Ava Update

I got the results from the vet today!

Nothing’s wrong.

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Healthy as a…

wait for it…

horse.

 

It does mean it’s not liver failure. That’s good. No other signs of infections or oddities.

I did ask him if he could also test iron levels, since he has the blood, and it’s already at the lab. Not that it’s related, but I keep reading that high iron levels can really wreck havoc in some horses. We have high levels of iron in my state, and we’re well water here.

It’ll make me feel better if I know they’re normal levels.

 

Anyway, vet said Ava’s cleared to ride again.

With the caveat of “jump off fast” if she seems like she’s going to have another seizure.

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Bent solid metal

I don’t know how to express how utterly horrifying this was for me…

Last Friday I went out to feed breakfast.  I was talking to myself,  as usual,  on the way down to the barn and heard Ava and Joy nicker back at me when they heard me approaching.

I open the door to the barn,  step in,  and glance over to see Ava and Joy standing by their doors waiting on breakfast. Before I can even turn to start getting hay,  I see Ava slowly start sinking backward over her haunches.  Almost as if she’s stretching her front legs.  Except,  she keeps sinking backward.  To the point where I’m pretty sure she’s going to roll over backwards if she doesn’t stop soon.

I was frozen,  staring at her as she slowly started toppling backwards.  A growing sense of dread was filling me.

And then pandemonium broke loose.

Ava panicked,  scrambled to get her feet back under her,  but couldn’t.  She fell into the middle divider, which cracked and groaned,  then started falling the other direction. She spun around,  and slammed her rear end into the front wall so hard I saw the whole wall bow out toward me. Parts popped off the door and shot across the barn. I was so sure that the entire wall would come crashing down on top of me that I dove out the barn door. 

When it held,  I ran back in and saw Ava desperately trying to keep her feet, but slamming herself into everything, until finally she fell hard, wedged up into a corner.  Her legs furiously kicking.

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t help her.

I could barely pull out my phone,  my hands were shaking so hard. Finally got the vets voice mail and left them a hysterical voice message. 

By the time I finished leaving a message,  Ava had somehow gotten to her feet again.  She was facing away from me,  her head hung low, not moving. 

I was scared to death to enter the stall.

I felt like a coward.

Within a few minutes,  Ava turned back towards me.  We stared at each other a moment while i tried to make “everything’ll be fine noises” at her, but I’m pretty sure came out more as “holy crap we’re fucked!” noises.

I waited for the next crash.

I waited for something.

But nothing happened…

It was like absolutely fucking NOTHING had happened to her!

If it weren’t for the shattered hanging buckets, the cracked stall boards,  and the metal feeder being bent at new angles,  you’d never guess anything had occurred.  All that pandemonium,  all that crazy,  and Ava’s just standing there like nothing happened…

I was still not trusting the calm,  but I cracked the stall door a touch and tossed in a bit of hay… then quickly shut and locked it again.  Ava ate as I stood at the stall door.  After a minute she stepped closer to the door and pushed her neck up against it for me to rub.  She seemed to want contact, so i scratched her through the bars…   feeling like an asshole for being to chicken to open the door,  but not trusting that whatever happened wouldn’t happen again at any second.

It wasn’t too much longer after that,  and the vet’s office called back.

By the time the vet got here,  Ava had cleaned up all her hay,  plus more hay,  and was acting “normal”.  She was even feeling snarky enough to glare at Joy and try to kick Jessie through the fence.

Vet thinks she had a grand mal seizure.  He took blood, checked her heart and lungs (healthy).  We’re still waiting on blood work results.  The vet said it could be liver,  it could be brain,  it could be anything and undetectable. It may never happen again,  it may be cyclical,  it may get worse.

I even asked him to check out my feed,  as a desperate gamble to find anything that may have cause it,  and he said what I was feeding and how much was good.

Ava seems fine now.  She’s eating well,  drinking well.  She’s enjoying roaming the pasture and harassing Jessie and Joy.

But… What do i do now?!

Goddammit!

The entire week I’ve been stuck.  Ava had a seizure.  Not a little,  “wow, that’s weird”, seizure,  but a big,  destroy solid walls and bend metal, seizure.  And all week,  everyone acts like nothing happened.   

But I’m stuck at that single point in time.  

