’s so much bigger than Georgie’s and I mentioned how fast it felt.  Sarah told me it wasn’t fast, there’s just more movement,  and I need to let it happen, not hinder it. No pulling back!

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Let this floaty trot happen!

I’m still so excited for the partnership I have with this horse and feel a sense of relief knowing that moving forward, I’ll trust my gut and go as slow as I want. June is proving to be a smart horse, and I need to trust her as much as she trusts me. So, when I mention any fears, now you know why.  My hope is to get more and more comfortable at the trot and then see what the future holds on this horse who seems so willing to be patient with me.

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Alone Time

If you read my blog and that of SprinklerBandits you may get the feeling we have two of the most amazing, lovely, easy as can be, young horses. And, while I actually think this is true of Zoebird, I’m going to let you in on a secret about June. She isn’t perfect.

I know, you’re shocked.

I will say, before talking about all the things she needs work on, that she is actually a great baby. When she knows what is expected of her, she is happy as can be to do what I am asking. I’ve had few problems with her in work actually, most of the baby moments seem to be happening when we are just standing. This mare CANNOT just stand.

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But she’s so cute when she’s in my space!

Now, I know that’s pretty normal for young horses. I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s post about the Tree of Knowledge. June needs a Tree of Knowledge, or a Thinking Pole, or whatever else you want to call it, SO BADLY. Baby horse cannot stand tied, or next to me, for more than 3 seconds without beginning to paw incessantly. It used to be only when I left her alone. But yesterday, as I was talking to a woman who has worked lots and lots of baby horses, June got right in my space and then just started dancing and pawing in the 10 seconds I was speaking with this woman. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and maybe I was called out for letting her do that. (There are very few people I will allow to question my baby horse training, this woman is one of them). June got an impromptu lesson on just standing still. And I began to hunt the farm for somewhere, anywhere, that I can high tie June.

Our other issue is that she really doesn’t like to be alone. At all. So, I’ve been forcing alone time on her. Sometimes I stick her out in the outdoor arena, where she can see other horses, but she still gallops around whinnying and has a fit. Other times she goes into the high sided roping arena, where she gallops around and has a fit. The first time I stuck her out on grass, she had a fit and missed out on enjoying her pasture time.

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Mom, please save me from this hell

She’s getting better. Which is good. But there is still a bit of a struggle every time I put her out and leave her. Which, she will have to get over, because I have plans for her this fall that involve travelling by herself.

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Also, in an exciting twist, these two have become besties, but more on that later…

I keep reassuring myself that this is just baby horse antics and ALL MOST baby horses act like they’re wearing hind boots for the first time EVERY TIME YOU PUT THEM ON FOR 1 MONTH. I have a lesson this Thursday and while I am eager to show Sarah all our skillz under saddle, I also can’t wait to ask her about 100,000 questions about certain behaviors I am working on with June and if my approach seems to make the most sense.

So there you go, June isn’t exactly perfect. But she’s still my most favorite baby horse ever.

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June’s First Week Back

I really can’t express how impressed I am with this mare since she has been back.

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So pretty!

I figured in her first week we would take it a bit easy, and on Day 2 I brought her in for grooming and she was great.  I then put her in the round pen to see what, if anything, she remembered. Mare was 100% game and not only did she remember things, she had an attitude of “ok, now what would you like?” I’d had an issue with her not wanting to be caught  from her field last summer and so Trainer Dana had me work on teaching her to come towards me when I opened my arms, with lunge whips in each hand. If she went sideways I’d keep her from going anywhere with the whip. If she squared to me, I’d slink a little, avoid eye contact and invite her to come towards me. One step forward and pressure was released, I backed up as she came forward. It worked amazingly well, despite my  not believing it would and June never had an issue with being caught again.

On this day, I thought I’d see if she remembered any of that. I only had one whip, but I opened my arms, took a step back and June walked right up to me.

I think the best decision I made was to send her to Trainer Dana prior to letting her rest all winter. Clearly she has retained that info and is ready to move forward.

