Monday, May 28, 2012

Rondo's training and Panama's calling

I am a few days behind in my horse adventures again.  On Thursday, my trainer worked with Rondo.  My broken finger is healing, but I was still reluctant to lunge Rondo in case he acted explosive on the line (a fairly regular occurrence still), as I didn't want my finger to get yanked by the line (the wrap that's on it is like vet wrap, and since it can stick to itself, other things can also stick to it).  So my trainer did all the work on Thursday (usually she has me do some of it so that I learn the techniques, and can work with him when she's not there -- that's how we trained Panama, too).

Anyway, he lunged pretty well on Thursday, aside from the usual resistance going to the left -- he walks, trots, and canters easily to the right, but requires much stronger cues to get him to canter to the left, usually with bucking and a scrambling gait that seems to me like it's halfway between trying to run away and trying to keep from falling down.

Then my trainer leaned and laid on his back again, and had me lead him while she was draped over his back.  Rondo does much better when he learns things in small stages, so we are getting him used to the idea of weight on his back gradually, and in a situation where she can just slide off if he has a meltdown.  And on Thursday, he demonstrated why this was a good plan: She swept her hand back along his side, petting him from his girth to his flank, and when she got to his flank he let loose with a huge buck.  Because she was just draped over his back, she landed on her feet (though not before crashing into my back first, as I was leading him at the time!).  So, having identified an issue to work on, she got right to work on desensitizing him to being petted and touched while she was above or over his back.

All in all, I was pleased -- he is a slower horse to start than Panama, though that is likely due in part to the fact that I worked with Panama every day when he was this age, and I haven't been doing so with Rondo.  But my trainer said it doesn't matter how slow we go with him, and I actually suspect that it might be doing him a favor to take it easy and give hi an opportunity to grow up somewhat in the meantime.  Rondo just turned 3 -- by this age, Panama had been under saddle for six months, and was just starting to go on trail rides!  But he was also very spooky and babyish still, and though he was the type of horse who always wanted to find the right answer and please me (it literally only took us 7 or 8 sessions to get him under saddle), I sometimes think I exacerbated some of his issues by rushing things a little.

I can't complain, though, because despite Panama's inclination to be difficult at times, he is still such a good horse.  I rode him for the first time since my accident on Saturday -- despite the broken finger and the sticky wrap, I was fairly confident that Panama wouldn't do anything that would hurt my finger.  He was a bit difficult, since it was extremely windy (though we rode inside, the wind was rattling the big doors) and since he hadn't been ridden in over a week.  But he was good enough that I was willing to entrust him with the little 10-year-old girl I nanny for.

V. has been taking lessons with my trainer for the last few months, and getting much stronger as a rider, so I was fairly confident that she could handle Panama's more rapid trot (it scared her when she was last on him a few months ago).  Sure enough, she did wonderfully on him.  He tried testing her at first, seeing what he could get away with, but with my guidance she kept him on track and he stopped trying after a few minutes.

I am actually really amazed at how good Panama is with the kids I nanny for.  A., who is nearly 5, can go all around Panama in the cross ties, and dump a stool down next to him to stand on to groom, and Panama doesn't startle at all.  And he was so good for V., despite the wind and the other horses in the arena and the fact that he hadn't been ridden in a while.  Sometimes I think his calling really is as a kids' horse -- not that I would ever give him up, but I'm excited that V. will be riding him more often over the summer.

Hubby and I are both off work this week, so I am planning to get out to the barn frequently, almost every day if I can manage it.  I am looking forward to doing some more riding, easy stuff because of my finger of course, but now that the splint is off it can't keep me away entirely!  And I want to spend some more time with Rondo, grooming and doing some fun stuff, not just working.  Perhaps it will help to make up for the months of once- and twice-weekly visits, and help get me psyched for doing a little more with them over the summer!

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rondo bears weight and Panama gets exercised

On Thursday, the day after our farrier appointment in which Panama annoyed me and Rondo pleased me, my trainer came.  We were original scheduled to work only with Rondo, but because of my broken finger, I hadn't ridden Panama in nearly 2 weeks, since well before the accident.  I figured it would be some time before I was riding again -- I'm going to try to get on again as soon as I feel comfortable taking this splint off, in perhaps a few more days or a week, but since Panama was already showing signs of restlessness from his "vacation," I asked my trainer to work with him, too.