What the hell do i do now?! 

What would you do? 

The Road Trip (of a life time)

To read the notes I took during the clinic, go to “Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin clinic“.

Post about how I got the tickets for the clinic: Once in a Lifetime

Although I only had one ticket for the clinic, my wonderful husband ended up going with me. Lucky for me he did!

Hubby was driving, and we had just pulled onto the off ramp when he casually says “We have no brakes”. Totally calm about it. I, of course, have 20 seconds of “What’d he just say?” followed immediately by extreme panic!

Hubby got us safely off the highway and coasted into a gas station. That man can seriously drive!  And then he was able to patch the brakes up enough to allow us to carry on with the road trip.

Yay!

The awesome handy man!

Brake fluid trail

Plugging the leak

He was coated in brake fluid afterward. Poor guy. Head to toe covered. And he broke his favorite tool. Not a good trip for the poor hubby, but boy was I glad he came!

The entire drive there and back took much longer than we anticipated. We left the house before 10am Friday. Google maps said it was less than a five hour drive to the clinic. That should’ve put us there about 3pm. Clinic rides started at 4:00.

Plenty of time…

Well, even though the brake issue took up an unexpected 30 minutes of our time, it still took us 6 hours and 42 minutes to get there. That included one short bathroom break and the brake line fix.

It was such a loooonnnnggg drive!

Since my hubby is a night owl,  we headed home right after the clinic.  He can’t sleep at night anyway.  Plus,  I was antsy to get home.

The ride home wasn’t much shorter. We ended up getting home about 4am. Left the clinic around 9:30pm.

The other funny thing that came out of that trip… I had asked the next door neighbor (who also owns horses)  if she could feed mine Friday evening while I was gone.  I set all the food next to their doors so that all she had to do was dump each bucket in to the feeders (access from outside of the stall) and kick the hay in.  Quick and easy.

However,  I knew my neighbor’s boarder was also coming. Nice guy, but he loves to get in Ava’s stall and pet her.

If I’m there,  I can usually nip Ava’s evil side in the bud before she escalates. When I’m not there, Ava can be downright evil.  I didn’t want to come home and hear about how Ava kicked him,  or bit him,  or trampled him…  (all things she’s done with other people before). So I left instructions for the neighbors not to go in Ava’s stall, at all.

The other two horses? Knock yourself out. Hang on them, lay under them… do what ever you want. Those two are saints.

Ava? Nope. Kick the hay in, slam the door. Do not go in.

So… Of course they went in anyway.

I didn’t find any dead bodies when I got home  — as if i wouldn’t have immediately implemented the “Shovel and Shut Up”  protocol if I had!

Ironically, I only knew that they’d gone in to Ava’s stall because they made sure to specifically let me know they’d gone in Ava’s stall.

Oh, and they were offended that I’d asked them not to.

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Horse people are freaking NUTS! 

 

 

 

Horses at home

My little princess, Ava, doesn’t enjoy summer. She is happiest squirreled into her stall with a hay net and fan.

I threw Ava outside after her dinner so she’d go be a horse for a few hours. 

She kept an ear cocked,  listening for me to come out and “save”  her. Obviously her human had made some kind of mistake and would rectify it immediately. 

I forgot my phone on the back deck.  I had to crawl across the deck on my hands and knee’s to retrieve the phone, because if Ava see’s me she runs to her paddock gate,  refuses to leave it,  and will whinny until I let her in.

Ava heard me open the back door.  She ran to her paddock gate, whinnied,  then stood there seeming confused when she couldn’t see me.

I crawled back inside…

At 9pm I snuck out to the pasture without being seen. I hollered out ‘Ava!! You can come back in now!”

Ava whips her head up, and lets out a continual bellowing whinny as she galloped up to the paddock gate. 

Today, the little monster (Ava still) decided she needed more hay, and began her systematic kicking of the stall wall to voice her displeasure.

Bam

Bam

Bam

Bam

“It’s second lunchies,  bitch” BAM!! 

.. 

I snuck out to the barn hoping to catch her in the act, but right before I get to the barn Joy lets out a big “Hey, what’cha doing?!” whinny.

D’oh. Caught.

I hid behind the wall of the barn hoping they’d both think they were mistaken and go back to what they were doing.

