From Endurance to Dressage
Well hallelujah. Speedy has finally put on a few pounds. It took all summer, but he finally filled out under my leg again. It was when I saw this picture from our show a week or two ago that I noticed.
We all know that I've got some weird position thing going on in that photo, but ignore that. If you'll notice, Speedy's badonkadonk is looking nicely rounded, and he actually has a bit of a tummy.
Here he is in early May when I really started to worry.
He's obviously not emaciated or anything, but I like the flesh to cover the ribs and not stop half way. By mid-June, his ribs were covered in flesh, but just barely. He looked like this.
When he went to see the vet in early August, Dr. Tolley gave him a 4 on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System. I am not comfortable with a 4. I want my horses flirting with a 6. Contrary to what I thought, the doctor assured me that he looked quite healthy and that there was no problem with Speedy's weight.
Here he is this week.
No, he is not pregnant. This is just an awkward place to take conformation photos as his front feet are in a hole. That makes his belly seem lower than it is. But since all three photos were taken in the same place, it's a good way to see the change in his form.
I don't know that he's put more on weight since Dr. Tolley last saw him, but he's definitely a bit rounder than he was earlier in the summer. Dr. Tolley agreed that he could easily carry a few more pounds, but putting them on was going to be a challenge.
Speedy already gets as much alfalfa as he'll eat, 3 pounds of LMF Senior each morning, 1 and a half pounds of beet pulp with another pound and a half of LMF in the evenings, and 2 scoops of Platinum Performance. Dr. Tolley said that if I really wanted him rounder, my next option was to add in a fat source that doesn't have any volume. When I've fed him rice bran, he just eats less hay. Speedy just can't fit any more in.
So far, I think I've settled on flaxseed oil, but I haven't ordered it yet. Platinum Performance has a product that I want to investigate further - Healthy Weight. But as with all things from PP, it's expensive.
If you've tried it, or something similar, let me know. Now that Speedy is nice and round, I'd hate for him to lose it all once it starts to cool off.
I've owned Speedy since he was a gangly three year old. He was all hips and withers back then. As he grew up, he filled out and eventually started packing on some pounds. He's always been a relatively easy keeper without the need for much in the way of supplements. He looked so good that quite a few people at a 2015 late fall show doubted me when I explained that he was indeed a purebred Arabian and not a warmblood/Arab cross.
Throughout 2016, Speedy lost a fair amount of his muscling when we struggled with an intermittent lameness. Then, in the summer, we moved to the ranch where we are now. With our current arrangement, Speedy gets turned out from dinner until breakfast. His daytime paddock has a cover, but he can go in and out at will during the night. So even when it rained over the winter, he had shelter at night.
By about January, I started expressing some concern to the ranch owner. Speedy was getting kind of ribby under his winter coat, something I've never seen him do before. We discussed his hay ration and agreed that he was getting pretty much all he could eat already. I increased his beet pulp and rice bran a little bit, but he never put the weight back on.
By spring, I could actually see a faint outline of ribs and his hips started to jut out a bit. As the weather warmed up, I was confident he would start packing on some pounds. He didn't. So by the beginning of May, I started to really worry that he might have a metabolic condition that was preventing him from gaining weight.
I had another conversation with the ranch owner expressing my concern with Speedy's weight. He was getting all of the alfalfa he would eat, I was supplementing with beet pulp, rice bran, and Platinum Performance, and yet, he still wasn't gaining back his pre-winter weight. I told her that if I didn't see some kind of change by the beginning of June, I was going to take Speedy in to the vet for some blood work.
Through our discussion, she pointed out that Speedy might simply be burning off more calories in his night turn out than we realized. At our last barn, where he lived for five years, Speedy had a large stall/paddock that was about 24 by 36 feet, generous by most standards. He had a small track worn into the ground where he paced and circled, but it wasn't big enough to walk miles. His current turnout is.
With that explanation as a possibility, my worries began to dissipate. We hatched out a new plan: she would feed a morning ration of a pound and half each of rice bran and LMF Gentle Balance (I may switch this out for a different formula when the bag is gone). In the afternoons, I would feed 3 - 4 pounds of beet pulp and another pound and a half each of the rice bran and LMF. That would all get topped off with his Platinum Performance.
A week later, I am already seeing the tiniest bit of padding starting to develop. He's getting a good eight pounds of supplemental feed daily in addition to all the alfalfa he can consume. I am giving him until the end of June to put on a bit more weight. If I don't see it, he's definitely getting some blood work done.
I wish I could simply walk off my excess pounds!
When I pulled Izzy up to the mounting block on Monday, he took a really wonky step. I hand walked him a few strides and noticed that there was definitely a hitch in his stride coming from the hind end. My first thought was that it was a cramp from all of the backing up he had done to avoid the bridle.
I reasoned that he might walk out of it. I got on anyway and asked him to just keep it slow and easy at the walk. Given how dramatic his meltdown had been over the bridling process, I figured that a quiet walk was probably just what he needed. After twenty minutes, he was no sounder, but not worse either, so I called it quits.
There was no swelling nor a wound, and he was bearing weight on it, so I turned him out in his paddock and hoped for the best. I watched him for a while as I puttered around, but the lameness got worse by the minute. By the time I left for home, I knew it had to be an abscess.
