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I have been asking myself over and over again, “what do you want to do about riding”. Life is not the same without riding! Not that I would have been doing tons of it lately anyway since this week was the first time since December that we could see the ground through the snow (which is not typical in my area at all). Even with it being a terrible winter, I am sure I would have at least ridden a bit if I were leasing, even if it was a bareback hack through the snow. I have not ridden since before Thanksgiving at the moment. That is more than 3 months out of the tack and counting.

For a while I was not riding because of finances. It is expensive to ride horses! Owning one that can’t be ridden doesn’t help the bottom line either! I was trying to get back on better financial ground after leasing and, sure enough, by mid-January I was in a way better spot. Away went that excuse and then came another…what do I want? Was I looking to lease another horse? Did I want lessons? Was is dressage I was after? Or did I want to try something new. Those are the questions I have been struggling with lately.

I found two maybe horses to lease this winter, but one was a 4 year old off-the-track TB, and the other was a 9 year old with some strong conformational faults that could lead to lameness. I spoke to both owners (who were super nice), but in the end I decided not even to try them because I was afraid I would fall in love and I really am trying to learn from past experiences. I am afraid of getting started with a horse who has the potential to get hurt every other week, and the next horse I train should be my own. The more I was looking around at leases the more I was realizing that what I want (which is a well trainer, quiet horse, who is good on trails and healthy enough to be ridden for a few years) is about twice as much per month as I am willing to spend. So for the moment, I think half-leasing is off the table.

That leaves lessons. But in what? If I want to progress with my dressage I need to go to a higher end trainer. The cost of a lesson with a higher end trainer by me is $75-150 an hour. Add to that the fact that I need to locate one who has a horse they can let me use, which narrows down my options. I have been going back and forth about this for a while now. It was a lot of internal debating, but I have finally decided that I am okay with letting go of dressage for now. I mean, it isn’t like I was all that great to begin with, and even with investing all that money in to lessons it is very, very hard to progress with only one lesson a week.

So where does that leave me? That is what I have been struggling to figure out…and I think I finally have.

I was looking around at the western trainers in my area and while I can overlook a lot, many of them have horse care situations that I am just not okay with. The ones that align with my horse care values specialize in things like cutting or reining, not western pleasure, so having a horse handy is an issue yet again. So western was out. I looked around but could not find any saddle seat places either. That pretty much left me with one option, hunter/jumper farms.

I did used to jump, many, many years ago. In fact, I used to do 4 foot courses. Not that I was ever excited about doing it, but I am the kind of person who can usually fake it till I make it…at least with jumping. Lately though I have not been jumping at all. I use poles, sometimes elevated, in my dressage work, but no actual jumping or doing a course. So then comes the question, do I really want do to this? The answer is, or at least I think it is, yes. Jumping can be fun, especially on a horse that knows what they are doing. I do want an instructor that is kind and compassionate though, just in case. I started looking and asking around about 2 weeks ago and I think I may have found a good fit.

I am not expecting these lessons to be life changing. I am also not expecting to go and turn in to a hunter diva. What I would like is a place that treats their horses well and is safe with a trainer who I think knows what they are doing. My friend rides at a place like that that is about a half an hour away from me, and only 10 minutes from Gen. I have known other acquaintances that have boarded there and everyone is happy with the place. I haven’t called up yet, but I will soon. I want to have fun, feel safe, and get my butt back in the saddle.

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First time in months it’s been warm enough out to make mud! I almost
forgot what Gen looks like “normal” ;)

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Gen’s Mouth Issue

So last week I posted a picture of Gen’s mouth. It was bleeding and had open sores all over it. The thing is, Gen mysteriously started having mouth problems mid-December. I noticed a slightly…off…odor coming from his mouth. The first week it happened I made everyone at the barn sniff Gen’s mouth. They assured me they didn’t smell anything, but by Christmas time when I hired Gen a nanny to dote on him while I was away (Gen needs extra attention everyday) for Christmas they confirmed that while it wasn’t that noticeable, something just wasn’t right. I called the vet from my place in Arizona and had him take a look at Gen.