 They both pressed their heads hard against the bars, trying to eye ball me as I snuck looks around the corner.  

Ava’s new trick is to shove whatever itches in my face.  Shoulder itches?  Shove it into the human.  Belly?  Yup,  human can access it better from the ground.  

The cat’s have become complacent around Ava lately.  They should know better, but they are arrogant cats.  Yesterday I let Ava out and one of the cats decided to make friends with Ava.  It should’ve been one of those cutsey moments..  Instead,  Ava’s ears go back and demon monster horse lunges with teeth and hooves flying toward the cat.  The hoof missed by skant inches. Cat goes fleeing for her life.  Ava promptly turns toward me with a “Hehehe..  Did you see that cat run!”  look.  Like she expected me to get a good laugh out of it.  

Ok,  I admit,  once I knew the cat was fine,  it was kind of funny. 

Pics!! 

The old lady

Mishmash of Things

I got a new bit for Joy. I’ve only ridden her once in it, and all we did was walk. I didn’t notice a huge difference. I was hoping she’d find it significantly more comfortable, and therefore have a quieter mouth… but she chomped it as much as the other.

This requires more study. I’ll report back on results as they come.

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This spot in the yard used to scare the bejesus out of Joy at this time last year. She would turn into a horse shaped kite every time. Now, meh… Clover!

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Successfully loading on multiple occasions, while staying calm. Yay!

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Ava is weirdly shiny for a horse that hasn’t been bathed in 2 years. Wish the rest of my horses looked this shiny. Joy eats the exact same diet, and although she’s shiny, she’s not blind you shiny like Ava is. Must be a Friesian thing…

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(She’s wet in this pic.) I think she’s looking much fitter and healthier this spring.

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Our trail rides have been fun. This is our cool down lane. I drop the reins and do rider exercises through here (arms over head, to the sides, hit my hand on a passing tree, lift arms back up, back to the side and rotate 90 degree’s before I hit a hand on the next tree, etc).

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Mr. Stumpy has a hard life of sleeping, eating, and terrorizing feet.

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We have kittens again. This one is my fav. He’s the sole survivor of his litter (dead beat mom). Hubby had to sequester mom and kitten in a room to get her to finally nurse him. Now he’s a healthy, nearly weaned, biting machine.

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He has a hard life.

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Spiders…. I killed this giant beast today.

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This is really how big he was.

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I had so much fun on Ava tonight. We hand galloped through the field. Then I sat up, Ava collected under me, and we did this perfect 10m circle around our riding buddy. I probably broke Ava doing that. Tomorrow I’ll go out, and Ava will be 3 legged, hobbling around.. her left hind laying somewhere out in the pasture.

She’s been going like a top though. I haven’t asked anything of her but forward in straight lines while connected. She’s getting fitter. She doesn’t feel off to me.  Occasionally a bobble on the front end, but the back end feels even to me. She willingly, and easily picks up either canter lead and it feels even (whereas before she would balk at picking up the left, and once in it she felt like there wasn’t any strength there).

I should get her re-tested by the vet, but man, it was over $800 last time.  Even after that, they never did definitively find the problem. It was a diagnoses based on elimination. I hate those diagnosis’. There’s nothing to verify if the base issue is healed completely. I can’t just have them xray “the spot” and give me a verdict, because nothing ever showed up to begin with.

I’ll keep slowly upping her work load. If she even hints at having an issue with that stifle, I’ll back off. My fall back plan for Ava now is Xtreme Trail Riding! All she really has to do is walk over, around, through stuff. I think she can handle that.

First Quarter 2016 Update

I’ve been trying to ride both Ava and Joy at least 4 times a week. It’s good for me because I need the saddle time to work on my strength, position, and riding.  I’m exhausted after riding both of them. I don’t know how people who ride more than 2 a day do it. Times like these, I’m glad I’m an Adult Ammy.

Ava:

Approximately three weeks of riding 2 to 5 times a week. We’re doing straight lines and a few small hills.  I’m only incorporating small amounts of trot work still. Mostly walk for 30 minutes with one minute of trotting, twice during the 30 mins. When we first started, she was hitchy at the trot. I could feel it when I posted off the right diagonal. The last couple of rides she’s felt smooth and even between the two diagonals.