Day 3 she got off because Stella had surgery and I was in Boise. I took advantage of being unable to work her and had her get her spring vaccinations.

Day 4 we did a little round pen work, a little grooming, and then I took her to the obstacle course. As always with her, if she understands the question, she is game to do her darndest. In a few instances I got in front of her shoulder, which she thinks means whoa and we had some difficulty walking over the bridge or teeter totter. But she did everything I asked, when I asked correctly, and  her favorite is still climbing on the tires.

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What’s the big deal, mom?

Day 5 it was lunging in the indoor arena. I decided to throw some trot poles down as well as the liverpool. I walked her up to the liverpool and we walked over it with zero hesitation. This was a physically demanding day for an unfit pony. Lots of trotting, walking and trotting over the liverpool on the lunge line, and figuring out where her feet are through the trot poles. I could tell she was getting tired when she stopped and looked at me. I urged her forward and she literally threw her head and squealed! Then totally trotted forward. I appreciate the sass almost as much as how quickly she acquiesced.

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I like to watch her trot…

Day 6 she got her teeth floated. And I took advantage of the drugs and trimmed her bridle path, fetlock feathers and butchered her tail a bit. Whoops!

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She’s kinda a lightweight

Day 7 I brought her into the indoor and we worked on standing politely while being groomed, she wore front shipping boots and hind xc boots and we walked around. She was not happy about the rear boots so I left them on while I saddled her and walked her around the barn with her saddle on and stirrups swinging around. She didn’t protest about any of it.

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More tires, please?

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much she grew up this winter and how great her attitude is. We’ll begin taking lessons in May, so in the meantime I plan on just de-sensitizing her to as much as possible and getting her fit enough to begin work under saddle. It’s been great having her back, she brings much needed happiness to each day.  I’m thinking this will be a fun summer together!

 

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Update!

After spending two nights in the hospital, Stella came home yesterday! I can’t even describe how much I had missed her. I would be out doing something and think “I need to get home and let Stella out” forgetting entirely she wasn’t home. Or, worse yet, I’d wake up at night and think “I need to check on Stella” only to sadly remember she wasn’t home. When feeding the dogs I filled her bowl as well, out of habit. I’ve literally never spent a night at home without her. In over 14 years.

So, she’s home again, just this time with a huge scar along her back.

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#frankenpuppy

She’s really, really, doped up. I forgot how badly Morphine kicks her butt. She was on it for her TPLO surgery as well, and she can barely walk, and just seems a bit zombie like when she is on it. That said, it does keep her very comfortable and quiet and she slept from the moment we got home at 9:15 until I woke her at 4am for some water and a potty break. She reluctantly got up, went out to potty (with the sling, she still doesn’t have full use of her back legs) and then went right back to sleep until it was time for more meds at 6:45am.

Because I am not getting a lot of sleep and because she gets all sorts of meds at all sorts of times I created a bit of a pharmacy and log for myself.

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There’s nothing worse than not knowing what med to give or wondering if you remembered to give it at 4am.

Siri still wants to cuddle with her, which is sweet, but I worry if Stella really enjoys it, so I limit it a bit. Even though it is adorable.

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Being very respectful of Stella’s space

We’ll see how Stella does once she’s off the morphine. She’s trying to use her back legs a bit, which is encouraging. We’ll begin weaning her off of the Prednisone Sunday, according to my chart, which is a relief but I always worry she may become painful again. I took most of this week off of work, and expect that for the next week or so I’ll be in full on nurse mode.

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It’s great to have her back home, fingers crossed her recovery goes smoothly. Thanks for all your well wishes! I will say I’m excited to update you on June, she’s been doing so great, but didn’t want to leave you all in the dark about Stell. So, get ready for upcoming June posts!

xoxo

Stella, Siri and Nadia

 

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Decisions

Ten days ago, walking with the dogs, Stella lost control of her back end. She was swaying back and forth, as well as stumbling and falling down. I took my coat off, used it as a sling, took a video, and once home, with her resting comfortably sent the video to a veterinarian friend.

