|Thunder in ice boots feat. chunky monkey Lancey. Also shout-out to Thunder for standing still in the paddock with ice boots on, you're a legend|
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
Saturday, 14 August 2021
First, thank you all for the concern over Magic 💜 He is hanging in there and being the best patient, as always. God's will prevails 💜
|the stuff this poor coach puts up with|
|Coach's actual words: "You know this, woman!"|
Thursday, 12 August 2021
|yes, this noble steed|
When I came over for morning check just after 6am, he whinnied at me when I looked over the door into Lancey's stable, shouting MOM PLEASE HAAAAAALP. When I looked over at him, he was standing quietly in the back corner on three legs, his left front in his haynet, looking over his shoulder at me with big eyes.
My heart absolutely froze. How (or why) he decided that he needed to get his foot into his haynet, when his other haynet was still chock-full, I have no idea. I hurried to get him out, and bless his darling little soul, he just stood there for several minutes while I tried to get his giant foot out of the tiny hole he had somehow put it through. I was inwardly panicking. I have heard the horror stories about shattered knees and ruptured tendons from exactly this kind of injury. In fact I think I may have been outwardly panicking quite a bit as well, but Thunder obviously doesn't care about that and as soon as I freed him he just stretched out and took the longest pee ever. He hadn't touched his water in the other corner of his stable, and his bed was clean in the opposite corner, where he normally does his poos. He must have been stuck in that haynet for hours.
When my heart had slowed down and Thunder had gone over to his stable door to look around for his breakfast, I realized that he was walking on four legs with no obvious lameness and my brain finally registered that he was not actually crippled yet. I felt over both front legs for any trouble, and there was no swelling just yet, but the left fore was pretty hot over the back of the knee where it joins the cannon bone - where the check ligament sits. The SDFT seemed OK, and amazingly, his supporting leg hadn't even stocked up.
I sat down in the shavings right about then and offered up a prayer of thanks that Thunder is the most chill horse who has ever existed. If he had thrashed around or thrown himself on the ground or even twisted the haynet up so that it constricted his leg... It just doesn't bear thinking about.
Luckily, the physio was coming out to see another horse that same day, so I quickly called her and booked Thunder in for a check as well that afternoon.
To my eternal relief and gratitude, her findings were unremarkable. Thunder had absolutely no problems in his neck, shoulders, or upper back - he really couldn't have even pulled back against the haynet at all. His only problem was some stiffness in his left pectoral muscle, understandable considering he'd been stuck on three legs for hours, and a little tightness in his lower left back. He always has that when he gets bodywork done - it's just a combination of naturally being stiffer on that side, always being a little weaker in that left stifle, and me sitting too hard on my right hip. All things we're working on.
As for the leg itself, the news was much better than it might have been. He was 1/10 lame on the first trot up and practically sound after the session, and honestly I can't see the lameness at all, only the physio could with her more educated eye. There was some swelling over his left check ligament just below the knee. While there's only so much a physio can tell, she felt that scans would be unnecessary and that he likely just bruised the tendon sheath where the rope was pressing on it. Nothing major. He could have broken his leg if he'd panicked, but instead he just stood there like a very good boy. He really is the best horse ever.
|the warmer weather is bringing out his allergies as well, boo|
Still, the physio recommended at least 10 days completely off, maybe more depending on how he does. He can be glad that he's a very relaxed dude who spends most of his field time eating and sleeping or he might have ended up being confined in a smaller space. For now, though, he still goes out all day his friends, and gets his leg iced twice a day. The swelling has gone down quite a lot, but it's still a little puffy and hot... and we're on day 9 now. So I'm not sure yet how it's going to turn out.
I'm just so, so grateful that he doesn't seem to be experiencing any major pain, and that it doesn't seem to be a major injury even if it ends up taking a few weeks to recover. I will happily take a few weeks' recovery time over the possibility of months, years, or even completely losing him... it doesn't even bear thinking about.
When I mentioned that we had been thinking of SA Champs in mid-September, the physio seemed to think we miiight still be able to go... but I decided to just scratch the whole idea. As much as I want to be more competitive, and more bold in my competitive choices, I'm not going to bring my competitive plans into play when it comes to his soundness. I'm pretty sure he'll be rideable again by mid-September, but would he really be fit enough? Would it really be fair? Would I be tempted to push him just a little harder than I really think I should? I'm not even going to go there, thanks. So that's SA Champs off the table for us.