Rondo was first up, and although we got off to a questionable start -- he's had 2 weeks off too -- he turned out to be pretty well behaved.  We took him indoors when it looked like he might be a bit fussy, so that his temper tantrums wouldn't disrupt another boarder's ride, and Leslie ground drove and lunged him in the indoor arena.  He is displaying a marked preference for going to the right (the exact opposite of Panama), and his cantering to the left can be rather explosive and scatterbrained, kind of like he's trying to gallop and scrambling so as not to fall down, all at the same time.  Other than that, though, he was pretty good.

When my trainer was done with that, she asked me to bring the big mounting block out into the middle of the arena.  She had to get Rondo over that first, but once he was okay with her setting it down next to him, she climbed up and desensitized him a bit to her leaning on his back, reaching across to pat his other side, and (ohmygod) waving her hand in the air over his back.  He is easily alarmed by things being over him, probably because he is used to being the biggest thing around (a problem little Panama definitely did not have at this age!).

He took it all pretty well, so my trainer decided to just sort of lay her weight over his back.  Keep in mind that all he had on was a surcingle and a bridle with a lead rope run through it like reins, but she wanted to get him a little used to the idea of bearing weight on his back, in the least threatening way possible.  (When he was living with my in-laws, their idiot nanny -- a guy -- once decided to try to jump on Rondo's back, bareback and bridleless and, of course, completely untrained.  You can imagine how that goes, and my trainer and I agreed that we need to make sure he doesn't feel threatened like that again when we are starting him under saddle.)  She laid over him with her feet on the block and her stomach over his back, and he took it all pretty well, so she had me lead him just a few steps with her draped like that.  When he handled that well, she had me lead him a few more, and he handled that well -- when she started to get a little unbalanced, he just stopped and waited while she used the surcingle to pull herself back up, and then I led him a few more steps.

I was pretty pleased -- he was remarkably level-headed about the whole thing.  I did get the feeling, though, that he was watching my reaction closely when she was leaning and laying over his back initially (before I led him).  He was watching me, but he had his ears straight off to either side, like he was paying equal attention to what my trainer was doing over his back.  He looked like he was saying, "I'm not at all sure about this, but you don't look very concerned, and you keep telling me I'm a good boy, so I guess it's okay."

Once we were done with Rondo, my trainer rode Panama outside.  He is always easily distracted when he hasn't been worked in a while, and he is also always easily distracted when we ride outside, so my trainer had to work to get his focus on her, but once he settled in to work, he was actually pretty good and not too fussy.  She did note that he was cantering crookedly to the right -- he always has problems with his right shoulder falling in when we canter to the right, but this time she noticed his left hip was cocked to the outside as well.  We aren't sure whether he's been doing it all along or whether he just started it, but she said to keep my left lower leg back a little when we canter in that direction, to push his hip into line a bit.  It's also possible he might need a chiro (he's never been adjusted before), but with all the medical and pet expenses so far this year, I decided to wait and keep an eye on it, rather than running right home to call an equine chiropractor (as I have to admit, I was inclined to).

All in all, a good morning, and I was happy to see both my horses worked, even if it made me sad that I couldn't do anything with them myself.  I'm just afraid that the reins (or lunge line, with Rondo) will catch on my bulky splinted and bandaged finger, so I decided to wait a little longer, at least until I stop wearing the splint -- but that should be soon now, as the doc said (on Monday) that I'd only have to wear it a week or two longer!

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Friday, May 18, 2012

The farrier comes, Rondo improves, and I overcome a little post-injury anxiety

I've never been gladder of a week being almost over.  This has been a very busy week, with at least one (and sometimes two) appointments every morning.  On Wednesday, for instance, I had a vet appointment for one of the dogs and a farrier appointment.  Yesterday my trainer came for a double training session -- I had her ride Panama as well as work with Rondo, since I haven't been able to ride (and probably won't for at least a little while longer).

Wednesday's farrier appointment was a bit of a struggle for me.  Although I'd been out at the barn already since Rondo stepped on my finger, it was only to groom.  This was something hoof-related, for the first time since the accident, and I was surprised by how anxious I was.

Ironically, though, it was Panama who was fussy and antsy and kind of a jerk for the farrier.  We did him first, when my anxiety levels were kind of up, so that could have been part of it -- though I suspect that Panama's lack of work lately probably is the more likely culprit.  He is the kind of horse that doesn't appreciate "vacations," and enjoys the mental and physical stimulation of being worked with.

