From Endurance to Dressage
As promised, the chiropractor was out yesterday afternoon. Izzy perked up as soon as he saw him; I am certain that Izzy remembered him.
CC isn't a big talker, so I know to just stand around and let him work. Once he has a feel for where the horse is uncomfortable, he'll start making comments. That's when I know he's ready for my questions. Poor man.
The real hotspot turned out to be Izzy's poll which was no surprise to me. I knew he was hurting everywhere, but it seems that most of his soreness started in the poll and radiated out.
I thought Izzy would be pretty reactive in his neck, but CC didn't find any big red flags. The shoulders were a problem, especially the right. That's the side he landed on. He suggested I watch the right knee over the next few days as he thinks that Izzy might be a bit sore there still. His knee got scraped up when he fell so again, no surprise.
Once CC had loosened up Izzy's front and hind ends, he tackled the mid section. Even as he worked the rib heads, Izzy leaned into the pressure, clearly appreciating the body work. You could tell that it hurt in a good way.
CC started with the ribs on the left side since Izzy was more reactive on that side. Once he was done though, the right side ended up being the side that was causing the most discomfort. He fell on the right which would explain why.
CC did say that it can be hard to determine where they are most bothered as his style of adjustment gets the spine moving back and forth. So while the right side might have looked more reactive in the end, it might have had more to do with what Izzy's spine was doing.
The horses really like CC, and the feeling is obviously mutual. After every stretch or period of work that he does, CC always gives the horses a break. He lets them think over what he's doing while he strokes them or lets them love on him. Izzy really likes this style of body work, and comes back for more when he's ready.
Unlike other chiropractors that I've used, CC doesn't do any kind of sharp movements. Even my own human chiropractor does the quick jerk to get the realignment. CC's method is to put the horse in a stretch while he encourages the horses to simply "let go." During a few of the stretches, I could literally see the moment when the bones/muscles/other soft tissue corrected themselves.
This was most obvious when he worked Izzy's poll. CC stretched Izzy's head over his own shoulder and then kept asking Izzy to relax and let his head rest on CC's shoulder. The moment Izzy accepted the invitation to rest his head on CC's shoulder, the kink in his poll disappeared. I was standing close enough to see the surprise, and subsequent relief, in Izzy's eyes.
By the time CC was finished, an hour later, Izzy's facial expression revealed a newly relaxed and much happier pony. CC recommended that Izzy just hang out for today, but tomorrow he can go back to work. He might still feel a bit off if he is sore in the knee, but CC suggested I try to push him through it.
For a long time I didn't have a chiropractor who could come out so quickly. I am so grateful that I found CC. Not every problem is related to sore muscles and misalignments, but I think a lot of the pain that out horses experience can be addressed with some kind of body work.
Now I need to see the chiropractor!
The hip bone's connected to the back bone
I was in a dark funk over the ride I had on Izzy on Monday afternoon. I just couldn't figure out where my sweet (but sometimes sassy) horse had gone. He was pretty much unrideable on Monday. And while I wanted his angry attitude to be about the weather, I had a feeling it was more than that.
I was actually grateful that I had to work late on Tuesday because I just didn't want to show up to find a lame horse. If you'll recall, lame horse equals dead horse in my version of crazy horse lady. When Wednesday rolled around, my funk was total and complete. Nothing went right that day. I hit every red light, food tasted sour, and every part of my body was sore and achey.
As hard as it was, I shoved the anxiety down deep and faced the what's wrong with Izzy issue head on. I followed my regular routine: I turned on the sprinklers, filled feed buckets, tossed Izzy his timothy, and told Speedy he'd get his turn in a few minutes.
I put Izzy in his rope halter and snapped on a lunge line. If he was lame, I wanted to see it rather than question whether I felt it or not. I asked him to start off with a walk, but as on Monday, he hollowed his back, jerked his head up and practically hissed at me. He finally walked around me when asked, so I moved on to the trot.
It was nearly impossible to tell if he was off because he would not trot. If he did make it a few steps, I couldn't see anything because his whole body was twisted and crooked. And after one or two trot strides, he flung himself into a bucking gallop. Eventually I shortened the line to about ten feet so that he had to trot. I couldn't see an obvious lameness.
I patted him, even though he was being a real jerk, and asked him to go the other way. To the right, he was more willing to trot, but it was slow and equally as crooked. Since he fell a week and a half ago, there hasn't been a single day of filling or heat, so I don't think he's lame from a tendon or suspensory injury. He is quite obviously sore though from his poll, down his neck, and into his withers and back.