That did mean a little breathing room in the budget (briefly... see below) so I finally bought a pair of ice boots. I can't believe I went so long without them; I have them at the Friesians and they are one of the most wonderful inventions in the world.
|he was grazing and then this look came into his eyes and I knew 💔|
Wednesday, 4 August 2021
August is the last month of true winter here, and while I desperately love the Highveld in all of its moods, August is definitely my least favourite. May, June and July bring bitterly cold, frosty nights, with balmy, sunny, windless days ranging from about 10-18C. It's dry and quiet, and the days are short, but the weather is very nice for riding and the frost means that we don't have to deal with any bugs.
Then August comes along, and while the nights are far warmer, this does mean that occasionally some flies and ticks start making a reappearance. The days are hot but filled with a dry, warm, unpleasant wind; which, after three months without rain, stirs up endless clouds of fine, red dust. Of course, this coincides nicely with shedding season, and nothing can stay clean (especially my poor little house). It's a hard month to be a horse, too, having coped through the winter with no green grass and now dealing with the miserable wind and the colic weather.
I'm not a fan, but miserable as August is, it's a harbinger of the bright, abundant Highveld summer that I love so much. The wind and warmth brings the rain along with it, and I'm more than ready to see some beautiful rain on this sad, parched earth again. So, as we walk into the last month of the winter, we practice our willingness to wait, our gratitude for hardship, and our ability to hope.
|Titan, Isaiah, and old Toy Town enjoying one of the rare nice days we've had recently.|
|The young stallion at the Friesians. He's standing on a hill in this picture, but he is absolutely drop-dead freaking gorgeous - and almost just as quiet as Jakobus. He also rolls at every opportunity and his gorgeous self is permanently grubby, LOL.|
|Slowly building up my confidence with riding stallions. K has been my stunt double for riding him, which I am eternally grateful for. He is an extremely well-behaved boy but my lizard brain doesn't know that. At least I can ride him enough now to fine-tune his walk/trot work and lateral work, and K does the canter work.|
|Rene is 238 days today. Only about 100 days to go! She is not a maiden but I don't know her history, so we have no idea how many days she'll go. She somehow managed to scratch the surface of her cornea, but it is slowly healing with tons of medicating. I think we would have had to place a lavage in her eyelid on any other horse, but she is so good and kind that we can still put drops in multiple times a day without a problem despite the soreness. Such an incredible girl.|
|The big herd chilling on a lovely Saturday evening. Rene, Flash, Faith, Milady, Arwen, and Boo, with Spirit in the background. This winter has been quite rough, but they're still looking pretty good.|
|These two little boys have my heart 💜|
|This is Charlize Theron, the first chicken we raised from hatching.|
|My sister with one of our lavender Pekins, Lainey-Lou.|
|My man and his chooks 💜|
|A pregnant Arwen! Her weight has been under control all winter, which is definitely a result of the pregnancy. She has been off work for the first time since we got her nearly 13 years ago. I'll put her back in work when BabyDragon is on the ground, but I think a well-deserved rest is in order.|
|202 days today. She normally goes to about 345, so we're waiting on a Christmas baby.|
|Since she's not competing for the next year or so, I put her mane into plaits to grow it out like a real Nooitie mane. We'll see how that goes. (Also, Ladybug ate Milady's ENTIRE tail when she was a foal, so hopefully BabyDragon won't be able to do the same thing).|
|Anja 💜 my favourite four-year-old Friesian. She is by Jakobus and definitely has his beautiful head.|
Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Ever since Thunder came back into work a few weeks ago, I have one thing on my mind with him: forward. It's been a struggle ever since I backed him, but I have the tools these days to deal with it so much better.
I was actually amazed by how much I progressed as a rider in the six weeks that Thunder was out of work. When I got back on him again, there was so much that I could actually fix - stuff that had been bothering me for years but that I just couldn't quite get sorted out. And now we're finally getting to a place where I'm much happier with him, and we're starting to touch on this amazing horse's true potential.