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Screenshot of her drunken sailor walk

She immediately called me and thought Stella may have had a “spinal seizure” or embolism. She recommended Prednisone and to see if she improved any.

She didn’t improve much, and so Stella and I took a 2.5 hour trip to see our favorite orthopedic specialist. He suspected a herniated disc, and because of her age, wanted to see if meds and acupuncture might get the inflammation down and the disc to stop being so angry.

That was a week ago and what a roller coaster it has been. Stella would get a bit better for a day, then regress. Then better to where she could take a few steps, and then fall. Then it got to where she really needed my help walking all the time, and I realized I needed to make a decision asap before she became more neurologic.

During my first trip to see the ortho vet, I was speaking to a friend and said “I need you to be the voice of reason and make sure I don’t agree to doing surgery.” When she didn’t respond I realized the connection had been cut off and she hadn’t heard me. But at the time, I was adamant that my 14 year old dog would not be having back surgery.

But, then I had a week with her. A week where she was the same, opinionated, dog I loved so much. Not being able to get up on her own was frustrating for her, but she had me trained pretty quickly. A mumble and grumble that lasted more than the time it took for her to get comfy on her bed meant she was thirsty and needed me to bring her water bowl to her. When she was feeling good, she’d try to trot and go smell things, despite the fact that I was attached to her via a sling around her back end and was asking her to go the other way. The steroids made her hungry, but she would still look at me like “this is the best you’ve got?” before voraciously eating her kibble. She patiently waited for me to get the crazy dogs out before getting her up, and she always let me know if she wanted to go out the back door or front door (front door if she had to poop because then she’d get a longer walk).

Two days prior to the herniated disc, my old dog went on a trot about with me and Georgie. She had a blast. One day before she hurt her back she was gleefully trotting around the barn eating as much poop as possible before I put her back in the car.

And while she certainly can act much younger than the number assigned to her, she is still an old dog. She tore her second ACL (for which we decided not to do surgery as she was getting along ok and had the other repaired one to lean on) and gets stiff and sore with lots of exercise. She is like an old lady that hates being out of her routine. She wants to be at home, on a walk, or in my car. She can’t see or hear very well anymore and chaos or change really stresses her out. Getting her to eat, some days, is nearly impossible. She literally won’t eat the same thing two days in a row. So yeah, she’s old. And some days are harder for her than others.

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Siri tried to comfort her as much as possible

So in the past week, I have gone back and forth about surgery. For one thing, the cost was incredibly prohibitive. I hadn’t been saving for some elective procedure, this was a surprise that I was not prepared for. But even more than that, how would an old dog do under anesthesia? Is she strong enough to bounce back from spinal surgery? Should I put my elderly dog through this complicated a procedure?

My veterinarian felt she was a good candidate for surgery. Her blood work and chest x-rays were all within normal limits. The procedure has a 90% success rate and she would be under anesthesia for far shorter a time than I had anticipated. She should feel immediate relief even if it takes her a little longer to gain full use of her legs.

So, after 10 days of my dog not doing well, and not improving, I felt I had to say yes to surgery. I had had ten days of the Stella I know and love. The Stella that rules my household and likes it that way. Ten days with the easiest patient, who trusted I would take her out to potty every four hours and make sure she always had fresh water. She was no different from the dog she had been 11 days ago except that she couldn’t use her back legs very well.

Euthanasia was not an option for me. For my dog Squirrel, who had cancer and one night was in so much pain trying to breathe, euthanasia was the kindest option. She wasn’t going to get better. Her condition was not treatable. But Stella’s condition was treatable. She wasn’t getting better with meds and acupuncture, so, for me, the decision was clear. I had to do surgery on my 14 year old dog.

