We’re having the most beautiful June imaginable, and I’m sorry to say I have not been spending much time in the saddle.  I moved houses last weekend, and the run up to that event, and then the ensuing chaos of unpacking that followed have really eaten into the amount of time I spent riding lately.

Fred is going beautifully, and both boys are well and happy.  I’ll check back in with the proper post after the Fourth of July.

Go riding! 🤠

12 Miles



Zero good will come of this.

“Fred Fred!”

“Freddy Fred Fred!”

Each night I call to Fred as I’m walking toward his stall, and he unfailingly rewards me by sticking his head over his door and whickering a greeting. It’s cute and gratifying.

But a couple weeks ago, on a Monday night, the big red head didn’t appear when I called.

That was odd.

Trepidatious, I looked over the stall door, to see Fred sprawled on his floor, his hay untouched. We had been working him up to a full day of turnout over the previous weeks and that day had been his first full day out on grass.

I got him to his feet, and he immediately kicked at his tummy, and then turned to stare at his flanks before trying to lay down again. Textbook. Fred was colicking.

I was able to keep him upright long enough to get a quick listen at his gut. The right side had some faint, sporadic gurgles, but left was dead silent. Not good.

Clipping the lead shank onto his halter, I marched Fred down the aisle and out into the parking lot.  Juggling my phone, I sent my vet a terse text “Fred is colicking” while trying to keep him moving. God bless her, she called me immediately.

I explained that I hadn’t been able to take Fred’s pulse, because I was trying to keep him on his feet, but that he was definitely colicking.  She told me to get some Bahamine into him, and then keep him moving. Put him on the longe line, she said. Run him around.

The Banamine (given IV) worked quickly, giving Fred some clear relief.  Per Nicky’s instructions, I put Fred on the longe, and he moved out willingly.  We walked, trotted and cantered both ways, with no protest.

For a little while, I thought we might get through this — Banamine is a great drug — but after a while, Fred started to get more and more uncomfortable.

I called Nicky.  When she walked through the door 30 minutes later, I was so happy to see her.  She gave Fred a once over, and whipped out syringe, sedating him for what was to come, and then went back out to her truck.

She returned, lugging a bucket, a tube with a valve on one end,  a pump, a gallon of mineral oil, a reeeaaalllyyyy large glove and another syringe, this one full of Buscopan, an antispasmodic designed to relax smooth gastrointestinal muscles.

Fred was feeling the effects of the sedation, and Nicky got to work, donning the full-arm glove and commencing a rectal exam.

Fred didn’t bat an eye, and no wonder.  People joke about “horse tranquilizers” but I am here to tell you these drugs are the real deal, in terms of arresting the flight instincts of these immensely powerful creatures (who, for the record, are entirely deficient in the critical thinking arena.)

Nicky confirmed that there was no torsion (twisted intestine) and bonus! found and removed some manure from Fred’s rectum. Thus far, the news was good.

Peeling off the giant glove, Nicky commenced her frontal assault on Fred, threading a tube up his nose and into his stomach – Fred was in need of hydration, and this is how Nicky was going to deliver it.


The beginning of a very long night

Within a few minutes, Nicky had pumped about 2.5 gallons of water into Fred. Then she refilled the bucket, adding electrolytes and a gallon (!) of mineral oil, and down the hatch it went.

While Fred drooped in the cross ties and started to absorb all the fluid now on board, Nicky pulled me aside.  She had done everything she could for the moment, she told me.

“You’re going to have a long night,’  Nicky warned me. It would be a roller coaster, with ups and downs throughout the night.  His respiration was currently good – strong and regular, with a heart rate of 40 beats per minute.  If it got near 60, she said, I was to call her.

It was now 10:00.  I clipped the lead shank to Fred’s halter and we headed back into the arena, and resumed walking.

By midnight, we had logged almost 10 miles. Around 1 a.m., Fred started to run out of energy, and was also growing more and more uncomfortable.  His tummy was enormously distended, and he seemed to be inflating like Violet Beauregard of Willy Wonka fame.

I tried to keep him moving, but at increasingly regular intervals, he started to lay down, despite my best efforts.  Between the drugs, the pain and being dragged around the arena by his determined owner, Fred was done. He was exhausted.

The good news was that he wasn’t thrashing. He laying quietly, so I unclipped the lead and decided to give him some peace, because I was exhausted too. I headed for the lounge, set an alarm on my phone, and passed out on the couch.