It seems like this is working well for Ava. Not only does she move better already, but she seems happier and more relaxed in general too. She’s almost back to her lovable, happy self again.

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April 12th – The left hind doesn’t step as far forward as, nor does it articulate as much as, the right hind.

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Joy:

I’m really focused on canter work this spring. I left off last year with being happy if she even fell into a canter at some point. This spring we’re working on balance, promptness, and understanding the canter aids. I’ve started carrying a whip to encourage a more prompt response to the aid. We’re currently crow hopping into the canter, but at least she’s picking it up promptly.

She’s also just starting to allow me to rebalance her once we’re in the canter. We aren’t flying around the arena pell-mell as much, or feeling like we’re going to fall or trip at any moment. I’m actually getting a positive response when I half-halt with my seat. She still loses her balance a lot, but we’re getting a couple strides here and there where we can exist in a semblance of balance. It’s a huge improvement for her!

We’re also starting to be able to pick up the right lead canter with right bend. Not every time, and not elegantly, but it’s improving bit by bit.

I’ve taken Joy on a few solo trail rides this spring. We passed deer, dogs, construction, etc. She’s been nervous, but sane. Yesterday I took her for a trail ride with my neighbors. I was able to ride her on the buckle almost the entire ride. I feel like this year she’s finally developing her own confidence in herself and her rider. She seems more sure of herself, more confident, this year.

And last for Joy, we’re still working on the trailer. I’m dreading closing the stall partitions and then trying a first haul. It makes me so nervous, and Joy is really good at picking up on that. However, I so badly want to start taking her to new locations, take lessons, and start showing. Right now she’s comfortable in the trailer as long as there isn’t something really loud going on outside.

Farm Update:

Hubby has dubbed the place “Poopy Farms”. Unfortunately, the name seems to be sticking. I’m going to have to make up t-shirts with a farm logo for Poopy Farms.

Hubby cut down the remaining scrub pine tree’s in the pasture. These were the major cause of so many cuts, puncture wounds, and scraps that they had to go. The picture below is about half of the line of pine tree’s hubby cut down and hauled out.

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Joy thought she’d lend a helping hand.
(all of the stumps were cut to ground level after we hauled the tops to the burn pile.)

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The newly pine free pasture!  Yay!

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Side Note:

Joy was snoozing in the pasture the other day, laying down. She let me walk right up to her and scratch her withers for a good 5 minutes. I have never, to this day, been able to walk up to Ava while she’s laying down (not unless she’s really sick. As in, it’s a bad sign if you can do that to Ava). But Joy, she was happy as a clam to snooze and get wither scratches! I really love this pony!

Spring Excitement

Yesterday, I was leading Ava, and the footing was uneven so my whole upper body went rigid in an attempt to stabilize myself. The second my upper body went stiff, Ava reared, wide eyed, throwing her head around.

I had to consciously relax my body and pretend I was a wet noodle before she would quietly walk next to me again.

Horses… way to perceptive.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I have finally started riding again after nearly 4 months off.

I am floppy.

I’m amazed at how much Joy has retained training wise. It’s all still there. She’s still a bit out of shape, but the buttons are there.

Last Sunday was the first time I’ve been on Joy’s back since Dec 26th. That Sunday I lunged her first. I hopped on expecting the worst! The only time Joy bounced around a little was when the cats decided to jump on top of the metal pile and make it crash and clang next to us. Joy gave a short hop, but that was it.

Next day, I hopped on Joy without lunging first. She was a doll. We w/t/c around. Even got the correct lead both ways.
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Yesterday, we did a bit of short trot/canter work. Got both leads again. Would’ve gotten the right one with bend on strike off, but I messed it up… I was impressed she offered it. That lead is always going to be tough for her.

We have absolutely no balance in the canter. I can only hope that the quality improves as balance improves. I think it will, but the other half of me is like “What did I get myself in to?!?!”

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Funny thing yesterday, after we got done with the arena work, we went for a short trail ride (by ourselves). Joy hasn’t been out since maybe early Nov. It’s been a long while.  We get 10 feet from the barn and there’s a dark patch of dirt we have to walk over. Joy gets one foot on it, brakes hard, and starts back-peddling manically. I could not convince her to walk over it, so I finally hopped off and had to show her it was just dirt. She very cautiously followed me over it. Rest of the trail ride went smoothly. We didn’t go far, she was hyped, but sane.  Coming back, we have to cross the black dirt again… Joy takes a sniff, and walks over it like it’s nothing. Yay!