Also, although that may explain his all-around fussiness, he was extra fussy when the farrier trimmed his front feet.  I've been having him trim a little shorter the last couple of visits -- my farrier tends to trim on the long side -- but since Panama resisted the trim last time too -- and since any amount of resistance is highly unusual behavior for him -- I'm going to assume he's telling us that's too short, and have my farrier trim accordingly next time.  It's not short enough to make him sore -- he was fine when my trainer rode him the next day -- but he's definitely not happy with how it feels to have the trim actually done.

Rondo, on the other hand, was really quite good.  I've been working with him on allowing his feet to be drawn forward, like the farrier needs to be able to do (in fact, that's how my finger got stepped on).  All the work with him has paid off, and he was pretty darn good for the farrier.  He was leaning on the farrier, but in retrospect I think that's because the farrier didn't want to get underneath him, and had each foot a little out to the side.  After two months of me working with him, though, Rondo went from not allowing it at all, to allowing the farrier to draw each foot forward and do a little bit of work from the top of each one.  Not much, mind you, but enough.  It was a HUGE improvement over last time, and by the time Rondo's turn was over, I realized that his calm behavior had helped to eliminate my anxiety.

Just a few weeks ago, I was thinking how there are times when I feel like I don't like Rondo at all, usually when he's being a big jerk about something new he's (supposed to be) learning.  On Wednesday I realized that there are also days where he far outshines Panama, and I'm so sick of Pan's antics that I could just scream.  I suspect it will be back-and-forth like this for a while, and I wonder how it will be when Rondo is fully trained -- I feel like Rondo will be my dopey, level-headed horse, and I'll love him for that.  It's probably lucky for Panama that I have a strong bond with him despite all of his brattiness!

Stay tuned for a post about yesterday's training session!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

A visit to the barn and a follow-up with the hand doc

Yesterday afternoon I went to the barn for the first time since Rondo stepped on my finger Wednesday night.  My finger was still a little sore at times, especially when the splint got bumped, but overall I was feeling much better and wanted to get some horsey time in.

Rondo's reaction when he saw me was quite surprising, and I believe demonstrated that he did know I was injured (after it happened) Wednesday night, and was concerned about me.  I was pretty sure Panama knew, because he was visibly anxious while both he and Rondo were in the cross ties, and whinnied for me when we came back from putting Rondo away.  Rondo is not as demonstrative, but I thought he seemed concerned, too, as he kept trying to nuzzle my face and smell my hair while I was sitting on the step near his head, trying not to pass out or throw up.

But Rondo's behavior yesterday answered any doubts I had to whether he was worried about me: My standoffish, I'll-wait-for-you-to-come-get-me horse saw me approaching the corral, and immediately took his feet out of the hay trough (he was cleaning up scraps) and met me at the gate.  Then, while I was struggling to get the halter straightened out with only 9 fingers, he was intent on checking out the bandaged finger.  He inspected it, smelled it, and then stood as quiet as could be while I clumsily fastened his halter.

Michael's mom was with us and we were heading to brunch afterward, so I only had time to groom Rondo (who was very good) and visit briefly with Panama.  Pan was visibly disappointed that I was grooming "that other horse" instead of him, so I'm going to try to get out there tonight to make it up to him.

This morning I got some good news from the hand doctor I was told to follow up with.  I've been dreading being told I needed surgery, but that was never mentioned (whew).  He did cut down my splint so that it now covers only the top of my finger, instead of the whole thing, which makes it a little more manageable.  He also took out one of the stitches holding my nail on (boo) and said it would fall off soon (ick).  He said that this type of break doesn't tend to move around a lot, so in a few days I can start taking off the splint to shower (we'll see about that, sounds scary -- what if the nail falls off in the shower?  EW) and in a week or two I can take it off altogether and just wear a bandaid instead.  He also thought I'd be able to type with that finger in a week or two.  I didn't mention it to him, but I'm probably more likely to ride before I type with that finger again -- funny, huh?  But the thought of punching keys with the (broken) tip of my finger gives me heart palpitations, while I'm pretty sure I will be able to manage riding (even if it's not pretty) much sooner.