At that time his gums were a little pinker than normal and he had bad breath. After poking around and finding nothing obvious the vet thought it might be some sort of infection, maybe an open sore in the way back. We thought about tranquilizing him to get a better look at the mouth to be sure, but I decided against it. Gen hates having his mouth touched and thus it requires more tranquilizer than I wanted to give him just to see if there was a small sore somewhere. Gen got antibiotics, had to tolerate getting his mouth rinsed out twice a day, I learned that I can buy specialty syringes on Amazon and overnight them to my horse, and by the time I got back home he was already doing better. That should be where the story ends. I mean, my horse getting packages directly to him at his barn is an impressive enough story right?

Well, by mid-January his mouth was starting to get worse again. Minus the fact that hay was getting stuck up above his gums, I couldn’t find anything else different. I kept rinsing out his mouth, but after the initial swipe to clean out his mouth (minus the now swollen gums) his gums would not look any different than the day before. It was beyond frustrating. My Gen was getting his gums irritated by something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. It had been a month since I first noticed a smell and I was starting to go crazy. I had the vet out again. He told me to give it time (something I am not good at doing) since it wasn’t getting any worse. I even had the dentist out for Gen to take a look and he gave us a blue solution to use as a rinse and mentioned 3 possible things it could be, but summarily dismissed them all since there was no evidence for any of them to be what was causing the problem.

The first real clue in to what was going on was the last week in January. For the first time, when I was cleaning out this mouth I noticed that there were a few little seed pods and at one place it almost look like a bit of fringe coming out the top of a tooth. I would diligently clean out his mouth every day and that was something new. I took it all out and then the next day I noticed it again. The fact that other horses in the barn started having problems was a big clue. The answer to what was wrong with Gen came that first weekend in February when I finally sat down to google the three potential things that Gen’s dentist had mentioned.

This winter, Gen, and hundreds (literally) of other horses in our area were suffering from a problem that we had never experienced in our area. Foxtail. For those of you from the southern US you already know all about this. My area has never had a problem with it before, so with Gen not having clear cut symptoms right off the bat it was not that easy to figure out what was going on. I will write about Foxtail itself in another post, for now I want to focus on my Gen. So now we knew what the problem was, at least we could fix it.

It has been getting leaps and bounds better each and every day. It still is not all the way better and there is now some permanent gum recession L, but it is looking like Gen will make an excellent recovery. Thankfully, even if I did nothing further to help him, the vet and dentist say that the pricker things would go away in a month on their own as Gen and his barn mates continued to eat the new foxtail free hay. He still has stuff stuck up in there though. I try and take out as many as I can with my hand (well, fingers really) every day, but it is slow going. Have I mentioned Gen is 16.33hh? Willing to rear? Hates his mouth touched? I can do about 3 minutes a day before he turns angry. The sores are closing up though and while his gums are still swollen, they are no longer bleeding. It will take time before his mouth is back to as close to normal as it can get, but I am at least happy he is consistently getting better!

So the moral of the story? I don’t know if there really is one. Because I caught the issue you quickly and started treating it, it took much longer for us to realize what the actual problem was. I also board at a barn with other attentive boarders so as soon as their horses started having issues they also started treating it and rinsing out their horses mouths as well, getting rid of telltale evidence without knowing it. Had I ignored it and not cleaned out his mouth we probably would have noticed the seed pods and hairy looking things earlier because they would have been better able to take hold in his mouth. In December no one in my area knew much about Foxtail. In the past month though it has become very prevalent. Just one more thing to keep an eye out for right?? Because we don’t have enough to worry about with horses :P Gen always finds a way doesn’t he ;)

I got this article sent to me along with the note “This is why Gen can’t ever go inside”. A comment to which I have to agree with! Click on to the article if you want a chuckle…and to see Gen’s kindred spirit!

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/this-horse-sheltered-from-storms-in-his-owners-house-and-now

 

I will post on the yucky mouth issue soon!

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Gen because he had to go outside on a yucky day, or me because the mud is so wet I can’t even scrape it off.

I need it to be 70 degrees or hotter so I can give my mud ball a bath!

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