30 minutes later, I peeled myself off the couch and checked on Fred.  He hadn’t moved, and his respiration was unchanged at 50. Fine. I headed back to the couch.

Another half hour passed, and I went back and checked on Fred. He hadn’t moved, and his respiration was steady.  I headed back to the couch in the club room.IMG_6518

Another 30 minutes transpired, and I staggered back across the parking lot to the barn. Fred hadn’t moved, but his situation had changed. He was clearly more uncomfortable.  His muscles had tensed again, his veins were starting to stand out, and his nostrils were flaring.

I checked Fred’s respiration, and it was climbing.  52. I checked it again in a minute, and then again. 54. 56.

We were heading toward 60, and an emergency trip to a vet clinic.  Loading an agonized horse onto a trailer is the worst sort of savage amusement, and something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Phone in hand, I vacillated.  Checked his pulse again.

57. Crap.

And checked it again a minute later.


And then, finally, just as I was ready to call Nicky and tell her we were heading to the clinic, Fred passed a little gas. And then a minute later, he passed a bit more.

Oh, thank God almighty, the Buscopan was working.


He finally sat up and started to deflate.

Fred started to slowly deflate. He sounded like a a squeaky balloon, but I didn’t care. As long as his hugely distended belly was deflating and he was comfortable, I was happy.

I don’t know when was more relieved, me or the rapidly-deflating Fred.

Over the next hour, Fred stayed on the ground, magically deflating as he continued to pass gas.  Crouching down to listen to his side, I could hear some gurgles where there had been silence.  His GI was slowly getting back to work.

Finally, Fred got up, had a good shake, and started to roam around the arena.  No signs of distress, no drama.  His expression had returned to normal – it’s amazing how expressive a horse’s face can be when they’re under duress.  The lips are tight, the jaw is clenched, and the muscles above the eyes furrow, just like ours.


Up on his feet and communing with one of the barn cats

The rest of the recovery was uneventful.  Fred continued to deflate, and a few hours later, passed some manure – an important benchmark, because it indicated his GI is working again, end to end.

At 5 a.m. with my Fitbit tally nearing 12 miles, I unabashedly kissed Fred on his snoot and went home. The next morning brought good news in the form of lots of poo and after a couple quiet days on a dry lot, we returned Fred, now outfitted with a grazing muzzle, to regular turnout.

Modeling his new GreenGard grazing muzzle and halter.















Out on our own

IMG_6283Fred got a gold star and extra cookies last night – we hacked around the property (and it’s pretty big) all by ourselves.  Everyone else was in the barn,  but Fred was totally cool.

New NEIGHborhood

IMG_6267Just a quick update: Jag and Fred are settling into their new digs. Both were superstars yesterday, marching onto the trailer with no complaints, hauling quietly, and comporting themselves with good manners upon arrival.

Fred and I will take our maiden voyage tonight.

X Halt

IMG_6222We’re days away from moving to the new barn, and I’m trying to enjoy my remaining time at Uulke as much as possible.  The weather has been cooperating, enabling met to get Fred outside – finally!  He’s a different horse when he’s not in the arena, and I think the weekend’s wanderings around the property really helped him, because we had a pretty good ride tonight.

He’s still not as forward as I’d like but we’re getting there, and I’m increasingly confident in my ability to handle this issue.

“Ride like a trainer,” Christy says repeatedly, reminding me to hone my responses, not accept “no” for an answer and to take responsibility.  “When you’re in the saddle, he’s responsive, period,” she insists.

We muddled through Training I tonight, and as you can see, had some nice moments.  We also blew a canter depart and needed three more tries to get it, and had to stop to poop (another issue I will tackle later.) Free walk was solid, stretchy trot needs work, and we wavered between dreadful, competent and pretty good. Fred is strong enough now to work on a 20m circle, so we gave it a whirl.  I’m actually going to re-memorize the Training tests, because the variety and pace of of the tests really is good for Fred.

IMG_6223Tomorrow we’ll just hack around the property. Wednesday and Thursday we’ll work.  Christy and i continue to cobble together our plans but for the near term, these will be our last rides with her, which really bums me out.  We’re good friends, though and this won’t be the last you hear about her.

In the meantime, if you’re not doing so already, keep an eye on her blog – Dressage Fundamentals – lots of good stuff there.