I put him back in his stall and called my chiropractor. He'll be at the barn this afternoon.
After some reflection, I started remembering how Izzy behaved last May and June. Back then, he went through a really nasty few days where he was so tight in the back that it felt like he was lame. I called the chiropractor back then and saw immediate improvement afterwards.
The instant I realized what was probably wrong with Izzy, my funk lifted. I think the real problem was that I was concerned that this new and cranky horse might become my regular horse. Having a logical explanation for his behavior relieved me of my anxiety.
I can only guess, but I think what has happened is that after he fell he had four days of turn out with no under saddle work. That probably helped relieve some of his soreness. Then I rode him on Saturday where he was his normal self. On Sunday, he gave me a fabulous ride, but I did feel a few hitchy strides which I thought came from him trying to break into the canter. The third day that I rode him, Monday, was probably the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.
He was probably mildly sore on Saturday, but by Monday (and even yesterday), mildly sore has become really sore. I don't think he's broken, and he probably has a low pain thresh hold, but I am pretty sure we'll get him fixed up this afternoon. I have a great chiropractor.
So ... about those wonderful and free feed bags as toys ...
The bag lasted twelve hours. Probably less, but I wasn't there to see the precise moment when Izzy began ripping it apart. I dutifully dug around the poop and found every last shred of feed bag and dumped it unceremoniously into the trash.
When I mentioned the fail to my barn owner, she simply shrugged and remarked that it was no big deal as we have tons of feed bags. "Give him one every day," she said. "We have plenty more."
I was relieved to hear that the mess didn't bug her. She knows I am there every day and will happily clean it up, but I am a tad bit worried he'll try to eat the smaller pieces, especially if they still smell good.
One of my Facebook friends suggested that I spring for the Mega Ball cover (I ordered the ball the night before). I hadn't really given it any thought as I assumed the covers were about making the ball look fun for owners. Apparently, they can extend the life of the ball as the horse can grab the cover rather than the rubber of the ball itself.
When I got home in the afternoon, I checked out the price of the covers and was a bit dismayed to see that they're almost as much as the ball itself. Oh well (said with a shrug). What's another $18.39?
I called Valley Vet and had them add the cover to my order. Now my cost is $46.15 - not so cheap anymore. I guess it's better than my horse eating plastic feed bags and colicking.
Since I was spending the money, I figured I might as well get something I like. I ordered the red and blue soccer ball cover. I can't wait to see it as it is kind of cute!
At nearly $50, this thing had better last until at least Christmas.
Another reader suggested I buy this treat dispensing toy from Jeffers ...
I couldn't resist - look how cheap it is! With shipping, it came out to $22.29. I chose purple to match his Jolly balls.
If these toys don't hold up, it's back to cardboard boxes and plastic bags for the green bean!
Yesterday I asked for some cheap and easy to make toys to keep Izzy occupied during the day. The best suggestion, more turnout or turn out with a buddy, would obviously be my first choice, but my boarding situation is not at a typical facility.
I keep my horses at someone's house. My barn owner has several acres and a lovely barn that she designed with the idea of having a boarder or two to help off-set the cost of her own horse.
She's the entire barn "staff," and she works full time just like I do. To help make her life easier, she and the neighbor help each other out. My barn owner feeds our horses and the neighbor's horses most mornings while the neighbor does the evening feedings. They do switch off one day during the week so that each one gets one day off.
My barn owner cleans our four stalls most mornings while the other boarder and I help out by doing a second cleaning in the afternoons when we can. This makes things easier for our BO as she's cleaning in the dark before work.
All of this means that there is no barn staff to do turn outs; it's just us. If my horses are to get turned out, it's done by me. So while I would LOVE my horses to get a mid-morning turnout, there's no one there to do it. This is one reason why I visit the barn about 350 days a year. My stalls are quite large at 24 x 36, so it's not the end of the world if a day or two goes by without some riding or turn out, but it makes me feel better knowing they get to stretch their legs every day.
I've never had such a busy horse as Izzy, so it's been a challenge to find enough for him to do during the day when I am not there. Several people gave me some great suggestions, three of which I used last night.
When I got to the barn yesterday afternoon, Laurel and her sister had two of their horses out already. Due to the clever way Laurel designed her arena, three horses can be turned out in three separate areas. I grabbed Izzy and popped him into the third area so that he had a bit of a play date.