The doc did say that I was pretty lucky I didn't lose the end of my finger.  I mentioned that I was wearing leather work gloves -- I always wear them to groom and pick feet, though I do take them off to check for heat or other signs of injury -- and he said that probably saved my finger.  Scary... but I'm sure glad I'm in the habit of wearing those gloves!  (And it's off to replace them, pronto, now that the left one is filled with blood!)

As the doc was wrapping my finger back up, he was wrapping it pretty tight, which triggered me to comment on how swollen and sensitive the pad of that finger is.  "Is that because of the fracture?" I asked him.

"No," he said, "that's because a HORSE stepped on it!"

Oh.  Right.


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Horse versus hand

I haven't blogged in a while again, and unfortunately my new news is going to be bad: I ended up in the ER last night.  The title of this post comes from what one of the ER guys at the desk put as the description of the incident -- horse vs. left hand -- and unfortunately, the horse won.

The short version (besides "horse vs. hand") is that I did something really, really, really stupid last night.  The long version is that Rondo stepped on my finger, resulting in my nail coming off, 3 stitches in a split in the nail bed, and a broken tip.

It is really unfortunate, as I was having a good evening and was planning on working with at least one of the horses.  We had both in the cross ties, and Michael was grooming Panama while I groomed Rondo.  After picking his feet, I was working with him on drawing his feet forward like the farrier needs to be able to do -- Rondo hasn't really been letting my farrier do that, and I think that's when he was rearing with my mother-in-law and her farrier.  He's doing much better with it with me now, but he fussed a little on the last foot last night -- a rear one -- and as a result my grip shifted.

I only realized as I was lowering his foot to the ground that my fingers were underneath the edge of his hoof, and I was thinking about how to get myself out of that predicament when he set his foot the rest of the way down.  Actually, I think I'd started to fix my hand position, since only my middle finger (i.e., the longest finger) got stepped on, and only the tip of it.

In any case, I started screaming "Off!" over and over again, and naturally, poor Rondo had no idea what I wanted.  Then he shifted all his weight onto that foot before figuring out to pick it up.  (He is a bit slow usually on figuring out how to shift his weight to give me a foot.)  I stumbled over to the step near his head and pulled off my glove.

I sat there for quite a while, fighting nausea and dizziness while Rondo tried to get closer to me, sniff my hair, nuzzle my face.  My finger went numb for a while early on, which was a blessing, but I couldn't stand up without nearly passing out.  After trying several times, hubby (thank heavens he was there) reluctantly tried to put Rondo away for me, despite the fact that he is not at all comfortable handling him.  Unfortunately there are no lights near Rondo's corral and there was no moon, so he came back.  I managed to get up and lead Rondo out there mostly just by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, but all I could see was the skyline, a few general outlines of things to show where I was, and lots of pretty sparkles.  Luckily Rondo is usually very calm when he is being led.  He was surprised when I stopped almost at his corral to get my bearings, but after turning to look at me questioningly, he stopped too.  Michael opened the gate then and I was able to lead Rondo in, but Michael had to remove the halter for me.  Then he put Panama away (he's much more comfortable with Pan), cleaned up, and we were off to the ER.

By the time we got there, my finger was really starting to hurt, and had been for most of the drive.  My blood pressure and pulse wee also very low, and I felt very dazed.  The ER people said it was just the body's response to pain.  Although it took far longer to do than it is taking now to type (even typing with only 9 fingers), they took x-rays, numbed the finger (the local might actually have hurt more than the horse stepping on it), and cleaned and stitched it (3 stitches).  The doctor also sewed the nail back on and said a new nail should grow back, though it will be a little deformed, and there's a chance it won't grow back at all.

It was after midnight when we left the ER, and after 1am when we finally got home from finding a 24-hour pharmacy.  I have a week's worth of antibiotics, a bottle of Percocet, a cage on my finger wrapped in gauze (the dressing has to be changed in 2 days, the cage worn for 3 weeks), and the number for a hand specialist whom I am supposed to follow up with on Monday.  I also have some microwave meals -- comfort food -- that we picked up last night.  I'm taking today off, mainly staying in bed, sleeping off the Percocet, and reading (and learning to type with 9 fingers).  Tomorrow I'll probably try to start taking ibuprofen instead of the Percocet, since the latter has a tendency to knock me on my butt.  But once I start feeling better, I'm already planning out how I'm going to manage at the barn with this cage on my finger (though I don't think I'll last 3 weeks with it on)!

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