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.

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.



Spring Fever


Neither of us like it when hair gets in our mouths.

I’m a sucker.

I know the string of 60 degree+ days that started in late February and have continued into March won’t last.  The snowblower still has plenty of gas in it, and I’m not putting away my winter gear, because I know what’s going to happen in a couple weeks.  We’re going to get punched in the teeth, because that’s what March does.

Jag is also a sucker, because he picked today to drop about half his winter coat. Since I retired him, he’s grown a winter coat like a yak, and as happy as I am to see all that hair in late fall, it’s exactly zero fun to shed out. I’ve never taken as much hair off a horse as I did today.  Yuck!

Still, between Jag’s shedding and the fact that the bulbs in my garden are all up (some of the narcissus are 5″ high!) I’ve got a bad case of spring fever.  All I want to do is play outside, and I’ve hit that stage where I’m done wearing winter coats. No more black down, please.

Fred is feeling it, too. He’s been giving me rides that are forward and frisky, once we getimg_5770 past the initial mulishness.  The focus is very much fitness and forward, so when he bursts into a crazy trot worthy of a standardbred or takes off in a hand gallop down the long side instead of his usual sedate canter, I just let him roll.  I play him some music, and eventually, he stops pinning his ears, and starts to have fun.  He exhales and snorts, his ears flop and prick and I can feel him anticipating an upward transition.  He’s getting more responsive, and more enthusiastic.

I’m home for a while, so we’re going to ride. Fred is going to get the Couch to 5K treatment, alternating short trot sets (just a couple minutes at the outset) interspersed with walk breaks. We’ll throw in transitions within the gaits, and and some canter, but job one is to put some condition on ol’ Fred.


Stretching might turn into our super power.

I’m being careful to work in plenty of walk, and have been really pleased how with the lengthy stretches I get from Fredders at the end of our rides.  We may be walking, but every stride in this kind of connected stretch is helping put top line back on him too.  I’ll get a “before” pic of him tomorrow, for posterity.

As we walked and stretched today, my playlist (set on “shuffle all”) served up “Ride” by Twenty One Pilots.  Apropos – I’m taking my time on my ride.


I took my time after my ride, too. It was the perfect day for puttering around the barn, so I did.  My saddle, girth and bridle are detailed and ready for our lesson tomorrow, my cabinet is organized and Fred has a full canister of no-suger-added treats.  Good stuff, all around, and another warm day on tap for tomorrow. 🙂


Some words to live by, I think




Unlucky, just for a moment


Never a sight you want to see.  For starters, the shoe is hanging upside down, so the luck can run out.  Another, more obvious problem is the fact that it’s no longer attached to the horse.

God, I was grumpy today. I’ll chalk it up to sleep deprivation and an abrupt return to reality after a blissfully disconnected four-day weekend in the Florida Keys with old friends.  Driving to the barn after work, nothing was making me happy, but I was looking forward to re-starting Fred’s fitness program. I had a great playlist in mind and was looking forward to the ride.

What’s the saying?  Man plans, God laughs?  That’s a little hyperbolic, but when I saw the shoe hanging on Fred’s stall front, I thought I’d pull out my hair.

So much for the ride.  I fumed for a minute, texted the farrier, and then gave Fred a good ear rub before clipping on the lead rope and heading to the arena for a walk, taking minute first to find some some slower-paced music to walk by.

I selected Stop Time, an album by my friend Lara FilipStop Time is classified as alt-folk, and and if you had told me six months ago that a bunch of alt-folk songs would be found at the top of the “favorites” list on my phone, I would have questioned our friendship and mentally accused you of not knowing me well.

However, you would have been prescient, because since downloading Lara’s album, I play it more frequently than anything else.  It’s catchy and quirky and addictive.  The music sticks with you and there’s not a bad song in the collection.

Here’s one favorite:

And another:

Lara, I should mention, is an actress, cancer survivor and fellow equestrian.  She’s a badass, and I love her.  Give her a listen, I bet you will, too. You can find her music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music and pretty much anywhere else you can buy digital music.