Everything Zen

Loving the increasingly pleasant demeanor Fred is showing as his fitness improves

I’ve been reconnecting with my riding lately in a way that I haven’t for a long time. Life has been busy, and full of distraction. Forcing myself to into my own head, into the Zen of being present with the horse, and really riding – managing every stride, keeping shoulders and haunches straight, maintaining tempo – has been extra challenging lately.  There’s a lot of background noise continually threatening my concentration.

Just like with life, it’s easier to simply be a passenger, but when you pick up the reins, put your leg on and take control, you have a better ride.

At the gym in the morning and at the barn at night, I’ve been making a point of really making myself sweat. No more zoning out on the bike, no more checking out mid-ride. I’m paying attention.

More often than not, since Fred isn’t yet up to strenuous work, I focus on myself. That means keeping my core engaged – continually. Or dropping my stirrups and posting, not sitting, keeping leg pressure on, staying balanced, light on his back and not pinching with my knees. I force myself to work, and to pay attention, not letting my leg dangle, or my core relax. And it’s showing in the ride, because Fred is improving by leaps and bounds, despite not being a leaps and downs sort of guy.  The evidence? A line of new muscle along his top line, and a new eagerness to work.  He feels better, and I’m getting there.

“Ride the trot you want, not the trot you have.” Christy is all over my case, not letting me accept “no” from Fred when I ask for more length in his stride. But instead of going to the whip or nagging him with my spur, she’s requiring us to develop a response from my seat.

Ride the trot you want, not the trot you have. It’s a tidy analogy for life, too. On that note, I have news of an upcoming change involving a tough decision. I’m moving, and am moving the horses with me. We’ll still be in the Chicago area, but both Jag and Derby will be relocating in May to a barn about 20 minutes from where I work. At this point in time, I need my life to be a bit more contained. Getting the ponies closer to work will be a huge step in the right direction.

Moving Fred from Uulke and Jag from my friend Jeff’s place is wrenching – both horses are doing so well, and seem so happy. The place I’ve found has lots to love – a field full of elderly pensioners who are glossy and in good weight, lots of different turnout scenarios, stalls that are spacious and airy, gorgeous hay, bridle paths for out-of-ring hacks — lots of comfort for the creatures. However, this will necessitate a change in trainer, and I’m gutted. Christy and I are hatching some other plans, but for my regular work, I’ll be trying out the trainers operating out of the new place. In the meantime, I’m jamming as many lessons into the schedule with Christy as I can. She’s switching gears on me, determined to make me more self-aware and self-correcting, more responsible. It’s hard, requiring vigilance and attention, but once you start to pay attention, your adjustments start to feel instinctive, reflexive, even, and I’m getting more of that trot I want.

The rIdes of March

Getting a little fancy tonight

Used to be that March was one of my least favorite months to ride.  When you’re riding a flighty Thoroughbred,  Spring rides can be hair-raising, heck, just walking in from the paddock can be an adventure.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself flying a 1000 lb kite. I know some of you know what I’m talking about.

Derby’s superpower was levitating while putting no pressure on the lead rope, which, if you think about it, means I’d be walking along,  ignorant of the fact that my horse was floating along somewhere over my head.  Needless to say, with that one, I snapped to pretty quickly and conformed to Pony Club approved methods of handling my horse.

Fred is much, much easier. He’s earthbound and fairly unflappable, which makes him a delightful change of pace during changeable March weather. Not too much concerns him.

We’ll be riding outside soon and I can’t wait.  Part of the fitting up of Fred includes a lot of walking. Purposeful, marching walking to be sure, which lots of lateral work plugged into it, but walking nonetheless.  That will be more fun for both of us when we can play in the sandbox outside, and start to explore the trails.

IMG_5892In the meantime, we’re getting there.  Fred had such a case of the friskies last week that he was cantering off when I put my leg on, looking for a bigger stride at the trot. At this stage, forward is good. I let him go each time. I’ll worry about packaging the power later.

Tonight, he was tight and pissy, so I got off his back and out of his way,  hopping up into a half seat,  and just let him roll at the canter.  He is insisting upon stretching as we walk – really stretching down to the end of the reins, all the way through, and I need to remember to incorporate these stretch breaks throughout the ride, in addition to (or in combination with) the walk breaks. After working the stretch in the trot, I had a much happier horse, and little wonder.  I’ll need to ride him low, comfortable carriage until he works up the strength to carry himself.  Which will hopefully be soon. Fred’s a fun horse to ride, even on a crappy day.