Ava had a tough winter:

  • She had two boughts of laminitis,
  • her feet look horrible,
  • she got a nasty case of thrush that no over the counter medication was killing,
  • vet diagnosed her as IR (insulin resistant).

On the plus side:

  • She’s lost a lot of weight,
  • she’s sound again,
  • thrush is nearly knocked out,
  • she does not have cushings,
  • vet says IR can be managed without medication at this point,
  • she’s back to her old bossy self again

I forgot how much fun Ava is to ride.  Joy feels like a race car, Ava is a muscle car.  I started riding Ava in the pasture since the previous time I rode her she tried to toss me off. We walk/trotted a couple of small laps around the pasture, then headed outside for a short walk loop around the back field.

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I haven’t seen any detrimental effects from riding Ava. Hoping it stays that way.

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Up in the air

My index finger on my left hand no longer bends without pain.  This is from mangling it in the stall door last October/November. I can’t remember now.

This winter has been difficult. Ava was getting better, but in February came up lame again. I can’t seem to control her food enough to get the weight off her. Not unless I starve poor Jessie. So as soon as the ground thawed some, hubby and I built Ava her own paddock/dry lot.

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We spent 6 hours on Saturday building the framework. I hurt in places I’d forgotten existed. I begged the hubby to delay putting up the metal portion until the following day because my arms felt like rubber.

Next day, we spent 2 hours getting drenched in frigid temps to finish the fence. Welll, hubby was drenched. I had a rain coat, but still, it was miserable. We should’ve just finished it the previous day.

My procrastination foiled me again.

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The finished product is working fantastic. I’m able to control Ava’s feed to a T. Ava seems quite happy with her little plot of land.

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I also had the vet out last week to draw blood for IR and Cushings to see if there’s a metabolic issue at play with Ava. Plus, Ava’s got a mean case of thrush, and nothing I’ve tried has gotten rid of it. Vet gave me some stuff to squish in there, but Ava’s decides she’s over it and that she’ll just jump on me instead. Luckily I had my trusty hoof pick and poked her in the shoulder before she could complete her evasive maneuvers. Still managed to twist my mangled finger around though.

I also had Joys hoof x-rayed (the club foot). Vet said a Grade 1.5 to 2 out of 4 on the severity scale, but it’s manageable with proper hoof care. Part of me worried that inside that hoof was a right mess… I felt better after the x-ray.

Amazing what can change in a few days.

March 5th:

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March 9th:
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Just another Friday

This morning I groggily stumbled down to barn to feed. I dumped their grain in their feed bins and set about putting together hay bags to hang.

I put together Ava’s hay bag first.

….

I slid her stall door open as I wrestled with an empty 5 gallon bucket with one hand, and a full hay bag with the other. I met resistance getting the hay bag through the door and realize I hadn’t slid the door open far enough and the bag got stuck. I drop the bucket, slide the door wider, and try again. Ava’s already trying to tear at the bag, so I shoo her away. I get the bucket placed upside down and step on top to hang the hay bag.

As I was struggling with the latch on the hook, I feel something bump against my butt and then sharply pull my coat backwards

I turn and Ava jumps to the back of the stall, head up, eyes wild.

The little jerk bit my butt!!!

I was mad. Not because of this single incident, but the constant testing. Constant threatening.

I only have a few seconds to get after her. Her butt is pointed at me and I know she’ll kick if I hit her, so I grab the dressage whip and I bellow as loudly as possible while striking the stall wall. All while standing just out of kicking range.

Ava seems to understand that she’s done something bad.

I take her hay bag and leave.

Joy and Jessie are startled and stare for a few seconds, then quietly go back to munching their hay.

I have to go to work soon, but I wait a several minutes before giving Ava her hay.

I go back in her stall and hang the hay bag. Clean slate.

I leave the barn feeling depressed though. It seems like my efforts to get Ava to understand that biting and kicking are not acceptable are not getting through to her.