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My dogs laying together does not get old for me

I was surprised by the reaction I got from some about this decision. The grimace they would make when I told them I was going to do surgery. The judgement I felt about a decision that was so incredibly personal. A decision that none of them had to be in, and I hoped never would have to be. And to be honest, if they made a different decision when presented with the situation, that’s completely fine by me. The toughest part of caring for an animal is that we have to make decisions for them. We try to make the best one we possibly can. It’s not easy, and for me, I have cried and cried and cried over it. But I believe I made the right decision.

Stella is in surgery as I write this. I am anxiously awaiting a call from the doctor in the next 10-15 minutes telling me she’s in recovery. Please let her be in recovery.

I have no idea how hard it will be for her post op. But I’ll be with her literally every step of the way. I know she’ll be in less pain and I am hoping my stubborn, tough, dog will make a full recovery and have some quality time left with me. If she doesn’t, I know I’ve done everything I could for her. I know I’ve given her every chance to keep going, and even if she can’t anymore, I did what I could.

So for any and all of you who are struggling with decisions, I’m sorry. I now understand how deeply personal they are, and how sometimes, there isn’t “the right” decision. There’s just the decision you make that you think is best. And I believe that’s all we can do for the animals in our lives.

*** I just heard from the surgeon and Stella is out of surgery and recovering in ICU well!

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Fraggle Friday: The Trouble With Old Dogs

Is that they’re old.

Or, at least, their body is old.

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Lots of sleepy time in her bagel bed

And while age is just a number, at 14 1/2 years old, it’s a number that is beginning to take its toll on sweet Stella.

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One of my all time favorite pics

On Saturday she began to walk like a drunken sailor. Just, out of the blue.

So, a vet visit later and some serious steroids, she became a bit more stable, but is still requiring a sling around her back-end for support.

On Tuesday we visited the orthopedic specialist I have on speed dial and he confirmed she had a herniated disc in her lumbar spine. He sees this in old dogs quite often.

More steroids, anti inflammatory drugs and acupuncture were all prescribed.

But only 50% of dogs get better without surgery.

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When we were both much younger

So, can you send Stella some healing thoughts? I need her to be a part of that 50%.

 

 

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Thank You, Macy

As the Macy chapter comes to an end, I’ve been thinking back to all I have learned from her and all I have to be thankful for. Macy has taught me a lot. And I am well aware that this isn’t the first time I have said that. But she has taught me things beyond how to do a shoulder in correctly, or flying lead change, or any of the other upper level horse tricks she’s got. She taught me some other things that will be far more important for my riding career moving forward. And because of that, I’d like to thank Macy for teaching me the following.

  1. Even the most honest horse needs you to bring your 50% to the partnership.

Macy is truly one of the most honest horses I have ever ridden to a jump. She is not a stopper. She doesn’t run out. I think she really enjoys jumping and flicking her tail high in the air no matter the size of the jump.

Bu that doesn’t mean I never had a stop on her. There are two stops I can remember, and in both of them I was riding her backwards. In the first instance I was inadvertently shortening her and shortening her to the cross country obstacle, until she was finally like ” are you asking me to stop?” And so she did. She honestly couldn’t understand why I was pulling back on the way to a jump. So I got reamed by Sarah and next time I kept my leg on, kept my elbows moving, and we had a lovely ride.

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The jump we stopped at the first time. Clearly the second time around Macy approved of my riding

In the second instance, we were schooling a course that involved a drop into water. I was tired, and distracted, and not riding like someone who was going Training in a month. I was just letting Macy take me around the course and asking nothing of her. We came to the drop into water and about 3 strides out I felt her pause, but I thought “she doesn’t stop” and did absolutely nothing. And she stopped. And I, once again, got reamed, and came around again and had a lovely approach where my leg was on, I actually rode, and lo and behold we had no issues. I actually appreciated that stop from Macy as I rode much better the rest of the day and it was our last cross country school together. We schooled some prelim lines and I got to feel what was needed to be an appropriately aggressive rider.

So, thanks Macy, for reminding me that no matter what horse I’m riding I need to actually ride. It’s not fair to not show up and let our horses cover our ass just because they can.