I was more excited about it than he was. He happily played nose tag for a few minutes, but then he decided that Laurel's manure pile was far more interesting, and no matter how many times Austin poked him in the butt, the crapped on alfalfa kept his attention. At least I know now that he's equally happy being out alone or with a friend to talk to. His turnout happiness seems to be related to the differentness of the space rather than with whom he's near.
I only feed rice bran and beet pulp - neither of which has any molasses stickiness to make the bags smell good. I know Laurel feeds a lot of different types of feeds to her group of senior citizens, so I popped over there to dig through her trash. I was in luck. Just that day she had emptied four bags of some really aromatic grains into her feed bins.
I grabbed the bags, a heavy gauge plastic, and cut the tops off to make them as hang-up proof as possible. I placed one with the rest of Izzy's toys and then brought him back from his turn out. Before he even walked through his gate he had spotted the new toy and couldn't wait to go check it out.
This horse is the least spooky horse I've ever owned. I could put a dragon in his stall and he wouldn't even snort once. No matter what I drag in there, he wants to check it out. Speedy would have flat out refused to enter a stall with a plastic bag laying on the ground. As it was, he gave Izzy the stink eye the whole time he had his head buried in the bag.
I've been well aware of the big bouncy balls for many years, but they're always so expensive. They're even more expensive if your pony pops it on the first day. Valley Vet has a sale on the big balls right now, so I decided to take the risk. Last night I ordered the 30" Equine Jolly Mega Horse Ball for a grand total of $27.76 which included shipping. I am certain that Izzy will enjoy this toy, I just hope it lasts at least a few months.
There are a few other things I do to help combat Izzy's boredom, but they're just not enough. He gets fed alfalfa/oat cubes twice a day, but I also throw a half a flake of timothy hay to keep him busy and satiated for the rest of the day. He doesn't adore the timothy so there is always some in his stall. We try to ensure that he's never without something to munch on.
He also has a Himalayan salt wheel that he could lick and play with, but it never gets touched. It's hanging at his gate so it's at eye level, but it hasn't proven to be interesting. He used to have a rubber hanging feed bucket that he liked to bash around, but one day he decided to climb into it and got stuck. Fortunately my barn owner was around and managed to lift his leg out of the bucket before he hurt himself.
Izzy also had a Freedom Feeder hay net, but he managed to rip it open and get a leg stuck into that as well. Again, it was lucky that one of our farriers happened to arrive who was thoughtful enough to cut him loose. He no longer has anything hanging in his stall.
I've used orange juice jugs in the past as toys, but Izzy really likes to bite and chew, so I worry about him tearing through food grade plastic. Those containers can get sharp if cut. Izzy's boredom seems to be relieved when he can really grab hold of something and give it a good chew or shake.
Since our barn is only a few years old, my BO wouldn't be too happy to see me nailing or screwing non-permanent items to the walls either. Anything I add needs to be something that doesn't leave a mark and can be removed easily - which kind of defeats the purpose with a destructive horse!
So thank you all for the suggestions. Please keep them coming!
A few days ago, I shared a photo heavy post of Izzy playing with a traffic cone in Laurel's turn out. I then went and bought two cones at Home Depot so that he would have one (the other other is stored for later use) to play with at home.
I very much wish that I had motion activated cameras in his stall because his "house" is a disaster area when I get there each afternoon, and I'd sure like to see how it happens. While the sprinklers are working in the arena, I spend a half an hour each afternoon tidying things up. I clean the manure out of his stall, gather up the scattered hay, drag his feed bin back to where it goes, dig a toy out of his water trough, and gather the rest of his things and place them in the center of his outside run - like this:
That's how I left things last Thursday. By Friday afternoon, it all looked like this.
Most afternoons, at least one of his toys has ben flung outside of his stall. In the past, it was a Jolly ball, or two. More recently, he has learned to pick the cone up and flip it over his fence. And again, the black rubber feed pan is often either floating in his water trough, or it has sunk to the bottom where I have to fish it out. The Jolly balls have taken a swim as well.
He gets ridden five to seven days a week for no less than forty-five minutes, and sometimes it's even an hour. On the days he doesn't get ridden, he gets turned out. Last Friday, he spent two hours over at Laurel's. The dude is just a very busy guy. If anyone has some ideas for defeating boredom cheaply and quietly, I'd love to hear it.
The only caveat is that hanging stuff has proven to be a problem as he has gotten hung up at least three different ways on items that were designed to be hung safely for horses. Fortunately, someone has found him and freed him before he was able to hurt himself. Aside from hanging items, what else can I safely toss in there to keep his brain occupied?
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
2022 Pending …
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 (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
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