Monday, January 31, 2011

Bandaged Bear

Brian and I dashed out to the barn this afternoon to check on Bear as a 'blizzard' rolled into town. We found him munching on the bale, his coat fluffed out and poofy.

We brought Bear inside (and left Steen outside, AGAIN, much to a certain paint's chagrin) and checked the leg. No visible swelling above or below the bandage. A little bit of heat, but nothing dramatic. Bear was pretty much behaving like it didn't bother him until I started poking at it, at which point he pulled the leg away once or twice.

So, we'll leave the bandage on through tomorrow night probably, and then see what's going on under there. Bear, in the meantime, seems in good spirits, though he did try to use his doe-eyes on me to get some chopped hay.

It didn't work.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rite of Passage?

This morning Brian and I were finishing our coffee when my cell phone rang. The caller ID told me it was Cathi, who owns our barn. My heart gave a flutter as I answered.

Cathi is at least sensitive to the fact that most of her boarders have a reaction like mine when she calls them. She said immediately, "Nothing catastrophic, but Bear's bleeding from his left hind leg. He doesn't want to let me near enough to get a good look."

So, Brian and I bundled up and headed out. Cathi was out in the pasture when we arrived, and told us Bear had been walking around fine and only favoring the leg sometimes when he stopped. Brian haltered Bear without a problem and we brought him indoors. There was quite a bit of partially frozen blood in the hair around the wound and on Bear's other leg as well, so it was hard to tell at first what exactly was wrong, but eventually we got things cleaned up enough to see it was only one cut, about 3/4" long and deep enough to be more than nothing but not serious enough to warrant calling the vet. It's location on the outside of the leg midway between the hock and fetlock is not a high-mobility area.

Brian stood by Bear's head to keep him quiet while I cleaned the wound with surgical scrub and then packed the gash with Neosporin. Bear was mostly patient with this, frequently moving the leg away when I touched the wound but otherwise not resisting. Finally satisfied we had done all we could, we wrapped the leg to help with keeping it clean. So now Bear is sporting a bandage quite a lot like the one Steen had to wear after his leg injury.

For comparison, here's an old shot of Steen and his bandage (with his nursemaid, Sassy):

So, it is kind of funny that our two horses have each been injured once and in almost the exact same place. Of course (thankfully) Bear's is much much less dramatic and serious than Steen's was.

We'll keep an eye on the wound over the next few days but hopefully it will heal without complications.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Warm Winter Day at the Barn

I am finally well again and had some time this morning, so I headed out to see how our guys were doing. Temps were in the high twenties and it felt good to be outside and doing something after so many days cooped up being ill.

Steen came right up to the gate when he saw me, while Bear watched from the choice spot by the wind-block. It is interesting. Bear is clearly one of the horses in the herd who gets to choose where he stands and what he eats at any given moment, while Steen is clearly not. And yet, Bear has more bites and scrapes and cuts on him .

I took Steen inside and took his blanket off. Then I turned him out in the arena because he often really enjoys rolling after having the blanket on for a while. He rolled:

And then he got up and started running around the arena like mad. He wasn't calling or showing much anxiety but he was really digging in and throwing out some good bucks. I think he was just happy to be on solid footing.

I let him run around until he came back to me, then groomed him and did some groundwork. He was well-behaved and less distracted than I expected, given my level of involvement in his life lately.

Eventually I turned him back out and brought Bear inside. I decided to see what he would do when turned out. He ran around like mad too, for even longer than Steen had. So that was entertaining and I was able to get some footage and create probably the most exciting installment yet in our Not-Highly-Exciting-Video series:

When Bear was done running, I groomed him and did some groundwork with him as well. It is interesting to work with Bear, since his personality is more or less the opposite of Steen's. I am also increasingly convinced that he is a very smart horse. Usually when I handle Steen I am always trying to keep my energy level very calm and my commands as quiet as possible to ease Steen's sensitive and reactive personality.

Bear, on the other hand, has a laid back, passive personality and so today I tried to inject more energy into myself and my commands. I found that if I was slightly more mobile and intense when I asked him for things he soon began responding by discarding the sluggishness that often accompanies his groundwork. I got him to stop lagging behind when led, to disengage immediately when asked (instead of standing there giving me a "really?" look for five seconds first) and to back out of my space quickly, but he didn't seem at all nervous or upset. So, all in all I am encouraged by the experiment.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On a Different Note

Although the main subject of this blog is (and always will be) horses, lately I have felt an inclination to post more about fitness and my struggle to become and stay fit. One of my big reasons for desiring to stay fit is to facilitate my life with horses, so I think adding the subject into this blog will work.