2.  A 2* Horse Isn’t a Programmed Robot

So…. I’ll admit something. I maybe used to think that people who bought upper level horses didn’t have to do anything to get them to continue to be upper level horses. Like, I thought that you bought an upper level horse because they are essentially robots that require no work to win dressage or jump courses with no faults. Maybe this is the case for some horses, but it certainly wasn’t the case with Macy. Sarah did a great job bringing Macy along. She didn’t cut corners and despite a conformation and tenseness that didn’t lend itself to making dressage easy, Sarah did a really great job with this mare and was competitive through 2*. So, I figured I would hop on her and we’d magically be doing half passes and lengthenings and it would be EASY.

macy dressage

It’d be no time until I, too, would be wearing a shadbelly and having beautiful dressage tests.

Um, even when Macy was her best self, none of it was easy. I had to work for all of it. Macy doesn’t magically sit on her ass and work in an uphill frame. She doesn’t magically use her back and become loose and swingy.  You have to work for all of that. And while she can see a distance better than I can, she still needed to be told not to rush to that distance. She had to be reminded that sometimes my way was better and she needed to listen. My point is, you still need to work your ass off, even with a “broke” horse. It’s just a different kind of work.

Thanks for changing my perspective, Macy.

3. You Learn the Most From the Ones That Challenge You.

In the beginning, I will fully admit that Macy was not good for me. I was losing confidence, not learning anything, and basically dreaded having to ride her. But when I took a step back, and realized I should only be riding her in lessons, things started to click. Maybe it was the consistency, maybe it was the Quiessence, or maybe I was just becoming a stronger, more competent rider, but it didn’t take very long for me to make it work with Macy. I even went so far as to take her off property by myself on hacks. (Honestly, I still can’t believe I asked to do this and can only imagine how relieved Sarah was when I texted her all went well and we were headed home).

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This may actually be Georgie, but still a pretty picture so is getting included.

Macy kept pushing me. She kept challenging me. And 90% of the time, I accepted the challenge. Now, when she attempts to bolt, I laugh. I shut her down within a stride and get her back to work. It doesn’t scare me. In fact, it happens so infrequently that when it does, I see it mainly as an inconvenience or annoyance.

Thanks Macy for challenging me and helping me become a better rider.

4. Ride What’s Underneath You

If I got on Macy all nervous and anxious, our rides didn’t go well. But over time, I realized that if I didn’t get on her with the expectation she was going to be squirrely, if I just got on her and got to work and felt what was happening, rather than expect anything, our rides were so much better. It was hard with Macy because I never knew what horse I would have that day. But this attitude of, lets see how you feel, rather than, this is going to be a fight, made our rides so much better. I remember riding her one day and thinking how loose and relaxed she felt and realized that it was possible for her to be like that, so I should ride what I feel and perhaps I’ll ride a loose and relaxed horse.

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On this day I felt a horse who didn’t think I was as funny as I thought I was…

This will be so so important with bringing up green baby horse and I honestly can’t thank Macy enough for helping me with this.

5. Having a Trainer who is also your best friend has it’s perks

So, if I’m going to thank Macy in this post, it’s only right for me to thank Sarah as well. I have no idea why she had the confidence in me that I could ride Macy, but she did. When I was grieving over the loss of my heart horse, she offered me hers. And I honestly cannot thank her enough for that. Somewhat miraculously, me riding her heart horse, who isn’t an easy ride, has made us closer friends. Were there times we both had tears in our eyes because Macy was being so difficult for me and we were worried it would affect our friendship? Sure. But we managed to have open and honest conversations and Sarah never lost faith in us as a team. She understood my struggles and supported any and all decisions I wanted to make. I think she liked watching her old girl safely carry her friend over jumps, and watch her friend learn new things on a horse that she had trained since a baby. In the end, it worked out quite well for both Macy and I, I believe.

So thanks Sarah. For letting me ride your heart horse and everything that came along with it.

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Here’s to more mimosas and fun together!

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