A lifetime caring for my own horses has given me a pretty good sense for when the vet needs to be called. A horse who is eating happily with a cocked leg is not one of those times. Even though Izzy took the classic stance - toe pointed down and a reluctance to bear weight, I decided to just watch it and see how bad it would or wouldn't get.
I gave him a gram of bute for several days, which he refused to eat, but other than poke around with a hoof pick, I just let it be. The next day, he actually looked better. He was bearing more weight on it, and by Wednesday, I started to think the abscess had absorbed or that it had been a cramp afterall.
On Thursday, I found the telltale drainage hole. It must have just blown before I got there because it was still oozing. I gave it a gentle squeeze and was rewarded with clear seepage that was odor free. Again, I left it alone without washing it or soaking it.
We had record rainfall last weekend which turned parts of Izzy's paddock into a soupy mess. He had high ground to stand on, but the mud no doubt softened his feet allowing a grain of something to work its way in. For me, having the abscess blow out through the heel bulb is the perfect scenario. Those heal almost as soon as they pop.
It's raining again right now with a forecast for continued rain through Saturday, but we had really warm and dry weather this week which eliminated nearly all of the mud. Hopefully the hole closed yesterday afternoon, but I am defintiely going to give it another close examination today.
If my horse is going to be lame, an abscess is just about the best case scenario!
The worst part about buying and selling the two houses was that I was simply not able to be out at the barn like I usually am. Like a lot of riders, I make notes about every barn visit: who got ridden, who got walked, who has an owie, and so on. While I shoot for seven days a week, I usually miss about three days a month.
That one was July's page. I didn't miss a single day, but that was because I was making up for the 16 days I missed while we were in Italy in June. Here's October's page - every slash is a non-barn day:
During the week of the 9th, I managed to run out and at least check on my boys, but that was it. One mid-week visit was simply not enough for Speedy G. The ranch owner sent me a text on the 16th saying that Speedy was lame at the walk.
Trusting her read on the situation, I didn't make it out that day, but I was there the next. Speedy looked decent at the walk, but he was grade three on a trot out. He still is, but at least he's looking better. There isn't a single mark to account for the lameness and he has no swelling or filling anywhere. I feel comfortable just waiting it out. As he has done so many times before, he probably just whacked himself during all of his pacing and whirling (in his enormous dry pasture). I am sure he's just bruised.
While pretty ugly, the gash in his face is less worrisome. I am glad I didn't see it on the day it happened because after a day or so it was still deep enough to put my finger in. I've been gently coating it with coconut oil, and it already looks much better. It's probably going to leave another scar, but it will be just one of many.
While a bit dirty and covered with flies, Izzy fared much better over the week. He had a couple of small nicks on his legs, but by the time I saw them, the skin was already flaking off and clean skin had already grown in. Instead of whirling and pacing like his dorky big brother, he spent his time digging a massive hole.
While I love that Speedy adores me, I wish he didn't feel the need to pine for me so dramatically. Now that I have time to ride him again, he has to remain bored as he is too lame to ride. I sense an O. Henry tale in all of this. Irony ... it seems to be an essential part of horse ownership.
Preparing for vacation is exhausting. I definitely need a vacation after all the work it has taken to prepare for this one. I am sure some travelers can simply toss a few things in a bag and catch a flight, but I am not one of them. I wish I could do it, but I am too much of a worrier.
I've spent the last few weeks confirming reservations, arranging tours and guides, buying tickets online, and exchanging currency. I've also had to do some shopping, get a pedicure and haircut, and wash my car. Even I am rolling my eyes at those last few. Who is going to notice a fresh trim? Probably the same person who is going to watch my car get dusty in airport parking.
For most people, that's the extent of their preparation. If you own animals, the work continues. I had to arrange a house sitter to care for our two dogs which took three pages of directions. In my defense, I had to explain the alarm system, my cleaning lady's schedule, and what to do when the gardener comes.
But the preparations didn't end there. I also had to prep for the horses which took a whole truckful of supplies because all of my feed was approaching empty. Even though Izzy gets alfalfa/oat cubes as his main diet, I also feed him a small amount of hay each day to supplement the cubes. There was less than a 1/2 bale left, and all three of my feed barrels were nearly empty.
Thankfully, school let out this past Friday which meant I had most of the week to get everything done. On Tuesday, I unhooked my truck from the trailer to get hay and feed. It was good timing because I also had to get it smogged in order to pay my 2016 DMV fees which are due this month. The smog technician didn't even bat an eye when I pulled into the station with a truck load of hay.
Buying hay and feed is easy; unloading everything is not. I spent several hours stacking hay and filling feed barrels. Everything also got a good spring cleaning: the feed barrels got dusted out, old hay was raked up, my first aid box got reorganized, and all of my boots and pads got hung out of the reach of the mice. Unused stuff seems to attract them.
My friend, KG, also came over to make sure she knew where everything was. She's going to be doing turnout and fly spray work for the first 9 or 10 days that we're gone. Then she's going on vacation so any turnout or fly spray will be up to my barn owner for the last week.
On top of all that, I've also been riding. I won't miss scooping poop or dragging the sprinklers around, but I am going to miss my boys. I know they'll be fine while I am gone, but it's really hard to trust that others can do just as good a job as I do. Scooping feed and using fly spray are tricky job, don't you know?
Are you a throw-it-in-the-bag-and-go traveler, or are you more like me? Please share your own "Going on Vacation, Here's My List" stories.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read