Friday, June 22, 2012

Simmering summer days

The heat wave that began Wednesday sent most people scurrying to the closed confines of their air-conditioned homes. In order to avoid the worst of the heat, yet keep the horses working and fit, we rode early in the morning before the temperatures crested.

Missy Antsy Pants
For the last two days, I rose at 5:30, headed out to the barn, and was in the saddle by 7 a.m. Both Harley and I were beat after about a half hour of ring work with lots of trotting and cavaletti. This groundwork is critical, not only for Harley, but me as well. And in spite of the heat, it started my day off right. We avoided the worst heat and I saw improvements in just a couple of days. Thanks to John's help, I even made it to work on time!

Tonight, thunderstorms are rolling in, and hopefully , alleviating the heat.  The horses were already in the barn, but very sweaty. So before the storm hit, I washed them down and set up a fan on each to cool them off a bit. Rolex, always the antsy one who hates being cooped up inside, kept pawing the floor and the vibration made the fan keel over. She's not a spooky horse and just looked at it, then went back to pacing and pawing. I'm sure once I left, shut her gate, and shut off the lights, she would settle down.
 Ruffy, happy to have a fresh water and a lot of hay, settled right in to eating. And ditto for Harley.  I'm hoping the storm will pass through tonight and clear by tomorrow so Harley and I can continue our ring work. Then we'll treat ourselves to a walk in the woods, but armed with bug dope. The deer flies have arrived with the heat wave. How auspicious that the hottest day thus far was the first day of summer. It's days like this that make me long for September.

Harley after a cool bath on a hot summer night
 On the bright side, this hot weather is good for appetite reduction and weight loss! I've dropped another pound over the last few days. It's the perfect time for lots of fresh berries and watermelon. Oh, and of course, ice cream. But I'm a believer  of everything in moderation.

If the weather cooperates, I hope to go pick strawberries this weekend and make some jam! Nothing like local fresh sweet strawberries. Kind of makes those giant steroid strawberries from California taste insipid.

Sunset before the thunderstorm

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back on track

Back to work for Harley
The vet came out last Friday and gave poor Harley a shot for his hives. He's on a regimen of dosing, twice a day with "apple-flavored" dexamethasone mixed into my homemade cardamom apple butter (a great masking agent). The hives dissipated rapidly, and only small bumps on his neck remain. Without doing an expensive allergy test, I really won't know what caused it. But should they return, I may have to go that route to eliminate the problem.

As for the saddle issue--I realize my relic doesn't fit him perfectly, but I think the heat bump on his back was actually a hive reacting to the heat and pressure on the ride. Given that there was no weeping or rawness, it's healing up rapidly. So I tried using a clean pad, topped with a Cavallo wool-backed/foam combo half pad under John's Tekna saddle.

Rebekah on Ruffy
Harley was feeling good, having had the last 2 weeks off. John and Rebekah were working the fillies in the ring and I attempted to join them, but 'ole Snarley Harley was being naughty, so I headed out to the woods for a little trotting work where he wouldn't be distracted by his girlfriends. As he snorted and pranced, the trot quickly became a sideways canter up the hill. By now, John and Rebekah were ready to take the girls out on the trail for an easy cool-down. Not so for Harley....

Not one to be left last, he maintained his position in the field, first or second. Being in third position, or last, when there's more than two horses makes for an interesting ride. He is actually a good influence most of the time as the leader. He keeps Rolex, and especially Ruffy, from rushing up hills and charging over brooks, although Ruffy still would prefer to jump ditches rather than muddy up her feet!

As we neared the top of the steep incline on the Lollipop Loop, Rolex began favoring a hind foot. John dismounted and checked her foot and leg. Nothing was apparent, but we decided to turn back. I jumped down too, then walked a little further up where there was more room to turn around. Harley suddenly realized Ruffy was heading back down the trail, and Rolex was out of sight! Yikes, we gotta go ma!  Of course, there was no way to get back on him as he pranced sideways like it was post time,  and I struggled to stay afoot. I had neglected to put on my halter/lead combo (hence the lack of noseband in the photo) and regretted it now. After clambering back down the slope I caught up to John and Rebekah, remounted and we jogged/fast walked our way home.

Rolex appeared sound. We think she may have whacked her fetlock on something. And Harley's back appeared fine--no welts, no rubbing. That pleased me and may allow a postponement on saddle hunting if we play musical saddles on the horses.

Our fine cool weather is leaving today--sultry summer heat is upon us. Here come the deer flies,  horse flies, and thunderstorms. I'm already thinking about cool fall riding!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Back woes and ridin' Rolex

The 2 that trail ride together, feed together!
Once again, the refrain is "Poor Harley". This time it's his back, and it's my fault. I've been using my old Crosby Mark VI saddle on him since day one with a foam wither correction pad. But as his back has changed with weight gain and more muscle, and the further we ride, the more apparent it has become that this saddle just does not fit him.

After untacking from our Memorial Weekend ride, he had immediate swelling on his back. Over the next 5 days or so, it appeared to almost blister and shed the skin. I called the vet and she recommended just putting some antibiotic cream on it. It's never been weepy, just dry and scaly. The curious thing is that it only happened on one side.

So while he recuperates, and I spend time looking at saddle alternatives (yikes--scary prices!), I'll be riding Rolex. Yesterday we did some ring work with both girls and then headed out for a lovely evening trail ride. The bugs weren't too bad despite all the rain we had last week. So I'll get a chance to try improving my seat on a different mount, while also giving her some much-needed ring work to develop balance and bending--all under John's tutelage.

Any saddle recommendations from you fellow english trail riders out there would be appreciated, or if anyone can recommend a saddle fitter in the New England area.  Harley is, I suspect, a medium width, but with those prominent TB withers!

The cleanup committee has arrived!