I did take my whip back, though. I generally don't need to do very much with it, except maybe a few touches at the start of the ride to reinforce my ever-useless right leg, but riding him only with the spurs was beginning to devolve into an argument. He will need to carry his own butt a lot more forward before we try that again. At any rate, I can pretty much abandon the whip somewhere near the middle of each ride, which is just fine; even at a championship show I'll be allowed to warm up with it.
As a rule, though, he has been SUPER forward for his past few rides and so we can finally move on. We've still been doing most of the EM/M movements (single flying changes, half-pass, shoulder-in, even started playing with canter to halt), but focusing more on the gait quality with each ride than the movements. He really learns the movements quickly, they're never a problem, but the quality of the gaits is something I really need to pay more attention to.
Last week I got him a lot more straight and forward than normal and let him grow up into the contact more as well (obviously I've been overbending him without knowing it - welcome to the struggle bus, y'all) and honestly he felt AMAZING. He felt like he grew two hands and started taking much bigger, more swinging strides as well. It was a pretty wonderful feeling. I don't think I've ever felt him trot like that before.
|I also put his mane into plaits because the beloved could no longer stand my awful mane-trimming jobs and begged me to let him grow his mane out instead, and I can't say no to that man|
He's also so much more cheerful in his work now that I've made it clear that I'm not going to let him slop along behind my leg. Instead of arguing with my leg all the time, he understands what's expected of him and happily does as asked. In fact, he's positively enthusiastic about many things these days in a way that super-chill Thunder has never really been before. He LOVES his flying changes, especially when we play with the four-tempis, and even gave me a row of two-tempis recently. OK, so I was asking him to just canter down the centreline, but I couldn't exactly be upset about it regardless.
A big piece of the puzzle, I think, is physical fitness. I burned him out in late 2019 by schooling him every single day; he was fit, but it frazzled him mentally, more than I realized. Then I overcompensated by schooling him only three days a week, and sometimes missing a day here and there, and that was no good either. He just isn't fit enough to do what he knows how to do. Hacking is an absolute disaster on this animal (and not remotely relaxing for either of us), so at this point I've incorporated jumping back into his schedule once a week. He's a heavy dude and I have no interest in pounding his precious joints over big fences, but he does like doing his little gymnastics, and honestly it doesn't do me any harm to sharpen up whatever jumping skills I do have.
Another thing I need to work on is strengthening his left hind. He had a locking stifle on that side when he was younger; it hasn't locked for about two years at this point, but it's always his weaker side. He tends to twist his neck and lose impulsion in the shoulder-in left as a result, and struggles with really stepping over with his left leg, which makes his half-pass right a bit stiffer and less active than it is to the left. I think that some gymnastics will only serve to strengthen his hind end as a whole, as well as all the usual things I've been doing for his stifle for years - lateral work and rein-backs.
|His top line is starting to reappear (and his beer belly is shrinking, lol)|
Now that things have opened up a bit, I'm also starting to think of his show calendar for the rest of the year. Gauteng Dressage Champs ended up being postponed to the end of November, but SA Champs is in September, and I will likely ride at least one of the Friesians there so I would like to take him as well. It all depends on how he feels. We have a lesson next week, so that will probably be the deciding factor.
In other news, working chronologically through the Bible continues to be fascinating and rewarding. I feel like I'm looking at these familiar words and stories from a whole new perspective now that it's all in historical context. I'm into the later chapters of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings, and studying the prophet Isaiah at this point. Isaiah is an absolutely remarkable book, and it's astonishing how much Jesus actually refers to this book in the Gospels. One chapter that particularly struck me was Isaiah 5, in which God describes the unfaithful nation Israel as being His vineyard: He has tended it and protected it, yet it has yielded no good fruit (faithful people doing His will). Then, in the Gospel of John, Jesus calls Himself the true vine, and tells us that we are all branches abiding in Him. It absolutely gave me goosebumps to stumble upon that comparison in the Old Testament, showing us how the coming of Christ utterly transformed our relationship with God. In the words of C. S. Lewis, "The Son of God became a man so that men could become the sons of God."
He is just magnificent. God is good.
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