I get home from work after thinking about it all day. I decided I’d take Ava for a short trail ride. I’ll keep reinforcing boundaries, but some exercise will make her more compliant. She was always so much better behaved when worked consistently.

I’ll just ride her. Then all this dominance, testing crap will go away…. She’s sound now (sound enough for light work), we can walk around the fields now. She was never this ill-behaved when she was ridden consistently.

I pull Ava out, brush her down, pick her feet. She’s always good about this. Very polite. I toss the bareback pad on her because I don’t want to put my riding pants on and the saddle hurts with jeans. I slide the bridle on as if we haven’t missed a day.

We get to the mounting block, but I lead her around the make-shift arena for a few minutes to make sure she’s calm and not thinking of mayhem. She seems calm.

Ava stands quietly at the mounting block as I swing a leg over and settle in. Everything’s fine. We’re fine. I really missed this. It feels like home. I’d forgotten how solid and safe she feels.

I consciously relax my body. I make sure my legs are soft and draped, not grippy or vice like. I want this to be relaxing and happy.

We make it half-way around the arena and Ava starts winging her head in circles, and then the front feet come off the ground. And then the back feet start coming off the ground. At this point I have Ava’s head cranked tight to her ribs and she’s still bopping up and down. I get scared and jump off.

But then I realize I blew it. Now Ava knows she can scare me. So I growl at her and immediately drag her to the mounting block and get back on.

Relax my legs. Deep breaths.

I ask her to walk on, but this time I keep doing little shallow serpentine as we walk, and little baby leg yields. She settles, and I give her the reins bit by bit… not quite trusting her, but wanting her to know she can relax.

A few minutes later, after circling the small arena a few times without incident, I stop her. We stand for a minute as I scratch her withers. Then I hop off and we go back to the barn.

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She looks so sweet here, doesn’t she?

The riding went better than I thought it’d go. I expected worse. But I thought it’d take more from Ava to scare me enough to get off. At least I got back on…

I have to convince myself to get back on tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Eventually, I’ll either win or lose.

Maybe I just need to play some hard hitting, rocking music while riding. Then it’ll seem like an action adventure movie instead of a horror flick.

….

Yes, that is Friesian mane on the floor there.

I half expected the Friesian Police to roll up with lights and sirens.

“Excuse me, ma’am. We heard there’s been a mane desecration.”

“Sir, I only cut her bridle path.”

“That’s a felony, ma’am. You’re going away for a long time!”

The Game

Ava must be feeling better.

As I walked out to fetch her from the field, Ava systematically led me to the furthest end of the pasture. Once there, Ava cantered and bucked her way back to the front of the pasture.

Me… halter in hand, making the long walk back to the front.

Once I got back to the front, Joy came over to sniff me. Then Ava walked over.

I walked Ava out of the pasture, and down the long lane bordering our property. At the back, it opens up to a field. Ava jerked her head up and froze. I could hear Joy bellowing back at the barn. Long, angry calls interspersed with the sound of galloping feet.

I led Ava around the ditch and down the path along the back edge of the property until we reached the trail through the pine tree’s. Ava whipped her head up and around, seeming to express either annoyance or excitment. I wasn’t sure which.

I tensed my grip on the lead. I never know if the head fling will be followed by a rear, or end there.

No rear. We followed the path through the pine tree’s as Joy galloped back and forth beside us in the pasture.

Back at the barn I brushed Ava down and cleaned her feet. She easily picked each up, but leaned back and forced the foot down when I held the left fore up too long. Still better than before. The concrete still makes her mince her steps.

I tried to weight tape her again. I’m over the weight tape. The arbitrary nature of it confuses me. Three measurements with three vastly different values this time. For some reason I was able to successfully tape her for three weeks. Now suddenly I’m stumped and unable to determine the exact spot to measure at. There’s got to be a better way to do this.

I put Ava back in her stall, and scratched her neck. She head bumped me softly in the chest and then went to work on the hay I’d left in there.

….

Today I saw two gray horses streak across the back field with their riders bent low over their necks. Three dogs trailed quietly behind them. I wanted to go with them. I was contemplating tacking up Joy and madly galloping out in hopes of catching up with them.

They were gone before I could even finish the thought.

Which was good, because I’m not ready to “madly gallop” Joy anywhere, let alone to catch two riders who are heading who knows where.