First let me say I am not a big fan of working out for working out's sake. Although I have (at various points in my life) been avid about cycling, fencing, yoga, and swimming for a few years at a time, none of these activities has ever outlasted the circumstances that first led me to take it up. Horseback-riding has been my one consistent life-long physical activity, and any equestrian knows it is actually pretty easy to ride without getting a great workout.

Two years ago this March, my husband (who does love working out) bought himself a 35 pound kettlebell. After watching him use it a handful of times I got curious and bought myself a 15 pounder. Since then I have continued to use these weights consistently, with only one break after my foot was injured on our long trek across Scotland. Currently I can use a 35 pound kettlebell for twenty minutes before I'm exhausted. (Or at least that's where I was at before I got sick two weeks ago. The illness has set me back.)

The top three things I love about kettlebells:
  1. An adequate workout takes 10-15 minutes. That's it! As one of my favorite parts of the day is happy hour (when Brian and I sit down with a good beer and start relaxing), I don't allow myself to start my beer until I've done my workout. Even at 5:30 after a long day, I can always manage 10 minutes.
  2. Because these weights are so heavy, you can reach fatigue in fewer repetitions. This leads to lean muscle that is strong but not bulky.
  3. You can work nearly your entire body with just two exercises. I got the majority of my strength from simply doing turkish get-ups one day and swings the next.
Most of all, though, I love being strong. Before my foot injury I had reached a point where I was significantly stronger than I'd ever been in my life and it had a positive effect on everything, from the way I unloaded groceries from the car to how well I could sit a trot. My balance and hand-eye coordination were also improved. With the time off to heal I lost a lot of that, but I'm on the road to getting there again now (or will be as soon as I'm not sick anymore).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Slow Start

The year has started off with less momentum than I'd hoped. I've been more than a little sick for two solid weeks now. So I'm left gazing at pictures of our horses rather than actually spending any time with them.

I took this shot in the fall, when Steen and Bear were still getting to know each other. Steen has this funny habit of sticking his face in Bear's face and then backing off with an injured and wronged expression when Bear pins his ears and sometimes nips. And yet, moments later Steen will be sticking his face in Bear's face again. Some people just can't take a hint...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A New Year at the Barn

It's been my worst winter yet in Iowa as far as riding is concerned, but today Brian got off work early and we decided to go try to get a quality visit in with Bear and Steen.  They are both looking good, though the winter is here in earnest and we've experienced some harsh temps.  Steen is a nice healthy weight under his blanket in spite of the fact that I've stopped supplementing his diet entirely. It's a huge relief not to have to worry about him so much.

We found our two fellas dozing in the sun, and Steen remained pretty chill throughout our time indoors. I pulled his blanket off, put his saddle on and rode for about half an hour, walking around the arena while Brian and Bear did groundwork. I was pleased that Steen was quiet and fairly attentive, so I didn't push him since this was our first ride in several weeks.

Bear and Brian also had a good session. Brian is working on asserting himself more and he seemed to get some increased responsiveness out of Bear. Bear is looking good, too. He's lost some of his fitness from the summer, but his tummy, while large, has not continued to grow. So, if we can get him back on a regular exercise routine I think he'll shape up again.

So, although I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions, I'm hoping I can get back in a better riding groove now that the holidays are behind us.  I'm going to keep track of my riding hours this year, so:

Horseback Hours YTD: 0:30

Monday, January 03, 2011

Horse Portraits

I've been out of town for a couple of weeks, and though I didn't ride I did get a new lens for my camera. So, I took some portraits of the horses I had available.

First, my sister's horse Jak. He's a 17 year old Appaloosa (mutt).

Second, my mom's horse Joe.  Also 17, he's a Missouri Fox-Trotter (and has never quite learned to trust me, particularly when I'm leaning into his corral with a weird black thing held in front of my face).

Third, Amigo. Amigo is the 'oldest horse in the world' and lives just down the road from my parents. He's an Arabian, and seriously is at least 30.  He's pictured here with my sister in law.

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