Unfit, but nice hind leg, Fred.

It may be time for me to rename this blog, and not just because I’ve branched out from TBs. “The Mystery Lameness Chronicles” or “Venture into Saddle Fit Hell” are both recurring themes that don’t vary from horse to horse. I could also go with “Sometimes a Lady Chases You With a Whip and It’s OK. (You’ll need to keep reading for that story.)

Calculating GHP (Gross Equine Happiness)

I know I’m not alone in these travails or in the frustration they cause, because I see other bloggers wrangling with the same issues, and I have picked up more than one good idea from my coterie of equine digerati over the years.

This story is a bit more of the same, but with a twist.

Getting your horse happy, healthy, sound and outfitted with a well-fitting saddle is an exercise in scenario testing – with a lot of variables. Over the years, I’ve learned a few truths:

  • Horses can communicate but it’s on us to observe their responses, and the subtle variations they display;
  • When you start testing your scenarios, be darn sure you only change one variable at a time, otherwise you will go crazy;
  • Gaping mouths are not bitting problems, they probably stem from the back or the hocks. Or both. Or maybe you’re just really hanging on the horse’s mouth, that’s a distinct possibility.
  • Your own shitty riding is an amplifier, and a highly variable one.


It reminds me a lot of macroeconomics class, and the variables we consider when calculating Gross Domestic Product. GDP is a function of a set of variables, and how they interrelate. It’s the same with our horses.

I’ve spent the last few weeks banging my head against the problem of Fred’s discomfort, driving myself to near-distraction trying combination after combination of shim, gullet and therapeutic pads in an effort to find the combination that worked.

However, I knew – I SWEAR I KNEW – that I wasn’t on the right track. Fred was being resistant but it was different. Instead of being unwilling to go forward and frozen in his shoulders, he was somewhat willing to go forward, OK in his shoulders but fifteen kinds of wonky with his head – gaping his mouth, pinning his ears, and twisting.

While horses can’t verbalize, they can communicate, and Fred’s message was clear – he was NOT comfortable with any of the options I was presenting. Nothing and I mean nothing made any difference. Finally, I called Dr. Nicky and asked for a lameness workup – again. She went over him thoroughly, found bugger all, and even sent video from her eval. Fred looked great.

But put a rider on his back and things just went to hell. I was well and truly stumped, but had a niggling idea that the saddle wasn’t the issue, because Fred was equally uncomfortable going in the ThinLine. This was an important indicator, because previously, when the saddle has been the issue, jumping on bareback is transformative. It wasn’t this time.

I threw up my hands and decided that doing nothing would be a reasonable course of action for a few days while I traveled for work. When I did finally make it out to the barn upon my return, Fred was off on the longe line. I skipped another day.

When I started to work cleaning him up the following day, I got a surprise that almost made me faint. A massive abscess had worked its way out through one of the heel bulbs on his right front. The bulb sported a two-inch long wound, which was probably a combination of the exit point for the infection, and the splitting of his coronet band due to the shocking amount of inflammation present. That hoof bulb was the size of a golf ball and it was hot and the skin showing through the hair was angry and red.

It was revolting, but that didn’t stop me snapping a quick picture and sending it to Dr. Nicky.

“Awesome!!!” was her reply. She also noted that deep abscesses frequently evade detection, and can take weeks to resolve.

Want to see it? Fair warning before you scroll down.

img_4989The abscess resolved in about a week, and last weekend, Fred was good to go. Clearly, that was good news, but it also meant that I’d have to go once more into the breach of saddle fit.

The first ride back was in a lesson, and I was grateful for the extra set of eyes. Christy and I decided to start with the Verhan. It’s newly reflocked, and even though it’s not great for me (the knee blocks are all wrong for my long femur, and can act as fulcrums, threatening to pivot me out of the saddle, it’s great) it has worked pretty well for Fred previously.

Fred signaled his improved opinion quickly with deep, relaxing breathing, floppy ears and pleasant demeanor. With all the time off, however, and the fact that he’s no longer keeping himself fit ripping around a pasture with a bunch of loonies, his fitness has taken a dive. We decided that a “Couch to 5K” program was in order, mixing in plenty of walk breaks between trot and light canter work. Importantly, together we concluded that Fred was in fact sound and comfortable. This is an important point, because it gives me the confidence to get after some behavioral issues, some of which can look a lot like resistance related to discomfort. It’s not fair to punish legitimate complaints, and I err on the side of caution in this department.

Sometimes a lady chases you with a whip and it’s okay

Which leads me to my ride last Tuesday night, when I was sharing the arena with Alice, an upper level rider with a gorgeous horse who has been doing all of this much longer than I. Fred and I were chugging around, him on his forehand, me happy that he was just moving. However, apparently the sight of us caused Alice pain, because she finally blurted out “You’ll never get him fit if you let him go around that way,” and then proceeded to channel a German Dressur, following us around, arm raised and brandishing her whip.

She was all over my ass, no other way to put it, but five minutes of following her moment-by-moment instructions (“Leg leg WHIP BEHIND YOUR BOOT THERE GOOD BOY leg leg GET HIM FORWARD WHIP AGAIN There! Good boy give him a pat NO NO DON’T LET HIM DO THAT leg leg leg THERE GOOD”) we had great forward momentum, and when I asked him to canter, he gave me a hand gallop, and I let him roll.

None of this was anything that I’ve not been told by Christy, who has been dying to carry a longe whip during my lessons. Alice, bless her, just isn’t into asking permission.

I grudgingly admitted all of this to Christy, who as much as I love her still scares me when she gets a particular look in her eye which foretells an extended trip outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, no really vigorous riding was required, so alas, Christy will have to wait before she chases me around with a longe whip.

Fred’s feeling pretty good – out of shape, for sure, and I can’t wait for warmer weather so we can get outside. We’re on a trail system, and there’s a nice bridle path around the farm, as well as a lovely outdoor – all of which will be useful in fitting up the redhead.

Not Again. (Yes, Again.)

img_4875We’re two weeks into our sojourn at the new barn, and we’ve had some really fantastic rides – better than I have any right to expect, in fact, given how out of shape Fredders is after his assorted lamenesses.  I mean, look at him.  He looks amazing, despite the monkey on his back hauling on the right rein.

Unfortunately, the quality of our rides plummeted this week, marked by a sour attitude and resistance.

img_4873 He’s not lame – I threw him on the longe on Tuesday and was treated to a display of remarkable athleticism that lasted 45 minutes.  A horse needs to be entirely, wholly sound to pull the crap Fred did on Tuesday.

We worked through the issues last night, and ended up with some decent work, including some very decent trot/canter transitions on a 20M circle.

Tonight we had a lesson, and it was a different story. Fred was clearly uncomfortable, curling behind the bit even on a loopy rein, gaping his mouth and in general registering his unhappiness in every way he cold muster.

img_4874I hopped off, and Christy and I looked at the saddle.  I had been over his back before I tacked up, and found no soreness, but we determined that it was pinching on either side of the wither.  So I slid the ThinLine I use out from underneath it, which would free up quite a bit of space around the head of the saddle, and got back on.  Well, that was a bit too much of an adjustment – the saddle was now sinking in front, and definitely was impinging on his shoulder, especially when I asked him to bend.

“If you got on him without the saddle, that would tell you clearly if that’s what’s bothering him,” Christy ventured.

I’m not a huge fan of riding bareback. Horses are smooth and slippery.  My Thoroughbreds all had prominent withers and spines that I wanted no part of.  But Fred is kind of like a couch.  I got over myself, took off his saddle, and slithered aboard.

bareback-2To give his spine some relief, I stuck the ThinLine under my butt, and off we went.  Fred is actually super comfortable, and I stunned Christy by trotting him a bit.  He was pleasant and willing.

Christy and I agreed that my next step is to break out the gullets and shims and go to work.bareback 1.jpg  I’m going to start with some 8 mm front shims under the panels.  If that doesn’t work I’ll switch gullets, but I think shimming will do the trick.

Oh, and I’m going to buy a bareback pad.